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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

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 LevĂ©n, 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 

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