Marauder: Bullethead (Pitch Black Records)
Since 1991 Marauder have been flying the flag for Greek epic/power metal, the band have a history of staggering albums by four years and Bullethead is no exception their previous release was in 2012 so this sixth album follows the pattern and once again comes four years after it's predecessor (maybe it's me being a bit OCD but I like this approach). The band once again have made an album that deals with the de rigueur themes of fantasy, war, history and of course metal itself, like bands such as Sabaton, Bloodbound and Majesty, Marauder are true metal, so if you are not a fan of chest beating metal power, then you'd better leave the hall as quickly as possible.
As soon as Son Of Thunder kicks in with powerful classic metal riff Marauder show that they mean business with the twin axe attack trading off licks and solos, bolstered by the frantic rhythm section, this is traditional metal by numbers but delivered with a grit that sees them harking back to the early days of NWOBHM where everything wasn't so polished. Kudos has to go to their new singer for having a gravelly baritone vocal that sounds a bit like DiAnno and holds up remarkably until the final track Set Me Free where for some reason it does seem to falter, maybe it's the pace of the track, but on tracks like the sublimely stupid Metal Warriors, Tooth N Nail (not a Dokken cover thankfully) and Predators he really shows his impressive vocal. The whole album is let down a little by the production which I will say is rather thin especially on the drums which sound a bit tinny for a few tracks, but putting this aside Bullethead is a traditional metal album full of fist pumping anthems that show that Marauder are still raiding a well worn seam but one that keeps on giving. 8/10
Solar Suns: The Great Blue Divide (Self Released)
Dundee's (Scotland) Solar Sons are labelled as progressive band but one listen to their debut album, in this incarnation they were formally known as Inferior Planet, you can hear that prog is only half the story in fact the band are very good at blending more ethereal sounds with the gutsy thrust of Maiden, early Rush or bands such as Leprous, Haken Kings X or Canadian posse Tiles. They are a heavy prospect but not in a metal way, the three piece rely on intricate guitar playing from Danny Lee and a rock solid boiler room in his brother Rory and drummer Peter Garrow, Fold opens proceedings with a Maiden like epic song, before any sort of prog po-faceness is driven away by Twisted Mistress which is a jazz-laden schizophrenic track that could have come from London madmen The Earls Of Mars as it is silliness of the finest order. Bassist Rory definitely plays a lead bass, it is very high in the mix giving the songs a lot of groove and enforcing the King's X similarities (albeit without the God bothering), when combine their music with his unique gritty vocals you get the idea that Solar Sons are no normal prog band.
They throw everything into the musical melting pot; Peripheral Interest has Floydian guitar part with a more modern chorus and once again a Maiden style gallop which once again is driven by Rory's bassline and 'Arry and Co's sound is also all over Revolution's But A Dream especially on Pete's cymbal work. This album keeps your attention as you are not sure where it's going to next but also it does seem to jump from one style to another without much to link them. There are some weak links on this record too unfortunately Tatanka and Black Rain being the two I'd pick but all is forgiven on Lost To Psychosis which brings a SOAD weirdness to the metallic backing. The Great Blue Divide is trying to be a good album but it's a bit too scatter gun in places, a bit too Maiden in others and the production does it no favours at all, hopefully the band can streamline a bit on their next record to tighten everything up a bit. 6/10
Master Charger: Eroding Empires (Self Released)
Nottingham based stoner metal crew Master Charger have returned after a five year absence of recording. The three piece play bruising stoner metal that Monster Magnet, Down and Corwbar would be comfortable with, think heaving riffs, thumping basslines and powerhouse drumming. As the record kicks off with the riff fest of Damn Me Forever the band show their colours this is noisy heavy and aggressive with JP shouting and howling at the mic, with a distinctly American styled vocals, while he plays some slide and reverb drenched guitar on top of Dave Hayes fuzz bass, Dwell In The Doom has a hazy early Orange Goblin vibe to it with the trippy middle section that carries over into the colossal Turn The Tides which has slow sludgy riff and some impatient percussion from Jon Kirk which is just waiting for the chance to explode which does happen towards the end.
Eroding Empires is a great stoner metal release, there is a real sense of power throughout, it's the sort of record Monster Magnet used to make surrounded by a weed-smoke fug with a low-frequnecy audio assault that hits you in the kidney's, Blessed Be... brings back the Orange Goblin/Sabbath style bounce in the riff while the 8 minute plus In Hell's Grip slows the pace and shifts in style throughout, before Death Trails goes for the more is more advice with layer upon layer of headache inducing heaviness. Master Charger have returned with emphatic statement, they are back from the abyss and ready to once again shake your skeleton to dust with their heavy stoner metal. Eroding Empires just begs to be played loud with a herbal remedy at hand. 8/10