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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

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