Swindon’s one-man red-hot chilli pepper, Webb is about to blow your mind, speakers and pants off with his new EP Disenchanted; I’ve heard it, and live to tell the tale….
First impressions last, and I’m having one of those mornings. Perpetual drizzle, darker mornings conspicuously drawing nearer, and other trivial irritations which I can’t quite put my finger on, are building to a generally low-spirited mood. Tedious has the eighties pop mix I’m listening to become, even nostalgia cannot help me. I stop for a break, knowing I’ve got Ryan Webb’s new EP Disenchanted to review, which promises to mark the emergence of WEBB’s new, heavier direction. This is displayed by the forename being dropped, saving as Webb.
I consider playing the Lost Trades, for their folky calmness will do wonders for my wellbeing, and I suspect Disenchanted might have the opposite effect. Though I acknowledge it will be of high quality, Ryan’s sound has always been substantial, heavy rock or metal isn’t my bag, and I’m usually highly critical of it. Don’t do it, I deliberate, last thing they need is for me to be set to whinge mode. But I did anyway, and given all algorithms, I worried this could head south rather quickly.
The five track EP includes the previously released track “DON’T!”, which we reviewed in May last year. I didn’t headcount the tracks but noted, after a while, I’d heard the one playing before; it’s gone around on repeat unnoticed, I’ve been sucked in, and it surpassed my preconceptions by a country mile. Ha, turns out it did suit the mood after all, in fact, it fitted all too well, and is, essentially a magnificent piece of music.
Now, given all I’ve said, about heavy rock not being my cup of tea, and this is something rather special even to me, if you are partial to the heavier weight of rock, it’s got your name all over it.
So, now I’ve awarded my mind the task of figuring out why it works so well. And to do this is to honestly unravel why I maintain qualms about metal. Don’t get me wrong, after the hip hop boom in the eighties became somewhat tiresome, like many I looked towards the soft metal genre for solace; I was shot in the heart too, just like Bon Jovi, longed for crazy, crazy nights, and if Heart sang how canI get you alone one more time when all they had to do was ask me, I’d be content. And as student years rolled in, I lost myself in the classics. Noting if it was compulsory for every soft metal band to sound like Jimmy Page, which while this is no bad thing, the vocal trend over time seemed to metamorphize into a hackneyed caricature of the voice of Satan. My qualm begins here, you don’t know if Satan actually sounds like that, all coarse and demonic, he could have a camp voice for all you know!
There it is, the negativity, the hellish themes of death and destruction, and the long hair; I don’t want to bring my, or anyone else’s daughter to the slaughter, if you don’t mind. Even if it’s tongue-in-cheek, times when I want to push the extensive fringes of metallers from their foreheads so they might see the beauty in life, the positives. Nu-metal, I say, feels like a long stretch to the elements I favour, the frenzied driving passion of Zeppelin, of The Ace of Spades, even Black Sabbath’s Paranoid I’ll give you.
And here’s where Disenchanted fits; contemporary with nods to the classics, the vocals more on Page than Beelzebub, and Webb can hold a note like a tenor, while sublime drums roll over it blissfully. This fits because it’s precisely the opposite of mindless headbanging for headbanging sake, it’s composed and constructed with clarity and a truckload of talent.
The reason the EP rolled on unnoticed is because it captures all that is positive, all the elements I appreciate of the genre. Webb says, “I’m really excited about Disenchanted. It’s an EP that I am really proud of, and I feel that now I have found the right direction for my music,” and proud he should be, for in technical jargon, Disenchanted can be summed as oomph; here,have a bit of that.
It amplifies a quote from my review of the single, “a one-man red-hot chilli pepper.” Ryan wrote, produced, sang, wailed his guitar, recorded and mixed this track in his studio. The only collaborators being Dave Collins on Don’t, the mastering engineer for Metallica’s last album, and Pete Maher who mastered the whole EP; he’s mastered the Rolling Stones and the Killers to name but a few.
Within seven seconds it pounds, the stunning lead single Concrete Beds; oh, those rolling drums, proficient howling guitars and Webb’s mighty soulful vocals; it rocks. Disenchanted demonstrates the multi-instrumental talent that makes him unique.
There’s acute narrative to boot, Concrete Beds aptly homelessness themed, I’m Standing Here erotically scorching, the third track though, Secrets is a haunting ambient caution to bottling up, and debatably the most poignant on the EP. When Darkness Falls lifts the tempo once more, and is heavy, but I’m still engrossed, then the finale, Don’t rips you a new arsehole, the riff beguiling, the considerable power and passion launched into this is exceptional.
The test of good “driving” rock is just that, your foot’s tension on the accelerator is judge and jury, and Disenchanted will have your pedal to the metal. It’s unleashed to the world next Saturday, the 14th August, and tickets are now available for the launch show at The Vic, Swindon.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in music reviews for me this year was Typhoidmary’s Death Trans back in October. Genre-wise, everything about it suggested it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea, but realigning myself, I delved deeper into its emotive and distressing ambiance, and found fondness in its exquisitely dark portrayals, as it progressed thrash metal, gave it a newfound edge of sentiment.
It was released by Gloucester-based unprejudiced universal rock, metal, punk and folk label ScreamLite Records. And now they’ve sent us news of a colossal compilation album which will drop on their Bandcamp page as soon as Big Ben hits midnight on New Year’s Eve, likely making it the first new release of 2021. Better say a few words about it now, then. Constructing words into comprehendible sentences is tricky enough for me at the best of times, let alone New Year’s Eve.
While it’s going to be one long runaway review to critique it track by track, being it’s a mahoosive 65 tracks strong, it’s worth mentioning some key facts about New Hero Sounds. Most importantly this album will be a varied range of the genres and styles on offer at Scream Lite, and their friends, being as it’s 50% made up of artists signed to the label, and the other half independently contributed from upcoming artists under parallel genres. Thus, making it the perfect sampler to open you up to the world of contemporary punk, nu-metal and folk-punk. Though, there’s much more on offer here and certainly too much to pigeonhole.
PLUS, as well as introducing you to a truckload of upcoming talent, there’s a worthy cause it fundraises for. ScreamLite Records’ Director Chris Bowen said, “we’ve all had a tough year, and we decided we should give something back to the frontline NHS staff that have been tirelessly working this year to keep us safe and well.” New Hero Sounds is a charity album in aid of the NHS Charities Together, and all artists have contributed freely.
Broadminded with one eye focused on variability is what you’re going to need to take this one on, even my eclectic self was bowed by the assortment on offer here. MadaMercy gets as trip hoppy as Morcheeba, yet is a rare genre on offer. In addition to an aforementioned Typhoidmary track, ScreamLite’s roster offers nu-metal and punk, such as Stolen Dead Music, or Burning Memories, which can be in your face at times, but at others smoother, like the Clay Gods and Foxpalmer, both of which I enjoyed. Taking the rough with the smooth there’s something for everyone with a taste for indie; which is nice.
Giving credit to upfront festival boom of Venture, the flamenco folk style of Cut Throat Francis, acoustic rockabilly of Joshua Kinghorn, and the delicate angelic vocals of Forgotten Garden. There’s eighties electronica indie with Conal Kelly, post-punk with Jack Lois Cooper, and Gypsy Pistoleros are described as “flameco sleaze glam” revealing multi-genre in just one tune. But, there’s too much to sum this compilation up easily; a Now That’s What I Call Music for misfits, but for a good cause too.
Here’s the track listing with links, then, so you can make up your own mind and follow the ones you like…..once you’ve sampled them from this crazy and full compilation, which is coming on New Year’s Even, here, remember?!
Vast developments in the later days of breakbeat house saw a split in the blossoming rave scene. Techno-heads being directed away from the newfound UK sound found solace in a subgenre dubbed “happy hardcore,” whereas the trialling occurred in the dawn of drum and bass, or “jungle” as it was known at the time. Yet it was still underground and reserved for the party. No one considered a concept album, myself included, until I heard A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology. I bought it on a memory tip-off, I loved the late eighties acid house anthem Voodoo Ray. It was like splinters of drum n bass over an ambient soundscape, and wasn’t for everyone, but while I was still gulping about it, Goldie released Timeless and the rest is history.
Creative outpourings too radical or experimental for the time are commonplace, and perhaps our necessity to pigeonhole excludes Manchester’s Mango Thomas. He emailed with a list of rejections from specific music blogs and radio shows, being if one part did, the rest of his new EP “Goes De,” out today (22nd Nov) didn’t fit their restrictive agenda. There’s part of me which says I don’t blame them, this is a hard pill to swallow, juxtaposed randomly at breakneck speed, it’s a roller-coaster alright; you have no control where it’ll take you.
Mango Thomas throws every conceivable psychedelic genre of yore into a breakcore melting pot, and pours you a jug; if you take a sip you might as well down the whole thing, for it works fast, it’s a trip and you’re in it for the duration. You have to be, if only to wonder what’s coming next. And in that, it has to be one the most interesting things I’ll review here for a while. Yeah, it uses contemporary breakcore, but at times nods back to drum n bass of yore, but it funks too, it rocks, unexpectedly, and if you thought you could be shocked no more, it even mellowly bhangras at the finale, as if Ravi Shankar wandered in.
There are so many elements to contemplate in this hedonistic frenzy of chaos, yet with crashing hi-hats, stripped down rhythms, sonic belters, echoes and reverbs, it primarily relies on dub techniques absorbing industrial metal and hardcore. Imagine an alternative universe where the Mad Professor is remixing Bootsy Collins, but in this realm Bootsy actually fronts a thrash metal band, and Frank Zappa peers over the mixing board putting his tuppence in; something like that, but more bonkers.
Picking it apart, at times you’ll contemplate Mango Thomas’ location and hear shards of the Madchester scene, other points will wobble you over to the Butthole Surfers, for if it is industrial hardcore skater, it’s done tongue-in-cheek. But it doesn’t come over dejected, as such a genre archetypically does, rather showy and egotistical like a funkmaster general. The man himself explains the effect will leave you “mangoed,” I’ve a tendency to agree.
It’s four major tracks with reprises and clippits between, often Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band fashioned, bizarre, amusing or deliberately belligerent to the mainstream, in true counter culture fashion. Do I like it, though, that’s what you want to know, isn’t it? Damn you and your demands, fuck, I don’t know. It’s always going to be something you have to be in the mood for, certainly not drifting Sunday afternoon music to take a snooze to after a roastie. A younger me would lap it up, as it twists so unexpectedly. Any psychedelia gone before doesn’t touch it for cross-genre experimentation, and for that, in my artier moods, I give it full points. A sensible somebody as I’d prefer to strive for might suggest it’s too far out there. But it entertained me for sure, so it has its place.
Can I suggest you throw caution to the wind, listen and see how long you can bear to hold out for? If you like Tim Burton, Zappa or Lee Scratch Perry you’ll be partly prepared. Try though, as the finale is something quite astounding and as an erratic mishmash it mirrors A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology for pushing new boundaries, but it mirrors Sgt Peppers, the Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse and Bitches Brew too.
See, I like an ordinary cuppa like the next Englishman, but there’s lots of varieties of tea, some I’m impartial about, others I outright don’t like. To say it “isn’t my cup of tea” doesn’t mean it definitely tastes like shit, to others it might be the best thing they’ve drunk.
It’s far harder to review something “not my cup of tea,” then something which is. If you think my reviews have been flattery recently, you’ve strayed from the ethos; there’s been lots of timelessly brilliant music released, most agrees with me. Yet, what if it doesn’t?
The evaluation is simple; on my opinion anyone producing original music outside the safety-zone of the commercial industry deserves a medal of bravery, I make a point not to outright slag something off, rather not review it at all and provide constructive criticism directly to the creator.
First impression of the newly released debut album independent Cheltenham-based record label, Screamlite kindly sent, Typhoidmary’s “Death Trans,” was borderline. Pragmatic about the name choice; throughout her life, Mary Mallon fiercely denied she was the cause of infection, and consequently hated her nickname. Who, in their right mind, would deliberately label themselves Typhoid Mary? Perhaps that’s the point, there’s an unparalleled clandestinely dark, clinically insane tenet to this album.
This, coupled with my initial revulsion to the substantial thrashing guitars and accomplished but screeching yells which explodes within six seconds on this album, I predicted drafting a reply explaining why I wouldn’t review it. The fact I didn’t, and the review is here, means something changed my mind.
To confine my eclectic tastes to particular genres, see, gets kicked in the teeth when something defined under my few detested pigeonholes impresses me. Metal and grunge are a couple of my off-putting genres, yet when Motörhead blast the Ace Of Spades, or I catch Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit I understand their worth, and while I might draw the line at stagediving a mosh pit, I rock the fuck out! If it does what it says on the tin, points are bestowed.
Given director Chris Bowen stated, “it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year,” I decided to throw caution to the wind; it deserves a really closer listen. For its production is quality, with eminence in the delivery. What I discovered was an emotive outpouring of tension and anguish like no other, the very reason why I’m reviewing it after all.
It drifts between ambiance to these thrashing guitar executions of temper, expelling strains of interrogative quandaries, discharging a bruised wreck of an authentic character, angry and confused at their sexuality and orientation, and the relationships which develop, or fail to, from it.
While gothic outcries of depression and anxiety are not my thing, this is accomplished in a manner fiercer and more emotional than anything I could contemplate to compare it to. Be it the post-punk of Siouxsie And The Banshees, commercialised gothic of Fields of Nephilim or Bauhaus, the battering metal of Slayer of thrashing hardcore skater sound of The Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, they all pale in compassion to the appetite and antagonism displayed by Typhoidmary, and Death Trans takes anguish to a whole other level. It spat in my tea, then smashed my cup; spilt boiling fucking tea on my lap! And for that alone, I award it full credit.
With distant soundscapes separating these ten tracks of haunting annotations, resonating desperate pleas and cynical cries over driven, hard-edged gothic-come-thrash metal riffs, Death Trans is not for the fainthearted. It’s a musical equivalent of Nabokov’s Lolita or Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, in so much as it takes you to a place you’d rather not be, but intrigue suspends you there.
Typhoidmary has released this spellbinding album for streaming and on her Bandcamp page, Screamlite aims to distribute it to all major digital stores on 16th of October. Fans of such goth and grunge will be bowled over with its exquisitely dark portrayals, yet if, like me, you’re a window shopper of such shadowy and adversative genres, this might be the album which drags you inside with your purse open.
Myself, I confess, I pretended to like Robert Smith in order to get off with pale, sorrow-filled rich chicks with black hair-dye and a chip on their shoulder, which, I might add, rarely paid off! Perhaps then, the younger me is the archetypal predator this album wedges a knife into, but it drove even me on an emotional roller-coaster ride, caused me to regret, and changed my preconceived ideas about the genre. Sod it, I’m off to get my nose pierced!
Okay I confess, in my last article I did, didn’t I, state there was a trend of indie music taming to mass appeal? And yeah, I suggested this is no bad thing. There will, however be exceptions to the rule, and rock will, and should always retain its hard edge; we have room for all here. Swindon’s Ryan Webb, for instance, who’s just dropped a new single, “Don’t,” takes no prisoners.
This is militantly metal, with spikes. It rocks with edge, it doesn’t hang around with an ambient intro, stop for a melodic break, the bridge is reached in seconds, the rolling guitar riff perpetually quivering your bones. A one-man red-hot chilli pepper, Ryan wrote, produced, sang, wailed his guitar, recorded and mixed the track in his studio. The only collaborator being Dave Collins, the mastering engineer for Metallica’s last album, who mastered this too.
It must be said, this not the template of Ryan Webb, who quotes influences ranging from Pink Floyd, Joe Satriani, and Zeppellin, to Coldplay, Muse, and Kings of Leon. He has the range encompassing any rock avenue, and projects all with comfort and competence.
“Don’t” though, whoa there Ryan, I’m inclined to put my frayed denim jacket over my AC-DC t-shirt and head-bang my way to the highway from hell, and I’m not usually one for all that; haven’t even got an army surplus bag with badly grafted pictures of Eddie the Head and Megadeath logos!
So yeah, if I like it, you iron maidens will love it! What is more, the track is “a plea to anyone contemplating suicide to take a step back and see that they have a lot going on for them in the world. Even when times are really bad, it’s important to talk to those around you.”
Ryan has chosen All Call Signs as the beneficiary for any sales from the single. All Call Signs is a UK organisation set up by two veteran soldiers, Dan Arnold and SJ James, in order to help other vets/serving military personnel who may be finding life difficult. They have also created an app which helps locate those reported missing and in need of urgent support.
Introducing Shrewsbury’s five-piece rock band, Cosmic Rays. With a new album proving they’re Hard to Destroy….
As my daughter shoves her phone to my ear with her home-made eighties’ music quiz playlist, memories she will never know of blissfully return. “If I could be like Doc Emmett Brown and whizz you back to my era,” I think aloud, but maybe not such a good idea, she’d never survive; no Wi-Fi. What is apparent with the classic pop from my time she has picked is that it spans genres unconditionally, because she hasn’t lived it to confine her to one viewpoint, to guide through that era, where the categorical conflict for top of the pops changed overnight; what side did you fight for?
Pigeonholing divided the early-to-mid-eighties into alienated youth cultures, unique from one another and only alike for being experimental and innovative. While there may be nothing particularly ground-breaking about Shrewsbury’s five-piece rock band Cosmic Rays, what they do have is a dexterous ability to weave these genres back together in an original and affable way. I have their March released album Hard to Destroy to snoop upon, and I like it; pass my black hair dye and metallic leather high boots.
Initial reaction was thus, partially gothic with nu-metal wailing guitar and archetypical dejected romance as a running theme, and while it’s not my cuppa, it’s produced lo-fi and agreeably subtle. So elusive indeed you don’t pre-empt the changes, though may yearn for it. Post-punk and new romantic are lobbed into the melting pot by the second tune, tickling my personal taste buds better.
With the sensation of jaggedly Velvet Underground, in parts, its retrospective nods soon confine to aforementioned eighties genres. I’m now left contemplating everything from The Cult to Depeche Mode, and The Dammed to Blancmange. For which they are, just nods, as the all-encompassing sound is something original and exclusive, in so much as the combination of influences fuse so unexpectedly well. Perhaps no more adroitly composed than a central track called Lost Paradise, as while it mirrors synth-pop electronica, it also explodes midway with a wailing guitar solo akin to Slash’s contribution to Jackson’s Beat It.
The Bandcamp blurb explains new guitarist Rob McFall is a major factor to this album being a whole new direction, though while I ponder what the old direction was being I’m new to the band, I have to tip my hat to the guitar sections, but like I say, it’s the placement of them too, unpredictably located. That, I think, makes it more exciting than a band simply replicating a particular sound from a bygone era.
Just when I’m expecting it to rest there, a tune called Me & Jimmy bursts out upbeat joyful vibes. Unquestionably the most pop-tastic track on the album, it smiles House Martins or even the Fine Young Cannibals at me. Though the last two tunes finish by reminding you this is indie, Seeing Green with a winding goth ease and Walk on Water, where a sombre electronica beat rises again. If you’ve heard such a fusion tried before, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this could be encumbered and muddled, yet I feel you need to listen, for the juxtaposition works on all levels, making Cosmic Rays interesting and defiantly one to watch. By the way, my daughter’s eighties pop quiz, I nail it every time!