Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics: The Man With The Stars On His Knees (Self Released)
Do you remember Heaven's Basement? They released a very well received album a few years ago, with massive press coverage and many high profile shows their star shone brightly but much like the match that was on their album cover it wasn't to last, the band pretty much disbanded after vocalist Aaron Buchanan left the group due to personal demons.
Then there was a period of nothing, the band were pretty much dead in the water and their singer was out of the limelight, in this time out Buchanan rekindled his fire forging a working relationship with former Raveneye sticksman Kev Hickman, guitarist Tom McCarthy, bassist Ryan Woods (replaced by Chris Guyatt) and his sister Laurie on guitar. I witnessed the fruits of this labour supporting InMe in The Globe and I was blown away, the passion and fire displayed by the band was intoxicating so I was excited to see whether this would transfer to the debut record.
Opening with a percussive stomp Show Me What Your Made Of is a short almost intro song that fronts up and confronts you to listen to the rest of the record, its one of the many Queen influences that shine through on this record being akin to We Will Rock You in it's percussive nature and brevity. The first song proper is the autobiographical All These Things I've Said And Done which is constructed on a great rock riff and has Buchanan's tortured soul coming through on the stark lyrics, with a soulful full-toned voice that is an amalgamation of Vedder, Cornell and Kennedy the confessional lyrics are given gravitas as Buchanan doesn't anything by halves.
The rocking rhythm section drive the heaviness as Hickman pounds away, with McCarthy and Laurie arriving as one of the best new guitar duo's for a long time, the songs flit between numerous influences Dancin' Down Below is a snotty hard rocker with a punk attitude, The Devil That Needs You is a modern track built on Hickman's great stick work, things get more epic on Journey Out Of Here it could put you in mind of modern BMTH but it breaks into a superior guitar solo section at the end accompanied by some huge organ stabs.
As the record progresses the tunes keep coming, with the title track ramping up the balladry, it's got a Soundgarden sound to it as the passion is audible, slow burning and dramatic it's a perfect centre piece that climaxes into a Queen flavoured finale, the Soundgarden influence is writ large on A God Is No Friend which is a darker, bluesier and fuzzier track, while everything gets heavier on the metallic Mind Of A Mute which has a grinding dirty low riffage.
This record is fantastic debut, you can hear the fire I saw when I watched the band live, the songs have been constructed but they sound natural and fluid. Elements of 90's hard rock meet 70's pomp and it produces 11 excellent tracks that get better and evolve every time you listen to them. On A God Is No Friend Aaron shouts "I Ain't Got Nothing To Prove" and he is damn right, he and his Cult Classics have produced an excellent debut album. 9/10
Art Of Anarchy: The Madness (Another Century)
Jon and Vince Votta (rhythm guitar and drums respectively) return with the second album of their supergroup that also features Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal on lead guitar and Disturbed's John Moyer on bass. The first record featured Scott Weiland on vocals, who was relatively negative about the whole band progressing past the first album, well with Weiland's death in 2015 another record with him was shelved and the band searched for another singer. Continuing their theme of recruiting redeemed singers who have fallen from grace their new vocalist is former Creed vocalist Scott Stapp whose past is hinted to on Won't Let You Down and Changed Man's telling lyrics, these two tracks are also the most Creed sounding song on the record with a big emotive choruses and chunky riffs.
The press behind this album hints at a new direction and yes that can be heard, this record moves away from the sleazier hard rock of the Weiland album for the more modern alternative rock stylings better associated with Stapp's former act, it's different yes but not a real leap from the debut. The playing is good, Bumblefoot the obvious attraction giving a great account of himself but it's not really and upward step, rather a sideward one. Maybe it's due to the upheaval that befell the band after the release of their first record but they seem to be at the same level they were then. Taken as a re-debut if you will there is a lot of promise, let's hope they are bit luckier as Art Of Anarchy Mark 2. 7/10
Order Of Voices: Constancy (Self Released)
Sheffield band Order Of Voices, have seen a lot change between their debut and this one, Constancy is an album that has taken the band through a massive journey of self-discovery and improvement. It means that this record draws strength and inspiration from all those events as any good writers would and it has translated into an emotive and mature second album that sees every member of the band adding their own individual mark on the songs. It's an album of modern progressively tinged alternative rock that is based around clean guitar lines and powerful vocals. There are nods to Tool and Alice In Chains throughout, the latter especially on Raise A Glass which apes the Seattle natives to a tee. Elsewhere Hand In Hand opens the record with a very modern melodic slow burning track with a massive driving chorus.
Diametric brings the big riffs and mixes the intricacies of Tool with the emotive power of Soundgarden both in the music and in the tough vocals. They even add touches of Floydian mystery on Speak Aloud which has electronic beats mixing with the analogue percussion well. The songs on this record are delivered with a intricate musicianship but also a keen ear for songwriting meaning that the whole album sounds confident and musically dexterous. It's never too heavy or isolating like Tool can be, it's not metal by any means but with the rockier moments complimented by the melancholic slower songs like Revelations & Ghosts you get true exhibition of Order Of Voices skill. A cracking album that demands repeat listens. 8/10
Damnation's Day: A World Awakens (Sensory Records)
Australia's Damnation's Day have returned with their second album of heavy thrash influenced power metal, the band are now reduced to a three piece with vocalist/guitarist Mark Kennedy and brother Dean on drums joined by lead guitarist Jon King. Mark's vocals are great powerful with a wide range, he can hit high notes with ease slotting in brilliantly against the tough metal backing. With touches of bands such as Iced Earth, Nevermore, Symphony X and even our own Haken, the thrash-like riffs mix with more progressive textures on tracks like I Pray where the melodic lead guitars are punctuated with furious riffs.
They slow things down on the acoustic Into Black where Mark really displays his vocal prowess. At nine songs A World Awakens doesn't outstay it's welcome the songs are textured, played with technicality, passion and although they may not be in the premier league of heavy/power metal bands as they are only two albums into their career and hail from a country that is not known worldwide for it's heavy/power metal (although we at MoM towers know that's not strictly true), however they could be well on their way with this second album just tweaking everything displayed on the debut and ramping it up and topping it off with amazing vocal prowess. 7/10