Reviews roundup – The Rods vs. The Grand Astoria/Montenegro vs. Grand Reunion vs. Mandolin Orange vs. Luca Kiella vs. Thunderosa
Brotherhood Of Metal
Steamhammer / SPV
Christ I’m old. Don’t tell anyone but I first encountered the Rods when I saw them support Iron Maiden in nineteen eighty mumble mumble. Yes, really. I certainly never expected to hear from them again after they split up in the mid-eighties no matter how much I cherish my “Full Throttle” 12″ EP .
But they got back together for a 2011 LP and now a mere eight years later they’re back. It’s the same three piece that appeared on my beloved 12″ back in 1981 and I can say, hand on heart, that this is Proper Fuckin’ Metal. I’m not much of a curser but every so often it’s needed for emphasis. Because I really, really love this. Of course I’m an old man and what the youngster call True Metal is just plain old metal to me. It’s the kind of thing that got the teenage me all of a flutter and all those decades later this still managed to stir a part of my soul that, however tired and shrivelled, lurks within.
There are a lot of songs about metal. As it should be. ‘Brotherhood of Metal’. ‘Everybody’s Rockin’. ‘Louder Than Loud’. Even typing the titles out makes me a wee bit giddy. It’s chunky, riff driven, meat and potatoes metal that doesn’t try to be clever. It just gets on with the business of being great heavy metal. There’s nothing here that wouldn’t have happily sat on “The Rods” or “Wild Dogs” back in the day. For sure, Rock Feinstein hasn’t got the range of yore but his vocals hold their own while the rhythm section of Carl Canedy and Garry Bordonaro get on with the business of being heavy metal. Apart from ‘Party All Night’ where, for reasons known only themselves, they clamber aboard a Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride.
Did I mention heavy metal? Hell, yes. This is fantastic.
THE GRAND ASTORIA / MONTENEGRO
The Body Limits / El Matadero
Deep breath, everyone. What we have here is a reissue of a split LP from two psych / stoner / doom / proto metal bands. One from Russia and one from Argentina. Oddly enough it’s Montenegro who come from Argentina.
Now you’ll have noticed that I said this was a split LP. Well it is despite it only having two songs. You read me right. One song from each band. The Grand Astoria supply ‘The Body Limits’ and, not oddly, ‘El Matadero’ comes from Montenegro. The latter is a bit skimpy clocking in at a mere 18 minutes plus while the former comes in at a shade under half an hour. Those of you with weak constitutions may leave the room now.
Although that would be a shame as there is a lot of good music on offer here. The Grand Astoria are definitely one for the psych fans out there as they experiment with so many different moods and shades of music across the half hour. Don’t be fooled by the gentle, pastoral opening stages as there is plenty of rawk on the way.
Over in Argentina I’m presuming based on a serious lack of research that this song is connected to the short story by Esteban Echeverría. I’m probably wrong but if I am then it doesn’t matter as it would still work superbly as a soundtrack to his political allegory. Musically it’s got more in the way of acid rock and Sabbathy vibes than the first track but it too has so many nuances to it as to require repeated plays.
Both bands bring their A game to this and if you’ve got the slightest interest in looking for some unusual vibes and grooves then this is definitely somewhere you should be visiting.
In The Station
To Chile now for some heavy, sixties and seventies influenced hard rock.
It’s quite a wide ranging sound taking in everything from garage rock through to near metal and quite frankly, if your cockles aren’t warmed by a song called ‘Bang Bang, The Headbang’ then you are dead to me.
Considering it’s self recorded in their rehearsal space it sounds very professional with only the drum sound lacking (technical term alert) oomph. The guitars have a splendid fuzzy sound to them and they bring their own percussive sound, courtesy of Javier Tapia, to a lot of the songs which really liven up the arrangements. Singer Cristóbal Pacheco has a strong voice and when they sometimes spin off into a Sabbath meets Santana jam band vibe they really lift the roof. Throw in some crazed Vincent Crane style keys from Pablo Saveedra and I’m a very happy man.
There are some really strong songs here and, hopefully, they can start to make some waves. A good one.
Tides Of A Teardrop
Hmmm. I’ve got a thing about other peoples losses. In that I don’t care. As a long standing orphan and recent widower I’m a firm believer in bottling it all up until you explode in a frenzy of alcohol fuelled rage. It’s called being Scottish.
But some folks like to hang their emotional dirty laundry for the world to see and that’s the case with Andrew Marlin who, along with Emily Frantz, is Mandolin Orange. So lots of misery on offer here.
Musically it sits between modern folk and old school country. And as their name suggests there is plenty of mandolin on offer. But there’s plenty of other inventive acoustic sounds around as well. They’re both good singers and take the lead on different songs with a few (i.e not enough) harmonies.
There are some really good songs along the way with the near pure country of ‘ Lonely All the Time’ the highlight for me. Although the old-timey back porch gospel vibe of ‘Suspended in Heaven’ came a very close second. Things rarely stir above an amble so don’t come here looking for spritely. That (and my prejudices) aside, this is an excellent release.
Figure It Out
A wee EP to introduce you to the solo talents of the outrageously talented keyboard player Luca Kiella.
Italian born, American based he’s been playing live for others but has decided to step up front and centre on this five track offering. After a piano intro he starts his solo singing career with a cover of the Jon Cleary song ‘Unnecessarily Mercenary’. Cleary is one of his biggest influences but if I was launching a solo gig I might have saved that for later. So the title track is really the first chance to hear what he really has to offer. And there is no doubting he is an incredible piano and Hammond player. The two actual songs he’s written (the title track and ‘So Many Questions’) are good as well.
But he’s not got the strongest voice in the world so having a go at the Don Gibson classic ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ was probably not the best move. Although, musically, the funky Hammond driven arrangement is a real treat. The closing original is also a bit strange as it seems to bear no relation to what’s gone before, coming on like an early seventies singer-songwriter confessional albeit one that suits his voice best. An interesting offering from a talented musician.
Ride The Snake
Nine tracks in under half an hour? That’s a proper album, that is. And Holy Hell In A Handbasket but it’s a mighty fine racket.
If you want the shorthand they’re the Texas equivalent of Nashville Pussy and Supersuckers. So you’re away buying this record already, aren’t you..
So it’s Motorhead meets ZZ Top in an alley for a fistfight with some redneck punks. The usual. But it’s really, really fun. Oh, and Thunderosa started out the same year as the Pussy so they’re no Johnny come lately copyists. This is the sound I hear in my head every time I fall off the wagon and go off on one. That usually ends up in a fight and bad tattoo and ‘Fires On The Porch’, ‘Beer Soaked,Hot Rods and Rock n Roll’ and ‘Stone Deaf (Because of You!)’ will make the perfect soundtrack to my comedown. Especially the latter which is surely an actual Motorhead song rather than a tribute.
Roaring vocals, howling guitars and the best party you’ve never been to. Well played, AJ Mac, Drew Underhill and Chuck Smith. Daddy’s home.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton