Pestilent Reign: Pyres (Rising Nemesis Records)
If you fancy some skin peeling death metal, laced with sweet grooves and black metal harmonies, you may fancy this 38 minute kick in the nuts from Stuttgart outfit Pestilent Reign. Combining the underlying groove of early Lamb Of God with the sheer technicality of Dyscarnate, Revocation and the double hammer assault of Aborted and Dying Fetus, you get the picture within seconds. Fuelled by topics such as human stupidity, religious bigotry and a raging anger at the state of the world, the quartet’s debut long player is about as meaty as a lock in at Miller and Carter.
Lars Hägele’s ferocious guitar work, the growling roar of Christoph Sauner’s vocals and the pulverising rhythm section of Matthias ‘Mick’ Figura and drummer Sebastian Unić combine in a face melting approach. Tracks such as You Will Kneel In Piss And Blood, Saviour and the seven-minute face punching of Zealot don’t allow breath to be drawn. It’s intense, it’s brutal and fuck me, it hurts. 7/10
Against The Grain: Cheated Death (Ripple Music)
Album number 5 from Michigan’s Against The Grain just pours out of your speakers like a swarm of locusts. The release then proceeds to destroy all in front of it. Catchier than crabs in a sleazy sweat dripping whorehouse, and rammed full of obese riffs, an old school punk edge and a beautiful sludgy mixture of heavy blues, stoner and thrash, Cheated Death combines the power of Motörhead, the sleaze of The Admiral Sir Cloudseley Shovell and the downright dirt of Orange Goblin. There must be a biker cut or two in an album designed to be played as loud as possible.
Aside from the title track which pounds at 100mph, there is the thrash tinged Sacrifice, a full-out ride to chaos and a demonstration in versatility with blues breakdowns helping to change flight path. There isn’t a poor track here although it’s the pacier tracks that really get the heart pumping. Check out Rolling Stone for a superb demonstration of what I mean. Spicy, meaty and definitely not served in a wholemeal wrap. Magnificent. 9/10
Kill Ritual: All Men Shall Fall (Dissonance Productions)
Now reaching their eighth year, All Men Shall Fall is album number 4 for the band from San Jose, California. I’m unable to claim to be familiar with their material but this is a tasty morsel which contains more fire than a Mahal Vindaloo. Opening track This Addiction is frantic, with vocalist David reed Watson very much at home after his debut on 2015’s Karma Machine. An undercurrent of old school NWOBHM beats in the veins of the band, whose approach allows for a varied and expansive sound.
A heavy as hell backline ensures that the guitars of Steven D Rice are allowed air to flourish. The anthemic title track is full of classic heavy metal style, and the band hold that close for the entire release. Dead Man On The Water, an acoustic flavoured track allows time to catch the breath and for the band to display the sensitive and calmer side, whilst Sins has a pure power metal feel. This has much to commend with some thumping classic metal. 7/10
Chainer: Balls’ Kicker (Self Released)
“They try to stop me playing Rock n Roll but my guitar is my gun and my music is the bullet that will kill them”. Deep words from Kevin Van Raiser, vocalist and guitarist with Swiss trio Chainer. Unfortunately, whilst he may have the weapons, Chainer is way off target with the accuracy. Balls’ Kicker (yes, with the unfortunate apostrophe) is amongst the most mundane releases I’ve heard for a long time. Routine metal patterns, awful lyrics and Van Raiser’s vocals on a par with Fergal Sharkey in the warbling stakes. Tracks to avoid? Well, 1-10 would be my advice but definitely steer clear of dire ballad Lone Rider, Gorgeous and Dangerous (yes, really) and the cringeworthy cover of Stars, the Hear n’Aid release for famine relief. In a year which is already shaping up to be a good one, avoid this like the plague. It’s not very good. 3/10