Beast In Black: From Hell With Love (Nuclear Blast) [Matt]
Beast In Black return with their second album, the band was formed by Anton Kabanen after he left Battle Beast, on the back of their impressive debut Berserker they now come back after numerous tours with Rhapsody, Nightwish and many summer festivals. From Hell With Love written in secret while on the road, drawing from the Anime's Beserk and Fist Of The North Star along with personal experience. It's got that brilliant mix of melodic and heavy sounds that Kabanen started on Battle Beast, showing the bands knack of playing with the fist pumping mid-paced stompers like This Is War, while also letting rip on the classic power metal sound on Cry Out For A Hero and the exploding No Surrender.
They also add some 80's style synth for the thumping title track, the pumping AOR of Sweet True Lies, Die By The Blade and Heart Of Steel. The album thunders along in the normal Beast In Black style the melodic power metal riffs and Yannis Papadopoulos using his brilliant high pitched vocals to great effect. The record only slows down for Oceandeep which is a flute backed ballad in the middle of the record before Unlimited Sin brings back the extravagant metal that Beast In Black languish in. Back with bang the beast returns hungrier than before! 8/10
Gathering Of Kings: First Mission (AOR Heaven) [Matt]
Back in 1984 record producer Tom Galley and his brother Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley founded the Phenomena project, the idea was to create a project that had contributors from leading rock musicians such as Glenn Hughes, Brian May, and John Wetton. Gathering Of Kings is a project made in the same vein all the songs are written by Victor Olsson and overseen by producer
Thomas "Plec" Johansson (Watain, Scar Symmetry, Soilwork, The Night Flight Orchestra, Nocturnal Rites), except for The Runaway, which was written by Maurice Gibb & Robin Gibb from Bee Gees.
It's a stunning piece of melodic rock mastery which features some of the most accomplished musicians contributing, on drums there is Jonas Källsbäck (The Night Flight Orchestra), Efraim Larsson (Streamline, ex-Diamond Dawn, ex-Art Nation) and Robban Bäck (Mustasch, W.E.T, ex-Eclipse) who lock in with bassist Nalle Påhlsson (Therion, ex-Treat). The melodies float and grab you as the keys from Richard Larsson (The Night Flight Orchestra), Chris Laney (Pretty Maids) and Erik Wiss (Cap Outrun) round out the guitars of Victor Olsson (Saffire), Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T), Stefan Helleblad (Within Temptation, Jono), Martin Sweet (Crashdïet, Sister).
As you can see just the instrumental parts have some serious names playing them so it means tracks such as Love Will Stay Alive and Out Of My Life, which sounds like Turn it On Again by Genesis). Of course there are some saccharine songs like Saviour and the poppy Long Way From Home, each song has its own unique voice because it literally has its own voice with vocalists such as Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind), Tobias Jansson (Saffire), Björn Strid (Soilwork, The Night Flight Orchestra), Rick Altzi (Masterplan, At Vance, Herman Frank), Jens Westin (Corroded) and Alexander Frisborg (Helldog) all commanding the mic on their individual songs. Some of the best musicians around playing high quality melodic music? Do yourself a favour and jump on board the First Mission. 8/10
Heavy Feather: Debris & Rubble (The Sign Records) [Paul H]
Imagine Free but with a mutation of Elin Larsson from Blues Pills and Jenni-Anne Smith from Avatarium doing the up-front stuff. Got your attention? Thought so. This 11-track album, which I think is their debut, channels not only Free but the essence of many more of the late 60s and early 70s rock sound. There are bits of Cream, The Yardbirds, Skynyrd and Zeppelin all wrapped up and hidden in this album. Most of the songs are relatively short, with the tub-thumping likes of Where Did We Go and Higher balanced by the longer emotion soaked Southern influenced Tell Me Your Tale, where vocalist Lisa Lystam really shows her quality. The musicianship is first class throughout, with an organic evolving style. It’s certainly better than many of the 1970s style bands around; White Feather are most impressive, and this is one pleasingly enjoyable release. 8/10
Ifreann: Unearthly (Self Released) [Paul S]
Ifreann hail from Edinburgh, the 5 piece have been going since 2015 and Unearthly is their first EP, it is 4 songs coming in at 18 minutes. So, what have they managed to produce as a first go? Mirror Of Sanity blasts off with a cracking piece of thrash. Clearly influenced by classic eighties thrash like Exodus, Testament and Overkill, but also similar to some more modern thrash bands like Gama Bomb or Havoc. The track is fast, but very tuneful with some really great riffs and a storming solo, and good vocals, really, really good vocals. Next up is the song Unearthing The Unearthly, which is another great fast, high energy song. The track is a little reminiscent of the last 2 or 3 Kreator albums; lots of energy and drive, but dripping with melody and tunefulness.
Next up is No Pasaran, which has a slightly slower feel to it, but makes up for it with a relentless feel, and again great vocals. The riffs are really well written, powerful, pounding and heavy as fuck. The final track is (as is traditional with trash albums) the fastest track on the album. An absolute blast of fast thrash riffs, ripping solos, screaming vocals and thundering drums. This is genuinely one of the best thrash songs I’ve heard in a very long time. Unearthly is a brilliant EP. Fast, flowing, heavy, visceral and full of energy. If this is their first recording, then they have a huge future ahead of them. If they can record an album of the same quality as this EP, then it will be a massive hit, I’m salivating just thinking about it. 8/10