Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons: The Age Of Absurdity (Nuclear Blast)
I think most of us would be comfortable that Phil Campbell has nothing to prove. The Motörhead guitarist showed his quality during his many years as Lemmy’s wing man, and over time demonstrated that he is a fabulous blues based guitarist who can rock out with the best. Last year’s self-titled EP proved that rather than rest on his laurels, he has plenty of energy and desire to move forward. The debut album The Age Of Absurdity is a fine slab of hard rock, which ranges from the all-out thumper of opening track Ringleader to the soulful, superbly paced Into The Dark, which showcases not only Campbell’s stunning guitar work but also allows vocalist Neil Starr to show his colours.
Sandwiched in between are nine solid tracks which vary in style and quality. I prefer the Motörhead edge of the likes of Gypsy Kiss and Step Into The Fire which allows son Tyla to thunder away in true Lemmy style but to be fair there isn’t a duff track. Campbell’s guitar work is sublime throughout, subtle little licks and passages nip in and out whilst Todd and Dane supply ample support. Starr’s voice is ideally suited to the tracks, which retain the rock ‘n’ roll feel throughout. This is a very pleasing release that will grow as the tracks become more familiar. One of the classic rock albums of the year. 8/10
Raging Fate: Gods Of Terror (Stormspell Records)
There is nothing particularly wrong with this release. Proudly nailing its colours to the power metal mast, it thumps away from start to finish in a true to style manner. Influences include Running Wild, Grave Digger, Kreator and inevitably Helloween. Raging Fate hail from Sweden but have centred their sound on the Teutonic monsters of the metal world.
Disappointingly, the vocals of Matthias Lövdal are so poor they undo the solid musicianship which is contained within the band. Compact but unspectacular, with a frontman whose voice would sound more at home in the Hairy Arse Arms karaoke competition. Vampire and A Bitter Man’s Face are amongst the abject efforts whilst the pedestrian seven-minute Shores In Flames dies on its arse. Disappointingly rubbish. 4/10
Grimner: Vanadrottning (Despotz Records)
Celebrating their 10th anniversary, Swedish Viking/folk metallers Grimner roar into 2018 with a solidly pleasing release. With a new addition to the band’s vocal arsenal in Martin, who also adds some steadying rhythm guitar, this album is buoyant throughout, with a dynamic, high energy approach that is aurally addictive. The band’s sound is heavier than in previous releases, incorporating the traditional folk metal flute, mandola and bagpipes which we are now familiar with Vanadrottning translates to ‘queen of the Vanir’, referring to the goddess Gullveig from the Norse mythology. She is known mostly from the tale of the war between the Aesir and the Vanir, when she was captured and burned alive by Odin and his herd.
Each time they burned her she would be born anew, dying three times and resurrected three times, each time in immense agony. Well, there you are then! With a wealth of catchy melodies, folk instruments and heavy riffs blending aggressive metal with a softer, reserved style, Vanadrottning is at times captivating, especially with lyrics sung in Swedish. The focus on stories of Norse mythology, folklore and historical adventures are not new but this is an enjoyable release with a range of songs, some dark and mysterious; others faster paced and with a jovial slant. If you are at Hammerfest this March, Grimner will be well worth catching. 7/10
Thundermother: Self-Titled (Despotz Records)
On first listen I’d have taken a punt on Thundermother’s home country as being Australia, such is the AC/DC and Airbourne style of their classic rock. However, these ladies are from Sweden, and this release is their third album. It’s a pleasing album, with some gritty rock ‘n’ roll delivered in a classic style which will be guaranteed to get the foot tapping and the head nodding. The band has almost completely changed its line-up, with only guitarist and founder Filippa Nässil remaining in place but there is no detriment to their sound or performance. The band’s extensive touring throughout 2017 has helped.
Vocalist Guernica Mancini has a smoky raspy style which fits perfectly, whilst the fat drum sound, which the band wanted, has been fully achieved and allows Emlee Johansson to sit front and centre. Fire In The Rain is apparently the first power ballad that the band has ever recorded and whilst it doesn’t set the world alight, it’s decent enough. However, it’s the balls out heads down rock ‘n’ roll that really works for Thundermother and their third release is well worth a listen. 7/10