Written by: Scorpi
When you’re always looking for something new and fresh, you are prone to forgetting about the classic sounds that got you into heavy music in the first place. It’s handy, then, when bands such as Hearts & Hand Grenades emerge from the rock’n’roll underbelly, to jog our memory as to why the classic rock style should not be forgotten, and still has its place in our collections.
Hearts & Hand Grenades formed in 2018, and have thrust their debut album Turning To Ashes into the hazy limelight of the Sleeping Village. And this enigmatic Villager really liked what he heard.
The album starts as it means to go on. We’re launched into the gritty hard rock title track that’s filled with attitude and a bite that would make the toughest hound grimace. No frivolous or dramatic introductions here. The saturated, high-gain guitars are distinctively dirty and thick, and provide the perfect amount of grit for that classic rock sound. The lead/solo work is similarly infectious when delivered atop of theses robust rhythm sections. And this is apparent throughout the album.
Written by: Blackie Skulless
Maggot Heart caught my attention for the sole fact that their cassette Dusk To Dusk was released through Caligari Records, despite not fitting with that label’s general ideal. Instead of being composed of extreme or filthy metal, it is rooted somewhere in the noise rock and post-punk spectrum. The delivery itself is clean and the frontwoman’s voice is captivating, but I think the fitting factor is that it’s still somewhat eerie. That allows it to appeal to a broader scope of fans.
For the most part, Maggot Heart achieve this due to a very dominating bass presence passed through a somewhat degraded quality thanks to weird reverberation and rough production. Glazing that above a very concise bottom is what gives Dusk To Dusk such a strong identity. It focuses a lot on stompier riffs, showing itself in “Big Kross.” B-side opener “Strange Women” also highlights this by using a repetitive but catchy pattern.
Written by: The Administrator
While we Villagers pride ourselves in having a solid familiarity with the content we critique, I'll be the first to admit that my level of familiarity with the 5 tracks contained within today's EP in question surpasses an acceptable level of sanity. Typically, in preparation for an in-depth review, I listen to the material around 10 times. Return From The Void, in drastic comparison, has entered these wretch'd earholes...well, significantly more frequently. All told, stating that I've listened to this damn thing upwards of 50 times doesn't sound terribly off base.
Why, ye may ask? In the year or so since I first encountered the hard rockin' Deserts of Mars, I've become oddly dependent on their (regrettably slim!) output. Return From The Void is what I turn to when I'm not sure what to listen to, when I'm feeling a little down, or when I just need a quick kick of stoner rock into an otherwise hard-hitting playlist. As a result, I've entered a strange scenario wherein a review feels somewhat impossible to write. Can I truly view this thing from a passingly neutral standpoint, or does my history color any interpretation with rose-colored glasses? Given the potential limitations, I'll do my best to be fair to you, dear reader.
Written by: Blackie Skulless
Stryper have made a name for themselves over the decades, and in later years actually took on an even more metallic sound than their earlier glammy roots. That said, the last record God Damn Evil was a huge let-down to me, the first by Michael Sweet and co. that I flat out disliked (“Take It To The Cross” and “Sorry” being the worst offenders). Michael’s latest solo effort Ten from last year was pretty solid, however, and actually gave me better hopes. This brings us to Even The Devil Believes, which is a rather mixed bag.
On one hand, I’m absolutely thrilled that they’ve made a step up from before, despite not reaching the magnitude of Fallen. You can basically sort every song here into one of three categories: sturdy, strong, and rubbish. This also means that the flow is a bit awkward, but easy enough to work with. By “sturdy,” I’m mostly talking about the songs that are exactly what you saw coming. Opener “Blood From Above” is a well-written, heavy banger with strong falsettos thrown in, all polished with a clear production. Truth be told, this approach makes up at least half of the album, which is fine albeit somewhat samey.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Drainbow! No, it's not a psychedelic effect of household cleaning supplies, it’s the eclectic, ambitious project of solo act extraordinaire Nick Sarcophagus, who brings us his debut long player The Tower of Flints. A dark twisting journey of extremities, whether it be the bounds of genre, or the limits of nature's capacity to sustain, viewed through the lens of her most vulnerable inhabitants. “To the victor the spoils," which just so happens to be whoever lays ears on this record.
I love it when an album's cover art perfectly encapsulates the sound found within, and this is a great example. A tip of the cap to Sarah Allen Reed for another work of art, really summing up the beautiful yet harsh reality of the natural world surrounding us. From its most tranquil moments of animal calls and keys, to its most frenetic of wails and galloping progressions, the story is to be found within the walls of said art.
Written by: Shane Thirteen
I tend to not read reviews of bands or artists I'm going to review because I don't want the influence of someone else's ideas to be in my head when I'm trying to think of how I feel about a project. That being said, I have no idea what other people are writing about War Cloud. What I can say is that if the words "AMAZING" or "Fucking Fantastic" haven't been used to define them, then that is a low-down dirty shame.
War Cloud hits on so many levels for me. I can take a snap and sink back in my chair and ease into that place in my mind that puts me back into teenage fantasies of being a riff-monster rock star. The guy who lays down the riff that changes the world. To me, War Cloud's Earhammer Sessions is the beginning of my rock and roll fantasy. I'm old. I mean like, I fucking remember the 70's kind of old. This album evokes that old school rock and roll spirit. It takes me back to the days of true rock and roll domination.
The rubric that plays a major role in determining whether I will consider an album “good” is, as with everything around these parts, a little flexible and open to interpretation. That said, some criteria are fairly stalwart and unmoving. A good metal album must, in my eyes, have proficient instrumentation. It must display cohesion. The vocals need to be enjoyable--or, at the very least, they must spark some synapses other than those indicating that the vocalist in question can’t sing. It needs to elicit some sort of emotion response. Lastly, if it’s steeped in a genre that lives and dies by the axe, its gotta have riffs. Full stop. In the case of today’s artist in question, I’m happy to report that all of the criteria are present and accounted for...no, wait. We’re missing one. But y’know what? Let’s just roll with it.
This review (in its unadulterated form) was originally published in December of 2018 but, as this Friday sees the re-release of an expanded version under Bonita Steel Records and Diabolic Might Records, we thought it would be appropriate to break out this ol' writeup. The following is an edited and updated version. - Ed.
Well, this is refreshing. Typically, when promo proclaims that a band represents a "bold new take" on a traditional, well-trod style, you can expect the same: yet another forgettable "revitalization" of a sound and aesthetic that has been done to death, reanimated, and then slaughtered by copycats once more. In the case of Tzimani, the status quo is effectively put in its place. Despite sparking synapses associated with a variety of high-octane hard rock and metal birthed in the days of yore, this self titled debut EP genuinely feels fresh-faced. Pull on your leather, put the pedal to the metal, and smell the gasoline: Tzimani begins with menacing distortion, a rumbling engine of Mad Max-ian proportion. This EP, previously reviewed by yours truly here, had been bolstered for a vinyl release by a new track, a couple o' covers, and some demos.
This review (in its unadulterated form) was originally published in April, but, as today saw the re-release of an expanded version under Ripple Music, we thought it would be appropriate to break out this ol' writeup. The following is an edited and updated version. - Ed.
As obnoxious as it is to have people stoically refuse to admit that rock is, in fact, not dead, it's more obnoxious still to have a critic point out how patently absurd that statement is. So I'll refrain from falling down that particular rabbit hole. Needless to say, LA’s Void Vator plays some damn fine rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ‘em, and, from all accounts, they've got nowhere to go but up. This past April saw the release of Stranded as a 6-track EP, but here, after catching the eye of Ripple Music, it has been re-released as an album, with 2 brand new tracks in tow. If there was e’er a time to dust out the cobwebs and get back into chorus slinging high energy rock, yer looking at it.
Biographical material indicates a similarity to bands as diverse as Nirvana, Pantera, Megadeth and Foo Fighters. An eclectic mix, yes, yet oddly accurate. Take quite literally any track here--let’s say "Nothing to Lose" or the dynamic "Put Away Wet," for argument’s sake--and you’ll find the best elements of the aforementioned lurking mere inches below the surface. Bottom line: if you want your rock to have it, Void Vator wears it proudly. Short tracks. Grin-inducing solos. Blatantly air guitar-able riffs, which create and subsequently release kinetic energy like one taking a boltcutter to a tightly wound coil. Straightforward head-bopping groove. Aggressively present drums. Some of the more earwormy vocal melodies I’ve heard in a very long while--and this, I mean genuinely.
“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” riffs Grohl in some long-forgotten internet video. Rock may live and/or die by the guitar, but within the genre confines, a band’s staying power is often dependent on the vocalist’s ability to write the kind of chorus that get trapped in your head for days. Here, Void Vator succeeds remarkably. Take standout track "Inside Out," which features a hook that wouldn't go amiss in a newfound single from Audioslave or (the oft-neglected) Manman God. Lucas Kanopa’s classically gruff voice has the golden ability to inflict nostalgia-ridden glee, and if your track delivers a reaction of that pedigree, you’re doing something right. From an industry standpoint, “radio ready” has, unfortunately, become a bit of an unfortunate insult. Stranded deserves a wide audience, plain ‘n’ simple, and they’ve got the potential in spades. This album's high octane strains have graced the Sleeping Village's halls a multitude of times this year, and will likely receive some attention as we compile our end of year lists. It's dangerously repeatable, to the detriment of a certain stack of promos.
This re-release includes two new tracks: "Everything Sucks" and "Monster." The former is a bit of a wildcard, featuring a doomy intro that launches into a particularly nihilistic and punky brand of garage rock. It's a lot less subtle than the rest of the tracks herein, and feels a little under-baked on it's own. That said, the asymmetrical intensity between the respective halves provides substantial interest. "Monster," on the other hand, feels like a very complete track, undoubtedly ready and able to fill the all-important closer position. This lil' number has a delightfully unrestrained quality, and feels like an accurate summation of the general vibe Void Vator continue to nail.
Critically, the catchiness of each track does depend largely on the vocals. Personal preference, no doubt, but a thicker guitar tone might make these catchy-as-hell riffs a little heftier in stature. There's a thin line between remaining accessible and beating up your audience, but as it stands now, the guitar sounds a tad thin. But that aside: perhaps most importantly, Void Vator aren’t boring. If that sounds like a grossly under-applied veneer of accomplishment, know that dynamism and maintained interest are...startlingly rare. For a genre that has historically gotten by on singles and lots of filler, packing a punch with all 8 tracks is a victory. Let there be no doubt: as long as high energy bands like Void Vator are doing the rounds and writing kickass tunes, rock ain’t going anywhere. Keep fighting the good fight.
Void Vator’s (highly recommended) Stranded was released Nov. 22nd, 2019 from Ripple Music
Robots of the Ancient World. If that moniker--and the accompanying artwork--doesn’t conjure a spaced-out and otherwise smoke-afflicted ethos, I urge you to back away from this decidedly cosmic Kyussian watering hole before it's too late. That's right. This impressive debut is comfortably tied to the generator rattlin’ desert rock of terra firma, yet brings enough psychedelic and astral gravitas to give credence to their cosmos-trawling identity. An appropriate Carl Sagan sample only adds to the ambiance--but really, isn't that an inevitability?
Before this particular scribe gets too mired in the nitty-gritty, let’s make two facts abundantly clear: 1). Cosmic Riders is a highly enjoyable album, quite possibly one of the genre’s best this year, and 2). as an up-n-coming stoner/desert/doom crew, Robots of the Ancient World can hang, quite comfortably, with the best of ‘em.
Instrumentally, you’ve undoubtedly heard something of a similar ilk--although perhaps without such a defined sense of nuance. Robots of the Ancient World’s are rockers through and through--pounding drums, groovy bass, and a hard rockin’ pedal-to-the-metal mentality keeps them grounded in the desert department. In terms of the general ambiance called to mind, tracks such as “In My Head” and the aforementioned “Sweet Lady” recall blazing sun and burning rubber, more so than psychedelic starlit soul searching. Given the album as a whole, however, neither “thick” nor “hefty” feel particularly apt, as the riffs remain expansive. Undeniably fuzz-ridden, yet delightfully light footed. Typically an album that actively encourages mind wandering, rather than constantly demanding attention, will fall under my spit-shined critical lens. Not so here. The (comparatively) relaxed second acts of “High and Drive” and the titular “Cosmic Riders” don't constitute mere background noise in the slightest, but their expansive and subtle nature demonstrate a very calming effect. Surely the modus operandi of these interstellar Robots, if the intro to “High and Drive” isn't enough of a hint.
A true highlight of the guitarwork is the solos--few and far between, but excellent nonetheless. See the back half of “Sweet Lady” for a particularly sweet lil’ fretboard diatribe. These exploratory guitar-centric moments work incredibly well to draw the listener in. While the central riffs never feel stale, the solos serve as glimmers of particular interest. The issue with the majority of stoner rock of the astral variety is a tendency to fall too far into the abyss. Robots of the Ancient World are quite proficient at letting you drift, but occasionally reeling in the tether.
This quality is only strengthened by the fantastic vocals, which I've seen compared, interestingly enough, to both Danzig and Jim Morrison. The former is certainly apparent--look, for example, to the self-assured gruffness on “God Particle/Oblivion Stone.” In terms of the latter, while Mr. Mojo fanboyism is, quite possibly, my greatest pet peeve, I'm frankly inclined to agree. A certain chiller-than-thou poise proliferates the entire package, adding a level of emotion that has been unfortunately lacking in the genre’s recent deluge of shout-into-the-void delivery. That said, rather than residing in languidity, he's capable of turning it up a notch--an expansive, distant, and at times mournful howl. When this is pushed to the limit, he tantalizing walks the line, stretching each note to a frayed edge. It suits the tone and shape of Cosmic Riders quite well.
Again, this is an impressive debut. In fact, the only vague misstep in sight is the penultimate “Five Eyes,” which feels overly long given its position in the album's mesh. At six and half minutes, this is an excellent track carrying some unnecessary baggage on burly shoulders. Otherwise, Cosmic Riders remains compulsively listenable and relentlessly enjoyable. It’s a noticeable step up from their self-titled debut, which frankly says a lot on its own. More than representing maturity, however, Cosmic Riders serves as a declaration of Robots of the Ancient World’s intent: to join the impressive entourage of PNW bands toiling to reinvigorate the spirit of rock. To this end, their debut credits the genre’s foundational elements, but doesn’t turn tail when prompted to deliver music that feels just unique enough to spark interest. Cosmic Riders comes highly recommended.
Robots of the Ancient World's Cosmic Riders was released March 26th, 2019.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!