Wednesday, March 7, 2018

ALBUM REVIEW - Black Moth: Anatomical Venus

Whenever the word “Sabbath” turns up in a press release for a band in 2018, I tend to cringe.

Any Metal band worth their salt will cite Black Sabbath as an influence, but the past few years have seen a procession of new artists following the masters’ lead to laughable – and embarrassingly contrived – extremes. Sure, many of these group look the part, but a listen through one of their insipid platters often reveals a gaggle of hipster hippies with a faux fuzzy production and a frustrating lack of fresh ideas. Not only does the press material accompanying Black Moth’s Anatomical Venus mention Sabbath, but it also features the other sacred “S” word: Stooges. Frankly, doing this is simply asking for trouble and a guaranteed way for me to instantly hate your band. With that in mind, imagine my surprise and delight when I hit “play” on this thing and began a journey through what will quite possibly end up being the very best album of 2018.

A truly gifted singer, frontwoman Harriet Hyde possesses the kind of versatile voice that would work just as well on a Soundgarden song as it would on a Top 40 Pop number. She adds an uncommon accessibility to this style of music that will appeal to both the Evanescence crowd and the grizzled Saint Vitus contingent. And the music? Utterly pristine. Highlights include the incendiary “Sisters Of The Stone,” the C.O.C.-infused Groove Metal of “Moonbow,” the Lizzyesque twin guitar attack on “Buried Hoards” and the closing “Pig Man” – a fiery slab of Noise Rock caterwauling akin to the early sound of NYC underground giants Boss Hog. And when the band turn their Sabbath worship up to 11, they match anything on Sabotage. Really. As for the Stooges influences, there are certainly plenty of subtle nods to Fun House to be found here. Well done.

Although Black Moth are not completely reinventing the wheel on Anatomical Venus, there is an undeniable sincerity and integrity to this music. Much in the same way that Arch Enemy have added a successful splash of commerciality to their sound in recent years, Black Moth are moving Doom/Stoner Metal forward by incorporating a sorely needed boost in production quality and a welcome focus on composing songs that strive to rise above the standard (and tired) formula. While far too many groups are stuck attempting to milk the magic of the past, Anatomical Venus is the sound of the genre’s future. An essential listening experience. 

Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions

Monday, March 5, 2018

Gang of Four Return with "Lucky" (Audio)

It’s always an interesting and exciting day when Gang of Four decide to grace the world with new music.

Since 2012, the legendary Post-Punk group have been led by sole remaining original member Andy Gill. While the guitarist’s commitment to keeping Gang of Four going at this stage in their 41-year career has led some diehards to cynically call the current incarnation “Gang of One,” the band’s released some absolutely stunning material in recent years. Sure, it hasn’t all been up to the classic Gang of Four standard, but when modern-day Gang of Four (Gill, singer John “Gaoler” Sterry, bassist/10-year Go4 veteran Thomas McNiece and relatively new drummer Tobias Humble) hit the target, they produce sounds that match (and often exceed) the strongest moments of their original glory years. (Case in point: The emotionally charged and utterly beautiful 2015 single “The Dying Rays.”)

Last Friday, Gang of Four issued “Lucky,” their first new song in three years. A preview of their upcoming new Complicit EP (out April 13), “Lucky” finds the band exploring the more melodic vibe of their Songs Of The Free era with some electronica and jagged guitar slashes thrown in for good measure. To my ears, it’s sublime. Have a listen:

Here’s what Gill has to say about “Lucky:”

This track itself is a product of chance. I’d been watching a serious debate on one of those financial news channels - six white men in suits arguing about the stock markets - and it set me thinking about how limited luck can be. America’s demented ringmaster-clown claims to have bestowed fortune on the markets. He believes himself the master of luck. In reality, they are casinos. A lot of trading is anyway now done by algorithms to try to eliminate the element of chance, but luck isn’t capable of fundamentally changing the system. Even if you believe market crashes are the result of bad luck rather than layer upon layer of human and machine error, the system shudders, restarts and goes on as before.”

While the Gill-helmed Gang of Four have received an equal share of praise and criticism on this site in recent years, “Lucky” has me entertaining the very real possibility that Complicit will be the release to fully establish them as the vital musical force they’ve hinted at being for the past six years. Anything Gill does is worth a listen and a think, and I look forward to my upcoming new opportunity to do both. Expect to read a lot more on Gang of Four and Complicit here in the months to come.

Purchase “Lucky”


Sunday, March 4, 2018

More Thunder from the East: Inside Loudness' New Rise to Glory

Loudness, 2018. Minoru Niihara second from left. (Source:

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this story, I received word that drummer Masayuki Suzuki recently suffered a heart attack and is currently recuperating in a hospital. My best wishes to him for a speedy recovery. 


When Japanese Metallers Loudness hit our shores in 1985 with their fifth album, Thunder In The East, and their classic single/video “Crazy Nights” (which featured the fist-pumping lyrical acronym referred above), it marked a well-earned breakthrough for a band that had been slowly building a following since releasing their first album in their native country in 1981. Amazingly, Loudness are still here in 2018 with three-fourths of their original lineup – singer Minoru Niihara, guitar master Akira Takasaki and bassist Masayoshi Yamashita – on board. In January, they released their 28th album, Rise To Glory, on earMUSIC.

One thing sure to amaze longtime Loudness fans who give Rise To Glory a listen is how powerful the band still are after nearly 40 years. While more than a few veteran Metal bands have mellowed with each passing decade, Loudness have retained their intensity to produce one the heaviest albums they’ve ever released.  

We all love Metal,” Niihara says. “If you lose your edge, you’re not Metal anymore! Well, we’re physically rounder now, though!”

While Niihara is quick with the puns, Rise To Glory is no laughing matter. The record’s sharp sonic attack is helped along by the fantastic playing of drummer Masayuki Suzuki, who stepped in following the 2008 passing of the great Munetaka Higuchi. Nearly a decade later, Suzuki is an indispensable part of the Loudness experience.

He was not perfect when he joined the band,” Niihara admits. “As his style, timing and groove were completely different from Munetaka’s, it took some time until we got used to his drumming. As he gained experience with us, his style started fitting us more and more. It took three years until his drumming finally fit us, whether be it live or writing new songs. His effort is worth praise.”

After Loudness scored stateside attention with Thunder In The East, 1986’s Lightning Strikes and 1987’s Hurricane Eyes, a personnel shakeup led to Niihara being replaced by American singer Michael Vescera (Obsession/Yngwie Malmsteen) for 1989’s Soldier Of Fortune and 1991’s On The Prowl. The reminder of the 90s saw Takasaki lead a fluctuating lineup for a series of dark, experimental releases that often strayed far away from the band’s original musical formula. The band’s more classic sound returned when the first incarnation reformed in 2000. Eighteen years later, the three surviving original members are tighter (both musically and personally) than ever before.

In our twenties, we were probably more egoistic and had a lot to say,” says Niihara of the band’s internal issues in the late ’80s. “Now, we are grown up and mature enough to respect and listen to each other. If you don’t respect your partners, nothing works.”

The European and US versions of Rise To Glory are accompanied by Samsara Flight, a 13-song collection originally released in Japan in 2016 that features re-recorded versions of songs from 1981’s The Birthday Eve, 1982’s Devil Soldier and 1983’s The Law Of Devil’s Land.

It was kind of a challenge for us to play 37-year-old Loudness songs. Also, it was a good opportunity for us to look back at our history.”

Of course, an interview with a member of Loudness would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t ask the question and bypass decades of myths and speculation: For the record, what does M.Z.A.!” mean?

“‘My Zebra Ass! I’m kidding!”

There you have it, folks. I did my duty.

(On a more serious note, my conversation with Niihara also hit on his love of Soul music. When asked to suggest Soul artists for curious Metalheads to check out, he immediately pointed to James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding while also proclaiming his love for Tower of Power’s Back To Oakland.)

With a new album making waves in America, the band is planning to hit the US this May following the cancellation of last year’s tour here due to unexpected immigration issues. Until then, fans can enjoy Loudness’ latest release and celebrate a musical partnership that continues to persevere with the same integrity it had all the way back in 1981.    

As Niihara says, “We just want to make cool music. Simple as that.”