"The Million Masks of God" [LP/CD]
(Favorite Gentlemen/Loma Vista)
If any album is a prototype for what AAA/Rock/Alternative is in 2021, it is the latest from Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra. Not that Andy Hull and his band have ever suffered a shortage of hooks, but "The Million Masks" is finally the band building songs around their central ideas. Where earlier efforts were slightly more serious Rock, "The Million Masks" finds the band using their dynamics with spectacular results ("Keel Timing") and blending verses and choruses with the ease of veterans ("Bed Head" built for summer playlisting.) With producer Catherine Marks, the members produce this record and the inspiration is felt throughout.
Once a premiere French Death Metal band, Gojira took the plunge into concise, commercial Metallic Rock with 2016's "Magma." When that album broke through and even snared the longtime band a Grammy nomination, Gojira rose to a level of recognition. "Fortitude" is slightly more visceral as singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier metallic yowl is more prevalent ("Amazonia" with its thunderous drum fills,) but ready to crush the acts on Active Rock stations into dust. If anything, the mixture of atmospheric and molten riffage makes "Fortitude" more like recent Mastodon albums. Even older Gojira fans will celebrate this one thanks to bludgeoning tracks like "Into The Storm."
For their third album (and first in four years,) the UK duo Royal Blood return to the tough, slightly-distorted driving Rock that put them on the map. With producer Josh Homme, the strut of "Boilermaker" is hardened. While left to their own devices, the band is not afraid to push their danceable side ("Limbo" with rumbling fuzz bass) and even blend the two on the title cut. Their minimal production definitely helps their anthemic songs ("Trouble's Coming") and push their ongoing narrative of bass-driven boom.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.