A raw and snotty or a homage to Judas Priest
Roughly two years back a band asked if obscuro.cz were reviewing unsigned bands. Soon Ms Cesar Little met their Lone Gunmen’s vocalist Hendrik and their guitarist Robin for a very inspiring conversation on their EP ‘Dawn’, their music in general, influences, the topics of their lyrcis and whatnot. Lone Gunmen (Hendrik Noack [vocals], Stefan Riesz [bass], Robin Görss [guitars], Marius Müller [drums]) see themselves as a Groove Metal band and have just released their first full-length album, called ‘Lead Skies’.
I began listening and writing and enjoying their style which has clearly developed. I would not dare to rate a band’s outcome as this seems very arrogant to me as I am not even capable of reading notes not to mention playing any instrument and far less to write music! And then Groove Metal mostly is beyond my personal focus. So I am leaving my comfort zone behind, gladly by the way, as the catchy, somewhat puristic sound of the Lone Gunmen presses a button in me. I wonder how others might like the album. Perhaps someone with even another focus? I ask my Caribbean friend, Saber, to give the Lone Gunmen a try. And this is the cool part of living in 2019: you can easily share music and ideas with your friends from all over the world. Unfortunately the post-apocalyptic setting of ‘Lead Skies’ only is just what we are approching, no more than a foot step away from now.
Our First Impression
Saber writes: “I’ve never really listened to Groove Metal before, so this was a new journey. Who doesn’t love new journey feelings? Lone Gunmen hail from Siegen, Germany and were formed in 2016. A fairly new band, and one I’d never heard of until writing this. My first impression was a good one. ‘Lead Skies’ combines the raw vocals of Death Metal with fun riffs, fast yet precise drum lines and well-placed breakdowns. The vocal range is not exactly wide but the vox are well done and suit the music. The members seem to have great cohesion for such a new band, then again this is not their first album.“
My own first notion has been that the ‘Lead Skies‘ album sounds somewhat more mature than the EP ‘Dawn‘. I haven’t exactly made up my mind whether or not I like this. Mature and adult, I would understand as stages that enable us to make reasonable decisions, but then keep us from living our dreams and passions too often. So let’s find out how much of this works for ‘Lead Skies’ as well.
Saber’s perspective adds some points even on a geohistorical level: “Based on the sound alone, one can infer that the band intends to create a somewhat post-apocalyptic image, with song titles reminiscent of warplanes and lyrics painting a picture of destruction. Upon reading the lyrics, this was confirmed. They are written quite well and fit with the feel of the music. It honestly makes one reflect on the future of the world if the few in power choose to wage senseless and careless wars once again. I must say that coming from a German band, this means a lot more. The chaos and turmoil of human history was well captured in this album.“
‘Roadkill’ begins with an intro moderate in speed, followed by a bridge focussing on their bass player, providing a strongly emotional sentiment. The focus later sticks with the bass and offers a middle part with a bass-guitar passage that reminds somehow even of Led Zeppelin, mostly perhaps due to its moderate speed along with a dark and sort of smoky atmosphere. Then again we have a catchy chorus and vocals clearly stating: I am pissed! And still it remains a very melodic song. Great.
‘Copper Coffin’ represents the general soundscapes of the album best to me. It takes me all the way back into the early years of metal, back into the 1970’s with raw, dark atmospheres like Black Sabbath but adds the 1990’s like dirty growls. Still the intonation of the growls provides a sense of order and tidiness, the rhythmic of which is to be found again in the highlighted bass.
‘Descent’ is by far my favourite song on the album. It is a rather short but deeply emotional instrumental, outstanding clearly from all other songs let alone by its rather moderate speed. It might not be the heaviest in regard of its instrumentals but certainly the heaviest, darkest and gloomiest on the level of atmosphere. It proves very impressively that an acoustic song can provide just as much or perhaps even more depth than a song with lyrics added. A hallow emptiness echoes in every note and some bright tones of the nearly acoustic guitars draw an image of happy memories from brighter days in an otherwise time of sorrow and pain. Or grief. I am quite certain that this is the one song the guys granted me to listen to when we met discussing their EP ‘Dawn’. Right, Robin?
Saber shares my preference: “My favourite song by far is ‘Descent’, because in the middle of the heavy zone that we all love, you get this lovely slow instrumental. It felt like a very sad piece and I believe it was included as a slowdown for the listener. Just like in life, where everything can’t be all loud and fast and headbanger friendly, same goes for music. Sometimes we do need to stop and reflect a bit…this was what ‘Descent’ was for me.
‘Salute’ – My second favourite follows right after ‘Descent’. The lyrics are the reason for that as they demonstrate the fact that most humans want to live in peace, yet the so called “world leaders” are the ones who often get in the way of that.”
‘Salute’ – to me – comes with a hit-and-run game feeling delievered especially by the very fast middle part. Its aggression results to me mostly from the vocals and even without listening to the vocals transfers a sort of void or destruction.
The cover of ‘Lead Skies’ as well as all earlier and further graphical arts have been chipped in by Hendrik Noack, the band’s vocalist, a graphical artist in his day job. The cover shows an upside-down city, condensed in space, from which sort of lava and an apparently odorous cloud pour downwards, drwan in a comic-like, reduced-to-the-basics style. The band’s logo already has a very plain, simple and thereby clear and consequent figurative language. The post-apocalyptic setting of the recent album was used for the EP already and represents a leading motif of the lyrics, also written by Hendrik. Colours and forms fit the straight logo as well as the layout of the cover art of the EP. Thus, the cover art translates the branding of the band’s musical output into a graphical image and this in a very elegant way, showing a coherent over-all concept.
‘Lead Skies’ is a very coherent album of congenial songs displaying far more diversity than the earlier released EP. The style of the album has a generous portion of Judas Priest ideas, adds some 1980’s Metallica soundscapes and spices with some harmonies of Led Zepplin. Speed, song progress and vocals have grown more variable and yet more melodic. You better don’t think of yet another Melo Death band because Lone Gunmen have been loyal to their raw, straight, somewhat dirty sound, kept the idea of a pinch of punk in metal alive, and support both with snotty vocals often sounding clearly and nothing like being pissed! Many times the degree of aggression provided by Hendrik’s harsh vocals exceeds that of the instrumentals although in ‘Hunt’ for the first time I hear sort of clean vocals in the mix. Some songs combine their changes in different tempi resulting in a hit-and-run-game setting that appears in numerous songs adding to the very coherent soundscape.
The discussion of pros and cons of the more mature sound remains. Pros: certainly the selection of songs that made it on the album, the focus on more variability in tunes, vocals and arrangements while keeping the sort of dirty straightness. Cons: to my own impression some of the groove from the EP might have gone lost. After all, my personal vote goes to: I like more mature in this case!
‘Lead Skies’ is a very congenial, coherent album consequently progressing the straight and snotty style of Lone Gunmen introduced by their EP two years back. They show a strong back bone by taking the sensitive and deeply emotional instrumental ballad ‘Descent’ on this otherwise mostly quite fast and very energetic album. Their style has become a very unique journey in time combining the spirit of the 1970’s and the 1990’s with post-apocalyptic settings and a pinch of punk attitude.
Saber’s summary: “In short, I enjoyed this album entirely, and I have found myself playing it regularly even after writing the review. A listener can tell when the music is close to the heart for a band, and this seems to be one such case. I wish Lone Gunmen well in future and look forward to more albums.”
An album presentation by Ms Cesar Little and Saber