Flotsam and Jetsam, Blood In The Water (AFM Records 2021)

The fourteenth studio album from Flotsam and Jetsam is filled with surging power cranked up and delivered at a relentless pace.

Thirty-five years in, Flotsam and Jetsam are still on the rise. In 2019 the band released The End of Chaos, an album that was bursting with intensity. Blood In The Water is every bit as ambitious and has an even bigger payoff. This is a band that keeps getting better with each passing album. The current line-up is originators Eric AK (vocals) and Michael Gilbert (guitar) who are joined by Steve Conley (guitar), William Bodily (bass), and Ken Mary (drums).

The first Flotsam and Jetsam album I heard was Drift (1995), arriving almost ten years late to the show. I have no explanation for this missing the early signals but I can say that Drift had a big impact on me. Since then I have been an avid follower, addicted to the speed and adrenaline the music conveys. Blood In The Water offers up more of what I have come to expect.

There are twelve songs on the album, starting with the title track, a ferocious eruption that wastes no time on niceties. Each successive track is a new discovery, another step up. “Brace For Impact,” for example, has a soaring lead break setting up a contemplative movement that transitions back into furious metal. “The Wicked Hour” is a speeding car hurtling out of control down a dark desert road and “Reaggression” is dedicated to pummeling your sensibilities flat.

Even when the music has a slow start on songs like “Cry For The Dead” there is still an unmistakable passion and power to them. The closer is “Seven Seconds ’Til the End Of The World,” and it is filled with dire descriptions and warnings – and high-speed metal carried away on impossible percussion. It is incredible that Flotsam and Jetsam and still creating such exciting new music. Don’t miss out. Recommended.

Blood In The Water is out now. The AFM Records shop is a good place to go, and the band has a shop as well with more music and merch.

Links.

F&J website, https://www.flotstildeath.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/flotsamandjetsam.official

AFM Records, https://shop.afm-records.de/flotsam-and-jetsam/

Flotsam and Jetsam, Blood In The Water (AFM Records 2021)

Red Fang, Arrows (Relapse Records 2021)

The fourth studio album from Portland, Oregon irregulars Red Fang is a grungy cavalcade of heavy music idiosyncrasies and discoveries.

I started listening to Red Fang closely with their self-titled compilation (c. 2009) that put the earlier two tour EPs together and added a new song. The spirited swagger comes through in the multiplicity of influences and outputs you hear. Murder The Mountains (2011) was like that, too, and so is the new one. You never know what the next song will be like. The last studio album from Red Fang was in 2016: Only Ghosts. Fans have been on the edge for this one and they are going to be pumped when they hear it.

There are thirteen tracks on the album including an on-ramp and two shorter bits. Want to know what the album is like? Here is a summary. From “Two High” we get: “Whatever you think I am / think again / whatever you thought I’d be / ain’t me.” That is the guiding principle at work on Arrows.

There are noisy transitions and peculiar wobbles here and there mixed in with the more linear compositions. The music pushes hard on tracks like “Anodyne” and on songs like “Fonzi Scheme” the construction is more laid back – still heavy, of course, but told at more of a stoner pace. “Why” is solemn and creepy while “Funeral Coach” is unexpectedly light hearted and “Dr. Owl” is more gruff than wise. I think you see what I mean. Be ready for anything and that is what you’ll get. They’re not coasting on this album. Recommended.

Arrows is out now and available everywhere. Red Fang has a big tour coming up including a stop at Psycho Las Vegas in August.

Links.

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

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

Relapse Records, http://relapse.com/red-fang-arrows/

Red Fang, Arrows (Relapse Records 2021)

King Buffalo, The Burden Of Restlessness (2021)

Rochester New York’s King Buffalo return with their third album, The Burden Of Restlessness.

Not quite ten years ago, heavy psych rock band King Buffalo formed as a three-piece unit. The band is Sean McVay (guitar and vocals), Dan Reynolds (bass), and Scott Donaldson (drums). In these few years the band has released a number of EPs and two previous long-players. The plan is to record three full-length albums this year. Quite an impressive feat, that is.

“Heavy psych” is a broad category, but you get the idea. You expect friendly riffs and extended, laid-back passages. You do get that here, along with the band’s exclusive approach to composition. There is a set-up for each song, a solid rhythm platform, and often a piercing corollary line. These elements frame the steady vocals and lead guitar work, and the rambler bass lines as well. The effect is mesmerizing.

I am especially enthralled by “Grifter.” The heavy riffs overtake the punching line and soak your mind. “The Knocks” is another favorite with a great lead work, and also “Loam,” which is soulful and ambitious with a rapturous center. I find the entire album enthralling, I must say, and I will be gathering up the back catalogue immediately while I eagerly anticipate those two more albums this year. Right now we have this new one. Highly recommended.

The Burden Of Restlessness is out now. You can get CDs, vinyl, digital, and merch in the US at the band’s links below and in Europe from Stickman Records. King Buffalo is on tour in the Fall, crisscrossing the US and then doing a few shows in Canada in the new year. Judging from the new album, you don’t want to miss the live shows. Tour details are on the band’s website.

Links.

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

King Buffalo store, https://kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com/

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

King Buffalo website, https://kingbuffalo.com/

Stickman Records, https://www.stickman-records.com/shop/king-buffalo-the-burden-of-restlessness/

King Buffalo, The Burden Of Restlessness (2021)

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

The soundscape presented by the new Boss Keloid album Family The Smiling Thrush rivals the stirring of primordial oceans.

Going back more than ten years, Boss Keloid has been creating some of the most interesting and sweepingly original heavy music on the planet. They have a way of translating musical complexity and quirkiness into a common language that everyone can hear. The band is Paul Swarbrick (guitar), Alex Hurst (vocals and guitar), Ste Arands (drums), and Liam Pendlebury-Green (bass).

Sometimes sounding a bit like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer while at other times moving more in a Zappa vein and then suddenly shouldering a hard turn into the inexplicable, Boss Keloid’s music cannot be predicted. Family The Smiling Thrush opens with the nine minute track “Orang of Noyn.” The song defies succinct description. Heavy prog rock is a functional label but it leaves a lot out. The music takes you over and you quickly lose track of how long you have been listening. If another song hadn’t started after, I am not sure how long it would have taken me to realize the first track had ended.

“Gentle Clovis” is up second and it has a reassuring anthropological feel to it. You get transported back to the 1970s with the keys and guitars in the lines, riffs, and echoes. There is a battering drama at the end that is entirely appropriate and it runs right on into the next piece, “Hats The Mandrill.” If you are not feeling the scope of the musical vision at this point then you should start the album over and try again because by now it should entirely surround you.

There are builds big and small throughout, all of them engaging, and welcoming and demanding, too, simultaneously. I was particularly swept up by the pair “Smiling Thrush” and “Cecil Succulent.” I suspect that the experience will land differently for individuals and yet still I wager there will be places you are drawn to, no matter how much you like the work in its entirety. There will be a part that takes hold of you and finds something to fulfill you didn’t even know was wanting. The album is elemental. Recommended.

This one is out tomorrow. Some of the limiteds have already flown, but you can still get physicals through Bandcamp or Ripple Music, and the digital is there, too.

Links.

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

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

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

Shun, Shun (Small Stone Records 2021)

The debut album from North Carolina rockers Shun casts a wide net.

Working throughout 2020, Jeff Baucom (bass), Matt Whitehead (vocals and guitar), Rob Elzey (drums), and Scott Brandon (guitar) managed to put together an album recorded in pieces throughout a residence from the basement to the garage. After the recording and mixing was finished, you cannot point to any significant deviations from an hypothetical studio creation. It is a job well done.

The music is a sort of fuzzy power pop metal with plenty of quiet moments. “Run,” for example, is a melodic pop metal song with a sleepy segment and “Sleepwalking” takes us back a few decades and turns up the fuzz a notch. In both these cases, whether intentional or not, the coordinated elements crossover for broad appeal.

“At Most” is the first big construction of the album, three songs in. It shows compositional complexity and conceptual nuance and depth. Later, there is “Undone,” a ballad, and “A Wooden House,” a more forceful power ballad. The band is walking to all the corners of the stage, leaving no space lonely.

The set sees a strong finish with “Heese” where we hear the best lead break of the album and “Once Again,” which is a bluesy wave-off with clever intermittent riffs. The amount of ground covered on Shun is impressive in itself, and well establishes the abilities of the musicians to create and deliver a heavy rock sound that is widely inclusive.

Later this week you can pick a copy of Shun – Friday June 4th – on CD, vinyl, or digital.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/shun

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

Small Stone Records, http://smallstone.com/

Shun, Shun (Small Stone Records 2021)

Necronemesis, Some Things Should Remain Underground (HPGD 2021)

The first full-length studio album from Necronemesis is a milestone in the long career of the Death Metal band.

The band is from Puerto Rico, and they started out back in 2000. Over the years their style and approach evolved toward Death Metal, and the title did too until it landed on the current Necronemesis. In 2005 they released a demo under the same title as the new record, and then an EP in 2008. The recording front has been mostly quiet since then until the present. According to the Metal Archives the band is Raymond Flores (drums), NecroJay (guitar), Angel David (vocals), and Sigfredo “Pirulo” Machado (bass). Rick Rozz (of Death fame) is reported to have played on this album as well.

There are seven tracks on Some Things Should Remain Underground. The music is an old school brand of Death Metal and the mix has a DIY feel to it with the percussion going a little poppy and the levels somewhat discordant – the result gives the album a sense of being recorded live.

“Cranial Disfigurement (By Fist)” winds you up from the jump with speed and aggression. When the vocals start it catches you by surprise – in a good way. Not the typical sound for this type of band, the singing gets your attention with its gruff mid-range presentation and occasional Black Metal hisses. A short lead guitar break slides in and there is a plenary scream toward the end to push the conclusion. The next song is “They Live In The Attic” and it features a more schizophrenic path that takes your balance away. And then the third track is another altered state all its own. The set keeps you guessing.

The highlights are “Horrorpit” for its absolute reckless abandon and the title track for its insistent darkness and sheer relentlessness. This album has a lot to admire and I hope we get more music from Necronemesis preserved in a permanent form so we can come back to it over and again. Recommended.

Some Things Should Remain Underground is available on Friday, June 4th from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions.

Links.

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

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

Horror Pain Gore Death, http://horrorpaingoredeath.com/

Necronemesis, Some Things Should Remain Underground (HPGD 2021)

Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington

Higher Ground kicked off its 2021 summer outdoors live concert series at Backside 405 over Memorial Day weekend with Quiltro and Barbacoa.

The venue is Backside 405 located at 405 Pine Street in Burlington, Vermont. It is outdoors with one stage, food trucks, and a bar – it is a lot like a mini-festival set-up. Open air music is planned for every Friday and Saturday through August.

The first live bands played on Saturday, May 29th. They are both three-piece instrumental rock bands but they play very different music.

Quiltro is a space rock band, laying down laid back, ethereal lines meant to envelope you and send you on a journey, Their first album came out last year and you can get it at the Bandcamp link below. The band is Mark Taylor (guitar and keys), J. D. Hoffmann (drums), and Mike McKinley (bass).

Barbacoa is often described as a surf rock band. They do play in that vein, and also rockabilly along with other recognizable stylings. The music is upbeat and peppy – great for summer nights. Their latest album is Pharoah’s Camaro which came a couple weeks ago (link below). The band is Bill Mullins (guitar), Jeremy Fredericks (drums), and Kirk Flanagan (bass).

For now the crowd is limited to 500 people but could grow as the summer warms and the limits start to melt away. Backside 405 is a great place to spend Friday and Saturday nights – I’ll be there most every weekend.

You can get tickets at the Higher Ground link below, including a season pass to all the shows.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Higher Ground, https://highergroundmusic.com/

Quiltro

Bandcamp, https://quiltro.bandcamp.com

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

Barbacoa

Bandcamp, https://barbacoa.bandcamp.com/music

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Barbacoa-184518134930665

Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington

Soul Grinder, Lifeless Obsession (MDD Records 2021)

Germany’s speedy Death Metal band Soul Grinder hands down another slab of pitiless heavy music.

Last year’s Chronicles Of Decay was the initial foray for the band into long-player territory. Following on the heels of the Sadistic Parasite (2018) EP, Chronicles delivered on that earlier insinuation. And now here is another taste to hold fans over until tours start. Soul Grinder is Mathias Junge (bass and vocals), Matè “Balrogh” Balogh (drums), and Jan Resmer (guitar).

There are five tracks on Lifeless Obsession. The music is characterized by rolling riffs that push against the groovy lane on the regular, cruising alongside ravaging percussion. Junge’s vocals are coarse and harsh while still being decipherable. The regulated manner of the musical construction is an effective platform to launch surprises and unexpected swerves. For example, in “Terradeformer” the pace and style changes enough to make your neck ache. Rollicking riffs followed by blast beat percussion pitched against a solemn choir.

The highlights for me are “Worm’s Repast” and “Mercyful Fate.” The former is sinister and dramatic with an explosive lead break while the latter is broader in its scope and has a thoughtful homage in its bones. High marks to the closer as well, the title track, which walks in unassuming then drops the hammer hard enough to crack the anvil. There is a lot to admire here. Recommended.

Lifeless Obsession appears this week, Friday, June 4th on MDD Records. Links below for the gathering.

Links.

Soul Grinder website, https://www.soulgrinder.de/

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

MDD Records, https://mdd-records.de/

Soul Grinder, Lifeless Obsession (MDD Records 2021)

Gwar, The Disc With No Name (Pit Records 2021)

Horror metal masters Gwar punch you quietly with an acoustic set.

There is a long story to Gwar and a short story. Let’s go short. It is a metal band composed of musicians who dress in elaborate prosthetics to represent space aliens. The costumes look more like medieval dark fantasy legends than aliens to me, but in either case they certainly are impressive. There is quite an extensive backstory and you can read all about it on their website. The music is loud and the lyrics are obnoxious and the live shows are amazing. Most people do not have a middle-of-the-road opinion of the band. It is a love them or don’t situation.

The Disc With No Name is an acoustic set of four well-known songs from the Gwar catalogue. It was hard for me to even conceive of what this would sound like. Their music is so boisterous and in your face that toned-down versions seem like something from another world. Wait a minute … maybe that does work after all.

The songs included are “Fuck This Place,” “Gonna Kill You,” “I’ll Be Your Monster,” and “The Road Behind.” If you are a fan of the band you will certainly recognize these titles. What does it sound like? Well, it is the chords from these songs played acoustically with mostly clear vocals. You have to hear it for the full effect, of course. The main thing that is jarring is the cognitive dissonance of listening to gentle, quiet, soothing music with lyrics from, say, “Fuck this Place.” It messes with your head a little.

This one is a curiosity and I don’t expect the band will repeat it often, or ever. Fans of Gwar are going to like it. I expect the physical versions will sell out fast but there is always the digital. At the very least you want to hear this so hit up a streaming service to get a taste. Recommended.

The Disc With No Name is out now. Gwar has all the goods at their website.

Links.

Gwar website, https://gwar.net/

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

Gwar, The Disc With No Name (Pit Records 2021)

Sadistik Forest, Obscure Old Remains (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

The follow-up to Morbid Majesties is a thundering EP of hammering Death Metal.

Sadistik Forest is from Finland, and they put out there first recording in 2010, a self-titled full-length album. Two years later came Death, Doom, Radiation, and then a split (with Septory) the very next year. After that there was a bit of an hiatus. 2018’s Morbid Majesties was very well received by both fans and critics – listening to the album, it seemed as if no time had passed at all. The band is now Antti Heikkinen (guitar), Jarkko Lahtinen (guitar), Markus Makkonen (bass and vocals), and Jimi Myöhänen (drums) – Vesa Mutka played drums on Obscure Old Remains.

There are four songs on the EP. The band has stated in a Facebook post that these four tracks were recorded in a studio live, meaning all the instruments were playing simultaneously. The studio was set up with separate isolated booths for each member allowing for this especially energetic form of recording. The style leans in on an old school vibe, and according to the band is somewhat reminiscent of “early Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, early Atheist and Darkthrone.” I’d say that is right – you can definitely hear it in the music.

The compositions spread the weight around in all four songs, bringing together voice, rhythm, and lead for most of each song while also allowing the lead guitar or bass or drums to have moments in the spotlight. “Mandragore” throws out the percussion up front then lays on a riff that sounds like the soundtrack to dangerous experiments undertaken in a castle laboratory. “Barbarian” has a combative feel, a struggle for survival sentiment – trials and tribulations. “Nihil” fades in and builds up into a dramatic presentation that is the most theatrical of the tracks. And “Waters Black” is dark and dooming, dripping with eldritch infestations. This set is a great side-step for the band that keeps the metal pouring from Sadistik Forest. Recommended.

Obscure Old Remains is out now and ready for the taking at Bandcamp or at the Transcending Obscurity store.

Links.

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

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/band/sadistik-forest

Sadistik Forest, Obscure Old Remains (Transcending Obscurity 2021)