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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Reviews: Armored Saint, Pyramaze, Phear

Armored Saint: Win Hands Down (Metal Blade)

Armored Saint will probably be known as the band that John Bush fronted before he was in Anthrax however as he came back to the fold with Revelation it would be another 10 years until they released their 'comeback' with the excellent La Raza so now 5 years on The Saint have come marching again with what is only their seventh album. So does this album stand up to their great debut and indeed their previous release? Well as Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval's guitars rip through the opening title track the answer is an emphatic yes as the riffage comes thick and fast and the solo section sees the men fight for every note. A powerful opening then that shows that Armored Saint were always much better than they were given credit for, much of this comes from the great vocals of John Bush who was a perfect fit for Anthrax having a wider range than Joey Belladonna but he is right at home with Armored Saint giving a powerful chest beating performance. Mess could be the bands Indians you can even war dance to the percussive middle section provided by Gonzo Sandoval and Joey Vera. This album is non stop, filled with huge riffs, great songs played with talent and attacked with a talent perfected over years of touring and recording. The only slow song comes in the form of Dive which is an atmospheric ballad with soaring solo. There are only nine songs on this album but they are all excellent and show Armored Saint's continuing  away from straight up thrash by adding some classic rock influences (Hammonds on Muscle Memory) and even a touch 80's sleaze metal seen on That Was Then, Way Back When. Armored Saint are back with a bang and with yet another collection of killer songs to add to their live set especially the fist raising In An Instant and the modern sounding Up Yours that ends the album brilliantly. I for one can't wait for Bloodstock!! 9/10   

Pyramaze: Disciples Of The Sun (Inner Wound)

Considering the band have been around since 2001, this is only Pyramaze's fourth album, part of this may be because the band have had 4 four singers since their inception with numerous hiatus', the last hiatus saw founding guitarist Michael Kammeyer leave the band being replaced by Jacob Hansen who is more known as producer than a guitarist handling production for Amaranthe right through to Volbeat and hundreds of bands in between as well as being and in demand mixer and masterer. Obviously he handles the production on this album which along with Jonah Weingarten's keys give this album a cinematic quality, something Pyramaze have always brought to the prog/power genre. Now their last album had ex-Iced Earth man Matt Barlow providing the vocals but he has gone on to pastures new and the band have had a reshuffle leaving only drummer Morten Gade Sørensen as the founding member along with the longest serving members Weingarten and guitarist Toke Skjønnemand as being the only constants through all the albums, they do have a new vocalist in the shape of Terje Harøy who if he sticks around may be the man to get Pyramaze more recognised in the world of metal than they are now, his vocal is powerful, masculine and chest beating in it's delivery echoing Evergrey's Tom Englund while having a poppier element to it on tracks like Genetic Process where he really shows of is passionate shout over a heavy backing. The playing on this album is intense the band have all guns blazing Skjønnemand and Hansen's guitars tearing and ripping through all of the tracks with heavy riffs and sublime lead breaks all duelling with Weingarten's killer keys and Gade Sørensen's superb drumming. Once again Pyramaze have released another strong album that fans of Evergrey and Kamelot will lap up. Let's hope that Terje Harøy sticks around as Pyramaze have definitely found a new lease of life with him in the role of frontman, a great album from a band who have always had a massive amount of unfulfilled potential. 9/10    

Phear: Insanitarium (Self Released)

When you think of Canadian thrash what springs to mind? Give up? The only two that are well known are Annihilator and Voivod with a few bands like Slaughter having cult status, now Canada is not really known for thrash, but when they do deal with the fast angry music they do it in a more progressive style than their American cousins. So can Phear add their name to this small list of bands that deal in the pit starting music? Well the album starts off with the atmospheric opening of Regan's Dream where the horror motif is drown out by the air raid sirens and then the riffs of Graham Stirrett and Tyson Emmanuel with fat slabs of guitars moving the song along before everything speeds up in the middle eight allowing the solos to come thick and fast, before the time changes once again at the final part, so thrashy and progressive yep it's Canadian thrash folks. The rhythm section of Stan Miczek  and Mark Ferreira's bass and Chris Lewis' drums, drive the groove laden tracks like Fallen while the Pat Mulock has a good voice that brings to mind Tim 'Ripper' Owens  however his higher register doesn't really do it for me. On the other hand when it's duetting with Basia Lyjak on Heaven shows that he fits the band well adding some emotion to the heavyweight musical backing. This album is a bit long to be honest at 13 tracks you get a lot of bang for your buck but Phear have knack for atmospheric Nevermore styled progressive thrash metal that brings to mind Nevermore especially on Delusions, the album draws it's influences from everywhere but the middle section of the album slows up significantly and does become a bit of a dirge before speeding back to life on Until You Die. Phear have produced a confident debut that stands them in good stead however the album would be improved by the quality over quantity argument, until they've mastered that they won't quite reach the heights of Annihilator or Voivod. Still if you like a bit of progressive thrash with a nod to groove metal than Phear will be right up your alley. 7/10    

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