Arrayan Path: Dawn Of Aquarius (Pitch Black records)
A year after their most recent album epic power metal band Arrayan Path return with their latest record, the band from Limassol (Lemesos) Cyprus have made this one about the Hindu Goddess Kali, the 'Mother Of The Universe'. You can hear why this is classed as epic power metal, the songs here are cinematic pieces with traditional instrumentation (Equilibrium) put against the symphonic power metal layers. One track like Lotus Eyes the keys are used to bring a Middle Eastern feel to the slow lumbering riffs, it's a slower track yes but there are of course faster tracks on the album, The Eleventh Mantra is a rapid power metal, The Flower Born Of Itself has a whiff of classic metal to it and So It Shall Be Written takes an epic influenced route.
The record moves as concept piece should every song compliments the previous one and prepares you for the next, it has light and shade with the pacier numbers often juxtaposed with bigger stomping riffs, it's a celebration of power metal mastery with all the band playing well throughout on the complex arrangements, the vocals are great and the production does the conceptual nature justice. I'd only been slightly aware of Arrayan Path before now but I really enjoyed this album, play it through big speakers to really get the full effect of the music. 8/10
Exarsis: New War Order (MDD Records)
Thrash metal with the highest vocals this side of Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth? Yes please. Athenian thrashers Exarsis are now on their fourth record and I'm a bit astounded how I've missed them before this. Normally I find that a lot of thrash bands are similar, it's difficult to make good thrash but Exarsis do something right, the production is deliberately analogue feeling but it doesn't detract, making the record sound like the classic thrash albums by Overkill, Anthrax and Nuclear Assault. With a cover by Andrei Bouzikov (Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocsaust, Cannabis Corpse etc) it looks like a classic thrash album too.
Every instrument gets a fair deal and the vocals though high pitched are never too teeth gritting. They don't scrimp on the breakneck speed, whirlwind riffs peel out out the speakers as the frontman shrieks backed by a gang chorus, the solos squeal as the songs run through the obligatory political bashing/horrors of war lyrics but the songs are played with skill and pinhead precision meaning you have no choice but to bang your head with every riff. New War Order has peaked my interest in Exarsis I will certainly be looking for their earlier work. 8/10
One Step From The Edge: Beneath The Surface (Self Released)
This is a proggy one, a myriad of styles all brought together under a prog metal umbrella, there's heavy djent grooves, harsh/clean vocals, technical riffage, colossal beatdowns, jazz inflections and most of all cohesive songwriting. The Ionnian band call themselves "A hybrid of different elements of meNtal expression" and they certainly have the mental bit nailed, the record is a bit schizophrenic as I've hinted at earlier taking from not only different types of music but also different types of metal itself. If I'm being critical and after few songs the constant start-stop modern prog metal nature of this record will wear thin and the vocals do stray into wailing a few times but it's a solid release if you like riffy modern prog metal. 7/10
Steamroller Assault: Dead Man's Hand (Eat Metal Records)
Steamroller Assault is a terrible name for a band, there I said it, however it is a great name for B-Movie horror, still here we are with Athens band Steamroller Assault an album that takes it's title from the legendary hand of Aces & Eights held by Wild Bill Hickock when he was murdered, but I'm sure many of you knew that already. The band have dirty metal assault that reminds me so much of Howling Mad Shitheads Wolfsbane with the greasy blues snarl of Motorhead on You Ain't So Pretty (When I'm Sober) and the attitude of Twisted Sister.
Unfortunately that's about it in terms of good things, not content with a terrible band name, all the members go under pseudonyms, guitarist Witchkiller, who leads Basshole (bass), Pimp (drums) and Namiroth (vocals), the record is just an excuse for a boys night out, every song is about chauvinistic ideals and machismo, sometimes to sickening degree, plus it gets a little samey as the record goes on. Dead Man's Hand is an album for a frat boy party but a little throwaway after that. It should carry a warning that says "Don't play near feminists" any record that has song named When A Girl Loves A Woman could probably incur all kinds of wrath. Dire. 3/10