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Monday, 27 February 2012

Out Of the Beyond 17

Dragonlord: Rapture

Dragonlord is the symphonic black metal side-project featuring Eric Peterson (Testament), Steve Smyth (Forbidden) and Steve DiGigorio (Sadus/Death). Peterson's voice is excellent he squeals, shrieks and roars like Shagrath and his and Smyth's guitar playing show their thrash roots but added with the atmospheric keys they create a sound more akin to Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth etc. This is good album but one can't help that it could have been a better considering the talent involved. However fans of the members bands involved will probably like this album more than their second effort which is more straight-up black metal than this effort. 7/10

Burn Halo: S/T

Buckcherry. There I said it. Burn Halo (formed by James Hart of Eighteen Visions) sound like Buckcherry, sleazy hard rock with guts and a cocksure attitude. The album has 12 tracks of full power hard rock. Hart's voice is excellent and sounds a lot like Josh Todd. The album is a lot heavier than many of their peers and the tracks are well written and it has a real American metal sound. Many will think this is not for them because of the whole 18V link but this is quite far removed from Hart's former band providing more blues based rock but with a modern twist with tracks about, drinking, partying and chicks. 7/10

Viron: Ferrum Gravis

Viron hail from Germany and play thrashy power metal. Unlike fellow countrymen Helloween, they are not prone to over the top silliness and also despite having and early Blind Guardian sound there is not a sign of a wizard. They play songs about killing, corruption, death and Moto GP, the songs are heavy and melodic. The guitar playing is excellent especially on speedsters like Liberator, Isle Of Man and Metal Ball. Frontman Alexx Stahl has a good German metal voice and actually sounds a little like Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursch. It's not relentless metal bashing though the acoustic War and the progressive final track Sniper are good for showing that the band are not a one trick pony. This is well written, arranged and performed music by a talented young band. More please. 9/10

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Reviews: Unisonic, Fury, Mortad

Unisonic: Ignition EP (Frontiers)

When I heard the line-up of this band featured former Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske and former Pink Cream 69 bassist/producer extraordinaire Dennis Ward I became interested. The rest of the band was made up by competent session men until the arrival of former Helloween guitarist Kai Hansen sealed the deal. Hansen and Kiske have not performed together in a band since the classic Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II and this EP does live up to this great pedigree. This is a taster EP for the full album later in the year however after opening with the excellently melodic Unisonic which is classic Helloween (as well as being wholesale rip of Stormbringer by Deep Purple) Hansen weaves his six-string magic with second guitarist Mandy Meyer to great effect, Kiske is on top form especially on the opening track and it is brilliant to hear him singing this type of music again. The second track My Sanctuary is more of hard rocker but it is still a great track. The album is bolstered by Ward's impeccable production (even on the studio demo Souls Alive a prog-tinged metal track). The final track is a live version the Helloween classic I Want Out which is a real fan treat. I for one can't wait for the album. 8/10

Fury: Burn The Earth EP (Dawn Of Survival)

So the second EP from British metallers Fury has arrived and much like its predecessor (http://musipediaofmetal.blogspot.com/2011/05/reviews-whitesnake-fury-and-tews.html) it's a killer. Combining classic NWOBHM and Thrash the album has 4 excellently written and performed tracks by a band that should be huge if there was any justice. Starting with the very thrashy Burn The Earth before turning into the slightly more melodic and arena friendly Dangerous World which features some killer soloing. The album is expertly played by the honed band of drummer Alasdair Davis and bassist Martin Trail who provide a chunky bottom end and propulsive rhythm section. The twin guitar attack of Joel Peters and Julian Jenkins provides razor-sharp riffage and harmonized leads that have a very retro sound that simply adds to the overall classic sound album. Jenkins' vocals also should be given a mention as they are very unique for the genre as he really has his own sound. The epic In To The Dark has some progressive elements that are most welcome before album closes with the neck snapping Life Eternal which ends the album on huge high. Buy the EP, play, rock out it's as simple as that (You'll be supporting British metal as well.) 8/10

Mortad: Myth Of Purity (Free with Metal Hammer)

Mortad hail from Britain but their main selling point is their female Iranian vocalist Somi Arian who screams like a banshee throughout this album her vocals will be likened to Angela Gossow and they are similar however the band themselves to not peddle the same melo-death as Arch Enemy they are similar to Lamb Of God and Devildriver. They play groove based heavy metal; the album is full of blast-beat drumming from Joseph Perumal, thundering bass from Szymek Lawik and furious razor-sharp riffage from guitarist Jonathan Hughes. However they don't really do much else the album is very samey with only two tracks really standing out and both of these have a more SYL sound to them. The production is also a little weak considering it comes from Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir and Evile) with everything fighting for supremacy and nothing standing out. Not really a bad album but one that is stuck on autopilot. 6/10

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Out Of The Beyond 16

Enforcer: Diamonds & Into The Night

Into The Night

Enforcer are one of the genre leaders in what Metal Hammer have called the NWOTM (New Wave Of True Metal) and with their debut they kick off in style with a distinctly 'old school' sound in the song style right up to the production. These Swedes kick off with speed metal riffage coming from Adam Zaars and helium vocals from singer Olof Wikstrand. Highlights include Black AngelMistress Of The Night and the title track. All the hallmarks of Priest and Maiden are there with the main influences of Accept and Agent Steel being the most prevalent. A great debut album. 8/10

Diamonds

The Swedish trad-metallers second album introduces Joseph Tholl on second lead guitar which gives them the classic 'Double Axe Attack' sound. There is very little variation from their debut other than the quality of the song writing which increased tenfold. tracks like Midnight Vice, High Roller and Live For The Night all being much more accomplished than on their debut with many of them getting more melody and better lyrics moving away from just swords and sorcery. This is better album that puts Enforcer in the premier league of the trad-metal revival. 9/10

Tiles: Fly Paper

Tiles are an American band that sound like a famous Canadian band (And no it's not Nickelback) Tiles have much in common with Rush with their brand of intelligent progressive rock. Vocalist Paul Rarick is a dead ringer both physically and vocally for Dream Theater's James LaBrie, the rest of the band are all virtuosic with Mark Evans' drums favouring Peart's style and guitarist Chris Herin has flowing melodic playing with soaring solo's and bassist Jeff Whittle keeping the pulse and funk in check. The keys are provided by Herin, Matthew Parameter (of Discipline) and long-time Rush artist Hugh Syme (who also designed the cover). The album also features a guest solo from Alex Lifeson on the particularly progressive Sacred & Mundane making the link between the two stronger. This is an intelligent and well performed album from a band that despite being around since 1994 are constantly reinventing themselves with every album and this is their best yet. 8/10

Voodoo Johnson: 10,000 Horses & Black Powder Mother Loader

10,000 Horses

Voodoo Johnson are a rock band from Birmingham with classic and grunge influences taking as much from Zep and Free as they do Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. The band have an album of 11 tracks of hard hitting powerful rock that at times borders on metal, there are stoner, metal and post rock influences. The guitar playing is excellent and Kev Bayliss has a good voice that has an almost Cornell like range. The tracks are well played and written and come from a band that have supported many high-profile names. 7/10

Black Powder Mother Loader

Gone are the high vocals of Bayliss and in is the gruff vocals of Nik Taylor-Stoakes who also affects the way the band perform as this EP is far heavier than their album making them sound more akin to Black Label Society with heavier riffage and Taylor-Stoakes Wylde roar. The five tracks are again of high quality with final track Black Skies Mist featuring the guest guitar of Dimond Head's Brain Tatler yet you wouldn't notice because the standard is so high. I look forward to the full album! 7/10  

Reviews: Van Halen

Van Halen: A Different Kind Of Truth (Interscope)

The first Van Halen album in 14 years and the first with the (almost) classic line up since 1984's 1984. Yes that's right folks 'Diamond Dave' is back in the fold and as boorish, sleazy and cheeky as ever. Yes Mike Anthony is missing and this shows in the vocal harmonies and in some of the rhythm however this doesn't matter as this is really Eddie's show and his son Wolfgang, his brother Alex and even Roth take a back seat to his influential guitar heroics. The album is classic Van Halen in more ways than one, there's no keys, no (real) ballads and no B.S. Starting with the stupidly catchy Tattoo you can already hear that the magic is still there as even though the track sounds almost exactly like Jamie's Cryin' and the pre-chorus is the best part the "Tattoo, Tattoo" refrain sticks in your head for days and days after. The links to classic tracks also show in the percussion led China Town (Hot For Teacher) and the propulsive and punchy Bullethead. DLR gives his classic vocal performance that's somewhere between dirty lounge singer and crazy ringmaster and Eddie shreds (oh boy does he shred!) with the best performance being on the excellent Stay Frosty which starts as an acoustic country song before a titanic riff kicks in that is followed by face melting solo from EVH. Yes some will say some of the songs are adapted ones that existed from before VH's first album and the record is about 3 tracks too long but it's awesome to hear Van Halen return with Dave after all of the faffing around that has led up to this point. Is it worth a 14 year (or longer if you're a DLR fan) wait? Yes. Will it set the world on fire and see Van Halen return to active duty? Maybe. Is it the best Van Halen album since 1984? Quite possibly. Is it better than the (14 year in the making) Chinese Democracy? Oh dear god yes! 9/10

Monday, 6 February 2012

Out Of The Beyond 15

Voodoo Six: Falling Knives E.P

Released as a digital stopgap to tide fans over bassist (and Steve Harris' mate) Tommy Newton's Voodoo Six return with their first E.P Falling Knives. This is more of the same hard rock that was featured on the newly rejigged line up's last album Fluke? It contains three new tracks and three new version of tracks featured on their debut album First Hit For Free (also called Feed My Soul) which featured their previous vocalist who was good but still couldn’t hold a candle to the excellent soul drenched vocals of current frontman Luke Purdie who shows us his strong bluesy style on the title track. The other two tracks are also excellent with Sharp Sand sounding like the Foo Fighters and Stop which has a very funky bass line and the re-recorded tracks are also blinders especially when compared to the originals which while great are much improved with better production and performances from the band. A killer little E.P that keeps the band’s name in the loop. 7/10

Sebastian Bach: Kicking And Screaming

The former Skid Row frontman will be forever associated with his band until they reform but until then we will have to put up with his solo releases. When I say put up with however I don't mean to say that they are not worth listening to as they are and Kicking And Screaming is well worth your time and money. Unlike his last effort Angel Down this features no guest singers or musicians (other than John 5 on one track). This is an album of rocked up sleazy metal with a modern edge. It kicks off with the metallic riffage of the title track and doesn't let up until the obligatory ballad in the shape of I'm Alive before kicking off again. Bach is on top form and hasn't lost any of his vocal power; his band is great as well with Bobby Jarzombek crushing the drums and 20 year old Nick Sterling giving a great performance on all stringed instruments (Damn that boy can play). This is a great album from an old hat that has never slipped. One for fans of Velvet Revolver, G'N'R and hard rocking albums with a metal edge. 8/10


GPS: Window To The Soul

Formed when ASIA main man Geoff Downes was forming a new line up of the band with drummer Jay Schellen, bassist/vocalist John Payne and virtuoso English guitarist Guthrie Govan. However this ended when Downes went back to reform the classic line up of the band. The other three then formed their own band having already written the majority of an album. This band became GPS (made of their second names) and they teamed up with Ryo Okumoto of Spock's Beard on keys. The album itself is pure prog mixing classic and neo prog influences with added metal crunch from Govan's frankly stunning guitar playing interweaving with Okumoto's propulsive keys, both of which are teamed with Payne's soulful vocal delivery. Some maybe weary of the slightly religious nature of the lyrics however this is not a Christian rock band. It is however a brilliantly produced, excellently performed and melodically heavy album that is far more progressive than ASIA have ever been. 9/10

Hunted: Welcome The Dead

The Bay Area and Germany are two places most associated with thrash metal however The Hunted are from the metal haven of... Wales. The band play modern thrash metal with progressive influences and with Chris G's high pitched screech they sound a lot like Beyond Fear; Tim 'Ripper' Owens band after leaving Priest. His voice is very like the 'Ripper's' having the same shriek on the highs and growl on the mid-range. The band are technical and proficient but the song writing is there. However the band do suffer as many of the songs are a bit too generic and it's only when they spread their wings a bit on the progressive Aria (In Memoriam) and Shadows that they really show what they can do, on these tracks they have more of a Nevermore sound to them (which is funny because the band have their cover of The Heart Collector as a bonus track). The production suffers a little bit as well as the sound can be a bit 'muddy' at times but overall this is a competent modern progressive/thrash/trad metal debut; that shows where the band are going right and where they need to improve. 7/10 

Live & Dangerous: Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, Red Fang

Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, Red Fang: 02 Academy Bristol

Red Fang

Start time 7:30 and four bearded men hit the stage you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the headliners but no this is Red Fang who do a great job of warming up the crowd with their sludge laden, groove filled stoner metal. They are much like Mastodon in both sound and appearance and this succeeds in winning over the partisan crowd; expect big things from these heavyweight groovers. 8/10

Dillinger Escape Plan

I consider myself a man of wide taste however I had to admit that a lot of Dillinger's set was 'just noise' yes the band can play in fact they are tight as several virgin's naughty bits but the combination of unintelligible lyrics and a distinct lack of songs meant that they weren't enjoyable for me at all. They seem to be a band unable to decide who or what they want to be which renders them much like their namesake's escape plan totally futile. 3/10

Mastodon

With the disappointment out of the way it was time for the so-called 'main event' with the Atlanta four piece taking the stage to the new and crushing Dry Bone Valley before hitting another new song with Black Tongue to many other bands this would be suicide playing two new tracks in a row however it's a testament to how good The Hunter is. More familiar territory was next with Crystal Skull followed by I Am Ahab. These tracks built up the atmosphere getting heavier and faster until the early explosion of Colony Of Birchmen and Megaladon brought the pace up. The night ebbed and flowed all night with heavy doom laden dirge followed by pacey slabs of riffage that all worked excellently together, other highlights were Spectrelight, the sing along Curl Of The Burl the proggy Crack The Skye and the main set ending triple threat of Iron Tusk, March Of The Fire Ants and Blood And Thunder. The band was all on top form with the dual leads of Brent and Bill chugging brilliantly and the engine room of Troy and Brann keeping everything heavily ticking over. The vocals of all the men were excellent and even the sound in the venue was pretty good. The one downside would be the management of the venue, this was vastly oversold which while good for the band and the business in general it was quite dangerous in places with far too many people and not enough room in an already badly designed venue. Not that the people cared when the band returned for their one song encore of the stadium sized The Creature Lives (sung with a little help from Red Fang and the crowd) there was a massive ovation for the band who had been on top form all night. A band that would never get old to see excellent. 9/10  

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Reviews: Orange Goblin, Steelwing, The Parlour Mob

Orange Goblin: A Eulogy For The Damned (Candlelight)

British metallers Orange Goblin have returned with their first album since their career best Healing Through Fire and it continues in the vein that was set since the bands reinvention on Thieving From The House Of God. Long gone are the psychedelic overtones that were on their early releases, the Orange Goblin of today are a full steam riff machine spewing chugging stoner riffage and sludgy doom (The Fog) on every track on this album. With first track Red Tide Rising they immediately go for the jugular and proceed to bludgeon with every track. There is a brief rest bite with the hippy loving The Filthy & And The Few before more riffage courtesy of Jon Hoare and the unmistakable bark of Ben Ward. This is as good as their previous effort but doesn't surpass however still an excellent album for fans of the band and for those inclined to head busting metal! 8/10   

Steelwing: Zone Of Alienation (NoiseArt)

The 80's return in force with Steelwing's second album starting with instrumental 2097 A.D which sounds exactly like an Alan Silvestri score (Google him) and it kicks into the speed metal gallop of Solar Wind Riders unlike their last album which was well produced but seemed to be too much of a copy whereas now they are more of a modern homage. The lyrical content has changed as well with their last album Lords Of The Wasteland featuring speed and traditional metal tracks about post-apocalyptic and action films whereas Zone Of Alienation has more of a sci-fi theme. Nearly all of the tracks are galloping bass lines and helium vocals but they seem much more accomplished on this album than on their previous effort. One of the best tracks is Running Man (based on the ultra-violent 80's Arnie film of the same name) which has a real Maiden vibe to it and is followed by the equally Maidenesque instrumental They Came From The Skies which sounds surprisingly like Transylvania. It's not all super speed with the track Breathless which sounds like Journey (that's a good thing I promise). This is a great trad-metal album from a band that have become one of the genre leaders on this release. 8/10     


The Parlor Mob: Dogs (Roadrunner)

The second album from New Jersey rockers The Parlor Mob comes 3 years after their debut And You Were The Crow and takes their sound to the next level. There first album contained elements of Zep-like rock, mixed with funk, blues and more modern influences all tied together with a hefty dose of soul and Dogs continues on this theme but expands it to give them an almost 'definitive' sound. Starting off with How It's Gonna Be they immediately show how they have grown as a band as it starts off slow and acoustic before adding some psych touches and then rocking like a bastard with neat little guitar inflections giving them a sound akin to Wolfmother or even Zeppelin. Much of the Wolfmother link comes from Mark Melicia's voice which has elements of Andrew Stockdale, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Mr Plant himself, while also covering a hefty dose of Jack White. In fact this is most prevalent on the storming and funky White Stripes/Black Keys sound-alikes FallBack and Take What's Mine. It's not all toughness however the tenderness come from Practice In Patience, the country orientated I Want To See You and Slip Through My Hands. All of which add to an eclectic, rocking and straight up brilliant album from a band soon to be huge, (mark my words). 9/10

Out Of The Beyond 14

The Black Spiders: Sons Of The North

The Doncaster mentalists Black Spiders gained a reputation based on explosive live performances and their two E.P's. the majority of the songs from those E.P's appear on this debut album with barnstormers Stay DOwn and the very misogynistic Just Like A Woman. The album is chock full of ACCA DACCA riffage with a Lizzy swagger and the tongue in cheek silliness of KISS (who are name checked on the excellent KISS Tried To Kill Me) the album never dips in quality producing snotty punk anthems, swamping blues and balls out rock n roll. The album almost manages to capture the spirit of the bands live performance, almost. A cracker of an album from a band more serious than The Darkness but less so than most rock bands, they really seem as if they are enjoying themselves and this shows in the quality of the songs. Fucking brilliant! 9/10

The Parlor Mob: And You Were The Crow

The Parlor Mob's first album is a mixed bag of modern and classic flavoured hard rock with a distinct American feel, Mark Melicia's vocals are very 70's rock sounding being similar in sound to Jack White and Cedric Bixler-Zavala from the Mars Volta. Starting with the old school blues of Hard Times before hitting into the equally rocking Dead Wrong the and do slow as well with Everything You're Breathing For and the acoustic When I Was An Orphan before returning to familiar territory Real Hard Headed. This is a very accomplished album from a little known (outside of the UK) but excellent hard rock band. 8/10

Anna Calvi: S/T (Not strictly rock/metal but dark enough to be)

Anna Calvi is a guitarist and singer from Twickenham who has both a unique playing and singing style. Her guitar playing is technical and melodic and sweeps like an orchestra especially in the first track Rider To The Sea she adopts a circular style of playing which is augmented by the backing strings and Calvi's smoky and darkly atmospheric voice. This is romance mixed with sin and every track oozes seduction and glamour. The ambiguous nature of Suzanne And I and I'll Be Your Man both allude to this sinful world of lust and desire. Like I have said her voice is fantastic and her guitar playing is understated but devilishly complex. This is great album that’s a little too dark to be placed under the mainstream pop banner. 8/10