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Monday, 30 March 2015

Reviews: Ranger, Sacred Blood, Automaton

Ranger: Where Evil Dwells (Spinefarm)

Go back to a time when Slayer weren't the travelling soap opera they are now, back to when they were in their infancy when King, Lombardo, Hanneman and Arya all played like their lives depended on it, with lightning speed, guttural aggression and songs about war, death and Satan. This is the blueprint for Finland's Ranger who have released a fair few EP's but they have now they have debut under their belt and it is deep in Show No Mercy/Hell Awaits territory with a huge dollop of Mercyful Fate lumped in for good measure see Dimi's shrieking vocals. Ranger call themselves skull splitting speed metal and that is probably the most accurate description you could wish for as this album grabs you by the throat from the first chord and doesn't let go until it suffocates you with it's Gatling gun drumming and face melting guitars. Lyrically it's 1983 all over again with horror, the occult and war (nuclear or otherwise) all featured, these Finns play the retro card to it's fullest with bullet belt and hightops galore. The one thing I will say is that despite how good the music is (and it is) some may be put off by the vocals as they are deep in early Araya mixed with King Diamond vein, however if you love the blood curdling shrieks and the frankly terrifying metallic onslaught then Ranger will get you banging your head like a mad person and possibly pitting in your own room, by yourself. Ranger have produced an album of breakneck metal anthems and I'm convinced that their live show may actually kill you! 8/10

Sacred Blood: Argonautica (Pitch Black)

Sacred Blood are essentially the Greek version of Manowar, Rhaapsody and Blind Guardian all rolled into one. They play epic/symphonic metal and all three of their albums are concept pieces based around heroic Greek legend, their debut was Leonidas' last stand at Thermopylae, their follow up focussed on the Lion of Macedon Alexander and this third instalment as the title would suggest focusses on Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. As the drama ramps up during the intro with traditional Greek instruments mixing with orchestral flourishes. Before it moves into the album itself which is full of chest beating (shirtless of course), metallic anthems with thumping drums, huge guitars and some thunderous vocals that would shake the Pillars Of Heracles (Greek spelling). Hail The Heroes is the epitome of this with it's Warriors Of The World style chug and symphonic backing, the musical backing of this album is expansive and epic in all senses of the word, even more astounding is that there are only three members of the band with George Karahalios providing the battering ram in the engine room, Polydeykis handles the guitars keys and atmosphere sculpting the the tale as the album progresses and forming the basis for Epeios Focaeus powerhouse vocals. The album is let down a little by the production as everything is a little muddy but that is immaterial really as the mix of folk instruments see O'er The Tomb, symphonic swells on Legacy Of The Lyre, crunchy metal riffs on To Lands No Man Hath Seen and Enchantress Of The East (which is very Iced Earth sounding); along with the soaring solos, furious drumming and Karahalios' great Euro power metal vocals all means that Sacred Blood have an album of quality tunes, whether you understand the concept (personally Ancient History is one of my favourite subjects) is immaterial as these songs stand so well by themselves that you don't have to know anything about it to enjoy this record of excellently performed symphonic power metal. Épainos ston Día!! 8/10

Automaton: A Bold New Horizon (Self Released)

Steampunk (Sci-Fi mixed with Victoriana) is a subject that the masters of traditional metal Iron Maiden have yet to touch on in their album covers or indeed stylistic change on every tour cycles. We haven't seen a Steampunk Eddie so it is perfect time for Cincinnati Ohio's Automaton to take up the baton, fusing Steampunk imagery and lyrics with the galloping twin guitar attack of The Irons. The band however are more than just a stylistc act they have created a Steampunk comic and indeed an entire universe based in a place called Ionia. This album draws from their fictional universe telling the tale (as far as I can tell) of a newspaper reporter that uncovers the governments dirty secret and then becomes a crusader for free speech. The scene is set by the small skits in between the upbeat, pacey metal tracks like Hot Off The Press and the swaggering Aether Flame. The band all play very well and have a classic trad metal sound entrenched as the rhythm section of Isaac Grimwood on bass and Mechanic James O'Brian on drums bring the flurry of kick drums and galloping rhythms to tracks like the Stand And Be Counted which could have come off a Manowar album and gives Grimwood a bass solo (Mr DiMaio would be so proud) Captain Luther Meade and Markus Wolverhampton's guitar work is also good mixing a dual guitar attack with elements of thrash and even some modern touches see Convalescence and Rise Of The Ruined Nation. The strong musical backing is fronted by the great vocals of Duncan Batchworth III who moves between Eric Adams, Bruce Dickinson and even Rob Halford with his booming mid's and his occasional ceiling lifting highs. This is a good album, some will get a bit annoyed at the skits as they do break the flow a bit but to get the whole 'concept' they are needed, happily the music is good enough to keep your attention and get your head nodding along. Steam Powered Power Metal indeed!! 8/10





Saturday, 28 March 2015

A View From The Back Of The Room: WhiskeyDick

WhiskeyDick, Howl, The Jonestown Flood, The Moon Club, Cardiff

Once again in to The Moon club for a night of quality music, this venue is one of my faves as it mixes good beer, with a cosy atmosphere and most importantly for a nerd like me excellent sound quality! Tonight was all about the headliners, having been acquainted with these Southern Gents when they supported Peter Pan Speedrock, myself and my Redneck loving compatriot Rhod were very excited indeed that we were going to get a headline show from the Texas twosome, in support of their EU compilation album (review coming soon) which gives you 15 of their best and most popular tracks (with one exclusion I will explain later) on one album.

So we set off bedecked in our fanboy WD shirts, grabbed a (strong) drink and made our way upstairs. Before the evening kicked off we got to shoot the shit with the band and they are great guys; humble and friendly they took on board our wittering and we shared jokes and stories as well as a bit of Wayne's World-esque hero worship from Rhod. The conversation would be continued through the night but we were first interrupted by the racket coming from the cavern where the bands play. So without much arm twisting we (us and the band) made our way to watch the first band.

The Jonestown Flood

The racket was coming from Welsh garage/blues trio The Jonestown Flood who set about playing their no-frills swampy blues to a filling venue, they immediately got heads nodding with their Southern style stomp as Rhys and Niall plough a heavy rhythm furrow throughout and even gave us a jazz odyssey while Joe Kelly switched to another guitar after his broke after the first song; this was probably due to his penchant for jiving like mad to every song as if he was being shocked, still with all three instruments present and correct the band worked through their set well with real confidence and energy. A nice grungy opening band with a bluesy/garage groove to kick off the boozy proceedings! 8/10

Howl

Second up were Howl and things took a more experimental turn as they are not as immediate as TJF relying more on hard rock jams and sonic freakouts than the more structured songs that had come before. Again three piece, Howl are deep in stoner territory playing the kind of music to smoke weed too with their massive wall of noise ringing out around the venue as Tom Rees beat the hell out of his kit and Marcell Davies (a man who has watched Lemmy a bit too much) rumbled our collective under-carriages leaving Grant Jones to attack his guitar and bark the lyrics as the sonic assault continued. After the set was over all were agreed we got a real battering but in a good way, Howl are a band that won't be happy until you go home deaf, which I like a lot. 8/10

WhiskeyDick

As the drums were cleared away, the stools were set up, the acoustics were unzipped and tuned, the two hulking Southern dudes from WhiskeyDick, played a little and then without fanfare immediately launched into their two man acoustical jam, chicken pickin' and ass kickin' from the outset. The band have managed to acquire quite a collection of songs from their 7 albums and they play a set made up of their best, sonically they are like an acoustic version of Pantera or BLS fronted by legendary outlaw David Allen Coe (or indeed the Rebel Meets Rebel project that features Pantera and DAC). The songs are layered with some great lead playing from Rev. Johnson who plays an acoustic better than a lot of guitarists play an electric, he is expressive when he solos on the Fallen Heroes their tribute to Dimbag which expertly shifts into Zakk Wylde's masterpiece In This River and got the crowd chanting along and he plays at a mean pace on the countrified, juggernaut of 18 Wheels Of Hell. The good Reverend is aided and abetted by his Hillbilly cohort Fritz who plays like Pappa Het (so many downstrokes) and sings like Mr Coe his rich bass vocals rumbling the soul as he tells tales of whiskey drinking, weed smoking, hell raising and woman chasing or all of the above on the excellently titled Train Robbing, Gun Toting, Dope Smoking, Guitar Picking, Mother Fucking, Good Time Band a song written in 1865(!) apparently. This is where WhiskeyDick come into their element they are an honest, down home band that are just fun, they seem to have a blast on stage and this energy is infectious the crowd were loving every note shouting every foul mouthed word Yeehaw! and drinking for their lives on Black Tooth Grin and the awesome Drunk As Hell. As the end of the set drew near there was a shout, then a noise and then we were into the finale of the hilarious Wookiee Pussy. Then it was over, cheers greeted the Fort Worth natives and we all made our way out to converse and drink a little more, we were all leaving elated having just seen an amazing set of hell raising, mud stomping, acoustic Hillbilly metal from a band that are now fully entrenched as one of my favourite live acts. Yeehaw motherfucker indeed!! 10/10                 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reviews: Motor Sister, My Wooden Pillow, Kamasupazundown

Motor Sister: Ride (Metal Blade)

Motor Sister is band formed by Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian as a 50th birthday present to himself. The idea was to ask members of one of his favourite bands Mother Superior to come and jam some of their songs with him. The only member that did was guitarist/vocalist Jim Wilson who previously collaborated with Ian and his wife Pearl, on her debut solo album. Pearl also appears on this album to adding to Wilson's blues soaked vocal while Armoured Saint/Fates Warning bassist Joey Vera and Exodus/Testament drummer John Tempesta handle the rhythm section. So is this more than just a vanity project for Mr Ian? Well yes and no he has managed to recruit a great band to help Wilson re-record his own songs and with Ian's chugging rhythm guitar playing the songs are a lot more muscular than the originals, see A Hole which sounds like Anthrax with it's thrash riffage, obviously the inclusion of Wilson on the project moves this up from a covers album as you can't technically cover your own songs and it's not really a reinterpretation as the songs stick rather rigidly to the originals (albeit a little heavier) so the point of this album is a little lost, one can only decipher that Ian made this for his own gratification and also to highlight the work of one America's underground bands. Still the songs burst with energy with Wilson's husky vocals giving pathos to every song see the soulful blues of Fool Around and his solos tearing the roof off (This Song Reminds Me Of You), Pearl provides some old school female accompaniment with her great voice, which I'd personally like to hear more of, the rhythm section is tight, muscular and buoyed by their collective experience and their camaraderie after years of touring history together. So a good but a little throwaway to be honest as it really doesn't serve much of  purpose artistically but it is fun album for fans of Scott Ian, Mother Superior or indeed fans of bluesy hard rock. 7/10        

My Wooden Pillow: Uncomfortable (Self Released)

Manchester's My Wooden Pillow are a four piece death/groove metal band that draw from a huge amount of other influences to create their sound. Uncomfortable is their newest EP and it is full of breakneck riffs, snarling vocals and lashings of attitude. The Line is a thrashy, almost Arch Enemy style track which shows off the evil growls of frontwoman Michelle, who also gives a fine clean vocal performance on Call For War a political clarion call backed by some groove metal styled backing from Hassan (guitar), Patrick (bass) and Chris (drums) all of whom play with style and class, Call For War is one of the highlights of this four track EP as it reveals the bands heavy and also melodic style. Decapitalist harks to death metal with it's blast beats and relentless guitar work. All in all MWP have sculpted a great little slice of metallic fury with four tracks of quality metal music. 7/10 

Kamasupazundown: Blueprint (Self Released)

A two man QOTSA? This seems to be what this Welsh band are aiming for with their brand of scuzzy, fuzzy desert rock. Blueprint is the band's second album their first being One Minute Silence and it continues in the vein of their debut by fusing odd riffs from Mark Pitts with the unusual drum patterns Steven Rowlands. The band are deep rooted in the Kyuss, QOTSA vibe of music especially with Pitts' Homme-esque vocal drawl, he heightens this comparison with the smae kind of harmonic backing vocals Homme uses on the Queens... records. The first two tracks Stereotypical and Self Committed Crime are pure Rated-R with Who Am I adding a funky vibe and the title track has a great stop start riff and is driven like all the tracks by Rowland's superb drumming. Things get weird on Envy In His Eyes before Wrath Of Beauty goes a bit disco with some Nile Rodgers like guitar playing and Strange Tides is a fantastic song with a hazy vibe throughout evoking the sun and lazy days. Kamasupazundown not only have the most complicated band name in the world but they also have got a great second album in the bag that is top quality Desert rock and as the brass fuelled Last Goodbye ends your head doesn't stop nodding along with the great sounds contained here within. A great album from talented, yet relatively unknown band from Wales, hopefully this album will redress the balance. 8/10

Reviews: Thunder (Monster Review By Nick)

Thunder: Wonder Days (EMI)

After a 7 year wait and numerous sporadic reunions the fans of the mighty Thunder finally get what we have been waiting for; the tenth studio album from the rockers from London.

On hearing the first single and title track of the new album I was initially left a little apprehensive as to how the new album will turn out. Wonder Days, although a grower isn't exactly what was expecting for a first single. Despite containing the usual patented Thunder ascending descending riffs and sudden simple, yet impactful rock breakdowns, it just seemed to lack the usual bounce and edgy fun the Thunder singles have come to represent. Moving onto the next track from the album The Thing I Want and the spring in Thunder's step returns, filled with bouncy bass and lead riffs the lyrical edge also makes a come back. Thunder have always had the power to find the line between smut and fun… The Thing I Want epitomises this. The Rain and Black Water slow the pace of the album down but with a bit of style. The Rain is a soft and delicate ballad, which brings Danny Bowes vocals to the forefront (this is never a bad thing). Allowing Danny to show that he can still reach either end of the musical scale with little effort, The Rain combines these talents with a delightful backing and a song that is a beautiful metaphor for hope and strength. Black Water maintains the slower pace of the album, however this time with a more recognised Thunder rock brand. Luke Morley treats us to a few brief but unyielding solos that just bring a smile to your face.

The Prophet is the next offering and personal favourite as it combines everything I love about Thunder from the past, with a slightly modern twist. A powerful springy bass line runs straight through the heart of this track, intertwined with riffs that change pace to perfect timing. The Prophet is classic Thunder but a little more technical than they've been before… and it works. Chasing Shadows offers more of the same we found in The Prophet. It hooks you instantly with a great opening riff, again supported by a powerful swing like bass line form Morley. Bowes vocals once more show that they've not slipped an octave over the years in this track. Chasing Shadows really gets you hoping around the kitchen with your air guitar (this may or may not have actually happened). The London lads slow down the pace again with the second ballad on the album, Broken. A simple track that is basically a Thunder acoustic song that holds your attention due to its graceful nature. There is nothing complex here, just Bowes vocals supported minimally by a stripped down band until the song build to its heartfelt crescendo end... this really is a charming ballad. Wonder Years final tracks leave the album and its listeners in no two minds about what Thunder are all about. When The Music Played, Serpentine and I Love The Weekend are all choked full of crashing symbols high paced springy riffs and vivacious bass. These tracks are what Thunder are, and have been all about throughout their existence. Honest, unapologetic edgy rock that is just plain fun. It’s easy to hear, especially during I Love The Weekend, the fun that the guys are having.

Thunder have returned with an album that will more than keep the cult fans happy and jumping around the room while at the same time grabbing the interest of new listeners that have either never heard of the band before or have always jumped on the “Thunder aren't unique” band wagon. Be it on purpose or by sheer accident, the London gents have added a little more depth to their music in Wonder Days while standing firm in what they believe in… and I thank them for that! Despite all this the album does seem to miss a little oomph and volume in its production. Tracks such as The Prophet and I Love The Weekend seem to be held back in the production, when I know if set free they could be so much more. I have a sneaky suspicion that tracks like these will be presented in their full glory live, and I look forward to it as I can only imagine how good they will sound when let of the reigns. However, its is a damn shame that they have been almost gagged on the album through what can only be slightly lapse production. This aside, Thunder is back ladies and gentleman… and they show no sign of stopping! 8/10

Reviews: Enslaved, Melechesh, Dead Shed Jokers

Enslaved: In Times (Nuclear Blast)

Norway has always been a breeding ground for the most extreme forms of metal and one of their shining lights are Enslaved who have managed to release 12 albums of extreme but accessible music. Never a band to stick to one ideal they dramatically changed their sound on 2001's Monumension moving away from the straight up Viking black metal and incorporating a much more expansive and progressive sound to blend with the heaviness and extremity. This sonic experimentation reached it's nadir with 2012's RIITIIR which was a master class in progressive black metal, many believed this would be Enslaved's masterpiece and wondered what they could do next, well In Times is the bands 13th album and yet again they have crafted a record that once again takes the bar set by it's predecessor and throws it to the moon. The album is made up of just six tracks all of which are over 8 minutes in length and in that time they move, shift and change time and style so many times you lose count and if you let your concentration slip you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to another band. Thurisaz Dreaming is a violent statement of intent with Ivar Bjørnson and Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal's guitar work driving with ferocity as Cato Bekkevold's drums play at inhuman speed while Grutle Kjellson screams like a demonic presence for the first part of the song then in an instant the song slows down becomes more melodic and the keys and clean vocal of Herbrand Larsen take over from the aggression, which then returns for the dramatic end of the song. So from the initial track you are blown away by the musicianship and scope of these songs, each one is crafted to perfection, Building With Fire starts with the clean vocals, with Kjellson's screams coming in on the chorus, this song has very Amon-like feel with the cleaner sections sounding like Opeth. This album rarely dips in quality at all with the 10 minute title track an obvious highlight I can safely say that not a single track on this album is a duff one, the are aggressive, progressive and most importantly played with intensity, passion and technical excellence, roll on their tour with Grand Magus!! 9/10

Melechesh: Enki (Nuclear Blast)

Melechesh are a black metal band that draw heavily on their Middle Eastern heritage incorporating sitars, saz, bindir and bouzoukis into their sound. "It's been done" I hear you cry well yes it has but Melechesh are one of the originators of the genre having been around since 1993, Enki is their fifth album and their fourth since their relocation to The Netherlands leaving their native Jerusalem. The band is the brainchild of Ashmedi who contributes the lead guitar, vocals and keys to the proceedings on songs fuelled by blasbeats and lightning fast riffs, think Behemoth and you wouldn't be far off, vocally Ashmedi sounds a lot like Nergal having more of a death metal voice than many of his peers, with his snarl mixed with the odd roar and even clean passage hear and there. Tempest Temper Enil Enraged opens proceedings brilliantly with its supersonic drumming and sharp changes of pace during the six minute runtime, Lost Tribes moves into early Mastodon territory with some groove thrown into the blackened pot, happily unlike a lot of extreme metal there is a lot of melody on this album much of this comes from Ashmedi's audible and understandable vocals, as well as the slightly progressive nature of the songs (most are more than six minutes) and the folk instruments used throughout but not relied upon too much meaning they blend into the bands sound rather than overpower it, they are at their most effective on the title track Enki- Divine Nature Awoken which moves from the depths of Israel to the pits of hell in one song and also on The Palm The Eye And Lapis Lazuli which is the most accessible track on the record. If you love your extreme metal with an oriental folk edge then Melechesh will be right up your street, heavy as hell but with enough variation for everyone. 8/10   

Dead Shed Jokers: S/T (Pity My Brain)

A trip to the strange side now with Welsh weirdos Dead Shed Jokers who seamlessly blend classic rock riffs, modern garage riffs and the occasional nod to jazz all wrapped up in a stoner haze. This is heads down stare at the floor trippy riff rock that acquires influences as quickly as it discards them making for an interesting and unique listen. Dafydd's Song is a jazz inflected slice of psych with some funky guitar licks giving them a sound akin to London weirdsters The Earls Of Mars. After the ending guitar freakout the band move straight into 60's California groove of Delay The Morning that is part Hendrix, part Wolfmother especially in the vocals, A Cautionary Tale works brings in a heap of Zappa and some Diablo Swing Orchestra. Dead Shed Jokers are an odd but refreshing mix of new and old with songs that are varied in style but all wrapped together in a psychedelic, groove laden rock vibe performed brilliantly by a band with a tonnes of bravado and talent, having seen them in the live arena several times these tracks are going to be very well received in the dirty clubs of the UK, it will certainly get heads nodding and minds puzzling. Pick up the album, see them live and experience the Jokers in full flight. 8/10  

A View From The Back Of The Room: Muse

Muse, Newport Centre

With the numerous gigs and albums that we here at the MoM review it is sometimes hard to muster excitement and anticipation, especially if the gig seems miles off. Luckily Muse did much to to redress this balance, having announced the tour only the week before, this year's Download headliners simultaneously announced their new single Psycho, their new album Clones and this tour of smaller venues. I was one of the lucky few to get a ticket to the Newport show (as was Mr Perry, but that is another story entirely) so with my credit card and I.D (this was a paperless event meaning all entry was linked to the card you paid on, take that touts) we queued outside the venue for the off. I must admit I love the Newport Centre, yes the fact that while queuing you are face to face with the Speedo clad masses frolicking in the pool is still hilarious, but the hall itself is spacious, always looks much bigger than it is allowing for good views on the floor and in the seats, the place where we chose, in order to enjoy the show without loosing enough sweat to fill the pool next door. As we took our seats the lights went down the dubstep blew up and the support band took to the stage.

Marmozets

Bursting forth like a bottle rocket filled with nitroglycerine the Bingley mob immediately made a statement with Move, Shake, Hide which saw frontwoman Becca MacIntyre grooving like a woman possessed the drums and guitar of her brothers Josh (drums) and Sam (guitar) merging brilliantly with the Jack and Will Bottomley on guitar and bass respectively to create a fractious, aggressive, melodic and frankly mad sound that is sort of Paramore meets At The Drive In melding punk, hardcore and swaggering rock with off-kilter rhythms and crazy guitar wig-outs. The band are all very visual jumping and rocking out to tracks like Weird & Wonderful, Captivate You and the harsh, visceral punk of Born Young And Free. However it is Becca that is the most captivating and watch-able member of the band, she never stands still pulling shapes galore letting the music take over her every move and her voice is fantastic from the strength in her clean singing (very Haley Williams) and the power of her growls. A perfect opener for a band like Muse, dirty, grungy and naturally gifted, very good indeed. 8/10

Muse

So the stage was stripped back with a solitary amp & head, drum riser, keyboad/iMac and topped by a lighting rig. Simplistic but a true understatement to what was about to happen, so lights down intro on and the three men arrived on stage Dominic Howard behind the kit, Chris Wolstenholme stage left with his light up bass, that resembled a lightsaber in the dark and then the mad Martian himself Matt Bellamy stage right his guitar strapped tight and then they launched into new track Psycho which is a stomping glam rock riff, reminiscent of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, that kicks things off in rocking style before Wolstenholme led Futurism with lead bass and cool demeanour allowing Bellamy make his guitar squeal while he wails with his unique voice. There was no messing between the songs, Bellamy is quiet and reserved without the music but turns into a rock god when they let the music do the talking as they slam into Bliss which released the Hullaballoons for the first time since 2011 (Mr and M The only real talking came in the shape of Bellamy reminiscing about the first time he came to the Newport Centre to watch Korn and Limp Bizkit, but after that burst of chat it was music time again with Interlude bubbling up into Hysteria which got the first mass jump-along, which was amazing to watch as the band thrashed out one of their biggest hits, no time to rest either as the startling light show continued through every song giving a massive visual accompaniment to the virtuosistic musicianship and frenetic performance of the band. No time to rest as Plug In Baby was next with it's guitar hero intro really showing Bellamy's talent as a guitarist, however Wolstenholme and Howard are no slouches either providing the band's sledgehammer rhythms.

I was actually surprised how heavy Muse are live and had a dorky grin on face when they ran through Assassin from my favourite album Black Holes & Revelations and then more mass jumping to Stockholm Syndrome on this hit filled set that just didn't seem to slow at all. The punky Agitated being the final track as a trio as Morgan Nicholls crept on stage behind the samples and keys for the uplifting Starlight (a song that has a special place in my heart) the BH&R tracks continued with the industrial-tinged, funky as hell Supermassive Blackhole with the funk continuing on the politically rallying part Floydian, part Orwellian Uprising which was strung out for the band to rock out at the end. A brief restbite as Chris took up the harmonica for their rendition of Ennio Morricone's Man With The Harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West and yes you guessed it this led into set ender and mother of all Sci-Fi Western epics with Knights Of Cydonia a song that still rocks like a bastard! Having been aurally and visually assaulted for the past hour and a bit we took a collective breath and then back on stage for Unnatural Selection the finest track Queen never wrote which got everyone singing along (as did most of the set), the irony of Time Is Running Out was not lost on your writer and again made everyone scream at the top of their lungs. So what was left? A few goodbyes and then the last song, bravely they chose new song Reapers which was an inspired choice as this song is excellent with a hard rock riffage and a fleet fingered solo to round it off means that I have a lot of expectation for Clones when it's eventually released. As for a live showing Muse were stunning and if they play this set at Download they will show every person in that field that they can be as heavy as any metal band out there, a massive set, from a behemoth of a band in a gorgeously intimate setting. 10/10          

 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Another Point Of View: HRH United (Review By Paul, Alex & Chris)

Hard Rock Hell United, Hafan Y Môr , Pwllheli

As the rain lashed down on the North Wales coastline, the first party of the Musipedia crew arrived at the holiday camp which would be the base for a weekend of metal and partying. The second platoon arrived shortly afterwards with the final division joining later that evening.

For the uninitiated, Hafan Y Môr is a holiday complex which sprawls over a large acreage and comprises a mix of chalets and static caravans of varying sizes. We were allocated two very comfortable chalets at the South of the complex, which suited our needs very well.

This year, the gods of metal had chosen to cross the streams. Hammerfest, now in its seventh incarnation, contained the majority of the heavier stuff, such as Winterfylleth and Raging Speedhorn. The acts for this section of the weekend were confined to the Bonga Wonga Beach Club, located at the rear of the onsite pub, The Mash And Barrel. Meanwhile, the much larger Cove venue played host to the plethora of AOR acts who were booked for HRH AOR; FM, H.E.A.T and impressively Night Ranger amongst the cohort. The smallest stage, the Boardwalk saw the smaller doom, sleaze and thrash acts. During the weekend we had substantial debate about the reasons for merging the Hammerfest and AOR events; we don’t know the reasons for definite but speculated that sales for a rather weak Hammerfest line up (in comparison with recent years) had forced the organisers to pool their resources. Obviously the pay cheque for bands such as Night Ranger would have been reasonably high.

Thursday

As usual, we got onto the serious job of drinking as soon as we arrived and by the time we headed to the Boardwalk the crew were already very relaxed and ready to party. Pig Iron (7) were not the first band to hit the stage but were afforded the honour of our initial view. Very good they were too, with a sound akin to The Answer and Trucker Diablo, solid Southern hard rock with a UK twist. Vocalist Johnny Ogle commanded the front of the stage with the confidence of a man who had done this many times before, playing a mean harmonica too whilst the stomp was provided by guitarist Dan Edwards. A range of tracks from old and new got the early evening crowd in good spirits and their rock crossed over the genres and raised a smile all around. A quick dash to Bonga Wonga was well worth it as neoclassical pirate metallers Redrum seen by some of the crew supporting Alestorm recently kicked up a right good storm. Redrum (8) have a pretty damn fine approach, party metal with a smile. The crowd, by now all suitably lubricated, responded fully with some mighty jigging and head banging. The Nottingham outfit blasted through 45 minutes of great fun, with vocalist Dave Everitt and guitarist Sam Wood (with bouzouki at one point) the main focal points. (Possible bonus point for a cover of Taking The Hobbits To Isengard - Ed) Good stuff.

Unfortunately, the evening ended on a bit of a musical downer as British NWOBHM outfit Blitzkrieg (4) served up a quite horrible set which really proved the adage that sometimes you really should let sleeping dogs lie. Blitzkrieg were just rubbish I'm afraid, with original (and Satan) vocalist Brian Ross particularly uninspiring. Suffice to say our party voted with our feet and retired to a game of beer pong with our last group of weary travellers.

Friday

The victors at beer pong emerged blinking into the midday light (well the true victor was still out for the count most of the day - Ed) with some quite filthy hangovers on Friday morning. The combination of Coors light, Guinness and gin rightly showing no remorse (how anyone drinks Coors is beyond me). The positive on day 2 was that there was little to attract us until 4pm when Winterfylleth were on. After some restorative brunch, the crew saddled up and headed to Bonga Wonga to see the best UK black metal outfit around at the moment, Winterfylleth (8). With a complex and technical approach to their compositions, a decent sound is essential for Winterfylleth. However, this was anything but crystal and the band batted valiantly against some of the worst sound quality possible. The frustration of this was evident on the faces of the band, However, Winterfylleth rarely deliver band shows and in the past three viewings I have had with them they have been excellent. Blasting through tracks from all four albums including A Careworn Heart and Whisper Of The Elements from last year’s awesome The Divinity Of Antiquity, Winterfylleth’s set demonstrated how much the band have developed their song writing. A sterling performance in the face of adversity. Disappointingly, the same cannot be said of Italians Elvenking (5) whose image and music was conflicted and confusing. Cross The Defiled with A7X and then mix in a bit of folk metal with a splash of Turisas and you get Elvenking. It could have been brilliant. It wasn't. At many gigs and festivals you get to a stage where you begin to wonder if any band is really going to do anything for you. It was beginning to feel a bit like that … and then Xentrix (9) arrived on stage. The Preston outfit delivered the most perfect hour of UK thrash metal and basically blew the bollocks off all of those assembled in the room. Hammering through a range of old classics and a couple of newbies from their forthcoming album including the brutal There Will Be Consequences, the band absolutely nailed it and to say that their new album is now eagerly anticipated at MoM Towers would be an understatement.

Heading back to Bonga Wonga after refreshments, we’d hoped to catch the last few songs from Angel Witch but surprisingly the bands were running well ahead of the scheduled listing and we missed them. So, it was time for the first headliners of the weekend, US outfit Kamelot (6). Several of the crew are big Kamelot fans and were excited as we headed into the arena. However, an atrocious sound combined with some over indulgence from front man Tommy Karevik, a tedious drum solo, a keyboard solo and yes, the dreaded and most feared bass solo from Sean Tibbets contrived to make this headline show something of an anti-climax.

Saturday

Saturday dawned bright and cold. Hangovers were slightly fewer in number and the early risers headed to the Boardwalk to catch Phase Reverse from Greece. The Athenians had apparently travelled to Pwllheli just for this gig and were rewarded with an enthusiastic reaction from the hardy but reasonably healthy (in numbers anyway) crowd. There is something massively endearing about the enthusiasm of bands who have made such an effort and Phase Reverse (8), and particularly their vocalist Takis, could not stop grinning at the enthusiastic welcome. The audience were rewarded with forty minutes of solid heavy metal, an infusion of Black Label Society, Down and more traditional Southern Metal with even the odd dash of Pantera for good measure. Some excellent beardage too. Unfortunately one of the bands we were hoping to see, Steak, had transport problems and so we headed back to Bonga Wonga to see Skalmold, unbelievably at Ant’s recommendation. As usual, the fucker wasn't wrong and the Icelandic six piece pulled off one of the weekend’s more memorable performances. Skalmold (8) use three guitarists and keyboards but also have any of the five ‘outfield’ players singing, often all at once. The Icelandic feel is evident in their music, with huge similarities at times with their compatriots Solstafir. Singing in Icelandic also helps of course and provides the mysticism that often comes when you can’t understand a word! Heavy as hell at times, subtle and light at others, Skalmold had everyone smiling and banging along.

A quick break for refreshments and then a return to see Devilment. Devilment (7) have been around for a couple of years but gained more media attention when diminutive Cradle of Filth main man Dani Filth helped out on vocals and subsequently joined the band for live dates. Musically the band are excellent. Tight and heavy, some superior riffage spliced with Gothic style keyboards from Lauren Francis. However, Filth’s vocals are something of an acquired taste and I just don’t like them. His high pitched falsetto combined with his black metal growl just remind me of a budget King Diamond. However, Devilment got a decent reception and as I said, musically were pretty impressive. Having steered clear of the throng kicking it off with Raging Speedhorn (I just don’t get this band) it was time to party with everyone’s favourite biker band, Orange fucking Goblin (9). Having heckled man mountain Ben Ward (from a distance!) as we headed to the arena, all bar one of our party assembled for forty five minutes of absolute quality (He was presumably deep in his other engagement - Ed). Once again the sound in Bonga Wonga was dreadful but there is no such thing as a bad Orange Goblin show. Blasting through a well-paced set which included classics such as Saruman's Wish alongside newish tracks from their excellent Back From The Abyss, Ward once again demonstrated why he is one of the best British frontmen around, exhorting more effort from the packed crowd whilst grinning manically. Ably supported by Joe Hoare on guitar, Martyn Millard on bass and drummer Chris Turner, the band brought an excellent set to a close with Red Tide Rising. Having seen the band twice in four months, I can’t wait to see them again in the slightly larger surroundings at BOA. Brilliant stuff.

As Marche Funebre rang out across Bonga Wonga, the sparse crowd welcomed the mighty doom legends Candlemass (9) to the stage. No messing about, straight into Mirror Mirror and those crushing Sabbathesque riffs were immediately raining down. Whilst this was by no means the classic Candlemass line-up, with Leif Edling absent due to illness, the guys on stage were well worthy of the Candlemass banner. Stand in bassist Jörgen Sandström was excellent whilst vocalist Mats Leven filled the shoes of those before him with ease. Highlights included Bewitched, Black Dwarf, and a stunning At The Gallows End before the inevitable finale of Solitude which had the hairs standing on the back of the neck. A lifetime’s ambition completed. Candlemass were worthy of their headline status and amongst the highlights of the week.

Disappointingly there was an excruciating clash for the final dose of metal. Over at the Boardwalk the always fabulous Evil Scarecrow were scuttling left and right whilst the majority of the crew held their ground for an hour of Hell (8) (all apart from Paul who had enough of humanity and headed for an earlier night – well he is very old). As usual, Dave Bower and his cohorts delivered a storming set, adding in some old favourites and some rarely played tracks to their recent set supporting Saxon around the UK. Opening with the Age Of Nefarious and closing with Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us the band were unable to put on the full show that we’d been treated to at BOA a couple of years ago but did throw in some flashpots and the obligatory thrashing to cast the Devil out. Plague And Fyre, Land Of The Living Dead and End Ov Days were amongst the highlights. Although a couple of the gang managed to catch the last couple of songs from the mighty Scarecrow in a packed to the rafters Boardwalk, not enough was observed to produce a fair review.

So another weekend, another festival for the MoM crew. Highlights? Well, some of the UK’s finest thrash in Xentrix, some joy from Greece and unexpected fun from Skalmold. Sleeping in a fully fitted chalet with hot water, heating and cooking facilities was absolutely brilliant and pisses all over the camping experience. And then there was the company. Absolutely first class, despite the vomit and alcohol induced man hugs. The negatives? Well, the line up wasn't as strong as previous years. The sound in Bonga Wonga was atrocious and remained so through virtually every band’s set. The AOR stage was rammed on the one and only time we ventured into the Cove; maybe that's where all the money had been spent?












Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The View From The Back Of The Room: Corrosion Of Conformity

Corrosion Of Conformity, Bierkeller, Bristol

Since Corrosion Of Conformity's return in 2010 in their original three piece many were just wishing for the day when Pepper Keenan would return to the fold. This didn't seem it would ever happen due to Keenan's continuing success in Down but late last year COC announced a UK tour many believed that this would be another tour featuring the intense, but not really my thing stylistically, trifecta of Woody Weatheman on guitar, Mike Dean on bass and Reed Mullin on drums, however the majority's prayers had been answered as this tour was to feature Mr Keenan himself taking his place on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. So ticket purchased in earnest and it was a wait that built anticipation but finally the day arrived (a day before our annual trek to Hammerfest in North Wales) but this was a small solo jaunt to Bristol to catch a band I have never seen in concert before. I love the Bierkeller it is a cracking venue deceivingly big and roomy, benches around the edge and a high stage meaning the band are visible from nearly areas (luckily your writer was standing on a table in front of a pillar so I had the best and possibly the only unobstructed view in the house.

Arriving on site it was straight upstairs and with a pint of Pedigree in my hand (other ales are available) I half listened to the end of Hang The Bastard's set so I won't give them a review, it would be unfair to them. So I took my place and waited; before the long the opening chords of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town (how apt) burst out of the P.A and the band arrived on stage the hulking Weatherman taking up his position stage right, Mullin climbed behind the tubs and Mike Dean's wiry form picked up his bass just as the three began to build into a crescendo of noise that led to Keenan arriving on stage to a huge ovation and strapping on his red SG (very Sabbath). He joined in and the cacophony of noise continued until the the thick riffage of These Shrouded Temples... started the set proper. We were off and running with Keenan slipping in perfectly making it feel like he had never left, they seamlessly moved into Señor Limpio providing the start of the set with the fat stoner riffs the band developed with Keenan at the mic, his voice is smooth as silk with a slight bite on King Of The Rotten and one of my favourites Heaven's Not Overflowing. As expected much of the set was drawn from the two most popular Keenan fronted albums Deliverance and Wiseblood  and two tracks from Blind their transitional album form crossover to stoner.

Long Whip/Big America became a jam session with Weatherman soloing for his life as Mullin bashed the hell out of his kit and Dean played the bass like a demon he was up and down the fretboard like lift in a hotel all the while Keenan kicked out the jams with his rhythm. The band flew through this greatest hits set with all of the tracks fuzzing and popping like they were recorded yesterday not 20+ years ago. Paranoid Opiod is pure Iommi and co and they jam into 13 Angels as the opening riff of Albatross garnered the biggest cheer so far heads nodded in time to it's sludgy groove, the main set ended with the anger of My Grain and the wig out of Stonebreaker with Goodbye Windows ending the set, the obligatory break and then back on stage for the closing statement of the still politically relevant Vote With A Bullet and then the massive Clean My Wounds finishing off things in a truly nostalgic way with the audience drawling along with Pepper. I do hope that Keenan finds time to juggle both Down and COC as the band are good without him but they are great with him, luckily there is talk of a new album with the four man format, so that may mean we get more nights like this! 9/10 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Another Point Of View: Anathema (Review By Paul)

Anathema: Liverpool Cathedral

In 2014 Liverpool progressive rockers Anathema released the Distant Satellites album, which made the lists of many of the rock world’s top ten lists. It was a fabulous piece of work, incorporating some fresh approaches to their already crafted sound; the use of multiple loops for example. They played some of their new tracks at their slot at the Download Festival where they supported Opeth on the third stage. To be fair, that wasn’t their best performance with sound and technical problems impacting on the show. However, two nights later, Daniel, Vince and Lee delivered one of the highlights of 2014 with a quite beautiful acoustic show at Gloucester Cathedral. The band hit the road in the autumn in support of Distant Satellites, gigging extensively across the UK and Europe for over three months. At the Bristol gig, Danny announced that the band would be doing “something special” in 2015. A few weeks later they announced a run of four more acoustic dates, at Leeds Minster, Exeter and Winchester Cathedrals and the obvious highlight, an evening at Liverpool Cathedral; not only the biggest Anglican cathedral in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe but of course, in their home city. With tickets very reasonably priced at £25, we (he means Mrs H and himself - Ed) decided to make a weekend of it and take in a short city break with the Anathema acoustic the obvious centre piece. 

Liverpool Cathedral is an imposing building, visible across the city skyline from virtually everywhere. We arrived a good 25 minutes before doors to find a healthy sized queue already waiting. As we waited, we chatted to various other fans in the queue and discovered people from Poland, Germany alongside fans from other parts of the UK; Newcastle and Scotland adding to the Welsh presence that we provided. In fact, apart from the staff within the Cathedral, I didn't hear a Liverpuddlian accent in the audience all evening. 

We were fortunate enough to have purchased tickets for block A and as we entered this most imposing and impressive place of worship, we headed towards the front of the block and were rewarded with seats three rows from the front. As the front two rows were reserved for family and friends, we were in fact seated in the front row! Result. This was to prove particularly rewarding for most of the evening as several of the seats in front of us remained unoccupied which provided us with excellent lines of sight for the entire evening. Support was provided by accomplished violinist Anna Phoebe (8) and guitarist Nicolas Rizzi who provided a captivating half an hour of many styles as they performed compositions from her eight year recording history along with tracks from Phoebe’s latest release Between The Shadow And The Soul. Her sound soars and swoops, a myriad of influences from Eastern to soulful jazz with all stations in between whilst Rizzi’s classical almost Latino style complemented and embellished the overall direction and enhanced the richness of sound. Visually, Phoebe is enchanting and entertaining, moving around the stage, full of expressions and emotion, swaying in time to the music and delivered a performance which was incredibly enjoyable. Having released her first album in 2006, she is an experienced artist and has performed with many of the rock world’s legends, including Jon Lord, Jethro Tull, Roxy Music and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. However, her humility when thanking the band and the crew was very endearing.

With the sell-out crowd seated and the lights creating a magical atmosphere in the knave and across the vast structure of the cathedral ceiling, Danny Cavanagh arrived on stage in a casual, almost nonchalant manner, strapping on his guitar and hitting the opening chords of The Lost Song Pt 2; quickly joined by brother Vincent and vocalist Lee Douglas. Being an acoustic set, all of the tracks performed were stripped back and there was a unique opportunity to obtain a completely different perspective to some of Anathema’s (10) most heartfelt and passionate music. After receiving a massive ovation, the trio delivered the opening duo from Weather Systems, Untouchable Part 1 and Part 2. It was evident that Danny was particularly nervous as the evening was being filmed for a future DVD. Following the conclusion of Untouchable Part 2, he asked if the audience would mind if they played Part 1 again, as he was not content with the performance. Now, given that this is one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever written, there was not a person in the congregation who would have objected and the opportunity to hear the song again was warmly approved. I didn't notice anything wrong with version 1 to be honest, but the second version tugged at the heart strings once again and concluded with a warm and sincere ovation. Visibly relaxed, Danny acknowledged the support of the audience and commented that he could now get on with the show. Thin Air was followed by the most beautiful version of Dreaming Light, with Lee’s vocals enhancing the original version. Lee’s brother John (Drums), Vincent’s twin brother Jamie (Bass), fantastic cellist David Wesling joined the band onstage for a couple of numbers including a completely reworked Anathema which also featured Anna Phoebe and the band filled the cavernous venue with the most beautiful sound. Arial from Distant Satellites followed, a delicate, fragile song with the acoustics of the cathedral adding to the atmosphere.

I took the opportunity to have a quick glance at the audience behind me. It was incredible with the attention entirely directed at the stage as everyone strained to soak up the incredible changes to their favourite songs in a setting far grander than 99.9% of venues where Anathema usually perform.

The Anathema acoustic sound is very much based on Danny’s acoustic guitar which he records live on to loops which then enhance the sound as each song builds. This was evidenced later in the show where he took a few moments to get the right loops in place, including a very humorous moment where he scolded the audience for getting too quickly involved by clapping along! A rare outing for Electricity from A Natural Disaster with Danny handling lead vocals was a real treat, before The Beginning And The End from Weather Systems was performed beautifully. Temporary Peace, Distant Satellites and Take Shelter brought the main set to a perfectly balanced conclusion with the band leaving the stage as the loops continued to roll and the audience rose to their feet in appreciation.

The encore was even more special. Opening with Internal Landscapes, the moving closing track from Weather Systems which explores the experiences of death and peace, a tear welled in the corner of my eye. As the piece continued, I suspect I was not the only one who was fighting the urge to blubber like a fool. The penultimate song, A Natural Disaster is possibly the most stunning track Anathema have ever written and with Lee Douglas, the band has, in my opinion, the most incredible female vocalist in music today. Her vocal performance was almost beyond description, with her delicate and emotional delivery enhanced by the reverential surrounding, the track building to a crescendo with John and Jamie doing their thing before slowing to a measured and subtly controlled finish. Of course, favourite Fragile Dreams concluded the evening, with the audience now on their feet and clapping along. At times they had appeared understandably nervous, with the added pressure of family, friends, a sold-out crowd and a film crew all adding to the pressure. However, once again Anathema demonstrated how they have evolved, stripping down and reconstructing a fifteen track set with love, passion and above all much thought. An absolutely enchanting evening, in a magical location and a privilege to be present. This, combined with the opportunity to explore a quite fantastic city made it an unforgettable experience. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Reviews: The Answer, Trucker Diablo, Furyon

The Answer: Raise A Little Hell (Napalm)

The Downpatrick rockers return with their fifth album and its back to basics with a sound not to dissimilar to their debut Rise. Swaggering bluesy, hard rock riffs are the order of the day, with much of the album harking back to the likes of Zep, Purple and Free. The great thing about The Answer is that even thought they stick to their   Long Live The Renegades and the sensual Aerosmith-like Last Days Of Summer are both driven by a funked-up bass riff from Michael Waters, while The Other Side has that almost religious revival feel the band do so well. On this fifth album the band are yet again on top form, with all four members contributing to the magic they are both entirely modern and steeped in classic rock history. This can be witnessed on the filthy and flirty Aristocrat on which the sound of their previous tour mates AC/DC looms large as it does on I Am What I Am. Guitarist Paul Mahon moving between Angus Young, Paul Kossoff and Jimmy Page with ease as James Heatley's drums keep the pace, the hard rock backing the band provide is the perfect foil for Cormac Neeson's amazing vocals who has a soothing croon on Cigarettes & Regret and the fantastic, uplifting, pastoral Strange Kind Of Nothing but when he goes into full flight on Whiplash cursing the devil himself and lamenting for his witchy woman on Red which is the obvious first single. This album has 12 great hard rock songs that are born in the bayou, but with a belly full of Guinness (something that myself and the Hutchings' have experienced while witnessing the band live) allowing them to conjure up a fire many bands fail to match, hell even the bonus tracks are worth tracking down the special edition for, Feel Like I'm On My Way and Flying being the pick of the bunch. The quality of this album rarely dips with every track of sparkling quality which means that all in all this a solid set of hard rock songs from a band criminally overlooked, hopefully this record will help them raise a little hell in the business and get the recognition they deserve! 8/10          

Trucker Diablo: Rise Above The Noise (Self Released)

One of the blackest days for the MoM was when one of our fave bands Trucker Diablo called it a day. We first saw them at Steelhouse 2013 and they proved to be the perfect band for a a weekend of hard drinking and equally hard rock music, their alcohol fuelled, fist pounding anthems meant that they held a special place in our collective hearts, with one of our number even investing in a TD work-shirt. So imagine the joy then, when they announced a pledge campaign stating that a new album was on the way with only original bassist Glenn Harrison not returning, he has been replaced by Jim McGurk, but the rest of the band remain intact. Are Trucker Diablo the same riff wielding, beer swilling, rock monsters with a keen melodic ear they were two years ago? Well that's a ten four good buddy the Big Truck is still most definitely rolling as the album kicks off with some big, fat southern rock guitars that plant you firmly in Black Stone Cherry territory as Fight Life with a huge uplifting hook and lyrics about struggles and being the person you want to be, an anthemic start then and straight into the heavyweight racket of Party Like They Started The End Of The World which calls for partying in spades, surely one for the live arena as the image of beers aloft is engrained as part of this song. McGurk's bass works brilliantly with Terry Crawford's drums he blends seamlessly with the band anchoring the guitars of Simon Haddock and Tom Harte, Harte's vocals are great moving effortlessly between crooning ballads like Somebody Save Me and the saccharine Where Angels Fly; big, ballsy rockers like We Stand Strong, the Lizzy-like Girl In The Photograph, which has the spirit of Lynott, Gorham, Robertson and Downey coursing through it and the country-tinged Take Me To The River. The melodies are still here in spades and thankfully so are the riffs but I will say one thing there are a few too many slower ballad like songs on this record, but that is a personal thing, for the most part though this is a quality come back for the Norn Irish truckers!! 8/10           

Furyon: Lost Salvation (Dream Records)

Five years since their well received debut album Gravitas, the Brighton rockers return with their sophomore offering. Between then and now the band have toured continuously and have honed their sound more, not that much was needed as the band seemed to be fully formed and professional from the outset. So what do they sound like? Well if you haven't heard their debut then the band skilfully mix modern and classic rock influences together while wrapping everything up in a metallic sheen much like American rockers Alter Bridge or Shinedown, who's producer Rick Beato twiddles the knobs on this record. With fat, riffing throughout from Tiago Rosando and Luca Faraone especially on the hammering title track which could be Tremonti and co in full flight. the two men move swiftly between rumbling rhythm, melodic leads and soaring solos easily providing the band with some great songs anchored by a sturdy boiler room in Lee Farmery and Alex Bowen  much of the modern metal comparisons come from vocalist Matt Mitchell's voice sounding like a mix between M Shadows, Chris Cornell and of course Myles Kennedy. Mitchell's voice is very strong with a good range and his similarity to Shadows and Kennedy is uncanny in parts especially on the chest beating These Four Walls, which is followed by the slow and brooding Scapegoat and Resurrect Me which sounds a lot like Headstrong by Breaking Benjamin with a bit of No More Tears thrown in. With a keen ear for melody and the right amount of heaviness Furyon do a very good job of challenging the Americans at their own game. If love your American radio metal with a bit of Brit guts then you'll love Lost Salvation. 7/10        

Friday, 6 March 2015

Reviews: UFO, Reign Of Fury, Crypt Sermon (Reviews By Paul)

UFO: A Conspiracy Of Stars (SPV)

Okay; where the hell do you start with a band as legendary as UFO? Formed in 1969, loved by metal icons like Steve Harris and the rest of Iron Maiden and a million others as well as being responsible for anthems such as Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom, Only You Can Rock Me and Too Hot To Handle, there is little to say by way of introduction. A Conspiracy Of Stars is as fresh an album as those early massively influential slabs of 1970s rock, such as Phenomenon and Force It. Their last album, Seven Deadly was a seriously underrated chunk of old school bluesy rock and the latest release continues in that vein. Opener Killing Kind is easy, laid back and yet exactly right. Phil Mogg’s vocals are as good as they ever were; soulful and relaxed yet powerful and distinctive. Run Boy Run stomps along, with Vinnie Moore, surely one of the most brilliant guitarists in rock peeling off solos for fun. Meanwhile in the engine room, Andy Parker effortlessly hammers out the beat. Moore’s performance on the whole of this album is blistering, and anyone wanting Metal Mickey back needs to back off on this performance. Moore holds his own on the old school classics in the live arena and on this release once more demonstrates that he is the man. Ballad Of The Left Hand Gun has a groove laden blues feel, and like all of the track on this excellent release just appears so damn easy. Ballad Of The Left Hand Gun is a real gem of track, allowing all members of the band to demonstrate why they are such absolute legends. Laced throughout the tracks are the reserved keyboards of stalwart Paul Raymond, a man who has anchored UFO with his rhythm guitar work for many years. 

I have to confess, that like Saxon and Thin Lizzy, the classic rock of UFO is incredibly dear to me. UFO were only the third band I saw live, in 1982 on the Mechanix tour. It was a love affair that I've never tired of maintaining and to hear an album that is still relevant in an era of aggressive metalcore and generic rubbish fills me with joy. Tracks such as Sugar Cane, Precious Cargo and Rolling Rolling showcase the lighter side of the band, whilst retaining a steely underbelly. Meanwhile Devils In The Detail, One And Only and album closer King Of The Hill are just perfect rock tunes, unmistakeably oozing with the UFO sound. Eleven tracks of superb classic British rock. The recent announcement that they will headline the Steelhouse Festival guarantees that I and at least one other member of the MoM crew, (the illustrious Ed no less) will be in a field on the top of the Gwent mountains on the last weekend of July raising a beer to the old school classics and some of the gems from this and other recent albums. Brilliant in the live arena, I cannot recommend them to you enough and if you call yourself a metal head then you should ensure they receive your support. The godfathers of UK hard rock, alongside Sabbath, Purple and Priest. Live and on record: UFO simply rock. 10/10

Reign Of Fury: Death Be Thy Shepherd (Self Released)

The second full release from Midlands’s thrashers Reign Of Fury is to be honest, just stunning. Eight tracks of consummate, intelligent thrash, dripping with melody and so many hooks that Japanese whalers would look positively unarmed. There are three things I really like about this band.

1. The vocals of Bison Steed. Superb, clean and absolutely old school metal with a modern twist.

2. The dual axe attack of Jon Priestly and Ed Westlake which is reminiscent of old school Murray and Smith, massive interplay and quite breath-taking duels throughout

3. The quality of their songs. Yes, a massive Maiden influence throbs through the band’s veins, but add into that early Metallica, Megadeth and numerous other old school thrashers and this is just magic. It is easy to listen to, the hooks grab you by the ears and bang your head repeatedly.

Reign Of Fury are a rampaging bull and in Death Be Thy Shepherd they have released an album that deserves to get maximum exposure. I've seen these guys live a couple of years ago at a Headbanger's Balls event and they were just brilliant. This moves them on a step further. Hopefully the opportunity to see them locally will present itself again soon. They deserve your support. Stunning stuff. 9/10


Crypt Sermon: Out Of The Garden (Dark Descent)

Out Of The Garden is the debut album by Philadelphia doomsters Crypt Sermon and it is a very tasty first offering. I knew nothing about the band but with a bit of internet research (thanks in particular to Encyclopaedia Metallum) I discovered that Crypt Sermon is a five piece outfit who comprise Brooks Wilson (vocals), Enrique Sagarnaga (drums), recently arrived bassist Will Mellor and dual guitars of James Lipcsynski and Steve Jansson. The band have a long list of credits with other bands, 99% I've never heard of. Out Of The Garden sits plumb centre in the doom genre, although the album has a focus on a religious theme (not a Christian one) and with a cover referencing a Crusader. So how does it sound? Well, if you mix Trouble and Candlemass you won’t be far wrong; and to be fair, as someone who has much time for quality doom, this is a pretty decent album. Opener Temple Doors kicks off with a large serving of atmospherics before the riffs cascade and wash over you. Wilson’s strong vocals are excellent and perfect for the foreboding sound that the band deliver. His range is broad, some deep notes and a bit of controlled screaming. Meanwhile the riffage is definitely Sabbath like, with crashing bass and drums combining with some brain splitting power chord action. As you’d expect, tempo changes enhancing some very tidy fretwork from the Lipcsynski and Jansson. It is impressive high quality and as heavy as the sack of anvils (not the Lips variety). Heavy Riders continues the doom stomp, with Wilson’s clean vocals particularly impressive. Doom is a genre which sucks balls if not delivered right, but there is no opportunity for testicle choking here. Byzantium picks has the heaviness of a rampaging elephant herd, powerful riffs raining down whilst Will Of The Ancient Call has some of the most evil guitar and atmosphere you’ll hear all year. The influence of several generations of the most influential doom acts is strong, as you’d expect but hey, if the thing ain't broke, don’t fix it. The title track is also the closing song on the album and is a bit of an epic. Rolling drums, more pounding guitars and bass combining to create the sound of the gods fighting in the heavens. Stirring and powerful. Well worth a listen and a worthy addition to the army of doom. 8/10


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Review: Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot, Erase (Kscope)

The king of progressive music returns, notice I said progressive music, this is because since starting his solo career, Wilson has not been content with any one type of musical genre. So once again it is with great anticipation that I placed Hand.Cannot.Erase in my stereo and I was greeted by the atmospheric opening of First Regret before things turn into Yes on 3 Years Older which is one of the longer songs on the album and the only true prog rock song continuing in the vein of his last album The Raven That Refused To Sing which was heavily influenced by King Crimson, this track however has more in common with the more pastoral progressive rock of Yes, Caravan, Camel et al. As with most of his works this is another concept album with the over arching theme focussing the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, which was where a woman living in a large city died in her apartment and no one missed her for three years, despite her having family and friends, so this album is a discourse on the life of a woman who grows up isolated in the city, but of one who is not old but young and vibrant yet she is not noticed. With an intriguing story like that the album has strong concept to base itself on and prog fans will definitely love 3 Years Older which shows off Wilson's undoubted musical prowess as he handles most of the instrumentation while being backed by his fantastic band in the shape of organist, keyboardist and pianist Adam Holzman, guitarist Guthrie Govan (replaced now by Dave Kilminster) and drummer Marco Minnemann (again replaced by Craig Blundell). From the prog to the thrusting pop feel of the ttile track which is the first to feature female vocals from Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb as well as 12-string from Dave Gregory and sterling bass work from nick Beggs adding to that 60's dreamy pop sound, so far so upbeat but things take a more dramtic turn on Perfect Life which features a spoken word performance from Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins who adds a pathos to the first part of the track before Wilson then continues the dream-like state with his plaintive, emotive vocals.

As per usual Wilson oversees everything in terms of production but he does allow Dave Stewart (yes him off the Eurythmics) to help him arrange the choirs and strings that flesh out tracks like Routine which is a haunting piano piece, that fuses electronic buzz with choral arrangements and Ninet's beautiful vocals working with Wilson's perfectly as the track builds it adds layers and layers to make it the perfect mid-album track as it moves into the instrumental second part that lets Govan show off his creative guitar playing and yet, so is the genius of Wilson, a track so intensely musical manages to convey it's theme of mundane brilliantly. Many have compared this album to The Wall by Pink Floyd and with the theatrical nature of Routine that couldn't be clearer, the same themes are present also, loss, loneliness and separation from the outside world all feature heavily and much like Floyd's opus things take a turn for the worse in the second part. Home Invasion is the first 'heavy' track dripping with synths and organs it is also the albums most jazz influenced with Beggs doing his fleet fingered best and Govan adding some guitar magic to the track that is most like Wilson's previous life in Porcupine Tree before seamlessly seguing into the heavy krautrock of Regret #9 which features two glorious solos from Adam Holzman on the Moog and Govan on the guitar as Wilson adds bass, guitar, keys, mellotron and banjo (just a fraction of his talent I assure you). Despite all of the technical playing, it has always been Wilson's songwriting that has set him apart and Hand. Cannot.Erase is no different in fact it may just be his most accessible yet, Transience is the only true Wilson solo piece and is evocative of everything he represents harrowing musical landscapes with a keen ear for the radio-friendly as witnessed by this tracks jangling, multi-layered acoustics.

In true prog style, just as you get comfortable, the goalposts get moved again and as the trip-hop drum machine and piano duo drives the opening of Ancestral one can't help but feel a little anxious as a single violin plays in the background and the music swells before levelling off and then exploding around 3 minutes into the 13+ minute track which once again features a majestic guitar solo before Tayeb's vocals takes us in a new direction as the track gets more ominous in it's latter, instrumental part. This album takes your breath away in it's scope and delivery, it is a masterclass in musicianship, songwriting and production that all wraps up in Happy Returns which is Wilson at his most comfortable, condensed and indeed stirring; combining intelligent lyricism with uplifting and transcendent musical backing that closes the album out perfectly as it slips away (words used deliberately) into Ascendant Here On... A truly magical album and one that once again cements Steven Wilson's place as one of the greatest songwriters the UK has ever produced. 10/10                

Reviews: Europe, Whiskey Myers, The Agonist

Europe: War Of Kings (UDR)

Frontman Joey Tempest calls War Of Kings "the album we always wanted to make, ever since we were kids listening to bands like Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath" and yes the spirit of all of these bands is rife throughout with the first two tracks, the creeping title track and the rocking Hole In My Pocket both are Deep in the shadow of Purple with Lord-like organs coming from Mic Michaeli driving the songs along and matching John Norum's guitar work note for note. Like I said War Of Kings starts things off with stomping power with Tempest echoing the holler Ian Gillan, before he moves into Glenn Hughes territory on Hole In My Pocket which has Norum going full Balckmore in the solo. Things move out of Purple on Second Day which has the mysticism of Page and Plant and brings to mind images of traipsing through the desert sun. As usual the musicianship is top level with these Swedish legends maturing like a fine wine, they have been moving into the classic 70's rock arena for their last few albums, but on this album they have really nailed the sound of the golden age. The production too sounds of the era; this may be because of Dave Cobb's production, a man who produced the last Rival Sons album meaning that this album fizzes and crackles like vinyl even on CD, he also co-writes many of the songs which adds to the authenticity. We go back to the smoky haze of period Purple on Praise You which has Tempest howling like a wounded dog. War Of Kings is has 11 tracks of retro-inflected hard rock with huge amounts of organ and mellotron, grooving basslines from founder member John Levén, thunderous drums from Ian Haugland and some rolling licks and fleet fingered solo's from Norum, we get nods to Coverdale and the 'Snake on the slippery California 405, more Purps on Day's Of Rock N Roll, back again to Zep with Children Of The Mind, a slight curve ball with the Middle Eastern flavoured Rainbow Bridge (which does sound a bit like Rainbow), the laid back blues of Angels (With Broken Hearts) before everything concludes nicely with the hip-shaking groove of Light It Up which ends the album excellently (there is an instrumental bonus track on the CD edition that is Norum going full Bonamassa). Who would have thought that in 2015 Europe would still be making (very good) music, that they would sound so different than the band that debuted 1983 and that finally and most importantly that the first truly great hard rock album of the year would belong to them. A masterclass in hard rock! 9/10    

Whiskey Myers: Early Morning Shakes (Wiggy Thump)

Whiskey Myers are a country/rock band that have suddenly arrived out of nowhere (in the UK at least!), just in time for the country revival that is currently happening here with bands like The Cadillac Three and the near god-like Blackberry Smoke (a MoM favourite) taking the country and indeed the charts, by storm and performing sold out gigs and festival shows. This album has already been out for a few months in the USA but we here in the UK get it here and a bloody good job too as the Stetson wearing, moonshine drinking members of our sceptred isle have been waiting for an album like this for good while now. Whiskey Myers call themselves 'honest music' and with the opening title track you can see that they mean every word they say; this is down home, soulful, heartfelt Southern music driven by some clean but oh so dirty guitar work of Cody Tate and John Jeffers who do half inch the riff from Zep's Heartbreaker on Hard Road To Hoe but for the most part provide the slinky, rump shaking, country riffing with a huge dollop of soul and some major riffing. The band have a locked in rhythm section and Cody Cannon has a perfect Petty-like southern drawl that is shown perfectly on Dogwood which is definitely Heartbreaker territory and features Cannon also providing that Railroad acoustic that country music is known for. The band certainly live up to their "honest music" tag with an album that moves between many facets of traditional southern, from the emotive slide driven Shelter From The Rain, the Skynyrd style rocking of Home and Headstone which has you stomping your Cowboy boots and bouncing as the band lay down their groove. The band are thankfully aided by Dave Cobb's (yes him again) superb production and for that extra authenticity Kristen Rodgers providing some Honkette style backing vocals. The first real ballad is the regret and redemption filled Reckoning but as the storm clears we come back to rocking territory with Wild Baby Shake Me which has a good old fashioned guitar freakout and Need A Little Time Off For Bad Behaviour is the Allman's, Skynyrd and the mighty Smoke all rolled into one. Whoever's idea it was to release this album in the UK is a genius; we just need a tour now please? 9/10     

The Agonist: Eye Of Providence (Century Media)

There are many bands that have changed their singers, some for the better (AC/DC), some for the worse (Judas Priest), however when The Agonist's original singer Alissa White-Gluz left the band for the greener pastures of Arch Enemy it was up to the remaining members to find a new singer and carry on or disband. Happily they chose the former finding American (the band are Canadian) vocalist Vicky Psarakis as a replacement, so as blue gives way to blonde is the band still the same as it has always been. The answer is most definitely yes and then some; Vicky can still scream like demon supplying every song its raw aggression, growling and roaring as the band supply the aural battering with blast beat drumming and shredding guitars hitting you like a hammer, however unlike her predecessor Psarakis has a much better clean vocal than her White-Gluz, this means that the band take now evoke elements of In This Moment with some excellent clean singing, she sounds not to dissimilar to Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel, working in conjunction with metalcore vocals. The songs for the most part are metalcore/death metal with lashings of aggression and thankfully a lot of melody too, much of which comes from the vocals, see I Endeavour and the finale As Above, So Below which is the song that sounds most like Ms Brink and co. If you are a fan then there is nothing to fear and happily if you are new to the band this is where you should start with The Agonist. 7/10 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Reviews: Level 10, Dracula, Pig Iron

Level 10: Chapter 1 (Frontiers)

Level 10 is probably not the best name for a band but as far as members goes this 'supergroup' has 10 out of 10 for membership in this writes eyes. Drawing half their membership from Primal Fear, drummer Randy Black, guitarist Alex Beyrodt and the hardest working man in metal Mat Sinner (this is his eighth simultaneous project) on bass. Add to this one ex-Helloween axe slinger in the shape of Roland Grapow, one great keyboardist in Alessandro Del Vecchio and the unmistakable vocals of Symphony X (and every other band)'s Russell Allen. So with a line up with that you'd expect rampaging melodic metal with nods to power and classic trad metal throughout and you would be right the band's musicianship is never in question all these men have proved their chops a thousand times before but with the three way duel of Del Vecchio and guitarists Beyrodt and Grapow makes the songs very exciting as all three men push each other in a game of musical one-upsmanship, while Sinner and Black lock in like they have done on so many Primal Fear records, their groove is fully established on Soul Of A Warrior which has a walking beat as the guitars swing loosely and Allen bellows at the top of his lungs. The tracks from riotous speed metal like When The Night-Time Comes to the more hard rock offering of One Way Street which echoes Sinner and Beyrodt's other band Voodoo Circle as Allen does his best Coverdale impression, this moves into the darker more symphonic Blasphemy and the blatant Priest feel of In For The Kill before the album moves through seven more brilliant tracks all of which show off these men's combined talent for all things metal. As with everything Matt sinner does this album sparkles with flashes of brilliance throughout and it combines all of the talents of those involved as well as giving them a wide pool of influence to draw from. A must for fans of any of those involved or indeed top quality power/melodic metal!! 8/10  

Jorn Lande & Trond Holter: Dracula:The Swing Of Death (Frontiers)

Jorn Lande has one of the most recognisable voices in rock music equally content with hard rock swagger and power metal bluster, but on this album he has teamed up with Wig Wam guitarist Trond Holter to write concept album based around the inner demons of Bram Stoker's version of Vlad Dracul with Lande taking up the mantle of the Prince of Wallachia and going full Meatloaf on this album that features so much bombast it would wake the dead. Hands Of God is a subdued atmospheric start setting the scene of a tortured soul, that then leads into the Walking On Water which features a huge hook from Holter that could have come off a Gary Moore album and gives us Lande in full flight full of bravado and bluster singing at the top of his lungs, before Swing Of Death which is actually a swing style song that echoes Diablo Swing Orchestra with the thrusting rock delivery of Holter, Wig Wam bassist Bernt Jansen and drummer Per Morten Bergseth. The dance begins and this leads into the dynamic Masquerade Ball which starts out with a piano and acoustic guitar work and sees Dracula chasing his beloved Mina as it erupts into a symphonic middle with some very good classical guitar playing from Holter as it plunges into the albums most metallic song Save Me which features Lena Fløitmoen as Mina Harker and later she appears as Lucy; Dracula's young victim in his search for Mina. This album has many stylistic shifts throughout due to it's conceptual nature but stays true to Lande and Holter's hard rock backgrounds; Queen Of The Dead is Alice Cooper without the Coop and ends with a tremendous guitar solo. With the right amount of jockeying and indeed financial backing this could be quite a live event with Jorn Lande definitely having the right stage presence and theatricality to be the Vampire Prince stalking his bride while the band play this muscular hard rock, add to that props and dramatics and you would get a show worth of this albums vision (Think the I Would Do Anything For Love video but on a much larger scale.) I've always admired Jorn as a vocalist and personally I prefer him when he is in full Coverdale/Dio mode, however I think this could be up there as one of his best works, if you like the pomp Queen, the theatricality of Alice Cooper, the baroque nature of Meatloaf and you wouldn't be far off. In a world of sound alike bands it's great to have something a little different from some very talented musicians. 9/10

Pig Iron: Sermons From The Church Of Blues Restitution (Off Yer Rocka)

Pig Iron are now on their fifth album and since their debut they have adapted their sound since then focussing more on the delta blues than on the more hard rock/stoner base they had earlier in their career. Sermons... continues in that vein with the choppy Mississippi country picking of Wildcat Birdhead kicking things off as Dan Edwards guitar and Johnny Ogle's mouth harp duel for supremacy with Edwards just pipping him due to the great rhythm he lays down. The cleverly titled One Million Mega Hurts has a bit more slide guitar and sees bassist Hugh Gilmour and drummer Joe Smith providing the voodoo groove as Ogle howls like a thousand wounded Lions. Pig Iron have always been a favourite of mine, I love the fact they are still very much an underground concern releasing albums when they see fit and playing their own brand of authentic blues based rock steeped in blues tradition while still harking back to the heroes, see the The Spell which could have come off Zeppelin III with it's pastoral acoustic guitar rhythm this is one of the most subdued tracks the band have ever released but it is very good indeed showing that this band are not all about heavyweight bluster. We are then taken to Zep IV on The Devil Is In The Woodpile which starts slowly and then builds up in the final part. In fact a lot of this album is more subdued than previous efforts going back to the roots of the blues on tracks such as High As A Pine which is driven by raging acoustics, banjos and mouth harps. In fact the entire middle section of the album has this stripped back sound, this isn't a bad thing at all as it shows that the band can do the blues as well as our American cousins, it's just it might be more of a departure than many fans will be used to. Still if you love bluesy rock music that stays true to the core philosophies laid down by Johnson, Hooker, Waters, King and Wolf. 7/10  

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Reviews: Lonely Robot, Band Of Spice, Desert

Lonely Robot: Please Come Home (InsideOut)

Lonely Robot is the solo project of John Mitchell vocalist and guitarist of the second (and I think better) incarnation of It Bites, as well as being the guitarist of Brit-prog legends Arena, Kino, underground prog heroes Frost* and a talented and in demand producer for the likes of Enter Shikari, Funeral For A Friend, You Me At Six and countless others. As a solo artist he has managed to recruit some high profile guests with drums coming from Frost* drummer Craig Blundell and extra bass from Kajagoogoo and Steven Wilson bass player Nick Beggs. Mitchell handles all the vocals, guitars, with bass and keyboards coming under his remit, however on look at the credits shows that it is not just these three men with opener Airlock featuring the keyboard fuelled madness of Frost*'s Jem Godfrey starting this concept album off with a bag building up into the first 'proper' track God Vs Man which is pure Neo-prog harking back to Arena, Pendragon, Marillion and indeed Mr Steven Wilson himself, the guitars move between heavy and melodic with some beautiful phrasing throughout adding to the lush soundscapes that feature on every track, Mitchell is not only a consummate and brilliant instrumentalist he also has a perfectly harrowing and passionate voice for his music equally adept at slow, ballads and the heavier more fervent passages. As I've said this album is a concept and features narration from Lee Ingleby known for his role in Inspector George Gently as well as many other stage and screen roles including the new Bob The Builder(!). From the heaviness into the more pop friendly The Boy In The Radio which features guest vocals from Go West's Peter Cox (yes he is really mixing up the guests here) and is a more bouncy prog that the track that proceeds it and indeed more upbeat than the piano based ballad that follows it, this track; Why Do We Stay features the enchanting vocals of Heather Findlay and piano/backing vocals from Marillion's Steve Hogarth and is a truly beautiful song that breaks the pace excellently with it's orchestral swells and Mitchell and Findlay's impassioned vocals. Lonely Robot follows and it is a commanding song featuring Jem Godfrey on many instruments including Chapman Stick and Slide Guitar as well as guest vocals and guitars from Rebecca Need-Menear and Jamie Finch both from the band Anavae and this makes for a very progressive narrative song that is this album's set piece. This album is neo-prog perfection with old meeting new on Oubliette (French for dungeon or forgotten place) as Mitchell duets with Touchstone singer Kim Seviour, the song has the Touchstone sound as their voices meld perfectly. The album's finale is the epic Humans Being which again features H's piano and lead guitar from Nik Kershaw (yes that Nik Kershaw) and moves swiftly into the haunting closer of The Red Balloon. This album is magnificent, it sums up everything modern progressive rock is, with focus on songwriting taking precedence over technical exhibitionism, although the technical prowess is also present in spades. The first truly excellent progressive rock album of 2015!! 10/10

Desert: Never Regret (Raven Music)

Desert are a classic/power metal band drawing members from Israel and former Soviet Union, Never Regret is their sophomore release. As the intro of Chasing The Prey starts things off building up the atmosphere then its time for rapid drumming and some symphonic based metal on the first track Assassin's Fate what you do witness is that vocalist Alexei Raymar has unique phrasing in his vocals less a top end shriek but a low end snarl not to dissimilar to Iced Earth's Matt Barlow merging with Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursh, his vocals are strong and add menace to the opening track and indeed are the focal point of this album in my opinion. The music isn't to shabby either with some trad metal guitar riffs that do a lot to copy the relentless rhythmic guitar patterns of Jon Schaffer but they do have the addition of some fanciful keyboards too to expand the sound a little meaning that they can move into the symphonic category easily on tracks like the title track and the Kamelot-like ballad The Road To You featuring Dutch vocalist Infy Snow which starts with just a piano before getting doomier in the last section and has good interplay between Raymar's deep vocals and Snows soprano. The guests continue on 1812 with Primal Fear's Ralph Scheepers lending his shriek to proceedings adding to the sense that Desert are a band on the road to bigger and better things. With some high profile support slots already under their belt and an album drawing from a wide range of styles see Final Journey and Imperial Eagle Desert but rooted firmly in the power metal tradition. A great album that is let down a little by the production, still with 11 well written and well performed songs this album will set Desert on the path to climb to bigger heights. 7/10     

Band Of Spice: Economic Dancers (Cargo Records)

Vocalist Spice has been around for a while now and many will recognise him as the first singer for Swedish retro rockers Spiritual Beggars before the more well known pipes of Grand Magus' JB and Firewind's Apollo took on the role. Since then Spice has been focussing on his thrash band Kayser who released a cracking album last year but Band Of Spice sees him returning to his stoner rock roots. The band, formerly known as Spice And The RJ Band (Changed after rhythm guitarist Anders Linusson joined) play the kind of guitar heavy stoner rock that Sweden do very well, Spice's voice is scratchy but his bark is perfect for this kind of groove laden rock with a metallic edge. He is also a pretty good guitarist supplying the leads on this record as Anders deputises brilliantly on the chugging rhythm, in the back room Johann and Bob Ruben (who is also in Kayser) provide a sturdy boiler room for the band. The band are stoner rock for the most part but they spread their wings a little on On The Run which sounds a little Springsteen, before Intro-The Joe has the same electric piano sound as Easy by The Commodores and The Joe itself  is a Steve Miller like track built on a propulsive guitar and a Hammond bubbling below the surface, You Will Call still takes you further from the stoner rock template with a clean guitar fuelled surf rock You Will Call takes us almost into Foo Fighters territory. Luckily for metal fans You Can't Stop comes back to heavier style but still having the melodic touches of the proceeding tracks. This album, I'll admit, is a little weird it seems to spend more time focussing on other genres than it does in the stoner rock style I thought (and the press release) says it was; for example Fly Away has the soft loud dynamic of grunge, In My Blood is breezy, Stonesy blues and 70's funk on Down By The Liquor Store. I'm not knocking it Spice and his band do seem to have an affinity with classic, retro sounds but the sheer schizophrenic mix on this album can leave you feeling a bit lost about the bands direction. Still the performance of this album is excellent it just loses direction a little two songs in. 7/10