JOHNNY KOWALSKI AND THE SEXY WEIRDOS – Album Review: “European English”

European English

Being the EclecticMusicLover, I enjoy a wide variety of music genres, and have a special appreciation for artists and bands that meld lots of different influences in the creation of their music. Well, Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos – a self-described “body-snatching carnival punk band” from Birmingham, UK – are eclectic on steroids! And, honestly, who could possibly resist a band called ‘The Sexy Weirdos?!’ Fusing Celtic, Balkan and Gypsy folk melodies with reggae, ska, mariachi, punk and rock’n’roll, they create a uniquely eccentric sound that’s totally original and deliriously entertaining.

Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in membership over the years since forming in 2009. The current lineup consists of frontman Johnny Kowalski (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Chris Yates (Bass), Ilias Lintzos (Percussion), John-Joe Murray (Violin), Matthew Osborne (Drums) and Katie Stevens (Clarinet, Tenor Sax). They released their debut album Victory for the Monsters in 2012, and followed two years later with Kill the Beast. In October, they dropped their third album European English, an extraordinary work that reflects their experiences touring across Europe, as well as time spent amongst Romani gypsies and artists in Josefov, Czech Republic, where many of the album’s songs were written.

Sexy Weirdos2

Things get off to a rousing start with “Megahorse,” a lively tune that conjures up images of a Yiddish folk dance, and sets the overall tone for the album. A careful listen reveals a rich diversity of instruments at play, most notably guitar, violin, and a chirping clarinet, anchored by thumping bass and a frantic drumbeat. In his distinctive spirited vocal style, Kowalski sounds like he’s singing at a Jewish wedding as he wails “If everyone thinks it, it must be right, ’cause everyone can’t be wrong. The lies that we fight to feel safe at night, are the lies that help keep us strong.”

The band’s sense of playful silliness and love of camp is charmingly evident on the zany video, as they take turns dancing to the song (with varying amounts of success).

A seductive Latin-infused bass line introduces us to “Relative Rudeboy,” then a playful violin and drumbeat ensue, accentuated by Stevens’ jaunty sax and a bit of cowbell thrown in for good measure. It all makes for a fun romp that’ll have even the biggest wallflower on their feet. The hips keep swaying with the infectious “Serbian Rumba.” Murray’s sultry violin takes a starring role, and Kowalski’s low, smoldering vocals are a delight as he sings: “Why should I be thinking of you right now? Not in this place and not in this time. And now he will preach at me for a long eternity. And I will be forced to agree, that I’m an asshole yes I see.”

The band evokes the Scottish Highlands with a bit of a gypsy vibe on the exuberant instrumental “Sicilian Stallion.” I love the festive violin, flute and electric guitar work, all propelled forward by a peppy drumbeat. They keep the energy flowing with the “Minor Calamity” and bouncy “Didn’t Find the Money.”

Raggadub (Manifesto in Three Parts)” is an interesting and complex track, with added dubstep and hip-hop elements, courtesy of guest artists Anne-Marie Allen, Smut Rakhra and Jugganaut. The first part beckons us to feel a connection with each other and the earth through music and dance: “Mother earth and sister of soul. Feel that connection and let your body roll.” Part two speaks to social injustice and corruption: “Idled masses yearn to breathe free. Fat on bread for 26p. A trace of fruit, sugar and bleach. Fluoride toothpaste from the pharmacy. Rotisserie chicken is pumped with fat. The sanctity of life is on a wire rack.” The vocals in the frenetic third part are sung so fast I couldn’t understand them, but it’s certainly a climactic end to an amazing track!

The lively instrumental track “Matthew, Matthew” brings an explosion of fluttering clarinet, violin, guitar and crashing cymbals. Kowalski seems to channel the late Joe Strummer on the boisterous “Flight of the Juniper,” which to my ears sounds like a song that could have been done by The Clash. The guitar work on this short but powerful track is wonderful.

Closing out the album is the captivating, psychedelic-tinged “Chinese Icicles,” a real tour-de-force and one of the standout tracks. The violin in all its forms takes center stage, with electric guitar in a strong co-starring role. The band employs all sorts of exotic instruments to lend a mysterious Asian vibe to an essentially hard rock track. The song is so compelling it seems shorter than its five and a half minute length. It’s a dramatic finish to a remarkable album, which you can listen to here:

Connect with the band:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp

CANDID – Single Review: “Breathless”

UK alt-rock band Candid is on a roll. In little more than a year, the Coventry, England foursome has released a total of four singles, beginning with “Moving On” in the fall of 2016. They followed up with the fantastic “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed, then dropped their third single “Lay Me Down,” in August, a superb song I also reviewed. Today they released a fourth single “Breathless” and, as we like to say here in the U.S., they’ve hit another one out of the park. It’s so stunning that it leaves me breathless!

candid new
Photo by Ruby Nixon

Candid consists of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound features arresting melodies, outstanding layered guitar work and wicked percussion, all of which are on full display on “Breathless.” The exuberant jangly and chiming guitars are magnificent, soaring to great heights and creating a full, sweeping soundscape that’s truly breathtaking.

Their lyrics are always thoughtful and intelligent, and on “Breathless” they address feelings of losing one’s grip on reality, and wanting a return to sanity by moving on to a better place mentally.  Rob’s vocals are captivating as he plaintively sings:

I feel there’s something on my mind I’ve got a lot to say
Guess I can stay and fight the fire or I could walk away
I feel there’s something creeping up I got no place to hide
From the corners of my mind
So let me up for air I, cause I don’t understand why
All these things in my mind leave me breathless

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:   iTunes

FROM THE CAVE Release a Gorgeous Video for their new single “Halloween”

From the Cave

From the Cave is an alternative indie rock band based in London, UK, and on 31 October they appropriately released a stunning new single “Halloween,” along with an equally stunning video. I’m only getting around to featuring it now, as I just discovered it a few days ago. I was instantly blown away by both song and video, which is quite honestly one of the most interesting and visually captivating videos I’ve seen in a long while.

The five-member band consists of Kristian Møller-Munar on vocals and guitar, Mikaela Lindgren on vocals, keys and percussion, Josh Scriven on guitar and vocals, Johan Crondahl on bass, and Anton Vysotsky on drums. They released their self-titled debut EP From the Cave in 2016, and in 2017 have followed up with a series of singles, the fourth of which is “Halloween.” They plan to released a full album in early 2018.

From the Cave2

“Halloween” starts off with quiet, mysterious synths and plucky guitar, followed by gentle percussion and a soft chorus, then Mikaela’s lovely vocals enter the proceedings. The music swells with added synths and layered jangly guitars, and Kristian’s vocals join in, harmonizing beautifully with Mikaela’s. The guitars, bass and drums become more intense as the song progresses, making for a dramatically sweeping song that raises goosebumps.

I may be off-base, but my take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about a relationship where the partners are hiding behind a mask of sorts, unable to be open or honest with each other – hence the title “Halloween.”

I try to see you from the outside
But you were hiding in my mind
I’m walking over to a brighter light
The door is closed I hear a voice
Do we ever have a choice?
Halloween Halloween

The gorgeous and intensely colorful animated video, which was created by Kristian, shows a vehicle traveling across an ever-changing fantasyland of earth, water and sky. It’s like a psychedelic trip through the Land of Oz with Harry Potter and his friends. I love it!

Connect with From the Cave:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase: Bandcamp

BAD LLAMA – Single Review: “Apocrypha”

Apocrypha

Bad Llama is a talented and charismatic alternative metal band based in Burton Upon Trent, UK. Blending 90s rock, funk and metal with modern industrial and progressive sounds, they create music overflowing with intricate melodies, complex arrangements, powerful instrumentals, intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals. The band is comprised of Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Dan Houlbrooke (Guitar), Sam Wyatt (Guitar and Backing vocals), Lewis Hutchings (Bass) and Gaz Waddell (Drums).

Bad Llama photo 1

In September 2016, they released their outstanding debut EP Shedding Skin, which I reviewed and you can read here. Building on the solid foundation established by that EP, Bad Llama have now released a new single “Apocrypha” and it’s brilliant!

Roiling guitars, thunderous drums and throbbing bass set the tone for the hard-hitting song. An eerie synth that sounds like distorted violin strings lends a menacing, psychedelic vibe, while Jordan’s powerful, raw vocals raise goosebumps. Having two axe men gives their music incredible strength and complexity of sound, and Houlbrooke and Wyatt don’t disappoint as they deliver an onslaught of shredded and distorted riffs. It all builds to a powerful crescendo in the outro, and the soaring chorus is a perfect finish to the superb track.

Connect with Bad Llama: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify

Purchase: iTunes

TWO ISLANDS – Single Review: “Still Life”

I usually like to include a bit of background info on an artist or band in my reviews, but it’s a real challenge for the UK indie band Two Islands, who recently dropped their wonderful new single “Still Life.” Though they have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they’ve provided scant details and zero photos of themselves.

From reading reviews and articles on them, I’ve been able to uncover that – as their name would imply – they are a duo, and hail from Liverpool. Digging further, I came across this explanation from the elusive duo that was included in the premier of “Still Life” on the online indie music magazine DORK: “We want to reclaim the romance of falling in love with an artist solely through their songs, something that has been lost in the internet era. We’re not looking to hide, we just want to engage through our music.

Well, I have to say that after listening to “Still Life,” as well as their fantastic debut single “Heaven,” I’ve certainly fallen for this band. Their music is so joyously upbeat that it’s hard to resist it’s charms (unless you’re someone who hates anything pop with an infectious dance groove). The exuberant track instantly grabs you by the hips and impels you to sway to its irresistible dance beat. With its lush synths, energetic drums and jangly guitars with just a hint of funky vibe, not to mention the duo’s gorgeous harmonizing vocals, the song is a dreamy throwback to late 70s disco and early 80s synth pop (two genres I loved), but with a fresh approach that’s found with current bands like The 1975. In fact, “Still Life” reminds me a bit of The 1975’s “The Sound.”

Have a listen and hear it for yourself:

Connect with Two Islands: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Oli Barton & the Movement – Album Review: “Into the Back Room”

Into the Back Room album cover

As a music blogger, I’m exposed to a continuous supply of new tunes by scores of musicians, and it’s always refreshing to discover an artist or band with a unique sound that sets them apart from the crowd. London-based indie outfit Oli Barton & the Movement is such a band. With a winning combination of talent, creativity and personality, their eccentric style of alternative rock is a crazy-good mix of post-punk and psychedelia, fortified with touches of funk, grunge and pop. They employ all sorts of instruments, sounds and textures to create music that’s original and unconventional, and their direct, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with an abundance of irony and humor. I love those lyrics so much that I’ll be quoting them heavily throughout this review.

The five member band is headed by Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ridiculously talented musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco Paone on Bass, and Guy Monk on Drums.

Oli Barton & the Movement 2

They released their debut single “Photograph” through Coke & Dagger Records in late 2016, followed by “Sleeping With the Enemy” in April 2017 (which I reviewed) and “Kinky” at the end of June. On August 11 they dropped their first full album Into the Back Room, and it’s nothing short of brilliant. Most the of album’s nine original tracks  address subjects of duplicity and betrayal, whether it be in romantic entanglements, personal relationships or politics. In a terrific interview with Rebecca Singer for her blog Read Between the Lines, which you can read here, band front man Oli Barton explained: “‘The Back Room’ to me is that place where you lock away all those things you’re not supposed to think about or talk about. I felt like I was locked in there for a long time.”

The psychedelic album opener “Cold Call” arrives with distorted strings that have an effect on the ears quite similar to nails on a chalkboard, conveying a sense of impending menace. Then a heavy bass line enters, along with a hypnotic drum beat and gritty guitars, those tormented strings still audible in the background. At one point, we’re even treated to a bit of cow bell. The chorus has a carnival vibe as Barton laments: “There’s a cold call to your name. There’s a cold call and it’s just a game. There’s a cold call and no one’s to blame. Let me hear you breathe.” The reverberated guitar plucks at the end are a nice closer.

Next up is my absolute favorite track “Kinky,” an exuberant ball of fire that’s amazing on so many levels. It starts off with a little guitar lick, then an irresistible Spanish guitar riff takes over as Barton sings the hilarious ironic lyrics about a naughty girl in a co-dependent abusive relationship:

Oh I saw you, saw you in the playground
And I saw your boyfriend, I saw him push you down
Doesn’t it hurt when he pulls your hair?
Doesn’t it hurt when he beats ya there?

The music suddenly erupts with heavy percussion and surf rock guitar riffs as he belts out the racy chorus:

But you’re ki-i-i-inky  You’re ki-i-i-inky
You’re ki-i-i-inky  You’re ki-i-i-inky

Afterwards, a funny munchkin-like voice can be heard in the background singing “Yeah, you’re kinky baby.” The verses continue with a delirious mix of Spanish and surf rock guitars, then we’re treated to some lovely strings in the bridge before a frenzy of distorted guitars and Barton’s out-of-control vocals return for the rest of the song. Barton is clearly having fun on this wild track, as he can be heard laughing at the end. For me, it’s a blast from start to finish every single time I hear it.

The upbeat tempo belies a decidedly unhappy situation on “How Would I Know?” The song addresses the frustrations of a schoolboy that the girl he used to go with is now seeing another guy. With much exasperation, Barton implores”But are you happy? ‘Cause you don’t look like you’re getting enough to me. Yeah, did I ever leave you feeling needy? How would I know?” I love the jangly guitars and Barton’s fervent vocals that are delivered with his charming British accent. (I’m one of those crazy Americans who would enjoy hearing someone with a strong British accent read the phone book.)

To an ominous heavy rumble announcing the threat of something very bad at the beginning of “Photograph,” Barton warns us that “This is where it’s gets a little darker.” Indeed it does, as crushing bass, layers of shredded and distorted guitars, and furious crashing cymbals lend a dismal vibe. With bitterness in his voice, Barton confronts his once-girlfriend of her betrayal:

I thought I saw you in a photograph
You looked so good, yeah you were having a laugh
I though I saw you in a photograph
But who was he? ‘Cause he sure ain’t me, yeah he sure ain’t me

The hard-hitting psychedelic “Sleeping With the Enemy” takes on rampant duplicity in politics that seems to leave people feeling like they’ve been screwed, and the biting lyrics get right to the point:

And I know what it’s like, to be stabbed in the back with a knife
It’s just my life, and I’d better learn to take it from behind
Sleeping with the enemy.  Denied any sympathy
Sincerity will soon erode, when you’ve got nowhere to go

Musically, the song alternates between an aggressive, fast-paced beat and a slower, almost hypnotic cadence. The instrumentals are awesome, and Barton’s fervent vocals convey his sense of powerlessness and exasperation with the state of things. At the bridge, it all builds to a cacophonous barrage of heavy buzzing bass, distored guitars, pounding drums and impassioned vocals. It’s a great song.

The bouncy “Waste of Time” touches on a relationship with someone who drives you completely crazy, but you just can’t quit them:

I seem to be a prisoner of war
She is the worst part of my day
I’m just a fool stuck in her way
Her skinny jeans just make me look like a whore

Talk is Cheap” is a trippy little musical atomic bomb contained in just under four minutes. There’s so much going on: en eerie opening with music and vocals played backwards, strange spoken vocals “George the elephant like mastadons…”, loud industrial reverb sounds accompanied by screams that abruptly end with a slammed door. Next come mesmerizing plucked strings accompanied by a gently tapping drumbeat. Barton’s vocals enter with guitars, then the tempo ramps up with heavier guitars before calming down with added violins, then back up again in a frenzy of gnashing guitars, humming bass, thunderous drums and crashing cymbals.

The band takes a pensive turn with “Rebecca,” a bittersweet song about a woman with a troubled past who’s really good at heart, and deserves to be freed from her prison:

And while they talk about what you’ve done
They didn’t know that could be anyone
A poor young girl without a clue
There’s a story here that no one knew

A hauntingly beautiful piano is the dominant instrument on this track, and band friend Katie Mallinson provides soft echoed vocals as Rebecca.

A lovely mandolin introduces us to the languid “Coming Back for Nothing,” then a sharply strummed melodic guitar and a captivating echoed chorus ensue. It sounds like the kind of song that could have been done by Paul McCartney & Wings back in their heyday. Lyrically, it speaks to the singer’s depravity and how he screwed up his life:

Wishing I could be with a better one
I tried it off with your brother but we disagreed
But then I took the game to your mother
And she left me with nothing but dreams and some fucked-up disease

The album closes with a fantastic EDM remix of “Photograph.” This version has a great retro 80s feel that reminds me a bit of The Pet Shop Boys or even New Order. It’s not as dark as the slower original, but an interesting interpretation nonetheless.

Into the Back Room is a marvelous album, and an auspicious debut for Oli Barton & the Movement. Every track is fantastic and I love them all. Barton is an incredible wordsmith, and one of the most creative young artists I’ve come across since starting my blog more than two years ago. If they maintain the high calibre of music they’ve established with this album, they have a very promising future. Barton says he’s already written songs for their next couple of albums and I eagerly await them!

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

FIE! FIE! FIE! – Double Single Review: “Edge of Space/Everything I Told You”

Edge of Space Art work

Fie! Fie! Fie! is an indie alternative rock band from West Yorkshire, England, and they have a glorious name you’ll never forget. Formed in April 2013 by seasoned musicians Daniel Varley and Pete Long – both of whom play some pretty amazing guitar – the band also includes bassist Avon Blyth and multi-instrumentalist Matt Burnside. Varley sings lead vocals, and the other band members provide backing vocals.

Fie Fie Fie

The band released their first collection of tracks, Live Solo Sessions, in late 2013 when it consisted only of Varley and Long. In 2014, Blyth was added to the lineup, giving the band a much stronger and fuller sound. They released the single “The Alternative” in 2015, followed by the album Can You Hear This?  In 2016, Burnside joined Fie! Fie! Fie!, and they subsequently released a live album Live at St. Mary’s later that year, as well as a fantastic single “Hit the Spanish Main.” The band has now released a new double A side single “Edge of Space/Everything I Told You,” which dropped in early August, and I think it’s one of their best works yet.

I was blown away by “Edge of Space” at first listen, as it has one of the most arresting guitar-driven melodies I’ve heard in a while. The song immediately hooks us in with what sounds like lush synths but in reality is an effect that Pete put down on one of his guitar tracks, along with an achingly beautiful guitar riff that burns itself into your mind. It stayed with me long afterward, leaving me humming the melody and wanting to hear the song again and again. Besides the stunning guitars and synths, the percussion and bass are perfection. Using metaphors of space exploration, Varley passionately sings about finding enough forgiveness to salvage a damaged relationship, or possibly a damaged world:

Could you find a way, a way to see past this
Past the mess that we both left, could you see through it
Gliding through the stratosphere, could fall off, float away
There’s bigger fears alone up here as we try to find our way
If you could see through my eyes 75 miles high

The tracks ends with snippets of what sound like old recordings of astronauts speaking from their spaceships, and a final dramatic flourish of distorted guitar.

“Everything I Told You” is a mellower track, with a pleasing folk rhythm delivered by silky layered acoustic guitars hovering over a smooth bass line and gentle percussion. The guitar work on this track is sublime, and Varley’s earnest vocals are backed by a lovely, almost dreamlike harmonizing chorus. All the ingredients you need for a truly great song.

If you’re in the UK, you can catch Fie! Fie! Fie! at one of these upcoming shows:

4 Oct 2017    The White Bear, Barnsley
7 Oct 2017     The Spread Eagle, York
14 Oct 2017    Oxjam, Huddersfield
18 Oct 2017    SoFar Sounds, Bradford
20 Oct 2017    The Highfield Bradford, Idle
28 Oct 2017    Oxjam, The Town Hall, Hebden Bridge
24 Nov 2017    Hot Banana Music, Holmfirth
26 Nov 2017    The Beck, Brighouse
02 Dec 2017    The Tan Hill Inn, Richmond

Connect with Fie! Fie! Fie!:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation

Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

DEAD ON ARRIVAL – EP Review: “Chasing Tides”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on metal rock band Dead On Arrival. The Derbyshire four-piece was formed in 2011, and consists of Jack Dughan (Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar), Ben Calver (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Connor Woodward (Bass) and George Lathbury (Drums). Drawing on influences from some of their favorite bands such as Metallica, Machine Head, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon, the guys make aggressive rock that’s melodic, raw and in-your-face. As they state on their Facebook bio, “Our passion is to write, produce and release our own music and then play it live and LOUD.

Dead on Arrival
Photo by Pete Key

Dead On Arrival released a full length debut album From the Ashes in 2016, and now return with a terrific EP Chasing Tides, which dropped on August 18. The EP delivers four scorching tracks that clearly demonstrate the band’s growth, both in songwriting and musicianship. Their song lyrics address themes of dysfunction and betrayal within ourselves, our relationships and our government leaders, and their ferocious instrumentals perfectly convey the strong feelings expressed in the lyrics.

Chasing Tides

Vulture in the Waves,” released as a single in late 2016, kicks things off with an onslaught of shredded guitars, powerful throbbing bass and pounding drums – all hallmarks of the band’s hard-hitting sound. Dughan wails the lyrics that speak of someone wracked with guilt and tormented by his actions:

Oh I’m the vulture in the waves
Chasing tides to escape my mistakes
Because I couldn’t live on
Knowing what I’ve done
And I hide in the shadows
It’s the only way to survive

Hammering drums and blazing riffs continue unabated on the hard-driving “Inside” and “Corrupted World.” Calver’s shredded and distorted guitars are mind-blowing, and the bass so heavy I felt it in my core. On the latter track, Dughan implores, “This is a final call. We will stand tall and fight against this corruption.”

As if the first three tracks aren’t aggressive enough, the guys unleash their full sonic arsenal on the bombastic “Sickening Thing.” The frantic guitar riffs rain down like thunderbolts, and Lathbury attacks his drums like a wild beast, nearly blowing out the speakers – and my ear drums! Woodward lays down a face-melting bass line, and Dughans’ fiery vocals match the brutal music note for note. It’s my favorite of the four tracks, and really shows what these guys are capable of.

Connect with Dead on Arrival:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify and purchase on iTunes

SERPERUS – EP Review: “Infernal Seasons”

I can’t seem to pull myself away from the UK, as here I am featuring yet another band from that island nation. There’s such a tremendous amount of musical talent based there, I could devote my blog entirely to UK artists. This time I shine my spotlight on Serperus, a Liverpool five-piece that plays aggressive and melodic heavy metal. Formed in 2014, the band consists of Joey Farrell (Vocals), Mark Coogan (Lead Guitar), Jono Walters (Rhythm Guitar), Mikey Smith (Bass) and Aaron May (Drums).

Serperus performing

They released their debut EP …with Pestilence in December 2016 to wide acclaim, and followed up with their sophomore EP Infernal Seasons this past May. Offering up six tracks of brutal, unrelenting thrash metal that address themes of authoritarian oppression, Infernal Seasons serves to further cement the solid reputation Serperus has established for themselves, and demonstrates the progression of their songwriting skills and technical experimentation.

Infernal Seasons

The title track “Infernal Seasons” sets the tone with an onslaught of wailing guitars and Smith’s buzz-saw bass lines, propelled by thunderous percussion, courtesy of May’s relentless attack on his drum kit. Coogan delivers blistering riffs while Farrell snarls the searing and topically relevant lyrics that speak of the destruction and cruelty perpetrated upon society by ruthless leaders: “A charade, a means to construct the plague. The infernal seasons, the results of tyranny. Mother nature, down to her last legs. Deliverance, for us as the non-believers. Twisting tongues of the prophet, forcing catastrophic opinions.”

Serperus dials up the speed setting on the frenetic “Divulge,” the first single released from the EP.  As the band explained to online magazine Pure Grain Audio, “‘Divulge’ is one of the fastest and most intricate songs, featuring lots of twists and turns throughout. It is our personal favourite to play live and it is perfect to showcase what [we’re] all about.” And they’re not exaggerating about the song being fast and intricate – this beast kicks ass! The scorching, rapid-fire riffs blast through the speakers from start to finish with no letup, calling to mind the epic Metallica song “Hardwired.”

Into Ruin” opens with a mysterious intro of violin, xylophone, and piano before an assault of shredded guitars, hammering drums and crushing bass rain down like thunderbolts. This track’s a real head-banger, and once again our ears are treated to killer guitar solos, which continue unabated with “Deliverance Has Come.”  The song’s lyrics assert that mankind’s suffering will only be relieved by death. “Our fate is sealed. So choke on your last breath, as you sit and wait for the sweet release of death. Light begins to fade, humanity has failed, blinded by deceit, history repeats.

Perhaps the most melodically complex track on the EP is “No Vindication,” a six and a half minute-long tour-de-force. The song starts off slowly, with strummed electric guitar and heavy bass, then a hypnotic drum beat enters the scene, accompanied by Farrell’s calm, echoed vocals. The intensity ramps up with aggressive, shredded guitars and pounding drums,  Farrell’s vocals rising in ferocity to match the brutal instrumentals. We’re then thrust headlong into the hard-hitting closing track “Spirit in Black.” Unrelenting riffs of distorted & shredded guitars are driven by jack-hammer percussion, making this track an adrenaline rush on steroids. When the guitars fade out with a final crash of the cymbal, all you can do is catch your breath.

Even though it contains only six tracks, Infernal Seasons runs over 30 minutes, as they’re all fairly long. That fact, combined with the high level of intensity throughout its entirety, make it feel more like an album than an EP. A minor criticism I have is that some of the tracks sound quite similar to one another, however, the quality of the instrumentals and compelling lyrics more than make up for it. Overall, it’s a great EP that delivers the thrash metal goods.

Connect with Serperus:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and download for free on Bandcamp 

NEWFOUND STRANGERS – Single Review: “Take Me As I Am”

Take Me As I Am

Newfound Strangers are the second rock band from Derby, UK that I’ve featured on this blog in little more than a week (the previous being These Wicked Rivers). Formed in 2016 by guitarists Chris Payne and Dave Kent, the band also includes bassist and vocalist Dan Shaw, and drummer Nathan Rose.  Drawing on influences from Country, Classic Rock, Indie and Alternative, and artists as varied as Springsteen to Snow Patrol, Queen to Queens of the Stone and Foreigner to Foo Fighters, they’ve struggled to place themselves into a box in terms of genre, so have settled on ‘Melodic Rock.’  Collectively, the guys have over 50 years of combined experience both in the studio and onstage.

Newfound Strangers performing

They released their debut EP Take Me As I Am in May of this year, and now follow up with a single “Take Me As I Am,” which just dropped on August 11. Interestingly, the single was not included on the EP.  The band explains: “We originally toyed with putting it on the EP and making it a title track, however we decided it warranted its own release. The message behind the naming is the song talks about staying true to who you are and sticking to your roots, which really epitomises who we are as a band, so we stuck with the title for the EP.”

“Take Me As I Am” is a gentle rock ballad with a country sensibility. A perfectly balanced mix of electric and acoustic guitars are nicely complemented by humming bass and crisp percussion, creating a track that’s incredibly pleasing and expertly crafted. With heartfelt emotion, Dan sings the lyrics addressing someone who accepts him for who he is, enabling him to feel comfortable in his own skin, and not having to pretend or act in a way that’s dishonest to gain their love or acceptance.

“I’ve tried so hard to tell you, but the words don’t come out right.
I’m just a man. I’m nothing more and nothing less.
I’m not your shining knight.
Its taken oh so long, just to feel like you could be mine.
I’ll keep on waiting til the moment’s gone. Now I’m waiting in line.
You’re the only one who’s seen deep inside me.
You’re only one who’s looked in my soul.
You’re the only one who sets my spirit free.
You’re the only one who takes me as I am.”

“Take Me As I Am” is a great song, and you can check out their other music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

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Purchase their music on  iTunes  or  Bandcamp