Pyramaze: Contingent (Inner Wound Recordings)
Formerly fronted by Lance King and then Iced Earth's Matt Barlow, Pyramaze was formed by guitarist Michael Kammeyer in 2002 the band continues to forge ahead without him after his retirement after their only album with Barlow.
Taking the guitar position since their previous record the incredible Disciples Of The Sun was Jacob Hansen who made his name behind the producer's chair for Volbeat, Amaranthe, Epica and Evergrey and he does an incredible job here adding his perfectionist touch to the soundscapes of this record making the songs sound positively huge while handling the bass and the guitars along with Toke Skjønnemand. On the last record Pyramaze spread their wings, the album added new touches to their sound and this progression continues on this their fifth album.
It's a post-apocalyptic science fiction concept album built on cinematic songs such as Kingdom Of Solace which highlights the incredible synths and keys of Jonah Weingarten who really ramps up his contribution meaning the songs manifest themselves as epic pieces driven by his synths and the expressive drumming of Morten Gade Sørensen. On Disciples Of The Sun I noted that Terje Harøy was an ideal fit for the band and once again I'm enthralled by his vocal performance passionate and uplifting sometimes at odds with the darkly, progressive music behind him, his duet with Kirsten Foss is one of the album's major highlights.
Pyramaze have always been one of those bands that sit as a satellite to the heavy hitters of the genre with Contingent they will shine brighter than ever, it's a mature, technical, intelligent and quite brilliant metal album. 9/10
Alestorm: No Grave But The Sea (Napalm Records)
Yes that's right everyone, lock up your daughters, drink up your rum and set sail once again with Scotland's premier exponents of privateer based power/folk metal, being from the home of the greatest pirate of all time (Captain Henry Morgan history fans) it's only right we review their latest album. So what is it like? Well it sounds like Alestorm this time they've still got the dual keys of frontman Chris Bowes and Elliot Vernon duel with the guitars of Máté Bodor for furious blasts of power metal on the both the punchy title track and the epic closing track Treasure Island. In between these bookends we have the 8-bit folk of Mexico (a song about drinking), the jig happy acoustic Bar Und Imbiss (a song about drinking) and Pegleg Potion (another song about drinking) so you can see a theme recurring here, most of the songs are sing-along shanties built for the live stage and encouraging drinking and craziness.
Every Alestorm album has one or two songs that are wacky or foul-mouthed enough to be repeated ad nauseum by drunken blokes at Bloodstock every year and No Grave But The Sea is no exception the Pirate-core of Alestorm has a chorus that name checks "rum, beer, quests and mead" as the main things a Pirate needs but the one that I'm sure we will hear at every festival this year is the incredibly obscene Fucked With An Anchor which even drops a few C-bombs for good measure, it's not a song to play to your Gran but brilliant while inebriated with a bunch of mates. So the songs are childish and profane, the music is upbeat and ripe for bouncing too, Chris Bowes still can't sing rather drawl but it's immaterial Alestorm are fun, they release albums to tour and they write songs to play live so just relax and enjoy the voyage. 8/10
Unleash The Archers: Apex (Napalm Records)
Vancouver band Unleash The Archers return with their second major label full length (fourth in total) and off the back of their excellent major label debut Time Stands Still the band have adopted an if it ain't broke don't fix it approach, the blend of traditional, power and symphonic metal is unleashed from the opening few seconds Awakening has some insane skull rattling drumming from Scott Buchanan who keeps the entire album running at several hundred beats per minute, he and his other half Brittney Slayes are the predominant influences on this band.
Buchanan destroying his kit as the guitars and bass shred with skill and precision while Brittany exhibits her huge vocal range tackling the thrashier songs such as The Matriarch effortlessly hitting highs that can only be heard by dogs, but also she can croon with the best of them on the slower more deliberate anthemic tracks such as False Walls.
I've always taken Unleash The Archers as a female fronted Manowar or Amon Amarth and with the harsh vocals of guitarist Andrew Kingsley they demonstrate this with the epic battle hymn lyrical content on Ten Thousand Against One and Cleanse The Bloodlines. Bands such as Battle Beast, Crystal Viper and Seven Kingdoms releasing albums this year there is a lot of competition for Unleash The Archers but they play it as good as anyone, maybe even better. 8/10