31st August 2017

johnny main
Words: Johnny Main

graham bonnet

Howling Giant: 'Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2'
Out Now (Independent)

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Howling Giant's form of Metal is, as they put it themselves, "a unique and eclectic fairy tale trip through the stars", which is a pretty accurate description. Born out of some space fuzz chamber and dropped down on Earth, Howling Giant are a trio whose third foray into recording (following on from their 2015 self titled debut EP and then 2016s 'Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1') might be a mere six songs long, but it's thirty minutes of not as much weirdness as perhaps you'd expect, but is instead a collection of Doom Metal tracks that are heavily influenced by Black Sabbath.

The long slow guitar intro of 'Henry Tate' from frontman Tom Polzine keeps the suspense before the simple drums of Zach Wheeler join in but you're still over two minutes into the track before any hint of lyrics which are more like soundbites more than traditional lyrics.

They're also placed quite far back in the mix that it's sometimes difficult to make out the meaning and the consequence of this is that you don't really get the full sound of the band until track two, 'The Pioneer', kicks in.

The main guitar is a monster - powerful at just the right moments before subsiding to allow the equally heavy bass guitar riff of Roger Marks to take over. It's straight from the Black Sabbath book of riffage while the vocals are shrouded in effects giving them a somewhat ethereal feel.

Halfway through there's 'Visions' which allows Wheeler the chance to shine as well as show how powerful and proficient he can be behind the drum kit. Things come to life a bit more thanks to some backing vocals giving the chorus a fuller sound, and the pace picks up during the guitar solo towards the end, making this the fastest paced number of the set.

'The Forest Speaks' is just a short instrumental allowing Polzine to showcase his guitar skills before they return once again to that Black Sabbath book for 'Earth Wizard'. Another slow and steady tempo number, the powerful drums once again back up the monstrous guitar riff. Polzine's vocals have a laid back, dreamy feel to them and are placed towards the back of the mix allowing the guitar to take centre stage and rightly so because it's a titanic sounding riff.

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'Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2' tracklist:
Henry Tate
The Pioneer
The Forest Speaks
Circle Of Druids
Earth Wizard

Howling Giant are:
Tom Polzine – Guitar/Vocals
Roger Marks – Bass Guitar/Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums/Vocals

death valley knights

Death Valley Knights: 'Valhalla Vintage'
Out Now (Independent)

2015 was the last time I bumped into Death Valley Knights and since then they've kind of fallen off the radar. Formed in London back in 2011 by Texan native Jake Thorsen, by the end of 2011 they had entered the studio and recorded their initial singles, 'Promises' and 'Shut Up And Drink', which drew comparisons to Megadeth and Black Label Society. The success of these singles was rewarded with a slot at the prestigious Bloodstock 2012, which saw them share the limelight with Evile, Alice Cooper, Machine Head and Testament and many more.

With their performance receiving strong reviews from fans and critics, the band retreated to the studio to record their debut EP, 'Nothing Left To Steal' in 2013. Summer 2013 was spent touring around the UK supporting Savage Messiah, Reign Of Fury and GloryHammer with the EP surfacing late on in the year. The bands profile continued to rise and saw them join an impressive line-up for Hammerfest 2014, as well as a number of smaller UK rock festivals.

Since then the band may have kept a low profile, but they've certainly not been idle as this new EP, 'Valhalla Vintage' proves. First up is the title track and it's a fast paced number with a killer riff and a great performance from Thorsen. It might be a short song but it tells you all you need to know about this band and their sound.

'Be The Grizzly' follows with its great guitar riff and guitarist Pawel Matuszkiewicz displays bucket loads of talent with the short guitar break early on followed by a longer solo later on. Add in a catchy easy to remember chorus and what's not to like? There's a subtle end to the track (featuring just guitar and drums) which shows a more serious side to the band and that there's more to them than sheer power; definitely the bands finest hour here.

'Legacy' is a much slower paced number which sees Matuszkiewicz stepping up with probably his finest solo whilst Thorsen keeps the riff going in the background. 'Taste Of The Kill' has a much rawer vocal performance from Thorsen with the bonus of a growing voice in the background giving the whole song a different feel. It rattles along at a fair rate mostly thanks to drummer Hugo Terva who even gets a tiny wee solo spot midway through, and the shouty chorus simply begs for some audience participation at live shows as does the chorus on the closing track, 'Shut Up And Drink'.

The most different sounding track of the lot with bass player Ashley Porter taking the lead before the guitar riff kicks in. The instrumental section allows Matuszkiewicz one last showpiece and the song wraps up a solid EP overall.

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'Valhalla Vintage' tracklist:
Valhalla Vintage
Be The Grizzly
Taste Of The Kill

Death Valley Knights are:
Jake Thorsen – Guitar/Vocals
Pawel Matuszkiewicz – Guitar
Ashley Porter – Bass Guitar/Vocals
Hugo Terva – Drums

gordons alive

Gordon's Alive!: 'All These Days EP'
Out Now (Independent)

If you live in and around Glasgow then you've probably heard the name Gordon's Alive! who are making quite a wave on the live circuit. A good, old-fashioned rock band, the trio are influenced by such acts as Richie Kotzen, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Nuno Betttencourt (Extreme), Guns N' Roses and Deep Purple. Originally formed in 2009 by Jonny Penman (Guitar/Vocals) and Paul Murray (Bass Guitar/Vocals), the band released their debut EP, 'Strange Days', shortly after.

By 2015, drummer Tony McCauley had been recruited and the band had a firm foot on the ladder of success thanks to supports slots for Gun, Mason hill, Romeo's Daughter and even British Metal legends Saxon.

'All These Days' is the bands latest release and it might be on the short side but it certainly packs a punch. 'Bleed With Me' gets things going with a chunky guitar riff and infectious chorus although the drums of McCauley seem to be stuck in the back of the mix somewhere.

Next up is 'Hell To Pay' with another solid guitar riff and McCauley's drums now firmly where they should be – in the centre of the mix and holding the song together. The vocals from Murray have a sense of urgency about them and he puts in a solid performance before Penman takes up centre stage with a great guitar solo. A definite favourite of mine since the first listen, I hope this is a part of the bands live set because it's a surefire way to get a bit of audience interaction.

'Love Or Pride' slows things down a bit and is the token ballad here. Murray puts in a sympathetic performance showing he can do so much more than just sing fast paced numbers. A helping hand on the vocals in the chorus from Penman adds a bit of extra body and Penman's guitar solo shows just how much talent he has locked away, easing the solo out a bit at a time without taking anything away Murray from McCauley's performance.

Closing off the EP is 'Take It Away', another track with a rock solid guitar riff that motors along at a fair rate. Again, Murray's vocals are very good and he's once again joined by Penman on the chorus. Overall it's a solid end to an impressive EP that's sure to bring a few new fans to the band.

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'All These Days' tracklist:
Bleed With Me
Hell To Pay
Love Or Pride
Take It Away

Gordon's Alive! are:
Jonny Penman – Guitar/Vocals
Paul Murray – Bass Guitar/Vocals
Tony McCauley – Drums

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