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Wednesday 27 June 2012

Live & Dangerous: Black Stone Cherry, Revoker

Black Stone Cherry & Revoker: Cardiff Solus 26/06/2012

Once again the Kentucky rockers returned to Cardiff (this time because of the cancellation of Sonisphere) and yet again they managed to rock Cardiff to the ground.


Openers Revoker are local boys that have been steadily climbing the ladder to success for ages and with the release of their debut album they have become one of the go-to support bands. They do what they do very well and because of that I have no real complaint about their set except for one. The set compiled featured their signature songs like Psychoville, Stay Down and Time To Die but despite the ferocity and power in these future metal anthems the band just seem (to me) to be a bit generic (a problem I had with their album as well) they sound like an amalgamation of nearly all the bands on Roadrunner mixed with some Bullet For My Valentine. Whether a future release will change this I don't know but for now they do seem to be a band stuck in a (very lucrative) rut. 7/10

Black Stone Cherry

So then Black Stone Cherry hit the stage with Maybe Someday from their first album before kicking into Yeah Man meaning that the both the bands power and melody was shown right from the outset. The pace didn't let up with Blind Man, Change and the sing-along rocker Soul Creek. The band held the crowd in its palm for the entire gig meaning that every word was shouted back with aplomb. For a band so young Blacks Stone Cherry have both terrific stage presence and a catalogue of great songs. This is bolstered by the playing of the band and the vocals of frontman Chris Robertson which are always flawless. The band seemed to be at ease indulging a bit of guess the intro in the middle of the set. As well as bringing heavy rockers like Rain Wizard, Lonely Train and the bouncy Blame it On The Boom Boom, the band also have a penchant for big ballads bringing In My Blood, Things My Father Said and the rarely played Peace Is Free (which was rescued by the crowd after a small hiccup with the lyrics) all of which got the sell-out crowd in fine voice. The band was far looser than on previous occasions bringing a cover of Muddy Waters' Hoochie Coochie Man that segued into Rehab by Amy Winehouse. This signalled the end of the gig with the aforementioned Blame It On The Boom Boom and the near classic Lonely Train. This was another great gig from a band that could easily (and will be) headlining arenas, they were consistently brilliant. 9/10 

Sunday 24 June 2012

Live & Dangerous: Anthrax, Butcher Babies, Collapse

Anthrax, Butcher Babies & Collapse: Cardiff Coal Exchange 12th June 2012

Coming into one of my favourite locations for gigs I settled in to get another look at Collapse who were pretty good the last couple of times I have seen them so I was looking forward to them.


Unfortunately for these semi-local lads the sound was not good at all so their groove metal assault was less effective than it had been previously, this meant that the guitars were murky and the vocals were barely audible meaning that they were less enjoyable than the last couple of times I've seen them. Sorry guys. 5/10

Butcher Babies

Tits (and not in a good way) 2/10


After two somewhat disappointing support acts the main event needed to deliver and deliver they did. Kicking things off with two tracks from their renaissance album Worship Music they sounded on top form Belladonna lungs were as powerful as ever (he even knew where he was), Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano shredded up a storm with Caggiano's soloing given ample time. Frank Bello ran across the stage and gurned like a maniac and Charlie Benante smashed his drum kit like he hated it. The set was primarily newer tracks mixed with classics in the form of Caught In A Mosh, Medusa, Among The Living and the evergreen Madhouse. However what did trouble me slightly was the amount of covers present, yes Got The Time and Antisocial are pretty much Anthrax songs now but they are still covers from a band with an expansive back catalogue, (They could have even thrown in the odd John Bush-era song). This was bolstered by putting a cover of Neon Nights in their encore which although perfectly executed was a little bit of overkill on the cover front and also meant that Metal Thrashing Mad was not played still the band ended with the classic I Am The Law which left the crowd hungry for more (something they had not been during Indians which meant Ian had to restart the War dance). A good show performed by a band back to their prime, but playing a set too set on covers. 8/10

Friday 22 June 2012

Reviews: Manowar, Jettblack, Royal Thunder

Manowar: Lord Of Steel (Magic Circle Music)

The Warriors Of The World are once again united and ready to destroy false metal. The now Sylvester Stallone indorsed heavy metal legends are back with their 12th studio album. Gone is the symphonic backing from Gods Of War and back is the head destroying metal sound pioneered by band albeit with crisp modern production. Two tracks have already been released prior to the album's release, one is the rampaging El Gringo which has the galloping riffage and *shudder* a bass solo. Eric Adam's vocals are still staggeringly good with Karl Logan's guitars also on great. However there is one question I asked myself about this album right from the opening title track. The question was: "WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE BASS SOUND!" Seriously it sounds like it's going through a crap speaker with a huge amount of fuzz; this is ok for one song but not for the whole album as it is here! This is another Manowar album full of lyrical clichés and lots of heavy metal posturing as for tracks very few are worth listening to these are the title track, the aforementioned El Gringo, the actually pretty good Black List and ballad Righteous Glory. The rest of the album ranges from bad, the Sly Stallone influenced Expendable to the downright shit, the truly awfully titled Manowarriors (possessor of the worst Manowar lyrics ever) Hail, Kill And Die (which is just a list of Manowar album and song titles). So what should have been more of the same from metal's defenders is ruined in part by some awful writing but mostly by the unlistenable fuzzy disco bass. Shame. 5/10

Jettblack: Raining Rock (Spinefarm)

The British sleaze merchants released their first 80's homage in 2010 and the have now released their second album proper and they really haven't progressed that much since the advent of the first album. That's to say the album isn't good if you like macho, faintly misogynist hard rock with metal tendencies. What immediately strikes me is that the album is probably three tracks too long, Soppy ballad Black Gold, the too poppy Sunshine and the bonus track of the title track featuring Udo Dirkschneider could all be killed. As far as good songs the title track is good as is the sleazily titled Less Torque, More Thrust and the electric version of The Sweet And The Brave (which originally featured acoustically on their Slip It On E.P). These tracks prove that Jettblack are at their best when they are playing fast, hard rocking songs filled with lyrics about love and sex. However they will need to improve their song writing, break some boundaries, and make their next album more concise if they want to progress in future. 7/10 

Royal Thunder: CVI (Relapse)

Maybe it's because they are on Relapse but I knew what to expect from Royal Thunder from the outset, heavy blues riffage with added metallic doom and a heavy acid drop of psych. What I didn't predict was how good it actually was going to be. Hailing from Atlanta the band is the brain child of guitarist Josh Weaver and bassist/vocalist MLny Parsonz. Together they have created a stunning journey through dark musical madness that can be claustrophobic (on South Of Somewhere and Sleeping Witch), dripping with malice (No Good) and a mirror to the rumbling heaviness of bands like Mastodon (Whispering World). However what lifts them out of the normal Stoner rock category are the distinctly alternative smoky and scarred vocals of MLny who is equally adept to a strained shout and a dark croon see: Drown. For a full distillation of their sound check out the epic Shake And Shift which is 9 minutes plus and journeys through the band's light and shade. This is a great album for fans of dark, trippy, heavy rock with a distinct blues edge that is bolstered by the bands playing (Weaver is one hell of a guitar player) and the fine production job. 9/10

Monday 18 June 2012

Reviews: Rush, Gojira, Architects

Rush: Clockwork Angels (Roadrunner)

So the Canadian three-piece return with their new (20th) album and it's something of a corker as it has all the right elements of classic Rush downplaying the acoustic even folky passages from previous release Snakes And Arrows. The album kicks off with the busy Caravan which has a classic Alex Lifeson riff backed by Neil Peart phenomenal drumming and a funky bass lick from Geddy Lee. This segues into the oriental Bu2b which has Kashmir feel to it. As the musicianship is almost not worth commenting on as this is Rush, but they even seem to outdo themselves on this release the title track and following track The Anarchist have all the hallmarks of classic Rush with shifting time signatures and rocking playing, the latter is also a soaring epic with some great orchestration. The first single Headlong Flight is a propulsive rocker that clocks in at over 7 minutes and Halo Effect is a majestic, acoustic ballad that has some striking heartfelt playing. The Garden ends the album in grandiose fashion. This possibly one of the best albums Rush has released to date and it will re-affirm them as the founders of prog-rock. This is another excellent album from Canada's best band. 9/10

Gojira: L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)

The Duplantier brothers return for another slice of progressive metal and they haven't missed a beat. Kicking things off with the bone crushingly heavy Explosiva which immediately hits you with a slow and steady sledgehammer riffage. On this album (which translates to The Wild Child) the band seems almost inhuman with layered vocals, electronic backing and impossibly tight playing. Liquid Fire and its instrumental follow up The Wild Healer are examples of the former with Planned Obsolescence an off-time example of the latter. There are elements of modern progressive death metal like Cynic but also there is a Strapping Young Lad sound to the album, probably due to Joe's vocals and also the soundscapes present on many of the songs. From a technical perspective this album is flawless the riffage are razor sharp and the drumming of Mario Duplantier is superb especially on The Gift Of Guilt this album is Gojira in full flight with all the songs having focussing on responsibility (or so Joe Duplantier says) and the band deliver them in the technical style we have come accustomed to. A cracking album for those who like their metal to be intelligent and heavy as hell! 9/10 

Architects: Daybreaker (Century media)

The future of British metal is secure as Architects return with their new album. Daybreaker shares many similarities with its predecessor The Here And Now. There are clean euphoric choruses, technical playing and great vocals/screaming from Sam Carter whose vocals are still one of the main selling points of the band. What is also still (thankfully) present is the sonic experimentation with some electronic elements in the intro track The Bitter End and on Behind The Throne and progressive elements with InMe being a particular inspiration on Truth Be Told which features some intense guitar harmonies. This album is however much heavier than its predecessor with tracks like Even If You Win, You're Still A Rat (featuring Bring Me The Horizon's Olli Sykes), These Colours Don't Run and first single Devil's Island. This is a great album that melds heavyweight playing with great melodies. 8/10

Friday 15 June 2012

Live & Dangerous: Download Day 3

Download Day 3

Bathed in glorious sunshine this was the final day on Donington's hallowed turf and with a wide spectrum of bands to see I set off early


A very early morning wakeup call from Dez showed that even at this time of day people will still kill each other in the pit. This was another lesson in brutality and destruction from Devildriver with Dead To Rights, Not All Who Wander... and the favourite Clouds Over California all given and airing. It's the same as always but Devildriver always bring the noise. 7/10

Something slightly less noisy now

Reckless Love

Much like Steel Panther Reckless Love *heart* the 80's and in particular Def Leppard and Van Halen. Unlike Panther these guys are younger, prettier and have the tongue slightly out of their cheeks. This is good time party music kicking off with the Def Leppard sounding Animal Attraction and then moving through big 80's style (would have been) hits with front man Olli doing his best David Lee Roth simultaneously being feminine in his looks and masculine in his moves. A band worth watching just for the exuberance of Olli and the EVH-style shredding of guitarist Pepe.  7/10


One of my favourite bands Edguy were given a 30 minute slot which meant that motor-mouth singer Tobias Sammet had to shut up and sing. Which is what he did, mixing cuts from the latest album with classics such as Superheroes, Lavatory Love Machine and King Of Fools. Short concise but nowhere near enough time for Sammet to tell his jokes and exude the bonhomie that he usually does. 7/10

Black Label Society

Something a bit heavier now with Zakk Wylde ripping Download a new one with Crazy Horse two more ballsy anthems followed and then a ten minute guitar solo, filled with squealing and feedback. This ruined the entire set, Zakk could have played more songs in this time but proceeded to show off at festival which let's face it should be hits or GTFO. Even Stillborn couldn't save the set from this miss-judged flight of fancy. 4/10

Lamb Of God

This is more like it! Delivering another crushing blow and wiping away the dreamy cobwebs caused by Zakk's noodling. The Virginian bruisers caused extreme violence with opener Desolation and following up with another newbie in Ghost Walking. From then on it was all out classics ending with the break neck Black Label which was obviously not homage to the band of the same name. 8/10


What I said earlier about hits obviously rings true with Shinedown as they played a set that consisted entirely of songs from their last two breakthrough albums. Sound Of Madness opened proceedings Devour adding a snarl before it was lighters-in-the-air time for Second Chance and the end came with the incredibly poppy Bully. An excellent band performing a crowd-pleasing set. 8/10

Back to the tent (and the front) for


...from Greece. Another balls-out speed metal assault with Gus G's playing being as stellar as usual. Apollo's vocals keep improving as well but the live focal point was Bob Kastanosis who manages to provide rhythm guitar and keyboards at the same time. The band drew heavily from their last three albums with the only classic coming in the form of Falling To Pieces which ended the set. My only complaint would be the brevity of the set and the sound quality meaning that hardly any of Gus' playing could be heard. Oh well roll on the headlining tour in September. 8/10


With fans such as James Hetfield and Phil Anselmo Ghost really should be something else when it comes to the live arena. Thankfully they are and after their haunting intro set the atmosphere Papa Emeritus came on to the stage with his incense flanked by the 'Nameless ghouls' that form the band. Playing a set of tracks from their one and only album those who have seen them before will know the songs but it's the presentation that changes. Every move is choreographed to perfection, between song banter is kept to a minimum, props are used sparingly all to evoke this nature of a cult religion with Papa Emeritus as its leader. His voice fits the 70's occult rock sound that his expertly drilled band provide, this is what BOC must have sounded like in their prime albeit with all their faces visible. However it is this mystery that makes Ghost more than just another retro flavoured band. There is a genuine air of excitement around them that is palpable whenever they play. With set bookmarked by Con Clavi Con Dio and Ritual there was no time to breathe because how expertly the entire package was delivered. This performance shows why Ghost are fully deserving of their star-studded fan club. 9/10

Black Sabbath

After being fully brought over to the dark side it was time for the godfathers of the occult to show their skill. Without the visual aids of Metallica four men came to the stage and played their respective instruments, however what they did bring was a catalogue of the finest heavy metal songs ever created most of which have been copied in some form to this day (I'm looking at you doom/stoner/death metal).
They kicked off with their namesake track which still sends shivers down the spine from the intro on, this was followed in quick succession by The Wizard, Behind The Wall Of Sleep and N.I.B this was pure metal history unfolding in front of us. Ozzy's generally hit-and-miss voice was on top form belting out the tracks like it was the 70's again. The Iron Man Tony Iommi showed no signs of his cancer treatment and his legendary riffs thundered across the Donington night, Geezer Butler still stood toe-to-toe with Iommi and matched him riff-for-riff and they were aided brilliantly by the drumming of Tommy Clufetos who was more than an adequate stand in for the absent Bill Ward. Mixing classics with fan favourites the set was guaranteed to please everyone, Under The Sun was aired just before the triple threat of Snowblind, War Pigs and Sweet Leaf. By the time the crushing strum of Iron Man hit the crowed were fully sucked in Ozzy had them eating out of the palm of his hand and with the last double of Dirty Women and Children Of The Grave a collective exhale was heard as the interval hit, then came the encore the opening riff from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath into the radio-friendly Paranoid (a song so famous even your mum knows it) before finally saying goodbye to the now completely decimated crowd. This wasn't like any other gig; this was a collective thank you from us to them and visa-versa because we all knew that this was the band that started it all. Simply stunning. 10/10

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Live & Dangerous: Download Festival Day 2

Download Festival Day 2 Saturday 9th June

Better weather today and some top-notch bands as well so here we go


Enjoyed them in Cardiff but here they sucked bad left after one and half songs sorry Jericho your walls couldn't hold me. 5/10


Main stage set but very early for the metal legends played the greatest hits and allowed the crowd a choice between three songs before ending with Denim And Leather and And The Bands Played On both of which are about Donington. Biff and the band were on fine form and used the Metallica 'Snake Pit' to full effect getting the early morning crowd revved up. 8/10

Black Veil Brides

This band of Nikki Sixx impersonators failed to connect on every level and even when being confrontational they seemed 'safe' bad show indeed. (Although plenty of kids probably loved them). 4/10


Possibly buoyed by the fact BVB who were on before them were shit. Trivium returned to Donington in crushing style. Claiming that they were going to “Take our fucking heads” before hitting the opening of the unbelievably heavy In Waves the Floridian metallers then laid waste to the crowd with a set mainly based around In Waves and Ascendancy. The new tracks and old favourites worked together and showed that with perseverance bands can become great. Today Trivium were beyond great just a shame they weren't higher up the bill. 9/10

Steel Panther

Another load of Glam metal cock jokes with some good musicianship however the joke is wearing a little thin now especially in the live setting. Sorry gents 6/10

Tenacious D

Should this spot have been taken by an actual band not a joke one? Debateable but when you have a back catalogue of songs that everyone knows why not take to the stage at Download. JB and KG were both on fire as they went through Kickapoo, The Metal, Fuck Her Gently and Tribute. While also throwing in some tracks from the new album which blended seamlessly into the comedic carnage. Black and Gass know how to form a rock show and their band are excellent. However that nagging sensation that Trivium could have played in this slot was still there. 8/10


Welsh Ragga Metallers brought the noise again using dub, metal, reggae, dance and other genre and mixing them up together into one big party M.C.'d by the irreplaceable Benji. Kicking off with Pressure and Ratrace the crowd was bouncing immediately. However Benji did seem to be losing his voice a little (maybe they have toured too much) and were if you weren't at the front of the stage the sound was taken by the wind. Still with a set consisting of mainly tracks from Roots Rock Riot and Union Black the band showed why they are one of the best live bands in the world when they ended with Warning. 8/10


Now it was time for the main event. The biggest metal band in the world playing their biggest selling album in its entirety. The lights dimmed and Lars, James, Kirk and Rob all came to the stage to while Ecstasy Of Gold played before kicking things off with Hit The Lights which was followed by Master Of Puppets, no rest bite as the band were on startling form as they bludgeoned the crowd with two more classics in the shape of Four Horsemen and For Whom The Bell Tolls. The band threw in a new track in the shape of Hell And Back which although worked I think many wanted another classic like Creeping Death or Blackened. Then it was time with the opening riff of The Struggle Within the band set about playing 'The Black Album' in its entirety backwards. The heaviness of the first (last?) four tracks was split by the still fantastic Nothing Else Matters however it was great to hear tracks like Wherever I May Roam, Of Wolf And Man and Don't Tread On Me being played live. The main set ended in the trifecta of Holier Than Thou, Sad But True and the perennial Enter Sandman. Cue fireworks and explosions. These continued into the encore which consisted of Battery a heavily atmospheric One and the finale of Seek And Destroy. With a blast of fireworks and lasers it was all over except for the goodbyes and Metallica ended. This set reminded you why 'The Black Album' is still their highest selling album however as with all album shows you can't please everyone, although those who didn't like the album probably shouldn't have been here. (And thanked whoever it was that suggested this rather than all of St Anger!) 9/10

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Live & Dangerous: Download Festival Day 1

Download Festival Day 1 Friday 8th June 2012

After two days of abject hell in a field due to the torrential rain and appalling organisation Fri was a god send as it meant we could actually see some bands. However these too were delayed due to hay having to be spread on the thick mud of the arena. Because of this Six Hour Sundown, Rise To Remain and Cancer Bats all had to be cancelled due to the delay (Cancer Bats however had their show moved after fourth tent headliner Gallows). So while waiting in the queue, (yes still a queue even with a late opening) I heard, if not saw, Red, White & Blues and what I heard was great with them focussing on the hard rocking songs from their debut. I can't wait to actually see them and give them a full review.


First band I saw proper were American punk band NOFX who played a hit filled set and rallied at the governments of the world with every scuzzy guitar riff and biting lyric.  'Fat' Mike's men no how to put on a show and do anarchistic punk rock with a bubble-gum beat very well. 7/10


A British power metal band playing acoustically? Well it could have worked however despite the good vocals the songs didn't really excite me in this stripped back form. Only a cover of Journey's Separate Ways went ahead and rectified this a bit. 6/10

Then we went to Europe, mainly because there were not many bands on at the same time. However after a wait of half an hour we were told that they were stuck at Heathrow and wouldn't be appearing (although why they didn't then play The Final Countdown over the P.A afterwards was anyone guess as this was the reason why most were here)

Lawnmower Death

All the bands were running late so instead of seeing The Defiled we ended up watching British comedy Thrashers Lawnmower Death whose set of speed riffage shouting and gardening puns won over the crowd watching them and did so with me too. 7/10

Billy Talent

Watching part of Billy Talent's set I was quite frightened that I recognised many of their songs with Falling Leaves being one of tracks form my youth. They played a good hits based set and seemed in good form with the set slightly altered when they invited Cancer Bats on stage to perform Hail Destroyer before ending their own set. 8/10

Little Angels

Having broken up in 1994 Toby Jepson's hard rockers returned to Donington in triumphant form. Again the hits were played and the crowed lapped them up. With hits such as the swinging Too Much, Too Young as well as classics like She's A Little Angel, Kicking Up Dust, Boneyard and the ballad Don't Pray For Me being played in tribute to deceased member Michael Lee. This was a great trip down memory lane from a band that was always overlooked in their prime. 8/10

Bypassing Machine Fucking Head as they were announced as the last headliner for B.O.A just days before I missed them in favour of Mikael Akerfeldt and his band of semi-merry men.


Having spent the last tour playing songs without the guttural roars Opeth rectified this in their 6 song set. They opened with the one-two of Devil's Orchard and Slither Mikael announced that after the very jazzy The Lines In My Hand that he would then play some 'favourites' and he was true to his word with the brutal Demon Of The Fall followed by The Grand Conjuration coming next before the finish came with Deliverance. As usual they all played excellently however their set was nowhere long enough to truly appreciate their songwriting. 8/10


A quick run over to the third stage for the rest of the night (thereby missing Chase & Status and The Prodigy). First on were Soil reunited with original vocalist Ryan McCombs who sounded in fine form. The bands set list was composed by the majority of their debut album Scars with many who were young in the early 2000's on a massive nostalgia trip. The heavy riffage coupled with McCombs vocals still worked very well and the band drew a huge crowd. The final song Halo was welcomed by a rapturous cheer and was slightly dampened by the failure of McCombs mic but it was saved by the crowd knowing every word. Great to see them back. 8/10


I don't know any of the songs but I knew from two members of this 'super group' that they would be good. Featuring BFMV Matt Tuck on guitar and Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier on vocals the band opened with an almost Slayer sounding song before proceeding with a set of heavy, aggressive metal with real groove and thrash influences. Cormier’s' vocals were at their violent best and even when Tuck sang he hand more venom than he does in Bullet. A cover of Fucking Hostile came in the middle of their set but on the back of playing a set of unknown songs this band is definitely a brutal side project to keep. 8/10

Devin Townsend Project

With less of a crowd than there was for Soil (due to The Prodigy and Slash being on the other two stages) the Canadian madman was always going to be the niche choice. Before the set was a compilation of internet videos and then they burst onto the stage with Seventh Wave from Ocean Machine. Due to his huge back catalogue with 5 bands there was never going to be any shortage of songs but he concentrated the first part of the set on the Ocean Machine album with Regulator before following it with a political message from Ziltoid and the crushing prog opera of By Your Command. Life was next and this segued into the three tracks from the Addicted album with Ih-Ah, Supercrush! And the bouncy but heavy Bend It Like Bender! Which were bridged by Kingdom and followed by Deconstruction’s Juular before Vampira and Bad Devil ended the set. Devin is a consummate professional and totally insane giving himself oral with a blow up dolphin, cracking jokes, wearing numerous hats from the audience and providing each song with mid-song commentary (especially on Bend It Like Bender where he proclaimed “Canned vocals!” when Anneke Van Giersbergen’s pre-recorded album vocals played over the chorus). I would travel to see this man again as he is pure entertainment. 9/10

Saturday 2 June 2012

Reviews: Jorn, Howlin Rain, Red White & Blues

Jorn: Bring Heavy Rock To The World (Frontiers)

'The Duke' has returned in fine form with his brand of heavy rock dosed with metal. After his previous album Dio which was a tribute to the great man he has obviously taken some of his cues with the intro piece referencing the Ronnie at his most introspective and sets up the title track brilliantly which has to be the companion piece to Rock N Roll Children with its mid-paced relentless riff. He has also added a bit of prog to the proceedings with the 8 minute A Thousand Cuts. This is Jorn Lande doing what he does best and his vocals are excellent and the backing band he has assembled are also very good contributing greatly to album as does Tommy Hansen's production which is crisp and modern. This album has a large scope of influences meaning that Lande has adequate room to flex his vocal muscles. There are two covers on the album one is Ride Like The Wind which sounds almost identical to the Saxon version of the song and the other is a hard rock version of Time To Be King from Lande's other band Masterplan. One of these would have been enough not both. However that minor gripe aside, this another great album form one of heavy rocks best (and most in demand) vocalists. 8/10 

Howlin Rain: The Russian Wilds (American Recordings)

This is Howlin Rain's third album and it's a corker. Howlin Rain are the all of the band from late 60's early 70's San Francisco (which is where the band hail from) rolled into one neat package. They play heavy blues, soaked in psychedelia and some folk. The album is 11 sprawling tracks all which are filled with reverb drenched guitars with some superb soloing and lots of Hammond organ. The drums are jazz-influenced with offbeat time signature and brushes being the norm. The bass is funky and backs the band well. The opening track Self Made Man is the best introduction to the band with the rest of the album following on in blues rock trip. This is a great album harking back to when the San Francisco music scene was at its peak. Well worth tracking down. 8/10  

Red, White & Blues: Shine (Self-released)

Formed by Matti Alfonzetti (bass and vocals) and Myke Gray (Guitars) Red, White & Blues are a heavy rock band in the vein of Whitesnake, Van Halen, Thunder and (Myke Gray's previous band) Skin. Unlike Skin this band are (as the title suggests) more blues based and opening with Stand Up For Rock & Roll which immediately shows the bands hand with some glorious hard rock riffage and melodic soloing. The rest of the album has a similar vein mixing between, big, balls out hard rocker and great soaring ballads. The album weighs in at 14 tracks but with stormers such as Let it Shine, Red, White & Blues, Girls And Guitars and The Road To Hell there is not a weak track. Gray's guitar playing is excellent and Alfonzetti's voice is gravelly and powerful in the rockers and soulful in the ballads. In the ballad sections Long Way From Home has all the lyrical clichés of Mr Coverdale and co. and Counts For Nothing is very similar to In My Time Of Dying. This is a fantastic hard rock album by two men who are very experienced at what they do. A future classic album is born! 9/10