Saturday, April 18, 2020

From Dark Valleys...

Wizards of Hazards - Blind Leads the Blind (2020)

What we have here is an EP from a band with a curious history. Having allegedly been founded in 1989 under the name Black Wizard, but changing their name to Wizards of Hazards about six years ago, Blind Leads the Blind is the first release listed on this Finnish group's BandCamp page. The Black Sabbath nods are obvious just from the titles, and the music echoes those impressions, riding a traditional heavy metal vibe to solid effect.
Leading off with “Children of the Damned”, the EP gets underway with clear riffs, theatrical vocals, easy-going rhythms, and some fun soloing from the guitar. It hits that '80s heavy metal style dead-on, handling the heavier and higher sides with equal capability. Production is clean, without being so glossy as to make it feel sanitized, and the musicians do a good job balancing focus between their instruments.
Stoning” follows, leaning into a slightly harder groove, and the drummer gets to lay out some punchier action on his end, with a steady-beat emphasis that nicely evokes the march to doom described by the lyrics. The bridge-work is deftly handled here as well, swaying you into another hook just long enough for the main one to return with renewed power. “Boots of Lead” (and if you don't get that reference, they re-emphasize it with the final chords) closes things out by bringing in a more somber mood, though it stays firmly in the traditional doom realm, rather than shifting into funeral doom or death doom. And the upbeat bridge featured in this track ends up balancing the mood out, anyway.
All together, it makes for a nice, well-rounded demonstration of the band's style and interests, and dishes it out quickly enough that you can jump back into it whenever you feel like. Personally, I'm hoping they show a wider emotional range whenever an LP comes about, but from what's on display here, there's a lot to enjoy, and very little to complain about.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Dio-era Black Sabbath, Manowar, Pilgrim, Saint Vitus


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Don't Look Down...

Night Goat - Burning Bridges to Light the Way (2020)

On Night Goat's third EP (following the simultaneous release of their Chicken and Egg records), the Australian group has put together just under half an hour of material, with a conceptual emphasis on the deteriorating state of the world.
Opening with “Simulacra”, the group works a slow and atmospheric groove between the bass and drums, with smokily sensuous vocals wrapping their way around the progressions. Restrained toothiness on the bass' riffs gets to come out and play in the bridges, with guitar-work and rougher singing joining in once that side's been uncovered. As things continue to develop, both sides entwine and branch off again, making for an opener that impresses with its technical panache as well as the emotiveness of the playing.
Negative Crepe” (presumably a play on the similarly-titled Nirvana track) picks up from that high note, shifting back to the slow and moody vibes for the most part, though they do find room for some heavy and hard hits on the up-shift. It's more of a tonal trip than a rocker, but they put in such good work, it hardly feels like they're taking it easy. “Anchorite” takes over from there with a broody, simmering lead-in that practically tingles with foreshadowing. And the song delivers, working its way back and forth on intensity escalation, teasing listeners deeper into its web, edging them on with ominous build-up and leaving them eager for whatever may come.
Finally, “The Last Human Sound...” brings a conclusion that builds from the mix of melancholy and anticipation preceding it, delivering the longest song on the EP. Working a rising tension and swelling guitar presence, the band unfurls a track that I have to imagine takes on a spirit of its own in live performances. Despite its length, it's maybe the easiest listener on the EP, thanks in large part to the careful handling of the main melody. All in all, a very respectable release from this crew, and one with some deceptively sharp hooks to get lodged in the back of your mind.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid King, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Stonerror, Wicked Lady, early Windhand


Saturday, April 04, 2020

Taste The Source...

Mind Reverse - Cosmic Flow (2020)

Following up on an EP and a pair of singles all released in 2017 (two years after forming the band), the Brazilian group of Mind Reverse have taken an intensive three years to assemble this, their first LP. With a hefty thirteen full songs to its run, Cosmic Flow shows the band's high-octane heavy rock, with healthy infusions of psychedelic and funk rock, and a few splashes of prog as well, all mixed together in top-notch form.
Starting off with the tasty grooves of “New Lands”, Mind Reverse get things cooking and pull the listener right on into the heat. The hooks, captivating arrangements, and permeating creativity are persistent qualities for the rest of the album as well, with quick-changing rhythms playing up the main beat, fills to get your spine bouncing, and always more room for a snazzy flourish or three. It's hard to pick out a favorite song, as the album flows so damn well through them all, and there's always new details to notice.
Fat but nimble bass-lines, deftly agile drumming, guitar-work that can switch on a dime between gritty and soaring, and vocals that wonderfully complement it all are joined by a number of other touches, with organ, flute, and keyboard embellishments making the music practically burst with enthusiasm and liveliness. There's not a false step among the songs, and the range covered by the band is made all the more impressive by how casually cool they make it seem. There's a bit of a Jane's Addiction vibe at times, but pulled off with much more sincerity, less deflective wryness, and a hell of a lot more psychedelic flair.
For the band's first album, it's put together astonishingly well. The energy is managed nicely, with a few slower groove tunes spaced out among the higher-tempo rides, letting listeners appreciate both sides without getting worn out on either. The stylistic range, as previously mentioned, is fantastic, and there's so many melodic hooks that you'll be spoiled for choice on which one to get stuck in your head. The care put into making the music is evident in every moment, though it never gets in the way of rocking out. Thoroughly impressive work, and some of the best heavy rock I've heard in a long while. Don't miss out on this one, if you have even a slight taste for heavy rock. Cheers to Mind Reverse!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Craneón, Gripe, Manthrass, Necro (Brazil), Persona (Argentina)