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Thursday 28 January 2021

Reviews: Accept, Soen, Nervosa, Jason Bieler & TBVBO (Reviews By Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

Accept: Too Mean To Die (Nuclear Blast) [Richard Oliver]

With a career spanning 45 years and 15 albums under their belt it is pretty safe to say that Accept are a heavy metal institution. Their influence is huge and far reaching influencing not only power metal bands but speed and thrash metal bands. With such a vast career and a winning formula you pretty much know what you are going to get with a new Accept album. Too Mean To Die is quite a pivotal album for the band as it is the first album without founding member Peter Baltes leaving Wolf Holfmann as the sole surviving original member of the band. It is the debut album for new bassist Martin Motnik and for added third guitarist Philip Shouse. With such upheavals for the band there is the worry if Too Mean To Die still has the Accept magic. Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes.

Accept show that they mean business from the word go as opening song Zombie Apocalypse is a masterclass is fist pumping heavy metal with a classic driving Accept riff, a pummelling rhythm section and an anthemic chorus. The following title track keeps the momentum going and this opening duo is a sure fire way to make a good first impression on the listener. The album is fairly varied throughout with plenty of classic Accept fist bangers such as Sucks To Be You and Not My Problem, a doomy more atmospheric song in the form of The Undertaker, a nice throwback to the 80’s metal sound with Overnight Sensation, a melodic ballad from The Best Is Yet To Come with also has plenty of that Accept power and also Wolf Hoffman’s dabblings into the neoclassical with the phenomenal Symphony Of Pain and closing instrumental Samson And Delilah. The band put in a fantastic performance with the new members fitting in perfectly. Mark Tornillo puts in a fantastic vocal performance and Wolf Hoffmann shows why he is one of the most revered guitarists in classic heavy metal.

Despite some new members in the band Too Mean To Die very much has that classic Accept feel and carries on the momentum the band have been building since their reformation in 2009 and are very much in a purple patch of incredible heavy metal albums that began in with the fantastic Blood Of The Nations in 2010. It is a very familiar sounding album as it doesn’t really stretch Accept in any new directions but 45 years into their career who wants change?  Too Mean To Die is a bit like putting a pair of comfortable slippers on except the slippers are emblazoned with the words HEAVY FUCKING METAL. Another top effort from the German metal veterans that is sure to go down a storm with their fanbase and also maybe entice some new fans into the fold. 8/10

Soen: Imperial (Silver Lining Music) [Matt Bladen]

A new Soen album is always a cause for celebration here at MoM Towers, especially when one comes nearly a year after the previous one. When Rich reviewed that back in 2019 he put it as one of his albums of the year! So does Imperial stack up to their previous efforts? Short answer is yes. Now I can just give it a score and leave it there but that would do a disservice to the record and the stellar performances on it. The wonderful sonorous, Jonas Renkse/Mikael Akerfeldt vocals of Joel Ekelöf leading the charge adding emotion to these melodic, progressive tracks. Beneath the layers and layers is the steady hand of Martin Lopez who has been adding a deft heaviness since the beginning of the band, having spent a massive amount of time in time in Opeth. There's a world weariness to the record Lopez explaining that through music the band and hopefully their fans find catharsis, from the Pandemic, from the struggles of everyday life, from everything. 

That feeling of catharsis permeates through Illusion with it's enveloping keys from Lars Enok Åhlund who doubles down on rhythm with bassist Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel, giving Antagonist some chunky riffage, though it has a huge melodic chorus which allows Cody Ford's majestic lead playing to release explosions of virtuosity. Imperial is not just full of emotion and melody but is also extremely progressive as the electronic edge of Modesty bleeds into the brilliant Dissident as the finale of Fortune purging the very last ounce of feeling from your body the production skills of Iñaki Marconi, the band and Kane Churko allowing the music to really dig down deep into your soul. Imperial is yet another brilliant modern, progressive metal record from Soen. A true must listen. 9/10

Nervosa: Perpetual Chaos (Napalm Records) [Richard Oliver]

2020 was a turbulent year for all of us but it was a very turbulent year in the Nervosa camp as it saw not one but two members of the band depart leaving just guitarist Prika Amarl as the sole surviving member of the band. Replacing band members is difficult but having to replace an entire band apart from yourself and during a global pandemic sounds nigh on impossible but Prika has done an admirable job and Nervosa is once again complete and now a four piece with Mia Wallace joining on bass, Eleni Nota occupying the drummer stool and Diva Satanica unleashing hell on vocals. Obviously with an abundance of new members some doubt must be cast on whether Nervosa will capture the ferocity of previous albums but thankfully any doubts are dispelled as soon as you hit play on Perpetual Chaos which is the fourth album from the Brazilian death thrashers. 

I am very much a fan of the more aggressive side of thrash. As much as I love the melodic side of the genre nothing satisfies me more than unrelenting speed and aggression and on that Perpetual Chaos really delivers. This is thirteen songs of no nonsense raging thrash with a savage death metal underbelly. Songs such as Guided By Evil, People Of The Abyss and Until The Very End pulsate with aggression with furious riff work from Prika, insane technical and brutalising drumwork from Eleni and throat shredding and blood curdling screams from Diva Satanica. Unfortunately the bass playing from Mia is rather buried in the mix which is a shame as she has shown herself to be a formidable bassist from her stint with Abbath. Thrash stalwarts Schmier (Destruction) and Eric A.K. (Flotsam & Jetsam) drop some guest vocals on the ferocious Genocidal Command and the speed metal attack of Rebel Soul

Perpetual Chaos is an album that barely pauses for breath with each and every song rippling with violence and savagery. With thirteen songs it can get a bit samey at times but for me the quality remained high throughout so this is but a minor criticism. If you crave violence in your thrash then Nervosa will definitely give you your fix. Savage thrashing which is not for the faint of heart. 8/10

Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra: Songs For The Apocalypse (Frontiers Music) [Matt Bladen]

If you were too young, or knowingly avoided that new wave of AOR/Sleaze Rock bands that appeared in the early 90's then you'd be for given for not knowing you Jason Bieler is. He served his time as the lead guitarist of Florida glam metal band Saigon Kick, a position he still holds today, as well as that he is the founder of Bieler Bros records (former home to Karnivool and Skindred), so much like contemporary Kip Winger, Bieler has many strings to his bow. He also seems to have a huge Filofax of friends, such is the line up on this solo/collaborative record, his first for Frontiers Music. Now if you didn't know that there was guest performances on this record and just took it that all vocals and instruments were played by Bieler then a song such as the reggae-rock of Beyond Hope could come off entirely differently, however with Benji Webbe up front it's given authenticity with the virtuosity coming from David Ellefson on bass and a solo by Bumblefoot. 

The only other vocalist on the record is Jeff Scott Soto who gives Alone In The World a good belting, that leaves most of the record with Jason behind the mic and he has a great voice (similar to that of John Mitchell) that fits the multi-faceted, jukebox style genre shifts this record presents, from the heavy groove metal of Apology which features Todd La Torre (Queensryche) on drums(!), there are numerous shifts in style but nothing really links to that 90's Glam Rock sound, well maybe Stones Will Fly which has Extreme's Pat Badger (bass) and Butch Walker (ex-Marvelous 3) on guitar It's very modern the heaviness maintained on Bring Out Your Dead which once again features David Ellefson's fuzzing bass and guest solo from Hevy Devy himself. 

Bieler has said that this is not his heaviest record yet, maybe I need to listen to his other records as Songs For The Apocalypse is pretty heavy, Annalise bringing the mind melding of bands like Neurosis and Mastodon, Anthem For Losers is sort of like country meets Cheap Trick, Horror Wobbles The Hippo is an atmospheric instrumental while the alt prog of Born Of The Sun has Clint Lowery (Sevendust) and Kyle Sanders (Hellyeah) giving it a some bounce. At 15 tracks it may be a little too much to take in for some but Bieler has outdone himself on this record. 8/10

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