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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Schenker Fest: Resurrection (Nuclear Blast)

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

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

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

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

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

Whitesnake: The Purple Tour (Rhino Entertainment)

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

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

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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

Angra: ØMNI (earMusic)

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

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

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

Galvanizer: Sanguine Vigil (Everlasting Spew Records)

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

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

Necrodeath: The Age Of Dead Christ (Scarlet Records)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 19 February 2018

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

Black Moth: Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 February 2018

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

King Witch: Under The Mountain (Listenable Records)

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

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

Eleine: Until The End (Algoth/Black Lodge)

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

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

The Rocket Dolls: DeadHead (Self Released)

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

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

Crescent: The Order Of Amenti (Listenable Records)

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

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

Friday, 16 February 2018

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

Pestilent Reign: Pyres (Rising Nemesis Records)

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

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

Against The Grain: Cheated Death (Ripple Music)

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

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

Kill Ritual: All Men Shall Fall (Dissonance Productions)

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

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

Chainer: Balls’ Kicker (Self Released)

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

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

Long Distance Calling: Boundless (InsideOut Records)

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

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

Armortura: Armortura (Mighty Music)

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Reviews: Lance Lopez, Hypnos, Godstone, Victorius

Lance Lopez: Tell The Truth (Mascot Records)

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

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

Hypnos: The GBG Sessions (The Sign Records)

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

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

Godstone: Monument Of One (Self Released)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

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

Necrophobic: Mark Of The Necrogram (Century Media Records)

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

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

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

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

Loudness: Rise To Glory (Sheer Sound)

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

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

Ritual King: Earthrise (When Planets Collide Records)

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

Lark: Lark (Self-Release)

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

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

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

The Sheepdogs: Changing Colours (Dine Alone Records)

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

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

Letters From The Colony: Vignette (Nuclear Blast)

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

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

High Reeper: S/T (Heavy Psych Sounds)

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

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

Michael Landau: Rock Bottom (Provogue)

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

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

Monday, 12 February 2018

Reviews: Secret Illusion, Karma Violens, Nightbreed, Rapture

Secret Illusion: Awake Before The Dawn (Lion Music)

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

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

Karma Violens: Serpent God (Growl Records)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapture: Paroxysm Of Hatred (Memento Mori)

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

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

Sunday, 11 February 2018

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

Saxon: Thunderbolt (Militia Guard Music)

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

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

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

Pestilence: Hadeon (Hammerheart Records)

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

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

Hooded Menace: Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (Seasons Of Mist)

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

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

Letzte Instanz: Morgenland (AFM Records)

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

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

Friday, 9 February 2018

Reviews: Marmozets, Visigoth, Metaprism, Sam Russell

Marmozets: Knowing What We Know Now (Roadrunner)

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

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

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

Visigoth: Conquer's Oath (Metal Blade)

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

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

Metaprism: Catalyst To Awakening (Graviton Music Services)

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

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

Sam Russell: Impetuous Desire (Danneskjöld Records)

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Reviews: Mike LePond's Silent Assassins, Armored Dawn, Corrupt Moral Altar, Ocean Of Grief (Reviews By Rich)

Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins: Pawn And Prophecy (Frontiers Records)

Pawn And Prophecy is the second album by Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins which is the side project of the Symphony X bassist. He is ably assisted by vocalist Alan Tecchio of Hades and Watchtower with Symphony X bandmate Michael Romeo providing keyboards and drum programming. Guitars are handled by Lance Barnewold and Rod Rivera. Anyone expecting this to be a progressive metalfest in the line of Mike’s primary band Symphony X be prepared to have your head kicked in by a barrage of absolute balls out heavy fucking metal. From the moment you hit play you are hit by a barrage of heavy metal thunder with crunching riffs, flashy basslines and the force of nature that are the vocals of Alan Tecchio. This guy has one hell of a set of pipes on him with a voice that is equally melodic and aggressive.

The majority of the songs on the album are in a traditional heavy metal vein with influences from power metal but everything cranked up to 11. Songs such as Masters Of The Hall, Black Legend and my personal favourite Avengers Of Eden are such a perfect celebration about everything that is fantastic about heavy metal. I listened to the album on the bus home from work and it was very difficult to sit still and resist the urge to headbang wildly. The last couple of songs on the album are the curveballs. 

The Mulberry Tree is a folky acoustic tune whilst the twenty one minute long closing title track is a sheer epic centred around the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It features a plethora of guest vocalists and more stylistic changes throughout than you can count from the expected heavy metal and power metal influences to blues, folk, funk and jazz. It’s the only song on the album I felt was a letdown as it was way too self indulgent. Overall this is a fantastic album which 100% appeal to traditional heavy metal and power metal fans. 8/10

Armored Dawn: Barbarians In Black 9AFM Records)

The run of incredible power metal albums released in 2018 continues with the stunning second album by Brazilian power metallers Armored Dawn. The album is titled Barbarians In Black and is due to be released through AFM Records where I’m sure it will be making a huge splash on release. Armored Dawn have already gained a huge following in South America and now is the time for the rest of the world to follow. With Barbarians In Black, Armored Dawn haven’t released just a straight forward power metal album. There are also influences from traditional heavy metal and modern melodic death metal in the music which gives the album a very contemporary yet classic sound. 

Contemporary power metal bands such as Sabaton and Bloodbound definitely have an influence especially with the epic use of keyboards throughout the album and the restrained yet melodic vocals of frontman Eduardo Parras. The performances by the rest of the band also impress with some fantastic riffs, gorgeous guitar solos and a effectively pounding rhythm section. The songs on the album are all earworms with ridiculously catchy choruses with particular stand outs being Chance To Live Again, Men Of Odin and the already released single Sail Away. Only one month in and 2018 is really proving itself to be the year of power metal and with such a brilliant album as Barbarians In Black, Armored Dawn are definitely going to be getting themselves noticed and on stages around the globe later on in the year. An absolutely cracking release. 9/10

Corrupt Moral Altar: Eunoia (Self Released)

Eunoia is the second album by Liverpool grinders Corrupt Moral Altar and is Greek for beautiful thinking. A strange title as this is one album full of ugly music. Eunoia follows on from the sludgy grindcore of debut album Mechanical Tides but takes everything into more extreme territory. This is a sharper, faster and nastier album with more riff changes than can possibly be counted. Unlike a lot of grind albums which are full of blast ridden songs under a minute the songs on Eunoia are given an average duration of 3 minutes which gives the songs more time to breathe and gain their own identity from the punk inspired Burning Bridges And Burning Homes, the death metal influenced Night Chant and the more sludgy tunes such as Rat King and Five Years

As well as the barrage of riffs unleashed upon the listener special mention must go to vocalist Chris Reese whose throat shredding screams sound like a man possessed. This is a very good release mixing grindcore, hardcore punk and sludge metal into one big ball of nastiness which will appeal to those who like their music violent. It’s definitely not recommended for the faint hearted. 7/10

Ocean Of Grief: Nightfall’s Lament ( Sepulchral Silence

On these dark and cold winter evenings I find it’s nice to listen to something bleak and melancholic and Ocean Of Grief are the perfect band for such a night. Nightfall’s Lament is the debut album by the Greek band and it’s an extremely strong debut album for a young band who have only been in existence for four years but with the professional and mature sound on this record sound like they have been playing together for decades. The band musically perform the more melodic end of death doom metal taking cues from influential acts such as Swallow The Sun, Enshine, October Tide and early Katatonia. You have crushing doom-laden riffs and strong forlorn melodies full of melancholy complimented by the tortured guttural vocals of frontman Charalabos Oikonomopoulos. 

None of the songs on the album outstay their welcome with the average duration being between 6-7 minutes and the album’s entire duration sits at a comfortable 46 minutes. Particular song highlights include In Bleakness, Painting My Sorrow and Mourning Over Memories. There are plenty of bands performing this style of metal but Ocean Of Grief have shown astounding maturity and creativity for a debut album. If you enjoy your metal with plenty of misery and melancholy then you can do no wrong with this album. 8/10

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

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

Raveneye, Skam and Dead Shed Jokers, The Globe, Cardiff

Sometimes gigs just feel a little flat. Maybe it was because this was a Monday evening, maybe it was because the audience in a half-full Globe insisted in talking loudly throughout the gig to the point where it was hard to hear the inter-song chat of the bands or maybe it was because Raveneye have created a buzz which they strain to meet on occasions.

Highlight of the evening for me was opening act The Dead Shed Jokers (8). I’d seen the Aberdare/Merthyr outfit before, but tonight they pushed the envelope. Although the majority of those in The Globe had little knowledge about the band, it was still a brave move to fill their opening slot completely with new songs from an album not yet released. As it was, it proved to be a masterful decision with the new tracks soaked in old school Zeppelin, The Doors and The Stones. With the three guitarists swapping places more often than the Liverpool forward line and Hywel’s deadpan humour between songs bringing some much-needed laughter, focus remained on the quality of the music which was delivered with a swagger and confidence. Album number 3 should be good.

Leicester’s SKAM (7) were main support and they treated the slot with the respect it deserved. The trio hit hard and although their music is radio friendly, it certainly is listenable. The band are watchable too, with the gurning of bassist Matt Gilmore addictive as he raced back and fore; dare I say with more energy than Adam Spiers? Steve Hill can hold a note and his clean vocals were aided by a decent sound. His guitar work is slightly more restricted, possibly on purpose given the virtuoso who was to follow but it didn’t detract. Playing a collection of old favourites and new tracks from their bizarre concept release The Amazing Memoirs Of Geoffrey Goddard, the slightly larger crowd responded with roars of approval to Holy City, the Planet Rock favourite Take It Or Leave It and closing track Massacre, complete with snippets of War Pigs and a riff similar to the Beastie’s Sabotage. A cheap shot which got the crowd excited, once again proving that cover bands will always be welcomed in South Wales.

I’ve seen headliners Raveneye (8) several times, including the memorable outdoor bash at Steelhouse when the heavens opened, and the band played in a downpour. No such climate drama this time, but a slight move towards Airbourne in style at times, especially from hyperactive drummer Adam Breeze who is turning into Lars Ulrich in capacity for getting up and down all the bloody time! For a three piece there is always action on the stage and with Spiers careering round and round, there was more than one near miss with vocalist and guitarist Oli Brown. The band tore through a set filled with classics, astonishing considering they have one album and an EP to their name. Come With Me got the crowd singing, plenty of jumps from the bass drum as the evening went on and the customary wander through the crowd with Brown on Spiers’ shoulders eased considerably by the space on the floor.

A couple of new songs were also aired, and they appeared okay, slotting in with the rest of the set although time will tell of course. Three quarters of the way through the set, and with several of the crowd deciding it was time to leave, I wondered why that was. Raveneye never give less than 100%. They have a high tempo approach that leaves you breathless just watching. But tonight, they seemed to be pushing harder than necessary to make a natural thing happen by force. It wasn’t poor, in fact in comparison to many bands it was red hot, but there was something missing. The acoustic Eternity, with all three members on guitars was marred by the gibbering of idiots who refused to be quiet, and although the band ended on a high, there was still something missing. Maybe my previous experiences set the bar too high. Next time, I’m sure it’ll be storming again.

The Spotlight: Interview With Michale Graves (Interview By Elizabeth Phillips)

Interview with Michale Graves, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Our friend Liz got to do an interview with her teenage idol Michale Graves at Fuel Rock Club just before his first sold out gig at the venue.

MG: You'll have to speak up a little as I'm getting old and my hearing really is not the best.

MoM: Weren't you like 19 when you joined the Misfits?

MG: I was essentially 20, I auditioned for them on the eve of my 20th Birthday.

MoM: Pretty good way to end your teens, the reason why I'm doing this is because your voice is the soundtrack to my teenage years. So it's incredible for me to be sitting here.

MG: I hear that alot and it's very impactful even now, I remember my teenage years and I remeber how music and things like that got me through and how important it was

MoM: When i would listen to it I would feel a protection around me, Scream especially reminds me of my final day in high school.You were saying about emotion and the one thing I've noticed is that a lot of your work is very emotional very romantic does that inspire you? Are you a hopeless romantic?

MG: Yeah I am a hopeless romantic, which is both good and bad for me

MoM: Do you ever get writers block?

MG: I think so yeah, I get writers block when, if you'll forgive me, my flesh wants to write but my soul doens't have anything so my brain just tells me I can't write anymore, so I need to mesh to get that out, soemtimes you just have to wait for creativity to strike

MoM: I know that you've worked with Marky Ramone and Peter Steele, who's the most interesting person or the person you've learnt the most from?

MG: Dave Mustaine alkways come to mind, he was at an interesting part of his life and career and so was and I was a young man, when Dave and I were able to hang out we would have these conversations that really revealed things that had an increible impact on my young mind and where I was at that age, he was like a Yoda figure, the way he acted with other people was different to the way he acted with other people which made me feel special.

MoMs: Are you working on and album at the moment?

MG: No, no I'm not, I've written so much that I think it's time I focus on performing, their are songs I've forgotten I've written and I don't get really concentrate on them until I feel I need to. In a way I am working on new material and when I'm back as myself at home all of these experiences will resonate and I'll create through that.

MoM: Have you seen much of Wales?

MG: No we haven't seen anyhting yet, but we are hoping to when we come back at the end of the week to see some stuff

MoM: Well when you come back I'll take you up to Castell Coch which is like a castle in the woods on a hill

MG: That's great I love it, that would be really great, thank you.

MoM: Final question is a strange one as we're from Wales and there are more sheep than people what is your favourite sheep?

MG: The Llanwenog sheep I like the three of them together

MoM: Thank you very much for your time

MG: No problem at all, that was  great conversation, thanks

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Reviews: Painted Black, Blood Red Saints, The King Lot, Desolate Pathway (Reviews By Paul)

Painted Black: Raging Light (WormHole Death Records)

Painted Black, the Portuguese quintet who released their debut album in 2010, deliver their latest opus which is a confident, eclectic and mature hour of lengthy, intricate death and doom melancholy which immediately provides the listener with comparisons with Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Swallow The Sun. Three years since their Quarto Vazio EP, Raging Light is a contrast of twists and conflicting moods, with progressive undertones which spar with heavier and more base instincts to superb effect. Crammed full of shade and light, crushingly heavy mixing with a fragility which also brings German maestros Ahab to mind, the title track and the following Dead Time both capture the attention immediately.

The guitar work of Luís Fazendeiro and Gonçalo Sousa is elegant and at times stunning, underpinned by a solid rhythm section. Vocalist Daniel Lucas has an impressive range, wandering between furious death metal roar and the heartfelt, clean melodies, which drip with sorrow and melancholy. Each track contains something different whilst retaining the essence of the band and the astonishing closing Almagast, a 17-minute behemoth of a track, is just stunning. 8/10

Blood Red Saints: Love Hate Conspiracies (NEH Records)

Newcomers to the AOR scene, (as a band although they are all veterans of the scene) British outfit Blood Red Saints have put together a rather neat release. Crammed full of the melodic rock that is more polished than my forehead, this is a classy release which will go down superbly well at HRH AOR. With perfectly crafted harmonies, and the vocals of Pete Godfrey providing a cross between Jon Bon Jovi and Steve Overland, every track just ticks the AOR boxes. It’s smooth, stylish and doesn’t overdo it. The power ballad Wake Up hits the spot, whilst pacier rockers like opener Another Freak allow the harder edge of the band to cut through. At 48 minutes it might be a little too long, but other than that if you like your rock with a poodle perm, faded denims and the best of Def Leppard is in your album collection, this is for you. 7/10

The King Lot: A World Without Evil (Crown Jewels Records)

This is the sophomore release from Scots The King Lot. The band’s sound is centred in the hard-melodic rock category, with their clean vocals and melodious harmonies combining with radio friendly tracks. The band are a three-piece and make a decent noise for their number, certainly with the fluidity and polish of bands with many more members. It’s not ground breaking or remarkable but if you enjoy music that has a poppy undercurrent but also adds a little steel then this may be of interest. Jay Moir makes a decent debut on guitar and vocals whilst Jason Sweeney and Chris Gillon provide the supportive rhythm section. The songs range from the impressive title track through to the Bon Jovi saccharine coated All I Want, the sleazier Lonely and the traditional melodic blueprint of Hearts On Fire. These guys appear live at Fuel on 16 Feb and at HRH AOR a few days later. 6/10

Desolate Pathway: Valley Of The King (WormholeDeath Records)

This is a re-release of the 2014 debut from Desolate Pathway, the project formed by Pagan Altar’s Vince Hempsted. A classic British heavy doom release, the album is full of melancholic riffs, thunderous drums and a haunted vocal reminiscent of the early works of Swedish Doom fathers Candlemass. With themes of fantasy, magic and adventure, Desolate Pathway take the best of Candlemass, Queensryche, Iced Earth and Manowar and meld them into a majestic opus that at times is crushingly heavy. The title track sets out the stall impressively and the stomp of Forest Of Mirrors conjures up the image of being lost amidst curtains of green nestled within vast mountain ranges. Supported by drummer Mags and bassist Jaeme Somerville, Hempsted created a perfect release full of imagery which most metal fans love. Season Of The Witch and the epic Last Of My Kind (The Ring Keeper) certainly hit the spot whilst the Sabbath pounding of King Of Vultures is immense. Stunning work. 8/10

Reviews: Venom Prison, Stone Leaders, Purest Of Pain, Death Keepers

Venom Prison: Animus - Deluxe Edition (Prosthetic Records)

Animus the debut album from Cardiff based extreme metal band Venom Prison was first released in late 2016 and since then Venom Prison have gone on to have major festival appearances at Download and on the main stage at Bloodstock, they have won ‘Best New Band’ at the 2017 Metal Hammer UK Awards and toured with Suicide Silence and Aversions Crown, Gorguts and Fallujah, on top of that their take-no-prisoners attitude to sexism, fascism and general injustice has seen them become flag bearers for those with liberal sensibilities showing that music is the best form of protest. Their debut covers subjects such as social Darwinism, misogyny, rape culture and the rejection of religion and even in this repacked form has enough bile and aggression to make you sit up and take notice, the album has been re-released to coincide with Venom Prison's support slot on Trivium's European tour along with Power Trip (and Code Orange in the UK).

The Deluxe Edition of this album comes with 5 bonus live tracks, including live favourite Babylon The Whore, taken from their debut EP as recorded on their Sacrificial Summer tour in August 2017. They really do a lot to capture the absolute primal aggression this band have while performing live, having seen them do their stuff on a stage (and also I've been told about their now legendary 'house party' gig) these live tracks capture the sonic assault but as for the visual one you'll have to imagine that yourself. The album itself has not changed, their is no need for a remaster or remix as the original was tweaked to the point of pain gripping your throat tightly from the opening distortion Syllogism which has a bass and drum thump that is dynamited out of your memory as Abysmal Agony beats you to a pulp with a barrage of riffs and Larissa Stupar's ultra-violent vocals.

From here there's not a moment wasted for a riff, breakdown, lead break or a chance to get the head banging, fist pumping or the hair windmilling. Venom Prison have taken an old school route to their death metal sound Animus is an unshakeably aggressive record based upon the early days of death metal, there's nothing core or melodic here just nasty, snarling death metal that bears it's teeth at anything in it's past. If you missed out on the record the first time round do yourself a favour and pick up the deluxe edition, then see this band live! 9/10 

Stone Leaders: Stone Leaders (Self Released)

If you saw the name Stone Leaders you'd probably be expecting some Southern swagger and a bit of blues rocking. You know some meat to go with your potatoes? However Stone Leaders are a complicated dish, it's Heston Blumenthal in musical form with a progressive prowess that anyone who has heard Haken would recognise but also a metallic toughness associated with Dream Theater or Symphony X. They are one of these bands that don't need long winded songs either as Shot By Lies brings, choppy ever changing riffs, swirling Jon Lord organs and even some funk to proceedings, like Haken they enjoy experimenting with the boundaries of the genre, while Box Of Time is a riff centric hard rocker, Toxic Guide is a well executed ballad that has drama, pathos but also full of technical wizardry.

In the last third of the albu this Croatian band turn themselves into a more modern, almost psychedelic act with Seeker and Gravity both adding some Leprous-like percussive complexity, repetitive crackling guitar riffs and buzzing sequenced synth. This record was such a surprise that I had to re-listen to it a few times, I was expecting tough gritty swap riffs and what I got was a prog album that evolves as it moves through 12 tracks, yes there is a little sag in the middle (sometimes in progressive music fatigue can set in) but I really enjoyed this record, from top to bottom it's wonderfully performed, well crafted and vividly produced to make for a pleasing listening experience. 9/10

Purest Of Pain: Solipsis (Self Released)

Many of you may have seen guitarist Merel Bechtold jumping around on stage with Dutch symphonic metal act Delain, she is one of the most recent members of that band but aside from the bouncy metal of Delain she clearly has a darker side as this debut from her other band Purest Of Pain shows, if you want the anthemic joyous pomp of Delain look elsewhere as Solipsis, their debut record, takes its cues from the Gothenburg scene with At The Gates, Soilwork both mentioned in the press along with Arch Enemy and Children Of Bodom. The guitar playing of Bechtold and Michael van Eck is truly a homage to that golden age of Swedish melo-death with thrashy riffs combining with breakdowns as chunky as a Yorkie and lead flourishes that add technicality, pair this with groove-laden bass from Frank van Leeuwen and double kick drums on steroids from Joey de Boer (also Delain).

At 14 songs this album may be a little too long for some listeners especially towards the end with one or two of the songs getting a bit bloated and samey, however after a seven year gestation period you can't blame them for trying to get as many songs on here as possible and for the majority of the record the songs whizz past in flurry of complex heaviness and melodic emotion, a real D.I.Y effort the album was produced and written by Bechtold (although E.M.D.R was written by van Eck), the lyrics came from vocalist J.D Kaye who has monstrous screams and a deep baritone clean and van Leeuwen designed the artwork. Solipsis is a particularly engaging melo-death record that really knows how to balance the beauty and the brutality, if the most recent In Flames albums have left you cold check out Purest Of Pain for your fix. 8/10

Death Keepers: Rock This World (Fighter Records)

Now it's time for muscular metallic hard rock from Barcelona, Death Keepers are what would happen if Hammerfall played early Bon Jovi, it's heavy metal from the glory days of 80's metal bringing in NWOBHM, sleaze and glam metal for one big retro revival. The trouble is Death Keepers aren't that good, the songs are very generic, Fire Angel especially goes on and on and on (also for pronunciation fans it'll be hell), but the most of it is run of the mill stuff, there's very little much I can say about this to be honest it really didn't do much for me, there's no bad playing involved that's all perfectly competent but nothing really jumps out at you. 5/10

Monday, 5 February 2018

Reviews: Joe Satriani, Legend Of The Seagullmen, Mother Misery, Phillip H Anselmo (Reviews By Paul)

Joe Satriani: What Happens Next? (Legacy Recordings)

The guitar legend is back with a new album which unsurprisingly shreds, rocks, rolls and stops at all stations in between. The king of the arpeggio tapping has hit another rich vein of form. What Happens Next is a thoroughly enjoyable release with opening track Energy setting the scene with its high pace and rampant guitar lines. Satriani has kept it simple this time around, enlisting Glenn Hughes on bass and Chad Smith on drums. Yeah! It’s a supergroup in anyone’s money. Catbot follows, a humorous stomp intertwined with some quite magnificent axe work. At the age of 61, Satriani is an artist who I’ve flirted with from time to time without ever getting past first base. Surfing With the Alien has just passed its 30th anniversary. Just pause and let that think in for a minute.

The stunning Thunder High On The Mountain allows a more measured approach, whilst Headrush does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s fast, furious and underlined by an almost jazz frisson with Hughes and Smith clearly relishing the opportunity to open up. Hughes’ thunderous bass lines which bounce all over this bad boy are something else. With over 10 million albums sold, Satriani is a legend in the true sense of the word, a virtuoso whose playing is something out of this world. The title track is a blues soaked melancholic track, smooth and well-paced, whilst the scratchy Super Funky Badass is, well, you can probably work it out. 16 albums now under the belt, What Happens Next is a demonstration of a guitarist and colleagues who just purr. This is a quite brilliant piece of work. 8/10

Legend Of The Seagullmen: S/T (Dine Alone Records)

Singing psychedelic rock with a cinematic twist, Legend Of The Seagullmen (LOTS) have finally released their debut album, and it is one crazy barnacle soaked beast. The band comprises Danny Carey of Tool, Brent Hinds of Mastodon, Dethlok and Zappa Plays Zappa bassist Pete A Griffin alongside Jimmy Hayward on guitar, David ‘The Doctor’ Dreyer, synth player Chris Giovanni and guitarist Tim Dawson. Songs of shipwrecks, giant mutant squid and epic tales fill the eight tracks. The galloping We Are The Seagullmen and the abstract The Fogger start proceedings in impressive style before the haunting Shipswreck complete with Judas Priest style riffs.

Curse Of The Red Tide begins slowly before cascading into a massive beast whilst the title track is a ripping punk fused stoner ride, worthy of Rob Zombie or Zodiac Mindwarp in their heyday. There’s a rockabilly groove to this one. The Orca, complete with whale communication effects, salutes this majestic creature, the largest of the dolphin family, whilst commenting on the horrors of captivity. Never go to a marine park; these intelligent mammals belong in the oceans not a tank. Penultimate track on this insane nautical ride, Rise Of The Giant tells the tale of a giant squid destroying downtown Hollywood. Musically, this is one crazy album, riffs a plenty, crashing drums and at times verging on spine crushingly heavy. It’s a complete smorgasbord of nuttiness and well worth a listen. 8/10

Mother Misery - Megalodon (Transubstans Records)

I’d never heard of Mother Misery. They have been around since 1998 and hail from Sweden. Megalodon is their fifth full release and is a decent ten tracks of hard rock. It doesn’t rip up any trees but is sufficiently competent to encourage you to maintain your listening. Ashes Of Your Crown is a typical track, with neat guitar work from Thomas Piehl and John Hermansen who also doubles up on vocal duty. At times it swings directly into AOR territory, with the harmonies adding to the melodic sound. The title track, named after a prehistoric shark isn’t as ferocious as you might expect but it does the job. Overall, Megalodon is an okay album which doesn’t do much to either excite or disappoint. 6/10

Philip H Anselmo & The Illegals: Choosing Mental Health As A Virtue (Season Of Mist)

I struggle with Phil Anselmo. Massively. His boorish behaviour over many years wears thin and the last show I saw with Down he was a shadow of his Pantera-self. This is the sophomore release from Philip H Anselmo & The Illegals and it is just staggeringly heavy. Anselmo rages with volcanic anger on opener Little Fucking Heroes and it rarely comes up for air from thereon in. Insane drumming, disjointed time sequences, face peeling guitars and screaming vocals combine to produce an aborted vomit noise which sounds like Napalm Death having sex with Converge. I must admit it took a lot of fortitude to sit through this much aggression. My speakers turned bright red like a ginger in the midday sun. It was bloody horrible. You’ll love this or hate it. I’m in the latter. Dire. 3/10

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Spotlight: Interview With Black Moth (Interview with Dom McCready By Paul)

Interview with Dom McCready drummer of Black Moth

MoM: Let’s start at the beginning. How did Black Moth come about?

DM: Most of the members of Black Moth were playing together in a band beforehand. We found that our tastes and what we wanted to do musically were gradually getting heavier. Eventually it reached a critical mass where we realised we were not the same band anymore and had to form a new one.

MoM: What are your best and worst memories of the early days of the band?

DM: Well I was partying a lot back in those days so can't say that my memories are all that clear! We did a disastrous European tour way back in our earlier days where our van broke down three times. To make one show we had to get a taxi like 80 miles either way with all our gear. Was worth it in the end though as the crazy Europeans loved it. On the last show of the tour they just wanted let us off stage and we ended up having to repeat songs! Can't say I have any particularly bad memories due to always being drunk. But when our long time keyboard player left us it was initially quite hard. But ultimately probably did us a favour!

MoM: Listening to the band there are a myriad of influences in the mix. Everything from The Stooges, Sabbath to Siouxsie and even Mastodon. How do you channel all of those influences in your song writing?

DM: I don't think it's something we consciously do. We never approach song writing saying things like "Oh we want this song to be sabbathy" or anything like that. We just write what feels good and fun to play. The influences of the different members are so wide and varied that its kind of impossible to write like that. We just do our thing.

MoM: The Killing Jar was your first album and received very favourable reviews. Casting your minds back to 2012, how happy were you with it?

DM: For me personally I found it very hard to listen to that record. I'm a perfectionist and I also find it very hard to listen to anything I wrote as I doubt myself a lot. At the time I wasn't super happy with it and thought we could do a lot better. Now I can go back and enjoy it for what it is. You have to let go ultimately.

MoM: You then released Condemned To Hope, which I think was a bit more accessible on first listen. It was the first release I picked up by the band. Was there a deliberate change of direction?

DM: There was no deliberate change of direction but we did recruit second guitarist Nico into the band which brought his influences into the melting pot. So I think it was just natural for the songs to have taken a slightly different vibe. Ultimately as a band we don't want to stagnate, I would always want to be evolving and enjoy that each album is quite different to the last.

MoM: Roger Dean was responsible for the artwork on Condemned To Hope. He’s produced some fine art for bands such as Yes, Asia and the legendary cover for Never Turn Your Back On A Friend by one of my faves, Budgie. How did this come about?

DM: I think we just reached out to him is all. Apparently he only works with bands he liked but luckily he liked us and agreed to do it which was pretty mind blowing. Definitely a unique and awesome opportunity to be a part of.

MoM: I first saw you at Temples Festival in Bristol in 2014 where you received a great reaction and then followed it up with a slot at Damnation in your home town. What can you remember about those gigs?

DM: I remember Temples being very hectic, we had to drive all the way down to Bristol play the show and then head straight back to Leeds as Nico had work that evening (such are the drawbacks of balancing working life with being in a band). I remember it being a great crowd and the festival seemed really cool but unfortunately we didn't get to stay and experience it. Was very sad to hear of its demise as a festival. Playing Damnation was fantastic. It's overall my favourite metal festival and the fact it's in Leeds made us very proud to play at it. Apparently the room was so packed out that people couldn't get in to see us!

MoM: I’m ashamed to say I missed your set at Bloodstock last year but I understand you received a very good response. How was it for you?

DM: If Damnation is my favourite indoor festival then Bloodstock is absolutely my favourite outdoor one. Absolutely amazing atmosphere and general vibe of that festival, I go every year as a customer anyway. So obviously it was again a huge honour to be playing, we were given a really great slot as well. Even though we clashed with Testament lots of people came to watch us anyway watch was great.

MoM: Let’s have a look at the latest release, Anatomical Venus. It’s a superb album, and as you’ve said in your promos your heaviest offering to date. Was it a conscious decision to ramp up the riffs?

DM: Again we never really make conscious decisions like that when we are writing, we just always do what we enjoy. After all if we don't enjoy playing it then what is the point!? But part of it being heavier than the last two my have had something to do with the fact that Nico left the band and we recruited Federica. Her influences are generally more metal than Nico's were and she has previously toured in thrash metal bands.

MoM: I think it’s an album that you have to devote a bit of time to listening to but the rewards are substantial if you do. Is that a fair view?

DM: I'm not sure I really get what you mean, surely any album requires time listening to? But if that means that after listening to it for some time you still want to go back to it then that is always a good sign for a record.

MoM: You’ve moved to Candlelight Records from Spinefarm. Tell us a little bit about this move. What does it give Black Moth?

DM: We've been talking to those guys for a couple of years but they were always waiting to here some new stuff. So in the end we went ahead and recorded the album and then sent them a copy. They loved it and wanted to bring us on board. Hopefully it will give us a wider reach with things like day one distribution. Ultimately moving to a larger label brings with it the bigger influence of that label.

MoM: You played with some of our favourite British bands before Christmas including The Pearl Hearts and the mighty Orange Goblin who are blistering live. How did they go?

DM: Playing with the Goblin is of course a massive honour. We have all been listening to that band since we were kids really so it was fantastic. The show was at electric ballroom which is a venue I love already, we played there with L7 a couple of years ago. The crowd was totally packed out with plenty of people there to see the Moth as well.

MoM: You now head out on tour in the UK in February. What can we expect from Black Moth in the live arena this time around?

DM: From guitar tones, to the songs themselves this is the heaviest Black Moth has ever been live. So expect that, as well as the raucous rock n roll party we bring to every show. See you on the road!