There’s the rushonrock verdict on Vintage Trouble (pictured), Trivium, Philip Sayce, Huron, DC4 and Bitch.
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Accustom yourself to the brazened, unpolished production – you soon realise that Huron’s nature suits the style. Instrumentally poised on the dirtier side of thrash paying respect to the likes of Machine Head and Pantera, but flirting on hard-rocking parameters fused with groove-laden beats, the four-piece are a young metal force to be reckoned with.
There’s something entirely refreshing about second album Mary Celeste – Huron have a back-to-basics, ‘no more messing around’ mentality that is actively looking to shake-up the UK metal scene. They might not be at that stage of national domination but the attitude works in their favour.
Branded opens the record and reveals the band’s collective hardcore touches with each raucous backing yelp. Title track Mary Celeste moves things along with a brutal serving of fierce groove and rough thrash n’ roll, but later on into proceedings it’s Blood In Blood Out that reveals itself to be the weak link for its repetition.
But while their veins might pump with a viscous fusion of alcohol, adrenaline and petroleum fuel, there’s a moment for a rock ‘n’ roll pit-stop with Eternal Sea Pt 1 – a beautiful, grungy acoustic tune with an innocent DIY feel, wick with unsuspected harmonies and spliced with sad synths. But of course any pit stop is a well-deserved break and if this was the F1 then there’s no doubt their next song would induce a 20-car pile-up. Suffer takes us back to Huron’s battered, bruised – but most certainly not beaten – aggressive assault of wild riffs and sandpaper vocals.
Wind-milling moshers are going to have horns at the ready for this one – it’s sure to please plenty. But if you’re on a tight budget, wait for the Machine Head album in September. CR
rushonrock rated: 6.5/10 Celeste Is More
Still in the throes of promoting their debut album and the world is already running out of superlatives suitable enough to describe the rock n soul phenomenon that is Vintage Trouble. Kiss manager Doc McGhee doesn’t deal with duds but this lot could provide his meal ticket long after Gene Simmons and co. call time on enormodome gigs and mass merchandising.
So many bands have been hyped as the next big thing that cynics will rightly raise an eyebrow when confronted with a CV that already includes support slots with Bon Jovi and Brian May and a primetime slot on Jools Holland’s tastemaking show. But the thing about Vintage Trouble, as this assured debut and their incendiary live shows prove, is that they have the songs in their locker to counter any lazy critic.
This record is rich in heartfelt emotion, spine tingling grooves and retro rhythms. Frontman Ty Taylor sings like he’s feeling his way out of the 50s while guitarist Nalle Colt could bag a spot in Bad Company with his barely restrained blues rock sensibilities. Tunes like opener Blues Hand Me Down, the irresistible Nancy Lee and the foot-stomping You Better Believe It could get the most indifferent observer up on his feet and dancing like there’s no tomorrow (and if you’ve caught VT live then that happens every night).
But it’s on the laid back, almost ernest Not Alright By Me that Taylor and co. genuinely excel. Given the freedom to stretch his voice and sing with meaning, the former reality TV favourite delivers the best performance of his career on this magical tune.
This album will demand repeat plays and become an instant favourite and anticipation is already reaching fever pitch where its follow-up is concerned. Genuinely moving work by a band deserving of its rapid ascent. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Deep Trouble
Slowly but surely Floridian noise merchants Trivium are compiling a canon of work which could well bear comparison with metal’s true giants in years to come. In Waves, the band’s fifth album in eight years, is their finest release to date – marrying the maturity of predecessor Shogun with the focused fury of their youth to create a sound perfectly suited to the modern music landscape.
And if the focus will, inevitably, be on vocalist Matt Heafy’s multi-latered vocals – outstanding again here – then don’t forget this the first Trivium record post-Travis Smith. With drumming duties passed to Nick Augusto it’s worth giving In Waves a second listen purely from a rhythmic point of view. What you’ll discover is a stix man right at the top of his game.
The rousing title track gets things started with a typically brutal Trivium bang but it’s not until the black metal gloom of Dusk Dismantled that a band with the metal world at its feet is allowed to play its full hand. Some superb soloing, an unrelenting blast of grizzly vocals and more all-you-can-give commitment from Augusto makes for an utterly engrossing piece of music.
Watch The World Burn boasts the kind of brain-frying chorus Trivium can pen at will and of all the fantastic tunes here this one has the potential to become the next true crowd favourite. Look out for another delicious solo and one of the best riffs of 2011.
Trivium are four albums into their Roadrunner deal and it’s fair to say the world’s premier rock and metal label can’t afford to lose this lot from their star-studded stable. That’s how good this band has become. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Trivium-believable
It only seems like yesterday (in fact it was only last year) that Sayce’s critically acclaimed Innerevolution caused ripples across the blues rock world with its classic grooves and modern panache.
Now the fret-tinkling troubadour has rolled out a collection of vintage-themed studio collaborations (Volume One) and live recordings (Volume Two) from 2010’s European tour and managed to maintain a momentum that’s carrying him all the way to underground superstar status.
Opener Let The Love In, a sassy duet with Melissa Etheridge, mixes Hendrix and Kravitz to glorious effect and Set Us Free continues the theme with some trademark guitar work and a psychedelic twist making for one of Sayce’s finest moments to date.
If the live version of Daydream Tonight (from Innerevolution) slows things down then it’s the right song at the right time. Volume One is all about variation, experimentation and adulation (Sayce has no problem paying tribute to his blues heroes) and the songs are lined up to reflect an eclectic and endearing selection.
Volume Two boasts the brilliant One Foot In The Grave and this spanking live version of a true classic is the prime cut on Ruby Electric. Sayce is on the brink of something quite spectacular and his March 2012 release (the Nashville project is in production now) is likely to garner the praise afforded label mate Joe Bonamassa. Or so we’d like to think. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Phil The Blues
Straight down the line hard rock is in desperate need of brand new heroes as the genre struggles to keep pace with the renewed interest in trad metal, hair metal and AOR. DC4 might yet emerge as the flag bearers for a new generation if this intermittently glorious record is evidence of genuine potential.
It’s not really new and it’s never that clever – reference the lyrics from the pretty dumb XXX – but this is an album more about celebrating a rock party than challenging conventions or stretching boundaries. Not too far removed from Dokken’s heavier moments there are enough singalong choruses and piercing solos to keep most fans of late 80s rock banging their heads with retro joy.
Jeff Duncan’s vocals don’t really stand up when compared to so many of his more melodic US peers but there’s an edginess that just about carries the day – and the bulk of DC4’s songs. Musically there’s very little to criticise and while, on the most part, this is an enjoyable romp there’s never any chance that this band will do anything other than play within themselves. Playing it safe may be the best thing DC4 can do right now.
Wit titles like Rock God and The Ballad Of Rock N Roll it doesn’t take long to understand exactly where this lot are coming from. But for all their cliches, lack of imagination and generic compositions there’s a certain something that makes DC4 worth hearing. If attitude, rather than ability, was rewarded with the big prizes then Duncan and co. would boast a cabinet full of Grammys – and that’s why this band deserves its moment in the sun. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 DC4 Play
First question: does the world really need Bitch reissues? Second question: did the world want these Bitch records in the first place? The answer to both is most probably no but here they are in all their remastered glory. There’s no doubt that the veteran female-fronted mob made quite an impression three decades ago but – and here’s the third question – does their finest (in the loosest sense) work stand the test of time?
Remarkably, and against all odds, these remastered versions of their full length debut and first EP sound pretty fresh and pretty fun. This is a West Coast take on the NWOBHM boom with vocals that come across more punk than metal but it just about works. It was never groundbreaking back in the day and it’s certainly not now but there’s a definite charm underpinning Bitch’s feistier moments.
Renowned for their admiration of all things Alice Cooper, the lyrics often ape the king of shock rock and yet the music is firmly rooted in British metal rather than Detroit garage rock. The percussion-lite Leather Bound leans on a Motorhead riff but as with every Bitch tune it’s the high-in-the-mix Betsy Bitch vocal which sounds more than a little bit weird. We’ve got nothing against women in metal but it seems BB and her band have never been perfectly complementary – even in all of their remastered glory there’s often an awkward clash between vocalist and musicians.
Having said that there’s no better tune to sum up an all guts and no glory genre than Heavy Metal Breakdown and it must have been demos of songs like this that guaranteed Bitch their place in 80s folklore back in the day. So if you missed this band first time around you didn’t necessarily miss out but for the metal completionist BMS/Damnation is well worth exploring. SR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Bitch Slap
This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson.