Reviews roundup – Gama Bomb vs. Shine Noir vs. Federal Charm vs. Bobby BlackHat vs. Birdsong At Morning
Speed Between The Lines
Thrashing metal mad time now with Gama Bomb, the Northern Irish thrashers whose “Speed Between The Lines” album is their sixth.
Now I’m an auld fella who was around when thrash was invented and must admit I haven’t really kept up to date with the young uns and their modern thrash. And that’s my loss as Gama Bomb are really, really good at what they do.
Smarter folk than me will say that they combine speed, thrash, punk and metal but as someone who predates the mental multitude of sub-genres, all I hear is bloody good thrash metal. They’ve got the venom and attitude to carry it off as well as an array of good songs and even better guitars. I’m not going to claim they’re reinventing the wheel because that would kind of defeat the object of thrash metal but when they crash through the best tunes like “Give Me Leather”, “R.I.P. U”, “Motorgeist” and “We R Going 2 Eat U” it’s an absolute treat.
They’ve got a few songs which aim to change the world but thankfully they haven’t forgotten to write songs about Motorhead, Kurt Russell and handing over cash to someone to kick you in the nads. As it should be. A cracking dose of thrash.
To Germany now. For some alternative rock and some more Lemmy. I’m not making it up. Their bass player actually calls himself Lemmy. Someone ought to have a word.
He’s joined by singer songwriter Anne, whose band it is, along with Olli (guitars) and No (drums). To their credit, they’ve tried to mix up a few different styles here, with the pop-oriented vocals and alt-rock melodies coming up against a harder edged guitar sound. It doesn’t always work and there’s a very interesting EP tucked away within the grooves of this album.
The winners are “The Sun”, “The Traveler”, “Try to Catch Me” and “From The Ashes”, where the arrangements and the songs really come together. That definitely indicates that there is promise in the songs. For now, though, the clash between the songs, vocals and music is a tad overwhelming. But a wee bit of work and who knows.
Album number three from Federal Charm, the Manchester based blues-rockers. Or more accurately, the rock-bluesers.
However, it’s their first with new recruits Tom Guyer (vocals) and Josh Zahler (drums) so there’s half a new band to bed in. And, in places, it works. The vocals are certainly different and continue the drift into full on modern rock. Things are definitely heavier than in the days of yore and the shift is understandable should they want to move out of what is a fairly niche market.
They’re also taking aim at social affairs with the usual SJW rails against capitalism taking centre stage in a few places. Fortunately there are enough good tunes around to take your mind off it with ‘Death Rattle’, ‘Concrete Creature’ and ‘Parting Words’ the best of the bunch. On the downside there are a few songs which pass by without leaving a mark and I found myself hitting the repeat button as I genuinely couldn’t remember what has happened in the preceding three minutes.
The first two albums had a certain charm about them whereas this one seems aimed firmly at the heart of the rock masses. As a plan I’m sure it will work if the new lineup can cut it live.
Put On Your Red Shoes
The real blues deal now with Bobby BlackHat who has been honking his harp for nigh on forty years now.
This set sees Bobby and his core band of Tom Euler (guitar, vocals), Brian Eubanks (bass), Mike Behlmar (drums), and Lucy Lawrence Kilpatrick (keyboards) setting about a fine set of original material with a couple of covers thrown in for good measure. And with the exception of my most hated song of all time (‘Hallelujah’ – the Leonard Cohen dirge) the first two thirds of this record makes for a fine listen. Songs like ‘I Smell Another Man on You’, the title track and the near ten minutes of ‘Grim Reaper’ showcase their classic take on electric blues. But it really goes off the boil after that. Bar the cover of ‘ You Got Me Runnin’ it’s a bit of a slog to get to the end.
And that’s a shame because a wee bit of editing and this would have come highly recommended especially as the guitar work is uniformly excellent. I still like it, mind, I just hit the stop button after Track 7.
BIRDSONG AT MORNING
Signs And Wonders
I believe this to be one of the finest examples of soft art-rock you are ever likely to hear. And I don’t mean “soft” in a bad way. What I mean is you’re not going to get your head blown off by the rawk. No you are going to be seduced by sweeping arrangements and lilts with a few vocal nods to modern Marillion.
The album features 10 original songs by singer/songwriter/vocalist Alan William along with an interesting and wholly different cover of Supertramp’s ‘The Logical Song’. The band debuted in 2011 with a four CD box set so they’re certainly not short of ambition. So this time they’ve chucked a 20-piece orchestra into the mix. As you do.
The basic band is Williams with Darleen Wilson (guitar) and Greg Porter (bass) with founders Williams and Porter putting the band together in 2008 after both had attended the New England Conservatory of Music. Fancy! But what you’re getting are some interesting singer/songwriter tunes which have been moulded through arrangement and interpretation into something bigger than the parts.
Audiophiles will definitely love it as “Signs And Wonders” comes with a second disc that (deep breath) has both DTS-HD Master Audio surround along with LPCM 5.1 embedded on the disc, alongside a high resolution stereo LPCM layer. I don’t know what that means but I do know that there are some remarkable sounds contained in the likes of ‘All Sadness To Come’ and ‘Arms Around Me’. One for the art rock / proggers out there looking for some very different sounds.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton