Thunderstone: Apocalypse Again (AFM Records)
Thunderstone are one of the most well known bands in the power metal and their sixth album sees original frontman and the 'voice' of Thunderstone Pasi Rantanen returning to the fold after At Vance's Rick Altzi gave it a jolly good go on their previous release Dirt Metal. However as good as Altzi is Thunderstone has always been the home of Rantanen and with their prodigal brother back in the fold Thunderstone feel whole again. They sound whole again too Rantanen's gruff delivery is evident from the opening rage of Veterans Of The Apocalypse which has the classic Thunderstone hallmarks shared by bands such as Sontata Arctica with the duelling guitar and keys sprinting along backed by double kickdrums giving the songs that traditional power metal pace. Thunderstone have always been a bit of heavier prospect than their compatriots and this continues on this records with riffs coming thick and fast and the keys moving from classic organs to tinkling synths in a heartbeat.
The Path is an orchestral styled track with a massive chorus included, Fire And Ice is a bit slower but more creepingly progressive than the other songs on this record. Much like the last few Stratovarius albums the speed metal assault has be used sparingly with a few of the tracks having a more mid-paced chug using orchestral elements and synths to bring the power although not on the frantic Wounds though. These slower tracks give a bit of variation to the album meaning nothing gets stale. Mostly it's the keys of Jukka Karinen are the strongest part of this record they contribute so much to every song, they are not always the lightning fast guitar competitive keys either, on tracks like Higher they are brooding Lord-like organs and on the epic Days Of Our Lives they give the track it's melodic cinematic edge. Apocalypse Again sees line up changes in the band, that are for the better in my opinion but they still have the same sound that has held them in such high regard by many for so long, they are even experimenting a bit with it which can be commended. 7/10
The Treatment: Generation Me (Frontiers Records)
Much like Thunderstone, Cambridge rockers The Treatment have also had a change of membership with guitarist Fabien Dammers and vocalist Matt Jones leaving in 2015 replaced by Tao Grey and Mitchel Emms on vocals. Seeing this line up at Steelhouse last year the band didn't seem to miss a beat, Emms voice is equally as good as his predecessor and Tao slots into the band working in dual union with the other axe man Tagore Grey. On stage the band were excellent as usual their sleazier style working well for them all all decked out in matching biker jackets. With a good showing on the old material I was anticipating their next album to see how this new blood would contribute on the record, thankfully much like on stage on record the band seem to be full of the same rock n roll power shown on their first two records. If anything with Emms they have added a punkier, sleazier sound that captures the spirit of the late 80's Sunset Strip where GNR, Crue, Ratt all made their mark. This Sunset Strip sound is epitomised by the tracks Tell Us The Truth and Bloodsucker both of which could sit on a Motley Crue album comfortably, moving to the lighter side with Backseat Heartbeat having the AOR pulse of Night Ranger or Winger.
The title track itself is condemnation of the self centered, fame hungry nature of modern life (something Emms has witnessed first hand) and sees the band playing with fury. Generation Me has to be The Treatment's heaviest record with huge riffs from the Grey's and a storming rhythm section of Swoggle and Dhani thundering from the off. The opening trio of songs rock away with aggressive swagger, providing the start of the album with enough guts to hook you in, Let It Begin is driven by an AC/DC style riff, with the Angus influence continuing on The Devil and if I'm honest it infects most of the record with Cry Tough standing out on this score. As I've said it's the heaviest and most varied record the band have done, they'd come a long way from the long haired kids of their debut record, with a rockstar styling and the songs to mach, The Treatment have become a formidable addition to the British rock scene. This new attitude and a great new record shows that the future looks bright for The Treatment, look out for their UK tour at the end of this month, catch them in a small venue while you still can! 8/10
Innerwish: S/T (Ulterium Records)
Innerwish are seen by a few as that 'other' Greek power metal band that aren't Firewind but that comparison is inaccurate, that is to say they are the other major band on the Greek power metal scene but they are no mere also-rans Innerwish have been producing powerful, power metal with a rougher traditional edge for many a year now. The Athens band are now well into their second decade and their fifth record could be their strongest, the first duo of Roll The Dice and Broken set the scene perfected with furious riffs from Manolis and Thimios, add to this a strong groove from Antonis and Fragiskos, most notable on the breakdown outro of Broken and Innerwish has toughness that many power metal bands can't master, Innerwish have always had a classic metal sound with little reliance on keys, yes Georgios' ivories are there on Machines Of Fear but unlike Thunderstone, Sonata and Stratovarius the guitars are Innerwish's chief weapon, likening them more to Sabaton on Modern Babylon and the aforementioned Machines Of Fear, in fact with a lot of this record dedicated to war the Sabaton influence is very strong. Things slow on the intro to Needles In My Mind which has classical guitars at the beginning before bursting into a Maiden gallop, My World On Fire sounds like their Greek compatriots Firewind, while Rain Of A Thousand Years adds a symphonic Blind Guardian touch to proceedings. I've mentioned the Sabaton influence (a few times actually but it is pronounced) and much of this is due to the gritty vocals of George who can croon when he needs to but his throaty delivery is what gives the songs their character as the instrumental part of the record continues to supply heavyweight, classic metal riffs. Innerwish is a great album if you love your metal in the traditional style with power metal flourishes, it also pulls the band away from their compatriots, as they can more than stand on their own collective feet and cut their own groove in the crowded metal scene. 8/10