This particular Sleeping Village owes a massive debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deep cuts. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate every Sunday to exploring their own discography, or to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries the mantle of Sabbathian legacy. Today it's a case of the latter, as we review Fresh Grass, the debut EP from Brooklyn’s GRASS. Slip on those headphones & dim the lights, dear reader; it’s time for Sabbath Sunday.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Fresh Grass is a remarkable effort. As someone who does battle with a veritable fogbank of stoner metal and doom on a daily basis, take it from me--Grass operate on a very high level of professional musicianship. Frankly, the only real criticism I have to offer is that Fresh Grass is trapped within the miserly confines of an EP. Were there another two or three tracks to flesh things out length-wise, this would constitute one helluva album. But alas, we’re left with a debut that would have blown last year’s Top 10 EP list to smithereens, if only it had entered the Sleeping Village a tad earlier. But that’s enough hyperbole, folks. What’s this thing sound like, anyways?
While they classify themselves as a rock outfit, GRASS plays doom with ample helpings of southern rock’s sleaze and the high-flying swagger of 70’s psychedelia. Permeable groove and simple yet melodic guitar are the name of the game, and, like any devotees of the riff, GRASS keep things moving just low and slow enough to shake foundations. The bass here is of particular note--Josh Peterson’s hefty stylings add a distinct dynamism to the formula. Look to intro track Amnesia / My Wall as a prime case of the bass’s general presence. Here, the riffs are big and the amp is king. And lest they be neglected in our riff-centric musing, the vocals elevate the package wondrously. Phil Anton’s voice is a thing of beauty, combining, somehow, the sultry tones of Jack Bruce’s early-era Cream with the gruff Americana of Clutch’s Neil Fallon. No question: this guy can sing.
The obvious concern with these genre trappings is a certain reliance on repetition, but with subtle variance in tempo and riff structure, each song is imbued with its own character. Take Easy Rider, for example, which remains significantly more laid-back than the hard(er) rockin’ Fire. There’s no real opportunity for boredom to set in, which, given the course of many Sabbathian enterprises, this is no small feat. GRASS have something special on their hands, and if their next release delivers on this promise, we’re in for a show. Need I say it? Fresh Grass comes highly recommended.
GRASS - Fresh Grass will be released Feb. 22nd
Desperate for some entertainment of the visual persuasion, we here at the Sleeping Village have constructed ourselves a venue, of sorts--a public playhouse designed to house the raunchiest productions around. Our first feature presentation comes courtesy of Doors & Fours, Ontario's grungiest (and in the running for most prolific) punk rock outfit. The track is entitled Feeling Dead, and the video is, appropriately, a lo-fi zombie flick featuring the inevitably infected band members being picked off one by one. It’s a grisly affair, and an absolute delight to watch. See for yourself:
The track itself, dare I say, is one of Doors & Fours strongest up until this point. While Generation Vex, their previous outing, had lots of verve and energy, a noticeably DIY production reined it in. Here, the sound is still infused with a vivaciously punky attitude, but the drums and vocals in particular sound quite excellent. An underlying full-steam-ahead momentum defines the track, spearheaded by crunching guitar buried deep in the mix. The aforementioned vocals are an aforementioned strong suit--they remain surprising melodic, given a boisterous full-front delivery.
All told, if they keep putting out tracks of this caliber, Doors & Fours are going somewhere mighty fast. Their new album, arrestingly entitled Black Majiks & Other Aphrodisiacs, arrives sometime next year. I, for one, am rubbing my gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation.
Doors & Fours can be found:
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.
Modern trad metal works best when A. the songwriting feels like it has been dredged from the past, and B. the musicianship sounds like the result of decades worth of practice. Here, the brotherly duo--frontman Eddie Vazquez and drummer Sebastian Vazquez--are certainly beyond their years in terms of skill. The instrumentality is remarkably tight for such untested newcomers, and the writing reflects an unprecedented maturity. These seem like tracks resulting from years of failure and eventual triumph. Take, for example, We Are the Ones, a blazing number that begs for repeat listens. It’s catchy as hell, with appropriately corny lyrics and a lot of gleeful rock ‘n’ roll presence. This is all due to a predictable structure, but Tzimani aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, so much as play tunes that would have undoubtedly filled stadiums--had they the good fortune to be released 30 years earlier. Drums are tight and precise, the bass is audible enough to leave a sizable impact, and the vocals are surprisingly flexible. Eddie has a decent range, and he isn’t afraid to throw some vaguely Hagar-influenced inflection into the triumphant refrains.
While Tzimani is impressive on all counts, the nail in the coffin of this EP’s success is the brilliant display of axemanship. Face-melting solos, finger-blistering arpeggios, and a Skull Fist’d shred’s-not-dead approach to riffage is worth the price of admission alone. While never flying off the handle or stooping to mere wankery, a vibrant enthusiasm for flashy displays of technique is evident in Eddie’s highly skilled fretwork. The solos absolutely rip--'nuff said. His ability to craft galloping NWOBHM tinged riffs and licks with a distinct sneering competency a la Motley Crue, and the earworm sensibilities of the aforementioned Skull Fist--or perhaps Def Leppard--is truly something to behold. There's definitely a little Maiden in there as well, which only adds to the splendor.
Originality is always going to come into question, and while this all feels necessarily familiar, it doesn’t feel, well, done. The Crue Connection, for example, is most apparent in closer Get Me Out Of Here, which recalls Kickstart My Heart's central theme, yet comfortably reinforces Tzimani’s (already established) trademark: balls-to-the-wall momentum. This track proves that these guys aren't here to let off the gas and coast in the strength of a couple tracks, allowing listeners to flounder in the filler and fluff so often associated with this brand of hard rock. To be frank, there isn't a track here that would seem out of place as a high-octane radio single.
It sounds cliche, but the greatest weakness of this EP is just that--it’s only an EP. When Tzimani drop an album proper, they are undoubtedly going to become recognized as a force to reckon with in the face of revitalized American metal. This monster has swiftly climbed the list into my top 5 EP’s of 2018 (spoiler!) and thus comes highly, highly recommended.
Let’s start Sunday off with something fun. Between the doom and the depressive black metal, we here at the Sleeping Village get, on occasion, a little too gloomy for our own good. The cure for such a self-inflicted diagnosis? Our plague doctor heartily recommended some overt NWOBHM nostalgia...and what kind of plebs are we to deny the good doctor’s word? To that end, let’s talk about High Risk, lead single (and title track) from Blade Killer’s forthcoming debut album.
High Risk is plucked directly from the 80’s. As such, the most common comparison, musically speaking, is undoubtedly Di’Anno-era Maiden. Prominent bass a la Harris? Check. Energetic vocal stylings with just a hint of graceless gruff? Check. Galloping--nay, runaway train riffage? Just let me have that check, please. If we’re talkin’ shameless NWOBHM gravitas, however, Angel Witch, Tokyo Blade, and the ever-fantastical Tygers of Pan Tang might be closer to the mark. High Risk is a track imbued with an undeniably rambunctious energy, a pure distillation of no-nonsense 80’s headbanging glory. No intro is necessary--the guitar kicks right in with a head-bopping enthusiasm. The lyrics, while fairly standard fare, are delivered with a similar gleeful kineticism.
This is air guitar-inducing, chorus-belting, demin-stitching music if ever there was, and Blade Killer’s blatant commitment to the NWOBHM aesthetic comes highly appreciated, even in a fairly saturated market. If the rest of the album has an inkling of the balls-to-the-wall determination of its title track, its safe to say Blade Killer have gifted a worthwhile depository into our collective horn-throwing hands. From what I’ve read thusfar, no worries on this front. Lookin’ forward to Nov. 23rd.
High Risk will be released Nov. 23 through M-Theory Audio.
Check out Blade Killer on Bandcamp.
Some demos are rough ‘round the edges, & that is to be expected--but this statement should, under no circumstances, be taken to imply that Soul Grinder’s debut effort is somehow incomplete or unintentionally unfinished. Rather, I’m suggesting that instead of accepting a certain roughness as inevitable, these Portland-based thrashers tied their debut EP to the mast, broke out the trusty ol’ cat-o-nines, & lashed away until there weren’t any tangible edges left. Terraflesh is a wounded & angry beast of an EP, & Soul Grinder has made evident that they are not, in fact, here to mess around.
Vocals are the obvious first stop on our trip down Soul Grinder lane. At first blush, the wild-eyed April “Prilzor” Dimmick recalls Benatar at her sticky-sweetest. This carpet is promptly & elegantly pulled out, however, as she switches gears into a significantly more visceral affair. On first-round listens here at the Village, our monkish librarian astutely remarked that for any lovers of medieval literature Prilzor’s shriekish tone is like unto the vox of Grendel’s mother: grisly, rageful, tortured. Her true strength, however, is the uncanny ability to switch between a sensual croon to throat shredding howls within the span of a syllable. As the most effortless display of musicianship Soul Grinder has to offer, it lends a certain bent to the entire package. But that ain’t all to love.
Instrumentally, the guitar is clunky ‘n’ chunky, full of hooky leads & (combat) boot-stomping riffs. Timing feels a tad rushed in parts, but that is, undeniably, part of the appeal. As I mentioned several weeks ago, Soul Grinder a just a little discordant, but a whole lot unhinged--& that’s the entire reason we seek out such thrashy ‘n’ groovy tunage. In other words, we’re not here for precision. We’re here for chaos, & in this sense, axeman Alex Avery absolutely delivers. With that said, there are the occasional moments of pure NWOBHM fervor--take, for example, the intro on Hound of Doom, which strongly recalls both Maiden’s trademark gallop & Priest’s leather-clad badassery. Despite the outward appearance of wild abandon, Mr. Kevin Ross does a fantastic job holding everything together in the rhythm section, with drums on the title track worth particular mention. Aggressive & dense, a delightfully bonky moment in the spotlight helps break up the template.
I do, as the critic in the room, have a small bone to pick with the songwriting. The EP starts out with its best foot forward, & is, as a result, pretty frontheavy. Towards the end, it feels like difference in delivery--the singsong chorus on Iron Crone, for example--is what keeps the individual tracks distinct, rather than a more fluid & exploratory approach to composition. While not truly a significant issue here, adopting more break-the-pattern moments might prevent stagnation further down the line. But to reiterate, Terraflesh is an effort where sheer energy, not needle-threading precision, is the name of the game. As an embodiment of heavy metal’s bloody take-no-prisoners ethos, this flayed monstrosity of a demo comes highly recommended.