Absolva: Defiance (Rocksector Records)
Metal it's funny old thing, with so many sub genres and hybrid genres sometimes it can be hard to keep up and work out what certain bands will sound like. Absolva are not like that, there are no sub genres, no melting pot of influences, no dilution, just metal 100% proof. Absolva have been around since the dissolution of Fury UK in 2012 they have made four records (including this one), the core line up is the trio Chris Appleton (vocals/lead guitar), Karl Schramm (bass), Martin McNee (drums) with Chris's brother Luke dividing his time between playing rhythm guitar for Absolva and bass for Iced Earth.
As well as being in Absolva the trio are also the backing band for Blaze Bayley so they are well rehearsed, oiled metal machine, something that is evident on this record, the riffs snarl with a classic metal leads as the Appleton brothers put their name in the great guitar partnerships (although live Chris handles both parts simultaneously) with shinning examples on Rise Again and Midnight Screams while McNee batters the skins on Life On The Edge and Never Be The Same (which sounds a lot like Be Quick Or Be Dead) but slows down on the groovy Eclipse, Schramm too plays the bass like a lead instrument creating the Harrisesque groove on Fistful Of Hate.
Obviously Absolva are influenced by classic metal drawing on Maiden, Priest and Accept but they also bring in Lizzyisms on Who Dares Wins and slow things right down on Connections which is all classical acoustic guitars, it may be a new dimension to the band for some but if you pick up the 2 disc edition of this record the second disc features acoustic renditions of some of their earlier songs. Defiance is another proper metal album from Absolva it beats it's chest and challenges all comers, the entire ethos of the record and this band is encapsulated by the title track which is inspired by the Bataclan attack with the motto of Liberté égalité fraternité shouted aloud. No matter what the genre music has the power to unite us all, Absolva know this and Defiance is a blatant celebration of the music they and we love. 8/10
Exit Eden: Rhapsodies In Black (Napalm Records)
About 10 years ago there was a band called Northern Kings, it was made up of four notable metal/rock singers from Finnish bands, the most notable were Nightwish's Marco Hietala and Sonata Arctica's Tony Kakko, the songs were all vocal/metal reinterpretations of classic rock and pop songs such as Sledgehammer, Don't Stop Believing, Kiss From A Rose and We Don't Need Another Hero. The albums were very well performed and the songs chosen all worked in the metal genre, the real drawing power was vocalists involved and how well their voices mixed.
This brings me to Exit Eden which is a similar concept although this time it's the girls who take the lead and the band has a global feel, as with Northern Kings there are two perhaps lesser known ladies and two who regularly appear on records and tours. The amazingly talented singers are German American rock singer Anna Brunner, Brazilian Mariana La Torraca who fronts Phantom Limb, has played with Avantasia and has history on Broadway in Rent, the two recognisable names will be Parisian Clémentine Delauney who currently fronts Visions Of Atlantis and has sung with Serenity, Melted Space and Kai Hansen and finally rounding out the quartet is Amanda Sommerville who is no stranger to the metal scene singing for Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot as well as fronting Trillium and Kiske/Sommerville and frequently turns up on metal records.
If this wasn't enough Epica's Simone Simons features on Skyfall (originally by Adele) and Frozen (originally by Madonna) and Total Eclipse Of The Heart (originally by Bonnie Tyler) features Rick Altzi from At Vance. All four women compliment each others vocals perfectly and yet again they have chosen tracks that translate into metal very well Unfaithful (Rihanna), A Question Of Time (Depeche Mode) and Paparazzi (Lady Gaga) the best fits. This is fun project as it bridges the gap between mainstream pop and cheesy classics with symphonic metal, the whole project is given legitimacy by the four ladies involved. Like Northern Kings, Exit Eden could be throwaway but with the performances at such a high level it's hard not to appreciate the record. 8/10
Blind Haze: The Bastards EP (Self Released)
There is no compromising with Blind Haze, the Leeds trio know what they like and what they like is LOUD. Their second EP, like their first, is a wall of relentless heavy rock riffs from beginning to end. It's the sort of music to make God bang is head, especially since that God is as we all know Lemmy. Blind Haze follow in the legendary footsteps of the man himself with Conan's Rickenbacker bass and bellowed vocals leading the charge while Jason Hope tries pummel his drumkit into oblivion. It must have been daunting for anyone to enter the hurricane of noise but John Nicholson is clearly mad, plugging his axe and letting rip with his new compatriots. The Bastards EP gives Blind Haze a few more songs to batter an audience with, play it loud with a Jack & Coke nearby it's what Lem would have wanted! 8/10