22/04/19 - White Raven Down - Conspiracy EP
White Raven Down is a four piece heavy rock band from Essex UK featuring The Unknown Scene's very own Luke Chappell on bass. Their debut EP 'Conspiracy' is available now on all major digital platforms and so I thought I'd give it a listen.
The opening track of the EP 'Black Door' begins with a guitar solo laden with wah and feeling in abundance. Underneath a progressive chugging riff can be heard. In an unexpected twist the song mellows out at the chorus before returning to the heavy riffs present earlier in the track. After two further verses and a repeat of the melodic chorus the song shifts up a gear with a build up on drums and some furious fretwork courtesy of guitarist Stu Bailey. Over the top of this faster rhythm, the chorus lyrics are repeated several times along with a superb outro solo.
'Take Me', the bands debut single from April last year, follows the brilliant opener with a slightly lighter touch starting with a 'clean-ish' section that soon makes way for a dramatic heavy guitar line. Lyrics enter and I reminded of Alice In Chains in style and approach. The chorus is well arranged and well worth multiple listens in its own right; the riff itself can only be described as 'tasty'. Post-chorus there is a more chilled out section complete with a reprise of the intro overdubbed with some bluesy lead guitar. A true face-melter of a solo follows before a final repeat of the catchy chorus - a very nice contrast indeed. It is easy to see why this track was the bands first single.
The third track 'Not Alone' fades in before laying down the gauntlet, heavy as hell. Tomas Mrazek plays some thundering drums which complement the rhythm guitar perfectly and at the chorus the melody of vocalist William Taylor is undeniable. After the second chorus the track changes pace on a hair pin, much like the opener, only this time with a stop-start duel between guitar and drums.
'Silence' opens with some clean notes that act like the calm before the storm with William's shout of “Can you hear me now?” acting as the catalyst for the transition into distortion. In the middle of the track, or the eye of the storm if you will, everything is brought down to a simmer before building back up again for a second chorus. Straight after Stu throws in some lead guitar into the mix as the rhythm guitar, bass and drums constantly shift around underneath. The song ends on a third chorus.
The fifth track of the EP, and the bands second single, 'Salvation' brings back the heavy with a very post-grunge sound reminiscent of Pearl Jam. Following the second chorus Luke makes a brief solo bass appearance in the run up to another of Stu's hair-raising solos. After a third and final chorus a musically satisfying guitar harmony section brings the track to a close.
The EP is finished off with radio edits of the two singles. Both songs are much the same as the standard versions except cut down in length to around the three minute mark - standard fare for radio friendly tracks of old. 'Take Me' sadly loses its bluesy pre-solo, one of the highlights of the EP, and 'Salvation' is stripped of its bass build-up before the main solo. Although I can see why bands release radio edits I feel that both songs lose something significant to their arrangement. I would have much preferred the EP to have ended on a high with the standard version of 'Salvation', but that's just my opinion.
'Conspiracy' is a fantastic release and I enjoyed it immensely. For music fans who can't decide if they prefer heavy/hard rock or post-grunge, this is the perfect answer. In November White Raven Down will be hitting the stage at Hard Rock Hell Festival in Great Yarmouth alongside big names such as metal legends Diamond Head, American rockers Buckcherry and Dee Snider of Twister Sister. Catch them at a venue near you while you still can, because I can see big things on the horizon for these guys.
If you want to check out the 'Conspiracy' EP for yourself you can download it on all the usual online stores and can stream it in full on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/210Cd8CgUCzo3jrskACQ3X
15/03/19 - 3 Minutes To Live - Strike The Shepherd
3 Minutes To Live is an American metal band from Nashville Tennessee, a place more often renowned for its country music. With their own unique style the band proudly fly the flag for what they themselves call 'Certified Nashville Metal'. Formed in 2004, they are now about to release their third album, so I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at their previous effort entitled 'Strike The Shepherd' that came out last year.
The album opener 'Knock Me Down' begins with a foot stomping intro that builds up into a double bass pounding rhythm topped off with a well placed growl. Lyrics soon follow with a delivery akin to the vocals of Austrian Death Machine backed by the rhythm guitar of Five Finger Death Punch. When the breakdown comes in at around the three minute mark, it is impossible to refrain from banging your head in sync with the music. The song then ends with a reprise of the sing along worthy chorus.
'House of Cards' opens with a feisty guitar riff that is quickly joined by the frantic drumming of the bands own master of the sticks Joe Myers. The 'House' is completed by the twin guitars of Chris Metker and Jordyn Penner laying down a tasty riff drop tuned riff. When the chorus hits its progressive musicality and melody remind me of the band Dream Theater. Not a bad thing, the dynamics of the chorus really show off the musicianship of the band. After the chorus, the first guitar solo of the album breaks free from the rest of the track and really makes a bold statement.
Track number three 'The Throne' sees the band channelling their inner groove. Joe's drums perfectly match the prowess of the bands bassist Abraham Martinez. Chris and Willie Adler of Lamb Of God would be proud their legacy lives on. Sadly there is no guitar solo on this track, however what is lacking in lead guitar is more than made up for by the songs sheer unrelenting rhythm-bass-drum combo. The chants of “come and take the throne!” never fail to get the heart pounding too.
'Pigs', the albums second single, heralds a sense of drama with its news report style voice overs, clean guitar and string ensemble. The distortion guitars come in and build up with a vengeance until an ever so slight tempo change shifts the song into overdrive. What then follows came as quite a surprise as singer Brian Terry is given free reign to demonstrate his real vocal ability. From clean lines filled with sincerity to full tilt aggression, and the smooth transition between the two, this song really shows off his range.
'Prelude to Inferno' is a harmonic laden instrumental complete with church hall backing vocals and military drumming that transitions seamlessly into the next track 'Watch You Burn'. This song brings with it perfectly executed thrashy verses combined with melodic choruses. The contrast between the two is a testament to the bands diversity in style and some of the riff changes are pretty brutal too...in a good way. Always keep 'em guessing, that's what I say.
After the one-two 'pyrotechnic' punches of the previous tracks, 'UnRavelling' sees a darker side emerge. The intro is dripping with doom and is suitably sinister before the guitars take on a modern funky twist. Much like 'Watch You Burn', this song utilities a back and forth between rage and rest that could easily become the bands calling card. Also worthy of mention is the addition of a full-on face-melting guitar solo that flows effortlessly back into a reprise of the intro. Following a final repeat of the chorus the comes to a funky finale.
Penultimate track 'Awake' brings back the clean guitar style of 'Pigs', only this time featuring rain instead of reporters, and atmosphere inducing overdubbed lead guitar. Brian's once again clean vocals are on this occasion joined by female backing vocals courtesy of Kelsey Christian. The well-chosen lyrics and harmonies between Brian, himself and Kelsey are beautifully arranged and only amp up my anticipation of what is to come. The riff drops and I am not disappointed. The chorus is heavy yet catchy, modern sounding but hearkens back to something older. Bravo!
Last but certainly not least comes the title track with a return to the sheer heaviness heard earlier on. This is followed by a pre-verse riff that is definitely my personal favourite of the album. “Strike the shepherd and watch the sheep scatter” is a clever line and highlights what I believe to be the overall message of the album...take no nonsense and keep on fighting to the bitter end.
In summary, the 'Strike The Shepherd' album is a brilliant effort. Plenty of hooks, plenty of riffs and a vocal range that has been worth a mention on more than one occasion. Certainly worth checking out if you get the chance and I for one can't wait to hear the bands follow up which is due to be released soon.
You can get yourself a copy of 'Strike The Shepherd' on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play; or if you'd prefer to go old-school and bag yourself a physical copy instead you can get in touch with the band directly via their Facebook page.
08/03/19 - Snipers Of Babel - Redemption EP
Snipers Of Babel is an American metal band from Washington DC on the verge of releasing their second EP. According to the band's Facebook page they draw inspiration from all genres of metal. In this regard, their debut EP entitled 'Redemption' does not disappoint.
After a brief intro that eerily sets the scene, the band dive head first into the opening track 'Initiate the Plague' with a bad ass drum fill courtesy of former Chimaira and Dying Fetus drummer Kevin Talley. The ensuing death metal onslaught doesn't relent until suitably brutal growling kicks in, backed by a near-symphonic vocal line at the chorus that sounds appropriately distant and ominous. A clever mix to be sure. The track ends with an overdubbed narration that tells the dire story of the world today.
In a similar vein to the first, the second track 'Scourge' continues the symphonic/death metal cross but this time with what can only be described as Lamb Of God-esque guitar riffage and some tasty lead work by guitarist Mike Bossier. Very cool. The repeated screams of "it's all a game" are pretty catchy too and really hammer home the feeling of despair at life that is quite possibly the overarching theme of the EP.
The title track at number three brings with it a change of pace and opens with a spoken word section closely followed by clean female vocals performed brilliantly by Layla Singer. A welcome surprise brimming with emotion. The song satisfyingly builds up into a chorus that brings together all of the bands vocalists. Layla is joined by Jeremy Dyer and Tommy Mott to form a well-mixed three part harmony that will likely remain as an ear-worm in my head for days. At the three minute mark, the musical complexity of the track is furthered by Chris Hicks' gut wrenching bass line followed by more of Mike's aggressive guitar work. The song comes to a close with several repeats of the chorus and the fact that I can still hear "all I am, all I know..." in my head long after it has finished further re-iterates my earlier point about the ear-worm.
Following the long outro of the previous track, 'The Fury' returns to the fast-paced brutality of the earlier part of the EP. The riffs at this point would be quite at home among those featured in the earlier works of DevilDriver or Machine Head. Despite this they are still unique enough to hold their own. The mix of all three vocal styles is also put to good use as the guitars, bass and drums continue to demand your attention, possibly medical owing to their savage application.
'Another Body Murdered' is an altogether different beast, a cover of a track by Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. Opening with a police siren and then an intro consisting of spooky choir-like vocals and dramatic guitar chugging, the song quickly shifts into new territory. Reminiscent of a heavier Rage Against The Machine, if there can be such a thing, the verses show off the diverse vocal abilities of the band members as they each take a turn at spitting venom before coming together at a musical chorus that reprises the intro. And with the repeated chants of "bang your head" towards the end of the track, I can see plenty of metalheads doing just that at future gigs.
And finally, '25th Parallel' begins with an acoustic middle-eastern flavour before bringing the heavy yet again. This time the story begins at the chorus with a symphonic vocal line akin to that of the opener. An additional dynamic is provided by Layla's almost operatic vocals looming in the background. All the while, Chris and Kevin are locked into a considerable groove as Mike layers on the lead work, nice and thick, just how we like it. And with that the track comes full circle with a return of the acoustic guitar that fades away into the distance. A satisfying end to a superb EP.
Overall the 'Redemption' EP is a well crafted mix of aggression and melody, not often found these days, that the band should be proud to call their own. Although admittedly not my go-to genre of metal, I was suitably surprised, definitely impressed, and as a musician I found there was much to be admired. 'Redemption is a great EP that is well worth a listen and I highly recommend you check it out.
The full EP is available now for your listening pleasure at: https://snipersofbabel.bandcamp.com/album/redemption-unedited-version