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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Reviews: Heaven's Basement, The Union, Free Fall

Heaven's Basement: Filthy Empire (RedBull Records)

The band formally known as Hurricane party and Roadstar, Heaven's Basement have been plying their trade since 2008 with original Roadstar members Ritchie Hevanz on vocals and Sid Glover on guitar. Hevanz stuck around for one EP and then left the band and was replaced by current vocalist Aaron Buchanan. This is the band’s debut album (Second EP Unbreakable was released in 2011) and it is myriad of influences all of which come together to form a hard rocking, hook filled, hard hitting album full of attitude. The lead influences are Guns N Roses, Buckcherry and even some Thunder mixed with punk snottiness and some crunchy modern metal riffage, see I Am Electric. Lead single Fire, Fire is dripping with foul language and brings to mind the short lived Stone Gods, Glover's guitars are awesome with some very Slash-like solos and riffs which work well with the chunky rhythms of Rob Ellershaw and Chris Rivers. Buchanan's voice is great equally melodic and raw with the band providing some big chanting backing vocals, and also Glover giving a dual lead vocal on Nothing Left To Loose. This is an album full of big arena anthems much like the freight train riffage of album ender Executioner's Day with the bluesy Thunder style of Lights Out In London and Jump Back. The band can also do stripped back which they do excellently on the acoustic, piano leaden The Price That We Pay which is a beautiful break in the all-out rocking. It's these big crowd pleasing tracks that will see Heaven's Basement on the same upward career trajectory as Brit boys done good The Treatment. It looks like that my opinion of them at Hammerfest was wrong, Heaven's Basement might just be one of the new breed of great British rock bands. 8/10

The Union: The World Is Yours (Payola Records)

The Union's third album is one that balances light and shade, by having big, ballsy rockers and some more reserved bluesy acoustic songs. The album is bookended by the instrumental Sawtooth Mountain Rise Pt.1 & 2 the first proper track is the big blues rock swagger of You're My Jesus which merges into the jangly, pop sound of Tonight I'm Alive and then the slow burning acoustic, country of Fading Out Of Love which is the first real showcase for Pete Shoulder's fantastically soulful voice. This tends to be the theme of the album with the big rock tracks, most of which have a real Zep sound to them with Luke Morley providing some very Jimmy Page style guitar passages with Shoulder providing guitar as well as some huge Hammond Organ on the slower bluesier tracks. This album could be seen as The Union having a go at recreating Physical Graffiti with lots of acoustic blues, full of with gospel and swampy country influences (see Marie Celeste) mingling with some very heavy rock tracks in the Kashmir-like title track and the almost glam stomp of Perfect Crime. This is The Union finding their own voice by merging the laid back acoustics of Shoulder's former project Winterville with the heavy rocking of Morley's on-again-off-again band Thunder. This is a great album and one that shows The Union are both men's major concern rather than just a side-project, this am album that can only be fully realised after numerous listens. 8/10

Free Fall: Power & Volume (Nuclear Blast)

Sweden is a strange country musically, the bands do tend to either be from the Gothenburg scene of melodic death metal or they tend to be from the riffed up retro scene. Free Fall are from this school of retro rock. Formed by former The Soundtrack Of Our Lives guitarist Mattias Barjed Free Fall are a four-piece garage style face punching rock band full of dirty riffs and an aggressive swagger brought by too much booze and too many women. Things kick off with pulsating drumming and angular riffage of the title track which sounds like early Zeppelin mixed with the Stooges attitude. The whole album in fact draws you to the bands obvious influences with Free Fall having that classic The Who sound (complete with some Ox style fleet fingered bass playing from Jan Martens, who has a real gift for the four strings). The band really have gripped on to the late-60's early 70's style of hard rock with Barjed bringing the clean melodic guitar stabs, on top of some powerhouse time-keeping from drummer Ludwig Dahlberg as well as the fractured, rough as hell vocals from singer Kim Frannson who is a ringer for Bon Scott as well as Cormac Neeson from Irish-Zeppelin The Answer. With a sound that brings to mind AC/DC on World Domination, early Zep and as well as spilling into psychadelia of Attila and Free Fall are ready to compete with Graveyard, The Answer and the other retro styled riffers already plying their trade. Free Fall however are set on a very strong path because of the animalistic, rough and ready strength of their song writing, this is a very exciting and very, very good record. 9/10


The View From The Back Of The Room: Grand Magus

Grand Magus & Primitai, Bogiez Cardiff

Sweden's premier trad metal trio Grand Magus again return to Cardiff to bring the noise to Bogiez. They brought with them speed/thrashers Primitai and instrumental stoners Thorun. I missed Thorun however I arrived just in time for Primitai's first song.

Primitai

I last saw classic/speed metallers Primitai supporting Triaxis and I was blown away, however this time I was left feeling a little bit deflated. Primitai are still a great live act with some furious guitars, and the tough gruff vocals of frontman Guy. However this time he was struggling through a cold so despite his stalking of the crowd he couldn't really hit the notes on this night. The set list was a bit of a strange one with tracks coming from In The Line Of Fire and Through The Gates Of Hell but the band started the set with a new song which was strange because the new album is nowhere near finished so playing a song that no-one knows first was a little bit odd (it would have been better placed in the middle of the set with other new song Scream When You See Us) both of the songs were good but they stopped some of the bands momentum. This was still a strong showing from Primitai and they probably felt they could move away from their go to set list after playing the same venue only a few months ago. Still a good set from a band that were trying to show off their progress as musicians. 7/10

Grand Magus

So the Swedish metal machine returned to destroy Bogiez. They drew an impressive crowd and the crowd were rewarded with a set full of heavy metal heaven. Unlike a lot of their most recent sets they drew songs from four of their albums with both Kingslayer and the doomy Wolf's Return both given an airing, the majority came from newest album The Hunt with Sword Of The Ocean and the propulsive Valhalla Rising being the best live cuts. The newly grizzled J.B was booming in his vocals and full of technical ferocity in his guitar playing. Bassist Fox was also great providing the rhythms and shouts with new drummer Ludwig Witt given time to show off with a thankfully short drum solo. This was a great set for me as it featured some of my favourite tracks from Iron Will with Silver Into Steel, Like The Oar That Strikes The Water and the title track that finished the main set with serious power. The Magus set was full of their strong, powerful, classic metal sound and it got the crowd shouting along to every track with the final encore of Hammer Of The North giving everyone a chance to 'woah' at the top of their Welsh voices and made everyone elated. Grand Magus are one of the most consistently brilliant bands on the live circuit, you could watch them every week and never get bored, prime top quality metal from the Swedes. 9/10

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: UFO

UFO & 4Bitten, Coal Exchange Cardiff

Into the bowels of the magnificent Coal Exchange for a night of classic Hard rock from a band that have always been quoted as Iron Maiden's main influence and have maintained a stable line up for nearly 40 years with only the guitarists changing. This was a gig I was looking forward to as I have never seen UFO live before. The same cannot be said for the 300 person plus crowd (which looked small in the huge room) who were all UFO fanatics, which also meant I was the youngest person in the crowd!

So onto the show itself

4Bitten

Hailing from Greece 4Bitten have completely bypassed me and I'm a bit annoyed that they have. The band play riff heavy, hard rock with a metallic sheen and are led by the Zakk Wylde like guitars of George M and the powerful vocals of Fofi Roussos. The songs were tight, heavy and melodic with all of the band playing with professionalism. The band were equally adept to heavy rockers and soaring radio friendly ballads which meant to me they sounded a lot like American band Hydrogyn which is not a bad thing. They were a tight, professional meat and potatoes rock band that were a good opener for the intensely partisan crowd. Someone to just kick off proceedings without stealing the spotlight. 7/10

UFO

As the band walked on stage the excitement was building and then the opening chords of Lights Out hit and the very vocal crowd erupted. The band looked on form with special mention to frontman Phil Mogg who still has a fantastic voice, delivers it with real power and conviction. Next was Mother Mary and then two from Seven Deadly, the bands newest album (and the reason for this tour) which slot in well with the classic material. The drumming of the co-founder member Andy Parker was excellent, as were the keys and rhythm guitars of co-founder member Paul Raymond both of whom have been doing this too long to mess anything up and know how to keep the band chugging along. The contribution from new boy bassist Lars Lehmann was also great he has the skills and also the slightly dangerous edge of erstwhile former bassist Pete Way. Most of the praise can go to guitarist Vinnie Moore who despite the criticism levelled at him (mainly because he's not Schenker or Paul Chapman) is a simply fantastic guitarist putting his own spin on every solo and maintaining all of the classic riffs. Back to the set which was filled with some hilarious banter from Mogg who stylised himself as a man uncle. The band went back to the classics with Cherry and Let It Roll before returning to Seven Deadly. With all of the newer material out of the way it was classics until the end with the sing-along Only You Can Rock Me, the proggy Love To Love which showed off Moore's guitar abilities at their best, the set ended with Too Hot To Handle and Rock Bottom which still has a killer riff to this day and broke out into a great guitar showcase instrumental before the song returned and ended the set and elicited huge cheers. A quick note about the sound which started out a little muddy but then returned to the almost perfect mix that the Coal Exchange has become synonymous with. For the encore again it was classics with their (possibly) best known song Doctor Doctor which was followed by Shoot Shoot and got the crowd jumping. This was a great set from a band that have lasted in the music business this long and are still at the top of their game showing that class is forever. 9/10
   

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Out Of The Beyond 24

I AM I: Event Horizon (ZeeTeePee Records)

When ZP Threat left Dragonforce to peruse his own career many wondered what he would do next, many were expecting prime cheese ridden power metal. Threats voice is still unmistakable and recognisable from the opening track This My Life which features mid-paced riffage and big AOR keys. The songs are good (much better on record than live) but they are lacking something, the whole thing sounds just very middling, the band are talented and ZP can sing (on record) but the whole package of the melodic guitars, twinkly keyboards and Threats more restrained vocal delivery makes the band sound like a budget Stratovarius, tracks like Cross The Line, Silent Genocide and Kiss Of Judas (not a Strato cover) are all bouncy rockers that the Finn's do with ease and King In Ruins is a mega ballad that sounds like Journey. However everything just sounds a bit robotic there doesn't seem to be any genuine conviction in the writing and everything just seems a little 'generic'. ZP came from a band that reinvigorated a genre and whether you love them or hate them they were different, this is the same old thing that bands like Stratovarius have been doing for years. It just doesn't have any threat (sorry) to it. 6/10

Dirty Youth: Red Light Fix (Transcend Music/Universal)

The Dirty Youth hail from South Wales and they play alternative metal with a melting pot of influences. Fronted by the shocking pink mane of Danni Monroe the band will immediately conjure up images of Paramore however TDY are more like countrymen Skindred full of snotty attitude and big bouncy riffs, seen on opener Rise Up, which starts with an angelic piano led vocal before erupting into well dark brooding riff. The band add more strings to their bow with the low-down bass driven rhythm of tour mates Korn featuring heavily on The End, before adding bratty punk and SOAD with Requiem For The Drunk and Fight. Monroe's vocals are tough and remind me a bit of Maria Brink when she's singing clean. The guitars of Luke Padfield and Matt Bond (who also provides some keys) are great as are the drums and bass, the band have a managed to create some great anthems on their debut that will work excellently on the live circuit which is where this band will shine. Obviously there will be some Paramore similarities with the final part of the album having more of Hayley Williams and co Ellen, Last Confession and Promises all having that pop-punk sound. The Dirty Youth have created a great debut album full of big, hook filled rock songs its well T(I)DY! 8/10

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Reviews: Snakecharmer, Alpha Tiger, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Snakecharmer: Snakecharmer (Frontiers)

So serpent referencing name and an album cover that features an amp with the guitar lead coiled like a cobra. No guesses that Snakecharmer are linked with old leather lungs David Coverdale's primary source of revenue. Starting out as a tribute to the early more bluesy Whitesnake material, Snakecharmer have released an album of totally original blues rock material (just as the 'Snake have gone back to their roots since signing to the same label on Forevermore). However this is more than a simple bunch of also-rans trying to be Whitesnake the band is a melodic rock super-group featuring former Snakes Micky Moody who imparts the record with his signature hard rock rhythms, and also Neil Murray on bass, who keeps it all locked in tight with Thunder's Harry James who is on the skins. The other members are Adam Wake man on key's and Hammond, Wishbone Ash's Laurie Wise field completing the six-string line up and the vocals come from Heartland's Chris Ousey who comes from a long line of soulful British rock vocalists. This album is not a blatant rip off though as many of the tracks stray from the Whitesnake mold with many sounding like Bad Company (mainly due to Ousey's Paul Rodgers-like voice) To The Rescue shows this link at its best furnished with a bluesy bluster and funky, hip swinging back beat. The guitar interplay between Moody and Wisefield is cracking with Moody's more blues based approach working well with Wisefield's more melodic approach, seen on the slightly Lizzy like dual guitar attack on Accident Prone. Although the band are a melodic hard rock band in their own right drawing influences from other bands mentioned the spirit of Coverdale still looms large on this record with the gospel-style ballad of Falling Leaves (which has a great solo crescendo) the bluesy stomp of A Little Rock & Roll is vintage Lovehunter era and the rocky Turn Of The Screw which has more of later Snake sound to it. This is an extremely accomplished album from something that has evolved from a project into a fully formed band (every member contributes to the writing) and has delivered a strong set of melodic hard rock songs that are set to snake into your psyche and charm you (sorry). 9/10

Alpha Tiger: Beneath The Surface (Century Media)

How many more trad/power metal bands does Germany need? They already have Helloween, Accept, Blind Guardian...etc. However they have a new contender in the shape of Alpha Tiger. Having all the influences in place e.g. Maiden, Helloween and also Queensryche the band have amalgamated these influences into their brand of retro-styled metal. The album focusses on the current political situation, conspiracy theories and aliens (have they been talking to Muse?) which is not the general fodder for retro-metal bands but it works well. As with many albums of this genre an intro track starts proceedings before the first track kicks off with some razor sharp riffage and pounding drumming of The Alliance which immediately opens proceedings in fine style with some dual guitar riffage and the very strong vocals of Stephan Dietrich who has a definite Michael Kiske style delivery, in fact Alpha Tiger do sound a huge amount like classic Helloween which is no bad thing as they pull off the imitation very well. The pace slows slightly on the mid-pace rocker of Waiting For A Sign which sounds like Queensryche at their most balladic and sees the frontman doing his best Geoff Tate impression before the title track brings back the power metal tempo. This is an accomplished album that sounds a bit too much like Helloween to be seen as anything new but they are a good metal band for fans of the genre. 7/10

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats: Blood Lust (Rise Above)

This is a re-release of UK Psych/doomsters, Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats second album in preparation of their new album to be released in April. Blood Lust follows in the tradition of British doom by providing mind-melting psychadelia with good old fashioned Sabbath riffage, much like label mates Electric Wizard there is a fuzzed up, analogue vibe to the recordings with the production providing hiss, fizz and pops as well as some neatly vocodered wailing from Uncle Acid himself who also handles the six string chugging as well as the massive guitar solo freak outs while also dabbling with the eerie keys and lashings of mellotron. The Deadbeats are made up of bassist Kat and drummer Red who both keep things dark and doomy through the occult based tracks like Death's Door, Curse In The Trees; I'm Here To Kill You. Final track Withered Hand Of Evil and bonus track Down To The Fire show the juxtaposition of the band as it moves from the slow moving doom of the former to the acoustic fireside instrumental of the latter. This is a very good album full of retro vibed occult rock that has become huge at the hands of world beaters Ghost, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats have all the pieces in place to be as big as their Swedish compatriots and I for one can't wait to see them on the same plateau! 8/10

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Reviews: Bullet For My Valentine, Stratovarius, Vandroya

Bullet For My Valentine: Temper Temper (RCA Records)

So Welsh metal boyos BFMV return with a new album and this one follows on from previous effort Fever, which tried to re-capture the aggressive heaviness but melodic almost poppy song writing of their debut The Poison. Temper Temper continues in this vibe merging the heavy metal riffage, with hard rock arrangements and the huge vocal hooks of Matt Tuck. More so than the previous effort this album is more in tune with their debut, witnessed by Tears Don't Fall (Part 2). As for the rest of the album it's the same big rock tracks with a melodic edge, the first too tracks are strong and heavy, the title track has a very fast staccato riffage but some dodgy lyrics, P.O.W is an emo arena ballad that will get everyone shouting along at gigs, before Dirty Little Secret brings together all of the metalcore hallmarks of a melodic clean verse before the thrashy screamed chorus. With these middle tracks the album does slump a little bit with a few of them just sounding a bit forced Leech especially is a bit crap, the slow building Dead To The World which features lots of mountain-top soloing (and a lyrical collaboration with Chris Jericho, so it's not exactly Shakespeare) picks up the pace a bit by injecting some classic metal head banging and again lots of soloing. The punky Riot and the thrashy Saints & Sinners manages to bring to mind the BFMV of old before Tears Don't Fall (Part 2) updates their classic sing-along. The band are all playing well and every song is well constructed and well performed, as I had no doubt it would be, the production too is very crisp and modern. The special edition features a few bonus tracks with Not Invincible being the best of the bunch and a live cover of Whole Lotta Rosie being the worst. I wanted to hate this album for a number of reasons but it is actually quite good. The fans will lap it up but it might not win over the 'serious' heavy metal crowd, but I doubt BFMV will care about that... 7/10

Stratovarius: Nemesis (Edel)

Finland's primary symphonic metal band are still surviving despite having no original members. Having seen a bit of career re-insurgence since 2010's Polaris their 13th album features more of the huge symphonic choirs and bouncy power metal mixed with sky shattering ballads, case in point the epic If The Story Is Over. Straight from the unstoppable riffage of Abandon you can see that the band are still firing on all cylinders with the interplay between guitarist Matias Kupiainen and keyboardist Jens Johansson being the key to the band’s sound, Johansson as the veteran tinkles the ivories with panache with his runs and solo's exciting and beguiling, his programming and orchestral elements are also integral and flesh out the band’s sound tenfold (see the euro pop of Halcyon Days). Kupiainen does has done his best since Polaris to forge his own guitar identity from that of founder and former member Timo Tolkki and has done so excellently giving a much harder edge to proceedings. The drums and bass of Rolf Pive (replacing long time member Jorg Michael) and Lauri Porra cannot be ignored either giving a driving back beat to the power metal merriment. As well as Johnasson the other veteran, singer Timo Kotipelto proves once again why he is one of the best vocalists in his genre, with a voice that sounds a strong now as it did in 1995. Polaris and Elysium both were Stratovarius' mature records and Nemesis is too. It's the sound of a band in their third decade a band that are still hungry to make the best albums they can and they are, much like it's two predecessors Nemesis is a mature symphonic power metal master class. 9/10

Vandroya: One (Inner Wound Music)

Vandroya are the latest symphonic/progressive metal band to come out of Brazil and they do what they do very well. The main reason for this is the superb voice of front woman (former Soulspell singer) Dasia Munhoz, her voice is a clear revelation and after the classical intro of All Becomes One swells into the blast beat drums and galloping riffage of opening track The Last Free Land Munhoz's voice immediately hits you in the throat as it's not the average operatic fodder you have with other female fronted bands, she has a strong melodic rock voice which reminds me of Marta Gabriel from Crystal Viper. She is the icing on a very nice metal cake, the sound of the band obviously have a lot in common with country mates Angra with a very progressive/power metal style of speed metal riffage, songs full of time changes and some very good riffs and solo's. The band are all highly skilled and the music is virtuosic ranging from the speedy power metal of Anthem (For The Sun) to big ballads like the haunting Why Should We Say Goodbye which shows off Dasia's voice to its fullest, there is also a duet with Seventh Seal's Leandro Cacoilo on Change The Tide. This is a very strong debut album that is full of strong prog/power metal anthems that will appeal to fans of Angra, Symphony X and even Kamelot. 8/10
  

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Out Of The Beyond 23

Chris Caffery: Faces (Black Lotus/Warner Chapell) 2005

Chris Caffery was/is the guitarist for Savatage (still one of the most underrated bands ever) and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This was his first full length solo album and it featured no less than 16 songs on disc one and 9 on the bonus disc (God Damn War) so it shows that Caffery has no shortage of creativeness. From the opening title track you can hear his aggressive and progressive riffage, what is a lesser known quantity is Caffery's voice which is also good, it's a scratched bark that reminds me of Dave Mustaine especially on the brutally heavy and angry Pisses Me Off which starts off with some killer guitar soloing as well as having a hint of Savatage's Jon Olivia who's bark is unmistakeable. However like Mustaine’s it can get The band is made up of some TSO and Savatage alumni with bassist Dave Z and Jeff Plate both coming from the Symphonic rock orchestra (and Plate being in the later period Savatage) keys come from former Rainbow ivory tinkler Paul Morris, however how much these men actually contributed to the album is a bit of a mystery as Caffery is credited as playing all of the above as well as engineering and producing. The album is a metal assault until Music Man slows the pace with its acoustic and mellow rock sound, this is a nice change of pace that breaks up the flow of the album and stops it becoming wearing, this is followed by the 80's rock of Life, Crazy Life!!! this erupts into the metal of The Mold before the bluesy Bag O’ Bones. This is an album shows Caffery's creativity at its peak and it also shows what a progressive, wide and varied album he has created spanning many genres but all of them filled with some superb guitar playing (shown at its best on the semi-instrumental Preludio) and despite the long runtime it is a great album of top-quality rock/metal (and I haven't even mentioned disc 2 yet!) 8/10

Chris Caffery: God Damn War (Black Lotus/Warner Chapell)

The second disc has more of the same but is noticeably shorter and less progressive than the main disc however it still has the same quality performance and features a few curveballs with the Middle Eastern flavoured Saddamized and the solo piano performance of Amazing Grace which is a little bit of a strange choice as well as the very odd finale of Curtains. 6/10

Alabama Thunderpussy: Open Fire (Relapse) 2007

This was Alabama Thunderpussy's final album before splitting and features the vocals of Exhorder man Kyle Thomas. The band that have always been referred to as the "metal Molly Hatchet" and on this album they show it with the opening blast of The Cleansing and the fantastic Void Of Harmony. The guitars of Ryan Lake and Erik Larson are fantastic giving them some fantastic stoner/southern flavoured metal riffage and some great solo's especially on Words Of A Dying Man Thomas' vocals are excellent reminding me of Phil Anselmo albeit a bit more soulful. This is a fantastic final album for a band with one of the best names in the business with every track giving full heavy Southern heavy metal sound and meaning that there is not really a weak track. Well worth seeking out if you enjoy Down, Corrosion Of Conformity or even Molly Hatchet. 8/10

Accept: Blood Of Nations (Nuclear Blast) 2010

Blood Of Nations was Accept's comeback album and the first to feature screamer Mark Tornillo and drummer Stefan Schwartzmann as well as being the return of Axeman Herman Frank. So in the intervening years between the final Udo fronted album (1996's piss poor Predator) and this Accept did seem to re-find their sound bringing back the Teutonic speed metal of their early years. The guitar interplay between Wolf Hoffman and Herman Frank is the classic sound that nearly every German power/thrash/trad heavy metal has copied since. Beat The Bastards has is a killer start showing that Accept are back in full flight but also have incorporated some more modern thrash riffs (possibly added by super producer Andy Sneap), the head banging Teutonic Terror follows closely with its shoutable refrain of "Give 'Em The Axe!" Tornillo isn't Udo nor is he trying to be but with that powerful rasp he is a perfect fit for Accept's second age providing them with some great new tracks to kill in the live arena. 8/10

Reviews: Helloween, Enforcer, Hatriot

Helloween: Straight Out Of Hell (Spinefarm)

German Power Metal originators are now on their 14th album and this one follows on from previous effort 7 Sinners however this has a noticeably lighter mood than the aggressive almost thrashy predecessor. Musically it harks back to Helloween's early Andi Deris albums full of founder member Michael Weikath's trademark Power Metal riffage, things kick off with the Eastern influenced and progressive Nabataea before the classic speed metal chug of World Of War takes you back to the Teutonic glory days full of glorious guitar solos from Weikath and Sascha Gerstner who both play for their lives as does bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Daniel Lobe. Live Now has an almost Bon Joviesque vibe to it with lots of talk-box and a huge hooky chorus. This is one of the strongest albums Helloween have produced in the Deris era and they have achieved it by merging their last to albums with some big keys on Far From The Stars and also a massive organ riff on the special version of Burning Sun (dedicated to Jon Lord). Deris himself is now fully installed as the frontman of Helloween and is on his best form in years on this album his vocals are still much grittier than Michael Kiskes but he can hit the high notes and his voice is now so familiar at the helm of the power metal masters not only suited to the speedy metal assault of the euphoric title track but also on big ballads like Hold Me In Your Arms. This is not just a great Helloween album (the best since Master Of The Rings) but is also a great metal album in general. 8/10

Enforcer: Death By Fire (Nuclear Blast)

Third album from the band I consider to be one of the top bands in the NWOTHM Enforcer and it's a case of if it ain’t broke don't fix it. Olof Wikstrand's vocals still soar and shriek like an air raid siren and his and Joseph Tholl's guitar interplay is classic speed metal. This is a strictly retro affair with 8 (full) tracks of leather trousered, white sneaker wearing heavy metal straight out of the Priest and Maiden play book however if there was one band that Enforcer sound most like it's 80's nearly men Tokyo Blade. This album is slightly weaker than their previous (and more well-rounded) effort however, the riffs are razor-sharp, the drums are a barrage and the bass gallops like a horse on amphetamines! From Death Rides This Night to Satan the pace doesn't let up with solos and dual riffs galore especially on the instrumental Crystal Suite. This isn't a game changing album it will not convert anyone that hates this retro style metal, however it is a very well distilled example of why so many people love it. It is fast, frenetic and most of all fun, Enforcer are still very near the top with this third effort, so grab some mates, get your High Tops on and rock like it's 1982! 7/10

Hatriot: Heroes Of Origin (Massacre)

Hatriot are a thrash metal band from Oakland California and play classic American thrash in much like the second wave of thrashers like Testament, Forbidden, Overkill and Exodus. The Exodus comparison is particularly apt as the band is fronted by their former frontman Steve 'Zetro' Souza who's snarl is still as unmistakeable as ever. The rest of the band are a bunch of young guns with two guitarists bringing the tight neck snapping riffage and blistering solo's on tracks like Weapons Of Class Destruction and Murder American Style. One of the keys to the band's aggressive sound is the rhythm section, which also provides the answer to why Zetro is singing for an unknown band, the bassist and drummer are Cody and Nick Souza respectively sons of the vocalist. This is a shrewd move for the band as they have been immediately signed to Thrash label Massacre. However there is no need to be cynical as on the evidence of this album they have not be signed purely because of this reason, Hatriot have created an album of brutal thrash that will get many a pit to open very wide. 7/10