Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Thursday 26 April 2012

Out Of The Beyond 18

I'm going to concentrate on the Tony Iommi solo albums due to his recent fight with lymphoma as they show that the man is more than Black Sabbath.

Tony Iommi: Iommi

This is the album that took 5 years to make and features Iommi with guest vocalists. the album is mainly written by Iommi, producer Bob Marlette and the vocalists themselves. There is variation between the tracks, but all of them have Iommi's spectacular guitar work which contributed to the classic Sabbath style. The most Sabbath-like track is Who's Fooling Who which features Ozzy on vocals and has the bells and slow dirge doom riff that early Sabbath perfected. Many of the tracks share similarities with their respective vocalist's day jobs. Time Is Mine with Phillip Anselmo has all the hallmarks of Pantera, Patters with Serj Tankian has SOAD tendencies and the incredibly doomy Just Say No To Love is pure Type O Negative due to Peter Steele's unmistakeable vocals. As I have said this is a great album that mixes the legendary guitar of Iommi with guest turns from friends Bill Ward and Brian May with a fantastic collection of vocalists all of whom fit the songs (some of whom also provide instrumentation on the tracks Dave Grohl drums on his track, Peter Steele bass on his and so on). This is a great start to a solo career from a legend. 8/10

Tony Iommi: The 1996 DEP Sessions

Despite the title this album was released in 2004 with re-recorded drums as original drummer Dave Holland (formally of Judas Priest) was scrubbed from the album due to his conviction on child porn charges. The album is collaboration between Iommi and the "Voice Of Rock" Glen Hughes (who also handles the bass). It was Tony's demo sessions with an old friend and the result is a somewhat experimental album. Opener Gone is Dio-era Sabbath but the rest of the album is very hard-rock with Glen's soulful vocals taking the pride of place, however the album seems quite reserved with three ballads on an 8-track album being a bit too much. Time Is A Healer is a doom-riff heavy track and Don't Drag The River is a perfect song for Hughes vocals but it is a bit folky and psychedelic for what many would associate with Iommi. This is a very experimental album as I have said but is shows sides to the "Iron Man" that many would have not seen. 7/10

Tony Iommi: Fused

This is probably what Tony was aiming for with the DEP Sessions it is a full on power-trio metal album featuring Iommi shredding, Glen Hughes in full 'Rock God' mode on vocals and bass with Kenny Arnoff drums. The album is produced by Bob Marlette who also provides some keys. This is by far a heavier album than its predecessor and is probably what would have happened if Hughes had stayed in Sabbath after the Seventh Star album. Opening with the fantastic Dopamine which is a heavy metal lament to both men's misspent youth, as is the second track Wasted Again (which features a killer solo). The ballad Living Deep Inside A Shell is both dark and melancholic which gives it an atmospheric vibe. What Your Living For is an almost thrash shredder. This is brilliant album from three (four) immensely talented men, mixing classic song writing and legacy with crisp modern touches. 9/10

Friday 20 April 2012

Reviews: Dragonforce, Unisonic, We Are Augustines, Steak Number Eight

Dragonforce: The Power Within (Electric Generation)

The first album after a member leaves is always a difficult one especially if that person is the vocalist. They do so much to entrench the sound of the band that when they are changed the band can either move on to better things (See DiAnno/Dickinson) or fall to pieces (Dickinson/Bayley). Luckily the former is true of Power Metal jokers Dragonforce who after recruiting Brit Marc Hudson to replace ZP Threat, have released what is their best album since Sonic Firestorm. I will say now that many believe that Inhuman Rampage was the best Dragonforce album but I am not of that opinion as I have followed them since the beginning and IR is their most commercial offering and is too focussed on speed and soloing to create a niche. The same cannot be said about The Power Within on the whole the songs are shorter and more concise, which makes the whole album seem more grown up. The Dragonforce hallmarks are still there with Give Me The Night, Holding On, Heart Of The Storm and Die By The Sword. However tracks like first single Cry Thunder have a more classic metal sound akin to Manowar and final track Last Man Stands is the ballad that they have wanted to write since Valley Of The Damned as it encompasses speed and power. Marc gives a fantastic vocal performance and has a more expressive voice than ZP which adds some flavour to the pot. Both Sam and Herman's guitar playing is still top drawer however now they can be a bit more reserved unleash in small blasts, they have also let bassist Fred perform a few guitar solos on at least two of the tracks because he is actually a guitar player (formally of Heavenly). The keys and drums are also atypical of their sound but still gorgeous alnog witht he crisp modern production. It seems Dragonforce have risen from the fire (and the flames). (Sorry.) 9/10

Unisonic: S/T (Earmusic)

So the full length debut from the Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and Dennis Ward alliance. After the taster of their power in the E.P released earlier this year I was waiting with baited breath for this album and it is great. Opening with Unisonic and Souls Alive (both of which featured on the E.P along with My Sanctuary.) These songs I have already reviewed so now for the rest of the album, Never Too Late is a raging rocker, I've Tried is an 80's influenced love song with lashings of keys and D-bass. It is very refreshing to hear Kiske's voice put to melodic metal again after his dalliances with AOR (of which here is a smattering on here see big ballad Star Rider). The guitar playing of Mandy Meyer and Kai Hansen is also brilliant blending twin-guitar shredding and melodic leads. Dennis Ward's bass playing is chunky, tight and powerful and his production is thick and very European this is something that Ward does very well. If your fan of very well performed melodic metal in the style of Voodoo Circle or Pink Cream 69 then purchase this album because it's a corker. 8/10

We Are Augustines: Rise Ye Sunken Ships (Oxcart records)

Formed by singer/guitarist Billy McCarthy and bassist Eric Sannderson the album draws on the dark subject matter of his brother and mothers Schizophrenia and subsequent suicides. Despite this unsettling idea the album itself has all of the upbeat melancholia of Springsteen with added folk influences provided by the acoustic guitars as well as lashings of punk. McCarthy's voice is the biggest selling point of the album as it has the gritty, emotional power of Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem. Opening with the repeating riff of Chapel Song the album has a hollow ghostly sound filled with hand-claps, percussion and jangly indie guitars that often build into crescendos of noise. The old school production techniques feature heavily especially on the biographical Book Of James which is based on just an acoustic guitar and a drum machine yet still being very effective. The whole album is an absolute treat for anyone who is a fan of The Boss, Neil Young and even Dylan. It's concept of loss and redemption coupled with the truly fantastic vocal delivery of McCarthy makes this album an absolute stormer. It needs to be heard by anyone and everyone. 9/10  

Steak Number Eight: All Is Chaos (Play It Again Sam Records)

Belgian noise merchants Steak Number Eight have released their debut effort and it is truly an experience, the band play a mix of shoe-gaze and sludge metal, their mix of long instrumental passages, downturned riffage, atmospheric instrumentation and the occasional burst of Cobainesque vocals from frontman Brent Vanneste. The band are primarily post-rock bringing long heavy, sonic laden guitar driven passages that merge with crushing heaviness however songs like Dickhead and Pyromaniac are also very well written for a band who are all teenagers. Defiantly one for fans of Isis and Pelican with a definitive grunge influence on the vocals. These guys will destroy as they grow, but now they are still very accomplished and they shit all over Brit teen 'sensations' One Direction. 7/10

Friday 6 April 2012

Live & Dangerous: Charlie Simpson, The Martin Harley Band, Union Sound Set

Charlie Simpson, The Martin Harley Band, Union Sound Set (Solus, Cardiff)

Opening act I can't remember but he was shit so moving on:

Union Sound Set

Formed by Simpson's eldest brother Ed. Union Sound Set are a band that are equal parts Arcade Fire, Radiohead and Band Of Horses, they play atmospheric post-rock rich in melody and progression. For a band that consists of guitars, drums, bass, keys and even a cello they are very streamlined in their sound. This is stirring uplifting music that has many links to Fightstar because of Ed's uncanny vocal resemblance to his brother Charlie (who came on as a guest for one track to a rapturous applause). Union Sound Set are a thinking band that play with the utmost professionalism, they are musically gifted and also great song writers the only shame is that I hadn't heard of them until now. 8/10

The Martin Harley Band

Again another band I had yet to hear despite them being from Cardiff. They are trio that play variations of blues and folk. However the band straddles genres and introduces instruments that you wouldn't associate with these genres. Martin himself handles vocals and mainly acoustic guitar, however his prowess with a lap-slide guitar is daunting especially when playing set closer Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) the other musicians are not to be ignored either with bassist Jay Carter holding everything together which means that drummer Pete Swaton can let it all hang loose on his cocktail drum kit as well as playing a mean Balalaika. Their unique and not-quite-placeable sound is truly a highlight and their stage presence for a trio is excellent (despite spending most of the gig sitting down) Great band that need to be seen. 9/10

Charlie Simpson

The co-frontman of Fightstar and former member of pop-Muppets Busted, Charlie Simpson is a musical chameleon that has proved all his doubters wrong. He has yet again changed his spots and become an acoustic troubadour on his first solo album Young Pilgrim. Opening with the upbeat Parachutes Simpson receives a fantastic welcome from the very busy Solus. the crowd itself is made up of scene kids, teenage girls, indie kids, hipsters, Fightstar fans and probably even some Busted fans (although they wouldn't reveal themselves). Simpson is backed by great band and was in clear voice all night. He played the majority of his solo album with   Down, Down, Down, The Farmer & His Gun and the cathartic Riverbanks all being favourites. Simpson easily won over the crowd and by the end he had left them wanting more. Also as a passing comment the sound was good and the crowd were on fire (albeit with more shrill screaming than I'm used to at gigs). Great night from a man who is a good entertainer and also a fantastic songwriter. 9/10

Reviews: Shinedown, Flying Colors, Zodiac N Black

Shinedown: Amaryllis (Roadrunner)

According to frontman Brent Smith "Amaryllis is the manifestation of that vision, the centrepiece of what Shinedown is" and it is hard to argue, this is what Shinedown have been working towards since their inception, whereas their first album was pure American rock, the second added solo and their third Sound Of Madness made them famous through radio hits Second Chance, If You Only Knew and The Crow & The Butterfly. As many will probably know despite the rock and metal tendencies Shinedown seem to have excelled at big radio hits so it's no surprise that this continues on Amaryllis. Yes there are rockers in the shape of Adrenaline, Enemies and Nowhere Kids however it's the ballads and pop influenced hits. The ballad quotient is filled with the title track, Unity, I'm Not Alright and Through The Never meaning that the album has more mid-paced and slower moments and the poppier rock moments are filled by tracks such as Bully which has a hook that most bands would die for, all this means that this is prime American radio rock fodder but before you groan it is superbly done American radio rock, each track is brilliantly written and performed, the production is also fantastic (but when you get the current chairman of Warner Bros. Records Rob Cavallo to produce your album because he produced that last one it helps). This is a great album for fans and it’s guaranteed to do brilliantly in America and probably here as well. 8/10

Flying Colors (Mascot)

Formed as an "Experiment" Flying Colors are a collection of virtuoso musicians who are expanding their musical palate. The members are Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, ex-Dream Theater) on drums, Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) on bass, prog god Neal Morse (Transatlantic, solo, ex-Spock's Beard) on the keys/vocals, Steve Morse, no relation to Neal (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs) on guitars. The unknown quantity is vocalist Casey McPherson who is the singer in Alpha Rev an alt rock band. The album varies wildly in its influences, all of the songs are expertly performed with all the players parts given equal room to breathe, the guitar of S. Morse and the keys of N.Morse brilliantly interplay throughout giving many of the tracks like Blue Ocean, Kayla and Infinite Fire all have a 70's sound with many of the tracks also having more modern influences with All Falls Down having a distinct Muse sound. The drumming of Portnoy is subdued but still technical (and his singing voice is good shown as while the jazz bass of Dave LaRue anchors all of the tracks. McPherson (who also provides extra keys and guitar) brings his excellent vocals to every track and is equally adept with rockier tracks as he is with the ballads. The songs are not 'metal' but have some Deep Purple vibes along with the aforementioned Muse and even some pop-proggers like Supertramp. The production of legend Peter Collins is perfect giving a very mainstream pop sound to the album along with classic warmth. This is a mixed bag of tracks that are more of compilation of influences rather than a full album from a single band, it is project for these immensely talented musicians to get away from their day jobs and see if it would work. On the whole it has worked but whether they can make another with their busy schedule is debateable, still if is their only album then it's a corker. 8/10

Zodiac N Black: The Aftermyth (STM Records) 

Zodiac N Black are a British metal band. They have released their debut album The Aftermyth and fans of well played stoner/psych metal will love it. The band are very similar to Monster Magnet with frontman Jad having the Wyndorf howl down to a tee. The band is held together by the funky basslines of Hank dulling with the powerhouse drumming of Luca, with the guitar of Jim providing crunch and melodic touches with its fuzzed up sound. The album opens with the storming Bastinado which is an incredibly catchy track that sets the tone with its groove laden bass and heavy riffage, the album continues in this vein but every track is different enough to not be boring. The final track Lights On Blues is a bluesy/psychedelic 10 minute opus that shows the bands chops. The production is punchy and raw which adds to the sound. The vocals can be a bit one dimensional at times but on the whole of the album is an excellent of British rock. 7/10