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Friday, 7 March 2014

Reviews: Bigelf, Adrenaline Mob, Dark Forest, Savage Messiah

Bigelf: Into The Maelstrom (InsideOut Records)

Is this Bigelf or creative genius Damon Fox's solo album? That was what went through my mind as I read the liner notes, Fox handles the vocals, guitar, bass and most importantly the keyboards on the majority of the tracks with only bassist Duffy Snowhill remaining from the bands last incarnation and only appearing on a few tracks along with Luis Maldonado invited to "play some solos and add some colour" on the guitar. However for the most part it is Damon Fox flexing his twisted creative muscles on this album, he is aided and abetted on by musical Nomad Mike Portnoy on the drums and as usual Portnoy adds a huge amount of class to every track but never overshadows anything. So on to the album and as usual its a bit of a trip moving through, Beatles like pop-psychedelia, Sabbath doom, propulsive organ driven prog and even a bizarre carnival atmosphere throughout with wurlitzers and organs driving all of the songs. With the Incredible Time Machine Fox starts things off with a creepy lurching song with a sugar sweet verse and ominous chorus and then time shifts (wink wink nudge nudge) into a fuzzy dreamy final section, summing up Bigelf's sound in one 4 minute song, next is the science fiction inspired Hypersleep which has sludgy main riff punctuated by some synths and features Fox's unique vocals before things shift again into a space rock freak out worthy of Hawkwind. The album carries on like this through 12 tracks taking you on a magical mystical tour through Fox's mind from the sitar based rock of The Professor And The Madman, the heavy metal Vertigod and Theater Of Dreams which doesn't sound like Portnoy's former band but rather his inspiration John, Paul, George and Ringo, the most telling of all the tracks is the driving Control Freak which possibly explains why Fox has gone all Steven Wilson on us. This yet another excellent album from Bigelf who shows that really it doesn't matter if the album is just him as he is Bigelf. Welcome to his world! 9/10 

Adrenaline Mob: Men Of Honor (Elm City Music)

So I'll say this now, despite the critical beating it took form the music press, I quite enjoyed the first Adrenaline Mob album. In the interim between the first and this second album the band have lost Mike Portnoy (see Bigelf & Transatlantic and Winery Dogs for some reasons why) and in his place have put A.J Pero from Twisted Sister, so not the supergroup they once were only ex-Disturbed man John Moyer and Symphony X's Russell Allen remain in the A-List talent bracket. So what is the album like? Well it's your strict meat and potatoes metal, the riffs are heavy and melodic and the lyrics are chest beating and misogynistic, this is the sort of music Nickelback strive for when they are not trying to write arena ballads. Case in point is the opener Mob Is Back which sounds a lot like Burn It To The Ground with slightly better guitar playing from Mike Orlando. Unfortunately the album doesn't get much better than this, the band seem to be pooling their collective talents and driving in cruise control, this is American radio rock at it's simplest, Dearly Departed is The Foo Fighters, Behind These Eyes is a big Def Leppard like ballad. Maybe I'm getting old but this album disappoints me, it is far below their collective talents, yes I did like the first album as for a one off it was quite a breath of fresh air for all those concerned however it did strike me as a one-time thing and on this sophomore album they prove it by showing no advancement at all. Back to the day jobs I think guys! 4/10

Dark Forest: The Awakening (Cruz Del Sur Music)

Dark Forest are a old school metal band bringing NWOBHM to the modern era. Hailing from the the West Midlands (the spiritual home of metal) the band have all the hallmarks of Iron Maiden and bands of the early 80's along with revivalists like Cauldron. The first thing strikes you is the guitar playing of Christian Horton and Patrick Jenkins which is superb bringing the dual guitar riffage of Murray and Smith/Gers aided by the smashing drums of Adam Sidway and the galloping bass of Paul Thompson. However despite the strength of tracks like The Awakening, Turning Of The Tides, Secret Commonwealth and the rousing closer Sons Of England the band have one weak link and that is the vocals of Josh Winnard who despite having a bit of puff in the higher sections, he is flat for the rest of the time, his voice really is not my cup of tea, maybe it's because most bands of this ilk have a vocalist that can at least sing (albeit some can't hit the notes) not the other way around that seems to be the case with Dark Forest. I was looking forward to some good quality British metal and musically the band pull it off it's just that voice that grates on me so badly. My advice is listen to the album and see what you think but for me the album that could have been so much better if they had just changed one little thing. 5/10

Savage Messiah: The Fateful Dark (Earache)

So four albums into their career Savage Messiah still have a point to prove and they go some way to proving it on The Fateful Dark from the intro of Iconocaust  they channel Metallica's arena heroics before the main riff kicks in and its all guns blazing with the super fast thrash riffage of Joff Bailey and Dave Silver which is driven by the face crushing rhythm section of Stefano Selvatico's bass and Andrea Gorio's double kick frenzy and mixes the razor sharp riffage with lots of melodic passages. This trend continues with the fist pounding Minority Of One which has a killer solo in the middle and also shows how good Silver's vocals have become since their debut, he has his own unique delivery that suits the band's modern thrash style. I've been calling Savage Messiah a thrash band but they do bring in traditional metal to the proceedings as well with Cross Of Babylon having the sound of latter period Judas Priest and Hellblazer is prime power metal and Live As One Already Dead is a Megadeth style power ballad. In fact the 10 tracks on this album are full of power and passion packed with killer riffs face melting solos and lots of heavy bottom end all topped by Silver's strong vocals and the crystal clear production. This is a seriously good album, definitely Savage Messiah's best release and it will go some way to push them up into the upper echelons of the British metal scene. 8/10  

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