2019 in Review, Gallery of Days 1-7

Day 7 — In This Moment at Heavy Montreal
Day 6 — I Prevail at Aftershock
Day 5 — Blackberry Smoke at Bourbon and Beyond
Day 4 — Clutch at Aftershock
Day 3 — Thy Art Is Murder at Higher Ground Ballroom
Day 2 — Grace Potter at Bourbon and Beyond
Day 1 — Dopethrone at Heavy Montreal

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

2019 in Review, Gallery of Days 1-7

New Release Review: Oni, Alone (Metal Blade).

Oni is a progressive metal band that has been around for a lustrum or so. Their first album, Ironshore, came out in 2016 receiving good notices and much deserved attention. Making tour appearances with Gojira and Children of Bodom, Oni started to gain a following by more and more by fans. The EP Alone is out from Metal Blade on December 13, 2019 and sees a welcome return of the heavy prog sensibilities of Ironshore in a more compact package.

The new one is consistent with the debut, if a little more polished and absent the epic 11-minute song like “The Science” from Ironshore. One-at-a-timing it, “Alone” begins with a melodic trance and goes sharp fast, with popping percussion and piercing staccato guitars. Mournful lyrics get set aside by the band’s signature xylosynth breaks only to return before an abrupt ending that leaves you a little dizzy. This opener sets the tone for the the rest of the music, but does not give away all the surprises. Vocalist Jake Oni starts gruff with “Rift” before mixing in softer tones about being confused and lost. The music has a frantic wandering not seen since Saga’s World’s Apart album, touched quietly by the rare Jake E. Lee warble moment. “Dead Inside” is a hard-driving corruption, a pulsing expedition forcing its way through a thick jungle. It is rough and relentless with only the smallest pauses for rest in the middle. I expected a bit of a wind-down on “Breathe Again” just because of the rampant pace of the first four songs, but that does not happen – howls this time from the synth and swirling tension from the guitars, raw emotion in the vocals. The EP closes with a dissonant clap on the ears, “Faceless Portrait.” Showing the coarsest vocals of the set, and the tallest musical construction, Oni brings the hammer down on the final song with authority and crushing power.

No other band straddles the metal/prog in quite the same way was a Oni. But it is not just that the band has a different sound compared to other metal acts – what sets them apart is a vision and a message that is loud and clear in their live performances, and is conjured and solidified in Alone. The songs “Alone” and “Breathe Again” are the singles but you are going to want to listen to all five of them, preferably together. They really do hold up as a set, and there is a clear musical and narrative arc from the first to the last. Recommended.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/TheOniBand

https://www.instagram.com/theONIband

New Release Review: Oni, Alone (Metal Blade).

REVIEW: Wheel of Smoke, Sonic Cure (Polderrecords, 2019)

Wheel of Smoke is a Belgian band that has been around since 2005. Their sound overlaps a number of categories including psychedelic, stoner, and space doom. Having independently released three full-length albums and an EP through 2016, their newest one is Sonic Cure, out November 29, 2019 from Polderrecords, and it’s a winner. Johan Overloop joined the band on “analog modular synths” in 2017 and appears here for the first time on a Wheel of Smoke recording, along with Filip Remans (guitar), Erik Heyns (guitar), Jouk Opdebeeck (drums), and Tristan Michiels (bass). The addition of keyboards/programmables has expanded the scope and sound of the music and allowed new avenues of expression.

Vocals are used sparsely in the music on the new album so the songs have a largely instrumental feel even when voices are deployed. First up in the set is “Sonic Cure,” where we start off drifting in space, hearing the murmurs of celestial bodies and listening to the sound of building velocities warbling through the void. Halfway through, focus and direction emerge (like the formation of planets from stardust in cosmos over the passage of time). The second track is “Brainshaker” and it starts with a catchy boogie vamp that quickly unwinds into galloping conundrum. The slow open of “Beamed” lets you take a breath before the ride begins. Keyboards are more prominent here than in the first two songs; they are a bigger part of the sound overall and are the main jam before the guitar steps in toward the end. “On A Wave” offers mystical desert rhythms and whispering insinuations that lift your thoughts into impossible planes. After you get there, the guitars reach out and alternate between sharp punches and persistent caresses on your person. The closing, “Electric I,” is a straight-up 9 minute 42 second psychedelic frenzy. When it ends, you are not really sure if it is over, so you feel like listening to the whole album again. I did that twice.

What I like especially about the music of Wheel of Smoke is that way it wraps you up. The compositions find a way to curl around you and before you know it they are working from the inside. It is not as simple as a long fade in or even a slow build. It is more mercurial than that. Once they get you, you’re had. Give the new one a listen and see what I mean. You can get Sonic Cure through the usual streaming platforms [here], and Polderrecords is offering a wide range of vinyl options and a digipak if you want to get physical [here].

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/wheelofsmokeofficial/

https://www.instagram.com/wheel_of_smoke/

https://polderrecords.bandcamp.com/

Review by Wayne Edwards

REVIEW: Wheel of Smoke, Sonic Cure (Polderrecords, 2019)

Cannibal Corpse, Thy Art Is Murder, and Perdition Temple at Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont, Concert Review

Cannibal Corpse rolled into South Burlington, Vermont Sunday night on their Red Before Black Tour. Their show at Higher Ground was a Fall highlight for North Country Metalheads looking for a night of extreme music.

Perdition Temple

The opening band was Perdition Temple, a three-piece Death Metal act featuring Gene Palubicki on guitar and vocals with Ronnie Parmer on drums and Alex Blume working the bass. Fast and aggressive, the riff-heavy, driving guitar broke the ice and set the tone for evening. Palubicki’s coarse voice and precision fretting filled the room with energy and threat. Wrapping up a tight 30 minutes in a blistering frenzy, Perdition Temple surely made the list for a lot of new fans in the audience.

Perdition Temple

The middle act was Thy Art Is Murder, an Australian band whose music is usually placed in the deathcore category. I heard many fans in the crowd saying they’d come specifically to see Thy Art Is Murder and that didn’t surprise me at all – they have a big following and they don’t tour the US all the time. The band puts up a powerful wall of sound with two guitars via Andy Marsh and Sean Delander that surround frontman CJ McMahon. The bass backing by Kevin Butler and clinical drumming by Jesse Beahler complete the scene.

Thy Art Is Murder

CJ McMahon was suffering from a respiratory infection which caused him obvious discomfort but his performance didn’t seem to suffer at all. Leaning into material from their new album Human Target (Nuclear Blast), Thy Art Is Murder shook the room and played to their strengths, not neglecting fan favorites. In fact, the only time the crowd was actually singing punchlines was during the Thy Art Is Murder set. McMahon talked the crowd into greater participation by reflecting on how wild the show in Montreal the night before had been. Burlington, he told us, was great, but Montreal was unmatchable. The circle pits were going in force, presaging the vortex they would become with the headliner. There were no disappointments with their solid heavy work.

Thy Art Is Murder
Thy Art Is Murder

The main event was Cannibal Corpse, rounding out the tail end of their Red Before Black (Metal Blade) tour. Standing in the pit in the dark after the band had taken the stage but before they began playing, I could see vocalist George Fisher, Corpsegrinder. He stood with his back to the crowd taking deep, fierce breaths, filling his lungs to ready himself for the auditory assault he and the band were about to perpetrate. Hit the lights, hit the sound, and the crowd erupted to “Code of the Slashers.” Moshing started almost immediately and within a few minutes, an enormous circle pit had formed in the Higher Ground Ballroom with a pulsing jagged edge. Metal was happening.

Cannibal Corpse

The band lead with three songs from the latest album then took a tour through their long catalogue of music. Rob Barrett and Erik Rutan brought the riffs and shreds with veteran accuracy while founding members Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz steadied the songs with an unbreachable foundation. Fisher did not disappoint with his signature hair whipping head snaps, his face completely covered by the result when he sang. This is a band that never makes any excuses and always delivers the fury.

Cannibal Corpse
Cannibal Corpse

Never slowing down, Cannibal Corpse announced in October that they would begin working on a new album, their 15th full-length release, as soon as the current tour wraps up. See the show while you can. Cannibal Corpse, Thy Art Is Murder, and Perdition Temple is a great lineup. They are three bands that complement each other by employing similar musical themes while maintaining unique identities and performance styles.

Cannibal Corpse

Cannibal Corpse, Thy Art Is Murder, and Perdition Temple at Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont, Concert Review

Flux Capacitor at Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont, Live Set Review

I caught up with Flux Capacitor last week on their Ambush Glowing Tour when they played Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont. They were the perfect band to welcome music lovers in from the cold for a beer and a jam.

Flux Capacitor is a three-piece band from Reading, Pennsylvania made of the brothers Specht: Peter (guitar), Jason (drums), and Michael (keyboards). They have recently beeen joined by Cassy Yost who steps in for part of the set and who, by the way, renders an amazing vocal interpretation of the Jefferson Airplane standard, “White Rabbit.” The band describes their music as the “melding of varied rock idioms with elements of electronica – in the context of fluid improvisation.” I can’t argue with that. They opened their set with a 10+ minute jam that rolled amazing guitar passages into consuming keyboard entrancements and back again. Peter’s voice is hypnotic, cruising as it does through, and along with, the other instruments. You can truly float away in the listen and completely forget where you are. In the first set (they played more but I only got to see the first one), after the trio opened with extended musical forms, Cassy Yost joined for several, mostly shorter pieces, adding her strong vocal presence. The four of them together were perfectly cohesive and there didn’t seem to be a transition at all, just a flow. Toward the end of the set, the trio took over again and laid down some more long-form wonderment.

Make sure you see Flux Capacitor whenever you get the chance. They are on the road in the South for select upcoming December dates. It is a great evening of music and you’ll want to come back and get some more. Meanwhile, their newest release is Set to Gravitate which you can hear on Spotify and other streaming platforms, or you can buy at Bandcamp [here].

Tour dates and band info: http://fluxcapacitorband.com/

Flux Capacitor at Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont, Live Set Review

Bull Elephant, New Release Review

The self-titled opener Bull Elephant (Eat Lead and Die Music) stormed onto my computer and stabbed me in the ears this morning. A metal band with a secret roster, Bull Elephant calls itself “hybridoom” on Instagram and “progressive doom” on Twitter. The music to me moves between what we have come to know as doom and branches out into death metal territory, with even a little speed in a couple of flashes and maybe a folk metal moment, too. This diversity of music styles in the same set by a single band speaks to the range of interest that fans have – we like lots of different kinds of metal.

Here is how the press release describes the album: “Bull Elephant is the story of a slain African elephant that occultist Ahnenerbe SS attempted to bring back from the dead as a new form of battle asset. However, before re-animation could be completed it was intercepted by a mysterious witch-shaman, pursuing her own agenda and redirecting the undead creature’s purpose.” Wow. How’s that for a concept to construct an album around?

Across seven songs, the concept is interpreted more in the music than even in the lyrics. The title song begins the rampage with a growling roar hurtling out of the darkness. This is doom. 40 seconds in there is a tempo change and the vocal goes melodic only to peal into rage a half a minute later. You get the sense of something wrong in paradise. These tempo changes are used in the next couple of songs as well, but in different ways to further the ideas of breakdown and change. Suddenly in the middle of the album “Corrupted Truth” launches a blast of speed that will loosen your teeth. The intermittent chaos is cranked up a notch in the second half, culminating in the closing song that sums up the whole affair, “Dread Reactor.” This final song has great hooks and the heaviest guitars, along with cascading percussion and deadly persuasive lead breaks. You can feel the zombie elephant stomping the terra – if you close your eyes and put your mind in right place, you can live in the middle of it. It’s a monster track.

The official release date is November 29, 2019, but you can check out a song or two ahead of time on YouTube. Bull Elephant is getting a lot of play in the office around here and it still sounds strong every time. Highly recommended.

Bull Elephant, New Release Review

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights, New Release Review

Speedealer is a veteran punk/metal band formed in 1992. Their newest release is Blue Days Black Nights, and it has all the power, energy, and attitude of their earlier work. What we get here are ten tracks that range from speedy punk to bruising metal, in no particular order.

It has been a good long while since the band has released new studio music (about 15 years), so this is a treat. The songs were written a few years back and the band has been performing them live. It is good to get them down in the studio and have a permanent way for fans to hear them.

The album starts with “Never New,” a fast, brutal screamer that puts Lemmy in your mind. A minute and a half later is “Rheumatism,” which sounds like single as it is catchy hard rock with a singable chorus. Then track three (“War Nicht Genug”) shifts gears to a sort of melodic stadium tune before the next one, “Nothing Left to Say,” delivers a punch like Pantera. It is a bit of a roller coaster, but it all makes sense in your head when these songs roll out in order – even the punk songs, and the unlikely titular instrumental that closes the album. You have to hear it to believe.

The current touring lineup includes early members Eric Schmidt on guitar and Harden Harrison on drums. Ricky Pearson (The Buck Pets) is handling the bass and Daniel Barron (The Swingin’ Dicks) tells us the stories on vocals. The band does not have any upcoming dates listed on their website right now, but if you can catch them on the road, you will definitely have a good time. Meanwhile, check out Blue Days Black Nights. It is a great weekend banger.

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights, New Release Review