Nita Strauss: Controlled Chaos (Sumerian Records)
I've mentioned before about my struggles with instrumental music but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for shred guitar stemming back to my love of Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine etc. SO when the chance to review the debut album from Shred Queen Nita Strauss arrived I jumped at it. Nita is probably best known as the woman that replaced Orianthi in Alice Cooper's band but she's played with some big hitters as well as being one of the founders of All-Female Iron Maiden tribute Iron Maidens. Controlled Chaos is just that, it's a record that focuses on songwriting over just showing technique from the Maiden-esque epic Our Most Desperate Hour she moves between catchy riffs and lightspeed solos that would scare Dragonforce.
Nita clearly has music running through veins, she is a descendent of Johann Strauss (composer of Blue Danube) fact fans so it's pretty clear to see hear why she uses a lot of classical arpeggios in her playing, but she uses this to flavour her heady broth of a modern metal approach as witnessed by the groove heavy Mariana Trench (the theme song to the recent NXT War Games PPV). This is apparently the record Nita has always wanted to make and like the great shred records there's moments of tenderness behind all the fireworks with Here With You being song so soppy you can imagine David Coverdale crooning over the top, heck even the cover of The Show Must Go On that features violin is brilliant. There's some top quality shred available here but no wasted notes it's all as it needs to be. If you've only seen Strauss playing Poison for the umpteenth time then maybe it's worth picking up this record to see what she can really do! 8/10
Devil's Playground: The Collector (Self Released)
Devil's Playground formed in 2015 and swiftly won the Coventry Metal 2 The Masses in 2017 establishing themselves as one of the most sought after bands on the UK circuit after their Bloodstock performances supporting UK metal crew GraVil (R.I.P). Having played the length and breath of the country their debut album isn't going to be an amateur affair but I was quite taken aback about just how professional and mature the band sound on The Collector. The musical style presented here is groove metal with thrash overtures and the unique dual vocal style, split between the hardcore-like barks of Matt and the Leanne's powerful melodic cleans.
If you remember the band Deadlock then you'll have an idea of what this sounds like the riffs are heavy, downtuned and move between speedy thrash and stomping groove breakdowns as the songs are enhanced by samples, electronics in a way that makes them sound a lot like Lacuna Coil jamming with Five Finger Death Punch. This debut album is super slick, produced well and the songs don't really stick to one particular style as Leanne explains they are all solitary pieces making this a "playground" of songs "Each has its own meaning from the masks that people wear to the overbearing power of the media to demons and the boogeyman!" so there's a theme but it means they can experiment with what can sometimes be a very repetitive genre. Live I'd think Devil's Playground are pretty incendiary and they've managed to retain some of this fire on record, if brutality and melody are your bag then get ready to play! 7/10
Doom Side Of The Moon: Encore EP (Self Released)
The Doom Side Of The Moon album encompassed two of my passions stoner/doom metal and Pink Floyd so naturally I loved it, however it leave one to wonder what other Floyd songs would sound like with doom rock makeover as the album solely focussed on Dark Side Of The Moon. Luckily the band felt the same and so we have Encore an EP that starts off with one of the heaviest Floyd tunes Have A Cigar which is given Sabbath-like chops along with parping sax cutting through it, it also has a bigger ballsier sound than the full length with guitarists Kyle Shutt (The Sword) and two of his three The Sword compatriots plus assorted folks, really moving away from the copy paper sound of the full length adding more doom flourishes but not detracting like Blue Floyd (who can be brilliant or abysmal depending on your view).
They segue Have A Cigar nicely into Pigs (Three Different Ones) from Floyds darkest record Animals, with that “Hey you White House” line still sending shivers, delivered by the almost loudhailer style vocal delivery. It’s a brilliant version that’s fleshed out with down-tuned heavy riffs, the middle instrumental section to has some trademark psych thrown in to really upset you. Then we get to Wish You Were Here, not the stripped back tender acoustic moment the original is no this is a massive, propulsive, power-chord slinging version with orchestral backing and two magnificent solos from both guitar and sax. I’m a huge Floyd head so I’m going to love this EP but for non Floyd fans it gives a new depth to the project showing it’s more than a one hit wonder! 8/10
Devastator: S/T Demo (Self Released)
Derbyshire black/thrash band Devastator take a distinctly Germanic approach to their music with the Teutonic titans of Sodom, Destruction and Kreator looming large as the intro moves into the aptly named Merciless Onslaught a shit-kicker of an opener the blistering riffs of Richard Bateman and Christopher Whitehurst accompanied by the frenetic drum blasts of Jack Scarlett. It's also the first time you really notice the production which is very DIY (it is a demo of course) but weirdly it works making the four songs hear sound like they were recorded to a tape in about 1988, the drums are tinny, the guitars faded, the bass nonexistent but luckily you can hear Thomas Collings vocals snarling over the blitzkrieg riffage similar to those of Cronos on Black Metal. Like I said Teutonic influences are abound on Serenity In Suffering which has slick leads and even a slow acoustic intro to show that they're no one trick pony. There's a lot of promise on this demo with nods to the first wave of black metal and German thrash Devastator have a lot to give, a bloody decent demo from this Derbyshire metal horde. 7/10