Restless Spirits/Tony Hernando: Restless Spirits (Frontiers Records)
Now this...this is not good, probably one of the most overproduced, insipid melodic rock albums I've heard this year all from the axe slinger of Lords Of Black. This is apparently him stepping away from the style of Lords Of Black probably due to their recent line up change, he had time on his hands, but if I were to offer some sage advice, don't quit your dayjob. Yes ok the positives this album does feature some of the best voices in the melodic rock genre: Johnny Gioeli (Hardline), Dino Jelusic (Animal Drive), Diego Valdez (Dream Child) along with Deen Castronovo (Revolution Saints ex-Journey), Kent Hilli (Perfect Plan) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (every Frontiers band ever). So that's the vocal talent as normal the guitarist takes all guitars, bass while Castronovo takes a more familiar place behind the drums as Victor Diez and Leif Elhin share the keys and piano.
Now with that out of the way we can focus on the album itself, the opening number Stop Livin To Live Online is a pretty competent rocker with Gioeli's vocals at their best, he even has the best ballad, the rest though just sounds like Journey-lite, especially Castronovo fronted numbers, it's all slick 'semi' rockers and saccharine ballads where the voices all blend into one except for Gioeli, Jelusic and Valdez (who gets one measly song). It's bland and banal and after a while you find yourself just wishing there was a proper riff, due to Hernando's dayjob I'll make this comparison: Lords Of Black is Rainbow fronted by Dio, Restless Spirits is the Bonnet/Lynn Turner era. 5/10
Dead Acid People: Earth, Weed & Fire (Self Released)
This was never going to an album of smiles and sunshine with that title was it? No French mind expanding stoners Dead Acid People walk on the darkside with this their second album. The opening intro has a creeping synth and "that" line from The Sixth Sense, before the title track opens the record with som analogue sounding, buzzing riffs, low basslines and metronomic drumming establishing a heady groove that would usually be accompanied by some drug induced stumbling. The record is an ode to the leaf clearly so naturally these French herbalists have tried to make it as appealing to stoners as possible, as the guitars and bass take precedence over both the drums and the droning vocals. Much of that is due to the mix which does sound like it's come straight out of the 60's/70's back-to-back reels leaving the drums low in the mix like on those early Sabbath albums.
I've mentioned the S word as it's nigh on impossible not to when your talking about riff based music that urges to "smoke a joint" like Earth, Weed & Fire does, they do vary form the blueprint of Ozzy and co though as Never Ending has a propulsion of MC5, while Fuzz You is more The Stooges, Beyond The Path meanwhile is proper 60's psych. It's a brain melting album which is sort of the point as the fuzz pedal is very much in the on position for the whole thing with the phaser coming in and out as well, the vocals to are more like a chant with a snarl cutting across for attitude. Earth, Weed & Fire (one of my favourite album titles of the year) is a distorted, hazy (Cosmic Trails), munchie inducing album ideal for late nights getting blazed (not that we condone that sort of thing). 8/10
Circle Of Witches: Natural Born Sinners (Sliptrick Records)
What is it with clever album titles, I know this has been done to death but it's still clever. Circle Of Witches are an Italian metal band that mix heavy metal and doom with a definite influence of Grand Magus creeping in. Natural Born Sinners is their third album and according to the band deal with riots and some of the more rebellious people in history such as Lucifer, Spartacus and Anton LaVey. Ideal heavy metal fodder then and musically too they've managed to get that niche Magus themselves enjoy which is being as heavy as truck but also catchy as venereal disease. Take a song like the pummeling The Black House you can happily bang your head to the crunchy riffs but also enjoy the big choruses that deal with LaVey's Nine Statements in the Church Of Satan.
The Oracle brings Gothic touch of Ghost which suits the more gothic lower timbre of Mario Bove's vocals, the Magus influence can be heard fully on Spartacus (Prophecy) There is an old school metal vibe to this record it's all very leather and studs which makes it even more enjoyable as when they play fast it's ferocious, but when the doom elements come in it goes to gets a significant stomp. Church Of Witches are Mario Bove (vocals/guitar), Joe Dardano (guitar), Tony Farabella (bass/bv) and Joey Coppola (drums) and if you've worn out Wolf God already then I'd say invest in Natural Born Sinners for a 'proper' heavy metal fix. 8/10
Asylum Pyre: N°4 (M&O Music)
N°4 is the fourth album from French band Asylum Pyre who have released their first album since 2015 their first with current singer Oxy Hart. Asylum Pyre are a band that are hard to classify they sound like an amalgamation of Lacuna Coil, In This Moment and Amaranthe as Oxy has a very adaptable vocals style that is matched by the harsher tones of Johann Cadot for a dual vocal assault. Though the main focus is on the classically trained Oxy, Beast In Black's Yannis Papadopoulos does pop in on Sex, Drugs & Scars, however the balance between the clean/harsh dynamic is done really well, especially on Dearth. I suppose you could call it progressive power metal as every track presents you with another style though it's the electronic/industrial touches that are ever present, shummering synths fuse with powerful metal riffs. Looking at the press bumf around this there seems to be an overall concept around this band that is far too complicated for me to get into but it doesn't detract from the music on offer. As I've said it's almost impossible to pigeonhole this band as they have so much going on musically but that endears me to them, a real surprise for me as I did think Asylum Pyre may be one of those generic symphonic metal bands but there are a lot more strings to their bow. 7/10