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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Reviews: Fireball Ministry, Sorcerer, Kardinal Sin, RSO

Fireball Ministry: Remember The Story (Cleopatra Records)

Fireball Ministry records are few and far between, there last was in 2010, but when they do come out, you always know what to expect. There's no frills from this Los Angeles band, the self proclaimed "First Church Of Rock N Roll" talks the talk but the fuzzy stoner riffs of Jame A. Rota and Emily Burton certainly walk the walk. The End Of Our Truth has a strutting riff straight out of the gate, with Rota (accompanied by Burton) giving out his unique vocal delivery before they fire up the cylinders of this bad boy, bringing the Sabbath worship in the final part and on the following track the sauntering Everything You Wanted. The curse of Fireball Ministry bassists rears it's head again with Kyuss's Scott Reeder the latest in along line of four stringers to record with the band locking in with sticksman John Oreshnick for the powerful grooves, check out Back To Earth for some cowbell bashing.

Their 2010 self titled record had a crisper modern sheen to it, the songs were cleaner cut with modern hooks, here it's back to the Fireball Ministry of old, fuzzy guitars, strutting riffs carved out of granite, proper rock n roll as it should be. Only on the final I Don't Believe A Word shifts the musical focus from rest of the record to what I would refer to as almost a ballad, it might be a bit contentious for some (me included) so good that it comes at the end of the record. This is probably the most consistent Fireball Ministry record since Their Rock Is Not Our Rock, in this day an age consistency is nothing to be sniffed at, welcome back to the church! 8/10  

Sorcerer: The Crowning Of The Fire King (Metal Blade Records)

I'd never heard of Sorcerer before this record landed at MoM towers but bloody hell this is the sort of epic doom metal I really like. The obvious comparison would be Candlemass but also the earlier releases from Grand Magus as there is a big classic metal sound throughout. Originally formed in 1988 by bassist Johnny Hagel and vocalist Anders Engberg the band released a few demos but ultimately folded when Johnny left to join Tiamat. In 2010 the band returned for the German Hammer Of Doom festival and Up The Hammers in Athens, they released their critically acclaimed debut album in 2015.

Not wanting to leave a similar gap between their next record this second full length comes only two years later and it's got the epic doom down to a tee. The monolithic riffs of Ship Of Doom take it to over 7 minutes of dramatic, cinematic doom-laden pirate metal, this segues nicely into the Eastern influenced touches of the head nodding Abandoned By The Gods. Hagel and Engberg have a strong cast of musicians backing them, the guitars of Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren are the heavy, down tuned riffs and clean passionate soloing bringing a brilliant classically influenced guitar duel to the hailing Satan of The Devil's Incubus as well as swelling out the sound with acoustic guitars which are haunting on instrumental Nattvaka.

In the back room Hagel does the Leif Edling thing of pacing the lumbering heaviness as Lars Sköld takes the drum stool to meld with Hagel. I haven't heard a doom metal album this good in a long while, it does away with the usual malaise preferring to take the clearer more traditional metal influenced route of colossal riffs and clear powerful vocals from Engberg. The Crowning Of The Fire King is monster of an album and a must have for fans of epic doom metal that the Swedish do brilliantly. While you wait for the next Candlemass record console yourself with Sorcerer's latest masterstroke. 9/10

Kardinal Sin:Victorious (Tramp Music)

Please whatever you do don't confuse this Swedish/Finnish heavy metal band with Cardinal Jamie Sin, the 30th Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila. No Kardinal Sin are a proper heavy metal band symphonically charged with keys they play fist-in-the-air heavy metal like Hammerfall playing with Kamelot, the lyrical content on this record is also taken from the Kamelot/Serenity book of songwriting having a historical theme on Bonaparte and Bells Of Notre Dame, they use religious iconography on S.I.N and they even take on fantasy with Attack. Victorious is their second album, their first was only released earlier this year and they have rapidly followed it up with another passionate piece of power metal. I'd not heard anything of Kardinal Sin before this record but I'm sure I'll be hearing a lot more from them in the future such is the strength of this record. 7/10  

RSO: Rise (BMG)

Ritchie Sambora has been a part of one of the biggest rock bands in the world, he's even released a pretty decent solo album in the past, meanwhile his new beau and muse Orianthi has plied her trade in Alice Cooper's band and most famously as the guitarist for Michael Jackson's final This Is It concerts (which he ultimately would not perform due to his untimely death)

Opening title track is a fuzzy rocker with dual vocals as Orianthi and Sambora's vocals compliment each other well but there's none of the virtuosic flair you'd expect from two guitar wizards, it's competent but nothing more. Unfortunately this mediocre pop rocker is the best song on the record, Masterpiece is dog shit, a late 90's/early 2000's pop song Bryan Adams would have rejected, the synthesized drums are a Mutt Lange special and the lyrics are coy and unappealing. The EP goes from bad to worse on the vomit inducing Truth a song so vile I'd rather stick needles in my eyes, saccharine and overproduced, it's budget X Factor fodder in the highest order.

Take Me is shit, ripping off those million selling Santana records albeit without the guest singers, coolness or even the guitar ability and finale Good Times has the pop country of Sugarland and even a rap for goodness sake! With talk of Bon Jovi heading into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, it seems the door for Sambora is always open at the BJ mothership, I suggest he accept their offer as Rise just makes me want to dig a big hole and throw this album in it. 1/10

Reviews: Rock Candy Funk Party, Santa Cruz, Neuronspoiler, HateMore

Rock Candy Funk Party: The Groove Cubed (Provogue)

The force of nature that is Joe Bonamassa returns again with a new record, the man releases albums faster than I can eat a hot dinner with solo records, collaborations with other artists, the return of Black Country Communion all taking the mans time, however the Rock Candy Funk Party albums have always been the most interesting part of the mans career. Different by definition RCFP are a funk/jazz/rock ensemble formed by session drummer extraordinaire Tal Bergman (Billy Idol, Chaka Khan, Rod Stewart, Joe Bonamassa) and his friend funk guitarist Ron De Jesus, they recruited Bonamassa, bassist Mike Merritt and ivory tinkler Renato Neto to the cause with one goal in mind "there are no rules, just expect the unexpected".

Unexpected is right the record draws heavily from funk and jazz but there's samba on In The Groove, while Don't Even Try It ramps up the funk due to the additional vocals of Vintage Trouble's Ty Taylor who brings his requisite coolness to the song that comes from the 70's/80's disco scene, Nile Rogers be praised. He's not the only vocalist on this record as Jimmy Barnes daughter and Bonamassa collaborator Mahalia Barnes adds the sass to some I Got The Feelin' the rest of the record is strictly instrumental though, each virtuoso cranking out the groove driven funk as the songs weave in and out of different genres, at 14 tracks long many who are not totally taken in by this style of music will be losing interest by Mr Funkadamus Returns And He Is Mad which is essentially a drum solo from Bergman but for those groove seekers Rock Candy Funk party is a joyous experimental fusion record. 7/10

Santa Cruz: Bad Blood Rising (Universal Music Group)

The Finns love a bit of sleazy glam metal and it doesn't get much glammier than Santa Cruz, this young band have the spirit of the Sunset Strip coursing through their collective veins, they've even got a track called Get Me Out Of  California which is pure Sixx:A.M. Part Motley Crue, part G'N'R with the modern sheen of Asking Alexandria and Avenged Sevenfold these Finns bring dirty rock riffs, Archie vocals/guitar, Johnny guitar, Middy bass, Taz drums have epic choruses, that get heartfelt on Drag Me Out Of The Darkness and the acoustic Breathe but mostly it's big hard hitting riffs, with a modernity that sees them classed as glamcore. Labels aside Bad Blood Rising is an attitude driven record that is the sort of record you'd expect for a band full of red blooded youngsters, it's a record that's full of chest beating bravado, it's full of Pure Fucking Adrenaline, if you like Asking Alexandria, BMTH, Escape The Fate and bands of that ilk with a shining slice of 80's sounds then Santa Cruz will make your blood pressure rise, not my thing normally but no doubting the talent. 7/10

Neuronspoiler: Second Sight (Dissonance)

Well this is a blast from the past, I remember reviewing Neuronspoiler's debut album in 2013, it was a strong slice of traditional metal and it's taken the band four years to make and release this follow up as the scything riff of Reclaim Your Path scurries out of your speakers at a fair old pace, in the intervening years between the albums the sound hasn't changed one iota, Neuronspoiler play riff happy British heavy metal with some speed metal trappings even branching out into thrash on Slay The Beast the twin guitar mastery comes from David del Cid and Pierre Afoumado who shred up a storm letting Matthew Monroe and Erick Tekilla build a strong rhythm section. This record has a defiant tone to it, Hidden Agenda and This Is Revolution both scream out about the madness that is our current society, vocalist JR gives his best performance on the slow burning This Brave One that sits in the middle of the record and is filled with classical guitars and is followed by the Priest-like Queen Of The Darkness. Neuronspoiler still have a tight old on their sound, they're a band comfortable in their skin and are still performing the classic metal staples at the same high level as they were on their debut but for a modern audience, let's hope it doesn't take them another four years to follow it up. 7/10

HateMore: The Pain Of Loss (Monster Promotions) 

HateMore's Facebook page say their artists we also like are Exodus, Testament and Slayer and while This Is How We Die does have a bit of thrash to it, I'd say they have more of and Alice In Chains motif running through their records, slow, heavy grooves with reverbed vocals, things get a little faster on The Dream Is Dead. It's standard stuff but the addition of organs to the mix shake things up but this record is boring, it never gets out of cruise and there are much better ways to spend your time. 5/10

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Reviews: Enslaved, With The Dead, Silius, Marvara (Reviews By Paul)

Enslaved: E (Nuclear Blast)

Possibly on of the most astonishingly good albums of the year, the Norwegians latest release combines huge swathes of black metal, which is where their roots lie, with massive progressive elements which echo Floyd, King Crimson and even Steven Wilson. Nowhere is this more apparent than on album closer Hiindsiight, where a rampaging saxophone rages across a heaving power chords and guttural vocals before concluding with echoing Floyd style vocals. Sacred Horse, centrepiece of this quite magnificent album mixes styles to monumental effect, pure black metal segues into an Opeth type jazz fusion before a progressive format. Axis Of The World see the band add layered keys to an addictive hook, gruff vocals balanced with clean harmonies that work superbly. E is a concept album, based on the Nordic rune which means horse. It’s long. Six songs at over 52 minutes requires investment. Do it. It’s worth it for one of the albums of the year. Catch them on tour with Opeth. Forgo that extra pint and treat yourself to a band who are evolving with every release. 9/10

With The Dead: Love From The Dead (Rise Above Records)

The return of Lee Dorrian, the former main man of doom rockers Cathedral is something that will no doubt be celebrated. Joining forces with former band mate Leo Smee on bass and the Electric Wizard duo of drummer Mark Greening and Tim Bugshaw on guitar, Love From the Dead is possibly the heaviest, sludgiest, most doom laden album you’ve heard for a long time. The band have actually been around for three years and this is their sophomore release. Unsurprisingly, given the composition of the band, there is little fast paced action here, with all the emphasis on bone crushingly heavy riffs, behemoth sized tracks crammed with an intensity which could level buildings and Dorrian’s slightly out of tune drawl unnervingly evil in both intent and delivery. From the crashing doom of opening track Isolation, the Eastern flavours of Egyptian Tomb through to the pendulous 18-minute closing track Cv1, there is a suffocating power which is relentless. With the Dead will not be to everyone’s tastes but if you like your skull caved in by pure pressure then this is for you. 8/10

Silius: Hell Awakening (Massacre Records)

No messing about with Austrians Silus, whose debut Hell Awakening starts at full throttle and doesn’t stop. Seven Demons nails both the influences and style of the band, huge chunks of Pantera reach out and grasp you by the throat. Immortalise adds the might of the Bay Area, with Testament and Exodus evident. Whilst this isn’t in any way original it's delivered with huge style and aplomb, guitars shredding viciously at every opportunity and a crunching rhythm section that may down massively heavy foundations. War Planet echoes Cowboys From Hell with Anselmo style vocals to boot and it works. If you need to work out what some of their themes are about then you need help. Message In A Molotov, leaves nothing to the imagination but assaults the aural equipment with thunderous drumming whilst the slower, hauntingly Megadeth hooked delivery of Tools Of Destruction reflects the world today.  Play these guys loud. A very tasty release 8/10

Mavara: Consciousness (Self Released)

Formed in Tehran in 2001, Mavara is a five-piece progressive rock band who play in a style which follows their main influences of Marillion, Pink Floyd, Riverside and Porcupine Tree. Consciousness is the Iranian’s fourth release and it’s a reasonable listen. I’m not over enamoured by Ashkan Hamed’s vocals that stray into the out of tune park a little too often for my liking. The keyboard heavy opening track Invasion (636 Gregorian Calendar) sees Hamed range struggle to manage the numerous time and direction changes. This is repeated throughout the album, for example on the meandering Childhood. However, there is much to commend here. Living The Fast Life has the band rocking out with some meaty riffs, Scott Abene delivering some neat guitar work which is complimented by layered synthesisers although Hamed’s vocals take off some of the shine once again. The title track, a lengthy piece which clocks in at just under ten minutes contains some intricate and delicate interplay. Hamed and Anis Oveisi’s keyboard playing is excellent throughout, such as during Mandatory Hero. Musically, Marana deliver some decent progressive rock. It’s just a shame that the vocals can’t quite put the cherry on the top. 6/10

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Reviews: Supersonic Blues Machine, Radio Moscow, Egonaut, The Face Of Ruin

Supersonic Blues Machine: Californisoul (Mascot Records)

Start up the engines, the machine is ready to roll again, the core trio of Lance Lopez (guitars/vocals), Fabrizio Grossi (bass/producer) and Kenny Aronoff (drums) are back for another journey through the belly of the blues bringing the soul back to this music and grabbing some special guests along the way, this isn't an orchestrated thing though, the guests on this record are friends of the players which means that this record is almost a tantalising look at some of the most talented blues players around jamming some tunes. This time it's Steve Lukather (Toto) on Hard Times, Robben Ford  adds some soulful guitar to Somebody’s Fool, Walter Trout is as ever the blues master on What’s Wrong, while returning from the debut are Eric Gales on the soulful reggae-tinged Elevate and the Reverend Willy G adds a smouldering solo and writes the gospel blues of Broken Heart.

I played the first SBM record to death and it looks like I'm going to do the same with this record as well, Fabrizio Grossi is the bands glue he's the reason everyone is jamming these songs his bass holds everything together and his production/music industry experience gives the record it's slickness and warmth. Lance Lopez's vocals carry so much soul the Devil wants some of them back and his guitar playing slides in with ease against the blues rock legends that feature while Kenny Aronoff displays his session skills behind the kit It's top class blues rock with a soulful streak making The One and Hard Times slow and slink their way out of your speakers with Aronoff's drums and Alessandro Alessandroni Jr.'s keys giving their all, but every song on this record is packed with modern blues rock, Supersonic Blues Machine    

Radio Moscow: New Beginnings (Century Media)

Retro- rock jams are what you get from this Southern Californian power trio, Parker Griggs has the wild shirtless riffs of Grand Funk's Mark Farner and the gruff vocals of Steppenwolf's John Kay with Paul Marrone hurting his drum kit and Anthony Meier ramping up the groove with some finger-style four stringing. Radio Moscow are unabashedly retro, reverbed guitars and bell bottom jeans are the ethos and their psychedelic streak bring to mind the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Blue Cheer or Atomic Rooster, the Hendrix comparisons can be heard in the way Griggs makes his guitar cry on the wah drenched Deceiver or on the Eastern flavoured instrumental Woodrose Morning. Every song brings another familiar sound played by some young guns. No One Knows Where They've Been is built on some funk staccato that builds into a wild guitar freak out. The psychedelic vibes carry through the whole of this record with Griggs on fire on every track his guitar playing is mesmerising but it's always anchored by the solid rhythm section. Swirling riffs and electrifying retro rock are what Radio Moscow bring to the table and it's good enough to eat! 8/10

Egonaut: The Omega (Mighty Music)

The fourth album from Sweden's Egonaut is a satisfying slab of organ drenched dark heavy metal that owes a lot to Paradise Lost and also countrymen Ghost, massive doomy riffs come from Fredrick Jordanius (guitar) and Dennis Zielinski (keys) whose Gothic keys are the main element of this record. It's good stuff, melancholic hard rock with a metal edge, since their last record Jordanius has stepped down as vocalist focusing just on guitar letting new vocalist Emil Kryk give his deep croon a flex on the fist pumping Alienati but getting more melodic but grittier on Totentanz. The Omega is a good album of darkened heavy metal, there's a gloom hanging over the record which means that you can't help nodding your head along as they change between monolithic doom riffs and classic metal rocking on Deathsworn a song built on Rainbow-like keys. If I'm honest the keys make this record what it is, there are so many times that it could become just another doom metal band but the orchestrations and bubbling organs keep it fresh. I'd never heard of Egonaut before but they impressed me with their fourth release, a solid record of heavy music. 7/10

The Face Of Ruin: S/T (Self Released)

Apparently The Face Of Ruin are a sexy melodic death metal from Warwickshire, well they seem sexier than the Swedish long-hairs that usually play the genre but musically they stick to their Gothenburg-sound guns playing the razor sharp, harmonised riffs made famous by At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames, this three song EP is a violent tornado of riffs, flurries of blast beat drumming and vocals that move from bowl clenching growls to piercing screams, they bring some frenzied shredding to Beyond Life which features a big beatdown guaranteed to cause some damage in the pit. The three tracks on this record give an overview of The Face Of Ruin technically precise, modern melo-death, this is the new face of the music I expect big things. 7/10

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Reviews: Marylin Manson, Bob Kulick, Lynch Mob,Travelin Jack (Reviews By Paul)

Marilyn Manson: Heaven Upside Down (Loma Vista Recordings)

Close to three years since his return to form with Pale Emperor, the 'God Of Fuck' has delivered a quite astonishingly good 10th album. Regardless of whether you like the man himself, this is pure quality. Rammed full of gritty industrial riffs, I’d wager that this is close to Antichrist Superstar in quality. It’s snarling, unnerving and disturbing; everything that you’d want from Manson at his best. There is violence, smouldering in the powerful opener Revelation 12 and lead single We Know Where You Fucking Live, the uncomfortableness of Say10, and the powerful pomp of Jesus Crisis. Backed by his trusty trio of Tyler Bates, Twiggy Rameirez and Gil Sharone, this is Manson turning the clock back whilst retaining a fresh outlook on a totally fucked up world.

Saturnalia, full of astrological and mythological references also references his father who passed away during the recording. The punk lust is present, sitting comfortably with the industrial grind on tracks such as Kill4Me and the edgy title track. As I write Manson is recovering in hospital after giant stage props (two pistols apparently) collapsed on him during a show in New York. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery. If you’ve been wise enough to grab a ticket for his forthcoming UK tour then it could be something special. A contender for one of the albums of the year. 10/10

Bob Kulick: Skeletons In The Closet (Vanity Music)

He’s been in the business for 40 years. He’s a well-regarded guitar master who has worked with many rock giants. Skeletons In The Closet is amazingly, Bob Kulick’s first solo album and he’s called in a wealth of talent to help him out. Unsurprisingly the guitar work is first class. This is the man who did work for Kiss, Alice Cooper. Lou Reed and Meat Loaf, who I saw him play with at St David’s Hall in November 1984.  Robin McAuley does sterling work on Not Before You, whilst Dee Snider’s snarl makes the homage to Sweeny Todd on London more sinister and twisted (sorry!). Andrew Freeman (currently fronting Last In Line) appears on the bombastic Player and is reminiscent of Glenn Hughes in parts but it’s the bizarre cover of Shirley Bassey’s Gold Finger with some godawful vocals from Vic Wright (ex-Tokyo Blade?) which got me scratching my head in bemusement.

David Glenn Eisley adds his melodic rock style to the middle Eastern themed India, which features a coral sitar solo from Kulick, as well as the title track and Can’t Stop before Dennis St James brings the remaining tracks home. However, it’s Guitar Commandos that is the real show stopper here, mainly because of the guitar duel Kulick has with brother Bruce, not because of the rather mundane song itself. Other musicians that feature include bassists Rudy Sarzo and Chuck Wright, drummers Vinnie Appice, Quiet Riot’s Franki Banali and Kiss main man Eric Singer. It’s not a bad album, and it is certainly well played. Middle of the road hard rock with a melodic edge and some sweet guitar work. 7/10

Lynch Mob: The Brotherhood (Rat Pak Record)

Studio album number ten for the US hard rockers Lynch Mob, whose parts are probably greater than their sum. As well as legendary guitarist George Lynch cutting shapes and trading riffs, Lynch Mob’s current line-up includes original singer Oni Logan, bassist Sean McNabb (whose CV longer than Mr Tickle’s arm and includes time on Sons Of Anarchy) and drummer Jimmy D’Anda. Once again Lynch flings his guitar around with ease, adding chunky fat riffs to the opening few tracks. However, it’s formulaic stuff, the type which Lynch has churned out his whole career.

Logan appears at times to be doing his best Dave Lee Roth impression at times, such as the bubble gum rock of I’ll Take Miami. Last Call Lady is a horrible track with a ghastly chorus and from here on in the album blends into one. Rather forgettable riffs and ponderous paced tracks like Where We Started and cock-rock slow burn of The Forgotten Maiden’s Pearl all merge into that white noise that is the sound of the Dokken era hair metal. If you like bands like The Dead Daises then you’ll probably love this. Me, it’s just a bit dull and leaden and oh so dated. 5/10

Travelin Jack: Commencing Countdown (SPV)

Whilst Berlin based four-piece Travelin Jack make a decent enough classic rock sound, steeped very much in the 70s hard rock of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple and certainly an edge of Scorpions and even that era UFO, Commencing Countdown does little to impress over the course of the album. Alia Spaceface (Yes, really) has a decent enough voice, but she pales when compared with the likes of Blues Pills Elin Larsson. The songs on Commencing Countdown quickly become repetitive and Spaceface’s voice (I can’t type that again) has a monotony about it that quickly wears. Songs like Metropolis belong in the 1970s for a reason. 5/10

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Reviews: The Darkness, Dave Kerzner, Niviane, Regulus

The Darkness: Pinewood Smile (Cooking Vinyl)

Steel Panther...the elephant in the room has been addressed, The Darkness are not and will never be Steel Panther, one they are far too English, two they are lyrically cleverer and finally they are all proper musicians. So thank goodness for that as I hate Steel Panther but The Darkness have always held a special place in my heart. Their songs are always over the top but nuanced with the glam rock riffs of Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and new boy Rufus Taylor (son of Queen's Roger) hiding devilish lyrics sung in the instantly recognisable shrieking falsetto of Justin Hawkins. They have had something of rebirth in the last few years with Hot Cakes, Last Of Our Kind bringing back those glory days when they were number one, however now they do it on their own terms not for major label kudos (and the chemical rewards they indulged in back in the day).

They take a swipe at these early days on opening track All The Pretty Girls as Hawkins sings about the titular girls and their "M-m-m-m-m-mums" loving you when you're number one but less so when you're not, it's just another song in The Darkness's tongue in cheek repertoire which continues with Solid Gold. They get political on Southern Trains an embody all of frustration levelled towards the train company, swashbuckle their way through Buccaneers Of Hispaniola, ask Why Don't Beautiful Cry in a way Lionel Ritchie would with Rufus harmonising perfectly. As I said earlier it's the music that sets The Darkness apart, Japanese Prisoner Of Love has mad lyrics but the riffs are huge and Lay Down With Me Barbara to has thrusting 70's edge and uses the word candelabra as a rhyming couplet (seriously). Pinewood Smile is a bit lighter than their previous record, it's not as overtly riff friendly as Last Of Our Kind but then Thin Lizzy weren't all about rocking your socks off, they too brought in the warm Olde England folky touches that permeates Pinewood Smile.

The biggest riffs of the record are saved for the bonus songs which means that it's worth seeking out the limited edition, pick of the bunch is Rack of Glam which is probably the ultimate tribute to both glam rock and boobs. The Darkness don;t need to justify what they do, they are currently experiencing their second life as a band with legendary history but playing the music they want to play not what some suit wants, tip my hat to them, roll on December's tour. 8/10  

Dave Kerzner: Static (Self Released)

Dave Kerzner is name familiar to numerous prog fans, he's a keyboardist and runs the Sonic Reality studio, plays numerous instruments, is instrumental in Sound Of Contact and Mantra Vega and has collaborated with a lot of prog's elite. Static is his second solo album and this one is "a progressive rock concept album and a "rock opera" about the distractions, chaos and clutter in everyday life and about navigating past this "static interference" in our heads toward clarity and happiness" apparently I mean it's a typical prog trope but there are few musicians that have the wealth of experience Kerzner has. He contributes lead vocals, keyboards, guitar, drums, bass to the record using many of his created soundscapes to give the record an expansive sound. His main collaborators for this project are Fernando Perdomo who plays guitar, bass, drums, Derek Cintron who plays drums and Randy McStine who plays guitar and adds to the FX.

These men could be considered to be the 'band' of the record with former Pink Floyd singer Durga McBroom and her sister Lorelei adding backing vocals as Ruti Celli provides cello. The Pink Floyd influence is writ large all over this record, Kerzner's keys bring Syd Barrett trippiness to Hypocrites but his vocals are so similar to David Gilmour it's uncanny, even taking the more restrained approach of Dave on the beautiful title track. Due to Kerzner's session career there are a lot of guests on this record, Dirty Soap Box features Steve Hackett on guitar and Nick D'Virgilio on drums, the title track has Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin making an appearance and Chain Reaction has his Mantra Vega bandmates Alex Cromarty (drums) Stuart Fletcher (bass) and Chris Johnson (guitar). Static is the sort of album you'd expect from Kerzner it's full of expansive prog sounds and has to be listened to numerous time to be fully appreciated. 8/10

Niviane: The Druid King (Pitch Black Records)

US band Niviane hail from Sacramento California and rather than going down the normal route of Cali thrash, they are a power metal band blending classic metal with an European edge, the clashing of swords opens this record and we're off into galloping with dual guitar attacks with gritty vocals. The music is pretty standard fayre and the vocals do get a little annoying coming across like a weaker Tobias Sammet or Matt Barlow without the range, what also lets down is the scratchy production. There's a theme running through the record which is the tale of The Druid King and while the music is acceptable and in places gets your head nodding it's nothing spectacular, although give it a listen if you're a power metal fan. 6/10

Regulus: Quadralith (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)

Sheffield space rockers Regulus play self described riff-drenched heavy blues, Regulus have been in relentless pursuit of the ultimate riff-fuelled groove. Named after a star cluster Regulus certainly have riffs, liking them soupy, heavy and reverbed to hell and back, Dominion the first track on this record delivers the riffs in fine style, with the low end of Martyn giving groove to the big six strings of Luke and Thomas who splice shredding solos with big stomping rhythms, they rub some funk on Seven Tales Told, things take a slower deliberate stoner metal turn on Bones and Heart Of Stone is dowsed in Southern smokiness. Regulus can be favourably compared to The Sword, Clutch and Orange Goblin, Poor Man's Grave being the song most similar to Ben Ward and co. Luke's raw vocal bark over the harmonized leads and dirty bass work, all of which is anchored by Joe's drumming. The band have been carving a hole in the live shows they've been a part of and this record shows that they know exactly what they are doing in the riffing, bluesy groove stakes. 7/10

Monday, 9 October 2017

Reviews: Ensiferum, Pänzer, Wolves In The Throne Room, Game Over (Reviews By Paul)

Ensiferum: Two Paths (Metal Blade)

I must admit that the Finns folk metal has never really grabbed me that intensely in the past although I’ve always enjoyed their appearances at festivals. Two Paths is album number seven for the band, and the follow up to 2015’s One Man Army. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen with the powerful King Of Storms, the gloomy God Is Dead and the accordion led Feast Of The Valkyries encouraging you to get up and jig around the office whilst banging the head. It’s full of chunky riffs and the jolly bouncing sing-a-long stuff you expect from the folk metal crews around these days. This would be even more enjoyable with a few beers on board, a field filled with metal fans and the sun beating down. Technically superb, with Markus Toivonen’s guitar work particularly neat, the band interchange vocals to great effect on tracks like Don’t You Say and the crazy opener For Those About To Fight For Metal. 8/10

Pänzer: The Fatal Command (Nuclear Blast)

Take Schmier of Destruction, ex-Accept drummer Stefan Schwarzmann, Hammerfall guitarist Pontus Norgren and Vo Pulver (ex-Messiah) and what do you get? 53 minutes of pumping testosterone Germanic heavy metal that will hit home with fans of Accept, Destruction, Kreator and the like. This is solid, raging metal which batters from start to finish. Pulsing with high speed drumming, lightning fast guitar work and guttural vocals, The Fatal Command looks at the chaos facing the world in modern times. We Can Not Be Silenced is anthemic and urges rebellion, challenging those in power to listen to their people. With the world going to shit at break neck speed this album hammers home the seriousness we face with the dictators and power hungry fools in charge. Stomping beasts such as The Decline (And The Downfall) make up for any lack of originality in pure power. If you like your metal with a Teutonic tint then this will be a must listen. 8/10

Wolves In The Throne Room: Thrice Woven (Artemisia Recors)

Washington’s Wolves In The Throne Room return with their first record for three years and their first unconnected release since Celestial Lineage. Featuring long-time touring guitarist Kody Keyworth as a full-time member of the band for the first time, Thrice Woven is a quite magnificent piece of aggressive black metal which immerses the listener from start to finish. The pummelling sound that was captured in their earlier records, particularly 2009’s Black Cascade, is evident throughout as are the signature riffs which are such a trademark of the band.

Guest appearances by Swedish vocalist Anna Von Hausswolff on Born From The Serpent’s Eye and Mother Owl, Father Ocean, and Neurosis’ Steve Von Till on The Old One Are With Us enhance the release which features themes of pagan nature throughout. Whilst all tracks are impressive, the atmospheric album closer Fires Roar In The Palace Of The Moon with the climatic waves crashing may take pride of place. Thrice Woven is a mountainous piece of work, one that should really be heard. 9/10

Game Over: Claiming Supremacy (Scarlet Records)

It was about 18 months ago that Crimes Against Reality, the third release from these Italian thrash merchants hit the decks here. I called it ‘a comforting package of old school thrash and fresh enthusiasm’. The band haven’t stopped since then with an EP Blessed Are The Heretics arriving earlier in the year, followed by album number 4. Claiming Supremacy continues in the same pattern of their previous releases. It’s fast, furious and totally old school. With a production sound that is reminiscent of the 1980s, the band deliver 40 minutes of fine thrash which sits comfortably in the early Testament era. Lots of aggressive shouty choruses’ ala Anthrax and the like, with the six minute plus Blessed Are The Heretics probably winning most interesting track on the album. Game Over’s game plan is clearly to maintain the status quo whilst producing piledriving thrash which will appeal to many. 7/10

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Reviews: Black Stone Cherry, Matt Cameron, R.I.P, V1

Black Stone Cherry: Black To The Blues (Mascot Records)

On their third EP Black Stone Cherry, have done something a little different while their fan base wait for their new album. Off the back of their most recent world tour the band have put together a compilation of their versions of blues standards, you may think Joe Bonamassa has probably got this market cornered, but BSC speak to probably a younger audience who will now be exposed to the blues standards of old. BSC play it reasonably safe covering songs that have been covered by numerous artists over the years, the two most recognizable being Muddy Waters' Hoochie Coochie Man which is  given a heavier BSC overhaul and Albert King's Born Under A Bad Sign that features some parping brass. The songs are fairly faithful to the originals but with a heaviness that BSC themselves have been lacking somewhat lately, Built For Comfort has a punching riff and a funky synth that Howlin Wolf could only dream of, they unsurprisingly bring some stoner touches to Waters' Champagne & Reefer and give a big Southern riff to Freddie King's Palace Of The King. To hear a band like this jamming old blues tunes in their own style is interesting, the covers are a little too well known but this is a record for the band and it's fans nothing more. 6/10

Matt Cameron: Cavedweller (I'm A Seahorse Music)

There aren't many musicians who can claim to be in four of the most influential bands in a genre, Matt Cameron is one of those people, a founder member of Skin Yard, Temple Of The Dog and Soundgarden in 1998 after Soundgarden split he joined Pearl Jam and has split his time between both of grunges heavy hitters ever since. Now he has tried his hand at being a frontman, guitarist, producer and writer for his first solo record, joining him are drummer Mark Giuliana and bassist Tim Lefebvre both of whom are from David Bowie's most recent backing band that played on Blackstar.

I can say that this experiment has been a hit, vocally he's more than capable having a nicely melodic vocal that means this record is a far away from his day jobs as possible and as a guitarist too he can hold his own layering synths and acoustic strumming with bluesy electrics on Blind. If you've heard Taylor Hawkins solo records then you'll get a hint as to what Cavedweller sounds like, Cameron indulges in psychedelic hard rock for Time Won't Wait,  air guitar friendly riffs on All At Once a song that has cool drum outro to it, he dabbles with buzzing electronics and ambient textures for One Special Lady and goes deeper still on Real And Imagined. It's an interesting record this, some of these songs date back to the 80's but nothing sounds dated, equally it also stands on it's own merit by not  being anywhere similar to either Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. Solo projects can be a shambles but this just adds another string to Matt Cameron's already huge bow. 7/10

R.I.P: Street Reaper (Riding Easy Records)

Portland, Oregon must be a scary place to live, at least that's the impression you get from R.I.P's second record. They play what they like to call sleazy street doom, this is doom metal that doesn't run over the same old tropes of wizards, goblins, no Street Reaper is horror movie occultism with dirty fuzzy riffs from Angel Martinez and Jon Mullett thundering in at every opportunity as Willie D bashes out a meaty rhythm and Fuzz hollers. It's classic doom that sits as a bridge between the occult doom of Electric Wizard and the sleazy proto-metal of Admiral Sir Cloudseley Shovell. Mother Road's snarling riff brings the bite back to doom metal, it makes the music unsettling and heavy but never falls into the so often used troupe of extended lumbering riffs, the pace is fairly brisk, if Mastodon were influenced more by Pentagram and Saint Vitus than Neurosis this is what they would sound like. Doom metal can be fairly repetitive but R.I.P are taking it back to it's grimy roots riff by riff, a good second album from the Oregon band but I think where they really shine is live, let's hope they make it to these shores soon. 7/10 

V1: Armageddon - End Of The Beginning (Frog Juice Production)

The press release for this record says V! was formed by former Iron Maiden men Dennis Willcock (vocals/frontman) and Terry Wapram (guitars) in 1978 both men left the band to form V1. Former vocalist of Iron Maiden is a stretch, he never recorded anything with the group and as far as I'm aware never wrote any of the songs that would feature on their single releases. V1 are the latest in a long line of reinvigorated NWOBHM bands, reformed when the members are re-living their glory days in their latter years. Unfortunately it follows the trend for these projects to be depressingly average with middle of the road songwriting, basic performances and no real spark never mind any fire. There are so many bands both contemporaries and young upstarts that are far superior to this and I suggest you exhaust yourself seeking them out first before you even spin this disc. If this is really is the end then Armageddon out of here. 4/10

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Reviews: Sons Of Texas, Lloth, Colour Haze, Opposing Motion

Sons Of Texas: Forged By Fortitude (Razor &Tie)

Sons Of Texas have A Vulgar Display Of Power if you know what I mean. They are from Texas and they play groove metal that is heavily influenced by Dime, Vinny, Phil and Rex, the riffs bounce and the vocals are haggard from shouting and whiskey. It's not all Pantera a worship although Feed The Need is pretty close, they shoot for the radio audience too with a dose of Stone Sour on Down In The Trenches, some stop/start riffs on the A7X sounding Cast In Stone before really lightening up on Beneath The Riverbed which could be a Black Stone Cherry song. This record has colossal grooves throughout, a thunderous percussive battery, flashy six stringing but most of all great songs with big hooks, ok so the influences are so audible you could get lawyers involved but this is a fun record that's full of big ballsy songs that have a Southern swagger, these boys from the Lone Star state really rock. 8/10

Lloth: Athanati (Sleazy Rider Records)

Hellenic black metal for me is as defining as anything from the Northern reaches of Europe, it seems that the more ingrained a country's religious dogma the better their black metal is. Rotting Christ are probably the most recognisable name but there a numerous acts that are still flying the black metal flag as strongly as Babis' men. One of these is Athenians Lloth who have been around since 1995, formed by bass player Tristessa, who went on to change the name of the band to Astarte they released numerous albums and disbanded in 2014 due to Tristessa sadly succumbing to leukemia. In 2014 Lloth reformed (with the T more prominent in their logo in tribute) by Tristessa's husband, vocalist Nicolas Maiis in 2014.

This means that Athanati (The Undead) is the band's debut record and it's a eye wateringly heavy but melodic tribute to their fallen comrade, the title track starts the record with some precision black metal mastery, the intense riffs of Setesh, Vaelor and Panthimis let Nicolas growl with malice as the band create epic and folk influenced black metal. The creeping Archos and Pan are the slower more deliberate tracks that are exhibit the bands more epic tendencies. There are some high profile guests at work on this record as well Nightfall's Efthimis Karadimas gives his death growls to In The Name Of Love (Sacrifice) and Rotting Christ frontman Sakis pops up on the furious Emptiness which unsurprisingly sounds like Rotting Christ.

They really play from the heart on this 'debut' it's powerful Hellenic Black metal at it's best, if you can't wait for the next Rotting Christ or indeed Amon Amarth album then Athanati will become close to being your record of the year, reanimated, reinvigorated and regal. 8/10

Colour Haze: In Her Garden (Elektrohasch Records)

Colour Haze have been peddling psychedelic trippiness over the course of 11 records they have turned from a Sabbath worshipping stoner band into a more ethereal interdimensional outfit who owe as much to fellow German's Tangerine Dream as they to jam merchants Grand Funk Railroad and The Grateful Dead. The trio of singer and guitarist Stefan Koglek, drummer Manfred Merwald and bassist Philipp Rasthofer don't cast their musical net outside of the 1970's but that's ok their mostly instrumental jams all blend reverbed guitar riffs, jazz drumming and deft bass work to the the record as they play through the 13 songs on this record with no gaps, each song melds into the next meaning that it's best enjoyed on headphones, the Allman Brothers sounding Arbores leads into a New Orleans trumpet break before Lavatera is slow creeping, percussive piece. I'm not sure what the titular she is growing in her garden but it's going to be some strong stuff, Colour Haze let their freak flag fly like it's the Summer Of Love. 7/10

Opposing Motion: Inertia (Lion Music)

This record coming out on the Lion music label is instantly a give away to what Opposing Motion do. This Lyon based band play progressive power metal that sits down in the heavier sounds of Evergrey and also the UK's own Intense due to the vocal similarity. Musically the band are tight as you'd guess with the bass guitar running roughshod over the riffs and the drumming expressive. This is progressive metal as I've said with only the vocals, keys and widdly solos adding melodic touches to the distorted riffs. It's not groundbreaking and they don't have that epic touch of Evergrey but there's no faulting them this is their second full length and they are established in their sound, a great record for fans of prog/power metal. 7/10

Friday, 6 October 2017

Reviews: Von Hertzen Brothers, Grave Pleasures, 10 Years, Set The Charge

Von Hertzen Brothers: War Is Over (Mascot Records)

If you use the analogy of Star Wars films, Von Hertzen Brothers's seventh record could be subtitled The Prog Awakens opening and closing with magnificent 10 minute plus songs it sees them rediscovering the elongated classic prog songs of their earlier albums, but with the new stadium confidence they brought to their more recent efforts, much like Episode VII re-discovered the magic of the original Star Wars while maintaining their post Millennial blockbuster styling. Following New Day Rising the trio wanted to invert themselves, strip everything back and except for drums, play all of the instruments and produce the record themselves. “We wanted to re-invent the inspiration and energy in our doing" Kie says and it looks like a successful experiment, they've reverted back to the band I fell in love with on Approach off-kilter prog with 70's pop explorations, they've even drafted in Approach drummer Sami Kuoppamäki to maintain the sound of that early period.

As I said earlier the record opens with the 10 minute euphoric, magisterial title track, all the VHB trademarks are their, Mikko's light airy vocals, the triple threat backing vocals, melodic keys, rocking oddly timed riff, but what stands out are Kie's bringing back searing guitar solos to nearly every song, something that was missing form their last couple of more straightforward records. They don't shy away from their arena rock styling though, the gutsy To The End Of The World is driven by Jonne's bass, first single The Arsonist is one of the records weaker tracks but it retains the albums theme that peace and love which is nowhere better displayed than on Jerusalem which features guest keys from HIM's Janne ‘Burton’ Puurtinen and much like how ELP covered the hymn of the same name this is as much a homage to Keith Emerson as anything else VHB have done, it's and epic track built around keyboards, keyboards and more keyboards, while Who Are You has the ethereal nature.

Mikko spent a month in India writing the lyrics for this record and those influences are obvious on Blindsight and the glorious finale of Beyond The Storm. This record stands as a milestone for the Finnish brothers, they have tirelessly adapted their sound to get a wider audience, this has seen them play festivals and get wider critical acclaim without becoming too stale then on the back of probably their most 'mainstream' record they are now at a point where their fanbase will happily accept them as 'proper' prog band again. 9/10    

Grave Pleasures: Mother Blood (Century Media)

Apocalyptic post punk, built on a nihilist mentality but riddled with 80's pop hooks, the record is a fast paced, breathless stab at the heart of all things good but conjures a romanticism for misery. The deep, sexy, resonance in the vocals of Mat McNerney will tickle your lovely bits, like Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan, as the Juho Vanhanen plays jangly angular Telecaster riffs, while the rest of the band thunder along with aplomb bringing the sing along choruses many of the post punk crowd would have killed for, swaddling the music in a Gothic velveteen at times, getting you to dance to its death-rock rhythms before laying more esoteric aural stimulation and some good old fashioned fang bearing punk. The record whizzes by in haze of joyous melancholy as Doomsday Rainbows, Infatuation Overkill and Joy Through Death all juxtapose light with dark, elsewhere though Be My Hiroshima belies the title for what is a thoroughly romantic song a trick repeated on Falling For An Atom Bomb.

I loved the first Grave Pleasures album and before them I was always welcomed Beastmilk with open arms despite them not being in my normal spectrum of listening. The ten tracks on this record fly by at speed probably due to the punk background of the band but they sink in, none are throwaway and need a few spins to really get their teeth into you. I've always had an ear to the obscure and the unique, Grave Pleasures are that, owing as much to Ghost, Danzig and The Doors as they do to The Cure, Siouxsie And The Banshees and even the throbbing electronic preening of Duran Duran they pick sounds, from a very short but influential part of British music history, they are an will always be more Bauhaus and Bowie than Purple and Zeppelin but when the music is this good no matter what you classify it as it's still dazzling. 9/10

10 Years: [How We Live] As Ghosts (Mascot Records)

After the Knoxville alt-metal bands previous album From Birth To Burial it felt as if they were done, founder members guitarist/drummer Brian Vodinh and guitarist Matt Wantland had left the group before it's release for personal reasons and it seemed as if this record was closure singer Jesse Hasek puts it like this "I thought it was our final record because it just didn't feel like 10 Years without Brian and Matt" however roll forward to 2017 and both Brian and Matt have returned to the band, theri return has had a regenerating effect on this band as (How We Live) As Ghosts is probably the most organic vital sounding record the band have done. Working with acclaimed producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, Deftones) he coerced them into coming out of their collective shells and trying new ideas, one of these was stripping back the usually layered vocals of Jesse, who delivers an excellent performance.

The music on this record has number of roots but mostly stays true the bands alternative/post grunge ethos relying on emotive, anthemic, heartfelt modern metal songs with reflective lyrics and a lighter more optimistic feel casting away the gloom of their previous record with a sneer of Placebo and the muscular all for one ethos of Shinedown on Novocaine. I hadn't heard much of 10 Years before this but after doing a bit of searching in their history I can categorically say this is my favourite album of theirs and it should be yours too. 8/10  
Set The Charge: Sky Goes On (Self Released)

Have you ever seen the YouTube video series called 10 Second Songs? Basically vocalist Anthony Vincent sings a song and every 10 seconds changes the style, artist or genre of it, some of them are very good indeed, his expressive vocals mimicking the artists he's trying to sing like. He has over 2.4 million subscribers and over 139 million video views, so he's not a flash in the pan internet celebrity. He also has a band called Set The Charge and much like his genre bending videos on YouTube the record has many styles mingle throughout it at their heart they are an alternative rock band with progressive and electronic elements, think Muse, Coheed and 30STM jamming to some Queen and you'll be able to get a clearer picture of their sound, Youngin best shows this with it's vaudeville piano and swaggering drums.

Tell Me has ambient melodies driving it, Right Side Of History is an expansive rocker, with a poppy chorus, Don't Let Them In has a reggae sound to it, while Yes And No is a massive radio ballad that deserves radio play as does Betsy Brown. Anthony has found himself an impressive band for this record all playing their roles he duels six strings with Tom Dicarlucci throughout as bassist Derek Ortiz drummer Frank (Anthony's brother) support with the killer rhythm section. Every song on this record has multiple layers that peel away on each listen, it's a multi tracked, progressive record that features Vincent's expressive vocals and songs that have been crafted for maximum impact, more than just a YouTube sensation Anthony Vincent and Set The Charge are something special and in a time of so many bands doing nothing new, Set The Charge really do try to set themselves apart. 8/10