|CD REVIEW Casket Music/ Copro Records special March 2012, Part 1 : Grenouer – Massive Wagons – Senzafine|
It's a good thing the British bands in this special have such a high entertainment value, because Russian returnee Grenouer (of whom we previously reviewed re-issues through this same label) was a bit of a let-down, say rather a serious bummer!!! But...stopping myself to rant on ahead of things, why don't I just get started the reviews, eh?
Four years ago, I made my acquaintance with this Russian Industrial/ Death Metal act through their 2007mini-album Try...which was a re-issue of a 2006 3-track promo EP (by the same title) with added reworked versions of older songs (check out the review posted 24/02/2008 if you're interested in the history of the band up to that point) and now being given a world-wide distribution outside the band's home country, thanks to UK's Casket Music (who would continue to re-issue the band's 2004 album Presence Of War, and the albums The Odour Of Folly of 2001 plus the preceding 1999 Gravehead on one CD, during 2009). That same year (June 2008), the band released its Lifelong Days album through Spain/ Germany based Locomotive Records, an album which we were never to review, as the label never bothered...you know...but in essence the Try material was the most recent I'd heard from the St. Petersburg based Extreme Metal act.
So excuse me, if I raised a baffled eyebrow when I first listened to the material on this new 5-track mini-album. Gone are the Death (and even the Industrial) influences of old, and it would seem the band has geared towards what they feel is a more commercial type of Metal! Well, actually...musically speaking the songs “Last Stop”, “Rejected” and “Fix Your Life” still have a somewhat heavier sound, but the slightly heady clean vocal stylings now put on top by Ind (backed up in similar way by one of the other guys) are more at home in an Emo Rock band (with some Grunge influences due to the down-tuned guitar)...and there's also an accent which would make people thing they have to do with a Mediterranean act! The two remaining songs “See No Sun” and album closer “Golden Years” find guitarist Motor goin' through the material with an almost un-distorted sound (except for a short passage in “See No Sun”, which also has the only Death vocals on the album), and some additional keyboards thrown in. The difference between the songs is explained perhaps by the fact that the band went through a line-up change, with the first three songs still having been recorded in September 2010 by the band I knew from Try, and the other two, recorded in June 2011, finding the rhythm section replaced by drummer Coroner and bassist/ keyboardist Anssi Kippo (whom also co-arranged the songs and recorded, mixed and produced 'em – he would then also master the whole mini-album). Not having heard the Lifelong Days album, I have no idea whether there was already a transition apparent but, quite frankly, if those two mentioned above songs are an indicator of what we can expect of Grenouer in the future, I guess I'll have to pass! I mean, how can anyone having heard this band's previous (and more than excellent) output be expected to accept such a drastic stylistic change?
In trying to find a spot on the Internet where you, dear reader, might find some music off the new album to listen to...and make up your own mind (because in the end, the ball is in yoùr park!)...I was unable to enter the band's own site (www.) grenouer.com (for some dark reason it was blacklisted by my network pc), and at (www.) myspace.com/grenouer you'll only find the album opening “Last Stop” posted (alongside material which I suspect all comes from Lifelong Days, except for “A Passage In The Sky” which stems from the Try mini-album), so I guess you'll have to make due with the usual 30-second samples provided by the trustworthy online sales sites to get a whiff of the other tracks.
Meanwhile, let the rating I give thís mini-album be a token of my disappointment about the band's change in musical direction...oh wait, no...my disappointment is rather about the Ind's choice of changing his vocal styling!...and remember that past albums were found in my year-lists!
No clear indication of when this Lancaster (North West of England) based Heavy Rock band came into being, but they've definitely been at it from before May 2010 (when they put up a new MySpace page, reporting they'd written 9 new songs of which they'd already recorded 3), playing party gigs and smaller venues in their part of the world.
The band released its 5-track debut EP Sniff The Riff in Nov. 2010, selling the little item at their shows (of which they had a good 60 in 2011 alone by the time the promo sheet for this full-length debut had to be written). The EP's track “Death From Above” was subsequently chosen for the band's first official video. In spite if the huge amount of gigs the band did in 2011 (keep in mind that the members all have daytime jobs), the band still found time for recording sessions at Lancaster's Assembly Line Studios with engineer/ co-producer Peter Knight. In their own words, the experiences with their first studio experience was a valuable learning curve in terms of attention t detail and studio preparation. Of course, three of the songs were already on the EP, so that helped a bit. Mastering of the material was done by renowned producer Nick Hemmingway at Copro's own Philia Studios.
Having no pretenses at wanting to re-model the Heavy Rock scene, the band members (lead singer Barry Mills, guitarists Adan Thistlethwaite & Carl Cochrane, bassist Bowz Bouskill and drummer Alex Twistlethwaite) indeed carry their influences from Airbourne, Thunder, Black Stone Cherry, Judas Priest and Saxon close at heart, and readily confess to being 100% about entertainment! That they do this with heart and soul is something which becomes highly apparent when one listens to the band's material (listen to 3 full-length mp3-files at (www.) myspace.com/massivewagons for a fitting picture of the band's diversity, and check out 30-second samples of the rest in the “Albums” section at the band's own (www.) massivewagons.com).
Massive Wagons...one of those bands which will never make it real “big”, unless temporarily when they get picked up by some major label (who'll then most probably drop the band after one album for which they have the band itself do most of the promotional work – for that is the way that part of the music business works these days). However, MW is also the kind of band which would have seen arenas full of people cheering along to their tunes, and providing the band members stick to their guns and hold on for longer than a decade, they have the potential to become a cult act in the genre! Yeah...great fun, this!
In contrast to what the bandname suggests, Senzafine is nót from the Mediterranean, but from Glasgow, Scotland, where the trio of lead singer/ guitarist Graeme Humphrey, bassist Joe “Lev” Cassidy, and drummer Craig Chapman (recently replaced by Szymon “The Polish Hammer” Ostasz) first started jamming together in 2005 (or so I gather from the opening date of their MySpace page) with the aim to finally put the evolution of Crossover/ Alternative Metal back on the track it was before the Nu-Metal trend derailed things in the late '90s.
If you hear some doubt on my part about the actual birth date of the band, it's because the info at (www.) coprorecords.co.uk mentions that the band became well-known to local music fans “soon after its formation” thanks to an early demo version of the band's song “The Risk (Is Worth The Gain)” got an unprecedented slot on 3 consecutive Fridays from 22/05 to 05/06/2009 in the West Scotland show Future Classics of 96.3FM Rock Radio...which obviously puts the band's formation a quite a later place in time. Whatever! Thanks to the attention paid, the band was able to put in a series of shows up and down the UK, including support slots for the likes of (New York's) Warrior Soul and (UK's) Senser, and thus amassing a sizable following as word of mouth spread the rumour about the band's energetic live performances.
No wonder, when you consider that the label describes the band's style as “...a Frankenstein-like stitching of sounds, fusing the aggressive Biohazard-influenced riffing of bassist Jo Cassidy with the Grunge-tinged melody of guitarist/ lead vocalist Greame Humphrey and tempering it in the fine tradition of such bands as Life Of Agony and Helmet with the solid Rock drumming of the stickman...”, a description which anyone having listened to the band's music (check out 8 songs, some of which in a version from 2010's 5-track demo Boss, at (www.) myspace.com/SenzafineUK – samples of all songs of both the demo and album can be heard at (www.) senzafineuk.com) will definitely agree with. Some may find a bother in the lead singer's slight lisp and the fact that it sounds slightly Mediterranean, but I say that only gives the band a face of its own! But then again, do yoù know many bands combining Grunge with Hardcore and an occasional Thrash addition?
Trivia about the album: Lord Nelson (of Stuck Mojo) provides the album opening “This Vow” with a very nice spoken word intro. Alan Robert (of Life Of Agony, and currently also a writer/ artist for IDW Comics) provided the CD cover art. Running toward the release of the album, the band was able to give the material 3 high-profile promotional gigs, playing support to Fozzy in early November.