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Sunday 10 April 2016

Reviews: Judas Priest, Colour Of Noise, Holy Dragons (Reviews By Paul)

Judas Priest: Battle Cry (Colombia)

The mighty metal gods are not afraid of releasing the odd live album or two. One of my all-time favourite live albums is Priest Live from the mid-1980s, which captured the Priest in full pomp as they dominated the States with a no hold barred assault. Having stormed back into full form with 2014’s Redeemer Of Souls, Battle Cry captures the band on fire at 2015’s Wacken Festival. The set list mirrors the show I saw at Wolverhampton Civic Hall in December of that year, covering their stunning back catalogue which mixed with some of the real killer tunes from their last release. Opener Dragonaut is classic Priest with a current twist; thick riffs, powerful rhythm and of course the metal god himself Rob Halford proving he can still deliver the goods (sorry!)

With a set list that is stuffed fuller than a fat bird’s gusset, you can just take your pick of metal anthems. Listen to Metal Gods; Halford may no longer hit the glass shattering heights as regularly as he once did but he has adapted his live performance brilliantly and this is captured in all its glory on this release. Priest live remains a slick machine and with Richie Faulkner adding fresh energy to the rock solid core of the band old favourites such as Victim Of Changes (where Halford is immense as do the Wacken Crowd) and Beyond The Realms Of Death sound as current as Halls Of Valhalla and Redeemer Of Souls. Of course the sing-a-longs are also the staples in the set; Breaking The Law, Hell Bent For Leather are delivered with power before the climax; an absolutely blistering Painkiller complete with Halford’s vocal performance the icing on this most brilliant of tracks. This is the sound of a band enjoying a new lease of life and of course in front of a crowd who truly respect their legendary status. 8/10

Colour Of Noise: Colour Of Noise (Self Released)

Sometimes you miss the odd release but it’s so good that it deserves a review when you finally get hold of it. Having been mightily impressed with Colour Of Noise in their support slot with Toseland at The Globe in mid-March, to the extent that I picked up their album at the merch table before I left the gig, I was looking forward to hearing the guys first full release. Initially released via a pledge campaign late in 2015, this is an album crammed full of quality rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not fancy, it’s not crammed full of epic marathon 10 minute songs but it is 36 minutes of superbly crafted good time music. So what makes it so good? Well, to start with the general vibe of every track makes it impossible to avoid nodding your head, tap your foot or quite quickly sing along. Secondly, the guitar work of Bruce John Dickinson is second to none. No virtuoso noodling but just simple and effective with a steel that has been formed over many years during his time on the circuit with outfits such as Little Angels.

Thirdly, the band has a real ace upfront and central with the fantastic pipes of Matt Mitchell. The Furyon front man has a stunning voice, ideally suited to tracks such as Head On, Medicine Man and foot stomping opener Can You Hear Me? And finally, providing a solid and reliable foundation you have Andy Nixon, Dan Lundholm and Ben Daniel who hold the whole thing together. Dirty riffs are prevalent throughout; there are no ballads hidden in this beauty with Drive It Like You Stole It and Rock Bottom just pumping hard rock. Colour Of Noise is a storming debut dripping with an infectious groove which will bring a smile to the hardest of faces. Having seen the guys live, I know they can deliver too. Highly recommended. 9/10
Holy Dragons: Civilizator (Pitch Black)

The world of hard rock and heavy metal is renowned for being a global product, with bands across the world carving their own niches out in their own way; often unheard and only supported by a minor hardcore element. However, these bands continue to develop and persevere and for that they get massive kudos. Holy Dragons sit firmly in this camp, hailing from Kazakhstan.
Incredibly, Civilizator is their 14th release. The band were formed in 1992 by Jurgen Thunderson (lead and acoustic guitars, synthesizers and backing vocals), the only original member. Alongside Thunderson, fellow shredder Chris “Thorheim” Caine is joined by drummer Antonio “Deimos” Repablo, bassist Ivan Manchenko and vocalist Alexander “Demoraivola” Kuligin. Not being familiar with their other 13 albums, I took this release on face value. At over 70 minutes, this is a weighty album which requires commitment. If you can hold your nerve, then Civilizator is a pleasing mix of old and new styles of traditional heavy metal.

The crazy Bat Bomb sees Kuligin delivering a fine Geoff Tate style delivery with a powerful and confident vocal performance. Indeed, this is one of the stand out tracks on the album, merging the pace and frantic gallop of power metal with the chunkier riffage of bands such as Queensryche. Fusing old school keyboard sounds that hark back to medieval times, there is a lot going on in a song that is complex but well crafted. Some of the guitar work from Thunderson and Caine is top drawer. However, the track is slightly disjointed at the fade with an acoustic section which doesn’t sit comfortably with the rest of the song. Holy Dragons mix up their styles throughout this release but favour the faster approach of classic British and German bands; pick any number of the power metal stable from Blind Guardian through to Primal Fear and add the more traditional sound of Saxon, Raven, Maiden as well as some Annihilator type thrash and you have a potent mix of metal.

They are not afraid of the odd political statement either, with No Oil No War, Through The Wall Of Lies, My Fear and Stop The War! Pretty damn clear in their messages. No Oil No War in particular is a brooding Maidenesque track which builds over its eight minutes. Holy Dragons clearly love what they do and they do it well. The shorter tracks such as Hawker Hurricane and Secret Friend hark back to the 1980s where metal was either just heavy or hair. This is a solid release which contains some real gems. 7/10

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