Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rumors Heard in MySpace, Episode 11

Happy New Year, Waveriders! I know that most of you will be heading out to some warm and, hopefully, safe place to celebrate the end of 2008 and consume some liquid indulgency to welcome in 2009. So, Racer and I want to wish you all the best. Don’t get behind the wheel after sucking down some sudsy elixir or mixed love potion . . . and remember to wear protection, oh promiscuous ones! Though we love you, we don’t need more of you! To ring in the New Year with hopes of positivity and growth, we’re going to focus on a number of bands that are releasing new goodies in the coming months. Yeah, most of its metal . . . that’s not a bad thing, is it? Not from where I’m standing. Well . . . sitting. It’s a bitch to type standing up. Try it sometime. You’ll know what I mean.

Enough of this nonsensical banter . . . on with the Rumors!

Out of the fog enshrouded banks of the San Francisco Bay comes a band that I stumbled on about three years ago. Way back then, the music that I heard from Cloakwheel was this heavy progressive thrash instrumental type stuff (probably because they hadn’t worked out the vocal portions yet) and I thought that these guys had a pretty cool sound. Well, fast forward to the end of 2008 and I’ve heard some new tracks with vocals and all, and let me tell ya’ . . . their debut album should turn many a head! The tracks that they have posted on their page showcase songs with strong vocals filled with their own nuance, great bass and guitar work, and some wonderfully colorful drumming. I shit thee not . . . check out the tune “Oceans of Time.” What’s that sound? Oh yes . . . that is the sound of heads turning. The album, entitled This Crooked Path You’ve Drawn, was released on December 12th and if you’re interested in more info, swing by the bands page and check ‘em out. You won’t be sorry with this one!

I loved Ashes of the Wake from Lamb of God. I went to see them on tour with Slipknot and felt like a team of nut socking ninjas used my ballsack as a speed bag. I felt a little bit of a letdown with Sacrament, but that was because Ashes was so damn good. Now, I paid a visit to their MySpace page and feel like everything I know about metal has been wiped clear from my being. Waveriders, if their new single, “Contractor” is any indication of the brilliance of their new album, then Lamb of God have laid claim to the title of Kings of Heavy Metal and it will take the combined might of every sub-genre to knock them off of that mountain. In-freaking-credible! Filled with dynamic breaks, trademark speed drumming, killer riffage, and the politically scathing lyrics of Randy Blythe, dear Lord . . . my heart is racing with anticipation for this release. Oh, and isn’t this nice! As if to pay homage to your friendly neighborhood Pope, Lamb of God is releasing Wrath on my birthday! February 24th, y’all . . . write it down. Get me something nice.

Oh, and something else that is coming out on the 24th of February (hint, hint) is the new God Forbid album, Earthsblood. From what I’ve gathered about the album is that, as is common with the band, it’s brimming with social and political observations meant to get us listeners to stop and think about our actions from time to time. The music is as heavy as anything I’ve heard them do in the past and, as per usual, features some stellar guitar work. Now, what would be really cool is if, since both bands are releasing albums on the same day, that God Forbid goes out on tour with Lamb of God. They could call it the Good God Tour. Or maybe . . . God Only Knows Tour. Or how about . . . The Lamb of Good God Forbid Tour! Alright. I’m out. Anyway, it appears that God Forbid will be traveling down the European highways for the better part of two months, so maybe we’ll get them back home this summer. Fingers crossed!

Norwegian death thrashers, Susperia, have a new album scheduled for release in early 2009. I don’t have a lot of info outside of the album title (Speaking Killing Words) and that it will be available for the masses in the very near future. The band has mentioned that the new album will exhibit the fast and heavy qualities that we’ve come to expect from the band, and all with a touch of melody. Yeah. I’m looking forward to that, coz’ y’all know how much I loved Unlimited.

I received news that our good friend Jeff Sanders of Mountain Mirrors is hard at work on the follow up of the magnificent Dreadnought album that came out earlier in the year. He’s working with a rhythm section in Stockholm, Sweden called OddGrooves. These guys apparently throw down rhythms in odd or non-traditional meters, which can be used as samples for other musicians worldwide. I’m not sure on all the in’s and out’s of how this process works, but if I understand it correctly, it opens the door to create some wonderful compositions that the home studio can’t offer otherwise. No date yet on the new Mountain Mirrors release, but I’m sure Jeff will keep us posted. And if he doesn’t, we’ll just ask him.

New Orleans based prog-rockers, Abigail’s Ghost are putting the finishing touches on their next album. I don’t have a title for you at the moment, but I do know that pre-orders will be taken after January 10th as that is the scheduled date for the mastering to be complete. If you haven’t heard Abigail’s Ghost, then you’ll definitely want to check these cats out. They have that proggy vibe going on with a lot of ambient tones washing through the music and, when you least expect it, the music explodes in a furry of distorted riffs. Kinda’ reminds me of Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree, so if you’re a fan of that style rock, these guys oughta’ perk up the ears.

Finnish masters of symphonic metal, Nightwish, are releasing a CD/DVD in March. From what I can tell, it captures the band live in Hong Kong and various other points of interest along their massively popular Dark Passion Play Tour. Being a big fan of the bands last two albums, I can’t help but get excited about this one. Though I enjoyed the last DVD that featured Tarja Turunen on vocals, I was bugged by her stage presence and her constant waving at the audience. I’m curious to see how Anette Olzon handles the duty of front person. I know she can sing like an angel, but now . . . does she have the charismatic strength to lead a band such as Nightwish in a live setting. I’ll be letting you know what I think in March.

On a local slant, San Diego’s Incomplete Neighbor is reportedly in the last days of recording and prep for their first album. I have sketchy details at best pertaining to this release, but what I do know is that the band is working feverishly to complete the disc and release it in early Spring of 2009. Now, if you haven’t heard these guys, which I’m sure a lot of you haven’t, then swing by their page and listen to the four tracks from their demo. They’ve got this great alt-rock sound going on and dude’s voice eerily reminds me of Bono. That’s a good thing coz’ really . . . who doesn’t love Bono’s voice?

Word has come down from the mad geniuses of East of the Wall. It looks like they’re working on a split disc with Spring with Rosetta and Year of No Light. Excited? Me? Just a little. In no way am I even remotely close to being tired of the bands monstrously epic album, Farmer’s Almanac. It’s just that at this time of year, I’m like a greedy little kid who can’t get enough presents under the Christmas tree. I gotta’ have more East of the Wall. And if I’m going to be exposed to two more bands in the process of getting more East of the Wall, well . . . all the better! It’s slated to be released through Level Plain Records. Stay tuned for that! Also . . . before I forget, the lads from EOTW who are also in Biclops are in the planning stages of recording a new Biclops album. Holy shit, I say. It’s like Christmas is running all year long!

I posted a review a few months back from a band called Machinery, and I know a few of you readers actually read that one. I know because you told me. Anywho’s . . . the band has posted a video for the lead track off of The Passing album called “Cold.” I normally couldn’t give a shit about videos, but in this case, there was something about seeing these guys hammer out this amazing tune. The video actually captures the essence of the song in excruciatingly perfect detail. Grab a blanket and watch the video. Me likey a lot.

In tour rumors, two Swedish bands have either hit the road or returned from the road. The tripped out sounds of Dead Man will be hitting U.S. soil in February and concentrating on the states of the East Coast. I probably should be careful to mention this, otherwise Racer may book a midnight flight to catch the entire leg of the tour. So, Dead Man . . . for the sake of our yearly budget, please schedule a show or two on the West Coast. Thanks. The other group of Swedes in the rumor mill are prog-meisters, Trettioariga Kriget. They’ve just returned from they’re very first sojourn to Japan in support of their first double live CD set, War Years. I guess it wasn’t so much of a tour as it was a trip to Japan to play a couple of gigs and then come back to Sweden. I guess you could liken it to a vacation where the entire band traveled together and then played their music to a group of fans. I gotta’ talk to my travel agent about a vacation like that. Sound like fun!

Well friends, that pretty much sums up what I’ve heard while I had my ear pressed against the information super highway. It sounds like 2009 will be another incredible year of equally incredible music. All the stuff I passed info on is due for release in the first quarter alone! Yes . . . I know I’m asking a lot of you to do math on the day we all traditionally get so inebriated that we can’t even remember our own names, but work with me here. It’s simple math. Four quarters make one whole. That means, we have three more quarters of the year with the expectation of great music! Doesn’t that excite you? It does me. And, I’m sure Racer is wiping the drool from his face at the realization of what stands before us. Ain’t life grand? Be safe tonight, my friends. Please drink responsibly. We want y’all to come back and be a part of the family next year! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday's Zen - Air Traffic

OK. So Air Traffic have been around a while now, but it's still surprising me how few people seem to have heard of them. So just in case you're one of them, here's a look at what you've been missing.

Air Traffic are Chris Wall, David Jordan, Jim Maddock and Tom Pritchard, four lads from Bournemouth who's debut album Fractured Life peaked at number 42 in the album chart and really should have caused much more of a stir than it did. Piano led, guitar driven indie rock, it's a heartfealt and energetic record that demands your attention. Think Coldplay with teeth and you're somewhere close. Expect a full review on my sister blog Winston Reviews soon.

If you still haven't heard them, and want to know what all the fuss is about, click the player below to listen to Shooting Star, a former number 1 on Xfm's music:response.

Air Traffic are on tour in January with shows across the country including a date at the prestigious Koko in London, and I for one hope to be there. If you want to catch the boys in your area check out their myspace for more details. While you're on myspace, take the time to listen to the frankly excellent Charlotte, which was released as a single for the second time in March. It's well worth three minutes of your time.

I was lucky enough to catch an impressively energetic set filmed for Channel 4 in an intimate North London venue a week or two ago, and beleive me, if you can get tickets I doubt you'll be disappointed. I've posted a few links below so you can swot up before the show.

Back Soon,

Air Traffic on

Monday, December 29, 2008

Proto-metal Report - Hairy Chapter - Can't Get Through

I’ve been living with this disc for so long now; it’s become nearly impossible for me to write this review.

Absolutely frenetic, guitar searing heavy psych from Germany, Hairy Chapter steamrolls past most of the similar bands of the time. German axe God Harry Titlbach single handedly makes the Scorpions Lonesome Crow, seem pastoral by comparison. Titlbach coaxes, flexes and wrings screaming howls out his guitar, pained with anguish, reaching a tone of angst-filled mourning from his six-string that I’ve never heard before or since. The whole album is only five tracks but from start to finish it’s a rip-roaring, freakout of blues-based proto-metal. Adding frosting to their meaty cake, a touch of krautrock rears its Teutonic head, adding unusual textures and rhythms to the mix.

Comfortably, this album is a lost classic of the proto-metal period, still rooted in the heavy psych of the time, but washed in its own world of morbid insanity and maudlin mental anguish. The Laser's Edge magazine once declared this album "unihibited guitar debauchery." Soundwise, the closest comparison from the bands we’ve reviewed in the Proto-metal report is Dschinn, but they make the standard song structures that Dschinn favored seem prosaic. While they sound absolutely nothing like Atomic Rooster, that’s the band that comes closest to describing the tone of tortured dysphoria that seeps through this disc like a odor lingering in the air from a recent suicide.

“There’s a Kind of Nothing,” starts off quite normally enough, riding on the back of a moderately fuzzed simple chord riff, but then that guitar comes in, screaming with a psychic pain that needs to be heard to be believed. Titlbach wrings more anguish from his opening lead volley than most death metal bands achieve in a career. This is emotive playing to the Nth degree. Harry Unte’s strained voice follows next, a primal scream set to melody. The bass, drums and rhythm guitar keep the song propelled forward at a charging pace, while Titlbach keeps dropping in lead fills like a prisoner screaming for escape. The entire song builds to a crescendo of near mental illness, then suddenly. . . it’s gone. Silence fills the space, perhaps even more intense than the madness you’d just witnessed. A lone bass plucks out a riveting solo, building in volume, the drums adding on, the guitar gently layering on top. An acoustic strumming. Then, delicately, Titlbach adds his tone, hiding underneath the bass, filling the atmosphere with punctuated arpeggios. This is mourning in music, like the lament for some lost love.

The main riff and more frantic guitar follows for the final 35 seconds of the song, then suddenly we’re into the stuttering, staggering doom-filled riff of “Can’t Get Through.” Here, Unte steals the show, his vocals a squealing, cracking, incomprehensible journey to the edge of sanity. The harmonica keeps the frenetic pace revving, charging into the mix at the 1:30 mark, leading us off into a an absolutely acrid smoke filled eight minutes of searing hard psych guitar wizardry. Again, Titlbach wrings tortured tones from this axe that are hard to believe. This song is like the lost grail of heavy psych guitar jamming, a florid explosion of leads, barely anchored to this stratosphere by the looping bass and motorik drumming. By the six-minute mark, the jam begins to lose focus, but who the hell cares, you’re nearly to exhausted to pay attention anyways.

“It Must Be an Officer’s Daughter,” comes next, starting off with a cacophony of feedback and fuzz, picking up right where, “Can’t Get Through,” left off. Just like “Tomorrow Night,” this is a love song of such demented proportions it seems to border on obsession and is probably illegal in several states. Lost amidst the horror movie Sabbath riff, and Titlbach’s wailing fills, Unte’s voice, verging on the edge of comprehension, screams such words of love as “I want to feel your 27 fingers explode in my body!” and the ever-popular expression of love, “You’re my bourgeois, my bourgeois sweet fantasy.” Don’t know about you, but that line’s never worked for me. Not even once.

“As We Crossed Over,” is a bizarre anomaly, a beautifully strummed guitar piece, the bass playing some other random tune underneath, while a trumpet (??) burps out a death march. I do believe the “crossing over,” he’s referring to is suicide, but truthfully, I haven’t the faintest idea what’s on that dark organ he calls a brain. Quickly, the song degenerates into a mishmash of random noises coming from every instrument the boys could get their hands on, while Unte wails on as if someone's got him by the balls.

Finally, “You’ve Got to Follow This Masquerade,” brings the disc to a close, another riff-crazed, psychedelic guitar freak-out of monstrous proportions, capping off an entirely exhausting, beautifully satisfying and ultimately terrifying journey through the band’s tenuous mental state. Left nearly breathless after each listen, Hairy Chapter plays like an addictive drug, one that I can never seem to get enough of. Quivering after each mind-blowing, IQ shattering listen, my shaking hands continues to reach for the play button. Needing to give the disc another spin.


Buy here: Eyes/Can't Get Through

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best of Heavy Rock 2008 - A Ripple Music Round-up

Since year end lists seem to be the thing to do, and since we've been asked by our good buddy over at Heavy Metal Addiction to see what we could come up with, The Pope and I rummaged through all the heaping slabs of steaming metal and hard rock that Postman Sal had slumped through our office doors this year. Now, since we at the Ripple do things a little differently, focusing on the "Best Music You're Not Listening to," our year end list may look a little different than others. You'll find no Metallica, Motorhead or AC/DC on this list, even though those bands put out some fine releases. Truth be told, those guys don't need us propping up their sound anyways. But give us a group of guys (or girls) pounding it out when the odds are stacked against them, bills are due and the basement is leaking, well, that's our kinda band.

With that all in mind, the choosing was still really hard. We were forced to eliminate some definite favorites for lack of room or not fitting in with the genre (like Ernie Halter, Attack! Attack!, Vanessa Kafka or Amy MacDonald), but here it is, without further ado, the Ripple best of heavy metal/hard rock list of 2008. Just click on the band name to read the review. Argue at your will.

The Pope's List

Braintoy - Vehicles

East of the Wall - Farmer's Almanac

Opeth - Watershed

Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons

Trettioariga Kriget - War Years

Guillotine - Blood Money

Machinery - The Passing

Hollow Corp - Cloister of Radiance

Khold - Hundre Ar Gammel

Enslaved - Vertebrae (review coming)

Racer's List

Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows

Roadsaw - See You in Hell

The Chair - S/T

Brain Police - Beyond the wasteland

Space Probe Taurus - S/T

Bible of the Devil - Freedom Metal (review coming)

Colour Haze - All

Venomin James - Left Hand Man

Dead Man - Euphoria

Ogre - Plague of the Planet

There you have it. The best metal/hard rock you're not listening to. Below, find a list of all the other great sites involved in this fun year end project. Check em all out, agree, disagree, argue and comment. It's all good.

Peace and joy for the New Year!

Heavy Metal Addiction --

Hard Rock Hideout --

Heavy Metal Time Machine --

Bring Back Glam --

Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense --

Imagine Echoes --

Metal Excess --

Rock Of Ages --

Layla's Classic Rock --

The Metal Minute --

All Metal Resource -

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Philosopher Kings – S/T

When Racer handed me this disc somewhere in the summer of 1997, I was this dude who was burnt out on modern metal and really looking for something that I could spin that would give me the air of some maturity and wisdom. Now, I’m not going to say the self titled debut from The Philosopher Kings is an album that will endow you with the wisdom of King Solomon, but I do guarantee that listening to this album will make you a whole lot cooler in my book. Yeah . . . for what that’s worth.

The Philosopher Kings is a richly textured jazz meets R&B swagger type of an album and, quite frankly, just plain smooth. The lyrics colorfully paint pictures of normal people trying to get by in love and life. The music bumps from an R&B funk groove to a soulful jazzy swing. The musicianship shows a group of young men laying it all out there with the passion of a steamy romance in the darkened backrooms of a club. The vocals, well . . . they just bring the whole thing together, making this album one that should have been on everyone’s Best of list from 1995.

The first three songs from the album should be enough for any new comer to the band to get a good sense of what they’re in store to hear. “Turn My Head Around” is a piano driven, rhythmic séance that will inevitably get the hips moving, highlighted by some jazz inspired guitar work at the solo. The third track, “All Dressed Up For San Francisco,” is a musically heartrending number as it opens with a clean toned guitar playing sparse notes and the accompanying vocals, filled with soul, tell the tale of a girl in Mason City with dreams of life in the big city. Note the guitar work throughout the song as the notes are perfectly placed. The bass holds down the rhythm with its throbbing voice. But, it’s the vocal work, both lead and harmonies that get me every time this song makes its way through the rotation.

The tune that stops me dead no matter what I’m doing is the second number “Lay My Body Down.” The song tells of a man coming home from a grueling trek away from home, and you can feel the weariness in the voice as it’s sung over the jazzed out keys and bass rumblings. Key into the groove and you’ll love the solos from the trumpet and keys. The song comes to an amazing climax as the homeward bound man finds that some other “bear has his paws in his honey” and the vocals break with all the passion of a man who is hell bent on payback. Both music and vocals hit all the right notes as you can actually sense the entire band feeling the pain of our hero who finds his girl in the arms of another man. “Lay My Body Down” is a perfectly painted picture, and the number one reason everybody should have a copy of this album.

Throughout the album, the lyrics are used to not just tell us a story, but to create these vivid imagines that transport the listener into the hearts of the songs. Wordsmiths that I can only dream to be! “Leave That Man” is another tune that teleports us to the a world where we’re plaintively calling to a woman to simply leave the bum and come to place the place where she’ll be treated right. Sure, the singer conveys the message with clarity and conviction, but the words are perfect, and without them, the singer is just humming the melody. Think about it . . . you’ll get there.

Surprising to me was that the song “Charms” was tapped as the single for the album, and though it’s a great song, I can’t imagine why “Lay My Body Down” didn’t get the nod. But that’s just me. “Charms” is more of a groovin’ R&B number that features some great melodies and musicianship. The funked out guitar passages, the omnipresent bass groove, the steady-Freddy drum work, the vocals . . . all layered on top of each other, music filling all of the nooks and crannies like water flowing in a jar filled with gravel. This sucker builds until there’s nowhere to go but to fade out. After listening to it with a more critical ear, I can hear it as a single (most certainly), though I wouldn’t have made it the first one.

The Philosopher Kings may have gone gold in Canada, but it went cold in the U.S. and I truly can’t imagine why. Maybe its coz’ it’s from Canada. Face it . . . the best Canadian bands have the hardest time breaking the U.S. markets and it’s not for lack of quality. I’m beginning to think that there’s some conspiracy against the music that makes its way down from the Great White North. Rush had a hell of a time. Who here has heard of Voivod? Kataklysm? How about Braintoy? Okay . . . so some of those are extremely obscure and genre-only relevant bands, but The Philosopher Kings could, and should, fit comfy in everyone’s back pocket. They write some fantastic songs that take the listener away from their own problems and plop them down right in the midst of someone else’s. It’s not an album that will wake the neighbors, and if it did, they’d probably come over with a pot of tea or a bottle of whisky to simply be in the room with you. And, it’s not too soft that you’ll pass out from boredom. There’s groove . . . there’s soul . . . there’s honesty and integrity and an unexplored world of possibilities. The Philosopher Kings. I gotta’ go, y’all . . . Plato calls. - Pope JTE

Buy here: The Philosopher Kings

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry Ripple Christmas Gift free album for You - Mighty High - In Drug City

In this time of world-wide chaos, war and general, all-around nastiness, The Pope and I would like to take a moment to wish you and yours a very happy and peaceful Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza. Perhaps for 2009, calmer heads will prevail and we'll all learn that we're just inhabitants of this one little orbiting rock called earth. A wise man once said, "every problem in this world could be solved instantly if we could only agree." Forget that, I'm just in favor of us allowing each other the privilege to agree to disagree. We don't all need to see the world the same, just peacefully.

So in that spirit of brotherhood, world peace and love, we're offering to you a free gift of a balls out, scuzzy slab of fuzzed-out, punked-up, high-as-a-fucking-kite, stoner rock. Now if that doesn't say brotherhood to all races and religions, I don't know what does.

Mighty High blast out an adrenaline rush of riff-crazed, stoner madness with the elegance of a charging rhino in heat visiting the woman's club. We're talking sleazy burst of gutsy rock like, "Breakin Shit," "Drug City," and "Stone Gett-off." Our main man Woody and his fried companions of chaos, attack their gits, drums and bass like they've had one too many hits of the adrenaline bong, and damn, if that isn't a good thing.

So, in the interest of world peace, we urge you to jump all over this baby. If we all followed the boys philosophy of "I live to Get High," we just might all be a little to lazy to wage war.

Thanks to the Mighty High boys for this X-mas offering and happy holidays to you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's a Jolly Ripple Christmas and Rock and Roll Hannukah

Since tomorrow is Christmas and today is the middle of Hannukah, we got a few more Ripple goodies for you.

This first one blew me away. Check out this killer jew punk blast of a Hannuhak song that features none other than famous ex-Television guitarist and living legend, Richard Lloyd. This is quite positively the best Hannukah song I've ever heard!

Now, be sure to tune back here tomorrow, as we've got a special Ripple Christmas free album giveaway for you (for everybody!)

And since tomorrow is Christmas, I thought we'd drop in our vote for best ever original rock/christmas tune by a bunch of former seventies glam-rockers. It's certainly Mrs. Racer's favorite, and that's saying something. That's right folks, Slade and Christmas Everybody.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday's Zen - The Boxer Rebellion

Winston's Zen discovers new artists....

I came across The Boxer Rebellion when they asked me to add them on MySpace a couple of weeks ago (you can find my space here, by the way). Now normally I'd ignore the invite and kid myself into believing I'll come back and check the band out later, but for some reason I was drawn to The Boxer Rebellion's unusual moniker and I delved right on in. And I'm pleased I did.

What I found was a MySpace player flooded with six likeable and charismatic tracks, among them the gorgeous, almost epic We Have This Place Surrounded and the head noddingly addictive Watermelon. Seemingly named after turn-of-the-century Chinese dissidents, The Boxer Rebellion are four lads from London pushing the kind of bass heavy, melancholic rock you may more readily associate with the likes of The Verve and Radiohead. And it really is quite good.

Check out the afore mentioned Watermelon and see for your self. Click play below;

The Boxer Rebellion - Watermelon

After a track or so I was beginning to think that I'd found an NBT (a Next Big Thing, for the uninitiated) and a glance at their friends tally, showing a relatively paltry 7,000 odd did noting to temper my excitement. But then I noticed their biog......

Formed in 2001, an appearance on Glastonbury's new bands stage in 2003, an apparently acclaimed album, Exits in 2005 on Alan McGee's Poptones and the finishing touches being put to a follow up?! How have I missed these guys? I'm sorry, I am thoroughly embarrassed. My head hangs as low as confortable.

Don't make the same mistake as me, go check out The Boxer Rebellion now, it's not too late to become a fan, and if the track above isn't enough to encourage you, then how about two FREE DOWNLOADS? Run over to The Boxer's MySpace to get a copy of Broken Glass and JFKFC, presumably two tracks from the new album to be released in 2008. Winston's Zen is looking forward to it.

Back Soon,

The Boxer Rebellion Homepage
The Boxer Rebellion on MySpace

The Boxer Rebellion - Broken Glass

Monday, December 22, 2008

Katatonia - Viva Emptiness

In recent months, I’ve been inundated with new music that, in most cases is pretty damn good, but has kept me from one of the main reasons Racer and I started this mad cap Ripple world in the first place. The main reason we kicked this thing into high gear last year was so that we could tell all who were interested about all this great music that has been grossly underappreciated and overlooked by the mass media. So, at the risk of raising the ire of those who have kept our offices in an almost constant chaotic clutter of shining silver music capsules and so much paper product that we can hear Al Gore crying in the distance, I’ve chosen to go back a few years and tell y’all about an album that’s spent an unprecedented amount of time living in my CD player. That album, as you may have guessed, is Katatonia’s Viva Emptiness.

In 2003, while I was visiting Racer and piggy backing that with a chance to catch Iron Maiden for the one trillionth time, we pulled our usual shenanigans and spent an inordinate amount of time rustling through the bargain bins in a nearby Rasputin’s record store. Earlier in the morning, I had read in one of the metal mags that littered Racer’s abode that Katatonia’s new album was a must have and their masterpiece. Being in the hunt for something fresh I decided, why not? I’ll give this bad boy a try. I remember putting it on somewhere in between Enslaved’s Below the Lights and one of the Kataklysm albums. Truth be told . . . I didn’t remember much about Viva Emptiness. What happened after that, though, is that once I got home and got comfy in the confines of my own lair, the breadth and wonder of Katatonia’s truly epic masterpiece unfolded before my ears.

Expecting something seething in menace and abrasive as 30 grit sandpaper, I was almost shocked at the multi-layered, multi-dimensional musical opus that rattled around in my eardrums. I didn’t get the walls of sonic uber-noise or ab straining riff mongering that is so prevalent in metal. Instead, I got a dark and moody tapestry of melodically rich music that frightened me on a psychological level rather than on a physical one. Clean toned guitars outweigh the distorted variety. Off time drum patterns replace the standard 4/4 time. Tortured vocals that cry for our sympathy cancelled out the guttural utterances of traditional death metal. Viva Emptiness completely broke the mold of the death metal that I was so used to hearing, and Katatonia shattered any preconceived notion that I had of what haunting music is all about.

Like most of the songs on the album, “Ghost of the Sun” features a multitude of guitar textures, ranging from distorted walls of angst to clean arpeggio’s slowly building to create layers of tension to wah pedals being stomped as if a line of ants were making their way across the floor to abscond with the bands picnic basket. Unlike most extreme metal, Katatonia don’t fall into the clichés of the various genres and steer away from the blast beat tempos. Rather, they rely on the drums to keep the beat, though oft times with unorthodox patterns, and add fills to flourish the sound. And, mixed with melodic vocals rather than demonic growls of torment, the sounds swirl and twist, and ultimately create a haunting vibe of melancholy. This sound really steps to the forefront as the last strains of “Ghost of the Sun” fade away and “Sleeper” kicks in. A cleaned toned guitar strums out the rhythm while an eerie synthesizer howls in the background. The vocals drop in, haunting and morose, crooning their way over the chorus laden guitars, building a chilly vibe that will undoubtedly have you reaching for a sweater. Then the clean tones disappear and are immediately replaced with distorted walls of guitars, showing that the band can still rock as hard as they did in the old days. The lyrics paint pictures of sepia toned backgrounds with thin drapes blowing softly in the draft from a cracked window. A man standing just out of sight, hidden by shadow, a soft breath exhaled, the smell of ozone. Fucking creepy, man!

“Criminals” is another amazing piece of mood. The lyrics, again, let the imagination go fucking crazy! One can only imagine that the subject matter is real because it feels so damned honest. Jonas Renske does a superb job of conveying the emotion and the torture in this one. The pained melody is howled over a rolling bass line through the verses and the raucously distorted choruses. In time, you too will be singing along with Jonas because you won’t be able to help yourself. Note the venom in his tone as he spits out the phrase, “That fucker,” in the chorus. That has to be real, folks. No one can ape that much passion. I don’t care if you’re the best actor in the world, it doesn’t get more real than that!

“Burn the Remembrance,” “ One Year From Now,” and “Complicity” all carry strong grooves, creepy and haunting melodies, and off kilter dynamics that make them stand out, but it’s “Evidence” that brings it home every time. Strategically placed towards the end of the album, it’s this tune that acts as the peak of the mountain while the rest of the tunes were the steps getting us there. Opening with guitars run through some heavy effects, the tune begins to groove with the introduction of the rhythm section. Jonas Renske’s voice is spot on perfect with intonation and passion. I can’t tell you what the song is about, but the lyrics are pure poetry, and completely open to interpretation. But what makes this song soar to the heavens is the melody. As the song launches into the chorus, that wall of distorted guitar returns, and the vocal melody creates a counterpoint of beauty that elevates the soul with hope and inspiration.

It was fun going back and listening to this album. I mean, really dissecting it from top to bottom. I’ve listened to Viva Emptiness ad nauseum and love it on a primal level. Going back and trying to justify to myself, and all you Waveriders of course, actually made me appreciate this dark, melodious epic in a whole different way. Before it was just about the melodies and the dark imagery, but now it’s about this nebulous, shape shifting musical entity that takes on a new form with every subsequent listen. The interpretations of the poetic lyrics can change with the mood of the listener. Fascinating! An album that changes every time it’s listened to . . . man, think of the possibilities! In theory, one might never tire of a piece of music again. Yeah . . . it’s a stretch, but I leave y’all to ponder that possibility for awhile. - Pope JTE

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Sunday Conversation with East of the Wall

Following on the heels of their epic and mind numbingly brilliant release, Farmer’s Almanac, Kevin and Matt from East of the Wall graciously accepted our invitation to leave their butt prints in our interview couch. Check out what they have to say about their constant sources of inspiration and where they see their music going in the future.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

A few come to mind. The first one was probably when I heard “…And Justice for All” in 6th grade. Again about 2 years later when I heard “Disco Volante” by Mr. Bungle. Another a few years after that when I heard “Red” by King Crimson. Finally, last year when I heard “Barriers and Passages” by Dysrhythmia and “World Class Listening Problem” by Don Caballero.

Tool’s Aenima really opened my eyes to what you could do with heavy music. The marrying of metal with atmosphere was so unique to me, and I think it really influenced a lot of what we did at the time. Bjork also surprised me with how intimate she could be in her vocals. Songs on Post and Homogenic were the most personal things I’d ever heard, and I felt like she was telling the world exactly what was going on inside her head and her heart, bearing her soul to all. Nowadays they just call that blogging…Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan definitely expanded my understanding of rhythm. And Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring just all around kicked my ass. I think I tried to emulate that piece (poorly) for about a year. In that vein, Rachmaninov 2 taught me a lot about using themes. Failure’s Fantastic Planet is my favorite album to this day. Melody, impact, atmosphere, lyrics…it’s all there. Oh, and Isis’ Oceanic as well as Converge’s Jane Doe set new standards for me in terms of a complete and cohesive album. Those albums really feel like one song from beginning to end.

East of the Wall have a unique approach in that all of the performances are instrumental. Being such an uncommon approach in modern rock, what compelled the band to decide to go in that direction? Was there ever any discussion about having a vocalist?

Having not been in the band when that decision was made, from my perspective it’s not really necessary in the music we write. At the same time, I don’t like the idea of being confined to being an instrumental band. If we ever write something that calls for vocals, I’d like to think we’ll be smart enough to write them, and I know we have the capability to pull it off. Matt is a great singer as evidenced by his vocals with the Postman Syndrome, and Brett and I both do vocals in Biclops. So I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t become a part of what we do at some point. If Don Caballero tried it I guess anyone can.

I wasn’t in the band in the beginning so I can’t give a total answer, but when I joined I asked “would you guys be opposed to my singing at all?” They all said not at all. There have been a few times where I’ve come up with vocal melodies for some parts, and once or twice I’ve even written lyrics. But in the end I was never satisfied enough with them to actually add them into the song. It doesn’t help that our songs are so long. Makes it difficult to write about any one subject. Chris was always the guy in the Postman Syndrome driving the cohesiveness of the lyrics. He’d really challenge me to improve how my lyrics could be explored over a 7 minute song. Now Conway gets to deal with that in Biclops I guess.
Oh, and I really hate singing and playing at the same time. It means I can’t throw my guitar around.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?


Let’s give this a real shot… the word metal is going to have to make an appearance in there somewhere, so that’s a start. I guess you could say there are some jazz aspects in there, but if you say the word jazz people think “improvisation” so we’ll go with scripted jazz. Lots of people say progressive but that word carries some serious connotations with it. So to avoid thoughts of Dream Theater and Return to Forever (nothing against either, we just don’t sound like them), let’s say progressional. Now, the most obvious label to slap on us is instrumental. But that doesn’t really say much, seeing that all non-acappela music is played on instruments of some sort. So we’ll go with non vocal. And of course, since the music doesn’t quite fit into any of these genres, we’ll throw a little post in front. The result? Post-progressional, scriptedly jazzy, non-vocal metal.

For brevity’s sake I would say experimental rock. I feel like we do a lot of different things, so any description would have to be sufficiently broad.

Farmer’s Almanac is filled with a wide variety of musical styles ranging from hard edged alt-rock to straight up jazz passages. First off, thank you for making the music so compelling that it’s damn near impossible to listen to it just once. Second, you gotta’ tell me how this approach to song writing came about. Who’s the mastermind or mad scientist? Is it a joint effort?

Really a joint effort. We listen to a wide range of music between the four of us, and I think that comes out in the music. I think we also have a certain chemistry that makes the songs turn out a certain way. Typically one of us brings a few riffs in, we all write our own parts to that riff, and then after that the song tends to just sort of write itself in the rehearsal room.

This is just the way we’ve been doing it for years, since Postman. Back then it was all a little more dramatic. You’d have a total switch from death metal to funk without warning. Over the years I think we’ve really improved at making the different styles mesh well. We really don’t think about what genre of music will go next in a song. Whatever sounds best.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

It seems to be the riff that usually ends up occurring first since I’ve been in the band, but we’ll have to see what direction the new record ends up going in. I wouldn’t be shocked if what we did ended up being a little more conceptual.

Almanac is very much a riff-based album. Someone brings something in and we just play it every which way until we find the angles that are most appropriate for expanding it and taking it elsewhere. Plenty gets dumped: some that I miss and some that I don’t miss. Just the other day we went backwards and removed a few parts from a song we’re working on. I was never totally pleased with those parts so I didn’t mind ditching them. Other parts I’ve been totally into and we just weren’t able to fit it into the grand scheme of things, so goodbye. Sometimes you have to make personal sacrifices…
When Conway signed up for the band, we really started focusing on the metal. Not a conscious move at all, it just kind of happened. I really like how that worked out because Almanac has some good breather songs, and the last few songs we’ve written since then are pretty brutal. I like a good mix at shows.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I try to soak up as much music as I possibly can. I have a bad habit of buying 30 records or so at a time. Out of those 30, I’ll listen to all of them once, and then probably 3 or 4 end up becoming a part of my regular rotation. But the rest of them end up being kind of like reference material to me. I need to hear a lot of stuff, good and bad, to keep the ideas flowing. I’m also very lucky to play with musicians as talented as the guys in this band, because it makes it easier to stay motivated. You don’t show up to rehearsal with your B+ game if you know everyone else in the room is such a great player.

Other music certainly. Most recently, that Krallice album is constantly in my head. Necrophagist as well and Wolves in the Throne Room. Outside of metal, I picked up an old cd from this band the Mercury Program, and I like it a lot. The past few months I’ve spent a lot of time with Coltrane and Miles Davis. That’s thanks to the Murakami book, Kafka on the Shore, which really put me in the jazz mood, aside from it being possibly the best book I ever read. I’d be lying if I said I was not influenced by the Biclops tracks. And there are some other fantastic bands around here that have also influenced me through the years: Fake Gimms, Dilation, So is the Tongue, to name a few. I recommend them all and they are very different from us.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

I think what we naturally do is substantially different than what’s on the market currently, so it’s pretty rare that we would have to worry about that. That being said, I can think of a time or two where we wrote a riff that might have sounded a little too close to something else we had heard before. At that point, usually just by bringing the other players into the equation, it solves the problem.

I don’t I’ve never been good at thinking that way. In order to do that I’d have to eliminate everything from my head that I might be thinking. Sometimes I just pick up and play whatever comes to mind until I maneuver my way into something new, and sometimes I’m really trying to emulate a sound that I’m familiar with. Maybe that’s not the most original way to go about it, but it works best for me. And it works in a weird kind of way actually. There are certain bands that I’ve tried to emulate a good deal in the past, but have been completely unable to. Engine Down is one of those bands. They have what I’d describe as a “soft” feel (not to say that they’re not hard at all, because they can definitely hit pretty hard), but more in their riffage. They can be very delicate in their playing and really bring out the characteristics of the guitar itself, which I love. I’ve tried to riff like them many times, and I never come anywhere close. However I usually end up with something I really like, even though it sounds nothing like what I wanted in the first place.
So there you go; I write all my music by first trying to rip off Engine Down. Could you tell?

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

I think we want to convey a really three-dimensional experience. A lot of bands are really great at conveying one particular mood or type of imagery, but I want to express a broader range. When we have a song where there’s a heavy riff happening and all of a sudden the song gets atmospheric, it’s not because we’re trying to be weird or different. We want to express something that goes a little deeper than most songs do. We don’t want to be hemmed in by a particular aesthetic.

I really want them to just forget about everything else when they are listening, at a show or the cd. When I listen to music it’s not much of a social thing for me. Sure it’s fun to scream along to Burnt by the Sun with a bunch of my friends at a drunken BBQ, but when listening by myself I just let it wash me away kinda. Let the twisting and turning of the song conjure up images. That’s one reason why I am happy with no vocals; it lets the instruments make things interesting.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Since we don’t do a lot of touring we have to limit our expectations of what this band is going to be financially. The great part about that is it really allows us to create music that’s totally unencumbered by the music business. We’re never going to have our CD’s in Walmart, so we can pretty much do whatever the fuck we want.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice and why?

CD. Vinyl is too impractical for me, but I still like having something that I can hold in my hands and look at. So that eliminates digital. A lot of purists complain about sound quality on CD. I think a well-recorded record will sound great on CD or vinyl. If you did a shitty job recording it, it’s going to sound shitty no matter what formant you release it on.

I would honestly love to go digital but the formats just aren’t there for me yet. Mp3 sucks…it’s flabby and dull. And the Lossless formats are good but they don’t cut down the file size much. I’d need a terabyte ipod for all my cds.

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

I order the bulk of my music on the internet just because it’s easier to find the stuff that I’m looking for. If I’m actually going to buy music in a store, I go to Jack’s Music in Red Bank. They don’t always have what I went in there looking for, but I usually end up leaving with some pretty cool stuff that I didn’t expect to find.

Jack’s in Red Bank is pretty good. A bit further away is Vintage Vinyl and also the Princeton Record Exchange, which has a pretty amazing used collection.

Guys, thanks for spending your valuable time with us, and thanks once again for treating our ears to truly remarkable piece of music!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's a Jolly Ripple Christmas - Bigelf giveaway and Marky Ramone on Ripple Radio

In the spirit of giving and giving, we have another fun giveaway for all you waveriders out there. And what better disc to hand off to your happy little hands right before Christmas, than one from a big elf? That's right, we have two copies left of the massively maniacal Bigelf platter, Cheat the Gallows. And to make it even better, one is signed by each member of the band!

Now if you haven't heard this slab of insanity, you've been doing your ears a grave disservice. This is one freaked-out burst of prog/psychedelic/retro-seventies madness. Check out the Ripple review to get a taste of what it's about, but don't hesitate and miss out on your chance for this bad boy. To win the disc, simply tune into the Ripple Radio Show, 12/29 at 8pm Pacific time. To get there just hit that funny little blogtalk button over there to the right. During the show, we'll be giving away these delicious Bigelf platters and give you the opportunity to call-in, write in or join us in the chat room and claim yours.

As a special bonus, our guest that night is the one and only Marky Ramone so you'll be in for a treat even if you don't win.

Don't miss out. You don't want to piss off an elf just before Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stone River - S/T

Do any of you remember the Cameron Crowe movie, Almost Famous? Of course you do, for some it probably ranks up there as one of your favorite rock and roll films. Now, in that movie, he features a young writer going out on tour and chronicling the rise of a hard rock, southern-tinged band, Stillwater. That band was purely made up for the film, but don't worry, I found the real guys. This is what Stillwater should've sounded like.

Coming at you with riffs and soul as big as the Great South itself, Stone River shoot out of the gates charging at you like the sole living heirs to the Godfathers of southern rock. Soaking in the southern rock gospel of their native land (Toronto?) the boys blast through this self-titled debut with nary a misstep.

I first popped this baby into the Ripple CD player as I was flying back from a meeting in Miami, Florida. Soaring through the clouds on approach to 35,000 feet, I need something with some deep groove, a heart full of soul and enough muscle in the mix to help me pass the next several hours of flying time. The boys responded beautifully. The first track alone," Southern Feeling," riding out on the back of a fierce drum intro before dropping down into that glorious, truly seventies, big-time southern riff, carried more soul than a whole church-full of Baptists praying for redemption. Bring in the heavenly accent of some gospel tinged female harmony vocals backing up the soaring, emotion-filled pipes of lead singer Renan Yildizodogan and this song is a touch of southern heaven. Forget the plane I was in, the soaring melodies and big hooks were enough to get me 35,000 feet off the ground. Fretmeisters Jeff Desilets and Darren Flowers know how to bring in intensely melodic leads and riffs without going overboard or showboating, just keeping that southern vibe of letting the music breathe for itself.

Even though that was only the first track, the songwriting craft was so strong, I immediately knew I was in good hands for this flight, and lest I ever began to doubt myself, "Cold Black River," roared out next, even more soulful and groovy than its predecessor. Riding a searing guitar intro, the boys drop down into the chugging riff, flavored with some good old fashioned Hammond organ tones coming from Jesse O'Brian's Wurlitzer. This is fully charged southern rock, intense with melody and big, beefy, serve-em-up on a Bar-b-Q riffs. Throw in some heaping helpings of an intense bottom end and clashing drums, serve hot over some red beans and rice, throw in some grits with butter, and we got ourselves a freaking southern smorgasbord of flavors and sounds. The boys even know how to play with dynamics, breaking it all down in the middle for some smooth Allman Brother's styled guitar fills.

Go ahead and choose your favorite southern rock reference, Skynard, The Allmans, Point Blank, heck, it doesn't matter, they're all here. But don't go thinking these boys are purely retro-seventies rockers, living for days that passed while they were all probably still in diapers. Toss in a great big nod to The Black Crowes at their most urgent and you'll begin to see your picture of Stone River develop. This is big, arena-sized, backward looking rock with enough muscle and adrenaline to keep it anchored in the present and enough chops and skills to have us looking toward the future. Anyone who's a fan of the new rock coming from such bands as The Answer should give this disc a spin. You wont' be disappointed.

"Come on," brings in another flavor, one that actually rides across the album like a fine touch of spice. Complex guitar parts and supercharging riffs a la the first Blind Melon disc. This is clearest to me on the fierce rocker "Divine Child," which bears such a strong "Tones of Home," feel that it could be a homage. In fact, it was around this time that I finally nailed down who Renan's voice most reminded me of, because I wasn't hearing any Ronnie Van Zandt or even any Chris Cornell like the press release hinted at. No to me, Renan is infused with the passion and tone of Shannon Hoon at his most accessible. A smooth and emotive voice, capable of carrying the massive rockers or the Alabama-sized ballads like, "On These Turning Tides," a lighter waving number if I've ever heard one.

In the end, everything Stone River does is intimately familiar in all the best ways, yet infused with enough passion and honesty to never be derivative. It's all as energetic and fresh as that big 'ol Southern Gulf wind, blowing in off the water, hitting you smack in the face as you hunker down with a cold brew, some good chow and your best buddies. Now all I gotta do is find a way to get these guys to ask me to out on tour with them, because this is real rock-and-roll music, baby, and I'm sure we got a movie better than Almost Famous brewing here somewhere.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gojira - The Way of all Flesh

Hello and welcome aboard Ripple Airlines.

Today's destination is to the slightly freaking, incredibly brutal world of Gojira. On the way be sure to notice a satisfying dose of progressive experimentalism and straight ahead riffs and drumming to go along with your scenic landscape of pulverizing death metal.

Sit back, set your headrest, and buckle your seat belt tight and low across your lap as Gojira takes off in a hurry. As soon as the doors close, you'll notice a blasting, rolling guitar riff, more suggestive of their experimental tone than a standard death metal blast, but don't worry, by the second track you'll be heading directly into a maelstrom of brutality. Along the course of our flight, expect intermittent bouts of smooth flying, gentle acoustic strains, mixed with the more abundant passages of extreme turbulence, coming to you in the form of blistering hyperbeats and impenetrable walls of sound. You'll find this flight to be more experimental than a death metal band like Execration, but not as technical as Byzantine. It's a full-on pulverizing attack of the ears.

Our pilot today,Joe Duplantier, leads the Gojira flight through the skies of madness and despondency on guitar and vocals along with his co-pilot and brother, drummer Mario Duplantier. Please pardon our pilot's voice. Although his words are audible and he sings rather than grunts, he gargled with battery acid before the flight, assuring his voice to sound as tortured as possible.

Unexpected turns abound in our flight plan, like the tribal drumming intro to "The Art of Dying," the gangland meets world music vocal chanting of "Vacuity," and "A Sight to Behold," which can only be described as Death Metal Disco Electronica. And that's not a bad a thing. Who said you can't have a little groove in your metal?

Overall, we expect you to arrive safely at your destination, although not necessarily unharmed. Flying to Gojira is quite a trip. Some of the bumps and jolts along the flight path aren't necessarily satisfying, and overall, you may wish for the flight to be shorter, a bit easier on the ears, hoping for it to end long before we actually touch down. But in the end, you will land, satisfied and slightly more disturbed than before you departed.

A worthwhile, exhausting flight to try.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Valkyrie - Man of Two Visions

There are days when Racer and I truly feel blessed. Over the course of the past year, we’ve had the honor and privilege to work with some greatly talented writers and personalities within this borderless community known as the blogosphere. All of us add our own quirks to this constantly morphing entity and, from time to time, we at The Ripple Effect get inspired by the words that are smithed across the glowing pages of our PC’s. Such is the case with Valkyrie’s latest disc Man of Two Visions. We were initially turned on to this Virginia based outfit by our good friend Ray from Ray’s Realm. It wasn’t so much the fact that Ray expressed great delight with this band, but how he expressed it! With his words, he practically ran onto the tarmac of his nearest airport, raised a hand to stop the next oncoming jetliner, told the pilot the urgency of which he needed to show us in the Ripple offices his latest find, and spent a “frosty” 60 degree summer night curled up on the Ripple couch for his troubles. I’m tellin’ ya’ . . . wondrous things do happen within the blogosphere . . . just ask Ray.

So, after we packed Ray onto a return flight to his rightful family, we plopped Man of Two Visions into the CD player and let it play. It played from daybreak until night fall and then daybreak once again, thrilling us from its breakneck metallic opening through its Sabbath-y doomy center to its seven minute epic closer. The sounds we heard weren’t new . . . so many times Racer and I looked at each other silently asking where we’ve heard this part before. But, the band approached said riffs and melodies, and worked them into the context of the music in such a way that it had us raising our clenched fists into the smoke filled air to praise what our ears were witnessing.

“Running Out” rocks us in a Motorhead meets Iron Maiden fashion. Dual harmonized guitar licks meander through this raucously distorted and up tempo rocker, and teleports us to a time when a denim vest was worn as a suit of armor. The intro features some virtuosic moments from guitarists Jake and Pete Adams, all kept together by an outstanding rhythm section in Will Barry-Rec on bass and Warren Hawkins on drums. The fuzzed out guitar solo is a thing of beauty as it takes over the tune with some wonderfully timed hammer on’s, sweet full and half note bends, and amazingly expressive scale runs. Yeah . . . you could call this tune a clinic in guitar work. Even during the instrumental break midway through the tune, you’ll hear these great guitar flourishes, started by one guitar and met in mid run by the second. This is one of those songs that the more you listen to it, the more stuff seems to pop out and say, “Hey! Did you hear me do that nifty little thing that I did there?”

Valkyrie sludge it down a tempo or two with the grinding and doom laden “Dawntide’s Breeze.” Still packed with that guitar virtuosity of the first track, but this tune is filled with a ton more menace. Again, the harmonies are sterling and the guitar solo is off the charts. The first guitar comes in all technically shimmering, firing off notes with the precision of a snipers aim, and then the second guitar takes over and just bulldozes everything in its way with a mighty tone of fuzz. Not to be out done, pay close attention to drummer Hawkins as he adds some nicely timed cymbal crashes towards the end of the verse coming out of the guitar solo. Interestingly enough, as doom filled as the music comes across, the lyrics paint quite a different picture and are damn inspiring in their call to erase the hatred and darkness from our lives and replace the crap with love. Not what I expected, but a message that I can honestly get behind. What did y’all expect from me? I tend my own garden for food on my table. I’m a hippy. Get over it.

“Apocalypse Unsealed” and “False Dreams” are more in line with the gloom and doom, lyrically speaking. Heavy and grinding tunes that convey the message loud and clear, these tunes reflect the Sabbath influences like a full moon on a perfectly still lake. Dark imagery mixes well with soaring harmonized guitar leads, which give us the slight glimmer of hope that we need to keep from packing it in. “The Gorge” is the tune that took us by surprise, filling the offices with its acoustic brilliance, reminiscent of the acoustic driven tunes from Zeppelin III. The tune starts off as a pensive piece, lilting around the country pasture, creating an image of peacefulness and serenity. Eventually, the tune gains more tempo and drive, as the woodland creatures from around the pasture gather together in a midday fling and a short dance under a brilliant sun. Anyway, that’s the way I hear it . . . but there’s also a lot of smoke in the room.

The album comes to a close with the epic title track, “Man of Two Visions.” I absolutely love this song about a guy trying to find his way through life, trying to find that ever elusive happiness, trying to find peace of mind in a world that won’t have any of that nonsense. The verses plod along in all of their doomy splendor, but explode into a colorful display of notes as out new found guitar heroes attack the darkened beast of reality with their six string weapons of mass destruction. Tastefully executed guitar passages bring Iron Maiden to mind, as does the rhythm section for that matter, but there’s none of that virtuosic cockiness. Their approach seems to come more from a place of necessity than of pomp and self gratification.

The title of the album couldn’t describe the music any more precisely. This is music with two visions. One being of a stark and dark reality of government oppression, social slavery, and the world we hate so much coming to a sudden and drastic end. The flip side of the album is a message of hope, love, and making the most of the flawed beings that we are. The band has wrapped all of these feelings into loosely grooving, but precisely executed capsules of sound, that take the imagination on a trip for the ages. Man of Two Visions. Wow. Valkyrie has grabbed our attention (thanks again Ray . . . we’ll flip the drool stained pillow for the next guest.) - Pope JTE

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