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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