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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Reviews: Anthrax, Psychework, Alghazanth, Stonefield (Reviews By Paul)

Anthrax: Kings Among Scotland (Nuclear Blast)

Few bands are held with as much affection in the UK as Anthrax. They cross the generations with ease, their gigs filled with old school metalheads who were there when Fistful Of Metal and Spreading The Disease first hit the shelves alongside younger fans who know the legend, the music but may be discovering the band’s powerhouse live performances for the first time. Kings Among Scotland captures the band at full throttle during the For All Kings European tour in 2017. Recorded at a sold-out Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow on 15th February 2017, the band bulldoze their way through a set which contained mainly classics that Anthrax have been churning out for three decades, along with three from For All Kings and the sole track from Worship Music, namely Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t

Given the number of live albums the band has released, it’s unlikely that there will be much in the versions of Among The Living, Antisocial and Indians that will differ from other releases but Evil Twin, a superb Blood Eagle Wings and Breathing Lightning all stand up solidly. Joey Belladona is on fine form, his vocals continuing to hit the high notes with relative ease, his interaction with the crowd focused. Scott Ian’s gruff backing vocals remain comical with his predictable halting of the war dance during Indians now as staple as some of the set list. The Glaswegian crowd is fired up, their participation during Be All, End All impressive. Newish guitarist Jonathan Donais’ lead work is slick and feisty, whilst the dependable engine room of Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante underpin everything, Benante’s drumming particularly ferocious.

Whilst the new music is more interesting to those of us who’ve been around the block a few times with the New Yorkers, the classics are what really pulls the crowds. The return of A.I.R. as an opener is pleasing whilst the stomp of Among The Living, Caught In A Mosh, A Skeleton In The Closet and Efilgnikufecin (N.F.L) are rightly heralded as early thrash monsters. Having missed this tour, I’m sure it’s a decent representation of the current Anthrax live show, and the full two-hours to boot. I’m always disappointed that the band completely ignore the John Bush era material as there are some real gems there but with Belladona now firmly back in the fold it is perhaps understandable. 8/10

Psychework: Karelian Hills (Ranka Kustannus)

We reviewed the debut release from these Finns back in October 2016, giving it a solid 7/10. Psychework return with album number 2, another 50 minutes of symphonic metal with Antony Parvianen once again delivering the operatic vocals. There is little variation from The Dragon’s Year in terms of approach or sound, with the band maintaining the Kamelot/Rhapsody/Avantasia style story telling epics. The power metal elements remain pleasingly front and centre, with the machine gun style drumming of new member Konsta Vehkala keeping everything on track. 

The melody is maintained, whilst Sky Keeps Raining has a hauntingly eerie piano riff which lingers long in the memory. Fury And The Beast’s Alestorm style accordion irritates The seven-minute title track eases the irritation with it’s combination of fast and slower paced passages, although Parvianen’s Dickinson style vocals struggle a little. Fire Still Burns is a challenge, with the choral parts decidedly cheesy but the closing duo of Ghost Patrol and the ten-minute epic There Beyond restore faith in an album that you’ll either really enjoy or hate. 7/10

Alghazanth: Eight Coffin Nails (Woodcut Records)

Sometimes a bit of mystery is good. I’ve never heard of Finnish symphonic black metal outfit Alghazanth prior to getting hold of Eight Coffin Nails, which is their eighth full release in a journey which started back in 1995. Eight Coffin Nails is the band’s first release since 2013’s Three Faced Pilgrim and ticks all the boxes for symphonic black metal with snarling, throaty vocals screaming over blast beating drumming and huge soaring sweeps of full speed riffing. The comparisons with many black metal bands are inevitable but given their years in the business, Alghazanth can be considered masters of their trade. 

Their panoramic sound enveloping the listener through the opening tracks Self-Exiled and Facing The North, strings increasing the intensity as the gnarly vocals of Thasmorg curdle blood over the top of the vast guitar work of Vexd and Mordant. By the time you reach the finale, the nine-minute To Flames The Flesh, you should be drawn deeply into an album that is magnificently structured, its reach profound and visceral. 8/10

Stonefield: Far From Earth (Flightless)

Darraweit Guim. Yeah, exactly. Stonefield, four sisters whose third album Far From Earth hail from this small town in rural Victoria, Australia. Having played together since 2006, Far From Earth is an impressive release, mixing rock with alternative styles in an assured and confident manner. The Findlay sisters, vocalist and drummer Amy, guitarist Hannah, keyboard player Sarah and bassist Holly have pulled together some delicious songs, from the opening rocker Sleepyhead, the trippy Delusion and the imperious title track. 

It’s an album that is both disposable and yet strangely enticing, the subtle keyboards often concealed but at times front and centre in an almost electro delivery. There’s even a bit of Eastern promise on Broken Stone, with its oriental intro and ethereal vocals which echo and swirl. An impressive release which I heartily recommend. 8/10

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