In terms of classic old school melodic metal, Praying Mantis need no introduction. Chris and Tino Troy have been part of the British rock and metal scene since the early days of the NWOBHM and their band has remained one those hard working acts that can often be relied upon for a decent listen, even if their albums aren’t perfect. By picking up any Praying Mantis LP, you’re guaranteed to hear at least a half dozen riff based belters and at least one more AOR-centric number which, quite often, marks its place as a genuine highlight on any given release. Parts of their 2015 long player ‘Legacy’ – their third for Frontiers Records – presented the Troy brothers in a slightly heavier frame of mind than their 80s selves, and new vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers showed a tendency for over-singing at times, but in terms of song writing it was a more than solid offering. If nothing else, it more than showed there to be plenty of life left in the veteran rockers. 2018’s ‘Gravity’ wasn’t quite on the same level, but offered enough in the way of sizeable riffs and retro hooks to appeal to long-time fans and newer listeners alike.
When Cheap Cassettes first appeared on the power pop scene with their ‘All Anxious All The Time’ album, they didn’t really sound ready to be appreciated by the world at large. The demo quality recordings had spirit, but the song writing wasn’t great, and the overall package lacked the necessary hooks to make it memorable. A few of years on, the ‘See Her In Action’ EP was a massive improvement on every level. The short collection of songs provided riff after riff of classic retro sounds; the choruses were big and – overall – Cheap Cassettes’ quick and cheap approach to recording showed a massive confidence. For lovers of middle period Replacements, Boston heroes Watts and The Dirty Truckers, the Cheapos were now pretty much guaranteed to bring a thrill or six.
After spending years honing their hugely atmospheric post rock sound, Spanish prog/rock band Toundra hit something of a career high with their 2018 album ‘Vortex’. With its huge soundscapes of clean, shimmering guitar and crushing, yet melodic riffs, it came close to post rock perfection; more accessible than the likes of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and more focused than The Bloody Mallard. Obviously, the instrumental stance meant those listening rewards weren’t always immediate, but the best riffs eventually crawled into the subconscious in a really cool way. The follow up, a recording inspired by Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, showed a more adventurous approach via its longer pieces, but continued the band’s natural musical ascent.
Connecticut duo Turkey Vulture know their way around a glorious noise. On their 2020 EP ‘Time To Pay’, they set out their stall with a collection of riffs that combined the drive of punk with the bottom end of stoner metal, topped with layers of extra fuzz for good measure. A particular highlight, ‘Lost At Sea’ sounded like Motorhead cranking their way through Black Sabbath’s ‘Children of The Grave’ augmented by a sea shanty melody and wonderfully scratchy vocal. It’s fair to say that those who got them, loved them.
There are two kinds of music fan in the world: those who get The Fall, and those who don’t. Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that their sharp edged sounds, lyrical barbs and willingness to challenge didn’t change the punk/post-punk scene. The influence they had on other alternative bands – particularly in the 90s, with the slacker movement spearheaded by Pavement – is often glaringly obvious but, occasionally, there comes a band willing to take The Fall’s influence and use it to create something a bit different. This short tribute from Argentinian band Krupoviesa is a curious affair. They’ve taken four 90s era Fall compositions and reworked them in their own punchy image, repackaged them in a homage to The Fall’s ‘Slates’ – a seminal 80s work – and shared the spoils for free.