John Garcia – “John Garcia” (Napalm Records)
Kyuss. Slo Burn. Unida. Hermano. Vista Chino. Whatever legendary vocalist John Garcia turns his hand to becomes El Dorado. Now comes his long awaited solo release and like a desert receiving life renewing rains, it’s blossoms are both to marvel and wonder. Musically, there’s nothing heavy or complicated about this album, essentially being light stoner groove rock. Garcia’s laid back almost radio miked vocals indeed kick back to the back seat of the mix, with the drums somewhere in the mid range and the guitars n bass up front producing a fuzz around sound that really encompasses the listener on funky but trippy songs like ’5,000 Miles’ (written by Danko Jones 10 years ago as a gift to John) , the hard rockin Cult-ish ‘All These Walls’ with the 43 year old Garcia still showing power in his voice and a simply choogin’ cover of Black Mastiff’s ‘Rolling Stoned’, arguably the star on this record. Speaking of stellar lights, the sunset acoustic closer of ‘Her Bullets Energy’ – written by John when he was 19 years old – features The Doors legendary Robby Krieger guesting on Spanish guitar who provides a fitting western rock finish to match the splendor of Garcia’s desert style. With Queens Of The Stone Age’s Nick Oliveri providing bass lines and Slo Burn’s Chris Hale and Damon Garrison guesting alongside Hermano’s Dandy Brown and Dave Angstrom, Garcia’s self titled solo is a fitting reflection of the man’s life, his experiences, his (many) friends and ultimately his achievements. Beyond that, it is one damn fine rock album that while not being a take two of his previous projects certainly acknowledges his roots while taking it to the next level and into a wider arena.
Overkill – “White Devil Armory” (Nuclear Blast Records)
34 years on, 17 albums later and New Jersey crew Overkill are true to form dishing out the dirt in their street smart n sassy thrash just like how it was back in the 80s. Still with Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellesworth and DD Verni from the original line-up, Overkill built up their fearsome reputation through relentless live touring where their music shredded audiences across the globe over the decades. Having seen them live many times, they are without doubt a European festival favorite where rain or shine their no nonsense metal gives rabid crowds just what they want time n again - destruction to the max! “White Devil Armory” continues that trend – just check out the sledgehammer power of ‘Where There’s Smoke’ and you’ll know just what I’m taking about – dirty strummed bass, raw twin guitars chainsawing away and pummeling drum work along with Blitz’s larynx shredded screaming vocals and punk shout outs with heaps of attitude born on the street. This is Overkill baby! But amazingly to some there is some variety to the material on this one. Don’t be expecting any ballads or any kind’ve wimped out shit, this is Overkill afterall, but on ‘Bitter Pill’ they slow things down to half speed and go for a dark n heavy approach while on ‘Another Day To Die’ its more of a street punk swankin groove with naturally loads of attitude as Blitz broodingly purrs ‘…stone cold killer gonna send me home…’ while Skull and Linsk’s guitars chop da meat n crank out some sassy melodies – oh man, this is heaven! With the rest of the album following suit incorporating subtle elements here and there, it keeps Overkill’s material fresh n variable to the point where it’s consistent but not colorless. Closing with the epic ‘In The Name’, Overkill even bring in some NWOBHM guitars and melodies before turning it into a Priest like rocker and finally evoking punk chanting towards the end – to anyone else this would be contrived but to these street kids now in their 50s its just who and what they are.
Suicide Silence – “You Can’t Stop Me” (Nuclear Blast Records)
A pivotal moment in the band’s history, “You Can’t Stop Me” is dedicated to Mitch Lucker, Suicide Silence’s founder vocalist who wrote this last song before dying in a motorcycle crash in 2012. Continuing on with Hernan “Eddie” Hermida of All Shall Perish, the band have also stepped up their game – perhaps with that album title having a dual meaning – in moving towards the lighter end of the deathcore spectrum. In Hermida they have a vocalist who can do that given his incredible range from his bear roars to his literally screaming screamo vocals – the ‘You Only Live Once’ vocal takes speak for themselves! But behind him, there is a slicker band, that although still a formidable whirring buzzsaw of death, have an altogether more polished approach stylized by arrangements and melodies allowing their material a greater reach. Blasting out with ‘Inherit The Crown’ the band challenge – and silence – all takers who would’ve put em to bed given Lucker’s prominent role in the band, before moving onto the broodingly melancholic mello metal core of ‘Sacred Words’, almost another tribute by the band in acknowledging his lost presence. With guest vocals from Cannibal Corpse’s George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher adding guttural weight to the brutality of ‘Control’ and The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato releasing the beast of the ‘Monster Within’, Suicide Silence push the envelope out even further on ‘Ending Is the Beginning’, that originally debuted on the band’s 2005 self titled EP. Closing with the stomping djent death of ‘Don’t Die’ and ‘Ouroboros’ that mixes deathcore with metalcore and dark melodic passages, it’s clear that despite suffering the calamity of Mitch’s untimely death (he was only 28 – Ed) I feel in my heart that carrying on the band he co founded would’ve been the choice he would’ve wanted and “You Can’t Stop Me” is a statement to that effect as well as a fitting enough epitaph. RIP Mitch Lucker, 1984 – 2012.
Voodoo Gods – “Anticipation For Blood Leveled In Darkness” (Saturnal Records)
Formed by drummer Alex ‘Voodoo’ Von Poschinger back at the turn of the century, over the years he’s been joined by friends like Behemoth’s Nergal along with Mike Browning (ex-Morbid Angel, ex-Acheron) and guitar legend David ‘Shred Demon’ Shankle (ex-Manowar) on lead guitars. Most recently none other than Cannibal Corpse’s George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher has added his formidable vocal talents to the Voodoo Gods, living up to their (unintentional) reputation as a par excellence supergroup. Despite the large death metal presence, surprisingly other than in George’s familiar guttural tones, the music lends itself towards the supercharged heavy metal played by that other great Florida band, Charred Walls Of The Damned. Scale shredding Paganini virtuoso guitars that machine gun classic metal riffs complemented by guru of death Jean Baudin’s nuclear bass lines conspiring with Von Poschinger’s own precision anabolic drum work may give the uninitiated a seeming impression of blast beats but in reality are optimizations of the extreme meeting human technicality. It’s little wonder why there are so many extreme metal players in ‘Voodoo’s band! With a liberal and of course intelligent use of melodies both subtle and prominent, songs like ‘The Termination Of God’, ‘Wrath Of The Invisible Children’ and ‘Cetewayo’ (check out that sitar – Ed) draw conceptually from the spectral world as well as spiritual nature and despite Von Poschinger’s undisguised hatred of the church, his music could’ve been manna from the heavens themselves.
Necros Christos – “Nine Graves” (Sepulchral Voice Records / Ván Records)
“If I wait, the grave is mine house. Yea I have made my bed in the darkness.” The dark ones have returned. Now more occult and avant garde than before, these Berlin death metallers have brought it to the max on this mini album that invokes the very spirituality and mysticism that forms so much of their intense live show, not to mention their incredible music. Opening with an Indian sitar intro it’s almost like ‘Apocalypse Now’ before the crushing massive of ‘Black Bone Crucifix’ possesses you body and soul as Mors Dalos Ra’s savage, growling vocals transfix you while his guitar (now joined by The Evil Reverend N’s) brings forth occult black riffs and dark, exotic melodies on songs like the re-recorded yet totally re-arranged ‘Baptized By The Black Urine Of The Deceased’ leaving nothing to the imagination! In between these brooding monsters comes peace and tranquility in the form of eastern interludes like the traditional Persian folk of ‘Gates’. The contrast is nothing short of mesmerizing. Musically, Necros Christos take influences from early Morbid Angel but equally there are occult heavy metal elements like Angel Witch not to mention Mercyful Fate’s early occult thrash. Added to that comes their deeply spiritual, religious and philosophical beliefs taken from the ancient east ranging from Jewish mysticism to Egyptian beliefs as well as Indian arts and studies. Together they make a captivating package combining a mind body experience that opens the soul to hear their word – that death metal’s time is at hand, beyond borders, beyond skin colors and ultimately no boundaries – so amen to that.
Abolition A.D. – “After Death Before Chaos” (Pulverised Records)
Nihilistic crust core from the capitalist island state of Singapore! Despite its pristine, structured, almost utopic society clearly there lurks a dark underbelly no better exemplified than by the grim music of Abolition A.D. On the face of it, 4 typical nerdy looking Singaporeans – that is until the bile of songs like ‘Enchanted Land’, ‘After Death Before Chaos’ and ‘Medieval Minds’ spews forth! Ugly, hoarse guttural vocals courtesy of bassist / vocalist Muhd Azri sets the tone for the distorted twin guitars of Fadzly and Azhari who conspired to pummel the senses when not teasing our minds with the insanity of their simple but twisted melodies. With Farhan’s dull drums completing the depressing assault, Abolition A.D. achieve their aim of being the very antithesis that their futuristic city state strives so ardently to be – it’s amazing the ever watchful Singaporean government hasn’t shut them down! Still, until they do, we can but only appreciate the 7 tracks that revel in the apocalypse to come as the band dextrously shifts from heavy metalcore to fusing black death thrash a la early Sepultura into a doom crust noise wrapper, tied off with primitive production that only adds to the stench of their sweaty crust. With cover art conceptualized by Malaysian artist Amy Hamdan, and the layout done by Poland’s Kontamination Design (Morbus Chron, Ulcer, Exhale, Graveyard, etc) this debut is a milestone built in the pursuit of sublime chaos!
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