Reviews Round-Up March 2021
• ENFORCER – ‘Live By Fire II’
• STERICA – ‘Golem 202020’
• IVY GOLD – ‘Six Dusty Winds’
• IRON MAN – ‘Hail To The Riff’
• ROSALIE CUNNINGHAM –‘Number 149’
Starting with the relatively obvious, Swedish metal masters ENFORCER’s new album ‘Live By Fire II’ (Nuclear Blast, 16 March) is the quartet’s second live album. Recorded in 2019 in front of a hugely appreciative crowd in Mexico City – where wholesale audience participation appears to be mandatory, judging from the noise they make throughout – the seventeen-song workout is a pretty good antidote to lockdown gig starvation. Seemingly unable to write anything that’s not anthemic Olof Wikstrand, Jonathan Nordwall, Tobias Lindqvist and Jonas Wikstrand deliver spectacularly passionate performances of the likes of ‘Searching For You’, ‘Run For Your Life’ and manic set closer ‘Midnight Vice’, and the air-punching ‘Bells Of Hades / Death Rides This Night’ combo is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. ‘Live By Fire II’ is available as CD, double LP and digital release.
At the other end of the spectrum come STERICA, an Italian post/progressive rock band whose ‘Golem 202020’ (Monotreme Records, 19 March) is a re-imagining of the soundtrack to the 1920 German film ‘Der Golem, Wie Er In Die Welt Kam’(The Golem; How He Came Into The World’). An expressive and imaginative album, ‘Golem 202020’ features ten tracks which, over the course of forty-two minutes, cover the five chapters into which the original hour-and-a-half long silent film was divided. Between them, Francesco Carlucci (guitars, synths, milltone drums and additional sounds), Davide Compagnoni (drums, wood and metal percussions, loops) and Luca Paiardi (bass, synth, kalimba) have conjured up a haunting and animated body of work, enthralling and disturbing in equal measure as repetitive refrains loop and beguile. It’s a beautiful album to be engulfed by, although the ambient soundscape is often punctured by moments of divine heaviness as ‘The Rose Festival – Part Two’ and ‘The Shem’ (a hefty little blighter with a forceful riff and a mouthful of teeth) are happy to prove.
Fronted by the incomparable Manou, IVY GOLD are a blues-based outfit with a line-up of relatively familiar faces – guitarist and co-founder Sebastian Eder (Avalon), keyboard player Anders Olinder (Glenn Hughes), bassist Kevin Moore (Jennifer Rush, the Persuaders) and drummer Tal Bergman (Joe Bonamassa, Billy Idol). The band’s debut album ‘Six Dusty Winds’ (Golden Ivy Records, 12 March) is a bluesy ragamuffin, as scuzzy as an old smoky bar and as hard-hitting as six fingers of bourbon. It’s a tremendously evocative collection of songs, not sounding unlike a Glenn Hughes solo outing at times, and although the emphasis is, naturally, on Ms Manou’s vocals, there’s no slouches here and the band all play their parts cogently and meaningfully without ever over-egging the pudding. Eder in particular though is on fine form throughout, and as a songwriter he certainly knows his trade. It’s worth pointing out that the initial CD and vinyl run of ‘Six Dusty Winds’ come with a signed card and two bonus tracks (downloads with the LP).
Listening to ‘Hail To The Riff’ (Argonauta Records, 5 March) – and if the name hadn’t already given it away – it’s no surprise that IRON MAN started life as a Sabbath tribute band before branching out on their own down-tuned pathway. Formed in 1988, the Maryland four-piece called it a day thirty years later as a mark of respect at the death of founder member and guitarist Alfred Morris III, who’d helmed the band through all three decades of doom. ‘Hail To The Riff’ captures the band as they were at the Castle Of Doom festival in Italy on 5 July 2014 and is a fitting testament to both the guitarist and the band: a lot of acts paddle in this particular pool but not many actually get it right. There’s little in the way of light ‘n’ shade here as the quartet work their way through seventy-odd minutes of grinding, relentless dirges, but this is a band pretty much at the top of their game, the songs are expansive, the delivery is superb, and tracks like ‘Ruler Of Ruin’ and ‘On The Mountain’ put the musicians through their paces. The album’s final cut ‘Black Morning’ is an unreleased studio song, recorded in September 2013.
Rounding things off come the new single from the delightfully talented multi-instrumentalist and psychedelic progressive revivalist ROSALIE CUNNINGHAM who, since disbanding Purson, has embarked on a joyous solo career of flirtatious retro trippy hippydom. Along with Louise Patricia Crane, Ms Cunningham is an artist who seems to revel in an abundance of creativity, and ‘Number 149’ (Esoteric Antenna, 12 March) – a paean to the house she grew up in, apparently – is a beautifully crafted, catchy and extremely memorable little bop. On the flip comes ‘Fossil Song’, not as commercial as ‘...149’ but no less interesting. There’s no news on a new album yet, but on the strength of these two cuts it should be an exciting release when it finally comes to fruition.
© John Tucker March 2021