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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Live & Dangerous: Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn The Gate Cardiff

Mostly Autumn are one of the best and (most authentically British) bands in the UK but they never seem to get the recognition they deserve. This was my first ever gig at The Gate and as most bands are only as good as the venue they play in and the people they play too Mostly Autumn were absolutely fantastic tonight mainly because of these reasons. The venue itself is a majestic setting for the bands folk influenced prog-rock, it's a big space with lots of room for the band to play (mainly because of its former life as a church) this also meant the acoustics were flawless and the sound was VERY LOUD! The band came on to the instrumental Distant Train which immediately drew in the crowd with bandleader Bryan Josh's soaring guitar solos at its forefront. This explosion of noise then moved into the opening track of the new album the haunting Unquiet Tears which starts out slow and develops into a symphonic monster. This was the first of many tracks from the new album with Drops Of The Sun, the rocky The Devil And The Orchestra and the extremely Rainbow/Deep Purple sounding King Of The Valley which featured a cracking organ solo from Iain Jennings. This brings me to the band themselves who were all on fire the drums rattled the, keys and electronics elevated every song. The guitar playing of Bryan Josh is the best it's ever been, and Olivia's vocals are so good, both majestic and understated, it’s like she has been there from the start. Like I have said the set was geared heavily towards great new album but they were mixed with classics like Passengers, the anthemic Heroes Never Die and the still emotional Evergreen which on par with Questioning Eyes are two of Olivia's best performances. It was also great to see early song The Last Climb featured in the set with a simmering solo flute spot from Anne-Marie Helder (who along with Liam Davidson are the unsung heroes of the group) before Bryan took over with another stunning guitar solo which he also did on new album set-piece Tennyson Mansion. The crowd do deserve a mention as although small they cheered as if they were double their number and when it came to the final song the awesome The Spirit Of Autumn Past the crowd were jubilantly chanting along and cheering the band. This was the best I had seen them, partly due to the band themselves but the importance of the venue cannot be understated. Fantastic 9/10

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Reviews: Devin Townsend Project

Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud & Epiclouder (InsideOut Records)

Epicloud

Epicloud is said to be both epic and loud and to be honest that doesn't even come close. Opening with he choral Effervescent! This segues into the electronic and pulsating True North which is insistent and repetitive until it breaks into the breakdown heavy middle section before coming back and setting the euphoric tone of the album. The album flows excellent with all the tracks linking together forming a complete whole. Lucky Animals follows next and is a massive hook-filled shout along which is in opposition to the next track which is the fast and thrashy Liberation. This is Devin on gloriously deranged form bringing together all of his previous DTP offerings on one disc with next track Where We Belong coming straight off the Ki album with its ambient and acoustic presentation which demonstrates the many layers there are to this album. With the band all matching Devin's fantastic musicality the album performance is fantastic and personally it is nice to hear the supremely gifted voice of Anneke Van Giersbergen making a comeback on the majority of tracks adding to multi-tracked vocals of Devin, the gospel choirs and gang vocals. Van Giersbergen's contribution is most noticeable the electronica based Save Our Now before everything is crushed in the metallic path of Kingdom (which has been re-recorded since its original debut on Physicist) and still maintains its original power. The love-song of Divine is just that and could be the most understated and beautiful song he has ever written, however the acoustic intro to Grace is just a diversion before the double kick drum explodes any of the sentimentality that has gathered with it's almost Strapping Young Lad heaviness Townsend mixing his classical croon and scream to great effect. This album is unrelenting with every track based imbued with a sense madness and extreme talent that have become Devin's trademark, many of the tracks also have Townsend's immense sense of fun. This is shown by More! which brings to mind the pop-metal of Addicted!! there is a small rest bite with the (almost) instrumental Lessons which is the opening to the anthemic Hold On which serves as the perfect penultimate track before the wall-of-sound chorus of final track Angel grabs you by the throat before the rest of the track builds into a suitably epic (and loud) finale leaving you both ecstatic and exhausted as the final note of the choir rings out. This is truly Devin's masterpiece bringing together everything that makes him one of most talented people in music. Simply awesome! 10/10

Epiclouder

This is the bonus disc of demos that come with the special edition and it features the tracks that were left off the album in demo style. These are not really demo’s per-se as they are just the songs as they were recorded without any post-production. The Ghost-like Believe is both stripped back and laidback full of brushed drums and gentle acoustic strumming. Before Anneke's voice hauntingly floats over the trip-hop/rock of Happy Birthday, the disconcerting rock-riffage of Quietus follows and gives the album a gothic vibe with Van Giersbergen's vocals prominent on this as well before it (mental) breaks down into an off-kilter horror film pastiche. This album too features 'The Project' all playing their hearts out and even without all of the post-production of the main album. If anything this album is more varied than its big brother as the country-blues of Heatwave (which is about the joys of rain ironically) shows. The pulsing Love Tonight is one of the weaker tracks due to the fact that it is quite generic Devin but this idea is wiped away by the jazzy almost tribal weirdness The Mind Wasp which starts out slow and gains a lot of noise at its end, from here things get heavier with Woah No! which is a Strapping song under a different banner. Love And Marriage is a fighting couple set to music with a stunning guitar solo in the middle. It’s the middle-eastern opening and influence on album set-piece Socialization that makes its schizophrenic blitzkrieg assault even better; it also features another face-melting solo and drifts off into a piano lounge piece. This is all capped off by the simple acoustical jam of Little Pig which is as stripped down as Devin will ever get and is full of country bonhomie that leaves you with a smile on your face (and brings to mind Outside The Wall the final track on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.) This again is another fantastic offering and is better than a lot of other artists main albums considering it is full of songs that are just demos (albeit very accomplished demos) this is Devin showing that he even has gold in his closet and this album is as strong and more varied in presentation as Epicloud but it is let down by one or two ‘safe’ tracks. 9/10 

Both these albums need to be purchased and listened to from top to bottom to truly appreciate how good they are. Together they are one of the best volumes of music released this year, individually they are still both exceptional pieces of music well worth the time of any rock/metal lover.
  
   

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Reviews: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Down, Steve Harris

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Last Of A Dyin' Breed (Roadrunner)

In a career that has always been overshadowed by the plane crash in 1977, it nice to think that Skynyrd have finally come to terms with their legacy on this record. They are truly the last of a dying breed that have influenced every southern rock band that have come after them. This album differs from its predecessor God And Guns as that album was much heavier in its presentation (as is the way when any band that sign to Roadrunner) this one however is far more classic Skynyrd, and this change is for the better because Skynryd are bridging the gap between rock, blues and country adding everything in between from the slide based title track to the country picking finale of Start Livin' Life Again. There is a lot of boogie in the rockers and the guitar playing of Rossington, Medlocke and Cartellone is superb (as usual) as is Johnny Van Zant's gruff vocals. The band don't stick rigidly to the blues/country rock formula as Homegrown and Ready To Fly both have elements of 80's rock (also Rossington's solo material) and the very modern southern sound of Life's Twisted can be attributed to the co-writer credit from Black Stone Cherry's Jon Lawhon and Chris Robertson. Even the four bonus tracks are very good and add to the overall album rather than being just secondary add-ons. The production of Bob Marlette is superb also and brings a warm southern texture to the album. This is Skynyrd doing what they do best and if they do happen to be the last of their breed then they are going out fighting. 8/10 

Down: Down IV - The Purple E.P (Roadrunner)

So the kings of NOLA return with their fourth album and unlike their first three which were dogged by long gaps in between them (mainly due to the members other projects) this album however will be split into four E.P's with this one Purple being the first. From the slow, long intro to the opening tracks Levitation which builds up into a storming stoner metal showcase and is followed by the occult voodoo of Witchtripper which cuts through the haze with its heavy mysticism. It's from here that the concept of this album is revealed and that is the part of Down that worships at the altar of Sabbath with Open Coffin and The Curse Is A Lie both bringing the dirge and doom riffage with rampant changes of pace that are both exciting and disconcerting in the same breath. Both Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein keep the riffage loose and flowing but also very focussed and straightforward, with Jimmy Bower dictating the pace and new bassist Patrick Bruders adding his bewitching pulse to the proceedings the instrumentation is top-notch. All this is topped by Phillip's unmistakeably aggressive and powerful vocal delivery. As I have said before this album is the first of four and is mainly built upon Down's doom influence, what the others will hold is anyone's guess but I'm sure all four together will become Down's greatest work yet. 8/10 

Steve Harris: British Lion (EMI)

Steve Harris, the brainchild of British metal legends Iron Maiden, has been quietly working on this solo effort since the 1990's and it is his first foray away from the Maiden mothership. I assumed that the album would be different from Harris' day job and more akin to his influences. How wrong I was, with only the Thin Lizzy-esque Eyes Of The Young and Us Against The World which has both UFO and Maiden influences, the rest of the album is full of Alt-Rock tracks that feature 'Arry's distinctive bass sound over some very good guitar playing. However there are problems, one are the songs which despite being reasonably good, they are not Harris at the top of his game. Another is the production which is all over the place with the volume and clarity of tracks changing throughout the course of the record. The final and perhaps biggest problem is that the vocals of Richard Taylor, they are very poor; he has a scratchy, strained vocal delivery that ruins an awful lot of the tracks. This is a shame as I was looking forward to seeing what Steve Harris would do outside Maiden and I was expecting much more than this poor mid-nineties rock pastiche. Sorry Steve I love you but this is not good. 5/10 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Live & Dangerous: Onslaught, Desecration, Lifer and Bull Riff Stampede

Onslaught, Desecration, Lifer and Bull Riff Stampede Bogiez Cardiff 20/09/12

I missed Bull Riff Stampede so I'm sorry to them for that but I am reliably informed that they were very good so excellent.

Lifer

Are a thrash/doom band from South Wales that play heavy dirty metal that mixes head ripping thrash and chugging breakdown filled doom/stoner metal. The band were heavy and powerful with some great riffs and powerful drumming. The only thing that reduced this bands power was the vocals which were a little lost in the mix meaning that the band were not as confrontational as they think they would usually be. 6/10

Desecration

Welsh death-metal destroyers Desecration proceeded to wipe away any sound problems with their extremely heavy brand of death metal. They were a cacophony of Obituary style light-speed riffage and barked vocals with some very technical soloing. The band got a huge ovation from the crowd after every song and with good reason because they were very good at what they do and tonight they proved they can bring the death metal noise. 8/10

Onslaught

From just over the water Bristol based thrashers Onslaught were on the first date of the ‘Full Force’ tour meaning that they were going to play all of their seminal 1985 album The Force (which was vocalist Sy Keeler’s debut) The band started with a few modern tracks like Born Of War and The Sound Of Violence before playing all of the previously mentioned album which features classic tracks like Metal Forces, Fight With The Beast and Demoniac this was a fantastic retro run through of a classic thrash album which got a lot the crowd air-guitaring and moshing like mad. However a lot of the crowd did seem to thin out after Desecration which was a shame as Onslaught were on top form throughout and played a blinding set with Keeler on top vocal form and the guitars of Andy-Rosser Davies and Nige Rockett were excellent as were Mike Hourian’s drums (who had already played with Desecration) and Jeff William’s bass. The band ended with a few more classics like Thermonuclear Devastation and Onslaught (Power From Hell) leaving the crowd on massive high. The band were excellent and the set was almost flawless a brilliant showing from one of British thrash’s best bands. 8/10    

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Reviews: Fear Factory, Rival Sons, Stealing Axion

Fear Factory: The Industrialist (AFM)

Fear Factory have returned with yet another brutal slice of cyber metal, and the keyword is brutal, this futuristic concept album is hard, heavy and extremely violent. Things kick off with the machinegun pace of the title track which sees the robotic riffage of Dino Cazares brings waves of guitars spiralling out of control; this is matched by the vocal aggression of Burton C Bell who brings his dry howl and his hollow croon to all of the tracks. It's these two men that are the sound of Fear Factory and because of this they are the only two that appear on the album. All of the instrumentation handled by Cazares (the drums are programmed) and Bell has all of the vocals, whether multi-tracked or not. However it maybe because there is almost no outside interference (despite the keys and programming being handled by producer Rhys Fulber) that this is the purest sounding Fear Factory album in recent memory. Tracks like the title trackthe very electronic God Eater and the propulsive New Messiah (which is an anthem in a similar vein to Lynchpin) show that Fear Factory are back on the top of their game bulldozing all those that step in the way with their inhuman metallic rampage. 8/10

Rival Sons: Head Down (Earache)

LA retro-rockers Rival Sons have become one of the saviours of blues-based proper rock 'n' roll this is their third album and second on a major label. The band expand their sound on this album while still keeping their classic Jim Morrison fronting Zeppelin sound. Breaking out with first single Keep On Swinging which is radio friendly riffage and is followed by the fuzzed up Wild Animal this is the start of a trend on an album that weaves between fizzy blues-rockers like You Want To (which has a jazz middle section), funked up soul rumpshakers All The Way and tender acoustic ballads like closer True. This is not a record of individual tracks this is a listening experience with every track having resonance in the confines of the record. Scott Holiday plays his heart out wringing all the emotion he can out of his guitar, while Robin Everhart and Michael Miley anchor with funk-fuelled bass and crashing drums respectively. The whole thing is brought together by Jay Buchanan's varied vocal range equally adept at soulful crooning and whiskey soaked wailing. This is a fantastic album which has some truly great tracks on it with the Zeppelin-like three-piece of Nava and Manifest Destiny Part 1 &2 which brings the album to a fantastic close. This is a groovy, funked up rock album that brings together the sound of the late sixties and early seventies but it is also a thoroughly modern rock album. 9/10

Stealing Axion: Moments (InsideOut Music)

So another Djent band arrives and yet again they are a mixture of polyrhythmic technical playing, harsh vocals and some very technical chops. So what I hear you ask sets Stealing Axion apart from bands such as Periphery, Textures, Monuments and the other 100 or so bands in this genre. Well the answer to that is melody, the band have a keen ear for melody and instrumental texture meaning that it is not the explosion of noise that other bands bring. There is a lot of Devin Townsend on this album with 47 Days Later and opener Mirage Of Hope being the two most significant examples, there are also elements of Meshuggah and rightly so. The band have a triple guitar and vocal attack with the three core members supplying off-kilter riffage and harmonic solos as well as providing the screams, grunts and clean passages over the intensely technical music that shifts in tone so much that it never really gets stale. The fantastic Evertide is one of the albums set pieces and is at the core of Stealing Axion’s sound. The production of Tesseract's Acle Kahney is crisp, clean and means that Stealing Axion have a very similar sound to the British band albeit with more of a varied sound. This is a progressive metal album that straddles the Djent genre and in my book that is better than the other way round. 8/10 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Live & Dangerous: Firewind and Leaves Eyes

Firewind and Leaves Eyes, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

I'll be honest I missed most of Leaves Eyes and as I arrived I'm glad I did as the last three songs were enough to let me get an idea of their sound live, there was a lot of orchestral backing tapes, thrashy riffage, gruff male vocals and warbling female vocals from front woman Liv Kristine. The band are well trained but not very exciting coming across as a budget Nightwish rather than a big concern, not my cup of tea I'm afraid. 5/10

So this was the band I had come to see however by the looks of the crowd they had other ideas as many left after Leaves Eyes leaving the headliners with a much smaller crowd, however as the first chords of Wall Of Sound hit the 100 or so that remained were head banging along. The band focussed a lot on their last three albums much like they had done at Donnington with newest disc Few Against Many bringing the majority of the set, with tracks like Head Up High, Few Against Many, World On Fire, Losing My MindMercenary Man (which still sounds like a Gary Moore song) and Glorious the band ran through a hit filled set complied from the most recent discs with the occasional classic like Destination Forever, Insanity and I Am The Anger thrown in for good measure. The band as usual were stunning with band leader Gus G playing his heart out with every note, make no mistake Firewind is his band so it is quite right that his guitar playing would take center stage, however he humbly lets the equally talented keyboardist/guitarist Bob Katsionis take some solos before having a duel in the instrumental The Fire And The Fury. This meant that vocalist Apollo, whose voice improves throughout after shaky start, is given the job of head cheerleader leading the crowd in cheers and sing-alongs. The main set finishes with Tyranny then after a short break they return for the encore and bring with them Liv from Leaves Eyes, after a rendition of the rarely played Breaking The Silence (on which Apollo drowns out his co-vocalist) the band finish with the Apollo-era classic Falling To Pieces leaving the crowd on a high. A great set from a great band, however I would like to note one thing, Firewind had not played Cardiff since 2006 meaning that this should have been packed, as it was there less than 100 people by the end of their set. If fans want the bands to play Cardiff then they should make an effort to turn up. It's only by buying the tickets that theses band know what the demand is so if you want to see them make sure you go. For those of us that did we were treated to a night of sublime power metal. 9/10 
  

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Reviews: Halestorm, Astral Doors, Docker's Guild

Halestorm: The Strange Case Of... (Roadrunner)

This Pennsylvania foursome return with their second full length with front woman/guitarist Lzzy Hale and her brother Arejay again leading the band in radio-friendly American rock. The most noticeable thing about this album is that the song writing has increased tenfold since the debut. The songs sound really big swagger and full of juicy hooks, mountain top soloing from guitarist Joe Hottinger and with the lyrics giving a huge feminist punch to the throat due to Lzzy's transformation into a snarling femme fatale. It's with the opening two tracks that the stall is set, the punky Love Bites (So Do I) and the very metallic Mz. Hyde both show of the bands chops and Lzzy's great vocals. The band have a sound similar to tour mates Shinedown and also there is a lot of Sixx: A.M present (who's James Michael appears on bonus track Private Parts) The album is mainstream American rock with an ear for radio, this is best seen on I Miss The Misery with its "Whoa" refrain and the "Na Na's" of Daughters Of Darkness.  The production is handled by veteran American metal producer Howard Benson who has worked with Bon Jovi, Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson (who is an obvious reference point in the ballad Beautiful With You) among many others. The only fault I can find is one that appears on many albums of this type and that there is maybe one too many ballads but most of the album is a prime slice of American arena metal and will propel Halestorm to stardom! 8/10

Astral Doors: Jerusalem (Metalville)

Astral Doors have always been a band with critical acclaim mainly because their vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson who does sound remarkably like the late great Ronnie James Dio albeit with a slightly lower register. This is also prevalent on this album but the songs are more akin to Dio's Rainbow years than his solo work. With big powerful tracks full of rocking guitars, muscular keys and Johansson's powerful vocal performance the album is perfect for fans of classic metal with tracks like Child Of Rock N Roll, Babylon Rise, Operation Freedom and the epic title track  meaning that the album rarely drops in pace. The album is somewhat generic but that just adds to its charm. Albums like this are not made as frequently anymore and Astral Doors are definitely one of the best at doing it. This album is not big nor is it clever but it is very fun. 7/10

Docker's Guild: The Mystic Technocracy - Season 1: The Age Of Ignorance (Lion Music)

If I asked you who comes to mind when I say progressive metal/rock album with a heavy sci-fi concept? Well no this isn't the new album from Arjen A Lucassen but from keyboardist Douglas Docker. Named after a Babylon 5 episode this album is separated into 15 'episodes' and revolves around the concept of religion and its supposed alien origins. Docker is backed by a great band consisting of former DLR drummer Greg Bissonette and English guitar wizard Guthrie Govan. He also has a star studded vocal line-up with John Payne kicking things off as the voice of the alien creators, Docker himself handles one tracks vocals admirably, before Goran Edman (Ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) provides the voice of history, Tony Mills (from Norwegian Hard Rockers TNT) brings the voice of humanity and Amanda Somerville as a love interest dueting on the final track Black Swans. All the vocalists add their distinctive tonsils, meaning that this album flows excellently and never gets boring, it also adds to the cinematic nature of the album. The music is very keyboard heavy so it has an AOR sound to many of the tracks but with Guthrie guitars adding some crunch a few drift into more metallic territory. The heavy title track, the bouncy Darwin's Tears, rocker Judeo-Christian Cosmogony and David Bowie cover Loving The Alien are great tracks that stand out, but not by much as the album is fantastic and anyone who loves Mr Lucassen's work (like I do) will get huge pleasure out of this album (much like I did) 9/10

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Reviews: Mostly Autumn, Tracer

Mostly Autumn: The Ghost Moon Orchestra (Mostly Autumn Records)

Any band that can get away with the lyric "Weeks disappear like five pound notes" has to have an intrinsically British and Mostly Autumn are. This is there second release of their new era with front woman Olivia Sparnenn and like with nearly all MA releases it blends Floydian 70's prog-rock with folk. Bookended by the haunting Unquiet Tears and the tribal chant of Top Of The World  both of which explode into classic rock crescendo with Top Of The World ending into a solo that Gilmour himself couldn't have played better. The propulsive Drops Of Sun (featuring the aforementioned lyric) is Bryan Josh’s first time to show off his half-whispered anguished vocal over a big rock backing and features MA's trademark shift in tempo before the countrified The Devil And The Orchestra and is followed by the majestic and haunting title track. This album has more of the folk influence than Go Well Diamond Heart but it has always been something that Mostly Autumn have excelled at with Kings Of The Valley having the sound of prime Jethro Tull. The band are all on top form as usual with Iain Jennings keys playing a huge role and Sparnenn’s vocals are ethereal beautiful working in conjunction with Josh's harmonic guitar playing which is shown at is best on Tennyson Mansion. This is a great album and another excellent addition to Mostly Autumn's history. 8/10

Tracer: LA? (Cool Green Records)

This is the re-release of the Australian band's debut mini- album. Michael Brown, Leigh Brown and Andre Wise set about unleashing a grunge/stoner rock attack that is also steeped in 70's bravado. The Cornell-esque vocals of Michael Brown bring the grunge edge to his heavy melodic riffage, his brother provides a great bass rhythm and everything is anchored by Wise's drumming. The propulsive End Of The Samurai opens the album with explosive power and the rest of the album follows in similar style mixing some crunchy grunge licks with some high powered blues based classic rock. This is a great starting point for the band and it sets up their full length brilliantly. 7/10 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Out Of The Beyond 22

Sikth: Death Of A Dead Day

One of the most pioneering bands ever to come out of the UK Sikth released two full length albums and several E.P's. This is their final full length (so far) and it encompasses everything that set Sikth apart from every other metal band. Almost singlehandedly inventing the current Djent scene Sikth have an almost indescribable sound that fuses metal, hardcore with extreme technical flourishes and the schizophrenic vocals of Mikee James and Justin Hill who scream, shout and holler as hard as they can melding the brutality with poetry and political rallying. The album flows very well meaning that it is hard to pick out individual tracks as the album weaves in and out of explosive blasts of noise mainly Way Beyond The Fond Old River interspersed with poignant mid-paced rockers In This Light all of which feature some very intelligent and politicalised lyrics. This album is the pinnacle of the bands career and shows that a band this influential and damn good British metal band. 9/10 

Sacred Mother Tongue: The Ruin Of Man

This Northampton 4-piece released this, their debut album in 2009 and it is a triumph of modern metal, the drumming of Lee Newell is machine-gun throughout, the bass of Josh Gurner shakes bones and the guitar playing of Andy James is brilliant effortlessly pairing rock hard modern metal riffage with stonking solos. James himself is also one of Britain’s foremost guitar tutors appearing on many of the Lick Library DVD's as well as releasing his own instrumental solo albums. James’s licks are even more fantastic when teamed up with the powerhouse rhythm section which set a great pace and tone. The key though lays in Darrin South's amazing vocals moving effortlessly from black metal screaming, to metalcore grunts and finally he has a great croon all of which blends together for a seamless vocal performance that can be seen at its best on Two Thousand Eight Hundred. The band mix metalcore/modern metal breakdowns and riffage with some classic thrash heaps of melody and a lot of sterling guitar work from James. This is a band that could be absolutely huge and with a bit more refining and after touring since 2009 their next release will be monumental. As it stands this is better than most. 8/10  


ShatterPoint: Memoirs Of A Maker

Shatterpoint are a groove/southern metal band from Kent and they play heavy blues metal in the style of Clutch or Down, adding a mix of Pig Iron and Viking Skull, especially in the vocal department. The album is full of beefy riffage from guitarist Mark Graham who has a heavyweight tone and some flight fingered solos. The rhythm section is also notable as they provide a heavy back beat with pounding drums and some rippling basslines. The vocals of Ed Stone are smoky and perfect for this style of music. They kick things off with the ballsy Devil Of The Moment and the rest of the album continues in this locked in booze and blues style with Dance In The Dirt, the technical Hecate's Lake, the aptly named Heavy Days and the Clutch-like Trainwreck are some of the best tracks on this album as is the finale Falling Away which has more than a hint of Alter Bridge about it. It is well produced and better still very well written and performed for a band that are still in their infancy. This is a great album for fans of any of the bands mentioned previously it's not world changing but they do this particular type of blues metal very well. 7/10

P.S I am aware that all of these bands begin with S but I will avoid S bands next time (I promise
!)

Reviews: The Darkness, Threshold

The Darkness: Hot Cakes (Pias Recordings)

So Lowestofts' purveyors of 'Man Rock' return with the original line-up and have released an album that will erase all memories of the fractious One Way Ticket... and for the most part it does. Kicking things of in big glam style with the very sexy Every Inch Of You which has a slow build up before bursting into life after the "Suck My Cock!" refrain. This is followed by the very punky Nothing Gonna Stop Us which has more than a hint of Thin Lizzy to it. This is prime Darkness mixing the sounds of the early 70's into one great big bowl of fun, the aforementioned Lizzy is mixed with, T-Rex, Mott the Hoople (who's Ian Hunter appears on bonus track Cannonball) and everything is injected with a big dose of silliness. The band sound revitalised after their hiatus and they are firing all cylinders, the guitars rock, the bass funks, the drums crash and Hawkins' voice is still at its high pitched best. The tracks are mixed between big, brash, ballsy rockers and mountain top ballads, like the Celtic-influenced Living Each Day Blind. The oddest track selection is a cover of Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out) which sounds like an early Iron Maiden song! (seriously). It's a very difficult to know whether The Darkness will ever be able to follow up Permission To Land but they have definitely returned with a bang. 7/10

Threshold: March Of Progress (Nuclear Blast)

Britain’s premier progressive metal band return with their first album since Andrew 'Mac' McDermott left the band in 2007 (McDermott passed away in 2011.) The man who replaced him was another former Threshold vocalist Damian Wilson who is well known as one of the UK's best singers. This album both looks backwards and also moves the band forward. There are the twin guitars of founder Karl Groom and Pete Morten which chug, strum and speed the album along at a great pace. Both men's playing is superb but it's Groom's solos that really shine (most notable is on the majestic Liberty Complacency Dependency which is inspiring and uplifting). This is not to mention the fantastic interplay between the guitars and Richard West's keyboards which add an extra layer of melody and power to all of the riffs. Both the drums and bass are also fantastic with Wilson's vocals soaring on top of this cacophony of sound showing just how wide his range is. Many of the tracks are noticeably shorter than on previous efforts, Rubicon is the only track that clocks in at over 10 minutes. There is power and intensity in every track with many having almost a European style to them in the way the guitars and keys work together and then others are big powerful, complex melodic metal that the band have always done very well. The production of Groom and West is also crisp and as modern as you would expect. This is a crowning achievement in Thresholds history, yes many will say it is more lightweight Dead Reckoning but this suits Wilson's higher register and it harks back to Thresholds past whereas tracks like the industrial sounding Divinity beckon towards a brighter future. Welcome back guys. 9/10