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Sunday, 1 April 2018

Reviews: Rotting Christ, Bonfire, Gus G, Kino

Rotting Christ: Their Greatest Spells (Season Of Mist)

Is there a better time of year than Easter to do a review of the Greek purveyors of black metal Rotting Christ? The name itself is a tribute to the season. I actually got this album sent to me while I was in Greece so the first few listened were spent in their native country, realising just how big of a deal this band are in there. They are genre leaders and have been at the forefront of Hellenic metal for 30 years. It's this last fact that explains the release of this record, Their Greatest Spells is a 2 disc compilation that brings together fan and band favourites from the expansive career of Rotting Christ, it's a journey through extremity as their sound evolves from raw black metal into the more stylised orchestral and symphonic style they have now.

Along with some stone cold classics and well known tracks there is also the new song I Will Not Serve which has everything you could want in a Rotting Christ track linking their past, future and present. It's punishing riffs, a clobbering rhythm section and Sakis' use of mesmerising chants and harsh roars. He and his brother Themis have been part of this journey from the beginning and throughout the two discs you can hear as the growls, blistering guitars and thundering drums are omnipresent, the backbone of the bands entire 30 years. If you've never known where to start with Rotting Christ then I'd suggest it may be of benefit to you if you start your journey into the premier Greek black metal act right here, it's a bruising retrospective over a stellar career. It gives you a collection of impressive tracks worthy of any Church burning, God hating black metal fan but also gives you enough of a taste for you to go back and discover more from their discography. A perfect play list for Easter, put it on after your lamb dinner, your gran will love it! 9/10

Bonfire: Temple Of Lies (AFM)

Probably one of the most recognisable German hard rock acts around Bonfire have been treading the boards around Europe since 1972 but only became Bonfire in 1985, at that time they were one of the three most internationally acclaimed artists to come out of Germany along with Scorpions and Accept. Temple Of Lies is the latest album in their long discography and their most recent with new vocalist Alexx Stahl who joined the band in 2016, he has the ideal mix of hard rock grit and melodic soul making him the best man to follow in the footsteps of previous singers such as Claus Lessmann, Michael Bormann and David Reece. He can hit serious highs on the galloping metal of the title track but adds some soul to the AOR sounding pieces like On The Wings Of An Angel and the strutting synth heavy Feed The Fire.

The instrumental part of the band remains relatively unchanged since 2015 with founding guitarist Hans Ziller backed by Frank Pané (guitar), Ronnie Parkes (bass) and Tim Breideband (drums) they all deliver stylish, polished hard rock performances that move between head banging melodic metal, anthemic AOR and of course a couple of overblown ballads (Comin' Home). It's albums such as Temple Of Lies that are why Tobias Sammet's Edguy have adapted their sound, they are trying to sound more like Bonfire and that's a positive as Bonfire are truly great hard rock band. Temple Of Lies is their strongest album for a while harking back to those 80's heydays but with the experience of career longevity. 8/10

Gus G: Fearless (AFM)

Guitarist Gus G is probably best known as the founding member of Firewind and more recently as Ozzy's guitarist for one album before that role fell back to Zakk Wylde. While Firewind had a bit of flux period Gus managed to release two solo albums in quick succession both were more hard rock sounding than his main band and featured multiple guest vocalists. This third solo record is a lot more streamlined it's just Gus G, drummer Will Hunt and vocalist/bassist/producer extraordinaire Dennis Ward with the three men present on every track on this album it means that the record sounds a lot less disjointed than the first two albums. 

It's got Ward's touch throughout in the clear production, the thumping bass and he shows that even though with most of his projects he can take his pick of excellent vocalist he's a very competent vocalist himself with his raspy pipes doing their best on the frenetic opener Letting Go and Mr Manson which is a song out of the Ozzy songbook and displays the guitar prowess of Gus who shines throughout especially on the ithree instrumental which really benefit from the closeness of this three piece offering. 

The AOR influences that crept in on Brand New Revolution have all but vanished meaning that this album is a lot tougher than the previous duo bringing the sort of metal Firewind showcased on Days Of Defiance before they returned to the clear power metal sounds of their earlier career on Immortals (an album produced by Ward). So with Firewind now back to being a power metal band the heavy rock songs and yes some more emotional offerings (Nothing To Say), can be stolen for the solo works and they are equally as good if not better than Gus' day job. The only mis-step is his aggressive version of Money For Nothing which loses a lot by not having the fluidity of the Dire Straits original and changing the lyrics to be more 'modern'. Except for this travesty in the middle of the album Fearless is very good record full of the kind of brawny hard rock and fireworks you'd want from three very skilled musicians. 9/10

Kino: Radio Voltaire (InsideOut)

Kino are something of prog supergroup, their first album was released 13 years ago and they have finally released album number 2, this isn’t through idleness however as Kino is a collaboration between John Mitchell (Lonely Robot, Frost, It Bites) & Pete Trewavas (Marillion) so both men have been rather busy in the interim, they once again have John Beck (It Bites) on keyboards and this time round Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) on drums, both of whom are also no slouches when it comes to releases so maybe 13 years isn’t so bad.

While we’ll probably never see a Kino tour the style of music is so suited to the recorded format that you just need to play this and their debut very loudly. From the opening strains of the title track it’s what you’d want from a record featuring these men, Mitchell’s beautiful guitar playing and emotive voice soars over the thumping bass of Trewavas for a record that is progressive as they come but has a pop sensibility that can be heard on latter Porcupine Tree records and also on the Vaudeville retro prog of Big Elf (where have they gone?).

The Dead Club has the cabaret features to it with kooky lyrics and the keys really over egging the cake. Many of you may think this style is a reference to the tile as you’ll probably have heard of the Cabaret Voltaire but as John Mitchell explains “Voltaire himself had a fascination with death, which appealed to me. He also stood for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. On top of that, I love the idea of a radio station that would reflect his views on life and cut through the bullshit which seems to be all over politics.” The record explores death, life, religion and politics in its track listing but also there’s even a couple of really poppy love songs I Don’t Know Why has the jauntiness of a Beatles tune with the electric piano and the slightly psychedelic Pepperland lyrics, Temple Tudor repeats these Beatleisms but as an acoustic ballad.

The songs are interspersed with radio transmissions linking to the title meaning the whole album is like a radio show broadcast, albeit one with the same band. For those that love the work of Mitchell or Trewavas Radio Voltaire is an essential purchase, it is probably some of their most approachable material only foraying occasionally in full blown progness (the imperial Out Of Time) for most of the record though it’s a heady mix of instrumental mastery and melodic understanding, let’s hope album 3 isn’t another 13 years away! 8/10

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