15 March 2017

Lucifer's Chalice - The Pact

Hailing from Country Durham, North East of England, Lucifer's Chalice are obsessed with Early Iron Maiden, Early Mercyful Fate, Angel Witch, Witchfinder General, Early Omen - basically any that is New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) 1979-1984 and they are trying to create new music in that same style. The band members are Kat Shevil Gillham on drums, Sergio Ramírez Mendoza on lead guitars, Charlie Wesley on rhythm guitars and vocals and Dan Hughes on bass guitar.  This is their debut album which is available on their Bandcamp page, it is their first release and it has been getting some good review, now it is time for us to look into it.

01 - Hung at the Crossroads

From the opening riff and feedback, you can see that Lucifer's Chalice are focused on creating a new breed of metal which has a firm footing in the past, but without trying to sound dated or as a tribute.  It is a new take on the style and this eleven-minute opening track lays down the ground work for the rest of the album. It is methodical with some great riffs, the solos and bridge are impressive and keep your interest engaged as the song progresses.

02 - The Pact

Using a sample from the horror film 'City of the Dead / Horror Hotel', 'The Pact' is a horror metal song which keeps it simple and strong.  Sticking to a similar style as shown on 'Hung at the Crossroads', it has a heavy Iron Maiden influence on this one as it showcases riff, after riff, after riff.  It is a powerful song, one of the best on this album.

03 - Full Moon Nights

Sampling the 1979 version of 'Nosferatu', this fast, blistering paced song that goes for broke smashes it out of park for me.  It has everything you could want from a classic metal song; dramatic lyrics, more riff changes than a diva has costume changes at a pop concert, drums that could power a car through a wall and focus, determined style that smashes through your speakers.

04 - Priestess of Night

The final song of the album uses a sample from the 1971 film 'Twins of Evil', 'Priestess of Night' is a final hurrah before the end of the album.  Once again, the band treat you to as many riffs as possible, this time it has a hint of Judas Priest to some of the music and it also has a great drum performance as well.  If you are not throwing devil horns at this point, then you are missing a treat.

Whilst this albummay be over thirty minutes in length, it is over in four songs and you are left craving more, just as a vampire craves more blood.  Drenched in horror mystic and metal to its dark, black soul, this album is a great launching pad for this band.  It is a traditional heavy metal release which fore fills everything you would want from this genre; massive riffs, lyrics which are focused on sinister subjects and a sense of entertainment which is missing from a lot of music.  A lot of bands could learn from a release such as this.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track - Full Moon Nights

You can purchase The Pact on the Lucifer's Chalice Bandcamp page here.

You can follow the activities of Lucifer's Chalice on Facebook here.

The Pact is not available on any streaming sites, but you should just purchase it directly from the band anyway.

12 March 2017

Laura Marling - Semper Femina

Laura Marling is an artist which I have sort of stumbled into liking than one that I have consciously followed; upon checking my collection I own three of her previous albums (including the Mercury Music Prize nominated 'Once I Was An Eagle' (review cleverly linked here)) and I am sure I have enjoyed them, but apart from 'Once I Was An Eagle' I cannot remember how I got them or when I was listening to them.  For me, she is the sort of artist that I have enjoyed without knowing it.  No offense meant to Ms Marling, it just sorts of happened without me being aware of it.  Anyway, since I last listened to Laura Marling, she released 'Short Movie' in 2015 and then she stopped doing music for a while and exploring non-musical opportunities, in a recent interview she was exploring the idea of being anonymous and having no identity of genre; it is an intriguing thought, to remove that part of yourself and to adopt an almost androgenises persona and it must have had some sort of effect on the album - the translation of 'Semper Femina' is 'Always a Woman' and that relationship between all these thoughts must be explored on this record.  Two years away from releasing a new album is not that much of a break, but maybe the call to write more songs was too strong. So, how has it turned out?

01 - Soothing

'Soothing' was the first song to be released from the album in November 2016, it is a sparse and folk/jazz hybrid number with heavy focus on the bass and vocals throughout the song.  It is a song that is essentially about the break of a connection and communication breakdown.  It is strange song to be the first release for me as it is not your stereotypical opening track, it is off the track and a hard listen.  For me personally, I find it intriguing and the bass work is exceptional to these ears.

02 - The Valley

'The Valley' is a song that considers people being incommunicado and out of touch, they are around and they are also in hiding from someone as well.  It is gentle with a repetitive guitar strumming and strings added to show when a chorus starts as there is not too much difference between the guitar work and it drones on a little bit.  Ms Marling's vocals are as pretty as always and it sounds nice enough, but it does not seem to go anyway to be honest.

03 - Wild Fire

Oh, never cross this woman - she does not hold back in any way, shape or form on this song!  Musically it is a gentle afternoon, strumming guitar, the keyboard it hit every now and then, the bass is supportive and the percussion of brushes and gentle cymbals.  But the words are hard, with a bite to the tale of separation and setting some definitive boundaries.  It is a song that has a fiery independent status and I applaud that show of self, knowing when enough is enough; but I am not a fan of the song itself as it just seems to pass me by.  So, great message - musically not my cup of tea.

04 - Don't Pass Me By

A song that is stuck between gothic/art house film noir and pleading for help, 'Don't Pass Me By' is a solemn piece of music that seems to be lost in the world full of dark heights and the sick taint of neon lights.  It reminds me a lot of Lana Del Ray around her 'Ultraviolence' period and this is not coming from a safe place and it is a heartbreaker, one that needs to be approached with caution.

05 - Always This Way

'Always This Way' feels like a hymn or a lullaby to making mistakes and never reflecting on the events which are doomed to be repeated over and over again.  There is loss on this number, I am not too sure if it is a friend, lover or a Mother figure, but the pain is solid on this one and it does have an ironic defiance to part of the music as well.

06 - Wild Once

This song is incredible British, the vocals are almost spoken in places and it has a haunted feeling to the music.  It is a simple song, but simple can be dangerous in the right hands and this one is moments; it is also the first song since 'Soothing' on this album that I have found engaging, this will be reflected upon later in the review.

07 - Next Time

There is a shanty feeling to the guitar on this one, it feels like rhythmical tune that is to be used to pass time and it jumps around a lot with an interesting hook.  But even after many spins, it is not having a massive impact and it sort of drifts after a while. It is decent, but it is not a song I would return to (but not one I would turn off either - sometimes my relationship with music can be so complicated).

08 - Nouel

'Nouel' is a song about friendship, love and the deep connection that can be held by people over the years, or at least that is how it appears to me.  It is just Laura Marling and the guitar for the most part here and this is definitely one of the strongest songs of the album, it plays to the strengths and there is a definitive start and end point to this song with a great performance threaded through every note.  Also, the end part of the recording when you can hear the strings being rested adds a quality to the number that rises it above most of the album......

09 - Nothing, Not Nearly

.... until the start of 'Nothing, Not Nearly'.  My deity, what a tune we have here!  A love song that is full of the pitfalls, traps and endings, the quality of her song writing comes out on this song.  From the first moment, I heard it, I could hear the talent behind the song, time and effort which went into creating the song.  The lyrics are song out of time with the music, it has huge gaps and it always feels like it is going to crash at any moment.  But it is held together with a talent and passion, something which is not taught, it can only come naturally and it ends this album with the door being closed, as if this period of her life is over.

Now, I am not going to lie here and say this is a brilliant record, it has a few floors and takes so long to get itself together that is almost over by the time the quality starts to shine through.  Also, I am not going to say it is an awful album as it has a contender for the best song of 2017 in 'Nothing, Not Nearly' (no joke, that is a perfect song which gave this album two marks just for existing) and Laura Marling is a really good artist who I think has more to give the world.  But this album does not showcase her at the peak of that talent, it feels like she is in state of transcendent and moving to something else - hopefully it will work out best for her.  So, a little average with some top quality.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there

Top track - Nothing, Not Nearly

You can purchase Semper Femina on Amazon here.

You can visit the Laura Marling website here.

You can follow the activities of Laura Marling on Facebook here.

You can stream Semper Femina on Spotify here.

You can stream Semper Femina on Deezer here.

You can stream Semper Femina on Tidal here.

4 March 2017

Sleaford Mods - English Tapas

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be familiar with my love affair with the music and diatribes from Nottingham legends, Sleaford Mods.  'Divide & Exit' (review cleverly linked here) is one of my top ten albums ever and one of the best shares the blog has received from a band (always grateful for that), 'Key Markets' (review cleverly linked here) is a towering release, but I was not too bowled over by the 'TCR EP' (review cleverly linked here).  They have been a name that is being dropped by so many people, they have appeared on various TV shows, articles being written about them in all areas of the press and their stock has risen to an incredibly high standard with each year.  They are also constantly on tour and releasing new music, they have collaborated with Leftfield and The Prodigy - the only direction for them is up.  This release is part of a one-off deal with Rough Trade Records, a legendary label who have continued to thrive over the years; is it a partnership made in heaven?

01 - Army Nights

Gym rats and the culture of gains, drinking, free calories, fixes and not giving a flying fuck - it has a bass heavy, aggressive undertone to the music which rumbles over you with their usual ranting manner.  I love this as it smashes through you, steals all the booze and keeps on going out of the door, left hand side of the stage - job done!

02 - Just Like We Do

A song about opinion hipsters who hate it when their cult band gets noticed, invited to places that they could only dream about it and how these people annoy the band; but the band know that they would have felt the same as well, so the irony is not lost on them.  The impersonation at the beginning is funny and I sadly know some people like that, but the song has some sick moments and it has no illusions about what is going on - again, job done!

03 - Moptop

'Moptop' has some of the heaviest bass on the album, it is a strange little number about a man who is lost in the past, his own house and mind.  It is ranting, popping and crackling around you with such easy that it is surprising that it has not been made before this album.  It is a cracking number, one that I can listen to again and again.  It is a rant with a purpose and not one endless stream of consciousness - again, job done!

04 - Messy Anywhere

One of the slower numbers on the album, it is a song about getting off your tits and running around in the night.  It is the first song I can remember that which does not have swearing in it, that is probably my biggest surprise to be honest; but they do manage to make the word country sound damming.  I really like the bass, but it does not quite make it for me.

05 - Time Sands

'Time Sands' follows the same pattern of 'Messy Anywhere' as it is a slow and moody number, this one dealing with the endless repetition of a nothing life and how the dust settles on everything and nothing gets done.  Sadly, it does not reach me once again, it is another one that feels a little lifeless, maybe this is by design to reflect the nature of the song. 

06 - Snout

Now this is much better for me; an aggressive rant that hits multiple targets and people, egos are being slammed and the reputation and name of people is being besmirched.  I really love it when they let rip and go off on one as it feels like a pressure release of aggression and tension that these guys seem to make so unique - job done on this one.

07 - Drayton Manored

This is a dark song, I mean it is a black souled, ranting, clawing, so close to the bones it can taste the blood that is dripping from it.  It has a crazy hook about a trip to spar being a trip to mars - this is the other side of their game which I find intriguing.  It is so fluid and hard hitting, all edges and ranting towards spectres which are solid and vapour.  It is class, make no mistakes about that one - job done!

08 - Carlton Touts

Ranting about the fact the there is no opposition to anyone, toofs, drinking, fast food, the past and it just all comes together with a “you fat bastard” hook line.  It is a maverick song; background music is addictive and the ranting is vicious barbs of noise.  Definitely one of the best on here - job done!

09 - Cuddly

Now this is a slower number I can get with, that bullet driven song that once again hits for as many targets as possible and it smashes them with ease.  There is nothing cuddly about this, it is another rant that I cannot get out of my head - another job done!

10 - Dull

Another deceptive title!  It is another rant that hits Brexit, NME, expensive cars and someone having his John Thomas out in public.  Its minimalist approach to the music is in conflict with the delivery on this one in my mind, but not enough to take away from the frankly sublime performance from Williamson on this one and the job is done once more.

11 - B.H.S.

A song about the way B.H.S. went under, when its owners took the funds out of the company and everyone else got screwed over as they made a profit.  It is a powerful statement about how these people get away with it - indeed, no criminal charges have been brought in against the former owners of British Home Stores (and probably never will, they do not like to jail their own).  This is a hard-hitting number, job done yet again.

12 - I Feel So Wrong

Ok, there is actual singing on this one and it is sort of terrifying, not because Mr Williamson cannot sing, just it is not what you are expecting.  I like it, but I am still working on my true feelings towards it.  It will take time and I probably end up loving it, till then - job achieved.

There are more jobs done on this then jobs not done, I take that as a victory.  What we have here is a band who are in the middle of a shit storm, shouting, screaming and ranting against a world of shit, making sense with the various train of thoughts that come out of their brains.  The formula for the band has not changed and that is something of a relief as there must have been a temptation to add more layers, but keeping it simple and anarchic is what made this band stand out in the first place; that is golden and worth persevering.  Now, I am not gonna lie and say this is their best work; nothing will beat the impact of 'Divide & Exit' for me, it was just a lightning bolt for me and that will not change.  This is more of the same, a few moments which do not quite work for me but that are necessary for the album.  It will still cause a riot in an empty room and piss a lot of people off - job done.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track - Moptop

You can purchase English Tapas on Amazon here.

You can visit the Sleaford Mods website here.

You can follow the Sleaford Mods on Facebook here.

You can stream English Tapas on Spotify here.

You can stream English Tapas on Deezer here.

You can stream English Tapas on Tidal here.

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