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Friday, 7 August 2020

Reviews: Avatar, Arctic Rain, Black Rose Maze, Wicked Sisters (Simon, Matt, Mike & Lucas)

Avatar: Hunter Gatherer (Century Media Records) [Simon Black]

It’s been a couple of years since Avatar Country was released, and a lot longer since I caught the tail end of this Swedish outfit’s visually distinctive set at Bloodstock back in 2014, so this eight album is well overdue. I’ve never taken the time to listen to one of their albums in full before, so it was a bit of an eye opener, as Hunter Gatherer doesn’t pull its punches and album opener Silence In The Age Of Apes leaves you in no doubt at who the brunt of their ire is directed at. It’s an explosive energetic start to an album that as you come to expect from Avatar, this is theatrical metal in full no holds barred mode.

Colossus is slower paced slab-like riffage, and vocals that run the gamut of Marilyn Manson to soaring Power Metal and back down to the extreme lyric phrase by lyric phrase – it’s dizzying. A Secret Door almost fools you into thinking it’s a ballad from the opening introductory whistled melody and delicate lyrics verse before exploding into galloping double bass drum territory and an explosion of vocal anger that caught me so much by surprise that I nearly fell off the chair. There’s also a guest spot on there from Corey Taylor to keep an ear out for.

What I like about this album is the stylistic twists and turns, from the more Industrial Metal slide into God Of Sick Dreams, to the more Groove Metal influenced Scream Until You Wake with spots in so many different camps that you sometimes wonder if you’re listening to a compilation. Lyrically this album is pushing the point that we seem set on a downward path of clueless relentless stupidity, and that anger and frustration makes this album work no matter what musical direction they’re toying with. Gone is the tongue in someone else’s cheek of the past – this is a band with a point to make, and they sound pissed off at a world that’s forgotten its values. No song encapsulates this more than Justice with the embittered lyric “I can see the future/Through the barrel of a gun/This is Justice”, this is a long way from the Feathers And Flesh days.

The theatrical approach isn’t for everyone as I am well aware, but personally I love it, as if music rock music isn’t pushing the boundaries and giving the grandparents something to bitch about on Facebook, it’s probably not very good. In terms of timing, they really picked the right year for it, as with all the theatricality mixed with a liberal portion of justified fury, this album really delivers. 9/10

Arctic Rain: The One (Frontiers Records) [Matt Bladen]

Formed by songwriter/keyboardist Pete Alpenborg, guitarist Magnus Berglund, and singer Tobias Jonsson, Arctic Rain are a relatively new band from Sweden. The One is their debut album adding bassist Gert Daun and drummer Jonas Jönsson to the band just before recording this album, their overall sound is that of late-80's early-90's melodic rock sound. Marcus Berglund states that band such as "Whitesnake, Mr Big, Def Leppard and Dokken, we believe the result of our album is a distillation of our combined interpretation of that era of music”and you can really hear why they would say that, with massive ballads such as Free My Mind and the title track have those American radio vibes. While the rest of the album contains some bouncing, choppy melodic rockers such as like Love Of My Life and Breakout which has real Mr Big style to it. 

Berglund's guitars guide those strutting riffs and intricate soloing similar in sound to Reb Beach or Paul Gilbert but it's very much Pete Alpenborg who drives the songwriting here, as he has contributing to bands such as Revolution Saints, House Of Lords and also Kee Of Hearts, featuring former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello who are another band that Arctic Rain get their influence from. The Swedes know how to do classy, slick melodic rock and Arctic Rain really subscribe to that description on this debut record, just check out Madeleine for those luscious walls of synth and you'll understand what I mean. The One is a great debut from these Swedish rockers that will make you think grunge never happened! 7/10

Black Rose Maze: ST (Frontiers Records) [Mike Chapman]

For those of you that enjoy your Rock Hard and your vocals powerful yet melodic, you are about to have your musical needs fulfilled. Hailing from Montreal, Canada vocalist Rosa Laricchiuta has experience, with two albums of her own after cutting her teeth on The Voice Quebec culmination in a performance with Def Leppard, Kelly Clarkson, and Melissa Etheridge you can rest assured this woman has talent. Now with her new project Black Rose Maze Rosa delivers a hard hitting & well produced selection of tracks that despite not breaking new ground per say, provide quality and consistency to the Hard Rock genre.

Your introduction to the band’s style is the foot stomping Into The Dark, remember I said melodic? Well this chorus is melody smothered on melody, its killer and I’m still humming it as I type. Another standout track is the slower Look At Me Now, not a ballad but a down tempo number that really allows Rosa to showcase her powerful vocals, a real treat I must say. A great way to sum up Black Rose Maze and their self titled debut would be the namesake track Maze. If a song could sum up all of a bands qualities then this is one of them, bombastic riffs, melody, power & presence, the guitar work of Andrea Seveso should not go unnoticed. All in all a satisfying record for fans of HIM, Alice Cooper and the like, Black Rose Maze deliver a steady debut that serves a welcome addition to the Hard Rock fold. 8/10

Wicked Sisters: Wired_Backwards (Self Released) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Wired_Backwards is the newest album from the Sydney based Wicked Sisters, taking doomy riffs and splicing them with a strong dose of industrial. Having dabbled in industrial in their past output, here they decided to dive headfirst into the electronic void, with rather poor results. Track one, D.O.G, begins with a promising slow build, with very heavy, if slightly simple riffs and foreboding electronic ambience. It later breaks out a wonderful cacophony of chanting, guttural and distorted vocals, before suddenly and quite bizarrely ending on two minutes of instrumental, with the guitar endlessly slinking back and forth from the same few chords for far longer than it has any right to.

Track two, Straightrazor, is just an electronic interlude, a minute and a half in length. Track three however, Advanced Delusional Schizophrenia, is far and away the best track on the record, and only a minute and thirty seconds of it are original. The riffs may be simple, but the pace of the song, and the ferocity of the vocals make it a lot more palatable. But again, the song abruptly stops just as it’s finding its rhythm, and slinks back down to the slow duet of guitar and drums from D.O.G, the only difference being the addition of some extra electronic distortion and ambience. I have no earthly idea as to why they did this, and as a result neither of the two real songs out of the three have any room to flourish. 

The band’s previous album, We Suck, contains some far better constructed songs, each containing an easily identifiable beginning, middle, and end, so what on earth has happened here? They’ve clearly got the talent, but any potential these songs had was squandered, the result being an aimless, dull little album that has promise, but goes nowhere. 3/10

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