Reviews roundup – From Hell ~ Big E and the Wild Hairs ~ The Fred Pala Band ~ Neronia ~ Rednight
Rats & Ravens
Horror metal, eh? I’m quite fond of that particular sub-genre. After all, who could be better, rub-along partners than heavy metal and horror. Of course, there’s a lot of horror in a lot of metal already so you really need to put your mind to it to merit the tag. And From Hell certainly do. I just hope they’ve named themselves after the graphic novel rather than the horrendously awful Johnny Depp film. Although, to be fair, any film with Johnny Depp in it can be appendaged “horrendously awful”.
But let’s get to the music, man. Main man Aleister Sinn really had no option but to be in a horror metal band. With a name like that his career options were severely limited. And he makes a fair fist of it as the band crash through s thrash / death hybrid with more than a few tips of the hat to Mercyful Fate.
He’s certainly managed to roundup a few decent musicians to bring his story to life with Forbidden’s Steve Smyth on guitars, Vicious Rumors’ Stephen Paul Goodwin on bass and drums from Blind Illusion’s Wes Anderson. And it is a story as he presents a concept album set in the 13th century about an evil, child stealing witch who sacrifices them and brings them back to life via the medium of the God of Vermin. Which reminds me, whatever happened to Sons of Seasons? Answers on a used tenner. But it’s probably Ninkilim who helped her out.
It’s a dense (in a good way), complex offering with some fantastic percussion that really drives the music home. Add is some blistering solos and songs as intense as “The Withc” and “Am I Dead” and this is a record that metal fans of all persuasions should be cowering behind the settee to. A belter.
BIG E and the WILD HAIRS
To Texas for some southern rock, courtesy of the dreadfully named Big E and the Wild Hairs.
The two chaps behind the band, Dave Duggins and Eric Whittington have been musicians for a while but got together back in 2012 to release their debut album. Now it’s time for album number two with the former taking care of guitars, bass (on a few tracks) , keyboards and drums and the latter on lead vocals and harmonica. Jeff Duggins plays bass on most of the songs. And they make a decent racket. There’s more than a hint of the tougher end of the Georgia Satellites. Which is a good thing. Along with some mid eighties ZZ Top keyboard parts.
In the main they’ve put together a set of melodic blues rock with the emphasis very much on the rock side. But they’re also quite happy to stretch things out in more experimental fashion. Don’t worry, though, it’s not in a hideous jam band style. When BE&TWH spend 7 minutes in the company of “When The Devil Comes Down The Mountain” it’s more akin to early seventies Savoy Brown than anything else.
It’s a shame they couldn’t spring for a real horn section because the tracks that have faux brass really benefit from it. But that’s small issue when the hard edged “Can’t Get Enough” is just around the corner waiting to give you a kicking. They know how to get a ridiculously addictive groove going with more than a few Michael Katon type riffs adorning the record.
The kind of band you really want to spend a drunken night to. A keeper.
THE FRED PALA BAND
Through A London Window
If you’re looking to grab the attention of a jaded reviewer who futilely tries to burn laminated press releases in lieu of listening to the records they’re supposed to promote then try sending your CD out in a circular tin box. For sure I’ll curse you when it comes to working out where to store the damn thing. But you got me to listen.
Of course it helps if you’re playing viciously tight blues rock in a power trio format. Because that’s what you’re getting here. The guitar work on “Head on the Ground” had me going for a lie down afterwards. Exhausting.
Turns out London based guitarist/vocalist Fred Pala is originally from Brazil and this is his fourth release, albeit the first as The Fred Pala Band, which sees him linking up with a very experienced rhythm section in the shape of George Smith on bass and Jon Steele on drums. And they certainly make a righteous noise on this four track EP.
It sounds incredibly powerful with a huge production that belies its indie status. But it’s not all pure volume as the textures of “Losing My Faith” show them to have their roots in bands like Mountain. And you can’t go far wrong with that. It helps that Mr Pala has a fantastic, raging voice to go along with his wild ways on the guitar. And Messrs Smith and Steele have obviously decided that the answer to how much bass and drums is All The Bass And Drums.
“Strange Angel” is the most traditional blues rock track but it swaggers along on a merry groove while the closing “Shot in the Head” is more of a Trower type thang. Retro heads will be delighted to know that the whole EP was recorded in one day using analogue gear that the BBC used back in the sixties. A real treat, you are commanded to listen. Do it, do it, do it…
Album number six from German progsters Neronia who themselves rose from the ashes of neo-progsters Ulysses. So they’ve been around the block a bit.
So there is no doubting they know how to play their instruments. You don’t last long in the prog world if you can’t do that. Check out what happened to LaHost (aka the worst prog band I ever saw) if you want proof.
Naturally this is a concept album. As it should be. Mind you the concept seems to be about a musician who gets lost in a world of drink and drugs before finding his way back to happiness thanks to his friends and loved ones. Which is hardly King Arthur and The Space Octopuses. A lot of the music seems to be linked via guitar motifs but that might just be my ears. It’s also very melodic prog so don’t come here if you’re on the hunt for crazed paradiddles. Or space octopuses.
But they are very good at what they do. My ageing ears seem to pick up bits of Twelfth Night (the band not the play) and when the harmony vocals kick in it lifts the whole thing tremendously. There are some excellent guitar solos and the sometimes stray into more classic seventies rock territory. Have a listen to “Kiss Of A Rainbow” for proof of that. It’s also my favourite tune which shows where my head lies. Falk Ullman has a great voice for this sort of thing and does a bang up job throughout. If you were looking for more modern prog comparisons I’d suggest they sometimes enter Arena territory.
It’s a strong album from start to finish even if a lot of the material clings to similar tempos and arrangements. a good one though.
There’s no need for that sort of potty mouth. I mean, really. A song called “Fuck”. For shame.
To their credit it might be the first time I’ve heard a German band sing about Brighton Pier. Especially in a modern rock band who name-check Alter Bridge and Biffy Clyro as influences. Thankfully, musically, they have much more in common with the former than the latter which saved me several trips to the swear jar. Although as English is their second language (like folk fae Kilmarnock) the lyrics are more BC.
But they’ve got good tunes and very melodic ones at that. Granted, this style of music isn’t one I normally spend much time with bit considering it’s their debut they’ve got some nifty arrangements and Herr Klinge has a fine voice. Kilian Böttcher also gets let off the leash on guitar now and then, and when he does it’s a rerr racket.
“Unleash The Beast”, despite the name, is probably the tune most likely to have “hit” appended to it while “In The End” almost toys with the edges of metal. The percussion sound is a bit tinny in places but as music nowadays is intended to be heard on mobile phones it probably sounds bang on in that environment. They’ve actually been around since 2011, releasing an EP in 2016, so it makes sense that they’ve had time to hone their material. If anything their hopscotch approach to genres may be their undoing but if they managed to get me nodding my head there’s hope for them.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton