Cavalera Conspiracy: Psychosis (Napalm Records)
To be honest, I was expecting another skull crushing face melting onslaught from the Cavalera brothers, but Psychosis is an absolute mind fuck. It starts as expected, with the rampaging Insane, Terror Tactics and Impalement Execution delivering exactly what I was braced for. Get to the middle section of the album though, and there are synths and complex time patterns that really freak you out. Crom is slower but sinister, Hellfire maintains the eerie feel whilst Judas Pariah has echoes of avant garde metal ala Celtic Frost in their prime.
The title track uses more synths and is just majestic, building slowly, with old school metal riffs interspersed with Igor’s patterns and rhythms, and even the odd horn or two to add to the melodrama which builds and builds. As you continue to scratch your head as to what you’ve just heard, Excruciating finishes the album at break neck speed, Max Cavalera’s guttural vocals, the huge riffs of Marc Rizzo and the undercurrent of groove all merge into a track that Sepultura would love to write. It soars off into a slow-paced mid-section which heralds the use of a hurdy gurdy (for fuck’s sake!) and another sinister, evil brooding segment which sounds more like the soundtrack to a horror film than a metal assault. I’m still confused but what an album. Astonishing. 9/10
Witchery: I Am Legion (Century Media Records)
This is another impressive release. Album number 7 for the Swedish thrash outfit whose line-up consists of Arch Enemy bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, guitarists Patrik Jensen of The Haunted and Richard Rimfält. Drummer Chris Barkensiö with Angus Norder remaining on vocals after his 2016 debut with the band on In His Majesty’s Infernal Service. The pace is relentless, following a similar vein to previous releases with a demonic, satanic theme throughout. Tracks such as True North, Dry Bones and An Unexpected Guest all drip with the eerie undercurrent that bands such as Satyricon and Dimmu Borgir possessed in their earlier days.
I’m writing this with a heavy cold and my throat is raging, just how Norder’s vocals must surely make him feel, such is the guttural bile that spews forth. Crashing riffs, battering drums and roaring lines make this an album for those who like their thrash with a mix of black metal. There is a groove which underpins much of the album although the 100mph all-out thrash is still here in The Alchemist and the spine ripping Ragnarok. Well worth a listen for those who like their thrash with a nod to the horned one. 7/10
Black Sabbath: The End (Live) (Eagle Rock Records)
When the forefathers of heavy metal announced their final tour, a few tears were shed across the metal world. The powerful unit that has contributed to some of the most anthemic metal monsters of all time had not long completed their tour in support of the rather good 13 when they called time. The End is the recording of their final gig on 4th February 2017 in Birmingham. Having witnessed their shambolic headline set at Download in the pissing rain the year before this is the closest I was going to get to the Sabs swansong.
It’s a decent enough package, and if it does demonstrate one thing it’s that retirement was the right decision. Whilst Messrs Iommi and Butler are still magnificent in their playing, with Butler’s demonic bass lines and Iommi’s riffs still a thing of beauty, sadly Ozzy’s vocals are absolutely shot and he at times he sounds completely out of it. His inter-song ramblings suggest that he’s in the process of having a stroke, such is the slurring incoherence at times. He’s way ahead of the band on the opener Black Sabbath and struggles to keep pace at other times. That’s when he’s not shouting, “we love you” and “go crazy”.
The music is fabulous, as the band crash their way through a range of classics, albeit nothing post-1978. However, the production is at times muddy, the inclusion of Rat Salad and Dirty Women is as bewildering now as it was at Donnington, and the eight-minute drum solo could quite easily have been ditched. Tommy Clufetos is a fine drummer but he isn’t Bill Ward. As Hand Of Doom closes you can easily hear Ozzy mumble “going for a break” whilst he leaves the band to storm through a Supernaut/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Megalomania instrumental montage. The final gushing from Ozzy as he asks the audience to chant “one more song” before the inevitable Paranoid rounds off the evening and history is just a little sad. If this is the final epitaph, then it’s a shame that it wasn’t a little more cohesive. RIP. 6/10
Iron Maiden: Book Of Souls: Live Chapter (Parlophone Records)
For those that witnessed the Book Of Souls World Tour through 2016 and 2017, this is the live recording of the exact show that Iron Maiden delivered night after night. Recorded at 14 different locations, it highlights the band running through the best of their last album with a few classics added in. The set list is identical to their show in Cardiff and so if you’ve read our review from that night in May this year then you’ll get the picture. As always, the crowds are fanatical, with the usual mental chanting from the South American crowds. Fear Of The Dark is one of two Brazilian recordings, with set closer Wasted Years the other. Both crowds are crazy.
Two tracks from the sodden Castle Donington headline set and The Number Of The Beast live from Wacken are also included. To be honest, this is Iron Maiden live, but with extra polish to highlight the best of the band. The sound is crisp and clean, totally unlike the muffled tinny effects we got at the Motorpoint, whilst Bruce’s vocals are perhaps a little more controlled than usual. But what else would you expect from the machine that is Iron Maiden? Are there reasons for this album? Well, it captures those tracks from The Book Of Souls which are unlikely to be played again. Apart from that, Maiden tend to release live albums following every world tour so it’s unsurprising. It’s pleasing enough. 7/10