Saxon: Thunderbolt (Militia Guard Music)
The opening strains of Olympus Rising blast through the speakers and you immediately know where you are. It’s time for Saxon, the legends of British Heavy Metal and boy does this release deliver. Inspired by the Gods of Greek mythology, album 22 in their vast catalogue is as impressive a body of work as they have ever delivered and continues where the excellent Battering Ram and Sacrifice left off. Huge riffs, lacerating guitar work, the most blisteringly huge drum sound and Biff as vocally imperious as he has ever been. Superbly produced once more by Andy Sneap, there is little to criticise.
The title track is a high tempo all-out metal classic, showing the band’s steel of recent years, the growling vocals of Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg on Predator adds bite and variation and that’s before we get to the emotion fuelled anthem And They Played Rock ‘N’ Roll. Wow! Just wow! Saxon’ tribute to Lemmy and Motorhead couldn’t have been timelier, with the recent passing of Fast Eddie. It’s fast, it’s furious, lyrically sweet and when Lemmy’s voice appears, it was difficult to hold back a tear. There was no band more necessary as a foil to Motorhead than Saxon who have taken up the torch carrying with aplomb. This pisses all over Murder One.
Sons Of Odin slows the tempo in the traditional Saxon way, but with so much power. This album is heavy. Saxon do anthemic classic heavy metal in a style which few can match, and this track is a fine example. Closing with their own tribute to their hard-working road crew, Roadie’s Song nestles comfortably alongside We Are The Road Crew. "16 beds inside the bus, step inside, be one of us, A roadie’s life is what we choose, and the wheels keep rolling on’. It’s magical stuff, with some superb guitar work from Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt. The CD edition provides a raw version of Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz) which is fitting closing track for a superb album. Roll on their return to the Welsh Capital later this month. It’s going to be immense. 10/10
Pestilence: Hadeon (Hammerheart Records)
Back with a belter, Hadeon is the first release since 2013 and the first from the latest Pestilence line-up, which features main man Patrick Mameli on guitar and guttural vocal duty. The band who have reformed a couple of times, most recently in 2016, have produced 40 minutes of belting death metal which does the business with no fuss. It’s superbly technical yet remains earthy and in your face. Tilen Hudrap’s bass lines are astonishing and his solo Subvision allows a breather from the onslaught.
Drummer Septimiu Haisan puts in a blistering effort and the intricate guitar work of Mameli and Santiago Dobles (no longer in the line-up) demands your attention. Best listened to through high quality headphones, from the rampage of Non-Physical Existent to closer Electro Magnetic, this will slice you in pieces. Listen to this but remember to strap in first. 9/10
Hooded Menace: Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (Seasons Of Mist)
I admit that Finnish Doom Outfit Hooded Menace has passed me by in recent years. Formed in 2007 this is their fifth release and very pleasing it is too if you like your doom served dark with growling vocals and a large helping of hammering riffage. With their influences pinned clearly on their sleeves, the strains of early Candlemass and Cathedral as well as Paradise Lost, Autopsy, Asphyx and Winter can be heard. This combined with lyrics often inspired by the classic 1970's Spanish horror movie series 'The Blind Dead' and you get the picture.
Opener Sempiternal Grotesqueries is a gargantuan track, clocking in at over ten minutes. There is little let up with the brooding In Eerie Deliverance which features Coltblood’s Jemma McNulty on guest vocals, horror-soaked Cathedral Of Labyrinthine Darkness all the way through to the closing two-minute Black Moss. Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is impressive from start to finish. 7/10
Letzte Instanz: Morgenland (AFM Records)
Another band that are new to me, the Germanic metal of Letzte Instanz is instantly striking. This is partly due to the clever use of cello and violin which is the heartbeat through each track, but also because the band sing in their native tongue, adding to the experience in the same way Rammstein and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter deliver. Morgenland is their 12th album, and although only violinist M. Stolz remains from the band that started in 1996, it’s a well-crafted and infectious release.
Thumping bass and drums, enough of a cutting guitar edge and fast-paced songs catch and hold the attention with ease. The title track which kicks things off motors along, Mein Land blends melody with big riffage and frantic strings, whilst Asche Zu Gold’s industrial approach is comfortably familiar. Vocalist Holly Loose, now with the band for 13 years commands attention throughout, guitarist Oli adds the steel and Berni Cellini’s cello works stylishly with Stolz’s violin. Well worth a listen. 7/10