Savage Machine: Abandon Earth (Self Released)
We are merely 2 weeks into 2018 and I may have already found my album of the year, the apocalyptic vision of Savage Machine’s debut full length is a classic metal masterpiece. These Danes bring together everything I love about metal on album and over the ten songs on this record they bring a big goofy grin to your face again and again. The immediate reference points are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Blind Guardian and Hell but they use these bands as influence not slavishly copy anything from them.
The record is a concept piece with an epic science fiction based story revolving around the end of the world and escaping to space, it’s propelled by 6 minute plus tracks that feature elongated guitar solos and time signature changes that range from melodic clean leads, to gallops and even a bass solo at the beginning of Fall Of Icarus. Only a few songs are shorter; Event Horizon, The Hunter, Welcome To Hell being the main tracks, with the majority over the 6 minute mark twisting and turning with all the grandeur of Blind Guardian or the recent Maiden releases.
Exodus starts the album with the well worn troupe of a thunderstorm, but it’s a slow burning, atmospheric song that sets the tone for the storyline, before bursting to life with the head nodding riffs. From here it’s a non-stop run through the history of ‘traditional’ metal Martin Helbo (drums), Benjamin "Atlas" Andreassen (bass) and Simon Kalmar Poulsen (rhythm guitar) keep the riffs coming letting Jacob V. D. Bruun play like Murray, Smith, Gers, Downing and Tipton all trading off on each other when he adds the exciting solos. As the record goes on the songs get better and better with the performance staying at a breathtaking level throughout.
I’m particularly enamoured with vocalist Troels Rasmussen who effortlessly fuses Rob Halford with Hansi Kursch. I honestly don’t know where to start with this record in terms of highlights; really it’s all a highlight Age Of Machines has the speed metal pump of Guardian, Event Horizon whizzes past in a flurry, The Hunter is a Priest Feast while Time Traveller is an epic of Maiden proportions. Skilfully produced by Jacob Hansen, Abandon Earth already makes it into my Top 10 of 2018, I love it! 10/10
Lechery: We Are All Born Evil (Bleeding Music Records)
Formed in 2006 by Ex-Arch Enemy bass player Martin Bengtsson, I’d never really been aware of Swedish band Lechery but with that name and the AE link I was expecting melodic death metal from the word go. As I fired up the decks of death it was with great surprise that this record revealed itself to be more traditional heavy/power metal album, digging a well worn seam of twin guitar melodies and shout along choruses the music rarely leaves the traditional metal sound but there are touches of speed metal (Even A Hero Must Die) and hard rock (Sacrifice) that worm their way in.
Bengtsson is the vocalist for this project and his gruff vocals are more Grave Digger than Iron Maiden but they suit the distorted metal style. Yes the record can get a bit silly in places Heavy Metal Invasion the obvious one (do we really need another song about heavy metal?) and it’s probably only an album for classic metal collectors but it’s harmless fun record that is the bands third, so they must be doing something right. 7/10
Meden Agan: Catharsis (No Remorse Records)
The Temple Of Apollo in Delphi bore the inscription “Meden Agan” it translates to “Nothing In Excess” (or Everything In Moderation) and the Athenian band who bare this moniker certainly didn’t get the memo. Released through the No Remorse Records label (a label that’s also a heavy metal record shop in the Greek capital) Their Gothic/Symphonic styled metal is at times excessive or grandiose but mostly brings just the right amount of symphonic elements with a punchy metallic edge. A band that can be lazily pigeonholed into the “female fronted metal” genre they have classically trained vocals and orchestrations that merge with the traditional metal troupes of blastbeat drums and incendiary solo guitars.
Catharsis is the bands’ fourth full length and having listened to their earlier work it doesn’t really try to be too experimental, sounding a lot like fellow Greeks Enemy Of Reality, in fact that band was formed when the singer and drummer of Meden Agan left. Dimitra the singer on this record has the ideal voice you’d want for the music and as is normal there are growls that give a beauty and the beast style to the songs. As Symphonic/Gothic metal is such an overcrowded genre that you really have to pick and choose and like with the New Year diet if you have everything in moderation you’ll be fine. Forget about that have a bit of a splurge with Catharsis, go on you know you want too. 7/10
Ares One: Optimist (Self Released)
Reece Spencer is one of those sickeningly talented people make music, a multi instrumentalist, his second EP from the Ares One project. Optimist is not a cover of Anathema’s most recent record no it’s a distinct work that has a atmospheric progressive nature of it's Liverpudlian cousin. The EP is sandwiched between the beautiful duo of A Better Place Parts 1 & 2 which start and close proceedings, in between, this all instrumental record adds brings touches of ambient on Supercruise and some modern prog on the title track and the melodic but fiercely technical The Precipice.
Spencer is a virtuoso player handling everything himself his talents really shine as it takes a lot to enthral me with an instrumental record but this one has feeling to it, it’s melancholic but also hopeful, the instrumentation betraying the need for vocals. It’s an intelligent record with an optimistic vision of humanity’s ability to evolve in the face of catastrophe (the spoken word excerpts come from The Day The Earth Stood Still). 8/10