Monday, April 29, 2013

Bleed From Within - Uprising

Bleed From Within
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

If anything, I’ve always considered Glasgow (Scotland) based act Bleed From Within as a competent melodic deathcore outfit. Their two E.P.’s (2006’s ‘In The Eyes Of The Forgotten’ and 2007’s ‘Welcome To The Plague Year’) and their two full-length efforts (2009’s ‘Humanity’ and 2010’s ‘Empire’, both of which were released through Rising Records) were solid and likeable slabs of modern deathcore, but nothing truly groundbreaking or unique enough to make the band stand out as doing anything different from the deathcore scene’s leaders.
So when Bleed From Within’s latest effort ‘Uprising’ came across my desk, I can’t say that I was expecting anything too different from what they had delivered a couple of times already in the past.
Armed with a new line-up (Ex-Trigger The Bloodshed guitarist Martyn Evans joined vocalist Scott Kennedy, guitarist Craig ‘Goonzi’ Gowans, bassist Davie Provan and drummer Ali Richardson in 2011) and joining the mighty Century Media Records roster for their new album, it’s clear that Bleed
From Within have made some attempts to shake up the formula, which has resulted in an album that’s clearly a step up from anything they’ve offered in the past.
The album is opened up with a short ‘djent’ sounding instrumental piece entitled ‘III’, which eventually flows through into the follow-up track ‘Colony’. It’s on this track where you can hear the changes Bleed From Within have made to their sound. The melodic aspect of the band’s song writing has been given a little more emphasis, but not at the expense of Kennedy’s familiar caustic screams and growls. Elsewhere, the band seem to have focussed on delivering some impressive riff structures, and dispensed with many of the breakdowns that seemed to overwhelm their past efforts. Lastly, the production and mix on ‘Uprising’ is easily the best the band have had on any of their albums, which is a good thing. ‘Colony’ isn’t anything particularly new, but then it’s easily the best song Bleed From Within have written and recorded to date.
‘It Lives In Me’ (Which was released as a single in September 2012) is perhaps one of the album’s more daring sounding tracks with its mix of atmospheric passages and straight ahead aggressive moments, while ‘Escape Yourself’ and ‘Leech’ are without a doubt the most punishing and aggressive efforts on the album.
Elsewhere, ‘I Am Oblivion’ and ‘Devotion’ help give the album a little more diversity with their slower tempos, which serve to emphasise the intensity of tracks such as ‘Our Divide’ (Which is preceded by the short instrumental piece ‘Speechless’), the title track ‘Uprising’ and ‘The War Around Us’ (Which features a guest vocal appearance from Cancer Bats/AxeWound front man Liam Cormier).
In the past, Bleed From Within weren’t so much a terrible act, but more like an outfit that seemed to mimic those who came before them. But with ‘Uprising’, the Scottish act have managed to shake off comparisons to the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Carnifex and As I Lay Dying to emerge with a sound that’s a little more of their own making.
Overall, what ‘Uprising’ lacks in originality, it more than makes up in sheer listening enjoyment. Bleed From Within have finally taken the long overdue step up, and the results are worth the time checking out.

For more information on Bleed From Within, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Mad Season - Above (Deluxe Edition)

Mad Season
Above (Deluxe Edition)
Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment

When the grunge rock scene exploded in the early ‘90’s, all eyes were on Seattle (Washington, U.S.). It was an exciting time, and while grunge’s reign on the rock scene was brief, it produced some truly great bands. But for all of the big names that emerged out of the Seattle scene, one that failed to go onto true greatness was the short lived supergroup Mad Season.
On paper, Mad Season was almost a sure bet for success, with its members including Layne Staley (Alice In Chains vocalist), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam/Temple Of The Dog guitarist), John Baker Saunders (The Lamont Cranston Band bassist) and Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees drummer). And sure enough, when the band released their debut full-length effort ‘Above’ in 1995, the album was a huge commercial success.
But for all of the success Mad Season had achieved with ‘Above’, the band never managed to complete a follow-up effort. Staley’s declining health (A drug dependency that would see Staley pass away in 2002 through an overdose) saw Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan step into the fold, and while some material was recorded throughout 1997 and 1998, Saunders’ heroin overdose in 1999 brought Mad Season to a premature end.
Despite the band’s short time together, Mad Season’s legacy has lived on, and seventeen years after its release, surviving members Martin and McCready have sifted through the vaults to pay tribute to dearly departed friends, as well as give fans a definitive deluxe version of the band’s sole studio release ‘Above’.
The first disc of this box set comprises of a remastered version of ‘Above’, along with some previously unreleased tracks from the band’s aborted second album.
As an album, ‘Above’ was something very different from what was happening elsewhere in Seattle at the time. Mad Season were obviously aware of grunge’s slow decline at the time, and decided to experiment beyond the staple sound they were associated with in the own groups. In simple terms, ‘Above’ was a little more blues based, with elements of jazz and experimentation thrown into the mix, which makes for a truly different sounding album. I’ll spare the breakdown of every track as most fans will already be familiar with the album itself. But in terms of highlights, tracks such as the haunting opener ‘Wake Up’, ‘River Of Deceit’, the heavy blues sounding ‘Artificial Red’, the Alice In Chains-like ‘Lifeless Dead’ and the sparse closer ‘All Alone’ are definite standout cuts.
Of course, not everything works on the album (‘I Don’t Know Anything’ is overly repetitive and thin on the ground in terms of ideas, and ‘Long Gone Day’ is just a little too lounge/jazz sounding to really take off like it should), but overall Mad Season’s debut is an experimental piece of work that works as a whole.
In terms of bonus tracks, there’s the short instrumental ‘Interlude’ that found its way on the promotional copies of the original album that were removed upon the album’s official release. It’s an interesting piece, but hardly an essential addition to the album. Next up are three tracks from
Mad Season’s ill-fated second album recording sessions. ‘Locomotive’ is an intense rocker that has McCready playing up a storm and Lanegan growling in his trademark fashion, and is easily the stand out cut of the three revisited new tracks. ‘Black Book Of Fear’ (A track co-written with former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck) is a wistful slow burner, while ‘Slip Away’ is another favourite with McCready’s guitar work proving to be nothing short of amazing.
Finishing up the first disc is Mad Season’s cover of John Lennon’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier’, which originally appeared on the Lennon tribute album ‘Working Class Hero’ from 1995. The song is presented here in remixed form, which has allowed the track to stand alongside the other tracks in their remastered form. While this track is hardly a rarity, its inclusion here does mean that all of Mad Season’s studio work has been compiled onto the one disc, which I can only see as a good thing.
The second disc of this box set is the complete and unedited recording of Mad Season’s final performance at Seattle’s Moore Theatre on April 29th 1995. The eleven track set has never before been released on C.D. as a whole (Four of the seven tracks did make an appearance as b-sides to singles), and its inclusion here is a welcome one for fans.
Finishing up the box set is a D.V.D. of the band’s ‘Live At The Moore’ concert film from 1995, and a whole host of previously unreleased live footage from the band.
The D.V.D. re-release of ‘Live At The Moore’ has been a long time coming, and the wait has been worth it. The footage has been obviously cleaned up a lot, and it looks great. The remastered 5.1 surround sound (Handled by ‘Above’ producer Brett Eliason) has given the soundtrack a crispness that wasn’t otherwise there on the original as well. In terms of performance, ‘Live At The Moore’ has plenty of great moments, but the most notable moments include the added rawness of set opener ‘Lifeless Dead’, the laid back groove of ‘River Of Deceit’  and the extended jamming on ‘November Hotel’ (Which documents McCready channelling The Who’s Pete Townsend as he destroys his equipment). Aside from the official concert, this D.V.D. also compiles a mass of previously unreleased bootleg footage as well, including the five missing tracks from the band’s performance from ‘Live At The Moore’, a full nine track concert from New Year’s Eve 1994/1995 at Seattle’s RKCNDY club, two tracks from the Self Pollution Radio studios (Footage that’s been around for years, but that much better now it’s on D.V.D.) and the band’s sole promotional video clip ‘River Of Deceit’.
With extensive liner notes penned by Martin (Which are informative and heartfelt), beautiful packaging and filled with loads of previously unreleased material, this re-release is an absolute must have for fans of Mad Season, and a fitting tribute to the music both Staley and Saunders helped create on ‘Above’.

For more information on Mad Season, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Newsted - Metal

Chophouse Records

If Jason Newsted has proven anything in his twelve years since resigning from Metallica in 2001, it’s that he’s anything but simply a bassist. Over the years, Newsted has immersed himself in a number of projects, many of which have allowed him to branch out and take on roles such as producer, song writer and vocalist, all of which were impossible whilst being a member of Metallica.
While some of Newsted’s output post-Metallica has been a little underwhelming (IR8/Sexoturica, Papa Wheelie, Rock Star Supernova and The Moss Brothers are good examples of this), his work with Voivod and his involvement with Echobrain certainly showcased the strengths within Newsted as an all-round musician.
But after years of playing in other bands, Newsted announced in late 2012 that he had decided to step out on his own and put together an entirely new outfit under his own name. Within months of getting together, the band (Comprising of lead vocalist/guitarist/bassist Newsted, bassist/guitarist/backing vocalist Jessie Farnsworth and drummer Jesus Mendez Jr.) recorded a total of eleven tracks, with their four track E.P. ‘Metal’ the first offering from the Californian based outfit.
Given that Newsted’s new outfit is going under his own name, and that the band’s debut offering is titled ‘Metal’, there’s undoubtedly an air of expectation surrounding this release. And sure enough, ‘Metal’ marks the return of Newsted to the spotlight playing music that leans more towards the heavier side of things.
The opening track ‘Soldierhead’ is without a doubt the one song on the E.P. that’s sure to be a favourite with its fast pace thrashing Motörhead-like rocking direction. Riff wise, while Newsted keeps things pretty simple, they’re sharp and catchy enough to get the job done. What really stands out however are Newsted’s lead vocals. Unlike his growled efforts in his past projects, Newsted has developed a voice that sounds like a cross between Chuck Billy (Testament) and Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead), but with a distinctly raspy melodic edge. Again, like the riffs presented, it’s nothing amazing, but it works just the same.
The follow-up track ‘Godsnake’ is a slow moving stoner grooved track that boasts enough crunch on the guitar front to keep things interesting, while ‘King Of The Underdogs’ is a huge sounding track that is a little rawer sounding on the guitar front than the other tracks on the E.P., and features an absolute killer chorus from Newsted, which earns a place alongside ‘Soldierhead’ as a firm favourite.
Finishing up the E.P. is the war themed ‘Skyscraper’, which not unlike ‘Godsnake’, is another blues/stoner rocking number, and gives listeners another taste of Newsted’s clearly diverse array of offerings.
As mentioned on ‘King Of The Underdogs’, Newsted is taking his place leading the pack with his new project. And while ‘Metal’ is hardly going to compete against the likes of some other big name metallic outfits within the scene, ‘Metal’ is a solid and enjoyable release, and a welcome return of Newsted to a band environment where he’s the one calling the shots.

For more information on Newsted, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, April 15, 2013

Anthrax - Anthems

Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment

With the release of ‘Worship Music’, long running New York (U.S.) based melodic thrash act Anthrax managed to do the near impossible. Not only had the band managed to complete a brand new album with vocalist Joey Belladonna on board (His last appearance with the band in the studio was some twenty years ago), but the album was critically acclaimed from both fans and critics alike (Something the band couldn’t claim for much of their studio output for the last twenty years).
So with the band back on top, it’s not surprising to see them capitalising on the fact and spending much of their time out on the road reinforcing their return.
With the overwhelming success of ‘Worship Music’, there’s no doubt that the idea of recording some new music has crossed the minds of those within the band. But with barely two years since the release of their last album, and so much time spent on the road touring, it’s not at all surprising to find the band a little short of complete songs for an official follow-up studio album to ‘Worship Music’. But obviously there’s a need to get something new out there, so what could Anthrax do? The solution – record a covers E.P. of course! And so during some downtime on the road, and small pockets of time in the studio, Anthrax has finally unveiled their new stop-gap release ‘Anthems’.
Anthrax’s love of recording covers is well known, with many of the band’s b-sides and bonus tracks full of cover versions from a whole range of different genres. But does an E.P. dedicated solely to covers actually work in Anthrax’s favour? Well, most of the time it does.
The band open up ‘Anthems’ with ‘Anthem’ – the classic Rush, um... anthem, from 1975’s ‘Fly By Night’. Those familiar with the track will no doubt be curious as to how well Anthrax pull it off, but suffice to say they do it very well. Belladonna manages to pull off Geddy Lee’s high octane vocals well (Even if he does sound like he’s straining a little at times), while Charlie Benante’s drumming is an obvious stand out performance here. Frank Bello’s bass is nicely captured here and given plenty of prominence in the mix (Courtesy of lead guitarists Rob Caggiano’s recording and Jay Ruston’s production and mix), while Scott Ian’s guitars are right on the mark with the raw edge of the original reproduced. Overall, Anthrax’s cover of ‘Anthem’ is a little loose and raw, but fun.
The cover of AC/DC’s ‘T.N.T.’ (From the band’s 1975 album of the same name) is perhaps a fairly obvious choice, but worthy of inclusion solely because Belladonna does a fantastic Bon Scott impersonation, while Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ (From 1976’s ‘Jailbreak’) is another example of Belladonna’s truly diverse vocal abilities (He has Phil Lynott’s attitude and mannerisms perfected), and features a short but authentic classic rock sounding guitar solo from Motörhead’s Phil Campbell.
Boston’s classic ‘Smokin’’ (From Boston’s self titled debut from 1976) is given a great makeover from the band, with Belladonna and guest keyboardist Fred Mandel (Whose worked with Alice Cooper, Queen, Elton John and Pink Floyd in the past) capturing the sound of ‘70’s hard rock, without making it sound too retro or by the numbers, while the cover of Cheap Trick’s ‘Big Eyes’ (From 1977’s ‘In Color’) is by far the heaviest track on the E.P., and another favourite on the E.P.
Finishing up the run of covers is the band’s take on Journey’s ‘Keep On Runnin’’ (From 1981’s ‘Escape’), which is without a doubt Belladonna’s crowning moment on the E.P. This song rocks big time and Belladonna simply sounds incredible.
Finishing up the E.P. is the studio version of ‘Crawl’ (From ‘Worship Music’), and a remixed version of the same track, which is given a makeover from Michael Lord with the addition of orchestration. Although a solid enough addition, both versions of ‘Crawl’ don’t add a real lot to the E.P. overall.
In the end, ‘Anthems’ is a cool little release from Anthrax. It’s a fun listen too, and that’s all it was ever intended to be from the band. And as long as you look at it from that perspective, you won’t see this as a disappointing follow-up to ‘Worship Music’.

For more information on Anthrax, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Bronson - Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers
Independent Release

It’s been quite a while since Melbourne based groove metal act Bronson last graced the scene with anything new from the studio. But after a couple of years of hard work behind the scenes, the Australian bruisers are back in the spotlight with their debut full-length offering ‘Blood Brothers’.
In the three years since the release of their self-titled E.P., Bronson have undergone a bit of a change in terms of line-up, with only vocalist Jason ‘Jay’ Clair and guitarist/backing vocalist Gary Max Horn remaining from the line-up that last recorded for the group. Joining the ranks of Bronson since 2012 is guitarist Simon Bailey, bassist Paul Stanway and drummer Shane Turville. But while the majority of members within Bronson are relative newcomers, it has to be said that the change hasn’t diminished the initial promise heard throughout the band’s debut E.P. If anything, the band sounds stronger and more determined than ever, with ‘Blood Brothers’ a definite step up from where the band last left things some three years ago.
The album is opened up with ‘Vivez Sur Vos Pieds....’ (Which is French for ‘Live On Your Feet’), which puts together some spoken word quotes (George W. Bush can be heard) with a building guitar riff and thundering drums. It’s all quite straight forward and simple, but nonetheless an effective instrumental piece to introduce the album with.
Next up is ‘Right To Fight’, which is a typically bruising track that you would expect from Bronson. Again, Bronson aren’t out to over complicate things with dazzling displays of technical bravado, but instead deliver simple brutality by way of heavy grooved guitar riffs and strong sing-along melodies on the vocal front. Clair’s voice may not have a great deal of variation for the most part, but what he lacks in diversity, he more than makes up for in aggression. And while the song is fairly straight forward, the brief passages of guitar solos and effects break up things enough to keep things interesting.
The slower tempo and addition of guest vocalist Kimberly Ward (Who is otherwise known as Kymber Rae) on ‘The Dispossessed’ is something a little different for Bronson, and lends a bit of a Killswitch Engage edge to the band’s sound with great success, while on ‘Weapons Of Mass Destruction’ (The first single released from the album), the focus on providing God Forbid-like cleaner chorus passages is quite effective, and shows there’s more to the band than just sheer brutality.
As solid as ‘Assassins Greed’, ‘Revenge’ and ‘Crushed By Demons’ are, they do tend to get a little lost around the middle of the album with their straight down the line/aggressive direction. But by ‘Fallout’, the band manage to get things back on track by giving the song a bit more depth with the slow introduction (This time taking some spoken word samples from a guide to the after-effects of a nuclear war) and retaining a crushing mid-tempo throughout with choruses that really stand out.
Towards the tail end of the album, the band keeps up the high standard with ‘Claim The Throne’ (Which sounds quite open in the production sense to make way for some great lead guitar work) and the lengthy seven minute epic title track ‘Blood Brothers’ (Which again features a reprising guest vocal role from Ward), before finishing the album up with the short instrumental piece ‘...Ou Mourez Sur Vos Genoux’ (‘Or Die On Your Knees’).
Not everything on Bronson’s full-length debut works, but on the strengths evident within ‘Blood Brothers’, it’s clear that the band has come a long way in the three years since their E.P. release. If Bronson keep doing what they’re doing, there’s every chance that the band will eventually emerge with a killer release that’s sure to make everyone sit up and take notice.

For more information on Bronson, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, April 8, 2013

Black Trillium - The Black Trillium

Black Trillium
The Black Trillium
Independent Release

Following on from their impressive debut E.P. release ‘The Locked Woods’ from 2012, Sydney (New South Wales, Australia) based outfit Black Trillium has returned with a new E.P. in the form of ‘The Black Trillium’. Spearheading this four track effort is the title track ‘The Black Trillium’, which is lyrically inspired by the fantasy novel ‘Black Trillium’ from 1990 (Which was written by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May and Andre Norton). Prior to the song’s release, the band (Who comprise of outfit ex-EnviroCore/Ministerium multi-instrumentalists Simon Skipper and Zach Carlson) claimed the song was their most doom-laden effort to date. And sure enough, the band was spot on with their description. Opening with some majestic piano (Provided by Melanie Touw, who also designed the artwork), the band soon make an entrance through thick doom-like guitar riffs delivered in suffocating slow motion. The clean vocals add a distinctly mournful feel to the track, while the use of growled vocals provide a bit of aggression to the mix, which helps give the song a bit of depth and variation. At certain points, the song takes on a bit more of a melodic death metal feel with some tight knit riffing and intense drumming, but the ever present doom metal template of the song as a whole is maintained throughout. ‘The Black Trillium’, much like the tracks that appeared on their first E.P., is very much rooted within the doom metal sound, but has enough variation and changes in sound to stand out as something truly different from most. If this track says one thing about Black Trillium, it’s that there’s more to the band’s overall sound than most within the genre.
The remaining three tracks on the band’s latest E.P. are a collection of covers from bands that have helped shape and influence the band.
The first track Black Trillium has chosen to give a makeover is ‘The Tempter’, which was originally recorded by doom metal pioneers Trouble on their debut album ‘Pslam 9’ back in 1984. Black Trillium’s cover doesn’t deviate too much from the original in the musical sense, apart from an obvious sharper and cleaner guitar tone on the riff front. The clear difference can be found on the vocal front, where the contrast between the clean and growled efforts gives a completely different feel to Eric Wagner’s unique voice. Overall, it’s a great choice in song, and a pretty cool cover.
Next up is the band’s take on Black Sabbath’s classic ‘Electric Funeral’ (From 1970’s ‘Paranoid’), which is perfectly suited to the band given the original’s trademark doom riffs and slower paced tempo. Again, there’s no real deviation from the original, but the sharpened and thick sounding riffs give the song a heavier edge, and the clean vocals do manage to shed new light on the classic.
Finishing up the E.P. is the cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It, Black’ (From 1966’s ‘Aftermath’), which is the one cover on this E.P. that really has undergone a huge transformation by the band. The slower tempo, mournful guitar leads and the equally sorrowful vocals (Which are nicely doubled up for effect) turn this rock classic into something more doom orientated with great success. Of the covers included, this track is by far the most surprising, and enjoyable.
Despite only featuring one original, ‘The Black Trillium’ is a great follow-up to the impressive ‘The Locked Woods’, and again demonstrates Black Trillium’s ability to take doom metal beyond its tired and predictable clichés and create music that defies its limited genre tag.
In the end, if you’re a fan of doom metal with a twist of the different, check out ‘The Black Trillium’.

For more information on Black Trillium, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Intronaut - Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)

Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Sometimes it takes a couple of albums for some bands to find a sound and direction that they’re truly comfortable with, which tends to mean that their first couple of releases are generally overlooked for the most part. And then there are some bands that know straight from the start what sound they’re after, and generally stick with that sound throughout most of their career.
But then there’s that small minority of acts who are constantly on the search for that something different from one release to the next, which makes them near impossible to pin down. One such act that well and truly fits into this mould is Los Angeles (California, U.S.) based outfit Intronaut.
Over the course of their three full-length releases to date (2006’s ‘Void’, 2008’s ‘Prehistoricisms’ and 2010’s ‘Valley Of Smoke’), the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick, bassist Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker) have incorporated stoner metal, psychedelic rock, jazz and groove metal into their sound, which has earned the band their broader progressive metal genre tag, despite having a sound that’s completely different from anyone else within the progressive metal scene.
Now returning with ‘Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)’, it’s clear that Intronaut still isn’t remotely interested in making the same album over and over again. Taking the lead set by ‘Valley Of Smoke’, Intronaut have made a concerted effort to push themselves artistically once more by tapering back the heavier and more metallic aspects of their overall sound, both musically and vocally.
The eight minute opening track ‘Killing Birds With Stones’ sets the tone for the bulk of the album with its weaving/thick sounding riffs, oddly timed/rhythmic drumming patterns and its slow moving tempos and gradual evolution from one musical idea to the next. The trademark elements of Intronaut’s old sound are still here for the most part, with the track featuring plenty of cool riffs, heavily grooved and rhythmic passages and pockets of atmospheric interludes to give the song a huge feel. But what separates this song from anything the band has recorded in the past can be primarily heard on the vocal front. The growled efforts of the past are all but gone, with Dunable utilising his clean vocals throughout the song. While ‘Valley Of Smoke’ featured a lot of clean vocals, it’s on the band’s latest release that the clean vocals are used almost exclusively. Simply put, it’s something that does take a bit of getting used to. Musically, the band have toned things down to make way for the cleaner vocals, which can give the impression that the song is a little too long in places, and lacking a bit of spark on the heavier passages. But after several listens, it’s clear that time is needed to fully appreciate the intricacies of the band’s song writing. And once those ideas are understood, it’s hard to deny the power the opening track has.
Despite toning down the metallic edge on Intronaut’s latest release, it doesn’t mean that the band has completely abandoned the heavier side of things, with the crushing complexity of ‘The Welding’ and the rhythmically jagged first single ‘Milk Leg’ showcasing the band’s willingness to keep things bludgeoning – albeit with harmony vocals in tow and a general sparseness behind the pulverising riffs.
The sludgy ‘Steps’ is a personal favourite with the band perfecting their intense and heavy atmospheric sound alongside dual harmony vocals, while the hypnotic and melodic pair of ‘Sore Sight For Eyes’ and ‘Harmonomicon’ are definite favourites further on into the album.
‘Eventual’ sounds like equal parts Meshuggah and Black Sabbath with more than a touch of psychedelic rock to really spice things up, while the rather short ‘Blood From A Stone’ is by far the strangest track on the album, with the band retaining a mellow and atmospheric vibe throughout. Finishing up the album is ‘The Way Down’, which not unlike the opener, is a cathartic mix of the intense and the heavy, but delivered with a sense of melody and restrain that allows the playing abilities of all within the band to shine.
Much like all their former releases, ‘Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)’ is an album that takes a while to fully appreciate and understand. If you were pleased with the direction the band took on ‘Valley Of Smoke’, then you’ll no doubt embrace the band’s latest release sooner than most. If on the other hand you were less than enthused with ‘Valley Of Smoke’, then you might want to allow a little longer for ‘Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)’ to finally reveal itself to you.

For more information on Intronaut, check out -

© Justin Donnelly

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Adema - Topple The Giants

Topple The Giants
Pavement Entertaniment, Inc.

Despite emerging towards the tail end of the nu-metal phenomenon, Adema managed to achieve a modest amount of success with the release of their debut self-titled full-length effort in 2001 through a couple of high rotation singles, and lead vocalist Mark Chavez II’s association with Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis (Chavez is Davis’ younger half brother).
But for all of the success the band enjoyed, things looked shaky when their sophomore release ‘Unstable’ (2003) failed to match the sales of their debut, and the band were dropped from Arista Records. So when Adema announced the departure of guitarist/backing vocalist Mike Ransom and Chavez from the group, many were convinced that they were pretty much done and dusted.
But as bleak as things looked, the remaining members of the Bakersfield (California, U.S.) based outfit picked up former Rewind Yesterday vocalist Luke Caraccioli, signed to Earache Records and released their third album ‘Planets’ in 2005. While the album was far from a runaway success, it did at least show that there was life left in the band, and that they were making attempts to distance themselves from their nu-metal sound of old in favour of a more modern hard rock sound. Despite a positive response from fans and press alike, Caraccioli would announce his resignation from the group within months of the album’s release.
Undeterred, the band recruited former Level vocalist Bobby Reeves into their ranks, and released their fourth full-length effort ‘Kill The Headlights’ in 2007 (Through Immortal Records). But if the band’s history has proven anything, it’s that Adema is anything but solid. So it came as no surprise when the band announced an indefinite hiatus in early 2008.
Since then, Adema have existed in one form or another, and for a brief time they reformed with the original line-up (From mid 2009 through to early 2011), only to dissolve once again. Not surprisingly, the band’s plans to release a D.V.D. and a new full-length release were put on hold indefinitely.
So here we are in 2013, and the current incarnation of Adema is back once again with a new E.P. in ‘Topple The Giants’. Having split with Ransom and Chavez for a second time a couple of years back, the core members of the group have decided to keep things in-house, with guitarist Tim Fluckey taking on the  lead vocals. Joining Fluckey is guitarist/backing vocalist Marc DeLeon, bassist/backing vocalist Dave DeRoo and drummer Kris Kohls.
Comprising of two differing halves, the opening trio of tracks on Adema’s latest E.P. are brand new offerings from the band, with ‘Resolution’ leading the charge. In terms of direction, Fluckey’s vocals on ‘Resolution’ have a bit of a Chavez feel, which gives the song a feel of old Adema, which is definitely rooted in the old nu-metal sound. As a song, it’s a solid tune, and perhaps the one most likely to appeal to Adema fans of old.
The title track ‘Topple The Giants’ isn’t exactly a highlight, with the song sounding a little forced and unremarkable, particularly on the vocal front where Fluckey seems to struggle to match the aggression of the music it accompanies.
Finishing up the new tracks is ‘Lions’, which is more along the hard rock lines of the band’s last couple of releases. It’s here that Fluckey seems to be more at ease as a vocalist. And while the song doesn’t quite sit alongside some of the band’s stronger efforts on either ‘Planets’ or ‘Kill The Headlights’, it’s a solid and likeable track.
The second half of this new E.P. comprises of four re-recorded tracks. While Chavez may have played a large part of Adema’s initial success, Fluckey does manage to pull off a pretty good impression of Chavez on the band’s updated versions of ‘Unstable’ (From 2003’s ‘Unstable’), ‘Immortal’ (From 2002’s ‘Insomniac’s Dream’ E.P.) and ‘Giving In’ (From 2001’s ‘Adema’). Fluckey also manages to pull off a convincing vocal performance on ‘Planets’ (From the 2005 album of the same name), which may not be quite be on the same level as the original, but different enough to warrant a listen. As you would expect, the musical arrangements have changed little from the originals, which overall gives the impression that these versions are purely to showcase what the band are capable of on the vocal front more than anything else.
Overall, ‘Topple The Giants’ is an O.K. release, but one that doesn’t really add much to Adema’s otherwise patchy track record. Instead, the band seems content to stay in a holding pattern for the time being, rather than really push forward and offer up something completely new.
I can’t help but wonder if there’s any real interest from fans in another new release from Adema. I guess only time will only answer that question. But if there’s one message this E.P. delivers, it’s that Adema aren’t ready to call it a day just yet.

For more information on Adema, check out –

© Justin Donnelly

Long Distance Calling - The Flood Inside

Long Distance Calling
The Flood Inside
Superball Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

German (Münster based) outfit Long Distance Calling are one of the progressive/post rock underground scene’s best kept secrets. Over the course of their three full-length releases to date (2007’s ‘Satellite Bay’, 2009’s ‘Avoid The Light’ and 2011’s ‘Long Distance Calling’), the band have built up an impressive following, with each and every new release seeing an increased amount of attention and critical acclaim from fans and press alike. And deservedly so too, as Long Distance Calling have that rare ability to produce music that works entirely in instrumental form, barring the odd venture into vocal territory from guest vocalists.
It’s been two years since we last heard from Long Distance Calling, and in that time the band has undergone a bit of a change, with group founder and the man responsible for electronics within the group, Reimut Van Bonn parting ways with the group in 2012. Instead of replacing Van Bonn, the band (Guitarists David Jordan and Florian Funtmann, bassist Jan Hoffmann and drummer Janosch Rathmer) have decided to invite some guest programmers/electronic coordinators (Robot Koch, Alex Komlew and Mario Cullmann) to help flesh out ‘The Flood Inside’. The biggest change however is the addition of Pigeon Toe/ex-Fear My Thoughts vocalist/keyboardist Martin ‘Marsen’ Fischer to their ranks. No doubt, the biggest question on most lips is how much change does the addition of a vocalist to an act like Long Distance Calling who are predominately an instrumental outfit? And do the three guest programmers on ‘The Flood Inside’ fill the void left behind by Van Bonn?
Well in short, not a whole lot has changed within Long Distance Calling.
Sure, ‘The Flood Inside’ has a greater number of vocal tracks, but vocals have always played their part on previous albums. And as for the programmers, you’d be hard pressed to know a change has taken place for the most part.
Long Distance Calling opens up their latest opus with ‘Nucleus’, which is fairly typical of what you would expect of the band with its ebb and flow mix of heavy rock and passages of gentle atmospherics. There are some great heavy moments within the track where the guitars are allowed to rock out in a heavy fashion, while the guest guitar solo from Henrik Freischlader adds a great blues touch to the latter half of the track. All up, this track provides a great start to the album.
Fischer’s first appearance on the album comes in the form of ‘Inside The Flood’. And if I were to be honest, it’s perhaps one of the weaker songs on the album. There’s no disputing Fischer is a great vocalist (Fear My Thoughts’ last album ‘Isolation’ from 2008 is a personal favourite of mine), he just doesn’t sound comfortable here, with the melodies sadly lacking in the choruses.
Despite the minor hiccup on the former track, the band more than make up for their misstep in ‘Ductus’, which starts off with some sparsely played guitar over spoken word quotes from ‘Twin Peaks’ in a mild mid-paced tempo, before building ever so gently to incorporate some dominate sounding tribal drums, some huge sounding guitar riffs and plenty of catchy heavy drawn out groove moments.
Fischer’s second foray into vocals on ‘Tell The End’ is a much more rewarding experience, with the choruses standing out in the way they rightfully should outside the ever building verses. Fischer gets to fully explore his range (Something he couldn’t do within ‘Inside The Flood’), which showcases his ability as a front man, while the sly inclusion of a spoken word quote from ‘American Psycho’ (2000) is exceedingly well done.
Outside of Fischer, Long Distance Calling also has a couple of other guest vocalists – namely Petter Carlsen and Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) – both who appear on ‘Welcome Change’. The track itself will disappoint those who are hoping to hear Cavanagh sing anything more than back-ups in the choruses. But if you overlook the lack of Cavanagh, ‘Welcome Change’ is a fairly strong effort, and one that stands out as a bit of a detour from the rest of the album on the vocal front in a good way.
‘Waves’ sees the band move into more experimental territory with the use of electronic manipulation and spoken word (Courtesy of Folkways Records & Service Corp.’s 1958 album based on sound – ‘The Sound Of Science’) to great effect. While the use of guitars and drums are used sparingly, the constant rise and fall of electronic noises and the echoed effect put on a few sampled words and violins create a truly mesmerising track.
After a few experimental numbers, Long Distance Calling returns to the rock big time with the Fischer fronted/groove driven/anthem-like ‘The Man Within’, before concluding the album with the epic instrumental ‘Breaker’, which initially starts out on a stoner rock path, before exploding around the halfway mark to take on a heavy progressive rock direction. Again, the closer is another of the album’s many highlights.
Long Distance Calling hasn’t yet managed to really break the big time, but it’s not through a lack of trying or talent. Long Distance Calling have both those qualities in abundance. And while I doubt that ‘The Flood Inside’ is likely to break the band this time around, it will at least earn the band more critical acclaim, and more followers to their cause.

For more information on Long Distance Calling, check out -

© Justin Donnelly