MARCH REWIND: EXPLOSIVE PSYCHE JAZZ ON STAGE AND A SUPERNOVA SCORCHER FROM NUNO
Didn’t see that one coming. Extreme, creators of one of the most hated ballads ever to many a 90s alt-rock post-thrash industrial-crossover Seattle head (like me), flew in from nowhere and slayed the long-standing prejudice right out of us (er, me again). Their new track Rise is a killer, partly thanks to a stupendous Nuno Bettencourt solo that could just be a Moment for mainstream hard rock virtuosity.
But we’ll get to that soon enough. First, it’s a little late write-up of live new-jazz action that set a serious bar for all live music in 2023.
RUN LOGAN RUN – LIVE @ TAP SOCIAL, OXFORD, FEBRUARY 15
When you check Run Logan Run online, you’ll see the band listed as a duo of tenor saxophonist Andrew Neil Hayes and drummer Matt Brown. You’ll see they’re from Bristol and you’ll see tags like experimental, jazz, punk jazz, all that stuff.
None of this is untrue. Except that, on stage, there’s a guitarist and bassist too (don’t know the names of the players, sorry) so any mild trepidation you might have had as to whether drums and sax alone can hold your attention gets fully obliterated by the trance groove, transcendent voodoo and rock-band physicality served up by a four-piece. And they LOVE what they’re doing up there – improvising, smiling and connecting with each other while locked on free-flowing psychedelic trips.
Points of reference? You need someone better versed in this field than me, but if you’re partial to Colin Stetson/Ex Eye, Melt Yourself Down and the outer limits of Robert Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters then you’ll find much to like. A couple of tracks – Silver Sun was one – feature Annie Gardiner on vocals, who did the night’s opening set. Billy Fuller plays on Annie’s latest album so that’s even more evidence of a deep Bristol/Beak/Plant continuum at work.
Tracks played tonight include Give Me Back My Slippers, Project Pigeon Missile, Caveman Disco and a storming Searching for God in Strangers’ Faces. Whether or not listening to their recorded music matches up to the on-stage incarnation is something I’ve yet to check, but the live show is without flaw. Adventurous, highly proficient musicians fully immersed in the moment, Run Logan Run pull you in to the eye of their creative storm. And it’s a thrilling trip.
And now for something completely different …
AUTHOR & PUNISHER – Drone Carrying Dread
Slow, luscious, machine-beats metal mixing doom tones with euphoric splendour – think Type O Negative hooking up with Deftones or Chino Moreno solo and you’ve got the mechanised bones of this goth fix, chilled by 80s ice (but no Vanilla). It’s been out for a year so it’s not brand new but never mind, we’ve saved it for a gloomy day. Check it here.
HOLY FAWN – Void of Light
Enter the world of atmospheric post-metals, made for cold grey skies. Slow, soft beginnings mark this out as an atmospheric venture, and it absolutely is, but a change of beat brings an attitude shift. Voice harshens, rhythm skitters, layers amass. No rocking out to this, not that way, because it’s not riff music. It’s mood music: nature’s bleak call. Listen here and file somewhere near Cult of Luna.
ELDER – Catastasis
Heavy ecstasy from Massachusetts’s Elder. Catastasia packs an album’s worth of hardened prog and hypnotic riffage into a 10-minute joyride that’s both free-flowing jam and crafted orchestration. There’s an airy propulsion that adds 3D-space to knotty riffs and ground-level bass – check those spiralling, looping motifs at the start – as do the Yes-alluding vocals and fleeting keyboard cameos. Classy stuff. And while we’re in the company of Elder, let’s not forget about Delving either.
OK, then. Shock of the year:
EXTREME – Rise
I’m sure we’ve all got an opinion on Extreme. Or a physical reaction to More Than Words, a tune that undid the exuberance of Get the Funk Out and positioned Extreme as a permanent Musical Enemy of the early 90s.
But this new tune, Rise, is something else. It’s a beast.
Kicking off with a straight-into-it riff that could easily be the opening bars of a 2023 Metallica track, you’re hooked and you keep watching. The band’s in great shape, turning in one of those old-school performance-style videos that we didn’t realise we’d missed. Gary Cherone’s voice is in top shape. Tonnes of energy and a Tool-ish riff fragment lurking under the chorus. So far, so unexpected, so good. And then…
…and then. Nuno Bettencourt’s solo.
And that’s where it all blows up. Honestly, the drop-jawed shock that comes from seeing and hearing this for the first time is enormous and it could be a re-defining hard rock moment. Then again, I’m no musician and maybe it’s a generation thing I’m feeling, wowed off-guard by a critical underdog. But something feels unexplainably BIG about this – some combination of nostalgia, big-name comeback, timing, viral potential, Eddie Van Halen tribute and Nuno showcase that lands like a celebration and a challenge. It’ll make a lot of others look tired in comparison. It’s exciting, it feels like it was needed. No wonder people like Rick Beato are all over it.
If you’re gunning for guitars and showmanship in a song you can sing along to, Rise delivers. Over and over.
Not convinced? Watch the video and see. I’m hooked.
’til next time!