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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Reviews: Anvil, Children of Bodom, Artlantica

Anvil: Hope In Hell (The End Records)

Since their biographical expose Anvil! The Story Of Anvil, the Canadian metal bands have had something of resurgence in popularity. With Juggernaut Of Justice the band then saw their first release since 2004 and it was another slice of the bands hard hitting, tongue in cheek hard partying metal. This is there 15th album and it's an if it isn't broke don't fix it approach as even though long term bassist Glenn Five has left core members, frontman/guitarist Lips and drummer Robb Reiner still remain the main creative force, meaning that this album retains the classic Anvil sound of driving heavy metal all of which features some superb drumming from Reiner. Things kick off with the Sabbath-like title track before the pace picks up on the trashy Eat Your Words. This continues throughout with mid-paced heavy rockers mixing with the speedier metal passages meaning that the album mixes things up throughout but maintains the Anvil trad-metal sound with every song giving off the strong but familiar style and tone of some of Anvil's older material. Sure the lyrics aren't Shakespeare (in fact they are from it!) but this is no frills meat and potatoes metal at its best from a band that don't take themselves seriously, and yes some of the songs are a bit too silly in places but the Canadian comeback rolls on and the band still manage to churn out some big, dumb, heavy metal. So grab a beer (maybe a vibrator) disengage your brain and enjoy! 7/10 

Children of Bodom: Halo of Blood (Nuclear Blast)

Alexi Laiho and his melo-death crew return a new album full of their particular brand of power metal influenced death metal. The band have been revitalised since Blooddrunk  and this rise from the ashes continues on Halo Of Blood which starts with the keyboard powered Waste Of Skin that has the classic COB sound that is full of razor sharp riffs and Janne Wirman's excellent keys. The title track takes a different tack by going full death metal with furious thrash riffage and Laiho's scarred screaming vocals and it's from here that the pace rarely lets up with the odd time signatures of Transference through the keyboard driven Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming) before the mournful Dead Man's Hand On You shows that they can work well at a slower pace and still be a formidably heavy band. Laiho is still clean and the songs are still very song matching the bands hedonistic heyday with new found focus. Technically the album is flawless as usual with the twin guitars of Laiho and Roope Latvala providing the main power to the songs with the extremely dexterous playing topped by Laiho's fret melting solos, the drums and bass provide the living dead backbeat (sorry) and Wirman's speedy keys match Laiho's solo's perfectly contributing much to the band’s sound as they always have. Through these 11 tracks ending with the retrospective Crazy Nights COB show that they are still one of the best melo-death bands around. Yet again these Finns have created another strong album full of hard riffage and killer melodies that contribute to some excellent songs. 7/10     

Artlantica: Across The Seven Seas (Steamhammer/SPV)

Artlantica are a new band and this is their debut album however when I first listened to them they sounded a lot like American prog metal crew Artension. After some research I found this is probably because this band features John West (sense a nautical theme?) on vocals and Roger Staffelbach both of whom were the vocalist and guitarist of Artension respectively, this album also features Artension bassist Steve DiGiorgio as the special guest bassist for the album. As far as the band's sound goes this is prime Neo-classical metal in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen, Symphony X and Artension (of course) that American bands seem to do very well. The songs feature lots of super-fast shredding, galloping bass and drums, melodic classical keyboard runs and some multi-octave vocals from West who has a superb voice. What hits you about this album is how strong it is, obviously Artlantica are not a 'new' band per-se but it is quite striking how accomplished they sound on what is essentially their debut album, they sound an awful lot like Symphony X who are one of my favourites so I was bound to like the album but with tracks like the Neo-classical rampage of Devout, You're Still AwayFight For The Light and the piano-led ballad Ode To My Angel which shows off West's invocative range but also features a restrained but excellently played solo from Staffelbach who is a fantastic guitarist providing some supreme licks and serious soloing. Across The Seven Seas is a very strong neo-classical metal full of virtuosic playing but also some very strong songs which is the testament of a good band. Admittedly some may be put off by the ludicrous amounts of guitar solos, seen at their best on Demon In My Mind and on the instrumental Return Of The Pharaoh Pt.III or the helium fuelled vocals but if you are a fan of Artension, Symphony X or any kind of progressive, neo-classical metal then you will lap this album up in spades. Quality progressive/power metal that the Americans seem to do very well. 8/10

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