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.
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.
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.
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.
Norway’s White Tundra is coming out hot with new seven-inch riffery that’ll get you groovin’.
The band is fairly new, having formed into a single unit just a few years ago. Last year, they released the Graveyard Blues EP, and now we have this new single seven. It is a riff-and-groove affair, like riding in a dune buggy in the sun while watching encroaching storm clouds on the horizon.
“Honningfella” sounds like a giant tromping the ground and swinging small trees around. The steady pulsing guitars and single-along moments make this song a heavy rotation necessity.
They get the wood block out for “One More Place,” making me nostalgic for the 70s. This one is more of a sitting down song that the A-side track. Take a load off, imbibe, nod your head. Repeat.
We don’t cover singles much here but this new White Tundra release was just so much fun there was no way to resist. Super fuzzy, extra buzzy. Recommended.
You can pick this up right now – hit the links below. The digital is out and the physicals ship in early July.
In their twentieth year as a metal band Gojira issues their seventh full-length studio album and it is one of the very best.
Gojira is from France and they play heavy metal. The music has groove and progressive elements to it, and you do not mistake Gojira for another band when you hear their music. Magma (2016) is the most recent album up to now, and while they have been quiet on the recording front since it came out they have been playing live and dazzling fans continuously. The band is Jean-Michel Labadie (bass), Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (guitars), Joe Duplantier (guitar and vocals).
There are eleven tracks on the album, beginning with “Born For One Thing.” The drum lays in a march cadence while the guitar wind-up does not prepare you for the metal when it kicks in a few seconds later. The composition is heavy and complex, syncopated and variegated, groovy and mysterious – all these things at once. “Amazonia” comes up next, with its subtle slither and shimmer. Its every element is mesmerizing, like an shamanic chant. The narrative is compelling and delivered with authority.
The songs on Fortitude are big and ambitious. Some are delivered on a softer register throughout, like “Another World” and others demonstrate an incredible range from peace to aggression, as in “Hold On.” Progressive influences live in and amongst the growling metal. And then there is the title track, which is a short reflective piece that transitions into “The Chant,” a song that builds into a powerful statement before handing off the torch to “The Sphinx” with its heavy and sinister posture. This set wraps on “Grind” featuring punishing percussion, whispering vocal savagery, and stabbing, whirling guitars.
I was expecting something big from Gojira on this new album. What they have done is even more than I expected. We are all going to be reading about how this album is setting a standard others will be compared to and let me add my voice to that chorus. I am sure Fortitude will be on the 2021 Best Of list. Highly recommended.
Fortitude is out now. Hit the website link below to investigate the options.
Live photo by Wayne Edwards, Aftershock Festival 2019.
The new Soilwork EP is Long Play in length and grand in stature.
I jumped onto the Soilwork bandwagon with Sworn To A Great Divide in 2007, and that was their seventh full-length album so I started out way behind the curve. Discovering the rest of their music over the years by hearing the subsequent new releases while simultaneously going through the back catalogue was a journey and a quest. Melodic Death Metal segue to Metalcore and Groove, the music was always full bodied and finished with precision.
The new EP is 38 minutes long with an epic opening song that runs nearly half that total length. Soilwork has produced some long songs, but nothing like this. And significantly, there is a lot of story here, which makes sense given the nature of the construction. The band for A Whisp Of The Atlantic is Bjorn Strid (vocals), David Andersson (guitar), Sylvain Coudret (guitar), Sven Karlsson (keys, samples), and Bastian Thusgaard (drums).
Andersson tells us that each songs has an underlying core, “From the desire of ‘Feverish,’ the urge of ‘Desperado,’ the determinism of ‘Death Diviner,’ the insights and questions of ‘The Nothingness and the Devil’ and the acceptance and spiritual searching of ‘A Whisp of the Atlantic.’” The centerpiece title song is a complicated composition ranging over a broad spectrum of music and feeling in its seventeen minutes. It does not stand alone on the album, but it could, in my estimation. It is theatrical and cinematic, by which I mean the presentation of the story through the music exists on the large broad scale and also on a close, intimate one. It is hard to imagine that a band with legendary status like Soilwork would continue to innovate to this degree and post such a milestone so far along their path, but here they have done it. Recommended.
December 4th is the drop date for A Whisp Of The Atlantic. It is an essential element in the Soilwork canon.
The New Jersey groove metal trio celebrates beyond the twenty year mark of TAB with the band’s eighth full-length studio album, Scorpio.
I became acquainted with The Atomic Bitchwax segue Monster Magnet. Indeed the current line-up of Chris Kosnik, Garrett Sweeny, and Bob Pantella all play in Monster Magnet now, too. TAB material is different, though, being more jam-like, bluesy, and improvisational-feeling…and with a lot more lead guitar work than Monster Magnet.
The first TAB album came out in 1999, and the second was released the following year. For some time after that, commitments to other bands and a little line-up shuffling lead to an irregular recording schedule. But in 2015 there was Graviton, and in 2017 there was Force Field, and now there is Scorpio.
The new album is ten meaty cuts, starting with a reworking of one of the band’s earliest songs, “Hope You Die.” The new version has a fuller sound with the treble dialed down a mite. The groove metal is on full display from beginning to end. I have always had a soft spot for instrumentals and we get three this time: “Ninja,” “Crash,” and “Instant Death.” Damn can they rip out a jam! Could-be radio songs are there, too, like “Easy Action” – “Let’s get some satisfaction / Any kind of easy action.” I hear you. And “Super Sonic.” And “Betting Man.” This is rock and roll as far as I am concerned. One of the weirdest things about my life in music is I have never seen TAB live. I am all about fixing that. Wherever they are at next, I will be in the front row.
Scorpio is out on Friday, August 28th from Tee Pee Records at all the usuals. There is no way I can recommend this as much as it deserves and as much as I want. Go get it now. Highest recommendation.
Montreal stoner/groove band The Naked High set the bar at a new level with their second album, Tap Into The Evil.
The foursome is Phil Rod (bass), Simon Ouellet (vocals), Hugo L-C (guitar), and Charlie Cayouette (drums). Their first album (self-titled) came out in 2017 and established the basis for their style and symptoms. The songs are dark and stalwart, and lay more on the doom line than the new one does. Their sound has evolved and is a little like a metal/doom version of Dangerous Toys, if that band had been a metal band (instead of a hair band), as they have a very bluesy persuasion to their compositions folded into a combination of squealing lead lines and heavy doom riffs. It is quite unusual and it is extremely compelling. Indeed, this band would fit right in on a label like Ripple.
The six songs on the new album all have a crisp sound and crack with a sustained energy. “Jewel of the Crowd” starts it all off, and the rhythm riff is a plundering thump with an infectious vocal and probing, muscular lead break to round it all out. This structure remains on display throughout but there is also something different that stands out on every song – “Rebirth” has, for example, that amazing bass line you can hear prominently under the wizened lead work. And there is “Pull of the Void” which has many Black Sabbath homages and propels its story of struggle and uncertainty through carefully selected musical elements. Every song is its own creation and they all stand together. I listened to both of The Naked High’s releases back to back and still wanted to hear more. I like this kind of music and I specifically really like the way this band does it. Recommended.
Tap Into The Evil is out now. You can get the download or vinyl at Bandcamp, and you can stream both their albums on Spotify, Apple Music, and so on.