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Tuesday 8 March 2016

Reviews: Beholder, Ricky Warwick, Eric Bell

Beholder: Reflections (Razorline Music)

British metal bruisers Beholder have once again returned with a new set of heavy anthems to unleash. The West Midlands four-piece have followed up their 2013 record The Order Of Chaos with an album that should go on to define them, their previous two records have shifted their sound and have featured some experimentation with sounds, Reflections sees everything coming together sound wise meaning that Beholder sound louder, angrier and more accomplished than ever before. The band have knowingly tried to replicate their ball breaking live sound on this record and personally I think they've done a damn good job, there is a new meanness to this record that seems to have invigorated proceedings, the propulsive djent-like Frozen Steps Of Utoya sees Scott Taylor's guitar and Si Fielding's bass combining for the riff fuelled assault while Chris Bentley's percussive barrage explodes relentlessly. I,Machine is more classic metal with a head banging groove reminiscent of Lamb Of God. Before we go back to more palm muted technicality on Heal My Wounds. Beholder have always had a huge social conscience, the songs on Reflections still deal with the band's discontent with politicians, big business and human beings as a whole and their rage is delivered in the shape of 10 fists-in-the-air metal anthems, with My Revolution it's climatic rallying cry.

Led by the heavy riffage and destructive drumming, Reflections once again has Simon Hall's excellent vocals topping things off, one minute they give a bellowing emotive delivery and the next a bile filled roar. Dance Macabre slows things down with grungy low down riff before everything once again speeds up with more powerful modern metal on Breathe On Silence, in fact the modern metal sound has infected this record more so than on previous albums which contributes to it's ferocity, with tracks like Army Of One blowing you away with its sheer percussive force, although the progressive nature of the band is still telling on much of the record, with Speak To Me seeing them calling on a more melodic approach to end the record. Reflections sees Beholder getting more accomplished and more aggressive with every release, these tracks are going to be impressive live that's a given but as for the record it's one to play LOUD!! 8/10

Ricky Warwick: When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues)/ Hearts On Trees (Nuclear Blast)

This double album from Black Star Riders/Thin Lizzy/ex-Almighty frontman is actually two albums in one. The first album When Patsy Cline... is the electric record released through PledgeMusic in 2014 but amped up a bit for this major label (we can call Nuclear Blast major label now right?) that fuses the hard rock and Celtic influences of Lizzy/BSR albeit with a biting punk snarl of Warwick's earlier bands. Hearts On Trees however is a more stripped back, acoustic affair built on the tours Warwick has done with Damon Johnston who appears on both records along with Joe Elliot (Def Leppard), Andy Cairins (Therapy?), Billy Morrison (Billy Idol), Nathan Connolly (Snow Patrol), Richard Fotus (GNR, Dead Daisies, Thin Lizzy), Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers) and Ginger Wildheart (The Wildhearts, Solo) who also contribute to this recording as part of Warwick's solo band The Fighting Hearts. This entire project has a air of Ginger (Wildheart not the root) about it, with punky Celtic rock n roll the songs move between salutes to excess on Celebrating Sinking, folky storytelling on Johnny Ringo's Last Ride and working class anthems that tell the tale of his Irish upbringing on the title track and the rumbling Toffee Town (which may or may not be about Everton FC).

Along with Ginger there's nods to Springsteen, Dylan and even The Clash on this record, there is a lot of musical variation but most of it stays true to the roots that Warwick has laid down on his past works. That's Where The Story Ends is prime Johnny Cash with a parping brass section fleshing it out. The rock disc is the better of the two but Hearts On Trees has it's moments with Tank McCullough Saturdays telling the tale of Billy 'The Tank' McCullough a former footballer that played for Northern Ireland and Glentoran (Warwick's favourite team), while Psycho is a deeply unsettling and dark track with a melodic edge to it, before things go a bit Flogging Molly on the title track Hearts On Trees. Ricky Warwick has perfectly distilled both his influences and his own style on theses two discs, his songwriting and vocals are top notch and if you area a fan of anything he has been involved in then you will lap this up, it's a bit Lizzy, a bit BSR a bit Almighty with heap of influences thrown in, for everyone that is not familiar with Warwick I urge you to seek out the record as will, find that this solo record is full of strong, rootsy rock music that in places stirs the soul and brings Warwick as a performer outside of the Lizzy/BSR mothership back into the spotlight. 8/10  

Eric Bell: Exile (Of The Edge)

From current Lizzy to former Lizzy alumnus, with the most recent album from founding guitarist Eric Bell. Since the Lizzy days Eric Bell has been chugging away with his solo band since the early 80's and he has be treading a blues groove that was key to Lizzy's sound on their first three albums. This sound translates well to this most recent solo album which sees Bell playing everything except drums which are added by Joe Oakes, the songs are layered affairs having the same kind of clean, acoustic based sound that Mark Knopfler has always favored in Dire Straits. The first track Deep In Your Heart is the ideal example of this sound with some fluid guitar playing, a layered sound and Bell's Belfast accent coming through on the vocals, the stuttering guitar of Don't Love Me No More is more traditional blues with a lament of women being the theme, while Gotta Say Bye Bye is heart breaker of a ballad. There are some great tracks on this record Vote For Me is very prevalent in these times of politicians that are all style no substance with the title track a Celtic styled lament to past mistakes. As I've said the playing on this album is subtle and nuanced Bell let's the songs breathe, it's only on Song For Gary (a tribute to Gary Moore) that he really lets rip on his axe, giving the overall experience a relaxing feel (something that can be welcomed here at MoM towers) Exile is not an album that is meant to garner attention, it's not Lizzy, it's not supposed to be but it is the sound of a man doing things his own way and not compromising his roots. 7/10

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