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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Reviews: Pop Evil, Kris Barras, Animal Drive, Bob Katsionis

Pop Evil: Pop Evil (eOne)

Pop Evil's third album Onyx was the record that launched this Michigan, blending the grungy earnest of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam with the flashier touches of Motley Crue and the glam rock bands, Pop Evil have adapted their sound in the years following the Onyx cycle, Up brought more variety and with fifth album they have dealt with line up changes before hand which has led to this self titled release. Now a self titled album is usually a sign of a band trying a rebirth and Pop Evil kick it off with two big heavy hitters Walking Lions has a crunchy riff and a big radio chorus but Colours Bleed brings some rapid rap metal vocals, never afraid to use a sample as they do Ex Machina.

I'm struggling a little at this point as there seems to be a lot of Nu-Metal influences coming in especially on Art Of War which is trying to RATM and I don't think it's a style I enjoy Pop Evil branching into, on Onyx and UP their previous albums they were a band that courted the mainstream but didn't sacrifice their rock roots, here they seem to be trying to focus their sound on the Imagine Dragons and X Ambassadors crowd. Do I like Pop Evil? Not really but then maybe I'm not supposed to, the only song I thought were pretty good was God's Dam the rest of it though I can take it or leave it. 6/10       

Kris Barras: Divine & Dirty (Provogue)

Devonshire bluesman Kris Barras has had a rather different path to music than others, inspired by his father, Gary Moore and Jimi Hendrix he performed on stages from a young age but as he grew more disillusioned with the music industry he indulged more in his other skill Mixed Martial Arts (14-3 record folks), having competed all over the world the lure of the blues was too much and now Barras is once again slinging a guitar. Divine & Dirty is his second record and his first for world class blues rock label Provogue part of the Mascot Label Group and home to Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Walter Trout, Eric Gale and more, with such good company around him his second record is a case of put up or shut up and this axe slinging cage warrior doesn't pull punches.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a rollicking creole good time, Lovers or Losers is a stomper with with a piano pounding and dirty slide and it collects the main styles that come through on this record which is a mix of classic blues rock, Southern rock and Planet Rock listener seducing hard rock (Blood On Your Hands), a song such as She's More Than Enough blends all three into a Dixie-fried piece with a big sing-along chorus, while Hail Mary could have easily come from  a Black Stone Cherry record. The record races with only the torch song of Hold On For Tomorrow slowing the stride along with final track Watching Over Me which has Gary Moore's influence writ large.

It also here that it's probably worth mentioning Barras' excellent hard rock vocal, a talent only matched by his six stringing prowess. In the future Divine & Dirty will be seen as the touchpoint for Kris Barras' career, a slick blues record firmly in the new school. Kris is on tour in late March and early April so get down to your nearest show to see him before he's moving on to bigger venues soon. 8/10

Animal Drive: Bite! (Frontiers Records)

Fresh out of Zagreb Animal Drive are the second Croatian band to be featured in these pages in as many months. Calling themselves a progressive rock band I'd say they are more heavy rock much like Jorn or early Rainbow. Formed by singer/multi instrumentalist Dino Jelusic, who was chosen as a featured vocalist of Trans Siberian Orchestra by the late Paul O'Neil, his rough and ready vocal has a touch of Dio and quite a lot of the Norwegian singer they call The Duke (Jorn Lande).

With the metallic muscle of Skid Row and the hard rock strut of Whitesnake Bite! sinks its teeth into you like Great White shark, you can struggle and exclaim that you've heard it all before, but as the album goes through the motions you can't help but nod your head and pump your fist, it's not world changing but it is catchy rock with a bit of pomp. The only issue I have with the record is that it like numerous bands that draw heavily on the more AOR style of hard rock, it has a few too many ballads and mid-paced rockers but when they unleash some fury Bite! sinks its teeth into you with tough dirty riffs and big chorus hooks. 7/10

Bob Katsionis: Prognosis & Synopsis (Symmetric Records)

A solo album in the literal sense the fifth album by Firewind/Outloud & Serious Black multi-instrumentalist, producer, video director and composer Bob Katsionis. The record is a retrospective look at where he has been (synopsis) and where he is going with his music (prognosis), pitched somewhere between Vangelis (obviously), Jean Michel Jarre, John Pertucci, Jens Johanasson and Keith Emerson this is cinematic instrumental music with virtuoso keys and guitars you get solos galore from both on Aegean Sunset and Tomorrow Starts Today, a bit of dark electronica on Dark Matter and some acoustic laced metal on Secret Of The Nomads.

There's fat riffs on Asymmetric Parallels  however The Messenger and futuristic Prognosis are both very Vangelis and pulsating power metal on Cold Embrace. Bob is an immensely talented individual and on this fifth album he draws upon his wealth of experience in his own bands and collaborating with others to bring this album to life as something more than an instrumental solo compilation, you almost forget that it's instrumental as the songs are well crafted and bleed well into each other resulting in the excellent Synopsis to round the album in true Keith Emerson style. 7/10

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Temperance Movement (Live Review By Paul)

The Temperance Movement Bristol 02 Academy

Hot on the heels of their superb third album, one of the UK’s finest bands arrived in Bristol as part of their A Deeper Cut UK tour. Having played a selection of small venues in November of 2017 where they road tested the new material, now was the time to deliver the goods in larger arenas.

These tours often have excellent support acts and those who got in early were rewarded with a storming set from Orlando six-piece Thomas Wynn And The Believers (8). Their soul drenched Southern rock and blues sound captured the attention from the start. Lead singer and guitarist Thomas Wynn not only had a fantastic dry delivery between songs but could also sing and play his guitar with aplomb. Ably assisted by the stunning vocals of sister Olivia and the eclectic collection who made up The Believers, the band whizzed through a 40-minute set which included a beautiful rendition of Springsteen’s Atlas Road from the album Nebraska, in the middle of their own compositions including tracks from their most recent release Wade Waist Deep, which is well worth checking out. The country sound was enhanced by the intertwined synchronicity of the vocals whilst the rocker edge was also in evidence with Thomas Wynn’s guitar work impressive.

Having seen The Temperance Movement (10) several times before, the only surprise was just how remarkable this band continue to be in the live setting. Phil Campbell’s inability to stand still makes him one of rock’s most engaging front men, as he hopped, danced, jumped and boogied all night long. Paul Weller haircut, appalling rose covered shirt and cropped trousers aside, Campbell captivates the audience from start to finish with his astonishing soulful smoky vocal delivery, whether on older favourites such as Be Lucky and the raucous set closer Midnight Black or the new tracks such as the powerful title track or the stomp of Built-In Forgetter. But The Temperance Movement are much more than just Phil Campbell and the rest of the band demonstrated this throughout the show. Paul Sayer and Matt White took turns to shine with their beautiful guitar work, intricate patterns and time signatures crossing superbly. Behind them new drummer Simon Lea proved that you don’t have to act link Animal from The Muppets, his economical style detracting not one iota from the power and solidity necessary to provide not only a platform but the essential rhythm. Alongside Lea, the reliable Nick Fyffe, whose subtle bass lines and perfect harmonies ensured that everything kept on track.

A 17-track set was perfectly paced, with the high tempo of tracks such as Caught In The Middle, the gospel style Love And Devotion (joined by Thomas and Olivia Wynn) and Be Lucky matched by some calmer tunes like the brilliant The Way It Was And The Way It Is Now and Higher Than The Sun. A Deeper Cut has penetrated the Top 10 on the UK album charts and it may well be the one to catapult the band to the next level. The audience, already familiar with material that had only been available for a week, lapped everything up, although the old favourites such as Know For Sure and Ain’t No Telling probably edged the response chart. Closing the main set with the beautiful title track from the album, complete with Campbell on acoustic guitar, it was inevitable that an encore would follow and what a duo; Backwater Zoo allowed Campbell to demonstrate his skills on the keyboards before a blistering Midnight Black brought the evening to a feverish conclusion. The hard work of the past six years appears to be paying off for a band that ooze quality. A must-see whenever they tour, and with one of the albums of the year already in the bag, The Temperance Movement are just fabulous.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Reviews: Oceans Of Slumber, Borealis, CoreLeoni, Moonparticle

Oceans Of Slumber: The Banished Heart (Century Media)

This was an album that took a lot of listening to absorb and digest Texan band Oceans Of Slumber's second album the band commented on where the record came from “The last few years have been turbulent. When you have this mixture of a few very emotional and creative people, it gets shaky sometimes. Internal and family struggles were trying to rot us from the inside out. This new album is a reflection of those personal feelings.” you can hear the pain in this record it's dark, very dark, melancholic, ominous, there's a poetic sorrow to the record that was a major part of their debut but here it's all consuming. Much of the emotional intensity comes from the arresting vocals of Cammie Gilbert she has passion that can bring tears to the eyes but also has an ability to bring optimism even in the most hopeless of circumstances.

The lumbering yet frantic doom of The Decay Of Disregard starts the record with the technical mastery that Oceans Of Slumber showed on their debut album. The song itself is slow, deliberate piece with a deep heavy riff but behind that there’s technical guitar playing and expressive drum fills, sonically it’s the right start to the album giving you an idea of what the band are all about using changes of pace to create extreme soundscapes for Cammie to pour her soul over. Fleeting Vigilance adds aggressive death vocals and some insane drumming from Dobber Beverly who forms a really tight, grunting rhythm section with Keegan Kelly, it’s his bass playing that gives tracks such as At Dawn their throbbing chug. 

Guitar wise the band rely very much on black metal styled ferocity that brings dynamics to the thunder, Anthony Contreras and Sean Gary abuse their instruments trying to keep up with the blistering double kicks of Beverly, every once and a while there is a peel off for a tasty solo (Etiolation) but this is all about the riffs rather than fret fireworks, they create the atmosphere. I’ve said that this record is dark at its core but with the title track it moves into haunting as the riffs give way to a piano and strings which in turn moves into bleeping synths and an industrial final part of this 8 minute plus album. 

The Banished Heart has 11 songs but they are all multi layered, progressive, extreme pieces with only an interlude such as The Watcher and Her In The Distance acting as bridge between the atmospheric vehemence. It’s towards the end of the album that we get a guest appear on No Colour, No Light, no stranger to misery the voice belongs to Tom S Englund of Evergrey who counterbalances the soul of Cammie with his deep resonant tones burning a slow trail to its climax. Debut album Winter showed what Oceans Of Slumber were capable of whereas The Banished Heart is the culmination of a perfect storm of musical dexterity, personal tragedy and resilience in the face of adversity, it’s a record with a fervour that it finds hard to contain and it’s simply brilliant and as Wayfaring Stranger closes the album it almost leaves you on cliff hanger for album number 3. You probably won’t hear another record like this in 2018. 10/10

Borealis: The Offering (AFM)

Fourth record from one of my favourite bands, I'm not going to hate it folks. You might want to stop there as from here I'm going to explain why this album is another classic from this young Canadian band. Clearly re-recording their debut has stoked the fire in Borealis as they are once again shining their progressive melodic metal brightly. The record is unrelenting from The Fire Between Us, through The Offering to River the sound on this record is huge, veritable walls of riffs are wrapped up with orchestrations, a pummelling rhythm section and strong gritty emotional vocals. The band strip things back for The Devil's Hand which features some delicate strings and acoustic guitars from Ken Fobert and Matt Marinelli who also consistently delivers the best vocals this side of Tom S Englund.

The music on this record doesn't let you go once it has you in it's grasp, the heaviness getting your head banging but the accessible nature of the music taking you away into a story of “the creation, rise and ultimate demise of a cult who practices human, more specifically child sacrifice. They believe this method of belief, sacrifice and devotion will bring an end to the suffering of humanity (but) the men in the cult are too self-consumed with their righteous quest (and) they've overlooked the fact that children are the true key to restoring and preserving lost innocence.” It's a horror movie themed concept record which is really advanced by the cinematic style of Borealis, right up to the devine final song The Ghosts Of Innocence which is 8 minutes of progressive metal perfection. Evergrey are the band I'd most associate with Borealis as they both possess that beautiful mix of heaviness and delicacy and on this fourth record they've turned it up past 11, impressive, muscular metal with epic soundscapes The Offering is another masterpiece by Borealis. 10/10

CoreLeoni: Greatest Hits - Part 1 (Frontiers  Records)

CoreLeoni was Gotthard guitarist Leo Leoni's band before he formed Gotthard, so with Gotthard now on a permanent hiatus after the death of frontman Steve Lee. Leoni wanted to pay tribute to his former band by releasing a record in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Gotthard's self titled debut. So this is essentially a compilation of Gotthard tracks from the first two albums but mainly from the debut; played by a founding member of that band with a new band (complicated I know). The opening two tracks, the strutting Firedance and the Whitesnake-esque Downtown get the blood pumping from the beginning and both come from the debut record, Higher from the second and the record follows this strict tracklist of albums 1 & 2.

The backing band are pretty spot on with their hard rocking, drummer Hena Habegger was also in Gotthard so this stuff is easy for him but Jgor Gianola (guitar) and Mila Merker (bass) hold their own while Ronnie Romero displays again why he is rapidly becoming the new voice of rock. These songs take you back to the bluesy beginnings of Gotthard but wth re-recorded and refreshed sound and Romero taking the place of Lee, it means these songs sound as fresh now as they did when the Swiss hard rockers first hit the music world. It's a great album that obviously means a lot to Leoni as he uses it as chance to reminisce on the songs that Gotthard overlooked as their career moved on, the solitary new track is Walk On Water which sticks out as more modern song due to the orchestration behind it putting it against the simplicity of the early songs. For Gotthard diehards Greatest Hits - Part 1 will serve as a nostalgic treat but for those unfamiliar with the band this is very solid hard rock record. 8/10

Moonparticle: Hurricane Esmeralda (Self Released)

Moonparticle is a band that all seems to have one common denominator, that is Steven Wilson. Formed by Bulgarian guitarist Niko Tsonev who played with Steven on his live album Get All You Deserve he has managed to snap up keyboardist Adam Holzman, wind instrument extraordinaire Theo Travis and drummer Craig Blundell all of whom are either in or have been in Wilson's solo band. With such a high profile cast you can probably appreciate that this isn't going to be an easy record and it isn't, the majority of it is built on progressive jazz rock that hints to Wilson's work (White Light) but also the jazz rock of Brand X and the outright oddness of King Crimson (Michelangelo Don't Stop).

The musicians get to flex their muscles liberally throughout as Tsonev's compositions are brought to life by the virtuoso performers each getting their own solo sections throughout. Much of Hurricane Esmeralda  instrumental but when vocals are required Die So Fluid's Grog Lisee she adds a new element to the trio of songs she contributes too. Her unique vocals are well placed to give a little variation to the record. It's intelligent progressive music that defies genre boundaries at every turn, all you real proggers out their will find this an interesting and intelligent album. 7/10

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Reviews: The Temperance Movement, Imperial State Electric, Killcode, The Atlas Moth (Reviews By Paul)

The Temperance Movement: A Deeper Cut (Earache Records)

It’s hard to believe that it was only two years ago that TTM released White Bear, the superb follow up to the band’s stunning debut. A Deeper Cut is a more mature and polished album, demonstrating a development in the song writing whilst retaining the gritty raw feel of that first release. Now an established Academy size act and having spent time with several of those Southern bands like Blackberry Smoke, it’s unsurprising to also hear confidence and a slight change in their sound at times, such as Love And Devotion, a track full of Southern boogie stomp. First single Built-In Forgetter confirms that the band have retained their high energy tempo whilst the beautiful mellow title track allows time for Phil Campbell to remind us of his quality spreads further than the raucous foot tapping rock ‘n’ rollers. With new guitarist Matt White and drummer Simon Lea now fully embedded alongside Campbell, Paul Sayer and Nick Fyffe, A Deeper Cut signals that TTM, for some time one of the hottest live acts in the UK are now also one of the best on record too. 9/10

Imperial State Electric: Anywhere Loud (Psychout Records)

I had never heard of Imperial State Electric. Anywhere Loud is unlikely to increase my desire for improving my knowledge of the band. Not that there's anything wrong with this intensely energetic live release, recorded at sold-out, shows in Madrid, Stockholm and Tokyo. I’m just not a huge fan of the Americana style throw away sound that the band pump out with ease. It’s perfectly crafted; a mix of Springsteen, Cheap Trick, The Gaslight Anthem and even The Beatles, so it’s unsurprising that the Japanese love this Swedish four-piece. The band are prolific, with five albums since their formation from the ashes of The Hellacopters in 2010.

With Nicke Andersson, Tobais Egge and Dolph De Borst all swapping vocal duties, and stirring performances of their most beloved songs, the 23-song set is perfectly listenable and at times their straying into punk fringes, such as Reptile Brain perks the interest. Favourites include Throwing Stones, Uh Huh, All Over My Head, an intense rendition of The Dead Boys’ classic Sonic Reducer and an equally boisterous version of The Kids’ anthem This is Rock ‘n’ Roll. Snippets of Sabbath and Zeppelin infiltrate the set to instant impact. I can’t knock it but it just doesn’t spark the interest. 7/10

Killcode: The Answer (Self Released)

The New York five-piece’s latest album combines southern infused rock & metal with modern day vocals to deliver supercharged anthems, dipping with throwaway hooks beloved of Godsmack, Sevendust and the like. The Answer has a huge guitar sound, some driving rhythms and several tracks that you could break the speed limit to. Tom Morrissey’s lead vocals are typically over the top, as you’d expect from any band from the Big Apple.

There’s a touch of RATM on the opening of Shot, with some slicing guitar from Chas although the melody is soon more radio friendly than angry political rage. The obligatory ballad Own It Now is passable although these never do anything for me. Much more impressive are the big hitting Pick Your Side and the pounding Slave. The closing track Put It Off is however, another ballad which brings a disappointing finish to a decent album. 6/10 

The Atlas Moth: Coma Noir (Prosthetic Records)

I must admit, I absolutely hated this release. The fourth album from the post-metal outfit from Chicago, who formed in 2007, was marred by the screaming vocals in the first two tracks which completely obscured the quality of the musicianship. Reviews are of course a personal view and I know many will love this type of metal. For me, I was unable to relate to it at all. Probably unfair to provide a rating when I switched it off after two songs. 0/10 (Editor added score for continuity)

Saturday, 24 February 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Wilson & Wakeman

Wilson & Wakeman, Acapella Studios, Pentyrch, Cardiff

Let it be known that we are an eclectic bunch of musos on this blog. I realise an acoustic two piece probably falls outside of the remit of a rock and metal blog but after I had be subjected to the absolute barrel scraping that was Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox the previous evening, spending a misty Sunday night in a converted church/recording studio with Adam Wakeman pianist/keyboardist/guitarist for Ozzy, Sabbath, Snakecharmer and frequent collaborator with his dad Rick and vocalist/guitarist Damian Wilson who has played in Threshold, Ayreon and Maiden UniteD seemed like a much more appealing way to spend my money. Anyway add to their collective talents that they are both a part of progressive metal act Headspace (who we found out are the most hated act in Cropredy history) and I think their metal credentials speak for themselves.

This however as I said was a tour in support of their second collaboration record as Wilson & Wakeman (not Wakeman & Wilson as was suggested by Adam) the set was an interesting mix of solo material from both, songs from both W&W records and covers, the record that got the most airing was Wilson's brilliant solo album Built For Fighting as three songs were aired including the Radio 2 listed track Thrill Me. Between the songs was a lot of storytelling from Wilson (and dad jokes from Wakeman) in fact so much story telling that there wasn't room for an encore but between tales of the first ever Cropredy mosh pit, Wilson's aunt who may have stolen a cake recipe and rocks out at every gig, the hemp gifting Dutch and a woman who once brought a cake Damian asked her for in a dream we also got so brilliant music.

With Wakeman's piano playing sounding as grandiose as possible on what exclaimed was the best piano of the tour he was backed by some splendid picking from Wilson. To get a measure of how good these performers are you simply need to see Adam play Black Sabbath's Iron Man as a jazz piece and Wilson's show stopping rendition of Bring Him Home from his time as Jean Valjean. The reason for this song being in the set has also quite an emotional story to it which touched even those of us with hearts made of steal. His vocal prowess throughout the night showed why he remains one of my biggest vocal influences long after I'd become another failed rock singer. His passionate acoustic version of Iron Maiden's The Evil That Men Do displayed why he was interviewed by Maiden after Bruce left and his own songs carry a introspective but optimistic outlook. Both seemed at ease continuing conversations from the car journey onto the stage and we few that were in the audience became part of the family for one night.

The setting was mesmerising and the sound perfect, a cosy, warm inviting place to hold gigs The Acapella has now climbed high onto my list of favourite places. The way the walls shook when the small but boisterous crowd sang back Homegrown and Life On Mars (the original featuring Rick Wakeman on piano fact fans) and we cemented why Wales is the land of song, well done all. The set was paced well with Wilson resting vocals during Adams leads on Tapestries, Iron Man and his solo vocal/guitar song Catch You When You Fall. Due to the curfew the set didn't feature an encore but with two and a half hours of magnificence no one seemed to mind. After the show Adam was talking about the possibility of doing two shows at the end of the year one W&W and one Headspace on consecutive days both in this venue.

I for one hope that pays off as having seen Headspace play a small venue in London and nearly blowing the PA the natural acoustics of The Acapella would result in one hell of show. Keep an eye out for that but also if you have the chance catch Wilson & Wakeman live as it was the ideal show to start a week of promising live music, the bar has been set high let's hope rest of the gigs this week can deliver. 10/10

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Paradise Lost (Live Review By Dean)

Paradise Lost, Thekla, Bristol

“I've heard rumours that you only play here twice, once on the way up, and once on the way back down” - a singer I forget, Bristol Thekla, a long-long time ago

Thankfully this is the very first time Nick Holmes has boarded Bristol's favourite boat with his gloomy band of Halifaxian (if it's not a word, it should be) friends, so whilst if the above quote were factually correct then Paradise Lost (9) have their biggest days ahead of them. Whilst that's not strictly speaking true, having had the bulk of their success in the mid-to-late 90s, Paradise Lost are still considered a pretty huge powerhouse in many parts of the world, and the absolutely jam-packed nature of the Thekla suggests the same.

Transport issues meant that unfortunately I missed both supports (Outshine and the always angry King Goat) I was reliably informed by a troupe of Spanish gents at the bar (whom had indeed travelled from Spain for a chance to see Paradise Lost in such an intimate venue) that both had done their job magnificently.

So as 8pm struck, our headliners hit the stage and launched instantly into From The Gallows  one of the most doom-laden tracks from their most recent record Medusa, instantly everyone becomes aware that such a huge-sounding band playing such a small venue will have trade-offs: Indeed the gig is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a band who just two months prior had sold out the 1,800 capacity music hall in Cologne in a venue which barely holds 400, but that also means a much smaller sound system which is noticeably struggling for the first few numbers (indeed it's only four songs in when the band hit One Second that the bass ceases to sound like a bunch of sticks being rubbed together).

Regardless of the sound issues to begin with (which from thereon out were basically a non-factor), the band are, as always, polished and tight, tearing through tracks from across their 15-album career without missing a beat or a note. Naturally the laws-of-the-sod couldn't possibly have an intimate gig without mishap, so naturally Gregor Mackintosh's guitar amp decided to take care of that by blowing up mid-set. Not that this detracted from the show as a bit of sardonic humour from Mr Holmes and a quick replacement amp later and the set was underway again and no further mishaps occurred, leaving the band to carry on doing what they do best: extended cuts of long, doom-driven metal to a crowd whom were lapping every note up.

The main set came to an end after just over an hour and a quarter with the iconic Embers Fire, played with just as much passion and fire as when it was released 15 whole years ago. Naturally the show was not done there as the band quickly marched back on stage to deliver a 3 song encore consisting of 2015's No Hope In Sight, last years' The Longest Winter (which I suspect is going to feature in live shows for a very long time to come) and finally 1997's Say Just Word, leaving the boat sweaty and the crowd very happy as the band said their goodnights.

A masterclass in doom on a cold winter night provided by a surprisingly cheerful band. Paradise Lost might not be still “on their way up”, but they've pre-empted any such concerns by simply never coming down from their rightful place at the top of the podium.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Reviews: Rush, Michael Schenker Fest, Whitesnake (Reviews By Paul)

Rush: Lost In Great Woods And Summer Skies (Bootleg)

On June 23rd, 1997 Rush played the Great Woods Music Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. This concert is a timely reminder, in the fortnight where Alex Lifeson confirmed that the band is in all but name over, of what a spectacular force the Canadian trio were in the live arena. Of course, this recording was mere months before drummer Neil Peart was hit by the first of a double whammy of personal tragedies as his daughter Selena died in a car accident, followed within 12 months by the cancer and death of wife Jacqueline. Having gone through that emotional hell, it’s astonishing that the band ever regrouped but they did and provided another 13 years of magical music.

The tour which is captured in this release was in support of 1996’s Test For Echo album, the second release which heralded the return to a more guitar focused sound and edge to the band. The set list is littered with a thumping seven songs from that album, which in my mind is rather underrated. The power of Driven, the craziness of Limbo and the delicacy of Resist all provide illustrations of the versatility and the musicianship of a band who for me are unmatched.

As well as Test For Echo, four tracks appear from the previous release, 1993’s Counterparts, including the emotional of Nobody’s Hero and the raging Animate. Neil Peart’s clever and thought provoking lyrics surge through their songs, a stream of consciousness which we would often do well to observe. Of course, no Rush concert would be complete without some of the classics and there is a fair sprinkling of them in this three-hour event. Blistering versions of Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta and encore YYZ from Moving Pictures nestle comfortably with the older Freewill, The Trees and an epic 2112 which has Lifeson providing some real virtuoso moments.

The obligatory and excellent Peart drum solo The Rhythm Method is familiar to Rush fans, but this is a fine example of the craft which Peart was the master of. And then we get to Geddy Lee, in mischievous form, cracking Austin Powers impressions throughout and reminding you what an astonishing bassist he really is. A cracking show is ended by the YYZ plus a snippet of Cyngus X-I. A superb recording of the best rock band of all time. 10/10

Michael Schenker Fest: Resurrection (Nuclear Blast)

We’ve reviewed a lot of Metal Mickey over the years here at Musipedia. For me, there is no more sublime guitarist around. Technically superb, creative and naturally flowing with the ease that only the absolute top-class legends demonstrate. However, much of his recent Temple Of Rock work has been just that little bit bland. His recent decision to return to yesteryear with the vocalists from MSG allowed him opportunity to grab the spotlight once more, with the Gary Barden years of the early 1980s now viewed very much through rose tinted glasses. Growing up with Attack Of The Mad Axeman, Into The Arena, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and the mighty Armed And Ready, there is certainly a soft spot in my armour for the German and his hard rock style.

With the combined vocal talent of Gary Barden, Graham Bonnett and Robin McAuley harnessed for a full album, what do we get? Well, opener Heart & Soul is a racy starter for ten, McAuley’s vocals soar alongside Schenker’s rampaging guitar and a guest solo from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. Warrior not only sees all three vocalists get together for a vocal group hug but has added Dougie White from Temple Of Rock. It’s all a bit chummy for me and not particularly great as a song. Then we get the first of several apparently God squad inspired tracks, with White opening the pipes superbly but Take Me To The Church? Holy shit. When did Schenker join Stryper and co? Lyrically it’s desperate stuff, but for a man who was on his last Flying V not that long ago then maybe it’s not so surprising; 12 steps and all that.

Night Moves follows, allowing Bonnett to open the pipes. At 70 years of age, the man can still sing even if the track, spookily reminiscent of his solo Night Games, is duller than a warehouse full of magnolia paint. Doogie White reappears for The Girl With The Stars In Her Eyes, and he demonstrates once again that next to Bonnett, vocally he’s superior to Barden and McAuley. This is a bit of hard rock gold, all pomp and polish with the old school rhythm section of Chris Glenn and Ted Mckenna giving it large and lying down the platform for Schenker to flex those fingers once more to magical effect.

The rocking gets even better on Everest, which needs no explanation about lyrical theme. McKenna’s pounding drums are impressive, the double bass kicking hard and driving the song forward, Bonnett excelling in the vocal department whilst Schenker lays down the most fluid and natural guitar work of the entire album. Unfortunately, it’s followed by a real dud in Messin’ Around, with Barden’s weak vocals struggling from start to finish. Time Knows When It's Time allows McAuley another go, and he gives it a fair shot, even if the song is a throwaway. White’s stellar singing gets to shine once more on Anchors Away, a neat sing-a-long track with Steve Mann’s sumptuous keyboards adding to the galloping momentum; another superb Schenker solo lights up the song. This is closely followed by the always welcome instrumental tune. This time it’s Salvation, which maintains the Jebus theme but also has a right jazzy feel with more soulful guitar work from the main man. 

And that’s where this release should have ended. Unfortunately, we get two more Barden led songs; firstly, the rather limp Living A Life Worth Living, Barden straining to hit any notes cleanly. Bringing this inconsistent release to an end, The Last Supper, definitely the worst track on the album. All four vocalists have a go here, and it’s fucking dreadful. Absolute dogshit with only Schenker’s bluesy solo rescuing it in any shape or form. And this from the man whose solos for UFO, Scorpions and MSG remain legendary. It’s probably unsurprising, given the fact that no-one remembers anything MSG did after Assault Attack that some of this album is utter tosh. When it shines, it’s great. But when it drops, it hits the deck hard. Still, looking forward to seeing them all crooning away at HRH 11 in November. Just stick to the old stuff. 7/10

Whitesnake: The Purple Tour (Rhino Entertainment)

Two years ago, you may recall me getting a little agitated about the release of Whitesnake’s The Purple Album, a soulless rehash of David Coverdale’s time in Deep Purple, sans Glenn Hughes and the rest of the band. Well, following their tour of that album, here’s the live version, with a mix of classic Whitesnake tracks alongside those Purple masterpieces. Accompanied by guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, bassist Michael Devlin, Drummer Tommy Aldridge and keyboardist Michele Luppi, Coverdale squeaks and howls his way through 74 minutes of overproduced, flashy as hell all American bombast which the Birmingham crowd lap up. The tracks come fast and furious, with the pace relentless, and the guitar work undeniably impressive. However, the soul and heart of the blues soaked Whitesnake from 1978 is completely absent.

Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City is dreadful, devoid of the passion which made it such an emotion jerker back in the day. Soldier Of Fortune is rescued by some neat acoustic guitar work on the intro but Coverdale’s over the hill croak (no doubt dubbed to hell on the production) merely brings tears to the eyes. Fool For Your Loving at least moves the feet but throughout this album there is nothing to get the blood pumping. The tinny backing vocals, Coverdale’s vocal limitations combined with some very tired phrases and a huge overproduction leave it rather flat. If you want to see some of these songs performed with heart and soul, then get your arse along to the Muni in Pontypridd or the Fleece in Bristol on 28th and 29th April to see the excellent Bernie Marsden and Hand Of Dimes, or spunk up the cash to catch Glenn Hughes do it properly on the top of the Mountain at Steelhouse in July. Save your cash. 4/10

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Reviews: Angra, Galvanizer, Necrodeath, Storm Upon The Masses (Reviews By Rich)

Angra: ØMNI (earMusic)

Going back many many years when I was discovering heavy metal music and exploring its various subgenres I came across a band called Angra and a song called Angels Cry which just so happened to be my first exposure to power metal. Back to present day and Angra are absolutely one of my favourite bands from the genre and so it is with great excitement and enthusiasm that I get to review their latest and ninth album ØMNI. Angra are one of those bands who have been going a long time but seem to have always fallen just below the radar for many people which is such a shame as they are an extraordinary band. Hailing from Brazil they have been releasing albums since the early 90’s and have always had a sound which comprised power metal, progressive metal and symphonic metal with a Latin twist.

 They stick to this formula throughout ØMNI with a mix of thunderous speedy power metal anthems such as Light Of Transcendence and War Horns and the more progressively leaning Magic Mirror and the epic closing duo of Silence Inside and Infinite Nothing which is a pure symphonic piece. The oddball off the album is Black Widow’s Web which has a more modern groove metal sound to it plus guest vocals from Brazilian pop singer Sandy and guest growls from Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz. It’s an interesting mix but a bit of a failed experiment. Since the release of previous album Secret Garden in 2015 guitarist Kiko Loureiro has jumped ship to join legendary thrashers Megadeth and has been replaced by Marcelo Barbosa but the rest of the band remains the same. Kiko still shows up as a guest to provide some guitars though.

Special mention has to go to vocalist Fabio Lione who is a legend in power metal and gives one his career best performances on this album. ØMNI is a fine album and although it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of past Angra albums such as Holy Land or Temple Of Shadows, I find it’s an improvement over previous album Secret Garden which I found slightly underwhelming. This is an album that both power metal and progressive metal fans will agree over. 8/10

Galvanizer: Sanguine Vigil (Everlasting Spew Records)

Sanguine Vigil is the debut album by Finnish death/grind filth merchants. Galvanizer have a sound rooted in old school death metal and grindcore from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and it is beautifully disgusting. There’s an abundance of influences throughout from Autopsy to Terrorizer all resulting in just over 30 minutes of putrid death/grind complete with the obligatory horror movie samples at the start of one or two songs. The songs generally average about 2-3 minutes in length which allows for multiple riffs and time changes from barrages of blastbeats to slower doomy moments.

The only song which deviates and is the shortest is the utterly filthy and chaotic Grind Till...You’re Dead! The only letdown on the album is the production which is overly muddy and murky affecting the guitar sound especially. With a better production these songs could sound even nastier. Still it doesn’t detract too much and at certain times the murky sound compliments the songs. If you are a fan of dirty old school death metal and grindcore then this album is one for you. 8/10

Necrodeath: The Age Of Dead Christ (Scarlet Records)

The Age Of Dead Christ is the eleventh album by Italian black metal legends Necrodeath. These guys are one of the pioneers of 1980’s black metal with their 1985 demo The Shining Pentagram and the two albums that followed Into The Macabre and Fragments Of Insanity these days seen as cult classics. With their new album The Age Of Dead Christ Necrodeath have promised a return to their classic sound or to quote drummer Peso "back to our black origins with thrashing brutality!"  It’s always a slight concern when a band tries to resurrect their glory years but Necrodeath absolutely pull it off with an album that pays homage to their classic 80’s output but is an absolute ripping blackened thrash monster in its own right.

Chaos is unleashed from the moment the play button is hit with a barrage of blastbeats which heralds the start of opening song The Whore Of Salem. The songs on the album range from raging thrashers such as The Master Of Mayhem and The Crypt Of Nyarlathotep to more atmospheric songs such as The Triumph Of Pain and the title track which just drip with evil and malevolence. The band have also reworked a song from their debut album The Undead which is reborn as The Return Of The Undead and features guest vocals from A.C. Wild of Italian thrashers Bulldozer.

 With a sound that is suitably raw but also with enough clarity throughout The Age Of Dead Christ is a fantastic throwback to the classic sound of Necrodeath but stands well on its own. The tracks are strong enough that it doesn’t sound like the band are regurgitating their old sound. This is a brilliant release that old school thrashers and black metal fans are going to lose their minds over. 9/10

Storm Upon The Masses: The Ones Who Came Back (Dolorem Records)

The Ones Who Came Back is the debut album by Belgian brutal death metal band Storm Upon The Masses and it is an incredibly strong debut album. This is an album for those who like their music HEAVY with a sound that mixes modern brutal death metal with elements of grindcore sounding like a cross between Aborted, Benighted and Hour Of Penance. You have riffs that rip and tear and drumming which could collapse buildings.

Throughout the 11 songs and the albums 37 minute duration there is virtually no let up at all. Songs such as Last Rites, Skullfucked and the title track are true lessons in violence and brutality. Some of the songs get a bit repetitive through the albums duration but no song outstays its welcome so it’s not a huge issue. The Ones Who Came Back is an impressive debut though it is slightly lacking in its own identity but I’m sure this is something that will come to the band as they write more material. 7/10

Monday, 19 February 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Black Moth (Live Review By Paul)

Black Moth: Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Ah, St Valentine’s Day. Another commercial masterpiece designed to ensnare the quite stupid British public into handing over more cash on overpriced sentimental guff. However, this year, a ticket to see Leeds’ fabulous Black Moth meant that for the first time in our marriage, Mrs H received a present from yours truly. It was money well spent as, along with many others who also decided to spend their evening in the Capital’s premier rock bar, we were treated to an evening of great value and high quality.

The Used’s sold out UK tour had recently been postponed at short notice due to a bereavement and this had left their support LowLives (7) at a loss. No gigs. To their credit the band have been dipping in and out of slots wherever they could get them, supporting where possible, throwing the odd freebie and generally making themselves busy. Arriving as the band were already bursting through their set, it was evident that there was still some disappointment and frustration within the band, with a couple of comments made about the audience response. Still, Lee, Luke, Steve and Jax’s aggressive Nirvana-esque driving pop-rock was appealing and the band put full effort into their show. Heavy drums, pop hooks and lots of driving guitar are the core of the band’s sound and although the Fuel crowd, notoriously slow to get going took some time to warm up, a decent response was eventually forthcoming. Of course, with ex-members of The Defiled and The Ataris in the ranks, the LA based band probably expect greater things.

Heavy misanthropic heft. Three words that capture the essence of main support Grave Lines (8). 45 minutes of intense bludgeoning about the head from the doom outfit left many staring in confusion at the completion of their set. I think it was five songs but it might have just been one long aural assault. Who knows? The South Coast outfit ensured that their presence on this tour would long be remembered with some quite painfully heavy sludge which slowly enveloped the crowd with its misery and hate. Bassist Staggerin’ Matt is aptly named, his lunging headbanging was initially alarming in its exaggerated style. The incomprehensibly tall Oli on guitar, stripped to the waist, gurning for his life and plastered with some fine ink, peeled out some of the most intensely heavy riffs Fuel has ever seen.

Behind him the waif like Julia Owen, resplendent in a Sleep shirt, belied her stature with a battering that had you wondering if Black Moth would need a new drum kit. That left snarling vocalist Jake Harding, in tatty vest and shorts to deliver the knockout blow, his roaring vocals incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the band’s work. Describing Grave Lines show is easy. Imagine being run over by a steamroller and just as you get to your feet a herd of elephants tramples you back into the dirt. Yeah. Like that. With a new track from their forthcoming album mixed with songs from 2016’s Welcome To Nothing, I was unable to tell whether the crowd had been warmed up or beaten down by the end of the set. It was nothing short of legalised assault and battery.

Leeds’ Black Moth (9) release Anatomical Venus in March. Having already heard it and reviewed it for the Musipedia, I was at an advantage as the bulk of band’s set comprised new songs amongst older favourites from Condemned To Hope and debut The Killing Jar. The new tracks have brought a heaviness to the stoner sound of the band and the Sabbath style riffage of Federica Gialanze and Jim Swainston guaranteed that any opportunity to clear the head from the pounding of Grave Lines was quickly lost. All eyes focus on vocalist Harriet Hyde, whose superb voice was lost at times in the traditional muddy mix at Fuel but when she did break through it was with a razor-sharp quality. Anchoring the band, drummer Dom McCready whose intense pummelling of the kit left you surprised it was still standing by the end of the set.

Whilst Hyde may be the focal point, bassist Dave Vachon rarely stopped moving, nipping from front to back time and again as the band picked up steam and got into cruise control. If you are unfamiliar with Black Moth, imagine the darkness of Sabbath, the ethereal qualities of Siouxsie And The Banshees and the chaos of The Stooges. New tracks included the fabulous Istra, the thrashy Moonbow and the anarchic set closer Pig Man, whilst there was the inevitable Tumbleweed from Condemned and Honey Lung from The Killing Jar for the older fans. Black Moth are intense, heavy and above all fun to see live. A band who enjoy what they do, destined for bigger things.  

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Reviews: King Witch, Eleine, The Rocket Dolls, Crescent

King Witch: Under The Mountain (Listenable Records)

Heavy doom from Scotland, King Witch come from Edinburgh and in the greatest tradition of the sons of Birmingham they riff like complete bastards. Featuring two former members of Firebrand Super Rock (a band who were ace in my opinion) the music of King Witch is similar but obviously has the more occult themes running through it. Happily Laura Donnelly returns as vocalist and her powerful wails are front and center as Jamie Gilchrist (guitar), Lyle Brown (drums) and Joe Turner (bass) make an unruly racket underneath, their classic heavy doom has an epic sound, Carnal Sacrifice beats you around the head with it's thumping riff and it leads into the spiralling psych doom of Solidarity which is one of the set piece songs on the record that's framed by the faster driving rockers such as the title track.

It's worth repeating that Donnelly has a bloody incredible voice but the rest of the band are no slouches either, the rhythm section of Brown and Turner thunder with the faster tracks and but it's in the monolithic Approaching The End, the jazz inflected Ancients and on Possession where the drums sound like an artillery barrage that the rhythm section is at it's absolute best, with this sort of backing it's obvious why Gilchirst abuses his guitar throughout. In a break with tradition this record ends with the two speediest tracks on the record with final track Black Dog Blues blows a gasket with a frenzied assault. Under The Mountain is brilliant. Buy it! 9/10

Eleine: Until The End (Algoth/Black Lodge)

I'll start this review by saying this is a great record, it's characterised as heavy symphonic metal and I'd say that's a pretty accurate description. Think Epica and you'd be on the money, the only difference is frontwoman Madeleine Liljestam doesn't quite have the operation range of Simone Simmons, she does however have an excellent voice, it's powerful, melodic, seductive and has a pop sensibility that really glides over the heavy rhythms and orchestral manoeuvres. Madeleine is the focal point of the band as both the singer and namesake it's image carved out as an alternative model (she has graced the cover of a well known Scandinavian tattoo magazine) and suits the duality of the band as co-founding member Rikard Ekberg not only brings the riffs but also the growls to pair with Madeleine's clean vocals, the real beauty and the beast style that's associated with this type of music.

The record itself is strong, it's flows well with Echoes starting out heavy and Sanity that follows it relying purely on the clean vocals and a catchier sound, this heavy metal sound is taken right the way through until Please which sees Madeleine's vocals cracking with emotion, it's a beautiful song which has just vocals and piano. With all the orchestrations and top drawer singing going on you may miss the technically impressive riffs and drum patterns but I urge you to listen out for them as they are a major feature of this band. Having already shared the stage with Moonspell, Darkane, W.A.S.P, Europe, Raubtier, Eleine are a well worn machine and you can hear the maturity and experience oozing out of this record through the clear production. For symphonic rock fans Eleine are a band to latch on to, the combination of great music and arresting imagery, they will be on the rise this year I'm sure. 8/10

The Rocket Dolls: DeadHead (Self Released)

Having been called ones to watch by Planet Rock, as you press play on DeadHead the second album from Brighton rockers The Rocket Dolls, I immediately thought this might be a bit too heavy for the typical Planet Rock audience but then the hook comes in the chorus and all becomes clear, this band have deconstructed the sounds of some of the biggest bands around and pieced them back together to create new music. The three piece's main sound comes from the grunge influenced rocking of acts such as Seether and Alice In Chains. Starting Something Now is a fine example as it's got the angsty snarl (although not as much as the title track) the quiet loud dynamics perfected by Nirvana but as I mentioned earlier a populist sound with hooks galore.

The songs all have choruses you can see jumper wearing teens with greasy hair singing edgily while they lamenting their angst. I jest of course, there are some really deep messages on this record and The Rocket Dolls have really latched onto grunge and post grunge sound that was so huge in the early 1990's. She Said has bit of Foo Fighters while The Last Thing On My Mind and Drowning have an orchestral backing that was clearly meant to be featured on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. The Rocket Dolls are Nikki Smash (vocals/guitar), Benji Knopfler (drums), Joe Constable (bass) and they lock in to this record perfectly, a real unit they seem to be able to adapt to any sound be it straight rock, punk or their favoured grunge. Ones to watch? I'd say you won't be able to look away such is the quality of DeadHead. 8/10

Crescent: The Order Of Amenti (Listenable Records)

There are a few bands that use Egyptian imagery in their music, the most notable being the USA's Nile. Wouldn't it be novel to have a band that sings about Egyptian imagery, who were actually from Egypt? Well say hello to Crescent a blackened death metal band from Cairo (I know Scarab are also from Egypt) sweeping riffs and croaky death vocals from Ismaeel Attallah are what drive Crescent he's got Youssef Saleh, Moanis Salem, Amr Mokhtar as his furious backbone, the blast beats, lightspeed tremolo picking and symphonics combine in a storm of extreme metal fury that is relentless from the first track.

Value for money isn't something Crescent scrimp on they have a cinematic overtone to every song which are long pieces that move from rage to redemption usually within 8 minutes Obscuring The Light is testament to this blasting away before slowing towards the end. For lovers of cinematic extreme metal The Order Of Amenti will be up their with the latest records by Septicflesh and Immolation, if music is a gift from the gods then the deities of Ancient Egypt were very, very angry. The Order Of Amenti beats you at every possible opportunity, strap yourself in and get the neck brace ready it's a beast. 8/10  

Friday, 16 February 2018

Reviews: Pestilent Reign, Against The Grain, Kill Ritual, Chainer (Reviews By Paul)

Pestilent Reign: Pyres (Rising Nemesis Records)

If you fancy some skin peeling death metal, laced with sweet grooves and black metal harmonies, you may fancy this 38 minute kick in the nuts from Stuttgart outfit Pestilent Reign. Combining the underlying groove of early Lamb Of God with the sheer technicality of Dyscarnate, Revocation and the double hammer assault of Aborted and Dying Fetus, you get the picture within seconds. Fuelled by topics such as human stupidity, religious bigotry and a raging anger at the state of the world, the quartet’s debut long player is about as meaty as a lock in at Miller and Carter.

Lars Hägele’s ferocious guitar work, the growling roar of Christoph Sauner’s vocals and the pulverising rhythm section of Matthias ‘Mick’ Figura and drummer Sebastian Unić combine in a face melting approach. Tracks such as You Will Kneel In Piss And Blood, Saviour and the seven-minute face punching of Zealot don’t allow breath to be drawn. It’s intense, it’s brutal and fuck me, it hurts. 7/10

Against The Grain: Cheated Death (Ripple Music)

Album number 5 from Michigan’s Against The Grain just pours out of your speakers like a swarm of locusts. The release then proceeds to destroy all in front of it. Catchier than crabs in a sleazy sweat dripping whorehouse, and rammed full of obese riffs, an old school punk edge and a beautiful sludgy mixture of heavy blues, stoner and thrash, Cheated Death combines the power of Motörhead, the sleaze of The Admiral Sir Cloudseley Shovell and the downright dirt of Orange Goblin. There must be a biker cut or two in an album designed to be played as loud as possible.

Aside from the title track which pounds at 100mph, there is the thrash tinged Sacrifice, a full-out ride to chaos and a demonstration in versatility with blues breakdowns helping to change flight path. There isn’t a poor track here although it’s the pacier tracks that really get the heart pumping. Check out Rolling Stone for a superb demonstration of what I mean. Spicy, meaty and definitely not served in a wholemeal wrap. Magnificent. 9/10

Kill Ritual: All Men Shall Fall (Dissonance Productions)

Now reaching their eighth year, All Men Shall Fall is album number 4 for the band from San Jose, California. I’m unable to claim to be familiar with their material but this is a tasty morsel which contains more fire than a Mahal Vindaloo. Opening track This Addiction is frantic, with vocalist David reed Watson very much at home after his debut on 2015’s Karma Machine. An undercurrent of old school NWOBHM beats in the veins of the band, whose approach allows for a varied and expansive sound.

A heavy as hell backline ensures that the guitars of Steven D Rice are allowed air to flourish. The anthemic title track is full of classic heavy metal style, and the band hold that close for the entire release. Dead Man On The Water, an acoustic flavoured track allows time to catch the breath and for the band to display the sensitive and calmer side, whilst Sins has a pure power metal feel. This has much to commend with some thumping classic metal. 7/10

Chainer: Balls’ Kicker (Self Released)

“They try to stop me playing Rock n Roll but my guitar is my gun and my music is the bullet that will kill them”. Deep words from Kevin Van Raiser, vocalist and guitarist with Swiss trio Chainer. Unfortunately, whilst he may have the weapons, Chainer is way off target with the accuracy. Balls’ Kicker (yes, with the unfortunate apostrophe) is amongst the most mundane releases I’ve heard for a long time. Routine metal patterns, awful lyrics and Van Raiser’s vocals on a par with Fergal Sharkey in the warbling stakes. Tracks to avoid? Well, 1-10 would be my advice but definitely steer clear of dire ballad Lone Rider, Gorgeous and Dangerous (yes, really) and the cringeworthy cover of Stars, the Hear n’Aid release for famine relief. In a year which is already shaping up to be a good one, avoid this like the plague. It’s not very good. 3/10

Reviews: Long Distance Calling, Armortura, Lyra's Legacy (Reviews By Rich)

Long Distance Calling: Boundless (InsideOut Records)

Instrumental post-rock. Those words can either mean you are in for an epic musical journey or a tedious listening experience. Luckily with the sixth album by Germany’s Long Distance Calling it is far more enjoyable than tedious. With the introduction of a full time vocalist on their fourth album The Flood Inside Long Distance Calling did lose a bit of their identity but they have gone to a back to basics approach with Boundless which is a purely instrumental album. The band know their craft and have released an album which blurs the line between post-rock and progressive rock deftly mixing atmosphere, emotion and sonic devastation in a single track such as in album opener Out There.

Other tracks of particular note include Like A River with it’s almost Spaghetti Western twang about it, Weightless which starts off sounding like classic Pink Floyd before a crushing sludge metal riff devastates all in its path and personal favourite Ascending which has a hauntingly melancholic melody throughout its duration. Boundless isn’t a perfect album with a handful of songs failing to make an impression but Long Distance Calling have proven that their back to basics approach is effective and they can function easily without a vocalist in their ranks. 7/10

Armortura: Armortura (Mighty Music)

Being released through Danish label Mighty Music is the debut self titled album by UK thrashers Armortura. Taking influence from classic 80’s thrash metal but adding in influences from modern metal Armortura have released a fantastic album which should definitely gain them attention and praise throughout 2018. It’s an album with plenty of savage riffings, twin lead harmonies, plenty of melody and a few twists and turns to keep the listener engaged. Highlights throughout the album include Insidious, Flight 19, 11th Hour and closing epic Requiem Of The Damned. If you have the edition with the bonus track you get treated to a remixed version of 11th Hour with none other than the legendary Jeff Waters of Annihilator providing some fretboard fireworks. 

The guitar playing throughout the album is second to none and high praise must go to Paul Trotter and Adam Ironside for their sterling performances on the album. The rhythm section of bassist Steve Smart and drummer Nick Vickers also put in commanding performances and the vocals by frontman Phillip Brown are snarling and aggressive reminding me a lot of Sean Killian from Vio-Lence. Armortura have impressed with their debut album which thrashes hard but also has plenty of melody to appeal to your more mainstream leaning metaller. A fantastic debut! 8/10

Lyra’s Legacy: Prisoner (Roll The Bones Records)

Another debut album and this time it’s by German melodic metallers Lyra’s Legacy with the release of Prisoner. It’s taken a while for the band to get this debut album out having been in existence for 10 years but happily the album was worth the wait. Lyra’s Legacy have a sound which combines elements of melodic heavy metal, power metal and progressive metal. After an epic symphonic intro things really kick into gear with the powerful Reign Of Greed which has the band firing on all cylinders. Other highlights throughout the album include Hero Of The Night, Misguided, Utopia and the brilliant title track. 

The songs range from the mid paced to the speedy to almost ballad-esque moments. The fantastic keyboard playing by Sven Reinicke really add a progressive edge to the album whilst special mention must go to vocalist Christian Casaccia for his impressive powerhouse vocals. This is a very enjoyable album with some fantastic songs but especially in the last half of the album some of the songs aren’t as strong and fall by the wayside. This is one for fans of melodic metal with a progressive edge. If bands such as Vanden Plas, Pagan’s Mind and Tad Morose are your thing then definitely give this album a spin. 7/10

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Reviews: Lance Lopez, Hypnos, Godstone, Victorius

Lance Lopez: Tell The Truth (Mascot Records)

Lance Lopez may be a name that some of you are not familiar with but you will know his voice and guitar prowess from Supersonic Blues Machine records, his is a voice that has been lived in, he's walked the walk, talked the talk and lived to tell the tale. This seventh solo album is his first for Mascot records and it's hi most autobiographical to date, he discusses his sordid history and his recent sobriety. The record is a warts and all telling of his life, he sets out his stall on Never Came Easy which is a country styled rocker about his hardships, that leads into a adrenaline fuelled take on John Lee Hooker's Mr Lucky (something Lopez has been by all accounts), these two songs pretty much give you the basis of this album, it's a record that brings the blues to rock n roll with both creeping in from time to time, Lopez is a bluesman he's played with Bobby “Blue” Bland, Buddy Miles, Johnny Taylor, and Lucky Peterson.

He started playing professionally at the age of 14 in bars and his friend and mentor at that time was fellow Texan Rev Billy Gibbons along with Buddy Miles. With all the touring and playing came the darker side which is what makes up much of the lyrics on this record see Down To One Bar and High Life. However the musical education of Lopez means that when he's playing the good old blues his guitar and smoky vocals are etched with pain and regret but when he's rocking out there's a confidence to him that tells you he's not only bought the t-shirt and written the book he's probably the damn copyright. Tell The Truth is an unapologetic rocking blues record that will guarantee Lopez the plaudits he deserves, if you only know him from Supersonic Blues Machine maybe it's time to pick up this record and get to know the real truth about Lance Lopez. 8/10

Hypnos: The GBG Sessions (The Sign Records)

What is it with the Swedes and retro rock? With Graveyard and Blues Pills among others, the American sounds of 1965 to 1979 seem to be a recurring theme in Swedish rock music. Hypnos are apparently one of the strongest live acts in the current batch and they have a chance to show this to a larger audience with this live session from Gothenburg. It's the first to feature new singer Linus Johansson and sees them bringing together older songs from their previous two albums along with new songs Ain't No Fool and Looking Out from their soon to be released album, they also throw in a cover of ABBA's Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie at the end, it is a party after all.

The rawness of this record is it's charm, you feel as if you're at the session itself as the band freak out in front of you with hook laden, riff driven catchiness that has the blues base of Graveyard (check out Nightmares) and the dual guitar harmonies of Thin Lizzy (The Mountain). At 8 tracks long this record is blast of Hypnos' retro influenced sound, they can prog out on 1800, turn up the volume for Looking Out and the ABBA cover is pretty good sounding little like Yngwie Malmsteen's version from the 90's. I didn't know much about Hypnos before this but The GBG Sessions gives you a pretty solid idea of what the band would be like on a live stage. If retro rocking is your bag then get vibing to Hypnos. 7/10

Godstone: Monument Of One (Self Released)

I’d never heard of Godstone before this five track EP but when you press play they sound like the quintessential American heavy rock act, there’s Alter Bridge, Shinedown but mostly Stone Sour coming through with Matthew Pascoe’s grooving bass driving Over The Line. It came as a surprise then I read that Godstone were from the Southwest of England, they sound so American that you could hear their music as a WWE Theme without questioning their nationality. Monument Of One is their debut EP and it features five tracks as I’ve said, these are used to display what’s best about the band big booming bass lines, thumping drums from Matt Davey and dirty riffs from John Kenward and Alex Goodrich.

James MacDonald has a voice that some will either love or hate, sounding a little like Corey Taylor, like his American counterpart his lower more aggressive approach is great it’s only when it’s a little lighter he seems to struggle, but like I said that’s just what I feel, many will love this vocal style. Monument Of One is a pretty impressive first strike by Godstone, it gives you enough to want to invest in the band and leaves them a lot of room to refine their sound, well produced and performed they are another worthy addition to the British metal scene. 7/10

Victorius: Dinosaur Warfare - Legend Of The Power Saurus (Massacre Records)

Yes you read that title correctly this is an EP about both those things mentioned, I'm talking about Dinosaur's with freaking laser beams. German power metal band Victorius have clearly lost their collective marbles and just thought "Screw it let's write sci-fi songs about Dinosaurs". Oddly it works when a song has the lyric "Mighty Dinosaur, fight a holy war" you are on to a winner right away, it's epically silly but brilliantly realised, the power metal is what you'd expect it to be all galloping, blast beated Germanic metal with powerful vocals, it's the talent of the band that means this record is not as stupid as it first seems, they've also made sure that this is just an EP so the concept doesn't get too tiresome, with songs like Razorblade Raptor and Laser Tooth Tiger this EP is great power metal record with bonkers theme that somehow holds it all together. 7/10

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Reviews: Necrophobic, Loudness, Ritual King, Lark, (Reviews By Paul)

Necrophobic: Mark Of The Necrogram (Century Media Records)

If there was any doubt that the return of Swedish blackened death metallers Necrophobic was going to be celebrated, then the opening title track on this, their eight album, will leave you in no doubt. Blowing away any cobwebs that may have gathered, this is simply a monstrous release.  Vocalist Anders Strokirk, whose evil incantations were last heard on The Nocturnal Silence in 1993 returned to the band in 2014. Former guitarists Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck also re-joined the ranks to complete the line-up with founding member/drummer Joakim Sterner and bassist Alex Friberg. The line-up on Mark Of The Necrogram is the fittest and most combat-ready the Swedes have had since Darkside split the heavens in 1997 and the band agree: “It feels like the band is the band again.” “Full dedication in everything we do. 100% metal people”.

Written over many black moons in 2017, Mark Of The Necrogram departs slightly from 2013’s Womb of Lilithu for a darker, more incisive sound. In fact, it may well be Necrophobic's most dynamic and varied offering to date. Songs like Odium Caecum, From The Great Above To The Great Below, Requiem For A Dying Sun and the massive Tsar Bomba retain all the ingredients that made the Swedes such an influential and legendary force but with added quality.

The band song writing, mainly completed by Ramstedt and filtered by Sterner to ensure the Necrophobic fit, explored deep into the destruction of life, with re-imagined invocations from Sumerian stone tablets, and explored Nordic mythology. “The lyrical theme on Mark Of The Necrogram continues where the album Death To All ended.” “The lyrics for the song Mark Of The Necrogram can be set on a timeline between Revelation 666 and Triumph Of The Horned. We created dark poems that match the ferocity of the songs”.

Co-Produced by former guitarist Fredrik Folkare (Firespawn, Unleashed), the result is an album that is blisteringly good. Refined riffage is the order of the day, ranging from the aggression of Sacrosanct to sorrowful on Tsar Bomba. The rhythm section of Sterner and Friberg shine on tracks like Pesta and Lamashtu whilst Strokirk’s deathly roars, haunting bawls, and wicked rasps complete the evil jigsaw. There is unlikely to be a better blackened death metal release all year. 10/10

Loudness: Rise To Glory (Sheer Sound)

The first Japanese metal band to sign for an American label, I’d forgotten that Loudness even existed. To discover that they have released an astonishing 25 albums before Rise To Glory and have continued to deliver their own brand of Eastern metal was quite a surprise. Formed way back in 1981, they briefly hit the radar with 1985’s Thunder In the East which contained some classic heavy metal. Rise To Glory sees the band continuing to deliver metal in much the same style, albeit with a little more polish on the production.

With three of the original members still very much involved, and drummer Masayuki Suzuki in place for close to a decade, the real surprise is that this is their first album for four years, since 2014’s The Sun Will Rise Again. Minoru Niharu’s vocals remain as crisp and clean as they did all those years ago whilst Akiri Takasaki’s guitar work is slick, fast and impressive. Loudness have always written in the classic heavy metal style, and opener Soul On Fire is a typical demonstration, fast paced and energetic. There are some lighter moments, such as the jazz-infused instrumental Karma Sutra, complete with a brief homage to Rush’s YYZ as well as some rather poor tracks, such as the ghastly power ballad Rain. A bit of a mixed bag but certainly worth checking it out. 6/10

Ritual King: Earthrise (When Planets Collide Records)

A fine second EP from Manchester three Ritual King. An eruption of heavy blues, stoner and psychedelic rock, this is impressive for the whole 15 minutes. Opener Ideology immediately demand the attention, sludgy riffs courtesy of guitarist Jordan Leppitt, whose vocals add gravitas and quality to the release. Tides is next, a filthy combination of Orange Goblin and Blues Pills, with added grime. Dan Godwin’s monstrous bass lines come into their own on the final track, But Anyway, which is another solid track which melts the fuse and quickly accelerates to full speed.  Ritual King has provided a very neat release indeed. 8/10

Lark: Lark (Self-Release)

Lark is the debut release from French brothers, Raph, former guitarist and lead singer of Sail In Between and former bassist of Angher Incorporated and Zach, former drummer of Bright Curse. It’s a solid five-track beast, combining elements of Mastodon, Baroness, Russian Circles and Gojira in an almighty fireball. The cantering charge of Red Eye Final contrasts with the slower, bone crushingly heavy Decay and the haunting Too Far Gone, which at times is eerily like the Duplantier brothers sound, all the while dipping in and out of the progressive style that Mastodon has superbly crafted in recent years. It’s a deeply interesting release, with much going on and demanding several plays to appreciate fully. Well worth a listen. 7/10

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Reviews: The Sheepdogs, Letters From The Colony, High Reeper, Michael Landau

The Sheepdogs: Changing Colours (Dine Alone Records)

With Greg recently passing only Dickey Betts remains from the original Allman Brothers band and he stopped playing with them in 2000, with Greg gone the band is finished meaning that those in search of breezy Southern harmonies have to look elsewhere. I’d suggest looking North towards Saskatoon as The Sheepdog’s reaffirm their right to be classed as the natural successors to The Allman’s, their sixth album is a brilliantly realised slice of Southern boogie with new guitarist Jimmy Bowskill they have the classic double guitar sound of The Allman’s running through Nobody, I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be, Cherries Jubilee and the slide driven instrumental HMS Buffalo.

They broaden the scope to The Eagles on the slide driven Let It Roll a song that has gorgeous vocal harmonies and leads into The Big Nowhere a track that’s got a classic Steely Dan shuffle built around percussion and a Fender Rhodes, the Fagan and Becker jazz influenced sounds coming back on Cool Down. It’s a real mix of rock, soul, country and blues and everything is done with a sense of deference and tact, The Sheepdogs really care about this music and aren’t afraid to play a jukebox of 70’s sounding tracks. I Ain’t Cool has New Orleans jazz trumpet, You Got To Be A Man brings a bit of glam rocking, Run Baby Run has the vocal approach of CSN. Changing Colours is 17 tracks long but they pass by in a glorious kaleidoscope of 70’s Americana, go grab your Stetson, get down and boogie. 9/10

Letters From The Colony: Vignette (Nuclear Blast)

The Swedes are a country that seem to be at the forefront of many musical genres but one that seems to be pretty divisive is the djent/tech/extreme metal scene, bands such as Meshuggah are seen as the originators of this style of progressive extremity and the latest band to come out of this melting pot of monstrous riffs, non-linear time signatures and general head fuckery are the oddly named Letters From The Colony. They have been a band for seven years and yet this is their debut album, this maybe because of several line up changes but finally it seems the band have settled on a steady line up of Alexander Backlund (vocals), Sebastian Svalland (guitar), Johan Jönsegård (guitar, Emil Östberg (bass) and Jonas Sköld (drums).

This line up has created a record that is experimental, chaotic, frenzied, harmonious and bloody heavy. Palm muted, chunky riffs are backed by expressive drum patterns that have grooves heavy enough to flatten a truck while there’s not a clean vocal in site. At 55 minutes it can be hard work for casual listeners but for every breakdown fuelled track such as the ominous The Final Warning you get more schizophrenic songs such as Cataclysm and Glass Palaces but things get weirder and more experimental as things go on with tracks that feature saxophones and sampled deer calls (yes really). A complex mix of Meshuggah and Gojira, it’s not for the fainted hearted or the fair-weather, those that stay though will be rewarded with some of the most aggressive, complicated music produced this year. 7/10

High Reeper: S/T (Heavy Psych Sounds)

I think High Reeper may have listened to a bit too much Black Sabbath, Die Slow the track that opens this record has definite groove of Children Of The Grave about it, from the gargantuan riff, to the Ozzy-like shouted vocals High Reeper are clearly a band that worship the sweet leaf and the originators of heavy metal. Zach Thomas, Napz Mosley, Andrew Price, Pat Daly and Shane Trimble all come from Philadelphia and they formed this band to break into the Philly stoner scene, I’d say it’s a mission complete as this self titled debut is about as stoner as you can get taking from the classic Sabbath records (Soul Taker has a familiarity about it) but also some more modern stoner sounds of Monster Magnet or Orchid.

The dual guitars bring a bit of boogie to the tracks but the rhythm section is pure Geezer and Bill, just listen to the rhythmic voodoo of the title track for some real head tripping and a drum solo as well. As long as there is metal there will be bands that will pray to Iommi and High Reeper do it more obviously than most, their second record will need a little more diversity to help them stick out from a very dense genre. 7/10

Michael Landau: Rock Bottom (Provogue)

Well this is a bit of trip, LA guitarist Michael Landau has been indulging in mostly instrumental music for around 10 years now, but with this album he decided he needed vocals so he called up his Burning Water band mate David Frazee to step behind the mic. What has come of this collaboration is a hazy kind of space blues that owes as much to Jimi as it does The Doors, swirling organs and smoky guitar playing give this record an atmosphere reserved for the best clubs in the 1970’s where a liberal peace pipe was smoked.

In places it's lounge blues with Chris Rea or Mark Knopfler the main influences, this is due to the spoken word style of the vocals. Ten tracks go by and it’s a musical journey, the brief flashes of Landau’s soulful blues guitar have feeling when they dual with the Hammond organ things really start to fly but the record itself does occasionally become background music due to its overall slow pace. This is an album for proper blues heads; if you like your blues with a bit more rock n roll in it then look elsewhere. 6/10

Monday, 12 February 2018

Reviews: Secret Illusion, Karma Violens, Nightbreed, Rapture

Secret Illusion: Awake Before The Dawn (Lion Music)

Greek cinematic power metal that features heavy keyboards that are the driving force of the songs, the keyboard riffs and piano passages really add a classical element to the album but not to be outdone the guitar playing comes out of Malmsteen tab book, arpeggios from hell indeed. The vocals are the normal power metal fodder with Vasilis Axiotis taking the higher register throughout. The songs deal with history (Kings And Pawns), adventure and science fiction and most try to speed through as fast as possible twisting and turning with as many progressive touches, synth runs and explosive guitar solos as possible.

It's only falling that really lets the pace drop as an epic baroque ballad, which despite all the keys of Evmenios Poulias and guitars from Filippos Papakyriakou listen to the bass work and you'll see how good this band are with a ballad, a trick also repeated at the beginning of Eerie. When the drummer is allowed to let rip we get the real sound of Secret Illusion. The record only has 10 tracks but with the longer running times you get enough of the band to enjoy, let's hope they don't stay secret for too long as this illusion is pure magic. 8/10

Karma Violens: Serpent God (Growl Records)

Karma Violens bring Hellenic extremity on their third record; they have adapted their sound from a metalcore origins bringing the gloomy relentless darkness of Behemoth, Emperor and fellow countrymen Rotting Christ as well as Blackening to Locust era Machine Head. It’s blackened thrash metal at its most terrifying; possibly led by vocalist Marios’ dabble with the occult in Lucifer’s Child. From the down tuned single chord doom laden passages through to the kick drum led black metal noise Karma Violens let you know they mean serious business.

This record is a conceptual piece dealing with “the transparency of today’s social standards and ideas. Freedom or (the) lack thereof today; man’s tendency to create social ‘musts’ via religion, God and modern society” this concept has clearly led Karma Violens down a pretty aggressive pathway as the music on this record is relentless, tracks such as A Letter To The Worthless Chamber and Blood Aurora just beat you rapidly combining black metal sensibilities with some classic guitar work, it’s on the slower ominous songs such as Radix Malorum and Dark Morel where they can really create an atmosphere of dissonance, regret and melancholy.

Serpent God is the album Catharsis should have been, shorter and more aggressive with no need for self indulgence, it’s a brutal record that has the same rallying cry that Rob Flynn and co attempted on their most recent release but unlike there here it succeeds with a sheer will of force. 8/10

Nightbreed: Beyond Inferno (Witches Brew Records) [Review By Paul]

Following up on their self-titled debut in 2015, Athenian thrash outfit Nightbreed’s sophomore release is a splendid affair, full of old school thrash in the vein of early Slayer, Kreator and the like. It’s ferocious stuff from start to finish, lacerating guitar work, slicing riffs and 100mph drumming all wrapped up in 36 minutes of snarling Satanic themed incineration. Vocalist Nir Beer is astonishing, his delivery perfect for the all-out assault.

Ripped Chains, complete with the delightful line “left to rot … for the rats!” is the standout track, with a couple of neat time changes and explosive acceleration and some Tom G Warrior style grunts. I can’t fault this release in anyway. It may be old school but it’s still contemporary and, in a world where so much of what we hear is recycled, massively comforting. Thrash when done well is a beautiful thing, and Beyond Inferno is just fabulous. 8/10

Rapture: Paroxysm Of Hatred (Memento Mori)

Paroxysm Of Hatred is the second full length from Athens death metal band Rapture, it’s socio-political, horror themed music that draws heavily from the Floridian death metal scene so expect the furious thrash riffage of Death, Atheist, Obituary and Morbid Angel paired with frequent changes of pace and vocal snarls. You’ll get no ballads here just balls to the wall warp speed death metal that has some progressive influences meaning that most of the songs have numerous instrumental breaks from a good circle pit to form.

Only formed in 2012 Rapture have released one full length album, three EP’s and one Split before this record so they clearly have a lot of material and they sound honed through live playing, the drums are furious, the bass almost non-existent making its first appearance on track 3 and the guitars rip you to shreds. It’s not reinventing the wheel but for a quick blast of violence this will get you smashing full force into your friends in no time. 7/10

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Reviews: Saxon, Pestilence, Hooded Menace, Letze Instanz (Reviews By Paul)

Saxon: Thunderbolt (Militia Guard Music)

The opening strains of Olympus Rising blast through the speakers and you immediately know where you are. It’s time for Saxon, the legends of British Heavy Metal and boy does this release deliver. Inspired by the Gods of Greek mythology, album 22 in their vast catalogue is as impressive a body of work as they have ever delivered and continues where the excellent Battering Ram and Sacrifice left off. Huge riffs, lacerating guitar work, the most blisteringly huge drum sound and Biff as vocally imperious as he has ever been. Superbly produced once more by Andy Sneap, there is little to criticise.

The title track is a high tempo all-out metal classic, showing the band’s steel of recent years, the growling vocals of Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg on Predator adds bite and variation and that’s before we get to the emotion fuelled anthem And They Played Rock ‘N’ Roll. Wow! Just wow! Saxon’ tribute to Lemmy and Motorhead couldn’t have been timelier, with the recent passing of Fast Eddie. It’s fast, it’s furious, lyrically sweet and when Lemmy’s voice appears, it was difficult to hold back a tear. There was no band more necessary as a foil to Motorhead than Saxon who have taken up the torch carrying with aplomb. This pisses all over Murder One.

Sons Of Odin slows the tempo in the traditional Saxon way, but with so much power. This album is heavy. Saxon do anthemic classic heavy metal in a style which few can match, and this track is a fine example. Closing with their own tribute to their hard-working road crew, Roadie’s Song nestles comfortably alongside We Are The Road Crew. "16 beds inside the bus, step inside, be one of us, A roadie’s life is what we choose, and the wheels keep rolling on’. It’s magical stuff, with some superb guitar work from Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt. The CD edition provides a raw version of Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz) which is fitting closing track for a superb album. Roll on their return to the Welsh Capital later this month. It’s going to be immense. 10/10

Pestilence: Hadeon (Hammerheart Records)

Back with a belter, Hadeon is the first release since 2013 and the first from the latest Pestilence line-up, which features main man Patrick Mameli on guitar and guttural vocal duty. The band who have reformed a couple of times, most recently in 2016, have produced 40 minutes of belting death metal which does the business with no fuss. It’s superbly technical yet remains earthy and in your face. Tilen Hudrap’s bass lines are astonishing and his solo Subvision allows a breather from the onslaught.

Drummer Septimiu Haisan puts in a blistering effort and the intricate guitar work of Mameli and Santiago Dobles (no longer in the line-up) demands your attention. Best listened to through high quality headphones, from the rampage of Non-Physical Existent to closer Electro Magnetic, this will slice you in pieces. Listen to this but remember to strap in first. 9/10

Hooded Menace: Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (Seasons Of Mist)

I admit that Finnish Doom Outfit Hooded Menace has passed me by in recent years. Formed in 2007 this is their fifth release and very pleasing it is too if you like your doom served dark with growling vocals and a large helping of hammering riffage. With their influences pinned clearly on their sleeves, the strains of early Candlemass and Cathedral as well as Paradise Lost, Autopsy, Asphyx and Winter can be heard. This combined with lyrics often inspired by the classic 1970's Spanish horror movie series 'The Blind Dead' and you get the picture.

Opener Sempiternal Grotesqueries is a gargantuan track, clocking in at over ten minutes. There is little let up with the brooding In Eerie Deliverance which features Coltblood’s Jemma McNulty on guest vocals, horror-soaked Cathedral Of Labyrinthine Darkness all the way through to the closing two-minute Black Moss. Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is impressive from start to finish. 7/10

Letzte Instanz: Morgenland (AFM Records)

Another band that are new to me, the Germanic metal of Letzte Instanz is instantly striking. This is partly due to the clever use of cello and violin which is the heartbeat through each track, but also because the band sing in their native tongue, adding to the experience in the same way Rammstein and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter deliver. Morgenland is their 12th album, and although only violinist M. Stolz remains from the band that started in 1996, it’s a well-crafted and infectious release.

Thumping bass and drums, enough of a cutting guitar edge and fast-paced songs catch and hold the attention with ease. The title track which kicks things off motors along, Mein Land blends melody with big riffage and frantic strings, whilst Asche Zu Gold’s industrial approach is comfortably familiar. Vocalist Holly Loose, now with the band for 13 years commands attention throughout, guitarist Oli adds the steel and Berni Cellini’s cello works stylishly with Stolz’s violin. Well worth a listen. 7/10

Friday, 9 February 2018

Reviews: Marmozets, Visigoth, Metaprism, Sam Russell

Marmozets: Knowing What We Know Now (Roadrunner)

A lot has happened since Marmozets debut record in 2014, since then they have evolved into an incendiary live act, played all over the world from small clubs to festival stages in very short period of time, much of this is due to their crossover appeal their music is drawn from the math rock genre but has a pop sensibility that sees them having been featured on BBC Radio 1, Kerrang and more 'metal' press such as Metal Hammer. On their second record they have expanded their sound even further, tighter musically, they start this second with the propulsive Play a song recently featured on WWE NXT: Takeover supershow, it's a blood pumping opener with a foot tapping riff and chorus that has more hooks than a butchers ceiling, it's a song that needs to be sung aloud and neatly moves into Habits which does the magical Marmozets trick of pairing technical riffs with a mainstream appeal.

The band are made up of two sets of siblings and this familial bond between the band has them all in perfect sync, the rhythm section of Josh MacIntyre and Will Bottomley have a telepathic link to the groove with Lost In Translation and the bouncing Like A Battery while Jack Bottomley and Sam Macintyre's guitars are angular on Major System Error, they are set to stun on Start Again and but they always have a fluid technicality shunning the normal chord structures for their math rock influenced heavy riffs, check out New Religion which brings a punk rock attitude but with a progressive base layer. What I've always loved about Marmozets both live and on record is the expressive, quirky vocals of Becca MacIntyre, she has a one of a kind voice which never seems to struggle, on the psychedelic Insomnia she's bewitching and unsettling, Meant To Be she screams like she's possessed but Me & You gives her a fragility.

Knowing What We Know Now reaffirms that this Bingley band are no one hit wonders, their debut was a breath of fresh air and while the musical landscape keeps evolving around them Marmozets seem to inhabit their own unique space where they continue to create interesting, engaging modern rock music. 9/10

Visigoth: Conquer's Oath (Metal Blade)

I'll admit I was already on the bandwagon when this album dropped on my desk at MoM towers, I'm a card carrying member of the Visigoth fan club, the patch that was included with their debut album is sewn proudly on my battle jacket and the album itself is played quite regularly. What do they sound like? I hear you ask well they are a broadsword wielding classic heavy metal band the Salt City Utah based act are representing everything that's fun about heavy metal, they don't attempt to reinvent the wheel they just pay homage to the legends of chest beating metal Cirith Ungol, Virgin Steele and Manowar, songs of war battles and brothers in arms set to galloping fingerstyle baselines, NWOBHM riffs and leather clad machismo.

Visigoth are a must have for Grand Magus fans sharing many similarities to the Swedish act even down to the tenor vocals of Jake Rodgers and the obsession with both hammers and steel. If you need more songs about Highlander (Outlive Them All), Boudicca (Warrior Queen) and Salt City itself (Salt City) then you need this album, with Virgin Steele and Cirith Ungol very sporadically making appearances and Manowar on their farewell tour the mantle of Warriors Of The World is still being carried by Grand Magus and Visigoth, buy Conquer's Oath, play it loud and worship the steel and silver! 9/10

Metaprism: Catalyst To Awakening (Graviton Music Services)

Since their debut album Bournemouth band Metaprism have changed one of their two vocalists with Joey Draper stepping into the role alongside founding member Theresa Smith. Their vocal interplay is a crucial part of the Metaprism magic, Theresa vocals are the beating heart of this band she soars above the ruthlessly aggressive musical backing of Ollie, Callum, James and Matt who peel off riff after riff of melodic modern metal that has touches of thrash, death, groove bringing heaviness at every turn. Joey's contribution can't be understated though much like his predecessor he compliments Theresa with his booming cleans and adds polarity with his growls.

The record brings everything they established on their EP and debut full length and brings it to a powerful continuation, from the opening synths of intro The Awakening, the tough grooves, virtuosic playing power Unleash The Fire which is definite single, due to it's colossal chorus, it gets heavier with the two part track Anomalous which features the excellent lyric "There's a conurbation forming", whether the song is about Birmingham is yet to be confirmed but it's a great mini-concept in the middle of this already intense record, what I love about Metaprism is their commitment to play as heavily as possible but pack their songs full of hooks which brings them broader appeal, even with a song such as Aftermath they keep up the volume though the lyrics become more romantic. Wake up and smell the metal Metaprism are the flag bearers for modern metal in the UK. 8/10

Sam Russell: Impetuous Desire (Danneskjöld Records)

Sam Russell is a neoclassical guitarist from London, for his debut record he could have taken the well trodden road of a record full of double tapping and arpeggio'd instrumental tracks. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that and for guitar fans these albums act as inspiration for their musical education as well as an enjoyment of their preferred instrument. Sam has gone another way by recruiting a real drummer, Jason Bowld (BFMV) rather that relying on computers, he also brought in Jacqueline Philips to contribute cello to the beautiful cleanly played instrumental Longing adding another dimension to the song.

With the instrumentals sorted he brought in New Device singer Dan Leigh who adds his melodic voice to the all but four of the tracks, I've always maintained he's a great singer and here he has a chance to shine on a project a bit heavier than his normal band, taking over the mic on the romantic ballad Leigh Woods is Metal Queen Doro Pesch, it's the slowest song on the record and takes it into AOR territory it's a dalliance that's quickly forgotten, with the classic metal sounds of The Darkest Night and then Fire, Desire which is thundering slice of black metal featuring little known Canadian singer Ryan Muller rasping away.

With three quality vocalists, Sam has focussed on songwriting over displaying his obvious technical prowess but he does occasionally let loose the dogs of war with his shredding soloing action. Impetuous Desire is a pretty solid metal album from a solo guitar player with aspirations of being a band. 7/10