Wales isn’t a country that immediately springs to mind when thinking of hard rock and heavy metal. Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, sure but good guitar slinging noise has always been under represented on an international scale. Yeah there’s MANIC STREET PREACHERS and STEREOPHONICS but I’m pretty sure no one will be rushing to congratulate the Welsh for those contributions. It’s mostly been up to BUDGIE to fly the flag…until now. Right now Wales is becoming a hotbed of talent with bands such as SUNS OF THUNDER, LACERTILIA, SIGIRIYA, HOGSLAYER and these boys LIFER.
“Black Mountain Rising” is the band’s 2nd album following on from their debut “Cursing Them Out”, which seemed to come out about a million years ago, and the second to be released by the band themselves. Now, my review copy seems to order all the tracks alphabetically…maybe this is the actual running order, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem to matter though, let’s face it, if you’re on the ground getting a good kicking from a gang of thugs it doesn’t really matter what order they do it in does it? That’s pretty much what listening to this album is like…a proper kicking…if you’re a raging masochist!
LIFER have 2 settings…full on and off. Their sound is rooted in thrash, hardcore and southern rock. Imagine, if you can DOWN jamming with MOTORHEAD and DRI. It’s a brutal charge with virtually no let up in intensity save for the obligatory quiet moments when this band of aging rockers need to recharge their batteries. From the opening “Bastard Sons Of Sabbath” to the closing “Year Of The Hog” (on my copy at least) it is a full on, four to the floor rush of thrashing riffs and breakneck drumming all capped off with Scriv’s Phil Anselmo inspired vocal roar. Scriv proves himself capable of ranging from the most brutal, pissed of growling to a far more measured, full throated bluesy croon. Occasionally LIFER do ease off the gas and hammer into some massive, ball shaking grooves that, not only help to break up the onslaught but shows that LIFER have a strong grasp of dynamics and giving the listener different flavours. The same is true of the obligatory instrumental “Diwedd”, which may or may not be Welsh for sheep. Here LIFER show their sensitive side with a delicate piece that proves there is more than just pummelling bluster. Having said that, pummelling bluster is what the band do best and it’s a thrill when they do! Similarly “Sorrow Bloody Sorrow” has more than a hint of the kind of thing that C.O.C were doing on their “Deliverance” album as a segue piece from one kicking to the next.
LIFER not only have the songs, they also have the sound. For an independent release the sound is definitely top drawer. The guitars in particular have a rich, fat tone that dominates the mix without being overpowering. The drums cut through perfectly and the bass should pretty much empty your teeth of any fillings. Producer Tim Hamill, who, if memory serves, worked on the first Acrimony album, has done the band justice in spades here. This is definitely a labour of love.
Some albums defy you to pick a high point and “Black Mountain Rising” is no different. It just keeps throwing tasty little nuggets of metal goodness right at you from the first note but it has to be said in “Year Of The Hog” the band have definitely hit pay dirt. This track is a contender for metal tune of the year. Infused with the spirit of Mr. Kilmister and tempering the sheer fury of the rest of the album this rack does stand out as a potential classic. The band need to make a video for this song pronto and get it out there as it could be their ticket to bigger and better things.
In a musical world where bands seems to be happy to retread tired genre paths it is refreshing to hear a band forging their own sound…clearly influenced by others but interpreted in their own way. Lifer have been cooking up their impressive gumbo in the Valleys and the results are worth their weight in coal. Why they’re releasing this themselves I have no idea, particularly when you see some of the utter s**t that labels do throw out there. Oh well, maybe for the vinyl…hint hint
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