Tag Archives: New Releases

Shrines – Shrines (Review)

Shrines - Shrines (2015)
Shrines – Shrines (2015)

It’s the band’s first album but Shrines already has a lot to live up to. Vocalist and guitarist Sam Loynes is also a member of Voices who last year released London – not only the HMO Top Album of 2014 but also the best album to have happened so far this decade.

Shrines’ music is a different beast from Voices and even if their debut doesn’t quite pull itself out of London‘s shadow it shows considerable promise. Blackened tremolo guitars and deathly Morbid Angel riffing weaves seamlessly with spacey prog and Gojira-esque technicality to dreamy effect. The musicians handle the shifting flow of styles with aplomb: Daniel Blackmore’s precise drumming holds everything together while the guitars are crisp and tight. But the album is at its dreamiest with the clean, harmonised vocals of Loynes. They have a beautiful, tremulous and choral quality. While there are long instrumental passages and also gruffer vocals, it’s the clean vocal delivery on tracks like Ariadne’s Thread, The Drowned and the Saved and Broken Man that are the emotional heart of the album and the parts that resonate after listening and draw you back.

Sadly, the current economic climate meant the band could only afford one jacket
Sadly, the current economic climate meant the band could only afford one jacket

I’d have liked to have heard more of the clean vocals, but they do mix well with the growlier parts. It’s no obvious “nice bit/heavy bit” alternation; the whole album threads and winds through its various approaches subtly and magically. But the variation and my preference for the clean vocals does mean some songs are more affecting than others.

Rather like The Antichrist Imperium debut earlier in the year (also featuring Loynes), Shrines is one of the best things I’ve heard in 2015 but it’s not as startling or as fully-realised as London. But neither was Voices’ debut album. This is a strong and captivating debut and I’ll be very keen to hear what Shrines come up with next.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

PaRtY-CaNnOn – Bong Hit Hospitalisation (Review)

...and representing Scotland...
One of these bands is doing its own thing

I have to declare my pro PaRtY-CaNnOn bias straight away. Ever since seeing the above poster online, I’ve felt an immense level of pride in these fellow Scots. But with the release of their debut full-length album Bong Hit Hospitalisation, the time has come for me to finally put my love of this band to the ultimate test: actually listening to their music.

It turns out that PaRtY-CaNnOn play ‘Party Slam Death Metal’. They are the greatest (and I’m guessing the only) practitioners of this musical genre. You couldn’t be blamed for thinking this is all some kind of piss-take but the Dunfermline…(ers? Dunfermlonians?) are smart enough to let their sense of fun infuse their music with a sense of personality and liveliness rather than letting it become a comedy record.

Bong Hit Hospitalisation (2015)
Bong Hit Hospitalisation (2015)

The production is fantastic, a great combination of technical and filthy with considerable heft and great separation between the instruments: the noodly bass and biscuit-tin drums are a joy. The band deliver at blasting speed alternated with seismic, lurching riffing and keep the album well-paced, continually catching you unaware with excellent and diverse moments like the cosmic Cynic-style bass solo in There’s a Reason You’re Single and the deft guitar solo that sees out Screech Even Sold His Body to Science. Stony Reddie’s alternately guttural and squealy vocals are powerful, varied and rhythmic enough to carry the songs without requiring any melody. And his delivery is often amusing too, like the pig-snorting climax of Interested Is Not the Word.

The main moments of mirth are kept to the inter-song samples but don’t interfere with or detract from the band’s main business of seriously brutal Death Metal. Quite the opposite: they only add to the sense of chaotic hedonism and even serve a useful function in helping to pace out the record and offer brief breathers from the carnage. And I had no idea you could do that with a grapefruit.

Bong Hit Hospitalisation is one of the most refreshing Extreme Metal albums I’ve heard in a good while. It’s surprisingly catchy and tons of fun, delivered by a band canny and talented enough to ensure there’s some serious substance underneath all the rib-tickling. I love hearing such genuinely extreme music performed with this kind of wit and personality and PaRtY-CaNnOn are one of my most pleasant discoveries of 2015. Them and the grapefruit thing.

Dunfermlinites?

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

ORDER: http://smarturl.it/ShopPartyCannon
BUY: https://gorehouseproductions.bandcamp.com/album/bong-hit-hospitalisation
LIKE: https://www.facebook.com/PartyCannonUK

**Many thanks for FullBlast!PR for the promo copy**

Armored Saint – Win Hands Down (Review)

Armored Saint - Win Hands Down (2015)
Armored Saint – Win Hands Down (2015)

It’s very exciting to have new music from Armored Saint. There’s a great deal of chemistry and talent in the ranks and John Bush’s superior voice is always a draw. I’d like to see them do well and get the credit they deserve and, with their seventh album Win Hands Down, they seem to be getting some long overdue sales and recognition.

2015-07-05 12.34.23

Initial spins were very exciting. There’s a real feeling of Rock history running through the whole thing. There are hints of Thrash, Alternative, burly Classic Rock groove and inventive Prog Rock twists and turns. The variation adding exciting colour to the band’s time-honoured muscular, melodic Metal. It’s the sound of a vintage band aging well. Win Hands Down opens the album with one of their best songs to date, a superb driving Rocker. And Mess is steely, massive and skilfully arranged. Armored Saint sound like they’re giving it their all. John Bush, in particular, is on peak form. No mean feat considering his track record.

But the Saints don’t totally conquer. The album hits a lull in its second half. With A Full Head of Steam and In An Instant are both curiously forgettable and the sultry Dive, although good, isn’t the kind of song to set things back on track. Some of the better songs are hobbled by weak lyrics too. They’re aiming for the raconteur character of lyricists like Lynott or Mogg but they don’t have the same skill or personality and end up hitting out with clumsy, cringe-inducing lines like “I even gave you your own unique rriinngg” and “He never killed anyone but he hurt somebody’s feelings once”. Even Bush’s can-sing-the-phone-book voice can’t save songs from clunkers like that.

Ultimately Win Hands Down is solid and well-performed but forgettable. If you don’t mind the wise-cracking lyrical personality of the album you might find plenty to enjoy here but it fails to connect emotionally with me. With repeat listens I’ve found myself losing interest in the album which is a shame as a few songs find the band at their very best. Plenty of people seem to be enjoying it more than me so I’m pleased for the band and their success. I just wish I had been more won over by it. Hopefully they can deliver something more up my street next time.

HMO Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Faith No More – Sol Invictus (Review)

Faith No More - Sol Invictus (2015)
Faith No More – Sol Invictus (2015)

My favourite Faith No More albums, Angel Dust and King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, took time to grow on me. Big chunks of the albums would go over my head but there were always enough instantly accessible songs to keep me coming back for more. And with each listen their darker, more challenging material would start to work on me until I was completely won over. Continuing this tradition, their reunion album Sol Invictus has taken repeat listens to reveal itself too… but in a slightly different way. 2015-05-28 17.37.18-1 The news that the reunited Faith No More would be releasing their first new music since 1997’s Album of the Year was hugely exciting but the early singles Motherfucker and Superhero seemed disappointing. And on initial spins it seemed like Faith No More were playing it too safe. The material and delivery seemed lazy and half-baked. But, strangely, the album was more instantly satisfying in its darker, denser moments. Songs like Separation Anxiety, Matador and the fantastic Cone of Shame all reminders of the band at their very best and it was these tense and claustrophobic tracks that brought me back for repeat listens. And on those repeat listens songs like Sunny Side Up and Rise of the Fall began to exert a magnetic, hooky pull. Turns out that there’s a lot going on in the album’s short running time. I found hidden depths, enigmatic lyrics and moments of joy in songs I’d previously deemed throwaway. Even the singles started to grow on me, working better within the context of the album.

The things that struck me as weaknesses in early listens (the safe approach, restrained guitars, empty catchiness) are all objectively still there but now they just don’t seem to matter. Mike Patton’s remarkable vocals and Roddy Bottum’s keyboards prove to be the star turns here but mostly the band foregoes grandstanding in favour of serving the music’s expression and theatricality. Fans of the band’s more Caffeine-ated explosiveness might be disappointed but that was only ever one part of their style. This is still recognisably a Faith No More album, reminiscent of their past work but also a step forward and a new start. It’s a hugely rewarding listen and it’s also very much a grower. In other words, classic Faith No More. Welcome back.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Avatarium – All I Want EP (Review)

Avatarium - All I Want EP (2014)
Avatarium – All I Want EP (2014)

Their self-titled album Avatarium was one of 2013’s surprise delights and one of the strongest debuts of recent years. What I really want is a proper follow-up album but, in the meantime, All I Want will do nicely. With just two new songs and three live recordings, it’s essentially a stop-gap until the next full album. But this 2014 EP is well worth hearing in its own right, offering evidence of their evolving and gelling sound as the band hit a new richness of depth following their first live shows.

Vexed by the typical variable Scottish weather, the band hedged their bets.
Vexed by the typically variable Scottish weather, the band hedged their bets.

Formed by Candlemass’ Leif Edling, Avatarium hadn’t performed any live shows when they recorded their debut album so it’s interesting to hear how they deliver live. Taken from their spot at the Roadburn Festival, the three live tracks are all excellent. It’s especially impressive to hear Jennie-Ann Smith’s vocals in the live setting. She’s an incredible discovery: delicately soulful, ominously powerful and one of the best singers around today. The band ably replicates the studio versions, the crushing Dehumanizer-grade weight of Marcus Jidell’s riffs are just as potent live but the psychedelic side of the music is more apparent as Carl Westholm’s keyboard textures are allowed more room to breathe. And Jidell’s lead guitar is looser, more confident. His outstanding Blackmore-esque solo on Pandora’s Egg draws appreciative cheers and he takes the Tides of Telepathy solo into a Hendrix-inspired section that lifts the song to new classic heights.

But the main event is the two new songs. They continue in the same vein as the debut but the more expansive chemisty, evinced by the live tracks, feeds into both: they sound richer and more colourful than the tracks on Avatarium. All I Want is a groovy rocker, graced with Edling’s seemingly infinite supply of golden hooks and drenched with Hammond organ and a percussive passage right out of Zeppelin. Fittingly, Deep Well is a deeper, darker experience. The swampy vamp and soulful vocals lifts into a chilling chorus. The dread of the thick, heaving chords graced with the subtle, rising power of Wilson’s vocals is monumental in the way only the best Doom can be and one of Avatarium’s greatest triumphs to date.

So, while it is a stop-gap release, All I Want is a satisfying and enlightening listen in its own right. Existing fans will welcome the new songs and new flavour the live tracks add to the older material. And given that the new songs rank among the very best the band has yet recorded it serves as a potent introduction for newcomers. The EP deserves to draw new fans into Avatarium’s increasingly deep, dark well.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls (Review)

Here comes the Robojester, run for your lives
Here comes the Robojester, run for your lives

It’s 2014 and the Priest is back! Normally a phrase that would generate considerable excitement at HMO Mission Control but following the disappointing Nostradamus, the departure of the legendary KK Downing and a few uninspiring advance tracks I couldn’t help but feel sceptical about their return. But I was kidding myself. On the day of release I headed straight to Fopp to get my hands on it.

Despite my renewed enthusiasm for their return, on my initial spin I still couldn’t shake off the feeling that I shouldn’t have bothered. Dragonaut and the title track kick off Redeemer of Souls in a fairly routine manner. Both are enjoyable enough but a touch flat. It’s not until Halford screams his way into Halls of Valhalla that the album hits its stride. From here on it’s a long set of varied and solid Metal with the boat pushed out just enough to keep things moving forward without losing the trademark Priest identity. Sword of Damocles introduces a Maidenesque rhythm and its slashing climax is one of the album’s highlights. Cold Blooded is tightly coiled, moody and intricate and Crossfire’s bluesy riff works as a nice change of pace even if it’s a bit unimaginative. The Metal God delivers the goods on every song: he’s unable to shatter the windows like he used to but he always had more strings to his bow than that and any singer of any age would be proud to sing like Rob does in his sixties.2014-07-27 14.41.15-1

The main album climaxes with Battle Cry, a charging riff-fest with rousing, soaring vocals before it finally cools down with Beginning of the End, an atmospheric and sombre ballad. And, barring the very last song Never Forget (an uncomfortably twee last-dance number), the bonus disc is impressively strong too. I can understand why the bonus tunes didn’t fit stylistically on the main album but they are great songs: tough, dynamic and catchy and pleasingly redolent of the bands early-80s output.

It’s a lot to take in and it’s not without its faults. New guitarist Richie Faulkner plays well but I don’t feel either his or Glenn Tipton’s solos push the excitement levels like they should. The length and muddy sound also make it a tough album to absorb. Many songs like March of the Damned and the title-track have stock riffs and lyrics and are too reined in for their own good, creating a worry that the album might prove to be a little disposable. But after repeated listens and dividing the album into manageable chunks I find it growing on me listen by listen.

Ultimately, Priest have delivered a strong album for this era and held their own in a competitive climate of strong releases. And, more importantly, it sounds like they have enough gas in their tank to suggest there could be more and better yet to come.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5