From The Earth: ‘From The Earth’ (Machine Devil Records)

This one came out of left-field last month: a six-track mini-album from a new project fronted by Michael Devin, currently the bassist for Whitesnake. He’s written all the material himself, and co-produced this record with Warren Riker, as well as contributing bass, vocals, keyboards and guitars. There are several other notable performers on the record however, listed on the back cover (posted below) including a certain Brian Tichy on one track.

The cover art suggests the style of rock on offer here quite well, evoking the ‘stoner rock’ era of the early 2000s, itself inspired by 1970s acid rock bands such as Hawkwind. That’s the kind of thing to expect, especially with the Monster Magnet-esque ‘Creature Feature’. Those sort of sludgy guitar riffs are present and correct on here, and Devin may surprise those unaware of his vocal prowess on this album. ‘Wild Buffalo’ could have fitted on Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ and it’s no stretch to say that the Whitesnake man’s voice is quite reminiscent of the late Chris Cornell on this one.

Opener ‘Hallelujah Blues’ is more like another Monster; the hard rock shuffle of this track is in keeping with Monster Truck’s sound. Safe to say if you like the kind of retro-rock those two Monsters serve up (and I do!) then you’ll enjoy ‘From The Earth’. It isn’t all a heavy hammering though; ‘All The Time’ is a slower, more country-rock styled number while ‘Moon Queen’ also cools things down, Devin sounding more like the Cornell of ‘Euphoria Morning’ here. Closer ‘Monsterland’ is a slow-burning, stoner epic of the kind of thing Dave Wyndorf specialises in, it will conjure up images of sixties-style liquid light shows in your head!

Devin’s Whitesnake commitments (he’s currently on a US tour with Coverdale and co) mean it’s unlikely he will get the chance to play this stuff live often, but it’s to be hoped he can get a band together to play a few selected dates. This is a strong offering from a talented musician who shows here he’s far more than a sideman. Recommended.

The mini-album is available as a download on iTunes, Amazon and is also on Spotify – you can listen for yourself below:

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4 – Deserving

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EP: IDestroy ‘Pure Joy Of Life’ (self-released)

I first became aware of Bristol ‘party punk’ trio IDestroy around two years ago, via their bass player Becky Baldwin, who plays with multiple bands including DORJA, a band I’ve followed since their inception. In this outfit she is accompanied by drummer Jenn Haneef and singer/guitarist Bec Jevons, who also pens this band’s material. A lively trio with a nice line in upbeat, catchy power pop anthems, this release is their second EP and third release overall, following on from 2016’s ‘Vanity Loves Me’ and the ‘Annie/98%’ single of last year.

purejoyolife

The five tracks on this EP are all short and to the point, with the longest (‘Alcohol & Vitamins’) clocking in at a relatively lengthy 3:34. Built over a steady 4/4 beat and prominent bass line, these songs have all the usual hallmarks including ‘whoa’ backing vocals,  guitars smashing in on the chorus and an overall sense of fun to the proceedings. ‘Lemons’ is a humorous song about someone who ‘ain’t no fun’, the theme being that whoever it is has ‘a face like you’ve been sucking on lemons’!
The new songs will slot into their set easily, and will give their followers plenty to bounce around the floor to.

IDestroy will tour the UK in the coming weeks as openers to The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, then play further shows in continental Europe. If you get the chance go along and experience some Pure Joy of Life!

IDestroy Facebook Page

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EP: Holly Henderson ‘Rust’ (self-released, download)

For 2018, Kent musician and songwriter Holly Henderson put the tagline ‘Don’t Assume My Genre’ on her social media profile. Wouldn’t dream of it, H (!)

Since leaving behind her days as a rhythm guitarist in a touring covers band, she’s branched out into several styles. She’s co-written songs in the punk and hard rock genres, and has written and produced her own material in a more chilled-out, and ambient style. In addition to all of that, she has been composing music for use in television, and has a full album in the can (recorded in LA with acclaimed guitarist Pete Thorn) for release later in the year.

This EP came as a bit of a surprise then, her third such release in a little over a year. Described by its creator as ‘dark pop’, ‘Rust’ comprises five tracks, leading off with ‘Mystery Man’; a song previously released as a standalone download. This track features her use of the ‘Guitar Triller’, a device to strike the guitar strings rather than pluck them. The effect is apparent on the track, giving her guitar a jangly tone, somewhat ‘sixties’ in feel.

The rest of the material is brand new; ‘Sailing’ is a mellow number with her breathy vocal over an ambient soundscape not far removed from her ‘Desert Wax’ EP; ‘Show Me Something’ is even more electronic, with beats and synth lines weaving over a deep bass line.  ‘Heat’ is a slow-burner, starting off with a gentle guitar noodle, it’s probably the most chilled-out track on what is a fairly relaxed offering, with a particularly soft, seductive vocal just sticking out over the instrumentation.  Final track ‘Lesson In Love’ (nothing to do with Level 42!) is the stand-out for me; beginning with a haunting synth tone (reminiscent of the opening of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to these ears) it soon melds into another dreamy song with her mellow vocal over a string/synth effect.

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‘Rust’ EP cover art by Holly Henderson

Holly is now developing a recognisable style; this EP has elements of both the previous two offerings, the dreamy soundscapes of ‘Desert Wax’ with some more conventional guitar and drums in the mix this time. Her voice is used as another instrument, just another colour in the pallette rather than  being pushed to the front. If you enjoyed either of the two previous EPs you will like this one, just as with those two offerings it’s best listened to of an evening, with headphones if you have good ones (!) to get the most from that carefully-woven soundscape.

All that said, as we have not heard her LA album yet, that is likely to be something completely different. Don’t assume her genre, as she says!

Holly Henderson ‘Rust’ EP on Music Glue

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4 – Deserving

The Dead Daisies release ‘Resurrected’ in advance of their upcoming album

Hard rockers The Dead Daisies, a ‘collective’ project started in 2012 by Australian guitarist (and one of the country’s leading businessmen) David Lowy, comprising some of rock’s finest players, have today released ‘Resurrected’, a track taken from their upcoming fourth album (‘Burn It Down’).

The band has seen many musicians come and go during its five-year existence, but has more recently stabilised its line-up with founder member Lowy, vocalist John Corabi, bassist Marco Mendoza and lead guitarist Doug Aldrich (all of whom played on the last album, 2016’s ‘Make Some Noise’) now being joined by drummer Deen Castronovo. Previous drummer Brian Tichy announced his departure last year, with the former Journey sticksman taking over the drum stool  in time to record this upcoming album.  The group have already given selected fans a sneak preview of the album but they have decided to make one track generally available as a taster.

If this track is any indication of the album, then the fourth Daisies platter will be their heaviest one to date. The opening riff smashes in with a guitar sound not far removed from Monster Truck, though early fans will note that it is a long way (to go?) from the first incarnation of the band. When I get the full album a write-up will appear on this blog, and I am looking forward to seeing the Daisies at Bilston’s Robin 2 on their Spring UK tour when they will no doubt play several tracks from this album.

For now, here is the Spotify link to the track ‘Resurrected’ – crank it up, reach for the neck brace and pick up that air guitar!

The Dead Daisies release ‘Burn It Down’ on Spitfire Records, on April 6th 2018 and have a UK/European tour booked for April/May, with further shows planned for Japan, South America, the US and Canada throughout the rest of the year.

Click Image to go to the Dead Daisies website

The Dead Daisies 2018 tour poster (click to go to the band website)

From black to My Indigo – Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel launches solo project

The ‘mountain out of a molehill’ award for this week goes to Within Temptation and singer Sharon den Adel. After the band’s website was black for an entire week, save for a stark message about an official statement ‘coming soon’ from den Adel, the site was finally restored on Friday morning 10th November, with the announcement following soon afterwards. Essentially it was to reveal that the material she has been working on, and hinting at, in recent weeks is indeed for a solo project called My Indigo with the first single issued today, also called ‘My Indigo’.

You can hear what she has to say here; she had appeared on a Dutch TV programme the night before to unveil this project (which was then partially translated and shared by fan site Don’t Tear Me Down)

Cut through the hype and what we’re left with is: singer of band announces solo project, band not splitting and will be back next year. Was there really a need to darken their whole site for seven days just to tell us that? OK, I get that she’s admitted to some domestic issues and that she felt it was time for a bit of ‘me time’ after twenty years with the band, but still – this whole thing feels a bit unnecessary. Surely she could just have announced it on the day in question without giving fans a reason to start speculating wildly, that black background definitely hinted at something a lot more than this.

On the other hand she did get people talking, and music fans like this one blogging so I suppose she has achieved her objective, so well done Shaz (!) With that in mind then here is that song which emerged today, with initial thoughts below:


If you’re a Within Temptation fan because of her voice above all else, you will probably like this song. She is in good vocal form, however if it was their symphonic Metal style that lured you in, then you are unlikely to take to this. It’s the sort of thing that would sit well on a pop radio station such as Heart radio; starting off well enough with her voice over acoustic guitar, it soon kicks in with that 1980s vibe complete with a gated drum sound and squeaky, electronic effects in the chorus. It is catchy, and might win her a new audience, but is definitely not my cup of Metal. I will admit however, that my judgement may be coloured (indigo?) by this whole episode; had it just been released without all of the surrounding hullabaloo I might actually have been more receptive to it.

I wish her well with this project, however until such time as Within Temptation reconvene I’ll focus on other bands of that style for my symphonic Metal fix, or just dig out ‘The Heart of Everything’ and ‘Mother Earth’ for another spin!

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Single: DORJA ‘Far Gone’ (download-only)

Those DORJA girls are adept at generating a buzz alright, with the release of their latest single ‘Far Gone’ after a lengthy teaser campaign involving cover art, snippets of the track and a brief taster of the accompanying video all leaked to social media over the past few weeks. The track itself is the first to feature new guitarist Sarah Michelle, who joined in the summer shortly before the group played a series of UK dates. One of those gigs was a return to PKD Festival, held in Scotland and where DORJA made such an impression upon that event’s organisers in 2016, that they booked the band again immediately for the following year. Footage from their 2017 appearance has been used for their promo video, which is linked at the bottom of this post.

‘Far Gone’ has been part of their live repertoire for some time; I saw them play it back in March, yet was only recorded in the summer while all the members were in the UK. The song is a blues-influenced hard rocker in their now-familiar style, gently led in by Sarah Michelle’s opening guitar and Aiym Almas’s throaty vocal, before the powerchords kick in, in true Whitesnake tradition (‘Break me, or take me as I am, I’m not giving in’). The arrangement is similar to the live rendition save for the absence of the brief drum solo – but they have simply replaced one Zeppelin nod with another, with ‘Whole Lotta Love’-styled atmospherics in its place (kept short).

If you liked the material on the earlier ‘Target Practice’ EP then you should enjoy this too. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were to appear in physical form on a future EP as they have more material ready to go, and have been writing again since Sarah Michelle joined up. She is a perfect fit for this band, and I look forward to hearing how she influences the writing of their future material.

For now though, this will keep we Dorjians going until they reconvene for more live dates, which are planned for early 2018. With the membership scattered far and wide, they have to plan things long in advance, but they’re gaining a loyal following which should mean we see and hear a lot more from them in the coming year.

The video for the single is now available on youtube, to get a high-quality download of this track please click this link to go to their online store.

4 – Deserving

 

EP: Holly Henderson ‘Desert Wax’ (self-released, download only)

When DORJA founding member, guitarist Holly Henderson announced her departure from the all-girl rock quintet earlier this year, one of the reasons she gave was that she was ‘still searching for her musical identity’. There always was more to her than meets the eye (or the ear); even while playing rhythm guitar in a touring covers band she had been writing her own music and putting up demos. The material she wrote herself was often very different from what she was doing in a band situation; she’d co-written three songs in a punky style for a previous band before contributing to the writing of all the material issued to date from DORJA (including that band’s imminent release ‘Far Gone’). Her own stuff however was drastically different; ranging from laidback, late-night listening to more rocking, but alternatively-styled music she has proven to be an artist willing to switch styles and genres, keeping her followers on their toes.

This EP (released in August 2017) is about as far removed as is possible to get from DORJA, it is a full-on dive into experimental, ambient electronic music. As such it was one I had to listen to on numerous occasions to even begin to get it, since I will cheerfully admit to being an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-denim hard rocker totally set in my headbanging ways. That said, based on what I already know of Holly’s work I believe in her talent unconditionally, so whatever form her music takes I am willing to investigate. (I do not say that for many artists!)

Holly Henderson - Desert Wax

Holly Henderson – Desert Wax

‘Desert Wax’ is a concept EP, the storyline of which she has gone into in more detail about on her own site but is essentially about a group of people so disillusioned with society that they break away in search of their own space. The title track sets the tone, with layered, echoed vocals over an ambient backing track. Her vocal is drenched in effects, so that it becomes another colour on the palette. ‘Not’, the third track does appear to feature a guitar but don’t expect hard rock here – the idea is for this music to take you on a journey, and I found it best listened to as a whole, in one sitting, with headphones to get its full impact. If you’ve got an upmarket hi-fi and have the isolation in which to listen to this properly, you’re more likely to feel this music more deeply.

Standout track for me is ‘Safe Place’ in which Holly duets with herself using two different effects, (one deepened) on her voice to achieve a call-and-response type of song (“Take me to a safe place/I’ll take you to a safe place“).

Holly could probably come up with something distinctive even if you just gave her a paper and comb, but ‘Desert Wax’ shows her in a totally different light to what I’ve seen and heard of her before. If I’m completely honest I don’t think I’d let many other artists take me on the journey I found myself embarking on with this EP, it is so far outside my metallic comfort zone. Once over that mental hurdle however, I found this to be an engaging listen, with more than a hint of prog. She has that knack of drawing you in, just as she did with previous offering ‘Opium Drip’.

Holly Henderson has come a long way in a short time already, it’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same person who wrote three punk rock-styled tracks last year for an EP recorded by another band, but it’s true – she wrote that as well 😉
She has however demonstrated a depth and range to her talent that will take her so much further, and with the release of her first full album of original material still to come, I see only a bright future for this Maidstone miss.

The ‘Desert Wax’ EP is available on CD Baby or Music Glue, as well as from all the usual outlets, and if you want to try for yourself a Spotify link is provided below:

4 – Deserving

 

 

The ‘new’ recordings from ‘Rainbow’

After Ritchie Blackmore surprised fans last year with a short series of shows under the name ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’ (featuring a new line-up, natch!), rather less surprising is that he has decided to do some more, after initially insisting that he would only do this as a one-off. Another short run of dates is to take place next month (one of those is at Manchester Arena, which must be in doubt now since the venue is still out of bounds following the dreadful attack last week), and to coincide with these shows, he has issued the first official recordings under the Rainbow name since 1995’s ‘Stranger In Us All’ album.

First up is a reworking of ‘I Surrender’, the band’s highest-charting UK hit which reached No. 3 in the charts way back in 1981. That track introduced singer Joe Lynn Turner to the group’s fans, he is not involved in this remake however; it is current vocalist Ronnie Romero who is heard on this version. Positives first: Blackmore still displays a deft touch on the guitar with some quite tasteful lead playing. Unfortunately, he does himself no favours with the backing – the drums sound flat, mechanical, as though it was a machine playing them. It turns out that it WAS – a comment on YouTube from a fan was met with a response from none other than Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith, a.k.a. Troubadour of Aberdeen, who revealed that the recording only features Blackmore and Romero with everything else programmed. The result sounds lacklustre, the ‘drums’ could have come from a phone app. Romero impressed live, but this song is not suited to his voice. His harsher voice lacks the smoothness of Turner’s original delivery and all but destroys the radio-friendly sound of the original.

The other track is an instrumental rendition of ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’; the piece has traditionally been used as a prelude to Rainbow shows, of course. It starts off with strings playing the melody before Blackmore comes in with his unmistakable guitar tone. This is also somewhat lacklustre, if only he’d actually brought his musicians into the studio with him it would have been so much better. Hearing one of the greatest guitar players of the rock era deliver what is frankly a half-arsed job over a drum beat that could have been purchased off the shelf is totally disappointing, especially after a two-decade wait for anything under this name. It actually sounds like a Blackmore’s Night demo, but you bet your boots had he done this under the BN name, he’d have put more effort into it. That’s what is so disappointing, he knows he has fans still who have waited a long time to hear him play rock once more, yet when he deigns to do so, he is so lackadaisical about it that you wish he had not bothered.

As a Rainbow fan of many years’ standing, I am completely underwhelmed with this effort – listen to it on YouTube if you must, then dig out the old vinyl LPs to hear this man play with meaning, with menace – with passion. Not recommended.

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2 – Disappointing

EP: DORJA ‘Target Practice’ (self-released)

It has been a long time in coming, but finally there is a physical CD of material available from this hotly-tipped all-girl hard rock band who were last seen on these shores in July 2016.

DORJA launched in June last year; formed by Belgian drummer Anna Mylee during a spell in Los Angeles, she recruited fellow LA expat, Kazakh-born singer Aiym Almas before turning her attention back across the Atlantic to complete the line-up. She had worked with guitarists Holly Henderson and Rosie Botterill before, touring the UK extensively and gaining many admirers, and so both were drafted in from the covers band they had been part of previously. In turn, they invited bassist Becky Baldwin (one of the most active performers on the live scene currently, also a member of trio iDestroy and metallers Triaxis) into the fold, and the five initially conducted writing sessions via Skype before the whole group met up in LA in May 2016.  Whilst there, they recorded one of their new songs (‘Fire’) and released it as a download-only single. That track also features (unchanged) on this EP, while the three accompanying tracks were recorded at the beginning of 2017 in England, with the singer adding her vocal tracks from her LA base.

Those who have followed this outfit from the start will already know ‘Fire’; a hard-hitting number with chunky riffage and a powerhouse vocal. Lyrically, it also sets a tone (heard throughout this record) of empowerment (“No, you’re not winning this game; I’m not a prize that you can claim”) which gives this material more depth than a party-hard lyric often heard in hard rock of this style. (Not that I’m against a bit of hard partying, of course!)  The lyrical theme continues on ‘Not In Your Shadow’ (“Hear me speak, it’s louder than what you might remember”) but on this number, the guitars are dialled back a little allowing a more soulful, passionate vocal.  The heavier guitars are back on ‘Reaching Out’, with another defiant lyric (“And I will survive, because you don’t fight my fight”) delivered over Anna Mylee’s syncopated beat, accompanied by some tasty lead soloing from Holly Henderson. The title track ‘Target Practice’ closes this EP, a mid-paced rocker featuring nice vocal harmonies, which builds up into a guitar-heavy crescendo.

For such a new band, this is an accomplished first offering. All the material is self-written (credited collectively) and this outfit is already starting to fulfil its huge potential. In particular, they have a real star in that lead singer, she has both raunch and tenderness in her delivery and knows when (and when not!) to deploy either quality.

The logistics of having an international membership mean that they only get together and perform some of the time, however I believe that if they were given the chance to spend more time as a unit (even if that meant a wholesale decampment to Los Angeles) they could deliver a fantastic debut album, one that would stand the test of time. Certainly if given the backing their talent merits, they must surely become huge in the years to come.

DORJA have just performed a trio of UK dates to launch this EP; a writeup of their set supporting LiveWire (AC/DC tribute) at Bilston will follow. They will return in July for festival shows, be sure to go along and catch these girls live.

targetpractice

Click image or link to go to DORJA webstore including CD and other merch

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4 – Deserving

Single: CATS in SPACE ‘How Does It Feel’ (Harmony Factory)

Power pop revivalists CATS in SPACE have returned with this cover of one of Slade’s best-loved songs, released only on 7″ vinyl. No digital downloads, not even a CD version – it’s available only on either red or white vinyl (or both, if your pockets are deep enough) on a good old 45 RPM seven-inch single. (Ask your parents if you didn’t understand that last sentence!)

The Cats have already covered this song, when they performed live earlier in the year. In the audience that night was a certain Daniel Bowes, of Thunder fame; as well as singing for the venerable British band, he is also a respected figure in the industry, and also hosts a weekly radio show on Planet Rock in the UK. He has been supportive of the CATS in SPACE project ever since their debut album (‘Too Many Gods’) was released last autumn, playing tracks from it on his show and also wearing one of the band’s T-shirts during festival performances by his own band. When approached to contribute vocals to this single, he said it took him ‘about a second and a half’ to agree to it. The resulting track is thus a duet between himself and regular CATS in SPACE vocalist Paul Manzi. Initial copies come with the record sleeve signed by the entire group plus Danny Bowes, and the Slade cover is backed with a new track penned by Cats guitarist Greg Hart and 10cc vocalist Mick Wilson, titled ‘Scandalous’.

Single by Cats in Space

Single by Cats in Space

Being old-school myself, even my turntable is primitive; you have to remove the platter and move the belt from one pulley to the other in order to change speed. It’s usually on the ’33’ pulley so it was time to change it over to ’45’ so that this record could have a spin. The ‘A’ side is a straight rendition of the Slade song, with Manzi starting it off and alternating lyric lines with Bowes. Neither singer tries to emulate the great Noddy Holder (wisely) however, they bring their own qualities to this rendition of the song. If you know the original, then this version is a little cleaner-sounding, possibly a bit rockier, but not much different. The cover has reportedly had the thumbs-up from original Slade drummer Don Powell, which says they must have done something right!

Flip the single over and we get to hear previously unreleased track ‘Scandalous’. On this track as well as on the ‘Too Many Gods’ album Greg Hart demonstrates how he can make a new song sound very much in the style of his favourite acts, while not copying them outright. Listening to this song, a catchy power-pop number, you’ll think of Queen, or maybe City Boy, perhaps even Wilson’s band 10cc, but in the chorus, when they sing ‘Scandalous!’  I was reminded strongly of the Bee Gees’ hit ‘Tragedy’! A good song that perhaps could have made the album, although of course overshadowed by a very good delivery of a classic, genuine 1970s song.

The single is still available at the time of writing via the band’s website; the signed copies have all been sold now but the group (along with Space Elevator) are playing a short run of UK dates later this month, and so if you get one at their merch stand there’s a great chance you can still get it signed. Recommended.

4 - Deserving

4 – Deserving