If you have a boring job that involves sitting at a computer and not talking to people, I’m sure you will have sampled the dubious delights of listening to random stuff on Bandcamp. I like to think that I’ve developed an advanced method for homing in on the hidden gems, which I shall share with you: 1. Go to releases tagged as stoner rock (other genres are available); 2. Select an album based on whether you like the band name or the album cover; 3. Check that the album isn’t instrumental (this one’s a purely personal prejudice, feel free to skip it if you like); 4. Listen. A common fifth step is to then stop halfway through the first track and return to step 1, but very occasionally you’ll hit pay dirt.
I’d count finding The Neptune Power Federation’s 2017 album Neath A Shin Ei Sun as one of those happy occasions. The title track grabbed me at once – a song that starts off as straight forward NWOBHM then morphs into something that sounds like an extract from a particularly wiggy 60s musical like Hair. It manages to be utterly ridiculous and totally awesome at the same time; one of the few pieces of music that genuinely makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end however many times I listen to it.
I appreciate that I’ve managed to jump in at the deep end here, so some background: The Neptune Power Federation are a hard-to-categorise five-piece from Sydney. Their sound draws heavily from 70s hard rock and 80s metal, but without the overtly retro vibe that might suggest. The band is made up of veterans of the Australian punk, stoner rock and metal scenes, but the focal point is singer Screaming Loz Sutch (AKA the Imperial Priestess – if you’re going to have a stage name you should definitely go big or go home). As a point of comparison, imagine a cross between a female Bruce Dickinson (in terms of vocal range and power) and a demented cult leader and you’ll at least have some idea of what she brings to the table.
Flying Incendiary Club For Subjugating Demons takes your further down the wormhole and neatly sums up everything that’s great about this band…
Memoirs Of A Rat Queen, released on Cruz Del Sur Music, is the NPF’s fourth studio album and carries on where the previous album left off. There’s a suitably grandiose concept behind the record, tracking the eponymous rat queen from seventh century Kiev to a space station in the twenty-third century, but the album stands on its own as a collection of brilliant songs. Think plentiful riffs, memorable choruses and frequent cowbell, all delivered with infectious energy. Having a charismatic singer who can genuinely sing, which, with the best will in the world, is something of a rarity in the realm of heavy music, really takes things to another level.
Looking back over the track listing to write this review, I was struck by how downright enjoyable this album is. Opener Can You Dig? kicks proceedings off with an almost glam stomp before Watch Our Masters Bleed builds from a quiet opening to a stupidly catchy riff and chorus. Flying Incendiary Club For Subjugating Demons takes your further down the wormhole and neatly sums up everything that’s great about this band. It opens with the Imperial Priestess singing a capella (let’s be honest, anyone who can sing “I was born with a warrior’s blood” unaccompanied without sounding even a bit daft deserves some serious kudos) before throwing the kitchen sink at you – riffs, swirling 70s keys, handclaps…
The rest of the album delivers more of the same: vocal pyrotechnics and harmonica in Rat Queen; a chunky stoner riff in Bound For Hell; some 70s boogie rock swagger in I’ll Make A Man Out Of You; and a good dose of NWOBHM and… a children’s choir (?) on album closer The Reaper Comes for Thee. In any just world The Neptune Power Federation would be huge, but while we wait for musical karma to sort that out, I’d strongly recommend that you listen to this.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc