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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Reviews: Annihilator, Demonic Resurrection, Al Atkins, Segregates (Reviews By Paul)

Annihilator: Triple Threat (UDR)

The highest selling Canadian metal band return with a triple disc. A live set from last year’s Bang Your Head Festival in Balingen, Germany and a disc of acoustic recordings apparently done in a single take as well as the DVD of the live show.

Now I don’t know about you but Annihilator are a bit of an enigma to me. Brilliantly technically gifted, possessing some massive tunes and crushingly heavy, they are also typically Canadian with Jeff Waters (who let’s face it, is Annihilator) and our last encounter with them in Birmingham a couple of years ago was a frustrating experience. Let’s deal with the live disc first. It is just great. Opening with King Of The Kill, it really is a quality example of the power of the band when on top form. No Way Out, Creepin’ Again (from Suicide Society), Set The World On Fire, the inevitable WTYD and Alison Hell all feature.

The sound is excellent, the pace rapid, the crowd engaged and actually audible. The inane chatter is limited but still sufficient to give a taste of the Annihilator live experience. And did I mention it has Alison Hell? What a track. 80’s thrash at its best. The encore of Phantasmagoria is pretty sweet as well. So far so good. And it gets better. The acoustic disc of some classic tunes is superb. Phoenix Rising in particular is stunning but all of the tracks display some magical guitar work from Waters, Aaron Homma and Rich Hanks with Marc LeFrance adding acoustic percussion.

Although the chatter between songs can become a bit irritating with Waters constant reference to the date that he wrote each of the songs particularly tedious the overriding quality of the music and the calmer, lighter vocals allows you to ignore this element. Overall this is a very decent package which demonstrates two sides of an often underrated outfit. 8/10

Demonic Resurrection: Dashavatar (Demonstealer Records)

Back in 2014 we reviewed The Demon King by India’s premier metal outfit, Demonic Resurrection and gave it 8/10. It was an excellent release. However, their fifth release moves the band into another gear altogether and the gap between the releases has clearly been worth it. The symphonic elements which merge with the black metal approach are still very much in evidence, as is the technical blasting of drummer Viru Kaith, and it remains as heavy as hell. What moves it forward is the stunning compositions which really grab your attention, hauling you by the scruff of the neck and turning you 180 degrees with an open mouth.

The album tracks are focused on the ten avatars or incarnations, the forms that Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of Preservation adopts to descend to restore cosmic order. Each track is named after one of the ten avatars. Aside from the awareness raising of some really interesting Hindu beliefs, this is just a blisteringly heavy and fast release. Varaha – The Boar is a great example, blast beats, layered synths, changes in pace, skin peeling guitar work from Nishith Hegde and of course the inimitable vocals of Demonstealer, who transitions from clean to death vocals with ease.

With an infusion of some more traditional Indian styles adding to the interest and also complexity, it is crammed full of so much great stuff that demands attention and repeated plays to appreciate all that is going on. Stand out tunes include Narasimha – The Man-Lion which is played incredibly fast and album closer Kalki – The Destroyer Of Filth, which oozes with atmosphere. Demonic Resurrection continue to deliver some magical music. Long may they continue and lets hope for some rare sightings on these shores before long. 9/10

Al Atkins: Reloaded (Gonzo)

I have to admit that when this one landed on the desk I had to search for who Al Atkins was. Interestingly, he was the original vocalist for Judas Priest, fronting the band from 1970 to 1973 when Rob Halford took over the reigns and made the band his own. Since then, Atkins has made a number of solo albums, five in total, along with three releases under the banner of The Atkins/May Project, with guitarist Paul May. He also fronted Holy Rage and released their eponymous debut in 2010.

Reloaded is a mix of re-recorded/remixed tracks from the four decade career. With a healthy list of guest musicians helping out, this is an introduction to an artist who has probably always suffered from the ex-Priest tag. So what about the tunes? Well, it’s solid traditional British style heavy metal, somewhat routine in parts but a decent enough listen. In fact, the musicianship on it is excellent with some stellar performances from Roy Z (Halford/Bruce Dickinson), Stu Marshall (Death Dealer), Tsuyoshi Ikedo (Unveil Raze) and a mighty bass double from John McCoy and Priest’s Ian Hill.

The impressive A Void To Avoid contains some superb guitar work and at just under ten minutes keeps the attention. Opening track Winter is a stomper, Coming Thick And Fast is a throwaway tune whilst Heavy Thoughts labours somewhat. As I listened there was a little niggle at the back of the mind throughout. Eventually I got it. Atkins voice is just not that good. Gruff and powerful, but just not sufficiently impressive to make you gasp in the same way the legends such as Halford, Dio, Ozzy did/do.

He does a creditable version of Victim Of Changes from the second Priest release Sad Wings Of Destiny (and also from Atkins third solo release of the same name) but play it against the original and Halford is superior. Album closer Mind Conception is an early Priest demo which adds little other than to show how good the guitar work of KK Downing was and how much music production has improved in the past 40 years. Interesting stuff maybe, but I’m not sure I’d be rushing out to pick up the back catalogue. 6/10

Segregates: Burston (Self Released)

York motorpunk power trio Segregates make no bones about their Motorhead influence. It's stamped all across this 11 track debut. Fast, filthy and out and out good time rock ‘n’n roll, there’s little to be critical about. It is crude, raw and pulls no punches. Named after Motorhead’s former guitarist Michael ‘Wurzel’ Burston, Segregates basically kick you in the head ten times and then finish you off with a storming cover of the Motorhead classic Riding With The Driver which also features Tim Atkinson, bassist of Wurzel’s last band Leader Of Down. With a few pints on board this is a band that would really make your night. How about a slot at BOA then? I’m in. 7/10

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