There is a wonderful sense of excitement attached to listening to an obscure record that you’ve dug up from the 70s…it’s akin to being proud that you’ve discovered something that a full generation (or two) of music fans failed to recognise. Whilst it’s very odd to claim a sense of discovery about something that an independent record label has re-issued, that’s exactly what I remember feeling when I first listened to the Pentagram First Daze Here compilations.
It’s even stranger that I get the same feeling whilst listening to Wall’s debut EP…it’s brand new, yet it reeks of faded photographs, corduroy trousers, and most importantly, good old-fashioned analogue fuzz!
Wall is the pandemic-child of Elliot and Ryan Cole of Desert Storm and The Grand Mal fame. It came about as a vent for their frustration at being stuck at home together and not being able to tour. So, they hammered out four original tracks in their living room and went to Shonk Studios in Oxford with engineer Jimmy Hetherington as soon as Lockdown v1.0 allowed them.
The resultant slab of Sabbath-worship is being set loose on the world by APF Records on the 15th January. You can download it, or for just five English pounds you can have it on a lovely shiny compact disc (compact discs are how people used to buy music in a physical format before it was decided that half the fun of listening to music was in setting counter-weights, cleaning delicate pieces of vinyl more intently than you wash your hands in a pandemic, and getting up every seven and a half minutes to turn the record over).
What we have here is just less than twenty five minutes of music with no pretensions, no questions of ‘how do we out-heavy Band X?’, or even any attempt to push the boundaries and try something new. This is music that is written and performed for the sheer love of it, and that’s why it’s such a great record to listen to.
Wrath Of The Serpent starts with echoey feedback which straightaway gives you the feel of being in the room with the band – final tune ups before the song kicks in and sets expectations of what is to come. We have mid-paced heavy riffs which quickly give way to twin guitar harmonies. Then halfway through the track does a 180 degree turn and gallops toward the end with the fastest riffing on the album. It’s less than five minutes long, but it covers so much ground. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there are no vocals – when the riffs are this immediate, who needs them!?
Wall could so easily deliver a full album of this instrumental throwback-metal goodness without so much as having to pause for breath…
Sonic Mass starts with feedback – hey, if it works then keep on doing it! After a massively heavy intro we move into a more melodic riff which really does hark back to the early days of the Victor Griffin school of doom. Obsidian centres on one thundering bass note which continually pounds through the majority of the track. It’s the simplest song-writing trick in the book, but one that is so effective and never gets old. This is the heaviest track on the EP…is hammers at your eardrums for five minutes and forty seconds at roughly the pace of a blue whale’s heartbeat.
Legion begins with a rolling drum beat and the only clean(ish) guitar lines on the record. This doesn’t last for long though, as we’re quickly back up to the pace that Wrath Of The Serpent introduced us to. The track also breaks down at the two minute mark with some great drum fills, which really are Ward-esque. I know that this is a pathetically tired comparison, but to my mind Bill Ward is every bit as important to Sabbath as Iommi was/is, and Bill gets nowhere near as much credit.
The track ends with a riff that got my head nodding more than any other on the record. It has echoes of Matt Pike’s style. In fact, if you want an answer to the question “what does Wall’s debut EP sound like” the first thing that comes to mind is that it has the feel of Sleep’s Holy Mountain. It has a great energy from start to finish. It’s an energy that makes me think that Wall could so easily deliver a full album of this instrumental throwback-metal goodness without so much as having to pause for breath.
The final track is a cover of Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral and is maybe the only slight disappointment here – and that’s a phrase I never expected to say! Don’t get me wrong; it’s a worthy cover version (and provides some additional variety with vocals courtesy of The Grand Mal’s Dave-O), but after Legion all I wanted was more Wall!
Let’s hope that this duo isn’t just a temporary lockdown distraction, and that we get more of this in the future. It’d be a damn shame to stop the riffs flowing. ‘Less Sabbath – More Wall’…that should be on the back of their t-shirts.
Scribed by: David J McLaren