Review of Ifreann, Desecration (Independent, 2020)

Thrash is alive and well, and one band that shows this truth is Ifreann. Their newest release, Desecration, is available now.

The band originally came together about five years ago in Scotland. There have been a number of lineup changes resulting in the current five members, Ian Gil (vocal), Ben Sanders (guitar), Alina Levanova (guitar), Jacob Nicolson (bass), and Euan Henderson (drums). Judging by the 2020 music, these musicians sound like they’ve been playing together for a decade so the adjustments have been good moves.

After releasing a couple of singles in 2017 (“In Satan We Trust” / “Poisoned Minds”), the band’s first EP, Unearthly, came out in 2019. The four songs on that album are solid thrash work, and the opener, “Mirror of Sanity,” is in the regular Spotify rotation for me. It is a hard-hitter, and the thrash sensibilities of the writing are complemented by clever innovations in rhythm and bridge.

Now we have Desecration, which gives us four new songs. Track 1: “Of Blade and Black Wing” is straight ahead thrash. It is reminiscent of the music on the Unearthly EP in that regard. Very solid and memorable. “Raised In Hate” follows and has a more medieval feel to it, with a rolling crunch, sing-a-long crowd bark opportunities, and a Primus-inspired bass line up front. The main lead break is on the symphonic side, with a technicalist wiggle on the back and the return of that amazing bass line right after. Great composition. Next up, “Messiah,” which is very heavy and harsh, with a cognitive seriousness that presses on your throat. “Crushed By Tyranny” is the closer, and a fitting one with its message. The music is a swirling storm of guitars in the middle surrounded by a staccato rhythm fortress, front and back. Desecration overall is a little broader musically than the earlier releases and at the same time it maintains the band’s signature sound.

Ifreann has a few scheduled live dates in the UK coming up in June so let’s hope things have returned to a somewhat normal pace by then. The new EP, the Unearthly EP, and the original singles are all on Spotify, and you can get the EPs at Bandcamp and other streaming services, too. Go get you some. This thrash’ll get your blood flowing. Recommended.

Links.

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/IFREANN.THRASH/

Bandcamp, https://ifreannmetal.bandcamp.com/

Review of Ifreann, Desecration (Independent, 2020)

Festivals and Shows to Get Fired Up About

Tour dates are changing rapidly for this year. We will keep updating information as it becomes available. Many of these events are migrating to the Fall.

Punk Rock Bowling Postponed Until Fall
Bonnaroo has been Rescheduled for September 24-27
Festivals and Shows to Get Fired Up About

The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines (Kozmik Artifactz, 2020)

Veteran stoner/fuzz bluesists deliver the goods on their latest, Love Like Machines.

On their Bandcamp page, the band describes their music this way: psychedelic blues rock from the delta that sounds similar to a skeleton driving a speed boat on a flaming Mississippi River headed back to 1969. I can buy it. I have a tendency to think of anything remotely doomy as desert music, but I can hear the river in this, and I can smell the swamp from here. Love Like Machines is the band’s fourth full-length studio album, and they get stronger with every new set.

The album starts off with the beautiful, poetic “Anabasis” – a quiet acoustic intro and exit together hold in a rumbling thunder of softly growling guitars. It is an aperitif. The next song, “Made for the Age,” launches with a piercing, probing rhythm shot that rolls into a steady hard-driving rocker with a convincing lead break. And there is no looking back after that – next is my favorite song of the set, “Hand of Bear.” It has a Clutch catchiness with a heavier vibe and with more distortion and fuzz. The title of the album comes from the song, “Late Night,” where we find out what love like machines means (I’ll let you discover that on your own). Another stand out track is “God Damn Wolf Man” with even more hooky guitars, raw lead work, and memorable lyrics:

Well god damn the Wolf Man/look what you made me do/I guess your hatred and your vitriol/finally got the best of you

Well fuck yeah Dr. Frankenstein/that what you want me to say?/’cause you are so much worse in your heart of hearts/than the monsters you create

Well calm down Count Dracula/and get your money all made/and I’ll do my best not to let you down/but I can’t work for free

The back catalogue of the band is excellent, and you should take a streaming dive into it at your earliest opportunity. I have favorites reaching back to their first album, but I have to say I do like this new one best overall. It is a heavy dose of the Cure For What Ails You all the way through. Recommended.

Love Like Machines is out March 27, 2020 at all the usual places, plus a limited CD and vinyl release from Kozmik Artifactz (link below). The band has a few live dates listed on their Facebook page, notably Stoned and Dusted at Pappy & Harriet’s in May (assuming we are all back in the world again by then).

Links.

Band, https://www.theheavyeyes.com/

Bandcamp, https://theheavyeyesmemphis.bandcamp.com/

Twitter, https://twitter.com/TheHeavyEyes

Kozmik Artifactz, https://kozmik-artifactz.com/

The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines (Kozmik Artifactz, 2020)

Blue Öyster Cult, 40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016 (Frontiers Records, 2020)

I was thinking about my earliest music influences as I sat down to write this. the first record I ever bought was Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog. Wow, did that open my eyes. I had never heard anything like Dan McCafferty’s voice, and the heavy guitars went straight to the center of my brain. I don’t know how many times I listened to the record, but it had to be over a hundred. Incidentally, the only reason I picked this particular album was because of the cover painting, which was very cool. This was the 1970s, and there was no internet, no digital music services. What we had then was record stores, and you went in, walked through the aisles, and looked at the covers.

What came next? I remember vividly, the next three albums I bought were Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Alice Cooper’s Killer, and Blue Öyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation. All classic, iconic releases, but at the time (mid-to-late 1970s), they were fairly recent releases and none were mainstream breakthroughs. I wasn’t reading music magazines then and I landed on these by accident mostly, but I couldn’t have had better primers for heavy music. I still listen to these four albums on the regular. I know all the songs by heart, all the guitar parts, every bit of them, and music never wears out. Whenever something new comes out by any of these bands I always buy it, even if it is a remaster or live recording that ends up sounding a lot like another live recording I already have. Which brings me to the 40th anniversary release of Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest selling album Agents of Fortune in a completely different format.

The cover reads “40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016,” which makes you think it is a concert recording. Not quite. It was actually recorded live in a studio in Los Angeles for broadcast on a music network. So this is a video of the band playing Agents of Fortune in a studio. I was not expecting that. The other thing I was not expecting is that it isn’t quite the entire Agents of Fortune album, either – there is an audio-only live version of “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” which, for some reason, is not part of the video set. Odd, that. And who is playing? The core members of the band who remain with us are there, with Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom in on the entire set. Albert Bouchard steps in for several songs, and the rest of the band is made up of Richie Castellano, Kasim Sulton, and Jules Radino. Once I settled down into the idea of what I was seeing, it all came together for me and I enjoyed the show. The band does not sound exactly like it did forty years ago, of course, but the performance is good and it is great to see this set of songs played together in order.

This is a Blu Ray release (there is a version with a CD, too), and it is pretty short because it is limited to Agents of Fortune front to back (mostly). The only extra worth noting is a short interview (about 20 minutes) with the three principals. There is also that audio version of the missing song, and it does not stand up as well as the video version of the rest of the set. Still, in the interest of completeness, it is nice to have on the disc.

Blue Öyster Cult is touring, and notably they are one of the headliners at this year’s Psycho Las Vegas. The band has also announced they are working on new music, so look for an upcoming studio release. If you are a Blue Öyster Cult fan, you’ve got to get this new incarnation of Agents of Fortune. Don’t wait too long, though, because it is already getting a little bit hard to find.

Links.

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/blueoystercult

Frontiers Records, http://www.frontiers.it/index.php

Psycho Las Vegas, https://www.vivapsycho.com/

Blue Öyster Cult, 40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016 (Frontiers Records, 2020)

Review of Ozzy Osbourne, Ordinary Man (Epic, 2020)

Ozzy is back.

The lead banger on the new set starts in iconic Ozzy fashion: “All right, now!” Fast-paced with thundering Duff McKagan bass lines and crushing, soaring guitar work by Slash, “Straight To Hell” is exactly what I wanted to hear from the latest in the Osbourne canon. Ozzy has had such a long and storied career, creating actual classics in heavy music time and again, it is natural to wonder whether this new one, many years after his last studio release, would it have a big punch. Would it be over-produced? Would it be rushed? How would Ozzy sound? We can kick all our worries off a cliff because Ordinary Man is a big hard rocker that surpasses expectations.

The musicians playing on most songs are Ozzy, naturally, Duff McKagan (bass), Chad Smith (drums), and Andrew Watt (guitars, etc.). There are some big-name guests, too, including Elton John, Post Malone, and Slash. According to the reporting on it all, the project came together and was wrapped up in just a few weeks, which is truly amazing and hard to believe when listening to the final product. The music sounds fresh and at the same time has familiar Ozzy Osbourne pulls. There are fast and heavy songs, a few slow songs, and ½ and ½’s. Some of the songs are deadly serious, like the single “Under the Graveyard,” while others are silly, like “Scary Little Green Men.” Familiar themes such as addiction, fame, darkness, and redemption permeate the set while the musical styles wave and pulse enough to keep your brain firing while your body stands the entire time in the heavy world of Ozzy. The balance and cleverness of the musical composition and lyrics are very impressive – there are strings and backing vocals here and there, always at exactly the right time in the right amount so nothing sounds over-done.

I like all of Ozzy’s albums, and sure, I do like some more than others. I’d put Ordinary Man well up in the top half of the whole list – I have listened to it back-to-back three times and it’s going again when this spin is done. Highly recommended.

In yet another surprise, Ozzy is already talking about recording a second album with Andrew Watt soon, as in any time now. I feel trepidation creeping in, but why worry – this one was great so why wouldn’t the next one be, too. And you know what? Instead of thinking ahead, I’m just going to listen to Ordinary Man again. “All right, now!”

Link.

Ozzy Osbourne, https://www.ozzy.com/

Review of Ozzy Osbourne, Ordinary Man (Epic, 2020)

Eulogy, Memento Mori Review (One Eyed Toad Records)

The Cardiff trio Eulogy is back with a new EP of straight-ahead rock and roll that is certain to appeal to fans of classic style rock.

Eulogy is establishing itself as a standard bearer for 80s rock energy. With Neil Thomas on bass and vocals, Mike Williams on guitars, and Darran Goodwin on drums, Memento Mori has a consistently hard driving sound and is a bit more contentious than the their earlier Back to Life (2017) three-song EP. There are no acoustic tracks on the new one, just guitar, bass, drums, and the soaring voice of Thomas to make the music peal.

I had the shuffle play on when I listened to the set so “Cross to Bare” opens Memento Mori for me with a fuzzy growl. The vocalizations put me a bit in mind of Saxon back in the day – melodic and heavy at the same time. “Blood Red Skies” kicks in with a trickier percussion beat and creative finger flashes from the guitar between verses. The second pair of songs are darker in tone with “You’ll Die Alone” being about what it sounds like it would be about (with a mournful lead break, too), and “Corvid” picking up the pace on the front end and closing strong. The music seems to be telling us that even under bleak circumstances we don’t have to curl up an die. And this is just the kind of rock and roll to get you up and going. The songs made me a little nostalgic, putting me in mind of some of my favorite music I hadn’t heard in a while, but you don’t have to be long in the tooth to get into Eulogy. Without any frame of reference, it is a great listen.

Memento Mori is out February 21st and you can grab it at One Eyed Toad Records and on the usual digital platforms. Eulogy will be touring around the UK this year so go give them a look. Recommended.

Links.

Instagram, https://instagram.com/eulogyband24

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Eulogy-1379354865682390/

Band, https://neiljt9.wixsite.com/eulogyepk

One Eyed Toad Records, http://www.oneeyedtoad.co.uk/

Eulogy, Memento Mori Review (One Eyed Toad Records)

Death the Leveller, II, Review

Death The Leveller is an Irish doom metal band that has found the perfect name to describe the vibe and turn of its music. Clear, resonant vocals travel over the solid ground of heavy guitars and steadying percussion to convey elegantly the profound message of mortality.

The name of the band comes from a poem (published in 1646) with the same title written by James Shirley, an English dramatist. Shirley tells us in the poem what we already know but we like to pretend isn’t true: death will claim us all, and in that sense, we are all the same. Death is the great leveler. This theme is fertile ground to plow for a doom metal band.

In some ways, Death the Leveller is a continuation of the band Mael Mórdha, from which three members of the current line-up came: Dave Murphy (bass), Shane Cahill (drums), and Gerry Clince (guitars). Denis Dowling joined on vocals, and the band released its first album, I, through Journey’s End Records in 2017. Although it is referred to as an EP, the four songs on I total almost 40 minutes and that makes a full-length release in my book. Compared to the last Mael Mórdha release, I was more somber, more ponderous, and had no whistle. The thematic focus has tightened, too, and the attitude engendered by the name of the new band showed through on all the tracks.

The new release, II (Cruz Del Sur Music, 2020), is an expansion of the ideas from the formative release. Soaked with melancholy, the songs have the sense of epic ballads and the stories of loss and tragedy. This is not folk metal in any way, though. It is heavier. It is doom. The first song, “The Hunt Eternal,” sees life as an endless hunt where everyone plays a part: Are you predator or prey? This notion is fundamentally human. What the song brings out is the truth that the hunter/hunted, predator/prey relationship is also animalistic, and the proposition that this conflict is eternal. The music gave me a deep sense of solitude which is a juxtaposition to the universal nature of the roles – we all share in the situation and at the same time we are all alone. Primed by the opener, the second song, “The Golden Bough,” named after the famous mystical book, carries you away into the ether in the first half then blasts you with lightning in the second when the guitars turn sharper and more aggressive before finishing off with a shroud of pure desolation. “So They May Face The Rising Sun” is a bit more funereal at the beginning and the end, while the final song, “The Crossing,” is nearly an homage to the earlier album, but it is laced with the more biting tone of the inevitable future that awaits us all.

Death The Leveller II is out March 13th and you can listen to/watch the lyric video now for “The Hunt Eternal” (link below). You can also pre-order the physical from Cruz Del Sur Music – streaming and downloads will be available on Bandcamp and other platforms. If you want to see them live you need to go to Ireland, for the moment at least. With any luck Death the Leveller will play a few US dates in 2020. They would be a perfect surprise addition to Psycho Las Vegas …

Links.

Lyric video for “The Hunt Eternal,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSgcfhx1mjg

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/deaththelevellerdoom/

Bandcamp, https://deaththeleveller.bandcamp.com/

Cruz Del Sur Music, https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

Death the Leveller, II, Review