Jessica Freeman, Sturmfront, Ladera Heights Los Angeles. USA
“I have sailed the metal seas and come to the holy city of Lies of Smiles,
this is it, this is the metal grail, on your feet or on your surely damned knees!"
As I write this commentary for one of my favorite purveyors of British hard rock,
I look out to a mist covered sea on a winters day, watching a coast that was once the landing place of the Spanish conquistadors. In the distance stand the “unnatural” rock formations named by the Spanish, "Torre De Angeles",
towering towards the skies.
Looking east from the coast, I see the dreaming city, named by the Spanish, Ciudad de Los Angeles, the city of Angels,where Angels fear to tread, and I see the towers of Los Angeles and I dream a dream.......
For a start, darkness, tragedy and especially night is THE prime motif on the CD and the packaging (what with it being the mother of all mysteries, along with death & sexuality in all its glorious red and black hues).
If the first L.O.S. project was a dirty, uncouth, street fighter, liable to mug you from behind, with its shotgun scatter, then this L.Ö.S. II project is a laser guided death curse that’s gonna take you down with clean precision and deadly accuracy.
An all new band but, with original L.O.S. 1 project guitar player Davy “DD” Little the “Soul Survivor” from the transition. Which obviously points to the fuel injected machinations of O’Neill & Thurlow (credited as writing all songs) & the addition of the Wing/Naylor rhythm section from Little's Pauline Gillan days as adding the nuclear fire and precision that puts this a millennia ahead of the last incarnation.
This is screaming for vengeance, fuelled hard rock that is all about attitude, mystery, and a sense of nihilistic humour that is deep in the cuff.
Comprised of 6 slices of rock, interspersed with 3 compositions of sinister but beautiful set pieces, 2 of the 6 of which loosely comprise an epic of something so secret...they never tell you!
That’s truly the beautiful thing about this CD. It’s a night time soundtrack for those mysterious men in a big black car, that steal your soul in the urban dead of night.
Opener instrumental “Something wicked this way comes” leaves you in little doubt at all that something very bad is coming your way, classic in a classical way, ominous, brooding, wicked........
"Fallen" is breathtaking, a perpetual molten burn, a black in the light, a condensed, purified, crystal clear performance of metal perfection. You know as soon as that riff hits you that you’re in for the ride of your life. This singer is world class, there are obvious comparisons, I’m not making them, make them yourself, but .......Sabbath look no further, Thurlow sings like he has just fallen from heaven, grittier than Dio but equally as majestic.
When LÖS whisper the lines “Lucifer the light” they coulda been just as easily directing that to any members of their listening audience fruitlessly searching for some (ANY) clues as to the meaning behind the cryptic lyrics. Gods chosen/favorite Angel falls from grace with a vengeance (realized) and how, and then, two of the most blistering/incremental death ride solos this side of Tipton & Downings glory days, each one superseding the one before in intensity, leading to a sublime two guitar melody.
Just when you think that the Lucifers fall from grace can be no more emotionally traumatic, then we have a chillingly elegant, intelligent and stunning solo from Mick Tucker (Tank/Axis/White Spirit & onetime axe partner and mentor to both Little & O’Neill respectively). A master class in restrained intent.
If O’Neill and Little are molten on the traded solos, then Tucker is pure ice cold precision, black as a lodestone, shining like a knife. A bow of respect to the legacy he has left behind and what a legacy that is. Breathtaking.
Wings beautifully haunted Dream a dream.......a welcome break, a swirl of keyboard sanity at first listen, wake up!
Torre De Angeles /Tower of Angels. I feel my heart swell whenever I hear it, that opening massive riff and a multi-layered thickness you’d be hard pressed to find outside of progressive rock, fewer still rendered with the force of feeling, you just know, you just know that this is something special. I get shivers on the vocal delivery, “I dream a dream of Gods and Angels , rains of steel and deserts of fire”
the imagery haunts me, Dio would have wept at this line, God rest his beautiful soul.
Naylors rapid fire percussive breaks thunder the song along. A shimmering faultless guitar solo, leads again into the already soaring hook, leading to a freight train riff ending, that will leave you breathless!
Thurlow delivers this song with such conviction, with such fire and nobility that you would think that a fallen angels soul was crying out in realisation that God was wrong, (a God that promised us nothing but lies) that the legacy of religion would only lead to death, genocide and destruction, listen to it! Especially, that creepy intonation that comes outta nowhere “Your God is a monster” and
the awful realisation that he just might be! Watch those angels fly!
The tracks pass by like thunder clouds in fast motion.
"Death from above (Divine wind)" I’m an American gal, thro & thro, the stars and stripes blow in the warm L.A. wind in my garden, and any song about airplanes taking my life makes me nervous, naturally.
“DFA/Divine Wind" Kamikaze get it, provides a relevant backdrop to current affairs. It could be a compelling and emotional reflection on Japans day of Infamy that is strangely relevant in these post 9/11 times. But that said, are we ever that sure that this was LÖS’s intent, it could so easily be seen as a soundtrack to any invasion/sneak attack by air movie, interpretation is everything.
This is a great rock song, multi-layered, monstrous guitar riff, it gets better with every play. Monumental vocal delivery, the main solo is all pure blistering technique, a moody ride to an outro emotionally charged guitar solo that is damaged and different from the mainstream posturing. It’s one of the strengths of this band, the guitar players are not the usual flash, posturing, Neanderthals
that this genre suffers so much from.
"Stone Cold", full of energy, what exactly they are running from through the ice and snow... is never disclosed, I’m not sure if this is a continuation of the first two tracks story, in my head it could be, but again LÖS throw the dice and its all 7’s. A blistering energetic song, quirky riff and again two molten solos, more straight rock than we have seen on the other tracks, but equally effective. It’s interesting how LÖS switch between epic/straight ahead catchy rock sensibilities with
ease. Something that Dio and Priest perfected with their early releases.
"Do not be afraid" but you know when you hear that little girls voice you should be, leads to “Of Time and Stars” This is what makes this LÖS line up so very special, O’Neill being the ace in the pack, he throws in riff after monumental riff, solo after searing solo and then this. Who could have predicted that he would drop in such a beautifully strange and emotive picked guitar interlude. A starscape of chorused dexterous patterns that is so far removed from the world of heavy metal and any world that you or I would dare to know.... fades into the opening tick-tock cowbell that lights the fuse of....
"Just a Man", This song is a classic from its beginning to its searing rock n soul solo ending. The guitar solos are rendered without a single misstep or a wasted effort, if you want guitar hero look no further, scalding as a volcanic vent or icy as an artic blast, the tones change with perfection!
Thurlows’ vocal is a classic growl, steeped in whisky soaked blues, It’s tightly wound and has a groove that catches you, lifts you, until you realise that this is about an abused wife ending her abusers life, this is LÖS and they dare to break the misogynistic view of the typical hard rock band, that’s why I love em! This should be the battle cry of all abused women, just a man, fuck kill him and
be done! The perfect song for today’s modern woman!
The ominous warscape of “The War Hound and the Worlds Pain” where Thurlow throws in those extra Dioesque intonations just for kicks right before the power riff takes the air from your lungs and he glides back into his masterful growl, there are few singers who deliver this consistently.
Guitar riffs that change patterns leaving you wanting more, just out of reach, never two the same. A brooding slice of epic progressive rock which marries the band’s hard rock roots to their newfound melodic sensibilities with winning effect. Two haunting solos from the Little/O’Neill partnership, combining melodic feel with technical expertise. When these two play off against each other the
results are magical, I was always a sucker for Downing & Tiptons axe histrionics.
They end this dreamtime epic with another hot rails from hell riff, incessant, unforgiving, Thurlow intoning “how could you live with the shame” and with it the album, and with that -- the sound of distant, howling winds.
A British Lion! It doesn’t get any better than this.
L.Ö.S. are elders sworn to an unspoken fealty, so respect them or be subject to dire consequences.
But you must decide how to take them: on your feet, knees or both.
Or better yet: your head.
.....I look out to sea on a winters day, in the distance the wind howls around the "natural" rock formation, named by the Spanish conquistadors, Torre de Angeles. In the city, neon lights flicker into cold life as the sun dies, storm clouds speed past as if chased by demons .....a lightning flash, a moment of pure clarity...
......there.....at the top of the tower, just for a fleeting second, a dark figure shrouded in fire, dark wings of heaven spread in anticipation, looks to the skies and waits......................