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Friday, 30 September 2011

Live & Dangerous 11: Sylosis, Malefice, Anterior, Chapters

Sylosis, Malefice, Anteior, Chapters (CF10 Cardiff University)

Chapters

Having arrived for the end of Chapters set I only saw a few songs but from what I saw they were a generic four-piece death/thrash band. They seemed accomplished and ready for bigger things but really they were nothing that special. 6/10

Anterior

Despite having a bias towards Anterior because of my nationality, they are also a great band that plays melodic death metal that is filled with face melting solos. When the supported Sylosis earlier in the year they wiped the floor with them. This time they were equally as anthemic and entertaining but due to the other bands that were coming they seemed a little undersold. Still they played a relatively short set that had the home town crowd moving and air guitaring along. 8/10

Malefice

A band that always inspires pits due to their heavy crushing riffs and furious breakdowns Malefice were quite rightly second to the headliners. They opened with their chugging groove riffage that continued throughout their set. The playing was heavy and fierce and Dale Butler's screams were guttural, the breakdowns were neck snapping and the faster passages and solos on the newer songs got whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The band finished with the title track of their latest album Awaken The Tides which ended the set on a high and made the crowd ready for the headliners. 8/10

Sylosis

When I first saw Sylosis they seemed to be a band finding their feet with their new line up. After the loss of their singer lead guitarist Josh Middleton stepped up to plate and on the newest album did a fantastic job. Only now has this translated into the live arena, his vocals and lead playing are brilliant, as are the rest of the band. Their new thrash mixed with metalcore and death metal works very well, the band are still a little static on stage but due to the technical nature of the riffage that can be overlooked. Sylosis got the crowd really moving continuing the pits that Malefice started and even ending on a Wall Of Death. The final tracks of Conclusion Of An Age and Empyreal ended what was a very good set from a superb band. 9/10

Final thoughts: This gig shows what talent there really is in Britain, all of the bands were from the UK and all hopefully will become much bigger than they are now. This was a fantastic gig and a triumph of British metal.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Out Of The Beyond 9

Blood Ceremony: S/T

This occultist doom/metal band hail from Canada. They are your typical Rise Above records fodder, the songs concentrate on Witchcraft and mysticism. Satan and the party God Pan feature heavily. The band have a set of nine heavy rocking songs drenched in organ and flute both of which are played by front woman Alia O'Brien, who also provides the suitably moody and bewitching vocals that have more than a passing resemblance to Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. The tracks are all heavy/jazzy/folky and psychedelic in their own way. Fans of Rise Above bands and this kind of 70's style Doom rock will enjoy this retro throwback of an album. 8/10

Protest The Hero: Fortress

This album is the bands second and I think is their best album. Each track is a cacophony of noise and speed that is mixed with the great vocals of Rody Walker. The band were a Mathcore band but on this album they have stepped up their game and released a schizoid progressive metal album, that’s sounds like what would happen if Dragonforce gave the swords and sorcery a rest. (DF Keyboardist Vadim plays a keyboard solo on one track in an interesting link). The band could well now be linked with the djent scene but they are so much more and are intentionally very hard to classify. Cracking album that will be like Marmite to most people. 8/10

Exit Ten: Remember The Day

Another band that are more than how they look on paper. They seem to be another scene band that will only be liked by kids and those with fringes. However Exit Ten are a band that bring searing technicality and merge it with pop sensibilities. The band reminds me of InMe and their debut is a great prog rock album that is truly progressive as they are a rock band that tries to push the boundaries of their sound. The vocals are great as is the playing. One warning though this album is very hard to find as problems with the production company meant that it was withdrawn just after release. If you can find it however you will be surprised by what you find. 9/10


Blood Ceremony: http://youtu.be/W3QWZl5vWCw
Protest the Hero: http://youtu.be/32Q4x112dAU
Exit Ten: http://youtu.be/XEUkkO6FDBE

Friday, 23 September 2011

Reviews: Opeth, Arch/Matheos, White Wizzard

Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner)

Prog metal masters Opeth have been threatening to make this album since Blackwater Park the band have been slowly adding more 70's style prog rock flourishes to their work with every album. Watershed featured less of the guttural roaring from Akerfeldt and now Heritage has got rid of it completely. They have also toned down on the metal and become a 'rock' band. That isn't to say this album isn't heavy. It is but in a different way to its predecessors. The album starts and ends with two acoustic instrumentals that frame the album perfectly. The first proper song is Devils Orchard which is a very retro sounding organ drenched progressive track that sets the tone nicely. The following 8 tracks are songs that would be more at home on a King Crimson or a Camel album. The only thing that links them to the Opeth of old is Akerfeldt's undeniably powerful and resonant voice. Second track I Feel The Dark starts off as a slow acoustic number and then the guitars after about 3 minutes and crush everything that came before. Next track Slither is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and as such has a very definite Rainbow-like sound with Akerfeldt doing his best Ritchie Blackmore impression this leads into the dramatic and haunting Nepenthe which features a jarring piano opening backed by a jazz shuffle that turns into a song that sounds very similar to Porcupine Tree. In fact the whole album has a very Porcupine Tree sound. The bonus tracks of Pyre and Face In The Snow are also excellent the one a jazzy number with an excellent classical guitar solo and the other a doom laden and emotional ballad. This is truly a finely crafted album from an excellent band, it will split opinion but the faithful will see it for the masterpiece it is. 10/10    

Arch/Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade)

John Arch and Jim Matheos were the two founder members of the flagship progressive metal band Fates Warning. Arch left soon after their first few albums but Matheos is still the leading creative force behind the band. So because of the history between these two this album was going to be special, and it lives up to the expectation. Although only featuring 6 tracks they are all over 5minutes long with three clocking in at over 10 minutes long. All of the tracks have the emotional and intricate playing of Matheos who is on fire throughout, Arch's LaBrielike voice (or should that be LaBrie's Archlike voice, because of the chronology) soars above the heavy riffing with fantastic emotion and power. Admittedly this album does sound a lot like Fates Warning, but that isn't a bad thing, so if you are not a fan of that band then you will not like this album (there I said it) if however you like well written, played and produced progressive metal then this is an album I suggest you purchase. 9/10

White Wizzard: Flying Tigers (Earache)

This is White Wizzard's second full length album; it was recorded with second vocalist Wyatt Anderson before he left recently. The album is also has an expansion in sound, the band's core is still a new take on NWOBHM but they have now included a distinct Sunset Strip sound of bands like Skid Row and Motley Crue. The first 6 tracks are speedy metal tracks Night Train To Tokyo having a distinctly sleaze style. The main bulk of the album though is a concept that revolves around aliens as the beginnings of humanity; these tracks are very well formed and have some prog tinged elements similar to Maiden's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Founder John Leon handles not only the bass but also the lead and rhythm guitar on this album, all of his playing is good and Anderson's vocals are very overwrought and soaring, but he can also do the sleaze style grit. A great album but even with the new expansion in sound this is still a very formulaic but enjoyable album. 7/10   
 

Live & Dangerous 10: Panic Room, David R. Black, Sarah Dixon

Panic Room, David R. Black & Sarah Dixon (Globe Cardiff)

Despite problems with Globe causing confusion a fair few packed into he newly refurbished (and air conditioned) Globe to see Progressive Rock group Panic Room. The band are all former members of the band Karnataka and singer Anne-Marie Helder is both a solo artist and member of Mostly Autumn (as is Drummer Gavin Griffiths).

Sarah Dixon

As this young woman walked on stage with just a single acoustic guitar I started to panic, was this going to be introspective mushy love songs? Well in a word yes but they were well written and her expressive voice sang them very well. Her playing however was not great but as she explained the other guitarist that usually backs her could not be there so she was doing well on her own. Despite being obviously nervous she managed to play a small set of good songs that would have benefited from extra musicality. 7/10

David R. Black

Despite having a heavier and more alternative feel than the other bands David R. Black are name that maybe some have not heard of, despite almost relentless touring and recording since the 1990's the band still remain elusive. However from what I saw this is a shame as they are strong, intricate players with well-crafted songs with playing as heavy as lead. Frontman David R is a cheeky Mancunian who exposes his virtues on stage and plays in the same cocksure and aggressive manner, drummer Pai smashes the drums relentlessly and bassist Sarit Black casts a spellbinding and attitude filled figure on the other side of the stage. The band play Pixies like alternative rock with some added progressive leanings especially on the newer tracks. A great live band and one that everyone should see. 8/10

Panic Room

As Panic Room arrive they do so to a cheer and immediately kick off with a new song called Song For Tomorrow which was a brave and well received move. The band a visibly excited especially new(ish) bassist Yatim Halimi who bounds around the small stage with furious energy. The band play through well-known songs Freedom To Breathe and Picking Up Knives before they slow the pace with the introspective and emotional The Fall. The action picked up again with Reborn and then was followed by one of Anne Marie Helder's solo songs called Exodus which has been given new life by the band. Another new track Promises followed Yasuni. The track was signalling the end of the gig the band had played fantastically all night Edwards' keys worked brilliantly with Davies' technical guitar playing, they were backed by the driving rhythm section of Griffiths and Halimi and Helder's voice was stunning throughout (her guitar playing wasn't bad either). They went into their funked up cover of Bitches Crystal by ELP which led into the heavy rocking Dark Star and the epic Satellite which is possibly one of the best songs the band have ever made, and has an absolutely killer solo. The band then left and came back for their encore of Sandstorms and band introductions (complete with the bassist doing a lap around the audience). The gig ended on a high note with everyone clearly enjoying it. I have seen a few band prog bands but Panic Room are one of the best they play with a fire that isn't present with Anne Marie and Gavin's other job in Mostly Autumn. Simply superb. 9/10

Friday, 16 September 2011

Live & Dangerous 9: Wheatus, MC Frontalot, Math The Band, City Stereo

I know, I know. The name conjures up images of the early 2000's and films with Jason Biggs but hear me out. It was a gig that a few friends (and readers) were going to so I tagged along, and you know what I'm glad I did.

I arrived too late to see City Stereo but from what I heard they were generic pop-punk and really not my thing but no score because you can't judge a band on two songs.

So onto the next support:

Math The Band
These are a two piece electronic band with garage influences (Think a sped up White Stripes that play Nintendo a little too much) Guitarist and singer Kevin Steinhauser shouted and slashed at his guitar for all he was worth but star of the show was electronic and drum player Justine Mainville, who's terrifyingly bug-eyed performance was both professional and at times a little scary. Any band that opens with an Andrew W.K song is pitching its tent and for Math The Band the tent stayed up for the entire set. Every song was a schizophrenic whirlwind of noise with added blips and bleeps to spice things up. A great band to get the crowd warmed up and one I would see again given the chance. 8/10

MC Frontalot

When the next act is named MC Frontalot I started to itch slightly. Was I going to be subjected to some god awful Hip-Hop? No I wasn't because MC Frontalot is a New York based self-proclaimed 'Nerdcore' rapper, he is a nerdy bald white man who raps about final video game bosses, Goth chicks and movie spoilers, and that is right up my street. He was very good at what he did but from a technical perspective the sound on his voice could have been clearer (considering this was the 'lead instrument'). Other than that a very enjoyable show. 8/10

Wheatus

One of the bands of my teenage years, Wheatus were huge when I was first watching MTV (when they still showed music). Everyone knows 'that song' but they have managed to survive for 10 years, and are still making albums in a D.I.Y fashion. Starting with Leroy the band kicked off a crowd friendly set. The band were in a jovial mood throughout and looked as if they were really enjoying themselves. Frontman Brendan B. Brown was funny, charming and gave a great frontman performance. The band backed him ably with kudos to bassist Matt Milligan who despite being the youngest member of the band is an utter professional. The crowd called for the songs they wanted to hear and the band complied (although we never did get that cover of Wonderwall) what we did get was their cover of My Name Is Jonas which was a way of paying back Weezer for their cover of ...Dirtbag at the summer festivals. As the penultimate song rolled by the band realised they only had 12 minutes to finish the set, and you could feel that neither the audience nor the band wanted to, but finish they had to and did so in spectacular style playing Teenage Dirtbag to a rapturous reception. Was I two minds? Yes. Am I glad I went? Yes. Would I go again? Well, yes I think I would. 8/10 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Reviews: Dream The Electric Sleep, Amon Amarth, Nero

Dream The Electric Sleep: Lost And Gone Forever (Self Release)

DTES are prog rock power trio that come from Kentucky. This is their first release is a concept album that is based on a young couple in a mining town. So far so ordinary I hear you cry, well not so because DTES draw from a plethora of influences and are equal parts Floyd, Muse, U2 and in some places Radiohead. The songs span long run times and are a kaleidoscope of textures drawing light and shade in every song. Second song Coal Dust And Shadows moves from a U2 riff into a soaring Pink Floyd solo, the songs continue in this vein throughout the album with everyone being different. Where DTES also break the mould is that they are giving the album away 100% free. That's 14 tracks on an album that clocks in at over an hour of constantly great music, surely that is a deal that any classic, prog or any rock fan can't turn down. Stunning 9/10
Link for the album: http://www.noisetrade.com/dtes

Amon Amarth: Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)

I realise that this album was released in March but I have only just bought it so here's my review. Continuing their theme of Viking trad metal Amon Amarth return with their newest album Surtur Rising is again lyrically based on Norse mythology. Johan Hegg again leads the proceedings with his guttural roars and shouts, the rest of the band play very well the guitars are tight and the soloing is melodic. The real star though is drummer Fredrik Andersson whose blast beating is stunning throughout the album. In terms of style they don't move away from the style of their previous albums which is death metal with power metal influences. Opening track War Of The Gods sets the tone perfectly with speedy riffing and great soloing. The Last Stand Of Frej is a doom laden slow burning monster that's full of atmosphere, a fantastic track that is out of the norm (and also gives Andersson a break from the blast beats). Surtur Rising is a good album that doesn't do anything different but it's done very well. 7/10

Nero: Welcome Reality (MTA)

I realise that this is primarily a rock and metal blog but the emergence of Dub step has been linked with such metal friendly acts as The Prodigy and Pendulum. Nero are signed to Chase and Status' record label. This debut album features the already released singles Me & You, Innocence, Guilty and Promises. So it is up to the rest of the tracks to hold people's attention, they do this admirably, opener Doomsday and closer Departure bookend the album brilliantly as they are very orchestral pieces filled with the pulsing bass lines dub step is known for. The main vocals on the album come from Alana Watson whose voice is perfectly suited to the heavy and melodic music. The album shares many similarities with rock and metal and even feature synth created guitar effects. Three of the tracks are remixes of songs by The Jets, Hall & Oats and Carmen. The tracks are all linked together giving the album an almost concept feel throughout. For fans of dub step and electronica this is great, but fans of rock and metal are also going to enjoy this as well (I promise). 8/10

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Reviews: Dream Theater, Stuka Squadron, Rise To Remain & Neonfly

Dream Theater: A Dramatic Turn Of Events (Roadrunner)

The mighty Dream Theater arrive with their latest album and their third since moving to Roadrunner. My personal opinion of those albums is the same as that of many bands that move to Roadrunner, they seem to want a specific Roadrunner sound. On Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds & Silver Linings Dream Theater were trying to reach for an aggression and heaviness they were not used to. On this album that is not the case, there is still the orchestral and epic arrangements that have featured on their later albums but this album is definitely focussed on DT's past. What this change has to do with the exit of Mike Portnoy is anyone's guess but Mike Mangini fills the stool admirably, the rest of the band are as usual completely flawless, (and no matter what anyone says James LaBrie has one of the best voices in music). Starting with the first single which is definitely drawn straight from the Pull Me Under era. Second track Build Me Up, Break Me Down has a techno styled backbeat, which is also present on the epic and eastern influenced Outcry. These small new instrumental flourishes add a new dimension to the DT sound. The relatively short track This Is The Life is a tender ballad that breaks up the album and makes way for the two 11 minute plus songs that follow it. A Dramatic Turn Of Events is a new chapter for the legendary US Prog-metal band, but it is one that looks back over former glories. Simply great stuff 8/10
 
Stuka Squadron: Tales Of The Ost (Iron Crown Records)

What would happen if Iron Maiden only sang about the occult and Nazi's. The answer is simple, they would be Stuka Squadron. All the band have joke names with Von, Herr and Vampire references featuring prominently and the band itself being named after a WWII German fighter plane. You would expect them to be from Germany but this is a band of plucky Brits that have their tongues wedged in their cheeks. They do however take their music seriously using NWOBHM as inspiration and adding some doomy elements that make them sound more akin to a latter day Grand Magus. Opening with the album's title track that's sounds very similar to 2 Minutes To Midnight, they immediately show their statement of intent. All the tracks are well written and also well played, with frontman Duke Fang Begley's being a highlight. The tracks are split by small spoken word interludes that set the atmosphere of a WWII horror film, the songs themselves are fairly long all clocking in over 5 minutes, whether you think this is good or bad is up to personal taste. All in all this is a well-conceived and well executed retro styled metal album. Truly a blood sucking treat. 8/10

Rise To Remain: City Of Vultures (EMI)

Rise To Remain could have had an easy ride since starting their career in 2008. Frontman Austin is Bruce Dickinson's (Iron Maiden) son. They could have traded on his name and ridden the coat tails of his father's success. They haven't done this, despite a few opening shows with Maiden. What they have done is trade on the success of some other bands. Rise To Remain are at their heart a Metalcore band, they have the screamed and clean vocals and the melodic choruses built on heavy riffing. Austin's vocals are great, he can scream, growl, roar  but also crucially, sing cleanly. His clean vocals have more than a touch of Matt Tuck from BFMV to them. The band back his voice admirably, their riffing is concise and technically brilliant and the soloing is strong and reminiscent of Maiden it also moves them away from the rest of the Metalcore pack. A great album to pick up if this type of music is your bag, but be weary if not because despite the flawless execution, they are not doing anything new. 7/10

Neonfly: Outshine the Sun (Rising Records)

Neonfly are Power Metal band from the UK that play upbeat melodic metal. They have a metallic base but build on it with stadium size choruses in  the style of Helloween and other European contemporaries. The vocals of Willy Norton are very expansive and band founder Fredrick Thunder's guitar harmonizing with second guitarist Patrick Harrington is fantastic. The band have already toured with Pagan's Mind and fellow Brits Power Quest meaning that they have great live experience, this shows on their album which is very professional. The album is made up of speedy, powerful tracks full of great soloing and subtle keyboards. The only thing I would say is that the production is a bit flat which is barely noticeable (and only really affects the drum sound) over the quality of the songwriting. A very enjoyable debut from a home-grown band. 8/10

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Out Of The Beyond 8

Powerage Records

I'm going to be focussing on all the releases from one record company. Powerage records was set up by Classic Rock magazine to showcase talent they thought were not getting the right reaction in the UK. They intern started their own label and signed the bands to it. I'm going to do short reviews of all their bands with the exception of The Treatment, who I have already reviewed and who are now on Spinefarm.

Lethargy: Purification

Thus band come from Wales and play Alice In Chains style grunge metal with some Zeppelin flourishes. The band however are not a one dimensional and lethargic as their name suggests, they incorporate some crushingly heavy riffs that they blend seamlessly with melody and instrumental prowess. With vocals coming from both their guitarists and their bassist, they weave and interesting web of understated musicality that sits alongside their riff driven rock. A great band if you like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Zeppelin. 8/10

Viking Skull: Doom, Gloom, Heartache & Whiskey

A band that have been around forever and who have always been a superb live attraction, Viking Skull have never been that lucky with recorded output. It is a mishmash of companies and quality throughout their career. Formed from the ashes of Raging Speedhorn, Viking Skull play, alcohol fuelled biker rock. They are a band that share similarities with regular tour buddy’s Orange Goblin along with Clutch, Motorhead and Monster Magnet. Frontman and founder member Roddy Stone has a great whiskey soaked roar and the playing throughout is dirty, fuzzy but professional. A great one to check out even if the title does give more than a little away. 8/10

EndeverafteR: Kiss Or Kill

The first band to hail from the USA EndeverafteR are young men you have a love of big hair, woman and partying. They also want to sound like Motley Crue. Admittedly Motley Crue with a better singer. The band play sleazy hard rock with a metallic sheen. Singer and lead guitarist Michael Grant is both a great singer and a great guitarist. The band have had great success; Their single I Wanna Be Your Man went to #25 on the Billboard Chart (Which is no mean feat) they have also supported some big time acts in the USA and with more spotlight they could do the same here. EndeverafteR have some big chops that need to be realised. 7/10

Pride Tiger: The Lucky Ones

This band hail from Canada and probably have a house filled with vintage vinyl. They play retro rock that comes straight out of the 70's. Many of the songs are gloriously retro and the twin guitar attack is reminiscent of Thin Lizzy in their glory days. The band consists of former members of True Metal wackos 3 Inches Of Blood, yet none of that power metal is visible here. This is just 70's hard rock for the new millennium that said a little bit of change can do a band better. 7/10

New Device: Takin' Over

What do you get if you have Guns N Roses play with Metallica riffs while Patrick Stump form Fall Out Boy sings over the top? Well the answer is not an abomination but New Device and trust me the description is much better than it sounds. Equal parts heaviness and melody, New Device pack a whole album of Stadium Rock into their debut album, however many of the songs have a metal crunch that raise them above the standard 80's fare. The band I would compare them to most would be Skid Row who were too metal for good looking fans but too good for Poison fans (sorry Poison fans). The album is filled with high quality songwritting and features some of the best riffing and soloing by a young band in a long time, (Plus In The Fading Light is possibly one of the best power ballads I have heard since the heady 80's). A great party band that are more than just a throwback. 9/10

Electric Mary: Down To The Bone

Electric Mary have a few styles in their sound but mainly they are influenced by the Zeppelin, Hendrix and AC/DC, style hard rock. The band have a truly retro sound and are obviously very proud of it. The guitars are twin channelled with one in the right ear and the other in the left. This gives the entire album an old school feel. The songwriting is good if a little generic at times, but for a great hard rocking stoner riffing band Electric Mary are a good bet. 8/10

Hell City Glamours: S/T

Hell City Glamours hail from Australia and have a Stonesy, punky vibe. They bring to mind Hanoi Rocks or The New York Dolls. They sound raw and full of energy which probably leads to a great stage show. As an album this is patchy but has a spiky, bluesy joyfulness throughout. 7/10

Bigelf: Reissues

Powerage took it upon themselves to reissue all of Bigelf’s albums. The band are a complex collection of, Zeppelin, Purple, and The Beatles. They encompass all brands of rock and roll from heavy metal, doom, and psych to glam, folk and some pop. They are truly a band that sums up progressive and a breath of fresh air to anyone who will hears them. Debut E.P Closer To Doom 7/10 shows the beginnings of this rock monster, it's blues based hard rock with lashings of Hammond Organ and Mellotron (like Thin Lizzy on LSD) hint to where the band would go later. Second album Hex 8/10 is refined and professional and adds more psych elements in the vein of early Pink Floyd. The album is by far their darkest and has a lot of almost doomy and Goth overtones. Third album Money Machine 8/10 is their turnaround album, on this album they have mastered their craft and flex their musical muscle, they start to write more elaborate and longer songs that give them room to extend their musical repertoire. This all leads to their latest album Cheat The Gallows 10/10 this is a musical tour-de-force that the band have been threatening to write. The tracks are equal parts rock, metal and prog, there are the obligatory long songs, final track Counting Sheep is over 11 minutes. All of the tracks are superbly written and blend all of their influences seamlessly, with frontman Damon Fox taking the role of a twisted organ wielding ringleader throughout the album. Any fan of rock or metal will find something they can enjoy on any of these albums. Definitely ones to watch.

Pearl: Little Immaculate White Fox

Pearl or Pearl Aday to give her, her full name. Has been around the rock world since she was a child, as the backing vocalist for Motley Crue, daughter of Musical Man Mountain Meat Loaf and wife of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian she has travelled the world gaining experience for her first solo release. Despite all of these different careers Pearl (the band)'s album is grounded in soul flavoured blues rock. With her husband taking rhythm guitar she leads her band through 10 original tracks and one cover. Her smoky, emotion filled vocals have a hint of Janis Joplin and the songs themselves are Stonsey and rocking. The cover is Nutbush City Limits which she treats with respect but also turns up to 11. Definitely a dead ringer for rock (sorry) 8/10

Nonpoint: Miracle

Originally lumped with the burgeoning Nu-Metal crowd Nonpoint have rapid fire vocals and brushing riffs. Abandoning these rap inspired parts the band now have a more groove orientated vibe in the vein of Pantera. Lead vocalist Elias Soriano has an Ansemlo style bark (the band even cover 5 Minutes Alone and managed to do it justice). The riffs are heavy with a distinctly southern vibe and the soloing is professional but not particularly inspiring. A well-executed but not particularly different post millennium American Metal album. 7/10

Million Dollar Reload: Anthems Of Degeneration

A band that has been on the live circuit for many years, they have three versions of their debut album but this release is their best quality version. They come from Ireland but they have a familiar sound mainly that of Australia's finest AC/DC but also that of Rose Tattoo and some Accept thrown in for good measure. Frontman Phil Conalane sounds uncannily like Bon Scott and the band play sleaze drenched rock and roll that focuses on girls, drinking and sin. Million Dollar Reload have a great mix of swagger and grit and they know exactly what to do with it. Great stuff! 9/10

Voodoo Six: Fluke?

With links to Iron Maiden Voodoo Six released their first album to great kudos. Tours with Maiden and other world beating bands followed but when they lost their original vocalist and record deal they disappeared. However with Fluke? they have come back to prove that their first album wasn't that. With new vocalist Luke Purdie the band are decidedly more bluesy than they were before but with strong songwriting from founder member and bassist Tony Newton they have a new found power. The songs are powerful, emotional and in places heavy. Good album from a band with a new lease of life. 8/10     
 

        

Friday, 2 September 2011

Reviews: Edguy, Anterior, Skull Fist

Edguy: Age Of The Joker (Nuclear Blast)

Since their 2006 album Rocket Ride Edguy have been adapting their sound so it is stepping away from the Power Metal of their early releases. With frontman Tobias Sammet sharing his time with Operatic Metal solo project Avantasia, Edguy have become more of a Melodic Metal band than they were. So with new release Age Of The Joker Edguy have cemented their new sound after the patchy last album Tinnitus Sanctus. Starting with the 8 minute epic Robin Hood which melds hard rock and classic power metal effortlessly using great riffing, powerful organs and choral vocals and is full of Sammet's trademark double-entendres. (Reference to the titular hero's 'Little John' is particularly good) The next track Nobody's Hero is a PM stormer and is followed by the epic Rock Of Cashel and the countrified Pandora's Box that has an almost Bon Jovi sound. One of my favourites is the track Breathe which has a high tempo and a great Keyboard lick provided by producer and ivory tinkler extraordinaire Miro. This album is definitely better than Tinnitus Sanctus and mixes Edguy's past and present very well, showing elements of PM and Classic Rock and then sprinkling it with Sammet's trademark voice and with Two Out Of Seven springs to mind. If I had one complaint it would be that some of the songs are not immediate, but with time they become gems. A cracker of an album albeit one that takes a few listens. 9/10

Anterior: Echoes Of The Fallen (Metal Blade)

Anterior are a Welsh Melodic Death Metal band that play in the vein of Children Of Bodom, Arch Enemy and early In Flames. It is very guitar led with Leon Kemp and Steve Nixon playing fantastic dual harmonies and searing soloing from both throughout. Luke Davies' voice is also fantastic but unfortunately it is a bit lower in the mix than it was on their debut, this detracts somewhat from the overall sound of the album but it is still a very good album. However it is a little generic as a lot of the bands in this genre are but again this is through no fault of the band themselves. Starting out with the atmospheric opener To Live Not Remain that manages to encompass both instrumental prowess and crushing heaviness. The tracks following this are speedy thrash filled with some fantastic guitar playing on all of them. The best track by far is The Evangelist which is a head on guitar fuelled assault that is preceded by a very fantastic instrumental that gives the album its name. These two tracks are comparable to Anterior trying to write their version of The Hellion/Electric Eye they are the standouts of an album that is generic but also entertaining. On the other hand the mix of this album lets it down somewhat. Enjoyable but with a small technical issue. 8/10    

Skull Fist: Head Of The Pack (NoiseArt)

Making a big noise while rocketing out of Canada at 100mph Skull Fist are the latest band to have taken the NWOBHM as their grounding. This album is chock full of galloping riffage, helium vocals and delicious fret wankery. Frontman Jackie Slaughter has vocals that are stratospheric they're so high and the guitar interplay between him and Johnny Exciter is straight out of the Priest playbook. This band however have more in common with the NWOBHM also-rans of Raven, Tokyo Blade (who's Attack Attack is covered here) and Angel Witch. This is OTT metal that has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, songs such as Get Fisted, Commit To Rock and No False Metal mean that the band cannot be taken that seriously but it also means that this album is great fun to listen too. The riffs are super tight, the solos are inspiring and numerous and the overall package is of a band loving what they do and saluting metals heritage. Skull Fist have managed to produce a cure for the Po-faced 'serious' metal bands that are out there. Truly young, dumb and full of...NWOBHM. 9/10