I’d never heard of Age Of Taurus before receiving this album to review. The band was formed in 2009 by vocalist/guitarist Toby Wright, initially as a one-man mission. Inspired by masters of the craft like Candlemass, Trouble and Revelation, the project was intended more as a studio affair rather than something more alive. However, after increasing interest in the band and a succession of glowing reviews of debut demo In the Days Of The Taurean Empire, Wright decided that there was no turning back and duly put together a fully working line up, which comprises Wright, Leo Smee, Bass & Synths, Darius Claydon on drums and Daniel Knight on lead guitar.
The band’s sound sits somewhere between the doom metal of the legends, but with the fantasy elements of the likes of Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road. The NWOBHM flavour is strong within the music, with punishing twin guitar attacks and straight forward heavy metal. At times the production is a bit thin, but there is enough here to enjoy. Tracks such as The Trial Of Blackwynne Chaise and the six-minute To Seal A Mountain have enough weight about them to allow a swift bang of the head and a smile to form on the face. It’s not the most complicated, intricate or nuanced release of this year; but it does give you sufficient metal to sate the most voracious appetite. 7/10
Spiral Skies: Blues For A Dying Planet (AOP Records)
More Swedish 70s rock for you with the debut release from Spiral Skies. Haunting melodies, gothic flavours and dark doom hover over this black mass which draws comparisons with such luminaries as
Jefferson Airplane, Curved Air and The Devil's Blood. Following up on their earlier EP release A Queendom To Come, the band recorded the album at Studio Radioskugga in Stockholm in 2017 and mastered it in Berlin earlier this year. With swirling patterns that bewitch and envelope the listener Blues For A Dying Planet is a neat debut which showcases the superb and evocative voice of Frida Eurenius, whose delivery is at times astonishing. 7/10
Engel: Abandon All Hope (Gain Records)
I knew little of these Swedes before this album arrived. Formed in 2007, the band currently consists of founder members Nicolas Englin and Marcus Sunesson (both guitars), Steve Drennan (bass), vocalist Mikael Sehlin and drummer Oscar Nilsson. This is album number six, but their first since 2014’s Raven Kings. Whilst the band are clearly a hard rock outfit, they have a combination of styles, their nu-metal leanings remain on display whilst their harmonious approach to songs at times gives them an AOR edge. Sehlin’s voice, alongside the thick keyboards on Death Reversed ticks the lightweight box. As the album progressed it’s clear that the band are a very run of the mill, if accomplished outfit and by the time I’d got to the title track, which is hideous by the way, it was time to abandon this and save some of life’s precious minutes. Sorry, it’s all a bit too bland for me. 5/10
Hidden Intent: Fear, Prey, Demise (Self Released)
The sophomore release from Adelaide thrash trio Hidden Intent, Fear, Prey Demise opens with the fast-paced Prey For Your Death, quickly followed by the 100mph Addicted to Thrash. If you haven’t got the idea by know, imagine the combination of Nuclear Assault and Anthrax. It’s as simple as that. Given the links between those two legendary bands, it’s probably no wonder that Hidden Intent has nailed their colours directly to the mast. It’s routine and rather unreconstructed. Chris McEwen’s rampant bass lines are prominent in the same way that Frank Bello thunders all over the Anthrax material whilst the band’s modus operandi is clearly to emulate some of their heroes.
Seeds Of Hate has a real Prong feel, with a groove that you can’t help but enjoy. McEwen also adds lead vocals and he does a decent job. Disappointingly the band don’t really build on some promising openings and it all starts to unravel. Drop Bears Are Real is rubbish and whilst the Metallica sound of Apocalypse Now is fierce, it’s ultimately rather ragged. Some potential but it’s unlikely that Hidden Intent will become much more prominent soon. 5/10