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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Reviews: Damian Wilson, Sinnergod, Helstar

Damian Wilson: Built For Fighting (Self Released)

Built For Fighting is the Threshold/Headspace singers newest solo record, his first in over 10 years, many that know him from his day jobs will be pleasantly surprised by this solo outing it has a serious singer/songwriter sound with modern twist. It nods to acts such as Del Amitri with Wilson's amazing vocals being the centre point. Most of the songs take an acoustic turn, the lyrics are personal, introspective, defiant, political and in many places emotive with the songs very strong throughout see the beautiful closer Battlelines which like most of the album deals with the idea that "Life is a fight. A never ending brawl and struggle to find a little peace"

The record starts with it's first single the poppy Thrill Me which is not a love song but a lust song built around a huge chorus hook, it's an opener this record needs, following it is When I Was Young which is a retrospective, folky tune with bubbling synths and jangling guitars. The records first part is a more laid back affair. Impossible and Fire are two ballads where Wilson gives an emotive vocal backed by beautiful strings and piano a theme continued on Fire with yet another piano led piece that builds into a stirring orchestral section.

The songs on this record are unlike his work with Headspace and Threshold as I've said they are more straightforward, radio friendly and I hate to say it poppier but it works so well to hear Damian sing these songs, sometimes you'd think it could be a new James Blunt song (I Won't Blame Life) but this is no bad thing there is something familiar and endearing about this record. Headspace cohorts Lee Pomeroy (bass) and Adam Wakeman (keys) contribute along with Bill Shanley (guitar) and Brian Willoughby (drums) all of whom add their incredible skill to the record. 

There is one cover on the album which is a stripped back version of Depeche Mode's Somebody and leads into the second part of the record which gets a rockier feel, the dirty Sex & Vanilla utilises Wilson's vocal range accompanied by big organ stabs and a harder edge as Can't Heal War has some classic rock posturing from it's driving rhythm while a bluesier What Have You Done has a more soulful sound and an air of Vintage Trouble about it with hand claps, parping brass and backing choirs

This album is simply incredible I genuinely enjoyed every single song, especially Written In Anger which has the records most Del Amitri sounding song, as the storytelling bittersweet lyrics straight out of the Justin Currie songbook. This record has excellent, intelligent sometimes thought provoking lyrics, outstanding musicianship, vocals and arrangements bolstered by Jens Borgen's perfect production. Buy this album it might just be my wild card album of the year. 10/10

Sinnergod: Sinnergod (Self Relased)

Gothic rockers Sinnergod hail from the scary realms of Wigan, this is their second full length album and continues their trademark mix of atmospheric layered guitars and synths working in tandem. Think NIN, Gothic-Era Paradise Lost, and even Depeche Mode and you'd be close. Burn has an industrial stomp to it with the five piece producing dark edged music throughout, this Stands out as one of their heaviest moments. The pounding rhythm of James Dunn (bass), Chris Hampson (drums) and Mark Hampson (rhythm guitar) is one of the bands key elements it gives them the force of Rammstein on the heavier tracks but also adds a thump to the more ethereal compositions.

On songs like The Endless however the lead guitars of Sam Saint add a rapid melodic line and lead break to the powerful beat, while later on on tracks such as 1000 Sins he does his best guitar hero. The drama of these songs is conveyed by Mark's excellent vocals part Manson/part Gahan which suits the dark electronic Goth rock of Sinnergod's sound. 

The thumping electronic parts are created by the synths, samples and keys of Paul Swindells who on tracks such as I Never Had A Gun is the main ingredient although it does feature a cracking guitar solo too. The band spread their wings a little and add more melodic and alt rock touches than before they even put an 80s style ballad in the mix that sounds like Sixx:AM but it just works breaking from the heavier edges, that return on the classic metal styling of We Don't Have Anything.

The album is dark melancholic piece but with enough hooks to crawl under your skin and beckon you into the world of Sinnergod. There's a distinct 90's sound to the record Gahan and Gore's influence looming large on Supernatural. Having seen this band live I was suitably impressed to be excited about this album and my excitement has paid off, Sinnergod is a great modern Goth rock record that pays dividends to it's influences and wears it's black heart on its sleeve. 8/10

Helstar: Vampiro (Ellefson Music Productions) [Reviews By Paul]

Way back in the halcyon days of the 1980s thrash and power metal bands were emerging in the States like a disturbed nest of ants. There were literally thousands of them. The history of the Bay area scene is well documented but what isn’t always as well known is the story of those who nearly made it. One such outfit is Helstar, who at one point were label mates of Megadeth and Exodus. The band released a couple of albums including fan favourite Nosferatu before combusting. A reunion in 2001 led to the return of founding guitarist Larry Barragan in 2006 and since then the band has produced a number of releases. Sadly, long serving bassist Jerry Abarca had to leave the band due to ill health in 2014

Vampiro is unsurprising. A combination of hard thrash and power metal set firmly in the 1980s. Think Exodus, Metal Church and the speed of Primal Fear. But although it’s unsurprising it’s bloody good stuff. James Rivera’s vocals have echoes of the late David Wayne, with his chilling screams particularly impressive. The double pronged guitar attack allows for killer riffs and some blistering solos, Barragan and Rob Trevin shredding like maniacs. Meanwhile the powerful drumming of Mikey Lewis and the rampaging bass lines of Garrick Smith allow the band to crash along like a runaway race horse.

Thematically Helstar stick close to the traditional metal areas; Blood Lust, Off With His Head and Repent In Fire are pretty blunt. From The Pulpit To The Pit raised hopes of a random Ghost cover but alas it is another heads down thrasher and one of the weaker tunes on the release. However, Vampiro is probably as good a work as the band has ever delivered and the playing is impressive. To Their Death Beds They Fell is a monster whilst instrumental Malediction cannot fail to get your head banging along, if you can keep up with the pace of this bad boy that is. 

In fact, the goodies keep on coming with Repent In Fire maintaining the assault before the two heavyweight pieces on the album arrive. Abolish The Sun is a broody crushing six-minute beast with huge riffs whilst Black Cathedral is the longest track on the album which rages for over seven-minutes. A thrashy beast, Vampiro once again demonstrates that life in the old dogs exists and in many cases still teaches new tricks. 7/10

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