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Monday 10 February 2014

Reviews: Primal Fear, Chrome Division, Augustines

Primal Fear: Delivering the Black (Nuclear Blast) (Review By Paul)

2014’s power metal season opens on a high with this offering from German veterans Primal Fear. Opener King For A Day opens at a blistering pace with multiple solos, driving bass lines and thundering drums along with the soaring vocals of founder member Ralf Scheepers. This is German power metal at its best. Think Helloween circa 1986 and you have the standard. There are no surprises but many excellent tracks which really get the head nodding vigorously. Rebel Faction follows with a similar driving pace, huge driving rhythms and crunching guitars from Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt. The drumming on this track is monstrous, Randy Black running on his double bass pedals ably supported by the driving Harris-esque bass lines of Matt Sinner. When Death Comes Knocking has a slightly calmer opening and slower pace throughout allowing Scheeper to deliver his lyrics assisted by the harmonies that one would expect from old school power metal. As you would expect from a band with nine previous releases under their belt, this is a tight and crafted release. Alive And On Fire is a rocky fist pumper with traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo and one that should really produce some fantastic air guitar in the live arena. As with the majority of German power metal bands, this is an album that follows a formulaic and well-trodden path but hey, don't get me wrong. This is great stuff and sits comfortably alongside Accept and the awesome Freedom Call in the genre. Delivering The Black, the title track has massive Dio influences and the lyrical content of many of the tracks have the great man’s lyrical themes. Penultimate track Born With A Broken Heart is the obligatory power ballad that will have lighters aloft. Album closer Inseminoid ensures that the ballad is a distant memory, powering through with similar drive and gusto to the majority of the tracks on the album. This is power metal at its finest. How about a slot at BOA? 8/10

Chrome Division: Infernal Rock Eternal (Nuclear Blast) (Review By Paul)

The fourth album from Dimmu Borgir frontman Shagrath’s side project and a cracker it is too. Opening with a brief instrumental Good Morning Riot the tempo is cranked up immediately with Endless Nights which is a straight in-your-face heavy rock track. A stomping rhythm underpins the track, with the vocals of Athera (From Susperia) grabbing your attention from the off. Some top soloing from Kjell Aage Karlsen (Aka Damage) on lead guitar throughout this track and this is an opener of intent, totally setting the scene for what is about to come. Some ingenious use of a vocoder adds a little extra. This is pretty far removed from the symphonic black metal that Shagrath is better known for with the next track (She’s) Hot Tonight continuing in the heads down metal vein. Group choruses, driving bass and drums and excellent soloing; it’s all here. This is biker rock with a flavour of 1980s metal at its best. The Absinthe Voyage maintains the momentum, thundering along like an out of control juggernaut before the pace slows with the anthemic Lady Of Perpetual Sorrow. The pace picks straight back up with the next track The Moonshine Years swiftly followed by No Bet For Free which has Motorhead’s classic influence coursing through it. This is good stuff. On The Run Again takes a more bluesy rock approach but continues to blast out, Athera’s gruff vocals complemented by the sing-along choruses and Age Troite’s driving bass lines. Mistress In Madness is the fastest track on the album, with pulverising drums from Tony White the main feature as this wild horse gallops along. This is straightforward heads down rock ‘n’ roll metal, pure and simple. However, it is delivered with style and confidence, grabbing you in the nuts from the start and dragging you along for the ride. No fillers on this album and the closer Dirty Dog is downright sleazy filth, Motley Crue but with more guts. If you like your metal served with no-nonsense then this is one for you. Excellent stuff! 9/10

Augustines: S/T (Oxcart Records)

Augustines (formally We Are Augustines) are now on their second album and they have really hit the overdrive button on this one. Their debut was based upon the personal experiences of Singer/guitarist Billy McCarthy, mainly the deaths of his mother and brother, delivered with the workingman, Americana style of The Boss and The Gaslight Anthem. On Augustines the mood is still serious but more celebratory, after the ghostly electronic opening of Intro (I Touch Imaginary Hands) the album picks up pace with wall-of-sound like production and as many instruments as possible thrown in to create a African spiritual style song Cruel City replete with the chanting backing vocals. This opening song sounds like it was pulled straight off Paul Simon's seminal Graceland album and it plunges straight into Nothing To Lose But Your Head which has all the reverberated staccato guitar of early (and relevant) U2 albeit with a McCarthy's grizzled, wounded vocals that howl over these layers of sound provided mainly by multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson who has bass, guitars, keys all under his remit and keeping the beat is Rob Allen who does a stirling job by adding little flourishes in many of the songs and is the main driving force behind the reflective Weary Eyes which is the kind of song Brandon Flowers wishes he could write and it is followed by another powerful anthem Now You look Back which shows off McCarthy's voice at it's best, yes it's an acquired taste but it works so well with this rootsy style of songwriting in both rockers and the plaintive ballads like Walkabout. Yes the ghost of Springsteen is there with the soul stirring songwriting and every man storytelling, but the band also have the musical chops of Neil Young, the edginess of Nick Cave, the sadness of Leonard Cohen and lots of modern influences to keep them as contemporary as possible, like alluded to earlier the band sound like a more mature version of modern 'rock' bands like The Killers, Kings Of Leon etc. With Arise Ye Sunken Ships their debut it was the sound of  band finding their feet and convincing themselves that what they were doing was worth the adversity they wrote about on the album, this record however is the sound of a band showing the world at large that they are not only talented songwriters and performers but they are also vital for both their honesty and their integrity. This is an excellent album that will set Augustines on a path to world wide recognition!! 10/10    

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