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Sunday 30 April 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Krysthla (Live Review By Paul)

Krysthla, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

A night of crushingly heavy metal at the under threat rock club with three bands for a mere £5 proved an excellent night out. Opening up proceedings was local outfit Slob (6) playing their first ever gig. The grind death growls of Alex Lord were intense whilst the noise from drummer Wayne Fingerz and string man Phil Brookes sounded like a quartet, not a duo. Grind isn't my bag but full marks to the band for getting things moving. A decent number of supporters roared Slob on throughout their short set. Promising beginnings.

Merthyr metallers Chaos Trigger (7) have been familiar faces in the South Wales scene for some time. Skull crushing metal since 2006 no less. With their excellent very fresh debut Degenerate Matter still on the playlist the band started at 100mph only to have the wind rudely removed from their sails by a broken string for guitarist Mark Llewellyn. This slowed their momentum somewhat, but after a few minutes the guys were back on it and blasting their heavy technical death metal. Tracks such as Fucking Machines and Release The Hounds got the faithful moving with Ben Duffin Jones high energy movement on and off the stage complete with his swinging dreads a fine sight. The band have played many venues across the country including a stellar set at Bloodstock a couple of years ago yet they still have that local band in the pub approach at times. Their loyal following lapped it up all the while. Good stuff.

If there is a UK band with a more professional approach than Wellinborough's Krysthla (9) then I'd real like to see it. These guys do things by the book and it is demonstrated in the quality of their work. Bizarrely nearly all of the crowd had disappeared when the band kicked off their set, and the bemusement on Adi Mayes face as five of us stood in front of them was evident. This didn't stop them and the band launched into 45 minutes of the most bone breaking heavy metal. Of course, with Eradication Festival only the weekend before I wouldn't dream of saying that these guys are the heaviest to play at Fuel but they must have hit the top ten for foundation shaking.

Their blasting technical, thrash, progressive and death metal, combined with the sheer aural assault of Adi Mayes was a delight and as the tardy audience filed back in things soon heated up. Tracks from the fantastic new Peace In Our Time already sit comfortably alongside older stuff from 2015's A War Of Souls And Desires. Visually the band are impressive with bassist Carl Davies and guitarists Neil Hudson and Noel Davies shredding and relentlessly head banging. Mayes prowls the stage, coercing the crowd to participate, resulting in a couple of female stage invasions and some of the weirdest crowd surfing you've ever seen.

Meanwhile the battery from drummer Wayne Minney was just relentless. As the on stage sound blew a fuse, the band closed their set possibly a little early but 45 minutes was sufficient to fill the Krysthla banks once again. This is a band on the up. They work exceptionally hard, they know their stuff and they deserve bigger things. If they are in your town, you owe it to yourself to check them out.

Saturday 29 April 2017

Reviews: God Dethroned, Kobra & The Lotus, Samsara Blues Experiment, Adrenaline Rush (Reviews By Paul)

God Dethroned: The World Ablaze (Metal Blade)

It’s been seven long years since God Dethroned released Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross. Album number 10, The World Ablaze places the Dutch blackened death metal outfit firmly back in the field of vision and its an outstanding piece of technically diverse music. It retains all the ferocity of their back catalogue and continues the themes of war, with a particularly poignant cover of troops going into battle during the Great War. What it also has is a wide range of styles, with oodles of melody threaded intricately between the brutal blast beats, shredding riffs and slicing hooks. Escape Across The Ice (White Army) for example, is full of power whilst restrained in comparison from the break neck speed of tracks such as Breathing Through Blood and Annihilation Crusade which are just crushingly heavy.

If you want the biggest riffs of the year then stop at Messina Ridge, which tells the story of the allies attempt to take land southeast of Ypres in 1917. This track is immense, sitting alongside the mighty Memoriam in terms of absolute suffocating power. Founder father Henri Sattler continues to deliver the vocal goods, whilst his guitar work is superbly bolstered by new man Mike Ferguson. Album closer The 11th Hour honours the end of World War, Armistice Day and is stunning. A slower paced melodic death metal approach containing some technically blistering guitar work and massive control from drummer Michiel Van der Pilcht and bassist Jeron Pomper. The World Ablaze is an album that should appeal to all who like metal. It is a massive return for one of the genres most important bands. 9/10

Kobra And The Lotus: Prevail I (Napalm)

Canadian outfit Kobra and the Lotus led by the enigmatic Kobra Paige have now been around for eight years and Prevail I, the first of two albums to be released this year, is their fourth full release. I must admit I’ve been unimpressed by their live performances when I’ve seen KATL live, although last year’s opening slot for Delain was a vast improvement on their show at BOA a few years ago. Prevail I contains some very powerful symphonic metal combined with the more routine metal which works well. First single TriggerPulse is a smouldering bruiser of a track, with Paige’s voice impressive.

The rest of the band work hard to provide a solid platform, Jasio Kulakowski’s heavy duty guitar work giving the album the metal edge. In a challenging field where the quality of female fronted bands is currently high, KATL have their work cut out to make an impact. Prevail I will do no harm to their profile and is worthy of an hour of your time. Check out the head banging penultimate beast Hell On Earth, a rip snorting battering ram of a track with the heavy duty drumming of Lord Marcus Lee and the slick time changes effective. Another release that’s worth devoting an hour of your time to. 7/10

Samsara Blues Experiment: One With The Universe (Electric Magic)

Any album that opens with a track that lasts 11 minutes is going to be a crazy ride. So it is with One With The Universe, the fourth album from German's Samsara Blues Experiment. Samsara means ‘wandering’ or ‘world’ in Sanskrit, a word very apt for the vast number of blends that flow through this quite astonishing release. The band, who were formed in 2007 by guitarist and vocalist Christian Peters, deliver five of the most brilliant psychedelic/stoner tracks which lasts over three quarters of an hour.

Each track is a complex exploration, full of meandering travel and tangent side streets. Vipassana opens the proceedings, just under 11 minute, shifting from stoner Clutch type riffage to heavier doom laden passages before drifting effortlessly into the astral plain. Sad Guru Returns sticks a little closer to the blueprint, with some swirling synthesisers adding to the Mastodon-esque maelstrom before the pace slows to a calm and gentle middle section. Glorious Daze has elements of Jim Morrison and The Doors, steeped in the late 60s/early 70s sound, trippy bass and drums and fuzzy guitar work combining with some haunting keyboards as it builds.

It’s the title track which really allows the band to let rip, with Thomas Vedder’s drums and the bass of Han Eisett working magically with Peters’ guitar work, the synths and the odd bid of sitar to provide a palate of sounds that is ethereal and enchanting. It burns slowly, flashes of fire appearing as the intensity flares before returning to a more relaxed journey as the track builds to a stomping majestic finale. Superb! Overall, if you like a bit of trippy shit then this is right on the button. Well worth a go. 8/10

Adrenaline Rush: Soul Survivor (Frontiers)

2014’s debut release was a collaboration between vocalist Tave Wanning and the immensely talented Erick Martensson of Eclipse who performed many the instruments on the melodic rock release. Three years on and things have changed slightly and quite interestingly with a collaboration with Firespawn’s Fredrik Folkare although Martensson remained around to contribute and act as a sounding board. With a new band on board, Soul Survivor is a heavier and darker release than the self-titled debut, whilst retaining the melody and sleekness. New discovery Sam Soderlindh acquits himself well with some very sharp guitar work and the band is technically tight. Tave Wanning’s voice is something else though, and you’ll either love it or hate it.

To me it’s far too close to pop diva style and the saccharine soaked title track is one that curled the stomach. When the band do let rip they so with aplomb. Album opener Adrenaline, the throw away Stand My Ground and the Kiss style stomp of Shock Me (not the original don’t panic) are all decent if lightweight rock tunes. If you love your rock with a tongue in cheek fist pumping and a large slice of Gorgonzola you will be over this like a fat bird in a cake shop. If you struggle with the Def Leppards, H.E.A.T. and FMs of this world then you might want to ensure you have an empty stomach before getting involved. It’s a Marmite album alright. 6/10

Friday 28 April 2017

Reviews: Vicinity, Slydigs, Perfect Blue Sky

Vicinity: Recurrence (Mighty Music)

Vicinity are a Norwegian progressive metal with a melodic streak. Similar to Circus Maximus​ and Haken in style with racks of keys, emotive songs and long run times, that are not really noticeable due to the constant light and shade keeping you hooked. The choruses are huge and encourage much fist pumping from the listener which is never a bad thing, when a progressive song becomes an earworm you can tell the quality of a band as this is no mean feat.

What really impresses me about this record are the vocals of Alexander, high and nasal but with wide range able to expertly adapt to get constantly undulating musical palate below. Now at 6 songs in length you won't be expecting 4 minute pop songs but they really outdo themselves with elongated tracks as the fantastic duo of Phoenix and the jazzy, drum heavy Mountainfall clock in at 10 and 12 minutes respectively linking together almost seamlessly.

It's the last track however that really defines the world epic in all senses, The Last Goodbye has a 21 minute run-time and numerous shifts in tone with the keys and guitars in harmonious unison underpinned by the virtuoistic drumming and four stringing. This is only the bands second album and it's incredible, it never really misses the mark but also looks toward the future and hints that Vicinity can really go wherever the hell they want next time. 9/10

Slydigs: How Animal Are You? (Self Released)

With high profile supports of The Who, Catfish and The Bottlemen, The View and Pete Doherty and two full European tours with Vintage Trouble, UK rock band Slydigs definitely aren't inexperienced when it come to performing, we actually saw them on the Vintage Trouble and were impressed by their distinctly British R&B. Do you remember the band Jet? Well Slydigs do what they tried to do with a bit more authenticity and grit.

They have lauded by The Who and Eddie Vedder with particular kudos given to Dean Fairhurst's raw vocals. How Animal Are You? is their second EP and it has 6 songs that show you what Slydigs are all about, 3 slices of acoustic troubadouring and 3 of bluesy, 60's tinged rock n roll that is reminiscent of The Stones and The Kinks but with a Northern honesty last heard from Oasis who have a sonic imprint on The Kids Feel Underrated.

This is the perfect kind of music for those that still cling to their afghan coats and John Lennon sunglasses, from the hip shaking title track, to the bluesy flavour of The Truth Will Be Found rounded out with the southern style slide rocking of Suburban Confinement. The lyrics are honest and thought provoking, commentating on modern culture both good and bad. Fairhurst is joined by partner-in-crime Louis Menguy on lead guitar and the funky bottom end of Peter Fleming (drums) and Ben Breslin (bass), together they make some very good music together, premium fodder for youth stations such as Radio 1, but with a bit of gravitas to it. To answer the question posed by the EP title I'm 80% bear so I hope that helps. 8/10

Perfect Blue Sky: The Eye Of Tilos (SMG/Right Recordings)

Perfect Blue Sky are the collaboration between Swedish metal guitarist/vocalist Pontus (Pna) Andersson and Australian female rock vocalist/guitarist Jane Kitto. The Eye Of Tilos is their full length debut, their sound is hazy, pastoral, psychedelic rock from the Woodstock era, think Paisley Shirts, long hair and mind-expanding narcotics. Both Pna and Kitto share vocals on the tracks and they blend perfectly throughout, tracks like Silvertram remind me of Mostly Autumn at their most folky, with the track built around acoustic strumming and Pna's Floydian guitars there also some Jethro Tull spread thickly over everything.

The album flows well and is the ideal accompaniment to relaxing on the grass in the sunshine moving between Big Brother & The Holding Company Psych rock and more stripped back folk meandering, speaking of BBHC their mark is given to the music by Kitto's soulful holler and the inclusion of  Dave Getz on drums who was in BBHC and provides the percussive groove he did to the original band. Elsewhere the duo are aided by Frank Bessard on drums (who plays the majority), guitarist Jerry Donahue, and keyboardist Danny Oakhill, they all add their talent to the songwriting of Kitto and Pna.

The Eye Of Tilos
is great album that authentically takes from the Summer of Love and into the Californian rock scene of the early 70's if you had Lyndesy Buckingham and Stevie Nicks dropping acid rather than cocaine then this would probably be the result. Let The Sunshine In! 8/10

Thursday 27 April 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Eclipse (Live Review By Paul)

Eclipse & One Desire Thekla, Bristol

Whilst the dying embers of Eradication Festival continued to glow in Fuel in Cardiff, a slightly less intense and cranium crushing evening took place at the always quite bizarre boat that is the retired cargo ship Thekla on the Bristol waterfront.

A small but enthusiastic crowd had gathered for openers Franklin Zoo (7), a five piece from Copenhagen, Denmark. Showing a few signs of tension which is totally expected at the end of their stint on the tour, and struggling with some of the worst sound I’ve heard at a gig for a long time, the Danes battled bravely with their music a fine blend of Soundgarden, Alter Bridge, Alice in Chains and Mastodon. Heavier than the rest of the bill and led by the intimidatingly tall Rasmus Revsbeck, Franklin Zoo gave it their all in a short set with tracks from debut release Untamed and 2016’s follow up Red Skies. Just a shame the sound was so poor.

It didn’t improve much for main support One Desire (7). The Finns energetic and humorous approach almost disguised the fact that they were unable to hear anything apart from the keyboards on stage. With a single self-titled album released within the last month, lead singer Andre Linmann’s repeated introduction of songs from “our only album” was delivered with great humour.

Jimmy Westerlund showed some fine guitar work as the band delivered a set of competent melodic rock including the obligatory ballad. Interestingly, many of the crowd were word perfect to Hurt, This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins and Apologize, hinting at a hidden fan base. Appearing genuinely pleased that there was a reasonable gathering, the band battled gamely to the end of their set, bottling the frustration of a dog shit sound.

With their own stack of Marshall amps and their own sound man at the helm, things certainly improved for headliners Eclipse (9). The Swedes have been around for a long time, having formed in 1999. Their set was perfectly pitched, with a storming first 40 minutes full of harder rock than you might imagine. Frontman Erik Martesson, as fresh faced as he was almost 20 years ago a ball of energy, charging around the small stage as the band charged through a mix of older classics and a healthy serving from the most recent Monumentum release.

Guitarist and co-founder Magnus Henriksson, complete with smooth hat was totally at ease as he delivered solo after solo. Newer band members Magnus Ulfstedt on bass, a dead ringer for Nikki Sixx and drummer Philip Crusner were superbly connected, ensuring plenty of drive and secure platform as the show wore on. Crusner’s kit, ringed with lights was eye catching and as the impressive drum solo in harmony with O Fortuna split the set it came alive, a sinister glow cast over the front few rows.

Pacing a set is never easy but Eclipse made it look straightforward, with the breakdown for Black Rain, from the new release allowing Henriksson, Ulfstedt and Crusner to let rip with an instrumental blast that allowed Henriksson to let fly. An acoustic bridge paused the intensity, Martensson and Henriksson combining to deliver a stunning Live Like I’m Dying from Armageddonize and Battlegrounds from Bleed & Scream before the run in which concluded with the Eurovision challenger Runaways from 2016’s Melodifestivalen.

The band were in superb form, demonstrating a slickness that comes from those who’ve served their time. Once again, the melodic rock crowd showed why there is such a demand for this type of band. A double encore ending with Bleed & Scream and an enormous ovation. Whilst this type of music rarely floats my boat, the sheer energy, enthusiasm and effort that Eclipse put into the show was impressive

Another Point Of View: Eradication Festival (Live Review By Rich)

Eradication Festival 2017

Eradication Festival returned to Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff bringing a line up of extreme metal madness to the Welsh capital. Despite being a Cardiff resident this was the first time I had managed to make it to Eradication Festival and my anticipation levels were very high with some phenomenal bands on the line up.


Things kicked off on the Thursday night with a handful of bands playing. Getting to the venue straight from work the first band of the evening were Sublime Eyes (7). Lumbered with the early slot these Norwegians still played to a half full room and brought an enthusiastic reception with their modern melodic death metal sound. It took them a couple of songs to really get going but once they did, heads were banging and voices were cheering.

Next up were Organ Dealer (7) who completely upped the pace and intensity with their set of grindcore madness. Some of the crowd were lapping it up and others were a bit intimidated especially with frontman Scott Moriarty's very in your face approach but it was a very fine set of grinding ferocity. Following them were the UK's own Wretched Soul (8) who very much surprised and entertained me with their mix of thrash, death and traditional heavy metal. The songs were savage, melodic and anthemic all in one. Due to overrunning and time constraints the band were forced to cut their set a bit short but they won me over as well as many in the audience.

It was back to insanity for Department Of Correction (8) who were easily the most off the wall and psychotic band of the evening. Hailing from France this three piece played an absolutely schizo brand of grindcore. Razor sharp guitar riffs combined with some absolutely inhuman drumming and the demented screams and gurning of frontman Grégoire Duclos. This was exactly how I like my grind, completely and utterly mental.

Finally were the headliners and most anticipated band of the evening for me the mighty Norweigian death metal masters Blood Red Throne (10). The venue was absolutely packed out and buzzing with excitement as the band took to the stage and unleashed one of the most devastatingly heavy and brutal death metal sets I have witnessed. The band were on absolute top form and wasted no time in obliterating the crowd with a set that mixed material from their latest album Union Of Flesh And Machine with selected cuts from their back catalogue such as Homicidal Ecstasy, Primitive Killing Machine and Unleashing Hell. A broken string meant one of the guitarists disappearing to fix it for five minutes so the audience were treated to a Pantera jam with Arvid Tjelta from Sublime Eyes temporarily jumping on vocals. With a fixed string it was back to business with a a finishing trio of The Light, The Hate, Smite and Mephitication. A mighty fine start to the festival.


Unfortunately due to work I had to miss most of the bands playing in the daytime on Friday but I headed straight from work in time to catch Forgotten Remains (7) whose savage mix of death and thrash metal helped clear the cobwebs from a day at work. The songs were a little repetitive with most of them being at the same pace with little to distinguish between them but it was still an enjoyable set and a cover of The Haunted's D.O.A. got heads a banging.

Matt - This was the day I also managed to attend, having missed Forgotten Remains, I walked in just as Animator (7) was starting their set, the Irish band play classic thrash metal that leaves little to the imagination, with the crowd at the front of the stage going mad, I'd say it was job done for the band who managed to whip the room into a frenzy with their music.

Next band I managed to grab were Solothus (9). This band was a complete surprise for me having never heard of them before this festival and these guys from Finland played a devastatingly heavy set of death/doom metal. A variety of tempos and styles were employed throughout the songs from crushingly slow doom to mid paced head banging riffage to blasting death metal. The ultra guttural growls of Kari Kankaanpää complimented the dark doomy evil atmosphere of the music and special mention must go to lead guitarist Veli-Matti Karjalainen whose lead guitar solos were absolutely jaw dropping.

Matt - After the very impressive showing from Solothus, Sworn Amongst (7) had a lot to do to match the band that proceeded them, their style of metal moves into the groove-laden groove scene and saw the crowd swap, such is the nature of this festival, if one style of extremity doesn't suit then another will. Big grooves riffs filled the room and got people moving but with many of the hardcore struggling to get their breath back after Solothus, Sworn Amongst didn't quite hit the spot for many although being good at what they do and giving a good account of themselves.

The final band I of the Friday were UK thrashers Bull-Riff Stampede (8). These guys played an amazingly tight set combining old school thrash metal with elements of modern metal and melodic death metal. The songs ranged from mid paced stompers to ripping thrash anthems all played with intensity and passion. A great way to see out the second day of the festival.


With work requiring my good behaviour for the previous two days of the festival Saturday was party time and the day provided a fine soundtrack for some partying - plenty of death metal! After a bit of lunch and a few pre-drinks I got to the venue in time for one of my most anticipated bands of the day the mighty Blasphemer (9). Blasphemer played a blinding set of no frills old school death metal. Having formed back in 1990 Blasphemer knew their craft and had heads banging relentlessly to killer riffs full of that violent old school groove which is so lacking in much modern death metal. A fantastic start to the day and one of the best bands of the weekend.

Next up were Anoxide (7) who have a modern take on death metal but with plenty of old school influence. Savage riffage, blasting drums and the ferocious vocals of frontman Omar Swaby. Nothing to write home about but played with passion and conviction and to a crowd who went nuts for every second of their set. They were followed by Chainsaw Castration (7) who played an ultra brutal slam variant of death metal. This style leaves me a bit cold on record but when seen live is great fun with absolutely monstrous riffs and silly amounts of brutal breakdowns. There are plenty of bands doing this sort of style and many better but Chainsaw Castration were bags of fun.

A brief rest-bite and the next act on were my most anticipated of the day avart garde death metallers The Monolith Deathcult (7). The Monolith Deathcult are a strange entity mixing the brutality of death metal with industrial, electronica and symphonic influences. Unfortunately the band were a victim of poor sound with everything seemingly turned up to maximum the multiple layers of sound the band has becoming lost in a wall of noise at points. The band played phenomenally though with their experimental sound either winning over or completely alienating members of the audience. Had thier been a better sound mix The Monolith Deathcult would have been one of the stand out bands of the day for me.

The finally it was time for slam's finest Crepitation (8). Having caught these at Ritual Festival in Leeds a few weeks back I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for - high levels of silliness, absolute brutality and totally insane vocals. The band played to an absolutely packed out room with the crowd down the front going absolutely bananas. The band fed off the levels of chaos and insanity in the room and played a glorious set which entertained and laid waste to the audience.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the Sunday of Eradication Festival but the experience I had was certainly memorable. Hats off to Gavin Davies for organising this festival as there's nothing else like it in South Wales at the moment and he managed to bring some incredible bands to Cardiff. With next years festival already confirmed and the first wave of bands announced I highly recommend any extreme metal fan in the South Wales area and beyond makes an effort to attend this fantastic weekend.

Reviews: Need, Paladine, Strikelight, Project Renegade

Need: Hegaiamas - A Song For Freedom (Self Released)

I've always had a bit of a penchant for progressive metal, it takes my love of prog and makes it heavier, bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Seventh Wonder are the records I go back too again and again. I realise this is not the case for a lot of people as they are put of the by long track times, inflated egos and wankery of the highest order, however the bands that do prog metal well know when to not play a note, it's the judged nuanced approach that normally wins out over out and out technicality and showing off. Need's third record Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom
is most definitely in this second category, their music is as you'd expect intricate, scientific and complicated but it's also wringing with emotion, incite and they judge when they need to impress and when to show restraint.

The Greek band are about to embark on a North American tour with Evergrey, Seven Kingdoms and Ascendia and it's the sound of Tom S Englund's Evergrey that looms large over Needs style of progressive metal, Jon V has a strong timbre to his vocals similar to Englund, Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and even Apollo Papathanasio, he never hits too high but it suits the darker sound the band convey. At just over an hour the record is well paced most of the songs clock in at around seven minutes but hold your attention the interplay between Ravaya's guitars and Anthony's keys are practically perfect weaving in and out of each other almost competitively in the solo sections but locking in with Victor and Stelios' bottom end for a tough metal delivery. The record opens with the beautiful vocals of Mina Giannopoulou starting Rememory a song that is the ideal first track powerful, full of riffage and immediately establishes the bands style, as the album progresses the songs all keep the interest, this is classic sounding progressive metal that sounds like the bands I mentioned at the beginning of this review.

It builds throughout adding layers and layers to their sound however it's towards the end of this record that things really shoot into the progsphere, Iota is a spoken word discourse on dreams and the universe with a classical piano backing, it sets the scene perfectly for the title track, this 22 minute finale takes everything heard previously and stuff it into one elongated epic full of changes in pace and tone, yes some parts are little repetitive in the instrumental sections but what do you expect of a 22 minute song? Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom is a record of bold, brave and brilliantly presented progressive metal, personally I'm going to seek out the bands other albums asap. 9/10    

Paladine: Finding Solace (No Remorse Records)

Athens band Paladine play epic power metal based around Dragonlance series of books created by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The album opens with mini epic Dragonrider which starts with dextrous acoustics before turning into a tough power metal song with a great hook before the middle eight brings the acoustic flourishes back. the band was founded by Chris “Crazy” Stergianidis (bass), Thanos Kollintzogiannakis (guitar also of Desert Near The End) and Stamatis Katsafados (drums also of The Silent Rage) all former members of the band Mythraal, they came together again to create Paladine as a band with it's roots in the American power metal sound of Iced Earth, Manilla Road, Jag Panzer, Savatage and even Manowar (they are scheduled to support Manilla Road on their 40th anniversary show in Athens 1st May 2017).

Finding Solace
is their debut album and you can hear the Savatage influence strongly on Master Of Present And Past much of this is due to frontman Nick "The Metalizer" Protonotarios who is an amalgamation of both Oliva brothers handling the throaty, powerful vocals and searing lead guitars easily, this album has an epic sound to it as you'd hope from their influences, instrumental The Inn Of The Last Home is a good break piece layered with Marilena Plitsi's synths and keys and it leads into the moody Knight Of The Black Rose which builds into a galloping metal track with punishing percussion the Iced Earth similarities are uncanny.

The record has concept from the Dragonlance series running through it based around fantasy elements, knights, dragons, good vs evil, all that jazz. The one thing that lets this album down for me is that the mix is a little bit flat, with a deeper sound the song would be more effective, but that's personal taste. Finding Solace is a confident debut from some established musicians, it just misses the mark sonically. 7/10

Strikelight: Beyond The Afterglow (Eat Metal Records)

Whereas Paladine suffered from the production of their record being a little flat, fellow Athenians Strikelight have a case of too much bass, the four strings and the drums are overly high in the mix meaning they overpower everything else. Not that you would really be missing that much, Strikelight play 80's trad metal that seems to be in vogue at the moment, unfortunately they are just generic by the numbers 80's metal even by the NWOBHM standards. In this genre you have to do something a bit different and Strikelight don't the songs are a boring, the vocals get on your nerves after a bit and it's all just a bit meh. Nothing here really stands out, but then equally nothing is terrible the band play well especially the very audible bass and drums but they are let down by rigidly sticking to the formula without fail. 5/10

Project Renegade: Cerebra (Self Released)

Project Renegade are a four piece from Athen Greece, their alternative metal will be familiar to fans of Lacuna Coil, driven by Ody's drumming the band blur the lines between goth, nu, industrial metal with the three songs on this record. Released to promote the band and create anticipation for both their live shows and their debut record (still in progress) the EP starts with the industrial flavoured Pressure which has chunky rhythms, haunting vocals and pulsing electronics and breaks down at the final part displaying all the facets of Project Renegade's sound. Natural Born Killer is very bass and drum heavy with ghostly ambient synths floating over the top, while One Of The Crowd is the heaviest of the three songs with downtuned riffs pummeling things as the siren-like electronics chime in and frontwoman Marianna adds some feistiness to her vocals. Cerebra does exactly what it needs to do it makes you prick up your ears and want to hear more from Project Renegade, a three track Ep full of thumping alt-metal. 7/10

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Reviews: Novembers Doom, Blackbird Hill, Maat (Reviews By Paul & Rich)

Novembers Doom: Hamartia (The End Records) [Review By Paul]

22 years since their first album, Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, Chicago's death Doom outfit Novembers Doom's tenth album, Hamartia has arrived and it's a beauty. Full of the trademark death growls of original vocalist Paul Kuhr, this release is the first one to feature the same line up as a previous release, in this case 2014's Bled White. Opener Devil's Light is pure death metal, whilst Plague Bird features foreboding clean vocals reminiscent of early Katatonia, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. The melancholy is evident along with powerful riffs from guitarists Lawrence Roberts and Vito Marchesse whose work is haunting throughout. Gary Naples drumming is powerful and prescise, working well with bassist Mike Feldman to give the huge crashing sound.

has a similar feel to the early work of Anathema, moody, despairing and bathed in gloom. It's not all hand wringing though and the monstrous riffs which cascade throughout are quite immense at times. Ever After ebbs and flows beautifully whilst the title track dips into the gothic style of The Mission with its acoustic feel. The electronica underbelly of Apostay with the Johan Hegg style growls fitting perfectly may we'll be my favourite track, it's pacey, brooding, simple and yet stunningly complex and just ticks every box. This is another album which supports the fact that metal is alive and kicking in 2017. Essential listening for fans of death doom and gothic metal. 8/10

Blackbird Hill: Midday Moonlight (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

Formed in 2012, French duo Blackbird Hill comprise Alexis Dartiguelongue on vocals and guitar and Maxine Conan on vocals and drums. The band sit close to the sound of similar duos such as The White Stripes, along with influences such as Queens Of Stone Age, Robert Johnson and Seasick Steve. They are in parts almost grungy, but in the main stick with dirty delta blues sound. Atmospheric and angst driven, this is a decent foot tapper which is pleasing to the ear. A support with a band like Vintage Trouble or Blackberry Smoke would be ideal for these guys. Keep an eye and ear out for them. 7/10

Maat: Monuments Will Enslave (Aural Attack Records) [Review By Rich]

Monuments Will Enslave is the second album by Egyptian mythology themed death metal band Maat.  It's impossible to ignore the comparisons to Nile but despite an unoriginal theme this German band do have a different sound to Nile.

The music on Monuments Will Enslave is very fast and very furious death metal which mixes a perfect blend of brutality and melody. The riffs are razor sharp, the bass provides plenty of low end and the drums blast away. The melodies interspersed throughout the carnage have a very Middle Eastern and Oriental style to them but they are mixed throughout the music that they manage to compliment the brutality and aggression. The vocals by frontman Thot are a guttural roar though with enough clarity that you can decipher the lyrics.

Maat won't win any awards for originality with Monuments Will Enslave but what they have achieved is a brilliant death metal album that although copies Nile in lyrical content and theme musically stands on its own two feet and shows that there is room for more than one band in the camp of Egyptian themed death metal. 7/10

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Reviews: Fractal Universe, Mindmaze, Maverick

Fractal Universe: Engram Of Decline (Kolony Records)

France probably leads the way with forward thinking metal with Gojira, Alcest, Klone and Trepalium all bringing something fresh to the world of metal. Fractal Universe definitely fall into this category, immediately the Nancy, Lorraine based band hook you with their intensely technical, down tuned riffs that will see many class them in the djent category however much like the theory they are named after the djent sound is fragmented into numerous different styles that mean every song has  hook, a new element that holds the attention, whether it's the underlying synths of the addition of Jorgen Munkeby of Shining giving a sax solo to Backworldsmen. 

There is a freshness and sense of adventure from Fractal Universe they aren't afraid to shake up what is a relatively new but already slightly stagnant genre. Their style death metal ramps up the technicality but these are no flights of fancy the songs are contrite and rarely stray further than 6 minutes with the final epic title track which clocks in at over nine minutes and sees the sax unleashed this time from Jean-Marc Florimond. The essence of Gojira imbues tracks such as Scared Legacy Of Hatred fret slides and all, Vince growls well its both nasty and happily audible, the vocals are usually make or break for me with this type of music. With dual guitar harmonies, sizzling solo spots and a bludgeoning heaviness Engram Of Decline is a superior debut effort from this French four-piece, Fractal Universe are progressive extremity par excellence. 8/10

MindMaze: Resolve (Inner Wound Recordings)

A female fronted band from Pennsylvania? Surely this must be Halestorm? I hear you cry but no far from the Highlander credo of their can be only one, MindMaze are a power metal band from Allentown and have returned with their first album since 2014. Resolve is their third full length and it's probably their most experimental, a concept album with themes dealing with human emotions rather than the normal myths and legends. As it is a concept album the band can be little more loose with their soundscapes, they play a bit of power metal Fight The Future, some electronic modern metal on Drown Me, bring doomy themes on Sanity's Collapse and of course there's an obligatory ballad with One More Moment.

At their core Mindmaze are female fronted symphonic metal band and they when you are in this most overcrowded of genres as a band you've really got to do something a little different to stand out. MindMaze do take risks there is a strong melodic metal vein running throughout records and the vocal and guitar interplay of siblings Sarah and Jeff Teets are great but some of the compositions are little too safe, it all fits together yes but at thirteen tracks with three instrumentals some could lose interest, however if you love progressively tinged symphonic metal then MindMaze's third release sees them peek above the waves of copyists and do something a little different. 7/10    

Maverick: Firebrand (Self Released)

Maverick are not a band dedicated to the James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore TV show of the same name but he music on this disc would suit the shows Western Theme. Maverick though are not from the USA as you'd expect with music like this, no their Old West is Perth, Australia, Maverick are part of the explosion of Aussie bands moving away from the pub rocking of their most well known acts into more expansive territory, much like fellow countrymen My Dynamite and Electric Mary. Firebrand contains eight swaggering, groovy, blues drenched southern rockers that sit between The Allman Brothers and The Black Crowes with Zep-alike rocking, fusing with countrified rhythms.

It's an album born in the dirt and played after a few fingers of whiskey the band are a four-piece made up of the guitar and bourbon-hued vocals of Craig Jovanovic, along with guitarist Mark De Vattimo, Simon Hallett on bass and drummer Nick Dudman the songs on this record rock and roll along well, getting heads nodding and feet tapping (and if no one is watching asses shaking), the songs are driven by breezy dual guitar harmonies, crunchy rhythms and a rebellious attitude. Free opens the record with Skynyrd Southern guts and the record continues at a high level throughout, Break Me is hard rocking sing along that sees both guitarists showing off their chops, Obsession throws a bit of curve as track three, ominous, bluesy and dark it's built around shuffling drums and proper bass work and runs at the longest time on the record but is a welcome side shift.

From then on though it's bluesy heads down rocking and that's just perfect Silent Scream is deep in the delta, while Great Northern Highway comes from the Rival Sons songbook and the record ends with the acoustic Tonight We Die which is a soulful, riverside lament to finish the album. Firebrand is a superb record for anyone that secretly wears a Stetson and dreams of lazy days on the Bayou. 8/10

Monday 24 April 2017

Reviews: Suffocation, Artificial Brain, Azarath, Foreseen (Reviews By Paul)

Suffocation: ...Of The Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)

It's been four long years since one of the most consistent and brutal death metal bands, Long Island's Suffocation provided us with Pinnacle Of Bedlam. Their eighth album has been worth the wait, 35 minutes of absolute filthy death metal which stands alongside their contemporaries Immolation and Cannibal Corpse as exemplars of the genre.

The album is the first to feature rhythm guitarist Charlie Errigo and drummer Eric Morotti who acquit themselves well, with Morotti's pounding blast beats particularly intense. Vocalist and founder member Frank Mullen's vocals remain as guttural and growling as ever, whilst the rapid fire technical approach complete with multiple complex time changes and welcome break downs which have long symbolised the band's approach remain in situ. Veteran guitarist Terrence Hobbs continues to deliver most astonishing work with scalar runs and palm muting a plenty.

Mullen's roars, for example on the volcanic Return to the Abyss are quite horrifying. It's been a long time since Effigy Of The Forgotten helped set the blueprint for the grind core fused death metal. Suffocation remain a vital part of a burgeoning scene. Their assault on the Bierkeller in Bristol in August is going to be unmissable. 9/10

Artificial Brain: Infared Horizon (Profound Lore)

This is technical death metal at its most intense. Artificial Brain, coming at you from Long Island, New York was formed in 2011 by Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo and vocalist Will Smith of Biolich. Infrared Horizon is the band's second release following the intensity of 2014 debut Labyrinth Constellation. Crammed full of astonishingly intricate and technical death metal with some of the most astounding guitar work heard for many years, tracks such as Synthesised Instinct and Floating In Orbit pulse and snake around you, pulverising yet at times so detailed you have to stop and listen again.

Technical death metal is as extreme as I can take and Artificial Brain push to the limits. Their cosmic sci-if themes mesh fantastically with the relentless pace and Smith's brutal growl which is so sinister at times you think about hiding out of aural range. With some brilliant artwork to match the sheer velocity of the band, this is an album that is well worth getting hold of. Blisteringly good. 8/10

Azarath: In Extremis (Agoina Records)

2017 has been flooded with top quality death metal releases. Storming output from legends such as Immolation, Memoriam, Obituary, Hour of Penance and Suffocation. All rightly revered as leaders of the genre. Alongside the bigger names come a slew of lesser known outfits who can deliver just as intensely and heavily. Formed in 1998, Polish death metal outfit Azarath's sixth release, In Extremis sits comfortably next to those bigger guns. Unsurprisingly the themes focus on satanic and anti religious topics, with The Slain God, The Triumph Of Ascending Majesty leaving little to guesswork.

Azarath are as brutal as any on the scene with machine gun level intensity drumming from founder member Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski and the technical excellence of guitarists Bartlomiej "Bart" Szudek and Marek "Necrosodom" Lechowski repeatedly slicing your face off. Lechowski's vocals are immense, guttural and intimidating. With no let up from start to finish, the band throw everything into a quite blistering album which demonstrates influences such as Nile, Behemoth, Vale and Marduk whilst still forging a unique sound.

For absolute nut crushing death metal commit to the five minutes of Into The Nameless Night with its high pace, huge groove in the final section and overall battery which will leave you broken. This is good stuff. 8/10

Foreseen: Grave Danger (20 Buck Spin)

Helsinki outfit Foreseen have released a mighty slab of thrash which gets better on repeated plays. All out blasters which on occasion veer closely to death metal sit comfortably alongside thrash stomp grooves and a hardcore approach combining old school with the current fresh thrash style. This is their second full release following 2014's Helsinki Savagery.

With the twin guitars of Lauri Martiskainen and Erika Korpi duelling like crazy, it's down to Marten Gustafsson on drums and bassist Tatu Kuisma to bring the noise which they do with aplomb. My only negative thoughts about this album is the slightly ragged vocals of  Mirko Nummelin which sit comfortably within the assault but do detract slightly from the overall songs. Still, the all out thrash of Downward Spiral and political observations of Government Cuts and Suicide Bomber along with monstrous Fearmonger more than compensate in an album well worth bouncing around the room to. 7/10

Reviews: Warrior, Lich King, Blood Divisions

Warrior: Invasion Imminent (Self Released)

Neat Records...I'll let that sink in a bit, there will be a warm glow going through some of our readership right now. For those that don't know Neat records was one of the seminal NWOBHM labels the label was set up in Newcastle by the owner of Impulse studios David Wood who along with producer Steve Thompson brought Neat to prominence launching the international careers of Venom, Raven, Blitzkrieg and Jaguar all of whom have been cited as influences on the burgeoning Bay Area Thrash scene, Neat was the home too of Persian Risk (Phil Campbell Of Motorhead's original band), White Spirit (Janick Gers band before joining Maiden), Satan, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Avenger and even Wishbone Ash for one album!

Neat was also the home of Warrior a Geordie band (there is also a Warrior from Chesterfield) that became a casualty of NWOBHM, it's been well noted that there were literally hundreds of bands that slipped through the cracks during this time, the bands that survived are known to everyone but there are so many bands that just didn't get out alive. Warrior are in this latter category, after releasing a couple of EP's and a live album they split in 1984 never to be heard from again. That is until 2014 when original guitarist Dave Dawson reformed the band with original singer Eddy Smith Halliday, older and wiser they have capitalised on the revitalised D.I.Y style of releasing records that is much more successful than it was back in the 1980's this reformation has resulted two more EP's a compilation and this their 'debut' album.

Halliday and Dawson have swelled their ranks with Gwaether Bloom on guitar, Elliot Sneddon on drums, and Duncan Emmerson on bass (replaced by William Baxter since the records release) and you can tell that Warrior possibly had a tough break back in the day as Invasion Imminent is a strong record once the piano intro of Metal Fatigue subsides the record opens properly with Trojan Horse which has a immediate riff hooking you in an polishes it off with killer soloing, the tracks on this record are all celebrations of metal, mainly the excellent title track and the bands phoenix-like rebirth see Second Chance and Rise Of The Warriors. The record has great duality with songs that sprint but ones that also stomp like a T-Rex through tar, Black Middens is the album's big stoner riff.

From Halliday's Biff Byford like vocals, through the tough bottom end of Emmerson and Sneddon and the excellent guitar prowess of Dawson and Bloom, Invasion Imminent is similar in style to the most recent Saxon albums digging the old school vein with modern flourishes. I'm digging this record, proper British metal, not big, not clever just heads down rocking, just like it used to be. 7/10

Lich King: The Omniclasm (Self Released)

Lich King really should just be called Thrashy McThrashface, from the opening chords it's full on aggression from the first beat, the Massachusetts mob are sort of Overkill playing with Sacred Reich approach to thrash metal sitting in the crossover/classic metal Venn Diagram. The album follows their coverstar and namesake on his continuing adventures with the scum of humans, from the hardcore love-in of Preschool Cesspool, through the anti-authoritarian Our Time To Riot and the creeping Civilization all show Lich King's talent for perfectly acceptable thrash metal, while their humorous use of lyrics similar to but not as zany as our own Lawnmower Deth. If you love a bit of thrash metal with some comical lyrics but built on solid thrash metal backing the Lich King could be for you. 7/10

Blood Divisions: Cardinal One (Metal Blade)

Blood Divisions features David Austin (Nasty Savage) and Ed Aborn (Intersonic Cyber Symphony), with a roster of supporting musicians who are current or former members of bands such as Obituary, Death, Nasty Savage, Six Feet Under, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Deicide, Massacre, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, including Terry Butler and Ken Andrews (Obituary), Ralph Santolla (ex-Deicide, ex-Obituary), Jerry Mortellaro (Diabolic) and Bill Owen (ex-Purgatory).

From those involved you are probably expecting brain smackingly heavy metal but you'd be wrong this album is a bit of horrible mish mash of styles with funeral doom on The Morgue, some dreadful orchestral backed crap that is trying a bit too hard to be Trans Siberian Orchestra as well as three covers, guitarist David Austin is also in Nasty Savage whose track No Sympathy is covered at the end of the record and is actually the best song on the record, the other covers on the album are Hot N Ready by UFO and Top Of The Bill by The Scorpions both of which do little for the original mainly because they are being sung by Chris Jericho (Fozzy) he is no Klaus Meine nor is he Phil Mogg, I'm not saying he's a bad singer he just doesn't cut it when compared to these two.

Why the hell he has chosen to be apart of this project is beyond me but then I think he could do so much more with Fozzy. Cardinal One is a misconceived idea with poor songwriting and badly chosen covers that jar with the rest of the record, it's saved by the professional performances and the final track is strong, if Blood Divisions transformed into a thrash fuelled band they would be excellent however as it stands Cardinal One is just terrible. 2/10

Sunday 23 April 2017

Reviews: Necrowretch, Ex People, The Evil Dead, Cocyte (Reviews By Rich)

Necrowretch: Satanic Slavery (Seasons Of Mist)

French blackened metal masters Necrowretch return with their third album Satanic Slavery which is a very appropriate title for a very bloodthirsty and evil album. Also it's a bit fucking good! Necrowretch continue with the style they have laid out on their previous two records which is a hybrid of black metal, death metal and thrash metal. The sound is very old school with a suitably raw yet clear production. This album is absolutely relentless with a barrage of savage tremolo riffs, blastbeats and the raspy evil vocals of frontman Vlad.

They also use a echo effect on the vocal for added evil effect which I absolutely adore. There isn't much different on this album from what Necrowretch have previously done but the songwriting is definitely improved with such savage gems as Sprawl Of Sin, Hellspawn Pyre, Trediciman Blackfire and the absolutely sublime title track. There isn't much variation between the songs but it doesn't matter at all when they all sound as wonderful as they do. Being a lover of all things gnarly and evil in metal this album appealed to me in every sense and is definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. 9/10

Ex People: Bird (New Heavy Sounds)

I have found that the doom/sludge/stoner scene in the UK has become very oversaturated and that currently there are few bands who make a lasting impression on me but Ex People have immediately grabbed my attention with their stunning debut album Bird. This London four piece have managed to combine catchy hooks with absolute sonic destruction. The band sound like a mix of Electric Wizard, Melvins and Kylesa with influences from grunge all wrapped up in a blaze of punk rock attitude.

This is truly a heavy heavy album with thick distorted fuzzy riffs, bass denser than molten lead and an absolute percussive beatdown. The vocals by frontwoman Laura are soaring and melodic but with a punk rock bite to them. The songs on the album range from catchier numbers such as Without and Surekill to bludgeoning monolithic bruisers such as The Host and Crested. Ex People have managed to craft a fantastic debut album that proves to me that there are still bands within the doom/sludge/stoner scene that can surprise and impress me. 8/10

The Evil Dead: Earth Inferno (Witches Brew)

The Evil Dead are a band from Argentina (the first metal band from Argentina I have heard) and 'Earth Inferno' is their second album released on Massacre Records. The Evil Dead are an interesting band with a very wide array of sounds and influences. The band play a melodic black metal style reminiscent of Dissection mixed with 70's rock and 80's metal influences. The songs themselves are all lengthy pieces containing masses of riffs mixed with some odd time signatures and interesting twists and turns.

Highlights for me included the epic Maragnon which sounded like black metal meets Blue Oyster Cult, the blackened thrash of the title track and my personal favourite the speed metal meets rollicking hard rock Of Electric Evil Revisited. With so many styles and influences present the album can feel a bit uneven and disjointed but where it does hold it together it works very well indeed. A solid effort. 7/10

Cocyte: The Human Disease (Self Release)

The Human Disease is the debut fulll length album by Belgian band Cocyte who have previously released a string of self-released EP's. Cocyte play a modern style of death metal which leans towards technical death metal and deathcore with bruising chunky riffs, brutal breakdowns, technical flourishes and the odd off kilter jazzy break. The harsh vocals are atypical for this style with them sitting somewhere between a guttural growl and harsh scream. Unfortunately this album is so generic with absolutely no stand out moments or moments or originality. It's all been done before by a multitude of sound alike bands.

It's all played to perfection by the band but trying to remember a moment of interest or significance from the album is virtually impossible as it is so by the numbers modern death metal. The production is very clean and clinical which detracts what death metal is meant to be (in my opinion) and that is repulsive and evil sounding as well as brutal and heavy. I'll hold my hands up and fully admit that I can't abide this style of death metal and despite really trying I can only find one song of worth which is Mechanical Refuge and that's only because it sounds exactly like and completely rips off Necrophagist.

If you are a fan of bands such as Whitechapel and Suicide Silence you will probably think this album is phenomenal but if you like your death metal dirty and gnarly avoid this like the plague. I give one point for musicianship skills and one for Necrophagist worship. 2/10

Saturday 22 April 2017

Reviews: Nightbringer, Corroded, Death Of Kings (Reviews By Paul)

Nightbringer: Terra Damnata (Seasons Of Mist)

With Scandinavian Black Metal firmly cementing their foundations, the fifth album from Colorado black metallers Nightbringer is very likely to raise the band’s profile amongst fans of the genre. The influences are clear with elements of Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Dark Funeral and Behemoth evident throughout. Yet the band maintain a clear identity, with their orchestral and symphonic elements adventurous and fresh. Band members VJS, Ophis, Naas Alcameth, ar Ra'd al-Iblis, Menthor, Norgaath have followed up from 2014’s Ego Dominus Tuus with an opus that is haunting, intimidating and yet also compelling.

Tracks such as Misrule and Midnight’s Crown burst with atmosphere and crushingly heavy black metal guitar work. The usual battering ram of blast beats maintains the intensity throughout with the level of technical performance quite astonishing at times. You won’t win prizes for guessing the themes that course through the album but it fits together quite superbly. If you only listen to one black metal track this year make it Let Silence Be His Sacred Name, which is just incredible. If you don’t like your metal invoking spirits and demons as well as ripping the flesh of your frame then this may not be for you. That’s your problem though as this album quite simply crushes all. Amazing, breath taking, inspiring. 9/10

Corroded: Defcon Zero (Despotz Records)

Swedes Corroded return with album number 3, five years after the release of sophomore release Exit To Transfer. Whilst the band is not well known over here, their profile in their home country was raised substantially by the TV show Survivors, which used their track Time And Again as its theme. The band comprise biker, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jens Westin, lead guitarist Tomas Andersson, bassist Bjarne Elvsgård and drummer Per Soläng. Defcon Zero is crammed full of heavy riffs, scintillating guitar work and an overriding melody which gives all their songs more appeal than might otherwise be expected.

Think Godsmack, Shinedown and Disturbed and you’ve just about got the sound to a tee. Whilst at times it’s a little generic but the crushingly heavy power of tracks like Retract and Disconnect combined with its Alter Bridge style harmonies, the thumping battery of Vessels Of Hate and the Soil stomp of Burn It Down are all absolute anthems. Album closer Rust And Nail has a Baroness feel about the opening before it morphs into a fitting closing track. If you like your metal clean and honest then this album is a must. 8/10

Death Of Kings: Kneel Before None (Boris Records)

Thrashing their way out of Atlanta, Georgia, Death Of Kings’ debut album (which follows a couple of EPs) Kneel Before None is a primitive, full on punch in the face which takes no prisoners. Their influences range from Priest to Death and everything in between and you know what, it’s fucking A. Opener Shadow Of The Reaper begins the proceedings nicely with maximum thrash bastard before the more measured stomp of Sojurn follows up with a low blow. The pain continues with the Slayer like Regicidal, which oozes malevolence and evil.

The band are tight and extremely loyal to thrash blueprint which I say is correct. No pissing about, just blast at the speed of sound. Amos Rifkin’s pounding drumming and the slicing cut of Matt Kilpatrick’s axe work are the undoubted highlights and if I had one minor complaint it’s the underproduction of Matt Matson’s devilish vocals which are so guttural that at times they are hidden by the onslaught. My moan apart, this is storming stuff with 38 minutes of hell’s fire. Play outside at your peril. The outbuildings may not withstand it. 7/10

Thursday 20 April 2017

Reviews: Ulver, Mammoth Mammoth, Trial (Reviews By Paul)

Ulver: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar (House Of Mythology)

The 13th album by the Norwegian collective known as Ulver is a pretty fantastic release. For the uninitiated, Ulver formed in 1993 and although their early work had essence of the Norwegian Black metal sound Ulver has transformed into a much more ethereal and progressive outfit in recent times. Ulver's line up has remained solid for many years with the utilisation of numerous guest musicians to enhance their complexity.

On this album Kristofer Rygg is joined once more by Tore Ylwizaker (programming), Jorn H Svaeren and Ole Alexander Halstengard and assisted by a whole cast of additional musicians. Stian Westerhus adds some lovely guitars of Nemoralia and So Falls The World, which also sees the involvement of Hawkwind's errant son Nik Turner. So Falls The World is a beautiful composition which mixes Gothic and new wave synth pop quite magnificently. Southern Gothic has a massive Depeche Mode feel, haunting and atmospheric.

Produced and recorded in Oslo mainly in 2016, the album is mixed by Martin Glover (Youth from Killing Joke) and Michael Randall. The sound at times is similar to the more progressive parts of Anaethema's recent work whilst maintaining its own uniqueness. Transverberstion and the beautiful 1969 both drip with synth pop and whilst the band are far removed from their beginnings, this is still an album very much worth taking the time to listen to. 8/10

Mammoth Mammoth: Mount The Mountain (Napalm Records)

Australia seems to be able to throw out an endless amount of bands who play one of two types of music. It's either thrash or hard rock with a stoner edge. The latter sound belongs to Melbourne crew Mammoth Mammoth, whose dirty, fuzzy rock ticks all the right boxes. Now in their tenth year, Mount The Mountain is release number six, hard on the heels of 2016's EP Mammoth Bloody Mammoth.

Tracks such as Hole In The Head, Kicking The Dog (don't do this at home kids) and Cold Liquor leave little to the imagination and smack you in the face with their power, gritty drive and balls out good time vibe. Mikey Tucker's vocals are superb, reminiscent of the great Ben Ward of the mighty Orange Goblin at times, the driving rhythm of Pete Bell and drummer Frank Trebbiani keep the engine running whilst Ben Couzens guitar work is gutsy, gritty and down right filthy at times. Another band that you'd happily get absolutely spannered whilst watching. The irony is that these guys would be hammered first. Check out Mammoth Mammoth, big name, huge sound. 8/10

Trial: Motherless (Metal Blade)
Yet another Swedish metal outfit cross our paths, this time its Trial, from Trollhatten who have been around for a good few years. Motherless is album number 3, following 2015's Vessel. The band comprise guitar duo Alexander Ellstrom and Andreas Johnsson, vocalist Linus Johansson and the engine room of drummer Linus Johansson and bassist Andreas Olsson. Trial's music can be described as a mix of traditional metal with helpings of power and thrash metal. Unfortunately, Motherless is just not that good, with a confusing mix of styles creating a schizophrenic sound. Add on to this the rather 'finger nails down a blackboard' vocals of Linus Johansson, some quite dreadful harmonies and you have a relatively uninspiring release. One to think long and hard before investing in. 5/10

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Reviews: Life Of Agony, Harlott, The Franklys

Life Of Agony: A Place Where There Is No More Pain (Napalm)

New York groove masters Life Of Agony return with their sixth studio album and their first since 2005. The original line up of Joey Z (guitar), Alan Robert (bass), vocalist Mina Caputo (previously known Keith) return along with drummer Sal Abruscato for ten songs of riff driven groove metal that hasn't really changed since the band first brought their crushing misery to the scene in the early 90's. Track like Dead Speak Kindly, A New Low, Right This Wrong and the opener Meet My Maker all carry the bands normal traits of low tuned riffs and Mina's lyrics come from a very personal deeply considered place, reflecting the struggles that she as a transgender person faced and the similar struggles that fans have told the band they have gone through.

This album in Mina's own words "gives us hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel". Mina's voice has matured since the River Runs Red days and every lyric is delivered with conviction while the band play at the top of their game. As I've said very little has changed musically for the band and for long time fans this will be perfect, yes it may be a little bit of a dated sound now but it's good to have a band like LOA back doing what they do best. 7/10

Harlott: Extinction (Metal Blade)

Australia seems to be becoming a hotbed of thrash metal at the moment, it must be the intrinsic link between the genre and heavy drinking. Harlott can really be called one of the finest examples of thrash from down under, three albums into their career and numerous supports, most notably with Annihilator on their recent European tour and the band are playing some of the best music of their career honed by the hundreds of live shows and real understanding of the Bay Area thrash sound. Extinction is the sort of album Exodus, Testament or Slayer would have written at the height of their powers mixing blitzkrieg thrash fury with more nuanced slower elements to ramp up the atmosphere before the fireworks start again.

Frontman Andrew Hudson has the raspy ideal thrash voice thats sits between Zetro and Araya with the band behind him kicking the living shit out of their instruments in the best way possible, the furious double hit of the title track and First World Solutions open the record with Slayer-like aggression last heard on Evile's first couple of albums. The twin dual leads of Hudson and Jake Weber shred your face off, on Whore Tim Joyce displays that he's probably superhuman as he demolishes his kit like a whirling dervish and Tom Richards reminds you that thrash needs bass no matter what Metallica think. Extinction proves to be a superior third strike by the Melbourne band, it's their most accomplished album yet, this is proper thrash metal how it should be done and in a year of excellent trash albums Harlott have tossed their hat into the ring with a blinder. 9/10

The Franklys: Are You Listening? (Hälta Hälta Records)

Are You Listening? That's what London -based four-piece The Franklys want to know on their full length debut record. They have made it easy though as this record contains 10 tracks of spiky rock n roll delivered with a rebellious take no prisoners attitude. The album rapidly jumps between, pop, garage, punk, and indie rock with touches of funk and classic hard rock thrown in to shake up the noise, it's been built on a solid base of touring where The Franklys thrive their energetic live show receiving rave reviews all around.

The task of trying to distill this live fire onto record is given to Sean Douglas, Jimmy O and Mikey Sorbello of The Graveltones who co-produce the albums with the band themselves, it's a successful snapshot of the four women's live riot, the 10 tracks on this record are built to be played live, they cry out for a sweaty, packed venue where the punters can just go wild. The band is made up of Jennifer Ahlkvist (rhythm guitar/vocals), Fanny Broberg (lead guitar /backing vocals), Zoë Biggs (bass) and Lexi Clark (drums) and they all play their instruments with an unreserved passion blasting out shuddering The Hives-like rockers such as CastawayWeasel and Don't Kill Your Friends (good advice kids). Are You Listening? If you want to hear the future driven by the past then you should be! 7/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Joanovarc (Live Reviews Paul)

Joanovarc, Synteria & The Boom Sons: Fuel, Cardiff

Joanovarc, the Home Counties melodic rockers are being tipped for big things. They have been receiving a lot of exposure on digital radio including Planet Rock so at £5 for a ticket, a Friday night at a Fuel seemed a decent punt.

We missed opening band Flowerpot and arrived as local outfit The Boom Sons (7) were going through their paces. I saw this highly inventive three piece supporting Bigfoot last year and they are a decent outfit, their indie rock touching the right spots.

Main support band Syteria (6) were formed by current Girlschool guitarist Jackie Chambers. With their image very much in the stereotypical 'rock chick' Syteria delivered their routine, throwaway rock over the course of about 40 minutes. The band at least relaxed as their set went on, Chambers unsurprisingly confident from the start. Vocalist Julia appeared more confident when relieved of rhythm guitar duties and the Argentinian's voice become more relaxed as the band hit their stride. It is fair to say that the crowd had picked up slightly with some of the red blooded booze filled males wandering to the front to have a good look. A cover of The Ramones went down well and their songs are okay, just a little average.

Headliners Joanovarc (7) have received many plaudits for their melodic rock and last year's Ride Of Your Life was a very listenable release. Live the band adopts a quite strange image, with DMs and combat trousers mixed with lace bodysuits and some incredible Runaways haircuts. The band roared through a selection of tracks from their debut, including the enjoyable Dragons In The Sky and their breakthrough single Live Rock N Roll. A very enthusiastic reception helped the band increase in momentum with rhythm guitarist Laura Ozhall taking lead vocals for one tune. The band are led by sisters Shelley and Sam Walker and it was Shelley who did most of the talking in between numbers. She's a competent guitarist too whilst Sam proved she could replicate her vocal performance live.

A rather limp cover of Iggy's Wild One coincided with the doors being opened for free admission as the venue suddenly quadrupled in numbers. The final couple of numbers included a clear Reef riff and a ringer for Crosstown Traffic before we made for the door and the cold drizzle of Cardiff on Good Friday. It would be good to see Joanovarc in a different setting as Fuel isn't always the most conducive. A reasonable evening and for the admission price certainly value for money.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Reviews: Kaledon, Warbringer, Screamking (Reviews By Rich)

Kaledon: Carngus-Emperor Of The Darkness (Sleazy Rider)

Kaledon are an Italian power metal band and Carnagus: Emperor Of The Darkness is their ninth full length album. Despite forming in 1998 and having an impressive lengthy discography Kaledon are one of the bands who have slipped under my radar. Better late than never that I have come across this band as Carnagus: Emperor Of The Darkness is a very impressive album indeed. Unlike a lot of European power metal which can be a bit light and fluffy, this album is heavy, hard hitting with some dark undertones which mixed with the traditional epic and bombast of power metal makes for a very refreshing listen.

A wonderfully heavy and crunchy guitar tone really helps some of these riffs just rip and tear out of your speakers and combined with an impressive rhythm section make you want to bang your head and throw the horns especially on songs such as The Beginning Of The Night, The Evil Witch and The Two Bailouts. The vocals are nicely bombastic, dramatic and melodic but also compliment the dark tone of the album. Kaledon have produced one of the finest power metal albums I have heard so far this year and are definitely a band I will be going back and checking out the back catalogue of. 8/10

Warbringer: Woe To The Vanquished (Napalm Records)

After a five year gap retro thrash titans Warbringer return with their fifth album Woe To The Vanquished. I've always thought Warbringer to be one of the best modern thrash bands so this album was eagerly anticipated and long overdue. After the more refined thrash sound on IV: Empires Collapse Warbringer have gone back to a more straight up thrash sound with songs that go straight for the throat such as Remain Violent, Silhouettes, Divinity Of Flesh and the absolutely ripping Shellfire.

The band also bring in a few elements from death metal and black metal such as blastbeats and some tremolo riffing. The only real departure on the album is closing track When The Guns Fell Silent with its very atmospheric sound. Unfortunately at 11 minutes in duration it does outstay its welcome a bit. Warbringer make a very welcome return proving they are still one of the best thrash bands around at the moment. Woe To The Vanquished is a brilliant album though with one track taking up a quarter of the album which doesn't quite work means that the album just misses the mark. 8/10

Screamking: Tyranny Of The Sea (Platinum Dungeon Records)

ScreamKing are a heavy metal band from Indiania in the United States and Tyranny Of The Sea is their second full length album. This album has a sound which is rooted in traditional heavy metal with influences from both power metal and thrash metal. First of all I have to address the elephant in the room with this album and that is the absolutely atrocious vocals of Joe Lawson. They are completely over the top, tuneless and wildly inconsistent.

The only time they actually work is when he reigns his vocals in and restrains himself. The rest of the band put in a commendable performance with some absolutely brilliant riffs throughout. The songwriting is a bit pedestrian at times though songs such as I Am A Viking, Warhorse and the title track are a step above the rest. Tyranny Of The Sea is a disappointing album as it has plenty of potential but is let down by some lacklustre songwriting and a truly abysmal vocal performance. 5/10

Monday 17 April 2017

Reviews: Richie Kotzen, Liv Sin, Seven Kingdoms, Cromonic

Richie Kotzen: Salting Earth (Headroom Inc)

Richie Kotzen is probably a name you've heard of, he's been playing for long time now, starting out as one of the Shrapnel shredders he played in Poison and Mr Big, more recently he's come back into the public psyche with The Winery Dogs trio along with Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheenan, in between that he has released 21 solo albums that move between rock, blues, funk, jazz and everything in between. I personally discovered him on his 2004 album Get Up which has continued to frequent my record player until this day. I've followed his solo albums off an on since then and I've always found them a bit of a mix bag, so it's once more into the breech for what is Kotzen's 21st solo album.

The mystic influences are writ large on opener End Of Earth and you get that first blast of Kotzen's Cornell-like vocals over the top of the reverbed guitars and layered acoustics before he lights his guitar hero fire at the climax, it's followed by the very 80's sounding Thunder which has a funky riff, some stuttered verses and big chorus where Richie shows his vocal versatility, something that is on display throughout this record. Anyone that is expecting the hard rocking of The Winery Dogs will see another side too Kotzen on this (and all) of his solo albums, here he dips into bluesy explorations on Divine Power, 60's soul on I've Got You and My Rock, modern soul on Cannon Ball and acoustic funk on Grammy. Salting Earth marks another high quality release from Kotzen, there is a mix of styles and an as expected superior performance from Kotzen and it makes for fine listening. 7/10

Liv Sin: Follow Me (Despotz Records)

When Sister Sin called it a day in 2015, frontwoman Liv Sin set about forming a new band to continue her previous metal assault, Follow Me is her debut album with this new eponymous project and just like Sister Sin were known for fist pumping classic metal, this new project is not pop, in fact it ramps up the metal to a degree that wasn't reached in her previous project. Follow Me moves into thrash territory at times with Sin giving the most vicious delivery of her career, this record sonically sounds like Halford's solo projects and the latter Judas Priest, any of the songs on here could have easily been heard on PainkillerRam It Down or Angel Of Retribution. 

Just wrap your lugholes around the The Fall which kicks off this record and the spirit of Priest looms large, Patrick Ankemark giving killer solos over Chris Bertzell, Tommie Winther and Per Bjelovuk's aggressive rhythm section. With heavier songs like HypocriteGodless UtopiaI'm Your Sin, the stomping Immortal Sin which features Schmier from Destruction and the black metal driven Black Souls, the bad really display their metal credentials but they also spread expand their remit with Endless Roads which is slower and more melodic but still carries a metal attitude. Now I never really got on board with Sister Sin but this I really like, it's brimming with attitude, confidence, talent and consists of 100% pure heavy metal from start to finish, impressive. 8/10

Seven Kingdoms: Decennium (Napalm Records)

There seems to be a few female fronted power/trad metal bands releasing albums at the moment Crystal Viper, Mastercastle, Mindmaze and also American mob Seven Kingdoms who are an odd mix of blisteringly fast riffage, classic metal chants and vocals normally found in the folk metal realm, almost a female fronted Blind Guardian. Weirdly it fits together but in any other context this wouldn't work Sabrina's vocals are good and sit in the higher register which may serve as a negative aspect but the musical backing is so dense that you can't help but bang your head. As many of you will know Blind Guardian take a lot of inspiration from J R R Tolkien well Seven Kingdoms equally deal with the literary works of George R R Martin and his Songs Of Ice And Fire books, or Game Of Thrones to anyone that doesn't know. The band's lyrical concepts and even their name comes from those novels and it's perfect subject matter, as this album progressed I found myself warning to the vocals and with every song trying to recognise the characters, plotlines etc became part of the fun. Get this album if you love Blind Guardian, power metal and/or Game Of Thrones, the chances are if love one you'll love the others, then I guarantee you'll love Seven Kingdoms. 7/10

Cromonic: Time (Cromonic Music)

Swedish power metal that has touches of Stratovarius the vocals are the major reason for this comparison, singer Pasi has the high pitched range of Timo Kopitelo. Time is probably a slightly ironic title as they seem have taken a lot of it to release this album having first released a demo in 2005, it's in 2017 that they finally have delivered their debut. As I've said Stratovarius is the overarching musical similarity and on Tale Of Pain the neo-classical guitars sit well with the orchestrations and hooky chorus for a song that has all the Stratovarius traits. Cromonic do add their own flourishes to what is an established sound meaning they avoid tribute act territory and at 9 a song the record doesn't outstay it's welcome, the one thing I would say is that Pasi's lower register is much more palatable than his screechy highs meaning by the end of the 9 tracks only professional power metalheads will be reaching for the repeat button. Time is an adequate record it's not waste but the band will need some refining if they want to stand the test of it. 7/10

Sunday 16 April 2017

Reviews: Body Count, Me And That Man, Moon Duo, Desecrator (Reviews By Paul)

Body Count: Bloodlust (Century Media)

Ice T, Ernie C and their metal rap outfit are back with an enormously infectious album, number 6 in the catalogue. It's an observation of America, and unsurprisingly touches on many of the civil issues which currently challenge the world's largest superpower. Civil War touches on the many different aspects to life across the country, black or white, rich or poor, wrong or right and features a screaming solo from Megadeth's Dave Mustaine. The Ski Mask Way reflects on home invasion as an income source, with the typical aggression which we've come to expect from this hard core bunch. All Love Is Lost contains a raging Max Cavalera on backing vocals, a song of betrayal and containing some huge riffs.

Ice T explains his love of metal and particularly Slayer before launching into a momentous Reign In Blood/Postmortem with rhythm guitarist Vincent Price doing vocal duties on the latter. You can't go wrong with that riff on Reign In Blood and this version is fast and nasty as it should be. Obviously Ice can't match the mighty Araya vocals and he doesn't even attempt to. The outstanding track on the album comes shortly afterwards, a brutal, guttural Walk With Me which features Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe, his roaring contribution unmistakable. Further social commentary on No Lives Matter which understandably focuses on the discrimination against poor, whether white or black. Bloodlust is fast and thrashy, a real rap metal beast. Whether you like them or not, this is a beast of an album. 9/10

Me And That Man: Songs of Love and Death (Cooking Vinyl)

The unlikely combination of Behemoth frontman Nergal and indie pop Englishman John Porter, a Polish resident since 1976, Me And That Man's debut is a dark, anti religious country, bluesy slice of Americana which really makes a pleasant transfer from the norm. Some of the album has the Johnny Cash sound, especially opener My Church Is Black and Of Sirens, Vampires And Lovers, although there are many other sounds which are identifiable throughout. For those of us familiar with the blasting assault of Behemoth this is a complete change.

However repeated listening soon establishes the usual 100% commitment. The raging Love & Death is followed by a country fused One Day which has an almost evangelical feel to it. The 50's sound of Voodoo Queen belongs on a diner jukebox on some distant highway. The whole album has a haunting, at times sinister and Gothic feel. Although it may not be to everyone's tastes, it's a really interesting release which gets better after repeated listening. Well worth taking the time to invest. 8/10

Moon Duo: Occult Architechture Vol 2 (Sacred Bones)

The second instalment from the Oregon psychedelic drone outfit follows quickly on the heels of the essential Vol 1 which we reviewed about six weeks ago and it's just as bloody brilliant. Tripping from Depeche Mode type electronica to space rock mellowness Vol 2 is a slightly shorter release with five tracks, albeit with a running time of not far off 40 minutes. The use of the single beat with repetition allows the three piece to experiment and freestyle. It's relaxing, chilled and totally enjoyable. Mirror's Edge and the industrial beat of Sevens are enchanting. Once again, well worth the effort. 9/10

Desecrator: To The Gallows (Dinner For Wolves)

More Australian action, this time its full frontal thrashing from Melbourne's Desecrator. To The Gallows is a decent slab of old school thrash metal which follows the faithful blueprint which sometimes is just what you want. The band have been around for over eight years and clearly like what they like. There is more than a shade of the UK's Evile in many of the tracks and that can't be a bad thing. From the all out raging of the title track and paint stripping Serpents Return to the more melancholic As I Die this four piece give it everything. However, when you get a track entitled Thrash Is A Verb then you really can't help but warm to them, even if they've stolen at least four riffs in the process. Heavy metal grammar? Fuck yeah! 7/10

Saturday 15 April 2017

Reviews: Mostly Autumn, Stormhammer, Satan's Hallow

Mostly Autumn: Sight Of Day (Mostly Autumn Records)

If you take one thing away from Mostly Autumn's latest release (their twelfth in total) it's hope, on the back of what was a particularly dark offering, Sight Of Day has the hallmarks of Mostly Autumn of old. There are few acts that can stir the soul like MA and I will admit I had a tear in my eye when I first listened to the closer Forever And Beyond a track that praises current relationships and friendships past and present.

If you want to hear what the MA of old sounds like then just settle in for the 14 minute plus title track which starts the album, it has everything you'd want from the band Floydian guitar playing, huge organs and synths, haunting dual vocals, folky touches with Troy Donockley and Anne Phoebe providing uilleann pipes and violins respectively it's a majestic piece and the sort of song I as long term fan of the band had though they had left behind, put it in the same category as Heroes Never Die and you can make a leap as to what it's like from there.

As far as the rest of the album goes on they rarely put a foot wrong the songs are filled with English parochialisms, longing and as I've said hope, the only song that jars is Changing Lives which was written and is sung by Chris Johnson, it's almost a solo song for Johnson and musically is similar to his Halo Blind project and stands out from the rest of the album because for this, it's not bad it just doesn't really fit. I's followed by the fireside folk of Only The Brave which definitely fits and sees Donockley and Phoebe return along with Angela Gordon's flute who makes her recorded return to Mostly Autumn appearing on her first album since 2007.

As per usual Bryan Josh's guitar playing is exquisite and his vocals provide the perfect counterpoint to his wife Olivia while the rhythm section of Andy Smith and Alex Cromarty underpin the musical flights of fancy with the soundscapes complete by the synth genius of Iain Jennings. Sight Of Day is probably the most complete Mostly Autumn record since Go Well Diamond Heart filled with beautiful flights of fancy and an overwhelming sense of the unifying power of love (Native Spirit). I urge you to catch them on their tour in May/June but first get a copy of this record as it's one of the best they've recorded in a while. 9/10

Stormhammer: Welcome To The End (Massacre Records)

Ah yes another hammer band, we can't get enough of them here at MoM towers, whether they fall, are kings or covered in glory we do like a hammer band. Introducing German metal band Stormhammer who can be considered contemporaries of Blind Guardian despite not releasing their first record until 2000, they have been a band since 1993 just when Hansi and co were shedding their speed metal skin. Stormhammer are what I'd like to think Guardian would sound like had they not incorporated the orchestral elements from Tales From The Twilight World onward.

A lot of Stormhammer's sound is similar to Blind Guardian's even down to the vocals of Jürgen Dachl who sings as closely to Hansi as he can albeit with a gruffer delivery that even moves into growls on The Heritage. The music on the record is razor sharp power metal that sits in the void between thrash and NWOBHM much like the early German originators like Helloween, Rage and Running Wild, furious rhythm workouts come thick and fast from Chris Widmann (drums), Horst Tessmann (bass) and Manny "Maniac" Ewender (rhythm guitar) meaning Bernd Intveen has to keep up, luckily his lead guitar prowess is more than a match for the rampaging bottom end soloing with abandon.

Welcome To The End is the band's sixth album, now I'll admit I hadn't heard of them before now but going back to their previous releases, I can hear they haven't changed their sound much but bands like this never do, it's part of their longevity that they defiantly stand against modern music trends weathering the storm originally of grunge and more recently of nu-metal staying true to their sound no matter what, no with the resurgence of proper power metal in recent years there is no better time to track down Welcome To The End and swing the storm hammer. 7/10

Satan's Hallow: S/T (Underground Power Records)

Galloping out of Chicago at a rate of knots Satan's Hallow (that's hallow) play music like nothing else is important, filled with the same devil-may-care attitude that propelled the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Satan's Hallow have denim and leather running through their veins. Their debut record is cut from the same cloth as Angel Witch, Running Wild (again) and American traditional metal legends Cirith Ungol, with buzz-saw riffs of Von Jugel and Steve "Lethal" Beaudette slicing like a hot knife through butter as Lee Smith's bass gallops like Grand National winner and the drums of Pat "Rüsty" Gloeckle keeps it all in time.

Songs like Reaching For The Night, Black Angel The Horror and the title track all use occult/horror imagery in opposition to the sleazier songs like Hot Passion. This ability to be evil and angelic is due to the excellent vocals of frontwoman Mandy Martillo who completes the line up, her addition to the band brings to mind Chastain and Warlock and in what is very male orientated genre still it's great to hear. Yes ok a lot of the album half inches riffs from Maiden and Priest but what band hasn't honestly this is fist int he air stuff ideal for headbanging to.

Having just completed a tour with Liv Sin (formerly of Sister Sin, who's debut solo record is being reviewed soon) Satan's Hallow show heaps of promise and are must for any that love a bit of bullet belt sporting metal. 8/10     

A View From The Back Of The Room: Church Of The Cosmic Skull (Live Review By Paul)

Church Of The Cosmic Skull, Vodun & YSNBWATID, Trinity Centre, Bristol

In a departure from the more routine metal that we often watch here at the Musipedia we travelled across the Bridge once more to the fabulous Trinity Centre for a night of psychedelic rock. Opening up proceedings, were You're Smiling Now But We'll All Turn Into Demons (6), a four piece from Portsmouth. A dirty fuzzy sound, powerful and trippy shook the venue to its foundations as the band's instrumental meanderings took hold. With slower passages combined with some intensely heavy sections YSNBWATID certainly ensured that attention was captured, at least to begin with. By the middle of the set the repetition meant interest was starting to wander and whilst the intensity on the stage never let up, the lengthy pieces eventually wore a little thin. Still, a band that has been kicking around for over 15 years must be doing something right and it was a decent start.

Having listened to their Possession album recently I knew what Vodun (10) sounded like but nothing could prepare for their quite scintillating live performance. Their Afro Doom heavy sound comes across on record but put the three piece on stage and the world simply changes. With an appearance that stimulates visually, the three members clad in brightly swirling psychedelic patterns and body paint kicked off with a cacophony of noise that met with instant approval from the audience. And then vocalist and percussionist Oya started to sing. Wow! What a voice. I read a review recently that made the Aretha Franklin comparison and I have to say that this lady has similar power. By the end of the set she was barely able to speak such was the intensity of her performance.

She was flanked by the whirling long haired and quite astonishingly painted guitarist Marassa whose nimble fretwork summoned both light and dark, Doom laden riffs and more delicate floral patterns were all summoned with ease. The crashing drums held the whole thing together, drummer Ogoun making a remarkable noise for one so slightly built. The power in which she hit the drums quite captivating. A perfectly paced set climaxed with the front row joining in on percussion and a feeling of what just happened surged through me as the band finished.

Following that was always going to be a huge task so a well done to Church Of The Cosmic Skull (7) for being brave enough to have Vodun on board. The Nottingham based band strike an impressive image, all seven members clad in white with the three female band members front and centre, cellist Amy Nicholson flanked by vocalists Jo Joyce and Caroline Cawley. The band kicked off with Mountain Heart from their enjoyable album Is Satan Real? which obviously provided the bulk of the set. The band attempted to deliver their new religious experience on a largely already committed audience. The band play a psychedelic flavoured rock with Hammond organ (Michael Weatherburn) prominent throughout.

The band appeared to be a little disjointed which is no surprise given their newness which killed the momentum at times. With so many members on stage movement is often limited and guitarist and vocalist Bill Fisher and bassist Sam Lloyd were pinned to the rear of the stage. Full marks for their backdrop which played messages of love and hope before each song. Ultimately the band could do with a bit more beef in their sound, which at times was a little lightweight. I'm not yet a convert to The Church but I'm agnostic rather than atheist at this stage.

Friday 14 April 2017

Reviews: Royal Thunder, Brothers Of Metal, The Wild!, Baleful Creed

Royal Thunder: WICK (Spinefarm Records)

I've been following the evolution of Atlanta band and what an evolution it is, starting out with a attitude problem that had them playing doomy stoner punk on their debut, before widening their sound on their second album, WICK is their third full length album at it adds more texture than ever before, many of the songs on this record have the occult psychedelic flavours of Swedish acts like Witchcraft, you can hear this on Push and The Well both of which simmer with Josh Weaver's louche guitar playing, the band have always expertly blended classic rock with 90's grunge and wrapped it all up in a progressive rock blanket to let it grow organically.

is probably the least heavy of their three albums...hey...come back that's a good thing honestly what they lack in distortion they make up for in throbbing bass from Mlny Parsons who drives opener Burning Tree with a low resonance that Weaver and second guitarist Will Fiore add to with big open chords. Drummer Diprima is the key to the percussive, hazy April Showers which builds into a solo dirven finale and leads into the emotive Tied which is perfect song to display the intense vocal prowess, it's a dark tale of lust gone wrong that turns from a Stevie Nicks solo outing to heavier final part rocker.

As I've said the band have an eclectic soundscape pop slips in on We Slipped. I can't say enough about Mlny's voice, she really is a true star, it's got grit, power and a resonance all of which is done with gusto on The Sinking Chair. WICK is fantastic, after the first listen I wanted to hear it again and then again, it's now be resident on my stereo for about a week, intoxicating, intelligent and at times just raw Royal Thunder have consolidated their position as one of the freshest bands in rock and metal music. 9/10

Brothers Of Metal: Prophecy Of Ragnarök (Self Released)

Well this is all a bit mad, I'll admit i was sceptical when I saw this band features 3 vocalists and 3 lute players, yes folks the Lute staple of folk metal bands however as The Death Of The God Of Light opens this record it's straight down the line True power metal favoured by DiMaio and co. Fast and frantic delivered by three excellent​ vocalists the folky female vocals coming from Ylva Eriksson and the gruffer male vocals from from Joakim Lindbäck Eriksson and Mats Nilsson sounding like Sabaton's Joacim mixed with Mr Lordi. Gods Of War could be the best Sabaton song since Swedish Pagans and We Believe In Metal is a warning to wimps and posers to leave the hall. (well that's what happens when you name your band after a song from Louder Than Hell

Lutes add the folk touches of Falconer or Skyclad to Defenders Of Valhalla for most of the album they augment the guitars (I even suspect the lutes are changed for guitars for the rest of the album) for the galloping riffage most of these songs are built on. Lyrically it's familiar ground metal, brotherhood and Norse Mythology are the main themes on what i believe is a bit of a concept album, although on the guitar heavy TYR (which features a bass solo despite not having a bassist) I swear they are singing about Doomsday being Tuesday. At 14 songs long the album could be a bit of a slog for non power metal fans and it does make you wonder how many songs about metal and Odin you can write but Brothers Of Metal manage it, it's silly but my is it good fun. Join this brotherhood if you like your power metal that celebrates the glory of metal and worships Odin, on this evidence it seems to be a hell of a good time. 8/10

The Wild!: Wild At Heart (SPV) [Review By Paul]

All out blues drenched rock n' roll with a punk rock edge is how I'd describe The Wild, a four piece out of Kelowna, British Columbia. The band comprise the ludicrously named Dylan Villan on lead guitar and vocals, The Kid on rhythm guitar, Boozus on bass and vocals and drummer Reese Lightning. Wild At Heart is their second album and it's a goodie. Similarities to guitar driven rockers such as The Black Spiders and Fellow countrymen Monster Truck are inevitable but hey, good rock n' roll is good rock n' roll. Tracks such as Best In The West, opener Ready To Roll and the AC/DC riff in Rattlesnake Shake all scream good time, the kind of tunes that make you put your foot down when behind the wheel. A very solid sophomore release. 8/10

Baleful Creed: Seismic Shifter (Self Released)

Norn Iron rockers Baleful Creed return with yet another record full of fuzz drenched stoner metal anthems built on whiskey soaked vocals, swaggering riffs that are low and slow on Memento Mori but have a Motorhead bite on Lose Religion. This is their second album and it slots in to their discography perfectly as the follow up to their debut while adding some extra touches such as the bubbling organs and lazy blues of The Wolf which fleshes out the bands American stoner sound.

Faux Celebrity is aimed at "celeb" culture and is driven by a Sabbath goes Southern style riff however it's the stoner metal of Orange Goblin or COC that is still their go to way of noise making on Devil's Side while Forgiven is a bass driven psychedelic piece with swirling guitars. Baleful Creed again prove themselves as more than capable​ of competing with the US heavyweights. 8/10