Amethyst: From The Fire (Self Released)
Amethyst are a thrash/groove band from Manchester, this year has seen the North west become a real driving force in heavy music with many of the bands we reviewed this year coming from that region. Amethyst have been doing the rounds bludgeoning crowds since 2014 and their debut album From The Fire (which features great artwork from the venerable Very Metal Art) is a blast of groove-laden heavy metal that takes its cues from Lamb Of God and Reading's technical metalcore crew Sylosis. From the opening punch of Act Of Betrayal you get the heaviness directly rammed into your face like an unwanted post Xmas chocolate bar.
Retribution brings a dose of melody with both the harmonious lead playing and the final outro floats away with some quality noodling. With a rhythm section of Dan Quinley (bass) and Aaron Youd (drums) who do their best to kick your ass royally on every song, from the classic thrash of One More Day, the more modern Nevermore, the blisteringly pacy title track and the old school stomp of the technical Vile & Corrupted, the tracks are driven by thunderous blast beats and the dual guitars of Simon Watts and James Schofield, with Schofield not only the lead guitar mastery but also the voice of the demon. As a debut full length From The Fire is an incendiary statement of intent that makes you want to listen to it and headbang again, a word of warning though if your neck already aches, the second listen will totally bugger it! 8/10
Last Autumn's Dream: Fourteen (Avalon)
Can you guess how many albums Last Autumn's Dream are on? The imaginatively titled Fourteen is the latest installment from the hard rock/AOR band formed by Swedish vocalist and keyboardist Mikael Erlandsson and guitarist Andy Malecek from German hard rockers Fair Warning. Go! and Turn It Up are the songs you'd want to hear from this band, slick, slightly glammy rockers, interspersed with louche lazy anthems like Siren and some Van Hagar-like on I Don't Wanna Wait.
The record is chock full of melodic AOR tracks such as Wouldn't U Like, Shadow Of The Night and the poppy Walkin' Talkin' Miracle. This polished record features some excellent performances from all concerned and with 13 albums preceding it there was no chance there would be a substantial shift in sound but if you like glossy hard rock then you'll want to get in this dream. 7/10
Fear The Fallen: The Order (Sound House Records)
When I saw that Christian Slater was fronting Fear The Fallen, I did wonder why the star of True Romance, Broken Arrow and Hard Rain was slumming it with a heavy metal band from Darwen Lancashire but when I did a bit more research I found out that it wasn't him at all, yes I was disappointed but I don't think Hollywood Christian could have pulled off the kind of vocals this Christian exhibits, somewhere between Chester Bennington and Layne Staley, it's his emotional wide ranging vocals that give this band their fervent power.
The rest of the band are no slouches either though guitarists Sam Crowther and Dan McNally, drummer Matthew Dearden and bassist Rob Upton all play with virtuosity with some metalcore riffage meeting with the punching hard rock of Powder, Plot & Treason. It's a modern metal record with the constant reminders of the totalitarian control themes the record is built upon. It's a little safe at times but for a debut there is a lot of promise shown. 6/10
Red Stone Souls: Mother Sky (Self Released)
Four bearded dudes? Blissed out vibes? Fuzz-drenched Sabbath worship? It looks like we've got a stoner rock record on our hands, Detroit band Red Stone Sky channel the urban decay of their home state with fat 70's riffage. It's a record that needs to be played through a valve amplifier in a black light filled room and the highest grade green money can buy, your head begins banging from the outset swathes of riffs come come at you on the first track alone.
However as the record goes on there are more an more from rocking biker anthems to dreamy psych freakouts, Red Stone Souls bring to mind Monster Magnet due to the vocals and their obvious love of mind expanding narcotics, but also The Sword due to the sheer riffiness (which I've decided now is a word). Void Walker crawls like a pot-head coming up for snacks, Truckers has a bluesy swagger to it that builds into a cracking instrumental freakout at the climax and it leads into the massive doom overture of Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. Spark one up, turn up the speakers and let your hair down for this slab of stoner metal from Red Stone Souls, far out man! 8/10