Album review: Iamthemorning, ‘Lighthouse’

lighthouse_coverArtist: Iamthemorning
Album: Lighthouse
Our Verdict: 9/10
Release date: Out now
Find it at: Bandcamp
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

Iamthemorning return with their new album: a heartrending, important and profound work

Iamthemorning’s new album, Lighthouse, is a heartbreaking work of staggering beauty. In it the Russian duo of vocalist Marjana Semkina and pianist Gleb Kolyadin have created a suite of music that coheres in a deeply compassionate and empathetic way around the story of their central protagonist, a character navigating the depths of an unspecified mental illness.

The pair’s third full length studio album, and first for British label Kscope, Lighthouse sees Semkina and Kolyadin drawing on elements of progressive rock, folk, jazz and chamber music to create a poignant soundscape that successfully captures the wide spectrum of emotion and states of being that come with such illnesses, outwardly conveying with grace and humanity what is often an unseen inner journey.

The album’s lyrics having been inspired by the life and works of Virginia Woolf (as well as Sylvia Plath), a foreboding watery theme permeates every aspect of Lighthouse’s being. From the exquisitely rendered cover art depicting a lighthouse positioned on a precarious outcrop and set against the overwhelming power of a tumultuous ocean, through the sound of crashing waves that open the album and on through the at-times-bubbling, at-times-churning piano motifs of the music, nature’s most life-giving and yet destructive force is all-pervading.

Mindful that both Woolf and Plath suffered with life-long mental illnesses and that both committed suicide, Lighthouse offers no easy resolution or fragile, feel-good comfort for either its central character or listeners. Those seeking a narrative that ends bathed in a warm and simple light will not find their solace here. That said, this complex sonic odyssey is not without moments of levity and good humour.

In so skilfully telling the complex story of a character who ultimately succumbs to the darkness of their difference, and in doing so with such understanding, empathy and tenderness, Iamthemorning have created an album that is arresting, heartrending, important and profound.

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Album review: King Goat, ‘Conduit’

King Goat Conduit coverArtist: King Goat
Album: Conduit
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: Out now
Find it at:
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

Brighton’s progressive doom-mongers unleash their thundering and expansive full-length debut

Brighton-based harbingers of doom King Goat have pedigree, having previously delivered two solid EP’s of heavy, progressive clout and proved singularly impressive in a live setting. With the passing of time and each new release, the band have made auspicious forward strides, developing their sound and songwriting skills and mining rich new depths with their music as a result.

The band’s self-released debut full-length, Conduit, continues in that vein, being a highly accomplished colossus of expansive and captivating doom, making use of a monumental pairing of dense, low-end fuzz and towering melodic highs. Beautifully side-stepping the progressive trap of quantity over quality, these 5 songs and 42 minutes are undoubtedly King Goat’s best work to-date.

Lead track “Flight Of The Deviants” begins with an ominous spoken word intro before the crack of a snare and a rumbling drum fill herald the arrival of a gut-wrenching bass riff and – perhaps Conduit’s most impressive instrument – the pulse-quickening might of vocalist Trim’s hard-hitting voice. Weighty choruses continue to build momentum until a couple of minutes in, when Trim lets loose and the band take full flight, imposing a change of tempo to particularly dramatic effect.

King Goat promo 2016

“Feral King” brings an almighty swaggering groove, riding the portentous clang of an ancient-sounding bell and again wisely giving room to Trim’s astonishing vocal prowess. Witness the majesty of his control as he rises up and sings the name of the song’s titular protagonist for the first time, for example. But in one fell swoop, King Goat again demonstrate their honed songwriting chops and sonic flexibility, dropping into a staccato refrain that skips and jumps ahead and allows Trim to unleash an equally impressive death growl.

Title track “Conduit” brandishes a similarly captivating groove before deploying the blunt-force-trauma of a wall of thundering noise that crushes everything in its wake. Its feral heaviosity impresses all the more owing to the impeccable sense of space and pacing in the preceding tracks, as well as the Eastern progressions and haunting choral passages that follow in the song’s latter half.

The 9-minute central epic of “Revenants” seems to run the full length of King Goat’s aforementioned gamut, including skillful riffing, varying vocal styles and slower, more melodic segments. Even closing track “Sanguine Path” surprises in the best possible way, taking a turn for the sludge-laden end of the metal spectrum and expanding the album’s reach wider still.

Conduit’s economic running time means that there simply isn’t an ounce of fat here, everything about King Goat’s new collection galvanising the feeling that, with their debut full-length album, the band have now ascended to a new level of songwriting and musicianship, able to take their rightful place as one of the UK’s doom metal finest.

“Conduit” is out now and available via King Goat’s bandcamp page.

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Album review: Black Stone Cherry, ‘Kentucky’

Black Stone Cherry Kentucky coverArtist: Black Stone Cherry
Album: Kentucky
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 1st April
Find it at: Black Stone Cherry Store
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

Kentucky’s southern rock finest break free from the corporate leash on vigorous and energised 5th LP

Black Stone Cherry have very much returned to their roots for their fifth studio album. Titled after their home state and, like their 2005 eponymous debut, recorded at producer Dave Barrick’s studio near the band’s hometown (on some of the same gear if not in the same building), Kentucky finds the BSC crew reinvigorated and delivering a darker, harder and heavier record than any of their previous outings.

Following a 2014 arena tour that saw Black Stone Cherry’s profile at an all time high, the band returned to the USA only to find out that they had been released from their label home at Roadrunner Records. Not ones for taking such potential setbacks lying down, the quartet played a triumphant set on the second stage at last year’s Download festival and, following meetings with several executives, found a new home at Mascot Label Group.

Released from their previous commercial constraints and essentially given free reign by Mascot boss Ed Van Zijl to make the album they wanted to make, Black Stone Cherry then set about recording Kentucky.

From the picture on the album cover of the rural farmhouse where the band first practiced on down, every aspect of Kentucky finds Black Stone Cherry engaging with concepts of home and heritage, but setting them in contemporary global and political contexts.

So the likes of “Soul Machine”, which introduces funky and soulful elements to the BSC sound, including a female backing choir from the band’s hometown, are juxtaposed with likes of “The Way Of The Future”, Kentucky’s opening track and a barbed, greasy groove that takes aim squarely at the kind of slimy politicians that have invoked the ire of many a worldly citizen.

Black Stone Cherry 2016

Also featured is a fiery cover of the Edwin Starr classic “War”, a song that seems more relevant now than ever, and which hasn’t sounded this vital since Starr’s original, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen’s live renditions that he played with such ferocity during the peak of his 80’s popularity.

“Darkest Secret”, which Black Stone Cherry’s John Fred Young describes as being about a person’s unknowable and innermost secrets, sees the band moving squarely in the direction of Black Sabbath, it’s dense riffing and thunderous percussion sitting well alongside earlier and equally ominous album track “Hangman.”

But for all the rejuvenated electrifying intensity, there are also many familiar Black Stone Cherry ingredients mixed in throughout Kentucky’s running time.

“Long Ride” is a soaring and emotional piece that will no doubt provide the more reflective moments during BSC’s future live shows, and “Cheaper To Drink Alone” has all the anthemic qualities that fans of the band have come to know and love. When set alongside instant country classic “The Rambler”, the songs on Kentucky become the most fully realised and free-wheeling collection that Black Stone Cherry have recorded to date.

“Kentucky” will be released on the 1st of April via Mascot Records and is available to pre-order now.

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Album review: Aliases, ‘Derangeable’

Aliases - Derangeable coverArtist: Aliases
Album: Derangeable
Our Verdict: 9/10
Release date: 15th April
Find it at: Basick Records
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

An unorthodox engagement with the spectacular sophomore album from UK tech-metal visionaries Aliases

“You can run 1000 miles / And I will find where you hide… There’s no more light in my world / Happy now that I’ve got so far / All the scars they have a meaning in my life.”

His eyes bulge as he strains furiously against the leather restraints. The figure in the surgical scrubs watches, pauses and then calmly and quietly applies the electrodes again, sending molten blades of fire slicing through his cerebellum. Despite the red hot pain, he repeats a mantra to himself: “Everything is going to be okay. Not my will but yours be done.” As a preternatural calm washes over him, he hears the sound of a frenetic arpeggiated guitar chord and briefly wonders from whence it came.

“Seems like everything is upon us / Feel the wave crash down / On your shoulders… Falling down… Falling down / This obsession is killing me.”

Her heart pounds in her chest, the intense cold of the glass pressed against her back a merciless and insidious thief creeping in through her clothing and slowly penetrating her musculature. The voice in her earpiece has disintegrated into a barrage of glitches, clicks and whistles. She breathes deeply, momentarily reflecting upon her singular, solitary nature, fighting to keep her thinking clear and her terror at bay. As she begins to run, she thinks she hears the sound of an impassioned, melodic and heavy music struggling to break free from the degraded digital signal permeating her brain.

“The weather’s changing again / The rain and thunder will blow your mind / Colourful dreams in a colourful life / So smile all you like / Smile all you like / Bring those black clouds / Bring those black clouds / Don’t need you to say a word.”

He gazes directly into her eyes, fearful that this is the last time he will look upon her with his own. She meets his gaze and notes the beads of sweat on his brow. With her one free hand she reaches up and presses her palm to his cheek, wiping away the tear with her thumb. “Don’t worry, baby,” she says. “We’re going to be just fine. I promise.” His head jerks toward the window as the force of a roaring metallic vocal refrain appears to push it open. In the subsequent rush of torrid air he opens his mouth to speak, but can’t. Gripping each other’s hands tightly, they jack in the simstim and the world falls away.

“Paint me a picture that’s based on time / I’m watching you, you’re always mine / Inside my head / Die into the eyes of my kind / Everything you know is nothing but a lie / So open your eyes.”

In the midst of her most conflicted days, it feels as though there are whole armies battling furiously inside of her; a war inside her head; a conflict within a breath. A narcissistic figure, brought low by the weight of crippling, deep-seated self-loathing? The angry warrior, raised up by a passionate concern for all mankind and a need to fight the injustice she sees all around her? Who is she? All she really wants is to tear down all the Aliases and be nothing more than herself; the person she was always meant to be, the thrilling complexity of the music inside her giving her life, and freedom.

“The smiling faces glow / Look left, look right / Nowhere to go / Inside my head… / So smile and grit your teeth / Like yesterday / The weather’s changing again… / Magical dreams in a magical life.”

“But it’s been two years. They’re not ready,” he intones.

“They’re ready,” comes the assured reply.

He closes his eyes and shakes his arms loose. Leaning his head to the left and then right, he hears the crunch as his creaking tendons release months of pent-up energy. He looks up to the sky, closes his eyes and visualises a thick, dark, poisonous mass pouring from his mouth and ears, every last ounce of doubt being shed, leaving nothing but an Untangled Mind. “It is time,” he says. Clenching his guitar with his fists like his very life depends upon it, he inhales with a sharp intake of breath…

Technical. Complex. Gripping. Anthemic. Everything they have been working on has been leading them to this. Not just a loose collection of 1s and 0s making their way out into the world; not just a re-tooling of their arsenal of sound; but an astonishing reimagining of the very nature of music itself.

They are Aliases. This is Derangeable.

Aliases banner art

Aliases are: Joe Rosser (vocals), PIN (guitar), Leah Woodward (guitar), Jof Walsh (drums) and Joe Heaton (bass).

Connect with Aliases at:

Aliases - Derangeable cover01. “Find Where You Hide”
02. “Everything Is Upon Us”
03. “Back To The Start”
04. “Smile All You Like”
05. “Deep Sea Avenue”
06. “Uncontrollable Desires”
07. “Callous”
08. “Face For Lust”
09. “Seen It All”
10. “Untangled Mind”
11. “Above The Sky”

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Album review: VŌDŪN, ‘Possession’

Vodun_Possession_1024x1024Artist: VŌDŪN
Album: Possession
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 25th March
Find it at: Riff Rock Records
Review by: Graeme Blackwell

Trailblazing, highly original heavy psych-rock from former Do Me Bad Things vocalist’s new outfit.

There are many things that are intrinsically brilliant about Do Me Bad Things alumna Chantal Brown’s new band VŌDŪN and their voodoo-fuelled, afro-tinged trip of a debut album, Possession. Not least of these is the band’s spectacular retooling of the heavy metal, rock and psychedelic sounds that are, of course, so deeply indebted to music that originated on the African continent, taking it – as VŌDŪN do – and re-claiming and re-making it in a new mold that is not only sonically exciting, but conceptually cohesive and, yes, educational too.

A self-described afro-futuristic tribe who conceive of themselves as three central forces rather than individuals, VŌDŪN are Oya (vocals), Ogoun (drums) and Marassa (guitar), and they make a glorious, raucous heavy noise that draws its power from the ideas practised in the West African spiritual religion of Vodun, from where it became known as Voodoo as it grew beyond the African diaspora.

Vodun promo shot 2016

In its thundering tribal drums, colossal fuzzed-up bass and planet-sized riffs, Possession touches on feminist themes, the Catholic Church’s crusade against Haitian spiritual practices, the Franco-Dahomean war of 1890 and the quest for total, metaphysical transcendence. The fact that it does so against a backdrop of trailblazing, highly original, fierce and enlightened rock n’ roll simply makes it all the more special.

From the galloping thunder of “Mawu”, through the extended breakdowns of “Legbas Feast” and on through the extremities of the title-track, ultimately the sound of Possession is one of ultra-heavy, psych-infused stoner rock brewed with intellect, passion and purpose, and mixed with elemental forces that have previously been diluted and drained of their power across centuries of history.

As Oya herself explains: “The music is made to represent how we see VŌDŪN and understand its beautiful, complicated and powerful history… The movement of the music is us bearing our souls, reflecting how something that has been demonised for so long can actually be something to wholly embrace.”

Mission vividly accomplished.

‘Possession’ is scheduled for release on the 25th of March. Physical and digital pre-orders are available now, and you can listen through the whole album via the Soundcloud stream below.

VŌDŪN will head out on a co-headline tour of the UK with Limb in April, playing the following dates:

Apr 1st: Sheffield, The Washington
Apr 2nd: Manchester, Rebellion (Noiz Alldayer)
Apr 3rd: Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms
Apr 6th: Coventry, The Arches
Apr 7th: London, The Lexington (Vodun Album launch gig)
Apr 8th: Bristol, Stag & Hounds
Apr 9th: Oxford, The Wheatsheaf

Connect with VŌDŪN at:

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