Northward: Self Titled (Nuclear Blast)
Northward is an album/project that was always going to appeal to me, I'm in love with the vocals of Floor Jansen from her time in After Forever and Jørn Viggo Lofstad the guitarist of progressive/power metal band Pagan's Mind. With these two heavy hitters on board it could have been the biggest symphonic metal album of the year however what it might be is the best straightforward hard rock album this year. Yep it's euphoric modern hard rock owing as much to Alter Bridge as it does to Led Zeppelin, check out Get What You Give and imagine Myles Kennedy wailing and you'll see what I mean. It doesn't need Kennedy though Floor's versatile vocals are as brilliant as they always are but they show here more pop/rock style, it's also very interesting to hear her purr with some Heart-like sexuality for the Big Boy.
Northward came about after a jam session at Progpower USA 2007 and songs quickly came afterwards, however after Floor became the singer of Nightwish time disappeared and it was only last year they managed to complete this album along with Morty Black (TNT) on bass, Django Nilsen and Stian Kristoffersen (Pagan's Mind) on drums. They've got a few friends along for the ride as Floor debuts with sister Irene (Ayreon) on the thumping Drifting Islands and Ronny Tegner (Pagan's Mind) adding grand piano. As I've mentioned the music here is stripped back, proper rock music driven by incredible vocals and Lofstad's simple but effective guitar riffs and his trademark solo brilliance. There's a myriad of sounds on this debut record tender ballads in the shape of Bridle Passion, heavy pomp rock for While Love Died and glistening AOR for the title track. With no chance of a tour and probably not much of getting another album Northward is this projects defining statement and it was very much worth the wait. 8/10
OHHMS: Exist (Holy Roar Records)
A band like OHHMS thrive on making as much noise as humanly possible their post-metal/sludge music is slow, disconcerting, and most of all oppressively heavy, the Canterbury five piece also are no strangers to experimentation, their debut last year got an 8/10 from rich who complimented the bands ability to make elongated number seem like no time at all and this is a trick they repeat for the follow up, Exist's first track is a 22 minute monolith, with distorted sludge riffs cascading into atmospheric shoegaze at the 8 minute mark giving a dense sound over a enveloping musical backing, before it slows down into a dreamy ambient soundscape with a bit of percussive witchery before the riffs return again.
At the heart of the song are the lyrics, it depicts the existence and death of a monkey in an animal testing facility and if the volume doesn't unseat you the cries of "murder" will. Subjects is the first ode to the bands ideology of pacifism and empathy that they convey through down-tuned sludge riffs. It's not just animals that they are trying to stop aggression towards the last song Lay Down Your Firearms is an indictment of gun culture. With intelligent post-metal/sludge at it's core and clear conviction in their writing Exist is a brilliant follow up from OHHMS, what a lovely noise this is. 8/10
Full House Brew Crew: Me Against You (Rock Of Angels Records)
Founded in 2009 Greek groove metal troupe Full House Brew Crew (Stylized as Full House B.C) have finally returned with their second album following on from their 2011 debut Bet It All, the reason for the gap is that singer/guitarist Vagelis Karzis is the touring bass player for Rotting Christ. This is a total opposite to the Greek black metal horde, it's thumping power groove metal akin to Pantera, FFDP and Black Label Society, sounding American as possible, from the rip snorting Cannot Be Judged to the bluesy thump of No One's Safe this record has the chest beating aggression of those bands you hear being pumped out of tanks, it's macho heavy metal with a take-no-shit attitude and concrete grooves, vocally Vagelis sounds a lot like Burton C Bell which adds to tracks such as Hard To Tell especially when he's spitting lyrics about mistreatment and the state of our governments like Bring The Chaos, the propulsive Me Against You and the sledgehammer of riff that's on Hollow God. It's nothing new no, but it's got enough aggression to get the blood boiling and the head banging. 7/10
Emersis: Deadlight (Self Released)
Opening your debut EP with a track about Stephen King's IT is one way of garnering attention, especially when while doing it you eerily sound like Iced Earth during their Horror Show phase, the gruff vocals sounding like low range Barlow when he snarls the lyrics about death, doom and drainage. It's a strong start for this Brighton five piece who don't stick to one sound over the course of these four tracks, coming next is No Longer My Past which is a bit more melodic having a more modern metal vibe of Trivium of BFMV to it due to the razor sharp guitar work as the IE sound returns for A Second Chance but the finale of Not Today gives a strutting beatdown. Deadlight is a little rough around the edges but you can hear the potential. 7/10