Anvil: Pounding The Pavement (Steamhammer/SPV)
Just like clockwork it’s time for another Anvil album. Two years ago, we had Anvil Is Anvil, which I was comfortable awarding an 8/10, mainly due to the legendary drumming of Rob Reiner and the odd tune which was reasonable metal quality. Pounding The Pavement is about the 100th album by the Canadians whose resilience is astonishing. I’m immediately awarding extra points for the opening track, Bitch In The Box, which to my delight was not some crotch rubbing misogyny but a track about a SatNav! Fuck yeah! How much more metal can you get? From there on in you get 45 minutes of standard Anvil fare.
Thunderous riffs, ridiculous but honest and heart felt lyrics from Lips and let’s be fair, some rather routine vocals. However, the band can hold a tune, and with Chris Robertson remaining in place on the bass, this is another reasonable performance, albeit with the usual chunks of utter crap liberally sprinkled throughout. Whether Anvil should have been bigger is a debate which will rage for hours in the pub; what is not in question is their longevity, dedication and sheer doggedness. And for that, Anvil will always be welcome. 7/10
Magnum: Lost On The Road To Eternity (Steamhammer/SPV)
Less than two years since the quite majestic Sacred Blood Divine Lies, and Magnum are back with album number 20. It’s their longest release at 67 minutes long, and if you dislike their brand of progressive AOR then this would be absolute torture. Fortunately, as I said in my review back in March 2016, I have a massive soft spot for this band. With two major personnel changes, Lost On The Road To Eternity has a spring in its step; no mean feat for a band whose main players are now able to ride public transport for free.
The departure of keyboard player Mark Stanway, who I saw play with Magnum way back in 1985, was something of a shock although he walked out on the band during their last tour but he’s not missed on this release, with Rich Benton doing a fine job. Harry James, he of Thunder and Snakecharmer has also departed, a more permanent fixture required and James is replaced by Lee Morris who slips onto the drum stool with aplomb.
What you get as you’d expect with Magnum is highly crafted rock music full of pomp and passion. Bob Catley, now aged 70 is in fine form, albeit with a bit of a croak in the voice. Opening tracks Peaches And Cream and Show Me Your Hands are classic Magnum, romping along with style and comfortable ease. The pace slows for the start of Storm Baby before a classic Tony Clarkin riff kicks in, giving a bit of meat to the ballad. Clarkin, who at 71 looks younger now than he did 32 years ago, remains an underrated guitarist.
Much of his work is subtle, conservative but oh so effective. The title track has the bonus of Avantasia main man Tobias Sammet, performing as pay back some artistic dues for all the Catley input into Sammet’s project. A high paced, 50 piece orchestral backed track, Lost On The Road To Eternity is both ghastly and beautiful at the same time. The “Hey ho” chorus quite challenging but saved by the huge orchestral swathes that envelope the middle section quite magically. The first single Without Love has already become well recognised and is catchy without the awfulness of Just Like An Arrow from all those years ago.
Clarkin, who wrote all the tracks on this album has pushed for the lengthier style this time. Unsurprisingly for a band who have long worn the progressive stamp, several tracks clock in at over six minutes including the intriguing, Floydian and Moody Blues combination of Welcome To The Cosmic Cabaret, which ticks over eight minutes. What underpins most of the tracks on this album is an undeniable melodic thread underpinned by some epic story telling.
Now where is this more apparent than on the superb closing track King Of The World, where all elements of the band combine into a rather fine conclusion. Formed in 1972, the energy of this band remains astonishing. Another weird and wonderful album cover courtesy of the mystical Rodney Matthews enhances the package. Whether Mr Catley can do it live anymore remains open to debate but we shall see in February when the band arrive at the Tramshed. For now, enjoy another excellent release from a much-loved UK band. 8/10
Abysmal Grief: Blasphema Secta (Terror From Hell Records)
According to my internet research, Abysmal Grief hail from Genoa, Italy and have been peddling their doom occult metal since 1996. Blasphema Secta is album number five and follows 2015’s release Strange Rites Of Evil. Opening track Intro (The Occult Lore) sounds like it has been made by a 15-year-old on his Casio keyboard, attempts to make it a sinister mood limited by the tinny sound. However, the haunting violin which precedes the ten-minute Behold The Corpse Revived does the job a lot better. The track itself is an absolute belter, moving at sufficient pace to maintain the interest, crashing chords and the repetitive violin riff addictive.
The growling vocals combined with a Baroque macabre increasingly addictive and the huge, lengthy tracks do not slow for one minute. Maleficence follows, eerie and ominous with a sound that feels like a cross between Rob Zombie and Ghost but heavier and much more serious. When Darkness Prevails is just creepy as fuck, real Hammer House of Horror stuff before closing track Ruthless Profaners concludes with a chilling serenade to death. Grab your garlic, your silver bullet and close your eyes. Haunting stuff. 7/10
Tamerlan Empire: Age Of Ascendancy (Metal Hell Records)
Sometimes an album just takes your breath away. This is one such time. Symphonic black metal outfit Tamerlan Empire, named after the 14th Century Mongolian Warlord Tamerlane, have released a truly magnificent debut piece. Dripping with Eastern and oriental influences, this is an hour of stunning music. Combining the power of Immortal and Dimmu Borgir with the likes of Khalas and Orphaned Land, Tamerlan Empire expunge the myth that all Australians play pub rock. The fusion of Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms with more traditional black metal themes is not only impressive but unique and the style is immediately recognisable.
Led by drummer Khan, and with superbly gritty vocals from guitarist Ghorr, tracks such as Ottoman’s Demise and the epic Behest Of The Chosen drive with blast beats but are laced with stunning oriental arrangements. The strings on the latter just splendid. Retaining the sinister overarching devilment that underpins the genre, there are moments when you’d be forgiven for confusing the band with many others, until the symphonic elements cascade in a thunderous cacophony and then it becomes a whole different proposition. Album closer Scattered Sands even contains an Iron Maiden riff. This is a spectacular release and a breath of fresh air in the sometimes-stale world of metal. 9/10