Holy Grail: Times Of Pride And Peril (Prosthetic Records)
Former White Wizzard members Jame Paul Luna (vocals) and Tyler Meahl (drums) formed Holy Grail in 2009 after leaving White Wizzard, now where as White Wizzard continued with huge problems and are now on a hiatus Holy Grail have gone from strength to strength releasing albums that increase in quality every time. Their last record Ride The Void came out in 2013 so since then they have toured honing themselves in both Holy Grail and in Meahl and guitarist Eli Santana as part of Huntress, this time away from the band has made this their third album possibly the best so far. The speed metal of their first two records is still what the band do best, dual axe attack galore from Santana and Alex Lee who riff like mad and blaze away with the solo, the thundering rhythm section Meahl and Blake Mount is like a machine gun in the back room, especially on ragers like Sudden Death which shows another reason why Holy Grail are still alive and kicking.
The band know how to flesh out their sound, yes they draw from classic influences such as Pro Patria Mori but also they have power metal and modern American metal influences to draw on meaning that they are from the nostalgia act category that many of their compatriots fall into. Descent Into The Maelstrom shows this with an old school feel but a distinctly modern edge, this also very much present on No More Heroes which could have come off a Trivium album. Much of modern this is due to Paul Luna's vocals that are really unique with a husky high pitched delivery meaning the band sound like few others, he even tries a bit of growling on the album's epic finally Black Lotus. On Times Of Pride And Peril Holy Grail have moved up another level with the European and Modern American metal influences abound, I have always been a keen supporter of Holy Grail and once again they proved why I hold them in high regard. 8/10
Persona: Elusive Reflections (Self Released)
Tunisia is not the biggest hot bed for metal, I personally only know of three bands from the region, these are Nawather (reviewed by Paul recently), Lost Insen (reviewed in 2014) and probably the region's most well known band Myrath (supporting Symphony X on their UK tour). However now there is a fourth band I would add to that list, Persona are a female fronted symphonic metal band from the North African state, Elusive Reflections is their debut album and it is imbued with a sense of confidence many bands lack on their first roll of the dice. The band are seen as an influential band on the Tunisian scene and with this debut they may now have a chance of exposing their talent to the wider world.
Personally I can't think of a better album to do this with as Elusive Reflections is exactly what you would want from a band such as Persona, it blends chunky progressive metal with synth driven symphonics and Middle Eastern/North African influences so if you think Orphaned Land meets Within Temptation you'd be on the right track. As the album starts off we get the Arabic touches from the off on Somebody Else which moves into the excellent Blinded which sounds very like Ms Den Adel and co all blastbeat drums, heavy riffs and flowing synths underpinning everything. This track shows off founder member and lead guitarist Melik Melek Khelifa's slick lead playing, which is one of the album's strongest points, the solos are used sparingly adding some melodic flourishes to the songs.
Front-woman and founder member Jelena Dobric's soaring vocals are pretty much perfectly, she shines throughout this record with a clean, crystal clear vocal delivery that glides above the crunchy riffs fluidly brilliantly she also can growl on the groove laden Monsters exhibiting her vocal dexterity. The rest of the band are no slouches though either with the three person rhythm section driving the songs with passion and ability as the keys wind their way over the top of the metallic bass. Persona easily meld the intensity of metal with the more romantic operatic notions of classical music all wrapped up in a progressive/symphonic package. In a very oversubscribed genre of female fronted metal, lets hope that people take notice of this band as they are very good, they have just enough it sublime debut from a band that have the talent to go very far indeed, they are added to the list and very near the top on this evidence. 9/10
Lugnet: S/T (Pride & Joy Music)
Ah the 70's, the halcyon era where things seemed freer, the clothes were wilder, the opinions were tougher and the music, well the music was incredible. Rock in particular seemed to be having it's best time with many of the bands we consider to be legendary today all in their infancy and maturing throughout the decade. This then is probably the reason for the large amount of bands apeing the sounds from this bygone era, with the Swedes leading the charge. The next band in line to give the 70's a rogering is Lugnet (Swedish for tranquility) who play gritty, heads down, rock n roll for bikers, fighters and lovers. With nods to Purple, Whitesnake, Lizzy as well as modern contemporaries such as Black Spiders, Audrey Horne and Germans Kadavar, this is the sound of the early 70's with the band firing on all cylinders throughout. What immediately jumps out at you is the quality of the songwriting and playing on offer here especially the pipes of Roger Solander who is a ringer for Badlands, Sabbath singer Ray Gillen vocally having a deep resonant delivery capable of making you take notice. Add to this the superb dirty guitar of riffers Mackan and Bonden all backed by the filthy rhythms of Z's bass and Jansson's drums and you get a match made in rock n roll heaven. As I've said the songs on this record are great and from the get go there is no letting up from the strike of the first chord of All The Way, which has Grindhouse style video featuring Quentin Tarantino's favourite Swedish actress Christina Linberg who reprises her role of the eye patched assassin Frigga from the banned 1974 cult revenge flick Thriller. After All The Way punches you in the guts the remaining 7 tracks continue the assault with very little slowing down for breath, the album culminates with the 10 minute Into The Light which is an ambitious outing for any band but one that pays off in spades for Lugnet. I've noted before that the Swedes do this sort of thing very well and Lugnet are another band that have burst out of the country with collection of snarling rock anthems that are best enjoyed with a beer, some flares and a damn good violent protest, Lugnet evoke a decade gone by where music was just better, thankfully we have bands like them reminding us of that fact. 9/10