Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 8 December 2023

Reviews: Mars Red Sky, Dan McCafferty, Sonny Vincent, Starchild (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Mars Red Sky - Dawn Of The Dusk (Mrs Red Sound/Vicious Circle) [Rich Piva]

Mars Red Sky is back with album number five, and we should all rejoice because the French heavy psych/stoner/doom band rarely disappoints, and they keep that streak up with the new one, Dawn Of The Dusk. The band has a very distinct sound, a clean sort of buzz that is double downed on Dawn Of The Dusk that makes this one of their best sounding outputs of their excellent career. 

The band is once again leveraging the amazingly beautiful and haunting vocals from Helen Furguson (aka Queen Of The Meadow) on multiple songs and embrace a sort of heavy prog feel to several of the songs here, making this the most complex and complete record the band has released as well.

The first two songs, Break Even and Maps Of Inferno, as well as tracks like Slow Attack leverage Furguson’s vocals, creating a chill but somehow still heavy vibe, an almost Doomy Cocteau Twins, but only in MRS case sung in English. I love the low end fuzz the band creates as well as the complex clean psych ™ that The Final Round is all about. 

Retuning to Julian’s male vocals on this one, the soundscape created makes this my favorite song on the entire record. Is it possible that Mars Red Sky sounds like a super chill and doomier version of Gojira? Is it a French thing? The seven-minute plus Carnival Man is the slowest burn of the album leveraging Furguson’s vocals again to sculpt a “in a French forest” vibe. Somehow, I feel like this even though I have never been in a French forest. There is still that low end crunch from the rhythm section that always gives MRS songs a heavy feel even on the slow ones. I love how the album ends with a haunting instrumental with only some of Ferguson’s oohs overlaying the music.

All in all, the new Mars Red Sky is a beautiful, atmospheric, yet still heavy offering from one of the best bands doing this kind of stuff out there today. If you are not familiar with the band, Dawn Of The Dusk is a good place to start. If you are already a fan, you will not be disappointed, as usual, with the new Mars Red Sky. 9/10

Dan McCafferty - In Memory Of Dan McCafferty: No Turning Back (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt Bladen]

One of the major inspirations of Axl Rose of Guns N Roses, Nazareth were the Scottish rebel rousers that for the majority of their career were fronted by the gravelly voice of Dan McCafferty. From ballads such as Love Hurts to This Flight Tonight and Bad Bad Boy, McCafferty stepped away from the band in 2013 due to health issues, eventually passed away in 2022. In tribute to this powerhouse vocalist, Rock Of Angels Records has been let into his personal archive to create this tribute album. 

It opens with an unreleased track Children’s Eye, a ballad collaboration with composer and producer Detlef Wiedeke, while the other two previously unreleased tracks; the smooth Occident and No Turning Back were written in the late 90’s with German director, composer and music producer Christoph Busse. Perhaps not what you’d expect from this died in the wool rocker but his smoky vocal works well with these distinctly 90’s songs. Elsewhere there’s three cuts from his 1987 solo album Into The Ring, now out of print, the electronic punch of the title track, the Celtic acoustics of Starry Eyes and the percussive pulse of Sunny Island reminds me of the early H Marillion albums, as well as a bit of Phil Collins. Again it’s not Nazareth but displays his diversity as a singer. 

The final track sung by McCafferty is the best one of the lot, Going Home uses Largo from Dvořák’s 9th Symphony From The New World, better known to many as the music from The Hovis advert, but is a used as a Celtic home ballad. If you don’t get a chill you have a heart of stone. These tracks alone are worthy inclusions to any fan of Dan McCafferty, as they are all rare or unreleased but this record goes one better with two Nazareth covers which are Love Hurts and Dream On both recorded/mixed by Bob Katsionis and sung by Panos Kalifis, who’s a dead ringer for Dan vocally. (Making me wonder why they didn’t get him in Nazareth). 

They’re neat but are basically the same as the originals because of the vocals. Overall a fitting tribute a great singer from one of the UK’s longest tenured rock bands, a tribute that shows another side to his musical output but retains that raw, unfiltered, unmistakable voice. 8/10

Sonny Vincent - Primitive 1969-76 (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

Man do I love finding proto metal gems from the late 60s and early 70s. The Brown Acid Series from Riding Easy Records and their new grail series makes me so happy, finding stuff that shaped what metal is today and defining what was heavy during that era. 

There is so much great stuff out there, and now we can add Ripple Music to the proto party, as we now have the output from long time punk Sonny Vincent and his more proto leaning output from that era, aptly named Primitive 1969-76. Full disclosure, I did not know who Sonny Vincent was until Ripple announced this album. I am so glad I found out because he is such an underrated and influential figure in punk and heavy music overall. These songs are all his proto metal stuff, pre his punk days, and let me tell you, Sonny knows how to rock.

Rippers such as Lament from his 1971 EP Distance and 100% Proof from 1972’s Fury are pure proto excellence. Concrete Bliss combines his proto leanings with his punk attitude which blend perfectly. The excellently titled She’s Like Hiroshima from 1969’s Distance is a chill slow burn with an amazing guitar line throughout and the primitive drum sound that makes proto stuff so endearing to me. Liquid Diamond’s AWMAW is some killer raw garage rock that sounds like it was recording on a boombox and that is alright by me.

All in all, you get twelve killer tracks that show Vincent’s early direction and what molded his output over the last number of decades. This is true proto greatness. Primitive 1969-76 belongs with all of those excellent Brown Acid comps…let’s hope this is not the last of these unearthed gems from Ripple Music. 8/10

Starchild - Magic Well (Metalapolis Records) [Matt Bladen]

Full speed ahead! Is the clarion call from this new album from German power metal band Starchild. Only releasing their third album in 2022, they have quickly followed or up with the fourth Magic Well

Founded and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Sandro Giampietro Starchild play a blazing style of power metal that's gallops along at light speed, the guitars and vocals of Sandro are perfectly placed Castles In The Sky which manages to fully reach Helloween realms vocally and musically, he has a clean melodic vocal that's in the Kiske/Dickinson mold, while his guitar playing is given with virtuosity (At The End Of The Rainbow). 

Yeah it's got a lot of Teutonic hallmarks, but they're done well, touches of Primal Fear come on Westernworld, the drumming of Michael Ehré (Primal Fear) perfect for it. He is the drummer on the album, also playing on their debut, but they now have a full time stickman. Westernworld is slower but still has rampaging kicks against the swinging groove. 

Speaking of grooves Tom Nendza's bass gallops on the chest beating title track which goes more toward Iron Maiden. Starchild have an additional wrinkle to their sound with the additon of Andi Pique on the keys, he brings more emotion to Letters Of Life and the acoustic I've Lost A Friend which is very personal to Sandro. 

Magic Well is a killer slice of German power metal, very much full speed ahead. 8/10

Reviews: Blue Öyster Cult, Dimmu Borgir, Inner Circles, AAWKS (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Matt Bladen, Mark Young & Rich Piva)

Blue Öyster Cult – 50th Anniversary Live: First Night (Frontiers Music Srl) [Paul Hutchings]

Another live release for the New York legends on the Frontiers label, and this is the first of three recordings from the band’s sold out shows at Sony Hall in NYC from September 2022. Special nights indeed, for BÖC celebrated their 50th anniversary with play throughs of their first three albums, Blue Oyster Cult, Tyranny and Mutation, and Secret Treaties. Over the course of nearly two hours, the band flexed their musical muscles in their own inimitable style.

If you were in the crowd at Stonedead Festival this summer, you’ll have seen BÖC demonstrate why they are so revered in the world of hard rock and roll. The original core duo of vocalist/lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Eric Bloom are joined by Richie Castellano on guitar and keyboards, and the longtime rhythm section of bass guitarist Danny Miranda and drummer Jules Radino. There is also a special guest appearance by founder member Albert Bouchard.

I’m working from the audio version of course, and it’s a delight to sit back and enjoy classics such as Transmaniacon MC, the awesome guitar work of Dharma on Then Came The First Days Of May, and the rock n roll fluidity of Before The Kiss, A Redcap.

It’s astonishing to think that Bloom and Dharma are both closing in on their eightieth year (Bloom has just turned 79!) for their performances for many a year have been brilliant. Here they are in imperious form. They are ably supported by Castellano who takes on vocals for several tracks. Although many have called for the rock dinosaurs to depart and make way for the newer bands, there is something compelling about listening to this seminal band – the interplay and complete cohesion is something that you cannot create; this is a natural flow which the band have – check out Screams or She’s As Beautiful As A Foot (still one of the funniest song titles of all time).

As well as the superbly executed debut, the second part of the set comprises a plethora of classic songs that are delivered with perfection. The lead work in Tainted Blood for example, is stunning, whilst songs that might be less well known, such as Harvest Moon ooze with a class that can’t be bought. But of course, it’s the bigger tracks that always get the foot tapping the most. Career Of Evil has one of the most infectious riffs, whilst the inevitable Godzilla and the fantastic musical work out that leads into (Don’t Fear) The Reaper both get huge receptions.

If you’ve never spread your musical experience of Blue Öyster Cult wider than a couple of their greatest hits, diving deep into this set of releases would be a brilliant place to begin your education. If like me, you simply can’t get enough of this iconic band, then 50th Anniversary Live – First Night, and those to follow, will be a joy from start to finish. 9/10

Dimmu Borgir - Inspiratio Profanus (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

Inspiratio Profanus (Profane Inspirations) is a covers EP that sees them interpreting some of the bands they take influence from in their own style. Released as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations and with a new album of original material on the way, consider this to be a satanic Xmas gift from Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder along with bassist/guitarist Victor Brandt. The Norwiegian black metal pioneers have never released a covers release before so while Venom’s Black Metal, Bathory’s Satan My Master or Celtic Frost’s Nocturnal Fear are obvious due to their place in extreme metal history. 

The inclusion of G.G.F.H’s Dead Men Don’t Rape takes in their industrial influences while Burn In Hell by Twisted Sister is given a doom metal snarl, making nastier, hinting at the new stripped down version of Dimmu that Silenoz has talked about being on the next album. More classic rock comes with Perfect Strangers, which weirdly sounds like a Dimmu song due to the drama and theatricality, while a cover of Accept’s Metal Heart is brave but they do it well. 

The EP closes with another version of Nocturnal Fear which sounds more like the original sonically, deliberately given a rough production. A little treat for fans as they wait for a new album, Inspiratio Profanus is Dimmu wiping off the corpse paint and letting their hair down a little. 7/10

Inner Circles - Obscured Memories (Self-Released/Independent) [Mark Young]

This EP forms the third review for this week and forms a very welcome change of pace from the melo-death/symphonic stylings that have been bouncing between my ears. Having a band just come in and present without trying to shoehorn a thousand riffs into one song, especially when they provide moments of beauty amongst the grey and dark notes. 

Drowned starts proceedings with that classic bass-driven ‘gaze sound with those melancholic vocals that rise with the arrangement, providing the heavy when required but only to underpin the song and not to take over. The melodic breaks fit so well, and that 80’s goth tinge sits heavily. Unravelling keeps that motif in place, with a gentle ebb and flow to the song as it progresses. Both songs have that innate ability to draw you in, so you miss some of the nuances the first-time round which are suddenly there on the next listen which is fantastic.

Inner Circles build those soft and subtle soundscapes and present them in a way that comes across so well. The arrangements allow for each of the parts to swell and add, or to reduce and step back dependent upon what is required. Circles has this insistent melody line that sits and ushers the song forward, providing a dynamic against the synths acting as a choral feature. The solo break has this rich and warm tone and really stands out as how to provide simple and effective solo’s where sometimes less is more. 

Ashes is just a beautiful song with a riff pattern that is gently struck with drums and bass matching and even when they go loud, it still stays true even with some guitar fireworks that light up the closing moments. Its this level of control and confidence they have which makes this a joy to listen to.

End completes the EP with an instrumental stroll, an easy-going piece that meanders like a forest stream and provides a fitting closer to one of my most unexpected highlights of the year. As I said earlier, its great to review something that isn’t blasting along at a 1000mph or relying on super-fiendish fretwork. These are just good songs, harking back to both goth and shoegaze movements of the 80s and 90’s. 

Its well worth your time. 7/10

AAWKS - Luna EP (Black Throne Records) [Rich Piva]

The fuzzy, spacy Canadians from AAWKS are back with a quick EP, Luna, containing a new track, two covers, and a live song. I am all about AAWKS, as their debut full length Heavy On The Cosmic was my 19th favorite album of 2022 and their split with the also awesome Aiwass from a couple months ago was excellent as well. Let’s see if they can keep the sting of quality releases going with Luna.

The EP is a more of an odds and sods type experience that is a bit of a teaser, leaving you wanting way more from the band than just these four tracks. All four are great however, especially the cover of A Flock Of Seagulls megahit, I Ran, which on the surface seems like a weird choice, but if you are a fan of either band it makes way more sense than you think. 

AAWKS keeps what is great about that song and adds their fuzzy version of doom to it, slowing down the chorus and the end instrumental part, taking the track from a blast off to a slow orbit but keeping all that catchiness that made it one of the best songs of the early 80s. The second cover is a fuzzier but way more straight ahead cover of the early Pink Floyd song Julia Dream which fits perfect with the overall vibe of the band as I am sure they have spent many an evening in altered states listening to early Floyd. 

The one new original on Luna, The Figure, gives us a glimpse of what to expect for the next AAWKS full length. This one is some fuzzy heavy doom, with a killer riff, cool vocals, and some sweet oohs that separate AAWKS from your everyday doom band. This one is chunky psych doom goodness and is on the short list for being one of their best songs so far. Love the crazy psych guitar work. The EP closes out with a very cool live version of a track off their full length, All Is Fine, which provides proof that AAWKS is a must-see live band.

A fun little EP from one of my favorites, Luna is a nice bridge between their debut and what will come next from the Canadian psych rock dealers. Any AAWKS is great, so let’s hope they keep bringing the fun. 8/10

Thursday 7 December 2023

Reviews: Orbit Culture, Nimrod, Axenstar, Saffire (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Orbit Culture - The Forgotten (Seek And Strike Records) 

Swedish mechanised riff machine end their steallr 2023 with a three song EP as a thank you to everyone that supported them this year. Written during the Descent sessions, these three tracks didn’t fit in with the rest of the album so they are presented here on a digital only release. 

The two latter songs The Upheaval and Sound Of The Bell, continue to bring that death/tech/metalcore sound Orbit Culture have refined and perfected, with nods to Trivium and Gojira, both featuring growled verses and clean choruses, there’s lots of the Gothenburg scene too, but just louder and harsher, Sound Of The Bell really leaning into synths and orchestrations as an 8 minute feast, clean guitar lines move into industrial blasts, that scream Trivium but also touring partners Avatar. It’s about mass shootings in the USA so the heavy subject matter dictates the emotive instrumentation and atmosphere. 

Their touring with Trivium has clearly influenced this track, however the band have also opened for Mesuggah six times, and their sound has been used on the punishing While We Serve, as The Upheaval moves towards blackened deathcore due to the drumming especially. A stand alone treat to end the year, Orbit Culture are on their way into the stratosphere. 8/10

Nimrod - Legacy Of Death (Metalapolis Records)

It seems Chilean guitarist Chris Ira won’t let South American thrash band Nimrod die. After gaining a following in the 80’s signing to a label but never releasing an album Chris left the band and it lay dormant. That is until 2004 when the demo was remastered as part of compilation of old material, cue another break then in 2009 Nimrod B.C was born playing festivals and shows and even releasing an album in 2017. 

Nimrod B.C is dead, long live Nimrod as the thrashers come back, without the suffix (though if you search them use it to find out info), Chris recruiting musicians from his extensive address book to make this new, new, new version of the band. Featuring the line up from the last record but also a former bass player, another guitarist, two drummers and another singer, who actually plays on this album is a little confusing but no matter as they make some good second wave thrash that sounds like Exodus, Testament or Forbidden, heavier, nastier and louder than the originators, there’s touches of death and classic metal, a feast for the ears if you’re a thrash fan. 

Musically it’s pretty good, well in the style of thrash metal I like (my opinion is that Testament is the best thrash band of all time), the vocals having a Bobby Blitz (Overkill)-like shriek. If having a load of new music wasn't enough Legacy Of Death features two covers. The first is Merciless Death by Dark Angel which features founding Dark Angel vocalist Don Doty behind the mic, then the last cover is Neon Knights, from Dio-fronted Sabbath, that Dio-like vocal coming from Ronnie Romero (you know that guy). The covers are fun, but any fan of second wave thrash will love Nimrod, a real suprise to my ears. 8/10

Axenstar – Chapter VIII (Inner Wound Recordings)

Compared to Stratovarius, Hammerfall and Sonata Arctica, Chapter VIII is the eighth album from Swedish power metal band Axenstar. 

Formed in 1998 as a covers band they have been releasing their own music since 2002 and they stick to a rigid form of power metal, mainly owing to the battle metal of Hammerfall and the more galloping Sonata Arctica. Over the years they have hand a number of line up changes and record labels but this is their first on Inner Wound Recordings. 

There’s lyrics about spirituality throughout which makes me think if they may be religious but nothing is too overt so it’s just run of the mill power metal with Through The Fire And Brimstone getting heavier as guitarists Jens Klovegård and Joakim Jonsson down tune rather than stay in their normal more melodic tone, The War Within also keeps things brooding the drumming skill of Pelle Åkerlind obvious here. As for Magnus Winterwild, he’s a better bassist than singer but there are worse out there. 

There’s not much else I can say about the record as if you like power metal then there’s a lot of it but after 8 albums they do what they do, so don’t go looking for revolution. 6/10 

Saffire – Starhunter EP (ROAR Rock Of Angels Records)

As they gear up to release a re-mix of their album For The Greater Good in 2024, Swedish heavy rockers Saffire preceded it with a three song EP entitled Starhunter, the three songs here are the title track, Law And Disorder and Dynamite and as soon as Starhunter gets going with its strutting riff and organ swells, there’s a soulful hum and we’re into some Rainbow-esque hard rock, vocalist Tobias Jansson sounding like Jeff Scott Soto.

Victor Olsson and Dino Zuzic spar like Blackmore and Lord, on Law And Disorder especially, while the rhythm section of Magnus Carlsson and Anton Roos make Dynamite explode. If you’ve not heard Saffire before then this is the perfect introduction to their groovy, slightly proggy heavy rock. Listen in anticipation of the album next year. 7/10

Reviews: Bad Touch, The Bad Electric, Winterhorde, Nebula Drag (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Matt Bladen, Mark Young & Rich Piva)

Bad Touch – Bittersweet Satisfaction (Marshall Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Scroll through these esteemed pages and you’ll find ample coverage of these fine men from Norfolk. One of the best bands to come through the NWOCR, Bad Touch probably precede that movement by a good few years. 

They’ve been plying their trade for a decade or more now, with debut Halfway Home, recorded at Foel Studios in North Wales a fine debut release. Since then, they’ve gigged steadily, building enough traction to be worthy of headlining the 2023 edition of the Station 18 Festival in Swansea in April.

We’ve arrived at album number five by my reckoning, and the first to be unleashed since 2020’s Kiss The Sky which got a high 8/10 here back in June 2020. The good news is that Bad Touch have brought more of the stomping swagger, chunky riffs, and Hammond organ along with the unmistakable vocals of diminutive frontman Stevie Westwood, whose performance here is as good as anything he’s done in the past.

The songs are well structured, honing their style which is reminiscent of those 70s and 80s gods, Zeppelin, Free, Aerosmith, complete with the swagger of The Black Crowes and the more contemporary sound of Rival Sons and The Answer. 

From opening track Slip Away, through the title track which raises the tempo, and the soulful mid-point Nothing Wrong With That, destined to be a crowd favourite in years to come, there’s plenty to get excited and appreciative about on this album. Rob Glendinning’s lead guitar work is full of emotion and feel, whilst the gospel edge that occasionally floods The Answer’s music is evident from time to time.

Bad Touch inevitably bring a good vibe that allows you to singalong, and Tonight is one of those songs, led by Michael Bailey’s bass lines that drive the songs forward, with Westwood backed by some female harmonies that give the song a delightfully poppy vibe. It’s one that’ll worm into the brain and nestle there, with the hook popping up when you least expect it. It’s also an album that doesn’t fizzle out. 

See It To Believe It is as strong at penultimate track as opener Slip Away. Anthemic, good time music, Bad Touch have done their cause no harm with this release. It’s a record that slips easily into their catalogue. 8/10

The Bad Electric – Happy Endings Are Overrated (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

The orange cagoules are back! Swansea electro garage rockers The Bad Electric recharge and return with more flashes of vibrant music tongues firmly in cheek and D.I.Y ethos. Initially started out of boredom caused by how long the members other bands were taking to do things, The Bad Electric started out as punk, but with the addition of synths and samples owe as much to Devo as they do The Ramones. 

Are they not men? Well yeah they are actually: Jonny Randell (guitar/vocals), Matt Williams (guitar/synth/vocals), Zach Williams (bass/vocals) and Tom Young (drums) to be exact coming from some of the heaviest bands on the South Wales scene, they have moulded The Bad Electric into something different, angular and abrasive but with some boogie and neon hued tones. 

Their debut EP was well received by myself and others and so after many gigs locally, there was a brief line up change and they set about recording their second EP, Happy Endings Are Overrated. Once again they written, performed, recorded, mixed, mastered, drew the artwork and released it all by themselves, totally independently, preceding the EP with two singles over the space of two weeks. 

First single Beans gets going with some 90’s garage rock, as the Dandy Warhols fight with QOTSA, second single I Guess I’m From Here Now has the upbeat danceablilty of new millennium Manics merged with the snarl of The Wildhearts. Two singles that will open the ears to The Bad Electric style before Moff Kant delivers proper angry punk, the count of “1, 2, 3, 4” and punchy riffs very CBGB’s as the indie rocking comes back on No Way Kid

So far so eclectic but without sacrificing their influences, if anything diversifying here with the surfy vibes of Bonk Eye reminding me of Supergrass or Super Furry Animals. Thankfully Bomber is not a Motorhead cover but it is a psychedelic freakout to end things weirdly, just as it should be from these orange oddities. Angular music form angular people, this is The Bad Electric but it’s potent. 8/10

Winterhorde - Neptunian (Noble Demon) [Mark Young]

Now, seeing the cover adorned with what could be described as a figure similar to that of Prince Namor (King of Atlantis, The Sub-Mariner) piqued my interest. Hailing from the Haifa District of Israel, they have been kicking around since 2001 and have three full-length releases under their belt. Maestro (2016) certainly garnered praise in the metal community and on this showing they should receive the same and more.

An orchestral flourish, classical vocal lines and the sounds of the sea herald Amphibia, a symphonic collection of blast-beats, atmosphere and brass, which is surprisingly good. In some respects they had to do a song like this to start the album off, given the album cover. 

It has that epic sound and feel to it, mixing in the clean and dirt vocals accordingly bringing in the expected musical moments: Widdly solo, organ swells that if they hadn’t have provided would have left the song floundering. The brass enters the fray once more at the end giving the song a frankly crazy sign off that shouldn’t work but does.

It continues in this vein, taking what are simple melodies and building epic tales of war and battle that some of their Scandinavian contemporaries would struggle to catch. Title track, Neptunian (As The Trident Strikes The Ice) does this superbly and throws in some of ‘those’ Halford screams which is just spot on. It is a prime example of having one idea and building something around it that works so well.

They also turn in some solid black-metal on Angels In Disguise (which features Kobi of Orphaned Land) which although keeps some of the epic traits in place it’s an melodic stormer that has a really well-built solo break amongst the d-beats. However, what I found is that each song is well crafted, it felt as though there wasn’t enough to distinguish between them. The song lengths which by no means are excessive could have been trimmed just to give them a little more heft. 

Its likely that with atmospheric / progressive black metal (thank you Bandcamp) that song lengths such as these are expected but for me having a short blast in there livens things up. If you are going to drop songs that are over 5 minutes long then for me you have got give me something that engages from start to finish. If the length is a conceit to allow both vocal styles to have a go at leading the song, then write two songs instead. 

Before you start nibbling at me, they aren’t bad songs as they showcase a high level of thought to them which is reflected in their respective arrangements its just that they don’t resonate with me as they might with others. An example of this is Alone In The Ocean which just meanders with a number of instrumental breaks which were just ballast to me.

So, with this in mind I am conflicted in what score to give. There is some great stuff on here and that is beyond debate. Its sounds excellent, but feels excessively long in some parts. It's a solid 7/10

Nebula Drag - Western Death (Desert Records) [Rich Piva]

Nebula Drag tear it up on their third album, Western Death. The San Diego, California heavy psych rock rippers bring us seven tracks that waste no time kicking your ass and reminding you that you can very nicely blend heavy psych with punk rock elements to create something absolutely killer. Blue Cheer, MC5, Monster Magnet, Deathchant, Volume, and Stepmother are all reference points here, but Nebula Drag are not here to rehash or reshape, they are here to bring you their own version of psych rock that will leave you both breathless and wanting more of what they bring to the party.

The band wastes no time is showing how awesome Western Death is by unleashing the opener, Crosses, On The World. The drumming is excellent on this track and throughout the album and fits perfect with the chugging guitars that lead you right into what reminds me of Monster Magnet musically, which of course is awesome, but higher, more spaced-out vocals that bring a heavier psych feel. I love the spaz out at the end of the track, once again giving me early Monster Magnet vibes. 

Sleazy Tapestry is next, and continues to rip it up, with some of the punk vines I mentioned above partnering nicely with the heavy psych vibes and some killer riffs. Nebula Drag is not afraid to spread out, and they do so nicely on the almost nine-minute psych romp, Failure. This one has the riffs and the heavy but gives you room to expand your head with some killer psych rock jamming. This is the highlight of a record filled with highlights. 

Kneecap brings more of the Monster Magnet via Blue Cheer vibes to the table with the heavy space track Kneecap while Side By Side brings the same kind of goodness. Tell No One has an almost grungy space feel to it while the closing title track is a riff machine that gives me 70s heavy proto vibes along with the heavy psych that have perfected on Western Death.

I loved their last album, but Nebula Drag takes it to the next level on Western Death. I would not be surprised if we see this one as a late entry on a number of year end lists, I know it will be somewhere on mine. 9/10

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Reviews: Various Artists, Aggression, Helfró, Living Links (Reviews By Rich Piva, Paul Hutchings, Matt Bladen & James Jackson)

Various Artists - Burn On The Bayou: A Heavy Tribute To Credence Clearwater Revival (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

Credence Clearwater Revival were and still are the best American band of all time. I could listen to an argument on Aerosmith (Grand Funk Railroad? - Ed), but you would have to have me forget about the past 40 years to get me to even consider it as a possibility. CCR had a run of six albums from 1968-1970 that will never be passed as it relates to the quality of output in such a short span of time. 

In short CCR rules, and when I heard that the best label in heavy rock, Ripple Music, was doing a tribute album I am pretty sure you knew what my reaction was. Little did I know it was a triple album with consisting of 32 tracks from the best in the stoner/doom/psych/proto community doing up their favorite Fogerty jam. Some of my favorite bands doing the best songs from the best American band of all time? Of course, this is amazing and something that fans of both CCR and heavy rock of today should be all over.

There is not enough space to cover all 32 tracks though they all bring something to Burn On The Bayou, but let’s focus on my favorites. My number one must be Tony Reed and his Southern Rock offshoot Hot Spring Water absolutely crushing Born On The Bayou trailed closely by the amazing version of Heard It Through The Grapevine brought to us by KIND who heavy up the already perfect song. Cortez doomy take on Gloomy is something to behold as is the version of Bad Moon Rising by High Priestess who made it their own in a way only that band could. 

Horseburner are becoming the stoner/sludge kings of covers, first on the Soundgarden tribute and now with Hideaway. The back-to-back punch of Fuzz Evil and La Chinga doing Down On The Corner and Sweet Hitchhiker, which may be the best match on the whole set is one of my top highlights while one of my favorite bands of today, Salem’s Bend, proto metal up Walk On Water. Thunder Horse bring the Texas Doom to Louisiana with their cover of Graveyard Train while Bone Church start straight ahead but then take us on a trip with their version of Fortunate Son

Other tracks by Curse The Son (Effigy), Jakethehawk (with killer banjo on Lodi), Stubb (Green River), and Kabbalah (a very Kabbalah version of Sailor’s Lament) are just more examples of excellent cover versions done up heavy with a new spin on old classics. I am sure there will be some that are not for everybody, but the ratio of amazing to meh is off the charts, even with 32 tracks to pick from.

Yeah, it is pretty predictable that I love this, but what is there not to love? Ripple Music and the bands that are on the label or adjacent to Ripple rule, and CCR is one of the greatest bands to ever exist. Take that with amazing packaging of the set and bands that are not afraid to make these classic their own and you have one of the best tribute albums I have heard in a very, very long time. Amazing stuff, and let’s hope this is not the last in a tribute series from Ripple Music. 9/10

Aggression – Frozen Aggressors (Massacre Records) [Paul Hutchings]

I've never come across Canadian thrash merchants Aggression before, so it was something of a surprise to read that the band’s history dates to the mid-eighties when they were known as Asylum. Having made a couple of comebacks, they refocused in 2014 and have been reasonably active with Frozen Aggressors their fourth full-length since then. Founder member Dennis ‘Sasquatch’ Barthe, who has been on vocal duty since 2020 but was guitarist with the band since their early days, is joined by bassist Kyle Hagen, drummer Ryan Idris and guitarist Dave Watson.

It's simple what Aggression do. They rip the skin off the face with their pummelling thrash which includes elements of hardcore and crossover and all comes at you at 110mph. It’s full throttle and comes at you with barely a warning. The driving riffs and snarling, gravelly vocals of Barthe work excellently together, a ferocious combination that leaves you in a spin from the opening bass lines of C.H.U.D Invasion. It’s insanely bruising at times, with tracks like Satanic Cult Gangbang, Crib Of Thorns and Holidays In Sodom leaving little to the imagination.

Whilst there is an inevitable and necessary rawness to the songs, the band are tight and well named. It’s almost feral in nature, visceral in delivery but also well played with an element of controlled chaos. It’s a surprise to arrive at the epic finale, the nine-minute Hyperspectral Winter Incursions and find Aggression embarking on a progressively crafted epic that builds into a raging, driving powerhouse of a song. It’s got a relentless eighties chug to the riff but an expansiveness that flicks from Agent Steel’s complexity to the more in your face style of Slayer, Exodus, and the like. It’s predictable that Aggression will be overlooked in the end of year lists, such is the timing of this release. However, it’s an album that any fan of the unrelenting aural assault of thrash metal should really give a listen. 8/10

Helfró – Tálgröf (Season Of Mist Underground Activists) [Matt Bladen]

It’s always interesting why there aren’t more black metal acts from Iceland, it’s probably the bleakest of all of the Scandinavian countries, as well as being the most isolated, two factors that inspire the music of Ragnar Sverrisson (drums/vocals) and Simon Thorolfsson (guitars/bass/vocals)the duo that make up Helfró. 

Their 2020 self-titled debut album set the tone for their glacial, naturalistic style of extreme metal that merges frenzied black and grooving death metal, from the explosive Þögnin Ytra, Kyrrðin Innra to the grinding Fláráð Fræði, the band merge black and death skilfully, increasing the cinematics of this album with strings/horns arrangements on Guðlegt Réttlæti before the blastbeats recommence. 

The death metal influences stand up stronger here than on the debut, but there’s still lots of torrid, frosty tremolo picking but a song such as Traðkandi Blómin í Eigin Hjartagarði is a death metal feast for the ears, slowing into some chugging breaks behind the blast beats. Obviously as the titles probably give away, Tálgröf is in their native language, but that doesn’t really matter as you can feel the potency of their music no matter what language you speak. 

35 minutes of extremity, born from the untameable Icelandic tundra, Helfró carve their own path like a musical glacier through an ice field. 8/10

Living Links - Gathering The Forces (RidingEasy Records) [James Jackson]

A reissue of an album originally released in the mid to late 80’s, Gathering The Forces was the only album to be released by husband and wife duo Living Links. I’m at a bit of a loss as to why the album has been re-released, as an act they only ever released this album and a few singles, though they seemed to have garnered some recognition, by the time the album was released the band and the scene they followed had all but disappeared.

As far as the album goes it’s an amalgamation of almost every contemporary band that you can think of from the era. There are tracks that sound very much like Blondie, For The Paramecium for example, the female vocals of Margie VanBrackle making that similarity even more obvious. I’m Awake When I Should Be Asleep has some of the oddest lyrics I’ve heard for a while and has a very rich Funk feel to the track while Hans VanBrackle sings about cookies, milk and aspirin.

There’s quite the Reggae styling within the track Manger, such is the spread of influences within this 13 track re-release. The perpetual genre hoping makes for an interesting if not somewhat unique album, but it all amounts to a very dated album. Lyrically some of it is a bit too far out there and neither Margie or Hans are particularly good vocalists in my opinion, the music does have some catchy moments when the genre of choice fits my particular tastes.

Gathering The Forces
isn’t a particularly good or bad album but it’s certainly something I’ll not be listening to again. 4/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Paradise Lost (Live Review By James Jackson)

Paradise Lost & My Dying Bride, O2 Shepherds Bush, London, 01.12.23

I have been a fan of both of tonight’s acts for as long as I can remember, having discovered both in my teens, I am now approaching a half century and this is the only time I’ve seen My Dying Bride and my third for the headline act, Paradise Lost. 

Here at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, the decadent looking walls are bursting at the seams with a horde of old and young fans; the merch stand looks sparse, a few straggling shirts and LP’s are all that’s on show - as it happens the Paradise Lost merch hadn’t made its way to the venue, Nick Holmes showing his disdain for the courier and a formal apology placed upon the band’s social media accounts.

Before I begin, I’d like to thank the two “gentlemen” behind me for their endless chatter throughout the My Dying Bride set; just a little bit louder and I’d have not quite heard the band, so thank you gents, I applaud you.

The set list for My Dying Bride (10) consists of older tracks, a retro gig was how frontman Aaron Stainthorpe puts it; The Thrash Of Naked Limbs opens the show, swiftly followed by The Songless Bird, the first of two songs from 1993’s Turn Loose The Swans album. Catherine Blake taken from Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light precedes Like Gods Of The Sun but it’s The Cry Of Mankind taken from The Angel & The Dark River released in 1995 that really gets the crowd going, it’s a personal favourite so I’m more than happy.
She Is The Dark and Turn Loose The Swans are next before Aaron announces that they’ve only one song left and are pushed for time, so it’s the most rapid song they’ve written he states and the band perform The Forever People, a track from As The Flower Withers. As I said I’m a happy man, I’ve wanted to see My Dying Bride perform live for years now and I’ve finally done it and I’m far from disappointed.

The set list for Paradise Lost (10) was never going to contain too many surprises, we are here tonight to see and hear the band perform the Icon album, celebrating its 30th anniversary and the recent re-release of what has to be one of the best metal albums of the early 90’s. Opening with album closer Deus Misereatur makes a lot of sense, it’s a brooding instrumental piece, a perfect intro for a band whose whole demeanour is dark and brooding. 

From then on it’s the album track listing and no need for me to list that here, personal favourites Widow and True Belief were obvious highlights, I believe the latter to be the first Paradise Lost song I heard, it was either that or As I Die from the Shades Of God album. The band are on form and it shows, the audience lapping up every moment; Nick Holmes flanked by the band, his dry Northern humour filling the gap between songs. To hear Icon performed live in its entirety, was impressive; the songs as relevant as they were when the album first debuted.

The encore consists of Sweetness taken from the 1994 Seals The Sense EP, Pity The Sadness from Shades Of God, No Hope In Sight from The Plague Within and Ghosts from 2020’s Obsidian album. A dream lineup tonight from two of my favourite bands and despite spilling out into the cold, foggy night of London in December, a two and a half hour drive home awaiting me, I’m feeling elated.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Paul Di'Anno (Live Review By Paul Hutchings)

Paul Di’Anno, Noturnall, Electric Gypsy, The Patriot, Crumlin 27/28.11.23

Two sold out nights at The Home of Rock provided a warming start to a cold week in the South Wales Valley. 

Such is the status of the former Iron Maiden singer, that after the first show sold out in a few hours, The Patriot was able to add another which also saw tickets quickly fly out of the door. Both nights saw the venue crammed to capacity, as The Beast Resurrection Tour 2023 rolled into Gwent. This was the mid-point of the tour, with London and Weston Super Mare completing the UK leg before Di’Anno and tour supports, Electric Gypsy and Noturnall head to mainland Europe.

Doors at 7:00pm on both nights saw queues form, with many fans unsurprisingly wearing their best Maiden shirts. The eager ones gathered at the barrier, probably initially willing to get through the two support acts to keep their vantage point. It turned out to be a good move, as both the openers and main support proved to be excellent value.

First up the high energy of Electric Gypsy (8). A vibrant quartet, they play a trashy hard rock style reminiscent of several bands from the eighties, including a mixture of Crue, Aerosmith and Whitesnake. With a hardened edge which gave their songs bite, the band blasted through their set with style. Lead singer Guzz Collins is the central focus. Possessing a good set of pipes, he’s a diminutive figure with a big stage presence. All rock star, he has the moves, the looks, and the voice to carry everything off with ease. 

The band rip through their set, which sees Monday’s crowd treated to a pulsating cover of Burn, whilst Tuesday evening sees an excellent version of Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher get the temperature soaring. They draw mainly from their Mothership album (produced by Thiago Bianchi – vocalist with Noturnall), with opportunity for audience participation on The Devil Made Me Do It well received. Fluid, confident and engaging from start to finish, Electric Gypsy earned many new fans.

Taking the volume higher, and the music at least two levels heavier, the second Brazilian band of the evening take the stage with vocalist Thiago Bianchi informing the now rammed venue that they are recording every show and urging the crowd to make their noise felt. The Patriot crowd don’t need any second invitation, and on both nights ensured that they must have been one of the loudest audiences on the tour. 

Although new to me, Noturnall (8) have been around over a decade and have links with the headliner through bassist Saulo Xakol and guitarist Léo Mancini, who have both played with Di’Anno in the past. The band have also had a certain Mike Portnoy drum for them, a fact which Bianchi is not ashamed to mention in both shows. If you search out their latest album, Cosmic Redemption, you’ll also find Dave Ellefson, James LaBrie and Michael Romeo involved.

Noturnall bring a progressive style of metal which probably isn’t heard too often in these parts. Yet the crowd lap it up, raging in a swirl of fists and arms in the air as the Brazilians power through a 45-minute set. We get a pounding Thunderstruck which is probably the cleverest move of the night. It’s impossible not to sing along to it and by then, the crowd are right on side. With four albums to draw from, they have plenty to offer. 

Try Harder opens the eight-song set, and they can showcase the breadth of their discography. By the time they reach Scream! For!! Me!!! They have the crowd lapping up every note and its little surprise to see several of their shirts being worn later in the evening. At least they should have made enough for the petrol to their next show in London the following night.

It's been a turbulent career for Paul Di’Anno (9). The man who was the voice of Iron Maiden and Killers is now a sad figure. Wheelchair bound, and not in great shape, we are lucky he’s made it after a health scare the night before in Blackpool. Regardless of what you think of him (and I know there have been some scathing reviews of previous shows), you can’t help but admire his determination.

He's lifted onto the stage by four members of the Patriot MC, and it’s clear he’ in a lot of discomfort. On night two, we see him need to stop during Wrathchild, and the fears that he might not complete the show surface. But to his huge credit, he fights on, and gives a strong performance, given the circumstances.

He’s got a tight band who provide faithful replications of 13 early Maiden classics, along with a cover of the Pistols’ Holiday In The Sun. It’s a set lapped up by the faithful in front of the stage, and there are more smiles as the band rip through Prowler, Murders In The Rue Morgue, and even Genghis Khan, which gives Di’Anno time for a breather. The music is delivered with power, those familiar lead breaks remain visceral, the dual guitar harmonies make the heart sing. For those around the first time, this is a journey back in time, but it still feels as relevant today as it was in 1981.

Killers still makes the hairs stand up on the back of the neck, whilst the version of Phantom Of The Opera finds Di’Anno still able to snarl his way through the most iconic of Maiden songs. As he hits the final notes of Drifter, it’s a poignant moment. Will we see Paul again? Who knows. He’s had his problems, but he remains a captivating figure. We can only wish him well. For now, it’s time to reflect on two stellar nights – ones that don’t come along all that often.

Reviews: Devin Townsend, Plini, Swansong, Skiltron (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Devin Townsend – Infinity: 25th Anniversary Edition (InsideOut Music) 

As he works on the next chapter of his innovative musical career, something that will take two whole years to complete, the illustrious Devin Townsend has remastered his landmark solo record Infinity for its 25th Anniversary, Inside Out releasing it as special edition version including the full album and a second disc of demos. 

Townsend reflects that Infinity was his first time engineering and mixing an album, and though now it sounds perhaps amateurish in comparison to latter releases, it’s a significant step towards the artist we now know. It was a turbulent time creatively and personally for Townsend so Infinity holds a lot of resonance with him (many of the songs are still played in his live sets), revisiting it must have been both joyful and difficult but Towsend has made the package worth it with the remastered album, bonus tracks, demos and even a present day recreation of the cover *shudder*. 

It’s a labour of love but if you were around at the time you can rediscover how good the record is and if you weren’t you can almost hear the genesis of Devin as a solo artist. From the epic hard rock of Christeen, the vaudeville of Bad Devil, the chug of War, all the trademark fractured genre bending is there, the instruments layered and composed in a way to make it unlike not only Townsend's beginnings in SYL but also anything else around at that time, firmly putting him in a category of one. The audio has been mastered for vinyl so it feels organic but also still as that wall of sound dynamic. 

If you’ve listened to the album you’ll know what to expect so really the bonus tracks are what will win you over, all seven of them coming from the Christeen EP, they are available for the first time on vinyl and give you demo and acoustic versions, something Devin has continued to do with his releases, giving a glimpse into the creative process. A neat package if you’re a fan but only adds a little to the original, Townsend’s rabid fanbase will lap this up but if you’re not familiar as much with his pre DTP work then I suggest listening to see where the beginning lie. 8/10

Plini – Mirage (Self Released)

With a fresh new set of compositions, delivered through his signature Strandberg guitar, signature amp software and all the other endorsements this Aussie virtuoso has, Plini returns with his new EP Mirage

Five tracks of guitar playing that pushes the boundaries of the instrument to their limit, reaching new levels of melody, technicality and composition, blurring genre boundaries with instrumental mastery, master being the optimal word as Plini teaches masterclasses all over the world, at some of the biggest music colleges. 

Whether it’s the laid back sunshine of The Red Fox, the repeating jazz grooves of Five Days Of Rain, the synthy strains of Still Life which features Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders. Or the videogame influenced Aqua Vista and the closing fire that burns from Ember, Mirage is more of Plini’s incredible virtuosity, showing why he is so revered in guitar circles, but never just relying on one style to impress, complexity and congeniality in one. If you’ve never experienced Plini before, Mirage is a brilliant access point into his music. Prepare to be stunned. 9/10

Swansong – Awakening (Noble Demon)

A band formed in 2020? Album called Awakening? Must be a debut? Yep it’s the debut from Finnish melodic death metal act Swansong, who come out of the Suomi woodlands with a raging style of melodic death metal that comes from Dark Tranquillity and Arch Enemy, the death growls of Jemiina absolutely terrifying as the harmonic guitars of Topi Pitkänen and Tuomas Leskinen remind me of the Amott brothers on Blood Widow or Furiosa

Swansong bring some trad metal on Become, acoustic lilting on Frost Of Winter, folk/power both there and on Maiden Of Death, it’s old school for those in camo shorts but with parts that will appeal to a broader audience too. Swashbuckling rhythms from Jimi Myöhänen (drums) on One With The Waves as Lauri Huovinen’s bass keeps the pace moving on the shredfest that is Fight Or Die. Scandi melodeath with a little more, this won’t be the last you hear of Swansong, but they may need to do more next time. 6/10

Skiltron – Bruadarach (Trollzorn Records)

If there’s ever a sound to divide a listening audience its bagpipes, straight out of the gate with Triumph & Devotion, Skiltron hit you with bagpipes, using them as a key feature to their Celtic folk/power metal sound. Despite being formed in Argentina and now residing in Norway, but with members from all over the place, Skiltron attempt to sound as Scottish as they can with their sixth album Bruadarach

Now you get out of this what you want, it’s simplistic power metal that feels like full throttle or nothing at all, the vocals are decent enough and it’s polished to within an inch of its life but unless you can get past the extensive use of highland pipes then you’ll be screaming for it to stop. When put in occasionally they can carry power and mysticism but when it’s; Every. Single. Song, things get quite draining and very fast. 

Folk metal can be hit or miss but unless you’re a lover of Highland Pipes, there are plenty of others you can delve into. 4/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Green Lung (Live Review By Joe Guatieri)

Green Lung & Boss Keloid, Thekla, Bristol 24.11.23

On a wet and windy Sunday night, the boat was about to be rocked as Green Lung and Boss Keloid played Thekla.

Arriving late meant missing some of the full Boss Keloid (7) experience, but they’ve left enough of an impression to explore further. Combining stoner rock with progressive metal, the band smoothly transitioned between riffs and passages in sync. In particular, the drummer Ste Arands really stood out as his playing felt so impactful and precise, making every moment matter.

Then it was time for the headliner of the gig, Green Lung (8). A band that I had seen the year previous when they played on the bill with icons Clutch at the O2 Academy and now the tables have turned as everyone in the crowd was there for Green Lung. On the back of their excellent new album This Heathen Land it was right in the middle of their triumphant headline tour. 

They mix classic heavy metal, doom metal, psychedelic rock, plus more, making for an anthemic experience, lyrics drawn from English folklore and a frenetic performance made for a stage of any size. Such contrasting styles of sludgy riffs and high-octane solos of Scott Black seem nonsensical in theory but mind-blowing in execution. 

Adding an organ brought an extra flavour, sometimes taking a welcomed lead to continue the balanced set, both from a perfomance perspective and also a setlist drawn from their three albums and one EP, the swirling psychadelic whilr of John Wright 

Commanding the set was lead singer Tom Templar’s operatic vocals, putting a bow on well-built crescendos. It’s unfortunate then that the quiet moments in between get lost amongst the crowd, (so often a problem with live shows), hindering the complete journey of slower tracks compared to the louder pieces, but when they're on they're on Joseph Guest (bass) and Matt Wiseman (drums) hammering home the occult anthems and blatant Sabbath worship. 

Altogether, Green Lung and Boss Keloid put on a hell of a night, showcasing what the UK has to offer for the metal genre. Bigger stages beckon, start saving your pennies!

Monday 4 December 2023

Reviews: Stengah, Mind Control, Cryptosis, Demons Of Noon (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Stengah - Downward Mechanic EP (Mascot Records)

A brand new EP from French bonecrushers Stengah is a short blast of grooving modern prog metal that will excite anyone that loved their debut album Soma Sema in 2022. It was critically acclaimed, your humble writer giving it a respectable 7/10. They've been touring since then, but to keep the fans happy they have released Downward Mechanic, an EP filled with songs written during the Soma Sema sessions but not put on the final version of the album. 

For whatever reason they were left off, it wasn't beacuse they were any lesser than the songs on the record, the aren't any different either, they are born from the same creative soup so pack as much of a punch as the album tracks. The idea behind all of these tracks is a machine becoming human, learning to feel and moving from mechanical to organic, the climax of Inner Space, the final transformation with the harsh/clean dynamics showing this duality between machine and man, the last chapter of what they started with Soma Sema

This is the end but the EP gets going with The Earth Awakes, a blistering tech metal track that injects pace from the first moments and doesn't relent. From here is Reign Of An Apocryph, the djent increased to a higher level with palm muted riffs and more aggression, shifting into atmospheric middle section, before realigning at the end. It's the heaviest song here that moves into the most emotional song on the EP. Resurface (September's Gone), has a brighter atmosphere musically and lyrically, describing the escape from depression as Sheltered Within is a sucker punch to the face increasing the brooding heaviness again. 

Founded by drummer Eliott Williame, joined by bassist Benoit Creteur, guitarists Maxime Delassus and Alex Orta and vocalist Nicolas Queste, Stengah write the final paragraph of their first volume with Downward Mechanic, where they go now will be worth watching out for. 7/10 

Mind Control – Elements (Self Released)

From Italy, Mind Control are an extreme death metal band, a country that has its fair share of progressive death metal bands, but Mind Control sound a lot more Swedish than they do Italian, though there is some Fleshgod Apocalypse levels of pomposity, along with the alt metal hooks of a band such as Lacuna Coil on tracks such as Flames and Effluent

This second album has been a while in the making, nine years actually, due to line up changes and life getting in the way but they've returned with a record that is as good, if not better than their debut. Based around the melodic death metal of Scandinavia, with progressive metal virtuosity Mind Control will appeal to fans of bands such as Wintersun, In Flames or Scar Symmetry. The vocals from Stefania Salladini are diverse and powerful, the screams and growls of Angela Gossow fused with the soaring power of Christina Scabbia. 

With her at the mic, the band have a bonafide star, in the back room Stefano Tatasciore's bass gives some heavy grooves to Wind while the drums of Luca Nicolucci's drums present double kicks that doesn't quit, especially not be Devin-like Storm. This track also displays the keyboard/synths that permeate all of these songs provided by Massimo Boffa who's the bands guitarist and shreds/solos with a disgusting level of techincally. 

Now I will want you that Elements is 13 songs long, and none of these tracks are short either so unless progressive melodeath is one of your go to genres then you may get a little fatigued with this album. However if you stick with it you'll be rewarded with an album that is full of twists and turns, but in the end Elements is a progressive melodeath record that stands with the big guns of the genre. 8/10

Cryptosis - The Silent Call (Century Media)

Called Cryptosis? On tour with Cynic and Obscura? Made up of a trio where mellotron is named as an instrument? It's going to to progressive death metal innit? Tickle me correct as The Silent Call is an EP that has been put out to indicate that the Dutch band have been in the studio writing for a new album next year. 

This EP contains one new song, in the title track, an unreleased track from their 2021 album sessions and two live versions from their show in Athens last year. So to the music and yep there's that mellotron on the opening of the title track Frank Te Riet using it to maximum effect before cranking out the chonky bass riffs against the bombardment of Marco Prij's drumming. There's a lot of synth in the background much like tourmates Cynic which detracts a little bit you'll still be in awe of Laurens Houvast's guitar playing.

I actually prefer Master Of Life to The Silent Call as I think it relies less on the synths and more on technically gifted metal, it also gives a better account of Laurens' vocals. The live tracks, well they're what you'd expect, without the crowd noise and with a bit of overdubbing they'd sound exactly like the record. If the new album sounds more like The Silent Call than it does Master Of Life then I'd be a bit more wary, however it could sound toally different. 

Anyway this EP gives a taster of Cryptosis if you've not had the pleasure but ultimately is a stopgap. 6/10

Demons Of Noon - Death Machine (Evil Feast Records)

Kiwi occult doom now with Demons Of Noon, compared to Blood Ceremony, Hex Thoth, Lucifer and Purson, I'd say they sound more like Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats, Bloody Hammers or even Wales' Spider Kitten. The Auckland six piece are of course also indebted to Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard with their ultra distorted riffs of Abraham Kunin and Scott Satherley (guitars) and bowel rumbling low end on tracks such as Crushing Sun

This is their debut album, compiling all of those most recent singles including that black hole of Crushing Sun, the shamanistic Coward, driven by the percussion force of Joseph McElhinney. Where Demons Of Noon distance themselves is with the use of two vocalists, the haunting, cleans of Tamsyn Matchett enter ethreal realms as the gruff growl of Aria Jones envokes demons. 

Building the record from the ground up with the 8 minute Echolalia, they layer twisted guitars with chanting vocals and sparse drums to create unease before a chug continues the hypnotic beginnings of this record. The intent is for this album to be a ritual, doom, stoner, sludge and the occult meshed to make you lose your mind and make sense of the world though noise as Succession displays amicably. 

I'd compare Demons Of Noon to Church Of The Cosmic Skull, you have the light and the dark, the Yin and Yang, Death Machine definitely the Yin, Southern Hemisphere heaviness that will damage your eardrums. 7/10