Kamelot: The Shadow Theory (Napalm Records)
Symphonic metal mainstays Kamelot return with their latest opus which is their third album with Tommy Karevik and it continues in the same style of previous Kamelot records by expertly fusing classical orchestrations with crunchy power metal where the main factors at play the virtuosity of Thomas Youngblood (guitar) and Oliver Palotai (keys) as Sean Tibbetts (bass) and Johan Nunez (drums) provide blistering rhythms that can rampage with blastbeats or subtly add a groove to anthem. Add to this the extensive use of symphonic elements and choirs and you get a sound that Kamelot have pioneered for well over 20 years and one that still sees them producing excellent thought provoking music.
As with so many of their albums there is a conceptual nature to The Shadow Theory here they have forged ahead with the ever darker sounds they have been using since Karevik’s arrival and this record particularly is “A dystopian glimpse at the complexity of the human mind and its place in an oppressive society” so there are parallels to the modern day as Kamelot explore the darker side of human psychology splitting the record into three pillars of psychological theory “The Shadow Empire (The global mind), The Shadow Key (The Resistance) and The Shadow Wall (The veil that blinds us from the truth)”.
If you don’t like a conceptual album then don’t worry as these songs are independent on their own merit, in the middle of the album there are four tracks specifically that really have your ears pricking up, The Twilight Hours is a stirring ballad which has Karevik soulfully pairing his velvet vocals with Jennifer Haben of Beyond The Black, it’s followed by the heavier Kevlar Skin that closes out with a guitar/keyboard solo duel, Static is a mid-pace emotive track with pop flourishes and theatricality, rounding out the foursome is Mind Fall Remedy which has the harsh vocals of Once Human’s Lauren Hart opposing Karevik’s dulcet tones. The Shadow Theory is yet another set of wickedly deep and dark power metal from these mainstays of the genre. 8/10
Mustasch: Silent Killer (Headbangr)
I didn't have a lot of positive comments for Swedish band Mustasch's previous album, I thought it was a little too light, there were too many middle of the rock songs rather than the aggressive macho metal that came on proceeding albums. Well clearly I wasn't the only one that wanted the band to return to their earlier sounds as their ninth album Silent Killer will be a relief to anyone who like me loves Mustasch's earlier releases. Its head kicking from the first second as Winners, Liberta and (fucking) Barrage all hit your ears like artillery fire as Ralf Gyllenhammar riffs away like a true guitar toting madman and his raw vocals are almost required by law when a band play this heavily. With elements of Metallica (1991-1998), the driving hard rock of Audrey Horne. There's a special guest turn from Hank Von Helvete (ex-Turbonegro) on the funky Fire, a big groove on Grave Digger and bang it's all over in 30-odd minutes.
However like Millenium Falcon at warp speed, there's not rest throughout these 10 tracks, they are all driven by riffs to bang your head too recalling albums such as Latest Version Of The Truth with just pure metal riffs built on hard rock grooves. The production plays a pivotal role in this records appeal, it's clinical but inviting approach making the bass sound like a Bofors Cannon, the drums like an earthquake and the the guitars chug away like a The Flying Scotsman. It really brought a smile to my face to hear that the Mustasch of old had returned with all the bluster they could muster. Silent Killer is definitely not silent but it is all killer, a glorious slice of heavy metal fury. Welcome back Mustasch! 9/10
DeWolff: Thrust (Mascot Records)
Dutch act DeWolff have released 5 studio albums, have played Paradiso in Amsterdam, PinkPop Festival in front of 30,000 at Lowlands Festival, 15,000 at Sziget, as well as Reeperbahn, Rockpalast, Rock Oz Arena and they have supported The Black Keys, Blues Pills, Ten Years After and Deep Purple. They took their slightly odd name from the character Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction and they are formed by Pablo (singer/guitarist), his brother Luka van de Poel (drums) and Robin Piso behind the Hammond organ. They are only in their mid-twenties but their music is decidedly classic sounding it’s the swirling neo-psychedelic soundscapes of Woodstock using analogue instruments to create effortless rock tracks that have a Southern edge and a Hippie heart.
There's an overriding feel of The Black Keys jamming with Jon Lord as both Sometimes and Deceit & Woo has that garage street blues undercut with organ, elsewhere though there are titanic Zep riffs (Big Talk & Tombstone Child), Doorsesque freak outs (California's Burning), Southern shuffles (Outta Step And Ill At Ease), blues laments (Once In A Blue Moon) and even a helping of flared Stax funk (Swain). It's a brilliantly realised album full of the styles that made some of the best rock music in history, a veritable greatest hits of classic rock.
The organic and analogue nature of this record allows the band to fully explore numerous sound palettes making each one their own. Thrust has retro rock riffs for a modern audience, in a world where Wolfmother and Rival Sons have taken this sort of music to new heights hopefully DeWolff will be seen as one of the acts able to challenge for their title, now I just need to do more investigating of their back catalogue. 9/10
Quantum Field Theory: Live In Space (Despotz Records)
Quantum field theory (QFT) is the theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of subatomic particles in particle physics and quasiparticles in condensed matter physics. This project however features Therion vocalist Linnéa Vikström backed by members of Dynazty and Loch Vostock. The idea behind this record was due to Vikström's fascination with quantum physics, space, blackholes, the Big Bang etc the songs are all concerned with these high concept theoretical physics questions along with the occasional diversion into extra-terrestrials on Aliens.
Sitting between hard rock, cinematic style of Therion or any of Arjen Lucassen's projects and with a bit of Black Sabbath sprinkled over the top with some evil riffs. It's build on the sheer majesty of Linnéa's awesome vocal range, however there are a few too many mid-paced and lower songs on the record but most of that is due to the emotional pipes of Vikström. Live In Space is a pretty good album, I think it's probably the sort of rock album Professor Brian Cox would approve of. 7/10