CD REVIEW Casket Music – Copro Records belated Summer 2012 special, part 1 : Hamerex – Vali Ohm – 9xDead

So...why IS there such a delay on these reviews? Well, for starters I only got the package (containing 4 more albums to be featured in the soon-to-follow second “belated Summer 2012 special”) at the end of July, which was a very busy time for me both at work (being a guard, I normally have a lot of free time to do my reviewing in, but at this particular time I had to train a new guard for the job, as the client was changing guarding companies, and I was among one of the agents to stay on) and at home (activities as amateur paleontologist taking me out of the house almost constantly – you dó wanna profit of the better weather to do all your prospecting, you know!). The guard they'd sent us not really fulfilling the requirements of the client language-wize, the beginning of August saw me putting in extra time at the job to train another fellow at the last moment. As we still needed a back-up agent, that guy took up some more time at the job.

Luckily, the training was done by my fellow colleague as well, so I had sóme time in between to start doing some reviews outside the Casket package (in only a fourtnight, the editor-in-chief had managed to throw some 80 albums to be reviewed into my to-do basket...if you please!) and started gathering info for albums which I was gonna review during my week's holidays at the end of August. When I returned to the job in early September, it was to find that the new company had put to paper a new set of rules forbidding its agents to use the Internet (and the job being my only source of it, you know!), or even bring their own lap tops to the job. That, quite frankly, shocked me to the point of attracting some kind of writers' block...for lack of better name for it. The thing is, whenever I eventually set myself at the task of getting into writing again, there were always other chores to be done at home...and it wasn't until this week that I managed to pull myself together and put priorities where they belonged.

As there's still work to be done at home, and the only wall where the Internet installation has place to be hung up, has had a problem of seepage earlier in the year, I'm still waiting for that wall to dry up after the re-plastering before I can have the installation fixed up...so, I'm still without Internet, and the info you'll find below will be taken from the info sheets and what I find in the booklets of the albums.

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Band : Hamerex
Album title : Rites Of Passage
Label : Casket Music – Copro Records
Distributor : PHD - Bertus
Release date : 14/05/2012
Release : CD

This British Traditional Metal band from West Yorkshire (“where men are men”, according to the info sheet) is composed of lead singer Chris Moules, guitarist/ synth player/ backing singer Steve Blower, guitarist/ backing singer Joe Wilson, bassist Andy Firth, and drummer Darren Kelsall. The guys have been around for a couple of years already, and in that time self-released a string of EPs. There's apparently a strong D.I.Y. feel in the band, as for their debut album Firth and Wilson acted as recording and mixing engineers (at Planet Platforms and Dee Dee Music), the whole band being responsible for production...and it can be assumed that this was also the case for the band's previous releases.

According to the info sheet, “...Hamerex play balls out Traditional Metal, with a nod to the original NWoBHM sound, and would not be out of place on a Neat records compilation tape...”. Okay, some comments there. Firstly, it seems to me that there's more of an early Thrash Metal influence than there's a NWoBHM mood. Secondly, even back in the days, us Metalheads considered most of the bands that came out on Neat to be poor sods for having their material out on that label, as the material was invariably and almost identically badly produced, with a unifying dull sound as result and to the point of at least some of the fans not even thinking of going to see Neat bands in live conditions.

More info sheet words, “...Excellently executed and delivered in the manner Metal should be, Hamerex are a potent proposition and a breath of fresh air, when it comes to all the trendy outfits currently doing the rounds in the UK.”...ahum... This is definitely NOT how Metal is supposed to be! I mean, the poor production dulls out all the ice stuff the instrumentalists are doing, see? As for this band's impact on the current club/ venue scene, they're sure a different breath of air...whether it's fresh depends on who's listening, right?

Last info sheet words, “...Though rooted in tradition, the band, via their vocal delivery, come up with something that lends itself to the modern era. Certainly worth catching if you like your Metal firmly grounded and without the bs.”! Oh my...don't get me going on the band's vocal delivery, okay...just go listen to what the band posted (if at all remember, I couldn't check) on their website (www.) facebook.com/hamerex!

The label advices this act to fans of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Machine Head, and Megadeth...and my answer to that is... 1) although there IS some progressive touches in the music when the guitarists go into lead/ solo mode (regrettably the lead guitars are mixed backwards somewhat, which invariably dulls the interesting parts of the music), the production-dulled Thrash influences spoil the IM comparison altogether, as do the vocal stylings! 2) The BS connection can only be found in the down-tuned influence of the dull production, and nót in a plenitude of catchy riffing. 3) The available Brit Thrash elements in the music do not justify the supposition that people into the aforementioned Thrash Metal acts are gonna like this!

My personal advice to the band is : have your next album (both for the music and vocals) recorded/ mixed by a professional in a decent studio, and have yoùr dudes pay good attention, before letting 'em sit behind the knobs in the studio again! There's something to be said for tradition, but there's no reason why your music on album should sound antiquated, and be completely different from the stage sound. Advice to the music fans : in spite of my hard words, there IS some kind of jewel in the making here, but much indeed depends on whether the band will indeed allow coaching (which doesn't mean they have to loose their “individuality”, you know!). The way things are at the moment, I'd say the best way to catch this band right now, would be in a live environment.

There's definitely place for improvement here!

76/100

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Band : Vali Ohm
Album title : 3000 Light Years
Label : Casket Music – Copro Records
Distributor : PHD - Bertus
Release date : 14/05/2012
Release : CD

Ach...more sub-standard production, although not of the same kind, as it turns out that Danny Jackson (the soul behind Vali Ohm) used computer techniques to record his return album. Return album? Yes indeed-i-oh, for this now multi-instrumentalist is known to have been part of London-based act Joint Venture from 1990 to 1995.

Born in the Essex village of Hainault (funnily, that also happens to be the name of one of Belgium's provinces) in late 1970, Danny made his introduction to the musical world listening to the greats of the '60s and '70s, including the likes of The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. But his musical tastes broadened as he sought out both more Blues based music as well as more esoteric stuff by the likes of Hawkwind, Ozric Tentacles, and Frank Zappa. By the end of the '80s Danny was not only a truly good guitarist, but also a proficient songwriter, and in early 1990 he was invited to join the aforementioned JV, which relocated to London where they also found their drummer. During the next 5 years the band made several demos of their particular blend of Rock, Blues and Psychedelics, and even recorded a full-length album entitled Shabbat Aramadam...but in spite of offers for abroad touring and a publishing contract, the demands of the band member's individual lives eventually led to the unit's demise. Danny tried to connect with other bands, but never found the synergy and comradship which held the JV members together, and therefore faded away from the music scene.

It was a full decade before he realised the possibilities of computer-based production, and after getting to grips with a certain program, found himself able to create music again, all on his own! The first result of that, would be this album's track “Space Machine”. Vali Ohm was born! It so happens that around that same time JV's former drummer had also rekindled his taste for music making in the form of Oceans4, but he still needed a singer, and the only one he really wanted for the job...was Danny! The beginning of the second decade of this 21st century indeed became a busy period for Danny, whom divided his time between working with his old JV mates, and working on new material of his own.

Eventually, Danny still invited a couple of friends for a collaboration. In chronological order of the track-list, he gets female vocals from Caroline Jackson (his sister? his wife? another kind of relative?) on the tracks “Dance Of Karlie” (the vibrato on her voice giving that songs a delightful slight Oriental touch) and “The Vali Ohm”. The latter track also finds one Darryl Harris helping out on lyrics and vocals. Then there's Paul Heart playing rhythm guitar on the track “Interstellar City”, and one Andrew Crook brought inspiration and help in the recording of the album's drum tracks...but most importantly (and also announced in the album cover artwork), Danny managed to get a contribution from one of his Hawkwind idols, Nik Turner, on the album's title track “3000 Light Years” (in all frankness...I have nó idea of whàt he contributes to that song, though I suspect it's the spoken words at the beginning!). Not surprisingly, that track also became the album's first single...resulting in positive response from press and radio, all prior to the album's release!

Production wise speaking, the major downside of the album, is that it comes out of the speakers at a far lower volume than normal...and this unavoidably puts all details of the music in a “background”, from which all the neat components are hard to discern! Which is a pity, because there's real nice things going on...instrumentally! One thing that might put you off, at first (I'll admit that it did so in my own case as well), is Danny's somewhat awkward vocal signature, a somewhat soft-handled semi-high pitch which, and I'm saying that without prejudice really, should get him some fans in the gay community. To give Danny positive credit on that after all, I feel it needs to be said that one easily gets used to his vocals once one starts immersing oneself in the music. Besides, there's occasional deviations from that high pitch in the first part of the album, and the second part has those guest appearances, remember? Occasionally Danny steps away from his usual softer style of singing, and that when his voice gets a wacky hoarseness (check “The Vali Ohm”), of which you get a feeling it must've almost hurt to perform...and you come to an understanding of why he prefers that softer style. By the way...a funny detail, which was possibly intentional on behalf of the artist...speak out the words Vali Ohm in fast succession, and what does it sound like? To find music by this project, check out the artist's page on the label's website, (www.) comprorecords.co.uk!

You wanna hear something wacky? I bet you that this album will be a cult classic in the genre within the next five years! At the moment, it already crept its way into my year-lists!

98/100

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Band : 9 x Dead
Album title : Cursed
Label : Casket Music – Copro Records
Distributor : PHD - Bertus
Release date : 27/08/2012
Release : CD

I'm afraid I have no idea from which part of the Island this British band hails. Apparently they've been about for more than 10 years now, the current line-up (which may well be the original one?) consisting of singer Glenn Newbrook, guitarists Paul Keene & James Radford (the latter also engineered and recorded the album), bassist Miff Guildford, and drummer Gary Appleby.

To effectively present these musicians, I'll need to use their own words, “A famous musician once said, 'The god thing about Music is that when it hits you – you feel no pain' – we beg to differ! 9XDead embrace the Pain, mixing the strongest and darkest feelings from the depths of the human soul; hate, guilt, desire, fear, revenge, jealousy & despair to create powerful music, a mirror to the darkness in us all. These emotions need an outlet, and our uncompromising and unique sound is the perfect vessel for delivering this; a unique blend of diverse influences resulting in a potent brew; a hard, dark, Rock cocktail full of crushing riffs, enduring melodies, bruising rhythms and surprising textures; hints of classic Goth, Punk and Metal...”, “...Not afraid to diversify, the band evolved for over a decade, culminating in a formulae that satisfies both themselves and their fans, both live and in the studio...”!

Well, what have I got to say to that? There's sure diversity in the music, to some extend. For instance, the band ain't afraid to slow down things a bit and bring a more sensitive song like “Hollow On The Inside”, which due to the calmer overall musical intensity (there's still heavier parts) can certainly be construed as being the album's token (heavy) ballad. Granted, album closer “Serenity” starts off with a calmer passage as well, for about two minutes of its 7 ½ minutes' length, and in the moderate heaviness that follows someone even get to playing piano...but as a whole one can dub this track ballad only partially, as the band does not return to that initial calmness once. The band itself calls it a “bitter requiem”, and somehow that “classification” feels quite on the dot. Still, as far as diversity goes, in musical terms, the album is quite alright. One thing in the overall songs which might benefit from more diversity, is Newbrook's vocals...but that's a totally personal thing, you know!

As things are at the moment, and in spite of life's little controversies, I am a completely happy person. I cannot therefore quite identify myself in the negativity which exhudes from this band! But I can understand that a lot of people these days could. Indeed, it's so much easier to wallow in your sorrows and miseries, than to take a positive look on things, isn't it? I can certainly understand how people would revere a band which talks about their emotional disappointments. The label tags this album “For fans of Type O Negative, Godsmack”, and I agree with that assessment only to the point that this is a band sounding like the latter, with the attitude of the latter...but only a little influences of 'em musically! Check out some music at (www.) myspace.com/9xdead.

80/100

Tony.