The Mission: Another Fall From Grace (Eyes Wide Shut)
Back in the mid 1980s when I was in high school, metal was my religion. It still is of course but at that time anything without a thumping riff, long hair and tight as hell jeans was of no interest to me whatsoever. This changed when one of my best friends, who had always veered away from the heavier elements of music introduced me to the Sisters Of Mercy. Their debut album First, Last And Always was still very much rock but lent in the opposite direction to the path I was following. Full of sorrow and dark moods, The album was special.
Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams then left to form The Mission and the classic Gods Own Medicine was soon a regular on the turntable. Hussey's twelve string guitar work and mournful yet melodious voice combined with Adams solid bass lines and Simon Hinkler's hypnotic guitar produced a real monumental piece of work. Wasteland, Blood Brother, Severina, Stay With Me and the beautiful Garden Of Delights all cast their spell and remained etched in the memory. Over the years The Mission have continued to produce high quality music staying true to their Gothic overtures whilst always having more than a nod to the rock world.
Roll forward a mere 30 years and album no.12 Another Fall From Grace provides evidence, if that was ever needed that Hussey, Adams, Hinkler and drummer Mike Kelly are still able to produce the quality that oozed through that first album. Indeed, Hussey has stated that AFFG is “the lost link between First, Last And Always and God’s Own Medicine”. The link is undeniable, from the first stalking bars of the title track through to the haunting Phantom Pain which closes the album. Imperious, confident and overall just pretty special, AFFG is almost the perfect blue print. Hussey retains the mystery and arrogance in his vocals, with stand out tracks Jade and the magnificent Met-A-Morphosis highlights.
The cutting yet delicate guitar sound combines with piano with some panache on Jade whilst the oriental laid back flavour of Bullets And Bayonets hits the mark. The pacier side of the band with its indie guitar sound is prevalent on Can't See The Ocean For The Rain and Met-Amor-Phosis, a track that really returns you to 1986 albeit with a fresh feel. Throw in some heavyweight names on backing vocals (Gary Numan, Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, Him’s Ville Vallo, Julianne Regan from All About Eve and Evi Vine) and this album has it all. 30 years later, The Mission sit comfortably in the legends of Rock column and remain as vital today as they did back in those dark days of the 1980s. 9/10
Darkthrone: Arctic Thunder (Peaceville Records)
Few bands have been as influential in the world of black metal as Norwegian duo Darkthrone. Formed in 1986, and heavily influenced by Bathory and Celtic Frost, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto (real name Ted Skjellum) produced some of the defining black metal albums with their unholy Trinity (A Blaze In The Sky, Under A Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger) hailed as classics. Since 2006 the band has moved away from the traditional black metal style and headed towards more traditional metal sound which primarily features speed and punk influences. Arctic Thunder, the band's 16th release maintains this direction, although there is a massive nod back to those early influences of Thomas Gabriel Warrior and co throughout the album.
It's a pretty reliable slab, thrashy and stomping, with tracks like opener Tundra Leach and Burial Bliss pretty straightforward but also mighty fine. Fenriz’s vocals are reassuringly guttural and gravely, whilst the musicianship of the pair is excellent. Massive riffs and pounding rhythms leave no question about the heaviness of the album. Check out Inbred Vermin for evidence. The album contains more than a passing nod to Venom as well as Celtic Frost along with the induced speed of Motorhead. The album drips with hooks and opportunities to bang that head, with the stomping Deep Lake Trespass possibly the pick of the songs. This is an album well worth checking out, regardless of your tastes in black metal. 8/10
The Brew: Shake The Tree (Jazzhaus Records)
British powerhouse blues rockers The Brew have long been on our radar at the Musipedia. It took several years to finally catch them live, due to a combination of bad luck and cancellations but in 2014 we did finally see them at Hard Rock Hell. Their gritty, earthy blues rock certainly appealed then and their sixth full release, Shake The Tree certainly reinforces our earlier views on them. A straight forward ten track album, Shake The Tree oozes quality from the start with the skilful playing of Tim Smith, Kurtis Smith on drums and lead vocalist/ guitarist Jason Barwick gelling superbly. Barwick’s gritty voice is ideally suited to The Brew’s sound and his guitar sound is excellent. Downright dirty, soulful and bluesy and just all out hard rocking are the key descriptions of an album laden with hooks and melody. Black Hole Soul, Johnny Moore and the title track are fine examples of the band kicking out the jams. If you like your music with a hard rock edge and dripping with melody, this is an essential purchase. 8/10