ALBUM REVIEW: La Symphonie-Thrash Du Professeur Juif Rebelle by The Gangsta Rabbi

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http://www.gangstarabbi.com/

The Gangsta Rabbi, a.k.a. as The King of Jewish Punk, is the moniker of the multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, composer and producer Steve Lieberman. He was born in Brooklyn, New York to a working class Jewish family and now resides in Freeport. Perhaps more than most artists, his work needs to be understood in the full context of his life.

He has been considered an ‘outsider artist’, partly attributed to his lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder which began for him at the age of just eleven. He has been releasing studio albums since 2002 and has now released over thirty, along with live albums and countless cassettes. He has shared the stage with Weezer, Andrew WK, Glassjaw, Ryan Dunn and The Misfits, but had to retire from performing in 2011 owing to having to battle an advanced form of leukaemia, returning briefly to the stage in 2016.

Last year, he was admitted into a hospice and remarkably has carried on creating, producing his most challenging works including completely covering Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick (a major influence) and thrash metal versions of the British Opera, The H.M.S. Pinafore and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

This album, La Symphonie-Thrash Du Professeur Juif Rebelle, is his magnum opus, clocking in at thirty one tracks with a duration of over three hours. Apart from its remarkable length, it also sets a record for most instruments played in a symphony (eighteen!). The instruments involved cover a wide range including thrash guitar and basses, alto, tenor and bass trombones, flutes, trumpet, clarinet, euphonium and melodica as well as drums and percussion.

The first piece, L’espirit de Rebellion, sets out the album’s essential signature sound; a tsunami of sonic textures and frenetic drumming that borders on the chaotic and makes compelling listening from the outset. Although it teeters on the edge of musical chaos, it walks this tightrope effectively by retaining a melodic core throughout.
This basically fuses the essence of punk/metal spirit with the instrumental medium of classical music, and it results in abrasive yet consistently exhilarating soundscapes.

As with alternative rock bands like Sonic Youth and The Jesus & Mary Chain, who buried their melodies under layers of howling feedback, The Gangsta Rabbi’s music rewards repeated listening and this is the case with second track Mange Merde et Meurent (which translates as Eat Shit and Die!). It melds raw Stooges-style electric guitar with relentless thrash drumming and a dense wall of organic instrumentation with clarinet and trombones dominating the texture.

Third track, the amusingly titled Je Desire Une Basse Avec Un Whammy Bar, continues the riot with some rapid fire double kicks and some inventive Frank Zappa-style melodies and variations. Indeed, Zappa saw himself as a modern classical composer working in the idiom of rock music, and there are definite parallels here with Steve Lieberman. Like Zappa, Lieberman enjoys pushing the envelope, exploring the avant garde and juxtaposing unusual musical elements together.

La Carte de Recrue d’Aaron Judge and Hall’el Soixant-Trois both clock in at around eight minutes and continue the signature style with subtleties and details in the music that reward careful listening. As with his last album I reviewed, Lieberman’s work can be compared to the more challenging works of music by Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) and the more outré offerings of Lou Reed. Beefheart’s album Trout Mask Replica sounds like a chaotic sprawl at first, then the order gradually reveals itself.

This tension between order and chaos, dissonance and melody and also the textural difference between raucous and soft is the fundamental dichotomy that lies at the heart of his music. These tracks notably feature his distorted lead vocals, and it’s no surprise that he approaches singing in a unique, idiosyncratic way, bringing to mind another avant garde rock artist, the late Mark E. Smith from the British group The Fall.

Le Jardin des Chiens is a ten minute epic that reaches a tumultuous climax, with some woodwinds seriously wailing against a piledriving musical backdrop. Woodwinds also dominate the following Holocauste, especially flute and clarinet and vocals emerge once again around the three minute mark. This piece flows seamlessly into Trois Petits Chiots, which almost feels like a sequel or companion piece with a similar theme.

Owing to the constraints of length, I can’t focus on every track but other highlights that stood out for me were Le Quartier Cancer #3 which is a sustained sonic hurricane that lasts nine minutes and which I perceived as an emotional expression of anger and rage at the struggle of being faced with leukaemia. This is followed by Le Professeur Juif est mort (The Gangsta Rabbi Is Dead), a title which certainly shows he has not lost his sense of humour, a testament to his fortitude and spirit.

The raging energy continues through to the end, with La Petite Jeunne Fille-Juife having one of the most distinctive melodies along with M.C.T.M.T. and the relentlessly frenetic but thrilling Mille-Neuf Cents Quatre-Vignts Et Neuf (which translates as 1989 but presumably has no link to the Taylor Swift album of the same name!) The superbly named Bonkey Sur D’an lives up to its title with a delightfully eccentric melodic theme that brings the woodwinds to the fore once again.

The final track La Chanson De Merde Vit (translating as The Shit Life Song) is a rampaging ten minute musical climax where it seems like all eighteen instruments are playing at once (probably the case). It feels like a defiant middle finger to the mortality we all share and it’s a glorious one.

Overall, this is a remarkable, challenging artistic work that blends thrash metal with avant garde classical to create music like nothing you’ve ever heard. It’s the sonic equivalent of standing in a wind tunnel for three hours. To have created such an epic musical tour de force in his dire health circumstances is an example of the power of the human spirit at its finest. Hopefully, The Gangsta Rabbi, a.k.a. Steve Lieberman, will get to be fully appreciated within his lifetime.

 

VERDICT =  8.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

Watch a video about the 18 instruments on the album:

 

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Do You Know Who I Am? by D.Ni.L.

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https://www.d-ni-l.com/

D.Ni.L. is a 33 year old hip hop artist, musician, producer and emcee hailing from Yorkshire. Having played with bands growing up in York, he developed the ability to compose in his head and play by ear. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction since the age of twelve, and spent four years living in hostels and sleeping rough.

These tough life experiences give his music an edge and intensity, and his record label Musication specifically uses music as a tool for recovery for people who face issues like homelessness and addiction. This has led to collaborations with Buttercream 87 and Wasabi Fire Alarm, as part of the band). As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar-influenced Suicide In Sips.

Earlier in 2018, he released the album Boy Inside, which received a stellar review from me. Hot on its heels is this new album, Do You Know Who I Am?  Both thematically and musically, it feels like a continuation of Boy Inside although there is noticeably less rapping on this one and an emphasis on musically expansive song structures.

D.Ni.L. has formed an entirely new sound unique to him, which fuses aspects of progressive rock/metal (Deftones, Muse) with the emotive and well-crafted songwriting style of the Manic Street Preachers, also fused with the brutal lyrical honesty and aggression of hip hop. The complex sonic structures that D.Ni.L. constructs require multiple listens to be truly appreciated, but the emotional directness of his music resonates the first time you hear it.

Opening track Analogue Bath is a good example of this. Musically, it is built around brooding, swirling low-end guitar riffs and basslines, with meaty yet intricate drums. This provides the soundscape for D.Ni.L. to lay down a brutally honest lyric that sounds at first like he’s addressing a person he’s in a relationship with.

As the song progresses, it transpires that he is addressing his struggle and continual battle with drug addiction: “I didn’t know better when you flowed into my life at eleven and saturated me, you infatuated me when in fact you hated me, groomed and then dated me…”. The rapped verses are counter-pointed by vocal sections that provide an effective contrast, especially the haunting falsetto section towards the end.

This lead vocal style is more prominent on the following Buried, and you can hear the influence of James Dean Bradfield as well as several American hard rock/metal band vocalists. This track epitomizes D.Ni.L’s ability to fuse disparate elements together seamlessly, so it starts out as angular and aggressive with a syncopated rhythm before breaking down halfway into a beautiful extended passage. This features some fine vocal harmonies and usage of guitars in a much more delicate, nuanced and melodic way.

The overall transcendent effect brought to mind the blissed-out modern prog rock of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song. Again, lyrically it’s about battling the demons of his addiction: “So many problems traceable back to you, infected from the start…fed by your roots I’m maladjusted, malnourished right to the heart“.

Third track Feelings is musically more upbeat, driven by a catchy guitar riff and bouncy bassline, offset by a clever, off-kilter syncopated beat. This is alternated by sections of straight 4/4 that again works as a contrast. The second verse shows his mastery of rhythm as he continually displaces the accent, so that the listener feels the music shift underneath their feet. Lyrically, it’s another confession of his inner self as he explores how addiction and hedonism stunted him as a person: “I thought that sex was love, that love was belonging, belonging to me and no-one else, that was jealousy and do-wronging….”.

Forever is one of the more slow-paced epics, with a long and languid vocal melody. Musically, its a chance to express his more melodic side with some gorgeous strings towards the end. There’s a poignancy and double meaning to lines like, “Someday I’ll find another thorn to put in your side….”. Here, he is singing in the first person personifying addiction itself, and its hold on him.

Fifth track Let The Side Down is one of the album’s most instant tracks, with its anthemic title hook and compelling, addictive rhythms. Musically, it gradually builds in intensity until it climaxes with an electrifying rap section: “You were cheap but I was cheaper, as I fell deeper your price tag got steeper….”. Most importantly, it depicts how he is winning the war against his addiction with lines like, “No longer stuck to me, bringing bad luck to me, I’ve written you out of this story….”.

Melt is one of the album’s darkest tracks with a strong metal influence on certain sections which are cleverly alternated with complex, cathartic verses and another passage of great melodic beauty in the middle. It’s one of the most tormented tracks lyrically, as he portrays the seductive and all encompassing nature of addiction with harrowing imagery: “I chased you from brown to black, then you fizzled into nothing… now you’re long gone, even from the tips of my hair…..”.

Nod begins with a solemn string introduction before bursting into one of the visceral riffs that form part of his signature sound. It develops into another fully realized fusion of rock, metal and progressive genres, juxtaposing memorably anthemic sections with sparse and unrelentingly intense verses, brimming with restless rhythmic invention. Lyrically, it feels like it touches on the album’s main theme of gaining self-knowledge: “I didn’t even know myself, spent my life living in my head, no perspective, one dimension, I shut myself out….”.

Running starts by showcasing the flipside of his main sound, with a dreamy and delicately performed lengthy introduction that shows his musical craftsmanship as well as his more sensitive side. This is alternated with a more typically heavy section, yet the sensitivity is maintained with a soaring falsetto performance. Lyrically, its perhaps the most opaque thing here but conveys huge emotive power through lines such as, “I knew that we had an opportunity, now running, running away home and running out of oil soon….”.

Ninth song Sweet Man and the following Top and Bottom Of It feel like a potent diffusion of all the elements of his sound and style that he displays complete command of across the duration of the album. The former features some killer opening lines (“Could be the swig that takes you out of the game, could be the dig that adds deceased to your name…”) while the latter is one of the effective arrangements, building enormous cathartic tension through gradually developing themes and dynamics.

Under My Wing is one of the lighter, more immediately accessible songs here, with a seductive title hook and vocal melody, sung over equally infectious, pulsing low-end guitar. This more laid back style continues into the album’s final track, which takes the template of the slow burning epic to its ultimate conclusion.

Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, Way Back Down spends its first five minutes building up a brick wall of unbearable tension before it explodes into a brief section full of deep-seated rage. It then returns to the haunting, disturbing refrain of, “Under your breath, you swear that you’ll take me down….”, leaving the listener wondering if the addiction battle is ever truly won.

Overall, this album is a compelling musical journey that depicts the struggles of drug addiction with unflinching honesty and raw emotional expression. D.Ni.L is artistically fearless, taking the listener to some dark places but also unafraid to express sensitivity and vulnerability. The result is a work of enormous cathartic power that offers the hope of recovery and redemption throughout, making it the perfect follow up and companion piece to his previous masterpiece Boy Inside.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen to the whole album HERE

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Insanity Origins by Parasyche

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https://www.facebook.com/parasyche

Parasyche are a four-piece metal band hailing from Santiago in Chile. The band were formed back in 2010 by Matías Becerra and Nico España. When singer and rhythm guitarist Nick Borie joined in 2011 the band found their musical and lyrical identity.

In 2016, they began work on their debut album with Christian Suárez on bass and also secondary vocals. Their music is a fusion of thrash, speed and progressive metal and you can hear the influences of bands like Metallica and Megadeth, classic heavy rock like Deep Purple and prog-metal bands like Dream Theater and Tool. A cover of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen went viral on YouTube, amassing well over a million views.

Insanity Origins consists of ten tracks that clock in around five to eight minutes in length, something that shows their musical ambition. Opening track Box Of Hate gets the album off to an incendiary start, starting in a blaze of low-end guitar riffs and furious drumming.

A metal band is nothing without a great vocalist and fortunately Nico Borie has an excellent voice, halfway between Metallica’s James Hatfield and Sepultura’s Max Cavalera. The relentless intensity of the music is interspersed with numerous superb passages that brought to mind Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore. They show their progressive influences with constant shifts in tempo and dynamics and lyrically it’s equally heavy: “I can’t any escape…it’s inside my head, a box filled with rage“.

The intensity somehow ramps up another notch with second song Vesania. Beginning with a syncopated section then breaking into rapid fire double kick drumming, it then launches into an astonishing thrash metal groove, setting the scene for another fantastic vocal performance. Fairly early into the track we hear a sample of the famous “Here is someone who stood up to the filth….” speech from the dark classic film Taxi Driver. The track is an absolute epic, maintaining its colossal rolling momentum across its six minutes and featuring some fabulous Avenged Sevenfold-style dual lead guitar harmonies.

Detonation keeps the pedal to the metal and shows their thrash roots with some juggernaut sections in 2/4 time. It features a particularly strong drumming performance from Nicolas España as well as some almost unbelievable lead guitar work from Matías Becerra. Again, the pile driving energy only increases during the song’s duration. Fourth song The Treason switches to 6/8 time, at least to begin with, and this is a track where the guitarists really get to shine with a never ending series of skull-crushing riffs and acrobatic guitar solos. The way the band remain water tight through such a complex maze of time signature changes and different sections is testament to their musical synergy.

Land of Lies is a real change of pace; it’s a mid-paced seven minute epic in half-time that brought to mind the tormented grandeur of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun as well as Metallica’s equally classic Nothing Else Matters. It’s a song that shows their melodic gifts as opposed to just their virtuosic chops, with an impressively restrained performance from all concerned after the riotous first four tracks. It also features some excellent backing harmonies, another strength to the band.

Stolen Liberty continues this lighter, more mid-paced style but with a more complex time signatures and more use of the double harmony vocal technique that was so effective on Land of Lies. These two tracks really show the group’s musical breadth but this versatility only expands further on one of the album’s uber epics, the nearly eight minute Arise. As with the other songs, the inventiveness and vitality of the musicianship maintains to the very end, unexpectedly finishing with a mellow acoustic guitar section.

The acoustic guitars feature again in the eighth track Cachafaz, employed in a Spanish style with some remarkable use of guitar harmony. The contrasting acoustic and metal sections come thick and fast with some of their most progressive times signatures; this is perhaps their masterpiece in terms of sheer complexity and textural sophistication. Ninth track Need stands out for featuring their most unusual and unpredictable riffs, as well as hard to place time signatures that make you feel the ground is constantly shifting under your feet, in a good way.

Final track The Wolf Inside is an apt way to finish, with a fireworks display of guitar interplay that melds guttural chords with top of the neck fretwork and a Catherine wheel of guitar harmonies. It is one of the more accessible and immediate tracks featuring a catchy, colossal chorus. The lyrics are pleasingly dramatic with lines about “turning water into wine” and being a “hungry wolf“. Naturally, it also contains a mind-blowing solo which completes the album with a glorious flourish, along with Nico Borie giving his all vocally.

Overall, this album deserves to go down as a classic in the metal genre. Combining several kinds of metal from thrash to progressive whilst showing a real skill for proper songwriting and arrangement, Parasyche deal with the complex and epic as just second nature, pulling off some astonishing performances without it ever descending into gratuitous virtuosity. Blessed with an authentic, powerful lead vocalist, the entire band work in perfect synergy to create a work that metal fans worldwide seriously need to hear.

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Lobotomy by Love Ghost

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https://www.facebook.com/loveghost.official/

Love Ghost are an alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles. Although they are young (two members are juniors in high school) they have already achieved a lot, having opened live for Buckcherry, Berlin and Smash Mouth. Their music is heavily influenced by grunge and heavy rock bands from the 90’s including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice In Chains.

You can also hear the influence of a band like Yellowcard, who augmented their rock sound with violin and, in this case, Love Ghost feature a viola player who performs a similar role. This album, Lobotomy, is their full-length debut and consists of thirteen tracks, produced by Eric Lilivois at London Bridge Studio in Seattle and NRG Studios in Los Angeles.

First track Girl Pusher opens in a blaze of Alice in Chains-style low-end riffage, before Finn Bell’s cathartic Cobain-esque lead vocals grab you by the throat. The track features some complex shifts in tempo, though the chorus is simple and anthemic. The band have a strong command of dynamics, with Mya Greene’s soaring viola nicely contrasting with the guttural guitars. A fine start to the album.

The Scarlet Letter is very different, a blissed out beat, clean guitar and swirling viola lines setting the tone for an epic that clocks in at nearly seven minutes. Finn Bell gives a compelling, angst ridden performance that keeps you gripped to the end. It builds to a tumultuous climax, with the intense, frenzied viola bringing to mind John Cale from The Velvet Underground.

Parasitical Identity is stylistically halfway between the first two tracks, featuring a standout performance from drummer Samson Young. Lyrically, it seems to be about dealing with depression; there is a dark poetry and beauty to lines like, “A cold night of snow and apathy, it’s killing time for me and the moon, in a pit of silence I still hear screams…”.

The following Nowhere is perhaps the most instant track on the album, with an immediately addictive and infectious title hook that soon latches in the mind: “From this everywhere in my head to a nowhere in my soul…”. The frantic intensity of the music perfectly expresses the anxiety and emotional turmoil in the words. A potential single.

Danny Boy is another excellent track, this one another of their mid paced, powerful epics with sheets of thick electric guitar colliding with pounding drums. Again, it contains a highly memorable title hook and the balance between song structure and riffage sections is handled well by the band.

Musically, sixth track 24/7 is one of the album’s lighter moments, more towards the commercial end of alternative rock. Lyrically, it’s somewhat darker; it’s about the totalitarian aspects of authority and how it holds us in place: “There’s no escape from attack, the powers that be never have your back….”. During the breakdown section there are some beautiful, mournful viola lines that add to the emotional punch of the song. Another potential single.

Tall Poppies and This Is The Truth are two slightly slower tracks on the album, though the former features an incendiary chorus, counterpointed by melancholy viola on the verses. The latter features an affecting vocal performance from Bell, with existential ennui suffused in the lyrics: “Read the whole book, interpreted it with vacant eyes…I’m willing to leave myself behind….”.

Dead Silence and The Underground are two of the most anthemic songs, with Dead Silence containing a particularly skyscraping chorus, while The Underground starts off slowly before exploding into the sucker-punch title hook: “I’m calling from the underground, reaching from under like a crucifix...”. A tornado of viola swirls behind him, raising the musical tension still further. The verse and chorus dynamics are on a level of Nirvana-like mastery.

The lurching, colossal chorus of the following 9mm also recalls Nirvana, though not the slick grunge pop of Nevermind but the rougher, more raw songs from its predecessor Bleach. Twelth track Naked is the most experimental, an ominous sounding instrumental that brought to mind the perfectly controlled chaos of Sonic Youth, with some stunning lead guitar at the climactic moments.

The final In My Head Again closes the album with the most epic song and perhaps the most tortured. A pitch-black riff that any death metal band would be proud of encircles the verse then the music switches to frantic thrash sections, with the escalating voila sounding as spine-chilling as the screeching violins in Hitchcock’s Psycho.

They continue ratcheting up the notches of intensity until it reaches a fever pitch climax around the five minute mark. A calm moment in the storm lulls the listener into a false sense of security, then pulverizes you with the final section. It’s disturbing, unnerving and utterly compelling, the sound of a nervous breakdown.

Overall, this is a remarkable debut album from a band who have juxtaposed grunge, metal and experimental rock to create a potent fusion that sustains the listener’s interest across the durationof the album with some style. The lyrics are poetic and thoughtful, sung with boundless sincerity and honesty, along with cathartic rage. They are the natural heirs to Nirvana, with the musical range of Sonic Youth. They deserve to be huge.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: The Gangsta Rabbi’s Thrash Opus – Year 1812 Fest. Overture In EbMAJ by The Gangsta Rabbi

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http://gangstarabbi.com/

The Gangsta Rabbi, a.k.a. as The King of Jewish Punk, is the moniker of the multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, composer and producer Steve Lieberman. He was born in Brooklyn, New York to a working class Jewish family and now resides in Freeport. Perhaps more than most artists, his work needs to be understood in the full context of his life.

He has been considered an ‘outsider artist’, partly attributed to his lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder which began for him at the age of just eleven. He has been releasing studio albums since 2002 and has now released over thirty, along with live albums and countless cassettes. He has shared the stage with Weezer, Andrew WK, Glassjaw, Ryan Dunn and The Misfits, but had to retire from performing in 2011 owing to having to battle an advanced form of leukaemia, returning briefly to the stage in 2016.

He has been fighting the disease for the last seven years, which has had a pronounced effect on his artistic output. Every album has become progressively heavier to reflect the internal struggle of living with this terminal form of cancer. This year, he was admitted into a hospice and remarkably has carried on creating, producing his most challenging works including completely covering Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick (a major influence) and a thrash version of the British Opera, The H.M.S. Pinafore.

This work is based on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and preceding Opus numbers, with Lieberman playing every instrument himself. The instruments involved cover a wide range including thrash guitar and basses, alto, tenor and bass trombones, flutes, trumpet, clarinet, euphonium and melodica as well as drums and percussion.

The first track is a riotous sonic explosion from the very start. Dense layers of low-end distorted guitar and bass are augmented by double-kick drum patterns and frequent cymbals, proving the thrash element. A plethora of orchestral instruments create a fierce wall of sound, carrying the main melodic theme in unison or in octaves.

For the most part, the melody is submerged yet discernible amongst the onslaught of distortion and instrumental texture, yet towards the end we clearly hear the recognizable theme of the finale to the overture, an effective dynamic. The music is undeniably challenging, walking the tightrope between order and chaos in a way that reminded me of the more extreme and avant garde works of rock like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music or Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart.

The following tracks maintain this essential approach, with Opus 44 – Russian Folk Song and Opus 45 – 2nd Solennelle pushing the envelope even further, the latter particularly manic yet strangely cohesive in its melodic dissonance; with less distortion it could pass for one of the more far out instrumentals of Frank Zappa, another outsider artist.

It is also apt in a sense that Lieberman has chosen to reinterpret Tchaikovsky in this way. The great Russian composer was also a rather tortured person who struggled all his life with emotional turmoil and depression. For Tchaikovsky, composing and performing music was a cathartic emotional release which reflects in the intensity of his music, and this intensity is magnified exponentially in the hands of Lieberman.

The Battle of Borodino stands out for the stridency of the low end brass that has just as much bite as the wall of guitars and 3rd Solennelle continues in the same vein. Theme Aus Overture somehow finds another gear, giving the music a sense of fierce momentum and climax, with the theme from the finale emerging through the howling storm of sound.

The finale, Battalion Closer/Fanfare is an epic fifteen minutes that ramps up the relentless intensity to immense proportions. The drone of the guitars sounds like a jet taking off and the recognizable theme of the finale emerges at the same point as the first track. This time, it expands into another nine minutes of anarchic dissonance melded with melody, which goes through countless permutations before the two main themselves combine in a kind of tumultuous fugato.

Overall, this is an uncompromising and completely unique artistic reinterpretation of a well known classical work that is visceral yet compelling. The Gangsta Rabbi has forged a musical style entirely of his own, one rooted in his own life experiences and unique approach to music making. The fusion of thrash and classical is not one I’ve ever encountered and this will be appreciated by aficionados of the avant garde, in particular. It goes without saying that to have created and recorded this in a hospice with advanced leukaemia is a heroic feat in itself.

 

VERDICT =  7.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

E.P. REVIEW: Rebel by Ravenscroft

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Website: http://ravenscroftofficial.com/

Ravenscroft are a four-piece rock/metal band hailing from Orange County, California. They consist of Ralph Buso (vocals), Brett “Octane” Gorke (guitars), Devin Baker (bass) and Pat Magrath (drums). They formed in 2014 and take their influences from a wide variety of rock and metal bands. They cite influences stretching from 70’s rock bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, 80’s rock/metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth and 90’s grunge bands like Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots, amongst more modern influences.

To put it simply, Ravenscroft combine the hard-hitting, aggressive elements of metal/grunge with the anthemic choruses and virtuosity of classic rock. These fused elements are very much in evidence on this six-song EP, Rebel.  In Ralph Buso, they have an authentic rock voice that can compete with the great rock vocalists of the past and which is vital for this style of music. Fortunately, the rest of the band match his talent in their respective disciplines and, most importantly, they write strong songs rather than just great riffs like many of their contemporaries.

This is exemplified by opening track Denomination, which combines brutal riffage with a powerful song structure. Building from a verse that brought to mind Soundgarden, it centres on a visceral chorus that sounds like all the best metal bands rolled into one. The anthemic aspects of classic rock emerge in an energizing vocal chant section and a ripping guitar solo.

Second track The Chase is another hugely uplifting song that blends heavy riffage with soaring vocals, especially in the skyscraper of a chorus aiding by vocal harmonies. The drumming and bass playing on this are worthy of special mention and Brett Gorke delivers a short but vital solo. Third song Stand Up is built around a slinky low end metal riff and an incendiary ‘call to arms’ chorus “Stand up! It’s time to tear it up!” After the second chorus, there’s a formidable build up section before a blazing solo that covers the fretboard.

My Dearest One shows a whole other side to the band, a sensitive and emotive classic rock ballad built around strummed acoustic guitar and a track that shows their songwriting craft. It brought to mind classic rock like Aerosmith and Ravenscroft have a similar gift for writing huge choruses in the Tyler/Perry mould.

Fifth song Jaded is comparatively lighter than the more metal-tinged tracks that precede it, employing the octave-riff technique of modern rock bands like Foo Fighters. It features a killer chorus that Dave Grohl would be proud of. The post-chorus hook is even better, expressing the turmoil of infatuation and obsession: “It’s not about you, it’s all about me now…”. A great choice for a single.

The title track, Rebel, completes the EP with a furiously intense song that encapsulates the light and dark, yin/yang aspects of Ravenscroft. With perhaps the most anthemic chorus on the EP, its guaranteed to get fans raising their double devil-horns: “I am the rebel, I am the rebel, I am the Antichrist“. The central positive message of their music is nailed in the excellent middle eight: “It’s time to face the storm, to right the wrongs...”.

Overall, this is a classic EP from a rock band who have culled all the best parts of rock and metal going back four decades and fused them into a potent musical force. Ravenscroft have it all; a first class singer, superb musicianship and the most important ingredient – great songs. Their already sizeable fanbase is about to get bigger.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

E.P. REVIEW: Once Upon A Scary Night by Robin B. Czar

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http://www.rbczar.co.uk/

Robin B. Czar is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is German but currently resides in Canterbury, England. He has developed a cult fan base owing to his unique sound; it is a fascinating fusion of old school hard rock/metal like Black Sabbath, with more modern influences such as Marilyn Manson and HIM. Vocally, he has an immediately distinctive tone reminiscent of David Bowie and Buzzcocks singer Howard Devoto.

He has released three albums, Nachtgesange, Kiss from The Abyss and Mission Bizarre, which I reviewed a couple of years back. This E.P., Once Upon A Scary Night, consists of three tracks which form a ‘trilogy about a fictional character’ who goes through an emotional journey portrayed across one night that resolves the next day. For the fans who love his established sound, they will be pleased to know it retains the virtuoso musicianship, darkly humorous lyrics and ambitious, sophisticated arrangements that have become his trademarks.

Opening track Candle In The Rain begins in a blaze of Avenged Sevenfold-esque guitar pyrotechnics, displaying Robin’s incredibly fluent style, grabbing the listener’s attention immediately with a swirling riff that he harmonizes to great effect. The first verse depicts a life of misery over a sparse musical backing: “Another endless day has passed, another sleepless night begins.…”. The bridge/pre chorus bursts out of the speakers in a blaze of guitars and syncopated rhythms, the lyrics even darker: “The torture never stops, its like a nightmare without waking up…”.

Then the gloom is relieved by the instantly catchy title hook which refers to the fleeting and fragile nature of life: “Like a candle in the rain, everything’s vain in the end….”. After the second chorus there is an excellent instrumental passage, first with a short half time section featuring beefy, low-end riffage before launching into a fantastic solo, again featuring Bat Country-style duel guitar harmonies, then one last chorus.

Second song Until The Morning Breaks is a complete contrast musically, but carries on the nocturnal theme. This one is a brooding, intense epic rock ballad which starts with a lilting piano motif before a sparse but effective beat kicks in and Robin portrays a bleak, gothic scene: “The raging wind’s outside… the winter storm, it howls, it’s banging at the door….ghosts from forgotten graves come to you in need….”.

It builds gradually in intensity across the duration of the track, with atmospheric synths and subtle lead guitar work adding to the texture. The central theme of the ‘dark night of the soul’ is captured in another memorable chorus: “In sombre silence you sit in here and wait…until the morning breaks….”. After the second chorus there is an instrumental section with a concise, well structured solo played in octaves. It ends poignantly with the return of the piano phrase.

The final track Kill Everybody, is again in strong contrast to the previous song, this one hurtling along at a hectic pace, though not quite what you’d classify as speed metal. It shows Robin’s macabre sense of humour for the first time on the E.P., with a scenario in the lyrics reminiscent of the film Falling Down, about a man who cracks from stress and starts taking revenge on whoever has slightly wronged him.

Robin clearly has his tongue in his cheek as he sings: “Now is the girl who gave the wrong change, now it’s too late for mercy or tears….”. It leads to the joyously delivered chorus hook: “Kill everybody! Now it’s payback time….”. After the second chorus, Robin wrong foots the listener once more, reducing the tempo drastically for a build up section that airs grievances in a humorous fashion: “They do the same job, but get paid a bonus on top….”. Then ensues a return to the machine gun kick drums of the first half of the song, Robin delivering the best guitar solo of all, performed with a mellifluous, silky tone to bring things to a satisfying musical climax.

Overall, this is an excellent E.P. that’s works as a complete whole rather than just a collection of separate songs based around a lead single, as is usually the case. Robin B. Czar can lay claim to a genuinely original sound and style, melding rock (classic, prog, and industrial) with elements of heavy metal, then throwing quirky, eccentric lyrical themes shot through with Gothic black humour into the mix. It all adds up to an entertaining sonic concoction and this E.P. raises the bar even higher in the context of his previous work. Rock/metal fans looking for something a little left of field are implored to give him a listen!

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner