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