Robin Trower, No More Worlds To Conquer (Provogue 2022)

Guitar master Robin Trower offers a new album of blues rock music, No More Worlds To Conquer.

Best known initially for his work with Procol Harum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robin Trower went on to release more than two dozen solo albums in his career. His fluid playing style is unmistakable – not only do you recognize it when you hear it, you are always glad to be listening. Mesmerizing and poignant, the new album is an impressive achievement in his storied career. Trower plays guitar and bass, Chris Taggart is on drums, and Richard Watts sings.

The title of the album gives a hint that what we will hear will be consistent to what has come before. It is true that everything fans like best about Trower’s music is here again as he does what he does so well. His album Bridge Of Sighs (1974) is the one most often pointed toward to exemplify his style and languid demonstration of his musical presence. It is a classic, and no mistake. There is a lot of other music of his out there, too. The fascinating thing is you can pick an album at random to listen to and be amazed by it, or you can take a deep dive, listen to it all, and marvel at Robin Trower’s astonishing catalogue. There are no bad records in the bunch, and listening to them back to back never gets old.

“Ball Of Fire” gives the new set a rambling open. Every instrument shines as the rhythm sets the rails for the soulful vocals and Trower’s signature guitar. The title track and “The Razor’s Edge” are featured songs, and, while I am hesitant to pick favorites, the latter one has gotten more play hereabouts because I want to listen to the lead passages over and again. Longtime fans and newcomers alike reap rewards on this album. Recommended.

No More Worlds To Conquer is out now through the Provogue Records imprint of Mascot Label Group. Hit the link below and look at Robin Trower’s website for more information.

Photo of Robin Trower by Laurence Harvey.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://rtnmwtc.bandcamp.com/album/no-more-worlds-to-conquer

Website, http://www.robintrower.uk/

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

Provogue Records, https://www.mascotlabelgroup.com/collections/robin-trower

© Wayne Edwards

Robin Trower, No More Worlds To Conquer (Provogue 2022)

Hellacopters, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast 2022)

After a fourteen-year recording hiatus, The Hellacopters are back with a new studio album, Eyes Of Oblivion.

Starting off as a garage rock-style band in 1994, Sweden’s Hellacopters forged a following with a big start opening for Kiss not long after releasing their debut long-player Supershitty to the Max! in 1996. They released six more studio albums in the following years before embarking on a farewell tour in 2008 and wrapping things up. You can’t keep a good thing down forever, though, and the band reëmerged in 2016 for some anniversary appearances. Now we have Eyes Of Oblivion.

What’s the new one sound like? The band’s Nicke Andersson has a few thoughts. “The album has 10 songs and although it’s obviously not easy to be objective at all, I think musically it sums up everything we’ve touched upon from the start in 1994 up until now. Some of the songs date back as far as 10 years or more, and some were written more recently. It’s rock and roll played with high energy, so for lack of a better term I say High Energy Rock And Roll.” It is hard to argue with that. The music on the album is a kind of summary, in a way. Given the long history of the band and its legion of fans, new music that has a familiar flavor is bound to be just what the people want.

“Reap A Hurricane” breaks the ice with a catchy, guitar-driven hard rock head rattler. The chorus has you singing along immediately and every time the guitar breaks through it is cause for a fist-pump. “Can It Wait” has a more serious tone – a little – and takes a couple more chances with tempo. “So Sorry I Could Die” is a heavy-hearted blues number that that shifts from head-bobbing to a cool sway. Very nice.

I really like the title track, I must say, and it is clearly a banner-carrier for the album, as we might expect. Crisp and clippy, it has radio written all over it. Listen to this track first if you want a get-acquainted ramp. The top track for me is “Beguiled” for its incredible urgency and the way it got stuck in my synapses on the first play. Play that one second, then start at the beginning and go all the way through.

There are many twists and turns on the record. Enjoy the regular emergence of rock and roll piano in the rhythm section and absolutely delightful homages. The Hellacopters have come together and put out a great record that is a truly welcome return. I hope many more will follow. Recommended.

Eyes Of Oblivion is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Check out the links below to see what and all can be had.

Link.

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

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

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/the-hellacopters-eyes-of-oblivion.html

© Wayne Edwards.

Hellacopters, Eyes Of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Stone Axe, Stay Of Execution (Ripple Music 2022)

Rock preservationists Stone Axe release a collection of rarities, Stay Of Execution.

Tony Reed started Stone Axe in 2007, a band that plays with a 1970s rock sensibility. A lot of music has been released under this moniker, including two full-length studio albums to go along with the EPs, splits, and live sets. I have listened to everything I can get my hands on that has come out from Stone Axe and I have never been disappointed.

The best description of the new album comes from Tony Reed himself. “Stay of Execution is an album of unreleased recordings and tracks we like that were hidden in the grooves of vinyl that was released in very limited numbers with little or no promotion. All songs were recorded between 2008 and 2011 and cover a wide spectrum of styles in that seventies vein we were known for. The musical concepts of proto-metal, southern rock, psychedelic rock, and folk rock are well-explored in this collection. Seven of the eight tracks on the album feature the usual studio collaboration of Reed / Brinkerhoff, while the last song includes all four members of the live band. I feel like these tracks are as strong as anything on our other long players. It’s great to see them finally get released.”

The first two songs released from the album are “Fell On Deaf Ears” and “Lady Switchblade.” The former is a fast-moving getaway with piercing guitars and the fluid vocal style fans appreciate so much. “Lady Switchblade” takes a softer approach, despite the theme and lyrics – “Lady, Lady Switchblade / I feel your steel on my jugular vein.” The slower pace does not take the edge off the guitars at all. In fact, rather like Thin Lizzy used to do so well, the slower song has a deeper emotional component and delivers a big impact in the end.

And of course there is lot more. “Sweet Sweet Time” is a bluesy, soulful piece of wonderment. “Metal Damage” is an energetic affair that puts me in mind of Gillan a little it, and that is a good thing. “King Of Everything” sets you straight on the way things are, and when you hear it you know it is right. Playing this album will make any day a better day. Highly recommended.

Stay Of Execution is out now through Ripple Music. Have a look at the possibilities – links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/stay-of-execution

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/people/STONE-AXE/100063740078934/

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

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Stone Axe, Stay Of Execution (Ripple Music 2022)

Sound Of Smoke, Tales (Tonzonen Records 2022)

You will understand the name of the band when you listen to their music. Sound Of Smoke’s Tales will take you away.

Formed in 2016 in Freiburg, Germany, Sound Of Smoke is a bluesy heavy psych band choosing their own path in a crowded lane. They previously released an EP called Eleutheromania, and Tales appears to be their first full-length album. The band is Isabelle Bapté (vocals, keys), Jens Stöver (guitar), Florian Kiefer (bass), and Johannes Braunstein (drums).

The set includes a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” “Devil’s Voice,” which was on the earlier release, and five more songs that appear to be originals.

“Witch Boogie” is my favorite track – I just love the way it eases into the atmosphere like gathering fog, then thickens and deepens while it envelops you. The voice of Isabelle Bapté is positively mesmerizing. The guitar is urging and the bass will not be denied. Incredible.

“Dreamin’” has a soul of doom and a wicked approach that you can see coming but you cannot avoid. It is a spellcaster. The lead guitar work is lyrical and lightens the tone a bit when it rolls out. “Human Salvation” is another notable track. It runs ten minutes and is the anchor piece for the album. Typically, in a song this long you have different, separate movements that are identifiable as essentially shorter individual songs. That is not true of “Human Salvation.” It is genuinely one entirety that would suffer if it were truncated. Each of the elements is essential, and they all work together to create the whole.

This album is the first music I have heard from Sound Of Smoke, but it won’t be the last. I will be watching closely and listening to whatever they create. Recommended.

Tales hits the streets on Friday, February 18th through Tonzonen Records. In the US, Bandcamp is a good place to pick up the record.

Links.

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

Sound Of Smoke website, https://www.soundofsmoke.de/

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

Tonzonen Records, https://www.tonzonen.de/

Sound Of Smoke, Tales (Tonzonen Records 2022)

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)

Clutch, Doom Saloon IV Livestream , November 26, 2021

Clutch put together an excellent live streaming event for the Thanksgiving Weekend, Doom Saloon IV.

Clutch was out on the road this fall. Their tour got cut a little short because of the pandemic. They do have more dates coming up around the end of the year, and a tour next year as well. Meanwhile, there is Doom Saloon IV.

During the lockdowns and slowdowns of the past couple of years, Clutch has put on several streaming events, notably three full-length concerts from their rehearsal space. The plan for the fourth livestream was to play one song from every Clutch album and two new songs from the upcoming album. Even better: there were to be no repeats from previous Doom Saloon performances. That’s a good plan.

They played these songs, many not heard live for years: “Wicker,” “Impetus,” “12 Ounce Epilogue,” “7 Jam,” “Wishbone,” “Release the Kraken,” “Immortal,” “Sea of Destruction,” “(Notes from the Trial of) La Curandera,” “10,000 Witnesses,” “Child of the City,” “Struck Down,” “Crucial Velocity,” “Decapitation Blues,” and “Vision Quest.” The two new songs are “Slaughter Beach” and “Strive For Excellence.”

Every Clutch show is great. If you missed this one, don’t worry because you can buy the recording of Doom Saloon IV – get ready for a little bit of wait on the vinyl because of the global supply crunch. Link below. You can watch a replay of the stream for a couple days if you happen to be reading this before the weekend is over. Same link. Can’t wait to see them in person again.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards from State Theatre performance in Portland, Maine earlier this year. Doom Saloon shots are screen grabs from the livestream.

Link.

Doom Saloon IV merch, https://www.clutchmerch.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Clutch, Doom Saloon IV Livestream , November 26, 2021

Joyous Wolf, Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground, Burlington, Vermont, October 29, 2021

Orange County, California rock band Joyous Wolf made a pass through the Northeast in October on their Fearless tour. I never get enough of the bluesy rock delivery that they create so fluidly.

Check out Joyous Wolf’s music on streaming platforms, including the latest release, Fearless. Links appear below the photos.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, https://fearless.joyouswolf.com/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7W3_dDSqeHZCny8ZBumofg

Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/artist/48vfT7i3EmuNEDAVRhzxpp

© Wayne Edwards.

Joyous Wolf, Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground, Burlington, Vermont, October 29, 2021

Lavender Sweep Records, From the Mountains to the Sea (2021)

Volume 1 of From the Mountains to the Sea is an exceptional introduction to some of the best music you haven’t heard yet.

Lavender Sweep Records is run by “a small group of people from the Welsh city of Swansea, with a shared love for forgotten musical formats, film and various forgotten fads…” That adds up. Now, I don’t know the first thing about the heavy music scene in Swansea. That’s why this new compilation from is perfect for me. I have no preconceptions when I press play on From the Mountains to the Sea. I just hear what I hear.

The first track is a banger by Acrimony called “Satellite 13.” Up-tempo guitar-driven music that hits all the right spots. The perfect starter. Taint is next and it has a whole different take on the world. Much more in the sludge lane, the vocals are coarse and doom is the keystone. And then Sootbelly hits he stage with “Girls ’N Cars,” a four-minute rager on the title subjects. By now you’re going and it’s time for another beer. These three bands together would be a great show.

There are eighteen tracks on this album, each one an eye-opening discovery and not a single dud in the bunch. There is a metric ton of great music here, so picking favorites is a chore, but I will say I am enamored with Buffalo Kings, Sump, Sigiriya, and Sons of Thunder. I had to cut this list way down from where it started, just to keep it manageable.

Without this set I might have missed these bands entirely, but now they are on my radar. The range of musical styles is broad indeed while remaining in the heavy music realm. You definitely want to hear this. Recommended.

From the Mountains to the Sea is out on Friday November 12th through Lavender Sweep Records. Check it out at the links below.

Links.

Website, http://www.lavendersweeprecords.com/

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

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Lavender-Sweep-Records-748698365283653

Lavender Sweep Records, From the Mountains to the Sea (2021)

Joyous Wolf, The Lonely Ones, and Frame 42 at Higher Ground, South Burlington, Vermont, October 29, 2021

Joyous Wolf’s Fearless Tour made a stop in the North Country on Friday night at Higher Ground.

Joyous Wolf is out on tour right now, supported by The Lonely Ones and Frame 42 on their current swing. On Friday night they played in the Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground in South Burlington. First up was Frame 42.

Frame 42 is a six-piece band from Michigan. They opened their set with a variety of classic rock cover tunes. It was nice to hear this old standards, but I liked the original music they played even better. Their songs do have a classic rock foundation to them, but the band’s compositional acumen – and performance – add unique twists and touches that sets them apart. You can hear their music on most streaming services. Check out their website (link below) to find out more about them.

The Lonely Ones took the stage next, and they play rock in a somewhat harder vein. Not much is known about them (from their website) other than their roster: Marty McCoy (guitar, vocals), Tommy Johnson (drums), Jymmy Tolland (bass, vocals), and Jake Earley (guitar, vocals). The music they play is guitar-driven hard rock. Their set was a lot of fun to see and hear, and I will always remember it for the completely unexpected cover of Queen’s “Flash’s Theme.”

Joyous Wolf has been playing a straight-forward, bluesy and soulful brand of rock and roll since 2014. The Southern California band released the EP Place In Time through Roadrunner Records in 2019, and there is a new album on the way. The musicians are Nick Reese (vocals), Blake Allard (guitar), Robert Sodaro (drums), and Greg Braccio (bass).

I have gotten used to seeing Joyous Wolf at festivals, most recently at Louder Than Life in Louisville. They always put on a great show and I never miss them when they play these big events. Seeing them in a club setting was a new experience. Being confined to a smaller stage did not diminish the energy of their performance at all.

They played a number of new songs off the upcoming album, as well as familiar pieces. In the intimate confines of the cozy Showcase Lounge, you are close enough to touch the band – their expressions and nuances are on full display in ways you miss when they perform on big stages. No matter where you see them, you are in for some excellent rock and roll.

Joyous Wolf is on the road for a few more weeks. Go check them out live if they play near you. It is a great show.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Joyous Wolf, https://fearless.joyouswolf.com/

Roadrunner Records, https://store.roadrunnerrecords.com/joyous-wolf.html

Frame 42, https://www.frame42.com/

The Lonely Ones, https://thelonelyones.net/

Higher Ground, https://highergroundmusic.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Joyous Wolf, The Lonely Ones, and Frame 42 at Higher Ground, South Burlington, Vermont, October 29, 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

© Wayne Edwards.

Live Music: Barbacoa and Quiltro at Backside 405, Burlington