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Monday, 24 April 2017

Reviews: Suffocation, Artificial Brain, Azarath, Forseen (Reviews By Paul)

Suffocation: ...Of The Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)

It's been four long years since one of the most consistent and brutal death metal bands, Long Island's Suffocation provided us with Pinnacle Of Bedlam. Their eighth album has been worth the wait, 35 minutes of absolute filthy death metal which stands alongside their contemporaries Immolation and Cannibal Corpse as exemplars of the genre.

The album is the first to feature rhythm guitarist Charlie Errigo and drummer Eric Morotti who acquit themselves well, with Morotti's pounding blast beats particularly intense. Vocalist and founder member Frank Mullen's vocals remain as guttural and growling as ever, whilst the rapid fire technical approach complete with multiple complex time changes and welcome break downs which have long symbolised the band's approach remain in situ. Veteran guitarist Terrence Hobbs continues to deliver most astonishing work with scalar runs and palm muting a plenty.

Mullen's roars, for example on the volcanic Return to the Abyss are quite horrifying. It's been a long time since Effigy Of The Forgotten helped set the blueprint for the grind core fused death metal. Suffocation remain a vital part of a burgeoning scene. Their assault on the Bierkeller in Bristol in August is going to be unmissable. 9/10

Artificial Brain: Infared Horizon (Profound Lore)

This is technical death metal at its most intense. Artificial Brain, coming at you from Long Island, New York was formed in 2011 by Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo and vocalist Will Smith of Biolich. Infrared Horizon is the band's second release following the intensity of 2014 debut Labyrinth Constellation. Crammed full of astonishingly intricate and technical death metal with some of the most astounding guitar work heard for many years, tracks such as Synthesised Instinct and Floating In Orbit pulse and snake around you, pulverising yet at times so detailed you have to stop and listen again.

Technical death metal is as extreme as I can take and Artificial Brain push to the limits. Their cosmic sci-if themes mesh fantastically with the relentless pace and Smith's brutal growl which is so sinister at times you think about hiding out of aural range. With some brilliant artwork to match the sheer velocity of the band, this is an album that is well worth getting hold of. Blisteringly good. 8/10

Azarath: In Extremis (Agoina Records)

2017 has been flooded with top quality death metal releases. Storming output from legends such as Immolation, Memoriam, Obituary, Hour of Penance and Suffocation. All rightly revered as leaders of the genre. Alongside the bigger names come a slew of lesser known outfits who can deliver just as intensely and heavily. Formed in 1998, Polish death metal outfit Azarath's sixth release, In Extremis sits comfortably next to those bigger guns. Unsurprisingly the themes focus on satanic and anti religious topics, with The Slain God, The Triumph Of Ascending Majesty leaving little to guesswork.

Azarath are as brutal as any on the scene with machine gun level intensity drumming from founder member Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski and the technical excellence of guitarists Bartlomiej "Bart" Szudek and Marek "Necrosodom" Lechowski repeatedly slicing your face off. Lechowski's vocals are immense, guttural and intimidating. With no let up from start to finish, the band throw everything into a quite blistering album which demonstrates influences such as Nile, Behemoth, Vale and Marduk whilst still forging a unique sound.

For absolute nut crushing death metal commit to the five minutes of Into The Nameless Night with its high pace, huge groove in the final section and overall battery which will leave you broken. This is good stuff. 8/10

Foreseen: Grave Danger (20 Buck Spin)

Helsinki outfit Foreseen have released a mighty slab of thrash which gets better on repeated plays. All out blasters which on occasion veer closely to death metal sit comfortably alongside thrash stomp grooves and a hardcore approach combining old school with the current fresh thrash style. This is their second full release following 2014's Helsinki Savagery.

With the twin guitars of Lauri Martiskainen and Erika Korpi duelling like crazy, it's down to Marten Gustafsson on drums and bassist Tatu Kuisma to bring the noise which they do with aplomb. My only negative thoughts about this album is the slightly ragged vocals of  Mirko Nummelin which sit comfortably within the assault but do detract slightly from the overall songs. Still, the all out thrash of Downward Spiral and political observations of Government Cuts and Suicide Bomber along with monstrous Fearmonger more than compensate in an album well worth bouncing around the room to. 7/10

Reviews: Warrior, Lich King, Blood Divisions

Warrior: Invasion Imminent (Self Released)

Neat Records...I'll let that sink in a bit, there will be a warm glow going through some of our readership right now. For those that don't know Neat records was one of the seminal NWOBHM labels the label was set up in Newcastle by the owner of Impulse studios David Wood who along with producer Steve Thompson brought Neat to prominence launching the international careers of Venom, Raven, Blitzkrieg and Jaguar all of whom have been cited as influences on the burgeoning Bay Area Thrash scene, Neat was the home too of Persian Risk (Phil Campbell Of Motorhead's original band), White Spirit (Janick Gers band before joining Maiden), Satan, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Avenger and even Wishbone Ash for one album!

Neat was also the home of Warrior a Geordie band (there is also a Warrior from Chesterfield) that became a casualty of NWOBHM, it's been well noted that there were literally hundreds of bands that slipped through the cracks during this time, the bands that survived are known to everyone but there are so many bands that just didn't get out alive. Warrior are in this latter category, after releasing a couple of EP's and a live album they split in 1984 never to be heard from again. That is until 2014 when original guitarist Dave Dawson reformed the band with original singer Eddy Smith Halliday, older and wiser they have capitalised on the revitalised D.I.Y style of releasing records that is much more successful than it was back in the 1980's this reformation has resulted two more EP's a compilation and this their 'debut' album.

Halliday and Dawson have swelled their ranks with Gwaether Bloom on guitar, Elliot Sneddon on drums, and Duncan Emmerson on bass (replaced by William Baxter since the records release) and you can tell that Warrior possibly had a tough break back in the day as Invasion Imminent is a strong record once the piano intro of Metal Fatigue subsides the record opens properly with Trojan Horse which has a immediate riff hooking you in an polishes it off with killer soloing, the tracks on this record are all celebrations of metal, mainly the excellent title track and the bands phoenix-like rebirth see Second Chance and Rise Of The Warriors. The record has great duality with songs that sprint but ones that also stomp like a T-Rex through tar, Black Middens is the album's big stoner riff.

From Halliday's Biff Byford like vocals, through the tough bottom end of Emmerson and Sneddon and the excellent guitar prowess of Dawson and Bloom, Invasion Imminent is similar in style to the most recent Saxon albums digging the old school vein with modern flourishes. I'm digging this record, proper British metal, not big, not clever just heads down rocking, just like it used to be. 7/10

Lich King: The Omniclasm (Self Released)

Lich King really should just be called Thrashy McThrashface, from the opening chords it's full on aggression from the first beat, the Massachusetts mob are sort of Overkill playing with Sacred Reich approach to thrash metal sitting in the crossover/classic metal Venn Diagram. The album follows their coverstar and namesake on his continuing adventures with the scum of humans, from the hardcore love-in of Preschool Cesspool, through the anti-authoritarian Our Time To Riot and the creeping Civilization all show Lich King's talent for perfectly acceptable thrash metal, while their humorous use of lyrics similar to but not as zany as our own Lawnmower Deth. If you love a bit of thrash metal with some comical lyrics but built on solid thrash metal backing the Lich King could be for you. 7/10

Blood Divisions: Cardinal One (Metal Blade)

Blood Divisions features David Austin (Nasty Savage) and Ed Aborn (Intersonic Cyber Symphony), with a roster of supporting musicians who are current or former members of bands such as Obituary, Death, Nasty Savage, Six Feet Under, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Deicide, Massacre, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, including Terry Butler and Ken Andrews (Obituary), Ralph Santolla (ex-Deicide, ex-Obituary), Jerry Mortellaro (Diabolic) and Bill Owen (ex-Purgatory).

From those involved you are probably expecting brain smackingly heavy metal but you'd be wrong this album is a bit of horrible mish mash of styles with funeral doom on The Morgue, some dreadful orchestral backed crap that is trying a bit too hard to be Trans Siberian Orchestra as well as three covers, guitarist David Austin is also in Nasty Savage whose track No Sympathy is covered at the end of the record and is actually the best song on the record, the other covers on the album are Hot N Ready by UFO and Top Of The Bill by The Scorpions both of which do little for the original mainly because they are being sung by Chris Jericho (Fozzy) he is no Klaus Meine nor is he Phil Mogg, I'm not saying he's a bad singer he just doesn't cut it when compared to these two.

Why the hell he has chosen to be apart of this project is beyond me but then I think he could do so much more with Fozzy. Cardinal One is a misconceived idea with poor songwriting and badly chosen covers that jar with the rest of the record, it's saved by the professional performances and the final track is strong, if Blood Divisions transformed into a thrash fuelled band they would be excellent however as it stands Cardinal One is just terrible. 2/10

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Reviews: Necrowretch, Ex People, The Evil Dead, Cocyte (Reviews By Rich)

Necrowretch: Satanic Slavery (Seasons Of Mist)

French blackened metal masters Necrowretch return with their third album Satanic Slavery which is a very appropriate title for a very bloodthirsty and evil album. Also it's a bit fucking good! Necrowretch continue with the style they have laid out on their previous two records which is a hybrid of black metal, death metal and thrash metal. The sound is very old school with a suitably raw yet clear production. This album is absolutely relentless with a barrage of savage tremolo riffs, blastbeats and the raspy evil vocals of frontman Vlad.

They also use a echo effect on the vocal for added evil effect which I absolutely adore. There isn't much different on this album from what Necrowretch have previously done but the songwriting is definitely improved with such savage gems as Sprawl Of Sin, Hellspawn Pyre, Trediciman Blackfire and the absolutely sublime title track. There isn't much variation between the songs but it doesn't matter at all when they all sound as wonderful as they do. Being a lover of all things gnarly and evil in metal this album appealed to me in every sense and is definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. 9/10

Ex People: Bird (New Heavy Sounds)

I have found that the doom/sludge/stoner scene in the UK has become very oversaturated and that currently there are few bands who make a lasting impression on me but Ex People have immediately grabbed my attention with their stunning debut album Bird. This London four piece have managed to combine catchy hooks with absolute sonic destruction. The band sound like a mix of Electric Wizard, Melvins and Kylesa with influences from grunge all wrapped up in a blaze of punk rock attitude.

This is truly a heavy heavy album with thick distorted fuzzy riffs, bass denser than molten lead and an absolute percussive beatdown. The vocals by frontwoman Laura are soaring and melodic but with a punk rock bite to them. The songs on the album range from catchier numbers such as Without and Surekill to bludgeoning monolithic bruisers such as The Host and Crested. Ex People have managed to craft a fantastic debut album that proves to me that there are still bands within the doom/sludge/stoner scene that can surprise and impress me. 8/10

The Evil Dead: Earth Inferno (Witches Brew)

The Evil Dead are a band from Argentina (the first metal band from Argentina I have heard) and 'Earth Inferno' is their second album released on Massacre Records. The Evil Dead are an interesting band with a very wide array of sounds and influences. The band play a melodic black metal style reminiscent of Dissection mixed with 70's rock and 80's metal influences. The songs themselves are all lengthy pieces containing masses of riffs mixed with some odd time signatures and interesting twists and turns.

Highlights for me included the epic Maragnon which sounded like black metal meets Blue Oyster Cult, the blackened thrash of the title track and my personal favourite the speed metal meets rollicking hard rock Of Electric Evil Revisited. With so many styles and influences present the album can feel a bit uneven and disjointed but where it does hold it together it works very well indeed. A solid effort. 7/10

Cocyte: The Human Disease (Self Release)

The Human Disease is the debut fulll length album by Belgian band Cocyte who have previously released a string of self-released EP's. Cocyte play a modern style of death metal which leans towards technical death metal and deathcore with bruising chunky riffs, brutal breakdowns, technical flourishes and the odd off kilter jazzy break. The harsh vocals are atypical for this style with them sitting somewhere between a guttural growl and harsh scream. Unfortunately this album is so generic with absolutely no stand out moments or moments or originality. It's all been done before by a multitude of sound alike bands.

It's all played to perfection by the band but trying to remember a moment of interest or significance from the album is virtually impossible as it is so by the numbers modern death metal. The production is very clean and clinical which detracts what death metal is meant to be (in my opinion) and that is repulsive and evil sounding as well as brutal and heavy. I'll hold my hands up and fully admit that I can't abide this style of death metal and despite really trying I can only find one song of worth which is Mechanical Refuge and that's only because it sounds exactly like and completely rips off Necrophagist.

If you are a fan of bands such as Whitechapel and Suicide Silence you will probably think this album is phenomenal but if you like your death metal dirty and gnarly avoid this like the plague. I give one point for musicianship skills and one for Necrophagist worship. 2/10

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Reviews: Nightbringer, Corroded, Death Of Kings (Reviews By Paul)

Nightbringer: Terra Damnata (Seasons Of Mist)

With Scandinavian Black Metal firmly cementing their foundations, the fifth album from Colorado black metallers Nightbringer is very likely to raise the band’s profile amongst fans of the genre. The influences are clear with elements of Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Dark Funeral and Behemoth evident throughout. Yet the band maintain a clear identity, with their orchestral and symphonic elements adventurous and fresh. Band members VJS, Ophis, Naas Alcameth, ar Ra'd al-Iblis, Menthor, Norgaath have followed up from 2014’s Ego Dominus Tuus with an opus that is haunting, intimidating and yet also compelling.

Tracks such as Misrule and Midnight’s Crown burst with atmosphere and crushingly heavy black metal guitar work. The usual battering ram of blast beats maintains the intensity throughout with the level of technical performance quite astonishing at times. You won’t win prizes for guessing the themes that course through the album but it fits together quite superbly. If you only listen to one black metal track this year make it Let Silence Be His Sacred Name, which is just incredible. If you don’t like your metal invoking spirits and demons as well as ripping the flesh of your frame then this may not be for you. That’s your problem though as this album quite simply crushes all. Amazing, breath taking, inspiring. 9/10

Corroded: Defcon Zero (Despotz Records)

Swedes Corroded return with album number 3, five years after the release of sophomore release Exit To Transfer. Whilst the band is not well known over here, their profile in their home country was raised substantially by the TV show Survivors, which used their track Time And Again as its theme. The band comprise biker, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jens Westin, lead guitarist Tomas Andersson, bassist Bjarne Elvsgård and drummer Per Soläng. Defcon Zero is crammed full of heavy riffs, scintillating guitar work and an overriding melody which gives all their songs more appeal than might otherwise be expected.

Think Godsmack, Shinedown and Disturbed and you’ve just about got the sound to a tee. Whilst at times it’s a little generic but the crushingly heavy power of tracks like Retract and Disconnect combined with its Alter Bridge style harmonies, the thumping battery of Vessels Of Hate and the Soil stomp of Burn It Down are all absolute anthems. Album closer Rust And Nail has a Baroness feel about the opening before it morphs into a fitting closing track. If you like your metal clean and honest then this album is a must. 8/10

Death Of Kings: Kneel Before None (Boris Records)

Thrashing their way out of Atlanta, Georgia, Death Of Kings’ debut album (which follows a couple of EPs) Kneel Before None is a primitive, full on punch in the face which takes no prisoners. Their influences range from Priest to Death and everything in between and you know what, it’s fucking A. Opener Shadow Of The Reaper begins the proceedings nicely with maximum thrash bastard before the more measured stomp of Sojurn follows up with a low blow. The pain continues with the Slayer like Regicidal, which oozes malevolence and evil.

The band are tight and extremely loyal to thrash blueprint which I say is correct. No pissing about, just blast at the speed of sound. Amos Rifkin’s pounding drumming and the slicing cut of Matt Kilpatrick’s axe work are the undoubted highlights and if I had one minor complaint it’s the underproduction of Matt Matson’s devilish vocals which are so guttural that at times they are hidden by the onslaught. My moan apart, this is storming stuff with 38 minutes of hell’s fire. Play outside at your peril. The outbuildings may not withstand it. 7/10

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Reviews: Ulver, Mammoth Mammoth, Trial (Reviews By Paul)

Ulver: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar (House Of Mythology)

The 13th album by the Norwegian collective known as Ulver is a pretty fantastic release. For the uninitiated, Ulver formed in 1993 and although their early work had essence of the Norwegian Black metal sound Ulver has transformed into a much more ethereal and progressive outfit in recent times. Ulver's line up has remained solid for many years with the utilisation of numerous guest musicians to enhance their complexity.

On this album Kristofer Rygg is joined once more by Tore Ylwizaker (programming), Jorn H Svaeren and Ole Alexander Halstengard and assisted by a whole cast of additional musicians. Stian Westerhus adds some lovely guitars of Nemoralia and So Falls The World, which also sees the involvement of Hawkwind's errant son Nik Turner. So Falls The World is a beautiful composition which mixes Gothic and new wave synth pop quite magnificently. Southern Gothic has a massive Depeche Mode feel, haunting and atmospheric.

Produced and recorded in Oslo mainly in 2016, the album is mixed by Martin Glover (Youth from Killing Joke) and Michael Randall. The sound at times is similar to the more progressive parts of Anaethema's recent work whilst maintaining its own uniqueness. Transverberstion and the beautiful 1969 both drip with synth pop and whilst the band are far removed from their beginnings, this is still an album very much worth taking the time to listen to. 8/10

Mammoth Mammoth: Mount The Mountain (Napalm Records)

Australia seems to be able to throw out an endless amount of bands who play one of two types of music. It's either thrash or hard rock with a stoner edge. The latter sound belongs to Melbourne crew Mammoth Mammoth, whose dirty, fuzzy rock ticks all the right boxes. Now in their tenth year, Mount The Mountain is release number six, hard on the heels of 2016's EP Mammoth Bloody Mammoth.

Tracks such as Hole In The Head, Kicking The Dog (don't do this at home kids) and Cold Liquor leave little to the imagination and smack you in the face with their power, gritty drive and balls out good time vibe. Mikey Tucker's vocals are superb, reminiscent of the great Ben Ward of the mighty Orange Goblin at times, the driving rhythm of Pete Bell and drummer Frank Trebbiani keep the engine running whilst Ben Couzens guitar work is gutsy, gritty and down right filthy at times. Another band that you'd happily get absolutely spannered whilst watching. The irony is that these guys would be hammered first. Check out Mammoth Mammoth, big name, huge sound. 8/10

Trial: Motherless (Metal Blade)
Yet another Swedish metal outfit cross our paths, this time its Trial, from Trollhatten who have been around for a good few years. Motherless is album number 3, following 2015's Vessel. The band comprise guitar duo Alexander Ellstrom and Andreas Johnsson, vocalist Linus Johansson and the engine room of drummer Linus Johansson and bassist Andreas Olsson. Trial's music can be described as a mix of traditional metal with helpings of power and thrash metal. Unfortunately, Motherless is just not that good, with a confusing mix of styles creating a schizophrenic sound. Add on to this the rather 'finger nails down a blackboard' vocals of Linus Johansson, some quite dreadful harmonies and you have a relatively uninspiring release. One to think long and hard before investing in. 5/10

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Reviews: Life Of Agony, Harlott, The Franklys

Life Of Agony: A Place Where There Is No More Pain (Napalm)

New York groove masters Life Of Agony return with their sixth studio album and their first since 2005. The original line up of Joey Z (guitar), Alan Robert (bass), vocalist Mina Caputo (previously known Keith) return along with drummer Sal Abruscato for ten songs of riff driven groove metal that hasn't really changed since the band first brought their crushing misery to the scene in the early 90's. Track like Dead Speak Kindly, A New Low, Right This Wrong and the opener Meet My Maker all carry the bands normal traits of low tuned riffs and Mina's lyrics come from a very personal deeply considered place, reflecting the struggles that she as a transgender person faced and the similar struggles that fans have told the band they have gone through.

This album in Mina's own words "gives us hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel". Mina's voice has matured since the River Runs Red days and every lyric is delivered with conviction while the band play at the top of their game. As I've said very little has changed musically for the band and for long time fans this will be perfect, yes it may be a little bit of a dated sound now but it's good to have a band like LOA back doing what they do best. 7/10

Harlott: Extinction (Metal Blade)

Australia seems to be becoming a hotbed of thrash metal at the moment, it must be the intrinsic link between the genre and heavy drinking. Harlott can really be called one of the finest examples of thrash from down under, three albums into their career and numerous supports, most notably with Annihilator on their recent European tour and the band are playing some of the best music of their career honed by the hundreds of live shows and real understanding of the Bay Area thrash sound. Extinction is the sort of album Exodus, Testament or Slayer would have written at the height of their powers mixing blitzkrieg thrash fury with more nuanced slower elements to ramp up the atmosphere before the fireworks start again.

Frontman Andrew Hudson has the raspy ideal thrash voice thats sits between Zetro and Araya with the band behind him kicking the living shit out of their instruments in the best way possible, the furious double hit of the title track and First World Solutions open the record with Slayer-like aggression last heard on Evile's first couple of albums. The twin dual leads of Hudson and Jake Weber shred your face off, on Whore Tim Joyce displays that he's probably superhuman as he demolishes his kit like a whirling dervish and Tom Richards reminds you that thrash needs bass no matter what Metallica think. Extinction proves to be a superior third strike by the Melbourne band, it's their most accomplished album yet, this is proper thrash metal how it should be done and in a year of excellent trash albums Harlott have tossed their hat into the ring with a blinder. 9/10

The Franklys: Are You Listening? (Hälta Hälta Records)

Are You Listening? That's what London -based four-piece The Franklys want to know on their full length debut record. They have made it easy though as this record contains 10 tracks of spiky rock n roll delivered with a rebellious take no prisoners attitude. The album rapidly jumps between, pop, garage, punk, and indie rock with touches of funk and classic hard rock thrown in to shake up the noise, it's been built on a solid base of touring where The Franklys thrive their energetic live show receiving rave reviews all around.

The task of trying to distill this live fire onto record is given to Sean Douglas, Jimmy O and Mikey Sorbello of The Graveltones who co-produce the albums with the band themselves, it's a successful snapshot of the four women's live riot, the 10 tracks on this record are built to be played live, they cry out for a sweaty, packed venue where the punters can just go wild. The band is made up of Jennifer Ahlkvist (rhythm guitar/vocals), Fanny Broberg (lead guitar /backing vocals), Zoë Biggs (bass) and Lexi Clark (drums) and they all play their instruments with an unreserved passion blasting out shuddering The Hives-like rockers such as CastawayWeasel and Don't Kill Your Friends (good advice kids). Are You Listening? If you want to hear the future driven by the past then you should be! 7/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Joanovarc (Live Reviews Paul)

Joanovarc, Synteria & The Boom Sons: Fuel, Cardiff

Joanovarc, the Home Counties melodic rockers are being tipped for big things. They have been receiving a lot of exposure on digital radio including Planet Rock so at £5 for a ticket, a Friday night at a Fuel seemed a decent punt.

We missed opening band Flowerpot and arrived as local outfit The Boom Sons (7) were going through their paces. I saw this highly inventive three piece supporting Bigfoot last year and they are a decent outfit, their indie rock touching the right spots.

Main support band Syteria (6) were formed by current Girlschool guitarist Jackie Chambers. With their image very much in the stereotypical 'rock chick' Syteria delivered their routine, throwaway rock over the course of about 40 minutes. The band at least relaxed as their set went on, Chambers unsurprisingly confident from the start. Vocalist Julia appeared more confident when relieved of rhythm guitar duties and the Argentinian's voice become more relaxed as the band hit their stride. It is fair to say that the crowd had picked up slightly with some of the red blooded booze filled males wandering to the front to have a good look. A cover of The Ramones went down well and their songs are okay, just a little average.

Headliners Joanovarc (7) have received many plaudits for their melodic rock and last year's Ride Of Your Life was a very listenable release. Live the band adopts a quite strange image, with DMs and combat trousers mixed with lace bodysuits and some incredible Runaways haircuts. The band roared through a selection of tracks from their debut, including the enjoyable Dragons In The Sky and their breakthrough single Live Rock N Roll. A very enthusiastic reception helped the band increase in momentum with rhythm guitarist Laura Ozhall taking lead vocals for one tune. The band are led by sisters Shelley and Sam Walker and it was Shelley who did most of the talking in between numbers. She's a competent guitarist too whilst Sam proved she could replicate her vocal performance live.

A rather limp cover of Iggy's Wild One coincided with the doors being opened for free admission as the venue suddenly quadrupled in numbers. The final couple of numbers included a clear Reef riff and a ringer for Crosstown Traffic before we made for the door and the cold drizzle of Cardiff on Good Friday. It would be good to see Joanovarc in a different setting as Fuel isn't always the most conducive. A reasonable evening and for the admission price certainly value for money.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Reviews: Kaledon, Warbringer, Screamking (Reviews By Rich)

Kaledon: Carngus-Emperor Of The Darkness (Sleazy Rider)

Kaledon are an Italian power metal band and Carnagus: Emperor Of The Darkness is their ninth full length album. Despite forming in 1998 and having an impressive lengthy discography Kaledon are one of the bands who have slipped under my radar. Better late than never that I have come across this band as Carnagus: Emperor Of The Darkness is a very impressive album indeed. Unlike a lot of European power metal which can be a bit light and fluffy, this album is heavy, hard hitting with some dark undertones which mixed with the traditional epic and bombast of power metal makes for a very refreshing listen.

A wonderfully heavy and crunchy guitar tone really helps some of these riffs just rip and tear out of your speakers and combined with an impressive rhythm section make you want to bang your head and throw the horns especially on songs such as The Beginning Of The Night, The Evil Witch and The Two Bailouts. The vocals are nicely bombastic, dramatic and melodic but also compliment the dark tone of the album. Kaledon have produced one of the finest power metal albums I have heard so far this year and are definitely a band I will be going back and checking out the back catalogue of. 8/10

Warbringer: Woe To The Vanquished (Napalm Records)

After a five year gap retro thrash titans Warbringer return with their fifth album Woe To The Vanquished. I've always thought Warbringer to be one of the best modern thrash bands so this album was eagerly anticipated and long overdue. After the more refined thrash sound on IV: Empires Collapse Warbringer have gone back to a more straight up thrash sound with songs that go straight for the throat such as Remain Violent, Silhouettes, Divinity Of Flesh and the absolutely ripping Shellfire.

The band also bring in a few elements from death metal and black metal such as blastbeats and some tremolo riffing. The only real departure on the album is closing track When The Guns Fell Silent with its very atmospheric sound. Unfortunately at 11 minutes in duration it does outstay its welcome a bit. Warbringer make a very welcome return proving they are still one of the best thrash bands around at the moment. Woe To The Vanquished is a brilliant album though with one track taking up a quarter of the album which doesn't quite work means that the album just misses the mark. 8/10

Screamking: Tyranny Of The Sea (Platinum Dungeon Records)

ScreamKing are a heavy metal band from Indiania in the United States and Tyranny Of The Sea is their second full length album. This album has a sound which is rooted in traditional heavy metal with influences from both power metal and thrash metal. First of all I have to address the elephant in the room with this album and that is the absolutely atrocious vocals of Joe Lawson. They are completely over the top, tuneless and wildly inconsistent.

The only time they actually work is when he reigns his vocals in and restrains himself. The rest of the band put in a commendable performance with some absolutely brilliant riffs throughout. The songwriting is a bit pedestrian at times though songs such as I Am A Viking, Warhorse and the title track are a step above the rest. Tyranny Of The Sea is a disappointing album as it has plenty of potential but is let down by some lacklustre songwriting and a truly abysmal vocal performance. 5/10

Monday, 17 April 2017

Reviews: Richie Kotzen, Liv Sin, Seven Kingdoms, Cromonic

Richie Kotzen: Salting Earth (Headroom Inc)

Richie Kotzen is probably a name you've heard of, he's been playing for long time now, starting out as one of the Shrapnel shredders he played in Poison and Mr Big, more recently he's come back into the public psyche with The Winery Dogs trio along with Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheenan, in between that he has released 21 solo albums that move between rock, blues, funk, jazz and everything in between. I personally discovered him on his 2004 album Get Up which has continued to frequent my record player until this day. I've followed his solo albums off an on since then and I've always found them a bit of a mix bag, so it's once more into the breech for what is Kotzen's 21st solo album.

The mystic influences are writ large on opener End Of Earth and you get that first blast of Kotzen's Cornell-like vocals over the top of the reverbed guitars and layered acoustics before he lights his guitar hero fire at the climax, it's followed by the very 80's sounding Thunder which has a funky riff, some stuttered verses and big chorus where Richie shows his vocal versatility, something that is on display throughout this record. Anyone that is expecting the hard rocking of The Winery Dogs will see another side too Kotzen on this (and all) of his solo albums, here he dips into bluesy explorations on Divine Power, 60's soul on I've Got You and My Rock, modern soul on Cannon Ball and acoustic funk on Grammy. Salting Earth marks another high quality release from Kotzen, there is a mix of styles and an as expected superior performance from Kotzen and it makes for fine listening. 7/10

Liv Sin: Follow Me (Despotz Records)

When Sister Sin called it a day in 2015, frontwoman Liv Sin set about forming a new band to continue her previous metal assault, Follow Me is her debut album with this new eponymous project and just like Sister Sin were known for fist pumping classic metal, this new project is not pop, in fact it ramps up the metal to a degree that wasn't reached in her previous project. Follow Me moves into thrash territory at times with Sin giving the most vicious delivery of her career, this record sonically sounds like Halford's solo projects and the latter Judas Priest, any of the songs on here could have easily been heard on PainkillerRam It Down or Angel Of Retribution. 

Just wrap your lugholes around the The Fall which kicks off this record and the spirit of Priest looms large, Patrick Ankemark giving killer solos over Chris Bertzell, Tommie Winther and Per Bjelovuk's aggressive rhythm section. With heavier songs like HypocriteGodless UtopiaI'm Your Sin, the stomping Immortal Sin which features Schmier from Destruction and the black metal driven Black Souls, the bad really display their metal credentials but they also spread expand their remit with Endless Roads which is slower and more melodic but still carries a metal attitude. Now I never really got on board with Sister Sin but this I really like, it's brimming with attitude, confidence, talent and consists of 100% pure heavy metal from start to finish, impressive. 8/10

Seven Kingdoms: Decennium (Napalm Records)

There seems to be a few female fronted power/trad metal bands releasing albums at the moment Crystal Viper, Mastercastle, Mindmaze and also American mob Seven Kingdoms who are an odd mix of blisteringly fast riffage, classic metal chants and vocals normally found in the folk metal realm, almost a female fronted Blind Guardian. Weirdly it fits together but in any other context this wouldn't work Sabrina's vocals are good and sit in the higher register which may serve as a negative aspect but the musical backing is so dense that you can't help but bang your head. As many of you will know Blind Guardian take a lot of inspiration from J R R Tolkien well Seven Kingdoms equally deal with the literary works of George R R Martin and his Songs Of Ice And Fire books, or Game Of Thrones to anyone that doesn't know. The band's lyrical concepts and even their name comes from those novels and it's perfect subject matter, as this album progressed I found myself warning to the vocals and with every song trying to recognise the characters, plotlines etc became part of the fun. Get this album if you love Blind Guardian, power metal and/or Game Of Thrones, the chances are if love one you'll love the others, then I guarantee you'll love Seven Kingdoms. 7/10

Cromonic: Time (Cromonic Music)

Swedish power metal that has touches of Stratovarius the vocals are the major reason for this comparison, singer Pasi has the high pitched range of Timo Kopitelo. Time is probably a slightly ironic title as they seem have taken a lot of it to release this album having first released a demo in 2005, it's in 2017 that they finally have delivered their debut. As I've said Stratovarius is the overarching musical similarity and on Tale Of Pain the neo-classical guitars sit well with the orchestrations and hooky chorus for a song that has all the Stratovarius traits. Cromonic do add their own flourishes to what is an established sound meaning they avoid tribute act territory and at 9 a song the record doesn't outstay it's welcome, the one thing I would say is that Pasi's lower register is much more palatable than his screechy highs meaning by the end of the 9 tracks only professional power metalheads will be reaching for the repeat button. Time is an adequate record it's not waste but the band will need some refining if they want to stand the test of it. 7/10

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Reviews: Body Count, Me And That Man, Moon Duo, Desecrator (Reviews By Paul)

Body Count: Bloodlust (Century Media)

Ice T, Ernie C and their metal rap outfit are back with an enormously infectious album, number 6 in the catalogue. It's an observation of America, and unsurprisingly touches on many of the civil issues which currently challenge the world's largest superpower. Civil War touches on the many different aspects to life across the country, black or white, rich or poor, wrong or right and features a screaming solo from Megadeth's Dave Mustaine. The Ski Mask Way reflects on home invasion as an income source, with the typical aggression which we've come to expect from this hard core bunch. All Love Is Lost contains a raging Max Cavalera on backing vocals, a song of betrayal and containing some huge riffs.

Ice T explains his love of metal and particularly Slayer before launching into a momentous Reign In Blood/Postmortem with rhythm guitarist Vincent Price doing vocal duties on the latter. You can't go wrong with that riff on Reign In Blood and this version is fast and nasty as it should be. Obviously Ice can't match the mighty Araya vocals and he doesn't even attempt to. The outstanding track on the album comes shortly afterwards, a brutal, guttural Walk With Me which features Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe, his roaring contribution unmistakable. Further social commentary on No Lives Matter which understandably focuses on the discrimination against poor, whether white or black. Bloodlust is fast and thrashy, a real rap metal beast. Whether you like them or not, this is a beast of an album. 9/10

Me And That Man: Songs of Love and Death (Cooking Vinyl)

The unlikely combination of Behemoth frontman Nergal and indie pop Englishman John Porter, a Polish resident since 1976, Me And That Man's debut is a dark, anti religious country, bluesy slice of Americana which really makes a pleasant transfer from the norm. Some of the album has the Johnny Cash sound, especially opener My Church Is Black and Of Sirens, Vampires And Lovers, although there are many other sounds which are identifiable throughout. For those of us familiar with the blasting assault of Behemoth this is a complete change.

However repeated listening soon establishes the usual 100% commitment. The raging Love & Death is followed by a country fused One Day which has an almost evangelical feel to it. The 50's sound of Voodoo Queen belongs on a diner jukebox on some distant highway. The whole album has a haunting, at times sinister and Gothic feel. Although it may not be to everyone's tastes, it's a really interesting release which gets better after repeated listening. Well worth taking the time to invest. 8/10

Moon Duo: Occult Architechture Vol 2 (Sacred Bones)

The second instalment from the Oregon psychedelic drone outfit follows quickly on the heels of the essential Vol 1 which we reviewed about six weeks ago and it's just as bloody brilliant. Tripping from Depeche Mode type electronica to space rock mellowness Vol 2 is a slightly shorter release with five tracks, albeit with a running time of not far off 40 minutes. The use of the single beat with repetition allows the three piece to experiment and freestyle. It's relaxing, chilled and totally enjoyable. Mirror's Edge and the industrial beat of Sevens are enchanting. Once again, well worth the effort. 9/10

Desecrator: To The Gallows (Dinner For Wolves)

More Australian action, this time its full frontal thrashing from Melbourne's Desecrator. To The Gallows is a decent slab of old school thrash metal which follows the faithful blueprint which sometimes is just what you want. The band have been around for over eight years and clearly like what they like. There is more than a shade of the UK's Evile in many of the tracks and that can't be a bad thing. From the all out raging of the title track and paint stripping Serpents Return to the more melancholic As I Die this four piece give it everything. However, when you get a track entitled Thrash Is A Verb then you really can't help but warm to them, even if they've stolen at least four riffs in the process. Heavy metal grammar? Fuck yeah! 7/10

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Reviews: Mostly Autumn, Stormhammer, Satan's Hallow

Mostly Autumn: Sight Of Day (Mostly Autumn Records)

If you take one thing away from Mostly Autumn's latest release (their twelfth in total) it's hope, on the back of what was a particularly dark offering, Sight Of Day has the hallmarks of Mostly Autumn of old. There are few acts that can stir the soul like MA and I will admit I had a tear in my eye when I first listened to the closer Forever And Beyond a track that praises current relationships and friendships past and present.

If you want to hear what the MA of old sounds like then just settle in for the 14 minute plus title track which starts the album, it has everything you'd want from the band Floydian guitar playing, huge organs and synths, haunting dual vocals, folky touches with Troy Donockley and Anne Phoebe providing uilleann pipes and violins respectively it's a majestic piece and the sort of song I as long term fan of the band had though they had left behind, put it in the same category as Heroes Never Die and you can make a leap as to what it's like from there.

As far as the rest of the album goes on they rarely put a foot wrong the songs are filled with English parochialisms, longing and as I've said hope, the only song that jars is Changing Lives which was written and is sung by Chris Johnson, it's almost a solo song for Johnson and musically is similar to his Halo Blind project and stands out from the rest of the album because for this, it's not bad it just doesn't really fit. I's followed by the fireside folk of Only The Brave which definitely fits and sees Donockley and Phoebe return along with Angela Gordon's flute who makes her recorded return to Mostly Autumn appearing on her first album since 2007.

As per usual Bryan Josh's guitar playing is exquisite and his vocals provide the perfect counterpoint to his wife Olivia while the rhythm section of Andy Smith and Alex Cromarty underpin the musical flights of fancy with the soundscapes complete by the synth genius of Iain Jennings. Sight Of Day is probably the most complete Mostly Autumn record since Go Well Diamond Heart filled with beautiful flights of fancy and an overwhelming sense of the unifying power of love (Native Spirit). I urge you to catch them on their tour in May/June but first get a copy of this record as it's one of the best they've recorded in a while. 9/10

Stormhammer: Welcome To The End (Massacre Records)

Ah yes another hammer band, we can't get enough of them here at MoM towers, whether they fall, are kings or covered in glory we do like a hammer band. Introducing German metal band Stormhammer who can be considered contemporaries of Blind Guardian despite not releasing their first record until 2000, they have been a band since 1993 just when Hansi and co were shedding their speed metal skin. Stormhammer are what I'd like to think Guardian would sound like had they not incorporated the orchestral elements from Tales From The Twilight World onward.

A lot of Stormhammer's sound is similar to Blind Guardian's even down to the vocals of Jürgen Dachl who sings as closely to Hansi as he can albeit with a gruffer delivery that even moves into growls on The Heritage. The music on the record is razor sharp power metal that sits in the void between thrash and NWOBHM much like the early German originators like Helloween, Rage and Running Wild, furious rhythm workouts come thick and fast from Chris Widmann (drums), Horst Tessmann (bass) and Manny "Maniac" Ewender (rhythm guitar) meaning Bernd Intveen has to keep up, luckily his lead guitar prowess is more than a match for the rampaging bottom end soloing with abandon.

Welcome To The End is the band's sixth album, now I'll admit I hadn't heard of them before now but going back to their previous releases, I can hear they haven't changed their sound much but bands like this never do, it's part of their longevity that they defiantly stand against modern music trends weathering the storm originally of grunge and more recently of nu-metal staying true to their sound no matter what, no with the resurgence of proper power metal in recent years there is no better time to track down Welcome To The End and swing the storm hammer. 7/10

Satan's Hallow: S/T (Underground Power Records)

Galloping out of Chicago at a rate of knots Satan's Hallow (that's hallow) play music like nothing else is important, filled with the same devil-may-care attitude that propelled the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Satan's Hallow have denim and leather running through their veins. Their debut record is cut from the same cloth as Angel Witch, Running Wild (again) and American traditional metal legends Cirith Ungol, with buzz-saw riffs of Von Jugel and Steve "Lethal" Beaudette slicing like a hot knife through butter as Lee Smith's bass gallops like Grand National winner and the drums of Pat "Rüsty" Gloeckle keeps it all in time.

Songs like Reaching For The Night, Black Angel The Horror and the title track all use occult/horror imagery in opposition to the sleazier songs like Hot Passion. This ability to be evil and angelic is due to the excellent vocals of frontwoman Mandy Martillo who completes the line up, her addition to the band brings to mind Chastain and Warlock and in what is very male orientated genre still it's great to hear. Yes ok a lot of the album half inches riffs from Maiden and Priest but what band hasn't honestly this is fist int he air stuff ideal for headbanging to.

Having just completed a tour with Liv Sin (formerly of Sister Sin, who's debut solo record is being reviewed soon) Satan's Hallow show heaps of promise and are must for any that love a bit of bullet belt sporting metal. 8/10     

A View From The Back Of The Room: Church Of The Cosmic Skull (Live Review By Paul)

Church Of The Cosmic Skull, Vodun & YSNBWATID, Trinity Centre, Bristol

In a departure from the more routine metal that we often watch here at the Musipedia we travelled across the Bridge once more to the fabulous Trinity Centre for a night of psychedelic rock. Opening up proceedings, were You're Smiling Now But We'll All Turn Into Demons (6), a four piece from Portsmouth. A dirty fuzzy sound, powerful and trippy shook the venue to its foundations as the band's instrumental meanderings took hold. With slower passages combined with some intensely heavy sections YSNBWATID certainly ensured that attention was captured, at least to begin with. By the middle of the set the repetition meant interest was starting to wander and whilst the intensity on the stage never let up, the lengthy pieces eventually wore a little thin. Still, a band that has been kicking around for over 15 years must be doing something right and it was a decent start.

Having listened to their Possession album recently I knew what Vodun (10) sounded like but nothing could prepare for their quite scintillating live performance. Their Afro Doom heavy sound comes across on record but put the three piece on stage and the world simply changes. With an appearance that stimulates visually, the three members clad in brightly swirling psychedelic patterns and body paint kicked off with a cacophony of noise that met with instant approval from the audience. And then vocalist and percussionist Oya started to sing. Wow! What a voice. I read a review recently that made the Aretha Franklin comparison and I have to say that this lady has similar power. By the end of the set she was barely able to speak such was the intensity of her performance.

She was flanked by the whirling long haired and quite astonishingly painted guitarist Marassa whose nimble fretwork summoned both light and dark, Doom laden riffs and more delicate floral patterns were all summoned with ease. The crashing drums held the whole thing together, drummer Ogoun making a remarkable noise for one so slightly built. The power in which she hit the drums quite captivating. A perfectly paced set climaxed with the front row joining in on percussion and a feeling of what just happened surged through me as the band finished.

Following that was always going to be a huge task so a well done to Church Of The Cosmic Skull (7) for being brave enough to have Vodun on board. The Nottingham based band strike an impressive image, all seven members clad in white with the three female band members front and centre, cellist Amy Nicholson flanked by vocalists Jo Joyce and Caroline Cawley. The band kicked off with Mountain Heart from their enjoyable album Is Satan Real? which obviously provided the bulk of the set. The band attempted to deliver their new religious experience on a largely already committed audience. The band play a psychedelic flavoured rock with Hammond organ (Michael Weatherburn) prominent throughout.

The band appeared to be a little disjointed which is no surprise given their newness which killed the momentum at times. With so many members on stage movement is often limited and guitarist and vocalist Bill Fisher and bassist Sam Lloyd were pinned to the rear of the stage. Full marks for their backdrop which played messages of love and hope before each song. Ultimately the band could do with a bit more beef in their sound, which at times was a little lightweight. I'm not yet a convert to The Church but I'm agnostic rather than atheist at this stage.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Reviews: Royal Thunder, Brothers Of Metal, The Wild!, Baleful Creed

Royal Thunder: WICK (Spinefarm Records)

I've been following the evolution of Atlanta band and what an evolution it is, starting out with a attitude problem that had them playing doomy stoner punk on their debut, before widening their sound on their second album, WICK is their third full length album at it adds more texture than ever before, many of the songs on this record have the occult psychedelic flavours of Swedish acts like Witchcraft, you can hear this on Push and The Well both of which simmer with Josh Weaver's louche guitar playing, the band have always expertly blended classic rock with 90's grunge and wrapped it all up in a progressive rock blanket to let it grow organically.

WICK
is probably the least heavy of their three albums...hey...come back that's a good thing honestly what they lack in distortion they make up for in throbbing bass from Mlny Parsons who drives opener Burning Tree with a low resonance that Weaver and second guitarist Will Fiore add to with big open chords. Drummer Diprima is the key to the percussive, hazy April Showers which builds into a solo dirven finale and leads into the emotive Tied which is perfect song to display the intense vocal prowess, it's a dark tale of lust gone wrong that turns from a Stevie Nicks solo outing to heavier final part rocker.

As I've said the band have an eclectic soundscape pop slips in on We Slipped. I can't say enough about Mlny's voice, she really is a true star, it's got grit, power and a resonance all of which is done with gusto on The Sinking Chair. WICK is fantastic, after the first listen I wanted to hear it again and then again, it's now be resident on my stereo for about a week, intoxicating, intelligent and at times just raw Royal Thunder have consolidated their position as one of the freshest bands in rock and metal music. 9/10

Brothers Of Metal: Prophecy Of Ragnarök (Self Released)

Well this is all a bit mad, I'll admit i was sceptical when I saw this band features 3 vocalists and 3 lute players, yes folks the Lute staple of folk metal bands however as The Death Of The God Of Light opens this record it's straight down the line True power metal favoured by DiMaio and co. Fast and frantic delivered by three excellent​ vocalists the folky female vocals coming from Ylva Eriksson and the gruffer male vocals from from Joakim Lindbäck Eriksson and Mats Nilsson sounding like Sabaton's Joacim mixed with Mr Lordi. Gods Of War could be the best Sabaton song since Swedish Pagans and We Believe In Metal is a warning to wimps and posers to leave the hall. (well that's what happens when you name your band after a song from Louder Than Hell

Lutes add the folk touches of Falconer or Skyclad to Defenders Of Valhalla for most of the album they augment the guitars (I even suspect the lutes are changed for guitars for the rest of the album) for the galloping riffage most of these songs are built on. Lyrically it's familiar ground metal, brotherhood and Norse Mythology are the main themes on what i believe is a bit of a concept album, although on the guitar heavy TYR (which features a bass solo despite not having a bassist) I swear they are singing about Doomsday being Tuesday. At 14 songs long the album could be a bit of a slog for non power metal fans and it does make you wonder how many songs about metal and Odin you can write but Brothers Of Metal manage it, it's silly but my is it good fun. Join this brotherhood if you like your power metal that celebrates the glory of metal and worships Odin, on this evidence it seems to be a hell of a good time. 8/10

The Wild!: Wild At Heart (SPV) [Review By Paul]

All out blues drenched rock n' roll with a punk rock edge is how I'd describe The Wild, a four piece out of Kelowna, British Columbia. The band comprise the ludicrously named Dylan Villan on lead guitar and vocals, The Kid on rhythm guitar, Boozus on bass and vocals and drummer Reese Lightning. Wild At Heart is their second album and it's a goodie. Similarities to guitar driven rockers such as The Black Spiders and Fellow countrymen Monster Truck are inevitable but hey, good rock n' roll is good rock n' roll. Tracks such as Best In The West, opener Ready To Roll and the AC/DC riff in Rattlesnake Shake all scream good time, the kind of tunes that make you put your foot down when behind the wheel. A very solid sophomore release. 8/10

Baleful Creed: Seismic Shifter (Self Released)

Norn Iron rockers Baleful Creed return with yet another record full of fuzz drenched stoner metal anthems built on whiskey soaked vocals, swaggering riffs that are low and slow on Memento Mori but have a Motorhead bite on Lose Religion. This is their second album and it slots in to their discography perfectly as the follow up to their debut while adding some extra touches such as the bubbling organs and lazy blues of The Wolf which fleshes out the bands American stoner sound.

Faux Celebrity is aimed at "celeb" culture and is driven by a Sabbath goes Southern style riff however it's the stoner metal of Orange Goblin or COC that is still their go to way of noise making on Devil's Side while Forgiven is a bass driven psychedelic piece with swirling guitars. Baleful Creed again prove themselves as more than capable​ of competing with the US heavyweights. 8/10

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Reviews: Deep Purple, Steel Panther, Jasta, Tequila Mockingbyrd (Reviews By Paul)

Deep Purple: Infinite (earMUSIC)

Back in the 1970s, behemoths like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath released albums like clockwork every year. The grind of album, tour, album, tour clearly took its toll on these bands, as you will no doubt have seen by the various rockumentaries and autobiographies. It's been four years since Deep Purple released the excellent Now What?! With a lengthy tour lined up, is there pressure on a band of Purple's pedigree to deliver? Well, however you feel, Infinite is an absolute corker. Full of laid back bluesy explorations, The band are on top form with the duels between Don Airey and Steve Morse particularly exciting and reminiscent of the early workouts between Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord. 

Ian Gillan was always one of my favourite British singers and his performance here is fantastic. With his usual humour coming across in several of the tracks, particularly during On Top Of The World. There are no duff tracks in my opinion, with Birds Of Prey and All I Got Is You possibly the pick of the lot. The steady, reliable bass lines of Roger Glover continues to flow seamlessly with Ian Paice's jazz style drumming. Meanwhile Morse and Airey prove that age is no barrier with some stunning keyboard and guitar work. An interesting reworking of The Doors' Roadhouse Blues is also included for a bit of indulgence. It's worth making the effort to pick up the deluxe version too, as it contains four extra songs, the pick of these being the instrumental Uncommon Man which is simply superb. The band come to Cardiff in November and I for one am already excited to see them. 9/10

Steel Panther: Lower The Bar (Open E Records)

I've never been a huge fan of the glam metal scene. The hair of Crue and Poison did little for me in the 1980s although I have a fondness for the first two Crue albums and Dr Feelgood remains a total beast. Steel Panther take all the excess of that era, load it with sexist parody and continue to sell out arenas across the UK every time they tour. I have no problem with their musicianship and Satchel demonstrates once again on Lower The Bar that he can really play. Their back catalogue ranges from humorous to downright insulting (Mrs H always smiles at Glory Hole, especially when it pops up on her workout compilation). 

Lower The Bar continues in the same vein as Balls Deep and 2014's All You Can Eat with the usual range of appallingly offensive tongue in cheek lyrics. Goin' In The Back Door, Anything Goes, Pussy Ain't Free, you get the picture. The saving grace on an otherwise mediocre release is a very good cover of Cheap Trick's She's Tight which fits comfortably with the other titles (and features Robin Zander - Ed). Slightly tired, a little bit over done? The audiences appear to suggest otherwise. I just don't get it. 6/10

Jasta: The Lost Chapters (Matyr Records)

Hatebreed and Kingdom Of Sorrow from man, known to most as Jamey Jasta returns with a new solo release, The Lost Chapters. It's a tasty release if you like the rampaging beast known as Hatebreed, crushingly heavy whist maintaining the groove synonymous with Lamb Of God and the like. Vocalist Jasta is joined by bandmates Steve Gibb, Charlie Bellmore, Chris Beaudette and Nick Bellmore along with former KSE singer Howard Jones on the excellent Chasing Demons

You know what you are going to get with an album like this, the anthems of rebellion in songs such as Back To What Matters and Parasitic. There is also the curved ball at the end of the album with a cover of Buried Alive, which first appeared on Black Sabbath's 1992 album Dehumaniser and a very sympathetic cover it is too. I won't lie, Jasta appeals to me. The Lost Chapters is a stomping size 12 which you'll either love or hate. I fucking love it. 8/10

Tequila Mockingbyrd: Fight And Flight (Off Yer Rocka)

Since their inception in 2012, Melbourne power trio Tequila Mockingbyrd has been kicking up a storm and gaining some solid international acclaim. A number of European tour slots has raised their profile and they are on the bill at this year's Steelhouse Festival. Fight And Flight is their debut release and it sits very much in the vein of many of their countrymen. Think Airborne, think Massive and think good time rock n' roll. 

It's straight up, heads down party rock which is guaranteed to get the feet tapping. It's not brilliant throughout, with Somebody Put Something In My Drink and Why Are We Still Friends weaker than a newborn kitten. However, if you like your music simple, feisty and raucous then tracks like I Smell Rock N Roll, Everyone Down and Good Time will certainly have you grabbing for a cold one. Estelle Artois, Jess Reily and Josie O'Toole give it their all throughout. Worth a listen. 7/10

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Another Point Of View: Ritual Festival 2017 (Live Review By Rich)

Ritual Festival 2017, Canal Mills, Leeds

The hottest weekend of the year and I headed up to Leeds for one of the hottest metal shows of the year - the second Ritual Festival which boasted a line up of absolute crushing heaviness and violence.

A carful of us set off from Cardiff early in the morning getting to Leeds around lunchtime. After checking into the hotel and a short taxi ride we arrived at the Canal Mills venue just before 2pm. The venue itself was brilliant - an old converted mill with plenty of space both indoors and outdoors. The main room was set up for the main stage, merchandise stalls and bar whilst a small room off to the side hosted the second stage. A sizeable outdoor area provided plenty of seating which was well used due to the fantastic weather on the day. A couple of very tasty food stalls were also located outside.

After getting my wristband and grabbing a severely overpriced drink I wandered into the second stage and caught the last couple of songs by opening band of the day Groak. This local Leeds band played an absolute crushing set of filthy sludge metal. Even though it was very early on the band had a fairly decent crowd watching. Unfortunately I only caught the last two songs of their set so don't feel I can give the band a fair score.

Next up was the first band of the day on the main stage the mighty Conjurer (9). Conjurer are one of the most exciting and essential bands in the UK metal scene right now and their short but amazing set proved just why. The band have a sound that almost defies classification as there are so many different and varied influences which the band pull upon but manage to mix together and make a sound that is very much their own. A fantastic sound complimented the bands mix of crushing sludgy riffs, atmospheric soundscapes and moments of sheer utter chaos. A great way to get this festival really going.

With such a packed out day of bands and no breaks there was no way I was going to be able to watch every band on the line up so I took advantage of a food, drink and sunshine break before heading over to the second stage to catch Corrupt Moral Altar (6). The bands mix of sludge and grindcore got the crowd going and the band had bagfuls of energy on stage but unfortunately a terrible sound mix marred what could have been a fantastic set.

Next band of interest to me were Crepitation (8). I have been waiting years to see this band ever since one of my friends showed me their material on the North-West Slam Fest split and they did not disappoint. The band play an absolutely over the top style of brutal slam death metal with some of the most ridiculous vocals you will ever hear in extreme metal. The sheer joy of their performance was the fact that the band know they are silly and totally play up to the fact getting one of the most fun and bonkers crowds of the day. The sound wasn't perfect but it didn't need to be with the sheer amount of energy and fun that Crepitation brought to their performance. If you like insanely brutal music with a sense of humour then Crepitation are a must see band.

Heading straight over to the main stage next up were Bossk (7) who provided a vast change of pace and sound. Opening with a build of shimmering post-rock guitars the band slowly but surely ramped up the heaviness with their atmospheric sludge metal sound. The band laid down a performance that was both crushingly heavy and atmospheric but after the barrage of blastbeats and brutality I had not long witnessed I found it difficult to adjust to this change of pace. A commanding performance though which went down well with the majority of the audience.

Due to some earlier bands overrunning or starting late due to technical difficulties the day was running a bit behind but it was ensured that no bands played over each other so it was straight back over to the second stage for The Afternoon Gentlemen (9). These Leeds grindcore madmen can always be relied on for a great show and this was no exception. In fact it exceeded my expectations turning out to be one of the highlights of the day. Absolute savagery, carnage and chaos played with passion and precision and with an audience hungry for blood. Absolutely sublime stuff.

Next up was my most anticipated set of the day - the mighty Anaal Nathrakh (7). Further delays due to technical issues had me almost salivating with anticipation so when they finally did hit the stage it was disappointing that the sound was so awful that I couldn't recognise the song they were playing. Also they were a guitarist down due to flight issues but not wanting to disappoint the audience the band performed as a four piece. As the set progressed the sound did improve but it was far from good with the bass cutting out for an entire song. It seemed the universe did not want Anaal Nathrakh to perform this day but the band were having absolutely none of it and forged on regardless belting out tunes such as Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion, Forging Towards The Sunset, Depravity Favours The Bold and In The Constellation Of The Black Widow. The band get ten out of ten for effort but the sound issues definitely did spoil their set.

Another break was needed so more overpriced drinks and a sit down outside was had before heading back in for All Pigs Must Die (9). Friends have raved to me for years how good this band are live and all their hype was completely justified as All Pigs Must Die played an absolutely jaw dropping set. With a sound that mixes elements of crust punk, death metal and grindcore their set was a masterclass in heaviness and a demonstration of a band at the absolute top of their game. New material was played which absolutely slayed so anticipation for the new album is very high indeed.

After what seemed like an everlasting queue at the bar I managed to scream into an incredible packed out second stage for a few songs of Misery Index. This was easily the loudest and sweatiest set of the day with an audience spilling out of the doorway and a crowd absolutely hungry for some death metal devastation. With the best sound produced on the second stage all day the band whipped up the crowed into a sweat drenched fury. Being an old git I only managed to survive the heat, chaos and sheer sonic levels for only a few songs so cannot justify scoring the band. What I saw though was utterly brilliant.

After a day of sheer heaviness, brutality and more blastbeats than I can count it was time for the days headliners the legendary Emperor frontman and progressive metal mastermind Ihsahn (9). It was an interesting choice of headliner considering the extremity of the music that had gone on beforehand throughout the day. The band seemed to be suffering power issues which delayed the set considerably with a visibly stressed Ihsahn apologising to the crowd about the delay but when the band finally started the crowd and myself were in absolute awe. A fantastic sound elevated songs such as Hiber, Until I Too Dissolve, Pressure, Frozen Lakes On Mars and My Heart Is Of The North. Very little was played from his early albums but this was more than made up for by the quality of songs played from his later albums. A fantastic end to the day.

Overall I have to say that Ritual Festival was very enjoyable. There were many sound issues and technical problems throughout the day which spoiled some sets but didn't ruin the overall experience. The venue itself was brilliant reminding me of a smaller scale Motion/Marble Factory from Bristol. The bar really needs sorting out though. The only beer or ciders they had were in cans which were £4 each and the selection was pitiful. This is a fault of the venue though and not one that can be directed towards the festival. If there are to be more Ritual Festivals then I can highly recommend visiting especially if your taste in metal is more on the extreme end of things. Roll on 2018!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Reviews: Duel, From Eden To Exile, Codex Alimentarius, SelfMachine

Duel: Witchbanger (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Review By Paul]

Back in February 2016 we were fortunate enough to grab a copy of Duel's debut Fears Of The Dead which earned an 8/10. Witchbanger picks up where we last heard the band, full of fuzzy distortion and gritty riffs. The tunes remain infectious, memorable and chunkier than a fisherman's jumper. It's only seven tracks in length but they are all footstomping tracks, which allow the Halfmann brothers to open up the throttle and the express themselves with some mighty fine fretwork. Shaun Avants' vocals are spot on, the JD soaked tonsils giving it all, especially on the title track and the bouncing Astro Gypsy. There are hooks a plenty, some right dirty soloing and overall a filthy time is had by all. If you like the hooks of Clutch and the drive of Sabbath then check out the Austin outfit. A fine follow up. 8/10

From Eden To Exile: Modern Disdain (Attic Records)

From Eden To Exile are probably not the happiest of chaps, as you can see their debut album is called Modern Disdain which would lead one to assume it's not about fluffy bunny rabbits. With Gospel Untold this is proven to be true as the brutal riffs come thick and fast trying to keep up with Liam Turland's intense drumming as Matt Dyne roars, barks and screams his way through the aggressive lyrics. FETE draw their influences from LOG, Sylosis and even Pantera as the speedy riffs give way to thundering groove as bassist Joey Jaycock, guitarists Tom Kelland and Mike Bell grind in the slower heavier skull crushing beatdowns.

Modern Disdain is a debut record built by lots of touring, the band have been featured on the Bloodstock New Blood stage and various UK tours which has made them into the explosive metal machine they are today, the songs on this record are savage each one attacking your soft fleshy bits boosted by the production of Krysthla/Gutworm man Neil Hudson means that this record crushes anything in it's wake. A strong debut that will see From Eden To Exile rise through the metal ranks rapidly. 8/10

Codex Alimentarius: The Infinite Growth Paradigm Verses Finite Resources MK.II (Self Released)

The Codex Alimentarius (Latin for "Food Code") is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety. Wait...no that's not right...THIS Codex Alimentarius are a melodic death metal band from Devon (yes folks Devon), TIGPVFRMII is not really the bands second record it's a re-recorded version of their debut EP (Mk.I) which was released in 2010 and having dug through the internet and found the original you can hear the difference, this version is louder, bolder and is guaranteed to cause more devastation than before.

The music contained on these 6 tracks is the best kind of melodic death metal, the triple guitar wielding six piece utilize their unique position to it's maximum allowing them to play snarling riffs overlapped by twin axe harmonies this is at it's most evident on the epic Baptised which is probably the band's showpiece song which happily opens the EP kicking it off well. With growling vocals, the aforementioned triple guitar harmonies and blitzkrieg rhythm section Codex Alimentarius are a great band for those that love the Gothenburg sound, what they'd score on the Food Code scale is anyone's guess, but if music is food for the soul then they score a solid 7/10

SelfMachine: Societal Arcade (WormHole Death) [Review By Paul]

I'd never heard of Self Machine before but the Dutch outfit's debut certainly puts down a marker. Hailing from Tilburg, Amsterdam, the five piece outfit has been around for a few years with influences such as KSE, Soilwork and Periphery you may be unsurprised to hear that the band focus very much on the metal core type sound, thumping bass lines and razor sharp guitar work combine with the clean and growling vocals of Steven Leijen. Opener Against The Flow is a snarling powerhouse, whilst Join the Hatetrain adds in some of the more complex polyrhythms and time changes so popular in the djent movement. As the album progresses further influences become apparent with No Cliche very reminiscent of US outfit Staind. It's well constructed, with some chunky riffs and crushingly heavy parts. It's not my go to genre at any time but it's good solid stuff all the same. 7/10

Reviews: The Doomsday Kingdom, Chaos Trigger, Sinner (Reviews By Paul)

The Doomsday Kingdom: Self Titled (Nuclear Blast)

The Godfather of Doom (Doomfather-Ed), Leif Edling is back with another side project, this time the magnificent The Doomsday Kingdom. Formed in 2016 Edling is joined by Andreas Johnson (Royal Hunt) on drums, guitarist Marcus Jidell (Avatarium/Soen) and vocalist Nikolas Stalvind (Wolf). It is a mighty fine affair, full of crashing doom filled riffs, very much in the Candlemass vein but with a slightly sprightlier feel. Opener Silent Kingdom sets the scene before the enormous The Never Machine crashes in.

With his history in Candlemass, surely the forefathers of Swedish Doom and his other side project, the fabulous Avatarium (whose new release is amongst the most anticipated of the year), Edling's pedigree is unquestionable. Eight tracks, with a couple of weighty monsters such as the atmospheric The Sceptre and the epic closing track The God Particle give ample time to demonstrate Jidell's excellent guitar work whilst Stalvind's vocals fit perfectly. If you like haunting doom combined with a fresh metal edge then get yourself along and pledge allegiance to The Doomsday Kingdom. Utterly compelling. 9/10

Chaos Trigger: Degenerate Matter (Self Released)

Few bands come at you harder than South Wales's Chaos Trigger. With their industrial technical sound conjuring up comparisons with the brutality of Meshuggah, Gojira and Fear Factory, Degenerate Matter simply flattens everything in its path. The futuristic intro Skineaters segues into opening track Binary and it is then all hands to the pump as Ben Duffin-Jones snarl and growls his way through another 10 tracks of utterly destructive groove laden metal. Rust is just mind crushing, Paul Cremin and Mark Llewellyn slicing holes with their quite frightening guitar work. As the album progresses you get a sense of the power with some massive riffs and an absolute battery of drums courtesy of Bradley Kaler. It's aggressive, powerful and quite honestly just terrific. An essential listen for anyone one who loves their metal dripping with groove, and strong enough to crack concrete. 8/10

Sinner: Tequila Sunrise (AFM)

Way back in 1982 a band from Stuttgart, Germany released their debut Wild N' Evil. 35 years later Sinner, one of the main outlets for Mat Sinner (also Primal Fear) have released album no 18, Tequila Sunrise, the follow up to 2013's Touch Of Sin 2. Far removed from the speed and power of Primal Fear, Tequila Sunrise is a pedestrian affair, full of 1980s Germanic rock riffs stolen from Scorpions and Accept back in the day.

Lyrically, it's typically routine metal with Dragons and House Of Rock particularly insipid. Throw in the mandatory acoustic ballad, in this case the awful Dying On A Broken Heart and what you have here is a band that for whatever reason continue to plough their heavy metal blueprint regardless of time, fashion or record sales. In another year of top quality releases, you may wish to give this the swerve. 5/10

Monday, 10 April 2017

Reviews: Marvel Zeros, Amken, Chronosphere

Marvel Zeroes: Circus Of Karma (Self Released)

Thessaloniki rockers Marvel Heroes are an interesting prospect, their debut record Circus Of Karma is marketed as Alternative rock and yes there is an almost modern American post-grunge sound to but the band break free of barriers with an eclectic range of songs on this record, they started out as covers band and state their influences as QOTSA, RHCP, Muse, Pearl Jam, Faith No More and even Porcupine Tree! These influences explains the diversity of sounds on this record, one minute it's classic solo wielding hard rock, the next garage fuzziness Beast In Me, the RHCP is writ large on A Dream To Dream Upon and Walking On Your Knees which successfully merges classic rock with funk, there are even some electronic touches on Bridges To Burn.

This record has been built on solid gigging in their native country and has been in production since 2012, that time and experience has paid off as Circus Of Karma drew me in from the first chords, the tough rhythm section of Nick and Andy underpin the riffs of Vasilis and the synth of Chris Koim, this guitar/keys combo adds to Marvel Zeroes sonic individuality and the thick musical backing is perfect for Dimitris to show his great voice that shifts between deep crooning and roaring like the Macedonian Lion on the front cover. The band are politically charged with their lyrics especially on the powerful Human...Right? it's a great album from an interesting band that draw from numerous styles it's progressive in the sense of Muse with the music being complicated and layered but not detracting from the concise songwriting. Circus Of Karma impresses as a debut album, with the right radio play and support Marvel Zeroes could be a big hit. 8/10

Amken: Theater Of The Absurd (No Remorse Records)

Amken play blisteringly fast thrash metal that takes it's cues from the Teutonic thrash metal scene with Kreator, Destruction and Sodom the main influences wrapped up with the Californian crossover sound favoured by more recent bands such as Municipal Waste and Gamma Bomb. The musical backing moves from furiously fast to fist pumping stomps and breakdowns, the vocals are barked aided by gang vocals on D.A.P which twists and turns and leads into the doom intro of Obedient Dogs that picks up all the pace of a train rolling down a mountain with no breaks.

It's speedy proper thrash made for the live stage and as such rips and tears at it's recorded leash as much as possible the Athens four piece play like their lives depend on it, Theater Of The Absurd is a very strong debut album, the production zings, the performance is top notch and it all puts the band in a position to sound far beyond their years. With so many thrash metal albums out this year it may be hard to break through but Amken have a youthful exuberance that could see them achieve great things. 7/10

Chronosphere: Red N Roll (Punishment 18)

Unlike their Athens counterparts since their inception in 2012 Chronosphere have released three albums, Red N Roll is their third and latest, also unlike their compatriots the Athenian mob have a much heavier groove-laden start to their record but after this Demonized hastily gets things sprinting with the ferocity of Slayer and the melodic touches of Megadeth or Metallica. The vocals are cleaner on this record than Amken, Spyros' pipes working very well with the music, there are more pinched harmonics and a classic metal feel throughout especially on Picking Up My Pieces and Be The Best both of which display excellent bass playing from Kostas. Red N Roll is an album that shows how experience can affect a band, it's a professional sounding record building on the two before it and honed by touring. Chronosphere are once again another triumphant thrash metal act from the Hellas. 7/10

Reviews: The Bleeding, Aldaria, Game Over (Reviews By Rich)

The Bleeding: Rites Of Absolution (Self Released)

The Bleeding are a London based death/thrash metal band and Rites Of Absolution is their brilliant debut full length album. The Bleeding take elements of old school thrash metal and old school death metal and fuse them together resulting in an album that sounds old school and sharp and modern helped by the clear production job on the album. This is a band that isn't afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves with many of the riffs bringing to mind thrash and death metal bands from the mid eighties to early nineties.

The vocals on the album sit somewhere between a thrashy snarl and a throaty death metal scream. As a massive fan of old school thrash and death metal this album brought a huge smile to my face and will definitely appeal to fans of both subgenres. Highlights include the savage title track (which is available to stream on the band's Bandcamp page), Consumed Existence, Crook And Flail and a faithful cover of Death's Open Casket. A highly impressive and enjoyable debut album. 8/10

Aldaria: Land Of Light (Pride & Joy Music)

Aldaria are an all-star power metal supergroup masterminded by Frode Hovd of Memorized Dreams. The only solid member is Frode Hovd himself who also writes all the music but the album features a whole host of guest vocalists and musicians. On the musicians front you have guests such as Jimmy Hedlund of Falconer, Roland Grapow of Masterplan (who also mixed the album), Mike Lepond of Symphony X and Uli Kusch formerly of Helloween. On the vocalists front you have appearances from Fabio Lione of Rhapsody Of Fire, Jonas Heidgart of Dragonland and Tommy ReinXeed of ReinXeed. These are just a tiny selection of the guests involved.

The album itself Land Of Light is a concept album and uses the metal opera style previously established by Avantasia. The music throughout is symphonic power metal performed effortlessly by the plethora of talented musicians and singers involved. Unfortunately the songwriting just doesn't really hold up with very few memorable songs or melodies throughout. This album also lacks in the originality department as well with the storyline behind the concept sounding very similar to Avantasia's The Metal Opera. When this album does get to shine though it can be very enjoyable with tracks such as Guardians Of The Light, Lost In The Darkness Below and Answers In A Dream being particular highlights. When it comes to a new metal opera project comparisons with Avantasia are going to be inevitable and whilst it has its moments this album just doesn't hold up to the project which spearheads the metal opera sound.
6/10

Game Over: Blessed Are The Heretics (Scarlet Records)

Blessed Are The Heretics is the latest EP by Italian retro thrashers Game Over and they seem to have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. The EP comprises of a brand new song, an Italian language re-recording of an old song, a cover song and a bunch of live tunes. Things get off to a start with the new song which is the title track of the EP which is a nice melodic mid paced thrasher with plenty of crunch. Following that is Mai Più which is an Italian version of No More off the Burst Into The Quiet EP which doesn't really add anything to the original.

The most interesting track on the album is the thrash metal cover of You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive which although a strange choice for a thrash cover actually really works. The live tracks that follow are chock full of energy and of good recording quality. Blessed Are The Heretics is a nice selection of odds and ends from Game Over but is an unessential release and one really only for hardcore fans of the band. 6/10

Sunday, 9 April 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Blackberry Smoke (Live Review By Paul)

Blackberry Smoke & The Biters - O2 Academy, Bristol

It's been over six months since Atlanta's Blackberry Smoke released their country rock Like an Arrow, a fine release that moved more toward the country than the rock. That may be the case on record, but live, these boys continue to demonstrate that they can shake it with the best of them. Our last encounter with the band was a raucous London Forum gig back in November 2015, and the delight at finally getting the band on the doorstep, albeit the travel challenging O2 Academy in Bristol was unrestrained.

The Smoke usually have a decent support act worth forgoing a pint or two in order to get in early doors. In 2015 it was the excellent The Record Company (see our recent review of their show at The Fleece a few weeks ago) and on this tour it was their fellow  brethren Biters (7) who opened the evening. A very healthy crowd had gathered, no doubt lured in partly by a band who are getting some big plaudits within the Classic Rock fraternity but also by the sneaky opening of doors at 7pm for an 8pm start.

Led by the very visual and energetic Steven Tyler styled Tuk Smith, Biters sound mixes Cheap Trick, Bowie, The Sweet, Slade and the New York Dolls. They put a sterling effort into their 40 minute set, with some early crowd participation and an amusing anecdote about a surprising hand job for their merchandising man in Helsinki keeping the interest. Musically they are extremely competent, with guitarist Matt Gabs showing some great chops, especially in the extended guitar duel with Smith on final track 1975. Ultimately, the band appeared to be showing the strains of a long tour, with a slightly forced effort pushing them towards appearing more British than they needed, something that they will never comfortably achieve. A rousing reception alright, but not a band that had me racing to the merch stall to pick up their latest CD for.

We've written about the live show of Blackberry Smoke (9) twice before in the Musipedia. My two previous encounters in Birmingham and London saw the Georgia outfit increase the quality at each show and once again they proved to be a superbly slick outfit. A set which consisted close to 20 songs, lasted close to two hours and crammed full of Smoke classics old and new. Their set was bookended with Fire In The Hole and Ain't Much Left Of Me. In between, the band, led by the utterly captivating Charlie Starr ploughed through a perfectly paced set which picked up tempo for the traditional mid-set musical diversion of Sleeping Dogs which segued into Zeppelin's Your Time Is Going To Come, slowed perfectly for Ain't Got The Blues and Sunrise In Texas before a wonderful climax of The Move's California Man, One Horse Town and the aforementioned Ain't Much Left Of Me which allowed guitarist Paul Jackson to show once more that he isn't here just to add those delicious backing vocals. 'too country to be called rock, too rock to be called country' said the t-shirt. All I know is that this is a band slowly easing into their rightful place at the top table. Stunning stuff.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Reviews: The Texas Flood, Pokerface, Michael Schenker

The Texas Flood: Overworked And Underpaid (Off Yer Rocka)

When you name your band after the debut album of one of the greatest blues-rock players of all time (the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn) you need to impress and on their debut album Young Dogs, Old Tricks they showed talent that was evidently there if not totally recognised. Overworked And Underpaid changes that from the opening line of "I come up smelling roses" the band have discovered a newfound sense of dirty grit. Funky basslines mix with strutting blues guitar for the best for the kind of foot shuffling blues rocking SRV was renowned for. As I've said Roses kicks off the record in fine style with filthy bass driven rocker kudos to Ben Govier, it's followed by Treading Water which is based around Tom Williams giving it all of the cowbell (and you can never have enough of that folks).

This Port Talbot three piece really know how to rock out, in true power trio style all three of them function like clockwork Govier and Williams laying the intricate base for Tom Sawyer's Southern (Welsh) drawl and excellent guitar playing. Overworked And Underpaid sits as the end of transitionary period for the band, they've grown considerably as a band and their songwriting has benefitted, there is a sense of lamentation to the countryfied Forget About You, a boogie to Up In Smoke and they ramp up the swagger on Ain't No Cowboy. On Overworked And Underpaid The Texas Flood have upped their game significantly it looks like The Texas Flood can stand the weather and they are here to stay. 8/10

Pokerface: Game On (M&O Music)

Russian thrashers Pokerface's second album has been two years and numerous ex members in the making, since the debut record (reviewed in these pages) the front of stage line up has been replaced wholesale with only bassist Doctor and drummer Free Rider remaining from the first album. The new arrivals to the group include Vadim Whitevad on rhythm guitars and six string vixen Xen Ritter on lead guitars with former singer Delirium Tremens being replaced by the enchanting Alexandra Orlova.

Beware though folks as just because this band features two ladies they aren't some symphonic/Gothic metal act this is flesh ripping thrash at it's most violent with ear-splitting riffs, bone crunching rhythm sections and demonic vocals from Alexandra, imagine Arch Enemy but with a D.I.Y attitude and you'll be near, there seems to be a theme of gambling running through the record with tracks named Play Or Die, Blackjack, Straight Flush and Jackpot but in the maelstrom of lightning speed riffage, roars and barks and blast beats any lyrics are rendered almost indecipherable by the scratchy production still if you want explosive thrash metal grab your dice and take a punt on Game On. 6/10

Michael Schenker: Fest Live (Inakustik) [Review By Paul]

Old school reunions and retro outfits are all the rage these days. Rock and metal fans seem to be unable to satisfy their thirst for the "good old days". The recent Thunder tour is an example of this, with sell out arenas throughout the UK. The adulation that The Dead Daisies continue to receive continues to bewilder me. It's not just here though, as this album proves. The Japanese have always loved German guitarist Michael Schenker, in that strange obsessional way that they love Cheap Trick amongst others. Back in 1982, the MSG double live release Live At Budokan was a must have release. Full of early classic MSG tracks, it was a demonstration of how exciting the band were ... at the time. Since then, Schenker has travelled a varied path, with his most recent line ups headlining Hard Rock Hell and Steelhouse a few years ago along with support slots to Priest as well as Academy sized headline shows.

So, what a wheeze to regurgitate the original band and add on a few extras to make a few more quid, because that is exactly how Fest Live comes across. Recorded live at the International Forum in Tokyo on 24 August 2016, it features original vocalist Gary Barden, Graham Bonnett who appeared solely on Assault Attack and Robin McCauley who formed the McCauley Schenker Group which lasted from 1986 to 1992. It also features drummer Ted McKenna, bassist Chris Glenn and Steve Mann on keys and rhythm guitar. Fest Live highlights many things. Firstly, Gary Barden isn't a great singer. He never had a particularly powerful voice and it shows here as he strains his way through Attack Of The Mad Axeman, Victim Of Illusion, Cry For The Nations and Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.

Secondly, Graham Bonnett's contribution to MSG was limited in both time and quality. Assault Attack is solid but Dancer is and always has been rubbish. Thirdly Robin Mcauley wrote some of the blandest songs ever recorded. Name one that stands out amongst the Schenker catalogue? Fourthly, metal Mikey remains a superb guitarist. His work throughout is as abstract and unconventional as ever. He remains one of my all time favourites. Fifth, only Phil Mogg should sing Rock Bottom, Doctor Doctor and Shoot Shoot. The climax to the show with all three vocalists brutalising Doctor Doctor in that horrible karaoke style is the only proof I need. Singing "nah nah nah nah " over the start is unforgivable. Sixth, the early MSG did have some great tunes. The aforementioned Attack Of The Mad Axeman remains a real rocker. And finally, Glenn and McKenna are a formidable engine room. Overall this album appears to be a record of days which are very much viewed through rose tinted spectacles. It's a bit meh. 5/10

Friday, 7 April 2017

Reviews: Darkest Hour, Evocation, Crystal Viper (Reviews By Paul)

Darkest Hour: Godless Prophets And The Migrant Flora (Southern Lord)

Over 20 years and on album number 9, Washington DC's Darkest Hour return with a chaos filled battering which takes their death metal influences and once more mixes them with brutal metalcore. It's hardcore stuff from start to finish, John Henry's death vocal unrelenting whilst the duel guitar of original member Mike Schleibaum and Michael Cardigan split the eardrums. What's most impressive is the pace of this monster. It just comes at you like a runaway truck. Knife In The Safe Room, Those Who Survived and Another Headless Ruler Of The World all crush. The instrumental pause for breath, Widowed, is welcome respite from the carnage mid-album but also shows off the guitarists gentler side. With blistering speed, intensity and energy that you could power a city from, this is a monster of a release. 8/10

Evocation: The Shadow Archeytpe (Metal Blade)

More death metal from Scandinavia , this time it's Boras, Sweden and the throbbing pulse of Evocation. Heavy as the proverbial bag of anvils, the fifth release and first since 2012's Illusions of Grandeur is an absolute beast. Thomas Josefsson's guttural roars mix with the huge sound of Per Moller Jensen's machine gun drumming, Gustaf Jorde's rampaging bass lines and the slicing guitar work of Marko Palmen and Simon Exner to create a sound that assaults indiscriminately. Condemned To The Grave, Modus Operandi and the sheer monsterous size of Children Of Stone open the release with no mercy provided. This is solid, assured death metal which melts your face off. Children Of The Stone in particular is a huge number, giant slabs of riffs cut across land masses and rip continents apart. If you fancy an aural pummelling then get a bit of this bad boy on the CD player. 8/10

Crystal Viper : Queen Of The Witches (AFM)

Unless you are the Ed there may be a strong chance that Katowice's Crystal Viper may be slightly left field of your metal radar. Pick up a copy of their sixth album, Queen Of The Witches and that might change. Playing traditional heavy metal with a power metal edge, There is a straight forward approach which is straight out of the 1980s. Several tracks unashamedly plagiarise the Iron Maiden riff locker. I Fear No Evil and the Charlotte The Harlot pinched riff in Burn My Fire Burn are just two examples. Add in a bit of Judas Priest circa Painkiller and you have a pretty good understanding of what to expect. Having said that, it is well played and composed, and if you like your metal in the meat and two veg section with some incredibly powerful vocals courtesy of Marta Gabriel then this may be right up your street. It certainly isn't original and you could get a bit peeved at the clear theft of many riffs. However, I'd crack open a beer, put on your bullet belt and battle jacket and raise your fists to the air in celebration of all things metal. 6/10