Sunday, November 1, 2020

Album Review: Mr. Bungle-The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

 


Ahh Mr. Bungle, a band that has always come and gone through discussions but one that I never quite held onto. Perhaps it was because I used to have hard time getting into their extreme avant garde style but my friend Dan eventually pushed me into digging deeper and finding that they had something I really did dig. Their original "Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny" demo from the 80s became a favorite of mine. The mix of Hardcore, Thrash and early elements of Ska, Grindcore and Death Metal really hit me hard and I can really credit it to helping me get into more extreme music later on in life. Now I did eventually come around to their three epic offerings(and became a huge Mike Patton fan in general) but that demo always really stuck with me. Now in 2020 Bungle has returned and in true weird out there fashion, they decided to rerecord that demo with some songs retooled and a few covers and new originals that never made it to the original tape. 

Now to prepare for this review, I listened to both versions to really get the feel of each and see what new there is to offer. From the start, the addition of Dave Lombardo and Scott Ian add a layer of tightness and flash that the original definitely lacked. The production is really full and bassy with Dunns bass really cutting through all the manic riffing. The vocals definitely are a bit different as Patton has more of a thrash and death metal-esque growl than his shriek on the original recordings. Just about every song works terrifically and carries the ideas from the original even up to Rhea Pearlmans narration at the beginning of "Anarchy Up Your Anus" being totally faithful. It really brings me back to the first time I heard these songs but beefed way the hell up. Really the only song I have a bit of an issue with is "Hypocrites/Habla EspaƱol O Muere" where the Ska chorus is dropped in favor of an intense rendition of SOD's "Speak English or Die". I just felt that song as a whole really stood out and chopping off a bit kind of felt needless. The musicianship is really impeccable though as each songs is almost more intense than the last with Patton literally sounding like he's being tortured. Tracks like "Bungle Grind" and new tracks "Methematics" and "Eracist" really are the definition of what a tight band should sound like. The album does get a bit tired toward the end and though "Sudden Death" is a great end, I feel this album started to bleed together a bit by then. I definitely feel the later tracks more if I listen to the album in increments.


Overall though, this is an incredible album and probably the best Thrash record I have heard in at least the past few years. Mr. Bungle is a name associated with a lot of things: weird, experimental, avante garde and now intense great thrash music. Resurrecting an old demo after 20 years of silence and breathing new life into it show how much Patton and co. know what they are doing. This one definitely will be high on the list at the end of the year for me!

4/5

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Band Retrospective- Starfighters

 



We take a look back to to 1979/1980 and I guarantee you cannot count how many Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands started poking their heads out especially in the great Metal factory that is the U.K. This was the beginning of what was known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Now like a lot of fans of this period, I will always say it was spearheaded by Iron Maiden, Saxon and Diamond Head as well as helping older Brits like Judas Priest and Motorhead get their time to really shine. However, the band I am talking about today really slugged it out on the club circuit and had gotten a chance to open for a little known band on an extremely prolific tour before releasing two full lengths and then vanishing. That band of course is the Hard Rocking Starfighters from the the Metal capitol of Birmingham. Comprised of Steve Burton, Pat Hambly, Doug Dennis, Barry Spencer Scrannage and most famously Stevie Young. For those who don't know, Stevie is the cousin to Angus and Malcolm Young of ACDC fame. Even if you didn't know that, you could very well tell as his playing is extremely similar to  Mal's sheer hard rhythm attack. This band would go to release two albums of hard rocking excellence that are prime for a reexamination stsrting with their self titled debut released in 1981.


Starfighters(1981)



After being accepted on an opening bill on ACDC's historic Back In Black tour in 1980, the band gained enough notoriety to be picked up by Jive Records for their first full length album. The band was primed and ready as they released a few rough singles beforehand and the album was a perfect culmination of them at that point. The band was rough ragged and going for the throat here. The style is definitely in the vein of ACDC as supercharged blues based hard rock from the sheer attack of opener "Alley Cat Blues" and and the high energy of "Devil's Driving". Like I said before, Stevie's playing is very much like Malcolm Youngs which isn't a bad thing as it shows just how good of a player and time keeper he is as well. Perhaps the most defining feature is the vocals of Burton as they remind me a lot of Algy Ward of TANK with that bluesy punk infused growl. "Don't Touch Me" is another favorite with the schizophrenic hopping rhythms from Young and Hambly. Hambly's soloing is not over the top but just right to give some extra edge. Finally the other other half of the rhythm section from Scrannage's drumming and Dennis' rumbling bass on songs like the live wire-esque "Silver Lady" and "Eye's Telling You" realy shows how tight these guys were. This album really is nearly flawless as I personally never skip a song. From the start they had a formula that was similar but had a more punk infused spark to compete with alot of other acts. However, their next album definitely would be a bit more of a different offering.


In-Flight Movie(1983)










After gaining some ground in 1982 and even having the chance to play in the U.S with Ozzy, the abdn entered the studio again for their sophomore record titled "In Flight Movie". The album we got was actually not what a lot of people expected but in retrospective it is a damn solid effort. The production was a bit more cleaned up and clean and the overall sound was quite a bit more melodic with opener "Working Girl" and the super up beat "Who Cares" (song that is a staple in my hard rock playlists). Songs like "Running From The Gun" and the full bore attack of "Gallows Dancer" definitely play more into their pub rock sound but bigger and better. The guitars are bigger sounding but Stevie's Gretsch cuts through very well and Pat's leads are still damn good with some more melodic touches. Another personal favorite is "I'm Your Nightmare" which has a great build to it. This album should have brought the band more coverage however as fat would have it, the record company lost interest and they folded in 1984. 


As the band folded, the members all went their own ways in various small music projects. Burton joined a multitude of blues rock acts through the years and Scrannage even went to become a club promoter as well. Stevie Young would stay most active in the music scene reigniting the Starfighters name briefly before joining Little Big Horn and filling in for Malcolm on ACDC's 1988 U.S tour. He eventually became a permanent member of the band in 2014. My experience with the Starfighters started in high school when I came across them on youtube. Being the ACDC fan I am I was obsessed from day one. Stevie became a hero as his uncles are to me in terms of guitar playing and this retrospective I felt was the perfect way to reignite my music blog. If you are reading this, please give these albums another shot as these guys deserved that break so long ago and I feel this is the perfect time to give them another shot! The High Vaultage reissues definitely are the way to go if you're a physical collector like I am. Long live Starfighters!


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Review- Witchy-S/t


Witchy | Witchy

Doom metal to me has always been extremely fascinating as a genre. Specifically, like a lot of black metal, how much really cult stuff there is out there. Groups like Paul Chain, Force and others really hit the nail on the head for being some of the best doom for how strange and different they are. Today's group Witchy really channels that cult energy in their new demo out on Temple of Mystery Records.

Opening with ominous vintage organs of "Wicca" the atmosphere here is set just right giving you the feeling of being trapped in a dark ominous cellar. This leads into "A Flame A Soul" which channels a lot of vintage pentagram and vocals ripped straight from a mid 80's saint vitus album. The song is very simple yet effective as the production really gives a vintage feel with the haunting and alluring vocals. "Death of A Witch" has a lot of good bass heavy riffs and has more of a gallop to it than the last song and is yet again, simple yet effective. Finally, "The Purple Veil" ends this nice sampler with some good mid paced traditional doom grooves. There is even a bit of psychedelia that plays in this track. 

Overall, this is a fun demo that has some nice dark traditional doom done in a very convincing way. I would love to see a full length come from this duo eventually as they have a simple formula but know how to play into it with catchy simple heavy songs. You can grab this cassette over at the bands bandcamp page. However, there are very few remaining copies so act fast!


Friday, May 1, 2020

Album Review: War Cloud- Earhammer Sessions


War Cloud - Earhammer Sessions | Ripple Music

War Cloud have been slowly rising as a very versatile band in the traditional metal community. Their last two releases had some very catchy stuff on them with sound that seem to combine Thin Lizzy with  mid 80s Tank in glorious hard rockin' fashion. Their newest album "The Earhammer Sessions" definitely has an interesting take to it. It was recorded live at Earhammer studios in Oakland and effectively is the band taking some of their best tunes and putting a more in your face spin on them.

Right away, I can say this album for being live in studio is recorded fantastically, for the most part. The guitars are super in your face and both equally audible. I also have to note the vocals are way more raw and full of grit than on the albums giving a more motorhead-ish vibe to them. The only issue is that the bass seems just ever so slightly low which definitely could be boosted a bit more in the mix .The band opens with the hard rockin "Vulture City" and heads into one of my favorite tunes with "Give'r". This might be the definitive version of that song as well because the extra raw feeling of the band playing it right then and there with little to no polish. "Chopper Wired" definitely has some bluesier hard rock riffing to it and again this version is just as in your face as it gets. The version of "White Lightning" here is pretty damn great as well with the band just going for the throat. It sounds very distinct from the "State of Shock" version which is exactly what this album achieves in making these songs sound even heavier. "Divide and Conquer" has a good balance of heaviness and melody and is done very well in this live setting. "Tomahawk" is pure speed metal excellence as the album ends with the explosions of "Speed Demon" and "Striker" ending a very fun in your face live album.

Overall, War cloud have essentially created a greatest hits sort to speak of their first two albums in a live setting. It works very well as these are essential versions of these songs that really show off the raw and tight nature of this band. These guys are really a hidden gem from Oakland and this album is definitely a good place to start to ease you back into discovering their full lengths.

8/10

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Album Review: Cirith Ungol- Forever Black



Cirith Ungol - Forever Black Review | Angry Metal Guy

If someone told me in 2015 that Cirith Ungol would return, stronger than they have ever been, I think I would have laughed in their face. Truth be told this is one of the bands that I figured would never make a return. However, in 2016, they reunited for the first Frost and Fire fest. Next they slowly were headlining fests all around the world, released a new strong single and finally, after 29 years, we have "Forever Black". With this album, the almighty Ungol brings back their weird yet unique style of proto epic doom and it is glorious.

Opening with the quick "The Call" the band launches into the barnstorming "Legions Arise" which just begs to be played live. Tim Baker shows that he is one of the most underrated vocalists in Heavy metal period. His screeching banshee howl is here in spades and shows literally no age. This is one of the best openers I have heard this year as well. The production on the album really fits in their discography especially with how much the bass cuts through. The only minor complain I have is the drums feel a bit too soft but it hardly deters the album for me. Up next is my favorite track: the trudging "Frost Monstreme" which has so many great riffs and has a bit of that early prog/doom mash up feeling on their first album but fully realized here. "The Fire Divine" also calls back to early songs on their debut with a more up beat hard rock feel to it which I dig. One worry I had was this album becoming "King of the Dead II" and that it is not. They effectively take a lot of bits and pieces from their discography and make an album that is just fucking worthy of being one of the best discs they have released. "Stormbringer" opens with some soft interludes and nice clean vocals before going into a full crushing onslaught. Up next is "Fractus Promissum" which hangs on that really vintage 70s proto metal kind of vibe. It has some of the best groove based riffs on the album by far. "Nightmare" has a lot of really good melody along with the mid paced "Before Tomorrow" which could have totally been on Paradise Lost which is my favorite release from the band. Finally we have the title track and it is a really strong way to go out with a nice fist pumping rhythm and crushing riffs. This is definitely the most doom track on the album with the chorus being so insanely heavy and dark. Honestly a perfect album to come out into the world now.

The band has done the impossible with this record. They managed to not only recreate their sound near perfectly in the modern age, but to create new fresh songs with vibes from their previously releases. However these feel like new songs and not just rehashed ideas which creates an album that definitely sits high in their discography which I haven't felt since Diamond Head's come back in 2016. This is Cirith Ungol fully reborn now ready to face a whole new generation of rock and music fans in general. So come on and Join the Legion and become forever black because the kings of the dead are fucking back.

9.5/10

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

E.P Review: Night Demon- Empires Fall


Listen: Night Demon Release New Single, 'Empires Fall,' Featuring ...

Anyone who has followed my blog for the past six years knows how big of a Night Demon fan I am. I have been championing these guys since I heard their self titled e.p back in 2014 and especially once their first release "Curse Of The Damned" came out the following year. After quite a few years of touring on their second album "Darkness Remains" and the creation of the stellar live album "Live Darkness", we finally get some new music from the boys. 

Right away, I am already floored by the main single here with stellar production once again. The song is typically high energy, galloping riffs and catchy lyrics. Jarvis' voice right away feels like it has a bit more gruff to it( all that touring I would figure) which I like. The slow mid section works very well especially on a first listen as it kicks literally right into the solo and plays really well on the element of surprise. Having Lars and Matt from Rancid and James from Holy Grail doing gang vocals is a super cool inclusion as well and adds more weight to a straight forward yet stellar and fun track.
The B side is equally awesome as it is a cover of the song "Fast Bikes" by the super obscure band Le Griffe. Basically, pure NWOBHM here done right with some nice double tracked vocals and solo breaks.

Overall, Night Demon have risen once again with a taste of what is to come. While yes, these guys are doing the straight forward melodic speed metal they have been doing for almost a decade, the fact is that they are still putting tons of heart into making catchy massive songs that hopefully continues for a long long time!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Split Review: Hitter/Midnight Dice- Midnight Hits


No photo description available.
Splits and eps are always exciting and this year we are getting slew of them! We've seen Road Rash release theirs and Night Demon have their new single "Empire's Fall" being released (I'll get to that one). However, today we have yet another coming from Chicago groups Hitter and Midnight Dice entitled "Midnight Hits". If you aren't familiar with these two bands I highly suggest you check out each bands demo as both are very confident. Each band here puts one song out on each side and they are bangers.

Midnight Dice's track "Precious Metal" goes straight for what their demo showed us with some epic galloping street level heavy metal. The soaring vocals on the chorus definitely are a major highlight. Up next is Hitters "29 Levi Slim" which is a complete different beast as it holds onto a heavier punk vibe these guys are known for. The vocals are jagged as hell and the riffs are simple yet cut through your speakers. 

Overall, this is a fun split that is quick and to the point. It features two awesome up and comers in my city doing what they do best. Also it is nice that both bands play complete different styles which makes for interesting listens for those unfamiliar with both bands. I definitely will pick this one up as you should too if you want a nice slice of Chicago metal in your collection.

4/5