Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ortoPilot - The Weatherman

From 1976 through 1979 you couldn’t find a rock AM radio station that didn’t have one or more Al Stewart songs in the rotation.  Hits such as “The Year Of The Cat,” “On The Border” and “Time Passages” provided a steady and jazzy folk rock background to the times. 

Ten years earlier Bob Dylan crashed his motorcycle and was injured.  During his convalescence he wrote demos for other up and coming talent including “This Wheel’s On Fire” for Julie Driscoll; “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” for The Byrds; and “The Mighty Quinn” for Manfred Mann.  However, he spent most of his time playing in his basement with a band called Big Pink that would ultimately become The Band.  When Al Stewart hit the airwaves in 1976 Dylan was completing The Band’s farewell tour, The Last Waltz.

I don’t know if Dylan and Stewart have ever played together.  If they have I haven’t heard it. Dylan is an American raised in Minnesota whose personal folk music is greatly affected by the British Invasion and the blues.  Stewart hails from the U.K. and originally worked with legends such as Jimmy Page and Alan Parsons before finding his own stardom in the U.S. If they had made music together what would it sound like?  What type of lyrics would they write?  How would they orchestrate the music?  Would they be any good?

Now, I think I know the possible answers to these questions. In my inbox was a new thirteen track release of original material from ortoPilot called The WeathermanortoPilot is basically the band name for Matt Hutchison.  Hutchison is from Manchester, U.K. and is probably best known for YouTube videos of song covers (he has also released five volumes of covers.)  This, The Weatherman, is his third, and latest, release. 

The release moves Hutchison away from his bedroom covers and provides a professionally recorded, and satisfying, baker’s dozen of original tunes.  Hutchison’s smooth Manchester accent has the same affectation you hear in Al Stewart’s voice and, like Stewart, Hutchison combines it with skiffle, folk and jazz acoustic guitar and orchestration.

The songs contain wonderful lyrical hooks and reflect human emotion, interaction and reaction  For example, on the track “Call Me” a syncopated jazz, reggae, rock, rhythm piece, Hutchison sings, in part:

Call me anytime you like.  I might surprise you.

You might enjoy the night and I will listen to anything you have to say.

I will offer advice to help you on your way.

But she stays here waiting.

I’m hanging on if you want to get wasted and move on.” 

The lyrics make you wonder whether Hutchison is a pusher or just love-smitten and trying to hold on to a love that is ready to leave - which is to say that the lyrics have nuance and texture that Dylan’s lyrics possess.

Hutchison builds his tracks with his voice and acoustic guitar as the primary elements.  He then surrounds these with other instruments, drums and harmonies to build very accessible and soaring lyrical musicscapes.  It is all soft, comfortable, thoughtful, oddly nostalgic and very enjoyable. 

If you know Al Stewart’s hits and Bob Dylan’s post-accident music and can combine them in your mind, you won’t need The Weatherman to know which way Hutchison blows.  If you think the combination works for you, or if you can’t visualize the combination, then, by all means, check out this ortoPilot release. You won’t be disappointed.

- Old School


Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Sun - Twilight of the Gods

Have you ever taken a punch? Not the kind of punch in the shoulder you might get from your wife after making an inappropriate comment about her sister’s boobs, I mean a full on haymaker to the temple that sends a shooting pain through your head and literally forces you to see a flash of light!!! When this latest offering from Black Sun kicks in with the opening bars of “Code Black” it is the musical equivalent of that one punch. There’s no messing around with intros, scene setting or any of that bullshit. This kicks straight into a monster verse with a demolition ball of a riff and a full blooded obnoxious roaring vocal. From this point on there is no let up, Black Sun are out for blood and you can either give it up willingly or they will take it by force…and to be honest, even if you’re prepared to give it up willingly they’ll still take it by force!!!

Pigeonholing Black Sun is a thankless task. They fall loosely into the doom field but this isn’t the patchouli and flare wearing doom of Cathedral with a copy of Masters of Reality in one hand and a spliff in the other. Instead this is a nasty, dead eyed doom with a blackened crust, a bottle of PCP in one hand and a rusty blade in the other. From start to finish Black Sun fill every available space with monstrous huge riffs that range from a Melvins like dissonance to a St Vitus style pummel. “Crawling Saviour” comes across like early Cathedral being fisted by Satan himself as the dual vocal attack spreads from a belligerent bellow to a throat shredding shriek that has more than one foot in the black metal camp. “Terminal Velocity” however does manage to temper the barrage of grime with some subtle beauty that is vaguely choral and transcendental. Black Sun seem to understand that pure filth is more effective when you can see the occasional clean spot in the mire. “Gethsemane” raises its hands to Heaven with near religious fervour as the riffs spit and twist around a might central vocal figure whereas “Tabula Rasa” jerks spasmodically like the last dying twitches of a man beaten into final and fatal submission. The undercurrent of insanity never seems far away from the Black Sun sound…like an inmate finger painting with his own feces in a padded cell whilst listening to Slayer jamming with Voivod on 33 and a 3rd!!!!

Black Sun also know how to vary the levels of intensity. “Transcending the Mire” shows a level of restraint not seen so far in its psychedelic guitar drawl but the repeated vocal refrain of “Can’t take anymore” still seems to belch from the darkest corners of a tortured mind. At times listening to Black Sun is an emotionally harrowing experience that threatens to build pressure behind your eyes and make them bleed. Very few bands seem to attain this level of sheer intensity. Many try but invariably come across sounding like a cartoon version of pain and anger…maybe coming from Glasgow has certain benefits for tormented artists.

By contrast “Black Angel” seems almost perky…if it can be considered perky to have your balls kicked repeatedly by steel toe-capped boots. “The Soldier’s Prayer” also seems reasonably upbeat and approaches something similar to a groove but slits its own throat by delving back into Black Sun’s trick bag of psychotic doom to play out the song. Just as you think you’re beginning to get some sort of handle on the Black Sun sound they unleash “Baby Don’t Cry”. Here they pull Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson from his mother’s breast and throw him screaming, clad only in a soiled nappy to the middle of an empty room to vent whatever vile demons are plaguing his fevered mind. In many ways this is the standout track on the album. Not because of the musical content, which compared to the rest of the songs on offer is fairly weak; a collection of meandering discordant doom laden chords, rather it is Robinson’s schizophrenic delivery which ranges from a childlike cry to a full roar. “Because the hurt does not care” he shouts in the ultimate nihilistic statement of despair…there is no escape from pain. This is the sound of a man going through some major psychological cold turkey…utterly compelling but bordering on unlistenable in a voyeuristic kind of way, should we really be standing by and watching this happen?

Thank fuck then for “Warhead”, a pretty straight up belter of a song that rides on a kicking riff and a four to the floor rhythm. Not that this is a straight up rock and roll song by any means…no siree, Black Sun don’t play such games!!! This is still an abrasive slice of caustic rifferama and won’t see them breaking through to the mainstream any time soon!!! By this point we have one last test of musical endurance to go. The title track starts with a cleaner passage that is reminiscent of some the Amebix’s more delicate moments before delving into the pit of despair once more and delivering us to the land of the mighty riff to close the album in style.

Comparisons are far from easy. There is an air of Amebix throughout in the despairing nihilistic overtones, a touch of Melvins in the sheers down tuned heaviness, a little Voivod in the dissonant, jarring riffs, obviously a touch of Sabbath (isn’t there always?) in the fractured and changeable structures and maybe even a little early 90’s Quicksand meets Helmet for good measure...if they were black metal bands!!! It’s not an easy listen and the vocals may be an acquired taste for some but there is no denying that Black Sun have created an album full of brutal, monolithic power and painful emotional depth. Sometimes music needn’t be about beer and chicks, sometimes it’s a catharsis and not many albums succeed in purging the soul like this one. For a first release Head Of Crom Records have landed firmly on their feet here. Seek this out then play loud and scare your neighbours!!!


Buy here: Black Sun


F.T.W. – A Tribute to Gideon Smith

It’s a testament to a man when bands come racing out of the wood-work, begging to be a part of a tribute album, and I’m sure that’s what happened when the news broke that this project was being born.   Culling bands from across the US, Canada, and Europe, F.T.W. is an imaginative reworking of 17 classic tracks from the underground rock ‘n’ roll outlaw, Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned.

For those who don’t know the name, Gideon Smith is a neo-legend of swaggering, tomb-bound, voodoo rock.  Described as a rock star, a philosopher, a poet, a sage, and a writer, Gideon Smith is known to have some of the heaviest mojo outside of the Delta.  And let me tell you, each of these bands attacks their assignment with ferocity and reverence.  Cover albums can be played in one of two ways, either straight or re-imagined.  I’m a big fan of the second style, and listening to these gothic southern rockers remade as punk, rock, southern rock, Doom, Black Metal, Death, Country, Techno Pop, and Stoner Rock odes is simply a blast.

Way too many songs to point out all the highlights, but it starts right off the bat with HK Family’s crunchy “Whiskey Devil” with one helluva fine mid-song reggae breakdown before jumping in the hearse for Barnburner’s death dirge of “Wishing Well.”   Honky Tonk Hustlas bust out a Gothic Country rampage to “Breaking Hearts and Horses,” that just kicks serious denim and leather ass, while Red All Over surprise with a bouncy techno bop remaking of “Draggin’ the River,” that is just too good to believe.

But the greatest testament to the mad talents of this gruff genius is how his music translates so seamlessly to which ever style the bands want to play.  Through it all, the real songcraft shines through, and that’s the real story here, just how strong a songwriter Mr. Smith is.  Perhaps this is never as plain as on Dear Druid’s version of “Lay Me Down in Ecstasy.”  With it’s hushed vocal, disembodied harmonies, and shockingly evocative melody, this may just be one of the most haunting songs I’ve heard all year.  So beautiful, the first time I heard it it actually took my breath away.

I know Gideon enough to know how humbled he must’ve been by this outpouring of love for his music.  Forget those descriptors I used to describe him in the second paragraph, at his essence Gideon is an artist of vision and essence, but he’s also a man of the earth, a man of humility and honor.   I’m sure he looked at this project as an unnecessary praise for his work, but I’m hearing it as a necessary addition to his legend.

Good on ya, Gideon.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Music Writers Wanted! Come Join the Ripple!

Well, here it is.

Our first call for writers brought us the stellar talents of Penfold, who's been regaling us with imaginative tales from the netherworlds of music writing.  Add to this the recruited talent of Mr. Brownstone and the contributions of Ollie from the band Grifter, and the Ripple family has grown nicely.

But, we think we're still a bit short.

The Ripple Effect is growing so big, so fast, there simply is no way for us to keep up with all the quality music that comes in.  And now we could use just a little help.

We've got openings for one or two more writers.  We'd love someone who has a mind for lots and lots of metal.  We mean heavy, dirty, deathy, blacky metal.  We could also use a great mind who loves emo, electro, and indy pop.  If it happens that both those minds are in the same person, then so much the better.
So, if you'd like to write about music, get lots of free music to review, and have your column syndicated across everything from GuitarWorld Magazine's website to USAToday, let us know.  We can't pay ya, other than in good music, lots of love, and a lifetime membership in the Ripple gang.

All it takes is a desperate passion for music and the desire to tell people about it.  As fun as the gig is, we'll only take people with a serious commitment to listening and writing.  Nothing half-assed about the Ripple.

Send in a writing sample about an album you love, 5 or 6 paragraphs.  Tell us why you love it, how it makes you feel and why the rest of the world should care.  Create some ripples.

That's what we do here at the Ripple Effect.  Create some ripples.

The Ripple Patch Arrives!

Waveriders Beware! 

Appearing unexpectedly, shockingly, in mail boxes around the world, The Ripple Patch arrives!   At first, jettisoned to the rapturous applause of dedicated Ripple fans, there are plenty of patches available for waveriders left and right.

Under the Grand Designs of Pope and Racer, those who wish to enter the revered brotherhood of the patch are required to perform this simple rite of initiation.  When your patch arrives, take a photo of the patch in any situation you desire; wearing it, not wearing it, feeding it, driving with it, jumping on the space shuttle . . . whatever moves  you.  Let your creativity flow and send us a picture.  All pictures will be posted here on The Ripple Effect, Grooves and Ripples, and later on the official Ripple site, www.ripple-music.com.

For our first photo, we can see the devastating effect the Ripple patch had on a simple rehearsal for the band Mighty High.  There's the patch, right there, branded to the amplifier. Last we heard, no one was brave enough to start mouth-to-mouth.

 So be ready, beware.  When the Ripple patch arrives, don't give into the fear.  Enjoy and embrace your selection into the fraternal order of Ripple.

Long may the patch wave!!@!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On the Ripple Desk – Featuring My Sleeping Karma, Boris Smile, Eastern Conference Champions and Floater

So much good music, so little time.  Let’s jump right into it then, shall we?

My Sleeping Karma – Tri

And there it was . . . Mt. Everest standing right before me.

It was 2006 that Mrs Racer and I took off, flew around the world and spent 3 weeks trekking across Tibet to Mt. Everest.  Standing at basecamp, at 20,000 feet, the glory of Everest’s summit before me, the majesty of Rombuk Monastery behind me . . .  it was a moment of pure magic.

I didn’t bring any music with me on that trip, but if I had, it would’ve been this new, mesmerizing album by Germany’s My Sleeping Karma.  A while back, I wrote about my love affair with their second album, and I’m happy to say, that Tri is every bit as trance-inducing, hypnotic, powerful, and dynamic as Satya was.  My Sleeping Karma don’t create soundscapes, they create sound universes.  Alternate dimensions of Krautrock beats, undulating, snaking guitars, swirling, miasmas of melody.  Each of these 9 instrumental tracks is capable of transporting me somewhere in place and time.  Some alternate reality, some imaginative dimension.  No one else has ever sounded like My Sleeping Karma, no else ever could.  This is psychedelic, space rock at it’s finest.

“Brahma” is playing right now, and in my mind’s eye I see Rombuk monastery, the monk’s walking the grounds, the mountain before me.  I feel the emptiness of being on the ceiling of the earth, the spiritual abandon of being this much closer to God.  My Sleeping Karma can take me there.  Just wait until you see where they can take you.

Buy here: Tri
Buy mp3: TRI

Boris Smile – Rockets EP

One of a long list of discs that’s been sitting way too long on my desk waiting for review.    Boris Smile, a collective of young musicians fronted by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Wesley Chung, bring a definite emo angle and modern twist to indy rock.  Chung’s disaffected vocals are strangely magnetic, drawing me into this release with his earnest passion and heart-felt searching for truth.

Using the Rocket as a theme, Boris Smile traverses a spectrum of moods from the introspective to the robust., perhaps never more moving than “Apollo” which seems to imagine an Apollo astronaut saying goodbye to his wife and children before launching off on a mission.  Delicate and touching, filled out with gentle strings and angelic harmony vocals, this song could just as easily translate to our current day soldiers leaving home for the unknowns of war.  Like a modern retelling of “Space Odessey” Apollo strikes the heart of real emotion.

But Rockets isn’t a one-song pony.  “Aurora” captivates with its loosely strung acoustic guitar and dreamy melody, while “Are We Alone,” sets the tone with the airiness of its spartan arrangement.  This is a sincere album of lo-fi, acoustic emo.  If you’re a fan of Pedro the Lion or Broken Social Scene, you should look deeply into Boris’s smile.

Buy here (mp3): Rockets EP
Buy vinyl: Smile [Vinyl]

Eastern Conference Champions – Santa Fe EP

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get into this twisted dab of dense folk drone, but once I got it, really got, I couldn’t get the damn thing outta my head.

Eastern Conference Champions are a trio who’ve already been kicking walls and knocking down doors, contributing songs to The Twilight Saga and appearing on “Last Call with Carson Daily.”  But don’t let those accomplishments put you off.  What we got here is hardly the commercial drabble you might associate with a film like Twilight.  ECC play a deceptively folky, alt-country drone rock that sounds unlike any I’ve ever heard.  Where a song like “Common Sense,” nearly flattens with it’s effects-heavy guitar riffing, Teutonic beat, and fuzzed bass, “Bloody Bells,” is just as deceptive with it’s twangy vocal and tinkering percussion.  “Sideways Walking,” finds a new beauty in its spartan melody while “On Off,” crashes against the shore with another layer of muted guitar. 

I guess the most reasonable place to look for inspiration here is Neil Young, because only he could effectively change up moods so quickly and effectively, rocking or folking out, while always sounding so distinctly like himself.  ECC do that as well, and they do it damn well.

Buy here: Santa Fe

Floater – Wake

Talk about a band with a sound all their own.  Floater take the muted heaviness of grunge, toss that into their witches brew pot, add in the musicianship of prog, some flourishes of psychedelic rock, spice it up with some pretty random time shifts, tribal percussion, and a singer who’s voice is achingly familiar (like a distant Michael Been of The Call).  Stir that whole concoction up, bring that massive wooden spoon up to your lips, and the potion that results is surprisingly tasty.  For those of you who like your rock a little unpredictable yet still familiar, progressive in scope but accessible in execution, heavy yet melodic, you just might find your own musical elixir here.

“Concrete” after it’s ambient, neo-Floyd intro bursts out as anthemic and full of bravado as much of the early Call material.  Even the chorus “Now I can only say/that I’m alive/I’m alive/I’m alive” sounds like something that would’ve burst off the lips of the recently departed Mr. Been. And trust me, that’s a good thing. The Call were always one of my favorite bands.  So take their passion and drive, meld that with some seriously prog-minded chops, toss in enough powerchords to light up a small nation and we’ve got a winner here.

“Cannonball,” follows suit, as does the rest of the album.  This is big, big music played with intent and sincerity.    Call it alt-prog, post-alt-grunge.  Whatever.  Call it good, and you’d be correct.

Buy here: Wake


Hot on the Heels of Their Critically-praised Ripple Music Debut, Grand Atlantic Light Up the Soundtrack of Gossip Girl

Following hot on the heels of the success of their Ripple Music debut split 7" single, Grand Atlantic keep the pedal to the metal, building momentum and converting the uninitiated to the Grand Atlantic ranks.

Taken from Grand Atlantic's massively praised second album "How We Survive," the hot single "Used to Be the Sensitive Type" was remixed and remastered for inclusion on the Ripple Music split single which also featured the KEXP Top 20 hit by Sky Parade, "I Should Be Coming Up (But I Keep Coming Down."  Since then, things have only gotten busier for the Australian band.

Locked in the studio working on songs for their 2011 third album hasn't kept Grand Atlantic from touring Japan and readying another US tour in 2011.  With dates already set from coast to coast, including a four-day stay at SXSW, fans will have plenty of opportunity to catch Grand Atlantic's heady, trance-inducing psychedelic pop single.  And the US audience is definitely catching the Grand Atlantic wave. The first episode of season 4 of the hit TV show, Gossip Girl featured Grand Atlantic's Until it's Gone," bringing in tons of new fans.  The video for "Until It's Gone," featuring footage from the recent Japanese Tour garnered thousands of hits after the band's Gossip Girl debut.

Check out the video and hear the song that captured the hearts of Gossip Girl fans everywhere.

Pressed in extremely limited quanties, the Ripple Music s 7" split single (pressed on glowing orange vinyl) is still available through www.ripple-music.com and can be found everywhere on Grand Atlantic's tour. 

For Fans of: Oasis, Dolly Rocker Movement, Stone Roses, Big Star, Baby Woodrose, Dandy Warhols

“Gives Oasis a run for their money.” (Courier Mail, AUS)

"Grand Atlantic molds the psychedelic post-punk ethereal moods of their countrymen, The Church, with the shoegazing swirling madbeat of The Stone Roses, and toss in a touch of garage crunch a la Ripple favorites The Thieves just for kicks. The results of this combination of psychedelic distillery are intoxicating…”(The Ripple Effect, USA)

“…This is the excellent album Oasis should have done after What’s the Story Morning Glory but didn’t…”(Lucid Culture, USA)

“Grand Atlantic sure know how to write songs choc full of guitar driven rock/pop dynamics…” (thedwarf.com.au. AUS)

"Grand Atlantic has a sound masterfully blending driving modern rock riffs with smart pop hooks and spot on harmonies…”(Bill’s Music Forum, USA)

“Grand Atlantic’s second full-length album is chock-full of pop rock, with big sounds, singalong hooks and catchy melodies… How We Survive is a masterfully crafted record.” (Time Off Magazine, AUS)


Friday, November 26, 2010

Rob Blaine – Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues

After just writing about Derin Dow’s guitar histrionics, I turned around and plopped this spicy dish of hot blues into the player and suddenly my world was swirling in another alternate universe of guitar wizardry.  When  I say that Rob Blaine is a Guitar God, I mean that with two capital “G’s.”  Not only is this a fantastic blues album, it’s just one of the best damn guitar albums I’ve heard all year.  Period.

Rob Blaine is one of those precocious youths that I’d love to hate if they weren’t so damn lovable.  I mean come on, the guy didn’t even get his first guitar until age 15 and by 17 he was already gigging regularly around Michigan and sitting in at Chicago’s famed Rosa’s Lounge.   There, he immersed himself in the heart of the blues, working as a doorman, sound tech, and house musician.  If this was an apprenticeship, it paid off in dividends, because on Big Otis Blues Blaine emerges as a full-on, hurricane force blues guitar hero, a true wresting wind to be reckoned with. 

Signed to the dynamite new Blues Label, Swississippi Records, this is an album no fan of the blues should miss.   You love Joe Bonamassa?  Dig on Kenny Wayne Sheppard?  Got a thing for Jonny Lang, Corey Stevens, or Chris Duarte?  I got a new name for you.  One that’s gonna brand itself indelibly in your inner ear, your heart, and your blues-lovin’ soul.  Rob Blaine.

“Not the Forgiving Kind,” launches us onto that path of blues nirvana in it’s very first second. After a staccato burst of snare, Rob Blaine erupts in flaming guitar glory.  Talk about making a strong first impression!  Dig that tone.  I mean really dig that tone.  Rob’s notes are so meticulously chosen, his playing so intuitive and heart-felt, it’s a blessing to behold.  He tears up and down those frets like a man possessed, never over-playing, dropping in some reverb and nuance, holding notes, sustaining them, bending them . . .heck, he could probably make them do backflips if he wanted.  He can funk it up, he can rock it out, and he can blues it down.  And he can do it all seamlessly.  Yes, he’s that good. 

While it’s so easy to lose yourself in Rob’s playing, let’s not forget that voice.  That oh-so-rough-and-weary voice that bellows out aged way beyond it’s years.  I don’t really know how old this cat is.  From his picture he looks early twenties, but that voice, that beautifully deep, whiskey-weathered baritone is ageless.

Big Otis Blues alternates between fierce rockers like “Not the Forgiving Kind,” and slower, moodier, no-less-stunning blues ballads, like the next cut, “Only Mine.”  Rob shines on both.  On “Only Mine,” his guitar literally cries.  It moans.  It whispers in notes of pain and love. 

“Affection and Pain,” picks the rock back up and, my God, does it rock.  Thick and heavy, searing and sparkling with electricity, this song’s a terror.  Rob’s band locks right in with him, Joewaun “Man” Scott blowing the doors off the bottom end, James Knowles raising the ceiling with his snare and highhat.  This is the way I like my blues, gritty and dirty and hitched onto the back of a roaring Harley.  This song really puts the rock back into the term blues rock.   From there every song is just one killer cut after another, but a special nod has to go out to “Must be Nice,” which makes an appearance in both full-on electric and acoustic versions.  It’s a testament to Rob’s talent that he can play that song both ways, such different versions, and each one hits me just as captivating.  Whether sweaty and full of muscle on electric or nuanced and dramatic on acoustic.  I’m there.  Take me where you want to Rob, I’m there.

Blues lovers, it’s time to sit up and take notice.  Rock lovers, you too.  I don’t care if this is a blues album or not.  The guitar work is so intense, the overall feeling so damn heavy, Big Otis Blues is gonna make it’s appearance on my year end “Best of” list.  Yes, it really is that good.


Buy here: Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Black Sleep Of Kali – Our Slow Decay

Life is too short for intros. I like how the first song “There Is Nothing” just comes crashing in. Full band with vocals and totally pissed off sounding. Perfect when you need to annoy the neighbors RIGHT NOW! Black Sleep Of Kali is a loud 4 piece from Denver that play in a vein similar to Torche or Baroness but with a bit more aggro. The riffs are intense but very catchy and there are some vocal parts for everyone to scream along to.

For a band that’s only been around for about 2 years these guys are very tight. The songs are mainly mid tempo-ish but contain plenty of left hand turns to keep your interest. Killer drum fills abound and the guitar/bass tones are massive. Lyrically they keep it pretty lean and mean. With sonnets like “we will all be forgotten in the end” (from “The Great Destroyer”) you don’t need to say much more than that. Faster ones like “The Crow and The Snake” really pummel the senses and would sound great blasting in the car as you drive off a cliff. Once they dig up your body they can play “Eulogy” at your funeral.

If you like it loud, negative and heavy then Our Slow Decay is right up your alley. And with a cool sleeve from everyone’s favorite tall Australian artist Seldon Hunt you can’t go wrong.



Buy here: Our Slow Decay
Buy here mp3: Our Slow Decay

Buy here: Small Stone

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ideamen - May You Live In Interesting Times

My first reaction was shock.  This quickly turned into rash anger.  How could this be?  Who would be so bold as to use my name on a music blog outside of the Ripple Effect to review music?  This is outrageous!  This is blasphemous!  I can’t let my sterling reputation be sullied by some callous individual whose only motivation is piggybacking on my online celebrity to garner more hits on his site!  Nay, this gross offense will not stand.  Thank goodness a friend of mine spotted this travesty while surfing the net and let me know about it post haste.  I need some ammunition for taking this joker down, so I think it’s time to visit his site.

Okay, the site has loaded.  What’s this?  The egomaniac put my…his…our name right at the top of the page in bold lettering.  Doesn’t that just figure?  It reads “Penfolde’s Musings”.  Ok wait…hold on a second.  That isn't how I spell my name.  It appears my friend made an error (easy to make really), and I’m beginning to feel pretty foolish right about now.  Hmmm…the graphic at the top of the page is actually pretty cool.  Nice typeface, slick layout, and good use of non-clashing colors.  Anyways, moving on, let’s see what music he is reviewing.  Oh…I see.  It turns out that he reviews audio books.  Uh, huh…I’m feeling increasingly stupid and juvenile with every passing moment.  My friend is definitely going to receive a strong rebuke over this little mishap.  Hey, I love that book too!  It’s good to know that they brought in a quality voice actor to do the story justice.

People often say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I was hoping dear waveriders to be able to illustrate this point by showing you someone else reviewing music under my name, but alas, it has become apparent that is not to be the case.  Instead let me relate to you all a tale of one of my recent listening experiences.  Why is this tale a proper substitute?  It’s because perceived imitation played a significant role at the beginning of my listening relationship with a band.  That band’s name is Ideamen.

 Before I unwittingly stumbled upon Ideamen I had been sampling many different black and death metal acts.  This sampling was not done purposefully, but it seemed that every band that I investigated fell into one of those two categories.  The sheer weight of those musical genres was wearing me down, numbing my sensibilities, and I was becoming desperate to discover something that broke the mold.  As if on cue, from out of the crowd emerged Ideamen with their album May You Live in Interesting Times.  Not only did the album art stand out with a depiction of what appears to be an adult robot-like being and its child standing in an enclosure with a world map for a floor and a projection of the sky for a ceiling, but the album title seemed to be answering an unvoiced question in my mind.  Yes, I do want to live in interesting times!  With my curiosity piqued, I crossed my fingers and hit play.

Here fellow waveriders is where the story gets tricky.  The music that unfolded quickly put me in a state of rapture -- absolute joy -- but I was unsure how to approach it critically.  Allow me to elaborate.  People might remember that my first Ripple Effect write up was for Mr. Bungle’s California album.  That particular album is on my desert island essentials list.  I simply adore it and the band that created that music.  On the other hand, something that has yet to come up on the Ripple is my fandom regarding System of a Down.  While they were around, I was heavily into their music.  What do these bands have in common, and why am I mentioning them in this write up?  Simple. 

If you mix three quarters of California-era Mr. Bungle and one quarter late period SOAD, you come up with a good approximation of what Ideamen sounds like musically.  The resemblance is further cemented by the vocals.  There are two main vocalists in Ideamen.  The one most often at the forefront could easily be mistaken for Mike Patton, while the other very often sounds exactly like Daron Malakian.  My very first impression concerning both the music and the vocals was that while I really liked what I heard, there might be too much imitation occurring for me to be completely comfortable.  Thankfully this impression proved to be extremely shortsighted.  Multiple listens down the road have proven that Ideamen have a sound all their own, and I find it to be absolutely invigorating.  In fact my estimation of the band grows each and every time I listen to their music, and that is no small feat.

May You Live in Interesting Times is made up of twelve strong tracks, none of which fall into the category of filler material.  Each song contributes to the overall flow and feel of the album.  While the song structures are varied to say the least, there are a few common threads woven throughout.  First of all, with few exceptions, the keyboard acts as the scene setter and melody maker.  I think of it as the finesse portion of the group.  The guitar on the other hand operates as the group’s clenched fist.  When it barrels into a song to take center stage, you had better have prepared the muscles in your neck for some exercise because a workout is forthcoming.  Not mentioning both the bass and drum work would be a grievous offense.   These two crucial elements combine seamlessly to form the backbone and heartbeat of the band, providing the perfect springboard for the madcap adventures of the keyboard, guitar, and vocals.  Putting all the pieces together creates stunning music.  Stunning!

To wrap these proceedings up in a nice little bow, I can not recommend Ideamen’s May You Live in Interesting Times highly enough.  If you like unique musical amalgamations then you need look no further, and if like me you are a fan of Mr. Bungle there is no excuse why Ideamen should not be your new best friend.  Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go comment on this “Penfolde’s” blog about his cool name.  Ooohhh, maybe he doesn’t know about the newest book by…

-- Penfold

Buy here: May You Live In Interesting Times
Buy here mp3: May You Live In Interesting Times

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

City and the Sea - Leave A Light On EP

A while back, Pope and I talked about how cool it may be if every once in a while, we both reviewed the same album.  Two different opinions from the same site on the same work.  It may be cool to see how each of us responded to the album and as a waverider, you may find it helpful in deciding if you want to check it out or not.

But being inherently lazy, we never did it.

Until now.  Unbenownst to Old School and Mr. Brownstone, they each got a copy of this dramatic new album by City and the Sea, and both responded with . . . well, we'll let you read on.

The EP Leave A Light On by City and the Sea contains only four tracks and I can’t stop playing it over and over and over again.  If this EP, released September 21, 2010, had been on vinyl, by now I’d need a new needle and a new pressing - and I would immediately go out and get it.  It is available on CD but is also downloadable for free in high quality digital formats, so fortunately, I can listen and listen and listen without wearing it out (however, I sure would like to hear this one on vinyl.)

I love Leave A Light On.  I hear lots of original music.  I play lots of original music.  But, this - this is highly original World-Class Motown soul and kick ass rock.  The band started in 2006 as The Mississippi Kings, but then decided to change its name and sound.  Now, as City and the Sea says on their website biography, their sound is “Part Detroit, part steel town Hamilton [Ontario, Canada] and part Manchester, England.”  The four person nucleus of the band is: Nick Cino (lead vocals), Mike Ventimiglia (lead guitar), Dave Marini (bass) and Dano Stajduhar (drums). All four tracks are originals.  The writing and performances are amazing.  The EP was produced in Hamilton, Ontario by Glen Marshall (Feist, Apostle of Hustle) and Michael Keire (Dark Mean, Wildlife.) The band and producers have crafted four masterpieces.    

The EP starts with “Fool’s Union,” a gritty hard rocker that sports a struttin’ attitude and killer guitar and bass riffs.  The band provides lead singer Cino with high intensity background vocals that accentuate the power chord display. The tune out bads Bad Company, outdrives Bachman Turner Overdrive and is hotter than Hot Tuna.  “Fool’s Union” is not even the best track on “Leave A Light On.”   

The band turns to modern Motown and competes with Detroit’s best on the second track “Hundred.”  By adding a horn section (Scott Neilson on saxophone, and Ellis Marsalis-trained William Sperandei on trumpet) City and the Sea cooks up a soul blues with guitar parts as good as Eric Lindell and a sound that would make Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes melt. This isn’t even the second best track on the EP.

The third track is “Leave A Light On,” the song for which City and the Sea names the EP. It is an introspective, emotional, power rock ballad.  It is the kind of tune that will have you raising a fist and singing the tag line “Please leave the light on for me.” It is arena rock at its best.

The final song - last, but, certainly not least - maybe even best, is “Gimme Back My Soul,” a modern Detroit soul rock piece with a downright infectious riff. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have nothing on this City and the Sea tune. Even when the track is over I am still humming “Gimme Back My Soul.”

Then, comes the worst part of the EP - it is over.  In a little over twelve and a half minutes I fell in love and now it is over. I miss this music. City and the Sea, I want more and I want it now! So will you.

- Old School

Four dudes and kick ass music, what more do you need? City and the Sea shows how to rock n’ roll the good old fashioned way. They’re a little bit of everything and have that perfect mix showing soul, remarkable rhythm and loud guitars that totally have a Detroit/Southern rock sound.

Letting loose on the “Leave A Light On” EP, City and the Sea showcase soulful, bluesy country rock that was previously established on their debut album “Long Time Comin.’” Their passionate playful sound seems reminiscent of songs you have heard years and possibly even decades before, but somehow they aren’t. On their debut, they have been compared by some as a “Marvin Gaye meets the Rolling Stones” and I can completely see that.  However, I get more of a Kings of Leon, Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Kid Rock (2007 to present) sound. They are a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll and a whole lotta soul.

The band is comprised of Nick Cino (lead vocals), Mike Ventimiglia (lead guitar), Dave Marini (bass) and Dano Stajduhar (drums). “Fool’s Union” sweet soulful sound leads off City and the Sea’s  Leave A Light On” . Call me crazy, but Cino comes across like Paul Stanley on the beginning part of this track and take the intensity one step further. It’s like Kid Rock, Marvin Gaye and Paul Stanley’s vocals are all combined into one exquisite voice.

They are complete badass rockers you can’t help, but want to sing along with them as though they are “already rock anthems.” Almost every time I listen to the songs off this EP I feel like I am listening to a modern classic rock song. As the lyrics point out, I feel “like a fool” saying that, but their “southern” spirit just overpowers me when thinking about this band.

Horns heat up the song "Hundred" and captivates listeners in a whole new way proving their versatility. They say heart no longer exists in modern music, especially rock. Obviously, those people have never listened to City and the Sea and are truly missing out on a passionate playful band. Their melodic music is fused together to create a simplistic splendid style all their own.

Pop penetrates this EP in “Leave A Light On” showing their softer side and a mature modern outlook on life. This is a great single and one of my favorite songs of the year. I hate do that in a review, but it’s just so sweet and sad. It’s an effective emotional song that leaves you on the edge of your seat building up until the very end. No doubt in my mind, City and the Sea definitely wear their heart on their sleeves and are damn proud of it! More modern rock needs to be like City and the Sea.

The EP concludes with “Gimme Back My Soul,” a pitch-perfect song that is irresistible from beginning to end. Each song, especially “Gimme Back My Soul,” are perfect examples of great music that should always be on the radio. They have captured my soul and should be checked out immediately.

--Mr. Brownstone

 There you have it; two totally unbiased opinions that make the same conclusion.  An album worth checking out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Derin Dow – Retroactive

An open letter of apology to Derin Dow:

Sorry man, I did it.  I broke the cardinal rule of being a music lover—I judged the album by the cover. 

Now admittedly, and I think you’ll agree, the cover of your dynamite album, Retroactive, er . . . leaves a little to be desired.  Not that it’s bad mind you, but it’s hardly an eye catcher, and in some ways looks a tad amateurish.  And in truth, I’m no fan of guitar heroes.  Just mention the names Malmsteen, Satriani, or Vai to me and my eyes will glaze over as if I was in an amnesiastic fugue.  Add in this day and age of proTools and desktop publishing, the thought that any schmoe can strap on a guitar and force-feed me 40 minutes of string-wankery, unleashing that slop to the general public . . . well . . . it made me wary.

And sorry again, but the first song “Friday,” did nothing to dispel my fears.  Sure there was some nice playing on it, but let’s be honest, it’s not the best demonstration of your talents.  With it’s retro-80’s hair metal vibe and a chorus of “Baby, I’m banging it out on a Friday/I won’t be back until Monday,” . . . well, again, I felt my sphincter tightening, believing I was gonna be in for a long 40 minutes.

Now’s where the apology comes in.  The second track “Signature” was better by far.  That nice strum of the acoustic, that searing guitar-verse lead guitar, that motoring pace and rhythm, your voice sounding so much stronger and more nuanced -- my ears perked up.  Now I could see where you were coming from, the glory days of the melodic rock of the 80’s when guys like Aldo Nova provided guitar heroics. It should have hit me sooner, after all the album’s title is Retroactive, but I’m a tad dense at times.  “Door to Your Heart,” maintained my new found interest with its gorgeous piano intro and your tale of love lost, but it was the freak-out of an instrumental “Lower the Boom” that really made me jump to my feet and take notice.

Folks, take this apology to heart.  What we got here is one damn fine blitzkrieg of good old-fashioned guitar magic.  A pure nugget of melodic rock/AOR treasure with that extra spark of something special.   Listening to “Lower the Boom,” the only word my mouth could utter was, “wow!”  This song jams about as hard as any of the best rock instrumentals I’ve heard.  I was mesmerized by that dramatic chord progression leading into a blistering world of guitar heat.  Think Jeff Beck, think Pat Travers.  You could probably think Satriani. I personally was thinking of Tommy Bolin and anybody that can ever bring the thought of Bolin into my mind is alright with me.  My only complaint was that at 2’45” long it was way too short (and trust me, that’s not usually something I say about rock instrumentals).  I wanted an 8 minute freakout, a 10 minute extravaganza.  Hell, pour it over both sides of an LP and I bet I still wouldn’t be satisfied.

Now fully attentive, I waited eagerly to see what else you could pull off your fretboard, and the rest of the album didn’t disappoint.   “Right Side of the Road,” is another standout track, with just another electrifying assault of shredding guitar.  Derin, you chose some great people to accompany you on this album, primarily Chris Pinnick, whose chops provide the terrific leads in these last two songs.  But throughout, the playing is stellar.  “Right Side of the Road,” picks up right where “Lower the Boom,” left off, that gorgeous guitar tone slicing through the opening chords, and here I think you’ve found you best vocal work and melody.  More Travers here?  Some REO?  No matter which way you slice it, the song just kicks ferocious ass. 

From there, the rest of the album is just a sparkler.  “Runnin’ to Win,” is a strong mid-tempo melodic rock staple with a freaking cool mid-song breakdown and sing-a-long chorus.  “Inside,” recaptures some of that stellar guitar-vibe with it’s clean tone and building choral break.  And, wonders of wonders, after the intensity of “Lower the Boom,” I found myself actually looking forward to the closing instrumental “Feelin’ Free.”  Once again, you didn’t disappoint.  With it’s strong jazzy feel, and Pinnick’s tasteful leads, you ended the album on a high note.

I now sit before you humbled, my hat in hand, crow in mouth.  Thanks for dropping such a sparkling retro-80’s guitar bomb into my lap, and thanks for keeping me honest and open in the way I listen to music.  I promise, I won’t make that same mistake again.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dave Holland Pepe Habichuela – Hands


We have these things called words.  They’re supposed to aid us in communication.  Make the abstract concrete.  Reach across the gaping chasms of interpersonal space and convey ideas, facts, thoughts.  But what do we do when words fail us?  How do you describe the indescribable?  How do you make concrete the abstract?

While all that may seem to be a weighty introduction for a CD review, I still can’t help but wonder how I’m supposed to use words to describe what my ears hear, what my soul feels.  How do I make concrete the beautifully abstract work of Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela.

I guess I should begin at the beginning.  Dave Holland is a masterful jazz bassist.  Pepe Habichuela is a Spanish guitar legend.  They live in two separate worlds, the impenetrable fortresses of jazz and flamenco.  Those worlds are not meant to collide, not meant to integrate, to fuse.  But they have.  And the results may just be one of the more remarkable releases of the year.

After meeting and forming a soul brotherhood, Holland and Habichuela sat down to make music together.  Flamenco is the foundation, but there being no room in flamenco for bass, Holland was left to search and feel his way into each piece.  What results is an album unlike any I’ve heard before.  Forget what you know about flamenco.  With Holland’s bass finding it’s own expression, searching and diving into nooks and spaces, this is unlike any flamenco I’ve heard.  The bass adds texture and resonance, bring out an inherent drama and moodiness in the pieces that simply wouldn’t be expressed otherwise.

 Yet, it’s not jazz either.  Habichuela’s playing (as is his son Josemi Carmona’s, who also plays flamenco guitar on the album) is never short of breathtaking.  Feeling and emotion are cajoled from his guitar the same way Michaelangelo unveiled the figures hidden in the marble he sculpted.

Never is this more abundantly clear than on the stunning “Camaron (Taranta),” where Holland's bass takes the position of the traditional vocal while Habichuela’s guitar fills the space around him.  Talk about drama. Talk about impact.

The album swings through various moods, some more upbeat and festive, other more pensive and powerful, without ever repeating itself.  “The Whirling Dervish,” is a light-hearted display of magnificent guitar while “Joyride,” brings the bass back into prominence with a gorgeous halo of guitar. 

I can’t go into each song here.  I don’t have the words.  I can’t describe what these two masters are doing with their instruments, the emotions they illicit, or the impact they have.  I can only listen.  It’s only in my soul that the abstract of their music becomes concrete, and in my soul it will remain.  Suffice it to say, Hands is a remarkable album, and if you’re a fan of flamenco guitar or willing to explore a new take on jazz, it’s an album you simply must hear.


Buy here: Hands
Buy here mp3: Hands

A Sunday Conversation with J-San and the Analogue Sons

Catching us totally off guard with their deep roots, reggae rock style, J-San and the Analogue Sons captured some hearts at the Ripple Office.  Naturally, we couldn't wait for J-San to take a seat on the red interview couch and fill us in on his views on music.   Since then, J-San and the Analogue Sons have shortened their name to already established fan-favorite moniker of JATAS and now their even offering their last album, the truly impressive One Sound available for FREE at: http://jatas.bandcamp.com/album/one-sound

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, 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?

I can remember being  very inspired  when I first heard Lee Perry doing dub. It sounded so odd and strange to me and I was naturally drawn to it.  My ears at the time hadn’t really heard such a dark, delayed out and progressive sound.   The dub method/aesthetic is always with me now in my writings and production.

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

I have changed my approach over the years.. used to be strictly guitar writing.. now I use the laptop mostly starting with beats and melody concepts..lyrics come from the particular mood evoked through the track. So nice being back in Brooklyn and being inspired by the people and energy.. i mean every 5 min a car outside my window is bumping soca,roots reggae, dance hall, hip hop, Bollywood, Arabic music… awesome.


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

I search the blogs a few times a week … just jumping around the links and find new sounds that really grip me.   Sometimes its tapes from Africa (state sponsored highlife bands) or maybe some dusty old roots dub album from the U.K.  So good.

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

It’s changing all the time.   At this point I am really moving into electro-dub-soul.   As a producer it is a challenge to try to recreate the studio(album) sound live and really go for the mood-vibe that was the original intention.

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

At this point I am seeking to do just that…make us all FEEL (more and more important as we stare into computer screen and cell phones and get detached from human-ness)


Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

I was once stuck in an elevator for 4 hours after a gig with my sax player... we bonded ;)

What makes a great song?

Something that makes us feel.   Period.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

It was a story about a lover who lost his mate and he vowed to walk into the big sky to find her…

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

I am really proud of a song called, "Seeds Of Revolution".   It came out of me effortlessly and seems to have an effect on people.

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

The answer is clearly vinyl… cd's are not sustainable.

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

NYC - Halcyon

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Great blog and thank you so much for the coverage... share the music with your friends but pay to see shows and buy albums from bands.

Jam Band Extraordinaire, Modern Day Moonshine’s New Album Slated For November Release

After signing on with Ripple Music in the waning weeks of 2009, the Bay Area’s Modern Day Moonshine found themselves in the scenic, serene, and solitary environs of Tres Llamas Studios, a converted ranch overlooking the Towalame River in Northern California. With no one to disturb except for the indigenous wildlife and the three llamas that roam the studio grounds, the band spent late days and even later nights laying down the basic tracks to the dozen or so songs that would eventually make up Refuge, the bands third full-length album.

Scheduled to hit the streets on November 23rd, 2010, Refuge is an album of soulful blues-based rock that features grand elements of jazz, funk, and roots-Americana. This musical diversity has made Modern Day Moonshine practically impossible to accurately categorize, and will undoubtedly leave listeners emotionally charged and excited to explore the multiple layers of the recorded sounds.

Armed with a catalog of well over a hundred songs and the experience of performing more than five hundred shows (including a two and a half years as the house band for the House of Blues in San Diego), Modern Day Moonshine are prepared for a lengthy stint on the road where no two shows will ever sound the same.

Refuge is available for pre-order at the Ripple Music Store or for digital download at Digstation/ModernDayMoonshine

"come on in and pour yourself a cup of alright"



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Le Vice - S/T

San Francisco foursome Le Vice is an alternative indie band to watch out for. Blending hip hop, R&B, and electronica, be prepared to experience experimental music that will leave you begging for more. Their talent explodes with energetic lead singer Alex Lee commanding the way and contributing to a powerful progressive danceable debut.

 Filled with dance floor beats, the band blends bluesy guitars with eccentric keyboard effects to create a distinguished debut that seamlessly flows from genre to genre. At times their funky sound turns into hip hop or even dance pop, which makes it easy to compare them to the Black Eyed Peas. Alex Lee’s skills cement her as a person to watch and at times are reminiscent of Fergie.

Le Vice embraces each genre as its own sound whether its indie, R& B, alternative, electronic, dance pop, or hip hop. The band seamlessly switches back and forth for funky great grooves and doesn’t miss a beat. Their confidence creates concise music that is exciting, energetic, and endearing for all music fans.
Pure pleasure plays throughout their eponymous debut that is literally a majestic music mash up that combines the best of the 1980s rap and R&B scene, the current electronic/house sound and everything else extravagant.  Irresistible dance beats are just the tip of the iceberg.
Distinct drumming by Darrin Thomas, groovy guitar playing by Renzo Staiano, deep bass by Sean Stillinger and the infectious vocals by Alex Lee make Le Vice one of the year’s best new bands. Besides Fergie, Lee has a similar sexy sound to Lauryn Hill and her conceited lyrics in songs like “Uh Huh” give off an M.I.A. vibe.
The first track “Le Vice” is nothing mind blowing, but the album builds with “Say-A.” The synth sounding song compliments Lee’s luscious voice and invokes a fun futuristic vibe that makes you dance. Electro funk comes alive in “Hard To Be Ill” and Lee seems to emulate Eve. Now I am not a huge fan of R & B, but wow this band is just too good to ignore.
The ten track album is filled with sensational songs mixed for partying and good house beats. Arguably the best song on the album is “Uh Huh.” Lee’s bold bragging has her singing “Whatever you want right now/ You can get it from me” and “I’m a perfect 10 on the scale/You don’t need nobody else” makes moody, yet beautiful points about party girls.
Other notable songs include “Why Fight,” “Shy Guy,” “2 O’clock” and “She Wanna.” Each hip hop influenced song has its own outstanding moment that it’s truly hard to compare with other musicians. Santigold, N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, Gnarls Barkley, LCD Soundsystem, Grizzly Bear, Erykah Badu and even The Roots remain recommended comparisons. They are part of a generation heavily influenced by all amazing music and have brought back new nasty music that is all their own. It’s obvious to see their influences and it’s fantastic to see them take it to a whole new level. The future for Le Vice looks great and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

--Mr Brownstone

Buy here: Le Vice

Friday, November 19, 2010

Doom On - Featuring Leather Nun America and Sanctus Bellum

With Ripple Music’s signing of Cleveland’s destructive Doom Gods, Venomin James, I just couldn’t resist the urge to plunge myself headlong into some serious doom metal.  Sinking down to the depths of darkness, I emerged safely, if not subtly twisted with these two doom-alicious nuggets.

Leather Nun America – Absence of Light

Not to be confused with that other Leather Nun from Sweden, or the classic underground comic by the same name, Leather Nun America sum up just about everything that I love in doom.  Ferocious riffs, massively absurd bottom end, and lyrics that search for that evasive ray of light amongst the darkness.  Coming to us on the fiercely independent underground metal label, psycheDoomelic, Leather Nun America is a surprisingly easy listen for the genre.  Vocals are roughened, but clean, not growled, gurgled or vomited, which is always a major plus for me.  The riffs, while intense and devastatingly heavy, move with a nice inherent groove, not sludgy or moribund.  And the guys actually know how to play, not hiding behind senseless walls of feedback noise.  They’re out there, right in front riffing right along.  And I like that.

Now, none of that is to say this shit isn’t heavy.  One listen to the opening of “Portcullis,” and you’d better be prepared.  The wall of despair hits you like a sledgehammer to the testicles.  Wave after wave of impossibly low-end riffs blast away, liquefying any internal organs in their path.   All the requisite influences are there, Motorhead, Spirit Caravan, Obsessed, Crowbar, and the tip of the crown to Lord and Master Sabbath.  But what Leather Nun America does with these influences is what draws me to them.  Rather than try and out doom the world, slowing things down to the absurdly slow pace of Sleep or the unwieldy (in my mind unlistenable) drone of Cough, Leather Nun America aren’t afraid to simply rock.  Check out the opening riff to “Ly Loa.”  Damn, that’s tough.  Throw in some electric soloing, searing through that monster of a groove and we really got something.  Loud?  You bet.  Dark and heavy enough to scare mother’s of small children?  Oh, yeah.  If it didn’t we wouldn’t listen to it.  But damn, besides all that, it just freaking grooves.

“Below Zero,” attacks me right out of the speakers with a Motorhead frenzy.  “Emblem” is a seven-plus minute doom epic that never loses its focus or my attention.  “Some Might Grow,” is a stunningly beautiful acoustic passage to match the best of Iommi’s classic interludes.  “Tools of the New Church” just assaults with its monolithic glory.  Beautifully done.

The album isn’t new.   Their third long player, it was originally released in 2008.  But for doom fans who like their music to move with an actual heartbeat, this one shouldn’t be missed.


Sanctus Bellum – Return to Dust

Man, I don’t know what’s drifting in the bayou’s down Houston way, but damn if they aren’t churning out some seriously heavy bands.  Recently, Pope touted the weighty wares of Project Armageddon, and now we got another monster of a doom band to bally about; Sanctus Bellum.   Return to Dust is their 6 song debut and if this indestructible platter is any indication, we got a monster doom player on our hands.

Recently, I’d been watching the history channel, and have become fascinated with ancient civilizations and their monolithic structures like Puma Punko, with their 800 ton ruins.  Images of those megalithic structures raced through my ravaged brain as “Shoggoth’s Ascent” erupted out of the speakers.  Truly epic in its scope, this is the music of an ancient, timeless race.  And let me tell you, those multi-ton slabs of granite at Puma Punko got nothing on the weight of the riffs here.  Small nations could collapse under their mass. Dense and impenetrable.   Sanctus Bellum lay it on thick and massive. 

Now, if the vocals sound familiar, it’s because they belong to long time Ripple favorite Mr Plow’s singer Justin Waggoner, and his vocals work perfectly here, particularly on a track like the blazing epic “Dagon’s Bride.”  Waggoner’s not afraid to gruff up his voice or leave it clean and soaring when the part calls for it.  Either way, the dude can actually sing which in my mind is always a plus for any band.

As for where Santus Bellum comes from.  Of course we got the requisite Sabbath, but they bring in more of the post-grunge riffery to them than simply lose themselves in the 70’s.  Trouble is here, so is some post-Alice in Chains, as are others.  They even bring in some tasty classic metal harmony guitar riffs which just blare out all fiery and mean.   Lyrically and thematically, each song on the self-released Return to Dust references H.P. Lovecraft, but you don’t have to be a fan of that demented author to get into the metal meal these cats lay out.  Just embrace the neck-breaking riffery of “Curwen,” or the massive epic, and monstrous refrain of “God’s Own Warrior.”  Imagine yourself at that ancient granite ruin of Puma Punko as “The Reddening West,” blares from the stereo.  See the ancient people, the warriors, the sacrifice.   Or simply lose yourself in the twilight groove of “White Cat.”  Heavy and inspiring.  Dense and moving.  Sanctus Bellum are one to watch.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rotor – 4

Ever wish King Crimson turned into more of a metal band after Red (1975) and ditched the vocals? Then Rotor is your dream come true. Released Zeptember first of this year, 4 is the latest from Berlin’s Rotor. Despite hailing from Germany and the German song titles, this 3 piece band is not overtly “Krautrock” but more of just a heavy band without a singer. And they’ve been at it since 1998. Maybe they’ve been around so long because they don’t have to suffer from the dreaded L.S.D. (lead singer disease).

The hype sheet that came with the CD claims “bohemian structures with groovy beats, surprising time changes, heavy guitars and distorted bass.” Finally, some truth in advertising, but only a European would use a term like “bohemian structures.” The guitar is very heavy, but with plenty of reverbed clarity to make all the lines stand out from the thick rumbly bass and thuddy drums. The production is very nice – thick sounding with lots of tube warmth and never flat or dull.

Songwriting is top notch, too. An instrumental band really needs to work out the arrangements but leave some room for improv so neither the band or listener gets bored. They keep most of the songs around the 4 minute mark and avoid a lot of the Sabbath/Hawkwind clichés that many of these type of bands often fall into. They also bring in some cool classic rock influences, too. “Karacho / Heizer” sounds like it was lifted right out of a James Gang jam at the Grande Ballroom. “Gnade Dir Gott” and “Drehmoment” boil over with King Crimson at their heaviest.

To keep things interesting, there are 2 songs with guest vocalists. “An3R4” is almost Tool-like with a heavy, circular riff and some great drum fills. A cover of The Obsessed’s “Neatz Brigade” ends the album. Before checking the credits, the first thing I thought was “this really reminds me of Wino.” I’ve never heard the original but now intend to track it down. I’m also going to investigate Rotor’s previous 3 records. Maybe in the future they can get Udo to guest on a cover of Accept’s “Princess Of The Dawn.” That would be really cool.

Another winner from the Elektrohasch label.

-- Woody

Buy here: Rotor - 4


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Band of Orcs Warchiefs of the Apocalypse

Curse my foolishness!  One moment I am perfectly safe loitering at midday in a public square.  The next moment, I once again let my weak resolve regarding a beautiful member of the opposite sex lead me to rash action.  A thoroughly enchanting temptress caught my eye and beckoned me to follow her into an alleyway.  Any common sense abandoned me in a rush of elation, and I quickly jogged toward the periphery of the square.  The object of my chase disappeared around the corner of the building forming the right hand side of the alley.  Unfortunately when I myself hurriedly rounded the corner, instead of being face to face with the aforementioned lady I blindly ran into (or through as the case may be) a shimmering black energy field the size of a large door.

Now I find myself in a strange twilight lit cityscape that somewhat resembles the modern times of which I’m familiar, but with several important differences.  For one I look up to the sky to behold two different moons, one that is full and another showing only a waning crescent.  I drop my gaze to rooftop level and perceive illuminating lamps that are neither electrical, with no wiring or bulb in evidence, nor gas powered, as there is not a standard flame providing light.  I can only surmise that the white light emanating from inside the glass enclosures must be alchemical in nature.  As my gaze falls still further I finally observe the people surrounding me. 

The astounding assortment that greets my eyes would have easily stunned me to silence if I had been in the middle of speaking.  Fortunately I was able to keep my mouth from hanging open.  While there were humans of entirely normal proportions there were also tall pointy eared Elves, squat formidably built Dwarves, as well as diminutive hairy Halflings.  To my further amazement there was even what appeared to be a small animatronic tree selling wares at a kiosk to passersby!  If I had not been a fan of fantasy fiction I believe I would be overwhelmed to the point of incomprehension.  As it was, I barely had enough sense to recognize the small mob of young humanoid beings rushing towards me with blazing torches held high.

“The Orcs are coming!  The Orcs are coming!  Come on stranger, join us.”
“Are we in danger?” I hesitantly asked the ringleader.
“Yeah we’re in danger.  We’re in serious danger of not being right in front of A Band of Orcs when they appear!”
“Hold on.  You actually want to be on the front lines when fighting erupts with some orcs?”  I tried not to sound incredulous, but I’m sure I failed miserably.
“Fighting?  What are you talking about?  A Band of Orcs is a band, and they’re playing at the amphitheater in the middle of town.”
“So they’re not actually Orcs?”
“Of course they’re Orcs!  Jeez, where have you been stranger?  Look, do you like heavy metal music?”
“I love heavy metal!”  That was one of the only things I was sure of at this point.
“Good, then take this torch and follow me.”  He handed me his torch and turned to address the others in the mob.  “Let’s go everybody!”

Together we ran several blocks to the amphitheater, extinguished our torches at the entrance, and made our way collectively to the front of the venue just as the band was taking the stage.  A Band of Orcs, not surprisingly, plays death metal.  It seems obvious that Orcs would play a brand of music as off-putting and humorless as their race’s visage.  What is somewhat surprising however is that these five Orcs appear to have shunned their historical predilections towards immediate bloody gratification in favor of practicing their craft.  Therefore no matter what kind of axe these Orcs use, their chops are guaranteed to slay their targets.

Make no mistake dear reader.  The music unleashed by this band is aimed squarely at making the listener either submit or be trampled underfoot by the onrushing horde.  This is meat and potatoes death metal made by infantrymen for the pleasure of other front line blood letters.  Granted you won’t find any real progressive elements within these six songs, but that is more than all right.  I’ve learned that Orcs don’t put on airs well, and if they try whoever is unfortunate enough to be with them inevitably gets hurt…badly.

The band’s EP, entitled Warchiefs of the Apocalypse, was played straight through in it’s entirety during the concert. "I, Gogog" started things off with a bang bumping the energy level from one to a hundred in short order.  The next two songs, "Warchiefs of the Apocalypse" and "Bring Out Your Dead", continue the onslaught of rapid fire riffs, manic double bass drumming, and demented guttural growls.  Things change up a little bit with the cover of Celtic Frost’s "Procreation (of the Wicked)," a song with a slower tempo anchored around a monstrous guitar part.  "Disassembly Line", an instrumental, follows next and toys with the listener by evolving from an ultra fast start to a short, slow melodic passage one minute and forty five seconds in before jumping once again through a warp gate for the remainder of the song.  The finale to the EP is the epic "Into the Maelstrom", the strongest track on offer, and a fitting finale to the live performance.

After the concert had triumphantly concluded, my newfound friends and I were slapping each other on the back and across the shoulders with heartfelt joy over the whole experience.  While this was going on I glanced at the side of the stage and lo and behold, the very same temptress that brought me to this land was again staring at me.  She signaled that I should come hither, and in my pseudo-intoxicated state brought on by the great music I walked over without hesitation.  When I drew near not a word was exchanged.  She leaned towards me and kissed me on the cheek. 

I opened my eyes and found myself back in the public square where this whole escapade began.  Seemingly no time had elapsed.  The people with distinctive characteristics I could remember observing earlier were exactly where I last remembered seeing them.  Surely I did not hallucinate everything?!?  No…I looked down at my feet and saw a CD lying on the ground.  Picking the jewel case up revealed it to be A Band of Orcs Warchiefs of the Apocalypse EP and I could see my reflection in the mirror like surface.  There was lipstick on my cheek.


Buy here:  Warchiefs of the Apocalypse
Buy Mp3: Warchiefs of the Apocalypse [Explicit]

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