Melodic death metal legends Dark Tranquility, godfathers of the “Gothenburg scene” return with their 11th album and it’s a solid affair. Fusing Mikael Stanne’s traditional death growls with some rather tidy clean vocals Atoma contains a mix of all out brutality with many calmer and melodic passages. It is the first album without rhythm guitarist Martin Henriksson who left in March 2016 after 26 years with the band.
New bassist Anders Iwers makes his debut on this follow up to 2013’s Construct. Much emphasis is placed on the song composition with the synth work of Martin Brandstrom providing a nice counterfoil to the frantic drumming of Anders Jivarp and the scorching guitar work of Niklas Sundin. Tracks such as Neutrality, Forward Momentum and Force Of Hand provide all the evidence you need that the Swedes are still a major force in the melodic death metal arena. 7/10
Graham Bonnet Band: The Book (Frontiers)
Born in Skegness in 1947, Graham Bonnet still possesses on of the finest and most powerful voices in rock. The Book is a new album with 11 freshly recorded tracks by The Graham Bonnet Band along with rerecorded versions of 16 ‘classics’. For a man whose first hit was way back in 1968 with The Marbles (Only One Woman, written by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees pop pickers), his longevity can only be admired. However, I have long taken umbrage with the word ‘legend’ that he has been labelled with.
On the plus side, he provided Rainbow and Ritchie Blackmore with fresh impetus and two hit singles in 1980. All Night Long and Since You’ve Been Gone have long sat in the classic rock file, although both are lyrically creepy. His sole album with Rainbow Down To Earth also contained two real solid other tunes, Lost In Hollywood and the stomping Eyes Of The World. His time with Michael Schenker in MSG was slightly less impressive. One album, the rather weak Assault Attack and one gig in Sheffield where he appeared pissed and with his cock out. Yes, legendary for all the wrong reasons. Alcatrazz contained more guitar virtuosos than he had a right to expect, with Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai and three albums failed to produce much unless you happen to be Japanese where the former crooner is idolised like CP3O at an Ewok Convention.
So, let’s get CD 2 out of the way first. A list of 16 reworked classics which includes the four tracks from his stay with Mr Blackmore, albeit devoid of the man in black’s bluesy Fender Stratocaster magic. A few from Bonnet’s sole MSG outing including Assault Attack, Desert Song and the pop-influenced Dancer, all of which suffer without metal Mickey’s guitar work. I had cause to put on the original Assault Attack track just to refresh my memory and it was so much better than this version. Still, Bonnet’s vocals hold up well to the original and if you get the opportunity check out the You Tube recording of Bonnet singing this with Schenker at this year’s Sweden Rocks. In fact, it’s his solo stuff that works best here with a blistering version of Night Games, which is still a brilliant tune; pop rock at its best.
The re-workings of his time with Alcatrazz and Imperllitteri, well, yeah, they are okay. It’s better fare on CD1, which has the original compositions. A throwback to the pomp of his Rainbow days, there is some good hidden amongst the 11 on offer. Of course, it’s a matter of taste, but Bonnet’s vocals performance is impressive. The classic rock vibe is really in evidence with Jimmy Waldo’s keyboards duelling with Conrad Pesinato’s fine guitar work in much the same way Blackmore did with Don Airey in those halcyon days of the first Monsters Of Rock. Opener Into The Night is a storming track, fluid and fast. Rider powers away, full of melody and pomp whilst The Book is a genuine rocker. I’ve never really liked Bonnet, his suited image and apparent self-importance always made me feel uneasy. Credit where credit is due, The Book is a very decent melodic rock release, full of the classic rock feel of the 1980s but with a modern angle. It really demonstrates that the man can still sing and write good tunes. Much better than I was expecting. 7/10
Scattered Hamlet: Swamp Rebel Machine (Buck Moon Productions)
No pretence with this lot. It’s balls out dirty whisky soaked blues hard rock with a red neck stomp. Hell, the band list a whole slab of bands who would have you breaking the speed limit if they popped up on shuffle and Scattered Hamlet nestle in there, nicely situated alongside the likes of Texas Hippie Coalition and Hogjaw. These boys play hard and if you like your music powered by Skynyrd, Hatchet, Clutch and Sabbath with a serving of New Orleans sludge then this is just for you. It’s not subtle, it’s not sweet but it does the fucking job. Grab a beer, get your cowboy hat and jump aboard the Swamp Rebel Machine. It’s one hell of a ride. 8/10