For many years Glenn Hughes has been called 'The Voice Of Rock' but as time passes we may have to start to look for someone to carry that moniker. My vote goes to American Jeff Scott Soto, he consistently delivers brilliant vocals whether it's as the frontman of band such as Talismen, Journey, W.E.T, progressive metal supergroup Sons Of Apollo and in his solo band which he has been fronting since 1994. Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) is his seventh solo record and benefits from his nearly 30 years of performing in various genres, along with a cavalcade of Frontiers veterans joining him, for a record of slick melodic/AOR and hard rock co-written with Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline etc) who also plays bass, keys and guitars her as well.
Evil Dead: United States Of Anarchy (Steamhammer/SPV) [Paul Hutchings]
Cast your mind back to 1986 and Los Angeles. The City Of Angels in the grip of the hair metal pandemic. No masks back then to protect from the clouds of hairspray, make up and lycra. And that was the blokes! Lurking in the shadows, there were also plenty of thrash bands who were the total antithesis of the preening queens. Alongside the likes of Armored Saint, Overkill and Agent Steel came the blistering pace and chug of Evil Dead. Initially a side project of Agent Steel guitarist Juan Garcia and Abattoir bassist Mel Sanchez, Evil Dead produced a meagre two records, 1989’s Annihilation of Civilisation and 1991’s The Underworld. The debut featured Rob Alaniz on drums, the vocals of Phil Flores and guitarist Albert Gonzales and had the immediately identifiable Ed Repka art. After a lengthy hiatus and two reformations, Evil Dead now return from the grave with their third record, a mere 29 years after their sophomore release.
With Flores, Garcia, Gonzales and Alaniz now joined by bassist Karlos Medina who replaced Shanchez in 1990, this is almost as original an Evil Dead line up as you could get. With Repka adding a glorious piece of album art, the only question was whether Evil Dead could relight the fires of nearly 30 years ago. The answer is a resounding yes because United States Of Anarchy is a fantastic fiery slab of thrash metal which transports you back to those late 1980s, but which also benefits from an updated production and a contemporary sound. Full of their traditional social commentary, much aimed at the Orange Commander In Chief (hopefully not by the time of publication), Evil Dead are certainly intent on making up for lost time with 38 minutes of heavy, full on thrash metal which demonstrates that a) these guys retain the fire of those early years and b) it’s a travesty they’ve been away for so long.
Opening with The Descending, Evil Dead swiftly remind thrash fans old and new that they were a player back in the day. Its skull crushing in intensity. Napoleon Complex is a wall of death wrapped up in a three-minute track, the shrieking guitars soaring above the pummelling drumming and pulsating bass lines. Flores’ is if anything, a better vocalist now than he was back in the day, still commanding and roaring with a vicious bile filled roar. The tracks are feisty, fast and over in minutes. The underlying crossover feel remains deep in the Evil Dead roots, and it surfaces in tracks like the blistering Blasphemy Divine and Seed Of Doubt. There are crunching guitars a plenty here, and old school and new fans alike will revel in the sheer power and energy that Evil Dead bring to the table. It’s a rampant return from a band who are absolutely loved in the thrash halls of fame. On this form, they will be moving higher up the ranks. 8/10
Surma: The Light Within (Metal Blade Records) [Lucas Tuckwood]
It’s time to feel good, so let’s have some good old symphonic metal to brighten the spirits. Today we’ve got Surma, kicking things off with a debut album that goes for the jugular and does not hold back. Drawing themes from sculptures, it’s brimming with that triumphant goodness that symphonic metal is known for, and firmly cements Surma’s place in the modern symphonic scene. Beginning with a soaring intro, the album starts with a bang, and each track feels yet more powerful than the last, and while the themes involve overcoming personal struggles, not a single track fails to deliver that special energy that has the power to lift the spirits. even if they’re not the most subtle lyrics in the world.
If I had to make one critique, it’s that the riffs provided by Heri Joensen of TYR tend to get buried a little beneath the orchestral melodies, and that he’s not often given the chance to rip more nasty solos. I quite enjoyed his vocal contributions, like in The City Of Winds, but they’re rather few and far between. I find that a contrast between the two vocalists adds an extra layer to the songs that ought to be utilised more, but as it stands this is still a great album. Surma are absolutely a band to keep an eye on, and for the symphonic metal fans, this is an essential album for you. As far as debut records go, this is how it’s done. 8/10
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