Written by: Blackie Skulless
Probably one of the more anticipated debuts of our time, Midnight Spell finally cast their vision from the Between The Eyes demo into full-length format. For those unaware, these Miami, Florida based metal maniacs cast an old school-inspired heavy metal dish with leanings towards glam and speed alike. So it should go without saying that their style is pretty concise, with Sky Destroyer capitalizing on vocal harmony and gentle force.
Weirdly, this did not grab me the way I anticipated off the bat, but not necessarily in a negative sense, either. There’s a bit of a split between the two halves, and the back half made the front half easier to appreciate. Essentially, it eases you in strictly familiar territory, using on-the-nose tactics. “Midnight Ride” is a striking number, filled with booming drums and powerful vocals to blend in perfectly with the classic metal revival acts. You also get the soothing “Lady Of The Moonlight,” capturing early Dokken feels with its calm approach despite harder rhythms. The bassline and solo in particular are swell.
Written by: Blackie Skulless
Wolf was a blip on the NWOBHM radar that came and went before they really had a shot at any kind of fame. The discography includes one demo in ‘82 and a full-length in ‘84, and that's all she wrote. The latter is what I’m here to discuss, because it’s an incredible gem that was not only overlooked, but also could have been huge if the spotlight was kinder to it. Edge Of The World is the name, and it falls on the warmer edge of the NWOBHM spectrum.
I say “warmer” simply because of its calmer delivery and overly welcoming vocals. The first thing that comes to mind is Def Leppard’s On Through The Night, but with guitars that are way undercooked. Melody dominates the entire disc, with concise vocals that latch themselves onto a vibrant scale of rhythms. I wouldn’t say that there’s much in the vein of mean riffs, but the production gives them a firm ground to reflect back the solid leads. This certainly allows for loads of bounciness, much like the faster but steady picking behind the chorus of “Shock Treatment.”
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.
Written by: Blackie Skulless
Woah man, the usual rate for Haunt dropping releases is one full-length per year, with a complimentary EP to go along with it. But 2020 is different, and considering the amount of shit this year has offered humanity, it’s nice when things are different for the better. Frontman Trevor Church dropped Haunt’s third album Mind Freeze at the beginning of the year--an album of the year contender for sure. But instead of an EP to follow, we get a second full-length under the name Flashback.
Unsurprisingly, this is the cleanest effort the band has dropped to date, especially considering the vocals taking more of the forefront than ever before. I chalk that up to the concise and clear delivery. Additionally, we’re met with a far warmer feeling to contrast the previous record, fitting the summer time feelings, rather than the winter ones of the previous effort. It’s probably safe to say that this is also where Haunt were reaching for more of a pop-metal aesthetic, especially with “Electrified.” The chorus is catchy as hell and somewhat watered down, though it isn’t bad by any stretch of the word. You just can’t ignore the prettier nature and simplistic build.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Canada has been on a tear with its metal releases so far this year. Alberta specifically has been a hotbed for heavy lately. Whether you want genre bending devastation of the stunning Wake Devouring Ruin release, or some mind numbingly heavy stoner doom in Highbernation's Comatokes, chances are you can find something to scratch that itch in-province.
Now you might be saying, “I'm actually in the mood for some trad-heavy, maybe some NWOBHM speed stuff.” If so, gather ‘round weary reader, for the local village Journeyman has the release for you. Termination Shock, recently released through Gates of Hell Records, is the second full-length from Calgary speed rockers Traveler.
RoadRash. The name alone strongly reeks of a certain sonic quality: mustachioed, leatherclad, whiskey-sodden, and imbued with a lifetime of chainsmok’d cheap cigars. You either know what I’m talkin’ about, or you have never experienced (or imagined) the adrenal rush associated with drag racing a Mad Maxian jalopy down the uncivilized highway, sparks flying from the torn bumper’s ungainly contact with the sunbaked pavement, booze churning though your veins and Motorhead bootlegs blaring through busted speakers. Y’know, that particular (and relatable) fantasy.
Self-reported “Canadian speed metal marauders” RoadRash are raw speed metal at its most straightforward, most belligerent, and, frankly, most fun. Think Excited. Think Razor. If you’re still with me, think Warhead, or Living Death, or Iron Angel. Whiplash with sleezier vocals and more references to driving fast. In other words, RoadRash (and now you, presumably,) are familiar indeed with the grimy lineup of speed metal royalty. This 2-track EP exudes a gloriously infectious devil-may-care ‘tude--and when it comes to speed metal, if you ain’t got that, you ain’t got shit.
Autumn was a brief affair here at the Sleeping Village, and now that rime coats our beards and the snow has unceremoniously de-robed the trees, we slumbering scribes are all set to slip into hibernation for the next five months or so.
But! To combat said lethargy before it truly sets in, I, in all my administration authority, bequeathed our archivist to trawl through our overstuffed mailcart for something worthy of our collective attention. When he emerged, Galaxy’s sci-fi inspired debut EP clutched in white-knuckled grasp, I was confident we had, at very least, an approximation of a winner. And so here we are, blasting Lost From the Start ‘till our lids droop. Feel free to join in the festivities.
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.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!