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Music Reviews: Ben Sommer, Cauldron, Assassin, Hour of 13, Sevendust, Junior Doctor

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It’s snowing outside, I am prepping for colonoscopy and you lot need a column. A diverse selection as per normal, but quite a bit of good stuff.

CD reviews

Ben Sommer: America’d

This is quite a rarity for several reasons. It’s not that uncommon for an artist to approach me via my own blog rather than via this column. What is more unusual is that this artist is not only libertarian (or rather admits he is), but is actually quite good. The disc, which wisely is short and sweet, has some real gems. However the final song, which is funny at first listen, gets old quickly. “Kill Estrogen Queens” is amusing the first listen, but bad rap, deliberate or not distracts from the rest of this disc. Sommer has a good voice, but a rapper he ain’t.

The first track on the album and first video is called “Adult Children” and is Warren Zevon-esque cynical rocker. The video contains quite a few images of grown men in diapers, which at first is quite disturbing. Musically, with the exception of the last track, the songs are combination of mild prog and observational song-writing. That said, all of them can be enjoyed merely as tunes as well, and lyrics never get in the way of a good track. And how many albums do you know with a song about “Henry Kissinger” or one called “Sumerian Proletarian” for that matter?

 

Cauldron: Burning Fortune

Besides this being a bleeping bleeped promo copy I was able to enjoy this release on its merits. Quite often the bleeping is so over-zealous that its gets in the way of actually listening to the music. At least one release I have not reviewed because it was so bad.

Away from that, it is fair to say that Cauldron have their music heads firmly in the age of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, as they did on their first release. There is a distinct feeling of Diamond Head about on here at its heaviest. The irony is that I got the new Jag Panzer this week and there is some similarity between the two.

Songs like “Tears have Come” almost fall into the realm of what is now known as “hair metal” and probably would have gotten lots of airplay back in the day. The band seem to be introducing more elements of the 80s into their music and adding a touch of the heavy rock that was everywhere. “I Confess” is a slightly less produced Badlands, complete with high pitched scream or even Dokken.

This is by no means derivative and if you weren’t round in the 80s you would probably miss most of the musical hints. The band have honed their chops and while still a bit derivative they produce some damn good stuff.

 

Assassin: Breaking the Silence

They sound like 80s thrash to the core and German thrash at that. Well there is a reason for both of things. This lot formed in the 80s in Germany under the name Satanica to play thrash, as far as they possibly could. They ended up breaking up at the end of that decade, not because they couldn’t stand each other, but because some bastard nicked all their gear and they couldn’t afford new stuff. In 2002, they reconvened, not being able to resist the lure of the thrash.

Unlike most bands, they are on their heyday label in the form of the SPV. This lot were signed third after Sodom and Destruction. This is a great classic thrash done by a band of guys who know what they are doing. Nothing subtle or melodic on here. Its head-down driving pedal to the metal thrash that is just as fun (or annoying to the haters) as it was the first time around.

This is a solid release for the band that would not be out of place on a bill with the titans of the genre. Why bother with the new wavers of real metal when you can actually get some proper original Germanic thrash? Soon to be heard in the mosh-pit at Wacken I suspect.

 

Hour of 13: The Ritualist

This is a bit like it would sound if instead of Ozzy fronting Black Sabbath in the day, you had someone who could actually sing. There are hints of Dio-era Sabbath, of course, but this is a bit less slick than that. Those old enough will hear a clear tinge of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts like Witchfinder General. There is something almost folky about the style of the singing on here; it’s very British. This is very melodic doom that never gets stuck in the bog that mires many such band.

There are touches of other metal bands afoot as well, such as Judas Priest, at least in their earlier versions. There is nothing that slick on here; it retains its monolithic mono feel, which reminds the listener of an abandoned field near some ancient religious setting. This is occultist doom metal that just begs to be included in some film or other.

If you love your vintage Sabbath and have all kind of naff named new wave of British heavy metal bands in your collection (on vinyl probably), this might be the band for you. The fact the band produce something this good as a duo is even more impressive. A hidden gem of a release.

 

Sevendust: Cold Day Memory

Having written off this lot as just another modern metal band in the mode of so many others, I didn’t expect much when I got this to review. While it still has screamo vocals in the tracks, they are by far less intrusive than normal on such a release. The clean vocals are far more in the forefront, which makes this easier to take for those of us that find most modern metal a bit of a turn-off.

There is melodic on here, despite the normal and ubiquitous chugging riff. There is enough variety to keep even the most cynical about this sort of music happy. I found myself actually enjoying this release, or at least mostly. “Unravelling” is actually quite a good song. On this track they get all their elements done perfectly. It’s certainly not a track most metal-heads will turn off if it pops up on their local heavy rock station.

Still the blips and electronic frippery might get on your nerves if you listen to the entire album. There are enough highlights on here to make it an enjoyable listen most of the time. Probably not your first choice of music, but it’s good to see one of the modern metal bands expanding their horizons into something that has some merit.

 

Junior Doctor: Clumsy Words & Bad Pickup Lines

Besides the great name for a power pop album, this lot have an amusing history. They literally formed at medical school, then dropped out to pursue a musical career. This column is well used to bands using that formula, except it tends to be Berklee or Julliard Schools of music that produce it. Guess JD are trying to see if they can pull a real life Rick Springfield. (Springfield played Dr Noah Drack on General Hospital before and several times in between his pop rock career).

This is power pop bouncing stuff that aimed clearly at the young female market. But like Cheap Trick back in the day, it’s a band that guys won’t vomit while listening to. A Florida band that is getting quite a bit of airplay, they are trying to break out and become national.

Catchy choruses, inoffensive lyrics and car radio-friendly rock are what they specialize in. I am know I would rather listen to these guys all day than anything resembling hip-hop or R&B. A perfect birthday present for your favourite niece.

On that chirpy upbeat with perfect hair note, it’s time to wrap this piece up. As always, stay safe and rocking until next week.

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