Annihilator: Suicide Society (UDR)
Canadian thrash legends Annihilator have seen many line up changes throughout their years with only guitarist/lead writer Jeff Waters remaining the constant. The band seemed to have relative stability since 2004 with Dave Padden taking the vocalist role where Annihilator have always had problems, this new union seemed to be strong with Padden featuring on their great self titled album and 2013's Feast, both of which were full of the insane guitar prowess of Waters' early releases, bringing back the band into the collective conciousness. Padden too was a good fit for the band with his muscular vocals giving the band a new lease of life. However come 2015 and it's all change again with Padden departing the band leaving just Waters to continue with drummer Mike Harshaw, so for the first time since 1996 Waters not only handles all guitars and bass but vocals too (he previously sang between 1994 and 1996). So what is the new (old) Annihilator like well the outright superspeed of their early releases has been subdued a little on this album with Waters stripping things back for more heavy metal rather than speed metal/thrash style (which thankfully is still present on tracks such as Death Scent).
This release echoes the early 90's career of both Metallica and Megadeth I'm talking Youthanasia and The Black Album. This is an album that wears it's influences on it's sleeve, the title track which has a big stomping riff, before it speeds up for solo section and has Waters' giving his best Mustaine snarl which persists for the albums duration with the odd Papa Het "ohhh yeeeah" dropping in here and there. My Revenge is a bit too close to Damage Inc for my liking but it's still a good song that flaunts Waters' impressive guitar prowess. Snap is a darker but anthemic track and Creepin' Again has the same kind of wacky vocal delivery as Brain Dance but on the sort of sequel to Enter Sandman. Despite the setbacks in the personnel department Annihilator have released another great album that is different to their previous album but in a good way, this is the album Megadeth have wanted to make for years, I can't wait to see some of these crackers live at the end of the month. 8/10
Echolyn: I Heard You Listening (Self Released)
I Heard You Listening is American proggers Echolyn's ninth album, they were originally active in the early nineties playing a lengthy style of progressive rock favoured by Yes, Gentle Giant and early Genesis before going on hiatus until 2000. Since then they have released four albums, these retain the progressive values of old, but see them delivered in a more streamlined way favouring substance over style and concise songs over long winded instrumentals, most of the songs on this album don't crack the 10 minute mark with only the sprawling Empyrean Realms coming near with its euphoric delivery evoking those early Yes albums. The American band owe much to UK prog with ELP referenced in spades on Different Days which has all consuming organs and keys, something that continues throughout the album which fuses rock with more jazz passages on tracks like Once I Get Mine. The band also move through the modern neo-prog of Anathema on songs like the dreamy Sound Of Bees. The band also have nods to Rush and obviously Floyd but for the most part it is classic British prog with the five piece band of virtuoso musicians all playing excellently on these nine tracks that have wide spectrum of sounds but all pinned down by Christopher Buzby's keys and the dual lead vocals of Ray Weston and guitarist Brett Kull whose voices intertwine flawlessly on the Jethro Tull-like All This Time We're Given before Vanishing Sun brings everything together at the end. This is a strong album from an experienced band who do what they do very well. 7/10
Christian Mistress: To Your Death (Relapse)
There has been a glut of female fronted 'occult' bands at the moment with the whimsical, dreamy rock bands singing of demons and mystery usually with a Stevie Nicks-like chanteuse bewitching the audience with her lilting vocals as the band play intoxicating music. However Americans Christian Mistress have gone against the grain retaining the arcane lyricism but musically they are more akin to the NWOBHM style rock of Diamond Head and even the Scorpions than they are Blood Ceremony, The Blues Pills etc. Frontwoman Christie Davis has a husky vocal that lends the songs some big balls as she belts out the vocal lines over the pumping rhythm section of Jonny Wulf's striding bass and Reuben W Storey's thumping tubs, while Oscar Sparbel and Tim Diedrich furnish songs like Stronger Than Blood with intertwining leads of the early Maiden albums, Eclipse even has the Maiden gallop to give it that extra element of authenticity. There is a lot of influences on this record Neon has the Scorpions written all over it, Walkin' Around starts off with a chiming Angus Young guitar line before moving into another NWOBHM anthem, while Open Road harks to Thin Lizzy and Ultimate Freedom which edges into the occult rock tag mentioned earlier before speeding up with a more metallic middle. Christian Mistress are unashamedly retro with some killer hooks and performances, if you like NWOBHM with a rock edge then you will love this. 7/10