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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Reviews: Steelheart, The Contortionist, Contrive, Midnight Sin

Steelheart: Through Worlds Of Stardust (Frontiers Records)

Miljenko Matijevic the singer and founder of Steelheart is probably not a name many will be aware of but by rights he should have been the biggest thing in the world, his amazing vocal range and the band's forward thinking sound set them apart from the numerous American 'strip' bands at that time. The band went on a hiatus 1992 after Matijevic was struck in the head by a lighting truss, knocking him to the ground face first and injuring his skull, jaw, nose, and spine, since reforming in 1996 they have been performing and releasing music sporadically each time bringing the right amount of retro and modern styles, in this time Matijevic also lent his vocals to the film Rockstar being Mark Walhberg's singing voice.

More recently they made a return to the Rockingham festival in Nottingham which in turn has led to their newest record released, quite rightly for a band such as this on Frontiers records. Through Worlds Of Stardust sees Steelheart once again bring classic rock riffs in a modern way much like Winger they have embraced the current crop of rockers like Alter Bridge and Haelstorm while also retaining their influences. Stream Line Savings the track that kicks off this record is pairs the hip shaking rocking of Zeppelin with the grungy fuzz of Soundgarden's Spoonman, it's a odd one to start with but as it bleeds into My Dirty Girl we get yet more distorted riffs and a chorus that bring to mind Jane's Addiction, you understand that this is the natural evolution of a bands such as Steelheart.

Matijevic's vocals are still impressive, his range is very hard to imitate and it lifts some of the more middling songs on this record to a higher level. It's great to hear Steelheart still knocking out albums 25 years after their debut, Through Worlds Of Stardust may be a bit too modern sounding for anyone that wants a 90's hair band fix but it to me it's a testament to the bands longevity that they are willing to adapt with the times. 7/10

The Contortionist: Clairvoyant (eOne)

Sometimes a band has to go through numerous reinventions and experimentations to really become themselves, this has been the career trajectory of Indianapolis band who started out as teenagers in the burgeoning djent explosion, their music then was of little interest to me, I'm a classic progger at heart and much of the djent scene leaves me cold. However The Contortionist's last album brought more expressive soundscapes which pricked my ears up and made me take notice, on Clairvoyant they have become the band they have always threatened to be, shimmering guitar lines, huge layered instrumentals, first single Reimagined is a floaty poppy track with killer chorus to it totally throwing you off guard.

If you're expecting 28 string palm muted riffs then this record is one to avoid as for every section that has this (there aren't many), another sweeps in bringing jazzy, jangly guitars, flowing melodious keyboard lines and deft grooving rhythms, The Center exhibits this perfectly Joey Baca and Jordan Eberhardt controlling the tempo as Cameron Maynard and Robby Baca craft complex but never overwhelming riffs. Both Relapse and Return To Earth have an ear to the mainstream with a lighter more gossamer aesthetic really settling in, those that love the band's more aggressive early years will probably not warm to the 8 minute expressive journey that Monochrome (Pensive) takes you on. The Contortionist come of age on this record, they have always threatened to take a shot at the big boys and now they are ready to take the throne as their own. 9/10  

Contrive: Slow Dissolve (Self Released)

Melbourne thrash metal band Contrive are made up of bassist Tim Stahlmann and twin brothers Paul (vocals, guitars) and Andrew Haug (drums). Contrive have a knack of playing 80's thrash metal with hardcore beatdowns a style that has seen them compared favourably to Sepultura. They certainly have the stomp of the Brazilian band Connect-dead could come off the Chaos AD record with the shouted vocals and stomping riff. This is the bands 3rd record and it sees them running over the same old ground with 8 abrasive hardcore thrash tracks driven by distorted riffs and Paul's rough hardcore vocal. Yes at times they do flesh it out with a synth or an industrial tinge that takes them into Fear Factory territory (Your Owned) but as soon as the vocals kick in it all starts to sound alike. I'm not to enamoured with this record, for those who love a good pit Slow Dissolve will be a frenzy of inciting riffs but other than that I just find it a bit too simplistic and repetitive for my taste. 6/10

Midnight Sin: One Last Ride (Scarlet Records)

Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt are clearly the reason why Midnight Sin exist, unfortunately they are more pale imitation than successful homage. One Last Ride is their second album and it's just not very good, none of the songs really stick with you they try to be sleazy and dangerous without the shock factor of Steel Panther or the sex factor of Reckless Love. Songs such as Land Of The FreakSend Me A Light (which tries to be Cinderella) and Never Say Never are just a bit safe. If you still use a can of hairspray a day and still dress in leather and fishnet then I'd say indulge in some Midnight Sin, however everyone else should just sleep through it. 5/10

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Anathema [Belfast & Bristol] (Review By Paul)

Anathema & Alcest, Limelight 2, Belfast

If you haven't been there, then you won't realise that the Limelight 2 in Belfast is a small venue with the stage crammed to one end. Viewing can be quite restricted but having managed to take up a position behind the sound and lighting desk we were afforded reasonable sight lines for a high quality evening's music.

I first saw Alcest (8) in 2012, first at Bloodstock and then twice supporting Katatonia. I caught them again on the Pale Communion Opeth Tour in 2014 although I missed the French blackgazers at the Globe last year. Since my first encounter with the band they've bewitched me with their intricate sound and have released the beautiful Shelter and last year's excellent and heavier Kodama. Allocated a generous hour for their opening slot, Nierge, drummer Winterhalter, and long-term live band members Zero and bassist Indria Saray delivered a well-paced and balanced set. Mixing three tracks from Kodama with more established live staples such as Autre Temps and Deliverance, Alcest captivated the audience despite their restricted stage space.

Nierge and co rarely move much anyway, and it was left as always to Indria Saray to rock out at the front of the stage. The band's music switches between the shoegaze introspection during tracks such as Kodama through to the black metal crunch of songs such as La Ou Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles and the sole track from Escales de Lune, the magnificent Percees de Lumiere. For a band whose catalogue consists of lengthy, intricate passages with time and tempo changes, the hour passed quickly and it wasn't long before the Belfast crowd was showering an deserved ovation in the French outfit.

The Optimist hit the shelves in earlier summer and has been a regular on the play list ever since. Anathema's (9) warm up shows last year provided us with the first tasters from the album and it was a joy to catch the band in the intimate Globe setting. Having already toured through South America and the States, the Liverpool outfit have eased the new tracks into the set list and they  already sound wonderfully established. Every band has undroppable songs and for Anathema their particular 'legends' bookended the set. It was the heart tugging duo of Untouchable Part 1 and Part 2 opening the evening, the Belfast crowd in fine voice whilst staple set closer Fragile Dreams got the place bouncing. In between we were treated to two other beauties from Weather Systems, an unbelievable performance on The Beginning And The End and the magical Lightning Song, one of many songs that allowed Lee Douglas to demonstrate once more why she is my favourite female singer of modern times. Her performance during the mesmerising Endless Ways astonishingly good.

Daniel Cavanagh's intense focus on his performance often results in a delicate and challenging balance between perfectionism and obsession but tonight he was spot on, with the opening chords of Leaving It Behind on the button, allowing brother Vincent to arrive in typical rock star manner to kick in the vocals. Vincent, as you will know if you've read any of my other reviews of Anathema has a superb voice and he was on amazing form. His drumming during Distant Satellites wasn't bad either and he is no slouch on the guitar.

Of course it's the sum of the parts that make an exceptional band and it would be remiss not mention the solid foundation that the other members of the band lay. Jamie Cavanagh's solid bass lines combined with the percussion and keys of John Douglas and Daniel Cardoso were exceptional, especially on the epic performance of Universal which also allowed Daniel Cavanagh's sublime guitar playing to come to the fore. Cavanagh's is an underrated performer, his solos during The Optimist and Thin Air particularly impressive.

As the two hour set raced to its conclusion, we were given a choice of Lost Control or A Natural Disaster as the penultimate song. Perhaps surprisingly, given what a beauty of a track A Natural Disaster is, the track from 1998's Alternative 4 got the vote and Lee left the stage as we were given a rare glimpse of the gothic past which Anathema used to inhabit. It was brilliant. Fragile Dreams brought the house down and another superb show by one of the UK's most innovative bands concluded. This was only the second night of an extensive European tour which ends in mid-November and which will take in nearly every capital city across the continent. By the time they hit the final night in Luxembourg in November this show will be amazing. I'm heading to Bristol on 28th September for part 2. It should be another memorable evening.

Anathema & Alcest, The Marble Factory, Bristol

Date number 6 on their European tour and my second viewing of both bands. Their show in Belfast a few days earlier had been stunning, so having been on the road and with a few gigs under their belt it was time to see what, if anything had changed.

Alcest (9) certainly benefited from a slightly more spacious stage and delivered a superior performance to their one seen across the water. Unsurprisingly they stuck to the same set but with a better sound, and a venue where the music can move around the listener, the band delivered a smooth 55 minutes bookended by Kodama and Deliverance. Blisteringly heavy at times, there is a delicacy about this band that not everyone appears to get. The historical black metal influences remain buried in their music but their approach these days should win them many new fans.

Anathema (8) on the other hand were slightly less impressive than in Belfast. Partly due to the oppressive heat that had built in the venue (which is bloody awful when full) and the limited sight lines which are afforded unless you are well over six foot, but also because they were, well, just a bit looser. The road has allowed the band to get into their stride quickly and the confidence of Daniel Cavanagh was noticeable. His chatter between songs was prominent in a way that hadn't been so noticeable in Belfast, with brother Vincent taking a much quieter role. During a lengthy delay whilst Jamie Cavanagh’s bass was sorted out, Danny's "chatting shit" as he put it was quite endearing with his scouse humour filling the space but as the evening moved on there was a little bit too much at times.

However, musically, the band are nothing short of exceptional and the guitar work during Universal, Lost Control, Destiny and Fragile Dreams jaw-dropping at times. Alongside Vincent, Lee Douglas provided her usual magical performance, her sweet voice perfect for the new material but also adding extra to older tunes. I've written before about the back-line of the band, and with a little more room Jamie Cavanagh was allowed opportunity to get to the front of the stage and thump out those bass lines whilst John Douglas and Daniel Cardoso really keep the band ticking along. The new tracks from The Optimist fit comfortably into the set, Can't Let Go and Springfield already firm fan favourites. Next time Anathema head to Bristol it will surely be to a bigger venue. Over 20 years in the making, they may finally be reaping the rewards.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Reviews: Godsticks, Myrkyr, Kinasis, Kroh

Godsticks: Faced With Rage (Kscope)

Cardiff progressive band Godsticks have been playing progressively tinged metallic rock for a while now, regulars to the local scene I've seen them perform live numerous times and I've always been impressed by their idiosyncratic music, the songs they play are heavy, chugging pieces with an accessible bent. Frontman Darran Charles has said that Faced With Rage is a lot more progressive than it's predecessor, that being said they don't indulge in many elongated pieces keeping the majority of the track lengths short but packing a lot of technicality in them.

The record opens with the aggressive start stop stomp of Guilt, but in true Godsticks style they slow the pace with the more alternative Hard To Face, there was/is a band called Ra from the USA and I've always found Godsticks have similarities to them, there is a definitive light and shade to their music driven by Charles guitar and melodic vocals, (check out the groove on Avenge). The aggressiveness of this record is due in part to the addition second guitarist Gavin Bushell and new drummer Tom Price who ably slot into the band with Charles and bassist Dan Nelson who's bass playing is very sweet indeed.

As with any 'modern' prog band the go to comparison would be Porcupine Tree and both Open Your Eyes the chunky Everdrive have lots of over-arching Wilsonisms. On the other hand the beautiful We Are Leaving and Revere both have the expressiveness of Pineapple Thief, who Charles plays with live and also recorded with on their last album Your Wilderness. Progressive, interesting, heavy but with a common touch Faced With Rage effortlessly mixes dark and introspective lyricism with heavy prog rock. 8/10

Myrkur: Mareridt (Relapse Records)

Danish musician Amalie Bruun released her debut full length album M in 2015, she was hailed as the saviour of the post-black metal genre and her record was given ridiculous amount of coverage and critical acclaim, after extensively touring the USA and Europe she returned to her home country of Denmark, upon doing so she experienced nightmares and episodes of sleep paralysis, to cope with these nightmares, she used a notebook to document all the details and symbols in the dreams using these images as inspiration. In a notable difference to her last album many of the songs were written and composed on a small string instrument in a forest near her home, she channeled the nightmares and her own fractious mental state (partially caused by the significant levels of online abuse and death threats) into this album.

It means that the black metal flurries that cut through her ambient soundscapes are balanced out by the doom textures of The Serpent, replaced by pastoral ethereal Gothic folk on Crown which has the dark vibes of Chelsea Wolf (who appears on Funeral), with the black metal extremists causing of much of the abuse (apparently women can't do Black metal) stepping away those sounds for a more organic one means that you get a new side of Bruun. The music contained on Mareridt has a purity an almost ecclesiastical quality to it, you can hear Bruun's soul coming through on the opening but the riffs kick in on Maneblot but it's still not 'cvlt' so I'm sure some basement dwelling Burzum fan will criticise it, not that it matters as this record acts as the culmination of Bruun's career to now it's a supremely deep record, textured and involving, it doesn't matter that it moves between English, Danish, Swedish and Icelandic, you feel every song as it plays and it's an experience that is still so much more than you may think it is. 8/10  

Kinasis: Pariah (Self Released)

Here's some technical extreme metal from Somerset, Kinasis have got one full length under their collective belt, this EP is designed to be the follow up that album and it's yet more blast beat friendly, Strapping Young Lad extremity that is a barrage of 7-string riffs, fat grooves and harsh vocals. Black Dog sounds like KoRn at their heaviest the low end pounding the grooves. The music here is technical but this five piece carry it off with ease, there are precision riffs, percussive battery, grunts, roars and soaring cleans. This Somerset band play with noise as much as Devy did when he was Hevy, the music is precision modern metal with a level of vehemence that will push frontiers. 7/10

Kroh: Pyres (Devizes Records)

Having seen Kroh supporting Memoriam I knew what to expect when I pressed play on our decks of death here at MoM Towers. I did however have to drop the volume bit to save my speakers from blowing due to the heartstopping bass and down tuned riffs Kroh play. It's doom folks, gloomy, discordant and unsettling on headphones, the vocals of ... immediately grab the attention wailing the sinful lyrics of Rigor Mortis and the like with an otherworldly reverbed howl. As you'd expect you can hear Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Pentagram and Cathedral in their music, this EP has a supernatural obsession with the percussion driven middle 8 of Nemertean Girl having a disconcerting effect with his ghostly sound sliding into the evocative Moriah. At 5 tracks you get what you want from Kroh, they may want to buy some more effects for their full length as the guitar tone sounds exactly the same throughout and it doesn't need too, other than this small matter though Kroh impress on their debut. Doom at its gloomiest. 7/10

Monday, 25 September 2017

Reviews: Alter Bridge, Mausoleum Gate, Wild Rocket, Exarsis (Reviews By Paul)

Alter Bridge: Live At The O2 Arena (Napalm Records)

Recorded at London’s cavernous venue on 24 November 2016 on The Last Hero tour, the imaginatively titled Live At The O2 Arena captures Alter Bridge in one of their biggest gigs to date. It’s a lengthy record, which opens as Alter Bridge usually do at break neck speed with The Writing On The Wall and Come To Life, massive chunky riffs supporting Myles Kennedy’s soaring vocal range. Buoyed by his recent solo work, guitarist Mark Tremonti is in imperious form, slicing the air with solo after solo.

It’s track three where the band really hit their stride though, with a bone shatteringly heavy Addicted To Pain and it’s here that you get the sense of why this band are likely to be the next Download headliners. A massive rhythm section courtesy of Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips batters like artillery. The pace dies somewhat with Ghost Of Days Gone By but ramps back up with the blistering Cry Of Achilles, the audience by now in full clap along mode at the start. There is no doubting Kennedy is one of rock’s most impressive front men, his voice crystal clear albeit with that little bit of saccharine covering, encouraging the crowd to join in on the chorus.

I’ve seen Alter Bridge several times, and whilst I missed this tour when it rolled into Cardiff, I’ve always enjoyed them although their sets do tend to dip a little in the middle as their catalogue can become too similar in places. It happens again on this release, with 19 tracks ambitious for a band whose sound can be one dimensional, especially having followed the might of Gojira who by all reports blew everyone else off the tour each night.

With a decent smattering from The Last Hero scattered through the set, Crows On A Wire, is one of the picks from that release before the obligatory acoustic Watch Over You at least allows for time to get to the toilet or the bar. Isolation warms everyone for THE Alter Bridge song, the incredible Blackbird, a song I never tire of listening to. The harder edge remains with Metalingus and at that point I’d have been happy to head for the exit. However, value for money is always high on the list with Alter Bridge and the show goes on and on. I wasn’t keen on Show Me A Leader when it was first released with that weird pause in the chorus, but it works a treat in the live arena with a snorting pace driving it forward and allowing Tremonti to flex his muscles.

Rise Today closes the set to massive applause before the double encore concludes with My Champion before a quite abrupt edit ends the show. Live at the O2 Arena captures everything that is good about Alter Bridge; their ferocity at times is stunning. It also demonstrates the balance that the band use with some of their more radio friendly hard rock. At 102 minutes, it’s the full event; probably about 20 minutes too long for me. 8/10

Mausoleum Gate: Into A Dark Divinity (Cruz Del Sur Music)

This is the second album from Finnish outfit Mausoleum Gate and it’s all aboard the 1970s psychedelia train. Six tracks, over 40 minutes of music and a meandering Hammond soaked guitar led ten-minute opener in Condemned To Darkness. It’s almost Baroque in places with the haunting vocals of VP Varpula mesmerising. The contrast with the short crazy ride on Burn The Witches At Dawn is immediately noticeable, with another change into the ominous Apophis following hard on the heels. This band unsurprisingly list Sabbath, Purple and Rainbow in their influences but there’s more than a touch of Black Widow and The Groundhogs as well. The Deep Purple sound kicks in during the impressive Horns and to be honest, the more this album went on, the more I began to dig it. The underlying groove surges through it and their honest devotion to a genre which is rarely heard these days is to be commended. The majestic title track closes the record, all 10:38 of it. I can’t say it’s fantastic, but there is something about this album that really draws you in and refuses to release you until the final notes have expired. 8/10

Wild Rocket: Dissociation Mechanics (Art For Blind)

I’m partial to rocket. Hardy, reliable and with a delightful peppery taste. If planted right, it will last for months and provide a staple for many a side dish or salad. I'm also quite partial to Wild Rocket, possibly the only space rock band from Ireland. Dissociation Mechanics is their latest release and it’s as trippy as balls as the saying goes. Fuzzier than a bear’s bollocks after hibernation, the four members who comprise Wild Rocket serve up a journey of epic proportions. Five tracks which total 43 minutes. Yep, it’s a ride which takes you through the cosmos and back again. The 15-minute meander of The Future Echoes contains some of the most sludge heavy riffs this side of Crowbar. I doubt this will float everyone’s boat, or even rocket ship, but if you want to devote an hour to the astral hemispheres then light up, lie back and enjoy. 7/10

Exarsis: New War Order (MDD Records)

Punchy thrash metal from Greece is the order of the day with Exarsis, a five piece who have remarkably released three albums prior to New War Order. It's full of gusto but the King Diamond piercing wail of Nick J Tragakis ruins some decent if unimaginative thrash. The only remaining original member is bassist Chris Poulos, whose thunderous lines link with the powerful hammering of Achilleas Kamzolas. Despite their best efforts this album becomes quite difficult to listen to after a while. Crap thrash is really a struggle. I'd give this the swerve at all costs. 4/10

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Reviews: Gizmodrome, Gun, Angel Nation, Kamikaze Test Pilots

Gizmodrome: S/T (earMusic)

So Gizmodrome, four incredibly talented musicians together in one band so you'd expect there to be a lot of intricate instrumental sections and progressive music that is far and away out of the normal listening habits. However what you get is the off kilter power prog pop, layers upon layers of instrumentation all virtuosic. The band are four of the most accomplished players in the music industry. drummer/arranger/vocalist Stewart Copeland (The Police), bassist/vocalist Mark King (Level 42), guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew (King Crimson) and keyboardist/organist Vittorio Cosma because of the mix of membership it means that the sonics are all over the place.

There is a definite Frank Zappa quirkiness to it all, vocally the band is somewhere between Zappa and Les Claypool the band's other musical similarity. It's jazzy, rocky, funky and at time downright mad in places wildly veering from genre to genre but still sounding self contained. Man In The Mountain has the regatta de blanc of Copeland's 'other band' but it's the only track like this, plus Mark King is a better bass player than Sting will ever be.  The lyrical content is zany with the satirical quirks Talking Heads, but isn't the instrumentation that is what will keep the music nerds happy, Mark King plays lead bass throughout his four string jazz funk rhythms fighting with Stewart Copeland's expressive drumming and while they both sound like the are playing different songs it fits.

As Belew's guitars continually remind you why he was sideman to Robert Fripp for years and Cosma widens the soundscapes for this musically arresting soup. Gizmodrome have released the most musically accomplished, quirkiest record of the year, if Zappa, Primus and Captain Beefheart are your bag, play this over and over and let the musical madness wrap you in saran wrap and squeeze your jiggly bits, sorry as the band themselves say Strange Things Happen. 9/10   

Gun: Favourite Pleasures (Cloburn Music)

Thirty years is a long stretch for any band for a while there it looked like Gun may not make it, having had a few hiatuses and a few singers since their heyday, the tale of this Glaswegian rock band was set to become one of those what could have been tales you see late at night. Thankfully they have ploughed on with Dante Gizzi behind the mic and since his debut as a singer (he was originally the bass player) on Break The Silence not only has his voice come on in leaps and bounds so has confidence of each record.

This is probably to do with the non-stop touring the band do, but it means that Favourite Pleasures the band's ninth album is probably their most varied in all of the thirty years. There's a little bit of everything here from the poppy hooks of She Knows which takes bittersweet lyrics and marries it with frenetic guitars from Jools Gizzi and new boy Tommy Gentry, the raging RHCP disco-funk of the filthy title track, the bouncy Silent Lovers (which I can't help thinking sounds like the theme from The Sweeney) and Here's Where I Am has the bluesy fuzz of The Black Keys.

The record was apparently written after Dante's breakup with his ex-partner and there is a lot of darkness below the surface rocking which comes to a head on the mega ballad Boy Who Fooled The World which sees Dante giving his most emotional performance on the record. The special edition features another four songs including their cover of Fight For Your Right To Party which has become a live staple. Favourite Pleasures sees Gun still plugging away with the kind of radio friendly hard rock that has seen them last 30 years, live they are brilliant and if their records mean they get more stuff to play then that can't be a bad thing. 7/10

Angel Nation: Aeon (Inner Wound Recordings)

Back in the annals of the Musipedia Of Metal I reviewed the debut album by Angel Nation, then they were called EnkeliNation (the same name in Finnish), their record was stylish melodic symphonic metal and it did impress, since their debut they have changed their name to the easier to understand Angel Nation but the music remains the same. The band was formed by singer Elina Siirala who has an ethereal atypical classically trained vocal and between the debut and this their second album she also now sings for Leaves Eyes which means that the performances on this record have been honed a lot more than on the debut and it also means that it has differentiate itself from Leaves Eyes.

It's fortunate then that Elina tries to be as musically diverse as possible with her songwriting, opener Burn The Witch is closer to the bombast of Nightwish, Breathe Again brings the gothier elements of Within Temptation and there is even some Lloyd-Webber drama on Wonder Who You Are which moves into a gallopin Maiden riff courtesy of Sonny Antoniou (guitar), Julia B Cadau (bass), Lucas Williamson (drums) who blast beats the hell out of Free. It's another strong record from Angel Nation with lots of booming symphonic rockers and the obligatory super ballad in Music Plays that features Elina's mother on violin, if you think the 'female fronted' tag is overused and dying out then think again, Angel Nation keep the flag flying high. 7/10

Kamikaze Test Pilots: Stealing Chameleons (Gwash Records)

How does one steal a Chameleon? I would assume it would be difficult due to their ability to blend in with their surroundings. Unless of course the title of this sophomore album from South African alt rockers refers to Chameleon's stealing, in that case I would think the scaly master of disguise would come into it's own being subtle and stealthy. Subtly is not something Kamikaze Test Pilots excel in, their music is loud and abrasive, this trio make a lot of noise and it's a noise difficult to describe, shouty, riffy and frantic Betty Ford is the first single and first track from the record and it gets you ready for what's to come.

The record is a twisting turning journey of fuzzy riffs, psychedelic freak outs and raw vocals, the title track is full of punk rock fury, Weirdo Beardo has the desert trippiness, it's like Clutch jamming with QOTSA while travelling the worlds bars, an expedition that could produce the gypsy drinking anthem that is Emigre. The record moves between styles with no breaths in between, one minute they could be ramping up the funk, bringing furious African grooves (Crocophile), the next punching you in the throat (Dawg) before bringing things to an emotional end with For Frankie. Ryan Niemandt (vocals/guitar) Wes Niemandt (drums) and Simon Buckett (bass) play music that intrigues, excites and never gets bogged down in genre boundaries, whether you are stealing Chameleons or having things stolen by them, this record is an odd slice of rough, ready and sonically expansive music. 8/10

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Reviews: Dynamite, The Lurking Fear, Black Messiah (Review By Rich)

Dynamite: Big Bang (Nuclear Blast)

Swedish hard rockers Dynamite are back with their third album Big Bang and it's safe to say that if you are a fan of AC/DC there's plenty you are going to love here. If you are looking for originality however there is nothing for you here. Dynamite are clear fanboys of AC/DC as they very much emulate their sound on Big Bang with inspiration coming clearly from the Bon Scott era of the band. If you know your AC/DC you know exactly what you're getting and that is short, sharp and simple hard rock tunes which are damn catchy. 

It's impossible not to tap your foot to tunes such as March On (To The Beat Of Your Drum), Turn Up The Heat, Big Bang and All Bark No Bite. It is impressive how Dynamite and other AC/DC-alike bands such as Airbourne can take a formula set down over 40 years ago and still get original songs out of it but it's the complete and utter lack of originality which sets this album back. Overall though this is a great and fun hard rock album which is bound to bring a smile to your face. 7/10

The Lurking Fear: Out Of The Voiceless Grave (Century Media)

The Lurking Fear are a death metal supergroup featuring a veritable feast of members from Swedish extreme metal royalty. The band features Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates) on vocals, Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem) and Jonas Stålhammar (The Crown) on guitars, Andreas Axelsson (Edge Of Sanity & Tormented) on bass and Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates & The Haunted) on drums. Out Of The Voiceless Grave is their debut album and as to be expected with a line up this good it is a killer album. It is very much a throwback to the early days of death metal with some nice influences from thrash metal, crust punk and d-beat mixed in. 

11 songs of savage ferocity with the throat shredding vocals of Tomas Lindberg, a bludgeoning display of drumming and some truly nasty riffs with highlights including The Starving Gods Of Old, Upon Black Winds and The Cold Jaws Of Death. With Out Of The Voiceless Grave, The Lurking Fear haven't released anything special but it is five incredible musicians paying homage to the music they love and putting out an album of disgusting old school death metal. One or two songs miss the mark a bit but overall if you like your death metal dirty and horrible then you can't go wrong with this album. 8/10

Black Messiah: Walls Of Vanaheim (SMP/Trollzorn Records)

Walls Of Vanaheim is the seventh album by German band Black Messiah and it's a concept album based around The Aesir/Vanir War in Norse mythology. This was the first time I had heard Black Messiah and unfortunately it wasn't the best of first impressions. Black Messiah play an epic sounding mix of melodic black metal, folk metal and symphonic metal which on paper sounds amazing and something right up my street. Unfortunately the reality is that this album is exceedingly boring. The majority of the songs sound virtually identical, are similarly paced and contain very little that sticks in your mind after listening.

The album is also way too long lasting 72 minutes in total and half the tracks on the album are spoken word interludes to progress the story. These interludes are simply tedious and on the whole cringe inducing. Onto the positives now the playing on the album is impressive with the lead guitars and violin playing being of particular highlight. There are one or two songs which stand out from the rest such as Satisfaction And Revenge which incorporates some nice clean vocals and The Walls Of Vanaheim with it's more speedy and ferocious approach. This was a very disappointing album as the premise sounded good but was let down by subpar songwriting and irritating interludes. When it's good though it shows amazing promise. 5/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Pineapple Thief (Live Review By Paul)

The Pineapple Thief & Godsticks, Bristol Bierkeller

On a day when it appeared that the motorway gods had conspired to cause abject misery to the network around South Wales and the Bristol area, a little light was shed with super performances by two of the U. K’s most progressive rock bands.

I’m ashamed to say that I was only very peripherally aware of Cardiff outfit Godsticks (8), despite them having released several albums and almost ten years of existence. Their dark and muscular progressive rock is now most definitely on my radar and their excellent new release Faced With Rage is already a favourite this year. The band curtailed their set slightly due to the traffic issues but managed to show their quality with three new songs from Faced With Rage as well as some older favourites including the riff heavy skull pummelling of Exit Stage Right from 2015’s Emergence. The last night of the tour allowed the band to perform in a relaxed mode but they were also sharp as a razor, clearly brimming with confidence. Singer and guitarist Darran Charles impressed with his clear voice, sweet fret work and typical Cardiffian humour, whilst Gavin Bushell’s lead work was simply outstanding.

With Charles swapping frontman duties for lead guitar, it was time for Somerset’s Bruce Soord and The Pineapple Thief (9). With the drum stool occupied by Porcupine Tree (amongst many other) drummer Gavin Harrison, there was no concern about the quality of the underlying beat, and this was anchored fabulously by long-standing bassist Jon Sykes. Steve Kitch’s unassuming synths and keyboards (not to mention two iMacs!) added depth and texture. Unsurprisingly the set list focused heavily on material from last year’s excellent Your Wilderness record, with every track being played. A smattering of tracks from the band’s extensive back catalogue ensured that old school fans were well catered for, but in all honesty, such is the quality with this outfit and Soord’s song-writing that it doesn’t really matter what they played.

At times, the band rocked out with the best of them, whilst the softer tracks such as In Exile and The Final Thing On My Mind just highlighted what great musicians the band are. Soord is an engaging frontman, quiet, unassuming but with a lovely dry wit. Content to let Charles take lead duties for most of the evening, at times he just had to let rip with the odd blistering solo. This was an evening to sit back and let the music do the talking, the quality and strength of the compositions enveloping the audience in a relatively full venue. Over 20 years in the business, The Pineapple Thief and Soord remain one of those great hidden treasures. Will they ever gain wider recognition? Highly unlikely but in some respects, that’s a plus for those of us who love music in smaller venues. A superb evening from two stunningly excellent bands.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Reviews: Wayward Sons, Prophets Of Rage, Witherfall

Wayward Sons: Ghosts Of Yet To Come (Frontiers Records)

Toby Jepson should be a name recognized by any British rock fan, the founder/frontman of Little Angels, he has also served time in Gun, Fastway and as a solo artist, before more recently turning his hands to producing records by The Virginmarys, Saxon and The Answer. I say should be but you will find that he isn't that's because he, like many UK rockers in the early 90's were overlooked in favour of their American counterparts. Well Toby has returned to redress the balance with Wayward Sons it's been a while since Jepson has played in rock band of his own creation but like previous acts Jepson's bands have always had the feel of a group of outcasts, on the Little Angels breakthrough single Kickin Up Dust they even use the line wayward sons to connect with the disenfranchised teens in Thatcher's Britain. This take no shit approach is once again rampant on Ghosts Of Yet To Come, there's a tenacity to the record, it bristles with attitude and rallies against the state of the nation on Small Talk (again name checking Mrs T as the rooyt of much of this

Apparently this was the first record Jepson wrote and recorded in the studio live with his band and it feels like it, these songs are written for performance. The band in question are Nic Wastell (bass, Chrome Molly) Phil Martini (drums, Spear Of Destiny, ex Quireboys, ex Tokyo Dragons), Sam Wood (guitar from Treason Kings) and Dave Kemp (keys, ex Little Angels touring band and long time sideman to Toby) they all bring their individual quirks to the record, Sam Wood is a heck of a discovery, the guys an axe wizard who slots in well with the old hands peeling of slick licks that weave in and out of Kemp's keys as Wastell and Martini lay down a 70's groove with a modern gloss.

The record has 10 tracks no ballads and whole load of rocking Alive is written like this is the last roll of the dice, Until The End and Give It Away are Jepson doing what he does best the way he used to, Ghost is a slab of proto-metal, Killing Time the hefty singalong, as is Crush and bluesy Something's Wrong ends the record with a cool nod to the classics. Wayward Sons is a band for the people, Jepson and indeed British rockers generally always seemed a man out of place during the big rock revival of 88 - 94, while G'N'R and Tesla were achieving legendary status acts like Little Angels, Thunder etc were doing things with the plucky determination of the Brits, it's only in the last 10 years that their contribution has been recognised and as Thunder see their star shining brighter than ever maybe it's time we re-evaluate Toby Jepson, forget ghosts, the best is yet to come! 8/10

Prophets Of Rage: S/T (Fantasy Records)

Just when you thought politically charged rap rock was dead three quarters of Rage Against The Machine return with Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill. The band were formed in the melee of the 2016 Presidential election as a collaboration between activist musicians against the political madness of the time. This is their debut record and it's pretty much RATM without Zach De La Rocha, unfortunately this is where it falls down. Yes there are filthy riff on Radical Eyes Unfuck The World and Hail To The Chief with Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford bringing those funky molotov wielding grooves and Tom Morello fills the songs with his distinctive funk meets video game guitar playing.

It's the mic work that really differs though as Chuck D and B-Real may be politically savvy and know how to spit a rhyme but they just don't seem to have the unmitigated anger shown by De la Rocha on classic RATM on Sleep Now In The FireProphets Of Rage has the feel of a 'star' protest, millionaires trying to be 'down with the kids' where as the original RATM and to the same extent Public Enemy were from the streets with genuine beef, this record is a group of musicians with money to burn taking a political argument that is already out of date. They would have been much better getting these songs released maybe one a week during the election campaign where they would have been more anthemic.

Still musically it's what you would want for those protests against tyranny that seem to be getting more and more necessary, there is no Killing In The Name but there is the pro-weed anthem Legalize Me, the impressive Latin flavoured funk of Take Me Higher along with the Rage-alikes I've mentioned earlier. From a music perspective there is nothing wrong with Prophets Of Rage (unless you hate rap-rock) but it's message just feels a little late in the day. 7/10   

Witherfall: Nocturnes & Requiems (Century Media)

One look at the Facebook page of Witherfall tells you what to expect before a note is even played. They state their influences are King Diamond, Nevermore, Pink Floyd, Savatage and you can really hear all of these bands on this record. The American act was born out of the ashes of White Wizzard with that band's former guitarist Jake Dreyer (also Iced Earth and ex-Kobra & The Lotus) and vocalist Joseph Michael coming together in 2013 with drummer Adam Sagan. This record is a tribute Sagan who tragically died in December 2016 during the final production stages and it's one that I think encapsulates the vision they were trying to achieve. Nocturnes & Requiems is a record that has furious technical thrash on Portrait but takes this and adds ambient Floydian textures, a heavy use of acoustic and classical guitars and wraps it all up in a progressive metal package.

Nevermore and King Diamond are the two main comparisons, heading back to the aforementioned Portrait it's right out of the Melissa era with it's ominous hooks and Michael's wailing vocals (repeated on The Great Awakening. The record gets faster on What We Are Dying For before it turns into heavy doom that Leif Edling would be proud, however they throw another curveball with some fleet fingered classical guitars in the middle section. Dreyer plays up a storm here moving between shredding and folk acoustics on the 9 minute  Sacrifice, which is one of two 9 minute tracks on this record full of pretty long songs, Sacrifice is also notable as it goes full Floyd in the middle as Anthony Crawford's bass leads the record ala One Of These Days.

Sagan's drumming is immense on every track he's got the extreme metal blastbeats that lay a tough base layer for Dreyer's guitar heroics and Michael's wide range. It's a shame if this is the only record from Witherfall as it's excellent, I'm a huge Nevermore fan and this is the closest thing I've heard in ages, more proof that White Wizzard has been the breeding ground for some of the best traditional metal bands around. 8/10

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Reviews: H.E.A.T, Darkfall, Shrapnel, Stud (Reviews By Paul)

H.E.A.T: Into The Great Unknown (earMusic)

In the world of AOR the Swedes are prominent. Hard rock with a massive melodic undercurrent, band's such as veterans Europe and current faves Eclipse pull in decent crowds. H.E.A.T sit very much in the upper echelons of the genre, and album number 5 demonstrates exactly why. Slick, polished and full of the harmonies which only those with dazzling white teeth can reach. Erick Gronwall delivers the sugar coated vocals the music demands, whilst the rest of the band, including returning guitarist David Dalone combine to deliver a perfect record.

The heavy rock of opening track Bastard Of Society is balanced by the synth dominated Redefined and the high pitched Time On Our Side. It's the harmonies that give H.E.A.T the edge and nowhere is this better illustrated that on Best Of The Broken, its clap along chorus guaranteed to get their fans fist pumping. The obligatory ballad is as ghastly as you'd expect for a band of this genre, where cheesy love songs are a speciality. Underneath the layers of fromage sit some very talented musicians and whilst it's not my bag, when AOR is done properly it remains impressive. 8/10

Shrapnel: Raised On Decay (Candlelight/Spinefarm)

If you want some decent thrash then look no further than Norwich's fine quintet Shrapnel. It's been three years since the guys delivered the slicingly dangerous The Virus Conspiracies but they hardly pause for breath on their sophomore release. Disgustingly groove laden riffage at maximum speed, snarling angry vocals and bone crushing drums. Yeah, this is the mutts. The Overkill stomp of The Boundaries Set, the all out in your face blast of opener Hollow Earth and the measured title track all contain subtle nuances that really get the foot tapping and the neck muscles twitching. Jae Hadley's vocals fit the traditional approach superbly whilst the screaming lead guitar of Nathan Sadd, ably supported by rhythm fret partner Chris Martin do most of the damage. These guys are slowly growing in stature. If you haven't heard them and like your thrash with a UK tint then get your aural devices around Raised On Decay. It's well worth it. 8/10

Darkfall: At The End Of Times (Black Sunset)

Austrian melodic death thrashers Darkfall has been kicking around for over 20 years. At The End Of Times is their first release for four years. It's hard, heavy with blast beats and riffage aplenty. The hooks are strong and the assault unwavering. Unfortunately it's destroyed by Thomas Spiwak's guttural howling vocals which add absolutely nothing to the maelstrom the band are trying to create.

Whilst lots of death metal contain very shouty vocalists, Spiwak's aggressive throat burning leaves little to engage the listener. It's a shame as tracks such as The Breed Of Death whilst nothing special are decent enough extreme metal which would get the pits moving. Ultimately it's repetitive and pales against some of the meatier beasts in the same field. 5/10

Stud: Circle Of Lies (Cranksonic)

Not to be confused with the seventies Irish outfit of the same name, Stud is a Finnish hard rock outfit who first formed in 1986 before going their separate ways in 1989. The band reformed in 2012 and Circle Of Lies is their third full record. It's variable stuff, with Ari Toivanen's high pitched vocals sitting comfortably alongside the powerful drumming of Stenda Kukkonen. Guitarist Mika Kansikas puts on a virtuoso display, with some superb work on the title track just for starters. The band are fast paced, well drilled and plough through the ten tracks.

Layered guitar work gives the impression of at least one more guitar throughout. It's not all decent stuff, with a steep dip when you reach Searching For Freedom, a slow paced horror, and No Hero which is particularly dull. It's full of cliches that belong back in the 1980s, although this is quite enjoyable at times. More Than A Woman brings the most misogynistic Scorpions' work to mind, and Real Man, well, it's just the blueprint to my life. "Women and wine, you're top of my mind", absolutely, and with a chorus of "it's gonna be showtime, showtime, all night", what lady could resist the ode of the Real Man. (Although all night does mean lights out at 11 right?).

Music is definitely in the ear of the listener and Stud won't be to the taste of all. It's not an album I'll be playing on a regular basis but despite its relative averageness I wouldn't throw it in the trash. 6/10

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Reviews Black Country Communion, Sparzanza, Metalite, Haema

Black Country Communion: BCCIV (Mascot Records)

Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, Derek Sherinian (and Kevin Shirley) are back, the bridges have been rebuilt, the handshakes accepted and now everyone is back to being friends these men return to what brought them to the dance. I don't need to explain who these guys are you should know, but with what is probably the biggest gap between albums for any of the members this record has been highly anticipated for anyone that loves a supergroup. Now I'm a fan of any project Joey Bones is involved in but I do have a particular affinity to Black Country Communion, it's a real supergroup and there previous three albums have all been must-hear records. Yes the debut was more immediate and their third outing did show signs of strain but with the musicianship and experience these men have, the records are never going to be crap. Has the wait been worth it?

Well some may say that the first time round BCC squeezed the Zep/Purple influences for all they're worth, BCC are shamelessly retro but exciting and their ingeniously titled fourth album reminds you of that initial impact of their debut but with the folk and prog influences that crept in on albums 2 and 3. The record starts with the count in, Boham's torte snare and then the grooving riff as 'The Voice Of Rock' proves his mettle as both a vocalist and bassist giving the track it's walking bassline, On The Crow he even plays a bass solo in the songs elongated solo section. Contrive is the ideal start giving you instant gratification from the band with fat Zeppelin rocking, it's followed up by Over My Head which brings in lighter textures with Sherinian's organs bubbling away and Hughes reaching his higher register. Things take a turn into Free, The Faces and Zep 3 on Last Song For My Resting Place which is Bonamassa's first lead vocal of the record and it's real Isle Of Avalon stuff as the mandolin wind giving way to Bonamassa's incendiary soloing on a song that could have easily been kept for a Bonamassa solo record but suits the BCC ethos much better.

Since the band came about in 2010 Kevin Shirley has been twiddling the knobs and acting as the de-facto fifth member his production technique is brilliant, he really brings out the perfect sound for a band. Take the psychedelic swirling of The Cove as an example, the music is exemplary as it should be but he clarity of the production really makes it sparkle. At 70-odd minutes it might be hard going for some but you do get to hear four (five) experienced musicians at the height of their powers, BCCIV is a clarion call from BCC, the clouds that brought an end to the band have cleared and they are all once again on the same page playing the music they do so well. 9/10

Sparzanza: Announcing The End (Despotz Records)

Sweden's Sparzanza are one of those bands that I've seen posters of in various venues and ads in various magazines but I've never heard anything by them. I'd always assumed they were an AOR band but upon playing their eighth album I realise how dead wrong I was. Looking a previous reviewer have dubbed them "The Swedish Tremonti" and I'd say that comparison holds up, Sparzanza play a heavy style of melodic metal that has chunky riffs and big sing along choruses, I'd even say there was a lot of Evergrey in there too (To The One) albeit without the progressive nature although the epic Whatever Come is close. Vocally Fredrik sounds similar to Papa Het with booming croon which he sometimes shifts into a scarred bark, which lends a bit of LOG groove to The Dark Appeal.

Announcing The End 
is somewhat of a provocative title with the songs aimed at being an incitement to the apocalypse, there's no let up, it's about as far away from AOR as possible, the riffs are distorted and chug away from the self titled opener, there is very little time to compose yourself before the next song beats down on your ear drums. The only time the band ease off on the riffs is when they add melodic flourishes like the piano on Truth Is A Lie or on the gigantic fist-in-the-air choruses. Sparzanza have really impressed me on this record, they are nothing like I thought they were, I really enjoyed their muscular modern melodic metal, looks like I have two tasks now, find their earlier albums and see them live where I'm sure these albums get heavier again. 8/10

Metalite: Heroes In Time (Inner Wound Records)

Sweden seem to produce a new band every 40 seconds and they are always so widely varied it's hard to keep up. Metalite are Swedish  and like fellow Swedes Amaranthe they have a very bouncy style of power metal that is built on EDM beats. Heroes In Time is the band's debut record and it's a collaboration between singer Emma Bensing and guitarist Edwin Premberg who along with their superior band do an admirable job of nailing the sound Amaranthe have done so successfully. It makes you think though how many of these types of band does one country and indeed a record buying public need? Yes there is no argument about Metalite's talent but they do sound exactly like Amaranthe with some Dynazty and Nightwish thrown into the pot. There's very little else I can say about this record, if you like Amaranthe then you'll love Metalite, as the advertising Meerkat says "Simples". 7/10

Haema: Insurrection (Sliptrick Records)

There must be something in the water in Northamptonshire, punishing groove metal seems to flow out of there like lava, it's invariably red hot and slow moving, bludgeoning you with every low end chord. Gutworm used to and Krysthla do this better than most, so when you see that Northampton troupe Haema's debut EP is produced/recorded by Krysthla/Gutworm's Neil Hudson it's safe to assume that it's going to have the razor sharp sound of their own records. Musically Haema continue with the hefty groove metal of their peers with the dark electronics of Fear Factory. Insurrection has five tracks or precision brutality featuring down-tuned riffs, buzzing electronics and bouncing nu-metal bottom end, it kicks into gear with Eden which has the clean/harsh vocals with waves of synths over big groovy riffs and breakdown in the middle section, sounding similar, as most of this record does, to Burning Red era Machine Head fused with the rap rock of Rage Against The Machine, listen to Free Man and tell me otherwise. Haema are a band out of time, their music would have seen them on top of the world in the year 2000, but with this nu-metal sound coming around it might be time for Haema to lead the revival. 7/10

Monday, 18 September 2017

Reviews: Satyricon, Anubis Gate, Dead Cross, Night (Reviews By Paul)

Satyricon: Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Napalm Records)

It’s been four years since Satyricon, the eighth album from the Norwegian duo of Satyr and Frost. The band hasn’t been idle in the meantime, releasing Night At The Opera and Frost of course, drumming with 1349. To label Satyricon as Black Metal is probably a challenge these days but whilst they certainly have taken a different path from the evil of Dark Medieval Times and Nemesis DiviniaDeep Calleth Upon Deep still has its roots deep in the black metal earth. Satyricon was loaded with more accessible tracks such as Nekrohaven. Deep Calleth Upon Deep doesn’t have that initial spontaneity about it, with much of the album slower paced and brooding. Frost’s drumming retains the inevitable fills and blast beats and Satyr’s vocals remain harsh and gravel soaked. It’s only on about the fifth listen that I really got to grips with it.

The sharp edge of the guitar, the subtle undertones of the keyboards all combine with a staccato construction, change of pace and smouldering intensity. After the opener The Midnight Serpent, Blood Cracks Open The Ground grabs the attention with some neat hooks and a slightly chaotic sound. The atmospheric title track rattle along with some enhanced female wailing adding to the sinister sound. My biggest complaint with the album is that it often blends into one. So each track is very similar to the previous one. That isn’t a problem if the tracks are all immense but they just aren’t here. The Ghosts Of Rome has a different feel to the rest of the tracks, almost indie in its feel, but the female backing vocals repeat exactly what was heard on the title track. Good but could have been better. 7/10

Anubis Gate: Covered In Black (Nightmare Records)

Danish outfit Anubis Gate have been delivering progressive metal since their debut release Purification back in 2004. Covered In Black is their seventh release and their first since 2014’s Horizons. The band comprises Kim Olsen (guitar/Keys), Henrik Fevre (bass/vocals), Michael Bodin (guitar) and Morten Gade Sorensen (drums). The band specialise in soaring, sweeping melodies similar to Fates Warning with intricate time changes and variations in depth and power. Opener Psychotopia is a classic example, building to an operatic crescendo before closing and merging into

The New Dehli Assassination which has an Eastern flavour. There are some crushing guitar riffs hidden in tracks such as The Combat. Anubis Gate vary their style throughout the album, with Fevre’s clean vocals prominent. It might be a little overblown in parts but there is no doubting the quality of the band and the similarities to bands like Dream Theater do become more apparent as the album progresses. In fact, by the time you reach A Journey To Nowhere this is even more obvious. The trilogy of Black, Blacker and Blackest are impressive as is the nine-minute Operation Cairo which is another track with Eastern flavours and climbing walls of sound. Covered In Black is a strong album which will won’t appeal to all. However, if you like your music with an intricacy that not all bands can follow, Anubis Gate will certainly appeal. 7/10

Dead Cross: Self Titled (Ipecac Records)

Take Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Mike Patton (Faith No More) , Mike Crain (Retox) and Justin Pearson (The Locust Head, Retox) and you get Dead Cross, who distribute 27 minutes of high intensity hardcore punk and metal which pulls no punches. There’s hooks, and even a bit of melody on occasion but mainly it’s just a hefty blow to the bollocks. I’m not a huge fan of hardcore punk and this does little for me with its snarling aggression and Patton’s screaming vocals.

Of course, Patton wasn’t the original vocalist but stepped in when Gabe Serbian left. Patton subsequently recorded his own vocals to the existing tracks which included amending the lyrics. Highlights here? The gothic tinge of Bela Lugosi’s Dead and the car crash of Church Of The Motherfuckers. Some will love this. I don’t. 6/10

Night: Raft Of The World (The Sign Records)

The opening 4 minutes and 45 seconds of track one of Swedish rock outfit Night’s album Raft Of The World was enough. Fire Across The Sky was a reasonably decent hard rock track until Oskar Andersson opened his mouth. I couldn’t reach for the off button in time for track 2, Surrender to start but by then I was waving the white flag to make it end. As Mrs H said, “it was nice when it stopped”. The remaining seven tracks may be great. I’m not taking the risk. 2/10

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Spotlight: Interview With Angel Vivaldi (Interview By Matt)

Guitarists Andy James and Angel Vivaldi head out on a tour together around the country. They stop at Clwb Ifor Bach on 21st September 2017. We spoke to Angel Vivaldi about the tour and other things.

MoM: Hi guys Matt here from the Musipedia Of Metal. We’re heading to your gig at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, which is the first date on the tour. What can expect from the show?

Angel: I think fans are really going to enjoy this tour and leave very inspired. I’m going to be performing brand new material off of (New album) Synapse for the first time, so that will definitely be something very special. Andy and I will also be doing a song together which I’m sure many fans are looking forward to.

MoM: Have you guys ever played together in the past? Are we going to see any clashing of egos?

Angel: We recently had a few opportunities to play and jam out together. Our newest music video collaboration is a good example of our energies and how well we compliment each other. Andy and I are good friends and respect each other, so I highly doubt there will be any of that. We both just do our thing and help to support one another in our efforts.

MoM: You are both known as ‘shredders’ what do you think of that tag?

Angel: I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't subscribe to the stigma attached with that label. Many associate it with a particular lack of emotion, but what people don't understand is that shredding (when done in moderation), can provide much more emotion. The reason why is because a guitarist had to dedicate years of hard work and discipline in order to paint with "teal," or "crimson." Those colors just don't come from standard guitar players. We can go beyond.

MoM:
Both of you guys are incredible players, you’ve both toured a lot as solo instrumental artists with some band experience. Which do you prefer solo or playing within a band?

Angel: I certainly prefer being a solo artist. I am very strong in my vision for my art and also how I handle the business aspect of said art. I do, however, very much enjoy collaborating with other like minds and also learning from them. My time with 40 below summer and Vext both proved very beneficial for my development as an artist and sound businessman.

MoM:
Angel you have numerous philanthropy projects as a parallel to your music career as well as staunchly supportive of the LGBT+ community. Is there anything you are working toward now or anything else you wish to do or achieve outside of musical sphere?

Angel: I’m always working on different causes behind the scenes as it’s less about my ego/people knowing and much more about helping people. I’m currently working to develop a Youtube segment which is focused more on environmental awareness and different things people and musicians can start doing to shape their lifestyles for the betterment of our world. The music industry has a very large responsibility to our environment with so many artists constantly touring, polluting our planet and consuming much more than is needed. Hoping to launch once this album cycle becomes less time consuming.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Cats In Space (Review By Paul and Matt)

Cats In Space, Hand Of Dimes & Kaato, The Globe Cardiff

Paul's view:

It's rare that a support band attracts me more than the headliners but when Hand Of Dimes, the blues soaked hard rock South Walians were announced as main support for Cats in Space, it was a given that I'd be there.

First up were the tour support to the Cats for their entire U.K. Tour, Australian outfit Kaato (8) whose impressive track record includes having Mitch Malloy in their ranks for their debut release. The band were crammed onto the stage, with no room to let rip but that didn't stop them delivering 30 minutes of sleazy rock. Their sound merges Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and countrymen Airbourne in a dirty low hipped swagger. Frontman Kurt Lowry captivating with his showmanship, and what a voice.

Clean, strong and absolutely breathtaking, hitting notes at times that he shouldn't have been allowed to get anywhere near. Alongside Lowry, bassist Mika Nuutinen, former Inglorious guitarist Jack Edwards, guitarist Hunter Lovan and drummer Mitch Pike all put in excellent shifts in the cramped conditions with Pike probably further forward than usual allowing his animalistic drumming a fair showcase. It was Lowry's stunning voice that captured most of the attention. The penultimate song was a freestyle cover of Larry Williams' 1957 hit Bony Maronie allowed all of the band to demonstrate their chops and really engaged the audience. A great reception for a very enjoyable and talented band.

If there was one highlight at the rain sodden Steelhouse Festival this year then it was Hand Of Dimes (9). Their quite brilliant Friday night set was the main reason we toughed it out over the weekend with their magnificent slot with Bernie Marsden simply fantastic. The band stepped in for King King on the Sunday and put in another great shift. The band are tighter than a Scotsman at the bar and even though they only had 30 minutes their set was worth the admission fee on its own. The rhythm section of Mark Maybry and David Stephenson set the pace, Neil Garland added some soothing keyboards and sweet harmonica whilst Colin Edwards lead guitar was soulful and measured in all the right places. 

Of course, the focal point of the band as always was Ynysybwl's favourite son, Nev MacDonald, whose performance every time is just astonishing. Why this man isn't playing to capacity stadiums every night is a mystery to me. His vocals are amongst the best in the British hard rock field, gravelled when needed but usually much smoother. He has no trouble with the higher notes, as was seen on the beautiful Jacob's Ladder, and he rocked with ease on the harder edged Guilty and Bad Reputation. With a partisan crowd shouting good natured abuse at every opportunity, this was a fun set but so professional. The 30 minutes disappeared quickly with the fabulous Sail On bringing the house down. A Welsh institution, Hand Of Dimes should be seen at every opportunity. I can't wait for the next time. *Special thanks to Mark Maybry for the guest list invite as well. Many thanks!*

Matt's View:

Paul and Mrs H had to leave after Hand Of Dimes due to dog related issues so it was left to me to review the headliners. With Hand Of Dimes getting a raucous ovation from the partisan crowd, the headliners had a big task ahead of them but with the theme from The Sweeney blaring out of the PA the band took to the stage decked out like a proper rock band with lounge coats, crazy hats and lots of denim and leather. They sauntered on stage with beaming smiles and kicked things off with Too Many Gods the title track of their first album, what hits you as Cats In Space (9) start a set is just how perfect their sound is, slickly mixed to really compliment the band's colossal melodic rock stylings. Steevi Brown's percussive power is instantly impactful he drives the band along from the rear of stage bashing the skins with aplomb, he's a focal point for sure but then the entire band are focal points all totally set in their roles on stage, their collective live experience paying dividends, in enthralling the sadly thinned crowd.

As they moved between Too Many Gods and their latest record Scarecrow it's the quality of the songs that sits on par with the quality of the performance, these cats have claws (sorry) they are a much heavier prospect live than on record the dual guitar harmonies of Greg Hart and Dean Howard remind you off the classic Lizzy harmonies each man sharing solos and lead breaks, like Gorham and Robertson as Jeff Brown slings his Rickenbacker bass with an assured confidence swaggering from amp to front of stage as he finger plucks his grooves. The musical palette of the band differs they bring a lump of Foreigner, a dash of Lizzy, the soaring harmonies of Queen, with the glam rock stomp of The Sweet. The live backing vocals too were also greatly appreciated for those of us that do always feel a little shortchanged by backing tapes.

The Cats kept a fine pace with full of propulsive rockers such as Timebomb, tonight dedicated to guitarist Dean who recently recovered from a heart attack, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party and Jupiter Calling. These upbeat songs were punctuated by a few huge ballads (Mr Heartache & Scars), the poppy Last Man Standing, the progressive Scarecrow, they are much more than the standard AOR act they can be perceived to be. As I said earlier in the blog the band were on top form, you wouldn't guess this was the first stop of the tour they were polished to near perfection with Andy Stewart's racks of keys not overpowering but complimenting as another lead instrument in every song behind the mic and rounding out the band is Paul Mazi whose vocals are exemplary shifting between Paul Stanley and David Lee Roth while prowling the stage like a strutting tomcat.

There aren't many gigs where every band lives up to your expectations, there are precious few that exceed them but this was one of those times, a young band who show promise, old hands with experience and a headliner who have everything you could want from a live (indoor so no pyro) rock show. Having only caught the end of Cats In Space when they supported Thunder in Cardiff earlier this year seeing their headline performance was an eye opener, my only disappointment was how many left after Hand Of Dimes and didn't stay to see the Cats that got the cream. (Enough with the cat puns I know). 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Reviews: Banditos, Persona, Wicked Stone

Banditos: Visionland (Bloodshot Records)

I really liked Banditos debut and fresh off seeing them live (in a KFC) I picked up their sophomore album Visionland named after the defunct $60 million theme park that was built in the late ‘90s near some of the band members’ childhood homes in Bessemer, Alabama. Apparently the park was shut down after only five years and it stands as a metaphor for the overlying optimism for life this album represents. Visionland also sees the band bring more psychedelic vibes to their already established Southern Country jams. Fine Fine Day starts the record with a New York glam riff driven (thanks to bassist Jeffery Daniel Vines) ode to vodka as the hazy middle section spirals wildly Jeffery David Salter woozily playing some slide while Stephen Alan Pierce II bashes his banjo. Everything stays groovy for Strange Heart the first outing for the soul drenched vocals of Mary Beth Richardson atop the psychedelic meanderings that creep and crawl.

The kaleidoscope of colours continues on the title track which brings sweeping guitars from both Salter and Timothy Steven Corey Parsons as Randy Taylor Wilde drives it with a shuffle. Banditos self titled record owed a debt to Neil Young, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan but this on brings Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and the Grateful Dead; Thick N Thin especially is a Jerry Garcia surf-rocker. With three vocalists to choose from each has their own identity Parsons takes the country rockers, Pierce a folkier Dylan twang and as I've said Richardson has an old soul with Etta James coming through on the shimmering broken heart ballad Healin' Slow, placing this in the middle of the record as the end of 'Side 1' is a stroke of genius, it allows for Lonely Boy to wash over you with it's laid back approach as Fun All Night has swagger to it and exhibits Mary Beth's mastery of the kazoo (yes folks the Kazoo).

I like Banditos, I liked their country rock first album and I like their psychedelic second album, there's an honesty here that is the sound of friends creating the music they want from their collective heart and soul. You can't really argue with that the optimism that at the heart of this record, let the music bring you in to Banditos Visionland. 9/10

Persona: Metamorphosis (Self Released)

Persona's debut album was highly rated by us here at MoM Towers, it was a very powerful debut with a mixture of progressive, power and extreme metal elements along with touches of the Middle Eastern themes of Orphaned Land or Myrath. So on their second full length Metamorphosis you'd think it would be more of the same but this second album sees the band ramp up the symphonic and death influences aiming more at the Epica sound than the previously mentioned Middle Eastern themes. Take a song like Hellgrind it's a furiously frantic with explosive drumming from Youssef Aouadi leading the charge as the death metal scythe through the rhythms of Aouadi, bassist Nesrine Mahbouli and rhythm guitarist Yosri Ouada. Frontwoman Jelena Dobrić gives a schizophrenic vocal performance with her soaring cleans and guttural roars throughout the track.

In fact she pulls this trick off numerous times during the album and every time it makes you really appreciate her vocal prowess, she's not the only member of the band that impresses though keyboardist Walid Bessadok moves the band out of your typical melo-death sound into a more progressive sound with the huge Gothic organ sound on In Memoriam really giving the track legs and it even features a piano solo for that proper baroque Jim Steinman playing Opeth sound. The Tunisian band have not improved on their debut but have maintained a high quality by evolving their musical output with some songs still meeting the 'female fronted metal' criteria with the final two piece of The Seeress Of Triumph and Epilogue: Final Deliverance but this record is so much more than that it has the rampaging death metal I've talked about but there are also the powerful Katatonia-esque The Omen Of Downfall, the electronic Netherlight and shred happy Esurience Guilefulness Omnipotence which showcases the guitar prowess of Melik Melek Khelifa. I have a bit of a soft spot for Persona and their latest album is heavier and more aggressive than their debut which can only be a good thing. 9/10

Wicked Stone: Ain't No Rest (Self Released)

There's a little theory I like to call the 'Planet Rock Effect', this is the theory that no matter how generic a band is if they given airplay extensively on Planet Rock, the UK's only 'rock' station on digital radio then the act will be hailed as the 'next-big-thing' and will play all of the Planet Rock sponsored festivals thereby getting a bigger audience and more airplay and a fandom that will inspire the next generation to do something similar until modern rock becomes bland. Now I know in my King Creature review I said they needed radio play but that's because they are a bit different a bit heavier than a lot of the music played on Planet Rock so unfortunately this is really the only way to establish yourself as a name act. Wicked Stone are the ideal example of the 'Planet Rock Effect' obviously talented musicians and by all accounts a crafted live show, their album is mediocre at best, the title track is also their first single and it has been given lots of airplay on the station, yes it exposes them to wider audience but a wider audience of people who already like this sort of music no matter what.

Unfortuantely for Wicked Stone their distorted rock riffs, numerous lead breaks and heavily cliched lyrics on tracks such as Another RoundGet In Get OutSlide really drag the record down into the doldrums. Nearly every song is about women or drinking or driving, not that there is anything wrong with those things but it's been done by bands a thousand times before bands that do it so much better. Wicked Stone are sort of like Nickelback-lite without the ballads achingly formulaic and not very interesting, there will be those that disagree and they are entitled to their opinion but these are also the people that think playing Opeth's lightest song on rock radio station is a guilty pleasure. 5/10

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Reviews: Cannabis Corpse, Cripper, From North, Pulvis Et Umbra (Reviews By Paul)

Cannabis Corpse: Left Hand Pass (Season Of Mist)

There is only one marijuana themed death metal outfit and here they are with album number 4. The four-piece from Richmond, Virginia follow up 2014’s From Wisdom To Baked with another powerful ode to the weed. It’s skull crushingly heavy whilst retaining the humour that we’ve come to expect. In Dank Purity and Final Exhalation hammer hard and as expected from Landphil of Municipal Waste, the Cannibal Corpse parody continues unabated. Closing track, The Fiends That Comes To Steal The Weed Of The Deceased makes worth listening to the album for that title alone. 7/10

From North: Self Titled (DownFall Records)

I must admit that opening track Volund The Smith, on the self-titled debut by Swedish folk metallers From North took me totally by surprise. A massive, raging beast of a track, it took the best part of the song for me to acclimatise to the aggressive but quite impressive sound these guys make. He Who Hates follows and once again it worked superbly. Haken Johnsson’s gruff vocals work fantastically well, but it’s the crunching guitar work that makes this record more enjoyable than many of the rather dire folk metal outfits about today. Yes, there is still the hurdy gurdy wail in the background but this is more Amon Amarth than Eluveitie. It’s not all fantastic with Ship’s Tale a little weak and several tracks slightly repetitive but overall this album is a heartfelt passionate and impressive release. A drunken evening with a roaring fire calls for those From North. Light the beacons. 7/10

Cripper: Follow Me: Kill! (Metal Blade)

I was unaware of Cripper who hail from Hannover, Germany. Follow Me: Kill! Is the band’s fourth record, and follows 2014’s Hyena. The band has a powerful sound, huge chunks of thrash and melodic death metal combine with haunting gothic elements to produce a stunning release. Lead singer Britta Görtz, who also sings for Critical Mess, has a snarl comparable with Arch Enemy’s past and present vocalists, although she favours the Angela Gossow sound with a growl so deep it could curdle milk. It’s not all from the gut though and she varies death growling with clean vocals on the mammoth Running High, the penultimate track on this impressive release. For an album that clocks in at just shy of an hour this fairly raced by and the cutting guitar work of Christian Brohenhorst and Jonathan Stenger add steel. It’s high octane fury from start to finish, and you can take your pick of tracks. Opener Pressure is particularly malevolent but there isn’t a poor track here. If you like your riffs huge and hard, then Cripper will certainly be a band worth checking out. 8/10

Pulvis Et Umbra: Atmosfear (Self Released)

Multi-instrumentalist Damy Mojitodka’s project Pulvis Et Umbra has been in existence for over 15 years although this is only the third record Pulvis Et Umbra (Italian for Dust & Shadow) has released. It’s an interesting mix of influences, ranging from ferocious death metal to calmer, Opeth-like passages and some virtuoso guitar work. There is a lot going on in every track, with roaring gravel gargling shouty vocals, huge chugging riffs and blast beats pounding away. The tracks are short with the album coming in at just under 35 minutes but there is no cessation in the barrage during that time. The haunting Divinity Or Icon and the title track probably stand out most. There is a nagging problem for me with all multi-instrumentalists and that is that it often feels like everything has been thrown into the mix just because it can This is often the case on Atmosfear, with a palette that is just too demanding. 6/10

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Reviews: Lionize, Voodoo Six, Gaerea, Implore (Reviews By Paul)

Lionize: Nuclear Soul (The End Records)

It seems longer than three years since Jetpack Soundtrack. The fifth record by the Maryland rock funksters was crammed full of delicious sounds to provide substantial auditory delight. Since then the band has been regular visitors to the UK with a couple of supports to good friends Clutch as well as their own tour which culminated in a magnificent set at Bloodstock this year. Two EPs kept fans happy but at last album number six is here and what an absolute treat it is. Whilst retaining all the elements of previous releases, there’s a fresh energy about Nuclear Soul. A harder edge to the rock is balanced by the magnificent Hammond organ and Rhodes piano work of Chris Brooks whilst the funk current which has always surged through the band remains in plentiful supply.

Once again, the band has included intergalactic themes and added more social commentary on the state of the world. Coming from the States must give them endless subject matter but the words of Election Year could apply to just about any country and certainly rings true in the UK with the line “Don't trust the government” so appropriate. Lionize has always been a rock ‘n’ roll band at their core, despite the reggae rock label. Album opener Darkest Timeline and March Of The Clones flex those rock muscles whilst Face Of Mars and Power Grid add groove and funk with Henry Upton’s bass lines free to wander. Nate Bergman’s soulful voice is supported with superb harmonies on many tracks, Brooks and Upton adding depth.

The blues soaked Let You Down slows the pace after the rage of March Of The Clones and there is a soulful side on Fire In Athena. The title track haunts with poignant lyrics and a slow burn which reaches a crescendo before this superb piece of work closes with the racey rocker Blindness To Danger. Nuclear Soul has so much going on that it takes several listens to really appreciate it. Bergman’s guitar work is fantastic throughout, Brooks riotous but controlled keyboard work underpin everything whilst Chase Lapp’s drumming links with Upton’s rampaging bass lines to provide a concrete foundation. This is very likely to be my album of the year. Lionize: to give a lot of public attention and approval. Absolutely. 10/10

Voodoo Six: Make Way For The King (Cadiz Music)

I must be honest, I thought Voodoo Six had gone their separate ways. After 2013’s Songs To Invade Countries To, they completely disappeared off my radar so it’s pleasing to find that the band’s melodic hard rock sound returns, with album number five, Make Way For The King. Opener Electric is a statement of intent, stomping, clean and fresh. Nik Taylor Stoakes blues soaked vocals and Matt Pearce’s sterling guitar work immediately catching the ear. Pearce shouldered all the guitar work on this record, impressive work.

The title track follows, a catchy number that will be well received in the live arena but everything else of the album pales after you reach the magnificent 8-minute epic Amen which is the centre piece of the whole record. It is just a monumental track and one that deserves airplay which it will never get because of the duration. There is a hard rock throughout, such as the stomp of Until The End, but Voodoo Six can also mix it up, such as on the Godsmack sounding Release The Hounds. I played Fluke regularly when it came out back in 2010 and this record is likely to be another that is likely to be on the playlist for some time. A welcome return. 8/10

Gaerea: Self-Titled (S/T)

Portugese black metal outfit Gaerea present a mysterious image. Their Facebook page has silhouetted masked figures cloaked in swirling mist. No names or details of the band. Their debut six track EP promises to ‘bring and present you what your system could not solve by itself. We'll cover the daylight with ashes and smash the massive skull that's blocking your brain and will to evolve’. What follows is atmospheric, sky burning black metal.

Final Call brings the doom, slabs of mountainous riffs and powerful drumming but soon explodes into a frenzied onslaught. And that’s pretty much how it stays. Vocals that sound like Satan’s arse after a vindaloo, combined with a battery of hyperactivity. It’s far from appalling, and at time interestingly mixes the heavier elements of Alcest with Winterfylleth. It’s black metal, pure and simple. Punishing but not overly impressive. 6/10

Implore: Subjugate (Century Media)

If you want fast, thrashy blackened death metal with a crust and grindcore topping then you may want to check out this German outfit. Subjugate is their second full release and it’s short, sharp and oh so intense. With tracks lasting the typical two minutes, Implore accelerate at breakneck speed, whipping the neck so hard that a surgical collar is essential at the end of this album. The usual mix of influences are clear here, with shades of Napalm Death and Municipal Waste in the mix. It’s brutal and should clearly been heard in the live arena where no doubt these guys are absolute carnage for a three-piece. Enter at your own risk. 6/10

Reviews: Josh Todd, Kee Of Hearts, The Midways

Josh Todd & The Conflict: Year Of The Tiger (Century Media)

With Buckcherry in split into two pieces vocalist Josh Todd and guitarist Stevie D have formed a new band called The Conflict and it seems as if Todd is doing stuff that he has maybe wanted to do for a while but that wouldn't fit in the mould of his former band. Only Push It is Buckcherry-like the rest of the album is a jukebox of genres with Erotic City taking the band into strange Pattonesque oddness, there's some rap metal riffs on Atomic which means Todd can spit meaningful lyrics with his sneering, scarred vocals, it's a trick repeated on the groove heavy antagonistic Fucked Up. The majority of this record is a lot heavier than anything Buckcherry produced with fat riffs throughout you are taken through more styles such as the incendiary title track kicks things off with two boots full of punk attitude and leather clad metal chest beating of BLS which leads into Inside driven by the head kicking riffage of Motörhead but with a big chorus hook. As always Todd's lyrics are reflective, political and personal, the pumping riffs keep the blood pressure up and fire burning hot with only the Southern stomp/clap of Rain and the continuing country vibe of Good Enough slowing it down. Year Of The Tiger sees a new side of Josh Todd's musical spectrum, far away from the sleazy hard rock of his past it's him trying something a bit nastier and louder and it works well. 8/10

Kee Of Hearts: Kee Of Hearts (Frontiers Records)

This obscurely titled record is yet another collaborative project from Frontiers. This time it's former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello and Fair Warning vocalist Fair Warning, they have brought in the two house musicians on bass and drums under the musical direction of Alessandro Del Vecchio who guides the project as producer. You get what you'd expect from this collaboration it's slick melodic rock with choruses that get your fist pumping (A New Dimension), Heart's vocals soar with a smooth croon he has the ideal AOR vocal singing of lost love on Crimson Dawn and Stranded. Obviously with Kee Marcello in the band it's going to be a bit guitar centric with Marcello doing the soloing and riffs he showed during his two album tenure in Europe. Kee Of Hearts is your typical Frontiers projectm, maybe the membership isn't as well known as some of their others but they have a solid slab of AOR that doesn't do anything out of ordinary but is perfectly listenable. 7/10

The Midways: Rorschach (Second Avenue Records)

Aussie band The Midways Louche rock n roll with pub rock back beat and a punk attitude. The music here is pretty standard fare the three piece bringing one-two drumming with easy head nodding riffs. My Way is this ad nauseum slow and lumbering over 3 minutes and it goes on like this with Black Sheep. Only the songs that inject a bit of pace such as Different Kind make your ears prick up. Id describe this as indie rock it's Oasis with Nirvana's grunge so if you're excited by that more power to you but the record does nothing for me I'm afraid. 5/10

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Reviews: Dagoba, Leng Tch'e, Lionheart (Reviews By Rich)

Dagoba: Black Nova (Century Media)

Despite having existed as a band for 20 years and having developed a huge following over in mainland Europe, Dagoba never seem to have gained much attention over here in the UK. That could hopefully be about to change from the strength of Black Nova which is the seventh album by these French industrial metallers and probably the strongest album of their career thus far. The sound Dagoba have established on this album is a combination of hard hitting groove based riffs mixed with electronic and industrial influences and some impressively epic symphonic arrangements whilst the vocals by frontman Shawter range from harsh screams to some impressive clean vocals.

Special mention must also go to drummer Nicolas Bastos who puts in an incredible performance. The sound is not too dissimilar from what Dagoba have put out on their previous albums but the strength here lies with the hugely improved songwriting. Many of the songs here will have you banging your head whilst many of the cleanly sung choruses are definite earworms especially on a song such as Inner Sun. This is a hugely enjoyable album of catchy industrial groove metal and is definitely the best album Dagoba have released to date. Hopefully it will have the desired effect and bring about some new fans of the band. 8/10

Leng Tch'e: Razorgrind (Season Of Mist)

Belgian grinders Leng Tch'e strike back with their first new release in seven years and album number six Razorgrind. Leng Tch'e have always had an interesting sound which mixes grindcore and death metal with monstrous grooves. That is the sound mainly on offer throughout Razorgrind with things kicking off with the truly ferocious Gundog Allegiance. These levels of ferocity and intensity remain with tracks such as Cibus and AnarChristic though as we head into the second half of the album we get a few experimental touches with more melody and a few dare I say progressive flourishes. Unfortunately there is also a good chunk of the album which falls by the wayside being all too formulaic and uninspired to make much of an impression. Leng Tch'e have released an enjoyable album of grinding madness which pushes the genre into some uncharted territories but is bogged down by some forgettable material. 7/10

Lionheart: Second Nature (AOR Heaven)

After a whopping 33 years Lionheart finally return with their second album Second Nature. This is the first release by Lionheart since their debut album Hot Tonight in 1984 and luckily for fans of the band the album has definitely been worth the wait. The 2017 version of the band still contains three original members - guitarists Dennis Stratton (formerly of Iron Maiden) and Steve Mann and bassist Rocky Newton. Joining them are new members drummer Clive Edwards and vocalist Lee Small. The album contains a mix of material written back in the 1980's and some new songs written since the band's reformation last year.

 As such there is a wonderful retro sound throughout this album of 1980's style melodic hard rock. The vocals by Lee Small are an absolute delight throughout as is the stellar guitar playing. The retro sounding synths add to the old school 80's charm of this album. Second Nature is chock full of insanely catchy tunes such as Give Me The Light, 30 Years, Heartbeat Radio, Lionheart and an impressive cover of Chris de Burgh's Don't Pay The Ferryman. If you are a fan of AOR and melodic hard rock then this album is a must hear and if you are old enough to remember Lionheart back in the day this is an admirable and very overdue second album. 8/10

Monday, 11 September 2017

Reviews: Masterplan, Progenie Terrestre Pura, Incantation, Impalers (Reviews By Paul)

Masterplan: Pumpkings (AFM)

The world is awash with power metal bands. Some are excellent, some are shite and the majority churn out routine music which is neither sac-grabbing or vomit inducing. It’s just routine. So it is with album number 5 from German power metal outfit Masterplan. The difference is that Pumpkings, as you might have twigged from the title, is a collection of tracks written by main man and guitarist Roland Grapow while he was in Helloween. There a couple of decent tracks tucked away here; check out Step Out Of Hell and opener The Chance. Avoid the seven-minute pain of Mr Ego, which does vocalist Rick Altzi no favours as it stumbles to a finale. In fact, it’s the shorter tracks on this release that stand strongest. The grandeur of The Time Of The Oath requires the might of Ronnie James Dio to carry it off; indeed it would have worked fabulously with the legendary vocalist. Take Me Home, a five-minute rampage with a quite thunderous bass line rescues the tail end of the album but unfortunately, it’s too little too late. 6/10

Progenie Terrestre Pura: OltreLuna (Avantguarde Music)

Atmospheric black metal from the Veneto no less in this captivating and quite astonishingly good second album. I can count on one finger the bands I’m aware of from this region of Italy it’s a blisteringly good one. OltreLuna (Over The Moon) is a complex, multi-layered composition and it almost defies description. As well as ambient black metal, there are jazz passages, ethereal haunting female vocals which contrast splendidly with the death growls of Emanele Prandoni and more time changes than a Cardiff Bus timetable. It’s a lengthy piece of work, 55 minutes for six tracks means some extensive episodes, but it doesn’t feel boring at any stage.

Opening track [. Pianeta.Zero.] flies by, whilst the crushing heaviness of [.SubLuce.] is balanced with some incredibly delicate passages. Having flown solo for the first EP and album releases, Davide Colladon (guitars, drums, synths) is joined by Prandoni and bassist Fabrizio Sanna for this release. Repeated listens enhance the experience. Ensure you allow time to immerse yourself in the release though, especially the 11+ minutes of the title track which starts with a tribal tempo which calms and sooths the furrowed brow before the pace increases with evocative pipes blending in with a choppy guitar and ever rising drumming which quickly explodes into full out blast beats and howling gravel edged vocals. This may be one of the albums of the year. Get it and submerge yourself into a different world. Quite magnificent. 9/10

Incantation: Profane Nexus (Relapse)

In a year where fellow New York Death Metal legends Immolation and Suffocation have already released fine albums in 2017, it’s good to report that Incantation, although not now based in New York, have made it a hat-trick with album number ten. Uncompromising throughout, the band, with sole original member John McEntee’s traditional indecipherable death growl is front and centre, mix it up to great effect. The blistering opening of Muse and Rites Of The Locust are followed by the initially slower paced Visceral Hexahedron. The variety of the tracks on Profane Nexus is significant, such as the segue from Stormgate Convulsions from the Thunderous Shores Of Infernal Realms Bey into the crushing Messiah Nostrum. It remains disgusting gut piercing death metal throughout with slicing lead work from Sammy Lombadozzi whilst long time drummer Kyle Severn relentlessly abuses his kit. It’s filthy, its guttural and dripping with malevolence. 8/10

Impalers: Celestial Dictator (EvilEye Records)

Not to be confused with the horror metal outfit Impaler who first stalked the earth in the 1980s, Impalers is a four-piece thrash outfit from Denmark who’ve been active for close to ten years. Celestial Dictator is their third album but the first I’ve heard by the band. It’s a bit of a schizophrenic record because although it’s fast and furious thrash metal, it is a real mix of styles which lead to some confusion. We get the obvious chug of Anthrax on Color Me White and Sun, the Metallica heavy Into Doom, the snarl of early Slayer on Believe with bits of Megadeth, Morbid Angel, Kreator, Armored Saint and just about every other thrash legend in the mix. Now, I’m hugely partial to a nice wedge of thrash and Celestial Dictator is not a bad album. It just does little to raise the heart rate above resting pulse level and if a thrash band can’t get the blood pumping then there is something wrong. A little on the average side. 6/10