Devil You Know: They Bleed Red (Nuclear Blast)
Howard Jones was always the part of Killswitch Engage that I could tolerate both on record and live, he always seemed a little out of place, almost like he was filling in for Jesse Leach, until his eventual return. He always seemed at odds with Adam D's more irreverent style and the bands metalcore by numbers shtick. Jones' excellent vocals were meant for so much more than this and when the first Devil You Know album came out the it wasn't the break away it should have been, however on this second record the gloves are well an truly off, the band have branched out a bit expanding their sound from the metalcore styling of the debut, with thrash, djent and even hard rock, but its the brutal blast beats that kick this album off with Consume The Dead having the super fast introduction to the album before the shout along breakdown stomp of The Way We Die and Your Last Breath takes things back to the debut.
Stay Of Execution is a modern technical track with some searing guitar work from Francesco Artusato and the impressive vocal range of Jones crooning and screaming in equal measure, with some great metal on show throughout the band expertly blend heaviness, aggression and melody, the thrash-like Shattered Silence will incite mighty pits with its furious explosive delivery, a track that is at odds to the following song Let The Pain Take Hold which is a ballad of epic proportions that has Jones singing his heart out. In fact you get a lot of bang for your buck on this record as it clocks in at a hefty 14 tracks, including a cover of Survivor's Eye Of The Tiger which as you might imagine is as madcap as his previous band's famous cover of Holy Diver. This is an album that will hopefully win people over, but there will still be some that don't like the American metal style but for fans of Jones and especially fans of Killswitch this album will tick all the boxes, in fact it's better than the last few Killswitch albums. 8/10
Waken Eyes: Exodus (Ulterium Music)
Many of you may be unaware of Tom Frelek and yes he is a relative unknown but he is the brains behind Waken Eyes writing the bulk of it and also contributing guitars and keys to this the bands debut record. Now let's get this out of the way now Frelek is a superb musician and one that can perfectly supply top quality progressive metal his guitar playing is classically influenced and virtuoso at times with Michael Romeo, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert all springing to mind as Frelek melts the fretboard with sensational precision riffage and explosive soloing. Now obviously Frelek needed a band for this album so he recruited a rhythm section that are as musically gifted as he is; on bass he has Michael Romeo's foil in Symphony X Mike LePond and on drums he has Paul Gilbert and Steven Wilson sticksman Marco Minnemann, so with the instrumental section so strong the pressure was on to find a vocalist that could stand up with the best in the progressive metal, well Frelek has done brilliantly with Henrik Båth who sings in his own prog/power metal band Darkwater, now I love Darkwater and a lot of this love comes due to Båth's incredible booming croon.
He sings with real passion and power and suits this albums progressive and conceptual nature, Frelek says the album is about "being fearless and every song has something to do about fearlessness. The theme came from the struggles of everyday life that everyone deals with. How people, emotions, media, governments can enforce fear upon you to make you think a certain way to more or less control you." which leads to intelligent, emotive lyricism as well as impressive, stirring musical pieces, that pack as much intelligent playing into them as possible as only the album ending title track clocks in at over 10 minutes. Cognition starts things off with just a simple piano and Minnemann's drums before Abberation weaves it's magic as Båth gives breathy delivery and the instrumentation builds as it speeds up in the middle section, the doomy Deafening Thoughts comes next and Back To Life has classical acoustics that are prime Dream Theater. This album was sold to me as prog metal but it's not really, yes the guitars crunch when need to but for the most part this is prog rock, the metal does come thick and fast with jazz-like bass rhythms on Palisades which bursts into a Maiden style gallop, however for the most part it's prime prog rock with metallic touches throughout. With brilliant album stuffed full of songs that will take you on a journey into sublime musicianship Waken Eyes are a great progressive band that should be at the top of the list for all fans of intricate progressive music. 9/10
Stormbringer: Blood & Rust (Transcend Music)
Northamptonshire rockers Stormbringer were formed in 2011 by ex Viking Skull and DeadEye guitarist Dom Wallace and Ash Smith guitarist of Nekkrosis they set about recruiting Jon Paul Quantrill on drums and Darren McCullagh on bass and releasing their debut MMXIII (in 2012 surprisingly) which went on to get them numerous tours plus performances at Download and Bloodstock. Since the debut though they lost their original singer but have found replacement for this sophomore album in the shape of Jimi Brown. Now Stormbringer play metallic hard rock, so all the hooks and fist pumping of a hard rock band like Buckcherry and Slash but with the metallic edge of Metallica. This means that the band sound a lot like Bullet For My Valentine and even one of my favourites New Device mainly due to Brown's vocal delivery. The instrumental title track starts things off before No Redemption mixes Maiden with KISS and Rise is deep in the realms of Matt Tuck and co with a thundering riff and the dark/light balance that BFMV have always struck well.
This album is very, very good the band all play their instruments with passion and fire, the rollicking Bad Blood is for this as it evokes the sleaze style of Josh Todd and co, while Unto Me is chugging dirty rocker with some bile stored up before Ashamed shows Quantrill and McCullagh's destructive rhythm section, while joining it with rumbling groove. As I said the band are metallic hard rock with the guts of rock band and the aggression of a metal band, with radio bothering tunes like the powerful No Return which could have come off any of the four Alter Bridge albums with it's huge riff, concise soaring solo and Brown's Kennedy-like vocals. This is modern hard rock at it's best and Stormbringer could become the British heirs to the American's radio-rock throne and to be honest any band that ends an album with a supercharged cover of Talking Heads' Psychokiller is all right in my book. Lets hope this album will break them as it draws from a wide range of influences and shows exactly what the band can do on record and hints to their live arena power! Almost guaranteed to be on many year end lists! 10/10