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Thursday 26 May 2011

Reviews: Hammerfall, Xerath, Above Symmetry

Hammerfall: Infected (Nuclear Blast)

Power Metal heroes Hammerfall are now on their 8th album and they have managed to create an album that fans who have only heard their 1993 album Glory to the Brave will have wondered whether this is the same band. Hammerfall themselves have described this album as different to previous efforts and they are right. There are certain tracks such as B.Y.H and Immortalized that hint back at the power metal sound that made them legends. The rest of the album has more in common with the other bands that come from the Gothenburg area of Sweden; they have a melodic thrash style albeit with Joacim Cans' powerful melodic vocals on top. Other tracks such as Patient Zero and I Refuse have and almost Sabbath like quality, (I Refuse especially, has much more in common with Heaven and Hell than The Dragon Lies Bleeding). Despite the differences, (maybe even because of them) this is a good although darker in tone album than previous ones. It has 11 strong tracks the best of which is the final track Redemption. Seek this album out if you’re not a fan of Hammerfall and you will be pleasantly surprised, for fans you may say that Hammerfall have 'sold out' with a more mainstream sound but this album is great and a worthy addition to the Hammerfall catalogue. 7/10

Xerath: II (Candlelight)

Xerath came onto the metal scene in 2009 with their debut  I while good this follow up is fantastic a great mix of technical metal that has become associated with the emerging Djent scene but also have a heavy groove that is topped off with anthemic orchestral music. The band is tight and powerful with Richard Thompson's vocals reminding you of Devin in his Strapping mode. That said it is the orchestral flourishes add a whole new dimension to proceedings that stop Xerath from sounding like a Strapping tribute, they give the album an almost filmic quality to the album. II is a heavy, technical and epic album great for anyone who likes their metal heavy and professional with a little something extra. 9/10

Above Symmetry: Ripples (InsideOut)

The band formally known as Aspera have re-released their debut under their new name after another Aspera threatened the Norwegian band with legal action. They play melodic prog metal in the same vein as Symphony X and Fates Warning and because of this they are not doing anything new, but they are doing it very well. They sound very polished and professional despite their young age. The guitar and keyboard interplay is great both complementing each other well, both player being virtuosos. However this is not to criticize the rest of the band with bassist Rein T. Blomquist being a particular highlight. The vocals of Atle Pettersen are also well suited as he has a powerful voice and good range. Although Above Symmetry are sticking to a formula that has been around since 1984 with Fates Warning's debut album they do it very well. A great album if a little similar to others in the genre. 7/10

Friday 20 May 2011

Out Of The Beyond Part 2

Jettblack: S/T & Slip It On E.P

Two words that sum up Jettblack: Balls Out. These guys truly invoke the spirit of old school hard rock. They have a particular 80's flavour to them, bringing to the table the sounds of the Ratt, Skid Row, Def Leppard and even having some parlances with Y&T. They are unashamedly retro with lyrics based on sinning and women. The opening trio of Slip It On, Two Hot Girls and When It Comes To Loving perfectly set the tone for the rest of the album. These all feature great riffs, solos and melodic choruses. With Will Stapleton and Jon Dow sharing both guitar and vocal duties, Jettblack are able to combine their old school influences into something fresh. With Not Even Love they have a ballad that rivals some of Leppards greats, before they go back into the 80's assault. The Slip It On E.P is a companion piece that gives two extra studio tracks (one being a cracking cover of Highway To The Dangerzone) plus it also includes an acoustic version of the song Mother Fucker featured on the album which shows even when stripped back Jettblack still write killer songs. If you’re not a fan of 80's music then you may want to avoid this but if you like your rock like you like your love (hard and fast) then make a date with Jettblack. 8/10

Foxy Shazam: S/T

The lead singer of Foxy Shazam Eric Sean Nally share co-writing credits with Justin Hawkins on both the Hot Leg album and the new Meatloaf album. This alone gives you an idea about what Foxy Shazam sound like. Another way to describe it would be...Queen. Starting out as a post hardcore band they have gradually emerged into a band that is hard to categorize but mostly sound like Nally's writing jobs...oh and Queen a hell of a lot like Queen. The album itself is their third and most accomplished, featuring a standard rock band line up augmented with a werewolf like piano player and a horn player the band takes 70's pomp rock to its OTT best. With a varying style on each song ranging from punk, to glam and with hit single Unstoppable already being played back to back with We Will Rock You in American sport stadiums. Foxy Shazam only have to break it over here and they will be America's answer to the people's rock band. Help them out buy the record you know you want to. 8/10

Triaxis: Keys To The Kingdom

So continuing the theme of bands that, sound like other bands. I give you Welsh metallers Triaxis, who sound like Iron Maiden (If Bruce and Adrian were girls). The gallop is there, the melody is there and the siren vocal are their yet they also add more of a progressive take on the Maiden sound with two songs clocking it at over seven minutes and none under four. This is a definitive purchase for Maiden fans, non maiden fans may want to avoid it, but fans of female fronted metal may also find it interesting. 7/10

Xystus: Equilibrio

This is a concept metal-opera that has been conceived by Dutch band Xystus. Before this album they had released two prog-power metal records with symphonic touches. On Equilibrio they have enlisted the help of an entire orchestra and choirs to back the musical side of things. The story revolves around two battling kingdoms and a hero given a quest by a goddess of sorts who has to choose between good and evil and unite the kingdoms. Lead singer Bas Dolmas takes the part of the traveller and protagonist with the duelling monarchs portrayed by Michelle Splietelhof and John Vooijs both of whom are musical actors. The death is portrayed by George Oosthoek lead growler in the gothic metal band Orphanage. The Ethereal vocals of the goddess are supplied by Simone Simons of Epica fame. The album itself is a true symphonic metal masterpiece, the concept doesn't get in the way of the album but it is one that needs to be digested in one sitting (so no shuffle). I cannot praise this album enough. 9/10

The video for Jettblack's "Two Hot Girls": http://youtu.be/GsALXltSMRE

Footage of the Xystus concert: http://youtu.be/iKUBGbL0u5g


Tuesday 17 May 2011

Reviews: Sixx A.M, Symfonia, Eden's Curse

Sixx A.M: This Is Gonna Hurt (Eleven Seven)

Due to his major input into Motley Crue you would expect this album to sound like a mixture of the Crue and guitarist DJ Ashba's day job G'N'R. However what we get with this album is a truly modern rock record with some orchestral flourishes. These are supplied by singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist James Michael who adds the strings, keys and layered production that he has used on the previous Meat Loaf album, to this collection as well as lending his incredible voice to it as well. Like with all albums with Sixx's involvement it's the songs that stand out. They are rocking, reflective and beautiful. The opener This Is Gonna Hurt is a pulsing industrial sounding track that gives way to the modern Life Is Beautiful that sounds almost like Shinedown and Daughtry. Live Forever has a Muse-like quality and Skin and Smile  are the lighter waving ballads that will fill any arena. Sixx A.M have surpassed themselves on this album. It is better than The Heroin Diaries albeit not by much but it is a lot better than the last Motley Crue album. If you’re a fan of any of the members other projects you know how good this album is, if you’re not then I urge you to buy this album and become a fan. 8/10

Symfonia: In Paradisum (Edel)

Timmo Tolkki - those two words should put joy into the hearts of any power metal fan. Tolkki is the founding member and guitarist of Stratovarius. Right up until 2009 Tolkki was the main creative influence of the band until he left to follow his own pursuits. After a few badly received albums and a disastrous classical project Tolkki is back doing what he is very good at. Symfonia are somewhat of a super group as it features former Angra singer Andre Matos, keyboard virtuoso Mikko Harkin and former Helloween drummer Uli Kusch. Tolkki has written some of his best material in years for this album and the way him and Matos work together is fantastic. There are galloping rhythms, soaring solos and keening keys all of which are Tolkki trademarks. This album ranks with the new Stratovarius album as among the best power metal releases in years. If this is your idea of heaven then buy In Paradisum if this sounds like hell then best stay clear. For those of us still here let's hope this super group delivers live as well as they do on record. 8/10

Eden's Curse: Trinity (AFM)

Eden's Curse are a classic metal band that are based in England but have members from all over the globe. They are the brain-child of vocalist Michael Eden and bassist Paul Logue. In terms of style they have a melodic metal edge on a par with Maiden and Dio (even going as far as covering Rock And Roll Children as a bonus track). The band are tight precise and play with a real energy complimenting the unique voice of Eden, his nearest comparison would be James La Brie of Dream Theater who features as a guest vocalist on the album, dueting with Eden on No Holy Man which is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Andi Deris of Helloween also guests on a track but none of these high profile guests detract from the focus being on the band itself. After to overlooked but brilliant albums Eden's Curse have arrived. Get ready to be cursed! 9/10  

Monday 16 May 2011

Live & Dangerous 2: Roger Waters

Roger Waters (O2 London)

This was going to be a big one. Not performed in Britain since 1982 Roger Waters performing the 1979 album The Wall in its entirety was going to be an event. Having not attended the Thursday night show I had missed the one night reformation with the remaining Pink Floyd members. This didn't dampen my spirits as I knew that the show itself would be fantastic. I managed to catch it from On Thin Ice as the London traffic meant I missed the opening. The stage was magnificent with unknown roadies building the wall as the songs progressed. The mix of inflatables and CGI projection gave great visual stimulation that were the perfect accompaniment to the aural genius of the music. Water's backing band were phenomenal, but it was Roger himself who was the star, singing with a new found energy and enthusiasm and thrusting himself into the role of frontman. You can see he is clearly revelling in becoming the dictator style character for In The Flesh/Run Like Hell/Waiting For The Worms. The world may have changed but the message this production conveys is still the same today and is even more relevant. (The line Should I Trust The Government? in Mother is met with the same answer as it was in 1982 "No Fucking Way!") This concert was a triumph of music, production and sheer human achievement (Just to move the stage setup would take and army) But it all comes together when it's performed in front of an audience. This was truly a moment of history (But if you do it again Roger may I suggest the Millennium Stadium it would be easier to get to) 10/10   

Sunday 15 May 2011

Live & Dangerous 1: Kerry Ellis & Brian May/ Vintage Trouble

Kerry Ellis & Brian May/Vintage Trouble (St David's Hall Cardiff)

How many times do you get to see a legend playing with one of the finest voices in music? Well that’s what you get with this concert. More on this later but first the opening act Vintage Trouble. Three men enter on bass, guitar and drums respectively and burst into a blues instrumental similar to what Clapton (who was in the CIA) used to do. While entertaining the real fun begins when frontman Ty Taylor runs onto the stage like a hurricane flailing and jiving to the old school strains of the r'n'b (that’s rhythm and blues) this band do very well. What they play comes from the soul and Taylor’s voice is perfectly suited for it. In a better world this is what all churches would be but for now concert halls will do 8/10.
It's then on to the main act Ms Ellis is a star of the West end stage starring in Wicked, Chess and We Will Rock You. The latter bringing her to the attention of Brian May. After recording the album Anthems with him this tour was guaranteed to be filled with tracks from that album and Queen classics. First and foremost Brian May is a fantastic guitarist and writer and with Ellis as his foil the two work magically together. For the opening salvo of Dangerland Ellis is a vision and sings beautifully while Dr May plays with gusto. a mixture of material from the album, from Queen and from the West End makes the rest of the first half. Including a cover of Diamonds Are Forever that stole the hearts of the land of Ms Bassey. An instrumental from May's solo repertoire makes way for a costume change (the first of 6) for Kerry Ellis. Brian May then asks for the crowds assistance with Love Of My Life to which Cardiff don't fail, you can see May was truly moved as the entire St David's Hall sang it with him. This small break in proceedings is followed by the monster ballads of Save Me and No-One But You. Before the climax of Defying Gravity (possibly the most upbeat song ever) and We Will Rock You/ We Are The Champions leaves the crowd jubilant and rapturous with applause. This continues until they re-appear for the solemn and patriotic Anthem which leads into the Queen classic Tie Your Mother Down which sees Ellis in full rock chick regalia making Freddy proud. The band that back these two are also fantastic, a special mention to Roger Taylor's son Silas who covers his father admirably. A special collection of songs from two special individuals who are obviously having more fun than anyone could. Kerry Ellis really is the new Princess in the palace of the old Queen. 9/10 

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Reviews: Gentlemans Pistols, Voodoo Circle, Amaranthe

Gentlemans Pistols: At Her Majesty's Pleasure (Rise Above)

Gentlemans Pistols are your typical Rise Above 70's style riff band. They encompass all the past masters and bring them to a new audience. The band have undergone line-up changes since the release of their first self-titled album in 2007. They have a new drummer and a new guitarist in the shape of former Napalm Death/Carcass man Bill Steer. He himself peddles this kind of riffed up stoner rock in his band Firebird and the comparisons between this band and Gentlemans Pistols are obvious. However is not necessarily a bad thing, fans of Firebird should check out the ' Pistols as it will be right up their alley. Those who think Steer should have stuck to Grind core will no doubt avoid this album as they probably do with Firebird but that doesn't mean they should. The album contains a good set of songs that will translate well and James Atkinson's vocals are well suited to the instrumentation. All in all a very well-constructed 'fun' rock album. 7/10

Voodoo Circle: Broken Heart Syndrome (AFM)

From the opening of No Solution Blues you know precisely where Voodoo Circle pitch their tent. They are followers of the 'Snake and the chasers of the Rainbow. Yes this kind of thing has been done before but Voodoo Circle do it so well you forget about that. Formed as new band for virtuoso guitarist Alexander Beyrodt and featuring the vocal talent of Pink Cream 69's David Readman (who sounds more like Coverdale than Coverdale) the project is a super group of sorts the notable member being the hardest working man in all of metal Primal Fear bassist Mat Sinner who has no less than nine separate bands. Broken Heart Syndrome  doesn't stray too far from the formula of the first Voodoo Circle album which is solid hard rock in the vein of the bands previously mentioned. Readman croons like Cov and the shouts of 'baby baby baby' will bring a smile to any 'Snake fan. Beyrodt plays like Blackmore and Malmsteen rolled into one his soloing sublime especially on the title track and the epic  'Heavens Are Burning'. This isn't flagrant showing off however the songs are well constructed and the production is crisp. So in short if you like Blackmore, Coverdale and a sprinkling of neo-classical metal then Voodoo Circle is the band for you. 8/10

Amaranthe: S/T (Spinefarm)

Amaranthe come from Sweden/Denmark and were formed in 2008 by vocalist Jake E Berg and guitarist Olof Morck. They signed on another two vocalists and the rest of the band and set about creating a very unique sound. Yes they are a female fronted metal band with the conflicting harsh male, ethereal female vocals but they have an added layer of Jake's clean male vocals. This vocal triumvirate along with the melodic soloing and large keyboards gives them a melodic power metal sound more akin to Kamelot than Epica. The album contains 12 pulsing tracks that hit you from the off, with the track Hunger being a notable standout. (This is the first single and features a great video by the way) In the way of criticism the album can be very samey at times many of the tracks sounding similar to the others. This is not Amaranthes fault as it is a problem with all bands of this ilk. Despite this the trio of vocalists and the accomplished playing raises this album above others in the genre. Definitely one to watch. 8/10

Here is the video for Hunger if anyone is interested. It's well worth watching:


Tuesday 10 May 2011

Out Of The Beyond Part 1

This is where I will review bands that are not well known to try and generate some interest.

Logan: The Great Unknown

Logan hail from Scotland but when the first track begins you'd be forgiven for thinking they came from the USA. You are immediately hit by the sound of Mark Tremotti guitar playing and with good reason. Logan sounds like Creed ALOT like Creed from the previously mentioned guitar sounds to the vocals of Kenny Collins however they also have the melody and variation of Tremotti's other band Alter Bridge. The Great Unknown features 14 tracks some which have already been available on the band's previous albums. However these feel like the 'definitive' versions, this is probably influenced a lot by the production on this album which blows the other albums out of the water. Despite being D.I.Y in their label and distribution this album shows that their songs are good enough to rival their biggest influence. Just listen to When I Get Down on the album and you'll see what I mean. 7/10

Hierophant: Black Ribbons

Hierophant are a band that have been concocted by the 'Outlaw Country' star Shooter Jennings (son of Waylon, for country buffs). However this is unlike his previous like albums in the sense that rather than dabbling before this is a balls-out rock album. It’s based on the concept of the last night of free airwaves and the last surviving independent DJ plays his favourite band who are Hierophant. The songs differ as they all come from separate 'albums' among the best are the defiant Fuck You (I'm Famous) and the scuzzy Don't Feed the Animals. The album twists and turns between hard rock, grunge, psychedelia with only the briefest hints of country in God Bless Alabama and the searing All This Could Have Been Yours a ballad of arena standards. The music is great and varied and the addition of Stephen King as the fictional DJ and co-writer of the concept gives this album an extra layer of authenticity. Country star turns rock star in one album Bon Jovi did it the wrong way round. 9/10

Mustasch: S/T

Imagine if you will Metallica came from Sweden and only played the Black album. That is what Mustasch sound like. If that doesn't appeal to you then skip this. Everyone else I can tell you that, this album hits hard and takes no prisoners. Mustasch have been a big band throughout Europe and have honed their craft through constant touring. This is their latest album and should be the one to make people take notice over here. Mustasch have powerful riffs, pounding rhythm and great vocals from Ralf Gyllenhammar. The song writing is good and has that contemporary Metallic(a) edge. String section intro gives way to the crushing riffage of Heresy Blasphemy immediately sets the tone for the whole album. Each track hits you like a sledgehammer, however they each sound fresh the band expanding their songs with string arrangements and choir vocals. Mustasch is an album that will satisfy fans of well played macho rock, whether they like Metallica or not. 8/10

Monday 9 May 2011

Reviews: Whitesnake, Fury and The Tews

Whitesnake: Forevermore (Frontiers)

After their brilliant return to the fight with Good to Be Bad. Whitesnake have returned with a blazing new album called Forevermore. Those who were slightly confused by the more hard-edged metal sound on GTBB will welcome the return of honking harmonicas on the album's fiery opener Steal Your Heart Away. This is classic 'Snake at its best all blues and bluster with David Coverdale wailing like it was 1984. The second track follows fluidly from the first and then gives way to the guitar work out of third track and single Love Will Set You Free on which guitarist's Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach rock proverbial socks while keeping it modern and old school at the same time. There are the obligatory tender moments of Easier Said Than Done and Fair Thee Well but these are both of a high standard and balance the rest of the blues infused hard rock with which Whitesnake is synonymous. Is Forevermore a classic? Yes and no. It may be hard pressed to compete with the classic Whitesnake albums of the late 70's and 80's but it is the best 'Snake album in years. 8/10

Fury: Fury E.P (Self Release)

Fury is metal band from Worcester that combines all the best parts of 80's metal by combining NWOBHM and Bay Area Thrash. This 5 track E.P is a statement of intent to show the world that D.I.Y metal doesn't mean shoddy quality. The sound production is crisp but raw and the playing is tight. With such a basis to their sound inevitably some of the licks have similarities to Metallica and Iron Maiden but this is no bad thing. Fury has enough talent to make them sound fresh and entertaining again. Key tracks on the album are Eyes of the Dead and opener Faith That Would Kill both have a sense of melody and heaviness that Metallica have perfected through their many years of touring. In an ideal world Fury would be headlining stadiums instead of other less talented bands that are seen as the 'New kings of metal'. Change this and head to http://furyofficial.com/ to buy this E.P. You won't regret it. 8/10

The Trews: Hope and Ruin (Bumstead/Universal Canada)

The Trews are a Canada based rock band that is fairly unknown outside of North America. I will admit now I do have a bit of a soft spot for them as anyone who knows me will tell you. However being objective their 4th and latest album Hope and Ruin is not my favourite. There are flashes of brilliance here and there the title track and first single is a ballad that could be number one if it were performed by the Kings of Leon. The album itself has a consistent number of well written and performed tracks, but so many don't really thrill you until the third or fourth listen. It maybe because this album has more of an acoustic basis (Probably off the back of their last all acoustic tour) is the reason why I don't warm to it. As with their earlier albums they are very reminiscent of the Foo Fighters, I was expecting more of the same on this album however this doesn't stop it from being a good album just a different one. If you interested I suggest starting with their 2005 album Den of Thieves which is surely their best so far. As for Hope and Ruin well it's good but not great. 6/10

A new experience

So I have finally joined the blogger sphere. I realise that no one will read this but I wanted somewhere to make my opinions known. In this blog I'm just going to post things I like, CD's, Concerts etc. Also I may put my opinion on various topics. I don't expect people to agree or care I just want to put them out there.

If you’re interested check back, if you’re not check back anyway you may find something you do like.

Well cheers everyone

On to business...