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Tuesday 31 January 2017

Reviews: Krysthla, Stephen Pearcy, Hellbound Hearts

Krysthla: Peace In Our Time (PHD)

Krysthla's 2015 record was responsible for much ringing in my ears that year a trend that continued after seeing them live. The record was 8 songs of extremely heavy metal that was aggressive, destructive taking the best parts of Meshuggah, Gojira and Strapping Young Lad and putting them in blender of ultra-violent beat-downs and furious riffage.

Well the ironically titled second album Peace In Our Time is anything but peaceful drawing inspiration from the frankly disturbing modern world we live in it riffs on Chamberlain's famous if misguided speech with a sense of hope that such a thing can be achieved for the next generation. Ultimately the album is about war and the music reflects this with concussion level rhythms from Carl Davies and Wayne Minney battering your ear drums, the grinding riffs of Neil Hudson and Noel Davis making them bleed profusely as Adi Mayes barks, growls and conjures the dark lord himself with his vocals.

It's a progressive, extreme record that deals with extreme topics, Yawm-Al-Qiyamah is the Arabic for Judgement Day and reflects the issues with the Middle East, while In Death We Shall Not Die is a tribute to all those that war has taken. It's harrowing stuff but the music takes what could be a hard subject to swallow and injects a shot of fury into it, there are more melodic and intricate textures yes but these elements bolster the brutality of the rest of the record.

Krysthla continue where they left off on their debut but after the rigorous touring schedule it's all razor sharp and honed to create maximum devastation, the production of Neil Hudson takes the SYL soundscapes and means that there is a wall of discord from the opening seconds, it's relentless with only the briefest of pauses as the songs are fleshed out by the lighter touches before the heaviness kicks back in. A powerhouse of sheer musical force Krysthla have followed up their debut and upped their game, keep an eye out for live shows between April and July as Krysthla live are something to behold. 8/10

Stephen Pearcy: Smash (Frontiers)

Smash is the latest solo album from the former/current Ratt frontman and like much of his solo career it shows a different side to his songwriting, there are some Ratt influences of course with Ten Miles Wide and Rain sounding like they could have come off Out Of The Cellar or Invasion Of Your Privacy, with the big open chords and huge hooks. However the record opens with droning grunge that has touches of AIC or Smashing Pumpkins but with a blazing guitar solo while Shut Down Baby is a Southern flavoured rocker that has Pearcy displaying his vocal prowess.

The sheer mix of styles on this record is impressive Dead Roses ramps up as a sleazier heavier outing, but all of them have a Pearcy's unique vocal delivery. If that Sunset Strip sound makes you run in the opposite direction than this record won't win you round but Smash is a good time rock n roll album that will appeal to the fans of Ratt or Pearcy's other work and can be used as evidence of his longevity in the rock world. 6/10

Hellbound Hearts: Film Noir

Billed as alternative rock Hellbound Hearts are a modern rock band that even though they claim to be Suffering The Radio they seem to be very much aiming for radio play their sound is distinctly radio friendly almost poppy in places offset by the crunching heaviness of their musicianship. Do you remember the UK rock scene back in the early 2000's well Hellbound Hearts would fit in perfectly with that scene due to the vocals, emotive lyrics and tendencies to move towards the dark and brooding. 

Cherry picking The Wildhearts, Billy Talent and even Nirvana as influences, they are actually quite similar to Exit State to be honest which is no bad thing as they were one of the few bands to really blend pop tendencies with heavy rock riffs. Hellbound Hearts do this very successfully throughout but it's glaringly obvious on tracks such as Still We Wait. Film Noir is an interesting record that shows a lot of promise for this Yorkshire based band. 7/10

Monday 30 January 2017

Reviews: The Murder Of My Sweet, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Chrome Molly

The Murder Of My Sweet: Echoes Of The Aftermath (Frontiers)

Daniel Flores needs all the kudos you can give as he is the heart of The Murder Of My Sweet, he is not only the drummer of the band but also handles the keys/orchestrations and the production. With the cinematic sound of this band that's a lot of pressure for one man but he does a spectacular job at all three, the drums rampage, the orchestrations are lush and the production is crisp and clear he is the main writer of the band too and on this record they have taken a more straightforward approach than on their previous semi-Wagnerian concept album Beth Out Of Hell.

There are still symphonic elements of course with a Nordic melodic metal backing that lay down a solid foundation for Angelica to unleash her mighty vocals, with touches of Queen, ELO melding with the heavier modern metal riffs TMOMS are a band that have never been dull, their albums rumble along at a fair old pace occasionally stopping for a ballad of movie score proportions.

Echoes Of The Aftermath is no exception taking it's lyrical modern day problems rather than the exclusively story-driven previous record, it means that they can deviate from the formula a bit for a more cohesive song driven album. With top level performances abound and strong songwriting Echoes Of The Aftermath is another quality addition to the bands discography. 8/10

Psychedelic Witchcraft: Magik Rites And Spells (Soulseller Records)

We always like a cover here at the MoM although it is usually a bonus track on an album but Italian doom/occult/psych rockers Psychedelic Witchcraft have stuck their spacey rendition of Blue Oyster Cult's Godzilla as the second song on this record, it's a good cover and fits right in compared to rest of the record which is filled with proto-metal riffage, mind-altering grooves, frantic drumming and the bewitching vocals of frontwoman Virginia Morti.

She casts the occult spells atop of the smoldering, fuzzy riffs that draw from the darkness of the blues and the earliest metal acts for a beguiling trip through this cults world vision, it's an album that marries the music of the lost 70's generation with the visuals of Dario Argento. There are so many of these bands around now but Psychedelic Witchcraft have been doing the rounds for a long time and their occult rock is still some of the most definitive. 7/10

Chrome Molly: Hoodoo Voodoo (earMusic)

Chrome Molly are one of the bands from the NWOBHM that did the familiar thing of breaking up as grunge hit only to reform in 2009 and try all over again. Since 2009 they have only released 2013's Gunpowder Diplomacy and now they have followed it up with Hoodoo Voodoo and really this is run of the mill generic British hard rock with touches of metal.

The band are competent enough but the songs on this record range from dull to downright awful, Pillars Of Creation (Albion) and Now That Those Days Have Gone being the worst offenders as the first is bargain basement Judas Priest riff with terrible lyrics that name check the British bands that created the genre, while Now That... is a simply staggeringly bad ballad.

Much of my criticism for this record stems from the vocals of Steve Hawkins whose voice is not good at all if I'm honest, maybe it's me but they just grate and after about five songs I found myself reaching for the off switch on my stereo. I appreciate that Chrome Molly have been around for a long time, they were there at the beginning of the British metal boom but some things are best left in the past and unfortunately this Leicester band are one. 4/10

Sunday 29 January 2017

Reviews: My Dynamite, Atlas Pain, Into Orbit

My Dynamite: Otherside (Listenable)

Aussie's My Dynamite say that they take influence from The Black Crowes and Humble Pie, well you can certainly hear the Robinson brothers jamming with Marriot and Frampton on the band's second album. From the opening slide of Round The Bend My Dynamite are deep in The Black Crowes groove, tinkling piano, dual guitar harmonies, mouth organ and a bluesy Southern sound.

This six man boogie machine really pack a punch and sound distinctly American rather than Australian, the Steven Tyler-esque drawl of Pat Carmody is spot on, the guitars of Jorge Balas and Benny Wolf are harmonic unison as the organs/keys of Nick Cooper add the much appreciated melodies to the more soulful tracks like the smoldering So Familiar and adds an electronic coda to State We're In.

With groove from Simon Aarons and Travis Fraser My Dynamite are a band that update the hip-shaking hard rock of their influences much like our own Temperance Movement, this record is full of delicious summer vibes the bastard love child of Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding and The Rolling Stones it's a stunning record of soulful, funky, blues rock for lazing, gazing, sippin' and trippin'. This is another sublime slab of good old fashioned rock n roll from these Melbourne natives as Aerosmith once said "Take Me To The Otherside" it's a much more rocking place to be. 9/10

Atlas Pain: What The Oak Left (Scarlet Records) [Review By Paul]

The debut release from Italian folk metal outfit Atlas Pain follows on from their debut EP Behind The Front Page in 2015. What The Oak Left is a rousing 54 minutes of epic folk metal, a roller coaster ride which cascades the emotions with the numerous influences that whistle by. There’s a bit of everything in this album from the clear Iron Maiden style on To The Moon through to the Eluvietie stomp of The Storm whilst the power metal foundations which underpin this genre is also fully in evidence.

It’s certainly atmospheric, with some blistering drumming courtesy of Riccardo Floridia. The band use their symphonic keyboard sound to great effect, evident throughout without smothering any of the tracks. Guitarist Fabrizio Tartarini can certainly throw a shape whilst the growling vocals of Samuele Faulisi fit the tunes perfectly. In concluding track, the 12-minute instrumental White Overcast Line the band pull out all the stops with THE blueprint to power/folk metal.

Light and shade, all out pace combined with some delicately calm segments, this is mighty stuff. If you like your folk metal, ala Korpiklaani, Finntroll and the rest this will be right up your street. Another superb Italian outfit who are challenging the Scandinavian metal monopoly. 8/10

Into Orbit: Unearthing (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

Sophomore release from New Zealand duo Into Orbit, Unearthing is 40 minutes of progressive and experimental rock and metal and is well worth a listen. With a variety of styles and techniques, the duo, guitarist Paul Stewart and percussionist/drummer Ian Moir create an atmospheric landscape that holds the attention. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the closing track, the impressive Gilgamesh which builds steadily, increasing in tempo and feel all the time as it brings this interesting release to a close. 7/10

Saturday 28 January 2017

Reviews: Armored Saint, Borealis, Mortanius

Armored Saint: Carpe Noctum - Live 2015 (Metal Blade) [Review By Paul]

This pledge music release crept out under the radar towards the end of last year. A paltry eight tracks, recorded mainly at Wacken in 2015 but a damn fine eight tracks from an underrated outfit. Armored Saint can’t be accused of being prolific, with only seven albums in their many years but quality is always better than quantity. Carpe Noctum covers a broad spectrum of the Armored Saint catalogue, with tracks from five albums featured. Opener Win Hands Down, the title track from their excellent 2015 release is pumping, fresh and feisty.

As you’d expect and as you would know if you happened to catch them at Wacken or Bloodstock, this was a fine set. March Of The Saint retains all the power and enthusiasm which first arrived in 1984 with Stricken By Fate the other track from the 1984 debut. Armored Saint are a cohesive unit, with a stable line-up combining effectively. The star of the show is John Bush, his powerful vocals as strong now as they were when their star first climbed. He is ably supported by brothers Gonzo (drums) and Phil (guitar) Sandoval, bassist Joey Vera and guitarist Jeff Duncan.

Last Train Home from Symbol Of Salvation is just epic, whilst closer Reign Of Fire from the same album is a fitting closing song. In between you get Mess from Win Hands Down, a stomping Aftermath from Delirious Nomad and the superb Left Hook From Right Field from 2010’s La Raza. Carpe Noctum is a decent snapshot of a band who ooze quality and who I’d love to see on these shores again. 8/10

Borealis: World Of Silence MMXVII (AFM)

World Of Silence was Canadian progressive metal band Borealis' debut record, released in 2008 it was put out without a label and was definitely a D.I.Y effort but the songwriting on the record was enough to get the band a contract with AFM. Now after two well received (especially by us) records on AFM 8 years after it's original release they have re-recorded and remixed the record in it's entirety meaning that the songs that featured on the record are finally given the sonic treatment they deserve.

Since their debut Borealis have evolved into (in my opinion) one of the top bands in the progressive/power metal scene, they are on fire on this record Trevor McBride and Sean Dowell's rhythm section power through tracks such as Midnight City while Sean Werlick's keys are there to augment not over power, although that's not to say they are relegated to a backing role, see the beautiful piano's on From The Fading Screams, it's also a showcase for the exquisite vocals of Matt Marinelli who doubles up on the virtuoso guitar playing.

This re-recorded version of World Of Silence is an interesting record as the songs were written at a time when Borealis were still trying to establish themselves as a band and as such the songs on this record are perhaps not as progressive as they would become but it still shows that even on their debut they were looking at bigger and better things. Nevermind that the album has a song called Forget The Past (which is a chunky metallic rocker) this record is proof that Borealis shouldn't forget their past as their debut in it's re-recorded stands up well and reinforces that Borealis deserve the praise they get. 8/10

Mortanius: A Voice From Beyond (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

The third EP from Pennsylvania trio Mortanius is one of the most bizarre I’ve heard. Whilst the two original tracks on the release, the 11 minute title track and eight minute Falling fail to hold the attention with some horribly tinny keyboards which sound like a children’s music box, the inclusion of two absolutely dire covers, the Anime theme I Want To Shout To You “I Love You” (From Slam Dunk - Anime Ed) and Aqua’s Barbie Girl (seriously, I shit you not!) make this an EP well worth avoiding. 2/10

Friday 27 January 2017

Reviews: Pride Of Lions, Burnclear, Shattered Skies

Pride Of Lions: Fearless (Frontiers)

Survivor guitarist/keyboardist Jim Peterik and vocalist Tony Hitchcock have been doing this project for a while now and Fearless is another addition to the catalogue. It's the same kind of classy, polished AOR that both men have done all of their respective careers. A new Pride Of Lions record is always a cause for celebration sounding more like Survivor than the original incarnations, Peterik has a knack for writing catchy tunes and Hitchcock has one of those voices that could only come from the 80's so when both of them are together they always have one or two could be anthems on every record.

The record makes its way through the FM band of American radio and reinforces that it's the Yanks that do AOR better than anyone poppy choruses in songs full of pomp and sparkle with bouncy highs and ballads that will linger in the memory. Fearless is AOR at its most melodic and soulful much like the previous Pride Of Lions releases if you love Survivor, Foreigner, Toto and Chicago then another Pride Of Lions release could be the soundtrack to your (American) heartbeat. 7/10 

Burnclear: Lost For Life (Self Released)

Just seeing the album cover of Burnclear's record was enough to get me interested in them so I did some research (Research! Us? Who knew!) and Burnclear are a symphonic/power metal band from Finland. Now Finland has produced probably two of the greatest bands ever to play power metal in the shape of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, so there is a lot to aim for with any new band that enters the genre from this country.

It's to their benefit then that even though the band are new, the members unknown, the surname of the vocalist Tony is instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with Nordic metal, he is a Turunen the brother of Taja formerly of Nightwish and recognised as one of the best vocalists in the business. So Burnclear come from a country that is at the forefront of power metal and they have a vocalist who is associated with a metal singing dynasty, not much to live up too then right?

Well Burnclear do a fine job of stepping up to the plate their musical style is similar to that of Serenity or Kamelot, symphonic but progressive as the keys of Petri take center stage and the addition of having two guitarists (Karri and Tomi) means that the riffs and leads have more depth than the aforementioned acts with Olli and Jukka bringing the technically intricate rhythm section.

Burnclear's debut album is packed with muscular power metal numbers that are sung impressively by Tony who shows that talent runs in the family sounding a little like another Tony, Tony Kakko the singer of Sonata Arctica. Lost For Life is confident, powerful and musically robust album coming from seemingly out of nowhere and does not disappoint. 8/10

Shattered Skies: Auxilium // Vol I (Self Released)

Shattered Skies are one of my favourite djent style bands a position that was bolstered by seeing them in a small room in Bristol. Since their debut record there have been a few changes with the band losing their original vocalist and bassist. For a lot of bands this kind of set back could have meant the end of the whole thing. However with both of those vacancies now filled they can concentrate on new music and this EP is the first part of a concept and it is once again filled with technical, palm muted riffs, odd time drumming (The Reprisal) and thumping bass.

However where Shattered Skies separate themselves from many of the peers in this most recent genre of music is that they use a lot of classical piano (Hold On For Your Life) along with shimmering synths on their songs which takes their sound to another level. One of the key reasons why I loved Scattered Skies was their reliance on clean vocals and though their new singer has a different style of vocal to his predecessor he is a great fit for the band and displays his range on The Reprisal. It makes me very pleased that Scattered Skies have returned and this EP sets them up to really take off after their slightly stuttering start. 7/10

Thursday 26 January 2017

Reviews: Aaron Keylock, Terrifier, Courtesans

Aaron Keylock: Cut Against The Grain (Provogue Records)

Aaron Keylock is probably a name you will have seen if you've seen any hard/blues/southern rock band doing the rounds over the past few years, this young bluesman has opened up for some of the biggest in the business like Blackberry Smoke, Joanne Shaw Taylor to name just two. Heavily touted as the next big thing (much like a certain Oli Brown before him) this 18 year old Oxford native has been treading the boards since he was much younger building up the confidence and talent that shines through this record from the very first note.

Cut Against The Grain is his debut record and features many of the songs those who have seen his live show will recognise such as Spin The Bottle and it's chock full influences with Just One Question channeling the smooth blues playing of Gary Moore, All The Right Moves has the swaggering rock of The Black Crowes, Down is a slide driven Southern rocker from the Cadillac Three songbook replete with Keylock adopting a drawl that makes Keylock sound like a young Jagger.

The record was produced by Fabrizio Grossi who is the cornerstone of the excellent Supersonic Blues Machine and a producer/collaborator with  Alice Cooper, Dave Navarro, Slash, Ice-T and Zakk Wylde he gives it the warm, analogue sound that still sounds modern and fresh. Keylock is an incredible guitarist his playing is fluid and expressive and it makes these songs really stand out, but his songwriting too deserves kudos writing like a performer three times his age he's an old soul with young bones, mature, expertly delivered and everything you could want from a blues rock record Cut Against The Grain stands as a defiant, confident challenge to the blues rock royalty. 8/10

Terrifier: Weapons Of Thrash Destruction (Test Your Metal)

Canadian thrashers Terrifier (terrible name) have this thrash til' death stuff down to a fine art, this excellently titled record is their second record and my is it good, ferocious thrash riffs come thick and fast dropping in and out like kamikaze pilots while the amphetamine fuelled rhythm section pounds away at a frighteningly fast pace. Terrifier have had 6 years to hone this record an it shows in that time they have found all the VHS' they can of early Exodus, Slayer and Metallica (Kill 'Em All Era) and have faithfully tried to bring that sense of fun and urgency to this record.

The lyrics are goofy and based on the go to themes of pop culture (more accurately 80's pop culture) with two songs dedicated to Arnie's video library with Scitzoid Embolism drawn from Total Recall and even having a clip of the man himself at the beginning while Sect Of The Serpent is a homage to Conan The Barbarian, its' not all Austrian strongmen though elsewhere there is the ode to partying Drunk As Fuck which has an Anthrax stomp and killer gang vocal chorus aiding the proper gruff thrash vocals of frontman Chase.

The remaining tracks all do their best to rekindle the glory days of thrash with dual channel guitars and battering drum patterns. Weapons Of Thrash Destruction (equally terrible) is not a perfect record, it does all sort of blend in to one halfway through but thrash metal isn't the most innovative genre, however Terrifier have created near enough an hour of pure thrash fury and my does it get the blood pumping. 7/10

Courtesans: Better Safe Than Sober (Self Released)

Courtesans have buzz around them, it's a dark halogen buzz that you often see in the alleyways of their native London. The music they play is categorised as 'Doom/Dark Pop' their musical palate accommodates fuzzy grunge, unsettling pop, industrial sparseness and gloomy trip-hop to make this five track EP and the four women that created stand out from an ever expanding music scene.

The EP comes nearly three years after their debut but still taps a rich vein of sugar-coated misery, with the band taking a no-compromise approach to songwriting driven by liberating, feminist ideals the band hope to "not only encourage women in music but for more men to accept that it is OK to look up to female artists".

The five tracks on this record manifest themselves in various guises Mesmerise is a swirling doom rocker, Feel The Same has some lyrical rhymes that can be usually heard in London hip-hop scene displaying the vocal dexterity of frontwoman Sinead. Backing her is cacophonous rhythm section of Agnes and Vikki with Saffire providing the wailing riffs, their sound is unique sort of Hole jamming with Steven Wilson on NIN songs, it something fresh and this EP is a prime slice of darkened goodness in preparation of their next full length. 8/10

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Reviews: Pain Of Salvation, A Cunning Man, Rhodwulf

Pain Of Salvation: In The Passing Light Of Day (InsideOut) [Review By Paul]

Album number 10 from the Swedish outfit led by the talented Daniel Gildenlow. In The Passing Light Of Day is complex, emotional, curious, angst ridden and quite stunning in parts. The musicianship is scintillating at times, with bone crushingly heavy passages contrasting with delicate fragments. Check out the opening track On A Tuesday, which opens with some frantic riffing but also contains some beautiful softer elements. 

The album is book ended by two lengthy and weighty tracks, On A Tuesday at a shade over ten minutes and the epic climax of the 15 minute title track. Sandwiched in between are eight songs of superb quality, with Tongue Of God and the astonishing Angels Of Broken Things, which contains one of the best guitar solos you will hear this year, amongst the highlights. Containing elements of progressive rock, industrial and electronica as well as some superb heavy rock, Pain Of Salvation’s latest release, over a quarter of a century since they first emerged, is a must hear and already a candidate for one of the albums of the year. 9/10

A Cunning Man: Practical Application Of Theurgy EP (Self Released) [Review By Stief]

Imagine if Coheed and Cambria had a baby with Devin Townsend, then left it to be raised by Biffy Clyro, then you might get an idea of this Scottish metal project. The brainchild of Ged Cartwright, who performs on both vocals and instruments, Practical Application... is an interesting journey. Opening track Honorius & The Choral Forecast starts off with a mass of sound before settling into a Coheed-esque time signature.

Slower points in this song, and the following two, bring to mind Katatonia and similar bands. It's experimental and it shows, Ged's voice sometimes pushing beyond it's limit, however, when it's there, it's very good. The EP has it all, synths, guitars, spoken word, with Gemma McCabe offering her voice for backing and a spoken word section at the end of Juratus & The Sulfur Psalm. 7/10

Rhodwulf: Scavenge For Mad Hunters (Rhodwulf) [Review By Stief]

I picked this up out of curiousity, due to the lupine nature of the name, which is paired with the name a good friend of the Musipedia, Rhod. It's an interesting listen, with flavours of The Animals, mixed with a generous helping of Black Sabbath. The vocals range from decent to downright dirge-like. Unfortunately, I probably won't be picking up any more of this Norwegian stuff, but worth at least a listen. 5/10

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Reviews: Deathless Legacy, Cyanide 4, Evenline

Deathless Legacy: Dance With Devils (Scarlet Records)

Italy's Deathless Legacy started out as a tribute act to the (oc)cult Italian act Death SS formed by Steve Sylvester back in 1977, back then the band were called Deathless (the name given by Mr Sylvester himself) and after writing many of their own songs and evolving into their own band along with some legal wrangling they changed their name to Deathless Legacy as a homage to their former selves. They like Death SS play 'horror metal' a mix of theatrical occultism and heavy metal, the weirdness bolstered by the keys of former DGM man Alex Van Eden, they have evolved their own folklore around the band all of the members been brought back to life by a Necromancer.

The band take the characters of the Necromancer, a cyborg, a witch, a monk, a Mexican gangster, a composer and the vengeful spirit of a young girl murdered. There are obviously nods to Alice Cooper, GWAR, King Diamond in the band's stylistic choices along with some of the modern Gothic elements of Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil.  What I've seen their performances (especially the one at Waken) are more akin to that of Avatar or the Circus Of Horrors with only touches of schlock rock of uncle Alice or The King.

The music too is heavier than the front runners of the genre, it's more cinematic and it's definitely in the metal category with the shredding guitars on top of flurry's of bass and drums, the wailing banshee-like vocals of the frontwoman as the keys add creepy B-Movie organs to tracks such as Heresy, there's more than a nod to fellow Italians Fleshgod Apocalypse in the more symphonic tracks especially Voivode which features some excellent folk fiddle. Dance With Devils is a the band's third outing and it's probably their most accomplished, some of the band's impact is lost on record but these songs are written for the live arena, Bloodstock please? 8/10

Cyanide 4: Nekyia (Perris Records)

There's an episode of The Simpsons where rocker/busdriver Otto gets married to woman he meets at a festival, she doesn't want a lot of rock paraphernalia at the wedding and lambasts him with a cry of "You got Poison to play at our wedding!?" to which the band reply "We're Cyanide, a loving tribute to Poison...we need a ride home." So I must admit that when I saw the press photos for Greek band Cyanide 4 I couldn't help but chuckle at the general Sunset Strip, sleaze styling of ripped denim and big hair decked out in LA Guns, Ratt and Hardcore Superstar t-shirts.

Whether they need a ride home or not is still under debate but they do seem to be a loving tribute to not only Poison but the entire L.A scene in the 1980's, from the look, to the song titles, to the band names (G.A Sinn, Joxnyy Slut, Nasty and Mike T, I shit you not) the whole thing screams pastiche, well everything except the music, that its a little less punky than you'd expect, there are more melodic influences much like Welsh glam/sleaze band Tigertailz and they even creep into AOR territory occasionally.

Nekyia, which means the "rite by which ghosts were called up and questioned about the future" (there you go fact fans) is their debut record and it's ironic that it's called this as the band are calling the ghosts (bands) of the past and pulling them into the future with their own songs. Those of you that are reluctant to discard your hairspray, stonewashed denim and angular day-glo guitars will certainly want to check out Greece's premier sleaze metal act, for you this will be the perfect record, for anyone else it might just be nothin' but a good time (sorry). 7/10

Evenline: In Tenebris (Dooweet Agency)

Well isn't this a novel idea, French rock band plays American radio rock that sounds like Alter Bridge, Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin et al. Evenline have been around for a while but I've only just come across them and when I first put this record on what hit me was just how well produced and arranged this record is. The riff of All Against Me starts off with speedy riff and a evolves into huge hook, Straightjacket is the obvious single for the record with a radio-bothering sound that bands like Daughtry and Shinedown have made their own.

This record is darker than their earlier material and that is shown by the crisp riffs that are there throughout this record as Arnard croons with harsher vocals giving duality to the songs but also distracting from many of the songs Echoes Of Silence really doesn't need them and it makes it weaker because of it. Evenline are at their best when they are doing their best American rock impression with tracks like Sometimes We Die and Broken Promises.

This is a pretty good album however the cover of Deeper Underground takes away any kudos garnered, there is never an excuse to cover Jamiroquai, ever, especially if you are going to 'heavy' it up and put in screams. In Tenebris is a record that does it's best but is a little too similar to band's that influence it and has one fatal flaw. 5/10

Monday 23 January 2017

Reviews: Sepultura, Grave Digger, Modern Day Outlaws (Reviews By Paul)

Sepultura: Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast)

The biggest problem with Sepultura is their heritage which means that you always end up comparing the current,long established line up with the classic outfit responsible for the metal behemoths Arise, Chaos AD and Roots. Machine Messiah is the 14th release under the Sepultura banner and it contains some very tasty work.

The opening title track is a brooding hulk of a song, with some brutal riffs and hauntingly heavy passages. It's followed by a Testament/Slayer-like thrasher in I Am The Enemy which hurtles along, totally out of control. Brazilian rhythms return on Phantom Self, with a Latino beat before Andreas Kisser’s brutal riffs kick in. Meanwhile Derrick Green continues to deliver his punk edged vocal assault with real venom throughout. His form is immense, vicious snarling spittle soaked As imposing on record as he is in the live arena.

Alethea slows the pace, a crushing riff building in intensity and pressure, elements of hard core fusing with tribal drumming and skull crushing heaviness. Although the album is blisteringly heavy, it does contains a return to the occasional diverse approach the band experimented with after Iggor left in 2006. Iceberg Dances is a wild chaotic instrumental, shades of Gojira, progressive rock and samba rhythms all mix into a rampaging musical tapestry.

Silent Violence and Cyber Violence tip more than a nod to the industrial with Fear Factory’s riffing coming immediately to mind. Overall this is a brutally aggressive release which adds to the bulging catalogue. Few stunning tracks but enough blood to keep the heart pumping comfortably. Worth checking out 8/10

Grave Digger: Healed By Metal (Napalm Records)

Teutonic legends that will not die are back with yet another album, less than a year after 2016’s The Reaper Shall Return which got a mighty 5/10. I'm afraid to say that despite the band’s longevity and total dedication to heavy metal, this is just further garbage. Musically it's okay with some traditional riffs and pounding drums. However, the lyrics remain cringeworthy and the awful vocal delivery of Chris Boltendhal highlights the poor lyrical compositions.

Title track Healed By Metal is stereotypical German metal whilst Lawbreaker follows the Judas Priest Haynes manual to heavy metal. Other laughable tracks include the classic Ten Commandments in Metal with lyrics right out of the Manowar stable and Kill Ritual which is well creepy. Opening line “can't wait to touch you, I watch you night by night, my blood red staring eyes, watch you move, perverse delight” and the fabulous chorus “dying is no miracle, kill, kill ritual” make this uncomfortable listening in the most unintentional way.

Musically this is solid if unremarkable speed metal and the level of musicianship is sometimes impressive. The band have released voluminous works since they started in 1980 but this latest offering is on a par with the averageness of previous releases. 5/10

Modern Day Outlaws: Day Of Reckoning EP (Self Released)

Stomping out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida with plenty of aggression and confidence, the quintet known as the Modern Day Outlaws return with a five track EP which finally follows their 2012 debut album Southern State Of Mind. It's full of power, Southern influences and a mixture of influences which produce a sound which sits somewhere between Five Finger Death Punch and Black Stone Cherry.

Lead singer Ron Brown has a touch of the Ivan Moody at times but has a better vocal range whilst there is some solid work from guitarist Jake Nicholson. Days Of Reckoning isn't original but does add a real kick to some of the more turgid bands around. They would kick up a storm as an opener for some of the more established “country metal/hard rock” acts around. Worth a listen, especially for the balls out blast of Headwake. 7/10

Sunday 22 January 2017

Reviews: Band-Maid, Lancer, Wolfchant (Reviews By Stief)

BAND-MAID - Just Bring It (Nippon Crown)

This is some great Japanese metal, leaning towards a more hard rock/heavy metal sound, with some pop influences in places. The first full length studio album from the band, the sound is excellent, with Akene Hirose's heavy, frenetic drumming, distorted guitars from Kanami Tōno , and a meaty bassline by Misa. Lead vocalist Saiki Atsumi's voice weaves wonderfully through the music, intertwining with guitarist Miku Kobato's with the rest of the band providing the backing vocals. There's not much to separate BAND-MAID from the pool of other great Japanese Metal bands out there, but they're definitely on my radar, and I'm excited to see what the future brings. 8/10

Lancer: Mastery (Despotz Records)

A delicious slice of speed metal here from Sweden's Lancer. Kicking off with Dead Raising Towers, the pace is set at 11 and the band barely back down from it. Bringing to mind Early-to-mid era Maiden and Priest, Mastery is a great journey, Isak Stenvall's voice constantly hits the high notes without wavering, never being pushed beyond it's limit, and the twin guitars of Peter Ellström and Fredrik Kelemen compliment each other brilliantly. Emil Öberg and Sebastian Pedernera keep the pace going with bass and drums respectively. Although primarily speed metal, the band show a softer side with World Unknown, with the openings of Envy Of The Gods and Victims Of The Nile taking a softer approach before yanking you right back into the fray. 8/10

Wolfchant: Bloodwinter (NoiseArt Records)

Ah, Wolf-based bands, I can't get enough of them. From Nornensang, a soaring operatic intro, you know this is going to be brilliant, and it transitions straight into Schiksalsmacht, an epic galloping tune. The band keep this sound up throughout the album, from the call-to-arms of Wolfchant (A Wolf To Man) to album closer New Born Killer, the mix of heavy, death, and folk metal never stops.

Nortwin's vocals sit comfortably between clean and abrasive, supported and sometimes blending in with Lokhi's sinister growls. Newcomer to the band, Lug, shows his drumming chops, flowing effortlessly from the slow march to double bass without thought. Sertorius' bass is just as brutal in places, with Skhaal providing solos aplenty on lead whilst Gorthrim provides the rhythm. If you like your folk metal with a bit of a punch, this is an album for you! 9/10

Saturday 21 January 2017

Reviews: Beheaded, Damned Pilots, Bloodrainbow, Scáth Na Déithe (Reviews By Rich)

Beheaded: Beast Incarnate (Unique Leader Records)

Beheaded are a death metal band from Malta who formed back in 1991 and Beast Incarnate is the fifth album for these Maltese veterans, their first release in five years since 2012's Never To Dawn. Beast Incarnate is an absolute juggernaut of heaviness, precision and brutality with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. Eight tracks of razor sharp riffing, bludgeoning drumming and the ferocious roar of frontman Frank Calleja. The songs themselves are fast and intense slabs of death metal with the confidence of a band who have been playing the death metal game for over 25 years.

The only song that deviates from the rest is the eight minute plus monolith The Black Death where Beheaded bring their death metal attack down to a slow tempo and in doing so have crafted a song that exudes a malevolent atmosphere along with the trademark skull crushing brutality the band are known for. With Beast Incarnate Beheaded have released possibly the finest album of their 27 year career and is an absolutely essential listen for death metal fans. There is no flashiness on display this is just pure death metal brutality which put a massive grin on my face throughout the whole listen. 9/10

Damned Pilots: Overgalaxy (Sliptrick Records)

Damned Pilots are another band that I am completely unaware of but with their first full length album Overgalaxy they have certainly impressed me. Hailing from Italy, Damned Pilots play a nice mix of doom and stoner metal with a touch of psychedelic rock and influences from classic rock and metal but with a Sci-Fi, steampunk concept running throughout the album. The songs themselves are damn catchy with a pop sensibility combined with doomy and groovy riffs and the rough clean vocals of frontman Sgt. Ote.

The only real failings of the album are the two acoustically-led psychedelic songs which seem to interrupt the flow of the album and the closing song Mos which almost veers into drone territory and as such feels completely out of place. I can easily forgive these missteps though as the rest of the album is so damn enjoyable. 8/10

Bloodrainbow: Upheaval (Self Released)

Blood Rainbow are a death metal band from Hungary and Upheaval is their third album which has been independently released by the band. This is also my first exposure to the band. The music on Upheaval is more melodically leaning death metal but not in the Gothenburg style which has become so synonymous with melodic death metal. This album has more in common with straight up death metal with all the trademarks present such as furious riffing, blast beat riddled drumming and guttural vocals but mixed with strong melodies especially in the impressive lead guitar playing and the music has an overall epic feel to it.

There are some interesting curveballs thrown in as well with the inclusion of trumpets on songs such as Outcast From Eden and Rolling Sand Of Alam Halfa plus the appearance of a saxophone on the epic Stalingrad. Whilst the musicianship and playing on the album is exceptional the songwriting isn't perfect and the album takes a while to get going with a very pointless intro track and the first full song Debauchery, Fall, Expulsion being particularly forgettable. Things start to really kick into gear with third track Outcast From Eden which is one of the highlights of the album. Whilst not a perfect album, Upheaval does have a lot going for it and if you are a fan of melodically leaning death metal it is well worth taking the time out to listen. 7/10

Scáth Na Déithe: Pledge Nothing But Flesh (Self Released)

Scáth Na Déithe are a two piece from Dublin and Pledge Nothing But Flesh is their independently released debut album following on from their 2015 EP The Horrors Of Old. Scáth Na Déithe play an atmospheric style of black metal which also mixes in elements of death metal and doom metal. The music is dense, claustrophobic and suffocating with a maelstrom of dissonant guitars, rumbling bass, ambient keyboards, blasting drums and vicious vocals which switch between a guttural growl and tormented scream.

This is dark music evoking feelings of hatred and despair although broken up by more serene calmer moments. The album is made up of six songs with two of them being short instrumental pieces. The four main songs of the album are all in excess of ten minutes each and all feel like they overstay their welcome a bit but this is a common complaint I have with atmospheric black metal. Overall this is an accomplished and enjoyable album though at points I did find my attention starting to falter. 7/10

Thursday 19 January 2017

Reviews: Starset, Shallow Side, Kemerov

Starset: Vessels (Razor & Tie)

The Starset mothership once again makes orbit with the Earth and their transmissions come through loud and clear. The band is the brainchild of singer Dustin Bates and they play a particularly majestic brand of cinematic rock music, the EDM, Dubstep, synth heavy elements of this music makes it akin to latter period Linkin Park mixed with Muse, 30 Seconds To Mars and the more recent output from Bring Me The Horizon (Into The Unknown).

It's chunky riffs, propulsive percussion, the overpowering synth elements and Bate's impressive vocals that go from emotive screaming, to an almost robotic croon. Vessels is the follow up to their 2014 debut and it really just continues with the sound set out by the debut, this is really modern sounding music, rock for the post-Millennial age, many of the older generation may give this a wide berth and that's understandable mainly due to the records 15 song length and that quite a few of the songs do away with the hard rock all together meaning the radio friendly electronica of Imagine Dragons creeps in. 

This record is built on the stirring sonic soundscapes of tracks such as Back To Earth they are the true sparks of genius this band have. Vessels is the ideal follow up to the band's excellent debut record, it is a little too long at 15 tracks but if you filter out some of the filler much of this album is very impressive. 8/10

Shallow Side: One (Thermal Entertainment)

The past few years have seen Country/Southern rock have a revival but gone are the days of long haired, bearded Stetson wearing crooners, now those older guys have been replaced by new breed of trendy, harder edged rockers. Shallow Side are the latest contenders to the Black Stone Cherry crown and this EP is a hearty lunge towards the global dominance of their Kentucky cousins.

Hailing from Alabama you can really hear the similarities but there are also touches on Shinedown on Flight Or Fight which has buzzing electronics cutting through it, it's these pulsing electronics that separate Shallow Side from many of their contemporaries the songs all have touches of synths through them, their songs are very good indeed Rebel is a defiant Southern statement, We Roll a stomping proto-anthem while Can You Hear Me is a very modern sounding song that you could hear firing up the Billboard Rock charts.

One song will jump out at you though and that's their storming cover of Styx's Renegade which has garnered praise from Tommy Shaw himself. It suits the mood, this is rebellious rocking from the four piece band, colour me impressed, here's waiting for a full length. 7/10

Kemerov: FMKD (Vault Relics)

The Kemerov play death'n'roll, for those that don't know what that is, the music mainly consists of rollicking, scuzzy, heavy rock riffs and harsher vocals that move into the death metal genre, the genre itself was started by Entombed on their Wolverine Blues and has been adopted by many bands most notably Kvelertak and Turbonegro who Kemerov share much of a similarity with.

With the name you'd be forgiven for thinking they come from the former USSR but no Kemerov come from Serres in Northern Greece and they move away from the overwhelming number of stoner and black metal bands by adopting this type of punchy, riff heavy music. The band have touches of metal, punk, and even doom throughout this aggressive record, the songs speed by you built on Giorgos' earsplitting riffs and a brutal bottom end from brothers Spiros and Tasos.

It's frantic, non conformist music that takes the time to be a massive screw you to some of modern life's more depressing elements, the fury increased tenfold by Matt's fervent rasp. FMKD is a furious slab of heavy rock that acts a prelude to the pit, it's an assured debut from this Greek act. 7/10

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Reviews: White Light Cemetery, Mercury Rust, Rebel Machine

White Light Cemetery: Careful What You Wish For (Ripple Music)

Lafyette, Lousiana's White Light Cemetery have an ethos that so many can get behind for their first single, it's titled Quit Work, Make Music and is pretty much the goal for every band that's ever been, except KISS. The music these Cajuns make is swampy, Southern metal with abrasive, groove filled riffs, drawling vocals and swagger that is fuelled by Bourbon and jambalaya. Careful What You Wish For is the band's second album and it digs a rich vein of heavy blues metal.

There's touches of Skynyrd, Sabbath, Pantera and Cowbar with the riffs shining through every song and the vocals having the howl of a wild animal, it's not a happy record though, filthy, sludgy and much of it is is devoid of hope. Misery Loves Company is built on a throbbing bass-line with dirt encrusted guitar riffs doing the rest of the work, Looking Out (For Number One) has a hazy stoner sound and Bullet To Erase gets the head nodding.

The rest of the record is of high quality with hooks that resonate for days after, that are worthy of numerous plays. The band is comprised of Thomas Colley and Sara Miller on drums and bass respectively, Ryan Robin on guitar and Shea Bearden on guitar and vocals and this record has a 'live-in-the-studio' feel to it. Top Cajun metal don't be careful, snap it up asap. 7/10

Mercury Rust: Mercury Rust (Self Released)

Deep Purple that was my immediate thought when I heard the bubbling organ opening of Silent Storm and that Purple/Rainbow/Dio sound is a key part to this record, Behind The Gates could easily come off Heaven & Hell and on Overload the fusion of scintillating guitars and heavy keys just puts you in mind of the Blackmore/Lord glory days.

This record sits as a glorious tribute to the band's of Dio with the songs sprawling all of the great man's career, these Swedes have managed to avoid being a total pastiche though channeling the spirit in all of the songs but letting them take a life of their own. In fact they sound an awful more like the mighty Masterplan due to the frontman's uncanny resemblance to Jorn Lande vocally.

The seven songs on this record move from the rampaging Fuel The Fire to the colossal Hiraeth and after this record ends you can't help but feel good, with so many bands owing their existence to RJD, Mercury Rust pay it back the best way they can. 7/10

Rebel Machine: Nothing Happens Overnight (Self Released)

Rebel Machine play slightly alternative hard rock with a radio bothering edge, the songs on the record are accessible and played with passion. Released last year this has only just come to MoM towers, back in July when it first came out it could have had more of an impact but in the doldrums of the winter, it's impact is diminished a little.

Nothing on the record is revolutionary but the songs are listenable enough and the sound is grounded in the 90's rock sound, the stand out for me is the finale of Life Is Fuckin' Good which is the best track on the record, moving away from the more generic rest of the album. This Brazilian band will sound excellent in the height of the summer, the record has amazing production meaning the songs to sound very professional and if you like a bit of grungy hard rock it's worth a spin. 6/10

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Reviews: Firewind, As Lions, Black Oak County

Firewind: Immortals (Century Media)

Greek power metal icons Firewind have returned with their long awaited follow up to Few Against Many back in 2012, since then a lot has changed in the Firewind camp, mainman Gus G became Ozzy's guitarist (who's influence can be heard on Back On The Throne) and has released two solo albums, keyboard/guitarist Bob has been a part of numerous projects playing guitars and keyboards including his 'other' band Outloud and they lost their longest serving singer Apollo.

Having made a few sporadic live appearances with Kelly Sundown Carpenter we here at the Musipedia were a little worried one of collective favourites as even though Carpenter had a voice it was not right for Firewind, so it was a little bit of trepidation we awaited the new frontman announcement when the band said they were finally going to record a new album.

Happily the new frontman is ex-Metallium, Sons Of Seasons, MaYan, session man extraordinaire Henning Basse from Germany and as our we breathed a collective sigh of relief we could now hold on expectantly as in my personal opinion Henning has one of the best vocals in the business, his range is massive but he has the same kind of gritty low/mid range Apollo does so the mic is in good hands.

So what do you do if you've been away for five years without an album? Well you channel your inner Manowar and go all out with a concept album about Greek wars (works for Sabaton) on Immortals there are songs about the Spartan 300 Ode To Leonidas, the naval battle at Salamis that saw the Greek nations defeat the Persian Empire is described on War Of Ages and obviously as Gus, Bob and Petros are from Thessaloniki Hands Of Time deals with the mighty Alexander The Great the Macedonian king who united all of Greece.

The songs are as strong as you would expect from this multi national but mostly Greek band, in the back room long serving four-stringer Petros leads the way as Belgian drummer Johan Nunez blasts for his life on his second Firewind outing. It's fast furious stuff in the rhythm section and it means that Gus and Bob can really let loose with solos galore taking their own spots and duelling without letting the songs pace suffer.

They are all virtuoso's at their respective disciplines and this shines through the record especially on the more varied tracks such as Live And Die By The Sword, Firewind return with their best album since Allegiance, I can't wait to see them next month, welcome back guys! 9/10   

As Lions: Selfish Age (Eleven Seven)

In the review of their EP last year I said that "As Lions could be a much more superior outfit for Dickinson and co, this band follow their own path on their own terms" the Dickinson in question being Bruce's son Austin. As Lions are his new band formed out of the ashes of the never-quite-right Rise To Remain, Dickinson has taken the experience he has gained touring the world with RTR and channelled into As Lions making this band a much more focused, straightforward and experimental beast than his previous band.

As Lions take their cues from the recent releases of BMTH adding lots of electronic influences to their powerful modern rock stylings. This debut full length takes what was done on the EP and continues the high quality that was established by the EP taking that more melodic sound and crafting 11 songs out of it,  Deathless, White Flags, World On Fire and opener Aftermath are all familiar coming from the EP but this record also features some new tracks that could be future classics.

The Suffering is a propulsive rocker, Bury My Dead brings the loud/soft dynamics, while the title track is perhaps the most melodic with expansive use of electronics, that continues on One By One. Selfish Age is a confident debut from a young and hungry band ready to take over the world. 8/10

Black Oak County: S/T (Target/Might Music)

Have a look at the photo of this band online, then put on this debut record on, now frontman Niels should not sound like that. He has voice aged by time, whiskey and too many Marlboro's a delivery far beyond his years, in fact the Esbjerg, Denmark band's whole ethos is the old fashioned in the modern, they have the swaggering Southern rock styling's of Zakk Wylde (Mad Dog) playing with Black Stone Cherry but add their own youthful exuberance to it, in fact there is more than an air of MoM favourite Trucker Diablo.

This record thunders, chock full chest beating hard rock tunes, driven by the Mike and Rene's dirty rhythm section that's designed to rattle your teeth loose, as Niels and Jack supply the heavy riffs. Save Me has killer groove it's also the one major BSC sounding songs along with the angry Rated R For Redneck and the power ballad If You Only Knew which you could definitely hear having heavy rotation on Planet Rock.

Black Oak Country is a very vehement first statement from this young Danish band, there are a couple of tracks that could be trimmed but finishing with the bouncy Never Cared this debut record is a great piece of work, expect big things. 8/10

Monday 16 January 2017

Reviews: Gone Is Gone, Bedowyn, Constant Threat, Bastard (Reviews By Paul)

Gone Is Gone: Echolocation (Rise Records)

Another supergroup featuring a member of Mastodon. This time it's Troy Sanders who has teamed up with Troy Van Leeuwen from Queens of the Stone Age, drummer Tony Hajjar from At The Drive In and multi instrumental talent Mike Zarin. It's an interesting mix alright, with jazz fused pieces combining with riff laden sections and the very identifiable Sanders vocal delivery. Opener Sentient is bone crushingly heavy in parts, whilst Gift changes direction and style several times.

The spacial feel of Resurge contrasts with Dublin which contains a haunting introduction and sits much closer to latter day QOTSA in feel. Each track changes pace and tone which certainly peaks the interest. Pawns for example has a grungy darkness. Slow Awakening unsurprisingly contrasts with Fast Awakening, the former industrial in style whilst the latter is a murky far racier tune. The album closer Echolocation has an almost 1980s electronica flavour. It's a real mix of approaches which will appeal to the listener who requires a little more than heads down rock ‘n’ roll. Worth a visit. 7/10

Bedowyn: Blood Of The Fall (Self Released)

The debut from American doom and stoner outfit Bedowyn sits very close to the Mastodon sound with a decent amount of groove liberally sprinkled throughout. It's good stuff if you like your metal undulating on a wild horse ride. Rampant drumming, heavy chunky riffs and harmonic vocals, Blood Of The Fall works in every department. This was actually released way back in October 2015 but it's worth checking out. Shades Of The Sword are occasionally prominent but it's Mastodon who are the immediate comparison. 7/10

Constant Threat: The Dismal Order (Self Released)

The work of a single musician who uses sample blast beats to supplement his guitar work, The Dismal Order is about the billionth independent release from the American known as Mike H. Repetitive and uninspiring, with dull riffs and little to stimulate the listener, it's certainly appropriately titled. Time to get out of the basement and get a real job. 1/10

Bastard: Self Titled (Self Released)

Russian death black metal. It's awful. Dreadfully produced and totally unoriginal, this should have been choked at birth. Avoid at all costs. 1/10

Sunday 15 January 2017

Reviews: Mother's Cake, Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters, Victorius, Hateure

Mother's Cake: No Rhyme, No Reason (Membran)

Booty-shaking, psychedelic, blues rock with an indie spirit Mother's Cake are something a little special, they blend the trippy sonics of hawkwind with the strut of The Black Crowes, the hard rocking of Aussies Wolfmother (Now Or Never) with the spiralling kaleidoscopic palette of The Mars Volta on the trippy H8 and even throw in the 60's vibe of Rival Sons on the atmospheric Black Roses.

This three piece from Austria are Yves Krismer on (vocals, guitar), Benedikt Trenkwalder (bass) and Jan Haussels (drums) and they play like a much bigger band, the sounds this band make are incredibly intricate you can hear every bass note, every snare hit, every chord change, every guest organ playing, much of this is due to the stella production, but the band themselves are obviously superior musicians as they effortlessly shift between the Arctic Monkeys on psychotropic drugs fuzzy indie bluster of The Killer to the bluesy rocking of  Now Or Never while they can also give us tracks such as The Sun and Streetja Man that go into full freakouts with The Sun having a relentless riff and Streetja Man pairs timpani percussion with phased guitars for a otherworldly sound that bleeds into a full frontal madness in the last part.

This is the band's third album and it is such melting pot of sounds it will immediately grab the listener by the collar and shake them around, Mother's Cake is one that you will want to eat again and again, it's pairs perfectly with those 'special' cookies. 8/10

Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters: Bad Habit (Self Released)

We reviewed Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters EP Sick Like This not long after it came out and I was impressed with their radio bothering hard rock with Beth every inch the rock chick. Only one of the songs from this EP has made it's way to the Cardiff band's debut full length, the strutting, sexy Hell In High Heels which is one of the songs that exhibit the strutting, kick ass, rock n roll attitude of this band. The rest of the record is all new material (obviously played live previously) but the quality shown on the EP is increased tenfold on this full length.

Owing as much to Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, Alter Bridge as they do AC/DC and KISS, the band is made up of Sam Bain and Nicko Goodwin smashing away in the backroom as Craig Manning has the firework leads while Beth brings the riffs with the rhythm guitar and her powerhouse vocals, she sings her heart out while the band play with a hard rock snarl, the lyrical content paints Beth as a rock n roll warrior Queen, they are empowering, sexually charged, a little naughty and clearly display the band's love of the rock n roll lifestyle.

The record opens with the clarion call of Hell Yeah! which quickly moves into the dirty, blues riffage of the title track, as this speeds by Beautiful Disease brings a percussive groove. The performances on this record have been honed over years of touring and it shows the band are all on top form and the songwriting has the guts to match the performances the production too while not as crystalline as Halestorm etc still makes the songs sound big.

As with many of the band's BBATBD are akin to there is always going to be a big centerpiece ballad and this record is no different with Poster Girl For Pain and Angel With A Dirty Face really letting Ms Blade let loose behind the mic. Bad Habit is an excellent debut record from the Cardiff band, it will hopefully see them gain more recognition and fans and ultimately it will see them achieve bigger and better things, Da Iawn! 8/10 

Victorius: Heart Of The Phoenix (Massacre Records)

Teutonic power metal is a genre that can sometimes can be much maligned, the bands all tend to be similar with very few breaking out of the mold. So from Lower Saxony come Victorius who have the blast-beating drums, speedy guitars and powerful vocals you'd expect, having been around since 2004 they have a very polished sound with sparkling production, razor-sharp guitar playing and massive layered vocals on the choruses.

The lyrical content is mainly fantasy and battle with Shadow Warriors taking on the unlikely sound of Ninjas, Die By My Sword about expert use of a sword, Sons Of Orion has a killer synth, a folky feel and the fastest drums on the record. Four records into their career and Victorius are still sticking to their guns as all great power metal bands should, it brings a smile to your face and gets your fist punching the air, a record for fans of Hammerfall Heart Of The Phoenix is a real force of power metal. 7/10

Hateure: Erase This (Self Released)

Hailing from the Philippines Hateure are a sludge band with emphasis on the slow, deliberate, sludge sound. Their debut EP is one track that clocks in at a colossal 10 minutes long and my does drag it's knuckles with the sheer violent sound it creates. Extraordinarily heavy with discordant riffs screamed vocals it's all extremely angry and disorientating the waves of riff after riff can make you woozy and the rough production is a bonus to the D.I.Y sound. Erase This is 10 minutes of sheer distilled rage administered over prolonged period as the band torture their instruments, in the best way possible.  7/10

Reviews: Morta Skuld, Alluvial, Impalers (Reviews By Rich)

Morta Skuld: Wounds Deeper Than Time (Peaceville)

Morta Skuld are an old school death metal band who formed in Milwaukee in 1990. After a string of albums the band called it quits in 1998 before reforming in 2012 and Wounds Deeper Than Time is their first post-reunion album and their first in a whopping 20 years. Thankfully this album has been worth the wait. Morta Skuld have released a slab of proper old school death metal smashing and crashing away like it's 1993 once again albeit complimented by a modern sounding production.

Most of the nine tracks are crushing mid paced bruisers with plenty of old school groove and moments of all out speed and aggression such as the crippling velocity of Scars Within. The band also know how to bring things to a slower more menacing pace whilst still maintaining the same levels of brutality. There seems to be a renewed interest in old school death metal bands with a whole new generation of bands trying to emulate the filthy sound of these bands from the late eighties and early nineties but as proven with this album you simply cannot beat the original bands who were back there in the day. An essential listen for fans of all things brutal. 

A huge welcome back for Morta Skuld. 8/10

Alluvial: The Deep Longing For Annihilation (Self Released)

Alluvial is a collaborative project between Keith Merrow (of Conquering Dystopia) and Wes Hauch (of Black Crown Initiate and formerly of The Faceless) and The Deep Longing For Annihilation is the debut album from the project. The pair play a mixture of progressive and technical death metal albeit in instrumental form. Auditions were held for a vocalist but in the end it was decided to leave the music as it was originally written.

This works to the albums disadvantage in my opinion as this music would work far better and be far more engaging with a vocalist. Unlike the majority of progressive/technical death metal which is usually style over substance this album isn't a load of fretboard wankery and many of the compositions have real atmosphere and depth and the music on display ranges from the brutal and ferocious to the calm and introspective.

The musicianship on display is absolutely top notch and whilst there are plenty of guitar solos they are used sparingly which increases their effectiveness. Whilst the musicianship and compositions produced are impressive I did find my interest starting to wane about two thirds of the way through the album as I find instrumental albums difficult to digest in one sitting. If this project was to return for a second album I think the addition of a vocalist would give the music an added dimension. Still an impressive effort and debut album. 7/10

Impalers: Styx Demon - The Master Of Death (Evil Eye Records)

Impalers are a thrash metal band from Denmark and are one of the new generation of thrash bands replicating the sound and style of old school eighties thrash metal sounding like a cross between the German and US Bay Area thrash styles. Styx Demon: The Master Of Death is their new EP which contains two brand new songs and two cover versions. 

The two new songs are straight for the jugular, ripping thrash tunes with opener Megalodon being a bludgeoning thrash attack and the title track Styx Demon following a similar approach but with a bit of a NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) influence running throughout. The two cover versions are high octane renditions Death Comes Ripping by Misfits and Prowler by Iron Maiden. Both covers are fairly true to the originals but with a bit more bite and aggression. In summary this EP is not essential listening but it is a very fun and enjoyable release. 7/10

Saturday 14 January 2017

Reviews: Gotthard, Cellador, Deaf Radio

Gotthard: Silver (Musikvertrieb)

Swiss rockers Gotthard have now been playing across the world and releasing music for 25 years, so Silver is a nod to the anniversary associated with that many years, the band have overcome tragedy and are still a going concern with guitarist Leo Leoni triumphantly leading the band into their 25th year of rocking. Silver is the third record with vocalist Nic Maeder who took the mic after founder Steve Lee's untimely and tragic death in 2010.

They are still going very strongly though, as this record is evidence, it opens with the piledriving Purple-esque Silver River which pairs huge organ-riffs with the soulful vocals, Gotthard have always utilized the keys to great effect bolstering the slinky guitars of Leoni and Freddy Scherner that team up for the swaggering riffs and each put their own stamp with the solos.

Gotthard have always owed a lot to Whitesnake and on tracks like Stay With Me which is laced with orchestral touches and acoustic guitars they also have touches of Mr Jovi that continues to show that Gotthard have real knack for ballads. It's a case of Silver being as valuable as gold as this record is another classy hard rock album from the Swiss supermen. 7/10   

Cellador: Off The Grid (Scarlet Records)

Well this is a blast from the past! I saw Cellador supporting Trivium shortly after the release of their debut album Enter Deception in 2006. They were one of the bands at the re-insurgence of power metal along with Dragonforce amongst others, an enjoyable band live and on record, after a bit of a fuss was made by the metal press (dubbing them the 'Kings of American Power Metal') the band seemed to be stuck in the USA meaning much of the European press dropped away.

They went on hiatus in 2009 with most of the band quitting, leaving guitarist/songwriter Chris Petersen pretty much by himself, he set about finding a new band, released some demos in 2011 and now finally after bringing in a new line up and re-honing their skills live in support of Amaranthe, Havok, Into Eternity and Helloween, Cellador have returned with their second album.

This version of the band sees Petersen take the role of vocalist along with guitarist, songwriter and producer and the band also add a synth player which is key to developing their infectious, bouncy power metal as it blends with the aggressive, technical dual lead guitar playing. There are nods to Gamma Ray, Dragonforce, Mob Rules and several other Euro power metal acts as the band speed through the the songs at lightspeed, with technical prowess that puts them near the apex of the power metal heap, Cellador are back with a vengeance, stick around guys I for one am very pleased you've returned. 8/10

Deaf Radio: Alarm (Self Released)

Back in 2002 Queens Of The Stone Age released their seminal Songs For The Deaf album, well Deaf Radio are clearly taking this album to heart as they have an entire radio for the deaf. They play cerebral alternative rock and come from Athens, their music has an overarching sound of QOTSA permeating the songs. This influence is at it's most audible on Aggravation which has thumping bass, jangly guitars and erratic vocals. The songs on this record are off kilter, left of centre rockers that mix hazy psych sounds (Vultures & Killers) with blasting alt rock, heavy bass lines and lots of snare and harsh guitar tone that cuts through are the order of the day.

It's a noisy record that revels in its discord the sort of band that would go down a storm in support of Royal Blood or one of Josh Homme's projects. Vocally too they are a dead ringer for the QOTSA frontman which adds to the influence heard on this record. A strong debut record from the Athenians, in places it can be too much of a carbon copy of the QOTSA but if you love psych drenched, fuzzy rock then Deaf Radio could be your new groove thang. 7/10


Friday 13 January 2017

Reviews: Last Union, Mechina, The Clamps (Reviews By Stief)

Last Union: Most Beautiful Day (Self Released) (Dec 2016)

Featuring ex-members of Helloween and current members of Symphony X along with a decent scattering of James LaBrie of Dream Theater fame, you can tell this is going to be a great ride. The debut album from the band, it has a great mix of thumping hard rock, which sways into the realm of the symphonic at times, all tied beautifully together by frontwoman Elisa Scarpecci's wonderful and distinctive voice. As mentioned before, James LaBrie has a few stints on the album, featuring on not one but four songs, and his voice fits brilliantly with the hard hitting drums of Uli Kursch (ex-Helloween), whilst Cristano Tiberi's riffs mesh wonderfully with the bass work of Symphony X's Mike LePond.

Stand out songs include the title track Most Beautiful Day, which includes overlapping vocals, strings, and excellent guitar work from Tiberi, The Best Of Magic, a slower paced song with the same hard rock sound and Ghostwriter, a fast paced, toe tapping song guaranteed to get the heads banging. With news that the band is already working on a second studio album, it's looking like a great start for this band, one to keep your eye on! 9/10

Mechina: As Embers Turn To Dust (Self Released)

Starting off with a 2 minute symphonic intro, before bursting into the blast beats of their industrial tinged death metal sound, it's obvious Mechina aren't just a regular death metal band. This isn't to say the old "Industrial death" combination hasn't been done before, but Mechina pack a punch. The 7th album from the American three-piece is a decent mix of soaring symphonic strings and vocals mixed with harsh blast beats and guitars mixed wonderfully by Joe Tiberi. 

If I had one criticism, it would be that David Holch's clean vocals seem to fit just outside of the rest of the band's sound. It's a good voice, but Holch's death growls seem to gel better when juxtaposed with Mel Rose's operatic voice, whereas his clean vocals seem to be fighting to be heard fully over the music. Whether a product of mixing or an aesthetic choice, it's hard to say, but it's a great listen either way. 7/10

The Clamps: Blend, Shake, Swallow (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Album number two from this Italian trio is heavy rock n' roll from start to finish. From the opening of Barracuda to the close of One More Time/Barracuda Outro, it doesn't let you breathe. Every song brings visions of hurtling down the American Highway at 90mph, Lead singer Ben's gravel-laden voice fits perfectly with the dirty riffs of his guitar, Bely's bass is equally as dirty, and drummer Marcy moves from the slow beat to overtime in seconds. There's a mix of punk attitude, the pace of speed metal and the sludginess of stoner rock all wrapped in a delicious 50's rock n' roll package. There's even the odd Meat Loafian (it's a word) boogie-woogie piano thrown in for good measure. Drink it in man!  9/10

Thursday 12 January 2017

Reviews: Project Nightscape, Pareidolon, Book Of Wyrms

Project Nightscape: To Sin Against Our Mercies (Imperiad Entertainment) (Released Dec 2016)

Hang on, this is going to be a bit of information overload, Portland, Oregon band Project Nightscape's debut album is based upon the supernatural thrillers of writer/director David W. Edwards, this is a progressive hard rock concept album based around Grammy-nominated guitarist Tony Gaglio. The album’s story concerns an itinerant, nineteenth-century doctor who encounters a blind boy in communication with the dead. With those buying the album on a pre-sale receiving a free digital copy of tie-in novel Nightscape: Early DarknessTo Sin Against Our Mercies is a record based upon a book that is all part of a bigger multi-platform media entertainment project that takes in supernatural thriller films, books and video games.

Gaglio has some top flight help for this record with Vinny Appice taking the drums on Occulted (that unsurprisingly sounds like Dio-era Sabbath), Mirabi Peart contributing violin throughout, Tobin Sprout (Guided By Voices) duelling with Gaglio on Only Reason while Pete Trewavas duels on the title track. These contributions the already powerhouse performances by the rest of the band vocalists Holland Andrews and Rich Ray work in perfect unison of light and shade telling the story while David Conigilo is the pace of the record anchoring all of the flights of fancy that Gaglio's guitars and Craig Bidondo's keys and Hammonds take you on.

The music on this record is complex and spans many genres, the soundscapes move from gospel-flavoured rock (Living In) Sacred Time, through the jazzy Inmortuorum Memorias, the pop-laced prog of Only Reason before the 10 minute plus Starlost finishes the record in epic fashion with a string section, layered keys,synths and organs, guitar solos galore and the beautiful vocal harmonies that fill the record. It can be overwhelming at times but give it a few spins and some time and you will be richly rewarded, behind the complicated musically dexterous music there are subtle undertones that link the songs but let them all speak for themselves. Classic sounds throughout To Sin Against Our Mercies is a spectacular concept record! 9/10

Pareidolon: Aporia (Self Released)

Following on from the the female fronted prog rockers Project Nightscape, Pareidolon are a.7-piece Canadian progressive rock band formed in Nelson, BC by bassist/songwriter Lachlan Tocher in 2015. The band is made up entirely of graduates from the Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology program. Featuring three girls and four guys yet again there are dual female and male vocals, but unlike Project Nightscape, Pareidolon have a much more classical sound taking their influences from Marillion, (early) Genesis, Camel and most importantly King Crimson the first song Abducted! especially owes a lot to Robert Fripp, albeit with more female vocals from Brittany Keller.

It also has hints of Bigelf in it too due mainly to the massive organs and Jonathan Kwak's wild-eyed vocals. For a band with seven members nothing ever seems rushed or overwhelming, the songs are actually quite concise but obviously played with a technicality of a group of virtuosos meaning that there is a strong mix of musicality and accessibility. 

The six songs on this record are all different in approach, some are big, loud celebrations, the synthy, poppy Modern Romance others however like the atmospheric The Tunnel and the devastating Leave are more restrained and beautiful taking cues from emotive sounds of Mr Wilson or Anathema. For a debut record of a young band this is of the highest quality, indulgent, mesmerizing songwriting, superior performances and their influences worn proudly on their sleeves. 2017 is shaping up to be a very good year. 9/10           

Book Of Wyrms: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Twin Earth)

It's quite fitting really that Book Of Wyrms debut record is called Sci-Fi/Fantasy seeing as they hail from Richmond Virginia, the landing ground of Intergalactic Scumdogs G.W.A.R. Whereas the notable Virginian monsters play their sci-fi loving thrash Book Of Wyrms are more groove heavy trippy sounding prospect marrying science fiction and fantasy lyrics (thus the self explanatory album title) with slabs of heavy stoner metal that often creeps into knuckle dragging doom.

Six of the seven tracks on this record clock in at over 6 minutes with All Hallow's Eve and Sourwolf  the records longest efforts. The entire album clocks in at a hefty 53 minutes but the record keeps the attention of the listener by pairing the slabs of riffage with the hazy female vocals of Sarah Moore-Lyndsey. It's relatively standard fare but good enough to last the distance what separates it from much of the other stoner metal bands around are the lyrical flights of fancy and the female vocals. It's a valuable addition to the stoner metal scene. 7/10  

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Reviews: Halestorm, Dead Witches, Solarus

Halestorm: ReAniMate 3.0 (Atlantic)

I what seems to be a recurring theme now Halestorm have released another EP of covers as stopgap between full length albums with artists as wide ranging as Skid Row, G'N'R, Pat Benatar, Judas Priest, The Beatles, Lady Gaga and Daft Punk covered in the past you never know quite what to expect from the Pennsylvania natives on these EP's. Luckily we have familiar territory as the famous opening of Still Of The Night starts Lzzy Hale gives it a jolly good belt her voice at full power, those who have seen Halestorm recently know that they have been playing this one live and as such they channel that live sound into this recorded version.

On the rest of the record there is the poppier sounds of Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins and Heathens by Twenty One Pilots both showing the more melodic radio rock style of the band even but they often use these EP's to show off their heavier sound this time with Soundgarden's Fell On Black Days and Metallica's Ride The Lightning (which is done brilliantly actually). Tellingly their cover of I Hate Myself For Loving You by Joan Jett sounds exactly like a Halestorm song rather than a cover. ReAniMate 3.0 is yet another selection of choice covers to satisfy the fans. 7/10  

Dead Witches: Ouija (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Ok I'll get this out of the way now Dead Witches are a doom band made from members of other doom bands and as such they sound like an amalgamation of the bands they have all previously played in. The band is the unholy union of Mark Greening formerly of Electric Wizard, more recently With The Dead his 'supergroup' with Cathedral's Lee Dorrian and Virginia Morti the vocalist of Psychedelic Witchcraft so here on this debut record you get all the facets of both musicians past the rumbling heavy doom riffs Greg Elk (who sadly died after album had been recorded) cranks out at full volume, Carl Greary's bass rattling your eardrums, Greening's drumming thundering like heavy artillery fire as Morti's haunting vocals bewitch with tales of the occult.

The record is a psychedelic, hypnotic debut that beckons you into it's sinful, subversive sound with a vintage flavour, right from the discordant Intro the record takes you back to the halcyon days of Dopethrone (the record was recorded in the same studio as that legendary album). Drawing Down The Moon has a stoner rock vibe with the fastest riffage on the record, while Dead and Ouija are the low, slow, groove-laden doom songs you'd expect from those involved. Ouija kicks out the distorted, trippy, fuzzy riffs and is the exact record you'd want from anything Greening is associated with. 8/10

Solarus: Reunion (Self Released)

Canadian progressive metal band Solarus have a modern take on progressive metal, much like fellow Canadian's and similarly titled Borealis. They have technical modern riffs from band founder Lucas McArthur, his guitar playing is virtuosic, his rhythm playing cranks the technicality, the solos are impressive feats and he also handles the bass giving the bottom end for drummer Jacob Burton to blast away against. Up front Sarah Dee's vocals are excellent she delivers each line with conviction and the requisite power giving a nice change from the normal female fronted metal, Solarus have a sound more akin to Threat Signal, Symphony X and as I've said Borealis, who the band have much more common with than just name and sound.

Borealis' drummer Sean Dowell provides this record with the stirring orchestrations, Ethereal Tears being the pick of the bunch and their singer Matt Marinelli gives a blast of his baritone duetting with Sarah on Shattered Skies and the title track. The band are really a female fronted Borealis but this is not a bad thing by any stretch, I love Borealis they have managed to keep the progressive metal scene very fresh and as such I also like Solarus a lot they too play direct prog/power metal that is equally complex and accessible much like their fellow Canadians. 8/10     

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Reviews: Foetal Juice, Light & Shade, Mordant (Reviews By Rich)

Foetal Juice: Masters Of Absurdity (GrindScene Records)

One band who have been making a name for themselves in the UK underground metal scene is Manchester's Foetal Juice. With a number of splits and the wonderfully titled Big Trouble In Little Vagina EP under their belt they have finally released their first full length album Masters Of Absurdity. The band continue the sound they have laid down in previous recordings - a deliciously brutal blend of old school death metal albeit with a big wedge of humour throughout with hilarious song titles and lyrical content.

 The jokeiness doesn't overshadow the album and the music more than speaks for itself though. Songs such as Noneckahedron, Gin'll Fix It, Nun So Vile and More Hate, More Hell are viciously brutal yet undeniably catchy. The songs also vary throughout from scathingly fast to a slower bludgeoning style. Foetal Juice have been honing their craft on their early releases and the result is an extremely accomplished slice of death metal that displays a love of the genre but also a vast knowledge of it. With Masters Of Absurdity the band show themselves to be one of the best and most promising death metal bands in the UK right now. 8/10

Light & Shade: The Essence Of Everything (Scarlet Records)

Light & Shade are an international band featuring members of Luca Turilli's Rhapsody, Secret Sphere and Seven Spires and The Essence Of Everything is their debut album. They combine together power metal, progressive metal and symphonic metal in a fine way that mixes a pop metal sensibility with epic symphonic passages and a slight extreme metal edge with some very aggressive parts complete with harsh vocals. The main polarising point of the album will be vocalist Adrienne Cowan who whilst having an impressive range does tend to go a bit overboard at points where it is not really necessary.

Her vocals range from soft melodic pop metal through harsh extreme metal to only what I can describe as melodic screaming. I found it very jarring, distracting and irritating at times. The band are impressive musicians with some great songwriting skills and for the debut album of a young band it is very accomplished indeed. Someone just please just tell Adrienne to restrain her vocals a bit. 7/10

Mordant: Demonic Satantic (To The Death Records)

This is my first exposure to Sweden's Mordant and as far as first impressions go this is rather good. Demonic Satanic is the band's third album and a delicious blend of melodic black metal, death metal and thrash metal sounding like a melting pot of Dissection, Nifelheim, Desaster and Absu. The music on the album is fast and ferocious though there is a nice balance between the melodic and the gnarly with some fantastic songs such as Devastating Storm...Evil Holocaust, Evil Impalers and Infernal Curse Of Evil bidding you to bang your head and raise your horns. Mordant have managed to put together a wonderfully old school sounding record which fans of old school black and thrash metal will absolutely adore. 8/10

Monday 9 January 2017

A View From Another Country: Scars Of Tears

Scars Of Tears, Prague Draft Live Stage, Kastoria, Greece

So I once again spent New Years in Greece with my other half and this time I ventured as North as I have ever been to the beautiful municipality of Kastoria, this mountainous part of the country has a devastatingly gorgeous inland lake, with plunging temperatures and the build up to the Ragoutsaria carnival that takes place on the first weekend of January in full swing there was a party atmosphere in the air with plenty of feasting, drinking and traditional Greek music filling the snow covered streets (not that the temperatures put off the hardy inhabitants of the Macedonian region, they were all out partying with aplomb). 

Still myself and my girlfriend did manage to get away from the sound of drums and clarinet with a trip to one of the few little bars/clubs the city has the Prague Draft Bar/Live Stage. The band in question were Kastoria natives Scars Of Tears who have recently signed to an American record label so I was excited to see what they could do in the live arena.

However first we had to see the support and local boys R For Renegade (5) were unfortunately more of hindrance than an enjoyment, prompting me to order more the of the clubs fine Belgian draft ale (they also a great selection of bottled ales too). With most Greek bands playing local gigs the set was a mixture of covers and their own songs and they ranged from the abysmal Last Christmas, through to the misguided Californication which was rendered limp by the guitar solo, despite Nick being a competent guitarist. 

The band did play some of their own songs though which are actually where the band shine, they do a good job of the alternative rock they have written themselves and really if they stuck to that it would have been a much more entertaining start to the night. Still those in attendance seemed to be cheer the band maybe it's just me anyway best of luck to them but they need to fill their set with more of their own songs.   

Scars Of Tears (8) are a powerful, atmospheric, female fronted metal band, with symphonic touches and crunching guitars the band had an air of  Delain, Within Temptation and some Lacuna Coil when they ramped up the heaviness. As the set kicked off the solos were a little masked due to muddy sound but by song 2 the sound was clear meaning that everything could be heard. As I've mentioned Greek club shows are a little odd as they tend to be a mix of the band's own songs and lots of covers, Scars Of Tears had some very good selections in their setlist, near the beginning of the set was Smalltown Boy originally by Bronski Beat which displayed the female/male vocal switching between the deep vocals of guitarist/vocalist Babis Stefanidis  and the soaring melodic pipes of frontwoman Anastasiadou Charitini.

Her vocals are not operatic but she sings with a distinct power and drama, the interplay between them great as the male vocals are gruff and deep giving a perfect juxtaposition with Anastasiadou's vocals. Even more impressive was that she was singing with a fever in the morning. Other covers in the set were a Lacuna Coil sounding Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey), a crushing rendition of The Bleeding by FFDP and a bouncy run through of Stratovarius' Hunting High And Low which made me grin from ear to ear even if the rest of the crowd didn't seem to recognise it.

With so many covers in the set it's sometimes hard to pick out the artists own songs but with slick modern, heavy metal and symphonic elements songs such as Broken Glass and Tear My Scar really stood out and showed why the band have been picked up by an American label. The band are all excellent live Babis Stefanidis and Petros Nikolaou's guitars move between thrash, speed and classic metal riffage while the grooves are brought by Thanasis Salagiannis (bass) and Christos Polyzos (drums), as the set wound up they played a rocked up cover of Diamonds by Rhianna which worked well in the heavy rock style. 

They finished up with a cover that seemed to be totally in keeping with their style, as the keys kicked in they blasted through What Have You Done Now by Within Temptation and had me for one singing along. The crowd had noticeably thinned by the end of the set (possibly due to Greek indifference or many finishing early to get home before the cold set in) but from what I saw Scars Of Tears deserve a bigger audience, hopefully bigger things lay ahead.   

Sunday 8 January 2017

Top 10's Of 2016

Stief's Top 10 Albums

1. Avantasia - Ghostlights
2. Noctem - Haeresis
3. Twilight Force - Heroes Of Mighty Magic
4. Rotting Christ - Rituals
5. Gojira - Magma
6. Temperance - The Earth Embraces Us All
7. Outright Resistance - Me Vs I
8. Charred Walls Of The Damned - Creatures Watching Over The Damned
9. Ghost - Popestar EP
10. Plagueship - Shrykull
Anthony's Top 10 Albums

1. Gojira – Magma
2. Metallica – Hard Wired To Self Destruct
3. Korn – The Serenity of Suffering
4. King 810 – La Petit Mort Or A Conversation With God
5. Billy Talent – Afraid Of Heights
6. Opeth – Sorceress
7. KSE - Incarnate
8. Grand Magus – Sword Songs
9. Megadeth – Dystopia
10. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake

Alex & Chris's Top 10 Albums

1. Sabaton - The Last Stand
2. Metallica - Hardwired To Self Destruct
3. Korn - The Serenity Of Suffering
4. Gojira - Magma
5. Grand Magus - Sword Songs
6. Amon Amarth - Jomsviking
7. Lacuna Coil - Delirium
8. Megadeth - Dystopia
9. Opeth - Sorceress
10. Billy Talent - Afraid Of Heights

Mrs H's Top 10 Albums

1. The Mission - Another Fall From Grace
2. Raveneye - Nova 
3. Joanne Shaw Taylor - Wild 
4. The Temperance Movement - White Bear 
5. The Answer - Solas 
6. Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Anyway You Love We Know How You Feel 
7. Blackberry Smoke - Like An Arrow 
8. Riverside - Eye Of The Soundscape 
9. Blues Pills - Lady In Gold 
10. Lazuli - Nos Âmes Saoules

Elle's Top 10 Albums

1. Korn - The Serenity Of Suffering
2. Ghost - Popestar
3. Gojira - Magma
4. PAIN - Coming Home
5. Devil Driver - Trust No one
6. Hatebreed - The Concrete Confessional
7. Opeth - Sorceress
8. Testament - The Brotherhood Of The Snake
9. King 810 - La Petite Mort Or A Conversation With God
10. Metallica - Hard-Wired To Self Destruct

Saturday 7 January 2017

Gigs Of The Year 2016

Top 10 live performances of 2016

I made it to 41 gigs and festivals this year. So 38 gigs plus three festivals; the less said about Download the better but the Steelhouse Festival was great fun despite the rain on Sunday and my sole day in the sun for the Friday kept up my annual attendance at Catton Hall. Amongst all of the bands who appeared in the outdoors and the other 38 headliners and numerous supports many were just amazing. I've selected ten to share, either the entire gig or the individual band performance. I've worked through the year, which had one massive absence in the shape of an empty Hammersmith Odeon at the end of January where the bomber should have been. Whether Motorhead would have been any good is all conjecture of course but it would have been ace for Lemmy, Mikkey and Phil to have made it to that 40th run at their spiritual home. Of course, you always look back on the year and wonder why you didn't go to more live music. Finances, other commitments and sheer exhaustion of life sit amongst a host of other reasons but I feel reasonably content with this number. I've put a fair bit back into the music world and add on the cds and merchandise and it's not too shabby.

Staring at the beginning of the year, my first gig in late January was also one of the best. Steven Wilson is not only a masterful musician but a superb performer and his band delivered a stunning show at Bristol’s Colston Hall performing all of 2015’s Hand.Cannot. Erase, as well as a collection of tracks from his previous solo work and a couple of Porcupine Tree covers alongside a poignant tribute to the recently deceased David Bowie.

Moving into March we had a triple bill in South Wales in one week with the Swedes Sabaton hitting the Tramshed and Bay Area thrashers Exodus laying waste to the Globe. However, it was another thrash titan, the mighty Machine Fucking Head who pick up my second nomination with their Evening with Machine Head at a packed Great Hall. Of all the numerous MFH performances I've seen over the years this was possibly the best I've ever seen. Shorn of the internal strife, the band played with a relaxed freedom of an outfit moving into the legendary status. Powerful, intense and so tight, with a set list crammed with more treats than a stocking on Christmas Day.

My third pick was a band who rarely visit these shores. Amorphis visited the brilliant Fleece in Bristol a week after MFH and whilst we were still recovering from the thrash assault the Finnish outfit proved their worth to an enchanted audience who were over joyed to see them in the UK. With their strongest album Under The Red Cloud comprising a Decent part of the set, they also flooded the evening with some memorable tracks from their back catalogue. A cracking evening.

Roll forward to July, past a soggy Download where little inspired mainly due to the absolute misery of standing in the pissing rain and where Sabbath’s final (not) UK performance fizzled rather than exploded, and the first U.K. appearances since 2004 of the Wilson sisters and Heart. Whilst the band were superb, with a magical 90 minutes of classics, the setting made the event. The 2200 seater Symphony Hall in Birmingham allowed the evening to be so intimate in comparison to their other dates and really made the evening special.

Through the summer and some storming performances at Steelhouse from Raveneye, Blues Pills, The Answer and The Von Hertzen Brothers as well as the finale of Twisted Sister’s UK career on a gloriously hot day at Catton Hall and a trip down memory lane with Status Quo in the fine settings of Caldicott Castle. Canadian outfit Barenaked Ladies made a rare visit to South Wales whilst the stoner fuelled rock of Ben Ward’s Orange Goblin filled the Globe in early October. My fifth gig of the year was totally different with an evening with Mrs H at the O2 Academy Bristol to witness gothic perfection in the shape of Wayne Hussey and The Mission. Whisking us back to 1986 and God’s Own Medicine, this was no nostalgia trip with a set list buoyed by tracks from the band’s excellent Another Fall From Grace. What made this gig so fantastic was not only the tightness of the band now in their 30th year but the immense collective spirit of the crowd who looked out for each other from the start. With security heavy handed, Hussey ordered them out of the pit and the crowd sorted it from there on in. The mandatory human tower for Tower of Strength was just awesome. A rare glimpse of human bonding which we metal heads falsely think we have the monopoly on.

The beautiful setting of Shepherds Bush Empire in Central London was the venue for gig number six. The melancholic sound of Swedish outfit Katatonia has long been a favourite of mine and the opportunity to take the three lads to a special evening to celebrate Alex and Chris’s 21st birthday was snapped up. We were not disappointed as the band played the entire Cold Great Distance before a greatest hits set which covered songs from their entire back catalogue. An impromptu and additional encore of Ghost of the Sun concluded a very special evening.

As we hit November the gigs came thick and fast. Raveneye’s energetic show in Clwb Ifor Bach was close to inclusion in the top ten, as were solid shows from stalwarts UFO at Tramshed and Saxon at the O2. However, the next gig did make it into the top ten. A sold out Globe was treated to two hours of Liverpool’s finest Anathema, who played a quite magical show. Four new tracks nestled comfortably alongside the emotional Untouchable Part I  and II, which had half the audience in tears, and a plethora of songs from the band's now extensive back catalogue. Rarely do we get to see this stunning band on home soil, and the crowd were once more a contributory factor to the evening with massive knowledge and respect show. Throughout the show.

Three more gigs the following week including number eight. The Marble Factory had two visits in three days but after the sound made Blues Pills show a disappointment our return was anything but as Italians Lacuna Coil rammed the place to the rafters and put on their best Perfromance I'd ever seen from the band. Attacking hard from the start with Ultimate Ratio from the superb Delirium, the band delivered a show of incredibly high quality. Packed with top songs and newer tracks, the crowd were on board from the start whilst the duel vocals of Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia combined more effectively than ever before.

It was off to Wembley Arena for the gig of the year, and number nine in the list. A bonus treats for this  one as Anathema opened the evening with a confident performance. However, if ever a band peaked during 2016 it was Opeth, who were just remarkable. Oozing confidence, the band played a double set which contained some mighty slabs of progressive metal and a selection of tracks from Damnation and Deliverance which culminated in the epic 12 minute title track of the latter. I was breathless when we left London.

After that, it was going to be difficult for any band to match it but French band Lazuli got close with their lovely show at the Fleece a week later. Marillion’s sold out show at the Tramshed was marred by arse holes in the crowd. Electric Six were great value whilst my final show saw the mighty Clutch bring the house down at the Great Hall. However, the final gig in my top ten took place in a small 600 capacity venue, The Asylum in Birmingham where Karl Willetts’ new band Memoriam provided a stunning hour of death metal which really was first class. Brutal but controlled and so so good.

With ten gigs already booked for 2017 and goodies like The Answer still to purchase, anticipation will be high again. I'm hoping for an arena tour from Metallica and Very much looking forward to the old guard of Maiden and Purple  in Cardiff and Kiss at Wembley. The return of the eagle at Steelhouse, an amazing line up already at BOA and the inaugural Hammerfest Birmingham weekend are also in the diary. Live music. There is nothing like it. See you at the back!