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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

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