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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Reviews: Fractal Universe, Mindmaze, Maverick

Fractal Universe: Engram Of Decline (Kolony Records)

France probably leads the way with forward thinking metal with Gojira, Alcest, Klone and Trepalium all bringing something fresh to the world of metal. Fractal Universe definitely fall into this category, immediately the Nancy, Lorraine based band hook you with their intensely technical, down tuned riffs that will see many class them in the djent category however much like the theory they are named after the djent sound is fragmented into numerous different styles that mean every song has  hook, a new element that holds the attention, whether it's the underlying synths of the addition of Jorgen Munkeby of Shining giving a sax solo to Backworldsmen. 

There is a freshness and sense of adventure from Fractal Universe they aren't afraid to shake up what is a relatively new but already slightly stagnant genre. Their style death metal ramps up the technicality but these are no flights of fancy the songs are contrite and rarely stray further than 6 minutes with the final epic title track which clocks in at over nine minutes and sees the sax unleashed this time from Jean-Marc Florimond. The essence of Gojira imbues tracks such as Scared Legacy Of Hatred fret slides and all, Vince growls well its both nasty and happily audible, the vocals are usually make or break for me with this type of music. With dual guitar harmonies, sizzling solo spots and a bludgeoning heaviness Engram Of Decline is a superior debut effort from this French four-piece, Fractal Universe are progressive extremity par excellence. 8/10

MindMaze: Resolve (Inner Wound Recordings)

A female fronted band from Pennsylvania? Surely this must be Halestorm? I hear you cry but no far from the Highlander credo of their can be only one, MindMaze are a power metal band from Allentown and have returned with their first album since 2014. Resolve is their third full length and it's probably their most experimental, a concept album with themes dealing with human emotions rather than the normal myths and legends. As it is a concept album the band can be little more loose with their soundscapes, they play a bit of power metal Fight The Future, some electronic modern metal on Drown Me, bring doomy themes on Sanity's Collapse and of course there's an obligatory ballad with One More Moment.

At their core Mindmaze are female fronted symphonic metal band and they when you are in this most overcrowded of genres as a band you've really got to do something a little different to stand out. MindMaze do take risks there is a strong melodic metal vein running throughout records and the vocal and guitar interplay of siblings Sarah and Jeff Teets are great but some of the compositions are little too safe, it all fits together yes but at thirteen tracks with three instrumentals some could lose interest, however if you love progressively tinged symphonic metal then MindMaze's third release sees them peek above the waves of copyists and do something a little different. 7/10    

Maverick: Firebrand (Self Released)

Maverick are not a band dedicated to the James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore TV show of the same name but he music on this disc would suit the shows Western Theme. Maverick though are not from the USA as you'd expect with music like this, no their Old West is Perth, Australia, Maverick are part of the explosion of Aussie bands moving away from the pub rocking of their most well known acts into more expansive territory, much like fellow countrymen My Dynamite and Electric Mary. Firebrand contains eight swaggering, groovy, blues drenched southern rockers that sit between The Allman Brothers and The Black Crowes with Zep-alike rocking, fusing with countrified rhythms.

It's an album born in the dirt and played after a few fingers of whiskey the band are a four-piece made up of the guitar and bourbon-hued vocals of Craig Jovanovic, along with guitarist Mark De Vattimo, Simon Hallett on bass and drummer Nick Dudman the songs on this record rock and roll along well, getting heads nodding and feet tapping (and if no one is watching asses shaking), the songs are driven by breezy dual guitar harmonies, crunchy rhythms and a rebellious attitude. Free opens the record with Skynyrd Southern guts and the record continues at a high level throughout, Break Me is hard rocking sing along that sees both guitarists showing off their chops, Obsession throws a bit of curve as track three, ominous, bluesy and dark it's built around shuffling drums and proper bass work and runs at the longest time on the record but is a welcome side shift.

From then on though it's bluesy heads down rocking and that's just perfect Silent Scream is deep in the delta, while Great Northern Highway comes from the Rival Sons songbook and the record ends with the acoustic Tonight We Die which is a soulful, riverside lament to finish the album. Firebrand is a superb record for anyone that secretly wears a Stetson and dreams of lazy days on the Bayou. 8/10

Monday, 24 April 2017

Reviews: Suffocation, Artificial Brain, Azarath, Foreseen (Reviews By Paul)

Suffocation: ...Of The Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)

It's been four long years since one of the most consistent and brutal death metal bands, Long Island's Suffocation provided us with Pinnacle Of Bedlam. Their eighth album has been worth the wait, 35 minutes of absolute filthy death metal which stands alongside their contemporaries Immolation and Cannibal Corpse as exemplars of the genre.

The album is the first to feature rhythm guitarist Charlie Errigo and drummer Eric Morotti who acquit themselves well, with Morotti's pounding blast beats particularly intense. Vocalist and founder member Frank Mullen's vocals remain as guttural and growling as ever, whilst the rapid fire technical approach complete with multiple complex time changes and welcome break downs which have long symbolised the band's approach remain in situ. Veteran guitarist Terrence Hobbs continues to deliver most astonishing work with scalar runs and palm muting a plenty.

Mullen's roars, for example on the volcanic Return to the Abyss are quite horrifying. It's been a long time since Effigy Of The Forgotten helped set the blueprint for the grind core fused death metal. Suffocation remain a vital part of a burgeoning scene. Their assault on the Bierkeller in Bristol in August is going to be unmissable. 9/10

Artificial Brain: Infared Horizon (Profound Lore)

This is technical death metal at its most intense. Artificial Brain, coming at you from Long Island, New York was formed in 2011 by Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo and vocalist Will Smith of Biolich. Infrared Horizon is the band's second release following the intensity of 2014 debut Labyrinth Constellation. Crammed full of astonishingly intricate and technical death metal with some of the most astounding guitar work heard for many years, tracks such as Synthesised Instinct and Floating In Orbit pulse and snake around you, pulverising yet at times so detailed you have to stop and listen again.

Technical death metal is as extreme as I can take and Artificial Brain push to the limits. Their cosmic sci-if themes mesh fantastically with the relentless pace and Smith's brutal growl which is so sinister at times you think about hiding out of aural range. With some brilliant artwork to match the sheer velocity of the band, this is an album that is well worth getting hold of. Blisteringly good. 8/10

Azarath: In Extremis (Agoina Records)

2017 has been flooded with top quality death metal releases. Storming output from legends such as Immolation, Memoriam, Obituary, Hour of Penance and Suffocation. All rightly revered as leaders of the genre. Alongside the bigger names come a slew of lesser known outfits who can deliver just as intensely and heavily. Formed in 1998, Polish death metal outfit Azarath's sixth release, In Extremis sits comfortably next to those bigger guns. Unsurprisingly the themes focus on satanic and anti religious topics, with The Slain God, The Triumph Of Ascending Majesty leaving little to guesswork.

Azarath are as brutal as any on the scene with machine gun level intensity drumming from founder member Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski and the technical excellence of guitarists Bartlomiej "Bart" Szudek and Marek "Necrosodom" Lechowski repeatedly slicing your face off. Lechowski's vocals are immense, guttural and intimidating. With no let up from start to finish, the band throw everything into a quite blistering album which demonstrates influences such as Nile, Behemoth, Vale and Marduk whilst still forging a unique sound.

For absolute nut crushing death metal commit to the five minutes of Into The Nameless Night with its high pace, huge groove in the final section and overall battery which will leave you broken. This is good stuff. 8/10

Foreseen: Grave Danger (20 Buck Spin)

Helsinki outfit Foreseen have released a mighty slab of thrash which gets better on repeated plays. All out blasters which on occasion veer closely to death metal sit comfortably alongside thrash stomp grooves and a hardcore approach combining old school with the current fresh thrash style. This is their second full release following 2014's Helsinki Savagery.

With the twin guitars of Lauri Martiskainen and Erika Korpi duelling like crazy, it's down to Marten Gustafsson on drums and bassist Tatu Kuisma to bring the noise which they do with aplomb. My only negative thoughts about this album is the slightly ragged vocals of  Mirko Nummelin which sit comfortably within the assault but do detract slightly from the overall songs. Still, the all out thrash of Downward Spiral and political observations of Government Cuts and Suicide Bomber along with monstrous Fearmonger more than compensate in an album well worth bouncing around the room to. 7/10

Reviews: Warrior, Lich King, Blood Divisions

Warrior: Invasion Imminent (Self Released)

Neat Records...I'll let that sink in a bit, there will be a warm glow going through some of our readership right now. For those that don't know Neat records was one of the seminal NWOBHM labels the label was set up in Newcastle by the owner of Impulse studios David Wood who along with producer Steve Thompson brought Neat to prominence launching the international careers of Venom, Raven, Blitzkrieg and Jaguar all of whom have been cited as influences on the burgeoning Bay Area Thrash scene, Neat was the home too of Persian Risk (Phil Campbell Of Motorhead's original band), White Spirit (Janick Gers band before joining Maiden), Satan, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Avenger and even Wishbone Ash for one album!

Neat was also the home of Warrior a Geordie band (there is also a Warrior from Chesterfield) that became a casualty of NWOBHM, it's been well noted that there were literally hundreds of bands that slipped through the cracks during this time, the bands that survived are known to everyone but there are so many bands that just didn't get out alive. Warrior are in this latter category, after releasing a couple of EP's and a live album they split in 1984 never to be heard from again. That is until 2014 when original guitarist Dave Dawson reformed the band with original singer Eddy Smith Halliday, older and wiser they have capitalised on the revitalised D.I.Y style of releasing records that is much more successful than it was back in the 1980's this reformation has resulted two more EP's a compilation and this their 'debut' album.

Halliday and Dawson have swelled their ranks with Gwaether Bloom on guitar, Elliot Sneddon on drums, and Duncan Emmerson on bass (replaced by William Baxter since the records release) and you can tell that Warrior possibly had a tough break back in the day as Invasion Imminent is a strong record once the piano intro of Metal Fatigue subsides the record opens properly with Trojan Horse which has a immediate riff hooking you in an polishes it off with killer soloing, the tracks on this record are all celebrations of metal, mainly the excellent title track and the bands phoenix-like rebirth see Second Chance and Rise Of The Warriors. The record has great duality with songs that sprint but ones that also stomp like a T-Rex through tar, Black Middens is the album's big stoner riff.

From Halliday's Biff Byford like vocals, through the tough bottom end of Emmerson and Sneddon and the excellent guitar prowess of Dawson and Bloom, Invasion Imminent is similar in style to the most recent Saxon albums digging the old school vein with modern flourishes. I'm digging this record, proper British metal, not big, not clever just heads down rocking, just like it used to be. 7/10

Lich King: The Omniclasm (Self Released)

Lich King really should just be called Thrashy McThrashface, from the opening chords it's full on aggression from the first beat, the Massachusetts mob are sort of Overkill playing with Sacred Reich approach to thrash metal sitting in the crossover/classic metal Venn Diagram. The album follows their coverstar and namesake on his continuing adventures with the scum of humans, from the hardcore love-in of Preschool Cesspool, through the anti-authoritarian Our Time To Riot and the creeping Civilization all show Lich King's talent for perfectly acceptable thrash metal, while their humorous use of lyrics similar to but not as zany as our own Lawnmower Deth. If you love a bit of thrash metal with some comical lyrics but built on solid thrash metal backing the Lich King could be for you. 7/10

Blood Divisions: Cardinal One (Metal Blade)

Blood Divisions features David Austin (Nasty Savage) and Ed Aborn (Intersonic Cyber Symphony), with a roster of supporting musicians who are current or former members of bands such as Obituary, Death, Nasty Savage, Six Feet Under, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Deicide, Massacre, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, including Terry Butler and Ken Andrews (Obituary), Ralph Santolla (ex-Deicide, ex-Obituary), Jerry Mortellaro (Diabolic) and Bill Owen (ex-Purgatory).

From those involved you are probably expecting brain smackingly heavy metal but you'd be wrong this album is a bit of horrible mish mash of styles with funeral doom on The Morgue, some dreadful orchestral backed crap that is trying a bit too hard to be Trans Siberian Orchestra as well as three covers, guitarist David Austin is also in Nasty Savage whose track No Sympathy is covered at the end of the record and is actually the best song on the record, the other covers on the album are Hot N Ready by UFO and Top Of The Bill by The Scorpions both of which do little for the original mainly because they are being sung by Chris Jericho (Fozzy) he is no Klaus Meine nor is he Phil Mogg, I'm not saying he's a bad singer he just doesn't cut it when compared to these two.

Why the hell he has chosen to be apart of this project is beyond me but then I think he could do so much more with Fozzy. Cardinal One is a misconceived idea with poor songwriting and badly chosen covers that jar with the rest of the record, it's saved by the professional performances and the final track is strong, if Blood Divisions transformed into a thrash fuelled band they would be excellent however as it stands Cardinal One is just terrible. 2/10

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Reviews: Necrowretch, Ex People, The Evil Dead, Cocyte (Reviews By Rich)

Necrowretch: Satanic Slavery (Seasons Of Mist)

French blackened metal masters Necrowretch return with their third album Satanic Slavery which is a very appropriate title for a very bloodthirsty and evil album. Also it's a bit fucking good! Necrowretch continue with the style they have laid out on their previous two records which is a hybrid of black metal, death metal and thrash metal. The sound is very old school with a suitably raw yet clear production. This album is absolutely relentless with a barrage of savage tremolo riffs, blastbeats and the raspy evil vocals of frontman Vlad.

They also use a echo effect on the vocal for added evil effect which I absolutely adore. There isn't much different on this album from what Necrowretch have previously done but the songwriting is definitely improved with such savage gems as Sprawl Of Sin, Hellspawn Pyre, Trediciman Blackfire and the absolutely sublime title track. There isn't much variation between the songs but it doesn't matter at all when they all sound as wonderful as they do. Being a lover of all things gnarly and evil in metal this album appealed to me in every sense and is definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. 9/10

Ex People: Bird (New Heavy Sounds)

I have found that the doom/sludge/stoner scene in the UK has become very oversaturated and that currently there are few bands who make a lasting impression on me but Ex People have immediately grabbed my attention with their stunning debut album Bird. This London four piece have managed to combine catchy hooks with absolute sonic destruction. The band sound like a mix of Electric Wizard, Melvins and Kylesa with influences from grunge all wrapped up in a blaze of punk rock attitude.

This is truly a heavy heavy album with thick distorted fuzzy riffs, bass denser than molten lead and an absolute percussive beatdown. The vocals by frontwoman Laura are soaring and melodic but with a punk rock bite to them. The songs on the album range from catchier numbers such as Without and Surekill to bludgeoning monolithic bruisers such as The Host and Crested. Ex People have managed to craft a fantastic debut album that proves to me that there are still bands within the doom/sludge/stoner scene that can surprise and impress me. 8/10

The Evil Dead: Earth Inferno (Witches Brew)

The Evil Dead are a band from Argentina (the first metal band from Argentina I have heard) and 'Earth Inferno' is their second album released on Massacre Records. The Evil Dead are an interesting band with a very wide array of sounds and influences. The band play a melodic black metal style reminiscent of Dissection mixed with 70's rock and 80's metal influences. The songs themselves are all lengthy pieces containing masses of riffs mixed with some odd time signatures and interesting twists and turns.

Highlights for me included the epic Maragnon which sounded like black metal meets Blue Oyster Cult, the blackened thrash of the title track and my personal favourite the speed metal meets rollicking hard rock Of Electric Evil Revisited. With so many styles and influences present the album can feel a bit uneven and disjointed but where it does hold it together it works very well indeed. A solid effort. 7/10

Cocyte: The Human Disease (Self Release)

The Human Disease is the debut fulll length album by Belgian band Cocyte who have previously released a string of self-released EP's. Cocyte play a modern style of death metal which leans towards technical death metal and deathcore with bruising chunky riffs, brutal breakdowns, technical flourishes and the odd off kilter jazzy break. The harsh vocals are atypical for this style with them sitting somewhere between a guttural growl and harsh scream. Unfortunately this album is so generic with absolutely no stand out moments or moments or originality. It's all been done before by a multitude of sound alike bands.

It's all played to perfection by the band but trying to remember a moment of interest or significance from the album is virtually impossible as it is so by the numbers modern death metal. The production is very clean and clinical which detracts what death metal is meant to be (in my opinion) and that is repulsive and evil sounding as well as brutal and heavy. I'll hold my hands up and fully admit that I can't abide this style of death metal and despite really trying I can only find one song of worth which is Mechanical Refuge and that's only because it sounds exactly like and completely rips off Necrophagist.

If you are a fan of bands such as Whitechapel and Suicide Silence you will probably think this album is phenomenal but if you like your death metal dirty and gnarly avoid this like the plague. I give one point for musicianship skills and one for Necrophagist worship. 2/10

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Reviews: Nightbringer, Corroded, Death Of Kings (Reviews By Paul)

Nightbringer: Terra Damnata (Seasons Of Mist)

With Scandinavian Black Metal firmly cementing their foundations, the fifth album from Colorado black metallers Nightbringer is very likely to raise the band’s profile amongst fans of the genre. The influences are clear with elements of Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Dark Funeral and Behemoth evident throughout. Yet the band maintain a clear identity, with their orchestral and symphonic elements adventurous and fresh. Band members VJS, Ophis, Naas Alcameth, ar Ra'd al-Iblis, Menthor, Norgaath have followed up from 2014’s Ego Dominus Tuus with an opus that is haunting, intimidating and yet also compelling.

Tracks such as Misrule and Midnight’s Crown burst with atmosphere and crushingly heavy black metal guitar work. The usual battering ram of blast beats maintains the intensity throughout with the level of technical performance quite astonishing at times. You won’t win prizes for guessing the themes that course through the album but it fits together quite superbly. If you only listen to one black metal track this year make it Let Silence Be His Sacred Name, which is just incredible. If you don’t like your metal invoking spirits and demons as well as ripping the flesh of your frame then this may not be for you. That’s your problem though as this album quite simply crushes all. Amazing, breath taking, inspiring. 9/10

Corroded: Defcon Zero (Despotz Records)

Swedes Corroded return with album number 3, five years after the release of sophomore release Exit To Transfer. Whilst the band is not well known over here, their profile in their home country was raised substantially by the TV show Survivors, which used their track Time And Again as its theme. The band comprise biker, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jens Westin, lead guitarist Tomas Andersson, bassist Bjarne Elvsgård and drummer Per Soläng. Defcon Zero is crammed full of heavy riffs, scintillating guitar work and an overriding melody which gives all their songs more appeal than might otherwise be expected.

Think Godsmack, Shinedown and Disturbed and you’ve just about got the sound to a tee. Whilst at times it’s a little generic but the crushingly heavy power of tracks like Retract and Disconnect combined with its Alter Bridge style harmonies, the thumping battery of Vessels Of Hate and the Soil stomp of Burn It Down are all absolute anthems. Album closer Rust And Nail has a Baroness feel about the opening before it morphs into a fitting closing track. If you like your metal clean and honest then this album is a must. 8/10

Death Of Kings: Kneel Before None (Boris Records)

Thrashing their way out of Atlanta, Georgia, Death Of Kings’ debut album (which follows a couple of EPs) Kneel Before None is a primitive, full on punch in the face which takes no prisoners. Their influences range from Priest to Death and everything in between and you know what, it’s fucking A. Opener Shadow Of The Reaper begins the proceedings nicely with maximum thrash bastard before the more measured stomp of Sojurn follows up with a low blow. The pain continues with the Slayer like Regicidal, which oozes malevolence and evil.

The band are tight and extremely loyal to thrash blueprint which I say is correct. No pissing about, just blast at the speed of sound. Amos Rifkin’s pounding drumming and the slicing cut of Matt Kilpatrick’s axe work are the undoubted highlights and if I had one minor complaint it’s the underproduction of Matt Matson’s devilish vocals which are so guttural that at times they are hidden by the onslaught. My moan apart, this is storming stuff with 38 minutes of hell’s fire. Play outside at your peril. The outbuildings may not withstand it. 7/10

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Reviews: Ulver, Mammoth Mammoth, Trial (Reviews By Paul)

Ulver: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar (House Of Mythology)

The 13th album by the Norwegian collective known as Ulver is a pretty fantastic release. For the uninitiated, Ulver formed in 1993 and although their early work had essence of the Norwegian Black metal sound Ulver has transformed into a much more ethereal and progressive outfit in recent times. Ulver's line up has remained solid for many years with the utilisation of numerous guest musicians to enhance their complexity.

On this album Kristofer Rygg is joined once more by Tore Ylwizaker (programming), Jorn H Svaeren and Ole Alexander Halstengard and assisted by a whole cast of additional musicians. Stian Westerhus adds some lovely guitars of Nemoralia and So Falls The World, which also sees the involvement of Hawkwind's errant son Nik Turner. So Falls The World is a beautiful composition which mixes Gothic and new wave synth pop quite magnificently. Southern Gothic has a massive Depeche Mode feel, haunting and atmospheric.

Produced and recorded in Oslo mainly in 2016, the album is mixed by Martin Glover (Youth from Killing Joke) and Michael Randall. The sound at times is similar to the more progressive parts of Anaethema's recent work whilst maintaining its own uniqueness. Transverberstion and the beautiful 1969 both drip with synth pop and whilst the band are far removed from their beginnings, this is still an album very much worth taking the time to listen to. 8/10

Mammoth Mammoth: Mount The Mountain (Napalm Records)

Australia seems to be able to throw out an endless amount of bands who play one of two types of music. It's either thrash or hard rock with a stoner edge. The latter sound belongs to Melbourne crew Mammoth Mammoth, whose dirty, fuzzy rock ticks all the right boxes. Now in their tenth year, Mount The Mountain is release number six, hard on the heels of 2016's EP Mammoth Bloody Mammoth.

Tracks such as Hole In The Head, Kicking The Dog (don't do this at home kids) and Cold Liquor leave little to the imagination and smack you in the face with their power, gritty drive and balls out good time vibe. Mikey Tucker's vocals are superb, reminiscent of the great Ben Ward of the mighty Orange Goblin at times, the driving rhythm of Pete Bell and drummer Frank Trebbiani keep the engine running whilst Ben Couzens guitar work is gutsy, gritty and down right filthy at times. Another band that you'd happily get absolutely spannered whilst watching. The irony is that these guys would be hammered first. Check out Mammoth Mammoth, big name, huge sound. 8/10

Trial: Motherless (Metal Blade)
Yet another Swedish metal outfit cross our paths, this time its Trial, from Trollhatten who have been around for a good few years. Motherless is album number 3, following 2015's Vessel. The band comprise guitar duo Alexander Ellstrom and Andreas Johnsson, vocalist Linus Johansson and the engine room of drummer Linus Johansson and bassist Andreas Olsson. Trial's music can be described as a mix of traditional metal with helpings of power and thrash metal. Unfortunately, Motherless is just not that good, with a confusing mix of styles creating a schizophrenic sound. Add on to this the rather 'finger nails down a blackboard' vocals of Linus Johansson, some quite dreadful harmonies and you have a relatively uninspiring release. One to think long and hard before investing in. 5/10

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Reviews: Life Of Agony, Harlott, The Franklys

Life Of Agony: A Place Where There Is No More Pain (Napalm)

New York groove masters Life Of Agony return with their sixth studio album and their first since 2005. The original line up of Joey Z (guitar), Alan Robert (bass), vocalist Mina Caputo (previously known Keith) return along with drummer Sal Abruscato for ten songs of riff driven groove metal that hasn't really changed since the band first brought their crushing misery to the scene in the early 90's. Track like Dead Speak Kindly, A New Low, Right This Wrong and the opener Meet My Maker all carry the bands normal traits of low tuned riffs and Mina's lyrics come from a very personal deeply considered place, reflecting the struggles that she as a transgender person faced and the similar struggles that fans have told the band they have gone through.

This album in Mina's own words "gives us hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel". Mina's voice has matured since the River Runs Red days and every lyric is delivered with conviction while the band play at the top of their game. As I've said very little has changed musically for the band and for long time fans this will be perfect, yes it may be a little bit of a dated sound now but it's good to have a band like LOA back doing what they do best. 7/10

Harlott: Extinction (Metal Blade)

Australia seems to be becoming a hotbed of thrash metal at the moment, it must be the intrinsic link between the genre and heavy drinking. Harlott can really be called one of the finest examples of thrash from down under, three albums into their career and numerous supports, most notably with Annihilator on their recent European tour and the band are playing some of the best music of their career honed by the hundreds of live shows and real understanding of the Bay Area thrash sound. Extinction is the sort of album Exodus, Testament or Slayer would have written at the height of their powers mixing blitzkrieg thrash fury with more nuanced slower elements to ramp up the atmosphere before the fireworks start again.

Frontman Andrew Hudson has the raspy ideal thrash voice thats sits between Zetro and Araya with the band behind him kicking the living shit out of their instruments in the best way possible, the furious double hit of the title track and First World Solutions open the record with Slayer-like aggression last heard on Evile's first couple of albums. The twin dual leads of Hudson and Jake Weber shred your face off, on Whore Tim Joyce displays that he's probably superhuman as he demolishes his kit like a whirling dervish and Tom Richards reminds you that thrash needs bass no matter what Metallica think. Extinction proves to be a superior third strike by the Melbourne band, it's their most accomplished album yet, this is proper thrash metal how it should be done and in a year of excellent trash albums Harlott have tossed their hat into the ring with a blinder. 9/10

The Franklys: Are You Listening? (Hälta Hälta Records)

Are You Listening? That's what London -based four-piece The Franklys want to know on their full length debut record. They have made it easy though as this record contains 10 tracks of spiky rock n roll delivered with a rebellious take no prisoners attitude. The album rapidly jumps between, pop, garage, punk, and indie rock with touches of funk and classic hard rock thrown in to shake up the noise, it's been built on a solid base of touring where The Franklys thrive their energetic live show receiving rave reviews all around.

The task of trying to distill this live fire onto record is given to Sean Douglas, Jimmy O and Mikey Sorbello of The Graveltones who co-produce the albums with the band themselves, it's a successful snapshot of the four women's live riot, the 10 tracks on this record are built to be played live, they cry out for a sweaty, packed venue where the punters can just go wild. The band is made up of Jennifer Ahlkvist (rhythm guitar/vocals), Fanny Broberg (lead guitar /backing vocals), Zoë Biggs (bass) and Lexi Clark (drums) and they all play their instruments with an unreserved passion blasting out shuddering The Hives-like rockers such as CastawayWeasel and Don't Kill Your Friends (good advice kids). Are You Listening? If you want to hear the future driven by the past then you should be! 7/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Joanovarc (Live Reviews Paul)

Joanovarc, Synteria & The Boom Sons: Fuel, Cardiff

Joanovarc, the Home Counties melodic rockers are being tipped for big things. They have been receiving a lot of exposure on digital radio including Planet Rock so at £5 for a ticket, a Friday night at a Fuel seemed a decent punt.

We missed opening band Flowerpot and arrived as local outfit The Boom Sons (7) were going through their paces. I saw this highly inventive three piece supporting Bigfoot last year and they are a decent outfit, their indie rock touching the right spots.

Main support band Syteria (6) were formed by current Girlschool guitarist Jackie Chambers. With their image very much in the stereotypical 'rock chick' Syteria delivered their routine, throwaway rock over the course of about 40 minutes. The band at least relaxed as their set went on, Chambers unsurprisingly confident from the start. Vocalist Julia appeared more confident when relieved of rhythm guitar duties and the Argentinian's voice become more relaxed as the band hit their stride. It is fair to say that the crowd had picked up slightly with some of the red blooded booze filled males wandering to the front to have a good look. A cover of The Ramones went down well and their songs are okay, just a little average.

Headliners Joanovarc (7) have received many plaudits for their melodic rock and last year's Ride Of Your Life was a very listenable release. Live the band adopts a quite strange image, with DMs and combat trousers mixed with lace bodysuits and some incredible Runaways haircuts. The band roared through a selection of tracks from their debut, including the enjoyable Dragons In The Sky and their breakthrough single Live Rock N Roll. A very enthusiastic reception helped the band increase in momentum with rhythm guitarist Laura Ozhall taking lead vocals for one tune. The band are led by sisters Shelley and Sam Walker and it was Shelley who did most of the talking in between numbers. She's a competent guitarist too whilst Sam proved she could replicate her vocal performance live.

A rather limp cover of Iggy's Wild One coincided with the doors being opened for free admission as the venue suddenly quadrupled in numbers. The final couple of numbers included a clear Reef riff and a ringer for Crosstown Traffic before we made for the door and the cold drizzle of Cardiff on Good Friday. It would be good to see Joanovarc in a different setting as Fuel isn't always the most conducive. A reasonable evening and for the admission price certainly value for money.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Reviews: Kaledon, Warbringer, Screamking (Reviews By Rich)

Kaledon: Carngus-Emperor Of The Darkness (Sleazy Rider)

Kaledon are an Italian power metal band and Carnagus: Emperor Of The Darkness is their ninth full length album. Despite forming in 1998 and having an impressive lengthy discography Kaledon are one of the bands who have slipped under my radar. Better late than never that I have come across this band as Carnagus: Emperor Of The Darkness is a very impressive album indeed. Unlike a lot of European power metal which can be a bit light and fluffy, this album is heavy, hard hitting with some dark undertones which mixed with the traditional epic and bombast of power metal makes for a very refreshing listen.

A wonderfully heavy and crunchy guitar tone really helps some of these riffs just rip and tear out of your speakers and combined with an impressive rhythm section make you want to bang your head and throw the horns especially on songs such as The Beginning Of The Night, The Evil Witch and The Two Bailouts. The vocals are nicely bombastic, dramatic and melodic but also compliment the dark tone of the album. Kaledon have produced one of the finest power metal albums I have heard so far this year and are definitely a band I will be going back and checking out the back catalogue of. 8/10

Warbringer: Woe To The Vanquished (Napalm Records)

After a five year gap retro thrash titans Warbringer return with their fifth album Woe To The Vanquished. I've always thought Warbringer to be one of the best modern thrash bands so this album was eagerly anticipated and long overdue. After the more refined thrash sound on IV: Empires Collapse Warbringer have gone back to a more straight up thrash sound with songs that go straight for the throat such as Remain Violent, Silhouettes, Divinity Of Flesh and the absolutely ripping Shellfire.

The band also bring in a few elements from death metal and black metal such as blastbeats and some tremolo riffing. The only real departure on the album is closing track When The Guns Fell Silent with its very atmospheric sound. Unfortunately at 11 minutes in duration it does outstay its welcome a bit. Warbringer make a very welcome return proving they are still one of the best thrash bands around at the moment. Woe To The Vanquished is a brilliant album though with one track taking up a quarter of the album which doesn't quite work means that the album just misses the mark. 8/10

Screamking: Tyranny Of The Sea (Platinum Dungeon Records)

ScreamKing are a heavy metal band from Indiania in the United States and Tyranny Of The Sea is their second full length album. This album has a sound which is rooted in traditional heavy metal with influences from both power metal and thrash metal. First of all I have to address the elephant in the room with this album and that is the absolutely atrocious vocals of Joe Lawson. They are completely over the top, tuneless and wildly inconsistent.

The only time they actually work is when he reigns his vocals in and restrains himself. The rest of the band put in a commendable performance with some absolutely brilliant riffs throughout. The songwriting is a bit pedestrian at times though songs such as I Am A Viking, Warhorse and the title track are a step above the rest. Tyranny Of The Sea is a disappointing album as it has plenty of potential but is let down by some lacklustre songwriting and a truly abysmal vocal performance. 5/10

Monday, 17 April 2017

Reviews: Richie Kotzen, Liv Sin, Seven Kingdoms, Cromonic

Richie Kotzen: Salting Earth (Headroom Inc)

Richie Kotzen is probably a name you've heard of, he's been playing for long time now, starting out as one of the Shrapnel shredders he played in Poison and Mr Big, more recently he's come back into the public psyche with The Winery Dogs trio along with Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheenan, in between that he has released 21 solo albums that move between rock, blues, funk, jazz and everything in between. I personally discovered him on his 2004 album Get Up which has continued to frequent my record player until this day. I've followed his solo albums off an on since then and I've always found them a bit of a mix bag, so it's once more into the breech for what is Kotzen's 21st solo album.

The mystic influences are writ large on opener End Of Earth and you get that first blast of Kotzen's Cornell-like vocals over the top of the reverbed guitars and layered acoustics before he lights his guitar hero fire at the climax, it's followed by the very 80's sounding Thunder which has a funky riff, some stuttered verses and big chorus where Richie shows his vocal versatility, something that is on display throughout this record. Anyone that is expecting the hard rocking of The Winery Dogs will see another side too Kotzen on this (and all) of his solo albums, here he dips into bluesy explorations on Divine Power, 60's soul on I've Got You and My Rock, modern soul on Cannon Ball and acoustic funk on Grammy. Salting Earth marks another high quality release from Kotzen, there is a mix of styles and an as expected superior performance from Kotzen and it makes for fine listening. 7/10

Liv Sin: Follow Me (Despotz Records)

When Sister Sin called it a day in 2015, frontwoman Liv Sin set about forming a new band to continue her previous metal assault, Follow Me is her debut album with this new eponymous project and just like Sister Sin were known for fist pumping classic metal, this new project is not pop, in fact it ramps up the metal to a degree that wasn't reached in her previous project. Follow Me moves into thrash territory at times with Sin giving the most vicious delivery of her career, this record sonically sounds like Halford's solo projects and the latter Judas Priest, any of the songs on here could have easily been heard on PainkillerRam It Down or Angel Of Retribution. 

Just wrap your lugholes around the The Fall which kicks off this record and the spirit of Priest looms large, Patrick Ankemark giving killer solos over Chris Bertzell, Tommie Winther and Per Bjelovuk's aggressive rhythm section. With heavier songs like HypocriteGodless UtopiaI'm Your Sin, the stomping Immortal Sin which features Schmier from Destruction and the black metal driven Black Souls, the bad really display their metal credentials but they also spread expand their remit with Endless Roads which is slower and more melodic but still carries a metal attitude. Now I never really got on board with Sister Sin but this I really like, it's brimming with attitude, confidence, talent and consists of 100% pure heavy metal from start to finish, impressive. 8/10

Seven Kingdoms: Decennium (Napalm Records)

There seems to be a few female fronted power/trad metal bands releasing albums at the moment Crystal Viper, Mastercastle, Mindmaze and also American mob Seven Kingdoms who are an odd mix of blisteringly fast riffage, classic metal chants and vocals normally found in the folk metal realm, almost a female fronted Blind Guardian. Weirdly it fits together but in any other context this wouldn't work Sabrina's vocals are good and sit in the higher register which may serve as a negative aspect but the musical backing is so dense that you can't help but bang your head. As many of you will know Blind Guardian take a lot of inspiration from J R R Tolkien well Seven Kingdoms equally deal with the literary works of George R R Martin and his Songs Of Ice And Fire books, or Game Of Thrones to anyone that doesn't know. The band's lyrical concepts and even their name comes from those novels and it's perfect subject matter, as this album progressed I found myself warning to the vocals and with every song trying to recognise the characters, plotlines etc became part of the fun. Get this album if you love Blind Guardian, power metal and/or Game Of Thrones, the chances are if love one you'll love the others, then I guarantee you'll love Seven Kingdoms. 7/10

Cromonic: Time (Cromonic Music)

Swedish power metal that has touches of Stratovarius the vocals are the major reason for this comparison, singer Pasi has the high pitched range of Timo Kopitelo. Time is probably a slightly ironic title as they seem have taken a lot of it to release this album having first released a demo in 2005, it's in 2017 that they finally have delivered their debut. As I've said Stratovarius is the overarching musical similarity and on Tale Of Pain the neo-classical guitars sit well with the orchestrations and hooky chorus for a song that has all the Stratovarius traits. Cromonic do add their own flourishes to what is an established sound meaning they avoid tribute act territory and at 9 a song the record doesn't outstay it's welcome, the one thing I would say is that Pasi's lower register is much more palatable than his screechy highs meaning by the end of the 9 tracks only professional power metalheads will be reaching for the repeat button. Time is an adequate record it's not waste but the band will need some refining if they want to stand the test of it. 7/10