Reviews roundup ~ Mirzadeh ~ Cathy Grier ~ Randy Casey ~ Little Villains ~ Hart & Bowes
To Finlandia for some black meets folk metal.
Turns out Mirzadeh can trace their roots back twenty years when Mirox, Fafner and Exitus first got together to play some metal. Fortunately their parents had given them black metal names so it was an obvious move for them to make.
After the legally obligatory line up changes they released their debut album in 2003. ”Ancient Rites” it was and it included a song in Finnish which proved to be the way forward for them. Three years later ”The Creatures of Loviatar” arrived but it was a full eight years before ”Desired Mythic Pride” arrived. And now, seven years after that we have “Sauna”.
It’s a five track EP and it sounds exactly how you would expect a nineties black / folk metal influenced band to sound. That’s a good thing by the way. The one thing that really impressed me was how they managed to remain melodic even while the harshest of screams and growls are emanating from the speakers. The clean vocals seem to be mainly English with the harsh vocals redolent of a brutal yet beautiful landscape and history. ‘Valakea’, probably my favourite of the tracks sees them singing in their local dialect and the video (down below) was shot at Pyhävuori, the holy mountain, which has influenced their music from the beginning.
They’ve not reinvented the wheel here but they make a mighty fine noise as they set about exhuming their influences in fine fashion.
CATHY GRIER & The Troublemakers
I’m All Burn
This is the thirteenth album from Cathy Grier. Yes, really. But it seems that most of her earlier albums have largely been solo voice and guitar recordings.
But with this one she wanted to take some new songs, mix them up with some old ones and record them with a full band. And by full band I mean full band. So, deep breath, the other musicians are Tony Menzer on bass; Jamey Clark on drums; Jim Ohlschmidt on guitar and vocals; Larry Byrne on organ and keyboards; and Johnny Orlock on harmonica. Additionally, honorary Troublemakers include: Deirdre Fellner and Liv Mueller on backing vocals; Greg Koch on guitar and slide guitar; Howard Levy and Steve Cohen on harmonica; Jimmy Voegeli on keyboards; Billy Flynn on guitar and harmonica; Matt Liban on drums; pat mAacdonald (that’s how the credit reads) on harmonica and backing vocals; Pauli Ryan on percussion; Andrew Spadafora on saxophones; Joe Neimann on trumpet; and Mike Lizzo on trombone. Like I said, a full band.
And it’s really good. Ms Grier has a really soulful voice and I’m sure everyone everywhere all the time points out she has a similar timbre to Bonnie Raitt. The album is chockful of good songs, with 14 of the 15 being originals. A cover of ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ being the exception. Granted, the songs rarely get out of a mid-tempo groove but it’s a groove that I’m happy to spend some time in. Favourites? Well I really liked ‘Down On My Knees’ which has a great arrangement and ‘Happiness Blues’ managed to live up to its title. No mean feat. Is it a few songs too long? Probably. But as Ms Grier has released this as a pay what you want album on her website it would be churlish to complain.
A verra fine release.
Well this is a wee bit different from the rocking blues of previous Randy Casey albums. Understandable, though, as he plays all the instruments himself and rattled off all eleven songs in twenty four hours. Hence the punning title.
Luckily for all, he’s an excellent singer and musician so the acoustic instrumentation on offer here is sublime. As well as the expected guitar, he can turn his hand to slide, bottleneck, dobro, mandolin and even harmonica. ‘Deep End’ is an odd opener as it’s a bleak country ballad. And when it’s followed by ‘Sleep’, a bleak folk ballad you get the feeling that this isn’t going to be a party album.
And it isn’t. It doesn’t even really qualify as a blues album as the sounds he’s best known for are noticeable by their absence. The lyrics are largely downbeat as well although the record was prompted by the events of 2020 which won’t go down as one of our better years. You’re four tracks in before the first change of pace which means ‘I Don’t Like You Anymore’ was rapturously received around my way.
He goes a wee bit jazzy on ‘Lucky’ and finally gets his blues back on with, um, ‘Back On The Blues’. My favourite was ‘Dead Wrong’ where he plays some fantastic slide guitar. It’s a real treat.
It’s a good album although I would have sequenced it differently as it’s quite hard going early on. But that’s what CD players and iPod shuffles were invented for.
I’m not likely to be too churlish about a record that opens with a song called ‘There Ain’t No Cider On The Rider’. I lugged enough gear around for grebo bands back in the day to know that Strongbow and Skol were absolute essentials.
So, Little Villains. I’d never heard of them until ex Motorhead drummer Philthy Animal Taylor died. Seems to have been an unknown band he started with bassist / vocalist James Childs over in LA back in 2005. But it took his death before two posthumous records quickly appeared. “Philthy Lies” and “Taylor Made” they were called. Obviously.
But although it’s not quite striking while the iron is hot, Childs has brought in another drummer and punted out a third recording. And it’s functional. There are some really good riffs here which mix up metal and punk in equal measure. ‘Hand Grenade’ is a fine example of that. Most of the songs sit in that Supersuckers sphere but the main problem is the vocals. They’re really not good.
Which is a shame because there is potential in songs like the aforementioned ‘Hand Grenade, ‘Big Ben’, ‘Hawker Hurricane’, ‘Motherhead’ (yes, really) and a couple of others. It rocks but not quite enough to play with the big boys. Proper video, though!
HART & BOWES
Words to strike terror into the heart of your elderly reviewer. “Drum programming”. Oh.
So who are Hart & Bowes. Well it’s not a supergroup formed by Bad Company / Thunder alumni. So stand down if that got your pecker parping. Gary Hart is the guitarist and, gulp, drum programmer, whose main influence was guitarist John Ricci of Exciter. I get that because back in the day I would have bet every penny I had on “Violence And Force” becoming The thrash album of choice. Fortunately for me, it was 1984 and my building site labouring wages were, literally, pennies.
Bassist and vocalist Ron D Bowes is a one time progger who also performs solo blues and plays in a blues rock band. An odd combo who say they are also influenced by Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Rainbow. They sound like none of those. In fact their style of melodic metal meets hard rock seems to be mainly rooted in the late eighties. So it’s sort of slightly past their best Judas Priest in tone. ‘Billion Dollar Heist’ is where you want to go for that.
The guitar and bass work are good. As you would expect from seasoned musicians. The vocals are OK and the programmed drums aren’t the worst I’ve heard but I’m not entirely sure who’s going to clutch this to their hearts. Actually, I do. Fans of Accept who thought that it was all downhill after “I’m a Rebel”. Took me a while but that’s what I’m most reminded of here. Time for a lie down.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton