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Friday, 10 February 2017

Reviews: Black Star Riders, Soen, Power Trip

Black Star Riders: Heavy Fire (Nuclear Blast) [Review By Paul]

Let’s get one thing straight here and now. This is not a Thin Lizzy tribute band. Black Star Riders have more claim to Lizzy than any other band on the planet and yes, they were formed out of the remnants of the band that were performing under the Lizzy banner. What they have done is mixed the sheer gloss of Lizzy’s best qualities, namely good honest rock songs and have put their own stamp on them. Heavy Fire is their third release and it’s been on repeat since it dropped on the mat. It’s by far their best release, much more consistent with a far higher level of quality.

A harder edge is also present, whilst the melody and ear catching hooks are as plentiful as in their previous releases. What Heavy Fire has that The Killer Instinct lacked a little is the driving power. Check out the aggression of Who Rides The Tiger and the driving Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed. Powerful, fast and heavy with Ricky Warwick’s soulful vocals at full pelt, Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson swapping vicious solos, all underpinned by the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and bassist Robert Crane.

This is one hell of a supergroup, gelling magically into a splendid and relevant outfit. The opener and title track is a superb tune whilst When The Night Comes In is an ear worm which is already familiar thanks to repeated air time on Planet Rock. Warwick’s performance is stunning, with the inevitable comparison with the late great Phil Lynott now very much a compliment.

His voice is warm, velvety and inviting. The slower paced Cold War Love allows him to really excel. This is the type of music which the band are absolute masters of, with the duet of the double lead guitar subtle and sublime. The introduction of some female backing vocals enhancing several tracks, notably on Testify Or Say Goodbye, a classic rocker with none other than Mrs Scott Ian, Pearl Aday adding quality.

Produced by the legendary Nick Raskulinecz, who also adds mellotron on Letting Go Of Me, Heavy Fire is a polished album that increases in quality the more you play it. And it really deserves repeated plays. If you like a bit of straightforward hard rock with a real melodic undercurrent, then you won’t find a better release all year. Roll on March 2nd and their much-anticipated visit to the Tramshed in Cardiff. 9/10

Soen: Lykaia (UDR)

Soen started as a collaboration between ex-Opeth drummer Martin Lopez, ex-Death, ex-Testament, ex-Iced Earth bassist Steve DiGiorgio, vocalist Joel Ekelöf and guitarist Kim Platbarzdis their debut Cognitive was a resounding success and it's follow up Tellurian once again reaffirming Soen's place in the prog-metal sphere albeit without DiGiorgio who was replaced by Stefan Stenberg. This third record takes on darker themes than it's predecessors and sees Platbarzdis being replaced by Marcus Jidell (of Avatarium) and adding Lars Åhlund on keys and guitar.

This third record doesn't really move away from the sounds of last two albums but that's totally fine in my book as Soen has rhythm section driven percussive sound that gives the band a doomy, psychedelic appeal much like Tool, the bottom end is low and reverberates through the record as Lopez plays the kind of expressive percussion he has throughout his career.

Opening with Sectarian you'd be forgiven for thinking this is an Opeth track (without the growls) as the bass and drums driven verses and guitar heavy choruses are a dead ringer for the Swedish masters of prog metal but Soen have also managed to make this sound their own especially with the baritone vocals of Ekelöf being so similar to Mikael Akerfeldt that it would hard for even the biggest fan to distinguish between the two.

Orison keeps the Opeth sound going with heavier more technical musical backing that features brilliant guitars and bass from the respective players as the organs bubble under the surface, the record slows with the dreamy, depressive Lucidity which has a hazy beginning, a jazzy middle featuring an understated guitar solo before reprising at the end.

Opal is a track that draws heavily on the Tool sound, having a euphoric chorus with a complex rhythm behind it in direct contradiction to Jinn which is lower, slower song with traces of world rhythms cutting through. These Middle Eastern beats continue as they ramp up the heavy on Sister and you suddenly you are more than halfway through this record but with all the songs blending into one perfectly letting this record breathe like one whole made up of nine individually crafted pieces designed to fit together and compliment each other.

Lykaia takes what Soen has done before and takes it to the next level with the Opeth and Tool comparisons throughout, there are also nods to Pink Floyd (Paragon) creating some of the best music I've heard this year. There is no maybe, buy this record, if you don't you'll regret it. 10/10

Power Trip: Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)

Texans Power Trip have been cutting a swathe of destruction since 2008, two EPs, one studio album, one live album and a split EP later they have dropped their second full length and it continues the path of devastation the band have been on since their outset. Power Trip are thrash metal/crossover band that dip into the skateboard friendly, hardcore influenced thrash metal of Suicidal Tendencies on the excellent stomping Executioner's Tax (Swing Of The Axe), but also bring the darker frantic thrash of early Slayer on the blitzkrieg Firing Squad.

At 8 songs and just over 30 minutes the songs hit you like a stunner from fellow Texan Stone Cold Steve Austin, ferocious riffs, screeching solos and rapid blastbeats it's enough to leave you dazed as the final notes of Crucifixation fade away. The title track is actually probably the weakest on the record but it's followed by the fist punching Waiting Around To Die that puts itself as one of the top tracks on this record, the chunky shifting riff patterns alone are worth turning the volume up for. Nightmare Logic is a demonstration in the appeal of thrash, it's a record that could easily soundtrack a party (admittedly and apocalyptic one) with 30 odd minutes of charging metallic fury, very impressive. 8/10

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