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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Reviews: Wearing Scars, One Machine, Krysthla

Wearing Scars: A Thousand Words (Candyman)

Bands come and bands go but some burn very brightly and then just disappear without warning. Mutiny Within and Sacred Mother Tongue are two such instances, Mutiny Within's first album was released on Roadrunner Records and the band were tipped for big things mainly due to their mix of classic and modern metal coupled with British born singer Chris Clancy's superb vocals and wide range, similarly Sacred Mother Tongue found huge fame in Asia but never reached as lofty heights in the UK until the release of their second album. However both bands were victims of the system and disbanded Mutiny Within in 2011 and SMT in 2013 (shortly after the release of their sophomore album). This was very disappointing for me as I was a massive fan of both bands so when these splits left Clancy without and band and SMT without a singer. Cue a meeting of Clancy and SMT's guitar virtuoso Andy James and the beginnings of some song writing. This eventually led to the formation of Wearing Scars, an apt name due to the pairs torrid history with the music industry. Clancy and Andy James rounded up the SMT rhythm section of bassist Craig Daws and drummer Lee Newell as well as being joined by guitarist Daniel Woodyear, with the band now in place they set about recording their debut album.

A Thousand Words is that debut and it naturally is a mix between Sacred Mother Tongue and Mutiny Within, as the first track Become Numb starts out with James and Woodyear's guitars parrying before the super modern groove laden rhythms that SMT did so well kick you in the guts and bounce the song along as the chorus brings a more classic metal base and melodic anthemic choruses of Mutiny Within, James as always is on fire his guitar playing in places melts your mind with his fleet fingered solos and technical guitar licks although new boy Woodyear holds his own supplying six string magic to proceedings, the album is full of muscle mainly coming from the muscular rhythm section who drive tracks like the propulsive I Could Never SayA Last Goodbye and Letters. However they are not adversed to a slower moment especially the over-wrought Heart In Your Hands which is a display of Chris Clancy's amazing vocals not reaching the the soaring ear piercing highs he did in Mutiny Within but he doesn't need to as his vocals now are more mature and equally as powerful relying more on the passionate delivery and wide natural vocal range than trying to show off with how high he can go. Heart In Your Hands is a proper ballad (as is Gone Forever and Wearing Scars) but the proceeding song Butterfly is a slower moment but one that echoes the chart bothering modern radio rock of Shinedown with a lighters aloft paen to lost love, this is one of the best tracks on an album that mixes light and shade perfectly meaning that those who love the technical excellence of the band, the heaviness of metallic passages and also huge chorus hooks that they have will all be catered for in spades. A Thousand Words is a superb album that perfectly takes the next logical step for these men, hopefully with this collection of songs they will finally get the recognition they deserve! 9/10 

One Machine: The Final Cull (Scarlet)

One Machine is the brainchild of former Nevermore, Forbidden, Testament and Dragonlord guitarist Steve Smyth, The Final Cull is their second album and it follows hot on the heels of their debut with the same kind of modern sounding thrash metal that the first album did very well. Smyth's former bands were always ones to adapt their sound bringing in elements of death, black and extreme metal as well as heaps of classic metal for good measure, One Machine bring in all these elements and as Forewarning pummels you with a barrage of riffs you instantly get what One Machine are about from the first few seconds, Ne Motive Power too has a riff Dave Mustaine would kill for. However the band are not a one man band by any stretch of the imagination, Smyth has rounded up some seriously talented artists to accompany him. First mention has to go to former Mercenary singer Mikkel Sandager who has an expansive vocal range that encompasses between a guttural roar, a scream and some shrieking highs that Nevermore's Warrell Dane would be proud of.

 Sandager moves between them effortlessly sometimes in the space of one song, like the title track which has the same kind of furious orchestral backed progressive black metal riffs that Smyth was part of in Eric Peterson's side project Dragonloard. Instrument wise Smyth has got Biomechanical six stringer Jamie Hunt as a guitar foil which means that much like Biomechanical the guitars rarely dip in speed of ferocity, both men riff for their lives but in the more progressive passages they can also add a deft touch to the songs, backing them in the engine room is Chaoswave sticks man Raphael Saini who is the one driving the frequent pace changes and the rampaging speed helped by Tomas Koeford's technical bass playing which shines on tracks like Screaming For Light and Born From This Hate. With all the pounding metal on this album it's when the band stretch themselves a bit that they really shine, the introspective Ashes In The Sky which has some shimmering classical guitars and The Grand Design which has an Eastern flavour. Yet another modern progressive thrash album from Smyth and One Machine, if you know of his other work then this will be an album to check out, preferably loudly. 8/10           
Krysthla: A War Of Souls And Desires (PHD)

Violence now from Northamptonshire with Krysthla who were formed from the ashes of Gutworm and Deadeye, they play skull smashing heavy metal in the vein of American metal titans Lamb Of God with rapid guitar riffs supplied by Noel and Neil that rip and tear at you like a set of knives while the drums of Wayne fire like a chaingun battering you at every possible moment see Caged Earth for a true almost black metal style of furious percussion. The band are extreme metal at it's most extreme, not a clean vocal in sight as Adi screams, growls and roars on every track rallying the metal troops to his cause on tracks like Minority Of One, The Human Cipher and Praise Thee In Flesh as the band cause a cacophony of noise behind him. Carl's bass playing adds the groove to tracks like Luminosity and By Way Of Deception allowing the tracks and indeed the listener to catch their breath before the next barrage.

I mentioned Lamb Of God as being the most familar band to Krysthla stylistcally but this is not the modern era LOG these Brits focus on and deliver the same kind of violence and aggression that Randy and Co did in their Burn The Priest years, it's raw, primal and beats you around the head at every turn with the 8 tracks of extreme metal battery. Because of it's almost abusive nature the album it maybe in parts a little too much for most fair-weather metal fans, however if you are part of the hardcore that like their riffs coming in spades, their drums in-suppressible, the bass rumbling your bowels and the vocals snarling and barking at you at every opportunity then A War Of Souls And Desires may just be your new favourite album. It is an album of metal at it's most extreme that demands you get in the pit and destroy everything in your path!! 8/10    

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The View From The Top Of The Mountain: Steelhouse 2015 (Review By Paul)

Steelhouse Festival 2015 – Hafod y Dawal Farm, Ebbw Vale

Now in its fifth year, the Welsh International Classic Rock Festival as it is badged is going from strength to strength. With the support of Planet Rock, (along with the South Wales Argus and Peter’s Pies!), the festival has attracted high quality rock acts from the start and in the last three years has had quality headliners such as MSG, Saxon, Europe and Black Star Riders. Although the Sunday of 2015’s bill didn’t really appeal, (Dee Snider minus the rest of Twisted Sister?) the Saturday line up had sufficient to attract Matt and I for a day ticket at the very reasonable price of £50.

Having camped at the festival two years ago we knew how quickly the weather can change on the top of the mountain. It can be sunny one minute followed by merciless torrential rain the next. Such is Wales in the summer time. Luckily we arrived the morning after a horrendous night of rain to find the sun bursting through and punters in good spirits. The stewards at Steelhouse could certainly teach those miserable fucks at Download a thing or two; friendly greetings all round, bales of hay laid to soak up the huge mud puddles in the car park and a general feel good vibe. The food prices very reasonable, the choice is decent and let’s talk about the beer for a second. Now, many of you will know that we loves our real ale here at the Musipedia, and at Steelhouse you get the extra option of the fine locally brewed ale from the Tudor Brewery, a mere two miles away. The options were plentiful, with Skirrid, Sugar Loaf, Tudor IPA, the specially brewed Mountain Rock and the intriguing and surprisingly tasty Blitz, a pomegranate and sherbet fruity ale. Offering three tokens for £10, each token securing you a pint, this was just perfect and during the day we managed to comfortably work our way along the bar. The usual selection of merchandise stalls flanked the left side of the arena, and provided us with the opportunity to browse CDs and patches throughout the day.

Kicking off the music was Florence Black (6). A three piece from Merthyr, FB played a decent opening set with some catchy if generic rock tunes. Tristan, Jordan and Perry gave a good account of themselves and got the slowly filling field into the mood. A decent sound helped and with the wind having dropped FB’s music probably drew a few more from the camp site.

Next up were Massive Wagons (6). Now, we saw these guys at Hard Rock Hell in Pwllheli last November and whilst they received a huge reaction, we were unable to fathom out why. So, in the interests of fairness, we gave them another go. An unfortunate start saw Baz Mills microphone cut out, unbeknown to him to start with, whilst the band kicked into their opening number. Once the technical difficulties had been sorted, Massive Wagons got into their stride and once again completely passed me by. They are energetic and watchable but make no impact whatsoever. Maybe it’s just me; Massive Wagons seem to be one of the bands destined to be on the Hard Rock Hell/Steelhouse circuit for some time and they clearly appeal, getting a healthy response from the crowd.

Planet Rock’s Darren Redick made an appearance on stage to introduce the powerhouse duo of Henry’s Funeral Shoe (8). Brothers Aled (vocals and guitar) and Brennig (drums) kick up a real storm with a set full of rhythm and blues. Delivering tracks from their two albums, Henry’s Funeral Shoe have the classic delivery of The White Stripes, and as well as making a ferocious noise for a two piece, they also have Aled’s typically South Walian deadpan delivery. Making several references to the number of kids he had (“well, look at me” he jibbed) Aled also extolled the virtues of touring during the school holidays (to avoid the kids and the missus). Another well received set from a band well known in the South Wales circuits, but also a band who have received real acclaim and credibility from their hard work and touring. Well worth checking out.

Two years ago it is fair to say that Northern Ireland’s Trucker Diablo (8) were one of the stars of the weekend. With their aggressive hard rock and some quality tunes from The Devil Rhythm and Songs Of Iron, the big truck was definitely rolling. Since then, the band has had a bit of turmoil, with the band going on hiatus, then returning with a pledge album and a change in the line-up. The release of their third album Rise Above The Noise has clearly galvanised the guys back into action and they took the stage to a huge ovation. Although some of the new stuff has moved the band dangerously close to the province’s own Black Stone Cherry (complete with Tom Harte's stage look mirroring that of Chris Robertson), the big truck still know how to deliver the ideal beer drinking tunes and older tracks such as Drink Beer, Destroy, Juggernaut and The Rebel ensured that the band provided another Steelhouse highlight.

Cambridge rockers The Treatment (9) then increased the temperature within the arena by a few degrees with a storming set which oozed class and confidence. Having seen the band a few times before, the band are really improving every time New singer Mitchell Emms fitted in perfectly and demonstrated a fine pair of pipes whilst delivering a quality frontman performance, sharp, confident without a hint of arrogance and really engaging with crowd. Alongside new guitarist Tao Grey also fitted in seamlessly alongside Tagore Grey, energetic Mohawked bassist Rick Newman and drummer Dhani Mansworth. In a cracking set crammed full of punk edged rock, the Treatment generated a very positive response and their aggressive approach paid off and the very apt Shake The Mountain was a very apt and enthusiastically received set closer.

After all of these youthful energetic bands, it was time for some real old school with Scottish rockers Nazareth (7). Having been in the business for over 40 years and a back catalogue of hits longer than your arm, I'm ashamed to say that I’d never got around to seeing them. Only bassist Pete Agnew remains from the original line-up, with the sand-papered vocals of Dan McCafferty sadly forced into retirement in 2013. However, the core of the band has been solid for a good few years with guitarist Jimmy Murrison a 20 year veteran and drummer Lee Agnew (Pete’s son) on board for a good 15. The latest addition to the line-up is vocalist Carl Sentence, yes, mouthpiece of South Walian NWOBHM outfit Persian Risk amongst others. Carl is a great frontman and despite a shaky start to the set with a horribly tinny thin sound which was rectified by actually plugging in Agnew’s bass, he soon put his own take on a range of the Naz’s classic material. Miss Misery and Razamanaz were weak, with the latter suffering from the absence of a second guitar to drive it forward. However, the tempo increased with Bad Bad Boy, This Flight Tonight, Expect No Mercy and a stonking Love Hurts before the set ended with a rather disjointed Morning Dew. Still, it was great to see this band, despite the absence of McCafferty.

If ever there was a band designed for a classic rock festival, it has to be Y&T (9). A massive favourite in Wales (this was their third visit to the principality in a year with another scheduled for late October), the Californian outfit must have wondered where the hell they were when they pulled up in their tour bus. However, Dave Meniketti’s band stormed the stage and provided an hour and a quarter of absolute joy. This was in part because of their decision to play all of 1982’s classic Black Tiger, which contains some of their best works. Indeed, Black Tiger has some of the meatiest riffs ever committed to record, with the title track, Mean Streak and Open Fire all cutting across the sky. It also contains the appalling lyrics of Bar Room Boogie, the ballad Winds Of Change and of course, Don’t Want To Lose You. Meniketti is in fine form for a man of 61, with his voice holding up brilliantly and his fretwork absolutely blistering. The man can rock out with the best but also has a tender side with some delicate work on the slower, bluesier tracks. He is the only original member of the line-up, and is ably supported by guitarist John Nymann (earlier witnessed wandering around the arena talking comfortably with the legions of Y&T shirted fans), Mike Vanderhule on drums and Brad Lang on bass. Y&T closed with the barnstorming Forever, which incited much shaking of heads and boogieing across the field.

As the sun started to set, it was time for the headliners. As I've stated before, I absolutely love UFO, and Phil Mogg and co. delivered another quality set. Opening with We Belong To The Night, the band tore up the field with their hard edged rock and a superbly paced set which contained a mix of classic tracks interspersed with tracks from their recent releases. Fight Night, Run Boy Run and a blistering Lights Out followed, with Vinnie Moore proving once more what an exceptional guitarist he is. Throughout the set Mogg engaged the crowd with some rambling chat, a combination of classic uncle and East End gangster. Amongst the other tracks delivered was Cherry, Burn Your House Down and Venus. Ably supported by the ever reliable Andy Parker, keyboard and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond (again hugely underrated in my book) and bassist Rob De Luca, UFO (10) were tight, focused and thoroughly captivating. As the set sped to its conclusion, Moore once again took centre stage to deliver that solo in Rock Bottom which was received with a massive ovation. Closing with Doctor Doctor and a battering version of Shoot Shoot, UFO once again demonstrated why they deserve the title of legends.

An excellent day out and great value for money. Now Steelhouse, get Motorhead to headline next year please? That would really blow the roof off!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Reviews: Symphony X (Monster Review)

Symphony X: Underworld (Nuclear Blast)

American progressive metal legends Symphony X are finally back, they are a band that release albums with such infrequency that every release is a bit of an event. Their last album Iconoclast was a double disc record that was very heavy, both musically and conceptually meaning that many were put off by the albums thrashier tone and frontman Russell Allen's reliance on his gruffer lower register than his soaring highs. On Underworld the band have defityl looked back to move forward, the cover alone harks back to their debut album with the two masquerade masks featuring prominently along with images linked to the nine circles of Hell mentioned in Dante's Inferno; which is the overriding theme of this album. Notice I said theme not concept as this album is not a concept album but it does deal with the literary concepts that Symphony X have always done so well on previous albums (Divine Wings Of Tragedy, The Odyssey, Paradise Lost).

Now with all this taking into consideration, it's time to focus on the music, this is where Symphony X have always made their name, with the band made up of virtuosos the music is always the bands major force. Happily as the intro Overture starts things off we get the choral chants, swelling orchestrations and cinematic themes before mainman Michael Romeo's guitars take things forward before is crescendos at the end and Jason Rullo's drums kick in with ferocity for the opening of Nevermore, as Romeo's guitars spar with Michael Lepond's bass to bring the riffage which allows Romeo to throw in licks and flairs, showing off his prowess by adding some tapping and firing up and down the fretboard throughout the songs five minute duration. This is something very noticeable on this album the songs are concise, not outstaying their welcome with long drawn out passages but filled to the brim with time changes, melody shifts and intensely technical prowess. This is a very guitar heavy album Romeo takes centre stage showing off his talent for both riffs and also for his impressive solos that will have guitar fans exploding with glee. However keyboardist Michael (yes another one) Pinnella supply's plenty of melodies and synth runs on the album but he fleshes out the sound adding a more ethereal, vivid, symphonic and electronic aspects, especially on the title track which also shows off Russell Allen's phenomenal vocals where he moves between his towering highs and some guttural lows meaning he is bound to please everyone, his vocals are highlighted more on the melancholic, emotive Without You which has some great classical guitar playing from Romeo and wouldn't sound out of place on their album Paradise Lost (one of my personal favourites).

Without You gives way to on of the albums faster tracks Kiss Of Fire which is just that all blaze and bluster tearing along at pace allowing Lepond to add bass fills in the gaps while Rullo quickens the pace and lets the song move and twist. Charon is a striding metal track with a big riff and the lyrical content based upon Dante's Inferno with Charon relating to the ferryman to Hades (history lesson folks), this lyrical theme continues on the To Hell And Back which is the albums longest track at just over 9 minutes, it is also one of the albums best with some huge choruses, changing time signatures, a face melting guitar solo from Romeo and a marvellous keyboard solo from Pinella (Don't worry folks Lepond gets a bass solo on the albums final track), in fact To Hell And Back sounds like classic Symphony X the guitar keyboard interplay is spot on and once again Russell Allen shows why he is one of the best singers in the business. In My Darkest Hour is introspective with massive chorus that Russell belts, the melodic vocals and a sing along choruses continue on Run With The Devil which is one of the albums fastest but also most progressive tracks with yet another keyboard/guitar duel, in fact as the album moves towards its conclusion Pinella's contribution increases tenfold especially his mournful piano on the epic, heart wrenching ballad Swan Song before everything comes to a close with the surprisingly sprightly Legend which ends the album with style with it's neo-classical glory and chanting outro. This is the best album Symphony X have produced in a very long time, brimming with fantastic musicianship, intricate song writing and powerful performances, no matter where you came on to the Symphony X train this is an album you should buy as it takes all of their calling cards and creates real magic. 10/10             

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Reviews: The V, Enertia, City Of Thieves

The V (Veronica Freeman): Now Or Never (Frontiers)

Veronica Freeman will be familiar to many who know a thing or two about the metal scene, the voluptuous Amazonian queen of scream has fronted American metal act Benedictum for a good for years now so if you have listened to the band then you will be familiar with her powerful vocals that will blow your speakers when she lets rip. However on this her debut solo album she moves away from the all out metal attack of her day job moving more into the hard rock sphere, this may be due to her recent collaboration with Stryper's Michael Sweet, this meeting of minds continues on this record with Sweet producing two tracks and writing others on this album as well as contributing guitar. In fact The V has acquired a huge line up of guests on this album with the most notable being Jeff Pilson (Dokken) and Michael LePond (Symphony X), Aric Avina (Benedictum) supplying bass, Jim Durkin (Dark Angel), Mick Tucker (Tank) and Benedictum's Pete Wells slinging the six strings.

There is only one drummer in the shape of Unearth's Derek Kerswill behind the kit but there are a couple of vocal foils for Ms Freeman to challenge with Chastain's Leather Leone on Kiss My Lips and former Sabbath man Tony Martin on the excellent last track the epic ballad (the albums only) King For A Day. The tracks on this album are very good, the title track is filled with swaggering riffs and backing horns and sees Freeman really letting loose, before Rollercoaster has the dirty sleaze of the 80's sunset strip and L.O.V.E borders on AOR with it's speedy melodic guitar licks. In fact much of this album is deep in the 80's vibe with Pat Benatar and Joan Jett both coming to mind as you listen to tracks like Line In The Sand, Love Should Be To Blame and Below Zero. With an album full of great songs that moves between melodic hard rock, to bluesy rock tracks while having a pinch of metal too. They really let you see how good Veronica's vocals are (and also you can see where a lot of In This Moments Maria Brink influences comes from). Now Or Never is a strong solo album from a metal legend, The V is definitely one of a kind and this album is proof! 8/10  

Enertia: Piece Of The Factory (Divebomb Records)

Enertia call themselves 'Pure American Metal' and it is hard to argue as they are indeed American, hailing from the Empire State and they do play pure classic metal in the vein of Iced Earth, Manilla Road, Armored Saint, Queensryche and have been doing so since 1996. Funding most of their career themselves the band have kept a constant line up since their inception and they have plied their trade as a D.I.Y style band for years all of which has culminated in Piece Of The Factory their fifth studio album released through Divebomb records (who also released Eradikator's most recent effort). Musically the band have a strong showing honed over years this four piece are all consummate musicians and virtuoso players, from the opening blast of Do It Again which is driven by Jeff Dahley's huge drums sound before Roman Singleton's guitars slice through the beginning of Demons Of Silence.

The pace stays high through the tracks that follow with the anthemic The Hardest Sorrow having the same kind of lyrical sentiment but crunchy instrumentals as Symphony X. The title track starts out with percussion and turns into a thrash attack that allows Singleton's guitars and Joe Paciolla's bass can provide the huge riffs and groove, now I've talked a lot about the instrumentation which is great but the band also have one heck of a vocalist in Scott Featherstone he has a great voice that handles this metal really well with his gritty vocal style and booming delivery that would equally suit power metal bands and more groove based bands like Pantera. Enertia have produced another competent effort with great songwriting and precision performances, Enertia need more recognition than they have and hopefully with Piece Of The Factory they will get recognised on these shores. 8/10     

City Of Thieves: Incinerator EP

Another British rock band comes bursting out of the gates full of vim and vigour with big riffs, swaggering basslines and snarling vocals, City Of Thieves have a pedigree that betrays their years, much of this is due to their great songwriting, professional playing and the excellent production from Toby Jepson (who is rapidly becoming the go-to guy for up and coming rock bands when they want to create magic) This EP has four huge tracks driven by the monstrous riffs of Ben Auswick and Adam Wardle who show their mettle on Lay Me To Waste which does just that, they are backed by the big beats of Will Richards drums and Jamie Lailey's thumping bass and scarred, attitude fuelled vocals which are at their best on the razor sharp Buzzed Up City which has a riff Angus will probably find a little familiar. As with all young bands they have influences to draw on with AC/DC and Aerosmith being the two biggest but like all good bands they add enough of their own style to stop them becoming a pastiche and they show their blooze prowess on the final track which is an acoustic 'live' version of Mr 50/50. Yet another serious rock and roll band from our hallowed ground and with a strong EP the debut album bodes well! 7/10  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Reviews: George Lynch, Nuclear Assault, Orchid (Reviews By Paul)

George Lynch: Shadow Train (Rat Pak Records)

Let’s make this statement right at the start. George Lynch is one hell of a guitarist. One of the main hard rock guitarists in the 1980s with Dokken and his own band, Lynch Mob, he is a prolific recording artist with a huge back catalogue. Shadow Train is a whopping 18 track double CD and features the vocal talents of Gregg Analla, Gabe Rosales on bass, Donnie Dickman on keyboards and drummer Jimmy D’Anda. It’s a real eclectic mix, with some all-out rockers, opener Vulture being a great example, and a variety of styles reminiscent of a range of hard rock; bits of the Deftones, Alice In Chains and Audioslave immediately apparent. Lynch’s guitar work has always been excellent, the man was voted in the top 50 all-time guitarists by Guitar World not so long ago and he hasn't eased up with some blistering soloing as well as more delicate and intricate work.

Shadow Train contains a number of themes. These include the anti-religion rage during the brooding Ghost, which contains Analla rapping away and a number of pro- Native American Indian tracks including White Clay and Sioux Wake Up, which segue with Lynch’s forthcoming Shadow Nation documentary about the tribulations they face in the USA today. Fight No More demonstrates a more subtle edge to Lynch’s song writing with acoustic guitar work and more anti-authority lyrics. Shadow Train is littered with decent songs; the only problem I have is the absolute monster length of the album. It just becomes a little wearing and by the time album closer World On Fire kicks out the jams for a final time I was ready for a lie down. If you like a massive slab of generic hard rock, Shadow Train is definitely worth a listen. 7/10

Nuclear Assault: Pounder EP (Dry Heave Records)

A fresh release from 1980s thrash outfit Nuclear Assault described bluntly as “four killer old-school thrash songs”, this EP contains all the groove and hooks of the 1980s thrash scene but is badly let down by the dreadful production. Analog Man is possibly the pick of the tunes, furious drumming, shredding guitar work, Anthrax style hook (unsurprising even after all these years with Dan Lilker remaining a main man) and John Connelly’s trademark vocal delivery. This isn’t going to match the iconic early works on Survive and Handle With Care but will add to the mix in the pit and shows that there is life left in the old dog yet. 6/10

Orchid: Sign Of The Witch EP (Nuclear Blast)

Whilst Nuclear Assault is firmly embedded in the 1980s, San Francisco doom merchants Orchid are truly cemented in 1970. Sign Of The Witch is a four track EP which once again highlights that whilst Tony Iommi wrote all of metal’s great riffs, he clearly lent them out to Orchid whose monster riffage sits comfortably in the Black Sabbath/Paranoid album era. John The Tiger is probably the pick of the tracks in the Fairies Wear Boots style. Theo Mindell’s vocals are the perfect foil for the crashing rhythm of Keith Nickel and Carter Kennedy’s drumming whilst Mark Thomas Baker’s fretwork effortlessly transports you to the Black Country of 45 years ago. Amazingly fresh and vital despite the clear step back in time, Sign Of The Witch is a tasty slab which any Sabbath fan will love. 8/10

Monday, 20 July 2015

Reviews: We Are Harlot, The Protomen, Eradikator

We Are Harlot: We Are Harlot (Roadrunner)

A lot has been made of We Are Harlot in the mainstream rock press, they are hailed as being one of the bands proudly flying the flag for the next generation of rock along with Halestorm, Black Stone Cherry et al. With so many harking back to different eras and drawing from the past, We Are Harlot are no exception having the imagery and indeed the lyrics of the Sunset Strip's premier sleaze and party merchants like Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and Skid Row, the latter being all the more prevalent when you realise founding guitarist Jeff George played in Sebastian Bach's solo band before forming this group. However setting the music aside for a bit; much has been made of this band's singer Danny Worsnopp who made his name with modern metalcore kids Asking Alexandria, Worsnopp lasted three albums with the band before finally setting sail to pastures; new following his love of classic hard rock and setting up We Are Harlot who are sonically different to Asking Alexandria in nearly all respects.

So what of this new hard rock sound then? Does it work? Well as Dancing On Nails hammers out of the gates all big riffs, honky tonk piano and sexually charged vocals you are kicked in the teeth by a rocker that would sit comfortably on Aerosmith's Permanent Vacation, the major thing that strikes you too is Worsnopp's vocals which are whiskey soaked with hardcore rasp (Never Turn Back and Flying Too Close To The Sun) but on the more melodic tracks like Someday they keen longingly like Brent Smith from Shinedown, yet another band who We Are Harlot echo musically albeit with more of a bar fight atmosphere and the sordid lick of lust that the Toxic Twins have always given rock music, Worsnopp has said that this album "is basically about sex!" and that is clear to see on DLT (Dirty Little Thing) and Love For The Night, in fact nearly all of the songs speak of carnal knowledge (whether unlawful or not remains to be seen) with Worsnopp having the right amount of grit to melody to make you feel he knows what he's talking about.

However he is not the only member of this band as Brian Weaver's bass and Bruno Agra's drums give the songs a fat, juicy rhythm section allowing Jeff George's guitar to riff like hell and give brief flashes of solo brilliance that explode from the songs like fireworks, see One More Night. With this short blast of hard rock fury (the album clocks in at just under 40 minutes) you can see why We Are Harlot are seen as being one of the torch-bearers of the modern rock age, they draw from their influences but they add enough of their own influence to make them sound fresh, modern and yes even vital, if you love the modern American radio rock bands like Shinedown, Halestorm, Hinder yet still hanker for a bit of Jack Daniels fuelled gutter rock then We Are Harlot will be guaranteed to get your party started with this frisky debut, album number two may just be take them to the top of the pile. 9/10        

The Protomen: Cover Up (Sound Machine)

In the music industry today it is very difficult to be truly mysterious, a quick Google search can easily give you the identities of Slipknot, GWAR, Ghost and Lordi however The Protomen are truly mysterious very little is known about the band other than they create concept albums based around the Mega Man videogame franchise and that they take their names from various films and media and all linked to androids. The Tennessee natives have been making music since around 2005, although they usually deal with concepts they also litter their live sets with 70's and 80's covers; they have now compiled an album made up of songs that follow their preferred themes of struggle, heroism and self determination with an 80's style action movie drama happening between the parts which pitches man verses robot. So with all this taken in this to account, how does the album sound? Well bloody terrific if I'm honest with some fantastic covers making it almost a jukebox of great late 70's and 80's hits, first off you get Because The Night which is performed with the same level female tenacity as Ms Smith by The Protomen's sole female member The Gambler who duets with lead vocalist Raul Panther III on the perfect opening track before you get the one two punch of Princes Of The Universe (Queen) and Mr Roboto (Styx) which is a synth filled perfect fit for a band that features a member called K.I.L.R.O.Y, to really draw you into this mad idea for an album.

The first part of the story is wrapped up with Robert Tepper's No Way Out. So far so good, the musicianship is amazing fuelled by keys and synths from Commander B. Hawkins, Jr, the aforementioned The Gambler, Raul Panther III and Murphy Weller who is the bottom end of the band with his bass and bass synths, they are aided and abetted by Reanimator's sterling drum work, which is at it's best on In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins) as well as the searing lead guitars of Sir. Dr. Robert Bakker and Shock Magnum, see their rousing version of The Trooper for evidence that they can play like the best metallers. This album plays like a compilation of great songs, albeit with someone else playing them, this is bolstered by the songs not really changing much from the originals just with little additions here and there; Roy Orbison's I Drove All Night gets a harder edge, while The Gambler gives a good account of herself on Total Eclipse Of The Heart having a sweeter but equally as powerful voice as Ms Tyler. For those brought up on this music or indeed those who love a bit of retro this album will be played repeatedly, so a score? Well can you score a covers album? The songs are not new but the finale of Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins) and the piano-led solemn rendition of Mike And The Mechanics' Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) is enough to warrant high praise indeed, if you want to know what The Protomen sound like then get this album (on vinyl or cassette only) and then try their own stuff I'm sure you will be impressed. 9/10 

Eradikator: Edge Of Humanity (Self Released)

Birmingham's Eradikator (not be associated with the German thrashers Eradicator who Paul reviewed earlier this year) are a thrash metal band set deep in the American thrash style of Megadeth, Testament and Metallica with the youthful exuberance of Brits like Shrapnel, Incinery and most notably Evile a band who they are very similar to  musically and vocally with Pat Cox's drawling shout sounding like a mix between Matt Drake and James Hetfield. This is proper thrash that relies on furious riffs from guitarists Liam and Andy who parry and duel with each other throughout providing the riffs and solos the heavier tracks like Season's Of Rage as well as the slower more introspective tracks like Fortress Unknown and which features some soaring guitar melodies, as does the instrumental Karios Passing which yet again is a testament to the guitar prowess. Backing the superb guitar work is a barrage of drums from Jon who provides a blitzkrieg on the thrashier tracks like The Great Deception, Mesmerised but also providing intricate percussion on the slower tracks.

Eradikator have really stepped up their game again on this second album honing their skills and producing some seriously good metal music that manages to merge aggressive vocals, thrash riffage with, and this is the most important factor, a heap of melodies and huge hooks that get you chanting along on tracks. Songs like the title track which could have come off The Black Album with it's changing time signatures and anthemic middle section that you can see commanding the arena, this is definitely the bands step up with everything improved, musically and sonically, drafting in veteran metal producer Russ Russell to give them a booming sound for their metal attack. Eradikator is the is the latest in the new wave of British thrash metal that pick up the gauntlet laid down by Evile and run with it destroying everything in their path. 9/10

Friday, 17 July 2015

Reviews: Maya, Naxatras, Lethal Dose

Maya: The Prophecy Is Broken (Underground Symphony)

There is a a band called Royal Hunt who hail from Denmark and they play progressive/symphonic/melodic metal, now they are somewhat of a cult act in the power metal scene having the superb vocals of D.C Cooper and Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen's vocalist), now I personally love Royal Hunt (as does Mr Hewitt) and think that they are a little underrated in their genre. Now why am I on about Royal Hunt when talking about Italian's Maya, you ask? Well Maya sound a lot like the Danes with galloping synth driven melodic metal with huge hooks, great riffs and huge synths from Daniele Chierichetti, the synth based sound is due to their collaboration super producer and keyboardist extraordinare Alessandro Del Vecchio, who is known for the lashings of keyboard riffs over the solid rhythm section and melodic rocking guitars, Maya have all this especially on the title track which powers along like, yes, Royal Hunt, however with all of the harder edged songs they do have, it's the keen ear for melody that makes the band, melding both aspects of their sound perfectly to produce some slick powerful symphonic metal. Like most melodic metal bands they are not adversed to slowing things down on Fight, Spirit the epic The Chosen Ones yet still retaining the powerful metallic backing, but they also excel on the speedier tracks like StrangersThe Day After and Treasure World. Yes Maya do sound an awful lot like Royal Hunt but this is no bad thing as they have created an album that sparkles with the same kind of musicality and passion as Brits Neonfly, Maya have set the bar high with this album. 8/10
Naxatras: Naxatras (Self Released)

Warning! You will need some mind altering substances to fully get the benefit of this album, the 10 minute plus I Am The Beyonder starts this album with swirling psychedelia, fat sunshine grooves and jazz-influenced blissed out music. Naxatras are from Thessaloniki in Greece and they are a D.I.Y band that play on all analogue equipment that give them a late 70's hue with huge fat bass and haunted echoed vocals from John Vagenas, jazz fuelled drums Kostas Harizanis who seems to be playing a completely different song on tracks like The Sun Is Burning which also shows off the mind-expanding guitars John Delias which also shine on Shiva's Dance that is the kind of song you would have in a Shisha bar. The band show their doom chops on Downer with the sounds of Sabbath shooting through it, apparently all of the music on this album was recorded in one day and that shows this bands chops as this album is performed like it was crafted over a long time, with rarely a missed beat and songs that take you on a dreamlike journey into your own mind, Waves washes over you like prime period Santana (before the guest vocalists), The West is all whimsicality and psychedelic madness. Naxatras have some serious guitar chops, thundering percussion and voodoo basslines with shamanistic vocals and if you are ready to squeegee your third eye (as Mr Hicks would say) then these mystical Greeks are ready to welcome you to their world. 8/10

Lethal Dose: The Clan Of Lethal Skulls (Self Released)

Lethal Dose hail from the metal heartland of Brazil and they play as you would expect, fist pounding traditional metal forged by the metal gods. With searing riffs, thunderous drums, rumbling bass and screaming vocals this is the sort of metal Priest have always made their name playing, it's all leather and studs throughout with the odd flash of American glam metal on Hard To Swallow and Fanatical Killer. The shredding guitars come from Arthur Faria and Daniel Lamego who play well supplying the fast riffs and fleet fingered solos with Lamego also providing the Tim Ripper Owens' style vocals especially on Vengeance In Trains. His vocals soar on top of the riff filled guitars and thumping rhythm section of Dower Lopez and Bernardo Blumrich. This is a neat little debut EP from the Brazilian band filled with obvious nods to their influences but with the band also lending their own style to the songs, with the traditional metal scene still in fine fettle I'd be surprised if Lethal Dose can't make an impact. 7/10