Saturday 19 November 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Alter Bridge, "Pawns & Kings"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/10/2022
Label: Napalm Records

“Pawns & Kings” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. This Is War
2. Dead Among The Living
3. Silver Tongue
4. Sin After Sin
5. Stay
6. Holiday
7. Fable Of The Silent Son
8. Season Of Promise
9. Last Man Standing
10. Pawns & Kings
The Review:

Alter Bridge are now one of a very few select rock acts who hold arena headlining status- or at least one of the few who have existed for less than twenty years- there is no shortage of should-be-retired-bands around. On that basis, I greet every release of theirs with interest as they represent a gateway to harder rock and metal as well as being a fine band in their own right. They have a surprising breadth of styles within their sound- from soaring melodies to thrashing riffs- all delivered with a slick production sheen that is ready made for rock radio and arena stages.
“Pawns & Kings” is their seventh studio effort since their 2004 debut- testament to their work ethic. It is also much more focussed than recent outings. There are ten tracks here- a proper album length! After some poppier diversions on “The Last Hero” and synth-ier diversions on “Walk The Sky”, the band are back to what they do best here: guitar pyrotechnics, rock songs, rock sounds.
This is easily the best AB album since “Fortress” and sits nicely alongside their holy trinity of “Blackbird”, “AB III” and “Fortress”. The album starts pretty heavy with “This is War” and the band makes use of the thrashier leanings of Mark Tremonti on “Silver Tongue” with its lightning fast riffage and time changes. Even on the slower material- such as “Sin After Sin”- the band sound darker and more focussed than they have for some time.
In terms of musicianship, the drumming from Scott Philips is excellent throughout- varied, great use of the kit and some tasteful double pedal work here and there. It blends seamlessly with the bass of Brian Marshall and the two together form a distinctive rhythm section that sound fluid no matter what the tempo. The guitar work- as per- is sublime. In Myles Kennedy the band have a frontman with a golden voice- no signs of deterioration whatsoever even in his 50s.
The band still have some melodic syrup too- “Stay” is slick and sweet in equal measure and closed the first half of the album. Side two kicks off with a pretty belting rocker in the form of “Holiday”, though. From there, it is more melody and less foot on the pedal. However, the likes of “Season of Promise” and “Last Man Standing” are well crafted songs; with no shortage of solos and riffs. The title track closes this impressive selection of songs in some style. The band have a knack for strong title tracks and this is no exception. It’s dark, varied, anthemic and essential Alter Bridge.
Overall, then, this is strong throughout and an impressive return to the kind of dark heavy rock that the band do best. Indeed, everything good about the band is to be found over the course of these ten tracks and “Pawns & Kings” is easily up there with the best in AB’s catalogue.
“Pawns & Kings” is available now

Band info: Official

ALBUM REVIEW: Sodom, "40 Years At Ward: The Greatest Hell of Sodom"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 28/10/2022
Label: Steamhammer SPV

“40 Years At War- The Greatest Hell of Sodom” CD//DD//LP track listing
1. Sepulchral Voice
2. After The Deluge
3. Electrocution
4. Baptism Of Fire
5. Better Off Dead
6. Body Parts
7. Jabba The Hut
8. Gathering Of Minds
9. That’s What An Unknown Killer Diarized
10. Book Burning
11 Genocide
12. City Of God
13. Ashes To Ashes
14. In War And Pieces
15. S.O.D.O.M.
16. Caligula
17. Euthanasia
The Review:
Well, this is a real fan curio! Instead of re-recording an early album… Tom Angelripper and the band have done something different. The seventeen tracks here are all re-recordings. One from each release that the band have done. Whether this idea is tempting to you or not may depend on your previous experiences with re-recordings of any kind.
The pros of this approach first: i) by recording one song from each album, the band cannot be accused of full sacrilege in the same way that, say, Manowar were with the “Kings of Metal” re-recording. ii)The production, playing and overall musical quality is much improved in most cases here.
The cons of this approach: i) the songs exist in their original recorded form and any listener familiar with such original recordings may feel sentimental attachment to them and therefore may not give any re-tread a chance. ii) Re-recording means that to some extent one or other version of the songs becomes redundant in some way.
So, seventeen tracks form the German thrash metallers’ career, played by the latest line-up with the latest recording techniques and sound quality. Honestly? I like the idea. You get kind of a best of comp with a uniform sound and a gateway into the band’s previous work. Now, that’s not to say that I am going to go back and listen to every single one of the albums that these tracks spring from. Neither does it mean I’m going to dispose of my copy of “Obsessed By Cruelty.
How essential is a re-recording of “Euthanasia” from 2020’s “Genesis XIX”?! Hmm; it’s so recent that a live version would have sufficed. At least the band have been consistent in their approach- no exceptions. Let’s dive in.
The tracks here range form the essential (“Sepulchral Voice”, “After the Deluge”, “Electrocution”, “Baptism of Fire”) to the lesser known (“Gathering of Minds”, “That’s What the Unknown Killer Diarized”). Of course, the 80s material shines through as very strong- from “In The Sign of Evil” onwards the band had their own sound, vibe and the influence that they went on to have on black metal (in particular) cannot be denied.
Across the seventeem songs here, it’s all worthwhile material. The band ploughed on through the 90s- I will admit to a lack of familiarity with most of those albums and songs, mind. It must be said, recent efforts have brought the band back in a big way. “Decision Day” was a great album and is represented here by the fearsome “Caligula”
Quite simply, this is enjoyable- it’s fun, it’s raucous, it’s respectful of the original songs- no arrangement changes- and it does what it sets out to do. “40 Years At War” showcases the band across all line ups and records. It cherry picks great songs throughout and gives a new listener a way in and an old listener an update in sound quality. If you are new to Sodom, sure, start here. If you are an avid fan, you’ll buy this anyway. If you are a casual fan then this may inspire you to go through more of their albums. With this release, Sodom’s approach has won the re-recording battle and will no doubt continue to wage their war for years to come.
“40 Years At War- The Greatest Hell of Sodom” is available now 

Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Goatwhore, “Angels Hung From The Arches of Heaven”

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 07/10/2022         
Label: Metal Blade Records

“Angels Hung From The Arches of Heaven” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Invocation 3
2. Born of Satan's Flesh
3. The Bestowal of Abomination
4. Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven
5. Death from Above
6. Ruinous Liturgy
7. Victory Is the Lightning of Destruction
8. Voracious Blood Fixation
9. The Devil's Warlords
10. Weight of a Soulless Heart
11. Nihil
12. And I Was Delivered from the Wound of Perdition
The Review:
Yet another classic band from NOLA, Goatwhore have been at the coal face of extreme metal for twenty years plus. Unbelievable, but true. They’ve enough albums under their (studded?) belts now that I was wondering if the spite, the energy, the ferocity would still be there. Well, it’s not only there- it’s burning brighter than ever!
“Invocation 3” sets the tone and then “Born of Satan’s Flesh” brings the speed and power. From there, it’s all ferocious… and with a myriad of genres cropping up. This is not one dimensional at all. It mixes death metal, thrash, post metal and black metal in a gumbo that I can only really describe as ‘extreme metal.’ Each track brings something different, whether it be the blackened/post vibes of the title track or the thrashing brutality of “Death from Above”.
The songs themselves are uniformly tight and muscular in terms of composition; and they are aided by an appropriately tight and muscular production and mix. There’s no fat here and only the closer “And I was Delivered from the Wound of Perdition” really lengthens the band’s stride. Elsewhere it’s all focus and drive.
It’s one of my favourite extreme metal releases from the last year and I can’t fault it. It has the energy and burning ambition of bands half Goatwhore’s age (both in the band members’ physical age and in terms of their recording career). There is everything to like about this gnarled beast of an album and nothing to complain about it. It’s well balanced, streamlined and brutal in the right measure. Just have a listen to any track, or try “Victory Is the Lightning of Destruction” or “The Devil’s Warlords” Or “Ruinous Liturgy” or… well, any track.  Superb and vicious metal, in every way.
“Angels Hung From The Arches of Heaven” is available now

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday 6 November 2022

INTERVIEW: Records of their Years with Armed for Apocalypse guitarist Cayle Hunter

By: Aaron Pickford

Wow, where the hell does the time go, eh?  It has been 4 long years since our last Records of their Years feature and you must turn the clock back even further still, to 2013, since we last featured the sludge juggernaut that is Armed for Apocalypse.

The feature, which was published on June 21st 2013, has stuck with me over the years for a couples of reasons,  firstly, I wrote the article on Fathers day and like today’s guest Cayle Hunter, he is also a family man and knows the struggles of balancing their work and home life against their passion for music and secondly, 9 years later, I am scratching my head and wondering why the hell are this band not huge by now.

People, that time is now, for in the year two thousand and twenty two, the riff gods have answered our prayers.  Armed for Apocalypse are back baby.  Not only that, they have also dropped their heaviest and best album to date in the form of “Ritual Violence” and today I have hooked with my mate, Cayle Hunter to discuss his “Records of their years”.

Before we get into that, remember, when you listen to their new album “One does not simply listen to Armed for Apocalypse, one must listen at maximum volume, to achieve maximum violence”

THE SLUDGELORD: Hey Cayle, thanks for doing this.  Can you tell our readers about your favourite album or albums from the year you were born? 

Cayle: This is a tough one because I’m old as hell, there were a ton of absolute classics that came out during that time, and I’ll bet my answer would have changed several times throughout my life. 

It should also be noted I’m answering your question, my favorite, not “the best”, because I think “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac or The Clash self-titled are probably the best.

My favorite: “Bad Reputation” by Thin Lizzy

From the opening gong sound of “Soldier of Fortune” I am completely invested in this record, especially when it kicks right into the signature guitarmonies Lizzy does better than everyone, including Iron Maiden. The title track is a snarling rocker that definitely lands on the darker side of the band’s catalogue, which I love. 

The highlight for me, and what makes it my favorite from this year, is the back-to-back combo of “Southbound” and “Dancing in the Moonlight”. These two songs have been played in our band van hundreds of times. We walk around randomly singing the hooks out loud to each other and it gets a sing-along or a laugh every time. It’s a perfect soundtrack for driving through the open spaces of places you’ve never seen before, and I highly recommend the experience to everyone reading this.

THE SLUDGELORD: Who were some of your musical heroes growing up and how did the shape your musical journey? 

Cayle: My earliest musical heroes oddly enough were rappers. I grew up going to the worst elementary school in my town, but the kids there had great taste in music. My taste in hip hop followed the same arc as my taste in rock: I started light, then gravitated towards the darker or more extreme artists. At the time it was NWA pushing the limits, getting arrested, getting censored and having their music banned. They were so damn cool! Dr Dre is still a hero of mine to this day because the music he creates is so timeless, and Ice Cube scared every parent in America back then. Bad ass.

As I grew and my tastes evolved, I got new heroes. Black Sabbath. Page Hamilton. Bad Brains. Danzig. Pantera. Then I went back to see what music came before my time and found even more heroes. Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder etc. Far more than I can list here.

These heroes shaped my musical journey because of what they have in common. They don’t sound like anyone else, and they don’t want to sound like anyone else. They are independent thinkers who are only interested in sounding like the best version of themselves. That authenticity is my highest aspiration. True expression. We try our best to apply that to AforA.

THE SLUDGELORD: First record you bought with your own money, how old were you and where did you purchase it?

Cayle: Can I throw a little curve ball at this one and give you the first record I stole? Haha! It was “Vivid” by Living Colour, and I stole it from a drug store in Redding, California when I was in middle school. Great record, stupid thing to do.

The first CD I purchased with my own money was “Betty” by Helmet. I’ve talked about this a lot in the past, but that band and that record changed everything for me.

THE SLUDGELORD: An album or albums you bought based purely on the album artwork?

Cayle: This was a pretty normal occurrence for me before you could listen to everything so easily. My biggest hit is an easy one to remember: “Chaos A.D.” by Sepultura. I didn’t think the artwork was especially good, or even that striking really, but it was in the “Metal” section, the name was unique and it kept jumping out at me. I remember thinking it was going to sound industrial or something, which is why I didn’t pull the trigger. But one day I took the leap and was greeted by one of the finest collection of riffs ever assembled. A total classic.

It should also be said, I bought some complete bull shit based on the artwork too but finding “Chaos A.D.” was worth all of the failures.

THE SLUDGELORD: What is your go to non-metal / rock album?

Cayle: Man! These are such tough questions! You keep asking me to be so decisive when I love so much music!

If I have to pick one, it would probably be the blue album by Weezer. To me it’s perfect. It’s pop music played in a heavy way. The guitar and bass tone on that record would put most stoner and doom bands to shame, and there is a melancholy to it that makes it personal and relatable. 

It’s my favorite driving record, and driving is my favorite time to listen to music. 

THE SLUDGELORD: An album from the past or present that disappointed you at the time but you have since grown to love?

Cayle: This is the most embarrassing answer ever, especially coming from a metal head, so please don’t laugh me off the internet: “The Great Southern Trendkill” by Pantera

I KNOW!!!!

I don’t know what I was expecting, and to this day I can’t imagine why I didn’t connect with it on the first listen. I do remember going through an artsy fartsy stage at the time and being sort of turned off by the overtly macho side of metal for a while, but that’s no excuse. 

Later, after I got over being cooler-than-though, I gave it another shot and was immediately filled with shame. I had slept on one of the best metal records ever for no good god damn reason. We all make mistakes…

THE SLUDGELORD: Your favourite album of all time or if you prefer, an album or album (s) you’d run back into a burning building to rescue?

Cayle: I do not have a favorite album. I have an upper echelon of records and it’s impossible to pick one. But I don’t want to be a coward and ditch this question, so I’ll say “NOLA” by Down.

This was another record I missed out on, but I didn’t sleep on it as much as I simply didn’t hear about it. I remember my friend telling me one day that Phil from Pantera had a band with the dudes from Crowbar, COC and Eyehategod and I thought he was joking! Then he said, “I heard it’s not that great”, and I didn’t even know what it was called so I didn’t really go dig for it. Then one day he had it in his car and we checked it out. Game over.

The cool part about that record is the more I listened to it the more I loved it. I liked it at first, I love it like an old friend now. It’s like Black Sabbath and tuned-down Lynyrd Skynyrd with Phil Anslemo singing over it, at the top of his game no less. It simply doesn’t get old.

There was a time that I owned four copies of that record. One for my car, one for my house, one for work and one to have in a CD folder to take in other people’s cars in case they didn’t have it. That’s how badly I wanted it around me at all times.

THE SLUDGELORD: What are some of your favourite album (s) of year?

Cayle: In no particular order:

Conjurer, “Pathos”

Fit For an Autopsy, “Oh What the Future Holds”

Cult of Luna “The Long Road North”

Cave In “Heavy Pendulum”

Immolation “Acts of God”

Bloodmoon: I

Undeath “It’s Time…To Rise from the Grave”

THE SLUDGELORD: ..and finally The last album you bought

Cayle: Conjurer, “Pathos”. Always have to support great friends doing great things! 

…and remember

Band info:  facebook