I always get that little pang of excitement when a new album from a veteran thrash band drops swiftly followed by a moment of worry that the new album won’t live up to expectations. Thankfully any worry can be dispelled with X which is the tenth album from Danish old schoolers Artillery. This is the first Artillery album since the sad death of founding member and guitarist Morten Stützer in 2019 leaving his brother Michael Stützer as the sole founding member in the band. Thankfully the band have done Morten proud and released a cracking album with X. The later albums of Artillery have been far more in a power meets thrash metal style especially since the inclusion of vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl in the band in 2012 and his very melodic power metal vocal style. That is still very much the case with X though I feel that the thrash elements have been ramped up a fair bit after the somewhat lacklustre The Face Of Fear album in 2018.
Maleza (Undergrowth) is the third album from Anxela Baltar (vocals/guitar) and Violeta Mosquera (vocals/drums) the Spanish duo that make up Bala. This third album is another 24 minute rage through a tornado of punk/grunge/stoner delivered primarily in the Spanish language. When I say delivered I mean shouted at full volume by both Anxela and Violeta as musically there's an organic sound of being a two-piece built on just drums and guitar. Having toured in the UK, Australia and Japan, they have channeled this live experience into their third album for a very direct powerful offering. It's also quite mixed in it's sounds despite a short run time. The thunder of Hoy-No, the frothing Cien Obstáculos, the stop-start Agitar all kick up the speed quotient while Quieres Entrar is slower and much more atmospheric as Bessie brings more than a touch of Sabbath. Fuzzy distortion, frantic percussion and bucketloads of attitude Maleza is Bala announcing themselves to a wider audience with this shock of bristling alt-rock. 7/10
Levara - Levara (Mascot Records) [Matt Bladen]
L.A trio Levara are a band that in their short existence have supported AOR legends Toto, so they clearly have quite a pedigree. What helps is that Levara six stringer Trev is Steve Lukather's son, he is a chip off the old block with the same talent for blending blues with slicker modern rock riffage. Joining him is Brit Josh Devine who was behind the kit for One Direction and French vocalist Jules Gali. Like Toto Levara are a band that truly encapsulate their time, as Toto are your stereotypical 80's sound, Levara are very much a band for the 21st Century sounding like acts such as Daughtry and Shinedown, radio friendly rock music with some electronic shivers and pop sheen. The trio are very much focussed on inspiring the youth to discover music with anthemic, feel-good songs that are designed to be sung aloud.
The Ember, The Ash - Fixation (Prosthetic Records) [Richard Oliver]
Fixation is the second album from The Ember, The Ash which is another solo project of 鬼 more commonly known as Canadian musician William Melsness (also of Unreqvited) who performs all instruments and vocals on this album. The Ember, The Ash mixes symphonic black metal with deathcore and the result is a mix of some very good sounding symphonic black metal and some truly dreadful deathcore. The meshing together of these two genres doesn’t really work as you get some great symphonic death metal part with a tacked on breakdown section which just spoils the whole flow (which isn’t helped by the fact that this reviewer despises deathcore style breakdowns). The deathcore heavy songs such as Strychnine and the title track are at the start of the album meaning that the second half is far more enjoyable with songs such as The Colossal Void and Celestial Fracture playing far more to the symphonic black metal sound with blast-beats, savage riffs and huge symphonic soundscapes.