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.’
Gene Simmons, the legendary fire-breathing bassist from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers KISS has finally announced some of the specifics on his long-awaited solo box set, ‘The Vault.’
In a promotional video released today, Simmons details the lavish box, which he claims to have put three years’ work into. The 10-CD, 150-song set contains material spanning fifty years (back to when Gene was only fourteen), including many KISS classics in their embryonic form. The packaging (which the video warns may differ from the final product) resembles a small safe on wheels, and will contain not only the discs but a full-color book packed with photos from Simmons’ personal archives and stories behind the songs, an exclusive Gene Simmons action figure, an “In Gene We Trust” medallion, and a “very special surprise” (the accompanying video shows Gene going through boxes of one of a kind memorabilia in a massive warehouse).
Perhaps the most outlandish thing about ‘The Vault,’ though, is its method of distribution. Rather than go through traditional channels, ‘The Vault’ will be personally delivered to customers by Gene Simmons himself.
GeneSimmonsVault.com still bears a “Coming Soon” message. There’s no word yet on pricing.
You can check out the promo video here.
In this day and age of the deluxe vinyl reissue, few releases are more deserving than ‘Spine of God,’ the debut album from New Jersey Stoner pioneers Monster Magnet. To whet our appetites for a forthcoming studio album later this year, on September 1st the good folks at Napalm Records are releasing ‘Spine of God’ (and its follow-up ‘Tab’) on glorious heavyweight vinyl for the very first time. Finally, this stone-cold classic of the genre can be appreciated in the same way as the Yes and Led Zeppelin classics mentioned in ‘Spine of God’’s Rock-and-Roll-as-Dark-Ritual stomper “Nod Scene;” with “seeds bustin’ up the spine.”
Thirty-five years after its beginnings in a Southern California garage, Metal Blade Records has become an enduring icon in the world of Heavy Rock. Label founder and CEO Brian Slagel’s mission to bring Metal to the masses saw him release his very first compilation, ‘Metal Massacre,’ in 1982; the now-legendary album featured the recording debuts of both Ratt and Metallica among its tracklist. Since then, the acts that have recorded for the venerated label read like a veritable Who’s Who of Hard Rock’s last four decades: Slayer and Armored Saint both released their debuts through Metal Blade, seminal works by Mercyful Fate, King’s X, Voivod, and Flotsam and Jetsam have all been graced by the imprint, and the current roster is one of the industry’s strongest, with acts like Behemoth, GWAR, Byzantine, and Cannibal Corpse currently calling the label home.