Friday, May 30, 2008

Miggs – Unraveled


Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

All Monty Python-isms aside, sometimes having little to no expectations is the best way to approach listening to unknown music. As a listener, you don’t get too high, or too low, on what’s coming next. You kind of get this honest moment of clarity as the music enters the ear and tickles the emotions. That was how things worked for me with Miggs and their latest album, Unraveled. I had no preconceived notion of what I was getting myself into, and by the end of disc, I found myself tapping my toes, humming along, and eagerly awaiting the next display of musical acrobatics.

Unraveled is a poppy, powerfully emotional rock album that will invoke memories of bands such as Matchbox 20 or Train. Miggs offers up honest music that’s jam packed with hooky and catchy melodies that will have you humming throughout the day. Pushed by strong musicianship, the straight up love songs are given a little extra spice with some off time rhythms and untraditional approaches towards the tunes. On subsequent spinnings, I found myself listening for little nuances within the arrangements of the songs that made this disc a bit different that others of it’s kind. Tracks such as “Perfect,” “Suddenly Wonderful,” “Everything Is Fine,” and “Lie To You” aren’t just the catchiest numbers on the album, they also feature subtle musical challenges that make for entertaining repeat listens.

Not only does “Perfect” induce a smile at the chorus, but the drum work is pretty special, specifically as the snare comes in during the second verse. It’s the little things like this that have always made music interesting to me. There’s no law stating that the second verse has to be played note for note as the first verse. Change it up and keep the listener on their toes!

“Suddenly Wonderful” opens as if it belongs on U2’s Achtung Baby, but any other similarity is washed away as the bands namesake, Don Miggs, begins belting out the vocals. And when he gets to the chorus . . . oh momma! That’s good stuff. Musical nuance #2: Listen for the quiet passage after the bridge at the end of the second chorus. Miggs’ vocals crack at just the right moments to sell the emotion of the tune, and then as the band comes back in, well . . . damn, it’s just uplifting!

Runner up for summer soundtrack of the year goes to “Everything Is Fine.” This bouncy tune will get the most curmudgeonly dude bobbin’ his head and shakin’ his ass. The drum work is sweet through the verse, but it’s the interplay of the instruments at the bridge that add the greatest interest. A bit of a reggae feel? I’m having a hard time placing the sound, but it’s freaking cool. In some ways, it reminds me of some of those complex moments of Rush during their Grace Under Pressure or Power Windows albums. Yeah . . . this one’s my personal fave.

“Lie To You” is the beefiest tune on Unraveled, as you’ll hear Miggs fire away a staccato guitar riff over an off time drum beat. The tune, as I’m finding is the fashion of the band, is uber-catchy and full of musical feats of strength. There are a couple of different breaks towards the end of the song that just grab the attention and defy reason. I didn’t see them coming, but man . . . they sure are welcome!

Listening to Unraveled is kind of like the "torture" of being poked with soft cushions (I had to throw one more Python-ism in there.) None of the songs are all that long, and the little musical flourishes that Miggs toss in the mix make it more than just your average power pop record. There’s a definite musicality to this band that could keep them viable for years to come. Pushing the envelope to their abilities, both in songwriting and performance, is only going to make these guys better and better. Thematically simple, compositionally complex. Sounds like a winning formula to me. - Pope JTE






buy here: Unraveled



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Collective Soul - Afterwords


Collective Soul always had it all; incredibly tight hooky songs, a great, unique-voiced lead singer, and of course, those riffs. Anyone who loves the band will always refer to the classic riffs they belted out in the nineties. Songs like "Shine," "Gel," and "Heavy" were monsters of post-grunge alt-rock, reaching through the radio-blah to grab you by the neck and demand you listen. Give them your full attention.

And we did. Through the nineties, Collective Soul had their share of mega-albums, each of their first two albums going platinum. Their sound was instantly recognizable, nobody else could belt out the radio friendly hooks as effortlessly, but still something strange happened. Maybe it was the rise of nu-metal, maybe it was the death of grunge, perhaps it was because they were so good, just so damn competent at what they did, the band never seemed to achieve the level of success they deserved. It was almost as if we took Ed Roland and his gift for riff and melody for granted. Just always assumed he'd be there to crank out another monster whenever we wanted it.

Well, oh waverider, I'm here to tell you that after a brief detour into different sounds, the mighty riffs are back. Collective Soul burst back onto the scene, with Afterwords, bigger and grander than ever, that hand reaching out once again demanding your attention. And you better give it them.

This is the Collective Soul we love. "New Vibration," starts off with a dynamite, classic Collective Soul stuttering riff. As simple as their compositions are, no one has ever been able to mimic that sound, that stop-and-start riffing married to a salt water taffy sticking to the roof of your mouth melody and a swooping, soaring chorus, escalating the song to the heavens. Rock doesn't have to be dark and heavy all the time, sometimes you just want something that moves you and actually makes you feel good. This is arena rock in its best terms, just ready for that arena to play in.

Then, lest we forget, Collective Soul launch right into their other side. You know which side I'm talking about, the home of some of the most beautiful, diaphanous melodies of the nineties, like "December," and "The World I Know." Afterwords is chock full of worthy ascenders to that lofty throne. "I Can't Give You," hints at the subtle beauty of "The World I Know," while "Bearing Witness," is a love song of uncommon beauty. "Good Morning After All," has an easy John Lennon-Beatles-esque quality. Then, just when you thought Ed Roland must have used up all his tricks, "Georgia Girl," leaks out of the stereo, delicate and gentle with its acoustic guitar and piano intro. Hands down, this must be the most beautiful melody to ever come from Roland's creative mind, a perfect composition to take full advantage of those fragile notes.

Now don't go thinking that all this talk of melodies means the boys have gone soft. "Never Here Alone," rocks into its own quarry on a simple riff that could comfortably place it as the next track after "Shine," from their debut album. "Persuasion of You," is the most aggressive track here, downtuned and distorted, Will Turpin's bass getting the chance to let loose around the tight confines of the riff, soaring through up-and-down neck runs. "Hollywood," a can't-miss single, hints at the later Cars song, "Magic," in its tone and light-hearted feel while "All That I Know," is a jaunty, bouncing feel good number guaranteed to keep you bopping along, humming all the way to the beach this summer. This is pop/rock at its best.

Special note needs to made to "I Don't Need Anymore Friends," Joel Kosche taking over lead vocal and songwriting duties without any disruption of the natural flow. In fact, it's a testament to the tremendously tight band and the perfect production that the signature Collective Soul sound, layered backing vocals, soaring choruses, melodic riffs, is so distinct and pervasive through out the entire disc. This is a band playing at a deep level of confidence. Maturation of songwriting aside, to use their own song title, the boys have really gelled, forgoing the experimentation of past albums and settling into their first love, straight up, infectious rock and roll.

The music industry has changed drastically since Collective Soul first released "Shine," some fourteen-odd years ago, but some things never go out of style, such as great songwriting, playing and musicianship. And for that, we can all be grateful. Collective Soul are back and they've brought the riffs and melodies with them. Now that's the world I know.

--Racer





Buy here:Afterwords

Monday, May 26, 2008

Charles Mingus – Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus


I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about jazz. I mean, I don’t understand the difference between progressive jazz and improvisational jazz. And I’ll admit, I will have a difficult time telling the difference between artists such as the great Charlie Parker and a lesser known entity as Dexter Gordon. I don’t know what makes good jazz and bad jazz, I just know what sounds good to my ears. What I also know is, music that makes me move on an emotional level, as well as a physical level, is worthy of discussion. With this review, don’t expect an intellectual discussion on the genre, or the musicians. This is simply my take on a jazz album that encompasses everything that I love about the music. A great composition, a great performance, and to me, a great story.

Widely known as being one of the greatest jazz artists for his skill in composition, Charles Mingus brought something to my ears that few of the household jazz names have. The power of the groove. Mingus’ 1963 release Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus is brimming with so much soulful groove and jazz attitude that I can’t help but bounce up and down in my chair. But, don’t think that this is just one bepop track after the next, Mingus also mixes the laid back ballad sounds of someone like Tommy Dorsey to show that he has a softer side as well. Throw Mingus x5 on and prepare to be transported to the late ‘20’s, early ‘30’s American big city where a night at the jazz club wasn’t just a night of entertainment, but an escape from the all too real world of social class struggles.

The opening track, “II B.S.,” gives us a glimpse of Mingus’ bass playing soul as the song kicks off. Just as we’re settling in, the rest of the band joins in with the groove and viola! We’re streaking down the mean streets of Chicago, holding onto the door posts of an old model T, headin’ out for a night at the club. And man, we’re dressed to kill! The bass and drums hold the rhythm together as the saxophones go off, sweeping us from the running boards to the floor boards of the dance floor. This tune has all of the imagery of the seedy nightlife of the speakeasy’s during the prohibition era. As the tune comes to an end, the dance floor revelers collapse in their chairs to cool off and, surreptitiously, grab another drink.

For the stronger, more seasoned club goers, “I X Love” keeps them on the floor, but closer than before. Punctuated by the melody of the saxophones, one can easily picture two lovers, nose to nose, beads of sweat beginning to develop on their skin, swaying on the dance floor. It has the steamy sensuality of the bad boy trying to be good, and the good girl trying to not be bad. I’m not sure if Charles Mingus had intended to capture this type of imagery, but as we all know, music is very subjective and this is what I see.

“Celia” highlights Mingus’ aforementioned prowess at composition, opening the tune where “I X Love” left off, and then busting into a great rhythmic groove. Saxophone and trumpet accents interjected to add extra color, the drums pounding away and dictating the pace, all before dropping to another mellowed out passage. If Mingus x5 were a movie, “Celia” would be the portion where we’re introduced to the lady of the same name, and given a glimpse of her life away from the bad boy from the steamy club. Throughout the tune, the moods shift from those of a young lady full of dreams to those of one desperate for a better life.

“Mood Indigo,” written by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard, is a real laid back and romantic piece. Mingus’ bass work, in conjunction with the drums, lulls the listener to a level of complacency before he shows off a few of his bass playing chops at the 1:18 mark. How this song works in the context of the story, like most of the music, is open to interpretation. Celia and the bad boy are having a lovers interlude? Sure. Works for me.

Mingus and band return to an up tempo groove with “Better Get Hit In Yo’ Soul,” and the melody on this one is striking. This is a feel good tune that will get you up and moving. The rhythm provided by the horn section has a harder edge than much of the rest of the album, but that roughness is countered by a smoothed out melody line. The break where the band claps the rhythm at the 2:10 mark is a great touch, and is followed up with a knock out drum break at the 3:37 mark. And, just when you think that the song is over, they break into a whole new groove at the 4:55 mark. Awesome! These little nuances keep music, not just jazz, interesting and they’re the stuff I, personally, look forward to.

“Theme For Lester Young” opens with another memorable and soulful sax line. Me thinks, with this tune, Lester Young is the bad boy from earlier club scene, and we’re just getting the character breakdown on this chap. Heartfelt and emotional, one can’t help but be moved by the plight of the young man torn between fitting in with his gang and the love he feels for the beautiful and alluring Celia.

“Hora Decubitus” pretty much closes out the “story” portion of the album. At least, the way I’m interpreting things. The tune is a mover and provides a monumental amount of bounce through the bass, drums, sax, trumpet . . . name it. This tune comes as the climax of the story. Lester has either come into conflict with the forces keeping him from Celia, or the two of them are in such exuberance about being together that the music is pushing the couple across the dance floor. Such a brilliant tune and Mingus shows us why he’s so revered for his compositions and performances.

In true closer fashion, “Freedom” puts an exclamation on Mingus x5. It’s a fantastic social commentary on human rights, and it should be noted that Mingus isn’t calling out solely for the freedom for the black’s of America, but freedom for all people world wide. And still, maybe this song can be interpreted as the closing track to the saga of Lester and Celia. Here’s a young black couple searching for freedom in America circa 1930. After all, at the time of this recording, a black man in America wasn’t even allowed to use a restroom with a white man, let alone cast a vote.

Sorry, to be so long winded, but I felt compelled to share my feelings on this one. It kind of took me by surprise, as I didn’t sit down and listen to Mingus x5 with the intention of reviewing it. I was expecting to sit back and chill for a bit, not fall totally in love with an album that’s been randomly rotating on my iPod for two years. If you do go out and pick up this album, or already have it, please give it a listen and let me know what you think. I’ve very interested in others interpretations of this great man’s work. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus



Friday, May 23, 2008

Proto-metal report - JPT Scare Band - Past is Prologue


Take a solid, Cream-based blues outfit, mix in the wildest, most psychedelic moments of Hendrix feedback, throw in loads of distortion and a grocery bag full of LSD and the final result will be something like the proto-metal/psych jamming of the JPT Scare Band.

Near legendary among proto-metal historians, to understand this band and their music you've got to step back. Way back. In fact the title of their CD Past is Prologue gives us a pretty good indication where this bunch of psych-blues/metallers were coming from.

By the time the band formed in 1973, the main foundation of metal had already been formed. Black Sabbath was all the way up to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Deep Purple was a year past Machine Head, even Blue Oyster Cult had released Tyranny and Mutation. In fact, it's when you compare JPT's work to these monumental releases you can see who they really were, not so much proto-metal or metal for that matter, but dudes who longed for the days of blitzed out, psychedelic walls of guitar experimentation fused to a heavy back beat and more effects pedals than an octopus could ever wrap its tentacles around. JPT Scare was actually a retro band, longing for a psychedelic day now past. A retro-proto-metal act, if you will.

And nowhere is this more apparent than on Past is Prologue. A collection of songs from sessions in the mid-seventies combined with a few from the reformed band in the 1990's and even one killer track from 2001. This is a fiercely demented maelstrom of blues-drenched psychedelic heaviness, walls of metallic feedback scorched with blistering guitar pyrotechnics, and an earthquake inducing rhythm section all wrapped up into a loose collage of extended jams that these boys call songs. And when I say jams, I mean jams. Of the seven tracks on this disc (ignoring the reprise), only one clocks in at under 8 minutes. This is a searing slab of flying-in-all-directions bass and guitar rock. In other words, it's everything we love about metal without actually being metal.

"Burn in Hell," sets this beast off on its journey up the river Styx, a slow, smoldering blues-infected tune similar in pace and vocal to Ten Years After's "I'd Love to Change the World." Forget the sci-fi lyrical theme, this is a blistering track of distorted guitar jams disturbing in its heaviness. Clocking in at over 8 minutes long, 5 of those minutes are a freaked out flying guitar solo, soaring through space and acid flashbacks. Terry Swope is the unsung guitar hero of rock, ferociously tearing through his solos, his fingers charged with electricity, searing his notes through the driving bass of Paul Grigsby and the relentless pacing of Jeff Littrell. How this guy isn't as revered as Hendrix is a crime against all musical sense.

The next track, "I've Been Waiting," is the CD highlight, a deep beastly number, Swope's guitar leaps around and over Grigsby's menacing, swooping basslines. Despite the impeccably paced solo, this song about paranoia and insanity is really an opportunity for the rhythm section to flash its muscle, Grigsby's bass leaping to the front, throwing in fills, dropping for a solo, stealing the lightning from the guitar while Littrell brings on the thunder. "Sleeping Sickness," a 1976 holdover from the band's earliest vinyl release takes the wah wah roar of distortion to never before seen depths of heaviness. "Time to Cry," is thirteen minutes of free form, spaced out, blues heavy guitar jamming while "Jerry's Blues," reveals the band's true blues heart in a twelve minute opus of barroom jump, feedback and distortion. This is trad blues on electroshock therapy. Like most of JPT's songs, the basic structure was put in place, the bong was lit, amps plugged in and the improvisation began.

Over the years, the JPT Scare Band went from being an underground cult awareness to just painfully obscure. Somehow, this gem of massively heavy, bluesed-out, psych-metal never dug its way out of the depths to public consciousness. But that's why we're here, at the Ripple, with shovel in hand, clearing away the dirt to let the light shine down. The JPT Scare Band are here, my friends, the real question is; are you ready?

--Racer


Buy here from Amazon: Past is Prologue


Buy here from CD Baby: Buy the CD

www.jptscareband.com
www.jptscareband.com/jptelectricblues

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rumors Heard in Myspace, Episode 4 (A New Hope)


Yes, you can feel it . . . can’t you? There’s that something in the air. Yeah, it’s spring, but that’s not all. No . . . it’s not air pollution, though that too is in the air. It’s something . . . new. Like something that you’ve been waiting for all winter. Like some sort of new hope. C’mon, you’re Waveriders . . . what else could be new in the air? There’s a ton of new music soaring across the airwaves, and I don’t know about you, but I’m damn hopeful!

In past episodes, I’ve mentioned upcoming releases from some of the Ripple favorites in King’s X, Kataklysm, and Opeth. So, I’ll bypass those bands for the time being and focus on some fresh stuff that’s just bubbling under the surface of the mainstream or stuff so deep in the underground you’d need a miners lamp to find it. Ha . . . just call me the Spelunking Pope!


Hailing from Texas, Heir to Madness is creating some wild soundscapes on their new album entitled, The Citadel. Beautiful cover art on the album as well! If you’re a prog fan, specifically in the vein of Porcupine Tree, these guys might be up your alley. www.myspace.com/heirtomadness



Speaking of prog, Dimaension X has an album that they’ve made available for free download. In fact, all eight of the Dimaension X albums are downloadable, so check ‘em out. If you’re a fan of metal with a symphonic slant, well . . . why haven’t you clicked over and started perusing the music? Keep an eye out for a feature review of their latest release, I Am Become Daevel, in the very near future. www.myspace.com/dimaensionx




Out of Canada, Oh Canada, there’s a very beautiful and immensely talented young lady simply going by the name of Rayna, who has captured this writers heart. Her music is that passionate, acoustic tinged stuff that is brimming with emotion. You know, the kind of stuff that has the toughest guys eyes welling up with tears. She recently posted a cover version of ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry.” Rayna recorded a fabulous interpretation of the tune. I’m sold. She has at least one album that you can track down, so make it happen. www.myspace.com/raynamusic






Now, there’s a talent lingering around jolly ole England who I’ve known for a couple of years now, who simply doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves. I’m just waiting for some record exec to come along and snatch this dude up, because much like the previously mentioned Rayna, he has the ability to make the strongest man a bubbling mess. That, my friends, is true power. His name is Neil Davison, and as I mentioned, you won’t find an album out there with his music because the music industry is ludicrous. So, stop by his page, drop him a line, and ask really nice. He may burn his stuff onto a disc and get it into your hands. He has the most tortured voice in music and his songwriting is as real as it gets. From listening to his music, one gets the sense that the sun never shines over his neighborhood. Fabulously painful! www.myspace.com/neildavison


Rumor has it that the brothers Mardo are hard at work writing for the follow up to The New Gun. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and you still haven’t caught their live show, man . . . you’re fuckin’ missing out! www.myspace.com/mardo




Out of L.A., we also have the metal / hardcore monster of Flatline preparing for their new album, Pave the Way. It’s being released by Stand and Deliver Records on July 28th. From what I’m hearing, the tunes will appeal to any metal head who is a fan of anything ranging from the groove of Pantera to the vicious beat down of Hatebreed. Yeah, wide range, but these guys have the fire. www.myspace.com/flatlinemetal



Also, word has it that Mos Generator are back from a successful jaunt to Europe and are in the studio working on some vinyl releases. Apparently, vinyl is still a hot commodity in the music world outside of the U.S. Who knew? www.myspace.com/mosgenerator







Our favorite spaced out rockers, Farflung, are hitting the Euro highway and playing some gigs in Holland and Germany. Though they don’t have any info posted on their page, I’m sure they’ll be more than accommodating with the info if you ask nicely. That’s what I did. www.myspace.com/farflung






Ex-Bongo’s frontman, Richard Barone will be doing a promotional jaunt for his book, Frontman. He’ll be appearing at the Los Angeles Book Festival on July 12th. Racer and I have confirmed that we’ll be in attendance. www.myspace.com/richardbarone




Stateside, there are two package tours that might interest the Waveriders. One being 3 . . . huh? One can’t be 3. No . . . the band, 3. They’re on The Progressive Nation Tour with Dream Theater and Opeth. You haven’t heard 3? Oh man . . . you are missing out. They are so freaking out there that you can’t help but love them. Go to their page and check out some of their stuff. www.myspace.com/3 The other tour that might be of interest is The Mayhem Tour. I mention this one mainly because of Black Tide. These kids have embraced the metal of my youth and given it a swift kick in the ass with their youthful exuberance. Yeah, some of it’s been done before, so what? They’re young, they’re having fun, and they’re creating music that has more balls than the majority of the stuff bogging down the airwaves. www.myspace.com/blacktide



For you fans of extreme metal, there’s a record label out of Norway that’s released some pretty cool stuff of late called Dark Essence Records. They’re primarily focused on black metal acts, but extend those boundaries a bit with bands like Vulture Industries and Obscure. I’m actually pretty interested in a couple of their other acts, namely Hades Almighty and Malsain. www.myspace.com/darkessencerecords



Pop-punksters, I Am The Heat, have released their debut 5-song EP, The Future Doesn't Need Us. Another candidate for the feel-good song of the summer, "What Would Lou Reed Do," should be the soundtrack at endless pool parties all season long. Check it out at their myspace page, www.myspace.com/iamtheheat




Finally, we received word from The Delta Mud Skipper, field correspondent of The Dirty South, that the talented and soulful Sean Costello was found dead on April 15th, the day before his 29th birthday. At the time of this writing, the cause of death is unknown. We here at The Ripple Effect send our heartfelt condolences to Sean’s family and friends. The music world, not just the blues community, lost yet another unheralded talent who, as good as he was, had barely begun to show what he was all about. Damn tragedy. Hop over to his page, www.myspace.com/seancostello, and listen to the track “Going Home” and send a bit of your positive spirit out to the universe. Our little spinning sphere could use a bit more love in it.

Until next month, Ripple on, Waveriders!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Triptaka - Second War


I've got a movie screenplay running around in my head. The story's not entirely developed, but it involves two warring factions of vampire clans, a Romeo and Juliet story, young, hip and incredibly dark. The film will slice through dark, misty city streets, deep into smoky underground clubs and sex shops, twist through rancid drug houses, brutal street fights, violent sex scenes and death.

It may take me a while to get the script complete, but one thing that's ready is the soundtrack. I got the good people of Triptaka to thank for that.

Blending the industrial crunch of NIN with the progressive experimentalism of Tool, throwing in some odd touches of God Lives Underwater, the dramatic tension of Rammstein, and a hint of Linkin Park, Triptaka manage to transcend their influences, creating a dark, grinding industrial prog that's just screaming out to be used in my film.

Here's how it goes down. The movie starts off in the bowels of an underground bar, cigarette smoke billowing from darkly painted female lips. Strobe lights flash in incongruous sequences while the first pounding bass chord of Triptaka's lead song "Suspended," belts out through the sound system. By the time the heavily distorted guitar rips through the mix, bodies fill the dance floor, undulating in the delirious electro beat the music creates. The chorus soars, flying on the breathy with just a hint of gruffness vocals of Graeme Cornies. James Chapple keeps the partiers entranced with thick synth fills while guitarist Dave Kelly lays on the thick slabs of distortion.

"Lost and Leading," sets the stage for my sex scene, a throbbing, pulsing song that bleeds sensuality. Across an undulating, sporadic bass line, our male and female leads melt their bodies together, twisting to the raw sexuality of the beat. Candles flicker. Bodies coat with sweat. "Second War," shoots us into the first chase scene, a raw, pounding, polyrthymic explosion of computerized drums, sci-fi synths and spasms of massively distorted guitar. Our hero, loses the girl, screaming in anguish as the chorus blasts in "I wanted to take it all/Oh, God, I need it all." Dark, fierce and heavy.

"Tamed," is a song of rebellion, our hero fighting back against the forces conspiring to destroy his life pounded out against an incessant double drum line and guitar crunch, before the beautifully performed bass breakdown. After the slower, lament of "Mother," the story rips back into it's most violent fight scene with " Slow Burn." After intro strains of synth and scattered guitar, the passion roars in, riding on the back of the ripping guitar chords and pounding drums. This song will accompany our hero as the races through the City, dipping in and out of darkened alleys and misty streets, searching for the gang that's captured his love. This song is a ripper, building in intensity, the drumming growing more fierce, the guitars angrier as it reaches the blast of a chorus. "You feel so fucking right/You see no other side."

All of which leads to possibly the best track, "Falling Down," a Tool-esque slab of distorted guitar. The perfect song for our final fight scene, leading to the death of our hero's love, cradling her lifeless yet still beautiful body in his arms to the somber "Don't You Think it's Time You Let Go?"

Now if all that seems a bit much, check out this album. These guys have created an aural film, a sweeping, powerful, incredibly dark and deeply visual musical journey. And one thing I gotta say; I rarely ever mention production or packaging in a review unless they're terrible. Here, it's just the opposite. The album is so perfectly produced and the artwork and CD insert so professionally done, you'd never know this was a self-produced project. The sound is full, lush and heavy, never thin or tinny which would have ruined the whole album. It is just a beautifully created package. For all you unsigned bands that read the Ripple, I'm including the recording/art links below because this is how your product is supposed to look and sound.

Take notice, world, Triptaka have arrived soon to come to a movie theater near you. Now, I can't wait for their next CD (hopefully on a major label), me and the Triptaka boys got another film to write.

--Racer

Buy the CD

www.myspace.com/triptaka
www.music.download.com/triptaka

Recording: http://www.voodoohighwaymusic.com/
Artwork: http://www.inersouster.blogspot.com/
CD design: JesseFrankling@2dogsONEbone

Friday, May 16, 2008

Attic of Love - Being You




I don’t remember too much about 1997. Not that I was inebriated beyond all belief or anything. It’s just that I’m getting old and having a harder time remembering some of the little things. I do know that my wife and I started going out in ’97. Shit . . . if I forgot that, well . . . I don’t want to go into it. The other thing that stands out in 1997 is the debut album from Attic of Love called Being You. What? You never heard of it? Shocking.

I know. You’re thinking, “Attic of Love. What are they? Some sort of peace loving acoustic hippy outfit?” The short answer to that is, no. The somewhat longer answer goes something like this. Attic of Love are a four piece rock band that embraces the harder edged post-grunge grit of bands like Candlebox and Tool and mixes it with the ‘60’s psychedelic progressive rock of Jethro Tull. Loud and abrasive, but tempered with the strong song dynamics, a sense of melody, and outstanding composition. Oh right, and there’s a lot of flute playing going on here. Don’t worry. It’s a whole lot cooler than you think.

You can get a great feel for what this album is about from the first minute of the disc. “Stealing Einstein’s Brain” opens with Michael Speziali bashing the hell out of his drums. Seconds later, a smoldering guitar riff provided by Andrew Gillings with bass accompaniment from Michael Sutfin create a bitchin’ wall of bluesy alt-metal groove. Mere seconds after that, the first strains of the flute pierce the classic rock soundings. And, immediately after that, and once he’s caught his breath, the buttery smooth, Ian Anderson-esque vocals of Andrew Tisbert begins telling us of a plot to swipe the preserved brain of Albert Einstein from some dude’s bookshelf. Guitar solos, for the most part, are replaced by Tisbert’s flute prowess, and in so many ways, he works the solos better than most guitarists would handle the parts. Check out the flute work at the 4:12 mark of “Einstein’s Brain,” and you’ll get a taste of some Tull influence. Very cool!

Second track, “Cripples in Love,” starts off with acoustic guitars before the band unleashes a wave of melodic groove over the melody. Commendable bass work and impassioned vocals drive this tune. “Hold My Family” is a dark lyrical tune that describes the American foster system and how families are torn apart. The imagery is vivid and the music, in the vein of Tool, compliments the lyrics perfectly. The opening of “Corpse” has a jazzy quality to it, and in many ways, may be the best track on the album. Again, the bass work is phenomenal as it rhythmically noodles over Gillings’ clean toned strumming. Tisbert’s vocal approach on the whole song is so filled with emotion that you’d swear that this is the most important thing that he’s ever sung.

Listening to Being You kind of pisses me off because this album was ten times better than anything on the air in 1997. Didn’t Re-Load come out in ’97? Here we are again with a quality musical offering that got swept under the rug. Attic of Love deserved a hell of a lot more attention than they received for this work. Listen to the title track and get blown away. This song has Iron Maiden written all over it. Instead of dual guitar harmonies, the flute plays the role of the second guitar. The instrumental break in the middle of the tune is out of this world. Flute solo, guitar solo, bass notes weaving in and out of the jam. Epic and sprawling, this tune makes me want to pick up my guitar and write a concerto!

Other stand out tracks are the Tool inspired “Klorox,” and the lyrically brilliant “Cambodia.” The latter track is not for the weak of stomach because Tisbert can paint a as grisly a picture as there is. But, sometimes we need to be reminded of the ugly reality of hate. It’s dark, my friends. All in all, Being You is a tuneful offering. Music that’s full of rock, littered with compassion, a little sprinkling of sentimentality, and lyrically uber-intelligent. Basically, it’s an album with so much depth that you’ll need scuba gear to grasp the full weight of it.

You can find a copy of the disc by following the links listed below, and you’ll want to do that versus the way I found my copy. Me? Oh, I found mine by thumbing through a quarter mile of haphazardly tossed CD’s with the ole Racer. In fact, that was the music run where after hearing the same click-click-click of plastic CD cases for nearly four hours, I flipped out and started break dancing on the cold concrete floor. Now, I don’t want any Waveriders to have to go to such extremes, so take the easy route. Contact the band and asked real nice-like on how you too can acquire this gem for your collection. - Pope JTE

Buy the CD


myspace.com/atticoflove

The video isn't from Being You, but should give you a great idea of what this band is all about!



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Morning Stars - You Can't Change the World


Okay, let's get this out of the way up front.

When you have a band fronted by a pair of extremely talented brothers who happen to have a fixation with insanely infectious Beatles melodies and shimmering sixties pop, comparisons to Oasis have to come to mind. Add to that mix, the fact that their nasally inflected lead vocals have more than a passing similarity to one Gallagher brother and the comparisons simply can't be avoided.

So let's get it out of the way.

The Morning Stars are what Oasis should have become if they hadn't been swallowed into the bottomless dark pit of old mother Ego.

Now, let's set another thing straight. These brothers, Mars and Micheal Ivie, along with Donn Dixon on drums, come from Canada not England, and the three of them combine to create perfectly crafted shimmering pop songs, laced with a touch of underground attitude, a spice of shoegazing polyrhythms and a splash of post-punk mood and texture. The end creation is a captivating, wholly engaging album of dreamy, jangling Britrock pop that still hides a darker underbelly.

"Hearts for the Living," starts off the Morning Stars debut album, a smattering of street noise and random dialog before the big burst of sparkling sixties pop blasts through. From the intensely melodic verses to the soaring, so sweet it sticks-to-the-underside-of-your-mouth chorus, this is the feel-good hit of the summer, one that I guarantee will be bursting from the Ripple convertible Ghia as the Pope and I make our daily pilgrimage to the beach this season. It's a shame the world isn't singing this song right now. Drop the mp3 into Iraq and maybe, just maybe, sanity would be restored as the warriors decide that it's just time to lighten up and dance.

"Wrong," flows next, the best Mamas and Papas song they never wrote. Over a textured guitar riff, the brothers flow through an effortless pop gem. This is Raspberries pop, the early Beatles cleaned and buffed to a sparkling shine. Then, lest you think these boys are simply the next bunch of retro-rockers, "You Can't Change the World," opens up the can on a whole new group of the Morning Stars influences, echoing in shades of the Velvets with a hint of the postpunk underground, a smattering of Siouxie. Make no mistake this is modern pop/rock and its sobering in its beauty. A later track, "Don't Waste Time," builds on this darker vibe, building on a galloping Joy Division-era bass line before the boys soar off into their own world of shimmering guitar, melody and layered vocals.

"Steal My Love," roars over a big beat and stuttering riff, glistening guitars on top, elevating the song to the realm of the sublime. "Waiting at Your Door," throws the influences back, way back. I hear tones of the Everly Brothers in the vocal harmony and even a hint of Simon and Garfunkel in structure, before "All Coming Down," takes everything you've heard and throws it away. Forget the retro-pop, this is neo-psychedelic Stone Roses shoegazing, swirling, whirling, can't stop my ass from grooving, Britrock. Drop in a nasty The Godfathers guitar riff and we've found the highlight of the album.

In the end, the Ivie brothers mixture of their odd assortment of influences creates a sound far greater than the sum of it's individual parts. This is a glistening, timeless pop gem. And to top it all off, the boys want you to have it for free. Yes, that's right, free. Simply head over to last.fm and you'll find the whole album available as a free download. Now, we at the Ripple love free music as much as the next guy, but we also know that if we want artists to keep creating we have to support them. So, pop on over to the Morning Stars page, download one or two tracks, and if you dig what these guys are laying down, pick up the album over at Amazon or CDbaby. We've included some links to make it even easier for you.

You never know, you just may have found your theme album for the summer.

--Racer

http://www.myspace.com/themorningstars

buy from amazon here: You Can't Change The World

buy from CD baby here: Buy the CD

This video is a sampler of different songs and melodies from the album

Monday, May 12, 2008

Trettioariga Kriget – Elden Av Ar


I still haven’t learned to read or write in Swedish. It’s on my “to do” list. Why? Coz’, man . . . one of the coolest bands in all the world hails from the sleepy resort town of Saltsjobaden, just outside of Stockholm. And, all of their lyrics are sung in Swedish. I can guess at what they’re trying to tell me through verse and chorus, but I’m only taking a stab in the dark. Though it does help that chief lyricist Olle Thornvall explains (in English) the theme of the album in the liner notes, I still feel like I’m not grasping the full experience of the music. Hence . . . I need to learn to read and write in Swedish. Saviche? Mmm mmm, good.

Anyway . . . let’s put that little tidbit aside for the time being. As important as it is to what sets Trettioariga Kriget apart from the rest of the European prog rock acts, singing the lyrics in their native tongue is not what defines them. What truly defines this band is the sprawling epics that they pen, full of seamless time and mood changes, instrumental virtuosity, and elaborate soundscapes. In short, they’re a thinking man’s band that touches the soul.

In the early seventies, the members of Trettioariga Kriget got together and recorded several albums before playing their last show in 1981. Years later, the guys realized that a fire for creating music still flowed through them. Remember, these are musicians that we’re talking about. Those creative juices don’t just dry up and disappear. That longing to create is as addictive as loving that girl that you know is all sorts of bad for you. Long story short, TK got back together and released a new album in 2004. Translated as “The Fire of Years”, Elden Av Ar loosely tells the tale of the members of Trettioariga Kriget returning to their creative breeding ground of youth and exploring what made them musicians in the first place.

Bassist, Stefan Fredin, and drummer, Dag Lundquist, introduce us to “Ljuset.” Guitarist Christer Akerberg enters the tune by strategically dropping chords over the rhythm before shifting to an awesome clean picked run. Softly and subtly, keyboardist Mats Lindberg begins to co-mingle with the others. By this time, one can tell that these guys have known each other for a long time by the way they weave around each other without getting in the way of music. The instruments build on top of one another until the song drops into the main theme of the tune. Eventually, we have the opportunity to greet vocalist Robert Zima. His crisp and hearty voice croons over a quieted verse before soaring through the chorus. Shadows of light and dark drift across the landscape of “Ljuset.” One moment rocking out, the next, an acoustic passage brimming with melody. The vocal harmonies at the break are a great touch, as is the clean toned guitar outro.

The third track, “Lang Historia,” follows a similar formula as the disc opener. Always looking to do things a little out of the ordinary, TK aren’t afraid to throw in eyebrow raising effects and instruments. Note Stefan’s use of the wah pedal on his bass, primarily during the intro. It’s an ear catching attack on the four string and compliments the other instruments impeccably. The way this sucker builds is monumental, but more impressive is how it flows into this almost somber melody. And, that’s one of those amazing qualities that these guys bring to their brand of songwriting. Seamless transitions. Almost effortlessly shifting from one mood to another as if it were just another day in the office. Lovin’ it!

The use of acoustic guitars was something that I forgot about until I revisited this disc. They’re all over the place, and they work brilliantly to capture the moodiness of the various tracks. Listen to Christer’s attack on “Night Flight” and his strumming rhythm of “Lang Historia.” Both songs highlight a different approach to the instrument with differing results. “Night Flight” is a much more light hearted sounding tune, while “Lang Historia” is a much more brooding epic. In the vein of the acoustic guitars, “Mote” and “Molnbudet” show even more stylistic variance. “Molnbudet” is a beautiful ballad with just Robert singing at his passionate best, and Christer making me jealous with those mad six string skills. He quite possibly is one of my favorite guitarists to listen to. He brings such class to the instrument and his phrasing is understated. Yeah . . . he’s a hero.

The title track is a solid rocker. With it’s quiet build up, it lulls the listener to a state of complacency before bursting with a rich array of cosmic sounds. Though not as proggy as “Ljuset” or “Lang Historia”, “Elden Av Ar” still adheres to the characteristics of the genre by offering up a non-standard approach to the songwriting. The piano in the second verse is just one of the nuances that TK bring to forefront of this tune. I can’t tell who brings more passion to their performance on this track. One moment we have Robert belting out the vocals as if his life depended on this performance. Then we have Dag again, doing that which Dag does. Stefan . . . Christer . . . I can’t decide. I defer to you, Waverider.

The album closes with another stunning tune in “Gnistor.” Much like “Elden Av Ar,” every member of the band shines with this performance. And damn, what a moving tune. The melody kills me every time I hear it. Yeah . . . I definitely gotta’ learn this language. I know I’m missing something very important here! I mean, nobody can put together such an emotionally evocative performance without having something important going on. I gotta’ go check if the Learning Annex has a crash course on foreign languages that I can enroll in tonight! - Pope JTE




Friday, May 9, 2008

Dead Man - Euphoria




Despite the death metal sounding name, DEAD MAN’s Euphoria is actually an album of spaced-out, psychedelic prog rock courtesy of a bunch of hairy, bearded guys from Sweden. Rocking on as if punk rock never happened, Euphoria alternates between mid-tempo, 1970's space jams and down-home, bluegrass-style guitar picking, The boys aren’t wanting for influences, and they throw everything into their mix, including Damnation-era Opeth, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead, along with a heaping helping of Swedish mushrooms which clearly have never been cultivated on American soil.


The first two tracks, “Today,” and “High or Low,” are the high-marks, with some gorgeous guitar playing, synthesizer undertones and delicate vocal interplay. These compositions are so loosely constructed, you get the feeling the guys just set up in a barn some place, turned on the recorder and started playing, allowing the songs to wander off wherever the marijuana smoke billowed. The tunes don’t end so much as drift away as each individual member leaves the jam to go to the bathroom or get some munchies.


"Footsteps," is a haunting, ethereal number that brings in a whole 'nother batch of Dead Man influences, most notably Nursery Crime and Foxtrot era Genesis. Again, gentle guitars lilt around and about the vocals, leading to the slightly off-key chorus. "I Must Be Blind," may be one of the best Grateful Dead songs never recorded by that band. With breathy, falsetto vocals floating high in the mix, country-picking guitar and slide dance around the gentle groove. Midway through the guys bust out with a raucous (for them) bridge riff, leading into the most searing guitar lead on the album, giving a hint as to what they could do if they ever decided to let loose and metalize their sound. But, with the weed smoke hanging this thickly in the air, it's kinda hard to maintain that much aggression, and quickly the boys jump back into the bluegrass vibe of the opening moments.


Strains of early-Genesis come rushing back for the moderately bizarre "Light Vast Corridors," again even hinting at times at more aggressive moments for the band. Must've been the lingering effects of a bad bunch of mushrooms as the song swirls in and out of space rock passages, feedback, three-chord riffs and finally an outro where the guys simply forgot that they were supposed to keep on playing.


Other than the first two tracks, "The Wheel," is the most mesmerizing. Playing over a macabre ascending bass-line, the tracks drifts through moods of despair and hopelessness, before being reborn in a simple groove that seems to harken the birth of a new day. The vocal falsetto is particularly effective here, tripping across the melody as the stabs of guitar leads snake through. I gotta say, I have no idea what the song is about, but the lyric, "A brighter day/will come your way" hints at the hope left lingering at the end.

In the end, Euphoria is an oddly enthralling listen, that like a fine wine somehow gets better with time. For weeks, I've had the damnedest time trying to get this disc out of my CD player, even when I didn't really care for it at first. But with repeated listens, I'm entranced, and without a doubt, it's a keeper. That's not to say it's perfect. Many of the songs meander on long past their expiration date as if the boys were flooded with musical ideas and had no idea how to set up an effective filter to stave the songs down. Still, there’s no denying that these guys have talent. Fans of psychadelic prog shouldn't let this one slip by, and I for one, will be watching closely to see where the boys take their sound from here.

Euphoria isn't the right album for all moods and times, or mental states for that matter, but once it gets it's THC-laced fingers into your soul, it never lets go.

–Racer

http://www.myspace.com/deadmansweden


Buy the CD







Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Iron Maiden - Powerslave


With this installment of The Ripple Effect, I’ve climbed into the vault, scavenged around the miscellaneous piles of discs, and I’ve inhaled more dust than any civilized person ever should. At times, I even battled rats the size of small cougars. Whoa . . . are those human remains of there? Jeez . . . the things I put myself through just to bring you good music . . . Jacque! I hate snakes!

Once I brushed the dust off of this gem and reacquainted myself with the vivid imagery of the ancient Egyptian funeral procession, I was overwhelmed by the nostalgia of the first time I heard this album. With it’s references of demon seeds and unborn being killed in the womb, Iron Maiden’s Powerslave was almost taboo for me when it came out. You see, I had a fairly conservative and religious upbringing and, at the time, I remember actually thinking that these guys were devil worshippers and there’s no way I would ever having anything to do with them. It’s funny how attitudes change with a little perspective.

The album kicks into high gear right of the bat. “Aces High” is a remarkable track in that Iron Maiden, Steve Harris in particular, was able to capture the urgency of the WWII air fighters as they had to scramble to action. The immediacy of the song is overwhelming at times, and ones imagination can easily soar with the subject matter at hand. 1940’s era prop planes spinning, turning, and diving through the lead and debris littered skies of Europe . . . even the guitar solo conveys the chaos of the mid-air dogfights. A mere four and a half minutes long (comparatively short by Iron Maiden standards,) “Aces High” ends and the listener is left reaching for a towel to mop the beads of sweat that have formed on the brow.

“2 Minutes to Midnight” opens with what has become a classic heavy metal riff, and as the rest of the band joins that riff, a classic heavy metal song is born. This is a fabulously crafted song about World War III and nuclear destruction, both in lyric and in composition. In context, the aforementioned demon seeds and dead unborn references are meant more to drive the point of the lyrics home than to pay homage to the Prince of Darkness. Once you’ve digested the lyrics, pay close attention to the guitar solos as Dave Murray and Adrian Smith work together to fill the first solo with harmonies, and then branch off to provide their own individual touches on subsequent solos. The musical connection that the band has is most evident as they climb out of the solos, one member reaching over the next, to eventually find themselves plowing through the final verse and chorus.

The cleverly titled instrumental “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra),” “Flash of the Blade,” and “The Duellists” close the first half of the classic format version of the album. Though not as powerful as the first two tracks, these songs aren’t throw-aways either. The hammer-on’s over Nicko McBrain’s straight forward beat on “Flash of the Blade” provide enough nuance to keep the listener intrigued. Again, the guitar work is the stuff that has made Murray and Smith legendary in the metal community. Check out the harmonies that the duo provide through this solo, as well as that of “The Duellists.” Like I said . . . legendary.

The second half of Powerslave kicks off with “Back in the Village,” in another up tempo rocker. Keep a close ear out for the references to past Maiden tunes in the lyrics . . . it's a clever little touch provided by the writing team of Dickinson and Smith. But, it’s the title track and the disc closer, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” that cap this album off and make it the classic that it is. The Egyptian themed “Powerslave” is a galloping behemoth of a tune describing a Pharaoh’s inability to relinquish his power and succumb to death. Dickinson’s passion shines as he falls into the role of the Powerslave. The instrumental break led by Harris is top notch, and the guitar solos are emotional passages that begin mellow, but burst into a sudden flurry of notes. Amazingly, that uncanny mental connection the band shares seamlessly brings the instrumentalists back to the main riff of the tune . . . galloping in time to the rhythm to the tunes completion.

Ultimately, it’s the 13 plus minute epic, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” that most people associate when Powerslave is mentioned. Though Iron Maiden had dabbled with epic songwriting in the past (“To Tame A Land,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name”,) it wasn’t until Steve Harris penned “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” that the marathon song style would forever go hand in hand with the band. There are several facets that make this particular tune work. First, it’s has a great lyric. Second, it’s musically composition is in a standard verse/chorus/verse format. Third, the instrumental break, complete with the lyrical poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is intriguing enough to keep the listeners attention. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the members of Iron Maiden perform the song with every fiber of their being. Everybody played their role in the tale and a magnificent recording was captured for all of us to enjoy for the rest of our lives. If anyone had given less, the song wouldn’t have the staying power that it does.

Arguments will always rage between Maiden fans on what is the best album in what has become a rather lengthy catalog. Quite honestly, those are petty arguments. Powerslave is too powerful and critical of an album to be disregarded for any reason. Some might say it’s the last classic from the band, others, such as myself, see it as the bridge to further musical advances and later classics. The truth of the matter is that the band has created a lasting legacy of well crafted music, and Powerslave should never find itself tucked in the back of the hallowed Ripple vault ever again. This one’s staying by my side because it’s too damn good to let out of my sight. That, and I don’t want to put myself through such discomforts rummaging through the vault to find it again . . . though, I am a wee bit curious as to who’s remains those were. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Powerslave








Monday, May 5, 2008

Pig Iron - The Paths of Glory


Somewhere in England there's a Harley bar I've never heard of.

Forget the fairy tale images of English castles and knights and fair maidens, in this beer-soaked swill house, brutally ugly, long-haired, bearded guys with names like "Geezer," and "Patch," guzzle down axle-grease colored ale by the bucketful. These guys don't just ride Harley's, they eat their spare parts for breakfast. The women in this joint are all tattooed, pierced black widows who wouldn't think twice about chopping off her man's head after he's finished pleasuring her if he's too limp-dicked to satisfy her again. The music playing is big, and loud, with mastodon sized riffs, and just mean enough to keep the teetotalers at bay.

And in this mythical sweltering hell-hole, Pig Iron is the house band.

Now don't take any of that opening paragraph as an insult, this is rock and roll, baby, and Pig Iron bring it on in spades. Belching a blues-drenched, Sabbath stained version of swaggering southern metal and boogie, Pig Iron explode off their new CD announcing to the world in all their glorious fury that they're here and there will be no prisoners.

". . . And the Bodies Fall," starts off this conquering stampede, with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and a forlorn battle horn sounding in the background, the staccato riff builds in intensity underneath, decrying the stuttering footsteps of two armies in full battalion marching towards each other on the battlefield. The pace builds to a roaring fury as the battlements approach, launching into a frenzied war zone of limb and flesh, the chorus singing out, "and the bodies fall/and the bodies fall." What separates this storming slab of sabbath metal from all the viking-horned battle metal pretenders is that this is an anti-war song, as revealed by the quote hiding just beneath the lyrics, "Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country." Makes you think.

The metal roars back with "Battle Malady," a thunderous, pulsing Sabbath riff handed down from the God of metal himself. Here, the glory of war is stripped away as a lone soldier is left dying on a battlefield. "Son of a Bitch,"blasts out next, dropping the battle down to the more personal. Over a devastating doom-filled riff, shifting in time with the intensity of the lyric, some poor bloke is getting the work over, having pissed off the wrong dude. I tell you, in this biker bar, you gotta be tough. The cowboy's all wear steel-toed cowboy boots and they ain't afraid to use 'em.

Then, just when you think you've got the band pegged as a damn fine, doom-sabbath metal band, "Lord, Kill the Pain," leaks out, lone harmonica wailing over acoustic guitar in one plaintive moan of pain. God damn, this is the blues, baby, and a whole 'nother side of the band emerges, crawling out of the muck of a Mississippi swamp. "Lord, kill the pain/at least just for today/she's packed her bags and left/she's left and gone away," Johnny Ogle's vocal anguish is perfect. It's been a hell of a long time since a band's come along blending the blues with fierce metal this strongly without it sounding forced or contrived, but listening to these guys, guitars building to a firestorm of metal, then dropping back down for that wailing harmonica, there's no doubt they've been there. Dave Pattenden shows that he can handle the varying textures of riffing metal and loose-slinged blues all without ever needing to lower his beer. Meanwhile the timing and propulsion from Joe Smith and Hugh Gilmour is flawless no matter where the songs go.

And from then on, the CD is a revelation. "Another Mule (Is Kicking in My Stall)," harmonica riding over its pulsing bass riff is a gem, metal rising from deep in the south (of England?). The addition of Hannah Kirton on backing vocal kicks the song straight into the land of old time Skynard, yet fully beefed up for the milenium. But it's the full-on duet, "What we do," with this leather-throated vixen over a raging AC/DC blues-addled metal riff that really kicks up a fuss in our little biker bar. Standing toe-to-toe with the Pig Iron lead man, I have no doubt that this biker chick is absolutely beautiful and no doubt that she could kick my ass.

"Ruler of Tomorrow," is perhaps Pig Iron's best encapsulation of the blues and the metal into one song. Riding over a chiming .38 Special guitar riff, the harmonica wails out a fucking wake-up call, until the whole beast drops down into a crystalised moment of pure pop-metal genius. This song has it all, a slamming metal riff, a blaring harmonica solo and lyrics that scream out a personal cry for rebellion against our own demons keeping us down. This song should be blasting out of every juke box in every beer joint the world over.

In the end, Pig Iron is something special. A double-fisted uppercut of testosterone-soaked metal pounded straight down your throat with a heaping helping of the blues. And they got me sucked into their leather-slabbed world. Back here at the Ripple Office, I'm pounding my fists into blocks of cement and chewing on steel-linked chains, trying to toughen myself up. I got me a biker bar to visit.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Obscure – On Formaldehyde


I love my job!

Seriously. I love sifting through the desert sands of the Middle East, tipping back a pint in a British tavern, trekking through the jungles of South America . . . all in the effort to find some unique piece of music that will yank me out of the doldrums of everyday life. On my latest journey, I found my way to Bergen, Norway to listen to a band simply called Obscure. Before I go further, I’d like to thank my guides for this expedition, Vulture Industries (another fabulous band that you’ll need to checkout), for pointing me in the right direction and making sure I didn’t get lost along the way.

Imagine for a moment, the metal intensity of Dianno era Iron Maiden mixed with the psychedelic doom and gloominess of classic Black Sabbath. That’s the best way that I can describe Obscure. A wall of dirge rock noise pierced by the melodic wail of harmonized guitars and Halford-esque vocals. Based on past experiences, I expected On Formaldehyde to be just another black metal/death metal offering, but thankfully I was mistaken and I received a much needed jolt of refreshing music.

“Conversensation” and “Veins of Steel” are straight ahead rockers in a NWOBHM fashion. They’ll have you running to your closet to dust off your finest denim and leather, pulling your Motorhead t-shirt out of mothballs, and have you striking a pose next to your Camero or GTO. They’ve got that old school metal feel and would fit well between your Tygers of Pan Tang and Angel Witch albums. Classic angst ridden, tension filled rock . . . gotta’ love it!

The rest of the album, however, takes a darker, broodier, and sometimes psychedelic turn. “Abra Macabra” takes a page directly from any of the Ozzy era Sabbath with it’s detuned menacing groove. The vocals howl over the verses before crooning through a surprisingly melodic chorus. The most compelling part of the song, though, is the musical break at the midway point. It just adds that extra layer of intrigue as it’s completely different than anything that we’ve heard up to this point on the album. That psychedelic vibe carries through to the next track, “Fragments.” Swirling textures of guitar shimmer across the airwaves, as we walk dazed through a cloud of smoke. A soundtrack to the opium dens of a bygone era? Brilliant doom rock, for sure!

The title track is the epic, center piece of the album. Obscure simply bring it on this song. Epic build up at the intro, Maiden inspired guitar work over a classic galloping metal rhythm, searing guitar solos, psychedelic instrumental break that morphs into another sludge riff. Awesome stuff! It’s song writing like this that damn near makes these guys a prog outfit, which is cool. I mean seriously . . . when was the last time that we had a prog doom outfit pummeling our senses? Finally, the last track, “Abraxis” is a heart stopping riff-fest that undoubtedly will have your head bobbing up and down, and ultimately have you pushing the replay button on your CD player.

On Formaldehyde is a respectable, damn near remarkable, first offering from Obscure. Production and performance issues aside (the drummer gets a little squirrly here and there,) this is quality work and gives us a glimpse of what could be. I hope for nothing more than these guys to learn from mistakes made on this album, are truthful with themselves, and enter the studio for a follow up that will stop the rotation of the earth. Not that I want to see civilization cease to exist or anything, but I would love to see these guys be at the forefront of a new metal movement. They catagorize their work as “Doomgie.” Call it what you will, I simply find it inspiring. - Pope JTE

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