It's been 12 years since Corrosion Of Conformity released an album with Pepper Keenan behind the mic, in that time Pepper has been a part of Down while the core COC trio of Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin have been touring and recording with their earlier hardcore influenced version of the band. With Keenan back though the band is a different animal, a much more riff induced act with Pepper taking the vocals again his Southern drawl taking center stage. He reconnected with the other three and talked about playing some shows, having seen one of those shows I can tell you that the Southern magic that was cast on Deliverance and Wiseblood was still there and this has been brought to record again on No Cross, No Crown.
The band didn't want to write the same song over and over again so this record is a cross section of all the sounds COC have ever brought to the table Nothing Left To Say is trippy stoner psych, Old Disaster comes from the Sabbath riffage, Cast The First Stone has the defiant punk attitude of the three piece, No Cross is a slow moving doom piece that is one of the interludes that flesh out this record stitching the tapestry of this record together and the Southern riffs wean their way in on Wolf Named Crow and The Luddite this is typical Pepper led COC big striding riffs, groove filled rhythms and stoner/doom tendencies. A new COC album is always greeted with excitement, but this one will be welcomed with open arms, COC are back to retrieve their crown. 8/10
Bleeding Gods: Dodekathlon (Nuclear Blast)
Welcome in the New Year with some epic blackened death metal based on the 12 Labours Of Hercules, no it's not a new album by Septicflesh, this is the second album from Dutch band Bleeding Gods and it's their major label debut for Nuclear Blast. Formed by guitarist Ramon Ploeg he set about wanting to write his own songs culminating in debut record in 2014 since then they have bolstered their ranks with new members and come to the attention of more through Nuclear Blast. Just one listen to this record and you can hear why they are making such big waves.
Take a track such as From Feast To Beast it's got swathes of orchestral elements, some destructive blast beating from Daan Klemann and interwoven guitar assault from Ploeg, Rutger Van Noordenburg and bassist Gea Mulder which pairs black metal fury with some death metal chugging, that's not to say there aren't solo's as they come thick and fast on Inhuman Humiliation and open Birds Of Hate which evolves into some lightning death/thrash.
In places the solos and the synths are the only lightness in the songs which clobber you from Bloodguilt through to Hound Of Hell, Mark Huisman conducting the madness with his harsh rasp, instrumental Tyrannical Blood is the only calm amongst the maelstrom it opens with some classical guitars, a sliding solo and then a spoken word piece to end before the fire is re-stoked on Seeds Of Distrust and the symphonic Tripled Anger. Dodekathlon has 12 tracks of Homeric black/death metal with massive cinematic symphonic sounds, unlike with Hercules there is nothing laborious about this record it's very good indeed. 8/10
Avatar: Avatar Country (Century Media)
Have Avatar suddenly become Manowar? Well listen to their seventh album Avatar Country and make your own conclusions, it kicks off with the triumphal Glory To Our King, which rapidly slides into the Legend Of The King which opens with a minute and half guitar solo and is the first instance of vocalist Johannes Michael Gustaf Eckerström dual vocal style delivering the majority of the song in his harsh style leaving the cleans for the big hook, the harsh vocals are in opposition to the rampaging power metal riffage but it fits like a well worn shoe.
Avatar have always tried to do something different on each album taking from various genres and here is no exception The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country is sort of like Airborne jamming with Blackberry Smoke as King Diamond sings, as odd as that sounds it's just another string to the masterful bow of Avatar. This record is not as grandiose or as long as Feathers And Flesh but it still has enough progressive textures and aggression to please everyone, no matter where you came in on the Avatar journey.
This seems to be a concept album based around the King of Avatar Country and features the weirdness Avatar rely on, just listen to The King Speaks and you'll get an idea what I'm talking about, musically though they take things seriously with scything riffs, massive drums, time/style changes across 10 tracks, rounding the record out with a 2 part mini epic. It's difficult to review Avatar as they are such an eccentric band but once again they deliver. 9/10
Long held to be the custodians of Viking history Leaves’ Eyes have been regaling the metal audience with tales of the Bearded Norsemen be they mythical or historical the band have been through the mill recently with bands founding singer Liv Kristine leaving the band and while there has been some he said she said and legal action levied by the former singer the band have continued on with Angel Nation (EnkElination) vocalist Elina Siirala. She made her debut at the Hammersonic festival in Jakarta. This trial by fire has proved to be successful and the subsequent EP sold out in record time, this is their first record with Elina and as the title track opens this record you can see why she was chosen to take over as the singer.
Her powerful operatic vocal style means she slides into the beauty role of the bands traditional beauty and the beast vocals as she duets throughout with the harsh tones of keyboardist Alexander Krull. This is the most streamlined I’ve heard Leaves Eyes for a while there is lot less of the pastoral folk textures that came through during Kristine’s tenure, the first part of the album is a bit crunchier than previous releases however from Volva to Fairer Than The Sun the folk metal elements creep in before Shadows In The Night bring back the symphonic metal sound. None of the songs on this record linger too long and it’s business as usual, despite the major shift in the sound with a new singer, the song remains the same and Leaves’ Eyes are back doing what they pioneered. 7/10