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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Another Point Of View: The Blues Pills (Review By Paul)

Blues Pills: The Globe, Cardiff

A sizeable portion of the Musipedia collective gathered at one of our favourite venues, The Globe in Roath for an evening of soulful blues and psychedelic style rock and once again a great night was had by all. There is something quite endearing about this little venue which has hosted many musical greats and some not so great. When it is full to capacity it can be very uncomfortable with views restricted but if you get a decent space on the balcony (with or without comfy sofa) then the evening can be quite magnificent.

A decent sized crowd were already assembled when the female power duo The Pearl Harts (8) hit the stage. And hit it they did. Kirsty and Sarah create an absolutely massive noise, using backing loops sparingly and captivating the audience with their no-nonsense rock and roll approach. As our ears bled due to the ludicrously loud volume, the girls blasted their way through a short but well-paced set including their debut single Skeletons Made Of Diamonds. Elements of Sabbath, The White Stripes and many more infuse their sound. How tiny ladies can make such a noise is a mystery, but then our group’s female contingent are also generally tiny but can also forcibly hold your attention so there you are. The Pearl Harts also have an undercurrent of serious aggression, suggesting that if you cross them serious harm could befall you. All very entertaining and a super opening act.

After a brief interlude we were treated to Oli Brown and his band RavenEye (9). To the uninitiated, Oli Brown is a 25 year old blues guitarist who has already created quite a stir in the music world with a number of studio albums under his belt. Ably supported by Aaron Spiers and Kev Hickman, RavenEye totally entertained the close to capacity crowd with a superb display of blues and dirty rock and roll for 45 minutes. It would be fair to say that this was a generous set, which allowed all members of the band to showcase their undoubted talent and quality. However, Brown is a seasoned performer and he knows it. Displaying an aggressive and also sensitive approach to his guitar playing, Brown is a real star with proper charisma and style. Musically, RavenEye belong in the 60s and 70s, with Hendrix, The Stones and Cream all prominent in the influences on display. As he soloed on top of the bass drum towards the end of the set, you forget how many great entertainers of a similar style there have been. Brown and his band have the potential to join many of the greats. An excellent performance was lapped up by the audience. Rarely has there been such an ovation for a support act at The Globe. Rarely has the support band been of such quality.

Following RavenEye was going to be difficult, but Blues Pills (9) have Elin Larsson’s quite beautiful vocal talent in their arsenal, and that, combined with the virtuoso Gaelic indifference of the massively talented Dorian Sorriaux, ensured that Blues Pills won the night. An understated entry was followed by the huge High Class Woman, which immediately had the place grooving and nodding in appreciation. As the band, completed by American Zach Anderson and maniacal drummer Andre Kvarnstrom delivered some of the quality tracks from the stunning debut album Blues Pills, people were grinning from ear to ear with appreciation about what they were hearing. Sorriaux is given ample time to showcase his soulful, bluesy style lead playing. Larsson remains a focal point throughout, her best Joplin impressions and tambourine playing complimenting her magnificently rich and quite breath-taking voice; none better than during the calmly paced No Hope Left For Me and the track that brought the Blues Pills to major airway prominence, the crashing runaway horse that is Devil Man. As the place went nuts to set closer Black Smoke, complete with extended musical duelling, you realise that this is a band destined for greatness. Larsson has one of the greatest voices in rock at present and this, combined with an absolutely stunning band makes them favourites across a multitude of other genre lovers. Final track, Little Sun brought the evening to a fitting close. With three quality bands providing brilliant value at £13 a ticket, this really was a night to remember. Quite brilliant.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Reviews: Bachman, Steve Hackett, Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts

Bachman: Heavy Blues (Linus Entertainment)

Randy Bachman is a bonafide rock legend having been a part of two of the most successful rock bands of all time The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive (a band who's song Takin' Care Of Business became Elvis's motto). So after his reunion a few years ago with Fred Turner many in rock circles sat in anticipation of what he would do next. Well Heavy Blues is that project, he has hooked up with bassist Anna Ruddick, drummer Dale Anne Brendan (touring drummer in the Tommy musical) and producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley, with a bone shattering rhythm section and the king of the retro production on board, Bachman is all set to amaze and this album does so in spades. The project was originally discussed by Bachman with Neil Young and as such Young and a cavalcade of guest soloists play on the album, most are in the rock or blues category with Joe Bonamassa, Scott Holliday (Rival Sons), Jeff Healy and Peter Frampton all contributing their skills to Bachman's knack for writing big tasty riffs. This album is full of those previously mentioned riffs; pitched deep in the mid 60's style of bluesy hard rock with nods to Blue Cheer, Cream, The Guess Who and even The Who (a band that seems to be huge influence for Bachman); this influence is most evident on The Edge which sounds exactly like Won't Get Fooled Again mainly because of the big guitar stabs and Brendan's Moon-like drumming, Ton Of Bricks has the same bombast of Zep, where as Bad Child simmers like a Joey Bones song and features the man himself on the leads. In fact nearly all the songs that feature a guest artist have musical similarities to their guests, see Little Girl Lost which has cacophony of noise Neil Young excels in and the title track which is totally Frampton. In fact if you love any of the guests mentioned, 60's and 70's blues rock or indeed one of the most recognisable voices in rock then Heavy Blues will be right up your alley, check it out and crank it up. 8/10

Steve Hackett: Wolflight (Century Media)

This is Steve Hackett's twenty second (!) album and the former Genesis guitarist once again brings his ethereal style of progressive guitar playing to the masses. This is proper classic prog from the Canterbury scene drawing in folk, jazz and classical guitar playing (Earthshine) to create a renaissance-like sound that features Hackett's fluid guitar playing. Things kick off with the opening ominous instrumental Out Of Body which is just that before the title track blends the classical guitar playing with a more heavyweight clean electric sound that draws the storm, Love Song To A Vampire is a haunting melodic, Gothic track that draws in the dark romanticism of the vampire legends. In fact the whole album is dramatic, stirring and moves through many different phases showing Hackett, his wife and his keyboardist's writing and composition skills, as well the man himself's great voice. King is actually as important as Hackett creating the atmosphere that these songs rely so heavily on, see pop prog of The Wheel's Turning and the Mediterranean influences of Corycian Fire and Black Thunder which could both be the soundtrack to a classical era film, Black Thunder would also work on a Western. This record is a journey through the musical spectrum with sounds drawn from across the world, yet they all fit perfectly on this well crafted album. Hackett shows no signs of slowing down and with 22 albums under his belt he has the most prolific work rate of all the members of Genesis and with this album (his best for a while) he shows that much like that documentary of his old band he is much overlooked. A talented, special and intensely musical release for serious prog heads and fans of great music! 9/10    

Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts: Blaster (earMusic)

Possibly the the most controversial figure in rock music, Scott Weiland's career is a tale of (repeated) tragedy and (eventual) redemption all punctuated with some great music. From Stone Temple Pilots, through Velvet Revolver (where he managed to out Axl - Axel Rose) and now into his solo career (bypassing the Art Of Anarchy another supergroup Weiland recorded with and has now distanced himself from) Weiland has always surrounded himself with consummate musicians and created some great songs. So what of this his 'fifth' solo album? Credited as Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts new are firmly in Weiland territory with fuzzy, guitar heavy songs that are the perfect foil for Weiland's attitude filled but drone-like vocals. He is drawing heavily from his influences with Way She Moves being Weiland 101, Hotel Rio is punchy, Amethyst is a glam-rocker that Ian Anderson would love and White Lightning has whiff of The Black Keys about it. There is problem however as Scott does seem to be in neutral on this record rarely moving out of his comfort zone. It's not as exciting or indeed creative as it could be, maybe this is because of the lack of other known musicians, I don't know but it's only on the grunge of Blue Eyes (which features Smashing Pumpkins James Iha) the surf rock of Youth Quake and Beach Pop and the country of Circles that he strays from his template and gets interesting, for the most part this is Weiland by the numbers with a cover of 20th Century Boy that no-one needs. There is enough here to keep your attention but it is just not enough to keep you enthralled. Solid but nothing more. 7/10              


Saturday, 25 April 2015

An Eye To The Local Scene: Maddie Jones, The Luke Doherty Band, Celtic Pride

Maddie Jones: Vita Brevis (Self Released)

So little away from are normal remit here but Cardiff based singer songwriter Maddie Jones has crafted an album that is so musically dextrose and beautiful that it would be a shame to ignore it. Her distinct smouldering vocals are backed by a lush soundscape of music behind her. Drawing influences from everywhere her track Not Made For This is the soundtrack to a movie set in smoky jazz club (possibly featuring Humphrey Bogart), Don't Sit Still is a stripped back affair with just Maddie's acoustic guitar, a cello and a viola setting the scene as Jones uses her stunning vocals to cast a spell on the listener, she has a fragility to her vocal that can move into a deafening roar at a drop of a hat. As I said the album is a myriad of styles and influences with the band backing her ably to create the musical vision, She Was Young features some funk with repetitive guitar driving the song along as the synths simmer under the surface. Jones plays multiple instruments on this album, including the ukulele and the clarinet but Charlie Francis holds his own with bass, keys, guitars, percussion and produces the album expertly to really emphasise the multiple layers of sound, he is aided by Daniel Fitzgerald's guitar playing, Laurence Wickham's drums, which are most effective on the ominous Dirty Little Secret and Richard Jackson's piano and keys topping off the bands multiple instrumentalists. The performances by all involved are amazing and they really flesh out the songs brilliantly taking them above and beyond the normal singer-songwriter faire, with elements of Sara Bareillies, Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones, Carole King and Anna Calvi, Maddie Jones has created a very professional, exciting and eclectic album full of well written, composed and performed songs that just sizzle with expertise of an artist far wiser and well travelled than Ms Jones, this album is a fantastic piece of work from an artist that deserves to be noticed. 9/10     

The Luke Doherty Band: Six Strings And Stetson (Self Release)

Right I'll get this out of the way now, I you don't like Stevie Ray Vaughan (Why wouldn't you?) then The Luke Doherty Band will not be for you; however if you, like me love the smooth Texan guitar tone of SRV and old school honky-tonk blues playing at it's finest then TLDB will be for you. The man himself handles the six strings with some serious chops, 12 bar blues is the name of the game with the same kind of reverbed strutting guitar work as SRV as well as Billy Gibbons and Rory Gallagher and if these comparisons aren't indicators of his talent then I don't know what is. Happily is band are no slouches, from the opening slavo of Solar Flares On The Sun we get cowbell pounding percussion from Simon Parratt and the parping blues harp of frontman Paul Morgan who also has voice that sounds like a soul singer after too much honey whiskey and while he doesn't stand out too much on the first track bassist Ant Biggs is the shuffle behind Hope Some Rain Will Come. The album gives you the full spectrum of blues playing as Caught In This Light has the choo-choo shuffle of Howlin Wolf  or John Lee Hooker while Fantasy Girl and 0834 has the cheeky, sleazy lyrics of ZZ Top although Standing On A Rock is pure Top, while 100 Bricks has a little of Hendrix in it's gospel-like offering and we go back to Rory and SRV on Hey Man and Fish Bone. This is a true blues album from the Newport guitarist, old school blues played with soul and a live-in-the-studio feel, turn it up and let your booty shake! 8/10     

Celtic Pride: Light Up The Sky (Self Released)

Celtic Pride made their name in the late 90's relying on a very classic hard rock/metal sound forged in the mid 80's. Celtic Pride were formed by ex-Man and multiple session man Bob Richards on drums and Don and Rob Williams providing the dual axe attack, these men remain to this day and Light Up The Sky is their second album after numerous line up changes between this album and their last they have settled on their 'classic' or in their words legendary line up with Dom Hill on bass and Justin Matthews on vocals. The album is full of muscular hard rock and melodic metal with touches of AOR on the slower tracks like Shine On the World which features some great fret melting from Don Williams and impassioned vocals from Matthews. With nods to the classics Celtic Pride have elements of Lizzy especially on the celtic flourishes of the title track, some AC/DC like chest beating on Bar Room Brawl a healthy dose of Y&T and of course some Maiden especially on The Patriot which features special guest (and Bob Richards' former bandmate) Adrian Smith on guitar. Celtic Pride have produced a great effort with some hard rocking tracks that emulate the golden years of British (or in this case Welsh) hard rock. 7/10 

Reviews: Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock, 4ARM, Danny Cavanagh (By Paul)

Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock: Spirit On A Mission (Inakustik)

The latest release from German guitar legend Michael Schenker and his Temple of Rock outfit is a decent if unspectacular slab of hard rock. Schenker is in top form, frantic fretwork laced with his traditional bluesy feel. Opener Live and Let Live races along at top speed and whets the appetite with a pounding rhythm section from ex-Scorpions duo Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz. Communication is a slower track with Doogie White given ample opportunity to show his vocal skills. However, from here on, the tracks become a little bit repetitive and I’m afraid some of the lyrics are just typical mid-tempo heavy metal rubbish. Sure, the traditional format of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus are all present and the tunes are decent enough with Schenker’s playing his usual high quality; it just seems a little stale and dare I say it, dated. Vigilante Man plods along tediously, and although Rock City is faster, the lyrics are just drivel. Maybe I'm being a little hard on the band, as it’s not dreadful by any level, it just does so little for me. Saviour Machine at least has the traits of MSG from the 1980s when the star was really in the ascendency, a stomping beat and wailing guitar work, combined with Wayne Finlay's solid keys and rhythm guitar work. I wonder as I listened if it was just White’s vocal style that irritated me about this album but I've seen the guy live with this band several times and he’s always been excellent. The guitar work at the beginning of Something Of The Night mimic Flight Of The Bumblebee, whilst the song itself is classic 1970s rock, suitable for Deep Purple or Rainbow, which of course is where these guys influences are based. Let The Devil Scream has a quality riff which provides the basis for a Dio-style tune, complete with religious history in the lyrics, before the album draws to a close with three routine songs, including the ridiculous Good Times. So overall, a bit of a disappointing jumble of songs, with a definite old school hard rock feel to them. It may be the quality of the song writing that persuades Schenker to fill his live sets with tracks from his past, the classics from UFO, MSG and the Scorpions always receiving astonishing responses. As I said, the guitar work on Spirit On A Mission is as top drawer as always, it maybe just that the sum of the parts can’t consistently meet that quality. 6/10

4ARM: Survivalist (Self Released)

When Aussie thrashers 4Arm’s third album, Submission To Liberty landed on my mat in 2012 I was blown away by the sheer quality of it. Yes, it was a hybrid of Machine Head, Slayer and Metallica but it was fresh and kicked hard. Three years later, and their latest release Survivalist has finally arrived. Refreshed by two line-up changes, namely vocalist and lead guitarist Marcus Johansson and guitarist Evan K, remaining members Andy Hinterrieter (bass) and drummer Michael Vafiotis have delivered a raging beast of an album. Produced by Matt Hyde (Trivium, Machine Head, Kreator, Slipknot), Survivalist is a classic all-out thrash assault, opening with Eyes Of The Slain and finishing with the album’s title track, an epic eight minute slow burner which culminates in some astonishing fretwork. 4Arm follow the trash blueprint throughout, shredding guitars, more hooks than a Saturday meat market (Lets hope PETA don't read this - Ed), riffs dripping from its open pores and a powerful and at times quite stunningly aggressive rhythm section. Sure, Hyde’s production influence is clear here; at times the Trivium and Machine Head influences are very apparent but then so is the Metallica and what thrash band post 1984 doesn't have that? Overall, the latest release from the Melbourne outfit is excellent and if you like high quality thrash metal then this will be right up your street. Hopefully we will get to see them back on our shores again before too long. 9/10

Daniel Cavanagh: Memory and Meaning (Pledge Music)

The main writer for Liverpool’s Anathema, Daniel Cavanagh embarked on a pledge music campaign in order to fund and produce an album of his take on some of his influences and favourite artists. The result is well worth the pledge, with ten tracks of the highest quality and some interesting choices too. An all-acoustic set, Cavanagh’s sublime guitar work combined with his uplifting vocal performance adds fresh dimensions to some older classics. Highlights for me include the timeless Song To The Siren (Tim Buckley), a beautiful version of Dire Straits’ Romeo And Juliet and a very refreshing Wasted Years (Iron Maiden). What makes this album so special is the heartfelt effort which you can feel Cavanagh has put into it; each track having something a little different to make it stand out from the original. Album closer High Hopes (Pink Floyd) is an ideal example of this. If you fancy something a little different, then give this a go. 10/10

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Reviews: Ascendia, Night, Abrahma

Ascendia: The Lion And The Jester (Self Released)

I hadn't heard much about Canadians Ascendia but Jesus Christ on a stick I wish I lived in Canada so I could see this band live. They play modern progressive power metal of the highest quality, with an album that blends modern thrash, with keyboard driven prog metal, a sprinkling of djent on At The End Of It All all topped by the phenomenal vocals of Nick Sakal who is part Russell Allen, part Howard Jones part Matt Barlow all wrapped up in one man, with his dulcet booming vocals fitting the stirring musical backing that is heavy and dramatic in equal effect. Remember Me is modern metal at it's finest harking to Killswitch Engage with it's metalcore rhythm underscored by the keys and orchestrations of Maestro who is key to the bands sound adding the cinematic and classical elements that imbue the bands sound with a proffessional feel, see No More Tales To Tell as the perfect example to this merging a film score, with a fist pumping power metal track.

That's not the say the rest of the band are slouches the guitars of Jon Lov drive the riffage like Adam D but he also solos like Michael Romeo burning up the fret board with his fleet fingered guitar playing on Moonchild (not a Maiden cover) as well as every other song on the album. All this lead melody is backed by John Abanador's technical bass playing and the furious and dynamic equally adept to the faster tracks such as My Last Song but also the dramatic ballads Last Forever and The Song That You Deserved. The songs on this album are fantastic, fans of the power/prog genre will lap up, the title track has pathos, power and indeed is the most progressive track, Faded Away has the same emotional gravitas as an Evergrey track and the album ends with the acoustic bonus track Starlit Eyes. This is a fantastic debut by the Canadians who have knack for this kind of music, find the album an let it blow you away! 10/10  

Night: Soldiers Of Time (Gaphals)

Another week another retro/trad metal group from Sweden, they do seem to have more of them than I've had hot dinners. Well with a handful of bass gallop, a waist lined with a bullet belt and a dual guitar assault Night are knee deep in 80's metal riding the wave of Enforcer, In Solitude etc. Night do it very well with gritty guitars coming from Midnight Proppen and Burning Fire who also shrieks and screeches over the classic sounding tracks like We're Not Born To Walk Away, the gutsy Above The Ground while Highway Flip masters the bass working with session drummer Martin Hjerstedt. Despite their genre tag they aren't afraid to mix it up a little as Towards The Sky is an acoustic break in proceedings and Secret War does sound a little like a Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins with a bit of country thrown in. They can still rock like a bastard though with the Kings & Queens having the same style as Mercyful Fate a band they sound a lot like as well as the normal influences. Night have released a great second album here and fans of the genre will love it especially Ride On which is a track that can be blasted at full volume out of a muscle car on the sunset strip. A good album that is yet another inclusion into the retro metal scene. 7/10      

Abrahma: Reflections In The Bowels Of A Bird (Small Stone Records)

Parsisian mob Abrahma play psychedelic heavy rock that incorporates a heaving slab of doom on tracks like Omens Pt 1 and Weary Statues. With the four men in perfect sync, the tracks all complement each other to take you on a kaleidoscopic journey through mind-expanding music with every single guitar riff and melody from Seb Bismuth and Nicholas Heller floating in the dreamy passages like Omens Pt 2 and smashing you in the guts like a sledgehammer on A Shepherd's Grief  while Gillaume and Benjamin Collin provide the booming bottom end see An Offspring To Werewolves. Bismuth also hollers over the wall of noise and provides the electronics and general audio madness. This is a good addition to the genre but is very much of the genre; a trip of an album with some low, slow, psych rock but one that doesn't cove any new ground. Psych/doom fanboys will lap this up and it's best enjoyed with a large doob. 6/10

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Reviews: Von Hertzen Brothers, JettBlack, Turbowolf

Von Hertzen Bros: New Day Rising (Spinefarm)

Fourth album and Finland's trio of brothers plus their hearty band mates once again bring their intelligent but catchy brand of rock music to the masses, after their breakthrough of Stars Aligned and the defining Nine Lives the band have all but abandoned the progressive leanings from their music in as far as the songs are more concise and immediate but still contain the same kind of virtuostic musicality the band have always plied their trade with, so less progressive rock and more progressive music that owes as much to 30 Seconds To Mars as it does to Pink Floyd or Rush. The album gets things going with the punchy, punky title track before Juha Kuoppala's keyboards are all over You Know My Name, which moves through several different styles in it's five minutes. So far so 'prog' in it's truest sense then relying on their musical integrity and creativity than the showing off that prog bands employ, as Aerosmith says; they do indeed let the music do the talking.

Once again the brothers provide the the basis of all of the songs with the three guitars working in unison as Mikko Kaakkuriniemi's drumming keeps incredible pace and moves them through the various time signatures on the album. They are still not adversed to a ballad with the emotive and atmospheric Black Rain showing off Mikko VH's superb vocals as does Love Burns which is a slower paced but involving track that builds into a crescendo. Again another mix of genres here, see the folksy Dreams, with the same great song writing they have always had but this album will alienate the prog rock hardcore who love long songs and technical wankery, however for the most part it is yet another splendid album from the brothers filled with excellent 'progressive' songwriting and songs that enchant and delight but never outstay their welcome while the album itself grows in stature with every listen. 8/10    

JettBlack: Disguises (Cherry Red)

I like JettBlack, I have since their inception, I loved their debut, I still play it to this day and their live show is top notch filled with excitement and a passion that burns red hot. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for this; their third album, in total there are four good songs on it the best being Kick In The Teeth which harks back to their sleazy debut, the rest is pop-rock filler with a bit too much chart bothering, preening and smaltz especially on the absolutely dire Black & White. Much like the new Halestorm album this is the sound of Jettblack trying to break out with a more broad sound, however to my ears they have become bland with an album of mid-paced, lacklustre tracks that have no spark or indeed the kind of fist pumping sing along quality the band are known for coupled with too many love ballads that are just the pits really. Will Stapleton is a good singer but he seems too tame on this record, staying in his lower register throughout with no real passion, the band still play well but the songs really let this record down. I've stood by JettBlack when people called them masochistic (one major music magazine in particular) because of their tongue-in-cheek 80's inspired lyrics but it almost seems that by trying to appeal to a bigger audience they have lost that edge that drew me too them initially. Let's hope their set at Bloodstock focusses on their first two albums and the few OK songs on this record. Very disappointing. 4/10    

Turbowolf: Two Hands (Spinefarm)

Bristolities Turbowolf are the maddest band I have heard for a while fusing garage punk with 60's Zappa-like psychedelia and classic hard rock but as well as being nutcases they are also one of the most interesting young bands around. Two Hands is their second album and this one distils their sound into just over 30 minutes of anarchic, mind bending rock and roll. Invisble Hand starts things off slowly with its guitar strummed intro which turns into a thumping opener that builds up slamming straight into the funky Rabbits Foot which does indeed bring the voodoo mentioned in the chorus, this is killer track which is anchored by Andy Ghosh's fuzzy guitar and Lianna Lee Davies' bass, Solid Gold is a crazy disco song drenched in back masking, samples and various weirdness which shows off the synths of Chris Georgiadis as does Toy Memaha. His vocals too are brilliantly erratic fitting the music perfectly with their unique soulful but fierce delivery that works as well on the rocking Nine Lives as they do on the trippy, reverb drenched MK Ultra. Nine Lives also features some relentless drumming AND cowbell from Blake Davies, who also shines on Rich Gift.  The dreamy psychedelia is washed away with the metallic Twelve Houses. This album is gloriously unhinged and delivers a mighty punch that leaves you breathless as Pale Horse ends this fantastic album in fine style, a little piece of madness that just takes you away to another astral plain. I need to catch these guys live!!! 9/10  

Reviews: The Prodigy, Katatonia, Nightwish (Reviews By Paul & Stief)

The Prodigy: The Day Is My Enemy (Take Me To The Hospital)

It’s been six years since their last offering but the sixth release by the metal world’s favourite electro dance outfit is well worth the wait. I'm going to nail my colours to the mast here. I've always had admiration for the Essex outfit who have delivered some absolute monster tunes since their first album Experience landed in 1992. Their music dominates my work out mixes and when it comes to the top track in my spin classes, well, they destroy all who attempt to get close.
The Day Is My Enemy is possibly The Prodigy’s most brutal and heavy release of all time. The title track kicks off proceedings big time, with loops and pounding bass hammering away. Nasty, the first single follows with Keith Flint’s snarling Essex tones combining with Maxim to accompany the huge synths and vicious drum beats. The whole album is laced with aggression, massive bass and drum and enough of an edge to transport you back to a time when this music was fresh and raw.

Highlights on an album packed with killer tracks? Well Destroy is going to do just that with an absolutely destructive back line as it builds slowly and then explodes to smash your head on the floor. Wild Frontier, the second release from the album will provoke carnage amongst the mosh pits and also contains some of the most addictive hooks The Prodigy have ever come up with; Beyond The Deathray has a real old school feel to it whilst Get Your Fight On, well, yeah! That! I just can’t fault the album; it’s relentless; ideal for barrelling along the motorway to, it pumps you in the gym and generally picks you up when you fall. It’s no calming influence, and the urge to punch a defenceless farmyard animal was strong, especially after Rok-Weiler had given me a clip ‘round the ear but then, what do actually expect from this lot? Overall, this is a much more consistent release than Invaders Must Die, and a glorious return for a band who still lead from the front with Liam Howlett and co. providing an album bursting with meaty hooks and riffs. An album with 14 tracks is always going to have a couple of weaker moments, but there are few stragglers on here and even those at the back of the herd will prove a mighty challenge for any predators wishing to pick them off. Roll on 8 May at the MIA. It’s going to be messy. 9/10

Katatonia: Sanctitude (Kscope)

Like Anathema, Katatonia have transformed from the chrysalis of their death metal origins into a quite sensational, beautiful outfit, totally comfortable with their evolving sound and direction. Sanctitude is a recording of their sold out acoustic show at the Union Chapel in London in May 2014 as part of the Dethroned and Uncrowned European Tour. I was fortunate enough to see Casualties of Cool at this venue last year and it is perfect for the type of acoustic performance that Katatonia delivered. The acoustics are captured spectacularly and really help to enhance the quality of the songs. The production is sensitive and top quality. The audience are respectful but hugely appreciative and the set list is nothing short of amazing. Old favourites such as Teargas and Sleeper mingle with tracks from Dead End Kings (The Racing Heart, Lethean) and rarities such as the never before played live Gone (Discouraged Ones), Day from Brave Murder Day and Unfurl from the July EP. The atmosphere of the evening is captured on the album, something that is rare in a live recording. The acoustic re-workings provide completely fresh versions of many of the tracks; One Year From Now being a super example. 

The band lost two members not long before the start of the tour, and Jonas Renkse makes sure that there is ample acknowledgement for Bruce Soord who delivers some beautiful guitar, keyboards and backing vocals and fantastic percussion from JP Aslund. They are ably supported by Renkse on vocals and guitar as well as Anders Nystrom and Niklas Sandin on acoustic bass. The album maintains your interest due to the quality of the performance and the variation in the set list as well as the genuine quality in the delivery. The percussion and guitar work are magnificent and Renkse’s vocals are ideally suited to the echoing venue. Although there are some rarities contained within the setlist, Katatonia ensured they finished with three of their more well-known tracks; the stunning Omerta, Evidence and conclude with The One You Are Looking For with guest vocals from Silje Wergeland. Sanctitude is a quite beautiful piece of work; captivating in its delivery and a clear demonstration of the power of quality composition. Katatonia have long been one of my favourite bands and this release further strengthens that bond. A work of sheer excellence from one of the best bands around today. 10/10

Nightwish: Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Nuclear Blast)

The first album in 3 years from Nightwish, and the first full length with new frontwoman Floor Jansen, Endless Forms... is a return to form, albeit a slight one, from the (mostly) Finnish band. Following on from album-cum-film score, Imaginaerum, album opener Shudder Before The Beautiful rings out with echoes of older songs, such Dark Chest Of Wonders, symphonic guitars, keyboards and strings adding the bombastic sound that we've come to know and love from the band. Jansen's voice fits perfectly with the rest of the band; whereas original frontwoman Tarja Turunen could hit the high notes, and Annete Ozlon had her clean vocals, Floor's vast vocal range allows her to take up the roles of both of her predecessors and it is this realisation that makes it slightly disappointing that we do not get a sample of Floor's operatic talents until very late in the album. Having heard her work with her own band, Revamp, as well as seeing her live, it feels as if Floor's voice is not being as utilised as it could be, the breakdown of Yours Is An Empty Hope being the only time we hear her using harsh vocals and growling.

This does however give the album more of an open feel than previous ones, the band allowing themselves to spread out a bit more creatively. Our Decades In The Sun had a very power ballad-esque sound, with Troy Donockley's pipes adding a folky touch without feeling too forced. Elan feels like a callback to The Last Of The Wilds and it's obvious that the band are constantly adding strings to their bow, Imaginaerum's film-score sound an obvious inspiration behind The Eyes Of Sharbat Gula, a slow build up with chanting from both band and the children, giving it a film credit feel. It wouldn't be a Nightwish album without an epic song, and The Greatest Show On Earth is just that, coming in at shy of 24 minutes, it gives us a taste of every facet of Nightwish's repertoire, from Tuomas Holopainen's keyboards, Jansen's aforementioned operatic voice (along with plenty of mid-range stuff too), the heavy drumming of Jukka Nevalainen paired with the thumping bass of Marco Hietala, who also supports Floor with his baritone vocals and some great solos from Emppu Vuorinen as well as Troy's pipes. There's even some narration from Richard Dawkins, along with a full chorus and orchestra. The song seems to drag in places, animal sounds being used as filler, obviously supporting the story being told, but feeling as if they go on a bit too long at times. Overall, Endless Forms... is a great album, but as mentioned before, doesn't seem to fully utilise the talent of the band, particularly their new frontwoman. Here's hoping the band realise this come the next album. 7/10

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Another Point Of View: Blind Guardian (Live Review By Paul)

Blind Guardian:  HMV Forum, London

A sold out Forum witnessed a quite stunning night of magical story telling from one of the metal world’s most engaging bands. Although the audience appeared in the main to be a reconstruction of the international World of Warcraft play-offs, the passion and energy which was demonstrated by the crowd and mirrored on stage was world class. Rarely has such enthusiasm greeted the arrival of Germans in the UK capital.

Warming up the rapidly filling venue, Israel’s premier metal outfit Orphaned Land (9) are now much more familiar to many of our readers and indeed metal fans in general on these shores. Fired by a triumphant show at BOA, a 10th anniversary show to celebrate the fine Mabool album in London and a shared award (with Palestinian group Khalas) at the Metal Hammer awards last year, the Orphaned Land star continues to rise and shine brightly. Led by charismatic and impressive frontman Kobi Farhi, Orphaned Land arrived on stage bang on 7pm with the intro tapes to opener All Is One filling the Forum with Eastern promise. The Simple Man followed quickly with bassist and continuous headbanger Uri Zelha and impressive drummer Matan Shmuely dominating the sound with their rhythm section. Unfortunately the muddy sound tended to mask the twin guitars of Chen Balbus and Idan Amsallem. Happily the band delivered some of their heavier material which allowed the bass lines to enhance rather than dominate the sound; Barakah from The Never Ending Way Of Orwarrior and The Kiss Of Babylon from Mabool receiving a warm reception from the audience who by now were fully engaged. A change of tempo allowed Kobi to make reference to the conflict in the middle-East and his by now customary but no less heart-warming reference to music and metal bringing together both Israeli and Palestinian before the beautiful Brother was introduced. If only guys like this were politicians, we might again have faith in the system. Birth Of The Three ratcheted the volume back up the scale before a mass sing and clap-a-long ensued during Sapari. The band closed with Norra El Norra from Mabool, and with the crowd demanding more, Orphaned Land, who I had seen performing less than two years earlier at The Garage in front of little more than 150 people, ended a triumphant and quite excellent performance in style.

Having had the warm up, anticipation quickly increased as the clock crept towards the advertised start time for the main event. It has been over four years since Blind Guardian (10) played in the UK and the crowd were clearly determined to enjoy every second. As the clock hit 8:10pm, the intro tape to the opening track from this year’s most excellent Beyond The Red Mirror, The Ninth Wave crashed in and the crowd went bat shit crazy. Modest lighting picked out little but the band as they stormed into their opening number, the impressive backdrop hidden from view for the time being. Pounding drumming from Frederick Ehmke, driving guitars from Marcus Siepen and Andre Olbrich and of course the magnificent vocals of Hansi Kursch, looking incredibly fit and healthy ensured that the masses were lapping every last note up within minutes. Banished From Sanctuary followed, the audience joining in with every chorus and at times every word. Kursch is a natural frontman, encouraging and challenging the crowd throughout and entertaining with his banter in between songs. Announcing that the audience could now only listen to Blind Guardian, forsaking all other bands and that if they didn't he’d come round and smash up your computer was delivered with charisma and humour, whilst the welcome to the “first night of the UK tour”, and “the last night of the UK tour” was a stroke of genius. Nightfall produced the first real sing-a-long of the night before Fly from my favourite A Twist In The Myth increased the temperature and the excitement. Reference to Elric, one of Michael Moorcock’s heroes segued nicely to Tanelorn before the band hit song number two from the latest release with Prophecies. The tempo was reduced nicely for Miracle Machine and A Past And Future Secret with the band providing an acoustic set.

After Bright Eyes, Blind Guardian ramped the tempo back up to boiling point with Lost In The Twilight Hall, with touring bassist Barend Courbis and keyboardist Michael Schuren fitting in perfectly with the rest of the band, both musically and with their backing harmonies. The band closed their main set with the splendid Imaginations From The Other Side before leaving to rapturous applause. Blind Guardian are a heavy package live, let me tell you, and the respite allowed me to regain my focus following a quite brutal metal assault. As the band returned and launched into first encore Into The Storm, I found myself with a huge smile on my face. Twilight Of The Gods, as classy a piece of power metal as you can get followed, with the fretwork continuing to draw gasps of admiration and excitement. Inevitably the set ended with Valhalla; cue mass sing-a-long before the band, beaming from ear to ear left the stage again.

It wasn't over though, and a second encore was demanded and delivered. A blistering Wheel Of Time pummelled the crowd into a stupor; luckily The Bard's Song allowed The Forum to demonstrate some quite magical singing. Prompting Hansi to comment that it was one of the best vocal deliveries of this song he had ever heard. Final set closer could only be Mirror Mirror from Nightall In Middle Earth, and once again the crowd sang along to every word, whilst the small mosh pit that had been wheeling for most of the evening had one last dance. Blind Guardian delivered over two hours of quite astonishing quality power metal; their set was well paced and balanced to perfection. For a Blind Guardian first timer, I have to admit it was quite an experience. A great band who have promised not to take four years to return. This time it was worth the wait. Absolutely magnificent.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Reviews: Halestorm, The Gentle Storm, Royal Thunder

Halestorm: Into The Wild Life (Atlantic)

Three albums (and two cover EP's) into their career and Halestorm stand on the precipice of superstardom, adapting their style slightly on their last album to make it more radio friendly, focussing on massive sounding hook laden songs mixed with Lzzy Hale's passionate vocals and obvious sex appeal. As such this third record is aimed squarely at US FM radio with the opening track Scream drenched in electronics sounding like a song that could have come off the last In This Moment album. Once again Lzzy Hale's vocals are amazing full of venom and soul in equal measure, she is definitely the focal point of the band, with her brother Arejay's drums coming a close second as Joe Hottinger's guitar and Josh Smith's bass hold their own through these arena baiting tracks. But it's here we get to the problem, with the band looking upward and towards the future as headliner they have lost a little of the spark present on The Strange Case Of... that album had some solid gold tunes on it but in just the first three songs I was losing interest a little, I Am The Fire is repetitive and ultimately bad songwriting, where as Sick Individual is just a little plain, it's only on the chunky swaggering riff of Amen that things pick up before they mix things up with Dear Daughter which is a little Lady Gagaish as Lzzy pounds away at the keys like a dusky lounge singer in a dark bar somewhere before things get a little Floydian at the end and we go straight into the countrified (with electronic enhancements) New Modern Love which is in fact a little Stevie Nicks. As you can see when they diversify they can still write a good tune at the expense of their hard rock basis, with the exception of the anarchic punkmetal of MayhemGotta Get Mine which has The Black Keys written all over it and I Like It Heavy. I think this album suffers a little with the number of tracks it has, a few could be culled from the 13 on the regular edition (15 on the special edition) to make it a more concise and indeed give the album more impact. There is no doubting what Halestorm are doing, they are trying to play music and make money (something hard to do in the current climate) they are doing this by focussing on their live performance however this means that their album does take huge genre shifts, with only a few choice cuts being sculpted for the stage, which means that there is a lot of filler on this record and in what seems to be trend too many ballads. Still the playing and production is modern and sharp as a pin, fans will love it however if you've never heard Halestorm before start with their previous album. 6/10  

The Gentle Storm: The Diary (InsideOut)

The Gentle Storm is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer Arjen Anthony Lucassen he of Ayreon, Star One, Guilt Machine, Ambeon and Stream Of Passion fame and Anneke Van Giersbergen frequent Lucassen and Devin collaborator and ex The Gathering. So both of these Dutch musicians come from quality musical backgrounds, because of that I was excited for this project which is based on the diary entries of a couple during the 1600's which was the Golden Age of Dutch naval trade. The story follows the couples lives and details their love story the man's while away at sea travelling to India and the woman's life of pregnancy, illness and eventual death. So tough stuff then with this love story sprawling many years and multiple parts but as with all of Lucassen's creations the payoff is in the musical dexterity and sheer brilliance of the orchestrations something that Arjen has always excelled in. Although it does seem that Mr Lucassen has tried to outdo even himself on this occasion making The Diary a double album with a difference; both discs feature the same 11 songs however the twist is that one is the Gentle version featuring acoustic, folk based interpretations of the tracks fuelled by classical and various world instruments and the second disc is the Storm version which is the pure form symphonic metal that Arjen has always been known for. Both albums are to be taken as separate pieces despite containing the same songs, some stand out on as the Gentle versions with Shores Of IndiaBrightest Light and New Horizon's being the pick of the bunch as their folksy instrumentation (from a 13 strong band) gives the songs their identity, however other songs work better in the metallic setting with Heart Of Amsterdam and The Storm being two examples. Happily all of the songs are strong enough to stand up in both versions in what is a fantastic double concept album, I'd lean to say the Storm version just pips it's sister album, due to this blogs focus but that by no means says that Gentle is the weaker album. Taken together this is an excellent project that is a collaboration of two great talents to make some beautiful music. 8/10     

Royal Thunder: Crooked Doors (Relapse)

Atlantan four piece Royal Thunder have finally gotten around to releasing their second album, their debut CVI came out of nowhere and knocked us here at the MoM off our feet, the band fuse a myriad of styles with big Zep-like riffs, mixing with psychedelic freak-outs and a smidgen of driving alt-rock. So what of Crooked Doors then? Well more of the same thankfully the album kicks off with the sprawling Time Machine which starts off with the quiet/loud dynamic before its trippy, emotive middle section and searing guitar work of Josh Weaver and Will Fiore turn it into a slow burning monster, not an immediate start but certainly a powerful one, as the reverb kicks in on Forget You we get more of the bands power with a doom-laden riff driven by Evan Diprima's dynamic drum work and Milny Parsonz' rhythmic low-end. Together the band have a real sonic power, the songs are perfectly formed and played with exceptional musicianship but unlike many bands Royal Thunder's song writing prowess and knack of fusing genres means that you are taken on a musical journey from the passionate power rock of The Line through the swaying, dusky, soul/psych of Forgive Me, Karma, the dark Glow and the progressive Ear On The Fool shows that the band have a real Jekyll & Hyde nature all tied together with classic influences and Parsonz riotous vocals, this girl can certainly sing! Her voice is not to dissimilar to Mz Hale being able to handle the rockier tracks just as deftly as she handles the slower (and very Zep-like) tracks such as One Day and the double part, emotive, haunting finale The Bear I and The Bear II which ends the album in a serene and portentous manner. Royal Thunder could be on the upward trajectory with this amazing sophomore album! 9/10         


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Reviews: Venrez, WhiskeyDick, Defy All Reason

Venrez: Children Of The Drones (Monarch Music Group)

Some of you might remember that I reviewed Venrez's second album American Illusion in the early days of this blog and I was impressed by the band then, well luckily very little has changed on their third album the band are still purveyors of psychedelic, reverb driven hard rock that is part Alice In Chains part Wylde-era Ozzy. Once again the album lyricism focuses on the government, the failures of modern life and how much everything sucks really, still they do it backed by some muscular guitar work played deftly with low and slow guitar work from Jason Womack on Mist Of Mercy and Refelction. Womack also adds the spiralling keys on Devil's Due and being the band's secret weapon he not only provides the riffage on album with Salvation and title track he is also the primary provider of the bands sonic assault handling the drums and bass on the album too. So with the music taken care of it's up to front man Venrez to provide his unique vocals to proceedings part Ozzy part Layne Staley his drawl punctuates the great musical backing. As a man who has spent a lot of his life a Hollywood producer, starting a band late in life can be a risk but with three albums under his belt he is going from strength to strength, a great album for fans of chunky, alternative rock. 7/10

WhiskeyDick: Welcome To Yeehaw Country (Yeehaw Records)

Texans WhiskeyDick have been doing the rounds for a while now and with their regular tours of the UK they are starting to make a name for themselves here across the pond. This album is a compilation of their finest songs compiled as an accompaniment to their greatly deserved European headline tour. Happily I've had the pleasure of seeing WhiskeyDick twice now and I also have nearly all of their albums so it was nice to have this collection of songs all on one disc giving newer fans a chance to hear all their live staples in one place. WhiskeyDick are made up of two men Rev Johnson on lead acoustic guitar and Fritz on rhythm acoustic guitar and vocals, see that I said acoustic guitar as there is no room for electric axes in WhiskeyDick they ply their trade in down home, acoustic hillbilly country metal. Redemption kicks things off with a train-like chug and some blues harp honking throughout, this is followed by the live staple  Train Robbin', Gun Toting, Dope Smoking, Guitar Pickin', Motherfuckin', Guitar Band (which was written in 1865 apparently) the joyous nature of Train Robbin'... is followed by the heavyweight YEEHAW! which sees Fitz going from his booming normal voice to a low shout on the chorus, this is most metallic song on the album and along with 18 Wheels Of Hell (acoustic thrash) and Drunk As Hell they show the band have some serious country metal song writing chops. The band evoke the spirit of David Allen Coe, (Frtiz vocals especially) Black Label Society and Pantera who are the bands primary influence with tributes to their fallen axeman Dimebag with Black Tooth Green and Fallen Heroes both featuring some killer (pedal driven) guitar work from Johnson (especially on the epic album closer Fallen Heroes). Welcome To Yeehaw Country is the perfect album to introduce people to the brilliance of WhiskeyDick and serves a great springboard for them to get the recognition they deserve, get a beer, turn it up and Getcha Pull!! 9/10    

Defy All Reason: The Road Ahead (Self Released)

Having stormed the stage at Hammerfest 2014 Defy All Reason have now got round to releasing their debut album through Pledge Music and finally their brand of chest beating hard rock is unleashed on the masses and as Midnight Train blares out of the speakers kicking off the album you know that this Wrexham four-piece mean business with their big swaggering riffs and southern rock ethos, think Black Stone Cherry with a smidge of Shiendown mixed with the British grit of Pig Iron or Trucker Diablo, they mix gut punching power with great songwriting and catchy hooks, you will be humming Bad Blood for days. Much of the bands greatness comes from the how well they work as a band Lee Shenton and Todd Edwards' engine room is solid, hard hitting and anchors the bands sound perfectly, see You Get Me High, the twin axes of Daz and Gavin Lee Jones have the louche guitar work of Slash all fret runs and searing bluesy solos with Gavin Lee's smoky but melodic vocals just topping things of  nicely. DAR are band not adversed to the odd slower track with Finding My Way (Back To You) having the similar metallic ballad style of Alter Bridge and the more traditional fare with Behind Those Eyes and The Only One being pure syrup with their saccharine balladry that is deep in Shinedown territory, still the rest of the rest of the album is balls out, heads down hard rock and they do indeed rock like a bastard, they even do a superb cover of Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead Or Alive that has bigger cojones than Jon Bon ever had. Defy All Reason have created a hell of a debut that hopefully will set them on an upward trajectory! 8/10       




Sunday, 5 April 2015

Another Point Of View: Vintage Trouble (Review By Paul)

Vintage Trouble: Motion, Bristol

A mere nine months ago, I reviewed VT for MoM and awarded them the prestigious 10/10 for their energised and classy performance at the Bierkeller. The band were on amazing form that night, wowing a sold out crowd with 90 minutes of bluesy soul. I have to be honest, I didn't think that they could get much better. How wrong I was.

The Motion is a relatively new environment in a City with more music venues than you can shake your stick at. Located on the banks of the Avon but further away from Bristol City Centre, it has hosted a range of genres and styles, including the excellent Temples Festival. It suited Vintage Trouble perfectly. Taking the opportunity for a couple of headline dates between supporting Paloma Faith at much larger venues such as the 02 Arena, Vintage Trouble managed to sell out most dates and Bristol was no exception. Bristol loves Vintage Trouble.

So, given that my last eulogy is still relatively fresh, what superlatives do I use this time? Arriving on stage at 8:00pm, Ty and the boys delivered another absolutely stunning performance which featured tracks from their debut album along with some tasters from their forthcoming summer release, which is going to be one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Lead singer, human dynamo and Mr Charisma Ty Taylor noted that Vintage Trouble are definitely “live music first, recorded music second”. No-one in the packed audience was complaining. Given the frequency in which they are on our shores and with a limited catalogue, you could be forgiven for expecting the band to be somewhat complacent. Absolutely not. Mixing up the set list, the band provided a master class in how to pace a set. Kicking off with some of their up tempo tracks, Nancy Lee and the masterful Blues Hand Me Down, the energy levels started at 11 and never dropped. A reduction in tempo during the middle for some of their more soulful tunes, including Lover Leave Me Be and Nobody Told Me then allowed the audience to catch their breath whilst demonstrating the magnificent vocal range of Taylor. The set climaxed with the frontman charging around the crowd whilst still maintaining his delivery to perfection. Set closer Run Like the River was followed by a rapturous encore of Better Believe It and Pelvis Pusher as the band excited one by one to a huge crescendo of applause and cheers.

Of course, VT are not just about Ty Taylor and the rest of the band, Nalle Colt on guitar, Richard Danielson on drums and Rick Barrio Dill on bass deliver the gritty dirty sound which allows Taylor’s blues soaked singing to feature so prominently. Colt is no slouch with some quite magnificent guitar work whilst Dill and Danielson are possibly the coolest rhythm section in music today. As always, the band were totally suited and booted, allowing them to retain the best dressed band award for another year. They also connect with the entire audience and as you looked around there were couples, parties, metal heads, young and old all grinning, clapping and generally having a quite spectacular evening. How many other bands bring out a cake to mark a super fan’s 100th gig? Or remember a couple that got engaged at another of their shows and remind them that the box for the ring was still safely in their possession?

Crafted and honed, Vintage Trouble are a band with a one way trajectory to the stars. They deserve it. A fantastic evening and although as I headed to the gig I wondered about my enthusiasm to see them on another tour, by the end of the set I was already looking forward to another viewing in the future. 10/10 (again). (Wholeheartedly Agreed- Ed)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Reviews: Enforcer, Kyrbgrinder, Caelestia

Enforcer: From Beyond (Nuclear Blast)

Swedes Enforcer have been doing the rounds for ten years and their leather and spandex clad retro metal has improved with every album, now usually the bands in this NWOTHM they take from Maiden, Priest, Saxon etc and this can get a bit samey after a while so that is why Enforcer have always appealed to me as they take their sound from the more underground bands in the original NWOBHM; I'm talking about Raven, Tokyo Blade and Angel Witch and yes their sound is very NWOBHM with a lot of speed metal influences of Exciter, Manilla Road and Helstar to name a few. The blistering speed of Destroyer is a testament to their speed metal bothering as it's 3 minute run time seems half that. In fact this song could be a metaphor for the whole album as the 10 tracks seem to fly by with the title track being the most melodic track on the album filled with the occult lyricism that goes through the album wholesale through the shortest track One With Fire and the Mercyful Fate baiting Below The Slumber which shows off Olof Wikstrand's glass shattering vocals. The album is split by the obligatory instrumental Hungry They Will Come and the final tracks whizz by in a furious, metallic mid 80's rage with Farewell being the only cut on the album that slows things down at the beginning before revving things back up again at the end. Enforcer have always been a byword for quality, consistent metal and once again they have produced an album that makes you did out your bullet belt and bang your head!! 8/10  

Kyrbgrinder: Chronicles Of A Dark Machine (Cherry Red)

Kyrbgrinder's last album Cold War Technology is a firm favourite of mine, I played that record to death, because of it's funky metal delivery and passionate songwriting. The band is a three piece formed by Johanne James the drummer of British prog metal legends Threshold (think a Brit Dream Theater if you don't know them), now Threshold happen to be a favourite of mine so when I saw Johanne had another band I quickly looked them up and fell in love with them. Now Johanne handles the drumming on this record with Dave Lugay on bass and Aaron Waddington on guitar, but more importantly than his immensely impressive drumming he also has a voice that is smooth as silk, think Benji Webbe mixed with crooner Seal, the fact that he can do both of these live shows that Johanne is more than just a drummer (eat your heart out Phil Collins). Now when I heard they were releasing their third album my excitement peaked here was another chance to hear a unique band that very rarely tour near me. Once again they have come up trumps with some top quality alternative styled metal see the Seether-like Oxygen, with nearly all the band's lyrics fuelled by political rallying against injustice and hardship that befall a lot of the world's population. Slipping Away is the James feeling like he is on the outside looking in at the modern world, the bouncy Taking Control is very Disturbed like with James rapid fire lyrics and the big groove guitar playing from Lugay and Waddington and has the band lamenting the distance of the planet from what's actually happening, the biggest amount of bile though is saved for those over the pond with Captain America really touching a nerve. With this mix of clever lyricism and dexterous musicianship Kyrbgrinder have their own little niche and are all the better for it, with a melting pot of influences combining to create a great album for fans of metal that is more alternative and carries a stronger message than a lot bands around. 8/10      

Caelestia: Beneath Abyss (Inverse)

Despite the strong religious belief in Greece, the country does seem to produce some of the most extreme metal and indeed dark metal, with lyricism that rallies against religion and brings in horror imagery to create dark soundscapes filled with harsh guitar work and vocals. Bands like Rotting Christ and SepticFlesh (who's bassist/vocalist Spiros designs the artwork for this album) lead this crusade but Caelestia have now burst on to the scene to throw their hat into the ring. The band come from the Mark Jansen school of song-writing with After Forever/Epica and MaYaN all coming to mind. Front woman Dimitra's operatic vocals soar above the wall of noise from the double kick drums, furious shredding and are in direct opposition to Nikos' black metal screams, the two of them work well together to create light and shade. Characterised as melodic death metal, I would also add a strong progressive influence to this with the chugging Gate Of Shadows, changing time signatures throughout, the album is split by two haunting instrumentals the first of which The Grand Sublimation is the perfect warm up for the pure death metal of Blessing Of Tragedy which features Soilwork's Bjorn 'Speed' Strid unmistakeable vocals, before the orchestral and electronic elements come back on the furious Behemoth baiting Beneath The Abyss, you get your head kicked in with the brutal Secret Rite before Lake Of Decay is a great modern metal track with some electronic flourishes and some great guitar work. A huge melting pot of influences Caelestia's sound needs a bit of refining and the production needs to be a bit cleaner but this is a strong debut from these Athenians that will appeal to those who like their metal more extreme. 7/10