Skam: The Amazing Memoirs Of Geoffrey Goddard (Self Released)
Third album from Leicester rockers Skam sees them taking a risk and doing a concept record, now don’t worry rockers they’ve not gone prog, no this record is still full of hard hitting classic rock riffs (The Iron Cross) but with a narrative arc about the adventures of the titular Squadron Leader who jolts through time on a test flight.
Whether you buy into the story or not it doesn’t encroach itself on the record too much, there are two spoken word pieces but that’s about it. For the most part the songs on this record stand up pretty well outside of the concept doing what Skam do best. Neal Hill sets terrific pace with his raucous drumming, he’s the heavy biscuit layer to this hard rock cake, the dense bass lines of Matt Gilmore are the cheese and appropriately enough Steve Hill’s guitars are the sweet berries riffing and soloing on top of everything as he croons the storyline with his conceptual lyrics.
The record is very old school you can hear the grooves have been formed out of years on the road and recorded with all three members in the same room; you can hear that unity on every track. Take It Or Leave It is certified banger, this one will go down a storm on stage, Peace Of Mind has an American radio rock sound to it, Bring The Rain has thick groove and Fading Before The Sun brings a grunge touch. Skam have always impressed as rock band and TAMOGG is a strong record with an interesting but never convoluted or distracting concept. Pick up the record and rock out, no frauds or swindles here just authentic rock music. 8/10
Babylon Fire: Heresy In Black (Self Released)
Well this has been a long time coming, having seen Babylon Fire numerous times, it was with a heavy heart that I witnessed their final show with original vocalist Mark D at Bloodstock 2014. Since then they have been a sporadic with their appearances but they have emerged a few times since then with the original line up of Rishi Mehta (Lead Guitar), Ryk Swillo (Bass), Mark Cooper (Drums) and original member Will Reece (Lead Guitar) who left before they recorded their debut record. This addition of Reece has meant that they have reverted back to their earlier dual guitar sound while retaining the big groove riffs of Five Finger Death Punch.
This EP sees them return with new vocalist Dan Buxton and a renewed sense of purpose, unlike their more straightforward debut the EP is more progressive in tone, Raven Cursed is a multi-faceted piece that changes time signatures throughout but always keeps that modern metal chug and the harsh/clean vocals, Devil’s Night does a similar trick to Trivium having the metalcore aggression mixed with classic Maiden licks.
It’s a jarring difference to their debut album with the bludgeoning Coup de Grace and the title track having the heavy groove of their single guitar years. Heresy In Black sounds fresh and exciting it brings a band I’ve had a lot of affection for back to full strength, five heavy tracks wrapped in yet another excellent Very Metal Art cover, it’s the rebirth of one of the best bands on the British metal underground, now I just need to see them demolish the live stage again. 8/10
Jono: Life (Frontiers Records)
I've missed out on the previous albums by Jono but on the back of this third record it sounds like I'll need to do some discovering. The band, led by singer Johan Norby play progressive symphonic rock music that had the drama and pathos of Queen and Meatloaf. Apparently their previous record was very Steinman sounding but this one is more Matt Bellamy than Meatloaf.
Life opens with the operatic Sailors which builds on a hip shaking riff, has some 80’s synth work, an explosive guitar solo and kicks off the record with a taster of what’s to come. There was a band called Foxy Shazam that I loved (the singer recently featured on a Macklemore single) and Jono sound a lot like them, I’d imagine Queen making this sort of music if they still wrote new music.
The Muse progressive electronic rock sound is writ-large on Crown and Downside with pulsing synths and massive piano chords. The Magician has the dramatic overtones of Mr Loaf, while Trust meanwhile adds huge Queen flashes. The record is driven by Norby's expressive voice and Johan Carlgren's flamboyant piano playing that at its best in To Be Near You which is a huge ballad that culminates with a massive guitar solo. Life is an excellent bombastic record that has a pomposity that is constantly backed up by the virtuoso playing involved. 8/10
Eisley/Goldy: Blood, Guts & Games (Frontiers Records)
Singer David Glen Eisley and guitarist Craig Goldy made their names in Giuffria back in the 80's, this was before Goldy went on to join Dio's solo band a position he had until RJD's untimely death. This record is them coming back together to rekindle their musical partnership started back then, Blood, Guts & Games is probably lighter than any of the projects Goldy has been involved in since as this record is built on bright and breezy melodic rock built on Goldy's clean virtuosic guitar lines, some glistening synths and Eisley's Bonnet-like vocal, with touches of House Of Lords, Def Leppard and Night Ranger the music here varies from smooth AOR on Lies I Can Live With, synth heavy rocking on Soul Of Madness and powerful riffs on No More Prayers In The Dark. It does a lot of what you would expect, there is a saccharine slickness throughout underpinned by Goldy's guitar prowess, it's well written and performed from two musicians that still meld well after all these years. 7/10