VANNA- Curses

Big breakdowns? Check. Shredding screams? Check. Awesome hair all-round? Quintuple check. You don’t even need me right now, you could review this with your eyes, and your ears closed, because there are thousands of stock words and phrases to throw at fourth-generation metalcore bands like Vanna. Except these five Boston dudes don’t care what you think, what i think, or what anybody thinks; they’re here to rock the fuck out.

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CLUTCH- From Beale Street To Oblivion

Clutch are like ready-salted crisps. From the outside they look plain, maybe even a little boring and maybe you’re just sick of seeing their name all the time. But get a taste of them, however brief, and you’ll instantly remember how fucking good they can be. And ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ might just smack your head clean off.

Continuing their progression from bearded backwoods punkers to shit-kicking, rock’n’roll blues brothers (still bearded) this album finds the hell-raising spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin and doesn’t stop pulling. Opener ‘You Can’t Stop Progress’ feels like the driving campfire boogie these boys have been working towards for the past 15 years, ‘Power Player’ could be ‘Immigrant Song’ reinvented for the noughties and on ‘Electric Worry’ Neil Fallon sounds more like a leering, crazy preacher than ever. Fans of Clutch’s very first experiments in fuzzy noise might find ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ a little too simple, virtually none of the band’s hardcore roots remain, but for everybody else there’s a party going on.

Some moments here, the Hendrixian jam-sound of ‘Black Umbrella’ for one, do simply drift by rather than stroll up your driveway and kick your door in. But Clutch have damn-near perfected their modern-day blues-metal here and such is the overriding rock groove, the powerful sense of fun and the sheer volume of bolshy swagger present that every single note on ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ could be one of those salty reminders of Clutch’s persistent quality. Superior stuff.

KRUGER- Redemption Through Looseness

Swiss quartet, Kruger, have well and truly cut out the middle man here. By describing ‘Redemption Through Looseness’ as a mix between Breach, Neurosis and Tool they’ve perfectly condensed their third album, nailed their sound and made all the world’s music hacks redundant. Ok maybe they could have added Mastodon or Isis or screamo progenitors like Converge and Coalesce to the list but really, they’ve sewn this up.

‘Ammunition Matters’ is a dark and hypnotic bastard of an opener, ‘The Graveyard Party’ growls and snarls like some foam-mouthed caged animal and ‘The Cowboy Song’ is a potent brew of raw adrenaline, slurred distopian screams and intense post-everything ambience that draws more obscure comparisons to December Wolves, Daughters and Ed Gein.

So while it certainly isn’t pretty stuff (any hooks here are great ugly, rusted things rather than something sharp, shiny or precise), the concentrated and almost constant barrage does begin to warp into an addictive kind of chaos. This is the sort of noise that should could from the darkest corners of the deepest woods in the very best frightening fairytales of your imagination.

Perhaps arriving too late in the game, Kruger might never attain the cult celebrity or scene-starting respect of their acknowledged influences but they do make a damn fine rock and roll racket. And they definitely make a reviewer’s job easier. Ace.

DOPAMINE- Experiments With Truth

This won’t make Dopamine millionaires. But it should, oh how it should. The refined quality of ‘Experiments With Truth’, only the Caerphilly band’s second album proper, should mean they take straight to the big leagues. The simple and gorgeous songs here should appeal to fans of Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, and the band’s fellow countrymen in Lost Prophets while the variety on offer should oust any mention of emo. The grand scale and slow-burning superiority of stuff like ‘The Ghosts In The Machine’ should make it impossible for Dopamine to return to mere local band status but the fact that the boys in the band have put their money where their music is and self-released ‘Experiments…’ should endear them to even the staunchest of scenesters. These songs should be all over your radio, this album should be huge, and all this should make Dopamine millionaires. It won’t, there’s too little money and too much smart class here, but it is simply, magically, blissfully brilliant stuff nonetheless.