A Southern Gothic (Canvasback/Parlophone)
With gigs and release schedules having being disrupted and delayed for artists because of the pandemic, Deep South blues rebel Adia Victoria spent many of her days slogging away in a Nashville-based mail order warehouse to keep herself afloat. This repetitive daily grind gave her time to reflect, shape and create what would become her third album.
As a young Black woman, Victoria’s relationship with the American South is very much a double-edged sword, which is evident in the gritty outsider blues vibe spread over the 14 songs on A Southern Gothic, with T Bone Burnett in the production seat and contributions from Matt Berninger from The National, Margo Price and Jason Isbell. Howlin’ Wolf, Skip James and Muddy Waters might have penned many angry, bourbon-soaked ditties about how they had been unjustly wronged by women, but Victoria turns the table to explain exactly why on Mean Hearted Woman. A Southern Gothic is an authentic, story-rich piece of modern blues brilliance.
words DAVID NOBAKHT
Torn Arteries (Nuclear Blast)
Released within weeks of the new Iron Maiden album, Torn Arteries marks a similar high point in the resurgent second phase of a true originator in British metal. Carcass’s second life, since their reformation in 2007, has seen them hit an exceedingly rich vein of form, arguably outstripping their earlier work and certainly leaving well behind them the gore-grind with which they made their name.
Impeccably produced and presented (the album is worth investing in for Zbigniew Bielak’s extraordinary artwork alone), Torn Arteries is the metal album of the year so far. Bill Steer’s wailing leads and 10-ton riffs drive forth a genuinely diverse, yet consistently well-written, body of work, kept fresh by Daniel Wilding’s surgically precise beats. From the slow, malevolent groove of Dance Of Ixtab to the Behemoth-beating Satanic anthem of The Devil Rides Out, this is a near-flawless modern metal album.
words HUGH RUSSELL
Employed To Serve have perfected a form of metalcore tinged with industrial that brilliantly conveys a visceral anger at – as they observe – the exploitative, corrupt nature of our modern political and economic institutions. On Conquering they have honed their sound to be more direct, memorable and gigantic.
At times, including the harrowing Mark Of The Grave or the splicing Exist, those experiments are perfected in exquisite fashion. However, on moments such as The Mistake, the bands attempt to win more mainstream appeal often results in performances that are passionless or lacking in authenticity.
The brutal-yet-socially aware band of the first two albums still shines through, and at times the extra gloss lent by the production can accentuate their vast technical prowess. However, fans looking for that raw, primal quality which came to define Employed To Serve in their early years will be sorely disappointed.
words ALEX SWIFT
Weight Of The World (self-released)
After nearly a decade together, the three childhood friends from Merthyr have released a stunningly good debut album. The title does little to reveal the content, but the artwork, by frontman Tristan Thomas, shows something of the dark and light inside.
This powerhouse rock trio have become known for their bludgeoning riffs and occasional black metal screams can raise the roof of the valley’s venues where they earned their crust. But Thomas has an excellent, versatile voice – it’s no surprise Corey Taylor called them up to offer a support slot – so when more chilled tracks like Groove Street come along they’re welcome, to fully appreciate his stunning tone and style. On the heavier tracks as a rhythm section, they boys sound as tight as you’d expect for lifelong friends.
Elsewhere, Fleetwood Mac-inspired lead single Sun & Moon shows there’s something for everyone on the NWOCR spectrum. A perfect start.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
Black Encyclopedia Of The Air (Anti-)
While Moor Mother is never going to ‘sell out’, this newest full-length album from the Philadelphia artist is also, quite easily, her most accessible project yet. While Camae Ayewa’s interdisciplinary career as Moor Mother is difficult to easily surmise, her musical work has previously seen her touch on hip-hop, free jazz and noise, often in a highly abrasive and confrontational manner.
Black Encyclopedia Of The Air sees her adopting a more delicate and elegant approach, in service of a work that’s nonetheless both thought-provoking and incendiary. The textures of these 14 tracks are colourful and scattered, which belies their dark, troubled hearts. On Rogue Waters Ayewa recalls the fate of her parents, while Race Function Limited sees her vividly reckoning with the legacy of slavery. Confronting history is a recurring theme in Ayewa’s career, and Black Encyclopedia… might just be her commanding excavation of these bones yet.
words TOM MORGAN
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