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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Top 20 of 2011

Top 20 of 2011 (In no particular order)
  1. Haken: Visions
  2. The Magnificent:  Self-Titled
  3. Machine Head: Unto The Locust
  4. Opeth: Heritage
  5. Steven Wilson: Grace From Drowning
  6. Hell: Human Remains
  7. Iced Earth: Dystopia
  8. Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator
  9. Amaranthe: Self-Titled
  10. Ghost: Opus Eponymous
  11. Black Spiders: Sons Of The North
  12. Mastodon: The Hunter
  13. Trivium: In Waves
  14. Tracer: Spaces In Between
  15. Neonfly: Outshine The Sun
  16. Dream The Electric Sleep: Lost And Gone Forever
  17. Edguy: Age Of The Joker
  18. Mayan: Quaterpast
  19. The Answer: Revival
  20. Borealis: Fall From Grace

Well that's the last one of 2011! Thanks to everyone who has read this blog since I started it in May (Whether I know them in person or not) Cheers for letting me have this little ego trip... More to come in 2012 I promise. Thanks guys! Keep it Metal!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Reviews: Metallica, Tracer, Haken

Metallica: Beyond Magnetic (Download-only)

This is a download-only release that compiles the tracks that were left off Metallica's last album Death Magnetic and was released to celebrate Metallica's 30th anniversary. It also continues in the same vein as Death Magnetic with 'Tallica returning to their thrash roots and also maintaining their modern touch. The tracks are also as long as they were on Death Magnetic with all of them well over 5 minutes. Kicking off with Hate Train the EP starts in powerful way as the song has thrash riffing before kicking into a Black Album-like groove on a song that has much in common with the track Fuel. The next track Just A Bullet Away has a relentless riff before it switches into a slower soaring solo section and then back into the main riff. The creeping (death) Hell And Back slows the pace a bit with its slow burning intro and the heavy mid-paced riffage on a track that could have easily had as much airplay as The Day That Never Comes. The final and longest track is the 8 minute epic Rebel Of Babylon which sees the band spitting venom on the razor sharp riffage before the chugging chorus kicks in and is followed by a face melting solo from Kirk. All of these tracks are top quality and could have easily replaced any of the tracks on Death Magnetic and would not have been out of place. A nice little stopgap that fills a void that Lulu has left and reminds people of the great band Metallica were/are/and still can be as long as they keep releasing stuff like this it is just a shame it's only an E.P. 7/10

Tracer: Spaces In Between (CoolGreen Records)

Tracer are a hard rocking trio that hail from Australia, they have released this album which is their major label debut and it rocks hard! Coming out like a mix of classic blues rock trios like Grand Funk Railroad and ZZ Top, before adding fellow countrymen Rose Tattoo and Wolfmother and then topping with a large dose of 90's grunge rock in the style of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. The band have released an album that rocks like a bastard. They have great guitars and bass handled by brothers Michael and Leigh Brown both of which are backed by the smashing (literally) drums of Andre Wise. Michael also handles the vocals which have much in common with Chris Cornell especially prevalent on The Bitch and Walk Alone. His brother Leigh handles the vocals for one track the bluesy and propulsive Louder Than This. The band where their hearts on their sleeve and on each track you can hear elements of them. The title track has a very Kashmir vibe and the opening track Too Much sounds like The Answer (no wonder it's doing the rounds on rock radio) and Devil Ride has a very QOTSA sound. Despite the similarities to other bands the band play every track with precision and enthusiasm and this shows on the album. All in all a confident album from a young band that I expect will go on to great things. 8/10

Haken: Aquarius (Sensory)

Released in 2010 this is Haken's first album and is a collection of fantastic progressive rock/metal tracks the album is just over an hour and features just 7 tracks all of which are over 5 minutes long with four clocking in at over 10 minutes. The album revolves around the concept of a couple that have a Mermaid daughter. Again all of the band play excellently with the guitars and keys of Richard Henshall being the main focus of the band as he is also the bands primary writer. Ross Jennings' superb vocals also take the forefront albeit with slightly less expression than on their latest album. Unlike their latest album the band use more extreme influences that are merged with their progressive mix they feature heavily on the first two tracks with Streams being especially jarring as it merges the Genesis like first part with a doom laden middle complete with Opeth style guttural roars which show the talent of Ross Jennings' voice. The jazz influence features heavily on the opening track The Point Of No Return which has changing time signatures and a jazz influenced middle eight. Third track Aquarium is a huge ballad that features some excellent guitar playing and has a huge scope in sound. Eternal Rain is perhaps the weakest track on the album as it follows the progressive rulebook by having changing time signatures and tight technical playing still excellent but defiantly the most 'generic' track. Drowning In the Flood has much in common with Dream Theater, with Sun following as an acoustic psychedelic track that brings a Middle Eastern vibe adding bongos and subtle playing from all concerned and a Pink Floyd guitar solo. The final track is the majestic Celestial Elixir which is both the longest and possibly the best on the album. It melds all of their influences of jazz, rock and metal and also adds the small offshoots and almost comedy asides to keep the track interesting. Much like their newest album Visions this is a fantastic album that is among one of the best progressive albums of the last 10 years and probably will still be one of the best in another 10 years. 10/10

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Reviews: Wolfsbane, Haken, 3

Wolfsbane: Wolfsbane Save The World (Self Released)

Having released their last album in 1994 Wolfsbane the gap between that and this album has is longer than that of Chinese Democracy. However this album is superior to Chinese Democracy because unlike Guns 'N' Roses Wolfsbane have stayed true to their original sound, they limited modern influences and lastly they have actually released a good album. Kicking off with the anthemic Blue Sky you know that this classic Wolfsbane with the band playing with all the balls and power they always have. Blaze's voice is sonorous and powerful and his expression covers light and shade. Jase Edward's guitar playing is fantastic as is Danger's drumming and Jeff's bass. The band are partying like it's 1994 with the album sounding like a AC/DC with a snarling go-fuck-yourself punk attitude which actually brings to mind the early 90's rock bands such as The Wildhearts, Thunder and Skin. The tongue-in-cheek Teacher is a small reminder of the humour in early songs such as Kathy Wilson. The autobiographical Smoke And Redlight shows that the band were always the underdogs but were never really fazed by it, this is a cracking track as is the next track Illusion Of Love which starts out as ballad before turning into the soundtrack to a bar-room brawl and features the smoky female vocals of Midland's vocalist Givvi Flynn. If I had to make a criticism it would be that the production is a little raw but this adds to the do-it-yourself vibe of the album and that the songs do sound a little dated but hell this is goodtime rock n roll. So if you like Wolfsbane, Blaze (as a solo artist or when he was in Maiden) or bands like Thunder or The Wildhearts (especially The Wildhearts) then you’re going to love this album, however if modern rock and metal is more your thing then at least give it a listen you  might enjoy it. (I promise it's better than Chinese Democracy) 8/10

Haken: Visions (Sensory Records)

Haken are a progressive rock/metal band from London that was formed by members of the Prog/Gothic metal band To-Mera. This is their second album with their first Aquarius having been released in 2010, very little has changed since then with Haken's sound staying the same as it was on their debut, although before I criticise this I will have to stop as really I can't, Haken's sound is flawless progressive rock with such influences as Rush and Pink Floyd, with the addition of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree (especially in Ross Jennings' vocal delivery) and also a myriad of other influences ranging from jazz to world music. All of the band are virtuoso in their playing but they are not stuck in an up-their-own-arse groove they are writers of excellent songs that merge all of their influences and also add a real string quartet to flesh out their sound, this means that the keyboards and programming can insert random noises from Super Mario and horror movies to add to the overall effect of the music without detracting from it at all. The soloing and guitar playing is majestic and the bass and drums both technical and also perfectly placed, the production is also crystal clear meaning that no on instrument is given prevalence. To pick a favourite track is almost impossible as this is very much an 'album' with many of the songs merging into one another to create a fantastic vibe. If I was to refer someone I would plump for the 22 minute final/title track which brings in all of the bands influences showing Gilmour-like guitar solos, Ross Jennings expressive vocals which range from James LaBrie's to Frank Zappa's (and everyone in between). The song is upbeat and incredibly catchy as well as being incredibly technical and throwing more curveballs than a major league baseball player; this would be the track that encompasses all of Haken's sound however the album itself is far deeper than one song could allude to. This is truly a progressive (be it rock or otherwise) masterpiece. 10/10

3: The Ghost You Gave Me (Metal Blade)

Returning with their first 'real' album since 2007's The End Is Begun the self-proclaimed hybrid-band have created another creative, inventive and challenging album. The band effortlessly mix genres with Joey Eppard's Geddy Lee-like voice and flamenco influenced acoustic guitar being at the forefront. The rest of the band are all excellent with Daniel Grimsland's bass and Chris Gartmann's drumming providing the track Numbers with a fantastic and unique rhythm. The band play very technical and intricate music with very pop tendencies, I say pop rather than mainstream as you can hear it in the vocal harmonies and upbeat arrangements; this is juxtaposed with the dark lyrics. Overall the band have elements of Tool, Coheed And Cambria, Deftones and some Rush. Tracks like Sparrow, It's Alive and the title track all providing the heavy quota however tracks like One With The Sun and The Barrier having more of a ballad quality. The track Pretty has an almost Smashing Pumpkin's sound to it moving from heavy rock to dreamy psychedelia in an instant. A great album from a very talented band, not everyone's taste but still a very well realised album. 8/10

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Live & Dangerous: DevilDriver, Malefice, Collapse, Against Fate, Drain The Lake

This was off date from their tour with Machine Head so it was DevilDriver and Malefice with Collapse, and local bands Against Fate and Drain The Lake in support slots. (Cardiff Coal Exchange)

Drain The Lake

Shit 0/0

Against Fate

After that travesty finally a band that were at least musical, they are hardcore/metal band that hail from The Valleys. The six-piece played muscly hardcore with some groove influences. They were good at what they did but it was really nothing too special. They were also hampered by poor sound (an on-going theme). All in all they were an enjoyable band that the majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy. 6/10

Collapse

Collapses stormed the stage with a heavy brand of groove metal filled with tight riffing and kick drumming galore. Duncan Wilson's voice had power and his roars were excellent however again the sound was muddy and the mic he was using was giving terrible feedback which was a shame as they were an enjoyable that got the atmosphere going in the room inspiring pits vicious head banging. A band I would see again if I had the chance as they were great heavy metal hampered by dreadful sound. 7/10

Malefice

You know what you are going to get Malefice who are one of the best live bands on the scene playing their meaty modern metal to a now suitably refreshed crowd meant that they were causing pits with every song especially with Architect Of Your Demise and Awaken The Tides despite these two super-fast tracks being included, the band I think made a mistake by including The Haunting which is slightly too slow for a 30 minute set. Other than that they played a good set and got the crowd moving, again the sound was slightly muddy which was a shame but Malefice overcame like the professionals they are. 7/10

DevilDriver

The headliners burst onto the stage in flurry of riffs and blast beats that are End Of The Line and didn't really take their foot of the gas for the entire hour and a bit set. With favourites like Clouds Over California, Not All Who Wander Are Lost and Pray For Villains included they band easily won over the crowd, the band are all excellent musicians but it is frontman Dez Fafara that steals the show, he is a superb frontman and his voice is strong and very natural sounding when he screams (when you could hear him) he is also excellent at orchestrating a crowd as he controls the obligatory circle pits brilliantly even making one move in slow motion. Before the last two songs he opens the floor and the biggest pit of the night opens up while the band rips through Before The Hangman's Noose ending the set. 8/10

To sum up a great night of British metal topped by one of the best American live acts, unfortunately the sound could have been better and Drain The Lake should be shot. Overall 8/10

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Reviews: Anvil, Trillium, Tedeschi Trucks Band

Anvil: Monument Of Metal (Camden)

Monument Of Metal is a compilation album compiled by Anvil in the wake of their career resurrection created by the rockumentary Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil. Singer/Guitarist Steve 'Lips' Kudrow and Drummer Robb Reiner are the only original members with current bassist Glen Five being present since 1996. This album is a great career overview which even features the title track of their latest album Juggernaut Of Justice. The Canadian band have influenced Metallica and Megadeth, these influential tracks are heard in the riffing and in 'Lips' vocal delivery which is very like Dave Mustaine's and sometimes verges on Rob Halfordesque screams. Some of the earlier tracks such as 666, Metal On Metal are the re-records from their This Is Thirteen album. However that doesn't really matter as the album contains 19 slabs of prime heavy metal that will be a great eye-opener for people discovering the band and wanting to have a nice career overview (like me I must admit) but also for fans who maybe want a collection on their iPod. This is only Anvil's second best of and as they are still releasing albums (and were way before the film re-kindled interest) it doesn't smack of the commercial cash in many compilations have. Great release form an underrated band rediscovered. 8/10

Trillium: Alloy (Frontiers)

Amanda Sommerville is known as the major vocal coach in the metal world as well as appearing on albums by After Forever, Kamelot, Epica, Edguy and being a major part of Tobias Sammet's Avantasia and metal opera Aina. Following on from the duet album she released with ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske she has released her first all-metal album. Alloy is pure symphonic metal with dark lyrical content and orchestrations galore. Ms Sommerville's voice is exquisite, her range is fantastic dripping with emotion and power, she has also managed to acquire a top-notch supporting band with Sascha Paeth and Miro handling the production and guitar and keys/orchestrations respectively, the rest of the guitars are handled by Epica's Sander Gommans and the rest of the band are the cream of the power/symphonic/progressive metal crop. As far as the songs go they are prime slabs of symphonic heavy metal filled with heavy guitars, ominous keys and tight solos. Best tracks are the opener Machine Gun, Mistaken and Scream It which features Jorn Lande. The album is overall excellent quality (as it would be with the members involved) however if you are not a fan of female-fronted metal this will not convert you however anyone else will get discover an excellent metal album featuring one of the best voices in modern metal. 8/10

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator (Sony Masterworks)

Most spouses would love their other half being away from home on tour with The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton but the majority wouldn't go and join them but Susan Tedeschi is not most people as she is a great blues artist in her own right. Both she and her husband Derek Trucks have their own bands which they put on hiatus to focus on their family. What followed was that in between being parents they managed to record this album that features the pair backed by members of both their solo bands. The album is a blues masterpiece with Tedeschi's soulful yet gritty voice crooning over the traditional blues style tracks that feature funky bass, percussive jazz and blues drumming from their two drummers, parping brass all drenched in Hammond Organ and is accentuated by the excellent slide guitar playing of Trucks. The album is 12 tracks of soulful blues slow burners that give the whole album a relaxed 'family' atmosphere. The tracks feature virtuoso playing but those who prefer the rockier blues of Bonamassa, Poppa Chubby, Oli Brown and even Truck’s solo band may find this a little too  mellow but for fans of traditional blues will love this soulful effort from this husband and wife team. 9/10

Live & Dangerous: Wolfsbane, Obsessive Compulsive

Wolfsbane & Obsessive Compulsive (Clwb Ifor Bach Cardiff)

Obsessive Compulsive

Female fronted Obsessive Compulsive play a brand of spiky, politically motivated punk that is somewhere between System Of A Down and Hole. The band all were pretty good with vocalist Kelli having a rough and ready voice and guitarist Giz playing like Daron Malakian. The real star however is drummer Dani who seems a little out of place with his blast beat drumming and speedy runs. Overall they do well and would appeal too many but not to me I'm afraid I just found them a little too angsty and a bit lacklustre. 5/10

Wolfsbane

If there was a heavy metal newspaper in Cardiff then the headline would have read "Tamworth terrors return to tear Cardiff a new one!" because Blaze Bayley and his reunited Wolfsbane did just that. While in Blaze and his self-titled group he was one of the "serious po-faced metal bands" as he so eloquently put it however now he has returned with original members Jason Edwards (guitar), Jeff Hateley (bass) and Steve 'Danger' Ellet (drums) to as their new album suggests "Save The World." They have rediscovered something that was lacking in heavy metal music and brought it back to the masses that thing being 'fun' and this gig brought fun in spades. Bayley has the energy of a man half his age he bounds around the stage shouting and sounding better than he has in years, the rest of the band are excellent with Edwards solo's tearing faces and Hateley's bass coupled with Danger's drumming crushing skulls. Even the sound in Clwb was pretty good which is unusual; this was rip-roaring run-through of Wolfsbane classics and material from the new album. With standards such as Loco, Kathy Wilson, Black Lagoon and the turbo-charged Manhunt the gig was 1 and a half hours of feel good heavy metal that got the Howling Mad Shitheads into frenzy. Many have waited 16 years to see a Wolfsbane gig, as long as they had for Manowar. Still Wolfsbane managed to be better and louder than Manowar were. Top-fucking notch. 10/10   

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Reviews: Daughtry, The Magnificent, Bill Bailey

Daughtry: Break the Spell (Sony Music)

Former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry returns with his third album and it's more of the same. This is mainstream American radio rock that sounds like Nickelback or Shinedown at their most commercial. The album clocks in at 12 tracks but the four bonus tracks bring this up to 16. This is fine if there was some variety but three best songs on the album are the first three Renegade, Crawling Back To You and Outta My Head. The rest of the album borders on mid-paced pop rock songs and ballads, too many ballads. Chris has an excellent voice that suits these tracks, all of which are played excellently, with the album being expertly produced as well, however there are just too many slow tracks on this album which is a shame because the band sound good in full rock mode but they just seem to use it too sparingly on this record. A good album that is let down by song its lack of variety. 6/10

The Magnificent: S/T (Frontiers)

This new Scandi melodic rock band features the talents of Torsti Spoof who is the guitarist of the Power Metal band Leverage and Michael Eriksen the vocalist of progressive metal band Circus Maximus. Whether you recognise the names or not is immaterial this album is excellent in its own right the tracks are all prime examples of upbeat melodic rock with luscious guitar licks and lashings of keyboard. Be warned this isn't AOR like Brother Firetribe (fronted by Leverage's singer) there are elements of hard rock and some nods to power metal as well. Eriksen's voice is brilliant mixing power and emotion with Spoof's guitar playing both virtuoso and understated filling the tracks with big riffs and sublime solo's. It is impossible to pick a favourite track from this album as they are all equally great and full of supreme musicianship and great song writing. The rockers jump out at you and the ballads make you want to hold lighters aloft in salute. For fans of melodic rock bands such as Europe, Journey, 80's Whitesnake (especially on Satin and Lace) and Magnum will love this album but anyone who enjoys bouncy, euphoric melodic rock will get goose bumps from how good this album is this album that for once shows a band that lives up to their name. 10/10 

Bill Bailey: In Metal (Self Released)

This download only album follows on from Bill's career defining show at Sonisphere festival where he reinterpreted some of his best material so it had a metal edge. Kicking off with Lazer Gazer his ode to self-service checkouts. He then kicks into the prog-epic Leg Of Time and the emotional Love Song. Bill's playing is great as his the bands and his voice is also good showing that his music and comedy are equal parts of his appeal. Bill shows his talent for languages with the bouncy and ominous Rammstein version of Scarborough Fair and the Gary Numan's Cars is played with car-horns and sung entirely in French. This is a very good album from a very talented man who shows just how talented he is. 8/10

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reviews: Staind, Jane's Addiction, Michael Monroe, Savage Messiah

Staind: S/T (Atlantic)

Alternative metallers Staind return with their new album and it's more of the same the angst ridden, bitingly political, lovelorn alt-metal that made them famous in the early 2000's. However unlike the popular tracks like Outside and It's Been A While Staind have always had a heaviness that has more akin with Deftones and other 'proper' metal bands. This album is no exception with tracks like Paper Wings, The Bottom and opener Eyes Wide Open all having heavy bass driven riffing and almost shouted vocals from Aaron Lewis. The rest of the album mixes genres with Wannabe veering into nu-metal territory and Throw It All Away and Something To Remind You harking back to the angsty ballads that Staind have always done so well. This is continuation of Staind's career and will not win over anyone who has a dislike for them, however those who have like alt-metal and heavy tracks with intelligent lyrics will enjoy this album every time they play it. 7/10

Jane's Addiction: The Great Escape Artist (Capitol)

This is only Jane's Addiction’s fourth album, mainly due to the fractured nature of the band. With the major factors of the band returning they release an 'interesting' fourth album. Starting out with Underground which is almost Sisters Of Mercy electro-Goth, the only give away is Perry Farrell's distinctive vocals. This trippy electronic vibe continues for the first 5 songs which all have quite disturbing lyrics and dark overtones. They are well written and performed, with the production being excellent but they are not really Jane's, there are elements of Radiohead, Muse and even U2 which makes the beginning of this album a very interesting listen. Only on Twisted Tales and Ultimate Reason do we get closer to 'classic' Jane's with Navarro able to flex his guitar muscles. Fans will see the album as just another part of Jane's Addiction's on going experimentation but rock fans may see something a little bit out of their comfort zone. Well performed if a little ill-conceived album. 6/10

Michael Monroe: Sensory Overdrive (Spinefarm)

The former Hanoi Rocks singer returns with his first solo album since 2003 and it is a cracker Monroe himself calls it "the best album of his career" and it's hard to disagree with him. With a backing band made up of former members of Hanoi Rocks, The New York Dolls and the irrepressible Ginger from the Wildhearts Monroe has assembled a stellar motley crew on this solo flight. The album itself is heady mix of glam, punk, sleaze and good old fashioned rock and roll and with Ginger writing or co-writing nearly all of the tracks there is a striking similarity with Ginger's day job in the Wildhearts, not that this is a bad thing. Monroe’s voice is on top form and the band are all excellent providing every track with excellent hooks and rocking rhythms. Monroe also handles the Saxophone and harmonica on some of the more bluesy tracks. Some of the highlights are opener Trick Of The Wrist, Bombs Away and Debauchery As A Fine Art which features and is co-written by Lemmy. This is a fantastic rock and roll record that should be bought immediately. 9/10

Savage Messiah: Plague Of Conscience (Earache)

This is Savage Messiah's third album and it will be released in January 2012. This is a free copy that is available at: http://www.earache.com/misc/downloads/savagemessiah/. The album is chock full of thrash/speed metal tracks that are both modern and classic, looking back as well as going forward. With elements of Megadeth, Metallica and even Priest (especially in Dave Silver's vocals) this third album is a rip roaring, fret melting, thrash album that will appeal to all fans of metal. The drumming is excellent and the dual harmony guitars are present throughout. The first two tracks Plague Of Conscience and Six Feet Under The Gun are modern sounding with elements of Trivium and modern thrashers before third track Carnival Of Souls is a superfast head banger. Beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt is an ominous, dark heavy track which explodes into the speedy Architects of Fear. The band are able to mix up the tracks meaning the album does not get boring it also features one epic in the shape of The Mask Of Anarchy which has Metallica written all over it. A stonking album from a very fast rising British metal band. 8/10

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 20: Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Theory Of Deadman

Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Theory Of Deadman (Motorpoint Arena Cardiff)

With doors open at 6:00 Theory Of A Deadman came on promptly at 7 and played a short half an hour set plagued with sound problems to a relatively small crowd. This was a godsend as they are not the best live band in the world; the songs were generic and laboured with the majority of the set focussing on their more commercial latest album. The band also made the mistake of covering JJ Cale's Cocaine something that really can only be done by Old Slow hand himself Eric Clapton. With that boring most of the crowd they resorted to the opening of G'N'R's Paradise City to get the crowd growing (and adding a rubbish Axl Rose joke) before finishing with Bad Girlfriend which was the only passable track of the set. A poor showing from these Canadians. 5/10

No such problems Black Stone Cherry who managed to sell-out the Cardiff Solus on the day before their Download set this year. Playing to a bigger crowd than TOADM the track list differed little with a mix of new and old entering the set, the band seemed to be having a ball onstage with even frontman Chris Robertson channelling his inner rock god and guitarist Ben Wells and bassist John Lawhon running around the stage like mad men. New tracks Blame It On The Boom Boom, White Trash Millionaire fitting perfectly with the rockier older tracks like Blind Man, Maybe Someday and the heavy as led Rain Wizard (which was introduced with a quick run through of Sabbath's Iron Man). It was there raucous cover of Adele's Rolling In The Deep that provoked the biggest cheer of the set however. If I were to have a criticism it would be that there were maybe a few too many ballads for a 45 minute set. Other than that another great performance from these Kentucky rockers. 8/10

When a band features the one of the best guitarists in the world and possibly the best vocalist in the world today the shows are never going to be lacklustre and the Cardiff show was anything but. Kicking off with new track Slip Into the Void and oldie Find The Real the band came out all guns blazing, the rhythm section blitzed with the drumming and bass playing superb, Tremonti was dazzling on the guitar with Myles being no slouch himself in the guitar area. However it is his voice that makes the man, he was on form despite the sound problems and forgetting the lyrics to One Day Remains. The band filled the majority of the set with their brand of upbeat turbo rock with I Know It HurtsWhite Knuckles and the thrash riffage of Metalingus. He is also quite a showman when not attached to a guitar, letting the crowd sing when needed and commanding the stage. His voice was at its best on the solo acoustic tracks he played which interspersed Watch Over You and Wonderful Life these two showed he could be introspective without the pomp before the epic Blackbird caught the full majesty. The band then revved the engines on Before Tomorrow Comes, Ties That Bind and Isolation ended the main set. The encore consisted of Open Your Eyes before a guitar duel between Mark and Myles which Mr Tremonti won by a country mile despite Myles giving an impressive display. The final song was the fantastic Rise Today which left the crowd in good spirits. Another great show from one of the best modern bands around, festival headlining beckons. 9/10 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Reviews: Nickelback, Megadeth, Uneven Structure

Nickelback: Here And Now (Roadrunner)

The second biggest selling foreign band in American history. Return with their latest album of radio-friendly alternative rock. The band is continuing in the vein of their last few albums with heavy rockers mixed with over-wrought ballads. They have also kept the same production techniques that Robert John ’Mutt’ Lange showed them on their last record. Mutt doesn't produce this album as it is veteran Nickelback collaborator Joey Moi and the band that are at the helm and are aided by Brian Howes who has produced bands such as Hinder and Daughtry. The big gang vocals are back as is the muscular riffing and gritty vocals of Chad Kroeger. The lyrics also are similar with songs about love and partying mixing with strong global messages and some filthy Steel Pantheresque innuendo, most notably on Midnight Queen where the titular character is asked to "Lick my barrel clean". All in all this is just another Nickelback record that unlike Silver Side Up or All The Right Reasons doesn't have a genuine UK super single on it. Not that Nickelback will care due to the massive success they have across the pond. Not an essential but a good listen nonetheless. 6/10

Megadeth: Th1rt3en (Roadrunner)

The 'Deth return with their 13th album (the title gives it away) and first to feature classic era bassist Dave Ellefson for over a decade. The album sees them back in the mainstream form that they found success with in the early 1990's unlike their last album Endgame, Th1rt3en has more in common with the Countdown To Extinction/Youthanasia era. The songs are shorter and commercial, there is some super speedy riffing with the opening 2 tracks Sudden Death and Public Enemy No. 1 and the super-fast Never Dead. However the rest of the album is mid-paced riffing that is more hard rock than thrash metal. The lyrical content is the usual Megadeth anti-governmental jargon mixed with dark love stories. The playing throughout is superb but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Mega-Dave. A band who I have found to be hit and miss live have (nearly) always delivered on record and this is no exception however it just isn't as exciting as Endgame and not in the same league of their early material. (Still beats the hell out of most of Metallica's recent drivel). 7/10

Uneven Structure: Februus (Basick Records)

Another band coming under the Djent banner meaning that Messugah-like riffage is abound however this 6-piece from France are more than blatant rip-offs they manage to add some progressive influences as well as a heaving does of ambient experimentation to create a unique sound. This album flows fantastically and so it is hard to pick out one song as it very much and 'album' rather than individual tracks. The production is extremely clean and is very multi-layered to give a hazy tone to the polyrhythmic guitar playing from the three guitarists, the drum and bass lay a heavy foundation that is beefed up by the tuned-down guitars and the Fripptronic ambient soundscapes, these are topped by Matthieu Romarin's excellent clean and harsh vocals which are used sparingly. This band are obviously all about the music as there are no gimmicks just well played technical metal with heaps of dreamy ambience, mainly on the last track Finale, that bewitches the listener. A cracking debut. 8/10

Monday, 21 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 19: Dimmu Borgir

Dimmu Borgir (Great Hall 2 Cardiff)

Again we arrive at the Great Hall 2 (the Great Hall curtained off) but this time just to see one band. Billed as an evening with Dimmu Borgir this was two sets from possibly the best Norwegian Black Metal band around. The first was a complete performance of their seminal Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album which was one of their first albums to include the orchestral flourishes that they are now known for. Despite not being the biggest Black Metal fan and not really having too much Dimmu stuff the performance was fantastic with the set roaring past with pace and precision with every song meaning horns in the air and voices chanting. There was a reasonably big crowd yet the gig still felt intimate with the band playing on top form. The sound was not great for the first three songs from what I could hear (I had an ear infection so earplugs for me I'm afraid) with Shagrath's vocals suffering but then then sound came alive with the roars and growls coming clear as Hell itself. Giving the fans a break from the madness there was a brief intermission with a drum solo after the break had ended which was the start of the 'greatest hits' set, of these Ritualist, Puritania, The Serpentine Offering and the terrific Gateways were the highlights. The band showed that they are one of the best live prospects on the scene with Shagrath easily getting the crowd to follow his every satanic verse and the dual guitars of Silenoz and the heavyweight Galder were riffing like demons over the frenetic blast beating of Daray easily mimicking the style of original drummer Tjodalv. Even the clean vocals of former bassist ICS Vortex were not missed as all backing vocals were done from backing tapes as were the orchestral elements. In short this was a great show that validates the statement I made about them at the beginning. Some may say they sold out by changing the Black Metal formula and adding symphonic elements but I think this makes them all the better. 9/10

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Reviews: Disturbed, Electric Mary, Furyon

Disturbed: Lost Children

An album of B-sides from Disturbed would fill many with fear as tracks that are purposefully left off an album have been left off for a reason. However this doesn't seem like an album of B-sides but just another Disturbed album, yes you can hear the differences between their earlier material and their newer stuff but then there is not a huge void between the two. The album features the bass-heavy riffing, the intricate guitar playing of Dan Donegan and the machine-gun vocal delivery of David Draiman. The album also features one unreleased songs and two covers in the shape of Faith No More's Midlife Crisis and Judas Priest's Living After Midnight. This like all of their albums is a solid release that doesn't do anything new but yet doesn't need to, like with all Disturbed tracks if you've heard Down With The Sickness you know what you’re going to get but for fans and completists this is definite buy. 7/10

Electric Mary: III (Listenable)

These Aussie retro rockers return with their third full length (as if the title didn't give it away!) again the band play fuzzed up, heavy riffing hard rock in the vein of Lizzy or AC/DC with some Zeppelin thrown in as well. The album opens up with the propulsive O.I.C which sets the tone with its bluesy but heavy vibe, unlike their previous album this album does shake the sound up a little with both Stained and Long Time Coming having a very Soundgarden vibe which is mainly due to frontman Rusty Brown's voice having a Cornell-like rasp. This album is well played classic rock that is exciting and blood-pumping, they are not treading any new ground but it is still great stuff. 8/10 

Furyon: Gravitas (Monster Energy)

Modern heavy metal band Furyon hail from Brighton and mix Southern style rock, heavy metal with some progressive rock thrown in for good measure. The album is produced by Rick Beato who has produced albums by Fozzy and Shinedown and brings a very modern touch to the proceedings. Pat Heath and Chris Green's guitars are brilliant with the dual leads tight and the soloing melodic. The majority of the songs are heavy riffing anthems with empowered vocals by Matt Mitchell, the band are a mix of Black Label Society with pinched harmonics and heavy riffing present on most tracks and they also have elements of Alice In Chains especially on the fourth track Don't Follow with Mitchell's voice and the riff itself coming straight out of AIC territory. A good album made even better by the fact that it's free with this month's Metal Hammer (December 2011). 8/10 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Out Of The Beyond 10

Orphaned Land: The Never Ending Way Of The ORWarriorOR

This band hails from the troubled Middle East and show that music defies all boundaries. Half come from Israel and the others are from Palestine. As for genre the band play progressive metal infused with barking death vocals and Arabic instruments. Think a Middle Eastern Opeth with Pink Floyd guitar solos and you'll be half-way there. The vocalist Kobi Fahr mixes Akerfeldt style clean vocals and growls, his performance is stellar and he is backed by a band of stunning musicians with lead guitarist Yossi Sa'aron playing some of the most stunning guitar work I have heard for a while, just check out The Path Part 1&2 and Warrior for examples of his brilliant playing, the sound also is different from many similar bands as they make use of native Middle-Eastern instruments like Ouds, Bouzouki and Saz as well as female Yemenite vocals from Shlomit Levi who's voice is beguiling and really adds to the colour of their musical talent. The band are going to appeal to fans of Opeth as this is who they share the majority of their style with but also there are elements of Porcupine Tree to be found with Steven Wilson both producing the album and providing the keys for it. This concept album is one of the best I have heard for a long time and comes from a band that need to be heard, truly inspiring stuff from a fractured region. 9/10

Royal Republic: We Are The Royal

This Swedish four-piece play turbo-riff rock with a punk attitude and some tongue in cheek humour. They are all quiffs and leather jackets and this is reflected in their Garage rock style. The album is 13 tracks of punchy, poppy rocking songs that have real bite to them. They are based on the subjects of sex, drink and parties and you can hear that this is the life that the RR has lived. Especially on the track President's Daughter which is the story of a true-life romance between the frontman and the Swedish president’s daughter. Tracks like Underwear and Tommy Gun are filled with great lyrics and good time attitude. This is a great party rock album form a band that I think would be excellent live. 7/10

Saint Jude: Diary Of A Soul Fiend

Rocking out of London like it's the 1970's Saint Jude are the newest force in the on-going Rock 'N' Soul (their description not mine) revival. The band are Hammond a fuelled 5 piece play classic hard rock with a major soul edge in the style of The Faces, Zeppelin and Big Brother And The Holding Company. Sultry, mystical and gorgeous front woman Lynne Jackaman is the mistress of ceremonies with her powerful, gritty, soulful voice is drenched in emotion and blues. She has an almost Janis Joplin-like voice that also has some Aretha Franklin elements to it. The band that back her are as tight as bicycle-shorts with all of them playing with technical expertise and a professional loucheness that the Stones do so well. Adam Greene's guitar playing is very like Keef's with the added element of Joe Glossop's Hammond adding a bluesy touch. Their debut album is full of rocking tracks and touching soul ballads, the opening track Soul On Fire gives a good introduction to the band’s sound as it full of blues and bluster, this gives way to the soulful Garden Of Eden. The acoustic Down This Road breaks the flow with a small folk detour before the powerful blues ballad Down And Out really stops the show a moment that is repeated on the moving Angel. Saint Jude are one of the best of a new breed of modern blues rock bands, now they just need to tour with The Answer and I'll be in heaven.  8/10

Orphaned Land: http://youtu.be/DUi1yf97paw
Royal Republic: http://youtu.be/dhcGNN9r1D4
Saint Jude: http://youtu.be/P64RGr8twaQ

Live & Dangerous 18: Turisas, Chthonic, Kiuas

Turisas, Chthonic, Kiuas (Cardiff Great Hall 2)

Kiuas

Coming from the Great Hall 2 (which is just the Great Hall but with areas curtained off) this was going to be a modern metal showcase with 3 genres on show tonight. Kiuas have always been something of separate entity to many other power metal bands as they are from the darker side of power metal not the magic and fantasy of bands like Dragonforce and Hammerfall. Having never seen them with their original vocalist but having heard all the albums I was curious to see how new vocalist Asim Searah would be able to handle former frontman Ilja Jalkanen's wide raging vocal range, however fates conspired and this will have to wait as apparently he was stuck in their native Finland so could not be in Cardiff however instead of cancelling the band played a full force speedy set with guitarist Mikko Salovaara handling the vocals with the growls coming from bassist Teemu Tuominen. Both had adequate voices for a short set and they played with ferocity and genuine enjoyment, a great set that was a triumph over adversity. 7/10

Chthonic

The band that was really the odd-one-out on this tour were able to raise the heat in the room as well as permanently damage my hearing (but not in a good way). Taiwanese black metal band Chthonic played a set full of furious keyboard backed black metal that had the addition of the traditional Asian instrument the erthu. Many of the bands songs blended into one with only their most recent tracks standing out, with bassist Doris being the focal point of the band (unless you like keyboard players in masks that summon vampires) the rest of the band were visually arresting but not particularly enjoyable musically. This was mainly due to the appalling sound quality and the horrendous feedback that stemmed from singer Freddy's mic. These two factors were instrumental in decreasing my enjoyment of this somewhat generic band. 6/10

Turisas

A band that is still on the upward path of their career original battle-metallers Turisas brought their epic brand of Nordic metal to Wales once more. Supporting their great new album Stand Up And Fight the band played the best tracks from this album with the title track, Hunting Pirates, The March of the Varangian Guard, The Great Escape and Take The Day! Making up the bulk of the set with classics such as One More and To Holmgard And Beyond filling in the gaps. New faces were about with the new bassist filling Hannes shoes nicely and keyboard player (the band’s first since 2007) Robert Engstrand adding an extra layer of depth to the older songs. The band played a concise set before returning for an encore of the Disco classic Rasputin and their own classic set ender Battle Metal. All of which were received by a pumped-up Cardiff audience who sang along to every line showing that the disappointment of Manowar was just a blip. Another great show from a fantastic metal band. Hail Turisas! 8/10

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 17: Manowar

Manowar (Great Hall, Cardiff)

Doors opened at 7pm on Manowar's first show in Cardiff but the band didn't come on stage until 9pm. This I could deal with despite the tickets specifically stated Plus Special Guest, what I couldn't deal with was that despite Manowar's place as one of the greatest classic metal bands in the world the Great Hall was only half-full which was disappointing as I expected more from the usually ecstatic Cardiff crowd. The band however were brilliant starting the set by playing their Battle Hymns album (admittedly in the wrong order and missing out William's Tale) however they were on top form with Eric Adams screaming and singing with power and prowling the stage with the energy of a man half his age. Joey DeMaio ripped up and down his bass with precision rumbling the bowels of every member in attendance; he stood the whole gig po-faced and menacing leading the band from the left side of the stage. Karl Logan sped up and down the fret board throughout the night ripping of riffs and solos but despite this he still managed to fuck up the intro to Battle Hymns (Ross The Boss wouldn't have done that.) There was then an intermission before they returned for the second part playing the now live staples Hand Of Doom, Call To Arms, Thunder In The Sky before launching into the classic Hail And Kill, Warriors Of The World United, Kings Of Metal, Black Wind, Fire And Steel. Which managed to lay waste to the crowd, and like that it was over the band had played a tight and concise two-hour set, which some would say is not worth the £38 ticket price but just to see Manowar is enough for some. Yes they are clich├ęd, OTT and very silly in some respects but they are still a killer live act, the only disappointment was the size of the crowd and the hard-core enforcement of the no photo rule. Both of these were downers on the night but the size of the crowd proved that Manowar are more of a one-off show than a touring concern. A great night but with some small annoyances. 7/10

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Live & Dangerous 16: Fozzy, Jettblack, Verses

Fozzy, Jettblack, Verses (CF10 Cardiff Uni)

Verses

When a band realises that they do not fit on a bill you know that maybe they shouldn't have said yes to the booking. This band had poppy metal tunes, 'popular' haircuts and more merch than good songs which meant that I couldn't warm to them. Despite how good they were as musicians, their singer hit a few bum notes (something I was expecting later in the evening) and like a said their music was just not inspiring. I'm afraid a band that just failed to click with me and a majority of the already small audience (except the drunk ones). 5/10

Jettblack

British 80's metal revivalists Jettblack pulled no punches on their support slot, the ballads form their debut did not feature at all. This was pure straight up rock 'n' roll. Opening with perennial fave Slip It On the band came out all guns blazing the riffing and solos from Will and John tearing the audience a new one. Will's vocals were spot on John's however were slightly croaky but this added to the raunch of the songs such as Two Hot Girls, When It Comes To Loving and Fooled By A Rose the bands set was short but was able to feature a guitar duel between the two frontmen which culminated in final song Get Your Hands Dirty. Jettblack was able to win over audience convincingly with their turbo-charged metal and are a great band to see live. 8/10

Fozzy

What was I expecting to see from the band fronted by WWE Superstar Chris Jericho? Well I had both glowing and abysmal reviews of their past performances, so it was time to make up my own mind by seeing them live. Coming on to Queen's We Will Rock You the band came out to large cheers and Stuck Mojo man Rich Ward immediately started to riff like a bastard. Jericho prowled the stage and sang mostly from the lighting rig and barrier, enticing the crowd to join in with the heavy noise. For the first three songs the sound was muddy with Jericho's voice being drown out (whether his is good or bad is your own opinion) but after three songs in and during the Maiden sounding Pray For Blood his voice was clear and really not bad, admittedly he is not the best singer technically but neither is Ozzy Osbourne, he is however able to work a crowd, mainly due to his other 'job', this was most evident during Martyr No More and God Pounds His Nails. This isn't to say I wasn't surprised by his voice on a few occasions; one scream made me think "Ok that was pretty good." Rich Ward and the band played brilliantly equally blending heavy biker rock, with groove and thrash metal to create a surprisingly heavy combo. If I was to sum up this gig, which ended with the favourite Enemy, in one word it would be surprising as I came in with my hopes low but I came out with a grin on my face from this very entertaining live band, entertainment always wins out over technical ability in the end. 8/10

Friday, 4 November 2011

Reviews: Steel Panther, Sylosis, Redemption, MaYaN

Steel Panther: Balls Out (Universal Republic)

The most serious band of the 1980's have returned with their new album which is filled with anti-government protest songs with deep meaningful messages...PSYCH it's actually the new filth ridden Sunset Strip homage from 80's throwbacks Steel Panther. With lyrics such as "Hit her in the shitter, treat her like a Critter. Fuck that lady right!" You know what to expect from this second album. Firstly and foremost has the joke worn thin...well not really as the music is still as authentic as always showing that unlike many 'real' bands the Panthers can play. The jokes are still pure filth and puerile but it's how far they go that makes them funny; many lines are crossed in this album but all of them with the trademark humour that endeared the legions of fans to them in the first place. So secondly is this album as good as Feel The Steel well the cultural references are still there with Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown all mentioned in the songs. The Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard style songs are still there, the latter most prominent on the misogynistic That's What Girls Are For. The large ballads such as If You Really Really Love Me and Weenie Ride (Which has to be the sequel to Community Property) are still epic and the songs rock hard however the album just doesn't seem to have the overall zing of the first album, I think this may be due to the lack of special guests on this album, obviously Panther wanted to make an album that was more 'them' but I think it suffers for that, on Feel The Steel appearances from Corey Taylor, M Shadows, Scott Ian and Justin Hawkins made the album funnier as it featured 'proper' musicians having fun like the massive metal party Steel Panther is supposed to be, the fact that in my opinion It Won't Suck Itself featuring Chad Kroger (who is not ad versed to writing filth himself, and co-writes this track) is probably best track on the album and features a killer solo from Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme makes it even better and illustrates my point. Panther should have continued to be the party rock band they are live and invited even more diverse artists to feature. (My own choice would be Lou Reed, as it would have stopped LULU). A well-played, produced and written album that is equal but certainly no better than their debut. 7/10

Sylosis: Edge of The Earth (Nuclear Blast)

After seeing these modern thrashers live twice I decided to purchase their latest album to see if they translate as well onto disc as they do live. I'm pleased to say they do, their brand of technical modern thrash with melodic prog influences and death vocals makes for a very good listen and most importantly a very heavy one. The majority of the songs are heavy speedy thrashers or crushing metalcore style riffs much akin to heavier version of Trivium or a more modern Machine Head. After original vocalist Jamie Graham left many believed that they would fold however lead guitarist Josh Middleton has stepped up to the plate admirably giving growls, barks roars and the occasional clean passage real power as well as providing some incredibly tasty lead breaks, check out Empyreal for an example. The rest of the band are tight as they are heavy and give every song their all, the production is also modern and crisp meaning that this release is well above that of many of their peers. This album would only really appeal to fans of this type of modern thrash as I could see the vocals putting some people who prefer clean singing not going for it as there is very little. If Sylosis keep this up the future of British metal is in good hands. 8/10

Redemption: This Mortal Coil (InsideOut)

The US Prog-metal psuedo-supergroup Redemption return for their fifth album and it is more of the same, technical heavy and melodic tracks that come from the Fates Warning, Shadow Gallery, and Symphony X style of prog-metal. Current Fates Warning singer Ray Alder again takes the lead vocals on this album as he did on their last album the fantastic Snowfall On Judgement Day and again the writing is all done by guitarist/keyboardist Nick Van Dyk who on this album deals with his own morality after recovering from a rare cancer, despite the depressing subject matter (as Redemption seem to thrive on) the album is filled with melodic, technical metal that is based more on song writing than some of the virtuoso musicianship that comes from other bands in this genre. Stylistically I would make the link between Redemption and latter-day Symphony X. The keyboards are understated and flow with the heaviness of the tracks, the guitar playing from Van Dyk and Agent Steel guitarist Bernie Versailles is stunning with solos galore coming from both; check out the epic 9 minute+ Dreams From The Pit for all your soloing needs and Begin Again being the best introduction to Redemption's sound. The album clocks in at over 70 minutes but it really fly’s by with some of the shorter songs such as Noonday Devil and the opening track Path Of the Whirlwind filled with speedy riffing and classic metal pretentions albeit with odd time signatures. Redemption are no strangers to ballads ever with Let It Rain being one of the best  The album is nothing new as I have said (something that can affect a score) but when the quality is this high then that really doesn't come into effect. As starting point for Redemption This Mortal Coil is great but Snowfall... is still their magnum opus. 8/10

MaYaN: Quaterpast (Nuclear Blast)

Billed as a Symphonic Death Metal Opera, MaYaN is the brainchild of Dutch guitarist and grunter Mark Jansen formally of After Forever and founder member of Epica. Jansen handles the grunts and screams but not the guitars on this album. He has assembled and all-star cast to aide him with this concept 'opera'; the production comes from symphonic metal producer’s extraordinaire Sascha Paeth and Miro (Kamelot, Epica, Avantasia etc.) and features the vocal talents of After Forever/ReVamp vocalist Floor Jansen, Epica and Sons Of Seasons chanteuse Simone Simons and Sons Of Seasons/Metalium singer Henning Basse. The album mixes all of Jansen's former bands as it is equal parts Epica and After Forever with both Floor and Simone giving top notch performances, however there is an extra layer added to the standard symphonic metal sound with Miro's choirs and orchestrations being professional. Another revelation is Henning Basse who sings on nearly every track meaning that it isn't all death grunting and screaming from Jansen and his band who also handle grunts and screams meaning there are some different voices on each track. Some have a more classic/power metal sound like Bite The Bullet (co-written with AF guitarist Sanders Gommans), some are straight up death metal like War On Terror and the album is punctuated by small choral songs that are sung by choirs and soprano Laura Marci. This is an epic album that will appeal to fans of Jansen's other projects and also those of progressive/symphonic death metal in general. This is a great album from some of the industry’s best performers. 8/10 

Monday, 31 October 2011

Reviews: Machine Head, Chickenfoot, Exit State

Machine Head: Unto The Locust (Roadrunner)

A bit late as I bought the 'proper' edition not the magazine one. From the acapella opening, 8 minute runtime and split passages of I Am Hell (Sonata In C#) you know that Unto The Locust is going to be something a bit special. Album follows on from where The Blackening left off and adds to the now expansive Machine Head sound. Don't underestimate this album it is metal of the very fucking heavy variety but it adds flourishes of prog here and dashes of classic rock there. I Am Hell itself evolves into a heavy thrasher full of speed metal riffing and squealing solo's all of which are fantastic with Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn ripping any of their contemporaries apart. The second track starts with a melodic guitar riff and evolves into almost an arena rock song. Flynn's voice is fantastic throughout he screams, roars, shouts and even sings brilliantly on every track. Dave McClain's drumming is both restrained and explosive and Adam Duce also produces his seminal bass power on all of the tracks. Third track Locust is classic Machine Head and is still as powerful as when it was released a few months ago. The slow-burning This Is The End follows and then erupts into a maelstrom of heavy riffing before merging into the ballad-like Darkness Within which is Machine Head's Fade To Black. The proggy Pearls Before The Swine has changing time signatures and a sprawling nature. Final song Who We Are has machine gun drumming, heavy rock riffing and choral finish which rounds out the album in style. This is an awesome album that features all of Machine Head's trademarks and adds some of their influences as well. These are further explored in the two covers featured on the special edition one is Judas Priest's The Sentinel and the other is Rush's Witch Hunt, the Priest one is good and the Rush one is...okay but their influences are at their most evident throughout the proceeding tracks. Unto The Locust is not just a fantastic metal album but a fantastic album period. BUY IT NOW! 10/10   

Chickenfoot: III (EarMusic)

The super group return with their confusingly titled second album III this album seems the band being just that a 'band' more of cohesive unit. Like their self-titled debut they mix elements of all their bands e.g. Montrose, Van Halen, RHCP and also legends like Zeppelin to create a heavy, funky rock sound. Up Next is one of tracks that show this as it is filled with funky, bass heavy rocking and the tongue-in-cheek lyrics of Sammy Hagar. Chad Smith hammers the drums keeping a heavy backbeat that is buoyed by Michael Anthony's groove-leaden bass. Joe Satriani's playing is somewhat understated compared to his day job but it still packs punch where it is needed and he works brilliantly in this band setting, the best example of this is Three And Half Letters and Dubai Blues the first is a social commentary song with a heavy rocking riff and some squealing solo's from Satch and the second is a Zeppelin-like haze of a rock song with some great playing. Hagar's voice is also on top-form his whiskey (or should that be tequila?) soaked vocals add a bluesy vibe to all of the tracks. All of the tracks are solid the only exceptions being Alright Alright and Big Foot which both seem a bit generic. Other than that the album is a step up from their debut, only a small one but the band seems to be carving their own niche in heavy-funky rock music that defines them as a talented band rather than talented individuals. Also I just want to comment that they have the best CD packaging by far, 3D glasses are always awesome. 8/10


Exit State: Black Veins (Rocksector Records)

The British rock band return with their second release coming only a year after their debut album. It was good album if a little short and under-produced. This is an entirely different beast with the band's playing and song writing has improved tenfold. This album has less of the hard rock tendencies of their debut and mixes post-grunge with sleaze and arena rock. The latter best represented by the track All For You (which features an epic guitar solo from ex-The Prodigy man Gizz Butt) this track follows on from the early arena style rock from their debut, the rest of the album is straight ahead post-grunge with frontman Roy Bright's angsty vocal delivery giving the band a big emotional edge. Despite many of the tracks following a similar style, some do vary the style with Wasted having a distinctly sleazy style and the opening track Enough Already having a very punky vibe. This is a great album for any fans of hard rock with a modern edge. 7/10    

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Live & Dangerous 15: Evile, Savage Messiah, Mutator

Evile, Savage Messiah, Mutator (Bogiez Cardiff)

Mutator

Local boys Mutator burst onto the stage in a burst if frenetic riffing and howling from frontman/guitarist Stu Harris. The boys played with conviction and passion but they just seemed to be towing the line and playing what I saw as generic thrash metal. Many of the songs sounded like they were homages to the genre's legends rather than new tracks. The crowd were buoyed by the thrash onslaught no matter how generic it seemed to be. Maybe as the band improve and get bigger their writing will improve also? 6/10

Savage Messiah

Savage Messiah were a much more promising prospect playing melodic thrash in the vein of Megadeth with some traditional metal influences. Frontman Dave Silver had a clean powerful 80's style melodic voice and was also a great guitar player peeling off solo's with ease. Unlike Mutator Savage Messiah seemed to much more accomplished and their songs were all their own work, albeit featuring nods to the legends. The band were professional and seemed to be enjoying themselves all the time they were on stage. Great songs, great musicianship, great band. Look forward to seeing them again. 7/10

Evile

A band that have eluded me live for a while so I was determined to see them tonight. I was glad I did as they performed fantastically and with such professional ease despite frontman Matt Drake's flu. Not that this affected his voice as he was able to use his Hetfield-like roar with gusto. Opening with the title track to their latest album Five Serpents Teeth the band immediately grabbed the crowd’s attention before ripping them a new one with Killer From The Deep. The band kept up their relentless pace Mixing songs from all three albums with Thrasher causing the biggest pits. Evile finished the main set with the title track of their second album Infected Nation before coming back for an encore of the title track of their first album Enter The Grave. The band slaye(r)d the crowd form beginning to end and were fantastic, the Drake brother’s guitar playing was top notch, with the powerhouse drumming and galloping bass shaking the foundations of Bogiez. Even the sound wasn't bad. Definitely a band to see again and one of the brightest hopes on the British metal scene. 9/10

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Live & Dangerous 14: The Trews, The Sharp Darts, Little Wing

The Trews, The Sharp Darts, Little Wing (Birmingham HMV Institute)

Little Wing

This 5-piece play technical alternative metal in the style of Exit Ten and Fightstar. They possessed serious skill especially lead guitarist Ryan Baynham whose melodic style is the cornerstone of their sound. Vocalist Dan Rowbottom has a possessed manic style between singing contorting and flailing like a madman. His voice his good and clean and the band are all very tight. The only problem was that the sound was very muddy meaning that not all of the intricacies of the band could be heard. One to watch. 7/10

The Sharp Darts

One question went through my mind while watching this band. Are they trying to be Oasis? Mod haircuts? Check. Telecasters and parkas? Check. Sneering frontman wielding a tambourine? Check. So then The Sharp Darts are so much like Oasis it hurts but that said they are also like Paul Weller as well and play furious mid pace indie that got many of the locals jigging. (The band were from Birmingham after all) However for me I enjoyed it but no more so than I would an Oasis tribute playing album tracks rather than hits. 4/10

The Trews

I was always going to be biased but this was my first time seeing one of my favourite bands so I was not going to berate them. Despite playing to a crowd of 50 or so people the band came on rocking for their debut UK tour. However three songs in there was a high pitched squeal coming from the amp of guitarist John-Angus who was visibly annoyed. This apparently was the latest in a long list of mishaps that had befallen the band on this tour. Despite this and with a replacement amp the band carried on regardless playing a set of heavy rockers that included Paranoid Freak, Not Ready To Go, So She's Leaving, The World I Know, Hold Me In Your Arms and frantic I Can't Stop Laughing. The set was broken up by two slower songs in Hope & Ruin and Highway Of Heroes (Which is a tribute to a friend of the band who didn't come back from Afghanistan). The band then broke into the favourite Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me and finished. They returned to a rapturous reception and took two requests from the crowd the favourite being Yearning. Despite the sound problems, the small crowd and the obvious frustration of the group, it was a great gig from a band that thrive on performing. Now if only someone could get them a stint on Jool's Holland they would be much bigger than they are! 8/10

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Reviews: Iced Earth, Exit Ten, Charred Walls Of The Damned

Iced Earth: Dystopia (Century Media)

American Traditional Metal legends Iced Earth return with their new solo album and their first after the retirement of Matt Barlow. Much like with Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden and Rob Halford in Judas Priest, Matt Barlow can be considered to be 'the voice' of Iced Earth, so, like Priest when they replaced him with Tim 'Ripper' Owens there was a great vocalist but not the one everyone wanted. So when Barlow returned for the second part of the 'Something Wicked' concept albums there were a lot of happy faces. This changed when Barlow announced his departure however in Canadian Stu Block, formally of Into Eternity, they have found a fantastic replacement. Not only can he do the mid-range power vocals of Barlow but also the shrill screams of Ripper. The album itself is the first album to not to be based on the concept since The Glorious Burden only the title track and Tragedy And Triumph are based on the continuing concept. This album is one of Iced Earths heaviest with many of the tracks heavy and unrelenting showing of Block's brilliant voice, creative genius Jon Schaffer's unrivalled rhythm playing and Troy Steele's melodic and aggressive leads and solos. Both the first title track and final track Tragedy And Triumph use the metal favourite of Holst’s Mars: Bringer Of War before launching into a thrashy assault with Dystopia and a Maiden homage with Tragedy And Triumph. Many of the songs are based on dystopian themes and films with V and Equilibrium both being based on the films of the same name. The track Anguish Of Youth has a similar style to The Dark Saga's I Died For You. Block's voice is at its best on his self-penned number End Of Innocence but throughout the album he is simply awesome. The disciples of Barlow will not be able to complain, his voice is flawless and this is classic Iced Earth sounding as hungry as they ever were. Tremendous. 9/10

Exit Ten: Give Me Infinity (Deep Burn Records)

After surviving the trials and tribulations of an unpredictable music world Exit Ten return with their second full length album. The band had a great debut with Remember The Day but many ignored it because of two reasons. Firstly the band looked like a fringed Emo band and the second was that the album was deleted after the record company went bankrupt meaning the band had to buy back their own album! However they have weathered this storm and come back stronger. Whereas Remember The Day was a melodic rock album with some progressive touches, like expressive guitar work, some keys and a very clean vocal delivery, this second album bring a distinctly more prog feel to the album. The band have created an 'album' meaning that all of the tracks fit perfectly together and it is definitely an album that needs to be heard from start to finish. The opener has a distinctly In Me feel (a band that Exit Ten are similar to in style) and this begins a very cathartic, upbeat and intensely technical album. The technicality doesn't get in the way of the bands core values of great song writing. Some of the highlights of this album is the track Drama which has a great almost Breaking Benjamin guitar riff and segues into a piano led outro, the heavy Curtain Call and the grungy Mountain. One of the keys to Exit Ten's uniqueness is their vocalist Ryan Redman who has an expansive and emotive voice that is equally suited to high balladry and gritty rocking. This is an album that needs to be heard, from a band that merges elements of Fightstar, Pearl Jam, InMe and Muse to create a fantastic album from a band that are so young. 9/10

Charred Walls Of The Damned: Cold Winds On Timeless Days (Metal Blade)

The first CWOTD album was a 30 minute speed/thrash album that came from the mind of former Death/Iced Earth drummer (and Howard Stern alumni) Richard Christy. He created the first album in his house before inviting Death bassist Steve Di Giorgio, screamer Tim 'Ripper' Owens and producer and guitarist extraordinaire Jason Suecof. The first album was short, sharp blast of heavy metal that was somewhat disjointed but enjoyable. This second album is both longer and more accomplished than its predecessor, Christy still blast beats furiously through many of the songs, with Suecof riffing like a demon melding heavy power with intricate melodies. It is however when the band eases off the gas that they become more of an interesting protest. Ripper's voice to be its usual blend of screams and Dio-like power. The album is not perfect nor is it necessarily essential but it is enjoyable for any fan of heavy metal or the people involved. 7/10 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Live & Dangerous 13: Joe Bonamassa, David Ford

Joe Bonamassa & David Ford (Cardiff Motorpoint Arena)

David Ford

How do you win over a crowd of avid blues-rockers? With an acoustic blues/folk one man band. Starting off with just a nail box, egg shaker and drum box David Ford kept the crowd in awe for the entire set list. He is the epitome of the solo artist as he used all the instruments at his disposal (including a small organ and an acoustic guitar) to create wonderful layered backing tracks. All the layering was done on the stage with the aid of a mic and small programmer device. Fords voice was gritty and raw and his performances had a hint of melancholy and passion. He left the audience spell bound with both his unique performance style and his likeable attitude. He reminded me of mix between Bob Dylan, Seasick Steve, Mike Oldfield and folk troubadour Frank Turner, and for those comparisons alone he was a great thing to behold. 7/10

Joe Bonamassa

As the strains of Maiden's 2 Minutes To Midnight lowered JB and band arrived on stage and immediately opened with their supercharged cover of Rory Gallagher's Cradle Rock before moving into the heavy as lead riff for When The Fire Hits The Sea. After a Gary Moore cover Joe then played three songs from new album Dust Bowl (title track, Slow Train and the funky You Better Watch Yourself) before the show stopping Sloe Gin brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Joe then pushed up the tempo with his self-proclaimed 'hit' The Ballad Of John Henry which started off three from the John Henry... album and was followed by Black Rock's Steal Your Heart Away. The next big showstopper came at the end of the main set with the one-two of the frenzied acoustic track Woke Up Dreaming and the epic Django/Mountain Time. These two brought the crowd to their feet again, all the credit can't go Bonamassa however as he is backed by a tremendous band, Rick Melick brings his Keys and Hammond to create meticulous melodies over the heavy rocking and authenticating the blues with some boogie. Carmine Rojas plays some exquisite bass and can match Bonamassa's style with ease, new drummer Tal Bergman is an animal behind the kit and smashes everything with power and precision (as shown on his drum solo in Young Man Blues where he was literally shaking the kit). However it is Joe's playing and voice that brings in the punters and they are both fantastic throughout. The best showcase for both is the encore which includes two covers one is Joe's electric reworking of Leonard Cohen's Bird On a Wire which showcases Joe's expressive and excellent voice and the second was ZZ Top's Just Got Paid which showed Joe's superior playing (clad in the obligatory Gibson Explorer). After this encore the room was shaking with rapturous applause, Bonamassa had destroyed the crowd with his thunderous blues rock and seemed in fine form (despite cancelling the last two gigs because of flu). Finally he was able to do this in the Motorpoint Arena which is not known for its sound quality; however the sound for this gig sounded the best it had in a long time. (Maybe things are on the up.) 9/10

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Live & Dangerous 12: Y&T

Y&T (Cardiff Coal Exchange)

With doors opening at 7:30 and the band starting at 8:30 would Y&T be worth and hour wait? The answer is yes. Starting with On With The Show Y&T immediately got off to a rip-roaring start, and then smashed into the classic Black Tiger which got the diminutive crowd going. The band were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Earthshaker album so many of the tracks came from that album, which is no bad thing considering the quality of it. Dave Meniketti is both a fantastic singer and guitarist and does both brilliantly at the same time (watch and learn Dave Mustaine) the band mix rockers and ballads with metal and blues all of which the do brilliantly none more so than on the epic I Believe In You which shows of Meniketti's voice and guitar talent, this was followed by Hurricane, Summertime Girls and Rescue Me. Not all the credit can got to Meniketti as he is back by a fantastic band, drummer Mike Vanderhule is both speedy and powerful (and even gets a drum solo that wasn't boring), bassist Brad Lang holds the fort and is a great replacement for founder member Phil Kennemore who died earlier this year and John Nyman plays excellent rhythm guitar and also has quite a voice which he shows to full effect on the Kennemore penned Squeeze which serves as a fitting tribute to him. The venue also can't be counted out as the Coal Exchange has crystal clear sound that meant every single glorious note could be heard. The band finished with a new track I'm Coming Home before returning with an encore of Don't Stop Running and the awesome Maidenesque Forever. This was a fantastic gig in a brilliant venue definitely one of my top gigs this year. 10/10 

Reviews: Five Finger Death Punch, Touchstone, Magenta

Five Finger Death Punch: American Capitalist (Spinefarm)

FFDP are the epitome of 'modern metal' merging thrash, groove, metalcore and nu metal to create their brand of angry metal. The band are equally loved and derided in equal measure and while I don't 'love' them I enjoyed their last two albums (they are great in the gym.) This album is their third and it is a case of business as usual, the opening title track sets the tone with its heavy riffing, double kicking and both shouted and melodic vocals from frontman Ivan Moody. First single Under And Over It is admittedly a bit weak but following track The Pride makes up for this by being almost an angrier version of R.E.M's End Of The World As We Know It. The rest of the album is unfortunately very samey, the double kick drumming, precision riffing and aggressive but upbeat vocal passages are prominent throughout. This album does have more soloing than the last to albums which is a bonus but still the band do seem to be going through the motions. A band that seems to be more of live commodity than a recorded one FFDP just don't seem to have progressed since War Is The Answer, whether that is deliberate or not is up for debate. In conclusion this album is good, the playing is tight and professional, Kevin Churkos's production is meaty and modern and the songs fit well with the bands style, however the band do seem to have plateaued somewhat which will do them no favours with critics. 6/10   

Touchstone: The City Sleeps (SPV/Spinefarm)

Touchstone have managed to bring their female fronted prog rock around for a third album. However unlike other bands in the genre they have a harder almost metal edge that is mixed with very poppy sensibilities this is because the two vocalists Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham both have very strong but distinctly poppy voices. The band are all fantastic players Cottingham also handles the keys which create the main melodic basis of the songs, Adam Hodgson's guitar playing is fantastic especially on Good Boy Psycho. The album starts with a propulsive opener in Corridors which is followed by the first of two epic tracks called When Shadows Fall which is a sequel to the track Shadows on their debut album. Two shorter speedy numbers follow before in my opinion one of the best tracks on the album in Sleeping Giants which is a haunting ballad that is nearly all sung by Cottingham who was a little under used on the last album but regains his voice on this album, the track is fantastic and very emotional as is Horizons which again is sung mainly by Cottingham and has an early Genesis vibe to it albeit with a modern edge. Good Boy Psycho is a schizophrenic rocker that ends in the aforementioned guitar explosion. The new songs all have a distinctly metallic edge and also could fall into the melodic rock of Saga and Eden's Curse. The final and title track is probably the most powerful one as it continues the Wintercoast concept that started on their last Jeremy Irons Narrated album of the same name. This again features voice-over talent with Anna-Marie Wayne (daughter of Jeff Wayne the creator of the musical War Of The Worlds) doing the honours this time around. The band really goes hell for leather on this track and it pays off as this is probably the best on the album. All in all and excellent album from a band that should have more kudos than they do. 8/10

Magenta: The Collection (Tigermoth Records)

This is a free compilation from the Welsh female fronted progressive rock band. It comes with nine of their most well-known tracks from their last 4 albums. It is a promotional release to advertise the bands upcoming tour and having seen the band live this is one you should check out. The album itself starts with their most well-known song Speechless what follows are 9 well-crafted true progressive rock songs in the style of Genesis or Marillion and also the neo-prog of Pendragon. This is an excellent album for any fan of the genre. The cd is available from Spillers and can also be downloaded from their website. 7/10

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Reviews: The Answer, The Union, Reckless Love

The Answer: Revival (Spinefarm)

Northern Irish Blues/hard rockers The Answer return with their third and possibly best album. Starting with hard hitting opener Waste Your Tears we are immediately hit with the heavy rocking riff of this retro influenced band. Frontman Cormac Neesons voice is at its finest throughout with the band also on fire, the soloing is particularly excellent. Use Me is another speedy rocker that creates this opening salvo. The bands time on the road with AC/DC has served them well as the songs on this album feel more accomplished than their first but more fluid than on their last. First single Vida (I Want You) is a funky number that feels a little bit commercial as is Nowhere Freeway which features Lynn Jackman from Saint Jude dueting with the band. Honestly this could be a number one as it has a distinctly modern sound to it, Destroy Me has a Kashmir like sound with a crunching guitar riff that comes out of a Middle Eastern vibe and One More Revival brings the gospel influence to the album. This is an album of great tracks that really doesn't do anything new but who wants that when this is great as it is. The second disc features some demos and extra tracks out of these Piece By Piece, What I Am and their cover of Fire & Water are the tracks that stand out. The Answer are the leading band of their genre and on this album they prove it. 9/10

The Union: Siren Song (Payola Music)

The collaboration between former Thunder guitarist Luke Morley and Pete Shoulder continues with this second album. Their debut was blues rock masterpiece and was one of the best albums of the year, this album continues in that vein. Opener Siren Song starts with a countrified opening and then blasts the doors off and rocks like something BLS may have written. Blame It On Tupelo follows the rocking trend until Orion breaks the flow with a folky detour. This is then followed by the almost Glam-rock stomp of Obsession and the hymn-like ballad of Make Up Your Mind which shows just how soulful Shoulder's gritty and sonorous voice can be. The Remedy has a dirty slide riff that falls into another ballad of Cut The Line that is beautiful and works well after the rockier song before it. The album is brilliantly written with light and shade in every track. Morley and Shoulder's guitar playing is fantastic and Shoulder's voice is suited perfectly. After the demise of Thunder as a touring and recording prospect I thought I'd lost the book forever, however The Union is just another great passage in the history of rock and roll. 8/10

Reckless Love: Animal Attraction (Spinefarm)

Having released their first album last year Swede's Reckless Love have returned with their second album that is possibly even more 80's than their first. Like last time there is a very strong Van Halen element to the album with frontman Olli Herman both looking and sounding like 'Diamond Dave' and guitarist Pepe ripping out the double tapping like Eddie used to. However their sound has matured on this album, the opening and title track has a distinctive Def Leppard vibe to it and ballad Fantasy is straight out of the Bon Jovi songbook. This album maybe lumped with the parody metal of Steel Panther but Reckless Love are not a joke band they are just bringing the Booze, Babes and Bikinis of the Sunset Strip back to metal and in doing so they have created a well-produced and performed party rock album full of juicy hooks and some very tasty guitar playing, after listening to this album you'll be hungry for more (sorry for the puns). 7/10

Monday, 3 October 2011

Reviews: Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (Kscope)

Starting with a multi tracked vocal song in the title track and a heavy weight instrumental in Secritarian before the cascading Deform To Form A Star gives the first hint of his day job this could only be the new solo album from creative genius Steven Wilson. Every track on this album is different; it spans multiple genres and has Wilson's creative stamp over all of it. No Part Of Me is a techno infused romp that includes a horns section crescendo and is then followed by Postcard a touching piano led ballad that features a choir that dissolves into the next track Raider Prelude which is a haunting baroque style track that has a chamber music style. The final song on disc 1 (yes this is two discs) is Remainder The Black Dog which sounds like an early Porcupine Tree track and features the guitar talents of the legendary Steve Hackett of Genesis. The second disc has fewer tracks but they are of the same quality, opener Belle Du Jour is a restrained acoustic track with orchestral backing. Index is an industrial style track filled with a restrained menace. Track One follows and turns from its acoustic opening to a dark ominous coda and then into a Pink Floyd style guitar solo. Raider II was the track that was going to be the deal breaker for many people, described as a 23 minute jazz-funk track this was going to test even the most open of mind. The track starts slow and then builds into a flute topped rockier section about 3 minutes in the flute continues over the jazz influenced piano led middle part (the piano played by Jordan Rudress of Dream Theater). This leads into a guitar rundown and a blasting section showing Wilson's guitar talents before breaking into a jazz clarinet breakdown. This moves into an ethereal acoustic part that becomes almost folk-like before ending on a crushing guitar up-scale that also features some scat sax playing before ending in percussive crescendo and trails out with a bass led coda. The final track is Like The Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye and is a slow ballad with a stunning guitar part that ends the album well.

I realise this is a big review but there is really a lot to say, this album is fantastic and any fan of music should seek out this and its predecessor (as well as Wilson's other works with Blackfield and No Man). An excellent album from a gifted individual. 10/10

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Reviews: Mastodon, Evile, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa

Mastodon: The Hunter (Roadrunner)

After the prog-metal madness of last album Crack The Skye the metal madmen of Mastodon return with a more straight forward album that only has a semi concept. Smashing out of the blocks with Black Tongue and the catchy; almost commercial Curl Of The Burl. Both these songs feature the big riffing that Mastodon have made their name in. The next track Blasteroid is a punk rock song with odd time signatures that mixes things up a bit especially because it is followed by the heavy stoner riffing Stargasam. The band have created another heavy album where every track is different and the album is better for it. The vocals of Brent and Troy are brilliant as are drummer Brann who takes his first full lead vocal on the track The Creature Lives. The playing is stunning especially on All The Heavy Lifting and on the very trippy title track. Mastodon have come back from their prog flight of fancy with a very accomplished album that harks back to their roots but also sees them as the band they are now. Give it a few spins and you will unlock all of its treasures. 9/10


Evile: Five Serpents Teeth (Earache)

This is Evile's third album and their first since the tragic passing of bassist Mike Alexander. With debut Enter The Grave the band produced a retro thrash attack that was dumb fun, on second album Infected Nations they became more technical but a bit more inaccessible. On this third album the band have found their sound, which is a mix between the two previous albums. From the opening of  the first title track, you realise that the bands playing is far more accomplished than it used to be, frontman Matt Drake's voice has also matured and is now his roar pitched between Araya and Hetfield's. The soloing from his brother Ol is brilliant and lightning fast. Most of the songs range from speedy thrashers like Eternal Empire and chugging riffers like the very commercial sounding Cult. The band are not all heaviness however the tribute to Mike Alexander In Memoriam is an excellent ballad that serves as a fitting tribute to their former bassist (who also co-wrote the song). All in all this album is an excellent metal album that shows a young band who are going to go far. I for one can't wait to see them rip these songs up live. 8/10

Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa (Provogue)

Beth Hart is a female blues singer that is well known in the blues rock circles. Joe Bonamassa needs no introduction at all. These two great artists have teamed up for this album of blues and soul covers. Joe B specifically chose Hart to sing on this album and you can see why, her soulful gravelly vocals are perfect for hard drinking, hard loving songs that are covered on this album. Joe's vocal input is limited to just one track which is a duet between the two, but his expressive guitar playing is on every track bringing them a more modern edge. The rest of the band are Joe's solo band and they all play like the seasoned veterans they are. Like all of Joe's recent albums the production his helmed by Kevin Shirley who brings his fantastic plaudits to the album. The star however is Hart herself who is a stunning talent, vocally she is reminiscent of Amy Winehouse but is grittier, she steals this album and is a perfect vocal foil for Joe's guitar. An excellent album that is for blues and soul fans as well as fans of the two title musicians. 8/10