Church Of The Cosmic Skull: Science Fiction (Kozmik Artifactz)
I've always thought that music is a more powerful unifying force than any religion can be and the band that agree with me are Nottingham collective Church Of The Cosmic Skull whose defiantly retro unifying fusion of psych, rock, prog and pop remains as spellbinding as it did on their debut record, This time though it's a little more crafted moving further away from the stoner rock sounds that came on Is Satan Real? to experiment with a lot more with their sound meaning that Science Fiction is a little weirder and kookier than its predecessor.
Opening with the title track the organs of Michael Wetherburn is the prominent instrument but as things proceed you get the kaleidoscopic soundscapes that COTCS are known for as guitar, bass, organs, drums and cello all play their part and if you listen to the hippy anthem Revolution Comes With An Act Of Love you can hear the band's secret weapon which is the vocal interplay between six of the seven members of the band, leader/guitarist Bill Fisher, Wetherburn, Jo Joyce (vocals), Caroline Cawley (vocals), Amy Nicholson (cello) and Sam Lloyd (bass) it's like ABBA playing Sabbath with ELO providing classical backing.
Cold Sweat has the stridding riffs of it's Thin Lizzy namesake, while The Cards That You're Playing has a little more jazz to it as drummer Loz Stone and Wetherburn make it drift over you. Gospel comes on Paper Aeroplane & Silver Moon but hard rocking is never too far away as it peels off into more riff driven progressive music. Yet another interesting release from COTCS a band that are in a category of one blurring the lines between spiritual movement and musical experimentation it's rock n roll Jim but not as we know it! 8/10
Crystal Tears: Decadence Deluxe (Pride & Joy Music)
The fourth album from Greek metal band Crystal Tears is the second with Danish vocalist Søren Nico Adamsen and it's an 11 track affair that features some heavy power metal with thrash metal riffage also doing the rounds on blitzkrieg Evil Vs Evil. The riffs from Kostas and Matt slice and dice with savage guitar interplay through parrying the gruff vocals of Adamsen as they punch with power through Blinded, it gets a bit more traditional on the anthemic Heart Of A Lion (they are from Thessaloniki after all).
Like Mystic Prophecy or Jag Panzer Decadence Deluxe is built on a bulldozing bottom end from Alex and Chrisafis especially on Death Haunts Forever which has pure thrash metal riffage and a snarl to it which gives the entire album a wicked sound one that lets some death grunts come in on My Own Hell. it's not all metal thrashing mad though as Heart Of A Lion is a little more AOR and Bleeding Me is a big burly ballad with layered clean guitars, it gives Crystal Tears a more rounded resume and keeps the interest as you listen.
If I was to give you some advice pick up the version that has bonus tracks as they are two acoustic live bonus tracks which are covers of I'm Eighteen (Alice Cooper) and Tie Your Mother Down (Queen), while Søren isn't Freddie by any stretch but they are done in their own style, something I always appreciate in a cover. Not quite as decadent as I'd like it to be but solid. 7/10
Black Coffee: Take One (Self Released)
If you name your band after a song by Ella Fitzgerald but made famous by Humble Pie then you better not make a mess of the blues so there's a heavy burden weighing on Columbus Ohio trio Black Coffee however if the first track you listen to is the swirling The Traveler then you'd be forgiven for thinking Black Coffee owe a debt to Zeppelin and in a way they do as their musical influence stems from the late 60's and early 70's but they cast a wide net in terms of inspiration, funk rocking out on Psychedelic Red the driving bass of Ehab Omran giving it that Chilli's/Extreme grunt, Hurricane meanwhile moves at dizzying pace but with the cocksure attitude of Buckcherry, as Omran's raw vocals are delivered with rapid fire accuracy.
Justin Young has louche guitar style that drives the stomping Barely Know Her while Born To Lie is the sort of strutting track that Scott-era AC/DC could peel off at the drop of hat Tommy McCullough doing the best Phil Rudd one-two he can do. Take One switches between tackle out hard rocking and soulful psychedelia it's a debut that takes this melting pot of rock n roll, blues and jazz and takes it full force to your face. 7/10
Silent Winter: The War Is Here (Self Released)
More Greek progressive/power metal for you all in the shape of the debut EP from Volos based Silent Winter, unlike Crystal Tears, Silent Winter have a more traditional power metal sound that you'd expect from Stratovarius or Helloween, it's a sound that betrays their nationality sounding more Teutonic (Helloween especially) than Greek. The War Is Here has some neo-classical keys underneath it while Far Away is your obligatory dual guitar Helloween-styled power metal which has Akis and Themis interplaying on top of the punchy rhythm section of George and John (who bludgeons at points in Far Away).
Much of the Northern European sound is due to the vocals of Michael Livas who fronts Fortress Under Siege and is in both a Helloween tribute and a Iron Maiden tribute, he's got a brilliant voice for this music soaring high (or like an eagle flying free) with the music itself at a level higher than you'd expect from a band on their debut EP. Eyes Of The World is bit tougher with sturdy riffs and mid paced plod. Assured, confident, faced paced and brilliant The War Is Here is a must for any power metal fanboy. 8/10