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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Reviews: Black Star Riders, Serious Black, Demolition Train

Black Star Riders: Killer Instinct (Nuclear Blast)

After their debut I was wondering where Black Star Riders could go in terms of their long term plans seeing as they started life as the reinvigorated Thin Lizzy before changing their name to create a new history rather than play on Lizzy's. With the shadow of Lizzy looming large on the debut Black Star Riders have to achieve a fine balance between carrying on that legacy musically and forging their own career as a band. On this second album the band have managed not to fall off the ledge as from the burly swaggering riff of the title track opens the album just like Phil and co used to, Ricky Warwick using his Irish croon to great effect over Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson's twin axe attack something Gorham's previous band perfected, so far so Lizzy then but the band have managed to walk out of the shadow a little with tracks that are not reaching for any particular sound except one of guitar slinging, whiskey drinking hard rock; tracks like Bullet Blues have their own sound with Robbie Crane and Jimmy DeGrasso adding to their engine room stamp all over this driving track, Finest Hour is a poppier affair that almost sounds a lot like The Almighty with it's "nana nana" refrain before we are thrown back into Celtic territory with Soldiertown that is prime Gary Moore as is Turn In Your Arms. As I've said the shadow of Lizzy does still loom over proceedings but there is enough on this record to advance BSR, take for example Blindsided which is a great song that is truly their own creation not sounding like anyone else and Sex, Guns & Gasoline which is more Southern USA than Emerald Isle. As I've said BSR have managed to forge ahead with this band harking back to their roots but also creating their own sound, this is a great second shot at glory for BSR. 8/10

Serious Black: As Daylight Breaks (AFM)

With a relative glut of power metal albums coming thick and fast at the beginning of the year, we get yet another collaborative project drawing members from other power metal bands, with the most well known of which being Ex-Helloween/Masterplan axeman Roland Grapow who oversees the production and plays the guitars along with Edenbridge's Dominik Sebastian (Grapow has since been replaced by Firewind/Outloud's Bob Katsinosis). He has assembled a worldwide line up with the rhythm section coming from Emergency Gate's Mario Lochert on bass and ex-Blind Guardian tub thumper Thomen Stauch firing like a machine gun. With Grapow and indeed Lochert's production expertise the rhythm section sparkles battering down the doors from the opening few minutes of I Seek No Other Life, before things get more melodic on High And Low which has more input from Jan Vacik's keys but retains the Teutonic metal assault of the bottom end and the simply stunning guitar work of Grapow and Sebastian both of whom show their skill and why they are revered in power metal guitar circles. This album comes from the heavier end of the power metal spectrum with crunching metallic riffs cascading throughout even on the 'slower' tracks like Sealing My Fate, the orchestral Egyptian themed Akhenaton, the more melodic Setting Fire To The Earth, with the one exception on the massive ballad As Daylight Breaks. The band are all excellent musicians in particular Urban breed (sic) whose vocals are excellent, the ex Tad Morose and Bloodbound man has a a hell of a voice expressive and brawny perfectly fitting on top of the mighty musical backing. As I've said there have been a lot of power metal releases at the moment with a lot of filler and few gems, Serious Black happily are in the latter category a real power metal gem that is up there with Helloween, Blind Guardian and indeed Firewind in terms of rampaging, melodic power metal that merges great songwriting with musical virtuosity. 9/10          

Demolition Train: Unleash The Hordes (No Remorse)

Trad/Thrash metal from Athens Greece now with Demolition Train who pack a punch with their thrashy style of metal released on Athens' No Remorse Records and this album is atypical of the their roster, nice speedy metallic riffage with scratchy guitars, shouting Tom Araya style vocals and thumping, machine gun rhythm section. Opener Wrecking Crew is prime Anthrax, Unleash The Hordes echoes Slayer and Kreator, so far so thrash but Kill Your Boss starts out in Judas Priest territory before going all Municipal Waste in the final part with the repeated chants of the the title. I'll say it now, Demolition Train don't do anything new but they do play solid thrash infused metal with a a nice natural sound, no production tricks here, we are in down and dirty territory with tracks like Metal Mayhem sounding like an offcut from Kill .Em All and Chase Your Blues Away pinching a Motorhead riff I'm sure. Like I said no new ground covered but a good enough retracing of steps with all the thrash bases covered from speed to melody, subtlety to power. If you want to just tune in, turn up and rock out you can do a lot worse than Unleash The Hordes; brainless thrash at it's best. Elli̱nikí̱ métallo kómma!! 7/10

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