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Asomvel have been floating around the British heavy metal scene for around 20 years now and have connections with bands who are very well regarded. Lenny, their guitarist, has played bass for Solstice; the band seem to be genuinely friendly with the blokes from Orange Goblin and at their annual 'Full Moon Dog' festival they manage to attract acts who are relatively big names considering the nature of the event and the hosts.
Asomvel themselves churn out the tried and tested Motorhead-esque sound which is of enduring popularity with a good deal of heavy metal fans. Unfortunately, they don't quite manage to pull this sound off as well as one would hope. The songs themselves are well constructed; there are some great riffs on the album, particularly in the title track. The mix is good, modern and vibrant and the drums are a particular highlight. However, the vocals really let this band down. New vocalist 'Conan', who hilarious previously played bass for a deathcore band, cannot carry the music at all. The vocals throughout the album are, quite literally monotonous - there is little hint of tonal variance at all and what is clearly intended to come across as an angry, rock n roll bark just doesn't quite come off. What on paper is a small fault drags down the quality of an album which could be enjoyable if there were, you know, a few vocal melodies.
I have absolutely no problem with a new(er) band playing a highly nostalgic style of music. However, if you're going to do it, please do it well.
It's always a tragic thing for a band to lose a member in something like a road accident, and as certain as they will all say that they will continue on with new blood as strong as before rarely is this the case. Not so with Asomvel. Since founding member Jay Jay Winter passed in 2010 these English Northeast grizzled veterans have been continuing to count him in spirit as a member of the band, and on this, their first material to be released without him (aside from the post-humous Stare At Death And Spit EP in 2011) it does sound like he never left them. In part this is of course due to what a sonic dead ringer new frontman Conan is for Jay Jay, but also because that same unrelenting spirit that gave that 2011 EP its name is stamped all across this too. Right from the start as Conan howls “Dead Set On Livin'” death is put firmly in his place and for the 36 minutes all the virtues of self-reliance, self-respect and standing strong through adversity that Jay Jay once sang about are spat out in mantra-like form. As long as Asomvel live then Jay Jay will live on with them too.
The first thing that you'll probably notice is just how loose and casual the song are. This may be torture for some, but for those already familiar with Asomvel they'll understand just how core this simplicity is to their sound. Not only do these songs sound like they were hammered out rather than spoilt by being obsessed over in the rehearsal room, but they also sound like they were recorded in single live takes. If you were to force every Metal band today to work under those circumstances most would crumble- Asomvel however have not only used them to make one of the top Heavy Metal albums of the year, but one that would've stood up equally as well in 1979 as now. Yes it may be simplistic, it is also formulaic such as how nearly every song has a defiant soundbyte lyric before the solo, but there is not a single dud track on here.
“Cash Whore” belongs as much to a different era for its musical roots as it does its political incorrectness, but also it sounds like it comes from a time when songwriting was something that more bands cared about. The pre-solo shouts of “Money talks!” and “Go for broke!” might Rock n Roll cliché, but everything on here from the lyrics to the musical influences are executed with far too much honesty to have possibly been done tongue in cheek.
“Sheep In Wolf's Clothing” is the perfect song to start your next bar-room brawl too while your girlfriend dances to her heart's content, and shows some influence from Southern Rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot as well as 70's British Glam like Slade, while other nods to the past come in the form of the Boogie Rock a la Foghat vibe of mid-paced breather track “Waster” and the rapid-fire Punk vocals on “Stranglehold” that remind me of the likes of GBH and The Defects. Otherwise though the typical Motörhead influence prevails- but Asomvel launch themselves over contemporaries like Speedwolf just by the sheer quality of their songs.
The album's high points come with the short and to the point title track where the defiant in the face of death theme is never stronger (“We are the ones who refuse to die/To hell with all the rest!”), and also “Shoot Ya Down” which has been a personal live favourite of mine for a long time already and is certainly done justice here. Don't be afraid to let Asomvel “take you down to hell” with this album. After all, follow this album-format guide to being an absolute Metal badass and think of all the awesome people you'll get to spend eternity down there with. Bite the bullet! [8/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts