MUDKISS FANZINE

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OCTOBER ALBUM REVIEWS: VIBRANT DIVERSITY IN AUTUMN RELEASES

Once again, the autumn has painted our worlds with some beautiful colours and we've been enjoying it together with some amazing new music releases that have crossed our paths here at Mudkiss. As per usual, our talented bunch of reviewers including Paul Hastings, Mike Ainscoe, Lee McFadden, Mary O'Meara, Philip Howe, James Lowther, Gareth Allen and Stuart Kristensen have written down their very own thoughts and opinions on some of the latest albums of the season.

The fantastic new record from The Creepshow was a strong runner up for October's album of the month.

The Creepshow - Life After Death

This new release for The Creepshow is very significant as the band have been through quite a traumatic period since the release of their last album, which had actually broken the band in to a wider fan base. Significantly, this is the first album to feature their new vocalist, Kenda Legaspi, as well as a new drummer and the addition of another guitarist. Predominantly from Canada, the band have been going for over eight years. During this period they have developed their punk psychobilly influenced sound to a more genre defying blend of country-tinged, psycho punk rock n roll. It is probably fair to say, therefore, that there was quite a bit of pressure on the band with this release. So it is great to see that despite the change in personnel they have created possibly their best album to date.

Opening track "See You In Hell' begins with the sound of death with the beep of a life support machine, but the song itself is very much alive. It's an in your face, full on punk rockabilly track. It is fast and furious but with a sense of melody running through it. They then add a bit more swagger on "The Devil Son" which starts in a slower and more sultry style. The vocals of Kenda add a real unique flavour and style to their sound, which suits them and really sets them apart from other bands of this ilk. It is a great melodic song with good use of supporting vocals to give it a more uplifting tone.

"Saints and Sinners" picks up the energy levels again with an added punk sharpness. It is more in line with a psychobilly sound but really there is a lot more to this band. They have more depth, added melody and better quality songs to be just dumped in to that genre. That's not to say they can't deliver that style very well, as shown by "Failing Grade".

This album, however, tends to show a more classic rock n roll sound. This is even demonstrated by the use of a classic title like "Born To Lose". This is one of the best songs on the album and has some great lyrics about life on the road and their fans around the world. It is a great, straight forward, fun, upbeat, rock n roll song. As is "Second Chance" which almost has a more commercial feel to it and could easily cross over to a mainstream rock scene. They are clearly capable of delivering a great modern rock song as also demonstrated by "Take It Away". This has that rock n roll beat behind it and also gives a bit of time for the guitarist to really show off his style.

Importantly the band are not ones to rest on their laurels and are always pushing their sound. They add some horns on "Last Call" which has a great effect and really takes the track up to another level. This time we see some male vocals which provides a nice change. It's a quirky song and what is not to like about a song that's lyrics are all about drinking and having fun. In contrast, "Can't WaitTo See You Fall" begins in an aggressive style but the shouty male vocals are perfectly off set by the keyboard sound and the sweeter vocals of Kenda. It also has a really nice bass solo so we again get the chance to appreciate the musical talent of the band.

The whole album ends with "Life After Death" which, as implied by the title, is the closest to a more stereo typical psychobilly song. It will be a great mosh pit fighting song for the live show. It is a timely reminder that the band have certainly lost none of their passion and aggression over the years. Instead they have learnt to harness it and bring it out when really required.

The Creepshow are a band who perhaps have failed to gain the wider attention that they deserve. This is partly due to the name and image which has seen them pigeon holed in to a certain category of style. There is, however, far more to the band then simply calling them a psychobilly band. "Life After Death" is a big and bold album that offers far too much to be stereo typed in to one sound. It is a really great album with rock n roll songs played with a punk flair. Their fans who have grown and developed with the band will certainly love it as it represents yet further progression. It will also, however, hopefully introduce some new recruits where it should appeal to any fan of quality punk n roll.

Dregen - Dregen

Dregen is one of those artists who to fans of a certain genre and age is an underground legendary guitarist. He formed two of the best sleaze rock bands of the late eighties/nineties in the shape of Backyard Babies and The Hellacopters (once you have finished this review, bought this album, make sure you go and check out their awesome back catalogue). He has also worked on various side projects which included working with the likes of Ginger from the Wildhearts. More recently, he has also played on the awesome new release from ex Hanoi Rocks front man, Michael Monroe. Dregen is clearly a man who loves his rock n roll so he has now gone on to produce his first solo album. The esteem he is held in is demonstrated by some of the guests on this album which includes Nicke Anderrson (Hellacopters), Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks) and is actually produced by Par Wiksten (Wannadies).

Kicking off with "Division of Me" it is an immediate reminder of Dregen's great distinctive voice and sound. It is a classic punk, rock n roll sound with a great melody and not surprisingly a real classic Backyard Babies sound. "Just Like That" has that classic glam punk sound with the requisite dose of sugar in the backing vocals and chorus. This also gives it a real pop shine, especially with the cool guitar riff. It is therefore no wonder that it is the first single off the album.

The style changes a bit with "Flat Tyres On A Muddy Road" which is a far more bluesy sounding song and demonstrates there is far more to Dregen than glam punk. In our recent interview with Michael Monroe he commented on the fact that Dregen had surprisingly brought a blues influence to the recording process. Despite that, there will always be a sleazy feel to his output. "Gig Pig" has a fantastic, dirty, opening riff and then an almost gothic feel to the vocals. We even get to hear that classic sleaze rock instrument the cow bell on "Bad Situation". This keeps the sleazy style but in a classic rock n roll song.

There is also plenty of the punk influence throughout the album, including on "Pink Hearse". It has hard hitting riffs and a spitted vocal style which all combines to create a huge raucous noise. The album probably hits a commercial high with "One Man Army", which is a really melodic and indeed simple song. It's a great rock n roll song with the quality that was evident from his contribution on the Michael Monroe album. "6-10" keeps this feeling going but, to me, it almost has a disco hint to the beat!?!?. There is a dark vocal effect but these are juxtaposed with the cool 'disco' beat. It is great to see that, even after all this time, and despite an established style, he is still willing to try something different.

"Refuse" sees us back on more traditional territory with that 'typical' Dregen riff. He also indulges himself with a great solo in this song, so we get the chance to really appreciate his skills and abilities. Importantly, however, it is always the quality of the songs themselves which take paramount importance.

Dregen has certainly been busy, with this solo album being released at the same time as the Michael Monroe album. In fact this release has meant that he has had to pull out of the touring band for Michael Monroe. This was initially very disappointing news. However, the quality of this album has completely changed that and you realise why he has made that decision. This whole album is full of great tracks and it is no wonder he wants to promote it and play it live. We can now see his decision as a bonus as we will get the chance to see two great acts bringing a whole load of awesome glam punk tracks to life, at what are bound to be fantastic gigs.

Those Darlins - Blur The Line

This is the third album from a band that formed back in 2006 and also the first since founding member Kelley Anderson amicably left the group. The band have gone from the alt-country style of their debut (not surprising, given the bands Nashville roots) to a more garage rock influenced second album called "Screws Got Loose". This second album got some much merited critical acclaim here in the UK, so it is interesting to see if the band have progressed further on this release. The cover of the album certainly suggests the new four piece are comfortable together as it features them all naked and holding each other.

Against this background, the opening track "Oh God" comes as something of a surprise. It is a mellow and restrained number. It has a real laid back feel to it and is unexpectedly 'pleasant'. It is still an excellent track but perhaps an initial warning to the listener that the band are to expand their sound again on this album. "In The Wilderness" adds a bit more of a familiar sound, with it's underlying tone of nastiness and sinister sound that you would associate with the band. This is especially true of the vocals, which are delivered with a sneer but the song still has a restrained feel.

On "That Man" we get to hear some of that fifties style influence with the girl group vocals that the band have always done so well. It is a really good tune which is slow but has a real swing to it.The menacing and dark feel is back with "She Blows" but they also keep a really sparse and uncluttered sound. On here this does build up in to an intense crescendo of sound. The pace continues to pick up with "Optimist" which is probably the first track more akin to their previous rockier tracks such as "Be Your Bro" on the last album, "Screws Get Loose". The faster beat is also evident on "Drive" which actually starts up with an almost Kings of Leon esque opening. It then moves in to a really neat song with a kind of west coast band feel. It is certainly a song to listen to as you drive to the beach on a sunny day.

The highlight of the album is probably one  of the most up beat tracks, "Baby Mae". It opens up with the irresistible rock n roll lyrics of " When she's good she's great, when she's bad she is even better", which you have just got to love. The song itself is catchy, infectious, fun and a bit dangerous, which is also a good description of the characters in the song and may be in the band as well.

The album also contains a couple of quite epic sounding songs, including "Western Sky" and the title track itself, "Blur The Line". The former of these has a hypnotic beat and also uses those great dual vocals that in many ways epitomises the band. The latter of these songs is actually after a track called "Silence" which indeed is just silent so make sure you don't turn the CD off too early and miss this additional treat.

The bands continued willingness to push boundaries and bring a sense of controversy are also demonstrated in the track "Ain't Afraid". This includes the lyrics "There's a tumour growing on my body" and is a clear indication of the bands bravery and outspoken nature. The track itself is built around a really cool and dirty riff.

As already mentioned, many of the tracks on this release have more of a restrained feel. The band have stepped back from their more raucous sound and delivered a more 'mature' sounding album. They have always been good song writers but this time around they have ensured this isn't buried under a rawer sound. It is kind of ironic that a band like Haim are getting loads of publicity at the moment as a girl group with harmonies and a "bad" side when really Those Darlins are the real deal (and yes I know they are now 50/50 female/male!). Those Darlins are able to deliver the girl group harmonies and west coast vibe but you kinda sense that they really do have a dirty/evil side, that you may or may not like to find!

Thee Eviltones - Beat Macabre

It's great to learn that Thee Eviltones are a UK band as it's not easy to find a band with their style here. They deliver a prime garage stomp but with the added element of a surf-punk feel evident in many of the songs. It is not retro but a post modern garage rock sound which can be both melodic and ferocious.

This is evident right from the off with "Razor", which is a rocking start but certainly has that surf like feel to it. The lyrics are actually far darker and more sinister than the guitar sound would tend to imply. That surf feel is obviously also evident on "Surf Rider" but again, it is not a tale of sunny beaches but instead has a sci-fi /gothic feel to it. It opens with a B movie sounding intro which can also be found on "End of Days". That song is a rock n roll number but again with a gothic and almost oriental influence.

The song "No Love" actually opens with a sound which is reminiscent of The Stranglers "No More Heroes". It shares that bands liking for a jangly upbeat sound contrasting with the darker lyrics.

The album also includes some more straight forward rocking songs such as "Devil Song" and "Murder In The Dark". This second one has a real "British" sound to it and you can almost hear a Brit pop feel to it. Whilst on "Just Tell Her" you can hear a sound which is like an amalgamation of some classic bands. It sounds a bit like The Clash but with bits of the Smiths and The Cure thrown in for good measure. It ends up with a great indie rock record which is so hard to find these days.

The band are never far from a more punk sound though, as shown on "Ruby Glistens" which is edging on psychobilly. The band then throw in a huge curve ball by calling one of the songs, "It's Christmas". It feels quite odd when the song really does open up with a traditional Xmas feel. Again, it is the band's wicked side which comes to the fore with lyrics such as " It's Christmas, I don't want to be with you". It actually then develops in to a really good punk rock n roll song. We again get to hear the surf guitars and the 'ahhs' in the backing vocals as it moves in to a catchy chorus.

Similar to The Creepshow, the band due to it's name and image may get caught up in being pigeon holed a Psychobilly type band, but this doesn't do them  justice. This is an excellent album that develops a really unique rock n roll sound which could perhaps be described as 'surfabilly' (sure this is already a genre - if not you heard it here first!). The dark lyrics also neatly jar against the sound of the songs. It is a really interesting combination which not only works on this album but will ensure you are soon finding out much more about the band and hopefully having the opportunity to see them at a live show.

The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns - Rockabilly Deluxe

This is the latest release on the excellent Lanark Records, but the band are far from new, having been around since the 1990's and having already released five previous albums. It was recorded at Lanark's studio using analog equipment, so it has that retro sound but still having a more modern vibe. They are a band who have roots in rockabilly, surf and rock n roll but all with an irreverent punk attitude. This latest release has been given a description of "a little bit country, a little bit punk, a little bit crazy and a little bit drunk", which certainly sounds like it will be an album worth checking out.

They certainly don't mess around on the opening number, "King Of The Slot Car Track", which is a full on rockabilly number with the guitar sound having a Peter Gunn feel to it. The song itself is upbeat with a great use of backing vocals to give it a full sound.

They are quick to ensure the album doesn't fall in to the trap of being one dimensional as the second song, "Long Gone Daddy" sees them slow it down a bit and add a great sleazy swing sound. It has really good use of horns to give it a real 'sassy' feel. This is also achieved on "It's Rock and Roll", which also has a slower beat but again features a certain swagger. This track in particular would probably be at home as an accompanying track to a wild burlesque dancers routine.

The Rodeo Clowns really do excel at producing old school rockabilly tracks. On "Bowling Alley Baby", not only do we get a great title, but also a real fifties swing. Importantly though, it sounds fun but not clichéd. "I'm Obsessed" is a similar traditional sounding song but the production ensures it has a more contemporary feel. "Wild Crazy and Out Of Control" is not surprisingly a song about a wild girl, who would be perfect for a rockabilly boy! This song makes good use of having a deeper and more menacing vocal delivery. It is followed up by "Paranoid Boy" which might well be about that rockabilly boy who has been confused by the before mentioned wild crazy chick!

The band's willingness to mix things up is most clearly present on "I Used To Be The One". The sound here just comes out of nowhere, where it is a bit country but with a few Mexican sounds thrown in - it's certainly fun. The country feel is most evident on the closing track, "The Light Is So Bright". Again, however, the band ensure it is not just a routine number as they also throw in some pretty weird gothic segments to keep the listener on their toes.

Lanark records are certainly establishing themselves a track record of delivering quality rockabilly bands. This release from The Reach Around Rodeo Clowns is probably the finest of their releases so far. It is based on a traditional rockabilly style and sound which will certainly appeal to the fans of this genre. However, it is not just a clichéd revamping of an old style. Often bands of this type will produce songs which just sound like cover versions of old songs. Instead, The Reach Around Clowns don't always play it safe and throw in the odd curve ball to keep the listener alert and interested. This means they continue to bring something new which is essential to keep the scene and sound developing.

Hard Fall Hearts - Die Before We Die

The Hard Fall Hearts hail from San Diego and consist of Bryan Kelly (Guitar, Vox), Eli Rinek (Drums Vox), and Andrew Verdugo (Upright Bass). They describe themselves as a Punk/Rockabilly outfit and certainly have a sound that is both dark and distinct but yet reverent to the roots of rock and roll. This latest EP certainly demonstrates a band that is well versed in hitting out hard rockers to a welcoming audience.

The EP begins up with "Drive All Night" which has an absolutely awesome opening drum beat that is actually very Adam And The Ants esque, which is never a bad thing! It then moves in to a great punk n roll song. It is all punk rock attitude but with a swagger that is built around the band's  rockabilly sensibility. That influence is also evident on the bass strum that kicks off "Carry Me Along". This time, however, the band offer a more melancholy feel to the sound, it still has that beat but it is definitely a more restrained approach.

Title track "Die Before We Die" sees the pace pick up further with a driving guitar sound before moving in to a really strong sing a long chorus which you could easily see being a live favourite. It has a real modern rock n roll feel to it, a la The Reckless ones. "Lay Beside Me" sees the double bass kicking things off again as they deliver another good rock n roll song. This time the band takes some of the intensity out of their sound and instead it benefits from a more cool, laid back beat.  

They expand their sound further on "Just Like Heaven" which opens with a great riff but then moves into a more commercial, modern rock, sound. This is the song on the album which could really allow the band to have a cross over hit. There is almost a hint of a British influence where there are echoes of The Smiths hidden under the American rock sound. This combination sees this being probably the best song on the EP.

The EP sadly comes to an end all to early with "Sweet Savanna". This, again, is a modern punk rockabilly song. It is a good demonstration of how the band have been successful in taking old school influences bang up to date to create a relevant and modern sound.

This is the beauty of all the songs on this EP, as it is a modern rockabilly sound delivered with the necessary punk attitude. It keeps the flavour of an old school sound but ensures it sounds modern and fresh. Importantly, bands like Hard Fall Hearts, Reckless Ones and Astrolites will encourage a new generation and group of fans to get in to this genre. They are the perfect gateway band for fans of both punk and rock n roll to discover a whole host of great acts and albums.

Electric Alice - The Electric Alice Xperiment

Somewhat unusually, and a bit sadly, this release is actually by a band that have already split up! The album was recorded at the end of 2012 and was intended for a release in May this year, but unfortunately by then the band had split up. Thankfully, we are still getting the chance to hear it, as it has now been put out via the  DGAB Bandcamp site. Their sound has been described as "raw, sleazy and timeless" which certainly sounds enticing.

First song, "Apache War Dance", is a great opening and is a real garage punk track which sounds like it should have come from a New York band rather than a British band. It is a quick, sharp hit of punk rock n roll. A sound which is then continued with "Coffin Joe" which has an almost New York Dolls/Iggy and The Stooges feel to it.

On "Johnny Cash Is Jesus" they bring a bit of those other punk icons, The Ramones, to the party. The lyrics " Head to toe, I'm dressed in black" could easily apply to that legendary band as well as to the referenced Johnny Cash. This is an anarchic song that has references to various rebels in society.

The final track on the EP is "The Creeping Ritual" which sees them add a bit of a country twang to the sound. It still manages to maintain the punk holler of the singer which ensure the bands attitude stands out.

It is a real shame that the band have split up and maybe if they had come from that perceived mecca of cool New York they might have had some instant success. This might then have prevented the split. When you consider the number of poor bands who get press attention, just for following The Strokes and wearing skinny jeans and leather jackets, there is no reason why Electric Alice couldn't have built a good following. Who knows, maybe this release could see them ending up as one of those cult bands where the members go on to greater success and this could be a sought after rarity. Even if this doesn't happen, there is no reason not to grab this piece of raw and sleazy rock n roll. The EP is actually available on a name your price deal, but hopefully most will show some generosity so that those who were determined enough to arrange the release get adequately rewarded for their efforts.

Ross Kleiner & The Thrill - You Don't Move Me

When you get to hear the quality of the musicianship on this album by Ross Kleiner & The Thrill, it comes as a real surprise to learn that this is their debut release. Likewise they come across as a band that must have been honing their skills on the road for years, but actually they only formed in 2012. It is certainly interesting that they describe their album as "14 original tracks, sans fancy gimmicks or excessive digitisation. This is rock 'n' roll: raw, gritty and bare-bones".

"Mighty Mighty Man" has a great opening drum beat and then the guitar kicks in along with the horns for a great first track. It's an old school rock n roll song which even includes some 'shoop shoops' in the lyrics. "Clutchin' Pearls" is a similar styled track where, again, the use of horns and an almost big band sound give the song a real bold and brash feel.

The title track "You Don't Move Me" is certainly ironic as the 'jungle' style drum beat will get you moving straight away. The whole song has an undercurrent of the Stones "Fade Away" in the guitar line. The kind of jungle rhythm raises it's head again on "The Thrill", where the beat of the drum holds the song together and delivers a more mysterious sound.

The pace is slowed right down on " Only Wanna Be With You", which has a simple Bossa nova type beat. This track has  a much sparser sound but it really allows the warm tone of the guitar and the strength of Ross' voice to shine.  A kind of Latin feel is also found on the final track "I'm Ready", but this time it is used as part of an upbeat rocker. It sounds like the sort of song The King should have sung in one of his beach movies rather than some of the inferior tracks that sadly were used.

Before you get to that end, however, there are a number of tracks which clearly show a love for the fifties/sixties era and a rockabilly sound. "Goodbye Lover" has a real fifties feel to it and will have you wanting to sit in an American diner with a burger and a shake. Whilst "Rock Steady" has a similar retro vibe but this time it will have you up and jiving. Finally, "Steady Kisses" keeps this feeling going and again it's all polka dot dresses, leather jackets and greasy hair which, for people of a certain age, will set the memory bank back to images of Happy Days, The Fonz and Grease.

This is clearly not an album that you would describe as pushing the boundaries or being cutting edge. It is firmly based in the traditional rock n roll/rockabilly territory. However, what certainly sets it out from many similar albums is the absolutely obvious skill and professionalism of all the musicians on the album. It is quite clear that this is an album built on a passion and a knowledge of this style of music. This conveys itself in both the quality of the songs and the enthusiasm in which they are delivered. Reviews by Paul Hastings

The Fallows - Liars & Kings

WARNING!  Seriously over the top and enthusiastic review coming up.

You’ve probably had one of these musical moments yourself now and again. When you come across a new song or a new band which takes you off in a different direction accompanied by  the thrill of your  find. Playing a song or an album over and over again until the new slowly becomes the familiar and absorbed into the consciousness and then delving into back catalogues and becoming immersed – a bit like my very early musical experiences discovering Genesis and several other rock, pop, metal, folk, country (you name it) artists over many years.

In a nutshell, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve not felt quite as excited about a new band/album for ages as I did when I chanced upon The Fallows through  a Mudkiss link to their latest ‘Liars & Kings’ album on Soundcloud. They are what might loosely be termed an acoustic based indie alt-folk outfit from Coventry, with  2012’s debut album ‘Face The Wolves’ and numerous festival appearances behind them (and to these ears they would be perfect festival material).  Their sound broadly encompasses some catchy, almost pop melodies with a rustic element of rock attitude and plenty references to Celtic folk all combining to produce a rousing and inspirational blast.

Talk about first impressions - from the opening ten or so seconds of fiddling on ‘Liars & Kings’ from All Britain fiddle/mandolin Champion and 2012 BBC Young Folk Award finalist Neal Pointon, which appealed to my Levellers-loving sensibilities, I was hooked in for the full on Fallows experience.  Describing the title track as a song “which was always going to open the album it sets the direction that we wanted to go in” it’s certainly a stomper which takes no prisoners and leads into an album which showcases their full repertoire.

‘I’ll Let You Know’ is one song which reflects the band’s earlier sound led by a heavily strummed guitar, shuffling drums , insistent chorus and infectious fiddle. Along similar lines is ‘Broken Glass’, which after a minutes preamble, kicks into a buoyant and full on dance/bounce along tune which talks of  “going back to simpler times” with a couple of flowing fiddle breaks between the verses .  One of my personal highlights of the album – Radio Mudkiss be prepared!!! Just as joyous is ‘Washed Out’ – a tongue in cheek song referencing a rather damp British Summer and the trials and tribulations of playing at festivals. For once the keyboard notes play a bigger part and take their place a little higher in the mix as they do most effectively on the gentle ballad ‘Kerry Girl’.

While the single ‘Run Like A Dog’ has a sound firmly fixed in Mumford territory which would be a fair way of selling themselves to a healthy market, it has alternative vocalist with Pete Rutherford stepping up  on some rather philosophical lyrics about as they say “letting things go – life is too short and sometimes it’s best to move”. Not to say that The Fallows are any sort of copycat or 'sound alike' band as there are influences both musically in in their approach  from the likes of The Levellers and some of the newer alt-folk outfits such as Stornoway, but with the likes of Mumford & Sons gaining the acclaim they do, then there’s certainly a market out there and one which The Fallows will be tapping into.

For something which is a bit of a departure from the general sound of the album, have a listen to ‘Red’ which has a certain dramatic Gallic quality in its feel, even lapsing into a bit of French dialogue, whilst ‘Cast The First Stone’ has a fervent Celtic feel not only musically, but in its lyrical content being more narrative, dare I say traditional. Without going through a track by track analysis, there doesn’t appear to be a duff track on the album; trying to find one will prove futile.  If this isn’t the Mudkiss album of the month then it’s a travesty of justice. Mind, album of the month or not, get out and give this a listen. It could be the start of something beautiful!

Will Pound - A Cut Above

‘A Cut Above’ is the first solo album from narrow boat dwelling harmonica player Will Pound. Picking up a nomination in the 2012 Radio 2 Folk Awards for ‘Best Musician Of The Year’  to add to his 2011 ‘Instrumentalist Of The Year’ award from FATEA magazine,  his star is obviously in the ascendency. Accompanied on the album by a small but stellar cast of  heavyweight folk names such as  Damien O’Kane, Martin Simpson, Tim Edey, Kris Dreverand Andy Cutting, the indications are that the ingredients are all in place for a musical treat.

The opening set of tunes, ‘Soldier’s Joy – Floating Candle – The Dutchess’ really sets the stall out for what’s to come. Arranged by Will and Lau’s Kris Drever, its energetic opening with the harmonica well to the fore gives way to an all out finish and guitar accompaniment on ‘The Dutchess’.

The album goes on to showcase Will’s natural flair and virtuosity acrossa range of styles and tunes. There’s  the bluegrass feel of ‘Clinch Mountain Backstep’,  where the accompaniment of Damien O’Kane’s banjo and the guitar of David Kosky recall their own ‘Mystery Inch’ instrumental album, all the while conjuring up images of trains rumbling and rolling down dusty  tracks of the old west and barn dances with girls twirling about and hitching up their skirts, all the while as the players take turns to seize the chance to take the lead.It’s the same frenetic pace as the opener and in particular a lethal  instrumental combination which works to similar effect on ‘Morgan Rattler’, expanding on Will’s previous experience and work with banjo player Dan Walsh.

The first tune Will ever  learned on harmonica,‘Old Joe Clark’ opens with some typical Simpson guitar atmospherics before  Will’s frantic harmonica playing takes over, all the while accompanied by the acoustic guitar run. It’s bluesy feel is replicated on the well-known Christian hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’ which gets an outing, for the most part as an almost muddy and dirty delta blues arrangement, morphing into a funk style jam, before returning to its roots and fading  out in a low hum.

For an interesting take on the credits, which range from arrangements on traditional tunes including a couple of Morris pieces in ‘White Jock’ and ‘Dearest Dickie’ to original material such as the title track composed  by Will and his wife Nicky which leads into the jazzy ‘Hesleyside Reel’, there’s a name check for Mozart who reputedly composed ‘Michael Turner’s Waltz’ as part of his German dance collection. With such breadth on offer in his debut work, it’s a delight to see Will Pound step up and step out to show his undoubted skills as a musician in his own right.

With some live dates in the offing including an album launch on the 2nd October, the newly formed Will Pound Band contains Henry Webster on fiddle, Jackie Oates Band guitarist Chris Sarjeant and John Parker on double bass.

John Parkes - Bleeding Edge / Distant Past

 ‘Bleeding Edge /Distant Past’ is the third solo album from Sheffield born singer/songwriter John Parkes – a man with quite an interesting history. His previous two solo albums, ‘Faithlessness’ (2006)    and ‘Illegal Songs’ (2008) were received with  some acclaim, although he followed these up by taking a stint with Leeds indie guitar band Whole Sky Monitor, again releasing two albums and grabbing the attention and radio play from Radio’s 1 and 6.

Due for release in November 2013, the new album contains 13 tracks building on the acoustic sound of the first two solo albums. Opening with the gentle summer sound of ‘Brand New Day’ with some subtle instrumental backing and very Beatle-y harmony vocals at the outset, the song typifies the approach and general breeziness of the songs on the album. In contrast is  the more sombre ‘Bees/Roses’; with its lyric including the ominous  “you say death is not the end”,  it presents a more melancholy and solemn side amongst a more typically optimistic set of songs.

‘Don’t Be Seventeen’ has a dreamy Oasis feel and along with ‘A Strange Affair’ benefits from  some subtle organ accompaniment, while at time John’s vocals  have a touch of Ian Hunter about them as he launches into the chorus. Going off at a tangent there’s the tongue in cheek skiffleof ‘Sleep With Me’ – totally and unashamedly transparent in the lyrics, some of which may well be embarrassingly familiar to guys (and girls) listening in. All in the best possible taste of course, and in  ‘One Got Away’ by contrast, he voices  a more heartfelt sentiment in the way the lyric expresses those feelings we all experience in  failed relationships.

‘Bleeding Edge/Distant Past’ – a bemusing title and an album which moves John Parkes another step along the way to not quite mass acceptance and arena filling status, but one which will open up some possibilities for him in widening his audience. Listen and tell!

Sean Taylor - Chase The Night

With some rather positive vibes about Sean Taylor emanating  from Bob Harris and Mike Harding no less, while Q magazine have drawn comparisons with the late great John Martyn, these are the sort of recommendations that draw a musician to your attention.

After gigging at some of the major festivals (Glastonbury, Cambridge Folk and Beautiful days) and several jaunts round the UK on his CV, his new record,  ‘Chase The Night’,  his sixth since 2006’s ‘Corrugations’, follows on from a year of touring across Europe and Australia as well as recording the album in Austin, Texas, before its release at the end of September.

Described as “a celebration of my home – from the drinkers of Kilburn, to the ravers of Brixton, from the Bohemia of Camden, to the golden glow of the Thames,” the initial feelings of listening to the album are very visual; cityscapes of shadowy streets, of yellowing lights reflected  on the damp pavements. Although the setting is clearly grounded in his London origins, just for a moment it felt almost like being transported into the “mean old city” of Jim Taggart’s Glasgow.

As the album took shape  the album under the supervision of Mark Hallman,  the luxury of adding extra musicians to the recording has the advantage, as Sean has pointed out, “ of making  each song bigger and emphasises the melody.” The added philosophy of  ‘take the track where you feel it needs taking’ has added some extra dimension to the songs with interesting alternatives to his normally blues based sound.

‘Chase The Night, the opening and title track sounds very live, with the first half minute setting up the tempo on hi-hat followed by a count in as a swelling organ makes its presence felt and the drum kicks in. With the  lyric of “chasing the night to stay alive”  and the first sign of Sean’s signature bluesy guitar the theme of the album is set.

The expanded band works particularly well on the lengthy ‘So Fine’ which apart from an insistent groove driving the track along has a lone female voice adding an atmospheric lament throughout  (a la Floyd’s ‘Great Gig In The Sky’ but more subtle).

Inspired by a rainy Soho evening, the debut single ‘London’ from the record (featuring Danny Thompson – a regular live partner and former associate of John Martyn and Nick Drake) is the one which brings the John Martyn comparison to mind with the tale evolves. Taylor explains it as “an all night trip from the West End to Brixton, passing through Terry and Julie’s Waterloo Sunset en route”. It brings to mind very much a soundtrack to a taxi journey and the sights and images he describes flashing by. “Don’t let your burden drag you down,” he sings before entering into a Martyn style scat accompanied by some fluid fretless bass. Niiiice!

The sonic palette is enhanced with what comes across as some subtle brass on ‘The Road’, a gently rolling song which is as close to a love song as you’re going to get, yet for something which goes off at a bit of a tangent, check out ‘Biddy Mulligans’. It shows another side, being a piano led tune with some violin floating over the melody whereas ‘Save Me’ has more a folky acoustic feel with the appearance of banjo and shuffling drums. It’s a bit of a lighter interlude before the closing spoken word piece ‘River’, (think ‘Parklife’ yet with a slightly more refined Phil Daniels dialect over a driving bluesy groove). A  bold move –not quite a rap or a tirade, more towards free associating with  an outpouring of urban related lyrics, perhaps influenced by love of reading the works of  the Beat poets on train journeys between gigs.

“This is our river, and this is our daily bread. These words are all I have.”

It brings the album full circle and typifies the Sean Taylor experience. From making waves in the acoustic/blues scene for some time now this is an album about who he is and where he comes from . Leaving the final words to Sean he describes his work on ‘Chase The Night’ as “the album I always wanted to make.”

The Full English

Following the launch of ‘The Full English’ – the digital archive of English traditional folk songs and dance tunes undertaken by the English Folk Dance & Song Society back in June, comes the recorded souvenir complied by a stellar assemblage of folk musicians (thankfully avoiding the ghastly label of  ‘supergroup’) led  by Fay Hield, to do some recorded justice to the archive.

Bringing together fellow Sheffield and northern based musicians in Rob Harbron (from Fay’s own Hurricane Party band and Jon Boden’s Remnant kings), the increasingly busy Sam Sweeney (of Bellowhead plus more bands than you can shake a stick at) Nancy Kerr (long term cohort of Eliza Carthy and member of the Kerr/Fagan duo with husband James Fagan) and the man who should need no introduction, the massively skilled guitarist Martin Simpson, it’s a star studded line up. Add to this illustrious group the Devon folk phenomenon Seth Lakeman and his long term buddy and double bassist Ben Nicholls and the ingredients for something special were in place.

The album is only the tip of the iceberg of the Full English collection of course, but they say cream rises to the top and what Fay’s band of brothers have come up with is a set of songs and tunes to savour. Assembled from the collections of Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger and the splendidly named Harry Albino to mention but a few, the seven players all add their own particular sprinkle of magic to the songs and tunes. “The pieces have all been shaped in various ways,” explains Fay Hield as the collections in the forms of documents and manuscripts have been turned into living performance. A generous set of notes in the CD booklet give plenty of opportunity for starting to become  immersed in the collection of broadside ballads and sea shanties, tunes from the Appalachians, Morris tunes from English counties, all mixed with love songs and singalong musical hall tunes. They give the initial ideas behind the songs  while those who want to dig deeper are encouraged to explore the digital archive.

There are some interlopers in the collection presented. ‘Linden Lea’ being considered not so much a folk song as a ‘composition’ is not a part of the Full English as such but included by Fay Hield with it’s gorgeous tune and subject matter being sympathetic to the project – so much so that its chosen to close the album. Nancy Kerr also contributes the very folky titled and sounding  ‘Fol The Day-O’ in respect to the collector Joseph Taylor who is name checked in the chorus. It’s  the only newly composed piece in the set but  doesn’t seem out of place amongst the other interpretations.

Martin Simpson’s exceptional guitar is featured alongside some charming fiddle playing on ‘Creeping Jane’ while his trademark slide is showcased on the instrumental  ‘Brigg Fair’, the second of two instrumental pieces together with the melodic ‘William and Nancy’, a delightful Morris tune. From Harry Albino’s admittedly rather bawdy collection comes the lengthy account of  ‘Arthur O’Bradley’ which veers “just the right side of tasteless” according to the sleeve notes and includes solid contributions from the full ensemble.

Ben Nicholls steps into the limelight for once in ‘Rounding The Horn’ leading the arrangement on concertina and  taking his version from that of  Anne Gilchrist where the ship in the tale sails from Portsmouth, in keeping with his South Coast roots. His distinctive double bass sound is most evident in ‘Stand By Your Guns’, one of the two Seth Lakeman led and influenced pieces, (which to these unashamedly Lakeman-approving ears are worth the proverbial price of admission alone). Drawn by the simple sentiment and emotion of  ‘Portrait Of My Wife’ (no doubt influenced by his recently fresh marital status) and accompanied by his own viola, it’s an emotive performance of  yearning love and longing and stands in  sharp contrast to the take on ‘Stand By Your Guns’ – described as striking and tense, it’s a dramatic and dynamic reading on a call to arms in a sea battle and perhaps the one song on the album which has everyone’s feet flat to the floor (and which was a highlight of the performance at the Full English launch).

The short tour which will follow the album release kicks off in mid October and already has several dates sold out. It will prove to be a once in a long time if not a lifetime opportunity to see these songs presented in a live setting by this incredible group of musicians. The album and tour are  very much the icing on the cake which is  the EFDSS project  and will serve as a lasting testament to The Full English – a landmark achievement, but I still can’t get the image of a plate of friend egg and bacon out of my head…… Reviews by Mike Ainscoe

Oh Yes We Can Love – A History Of Glam Rock (Universal)

“Oh Yes We Can Love” – an informative, concise double CD musical biography on the fleeting but memorable phase that was Glam Rock.....

That’s how the opening sentence to this review should appear, but inside the palatial rooms at Universal some perplexing conversations must surely have taken place. This is not a double CD, nay even a triple – “Oh Yes We Can Love” is a FIVE (count ‘em) CD box set consisting of 91 songs – the listing of which when it was first published unearthed floods of comments confirming that its contents propagated so much head-scratching, retired school nit nurses must have felt their skills were in demand once more.

A (mostly) chronological set commences with that bastion of Glam Rock, Noel Coward. Yes, you did read that. No, I am not responsible for curating this compilation. No, the 96 page booklet enclosed with the box set does not enlighten me as to why “Mad Dogs And Englishmen”  should open this collection.  Several tracks follow where you know instantly that Glam Rock parties and Glam Rock DJ sets filtered from iTunes and Spotify (another reason as to the bafflement behind the release of this compilation) would immediately eschew them for their ineligibility. It’s as if the curator has to complete a PhD – or fulfil a contractual obligation within the record company – and arrive at a tenuous justification or three later. Little Richard’s “Ooh My Soul” merely shows its face because he was referred to in an early press article as a “bisexual alien” – nodding to Ziggy of course.  Historical tie-ins are included for those analytical enough – Chuck Berry’s “Round And Round” was later covered by David Bowie during the “Pin Ups” sessions, Anthony Newley was a famous influence on Bowie’s vocals, and Howlin’ Wolf’s “You’ll Be Mine” sowed rows of seeds in the corkscrew haired bonce of Marc Bolan when he came to pen “Jeepster”.  Influences – acknowledged. To lump these songs in with Glam Rock? Never. The boundaries here are being stretched so demonstrably, that if the same degree of broadening was applied geographically, Buenos Aires would have its local affairs presided over by Kent County Council.

Disc Two features Bowie’s behind the scenes wizardry on no less than five tracks – Mott The Hoople’s rabble rousing “All The Young Dudes” (which he wrote for them of course), Lou Reed’s mesmerising “Walk On The Wild Side”, two of his own songs as covers – Dana Gillespie’s astonishing version of “Andy Warhol” and “The Man Who Sold The World” grated by Lulu’s afflicted Americanisms, and finally the late, lamented Mick Ronson’s “Growing Up And I’m Fine”.  So it is with an air of incredulity that the only song showcasing Bowie in his own right is the abandoned follow-up to “Space Oddity”, “London Bye Ta Ta”. It’s one of those early acts of whimsy that grit the teeth of all but the most hardened Bowie fans, and is only a marginal improvement on the atrocity that is “The Laughing Gnome”. Time to check Universal’s phone  records – Bowie’s licensees probably weren’t answering their calls.

The collection eases you into memories of the era it is supposed to represent with Hotlegs’ (later 10cc) “Neanderthal Man” and Curved Air’s “Back Street Luv”. Again – neither are Glam Rock, but the timeframe is now becoming contextual. Sense finally prevails in the inclusion of  T. Rex’s “Hot Love”.  The fifties nod is obvious in the underlying guitar riffs  - and in a genre so concentrated on its own time several tracks here take a subtle look backwards – but when Bolan binned the bongos and threw out the Tyrannosaurus to leave us with a T, it can be argued that Glam Rock, if not necessarily born, was beginning to walk assuredly.

T. Rex, Bowie and Roxy Music (predictably represented here by “Virginia Plain”) were that rare commodity within Glam Rock that retained an artistic credibility. Slade and Alvin Stardust were just plain fun. The Sweet looked like brickies reluctantly invited to a cross-dressing party. Even the whiter than white Osmonds gave it a crack with their notoriously atypical “Crazy Horses”, but – hang on a moment – what are Nazareth doing here? Their cover of Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight” is another example of where the Glam satnav has decided to forego its projected course, and no amount of 21st century eclectic post-Glam analysis can ease my confusion as to its validity here.

One song halts me in my tracks – and reduces my inner cynic to an emotional blubbing heap, and it is courtesy of Roy Wood’s Wizzard. If Roy Wood either had a poker face or been a young drugs casualty he’d be a major cult figure by now. “Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)” tips its hat in a huge way to the fifties and early sixties teenage culture, coupled with a magnanimous production that appears to teeter on the borders of collapse but knows exactly how close to the edge it can go – and is one of those life affirming records that makes you thank Bejesus you have ears. And on top of that their appearances on Top Of The Pops were comedy classics.

The Chinn & Chapman songwriting team were a major force in the charts during this era, and are represented here penning tracks for the aforementioned Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro and Kenny. All gratingly cheesy, but still integral to the times. One obvious integral piece of the jigsaw that is unsurprisingly missing is Gary Glitter – his undeniably clownish Glam appearance and his numerous top ten hits are locked under the floorboards of history these days, but this box set offers a glimpse of his standing with The Glitter Band’s “Angel Face” and The Human League’s cover of Glitter’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” (which they couple with Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing”).

Yes - The Human League are on here. Eh what? Patti Smith’s “Piss Factory”? The Ramones’ “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”? This satnav now seems to be having kittens. Boney M’s “Rasputin”?  Have the ideologies of 21st century music listening become so damned eclectic that we can’t reconcile songs back into a recognisable genre anymore? And if we can’t, why compile it in a box set that professes that it can?

Disc Five attempts to collect today’s post-Glam acts who look on those heady days for their own influences. Suede. The Darkness. Saint Etienne to a certain extent – but – OK – someone throw that damn satnav out the window now! How can you include The Fall in a Glam Rock box set? The most tenuous inclusion in the entire box – the song happens to be called “Glam Racket”. Well googled. The book informs us that it was apparently “a dig at Suede”. Word of advice – please listen to the track before you pen your sleeve notes – the record was Mark E Smith’s snipe at the personnel of his (then) record label.

A set bloated to the realms of absurdity – made further redundant by the ease in which playlists can be compiled on the simplest of laptops. A set that tries to inflate a genre beyond its own well-warranted restrictions, and looking back with sequinned covered glasses inflates its importance – and time span – from what we recognise it to be – three years of fun, bubblegum, a little bit of art and a fair bit of rubbish. That’s all it was – and probably that’s how it prefers to be.

The Wave Pictures - City Forgiveness

The Wave Pictures’ David Tattersall is one of the UK’s most prolific and extraordinarily talented songwriters, and with the exuberant rhythm section of Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm produced a back catalogue almost peerless amongst their contemporaries.

Around six or seven years ago I questioned David on the situation of writers’ block. With a measured air of confidence he informed me that the occasion would never arise. “City Forgiveness” validates his self assurance. Twenty tracks assimilated over two CDs and an hour and a half’s worth of music. In a climate where lyrics can virtually be predicted as soon as the first note is played, the sparkling originality of Tattershall’s words reveal so many quotable couplets they could fill a review on their own – but some of the more illustrative examples can be included here:

“All Creation Smiles Upon Me From The Fruitfly To The King Of Spain” (“The Yellow Roses”)

“Where The Fear Is Bland Like English Food And Warm Like English Beer” (“The Woods”)

and my personal favourite –  “My Memory Is Full Of Holes – The Past Looks Like A String Vest” (“Red Cloud Road Part 2”).

Musically the band veer towards The Velvet Underground – “The Woods” has definitive elements of “Sister Ray” in its arrangement - Orange Juice, afro-beat bands such as The Bhundu Boys in “Before This Day”, and slices of 60s/70s Americana – where more than one backing track tips its hat to Robbie Robertson’s The Band. As well as his gargantuan lyrical prowess, David Tattersall is also an awe-inspiring guitarist – but unfortunately this is where “City Forgiveness” loses its sheen. The vast majority of the twenty tracks feature longer than average guitar workouts, and it soon reaches the stage where one feels the solo becomes obligatory. The most striking example of the album is “Lisbon” – where the spirit of egalitarianism is instilled and all three members enjoy their place in the spotlight.

“Golden Syrup”, the album’s penultimate track, gleams like a beacon as the pinnacle of “City Forgiveness”. A bustling acoustic number with emotively descriptive lyrics ranking alongside the most accomplished of the band’s career.

An album that is rare in its consistency and overwhelming in its proficiency. Reviews by Lee McFadden

Goldfrapp - Tales of Us

Like the first few falling leaves that surprise you in early Autumn, this album glided silently into record stores in September. Also like those sad, falling leaves that at times seem to pause in mid-air, this album has a feeling of slow motion or suspended animation about it.  Just a glimpse of the cover (Alison Goldfrapp caught in the headlights of a vehicle film noir style, picking her way pensively from one place to another....the scene of a crime, a secret romantic rendezvous, a midnight walk just for the sheer hell of it? – who knows?) This curious and ambiguous quality envelops the album and by the end of it there aren’t any answers – that’s not what it’s about.

The track listing is a litany of girl’s names (except for one track called Stranger). I’m guessing that these names comprise of the “us” (a group of friends rather than acquaintances or fictional characters as the “us” surely implies solidarity and companionship). The odd track out called Stranger may be my favourite track on the record if it isn’t Thea. It’s haunting and hangs over you like those rustling trees shedding their leaves. You may well find yourself shivering. The other track that stands out for me as mentioned is Thea. Strangely as I wrote that a glass fell over seemingly on its own in my kitchen which is strangely fitting for this track and this album. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call is sinister but it’s not a comfortable listen and the edginess is partly induced by not really knowing who, what, where, why? Who are these people and what are their tales? The songs give snapshots but it’s all quite nebulous and I don’t get a clear sense of story. It’s much more about mood and the mood though intriguing is rarely uplifting. With Thea the pace quickens a little and Alison does some remarkable things with her voice, kind of shreds it into ribbons, flowing hypnotically out a window like curtains blowing in the film noir window scene.

 If I’m honest, much as this record is an accomplished and at times beautiful album, I find a small element of monotony in it. So although the songs hang together well and make a pretty package there’s just not quite enough distinction between the chapters and characters for me. It’s almost too cinematic for its own good, and seems to need a visual to really activate it. I believe a film exists to accompany the songs that will have a cinema release. Either way, I think with sound and vision this particular music comes alive. Having said all this, well done to Goldfrapp for continuously striving to create something different and for following their own path, to walk on those crushed leaves and to dare make the music they feel moved to make. Review by Mary O'Meara

The Fratellis - We Need Medicine

The Fratellis are back with their third album "We Need Medicine". An album full of what is now typically Fratellis' music, paying homage to rock and roll, country guitars and a bit of rocking blues throwing in.

Stand out track is the first single from the album "Seven Nights, Seven Days", however, there is plenty more to listen to here.  The album was produced by Stuart McCreedie who produced breakaway project Codeine Velvet Club.

As promised in an interview with lead singer Jon - http://www.mudkiss.com/thefratellisinterview.htm, the football chants of past albums have been sidestepped and the album is slightly tamer for it, except for the long saxophone solo in opening track.  That said, there is still enough here for fans to get their tonsils around.

A good comeback album after a five year break that leaves you asking if they really left at all.

Laboratory Project - Taste Masters 4

Taste Masters is a series of albums put together by the Laboratory Project label to showcase the artists they have to offer.  With fourteen tracks on offer, there should be something here for you, from the Indie guitars of Two Weeks Running and The Riviera, the funk of China White, rap from Manchester old skooler MC Tunes, Raggae from The General, pop of Mike Moss and the beautiful blues of Turrentine Jones. 

There's something to dance to, something to wind to and something to sit back and listen to. See the review of the live launch here - http://www.mudkiss.com/tastemasters4review.htm

Francis International Airport - Cache

Describing their influences for this album as Krautrock legends Neu! and Kraftwerk, the Austrian five piece Francis International Airport are aiming high.  80s synth rock is definitely on its way back, so why not get involved.  With lyrics akin to Peter Gabriel, a bit of Bauhaus, some really striking harmonies, driving bass and some eary psychadelic synth lines and it's not far from what they set out to achieve.

“Pitch Paired” being the whole incarnation of this, starting off with a slow handclap covered in a machine like  harmony, while the synth and bassline builds behind, until the track is reversed and the bassline and cutting guitar riff is overtaken with lush pad sounds and a psychadelic synth lead.

There are slower, more conventional 80s inspired tracks on here as well, with "Sulfur Sun" being the best example. The production is good on all tracks and the albums feels like the soundtrack to a train journey in the style of Tangerine Dream.

If you like your albums Krautrock with a modern twist, then you'll be wanting to hear this one.

12" 80s Club Classics

80s Club Classics is exactly what it says on the label. Thirty three 12inch club classics from Grandmaster Flash up to S'Express over three CDs.  Covered in Old School Soul, Electro-Funk, Groove, Hip Hop, Techno and House 12 inch mixes. Everything you need is on here, from Soul II Soul, 808 State, Marchal Jefferson, Alison Limerick, Chaka Khan, SOS Band, all in extended five to ten minute mixes as all great twelve inch singles were, there is plenty to get your groove on to.

So, send the kids out, close the curtains, kick off your high heels, crack open a bottle of Lambrini and you're set for the night.

Polica - Shulamith

The second album from Polica is in the same spirit as the first.  Deep bass lines, synth pads, lo-fi production, drums that trip their way through each track and Channy Leaneagh's soft, distinctive voice.  You still won't be able to make out the lyrics, then again, shouting from the football terraces was never Polica's intention.

The album opens with the first single to be taken from the album "Chain My Name" which is a heavy synthpop with a growling bass line.  This sets the theme for the whole album, as most are composed of drums, bass and the odd synth pad sound, which continues the theme set from their first album.

First single "Chain My Name" and "I Need $" being the stand out tracks on an album which Polica fans will not be disappointed with.  If you liked the first album, then this is more of the same.  There are no experimental or different styles of song on here, just Minneapolis synthpop. Reviews by Philip Howe

The Holy Orders - For the Ears of Dogs to Come

The Holy Orders are a fourpiece from Kingston Upon Hull who’ve been going since around about 2006, and have since been named ‘the best thing out of Hull since the Humber Bridge’. Their debut album, ‘For the Ears of Dogs to Come’ is out now and after a few listens I can already tell that it’s going to be one of my highlights of the year.

In general, I’m a fan of my music to be much louder than it necessarily should be, and I appreciate any song that I can crank up until my speakers warn me I could get ear damage, and The Holy Orders fall neatly into the category of bands that you can really only appreciate at that kind of volume. This is turn your speakers up to the max kind of music that still manages to maintain all of the intricacies of a band like The Strokes or Interpol. And that’s not to say that they don’t know how to do meaningful and anthemic, because they tick all the boxes in that regard too.

This album has been in the piepline for quite a while, having been recorded 2 years ago. And it’s really refreshing to see a band put so much effort and care into a debut album, and you can definitely feel that this is an album that has been tweaked to be it’s absolute best, and if the stories I’ve heard about how intense their live shows can be are true, you can feel that they’ve really tried to channel that energy into this album.

It’s, unfortunately, a fairly short album, comprised of just 9 songs, a fairly eclectic mix of mellow, sorrow-filled guitars and hard hitting, loud riffs - often within the same song. And the titles of some of these songs are just as intriguing - you’ve got ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’, ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Dance Motherfuckers’. But don’t be put off, behind these titles lie explosive tracks that you can’t help but sing along to after only a couple of listens.

There are many bands that you could compare The Holy Orders to, ranging from The Shins to Interpol to The Strokes, and it’s very difficult to pigeon-hole them into a specific genre, which I see as only being a good thing. Take a song like ‘Breathe’. Here we have a song that starts off in an understated, minimalistic way. It’s pretty much just vocals and guitar. Halfway through, there’s a shift to the kind of basslines and fast paced lyrics that you’d find in a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. There’s no warning, it’s like they’ve just mashed two songs together but it works so much more well than you’d think it would.

‘To The Gallows’, similarly has this same kind of switched-flip sound to it, and it brings out a really interesting dynamic in both the . It’s another slow-burning song, which starts off as a mix of guitar and vocals,  until after the four minute mark where it explodes into a loud, anthemic stadium-rock beast of a song. Despite the somewhat depressing title, it’s a surprisingly uplifting song.

They could have picked any song as the lead single, too, in my eyes. They went for ‘Paper/Scissors/Stone’, which probably best sums up the band's sound, energy and passion. I can’t get enough of the funky bass in this track as well. It’s definitely one of the catchiest tracks, and upbeat enough to keep you coming back to it again and again. I’d imagine this would be an exceptional live track, guaranteed to get everyone on their feet.

Even a track like ‘Dance Motherfuckers’, which has more swear words in it than you can shake a stick at, has the explosive sort of energy that you’d find in a Queens Of The Stone Age song. A track like this really shows the diversity of lead singer Matt Edible’s vocals, he’s just as comfortable in a heavier song like this as he is in the slower tracks. This is the closing track on the album too, an interesting choice if you ask me, but it feels like they just wanted to end things as loud and memorably as they possibly can. And it sure does work. Review by James Lowther

Soulfly - Savages

Soulfly metal wise are not for the fainthearted. The music and lyrical themes are often very dark.

On first listen in the car with my son Keiran the new album Savages to be honest though felt a bit underwhelming. No Soulfly album is going to be bad, but it just didn’t seem to have that knock you down factor we were expecting.

I am though a great admirer of Max Cavalera who founded Soulfly after he left Sepultera, the legendary metal band from Brazil he founded with his brother Igor. He is not afraid to take risks with his music and the themes he addresses in his songs. He also has a very generous and open approach to working with other musicians.

It’s also the importance he gives to his family in his life I admire. I saw the Cavalera Conspiracy (a project with his brother Igor) at the 2011 Sonnisphere Festival at Knebworth, and towards the end of the set he brought on his sons to play with the band and it felt so joyous; and his son Zyon plays drums on this new Soulfly album.

In the end, I needn’t have worried though, this new album is a real grower, and the more I have listened to it, the more it has turned into a real musical tour de force!

The opening track “Bloodshed” sets an ominous mood as a siren sounds and an electronic pulse and drums create a sense of foreboding. It then sets off with some seriously deep groove guitar riffs, and twists and turns along the way as the song changes pace at various points, with some nice guitar flourishes. The lyrics confirm the sense of darkness you feel listening to this track; try this from the final verse:

“Blood of the lamb touching the empty void

Slowly eats my soul

Drag down the black hole

Join the cult of dark hope”

“K.C.S” co-written with Napalm Death’s Mitch Harris is a fabulous dynamic and high-energy track. The drumming is amazingly good, really driving the track on with a great rolling drum pattern, nicely well up in the sound mix. The vocal interplay between Max and Mitch with two very different styles of death metal vocal is not to be missed, and makes this a standout track.

“El Comegente”, one of the lengthier tracks on the album, is co-written and jointly sung by Max and Soulfly bassist Tony Campos, and is about a serial killer from Venezuela known as the “Hannibal Lector of the Andes”. It has some ferocious vocals and dense guitar work. Given the disturbing subject matter the lovely acoustic coda at the end of the song comes as quite a surprise.

The final track “Soulfliktion” is my favourite on the album. It’s very anthemic and has some fabulous fluid and soaring guitar work….and dare I say it has quite a catchy chorus too!

This is an album that will reward you with repeated listens, with lots of musical highlights to discover, and so comes recommended not just to fans of Max Cavalera, but anyone who likes metal, or rock at the heavier boundaries.

The Leviathan – In Darkness It Crawls

The Leviathan are from Manchester, which seems to be generating some excellent metal bands, reference Spires who are no strangers to Mudkiss. I think we can add The Leviathan to that roster. This feels a really good debut album with lots of musical contrasts that you will want to really listen to and explore.

The beginning track “Reign of Fire” has a very dramatic opening with a striking guitar introduction. The vocals are black metal with a death metal counter point; I really like this, and other similar inventiveness across the album. It also has some awesome full on and dynamic work by the drummer and bassist that creates a very immersive sound, that I suspect will prove quite hypnotic in a live setting.

The “Iron Throne” is one of the heaviest songs, with a Black Sabbath like very doomy atmosphere. It has a basic stripped back production that enhances the heavy doom feel, and I had turned up at high volume (recommended for this track)….more of this please! Fantastic ending too, with an almost drone like feel to the guitars.

The title track “In Darkness It Crawls” is a really fine track with some nice time changes, atmospheric guitar work, and a really expressive black metal vocal. About two thirds of the way through the song then turns 360 degrees with a clean vocal and softer guitars, before hammering back into a black metal finish. This is definitely a real highlight on the album.

The “Leviathan Awakes” which precedes it, is a quite beautiful acoustic instrumental track. It has an almost wistful rural feel to it, with a fabulous central melody. I like these sort of riskier contrasts on a metal album, something Watain, the black metal legends from Sweden, have pulled off very successfully on their latest album; so The Leviathan are in good company here.

Perhaps the only thing I might suggest the band think about is the placing of the clean vocals. It really works on the title track, feeling to be part of the journey the band are taking you on. On “Panopticon” it feels a little out of place, and not so much part of that song journey.

A fine debut though, keep it up guys! Reviews by Gareth Allen

Gehenna –Unravel

Norwegian band Gehenna spawned from the same bleak landscape as Mayhem, Immortal and Gorgorath: the so-called 2nd wave. As such they are sure to be compared to those other groups in regard to their respective states of success, their artistic quality, and the vicissitudes of their careers. Unravel, Gehenna’s latest, marks Gehenna as a distinctive sounding band in the genre. However the album suffers from a disappointing blandness within their catalogue.

Unravel is a standard black metal soundtrack to medieval death, containing a depressed, rusty black metal sound that reeks of plague. Melancholic riffing in slow, somber songs conjure to mind a bleak, desolate landscape, strewn with rotting corpses wrapped in filthy cloth, the ever-present Bosch mouth of hell sucking away the life of the land. In the best black metal, this dark-age nightmare-vision of hatred and death is tapped into and reproduced for the listener, making the famous image of mace-wielding Varg Vikernes suddenly perfectly understandable. Unravel is unimpressive, borderline mediocre, but it does, to a satisfying extent, accomplish the desired effect.

The title track is straightforward black metal, as is Nine Circles of Torture, with its jousting tremolo-picked riff driving the song ahead. The keyboard involvement in End Ritual works well to add an ominous, retro horror feel to the menacing main riff Nothing Deserves Worship, with its haunting, gloomy riffs, is perhaps the album’s strongest and most immediately likeable track. Sadly, it soon becomes clear that this song’s name includes the music on Unravel; nothing here is particularly worthy of any special praise, and certainly not worship.

The constant drone of distortion is ever-present, serving as a foundation from which each song rises once the one before it has finished. The vocals are angry, but not frenetic, and not monstrous to the point of indecipherability; rather, they fit quite well with the album’s slow, diseased atmosphere.

Unravel seems to be an introspective re-exploration of old black metal territory, turning up the cracked soil and exhuming the skeletons for another go. The atmosphere is expertly crafted, enhanced by the eerie intro and outro pieces and the perfectly suitable cover art. While not fresh in the slightest, it can still be said that Unravel is nicely put together. Gehenna is at least evidently still competent, twenty years or so after the genesis days of black metal’s infamous 2nd wave.

Gary Numan -- Splinter

Electronica pioneer Gary Numan puts out his latest, Splinter: Songs from a Broken Mind, on October 15th under Mortal Records, demonstrating that his reservoirs of creativity and talent are far from empty after three decades. The cover art makes it apparent that this is a characteristically gothic, moody statement, and the music within doesn’t disappoint.

I Am Dust is a noisy, pounding track that powerfully re-immerses the world in Numan’s quasi-future dystopic atmosphere. Low industrial chugging contrasts with Numan’s warped, eerily childlike voice, creating a disturbing, yet idiosyncratically charming effect that carries throughout the album. Urgent whispering on Here in the Black gives a sense of alleyway mystery and mischief, before breaking into a soaring melody. The Calling sounds haunting, and strangely angelic. All these excellent tracks, dense with layer upon layer of fascinating electronic darkness, make for a very heavy album, both sonically and in atmospheric impact.

The title track is intriguing and mysterious, bookended by masterful layering with exotic flares that gives the song an intimate, almost erotic feel. After that the album tapers off, softens into a lighter expression. The gentle, echoing, piano-led Lost with its tribal, heart-beat rhythm is an emotional counterpart to the mechanized industrial rage found on Splinter’s first half, while in Love Hurt Bleed Numan once again makes use of his unique talent for otherworldly dance riffs.

By its end, Splinter proves itself to be an immensely satisfying album; not the half-effort product that tired old icons throw to their fans once in a while, but a valid and strong artistic statement that allows us to revisit Numan’s brilliant imagination and have fun on the ride. Highly Recommended. Reviews by Stuart Kristensen