Suffer No Fools describe themselves as a ‘DIY’ Melodic Metal band, hailing from Hertfordshire UK. This is solid stuff, with lots of traditional metal riffs and pace, lots of in your face lead breaks with a deep vein of the early 80’s post-NWOBHM running all the way through it like … err, a stick of rock. I’m normally quite critical when a record coming along a whole four decades later than this sounds like it’s using equipment from that age, but in this case the lighter touch on the production works and adds to the charm. This is a stripped back sound, with some lovely flat hammered riffs, which doesn’t sound like someone sat into the night trying to make it sound like that on gear most bands could never afford. It works because it has a fresh honesty and charm and that the sheer tightness of the playing grabs all your focus.
The first comment, is this is pretty effective stuff given that they are a four piece, although sometimes the rhythm guitar is a bit too far back in the mix on a few tracks, but fundamentally you get a sense that this is what you’re likely to hear live. The energy in the instrumental sounds takes me back to those early Metallica albums and even with the stripped back sound, there’s also some very effective use of techniques going on with vocalist Ali Kahn’s lyrics. Some really nice harmonies build up in a subtle way that belies their complexity without compromising the stripped back feel – check out single Nothing To Fear, which starts with a vocal only harmonic and then builds in the rest of the band, before dropping you into the energetic pace that is the benchmark for most of their tracks. Or Six Feet Deep – an absolutely solid rocker which had me nodding my head like these guys had been in my life for ages. The only criticism I have is this is not a long album and loses a little bit of its energy and momentum towards the end, but in general short and sweet works for me. 7/10
Chugger: Of Man and Machine (Wormholedeath) [Paul Hutchings]
Blending the groove metal of Lamb Of God, Arch Enemy and Slipknot, Gothenburg melodic groove metallers Chugger have provided a thumping sophomore full-length which comes seven years since debut EP Scars was released. The band have not been idle in that time, releasing singles and gigging furiously across Europe as well as experiencing several line-up changes. Chugger’s influences are evident from the opening blast of Turning Point, an explosive ball of energy that starts of this 35-minute curled fist of power.
There is ample groove to enjoy on Of Man And Machine, and whilst vocalist David Dahl is somewhat limited in range, his ferocious roars complement the chainsaw guitars of Robin Lagerborg and Robert Bjärmyr. The structure of the tracks on this album is limited in variation, although the band’s driving assault allows some compensation. Tracks such as Pigs To The Slaughter, The Algorithm and the brutal closing track The Demons In Me stick closely to the groove metal blueprint but if you enjoy gnarly groove soaked metal that isn’t particularly challenging then you’d be advised to grab a copy of this release. 6/10
Volturian: Crimson (Scarlet Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Badged as melodic modern metal with a twist of gothic chic, Volturian is a band founded by singer Federica Lanna (Sleeping Romance) and songwriter Federico Mondelli (Frozen Crown). Crimson is a polished, well produced album which blends mellow, dreamy female vocals and heavy downtuned guitars with a massive infusion of electronic music. A huge range of styles see pristine and ethereal vocals blend neatly with slower, emotion bound tracks and the more rigid, industrial inspired electronica, all held together by Mondelli's Swedish death metal-oriented guitar riffs (think early 2000 In Flames and Soilwork).
The drumming is precise, and the layers of keyboards add texture and breadth. There is more than a nod to the 80’s new wave and the 90's Europop, with the occasional cloud of gothic atmospheres. The album closes with a heartfelt cover of Roxette's Fading Like Flower as tribute to the late Marie Fredriksson. With a concept that relies on dark, obscure and Aromantic themes, Crimson is an album that will appeal to fans of of bands such as Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Amaranthe and In This Moment. It may be a little too generic and poppy for most metal fans but if you fancy a new guilty pleasure, you won’t go far wrong with this release. 6/10
Cloven Hoof: Age Of Steel (Pure Steel Records) [Paul Hutchings]
It’s been three years since Who Mourns The Morning Star was released by NWOBHM veterans Cloven Hoof. Led by Lee Payne, the only original member of the band, Age Of Steel once again sees George Call’s five-octave range straining at the leash and to be fair, his performance on this album is a marked improvement on the 2017 release. His pitch is almost identical to Bruce Dickinson, one of many Maiden comparisons which reek like a old sock through this album. New guitarist Ash Baker joins Chris Coss whilst Matt Bristow’s solid drumming locks solidly with Payne’s thundering bass runs. Payne’s recent progressive rock project East Of Lyra was an enjoyable listen, but this is Payne back in his Steve Harris role, driving each track forward in typically dynamic style.
Opening song Bathory, unsurprisingly about the murdering Hungarian Countess, is a positive start to the album. A powerful, almost thrash metal song, it utilises some additional effects which tie in neatly with the subject matter and is underpinned by ample melody. But then we arrive at Exhibit 1 m’lud. Alderley Edge, not a song about Manchester based footballers but part of the concept which runs through side A of this release. Realistically, it should have been called Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, such is the rampant plagiarism at work here. I’ve searched several other sites for reviews of this album and cannot find reference to it in any of them. So, am I wrong or my ears playing tricks on me? Find out yourself but it is not something that impresses me. The Maiden pillaging continues on Touch The Rainbow, which steals a massive part of The Evil That Men Do, and four tracks in, I’m wondering if Cloven Hoof are simply ripping off segments of the Irons back catalogue for their own gain.
The band do at least move onto their own material on Bedlam, an epic style classic metal track, and whilst Call’s vocals still don’t quite do it for me, they are improved. Ascension isn’t a strong track, Call screams all over it and the flow of the song doesn’t work that well, the synths giving it an 80s feel. Gods Of War blends a bit of Helloween into the Maiden mix, the synths at least adding something of value on this one. The remaining songs are all solid if unspectacular although the title track which closes the album is utter gash. Part of the problem is that Call’s style makes it a challenge to avoid the Maiden comparison. The musicianship is generally impressive, the band tight and the production is of reasonable quality. Overall, Age Of Steel is an improvement on the previous album although I’m deducting points for the blatant stolen riffs. 6/10