Robert Plant: Carry Fire (Nonesuch Records Inc)
Three years have passed since Robert Plant released the beautiful Lullaby And The Ceaseless Roar, an album that saw the former Zeppelin frontman once more reinvent his style. Carry Fire sees Plant work with The Sensational Shape Shifters once more and provide a perfect reminder that even at 69, Plant has few peers who can produce such pieces of quality. Much of the album continues in the same delicate folk and world music style of Lullaby... with Plant’s voice in fine form. Opener The May Queen is a slow paced stomp, whilst Season’s Song is a calming, meandering piece. Whilst they are not credited on the album title.
The Sensational Space Shifters help to make this another superb album. John Baggott, Billy Fuller, Justin Adams, Dave Smith and Liam Taylor may not be household names, but these guys are stunning musicians. The Eastern flavours of the title track combines the band’s multi-instrumental approach with the addition of Redi Hasa on cello and Seth Lakeman on viola (they also add their strings to a couple of other tracks). Bones Of Saints has a bit more pace, music to dance to if you like whilst the cover of Ersel Hickey’s 1958 Bluebirds Over the Mountain features Chrissie Hynde on guest vocals and the drumming of Richard Ashton. If you like Robert Plant then it’s a fact that you’ll love this release. It may not be contemporary, but Plant once again does his own thing, to great effect. 9/10
Sons Of Apollo: Psychotic Symphony (InsideOut Music)
A veritable smorgasbord of rock luminaries on this one and it shows. Sons Of Apollo include Mike Portnoy, who is one hell of a drummer regardless of what you think of him as a person, Derek Sherinan who did time with Dream Theater and is currently keyboard player with Black Country Communion, as well as Mr Big’s Billy Sheehan (but who remembers him in Talas?), Jeff Soto formerly of many including Journey and guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, who spent time with G’N’R amongst others. Opening with the epic God Of The Sun which clocks in at over 11 minutes, Psychotic Symphony is big, brash and thoroughly entertaining. In fact, it might be a bit of a masterpiece.
Coming Home has a Bon Jovi stomp to it, Soto’s vocals impressive whilst Sherinan and Bumblefoot trade keyboard and guitar licks. In fact, it’s Sherinan’s keyboards that give this album the real foundation, as they rampage unrestricted. Portnoy’s drumming is magnificent, especially on tracks such as Lost In Oblivion which moves at real pace and the nine-minute thumping Labyrinth. Bumblefoot’s guitar work is majestic throughout especially on the Deep Purple stomp of Divine Addiction and the mighty instrumental Opus Maximus which allows each member to let rip and closes a very impressive and mightily tasty release. Well worth checking out and a contender for this year’s top 20. 9/10
Ancient VVisdom: 33 (Magic Bullet Records)
Those happy Satan worshipping fans from Texas return with the follow up to 2014’s Rise Of An Ancient Evil which we gave 8/10. 33 Proceeds down much the same pathway, with tracks such as In The Name Of Satan, Light Of Lucifer, The Great Beast and The Infernal One leaving little to the imagination. There’s a bit more electric guitar and even the odd riff on this album, intermingled with some rather splendid acoustic guitar work which hints at flamenco at times. True Will has a heaviness that is delivered without any effort or intensity, Nathan Opposition’s soulless delivery matching the subject matter but it’s a little repetitive and by the time you get to the title track it becomes just a little boring. 33 has a bit of oomph to it, Opposition’s monotone delivery adding an indie feel to the track. If you like this band then 33 will be a welcome addition to the collection, with some interesting changes in direction at times. If you don’t want to have dinner with Beelzebub then you may find the lyrical content a little tedious. 7/10
Bigfoot: Self-Titled (Frontiers Records)
Wigan’s Bigfoot created quite a splash with their debut EPs and some rousing appearances across the UK including a sterling effort at 2016’s Steelhouse Festival. Their debut album has finally arrived and it’s a decent chunk of hard rock. I can’t say that it's mind blowing, stunningly original or even that memorable but it does provide just under an hour of solid, honest and engaging music. Antony Ellis has a fine voice that soars and caresses, guitarists Sam Millar and Mike McCullagh duel with aplomb on Karma, The Fear and add some delicate touches to the excellent Prisoner Of War and Tom Aspinall and Matt Avery bring the heavy rhythm.
Their straight forward drive on Freak Show is impressive although the slower paced tracks actually work better. For example, The Devil In Me is a track that Thunder would be happy to pinch. I found myself tapping the foot along as I listened to an album that will do the band no harm at all. Bigfoot have a loyal following behind them and with some airplay on the likes of Planet Rock will soon find themselves another in the stable for the station’s numerous winter festivals. Worth a spin. 7/10