One of several musical outlets that involve Thoth Atlantean (others include Sanctum, Atlantis and Thunderhoof), this release under the Son Of Kush moniker is a bludgeoning serving of death and doom metal. Think Amon Amarth meets Arch Enemy and then throw the massive riffs of Candlemass into the mix and you’ll be on the right track. It’s a meaty seven-track release, which will get heads nodding and necks stretching. Thunderous bass and drums combine to envelope the tracks with a thunderclap worthy of Thor’s hammer, although I’m mixing my mythology here as Thoth Atlantean was an immortal Egyptian magician.
Taking all the mythology out of the picture, Pathfinder is a blisteringly good listen, with some stunning guitar work, masses of death growls and sufficient hooks to grab you by the lapels. Stand out tracks are the two lengthier beasts; the dark and brooding Doomed To Stone and the Nicko McBrain drumming style of Eternal Sacred Pyres. I’m not usually a fan of the multi-instrumentalist who churns it all out, but this is one savage beast of a release. 8/10
Pungent Stench: Smut Kingdom (Dissonance Productions)
Confusion reigned as to whether legendary Austrian death metal outfit Pungent Stench were active. Their last release, Ampeauty, arrived over 14 years ago but suddenly the band’s Facebook page, run by vocalist and guitarist El Cochino, sprung into life and Smut Kingdom has now appeared. From what I understand, and I may be wrong, Smut Kingdom may not be a “new” album but rather unreleased recordings from as far back as 2007.
Whatever the case, for fans of the band, who obviously have been out of focus for many years, this is a pleasing release, full of gnarly death metal that made the band such icons. From the first riffs of Aztec Holiday to the grinding pulsing doom of final song Planet Of The Dead, Smut Kingdom should make most death metal fans very happy. 7/10
Skin Deep: New Life (Self Released)
Hailing from the South West of England, Skin Deep is a four-piece hard rock outfit whose sound is based almost on entirely on Metallica, with elements of more melodic rock outfits like Godsmack and even Shinedown thrown in. New Life is a perfectly competent release, with some decent songs but there is little here to spark the interest for any length of time. The chunky riffs will be welcomed by those who like their rock delivered in a straightforward manner.
Listening to New Life I was reminded of fellow South West outfit King Creature, a band that really do possess an excitement that is sadly absent here. The seven-minute centrepiece Hollow starts well but becomes rather routine by midway, and other tracks, for example Blood On My Hands and Hard To Get are just too close to Hetfield and Co to stimulate. Unfortunately, rather unremarkable. 5/10
Heartwind: Higher And Higher (AOR Heaven)
More melodic rock from the AOR Heaven label. This time it is Swedish outfit Heartwind, which comprises members of Constansia, Token, Essence Of Sorrow and Narnia amongst others. The album is the brainchild of guitarist Goran Engvall and keyboardist Mikael Rosengren who after 15 years of friendship began developing songs in the vein that they wanted to hear. Sourcing their inspiration from some of the classic AOR of the 1980s, Whitesnake and Def Leppard amongst others, they invited numerous guests to help complete the project. What you get is absolute typical melodic rock which would get you burnt at the stake at Bloodstock but would be an absolute success at HRH AOR and the likes.
Every AOR cliché and style is delivered in bombastic style, huge production from Frederick Folkare and mastered by Erik Martensson (Eclipse, WET and Ammunition) ensuring that every song is completely overblown and polished to within an inch of its life. Ballads, such as the awful One Night Away From You are in plentiful supply. It’s about as limp wristed as you would expect, conjuring up images of poodle perms and posturing which belongs on 1988 MTV. Still, if you like your rock weaker than a kitten, you might just find this particularly endearing. 5/10
Crystal Ball: Crystallizer (Massacre Records)
Switzerland: home of dubious bank accounts, cuckoo clocks, Toblerone and world war neutrality. We can add that the home of some really dodgy hard rock and I can add to that pile with this offering from Crystal Ball. This really is a pile of steaming horse shit, and I think that is unfair on the equine output. I should have known when I read that they were initially known as Cherry Pie that I was in for a Warrant sized eye fucking but nothing could quite prepare for the diarrhoea splatter that confronted me. Gentleman’s Agreement, the astonishingly abysmal ballad Let Her Go With Love and the laughable Beauty In The Beast should all be confined to the bowels of hell.
Routinely written, dull as a magnolia painted wall and about as inspiring as a Conservative party broadcast, it was no surprise to find Tony Castell, ex-Krokus involved. The real stinker though is vocalist Steven Magney, whose singing is horrible, an inability to hold a note and blessed with a croak that sounds like Mark Tornillo’s worst bottom burps. This is utterly insipid and the only question I have left is how the fuck has this band persuaded Stefan Kauffmann (ex-Accept) to produce more than one of their releases. Utter drivel and in pole position for the crock of shit award of the year. 1/10