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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Geoff Tate's Operation Mindcrime (Review By Nick)

Geoff Tate: Operation Mindcrime 30th Anniversary Tour, Muni Arts Centre Pontypridd

Thirty years ago one of the best progressive rock/metal bands of our time, Queensryche, produced what has since hailed to be one of the greatest concept albums of its decade; Operation: Mindcrime. Unfortunately due to the now well known collapse of the original band the album could not be celebrated the way it truly deserved, however this was not going to stop original lead singer and co writer of the masterpiece Geoff Tate give it a damn good go. Setting out of a solo world tour treating the flocking crowds to a complete live play through of the album with a few other hits thrown in for good measure.... if Geoff's voice was still up to par, this had one hell of a night written all over it.

For those who are unfamiliar with the album a brief explanation of the concept behind the album is: Recovering heroin addict is taken in by an evil Dr (Not Dr Evil). Dr X proceeds to control said addict by controlling his access to the drug he craves so much and brainwashes him to carry out his devious political deeds and assassinations as part of his revolutionary group. Meanwhile, the addict falls for a nun who is part of the group and starts to realise again what he has been made to do and the hold the drugs have over him, so sets about fighting back, sadly losing his new found love to the Dr in the process... freaky yet emotional right?!  Arriving fairly early we picked up our tickets and headed to the pub for a pint and a bit of food as the supports didn't really interest us too much, having seen one of them before and the other being Tate's daughters band. After all, tonight is all about one of the greatest voices in music and the masterpiece of an album we came to celebrate.

Entering the Muni Arts Centre, a converted church we found a rammed sold out venue of all ages predominantly supporting Queensryche merch, all waiting for the main event to start. We discovered a good spot towards the back by the sound man, stood back and watched as Geoff Tate's very young band entered the stage, soon followed by the man himself to rapturous applause. Looking fly as ever Tate was supporting his now signature trilby hat with waistcoat and tie... not bad for a 58 year old! Without delay the band cracked on with delivering Operation: Mindcrime in full. With a few technical issues to begin, however the band cracked on, once Geoff's mic and the lead guitar were fixed the room was delighted to hear the Tate's voice had not lost a note over the years, and was able to hit every note in his typical passionate style. Pulling and contorting his face every which way to hit the notes and express the true nature of the lyrics. Revolution Calling was the first real test to which he passed with flying colours, this was Geoff Tate of old and the crowd were loving it. Singing along and breaking out our air guitars at times I watched on really thinking Tate could have easily sat down and the entire crowd would have happily serenaded the entire album ourselves to Tate and his band. 

When given the opportunity by Tate to join in the crowd would happily oblige and lift of the roof singing. Ploughing into Speak, Spreading The Disease and The Mission there was a brief pause as Tate spoke to the crowd highlighting the importance of the album in music and why it needed to be celebrated, while at the same time thanking his ever faithful fans. Next the centrepiece of the album and eleven minute epic Suite Sister Mary was delivered with great emotion and ease by Tate and the band. Although young the band showed they were more than capable of reproducing such a great album in a way it deserved, breaking out seamless solos, deep riffs and thumping drums when needed to highlight the current feeling of the album. The band did themselves and the album great justice throughout. Moving on soon came another anthem from the album; I don't believe in love to which you could hear the crowd sing above 

Tate and his band, looking at Tate during this track you could see the fun he was having still, despite the countless number of times he has no doubt performed these songs. Following the two brief interludes built into the album it was time for the climax of the album and one of my all time favourite Queensryche songs; Eyes Of A Stranger. This would surely be the ultimate test of Tate's voice with the songs signature pitch changes and high crescendo as it ends, although the song had definitely been dropped an octave it was still nailed by Tate who easily transferred from high to low with little effort and didn't drop a note. The crowd again lapping up the performance while singing at the top of their voices it all soon came to an end too soon. Leaving the stage to applause and cheers the crowd demanded more and we were not let down.

Returning to the stage the band and Tate once again expressed their gratitude, with a surprise birthday cake to celebrate Tate's birthday the crowd and band forced a round of happy birthday on him to which he kindly received with some shyness. After this we were treated to a mini three song encore of the mesmerising and heart wrenching Silent Lucidity, Empires and Jet City Woman; all of which were performed with the utmost professionalism and quality we had come to expect from the previous hour and thirty minutes.

When attending a gig like this I always do so with a certain amount of trepidation; will Tate's voice be any good? If so will he be able to do this album justice still? Will the night be a bust? Well the answer to those questions in my head were two resounding yes's and a firm no! Geoff Tate's voice has barely lost a note through the years and is still as silky smooth as ever, as a result we were able to relive Operation: Mindcrime in all its glory once more, in a cracking atmosphere and venue thirty years after it was conceived. To that I say thank you Geoff!... and come back soon! 10/10

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Reviews: Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa, Apparition, White Wizzard, Gleb Kolyadin

Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa: Black Coffee (Provogue/Mascot)

The third collaboration between singer Beth Hart, Joe Bonamassa and Kevin 'Caveman' Shirley sees the modern guitar hero and the vocal powerhouse come back together for an album of covers that come from songs that have been written or covered by Edgar Winter, Ray Charles, Etta James, Steve Marriott, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Lucinda Williams, LaVern Baker. So a record of soul and blues covers from one of the best vocalists in the business and one of the most expressive guitarists around, the record welcomes back Anton Fig (Drums/Percussion), Ron Dziubla (Saxophone), Lee Thornburg (Horn Arrangements/Trumpet/Trombone).

It sees Reese Wynans (Keyboards), Michael Rhodes (Bass), Rob McNelley (Rhythm Guitar), Paulie Cerra (Saxophone), Mahalia Barnes (Backing Vocals), Jade Macrae (Backing Vocals) and Juanita Tippins (Backing vocals), jump in to fill out the ranks, it's who's who of co-conspirators from Joey Bones' past and they make for a formidable force. Opening with the parping brass infused soul of Give It Everything You Got this Edgar Winter song is not what you'd expect from a covers album due to it's lesser known nature. That was the point of this record so Bonamassa says “We’re trying not to dig into a playbook that’s been done many times, which is the old soul classics. We try and find a different spin on it; originally, it was about trying to find some songs that people didn’t know at all and bring them back to people’s attention.” 

Consider it job done as LaVern Baker's Saved has gospel coming through it while Soul On Fire is a completely different beast. They channel Steve Marriott on their version of Black Coffee Hart giving that blues howl all she's got and there is jazz on Damn Your Eyes and Why Don't You Do It? This third record is a collection of under appreciated songs given the slick performance and production you'd expect from those involved, if musical treasure hunting is your thing and you can't resist a reinterpretation then Black Coffee will be your Cup 'O' Joe (and Beth). 8/10

Apparition: The Awakening (Wormholedeath/The Orchard/Aural Musics Group)

Apparition: A remarkable or unexpected appearance of someone or something. This pretty much explains also how I came about this band. I literally knew nothing about this band when their presskit dropped into our in box but thanks to a very impressive detailed biography they have been around the UK scene for 20 years with this record marking their 20th anniversary. It started life as a female vocal project by bassist David Homer and has seen many vocalists and musicians filter through its ranks with only really Homer the main constant, for this album he has retained a relatively steady line up since 2015.

The record features Fiona Creaby behind the mic she also featured on the band’s debut album in 2006 so you could say this is a reunion album. The music is as ghostly as their name, emotive, partly symphonic gothic metal with haunting classical/operatic vocals. Homer and the band; Ashley Guest (drums), Amy Lewis (guitar) and Paul Culley (guitar) are excellent backing for Creaby’s beautiful vocals, the delicate keys and piano highlight the elegance and plight of Home but the dual guitars bring the guts to Break The Chains and the brilliant Dames Of Darkness (monikered after the festival of the same name).

Moving between slower dramatic pieces and outright thumpers The Awakening can be viewed as a validation of why Apparition have lasted so long on the UK metal scene, they are very good at what they do, their mature Gothic metal is refined and classy, with gold standard performances from all involved here’s hoping they retain this line up going forward. 8/10

White Wizzard: Infernal Overdrive (M-Theory)

The history of White Wizzard is somewhat potted, essentially a solo project of bassist/songwriter Jon Leon, members of the band have formed or been involved with Holy Grail, Monument, Huntress, Iced Earth, Witherfall, Will Wallner/Vivian Vain and Omicida. They haven't released an album since 2013 and I for one thought the band was over, however undeterred Leon persevered with two one-man show singles before recruiting guitarist James J LaRue, who appeared on the band's debut EP and the band's most utilised vocalist Wyatt 'Screaming Demon' Anderson who sang on Over The Top and Flying Tigers. Along with new drummer Dylan Marks on the skins Jon Leon has gone right back to the beginning with Infernal Overdrive it's purely traditional NWOBHM styled heavy metal.

Thundering drums power through and the Demon screams starting the record off with the speed metal sound of the diesel fuelled title track, White Wizzard know NWOBHM inside and out and yes you have probably heard these sounds before but who cares WW do it with such deference that it's hard to find fault, from the galloping Storm The Shores which has Jon Leon pumping out bass licks like Steve Harris, there is an instrumental called Chasing Dragons, while The Illusions Tears and Critical Mass brings the progressive noise that came in on Flying Tigers. Infernal Overdrive is a welcome return for White Wizzard they are one of the catalyst bands for the NWOTHM that came about 10 years ago and again they show that they are a vital part of the scene. 8/10

Gleb Kolyadin: Self Titled (KScope)

Gleb Kolyadin will probably ring a few bells for those of you who are up on their KScope bands, he's the piano virtuoso that is one half of chamber prog band Iamthemorning, the Moscow based pianist has recorded two albums with Iamthemorning and on the back of them he has now produced a debut solo effort. The album is apparently "an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album's central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure" and you can hear that throughout with tonal shifts and linking passages that move the record along. It's not just Gleb on the record though he has the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison (King Crimson / Porcupine Tree) and Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) to anchor his incredible piano playing.

With complex jazz passages, chord structures and arpeggios that bring drama reserved for classical pieces the record is not metal or indeed rock (no guitars) but it has a gravitas especially when Theo Travis' (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) flutes and sax are left to let fly. The heaviest part of the record comes on Storyteller which features an explosive keyboard solo from Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), for a primarily instrumental album the tracks all seamlessly melds together as one long conceptual piece, that's not to say there aren't any vocals as both Mick Moss (Antimatter) and Steve Hogarth (Marillion) lend their voices to a couple of tracks. A beautiful record if you want something a little different Gleb Kolyadin is a triumphant debut solo album from an immensely talented individual. 8/10    

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Reviews: Magick Touch, Bloodbark, Raven Cain, American Glutton (Reviews By Paul)

Magick Touch: Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire (Edged Circle Productions)

Classic rock wrapped up in a ball of power and fury is the order of the day from Bergen’s Magick Touch. Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire is just under 40 minutes of hard rocking in the vein of Thin Lizzy, Tygers of Pan Tang, Whitesnake and hundreds of others, and at times it’s hard to believe that there are just three of them. Opener Under The Gun kicks the album off in style, a short, in your face blast. Vocalist and guitarist HK Rein has a decent voice, ranging from Phil Lynott to Layne Staley.

The Great Escape highlighting the inner Lynott with a track that Black Star Riders would be proud to own. The Nuge’s Cat Scratch Fever riff surfaces on Midnight Sadusa, which has a fuzzy combination of Witch Tripper and Gun! There are points in the release where the attention does wander slightly but the thick chunky riffs do tend to refocus the mind. Electrick Sorcery has a soaring, climatic feel, crashing drums and an AOR feel, and overall, the band has a sound which will go down well on their support to Audrey Horne in Europe shortly. 7/10

Bloodbark: Bonebranches (Self Released)

I have little information about Bloodbark. Bonebranches is the debut release, it is 39 minutes of atmospheric ambient black metal, delivered in three majestic epic tracks. Opening track Eyeless Winter starts with a lone piano, accompanied by some thick synth which quickly explodes into a typical black metal delivery, tremolo picking, thunderous bass drums and rasping vocals with a riff that repeats for the first couple of minutes before developing into an 11-minute journey filled with crashing riffs and tempo changes.

This is followed by the impressive Ferns And Roads, which at nearly 18 minutes long has ample time to develop. Beginning with a slow, macabre processional feel it is led by simple keyboard notes whilst the drums and guitars encase it, the track picks up both pace and intensity, soaring with snarling vicious vocals contrasting with the haunting melody that pulses throughout. As Wolves, another lingering track that is simply constructed yet effortlessly effective in its delivery. Bonebranches is an interesting release and whilst it doesn’t have the same quality of Winterfylleth, Fen and the like there is a lot to be interested in here. 7/10

Raven Cain: Oblivious (Maximum Volume Music)

One listen to the latest release from Raven Cain will leave you in no doubt where his loyalty lies. Tracks such as Outlaw Way, General Lee and the quite spectacularly awful flag-flying Son Of The South all contain chest thumping, stars and stripes waving patriotic themes which to a non-American are just quite alarming to be honest. Concentrating on the music and not straying into the political for a minute, Oblivious works just fine. Hard rocking with a Southern Country rock style, it’s neatly and smoothly done with decent production and decent musicianship.

Raven Cain’s bombastic biography may explain why this alleged direct descendent of Blackbeard the pirate comes across with a non-nonsense approach that is likely to make many feel a little uneasy. However, the ghastly ballad My Addiction, which has the skin crawling is bad enough but when you get to All American Bad Ass then it’s time to turn the speakers off. Confidence is one thing but Raven Cain, 6th degree black belt, ordained Buddhist priest and all-round patriot has an arrogance that really doesn’t appeal in the slightest. 4/10

American Glutton: Dish Served Cold (From The Ashes Records)

A five-track EP from American Glutton, which contains the same personnel who make up Raven Cain and his band. Comprising Raven Cain on vocals, Tommy Harrison on guitar and Dani Harrison, the band has a slightly harder rock edge than Cain’s solo work but contains the same swagger in the vocals and although the biog suggests that Cain’s own fans were surprised at his versatility, I can’t really distinguish anything substantially different in his delivery.

Five tracks of routine hard rock, slick and robust, but with little to stand out from the mundane. Lyrically it’s predictable, and in God Knows we have a candidate for one of the worst songs of 2018. If you like dirty, sleaze crusted rock then it may be of interest. I’m unlikely to ever play this again. 5/10

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Reviews: Savage Machine, Lechery, Meden Agan, Ares One

Savage Machine: Abandon Earth (Self Released)

We are merely 2 weeks into 2018 and I may have already found my album of the year, the apocalyptic vision of Savage Machine’s debut full length is a classic metal masterpiece. These Danes bring together everything I love about metal on album and over the ten songs on this record they bring a big goofy grin to your face again and again. The immediate reference points are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Blind Guardian and Hell but they use these bands as influence not slavishly copy anything from them.

The record is a concept piece with an epic science fiction based story revolving around the end of the world and escaping to space, it’s propelled by 6 minute plus tracks that feature elongated guitar solos and time signature changes that range from melodic clean leads, to gallops and even a bass solo at the beginning of Fall Of Icarus. Only a few songs are shorter; Event Horizon, The Hunter, Welcome To Hell being the main tracks, with the majority over the 6 minute mark twisting and turning with all the grandeur of Blind Guardian or the recent Maiden releases.

Exodus starts the album with the well worn troupe of a thunderstorm, but it’s a slow burning, atmospheric song that sets the tone for the storyline, before bursting to life with the head nodding riffs. From here it’s a non-stop run through the history of ‘traditional’ metal Martin Helbo (drums), Benjamin "Atlas" Andreassen (bass) and Simon Kalmar Poulsen (rhythm guitar) keep the riffs coming letting Jacob V. D. Bruun play like Murray, Smith, Gers, Downing and Tipton all trading off on each other when he adds the exciting solos. As the record goes on the songs get better and better with the performance staying at a breathtaking level throughout.

I’m particularly enamoured with vocalist Troels Rasmussen who effortlessly fuses Rob Halford with Hansi Kursch. I honestly don’t know where to start with this record in terms of highlights; really it’s all a highlight Age Of Machines has the speed metal pump of Guardian, Event Horizon whizzes past in a flurry, The Hunter is a Priest Feast while Time Traveller is an epic of Maiden proportions. Skilfully produced by Jacob Hansen, Abandon Earth already makes it into my Top 10 of 2018, I love it! 10/10

Lechery: We Are All Born Evil (Bleeding Music Records)

Formed in 2006 by Ex-Arch Enemy bass player Martin Bengtsson, I’d never really been aware of Swedish band Lechery but with that name and the AE link I was expecting melodic death metal from the word go. As I fired up the decks of death it was with great surprise that this record revealed itself to be more traditional heavy/power metal album, digging a well worn seam of twin guitar melodies and shout along choruses the music rarely leaves the traditional metal sound but there are touches of speed metal (Even A Hero Must Die) and hard rock (Sacrifice) that worm their way in.

Bengtsson is the vocalist for this project and his gruff vocals are more Grave Digger than Iron Maiden but they suit the distorted metal style. Yes the record can get a bit silly in places Heavy Metal Invasion the obvious one (do we really need another song about heavy metal?) and it’s probably only an album for classic metal collectors but it’s harmless fun record that is the bands third, so they must be doing something right. 7/10

Meden Agan: Catharsis (No Remorse Records)

The Temple Of Apollo in Delphi bore the inscription “Meden Agan” it translates to “Nothing In Excess” (or Everything In Moderation) and the Athenian band who bare this moniker certainly didn’t get the memo. Released through the No Remorse Records label (a label that’s also a heavy metal record shop in the Greek capital) Their Gothic/Symphonic styled metal is at times excessive or grandiose but mostly brings just the right amount of symphonic elements with a punchy metallic edge. A band that can be lazily pigeonholed into the “female fronted metal” genre they have classically trained vocals and orchestrations that merge with the traditional metal troupes of blastbeat drums and incendiary solo guitars.

Catharsis is the bands’ fourth full length and having listened to their earlier work it doesn’t really try to be too experimental, sounding a lot like fellow Greeks Enemy Of Reality, in fact that band was formed when the singer and drummer of Meden Agan left. Dimitra the singer on this record has the ideal voice you’d want for the music and as is normal there are growls that give a beauty and the beast style to the songs. As Symphonic/Gothic metal is such an overcrowded genre that you really have to pick and choose and like with the New Year diet if you have everything in moderation you’ll be fine. Forget about that have a bit of a splurge with Catharsis, go on you know you want too. 7/10

Ares One: Optimist (Self Released)

Reece Spencer is one of those sickeningly talented people make music, a multi instrumentalist, his second EP from the Ares One project. Optimist is not a cover of Anathema’s most recent record no it’s a distinct work that has a atmospheric progressive nature of it's Liverpudlian cousin. The EP is sandwiched between the beautiful duo of A Better Place Parts 1 & 2 which start and close proceedings, in between, this all instrumental record adds brings touches of ambient on Supercruise and some modern prog on the title track and the melodic but fiercely technical The Precipice.

Spencer is a virtuoso player handling everything himself his talents really shine as it takes a lot to enthral me with an instrumental record but this one has feeling to it, it’s melancholic but also hopeful, the instrumentation betraying the need for vocals. It’s an intelligent record with an optimistic vision of humanity’s ability to evolve in the face of catastrophe (the spoken word excerpts come from The Day The Earth Stood Still). 8/10

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Reviews: Deathless Legacy, Lovebites, Mindpatrol, Satanic (Reviews By Rich)

Deathless Legacy: Rituals Of Black Magic (Scarlet Records)

Rituals Of Black Magic is the fourth album by Italian horror themed metal band Deathless Legacy.  Deathless Legacy perform a very theatrical style of metal which mixes in elements from various different genres. Throughout the album you can hear bits of traditional heavy metal, groove metal, thrash metal and black metal. Keyboards are a very prevalent instrument throughout from providing creepy organ sounds to adding a symphonic element. The vocals by frontwoman Steva are a mix of melodic clean vocals and deranged screams which works very effectively.

The performances by the rest of the band are very good indeed and brought to the fore by a fantastic production job. This album has plenty of wallop when played loudly! My main criticism of this album is that with a duration of over an hour the material is not varied enough throughout to maintain my interest. There are certain songs that jumped out and impressed me such as Bloodbath and the title track but overall it was a bit samey. Overall Rituals Of Black Magic is an enjoyable horror themed heavy metal album but it’s a bit repetitive and a bit too long. 7/10

Lovebites: Awakening From Abyss (Sliptrick Records)

Awakening From Abyss is the debut full length album by Japanese all girl power metallers Lovebites. Thanks to bands like Babymetal when you see a Japanese all girl metal band the cynic in me cries gimmick but these girls can fucking play and this is far from a gimmick and probably one of the best metal records put out in 2017. If I had heard this before writing up my top albums of the year this would have definitely been included. Lovebites play full throttle power metal with songs full of speed and power and irresistable melodies. The guitar playing alone is simply a thing to behold with guitarist and keyboard player Mi-Ya belting out savage riffs and absolutely shredding solos.

The vocals by Asami are full of power and she absolutely belts out these songs. Four of the songs on the album are re-recordings from the bands self-titled EP but the rest is all brand new material and is all rips. The influences throughout are European power metal, NWOBHM and a huge wedge of thrash. The songs just keep coming at you with a perfect balance of aggression and melody barely coming up for breath. You get very brief moments of reprieve such as at the start of the Liar or the complimentary power metal ballad Edge Of The World but on the whole the band are ripping and tearing away with tracks such as Warning Shot and The Apocalypse. Awakening From Abyss is an awe inspiring album which any fan of power or melodic metal needs to hear immediately. 9/10

Mindpatrol: Vulture City (Golden Light Records)

Mindpatrol are an extreme progressive metal band from Luxembourg and Vulture City is their third album. It is common for bands to look upon literary works for lyrical inspiration but it is quite rare for an album to be based upon a novel also written by the band but that’s what you have with Vulture City. You can listen to the album and read the full story in the novel which is a very cool concept. I don’t have the book itself to review so the following is based purely on the album itself. Tagging themselves extreme progressive metal Mindpatrol mix progressive metal elements with elements from within the extreme metal subgenres.

As you can imagine there is a fair bit going on throughout the album with a mix of clean and harsh vocals, melodic guitar playing, blastbeats, breakdowns and plenty of keyboards. It’s a very ambitious album but maybe a bit over ambitious as whilst the album is performed immaculately the songs themselves are generally forgotten by the time the album has finished. There are songs which stand out above the others such as the death metal influenced Calamity (The Cleansing) and the melodic title track but the band needs to put stronger focus on their songwriting and also put their own stamp on things as whilst there is a lot going on throughout the album there is nothing heard which hasn’t been done before. 6/10

Satanic: Architecture Of Chaos (Brutal Records)

Architecture Of Chaos is the debut album by Canadian death thrashers Satanic (formerly Satanic Glue Sniffers). This album sits somewhere in between the realms of thrash metal and death metal. You have the evil feel of the death metal mixed in with the franticness of the thrash metal. This is a raw and old school sounding release complete with a paper thin production which hinders the album more than enhances it.

A better production job would really bring these songs to life. There is some fantastic guitar work throughout the album and some neck wrecking riffage going on in songs such as World Of Chaos, Armageddon and Biotech Warfare. Whilst this is a fun album it’s a little uninspired and repetitive and the almost demo like recording quality really sucks the life out of a lot of the songs.  I can imagine in a live environment these songs truly shine and I hope one day I get to see these songs live up to their potential. 6/10

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Reviews: Corrosion Of Conformity, Bleeding Gods, Avatar, Leaves Eyes

Corrosion Of Conformity: No Cross, No Crown (Nuclear Blast)

It's been 12 years since Corrosion Of Conformity released an album with Pepper Keenan behind the mic, in that time Pepper has been a part of Down while the core COC trio of Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin have been touring and recording with their earlier hardcore influenced version of the band. With Keenan back though the band is a different animal, a much more riff induced act with Pepper taking the vocals again his Southern drawl taking center stage. He reconnected with the other three and talked about playing some shows, having seen one of those shows I can tell you that the Southern magic that was cast on Deliverance and Wiseblood was still there and this has been brought to record again on No Cross, No Crown.

The band didn't want to write the same song over and over again so this record is a cross section of all the sounds COC have ever brought to the table Nothing Left To Say is trippy stoner psych, Old Disaster comes from the Sabbath riffage, Cast The First Stone has the defiant punk attitude of the three piece, No Cross is a slow moving doom piece that is one of the interludes that flesh out this record stitching the tapestry of this record together and the Southern riffs wean their way in on Wolf Named Crow and The Luddite this is typical Pepper led COC big striding riffs, groove filled rhythms and stoner/doom tendencies. A new COC album is always greeted with excitement, but this one will be welcomed with open arms, COC are back to retrieve their crown. 8/10        

Bleeding Gods: Dodekathlon (Nuclear Blast)

Welcome in the New Year with some epic blackened death metal based on the 12 Labours Of Hercules, no it's not a new album by Septicflesh, this is the second album from Dutch band Bleeding Gods and it's their major label debut for Nuclear Blast. Formed by guitarist Ramon Ploeg he set about wanting to write his own songs culminating in debut record in 2014 since then they have bolstered their ranks with new members and come to the attention of more through Nuclear Blast. Just one listen to this record and you can hear why they are making such big waves.

Take a track such as From Feast To Beast it's got swathes of orchestral elements, some destructive blast beating from Daan Klemann and interwoven guitar assault from Ploeg, Rutger Van Noordenburg and bassist Gea Mulder which pairs black metal fury with some death metal chugging, that's not to say there aren't solo's as they come thick and fast on Inhuman Humiliation and open Birds Of Hate which evolves into some lightning death/thrash.

In places the solos and the synths are the only lightness in the songs which clobber you from Bloodguilt through to Hound Of Hell, Mark Huisman conducting the madness with his harsh rasp, instrumental Tyrannical Blood is the only calm amongst the maelstrom it opens with some classical guitars, a sliding solo and then a spoken word piece to end before the fire is re-stoked on Seeds Of Distrust and the symphonic Tripled Anger. Dodekathlon has 12 tracks of Homeric black/death metal with massive cinematic symphonic sounds, unlike with Hercules there is nothing laborious about this record it's very good indeed. 8/10    

Avatar: Avatar Country (Century Media)

Have Avatar suddenly become Manowar? Well listen to their seventh album Avatar Country and make your own conclusions, it kicks off with the triumphal Glory To Our King, which rapidly slides into the Legend Of The King which opens with a minute and half guitar solo and is the first instance of vocalist Johannes Michael Gustaf Eckerström dual vocal style delivering the majority of the song in his harsh style leaving the cleans for the big hook, the harsh vocals are in opposition to the rampaging power metal riffage but it fits like a well worn shoe.

Avatar have always tried to do something different on each album taking from various genres and here is no exception The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country is sort of like Airborne jamming with Blackberry Smoke as King Diamond sings, as odd as that sounds it's just another string to the masterful bow of Avatar. This record is not as grandiose or as long as Feathers And Flesh but it still has enough progressive textures and aggression to please everyone, no matter where you came in on the Avatar journey.

This seems to be a concept album based around the King of Avatar Country and features the weirdness Avatar rely on, just listen to The King Speaks and you'll get an idea what I'm talking about, musically though they take things seriously with scything riffs, massive drums, time/style changes across 10 tracks, rounding the record out with a 2 part mini epic. It's difficult to review Avatar as they are such an eccentric band but once again they deliver. 9/10

Leaves Eyes: Sign Of The Dragonhead (AFM)

Long held to be the custodians of Viking history Leaves’ Eyes have been regaling the metal audience with tales of the Bearded Norsemen be they mythical or historical the band have been through the mill recently with bands founding singer Liv Kristine leaving the band and while there has been some he said she said and legal action levied by the former singer the band have continued on with Angel Nation (EnkElination) vocalist Elina Siirala. She made her debut at the Hammersonic festival in Jakarta. This trial by fire has proved to be successful and the subsequent EP sold out in record time, this is their first record with Elina and as the title track opens this record you can see why she was chosen to take over as the singer.

Her powerful operatic vocal style means she slides into the beauty role of the bands traditional beauty and the beast vocals as she duets throughout with the harsh tones of keyboardist Alexander Krull. This is the most streamlined I’ve heard Leaves Eyes for a while there is lot less of the pastoral folk textures that came through during Kristine’s tenure, the first part of the album is a bit crunchier than previous releases however from Volva to Fairer Than The Sun the folk metal elements creep in before Shadows In The Night bring back the symphonic metal sound. None of the songs on this record linger too long and it’s business as usual, despite the major shift in the sound with a new singer, the song remains the same and Leaves’ Eyes are back doing what they pioneered. 7/10

Monday, 8 January 2018

Reviews: Tribulation, Black Moth, Sinistro, Trespass (Reviews By Paul)

Tribulation: Down Below (Century Media)

2015’s The Children Of The Night was a really enjoyable release and probably my first encounter with the band from Arvika, Sweden. They impressed hugely when supporting Paradise Lost at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton supporting Paradise Lost in 2015. Down Below is album number 4 and it is a superbly dark release. Johannes Andersson’s rasping black metal vocals remain intact, although the band have moved even further from their death metal origins to a much more gothic sound. Opening track The Lament sets the tone before Nightbound continues the haunting atmosphere. Crystal clear guitars combine with an almost electronic undertone, but there are shades of several other masterful outfits here; pick elements of Paradise Lost, Cradle Of Filth, Lacuna Coil and Moonspell as well as The Mission and The Sisters of Mercy.

Combining shorter tracks such as Lady Death with the longer songs works perfectly, allowing you to become absorbed in the ethereal Lacrimosa whilst not losing any focus. Lady Death is a short, three-and-a-half-minute voyage, the pomp and ceremony maintained throughout. Subterranea’s evocative piano intro leads into a powerful piece, the heavy riffs not smothering the melody and tune. Purgatorio would sit comfortably at the start of a horror movie, such is the lingering melancholy that exudes from the pores. A repeated chord, simple yet effective keys and some eerie sound effects send shivers up and down your spine.

It’s calm, poignant and yet completely in keeping with the album. It should come in black and white. Cries From The Underworld is heavy without thrashing it, the guitar work of Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén superb whilst new drummer Oscar Leander keeps it simple and effective. A return to the older style reappears at the beginning of the excellent and stimulating Lacrimosa before The World leads to the epic Here Be Dragons which closes the album in style. Down Below has set the bar high already for 2018. A superb release, dripping with atmosphere and imagery. 9/10

Black Moth: Anatomical Venus (Candlelight Records)

I first encountered the dark brooding of Leeds’ Black Moth at the Temples Festival in Bristol in 2014 and made sure I caught them again at Damnation later that year, although clashes prevented me from catching what was by all accounts a stellar show at 2017’s Bloodstock. Their third album has been much anticipated. Well, with the waiting now over, I can confirm that it was worth every second. By far the band’s heaviest work, it is 45 minutes of swirling darkness, a heady mix of garage rock with psychedelia, remnants of their previous gothic overtones and some very tasty riffs.

With a range of tracks that all contain captivating hooks and an intensity that was still developing on Condemned To Hope, Anatomical Venus moves the band up not just one but two or even three levels. It remains distinctive though, with the ‘Mothic’ sound instantly recognisable, from the opening bars of Istra which moves on to the first single Moonbow, a rampaging track which showcases not only vocalist Harriet Hyde but the whole band in a tight rocking composition. The fuzzy guitars of Jim Swainston and Federica Gialanze give a stoner vibe to the whole track, whilst bassist Dave Vachon trades musical punches with drummer Dom McCready.

The album never slows, with Sisters Of The Stone fast paced and A Lover’s Hate stealing a riff from Wolfmother to superb effect. Of course, the theme and name of the album focuses on 18th century wax models of the female form employed by male surgeons to learn their craft. Hyde has stated “The Anatomical Venus spoke volumes to me. She embodies the male gaze, a history of men dissecting women in an attempt to understand her, reveal her magic, snuff out her unruly flame, while all the time needing her to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to their taste.

These models are not simply practical medical models for education – they are fetish objects, women stripped back as far as you can go. But there is a look of defiance in their eyes as if to say, ‘keep looking if you like. I dare you. Peel back my skin and peep behind my ribcage, you won’t find anything unless I choose to tell you.” Listen to the album’s central track, the menacing A Severed Grace and you’ll understand exactly what Hyde means. Repeated plays allow the album to permeate deeply, and each spin cements what a stunning piece of work this is. 9/10

Sinistro: Sangue Cássia (Season Of Mist)

Massive walls of guitars, some of the most hauntingly beautiful vocals and an achingly melancholic effect dominate the fourth release by Portuguese ambient rock outfit Sinistro. I must admit that I was vaguely aware of the band’s name but unaware of their sound. The follow up to 2016’s Semente, Sanque Cássia is not an easy ride. Full of complexity, compellingly mature and intricate pieces and bookended by the 11-minute Cosmos Controle and the ten-minute Cravo Carne, this release is simply delicious.

With more twists and turns than the back streets of Venice, the dense keyboard layers, ambient introspection and quite stunning vocal performance of Patricia Andrade transport you into a different plane. At times erotic and lustful, soft, warm and wrapped in a velvet glove, tracks such as Lotus, Petalas and the majestic Vento Sul are gentle yet powerful whilst the crushingly thick guitar work on the likes of Absimo which breaks down into an ethereal middle section before ramping up the riffage once more remind you that this is a heavy, commanding outfit, who deliver in the same manner as bands like Warning.

It’s slow, methodical and very impressive. Be warned though. It cannot be rushed so ensure you devote sufficient time to allow this captivating release to snake its unearthly tendrils around your neck and pull you in. Lose yourself in quiet fascination.  8/10

Trespass: Footprints In Rock (Mighty Music)

Trespass were one of the very small lights in the NWOBHM; in fact, more of a tea light than even a torch beam to be honest. One Of These Days was probably their most well known song, due in no small part to Lars Ulrich and Geoff Barton including it in a 1990 compilation. The band hailed from Suffolk but fell by the wayside relatively early in the new wave. As happened to many of their peers, the urge to reform returned and in 2013 the band made their first tentative steps at a reformation. Several changes occurred before the current line up settled and recorded the comeback album Footprints In Rock.

You’ve got to admire the band for their effort and dedication but honestly? This is some of the most tired and dull hard rock I have heard in years. Ponderous construction, repetitive formats and a sound that is still stuck in 1982 all contribute to a pretty dull release. Tracks such as Mighty Love, The Green Man and the ghastly Music Of The Waves bounce off with no impact. At least on Prometheus guitarists Mark Sutcliffe and Joe Fawcett can let rip a little but even then, it’s stale and dreary. Sutcliffe’s voice is monotonous and grates after about three songs. Sorry, full marks for endeavour; few marks for quality. 4/10

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Reviews: Mother Of Millions, Supersoul, Major Denial, Silked & Stained

Mother Of Millions: Sigma (Vicisolum Productions)

Mother Of Millions are a Greek progressive/alternative rock, their second album is 46 minutes of epic compositions and a masterclass in album tracking. From the discordant spoken word/instrumental of Emerge it hooks you with its moody atmosphere, the sound of one keening guitar gives way to minor piano chords as choral sense of dread builds with an industrial thump. This is washed away by the technical staccato riffage, down tuned bass and flaring drums of Shine which plays well with the quiet/loud dynamic as Kostas Konstantinidis guitar relentlessly plays a clean fluid lead in the background as the rhythm section of builds to the chorus which repeats the opening djent riff. The tracks are multi layered pieces that require your undivided attention, it's not a record to play in the car, best enjoyed alone through headphones only then can you hear every minute aspect to the bands brilliance.

I mentioned about the sequencing earlier and MoM have it nailed every track is used to flow seamlessly into the next and as Shine takes you into the 7 minute Silence you hear another side to their sound with the bass of Panos Priftis prominently featured against the jazz percussion of George Boukaouris. Later as the record progresses the heavy Rome transitions into Their Passage, The Light with Eastern themes and traditional Greek instrumentation, the drama of Collision is brought by the synths and samples of Makis Tsamkosoglou.

The music is so cutting edge it'll trim your hedges for you but with such impressive instrumentation the vocals need to be something and George Prokopiou voice is something special he has a voice unique to many of those in this kind of music angst ridden, soaring, defiant, gruff and empowering he takes many forms throughout this record and on every track he commands you to listen. Cinematic music for intelligent minds Mother Of Millions (who are named after a plant that is near indestructible and reproduces at an alarming rate) have followed up their debut with an album that is simply fantastic, it's everything a progressive rock fan could want with an ear to the mainstream. Buy this record now! Is it too late to change my Top albums of 2017? 10/10

Supersoul: Faith Bender (Self Released)

Athenian band Supersoul are dead ringers for the modern blues sound of The Royal Blood adding some fuzzy desert rock of QOTSA and the jangling indie or Arctic Monkeys (Jacob Williams) throughout the 14 tracks on this record you get no hint that the band are Greek, even the spoken asides in the thundering Gold have a cockney accent to them. If you didn't know better you'd swear the band have crawled out of the Hipster central Shoreditch.

The trio lock into grooves throughout, the bass and drum riffs strut like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, the guitar is fuzzy and explodes with flashes of solo brilliance Blackhorse. They aren't averse to widening their horizons taking the modern street blues of Beck on the slinky Divine, or the classic soul rock of The Black Keys on Wrong Side Of Suicide (just listen to the bass on it and try not to bang your head). As the album nears it's conclusion the woozy Down By The River leads into the title track. It's a great album if you like modern garage blues get it on and get rocking. 8/10

Major Denial: Duchess Of Sufferings (Self Released)

Greek progressive metal act Major Denial release their sophomore album Duchess Of Sufferings 2 years after their debut EP and they have once again, made a record that effortlessly merges tough power metal with the intelligent prog metal of bands such as Queensryche or Nevermore. Soaring vocals are backed by complex riffs as a touch of drama cuts through the record with tracks such as Rise With The Dawn having the progressive nature whereas others are a s straight as a die.

It's a dark record there isn't much happiness in the lyrical content and the music too is darker than most but it means when vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast In Black) songs in the higher reaches he counteracts the heaviness of the rhythms Nektarios Ntagkas (guitar) and Panagiotis Haramis (bass) as do the solos of Achilleas Diamantis (lead guitar). The album doesn't set the world alight but it's a competent record that sticks to a sound and for any fans of this style it'll satisfy. 7/10

Silked & Stained: Love On The Road (Lions Pride Records)

First of all it's a terrible name, when I first heard it it made me think of our local curry house which is simultaneously silked and stained. However much like the Tandoori Mahal this record is has the odd tasty morsel (Bombshell), some guilty pleasures but unlike Indian cuisine Love On The Road is served with a massive stinking wedge of cheese, gorgonzola to be precise. The ballads such as Hold My Hand sickly and the rockers strive so much to be on the radio I'm sure the Devil is inking his pen.

When AOR is good it can be really entertaining but when it's as mediocre as this it makes for hard going. The vocals are not particularly good, almost sub Graham Bonnet, I'll say the guitar playing is pretty good but that's about it, the record just had too many mid-paced pop rockers to really get the heart racing. 5/10

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Reviews: Motörhead, Venom, Defacto, Hollow Earth, Aerodyne (Reviews By Paul)

Motörhead: Live In Bonn, 12 December 1996 (Motorhead Records)

The good people of iMotörhead.com provided the faithful Motörheadbangers with a special treat this Christmas with the release of a previously unreleased recording of Motörhead live from Bonn, Germany. Recorded on 12 December 1996 at the conclusion of the Overnight Sensation European Tour, the release coincided with Lemmy’s birthday and the second anniversary of his death on 28th December. It’s a superb recording, even if the crowd sound distant in the mix. The band is on fire, a well-oiled machine, with the interplay between Lemmy and Phil Campbell first class. Opening with a blistering Iron Fist, the band tear through Stay Clean and Sex And Death in record time, before Phil and Lemmy demand that front desk manager Dave ‘Hobbs’ Hilsden turns the volume up, Lemmy promising the present of deafness for Christmas! Civil War from Overnight Sensation leads to Metropolis, Lemmy’s Rickenbacker bass lines rampaging like a lead guitar and Phil’s bluesy soulful playing mixing magically.

Burner is possibly the fastest track the band had ever written and they demonstrate it with aplomb, a ball-busting charging track which speeds along before crashing into the classic The Chase Is Better Than The Catch. Lemmy’s much missed gravel-soaked delivery brings a lump to the throat, his inimitable delivery and dry humour with the crowd reinforcing why the man was so loved in the rock and metal communities across the world. The blues and rock ‘n’ roll formed the foundation for all Motörhead’s music and nowhere is that more noticeable than on Overnight Sensation with its relentlessly addictive riffage and No Class, which despite its title is one of the most brilliant tunes Motörhead ever wrote.

The set is bursting with classics but also recent material with the pulverising Sacrifice from the 1995 album of the same name and by now you are truly appreciating the sheer athleticism of the beating heart of the band, drummer Mikkey Dee whose powerhouse drumming remains impressive and leaves you wondering if he’s now slightly under-utilised with the Scorpions. The blues soaked rock out of You Better Run from March Or Die and Broken from Overnight Sensation alter the pace before the home straight and a five-track finish which will better any band in the world. The epic Killed By Death and Going To Brazil precede the always powerful Bomber and then it’s the double finish of Ace Of Spades and a pummelling Overkill. 21 years after its recording, Live In Bonn provides another reminder, as if one was needed, of the full force of Motörhead at their best. Play it Loud. Play it Often. Magic stuff. 9/10

Venom: 100 Miles To Hell EP (Spinefarm Records)

A three-track limited edition from the original black metal gods shot across the bows just before Christmas. A gift from Cronos, Rage and Dante, which smoulders with malevolence. The bass is as slipshod as ever, massive and in your face whilst Rage’s guitar work slices and churns. Dante’s drums are huge, bashing the fuck out of everything in the way Venom always do. Fused with a punk attitude, the three tracks here are a timely reminder that whilst Venom Inc can also lay claim to the Venom throne, Cronos’ distinctive vocal always comes up trumps. Of the three songs, it’s the title track that kicks hardest, with a thunderous groove underpinning the rampage. Stirring stuff. 8/10

Defecto: Nemesis (Prime Collective)

Formed in 2010, it’s been a busy two years for Copenhagen progressive metal outfit Defecto who released their debut Excluded in 2016 and followed it with album number 2 Nemesis in late 2017. The dramatic operatic intro to Nemesis, The Final Night Of Silence is reminiscent in many ways to the intro tapes that UK metal legends Hell use; in fact it’s almost identical, with soaring strings, chiming bells and thick organ chords with thunder and rain lashing down. Opening strongly with the title track, a spiralling fist pumping song, which allows vocalist and guitarist Niklas Sonne to immediately validate a powerful and rich melodic voice. Intense interplay between guitar and keyboards provides confirmation that whilst progressive, Defecto also lean to the heavier end of the melodic metal spectrum. It’s clean singing, harmonies throughout but with sufficient edge to have those who like their metal served with a portion of heavy nodding their heads. Endlessly Falling follows, a track full of pomp accompanying some chunky riffage and a chorus with a tasty hook. Plenty of effects litter the album but let’s take nothing away from the quality of the songs.

Savage has elements of Audrey Horne with its melody, The Nameless Apparition features a meaty riff before it opens out into a heavy yet melodic thumper. Interestingly and perhaps less effective is the occasional burst of guttural vocals which appear out of place. Ode To The Damned is a schizophrenic beast and a good example; growling vocals and crashing guitar compete with cleaner vocals and a synth heavy riff, pummelling drumming accompanying the duel. At seven minutes long, it really needs to be the centrepiece of the album and it just about succeeds with some neat guitar work rescuing the track around the four-minute mark. In complete contrast, the album closer, another seven-minute track, Ascend To Heaven, which appears to be intended as a dramatic closing tune but unfortunately turns into a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde song, beginning in soft rock ballad style but morphing into melodic death metal with piano with some Dream Theater style time changes. It’s all a little disjointed and confusing. Overall, it’s a decent sophomore release which certainly had me turning it up at times. 7/10

Hollow Earth: Out Of Atlantis (Self Released)

If retro rock ala Pink Floyd around A Saucerful Of Secrets floats your boat, then Hollow Earth may well be your thing. The Swedes journey back in time to early Floyd and Deep Purple for a 40+ minute trip which sits firmly in the decades of the past. The band, Cristobel Nemo on organ, guitar and vocals, Don Pharaoh on bass and vocals and drummer Rod Handel V, noodle and meander their way through six tracks, starting with Electric Eden and climaxing with the lengthy and snooze inducing Behind The Ivory Gate. Whether there is anything in Out Of Atlantis which can introduce a new slant on old ideas and genuinely excite is debatable. It’s not really something that got me fired up. In fact, a nice cup of tea was probably more of a thrill than first listen. Not my bag man. 6/10

Aerodyne: Breaking Free (Street Symphonies Records)

Another review, another Swedish band. Aerodyne formed in Gothenberg in 2016, apparently from several other outfits. Breaking Free is their debut album and is a routine slab of hard rock with some astonishingly 1980s lyrics. A bunch of stolen riffs (e.g. Setting Hell On Fire = Thin Lizzy’s Are You Ready) and little originality combine to offer little to excite. Citing a range of classic rock outfits amongst their influences, it’s a surprise to see Steel Panther absent with lyrics such as “Spread your legs and show me you’re a lady” (Comin’ For You).  If I saw these in a sunny field with a beer in my hand I might watch for a bit. However, if I want the 1980s then I’ll dig out my old school stuff. I’m afraid it’s just tepid and tired in 2018. 5/10

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Reviews: Orphaned Land, Watain, Legion Of Wolves, Hellish God (Reviews By Paul)

Orphaned Land: Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs (Century Media)

It’s been five years since All Is One, the epic and possibly breakthrough release from the Israeli outfit. It’s fair to say that the band have hardly kept a low profile since then, with several world tours and festival appearances, collaborations and the release of the 25th anniversary Orphaned Land and Friends earlier in 2017. Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs is the first album to feature guitarist Idan Amsalem, who replaced Yossi Sassi back in 2014.

Once more the band has served up a treat with a magnificent release that builds upon their previous albums, intricate pieces nestle comfortably alongside the straightforward death metal passages. The band has reached extensively into their oriental and Eastern toy box to superb effect, with bouzouki, xylophone, saz, oud and piano all blending with the guitar work of Amsalem and Chen Balbus, the percussion of Matan Shmuely and the reliable thunderous bass lines of Uri Zechla.

With multiple female backing vocals, often in a choral style, as well as guest appearances from Steve Hackett, Hansi Kürsch and Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates) the album opens with The Cove, an eight minute epic which comprises multiple layers, time changes and styles, careering from biblical to death vocals with ease.

Vocalist Kobi Farhi is on magnificent form, his soaring call to prayer captivating. Several shorter tracks follow, ranging from the crushingly heavy We Do Not Resist through to the more traditional Yedidi, as we embark on a typical journey which encapsulates the Orphaned Land approach; protest, resistance, joy, tragedy, anger, all encapsulated in anthemic and poetic compositions.

It’s rare to get a truly jaw dropping track on an album but that’s exactly what happened when Chains Fall To Gravity permeated my speakers. An uplifting message is enveloped in one of the most beautifully sensitive and graceful songs I’ve ever heard. Farhi’s vocals coated with velvet yet full of defiance and steel. Like Orpheus follows, a powerful composition with Blind Guardian’s Kürsch’s vocals to the rising chorus fitting seamlessly.

The fusion of sounds continues with My Brother’s Keeper, a union of several styles which works brilliantly, whilst the six minute Take My Hand maintains a thumping beat with bouzouki, strings and crunching riffs all allowing the mellow tones of Farhi to weave his lyrical storytelling.

Penultimate track Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of The War, often apparently mistakenly attributed to Plato opens with haunting sirens that blend with some beautiful string sections to create an image of horror before the track rampages with the arrival of some brutal death vocals from Lindberg. A change in tempo half way through provides respite before the whole thing erupts again, Farhi and Lindberg’s guttural strains contrasted by choral voices and chanting, whilst the whole track is smoothly underpinned by thick synthesisers. The Manifest – Epilogue with its simple message concludes a quite magnificent release which I think is their finest to date. 10/10

Watain: Trident Wolf Eclipse (Century Media)

Sweden’s Black Metallers Watain return with their sixth album, a short but brutal affair. The band’s last release in August 2013 was The Wild Hunt, which as well as being double the length of Trident Wolf Eclipse, contained tracks which moved far away from the ritualistic onslaught one has come to expect from this band. The range of diversity displayed in the previous release is limited in comparison on Trident Wolf Eclipse which returns to the more traditional black metal approach. Eight songs, all under five minutes in length and dripping with searing riffs, battering drums and Erik Danielsson’s guttural malevolence in the vocal department.

Plenty of groove underpins the tracks, such as Furor Diabolicus, a rampaging beast which haunts the soul and tears skin from flesh in equal measure. The core of the band remains with Danielsson’s demonic bass lines combined with the blisteringly fast drumming of Hakan Jonsson and Pelle Forsberg’s slicing axe work. At times majestic, the towering A Throne Below, at times full on in your face, Nuclear Alchemy, Watain’s return, along with the controversy they inevitably create, as well as a headline show at Bloodstock in August has already stoked the fires in 2018. An imperious return. 8/10

Legion Of Wolves: Bringers Of The Dark Sleep (Self Released)

On those rare occasions when an album grabs you the throat and pins you against the wall you inevitably must play it again to check your faculties are still in the right place. The debut release by Dublin death metal outfit Legion Of Wolves is one such album. Dripping with the groove of Lamb Of god and a host of death metal outfits, Bringers Of The Dark Sleep seeps into your pores, infiltrating the soul and converting your heart to a brutal ball of blackness. The combined riffage of Arkaduisz Kupiszowski and Annatar interacts with all the confidence of a stadium level act, whilst the backbone of the band, drummer Jason Connolly and bassist Piotr is built more solidly than the All Blacks front row.

Up front the truly guttural rasp of vocalist Chris adds the finishing touches. The album really is a stomping beast, from the opening title track, the sheer power of Grond (Hammer Of The Underworld), a reference to the mighty hammer wielded by Morgoth in Middle Earth and also the name of the 100ft long Orc battering ram used to breach Gondor and the sheer infectious channels on Plague Of The Immortal, complete with demolition drums and a demonic vocal performance. There really is no hiding place from the onslaught, the vicious riffs which peel out of your speaker on each track grab you tightly alongside the unearthly growls and snarls of Chris. Not that you’d want to hide. A storming debut. 9/10

Hellish God: The Evil Emanations (Everlasting Spew)

Hailing from the Lombardy region of Italy, Hellish God is a four-piece death metal outfit. The Evil Emanations is their debut album which follows the satanic death metal blueprint faithfully from start to finish. It’s a short album, 30 minutes in total but the band don’t hold back with an ultra-aggressive approach which sears the skin and rips flesh. I’m not a big fan of some of the impish screaming vocals which surface during tracks but when vocalist Tya can do his own thing it improves with some Corpsegrinder like growls. It’s full throttle, with blast beats and 100mph drumming throughout, some fine shredding from founder Michele De Ioia and thunderous bass lines. Tracks such as Burning The Infidel, Agitator Shall Be Triumphant! and album closer Marching With The Accuser tick all the death metal boxes. A solid release. 7/10

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Reviews: Mollie Marriott, Dorje, Ignu, The Weight (2017)

Mollie Marriott: The Truth Is A Wolf (Amadeus Music)

Mollie Marriott certainly has a surname that most of our readers will recognise, the daughter of  Small Faces/Humble Pie singer and guitarist Steve Marriott and Step-Daughter of Joe Brown, she has been performing since she was 15 with Oasis, Paul Weller, Joe Brown, Dennis Locorriere (Dr Hook), Mark Knopfler and Chas and Dave, she has always moved between rock and soul and her debut album continues with this stradling of the genres. Control the track that opens her debut The Truth Is The Wolf is a soulful number with a stomp-clap rhythm section, a bubbling Fender Rhodes, scintillating guitar playing and Mollie's raw but beautiful voice, you can hear she's a daughter of the blues and this smoky sound comes through on Broken which brings the blues into the 21st Century.

Again and it's followed by the smoldering title track which rocks up at it's end before the soul returns for Give Me A Reason. Marriott's vocals are majestic throughout at times fragile but at others with all the passion of the old blues howlers. She cites her influences as Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow and vocally she's got both of their gritty, robust vocal styles down, bringing an honesty to the music with deeply personal songs like Love Your BonesBroken, My Heaven Can Wait. Helpfully she's also managed to get a host of brilliant musicians and writers to co-write and play on this record, Sam Tanner, lead vocalist with Brother Strut, is especially vital to the record.

The Truth Is A Wolf
is a brilliant record, some times more R&B than rock and roll but the album is a musical melting pot with grunge, soul, R&B and even some alternative touches, it's a stunning record, I'm gutted I didn't pick this up earlier. 9/10     

Dorje: Centered And One (Invisible Hands Music)

Rob Chapman and his melo-technical rock crew return with their second EP Centered And One and similarly to their previous release it's a mix of styles that you'd expect from Dorje with tracks such as To Survive having the melodic complexity of Alter Bridge, Chapman giving his most impassioned vocal as Rabea Massaad let's rip a solo as good as any of Tremonti's. At 5 tracks it leaves you wanting more even though the songs are technical, with heavy hitters like the title track and slower burning orchestral Zero this EP is another feather in their collective caps with a thick grungy grooves
of Dave Hollingworth (bass) and Ben Minal (drums) pumping the likes of Flower Of Life. Dorje occupy that early 2000's sound of technically gifted musicianship playing angst ridden, heavy riffing rock. I'd say the only issue I have with this EP is that the production is a little quiet but other than that it's a great EP that will add more winners to Dorje's incendiary live set. 7/10

Ignu: Lightningflash Flintspark (Self Released)

Ignu are an odd one, the band's name is inspired by work of American writers from the 1950's Beat Generation especially Alan Ginsberg. It's their shared love for mysticism, Orient, Buddhism and artistic independence. The group consists of four friends; Cyryl Skiba (drums/percussion), David Condis y Troyano (bass), Jan Szege (guitar) and Lubosz Majewski (vocals). The Polish band's debut album Lightningflash Flintspark was recorded at Mandragora Studio and it's a fuzzed up trippy slab of alternative rock, the lyrics move between English and Polish but the grooves stay the same.

It's a jazz inflected sound, that twists and turns with progressive intent as Snow freaks out with psychedelic hard rocking that turns into slinky jazz track, then Best 'N' Blessed mixes 60's percussive rock n roll with modern heavy rock. The musicianship is excellent and the songs full of virtuosity but the record maybe a little too freaky for some, however if you open up your third eye and just loosen up daddio Ignu will keep you entertained for the eternity of their 7 track album. 7/10

The Weight: S/T (Self Released)

In 2015, the Austrian rock band The Weight released their debut-EP Keep Turning, 2 years later their debut album is packed to bursting with 70's inspired grooving hard rock, check out a track such as the smoldering, progressive Hammer, Cross & Nail and you'll see that The Weight have this style locked down to a driving bass/drum beat, some swanky, funky guitar lines and swirling hammond organs, they've got a hard rock heart with a psychedelic mind.

Songs such as the strutting Get Some, first single Trouble, the slide driven Rich Man's Pride all have a classic rock sound to them but with a modern bents similar to Wolfmother or Rival Sons. This Austrian band have pulled into Nazareth (The Band - Music History Ed) on a wave of proper rocking, frenzied drumming leads Money Ain't For Keeping but they slow for a torch song on A Good Thing. At so many points on this record The Weight reminded me of Grand Funk Railroad, which for me is a positive comparison as I bloody love Grand Funk, The Weight takes you on a trip with a modern retroism, music how it used to be and all the better for it. 8/10

Monday, 1 January 2018

Top 10's Of 2017

Matt's Top 20 In Order

1. Steven Wilson - To The Bone
2. Von Hertzen Brothers - War Is Over
3. Sivert Hoyem - Live At Acopolis
4. Sons Of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
5. Devilfire - Dark Manoeuvres
6. Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics - The Man With The Stars On His Knees
7. Grave Pleasures - Mother Blood
8. Blackwater Conspiracy - Shootin' The Breeze
9. Krysthla - Peace In Our Time
10. Black Country Communion - IV

11. Beast In Black - Bezerker
12. Roger Waters - Is This The Life We Really Want?
13. Need - Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom
14. Memoriam - For The Fallen
15. Hallatar - No Stars Upon The Bridge
16. Anathema - The Optimist
17. Samarkind - Samarkind
18. King Creature - Vol 1
19. Subterranean Masquerade - Vagabond
20. Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

Paul's Top 20 In Order

1. Lionize – Nuclear Soul
2. Deep Purple - Infinite 
3. Overkill – The Grinding Wheel 
4. Anathema – The Optimist 
5. Enslaved – E 
6. Fen – Winter 
7. King Leviathan – Paean Heretica 
8. Lion Shepherd – Heat 
9. Lunatic Soul – Fractured 
10. Moonspell – 1755

11. Immolation – Atonement 
12. Hawkwind – Into The Woods 
13. Septic Flesh – Codex Omega 
14. Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome 
15. Memoriam – For The Fallen 
16. Wolcesnmen – Songs From The Syrgen 
17. Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down 
18. Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos 
19. Dimmu Borgir – Forces Of The Northern Lights 
20. Solstafir - Berdreyminn

Rich's Top 20 In Order

1. Septicflesh – Codex Omega
2. Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
3. Kreator – Gods Of Violence
4. Anathema – The Optimist
5. Dyscarnate – With All Their Might
6. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
7. Body Count – Bloodlust
8. Ulver – The Assassination Of Julius Caesar
9. Necrowretch – Satanic Slavery
10. Beheaded – Beast Incarnate

11. Soen – Lykaia
12. Steven Wilson – To The Bone
13. Memoriam – For The Fallen
14. Myrkur – Mareridt
15. Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him
16. Brother Firetribe – Sunbound
17. The King Is Blind – We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer
18. Dying Fetus – Wrong One To Fuck With
19. Iron Reagan – Crossover Ministry
20. Hallatar – No Stars Upon The Bridge

Mrs H's (MoM's Chief Gardener and Pastry Provider) Top 10 In Order

1. Idlewar – Rite
2. Anathema – The Optimist
3. Stone Sour - Hydrograd
4. Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down
5. Trucker Diablo – Fighting For Everything
6. Gun – Favourite Pleasures
7. The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
8. Lionize – Nuclear Soul
9. Daniel Cavanagh – Monochrome
10. King Creature – Volume One

Anthony Hutchings' (MoMs Resident Cool Kid) Top 10 In Order
1. Code Orange - Forever
2. Malevolence - Self Supremacy
3. Satyricon - Deep Calleth Upon Deep
4. Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down
5. Mastodon - Emperor Of Sand
6. Paradise Lost - Medusa
7. Trivium - Sin And The Sentance
8. Kendrick Lemar - Damn
9. Anathema - The Optimist
10. The Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark?

Charl Foo (Moon Club Noise Lover) Top 10 Not In Order

1. Full Of Hell & The Body Split - Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light
2. Wolves In The Throne Room - Thrice Woven
3. Amenra - Mass VI
4. Yellow Eyes - Immersion Trench Reverie
5. Impetuous Ritual - Blight Upon Martyred Sentience
6. Wolf Eye - Undertow
7. Godflesh - Posh Self
8. Pharmakon - Contact
9. Boris - Dear
10. Primitive Man - Caustic

Jamie Richards (Of Pity My Brain) Top 10 In Order

1. All Them Witches - Sleeping Through The War
2. Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind - Super Natural
3. Grave Pleasures - Motherblood
4. Aaron Buchanan - The Man With Stars On His Knees
5. Ryan Adams - Prisoner
6. Robert Plant - Carry Fire
7. Beastmaker - Inside The Skull
8. QOTSA - Villains
9. Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats - Vol I.
10. Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley

Ash Cook's (Valis Ablaze Guitarist) Top 10 In Order

1. The Contortionist - Clairvoyant
2. Northlane - Mesmer
3. Veil of Maya - False Idol
4. CHON - Homey
5. Trivium - The Sin And The Sentence
6. August Burns Red - Phantom Anthem
7. The Midnight - Nocturnal
8. Drewsif Stalin - Anhedonia
9. Volumes - Different Animals
10. The Sun Explodes - We Are Of These Walls

Steve Jenkins' (Democratus Vocalist) Top 10 In No Particular Order

1. Alestorm - No Grave But The Sea
2. SepticFlesh - Codex Omega
3. Suffocation - Of The Dark Light
4. Trivium - The Sin and the Sentence
5. Stone Sour - Hydrograd
6. King Leviathan - Paean Heretics
7. The Haunted - Strength In Numbers
8. PowerQuest - Sixth Dimension
9. Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold
10. Queens Of The Stone Age - Villains

Michael Duffy's (Fuel Rock Club DJ) Top 10 In Order

1. Kreator- Gods Of Violence
2. Zeal & Ardor - Devil Is Fine
3. Battle Beast - Bringer Of Pain
4. Steven Wilson - To The Bone
5. Creeper - Eternity In Your Arms
6. Arch Enemy - Will To Power
7. Ayreon - The Source
8. Myrkur - Mareridt
9. Black Dahlia Murder - Nightbringers
10. ‎Dropkick Murphy's 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory

Elliot Cadmore's (AKA Sounds Of Insane Music) Top 10 In No Particular Order

1. Bullet Height - No Atonement
2. Courtesans - Better Safe Than Sober
3. Body Count - Bloodlust
4. Arch Enemy - Will To Power
5. Infected Rain - 86
6. Orden Ogan - Gunmen
7. Me And That Man - Songs Of Love And Death
8. Havoc - Conformicide
9. Cellar Darling - This Is the Sound
10. Motionless In White - Graveyard Shift