Clutch, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach (Weathermaker 2022)

Clutch throws a curveball on their new album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach.

The groove metal band from Maryland has moved into its fourth decade. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is the thirteenth studio album they have created, and there has never been a dull moment in the band’s history. Tim Sult, Dan Maines, Jean-Paul Gaster, and frontman Neil Fallon have crafted yet another unforgettable record that will be immediately embraced by fans.

But curveball, I say? Here is a widely quoted comment by Fallon on the new record. I saw this first at Lambgoat. “Sunrise on Slaughter Beach is a weird record. It was, by and large, a studio creation. It reminds me a lot of Jam Room in that regard. Under normal circumstances we may not have entertained the idea of using vibraphones, theremin, or backing vocals (thank you Deborah Bond and Frenchie Davis!). But as they say, necessity is the mother of weirdness.”

Clutch has never been a stranger to innovation and exploration. For example, “In Walks Barbarella” from their previous album The Book Of Bad Decisions was a surprise with its prominent use of brass. The extensions on the new record Fallon talks about are interesting and entertaining, and there is never any confusion about which band is playing when you listen to the set. Clutch is one of my favorite bands, and they have been since the first time I heard them. I have seen them live more than any other act, and I plan to keep that metric going until the end.

Sunrise on Slaughter Beach is out now in all its weirdness through Weathermaker Music. You can stream it anywhere, and you can buy it at the links below. Where will this one land in the annals of the band? That’s hard to say. What I do know is that when I drop the needle on any Clutch record, I never pick it up until it has run its course, and that is a fact. Sunrise on Slaughter Beach is no exception. I could go on and on about each and every track on the new one, but I am not going to do that. Instead, I insist that you go listen to it. The review will write itself in your head. Highly recommended.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Clutch website, https://www.pro-rock.com/

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

Weathermaker Music, http://www.weathermakermusic.com/

Clutch, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach (Weathermaker 2022)

Machine Head, Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The tenth studio album from Oakland metal legends Machine Head is a masterpiece: Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn.

Robb Flynn brought Machine Head together in Oakland in 1991. In the early days, groove and nu-metal were the styles usually associated with the band, but after a decade or so the music leaned more clearly toward thrash. With nine previous long-players, and a mighty fistful of EPs, splits, and live albums, Machine Head has made an indelible mark on heavy music. For Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn, Flynn is joined by Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka (guitar), Jared MacEachern (bass), and Matt Alston (drums).

It all begins on a quiet, sincere note with “Slaughter The Martyr.” At first. The opening bars are melancholy, and the music builds slowly. A second voice joins and you can feel the cliff coming. Three minutes in you walk right over it and the rushing air around you is the ripping guitar and grinding vocals. The heavy groove element blends perfectly with the speeding riff, and the melodic moments that come and go are like a bird soaring between beating its wings. This song is a ten-minute slab of unmeasurable metal, a certifiable masterpiece, and it is only the first track. It is very unusual for a band to put a song like this up front, and so it is clear that Machine Head is taking no prisoners on Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn.

Many of the songs on the album have been released as singles leading up to the official album release, so we have already heard “Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate” and “Become The Firestorm,” for example. I hadn’t heard “Kill Thy Enemies” until now, and that one was an eye-opener, as was “Bloodshot.” Each of these songs has its own kind of screech that rakes you in entirely different ways. I felt that way all along, that each song has its own dominating presence and, while the set fits together seamlessly, each primary song stands on its own, too.

The album ends on “Arrows In Words From The Sky.” I had heard this one before, and I was delighted to listen again. Calling back the structure of the epic opening, the final track lulls at first and then decimates, but in a completely different way. The sinister nature of the middle of the song and the entrancing guitar solo it leads to is breathtaking. I expected a lot from the new Machine Head album going in, and I came away with more than I could have imagined. Highly recommended.

Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn is out now through Nuclear Blast Records in many varieties and forms.

Band photo by Travis Shinn and Paul Harries.

Links.

Machine Head website, https://www.machinehead1.com/

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://label.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/about/3168273.machine-head.html

© Wayne Edwards

Machine Head, Øf Kingdøm And Crøwn (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Fugitive, Maniac (2022)

Texas metal band Fugitive lights up the heavy music scene with their sudden new EP Maniac.

Fugitive is Seth Gilmore (vocals), Blake Ibanez (guitar), Victor Gutierrez (guitar), Andy Messer (bass), and Lincoln Mullins (drums). Those names might be familiar since this band is made of musicians from Power Trip, Creeping Death, and Skourge. This new EP dropped without notice or fanfare and it hit the metal scene hard. If you haven’t heard it yet, you need to get right on that. In fact, don’t even finish reading this review. Proceed directly to the music.

There are five killer tracks on Maniac. “The Javelin” is a great instrumental song with one big growl and a huff. It is two minutes of a chopping, rolling riff that is the perfect walk-on music. “Maniac” is more actively aggressive, lashing out for action. It flat out rips. Gilmore insists, and the percussion is a steady surety with bursting ripples. The big riffs are here, too, and the lead guitar is weaponized.

You can smell the gasoline on “Hell’s Half Acre.” This is exactly the song I would have wanted to hear when I used to drive around drinking on the back roads all those years ago. Adrenaline-infused groove metal with lightning strike shreds. The long wind-down at the end is a thing of beauty. Damn. “Neutralized” sounds like a theme song for a haunted asylum movie. It is jackhammer metal that will unlock your joints.

“Raise The Dead” is the last nail pried from the coffin lid. Everything about this song demonstrates that when they play it live it could go on for ten minutes without a second thought. The riff and rhythm are fundamental, and the vocals are both a pledge and a delivered result. I can’t wait to see these guys at Psycho Las Vegas – and I will have by the time this review is published. Highly recommended.

Maniac is out now. Hear it anywhere, and buy it at Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fugitivetx.bandcamp.com/releases

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

© Wayne Edwards

Fugitive, Maniac (2022)

Soulfly, Totem (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Soulfly returns with their twelfth album, Totem, and it is another earthshaker.

The beginning of Soulfly dates back to the mid-nineties. After leaving Sepultura, singer and guitarist Max Cavalera started the band, initially playing a kind of nu-metal that integrated influences from diverse sources. As the years passed, the compositions continued to weave in fascinating elements from world music while turning toward thrash and groove metal, and death metal as well. The new record, Totem, makes an even twelve full-length albums from Soulfly, and it is as creative and innovative as any in their canon. Zyon Cavalera (drums) and Mike Leon (bass) join Max Cavalera to create some of the biggest sounds you will hear this year.

The ten-track set opens with “Superstition.” You can sense the rampage coming from a mile off as the sound builds to an explosive level. Max Cavalera’s familiar voice immediately centers you and draws your attention to the mangling configuration. You are trapped by the whirling guitars, and there you stay until the end. “Scouring The Vile” loads next, and there is a seamless continuation into another situation of adrenaline-soaked menace and groove. Fast and chopping, this one breaks you open from the inside out. “Filth Upon Filth” is a tantalizing riot of surges paired with an arc of extra-sensorial guitar sincere enough to vibrate your molars.

These first three songs were released as singles before the full album dropped, and they set the stage perfectly for the rest of the music. There is a lot going on here. Witness “Rot In Pain” as a short ragged punch and compare it to, say, the title track where the groove has a bigger place and the song has a longer and deeper path, generally. Or “Ancestors,” which is itself dramatic and fascinating, with the epic closer, “Spirit Animal” – a song with some similar elements that are developed into a sustained assault and explored in fascinating variety. The perfectly matched segments, if you heard them separately, would seem to be from different songs but here in tandem coalesce into an unforgettable journey. This album is another triumph for Max Cavalera and Soulfly. Highly recommended.

Totem is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Investigate the possibilities at the links below.

Links.

Order Totem here, https://www.soulfly.com/totem

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/soulfly

© Wayne Edwards

Soulfly, Totem (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Grave Bathers, Rock N Roll Fetish (Seeing Red 2022)

Philadelphia psychedelic stoner band Grave Bathers regale the world with their debut album, Rock N Roll Fetish.

Since 2018, Grave Bathers have been delighting the stoner rock/metal crowd with mood- and mind-altering music. Their combination of doom, groove, and even boogie produces an alluring aural argument for even more of the same – once you start listening, you don’t want to stop. The band is Drew Robinson (vocals), Jaret Salvat-Rivera (guitar), Steve Capitanio (guitar), Davis M. Shubs (bass), and Sean Lafferty (drums).

The album is massive, with twelve tracks mostly running over six minutes each. The opener “Ghost Em All” is an excellent example of what to expect. A peppy, rockin’ riff up front, a dooming slow down with a killer lead guitar break, then a shift back in the to more up-tempo rock-n-riff posture. And then little guitar-driven boogie side of fries to go along with that. Damn.

So, each song is a journey, but they certainly are not all the same. “Brain Thief” starts with a craftsman riff that is a thing of beauty. The vocals are spacier here than in the first song, and a generally more psychedelic feel obtains. O, and there is a wild drum solo in the middle. “The Mole” stalks into different terrain altogether with an eerie, slow intro that builds into monstrous doom riffs then turns melancholy before exploding as the end nears. “Tarman Cometh” sounds at first like a straight-up doom treatise but careens into Clutch territory. The patterns are dissolving, if they were ever there at all. When the title track rolls, I finally stop trying to anticipate what will be next because this could be Dr. John sitting in on a doom session and I did not see that coming. Fantastic.

I could go on and on here, but I think you are getting the idea and it is better if you go right to listening to it instead of reading more of my musings on the subject. This is a grooving doom album with inventive, unstoppable guitars, astonishing percussion, and, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, amazing bass lines. I don’t think I will never get tired of hearing this record. Recommended.

Rock N Roll Fetish is out on Friday, August 5th through Seeing Red Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://gravebathers-us.bandcamp.com/

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

Seeing Red Records, https://www.seeingredrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Grave Bathers, Rock N Roll Fetish (Seeing Red 2022)

Rob Zombie, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 10, 2021

The 2021 album from Rob Zombie is The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy. New music along with the hits we all wanted to hear was the Friday nightcap at the festival.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, https://robzombie.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/robzombie

Blue Ridge Rock Festival coverage at Ryze-Up magazinehttps://www.ryze-up.com/music-2/blue-ridge-rock-festival-2021/

Rob Zombie, Blue Ridge Rock Festival, Danville, Virginia, September 10, 2021

Volbeat, Servant Of The Mind (Republic Records 2021)

Danish heavy groove metal band Volbeat shows creativity and ingenuity with their new album, Servant Of The Mind.

With twenty years of rock and roll under their belt, Danish band Volbeat is known far and wide in the heavy music world. Their music is usually described as groove metal because it is heavy while being loaded with catchy riffs and choruses. Servant Of The Mind is their eighth studio album. The band is Michael Poulsen (vocals, guitar), Jon Larsen (drums), Rob Caggiano (guitar), and Kaspar Boye Larsen (bass).

I have seen Volbeat many times live and I have listened to all their albums. Musically, you hear strong Rockabilly influences and, as the years have rolled on, there are more pop-oriented songs, too. Poulsen’s unique and powerful voice is a mainstay throughout it all. When the vocals are combined with memorable riffs and a persistent theatrical flair, the band consistently produces music with a lasting impact.

There are thirteen songs on the new album and the set displays the band’s customary dedication to variety. The opener is a big fantasy anthem, “Temple of Ekur,” with riffs big enough to reach the clouds. The second song is short, just over two minutes, and has a single feel to it: “Wait A Minute My Girl.” It is super hooky and lays on a heavy REO Speedwagon homage. And then there is another sharp turn with “The Sacred Stones,” an eerie, doomy piece with carefully allocated rhythm and an unsettling presence.

All along this ride canyons and plains and mountains appear offering new and different vistas with enough familiar callbacks to remind you what train you are on. There are pop-leaning ballads like “Dagen Før” that preserves excellent guitar moments, and there are heavier stompers like “Shotgun Blues” and pushy punchers such as “Becoming.” Volbeat has put together another album their fans are going to love because it is everything they are looking for. Recommended.

There is a deluxe version of the new album with four bonus tracks on it: “”Return To None” and “Domino” plus alternate takes on “Shotgun Blues,” and “Dagen Før.” It is definitely worth it to upgrade in order to capture these. More music is better.

Servant Of The Mind is out now and available everywhere.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards from the Louder Than Life festival in 2021.

Links.

Website, https://www.volbeat.dk/us/

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

Republic Records, https://www.republicrecords.com/artists/volbeat

Volbeat, Servant Of The Mind (Republic Records 2021)

Black Label Society, Doom Crew, Inc. (MNRK Heavy, 2021)

The eleventh studio album from metal enterprise Black Label Society shakes all the bolts loose and ravages your brain with some of the best heavy music around.

I first heard Zakk Wylde when he was playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne in the late 1980s. I couldn’t believe my ears. He was incredible. And he still is today. I have seen him perform many times since over the years, at Clutch’s Earth Rocker festival with Black Label Society to Rock on the Range in Zakk Sabbath to this year’s Blue Ridge Rock Festival heading BLS, and every time his precision and energy are overwhelming.

Black Label Society came together in the late 1990s, releasing their first album, Sonic Brew, at the close of the century. An astonishing number of albums followed: live recordings, compilations, EPs, and ten more long-players, including the latest, Doom Crew, Inc. The driving force behind it all is guitarist and vocalist (and pianist) Zakk Wylde. The work he has done is even more impressive when you realize he also played for Ozzy on and off during this time, released solo albums under his own name, played guitar for Generation Axe, and fronted his Black Sabbath cover band, Zack Sabbath, which released an album in 2020. It is hard to simply document all he has done. Zakk is amazing.

The new album has twelve tracks and runs just over an hour. The first song is “Set You Free,” and it has a determined mid-tempo riff to go along with Wylde’s distinctive vocals and welcome us all back into the fold. “Destroy & Conquer” picks up the pace a notch and keeps all the other elements firmly in place, including the roaring lead breaks. “You Made Me Want To Live” rounds out the first triplet. It is a song soaking with emotion and dark in its ambience, like a white cloak at a funeral.

As we have come to expect, there is variety and depth on this album. “Forever And A Day” is a heavy ballad, told in a way that only Black Label Society does. “End Of Days” is very serious in its lyrics and music. To wit: Blind your eyes / One’s chosen fate / Wander in the desert / You’ll find your end of days. When you watch the video the band made, the song sinks in with a different tint. That happens on Black Label Society music a lot. I hear it differently when I re-listen to it over and over. It is not that I heard it wrong the first time. It is more like I didn’t get it all on the first and second passes.

There are so many great songs on Doom Crew, Inc. “Gospel Of Lies” is delightfully doomy while “Gather All My Sins” is a tooth-rattling headbanger. Around every corner is a new wonder so there is no way to announce a favorite. Hear it all. I think Black Label Society is getting better with each new album. I do truly like each and every one of them, and the newest is at the top of the stack. Highly recommended.

Doom Crew, Inc. is out now through MNRK Heavy in many different forms. If you like the special editions and variants, snap them up while you can.

Band photo by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, http://blacklabelsociety.net/

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/black-label-society

Black Label Society, Doom Crew, Inc. (MNRK Heavy, 2021)

Replicant, Malignant Reality (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

New Jersey Death Metal extremists Replicant hit hard on their second album, Malignant Reality.

Replicant is a trio. They released their first recording in 2016, the EP Worthless Desires, following it up with a long-player two years later, Negative Life. There has been more since then, enough to whet the appetites of fans and wind up their cravings for a longer course. And here it is now: Malignant Reality. The musicians are Mike Gonçalves (vocals, bass, and guitar), Pete Lloyd (guitar), and James Applegate (drums).

Let’s begin at the beginning. In “Caverns of Insipid Reflection” the vocals are often reminiscent of the excruciating emotion of an animal caught in a trap from which it cannot escape. The general dissonance of the compositions and the jarring juxtapositions of the melodic with the noise further the disorientation the listener experiences. “Relinquish The Self” is next and it is a bit more linear but, never fear, it has more than enough crooks and splits to fragment your understanding of what is going on. This song continues directly into “Excess Womb” in a sort of draining extension leading toward a proper stop.

The approach established early in these first three tracks continues, with innovations and explorations cantankerous enough to surprise even the most jaded. Even on the anchor piece, “The Ubiquity Of Time,” unlikely events occur. Quiet at first, like a demented lullaby, the guitars kick you hard in the teeth a couple of minutes in and the vocals grind you up. There is no tactic of evasion that will be successful; there is no escape. Once you start you will be there until the end.

Listening to Malignant Reality is a disturbing and upsetting experience. Recommended.

The new Replicant album is out on Friday, September 10th from Transcending Obscurity.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://replicantband.bandcamp.com/album/malignant-reality-dissonant-death-metal

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

Transcending Obscurity, https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

Replicant, Malignant Reality (Transcending Obscurity 2021)

Stöner, Stoners Rule (Heavy Psych Sounds Records 2021)

The natural progression from Live In The Mojave Desert is Stöner’s first studio album, Stoners Rule.

If you like stoner metal/rock then you like what the musicians in this new band do because Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri pioneers of the sound and style. Both are founding members of Kyuss and, along with Ryan Güt, they are putting down the smoothest desert stoner groove there is.

The new album was recorded last Fall in Joshua Tree, California, and it sounds like it. You can feel the desert insisting and infusing and simply being there when you listen.

There are seven laid-back tracks on Stoners Rule, covering a range of subjects that appear to have emerged from the flowing consciousness that overtakes you in the desert under the right circumstances. In each, a steady bed of rhythm provides a solid base for vocal and guitar explorations.

“Rad Stays Rad” and “Nothin’” are the first songs that made their way into the airwaves and cyber pathways. They are good representations of the music on the album. I have an affection for “Stand Down” for the way it rambles, and you cannot miss the thirteen-minute closer, “Tribe / Fly Girl” that one takes a deep dive into your psyche. The lead guitar is a mystical spell spoken in six strings that transports you far away from anything that was bothering you on this earthly plane.

Stöner is on tour with Clutch (and King Buffalo in the northeast) this Fall – you don’t want to miss this show if you are a heavy music fan. Let’s go.

Stoners Rule is out now from Heavy Psych Sounds Records with the quick digital at the ready from Bandcamp. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/st-ner-stoners-rule

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

Website, https://www.stonerband.com/

Heavy Psych Sounds Records, https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/

Stöner, Stoners Rule (Heavy Psych Sounds Records 2021)