Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man is the best metal album I heard this week. But it’s nowhere near the only one. Here are the other loud punk and rock titles that had me banging my dead and/or waking the dead (in alphabetical order):
School Of Hard Knocks
MY TWO CENTS: Not gonna lie: I can’t remember the last time I listened to a Saxon album. So I wasn’t expecting much from a solo album by lead singer Biff Byford. But go figure — he managed to thoroughly impress me with this apparently autobiographical disc of muscular, hard-charging ’80s-style NWOBHM (though honestly, I could have done without the cover of Scarborough Fair). Looks like I might have to check out the next Saxon album after all.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Legendary Saxon frontman Biff Byford steps into the spotlight with his first ever solo album, School Of Hard Knocks. The English North is everything you saw in Game of Thrones and more. It is the true heart of England, the region where its soul resides, and Byford has earned the right to be considered its true heavy metal bard. In his first ever solo Album, Biff takes on not just tales and stories from his heart and soul, but also investigates the Middle Ages and Medieval history amongst other subjects. School Of Hard Knocks was produced by Byford, recorded by Jacky Lehmann at Brighton Electric Studios in Brighton (UK) and mixed at Queen Street Studios in Stockholm (Sweden) by Mats Valentin. Biff worked with Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth) on guitars, Christian Lundqvist on drums and Gus Macricostas on bass. The album also features guest appearances by Phil Campbell (Motörhead/Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons), Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire and Turilli / Lione Rhapsody), Nick Barker (Voices), Dave Kemp (Wayward Sons) and Nibbs Carter (Saxon).”
MY TWO CENTS: Meet the latest band of British rock lads who do a pretty fair job of sounding like they hail from the Mojave Desert instead of a seaside resort town. Shockingly, their solidly thumping debut disc does not seem to have been produced by Josh Homme. Ah well, there’s always next time.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Hailing from Brighton and formed through a want to play loud music through slightly broken amps, InTechnicolour are a riffy, groovy, stoner-rock band with a knack for creating a colourful song or two and they’re here to bring you their debut album! Landing somewhere between the slack desert-groove of Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss and Karma to Burn, as one brilliant DJ suggested try and ‘imagine if rocky road was made of riffs and beats instead of Raisins’. Definitely worth trying right?”
MY TWO CENTS: Because one internationally flavoured blast of high-volume desert-rock stoner-sludge is not enough, here’s another — this time served up by four bearded Swedes. No, seriously. Maybe it’s payback for all those Abba tribute bands and juke-box movie musicals.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Before Monolord, Truckfighters, Greenleaf or Graveyard, one band blasted open the doors to announce Sweden’s riff-heavy desert rock arrival. Now, at long last, Lowrider are back to deliver on their much-deserved mythic status. New album Refractions explodes with all the churning fuzz and expansive riff-heaviness for which the band are beloved, shot through with re-energized purpose and maturity. The grooves swing, the bottom end rumbles, and the melodies growl and soar, delivering at last on Lowrider’s longing-to-be-fulfilled promise.”
MY TWO CENTS: Finally, some authentic stoner rock. Unlike all the other pretenders to the throne, Mondo Generator main man Nick Oliveri actually WAS in Queens of The Stone Age. Of course, being the contrary bastard that he is (and apparently always has been), his first album in eight years downplays the fuzzbusting sludge in favour of old-school hardcore and speed-demon punk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Hell Guys!! Mondo Generator are back!!! Eight years since the last record…this is a dream for all the fans of the band! A mixture of speed rock, American punk and hardcore with the typical Nick Oliveri style. You can hear the old school roots of Black Flag and Dead Kennedys with a pinch of heavy rock and sometimes shades of stoner. You can feel the dust and the sand of the Californian desert mixed with the rotten smell of a dirty basement used as venue! The songwriting is never ordinary and keeps the listener alive for the duration of the entire album. The vocal melodies are always interesting and give the music its trademark sound. You can definitely hear the punk attitude of QOTSA band with whom Nick played for long time. The album is recorded at Pink Duck studio owned by Josh Homme and engineered and mixed by Ian Watt.”
Rock And Roll Hearts
MY TWO CENTS: You can’t beat a good power trio. Especially not one that puts the pedal to the metal the way these three Norwegians do. Their sound and style fall somewhere between Supersuckers and Motörhead — with maybe a touch of Volbeat in the mix — which ain’t a bad place to be, if you ask me.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The third Pain City album was made to be a kick in the nuts and an in-your-face album, full of high energy and testosterone! The album is, of course, about Rock and Roll and about having a good time as well as never giving up your dreams. The songs on Rock And Roll Hearts are more straightforward and faster than the previous ones. You can’t go wrong with fast rock and roll and catchy as well as easy sing-along choruses, can you? The songwriting has been the same as always: Stian Krogh pre-produced most of it before the rest of the band joined him and they worked on the songs together to see if there’s room for changes. They often removed parts rather than adding new parts to make things interesting instead of repeating everything. The songs came to life when the whole band played together, and everyone had the chance to add their own personal touch. The sound on the new album can be described as three people playing together and having as much fun as possible – no frills, just guitars plugged straight into the amp and everything turned up to 11!”
Before The Age of Mirrors
MY TWO CENTS: Gritty, menacing, intense, aggressive, paranoid and disturbing aren’t everybody’s cup of musical tea. But they seem to pay off handsomely for these Brooklyn bruisers.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “New York’s Raspberry Bulbs (featuring members of Bone Awl and Rorschach) release their highly anticipated new album, Before the Age of Mirrors. Forever defying the conventions of underground music, Raspberry Bulbs continue to push the envelope via their subversive take on occult punk and black metal. Through maniacal lyricism, raw guitar snarls channeled through gritty, 4 track recordings, and a wall of distortion, Raspberry Bulbs suffocate the listener every step of the way. Raspberry Bulbs emphasize the volatile, confrontational attitudes of punk with the discordant sounds of lo-fi black metal and inspirational fever dreams found only in weird fiction. In the band’s own words, “parts paranoia, anger, and insane humor to satisfy the most cynical minds, Before the Age of Mirrors was crafted for the times where we desperately look for a way forward and we seem, at this dazzling stage, almost prepared to step through the mirror.”