THE GREAT ESCAPES…
UDR - METAL BLOG, Vol. 18 - by Steff Chirazi
I’m not sure how you feel, but for me, 2017 is shaping up to be one of the most volatile and weird yet. I’m not an idiot - I’m aware that the current socio-political climate has everything to do with the weird energy circulating, but there’s also a strange and turbulent feeling in the air, a sense that anything can (and will) happen, that twists and turns will be more pronounced than ever before. It makes the music you allow into your headspace both privileged and important, thus allow me to bring you through a few bits and pieces which have kept me delightfully distracted since the turn of the year, when the luxury for such time has allowed.
Kreator just released their latest album Gods Of Violence, and whilst there have been a few complaints here and there that it treads some very similar territory to previous work, and perhaps walks the Slayeresque brutality a bit too closely at times, these ears won’t have any of it. In fact, said-ears are happily tuned into the crisp excision of “World War Now” which is exactly what it says on the tin, top-calibre thrash and not one ounce of fat, the title track, which breaks out into a similar thrash-gallop, the almost-math-thrash-metrics in “Army Of Storms” and the hurdy-gurdy intro which gets smashed to pieces in “Lion with Eagle Wings”. If tight, angry music is a salve to the soul in rough times, then Kreator have provided an excellent escape once more. With over three decades under his belt, guitarist/singer/main writer Mille Petrozza continues to lead the way with his progressive, provocative and considered thoughts on all manner of social and political issues without ever delivering a ballad, and given that this album is literally dripping with warm, freshly-thrashed blood, it is always a pleasure to remember that Petrozza is in fact a vegan.
Sometimes you just wanna jump on a train with nothing more than a bag on your shoulder, a little dough in your pocket and no clue as to what the hell you’re doing or where the hell you’ll go. You might personally not throw homelessness, avoiding abusive step-dads, unemployment for several years and general hobo hardship into the mix, but Oakland, California-born blues guitar great Seasick Steve either lived that life or constructed it all. Were I either (a) into some investigative journalism or (b) a person who seriously gave a shit about what percentage of an artist’s tale is ‘real’, I’d look deeply into the facts versus fiction behind Seasick Steve. Let’s face it, Seasick Steve isn’t a public official bound by truth and honour to serve with unerring honestly, and the truth is I’m not someone who especially believes that any stories I hear about rockers are full gospel. And for my money, Seasick Steve’s Keepin’ The Horse Between Me and The Ground is one hell of a creative escape. A slow, grimy, greasy, hot blues-stuffed, cactus-riddled stroll through 90 degrees of American delta heat, all executed on a variety of homemade geetars, whatever Seasick Steve is, he is damn well worth your time. The frenetic jerkiness of “Gypsy Blood” would make Tom Waits proud, and as for the nearly-7 minute long “Hell”, well, none other than Billy Gibbons would be at this altar of uprise against the bankers and wankers ruining our planet, and I feel comfortable saying a certain Mr. I. F. Kilmister would’ve been swaying gleefully to it’s dark, smoky and outrageously seductive charms. Do yourself a favour. Get it. And while you’re out, get a fifth of bourbon too.
Back to some great political thrash we go, and an absolute gem of punk-metal madness from Richmond, Virginia’s Iron Reagan (yes, that is a fusion-pun of Iron Maiden and Ronald Reagan!) and their third album Crossover Ministry, which aggressively throws two violent fingers up at all forms of authority and instead feeds off the crass chaos of today by repeatedly throwing out executioner riffage with sharpened bayonets for good measure. Think of a fiercely bubbling stew containing early Vio-lence, some Obituary attitude and some Slayerized Discharge and you’ll have a great impression of the meal on offer. “F**k The Neighbours”, “Power Of The Skull” and the sprightly 1:44 chuggfest “More War” are big hitters, but in truth, the entire album is one for angry, limb-flailing escapist fun, shit and giggles.
It was astounding to hear that Judas Priest’s Turbo album just turned 30 this year, and being of a vintage to remember the uproar when it was first released, I thought a return spin was in order to see where it took me. 1987… what a different time that was. Hair was longer, in climates over 50 degrees Fahrenheit it seemed that there was ‘curl’ and ‘pouff’ on those bouffants, doubtless the Bon Jovi/Motley Crue effect coming into vision, and the Priest had certainly followed that path, throwing in more synth-supported melodies than most fans had been prepared for. In short, arena-rock. At the time, I remember being ambivalent, not overly concerned but not overly excited, yet now, listening to Turbo as a vintage piece, I can find things to appreciate (even though “Locked In” was always a strong suit song). In fact, hitting the nostalgia lane as I did when I took the re-mastered Turbo for a ride, I found myself singing along to the likes of “Parental Guidance”, “Turbo”, the Sunset Strip-soaked “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days” plus the hugely underrated “Private Property”, and I am not afraid to say the material weathers better than I anticipated. But yes, the ante gets seriously upped here when you hit the bonus material and realize that basically ANY Priest re-issue that gives you live bonus material is worthy of your money, because you can never tire of hearing brilliance like “Heading Out To The Highway”, “Electric Eye” or “The Green Manalishi” so yeah, just buy the bastard and enjoy the nostalgia.
Sometimes an escape requires a little weight, a little heft and a healthy dose of dimensional progression in the writing. Soen’s new album Lykaia is both beautiful and bombastic, crisp and heavy in execution yet bristling with harmonies that conjure shades of Tool and Opeth without ever causing you to think of either too deeply. Soen occupy a space in melodic metal which sees them uniquely fusing a relentless power and (at times) fury to material which is often ethereal in feel and grandiose structure. Soen don’t need an image or even a snazzy PR photo because theirs is a wholly immersive musical experience, one where the visual shapes and colours are created by their melodies (“Opal” is a particularly rich kaleidoscope).
Finally, for those that saw Lady Gaga join Metallica onstage at the Grammy’s in Los Angeles last week, I’d like to make sure that you are aware of Barb Wire Dolls, in particular Isis Queen the band’s frontwoman. Here is a band born of punk rock roots in an artist commune near Athens, Greece back in 2010, and here is a woman that literally lives and breathes that look, that style and that punk-metal lifestyle 24-7 (this is a band who sleep on floors and cram into a van to hit the road - they wanna play whatever it takes). Pick up their Slit album (produced by Steve Albini, he of Big Black and Nirvana fame) and their latest release, the ragingly realized Desperate, which was released last Fall on Motörhead Music and which needs to be preached and preached again. They’ll be rolling through Europe early this summer, but again, in the meanwhile, trust me here and check out Desperate.