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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

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