Band of Spice
Unlike the bloodthirsty beasts and mythical creatures that serve as subject matter for so much of the metal genre, the demons and monsters that occupy the songs on Shadows Remain are all too real. The third album from the namesake project of Kayser and former Spiritual Beggars frontman Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand, Shadows Remain is a harrowing ride that documents the darkest days of the singer/songwriter’s life, a period induced by isolation and the abuse of various substances. It’s a record that wears its soul on its tattered denim sleeve, a brooding bruiser that simultaneously kicks your ass and breaks your heart.
Since 1978 Anvil have plied their trade, churning out slab after slab of solid metal firepower and blowing out the eardrums of concertgoers worldwide. This tradition will continue on January 19, when the Canadian veterans release Pounding the Pavement worldwide via SPV/Steamhammer Records, then hit the road for a European tour that will carry them through until early spring.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Vol 1 (Reissue)
Rise Above Records
Vol 1, the first album to carry the Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats moniker, has acquired a near-mythic status since its original release in February 2010 (not coincidentally, 40 years to the day after Black Sabbath was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world). Written, performed, and recorded entirely by then-unknown mastermind Kevin Starrs, the no-budget album’s entire production run consisted of 30 self-distributed CD-R’s. Starrs used what little profits there were to help fund the recording of the now-classic follow-up effort Blood Lust, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (now a full band) were well on their way to becoming one of the darkest stars in the stoner metal universe. As their popularity grew, so did the reputation of Vol 1; it became highly sought by ravenous collectors, and highly exploited by unscrupulous bootleggers. Despite constant overtures from fans and label executives, Starrs refused to allow its reissue until he was able to personally oversee a thorough remixing and remastering; “It was a DIY project from the beginning,” Starrs explains, “so I wasn’t going to give it up and let someone else mess with it.” After six years on the record-tour treadmill, and with Uncle Acid on a well-deserved break, he fortunately found the time to mess with it himself, and Vol 1 will finally be hitting shelves (via Rise Above Records) and streaming services this Friday the 13th.
There are those who dismiss The Darkness out of hand as little more than a one-hit novelty act doing a faux-operatic glam-metal piss-take. Those unfortunate souls are A) probably not much fun at parties, and B) missing the point entirely. Rock and roll, especially heavy rock, has become a dour and earnest beast in the past quarter-century or so, plodding along a loud but often joyless path, rife with negativity and self-loathing. Since day one, The Darkness have served as an antidote against this encroaching gloom, a glittery, sequined outpost shining brightly in a vast expanse of brutal grey. Misery and introspection certainly have their place, but so do joy and outrageousness and just plain fun, dammit, and that’s where The Darkness come in. Yes, their songs are over-the-top; they’re also expertly crafted nuggets of kick-ass rock and roll, stuffed to bursting with beefy riffs, intricate melodies, and cocksure swagger. And sure, some of their lyrics might be a little silly, but those great big jagged hooks they’re attached to ain’t no joke. Their newest album, Pinewood Smile, is a bawdy buzzsaw with peacock plumage, a devastating roundhouse right from a manicured fist. Outrageous and opulent yet fiery and muscular, it’s the finest album in their catalog so far and unless you’re a real fuddy-duddy, it’s likely one of the best times you’ll have listening to a record this year.
Lords of Altamont
The Wild Sounds of Lords of Altamont
Heavy Psych Sounds
Since their founding in late 1999, the Lords of Altamont have been preaching the gospel of high RPMs and low morals, the Good News about being bad. Well-versed in the rituals, scriptures and sacraments of the sages and prophets who preceded them, the LA-based congregation has unleashed another electrifying testimonial to the healing powers of rock and roll on their sixth album, The Wild Sounds of Lords of Altamont. It’s a cranked-up, psychedelic biker/garage joyride from Detroit to Berdoo, all virile riffs and swirly Farfisa; you can hear the leather and sunglasses, smell the exhaust fumes and truckstop incense. Vocalist/organist/head shaman Jake Cavaliere, guitarist Daniele Sindaco, bassist Rob Zimmerman, and drummer Steven Van Der Werff are a finely tuned machine, expertly spitting out blasts of santification that baptize you with a shot of whiskey and a punch in the mouth.
Nuclear Blast Records
Forget the fuzzed-out riffs and the monster choruses, forget the facial hair and silk-and-velvet trappings; the single most ‘70’s thing about Kadavar might be their work ethic. The German stoner-psych trio has been in perpetual motion since their 2010 debut, locked in an album-tour-album-tour cycle that harkens back to the days of their musical forefathers, when bands plied and honed their craft through countless live shows and more than a year between records was simply unheard of. The end result of this ideology couldn’t be more evident. The band has become an incendiary live act, and each of their albums has built on the strengths of its predecessor. To say that trend continues here is a massive understatement; 2015’s Berlin was one of that year’s best albums, but with Rough Times, Kadavar may end up with the 2017 title all to themselves.
Fifty years ago, the much-vaunted but short-lived Summer of Love burned out nearly as fast as it began, and the Sixties began its death march toward Cielo Drive and Altamont Speedway. Choked out by lethal doses of greed and drugs, groovy-baby, flower-in-your-hair psychedelia quickly gave way to bad trips and endless bummers, speed freaks and acid burnouts. The sounds of an era roiled by perpetual tumult and social upheaval transformed and mutated as well, into something harder-edged, more sinister; less It’s A Beautiful Day and Scott McKenzie, more Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. And while Alice Cooper has claimed responsibility for his group “driving a stake through the heart of the Love Generation,” the bands represented on the Numero Group’s new compilation Acid Nightmares show that his namesake act were but one link in a worldwide network of accomplices, and that sonically speaking, the Hippie movement died a death of a thousand cuts.
Since their inception nearly two decades ago, Italian space sludge squadron Ufomammut have carved out a singular niche for themselves in the doom community. Unlike many groups who manage to get by on brute strength alone, Ufomammut’s pulverizing yet hypnotizing sound tends to crush with pressure rather than weight; it’s a black hole, massive, swirling, and distorting, that sucks listeners in and rips them apart on a molecular level, as opposed to just beating them over the head with a great big hammer. 8, the trio’s latest offering, is an intergalactic machine of almost infinite force, a riff-hewn monolith perched on the edge of the universe.
‘Rust’, the third long-player from Sweden’s Monolord, is a mountain-sized monster of an album, a great, lumbering beast with a low heartrate and a horrifyingly bad disposition. The follow-up to 2015’s breakthrough ‘Vænir’ sees the band ascend into the upper pantheon of modern doom while maintaining and further honing a sense of melody that eludes most of their contemporaries. ‘Rust’ is an exquisitely crafted truncheon designed for maximum impact, a phaser set on ‘Infinite Crush’; it’s also a moody, dynamic, emotive piece of work that stands with the finest heavy music released this year.
Rat Pak Records
For my money, George Lynch has never had a more fruitful musical counterpart than Oni Logan. Logan’s rich, full-throated bellow has, from the outset, seemed tailor-made to compliment the strong, earthy tones of Lynch’s acrobatic yet understated guitar heroics. ‘The Brotherhood,’ the latest release from their newly-configured LYNCH MOB, more than fulfills the promise of their two post-reunion endeavors, ‘Sun Red Sun’ (2014) and ‘Rebels’ (2015); it’s a rip-snorting chunk of Hard Rock groove and one hell of a fun listen that easily stands alongside their 1990 debut, the underappreciated late-era Glam Metal gem ‘Wicked Sensation.’