Before Alestorm and all the subsequent copycat bands such as Rumahoy and Lagerstein appeared and created the “pirate metal” genre, there was only one band with whom pirates and heavy metal could be associated and that was the legendary Running Wild. These pirate loving German power metallers have been at it since 1979 and although frontman and guitarist “Rock ‘N’ Rolf” is the sole original member of the band, they are showing no signs of stopping with the release of their eighteenth album Blood On Blood.
Like any band that has been going as long as they have, Running Wild have had their ups and downs but can generally be relied upon to release a solid album of Teutonic power metal. And that’s exactly what Blood On Blood is - a solid and reliable album of anthemic and fist pumping heavy metal with songs soaked in blood and gunpowder such as Wings Of Fire, Diamonds And Pearls and Crossing The Blades. As well as the usual themes of piracy there are songs such as Wild And Free and Wild Wild Nights that are designed as party anthems bringing to mind 80’s hair metal. They are probably the least effective songs on the album along with One Night One Day which really doesn’t work bordering on power ballad territory. Things are saved at the end with the near 11 minute The Iron Times 1618-1648 which brings to mind the old Iron Maiden epics of old in its length, scope and composition.
Blood On Blood is another decent Running Wild album. “Rock ‘N’ Rolf” has stated that Blood On Blood “is an album that in my opinion is probably the best in Running Wild`s career to date” which is a bold statement. Whilst a lot better than albums such as Rogues En Vogue and Shadowmaker, this album doesn’t hold a candle to albums from the band's heyday such as Under Jolly Roger, Blazon Stone, Port Royal, Black Hand Inn and Death Or Glory. It is still however a very enjoyable album that will be best accompanied by some cold beers (like all good heavy metal) and some of these songs will sound fantastic should Running Wild get to tour the album anytime soon. Much like fellow countryman U.D.O.’s latest album this is a solid piece of Teutonic heavy metal. 7/10
First Fragment - Gloire Éternelle (Unique Leader Records) [Richard Oliver]
Equally impressive is the bass playing of Dominic “Forest” Lapointe who demands attention with his fretless wizardry certainly at times bringing to mind the mighty Les Claypool with moments throughout the album that sound like if Primus decided to become a technical death metal band with basslines that are as funky as they are technically insane. During most songs the lead guitar and the bass are both competing for the limelight and both are so equally impressive it is hard to know which to focus on. There are progressive elements as well from the start with the opening title track incorporating flamenco guitars as well as swing rhythms whilst La Veuve Et Le Martyr mixes those swing rhythms with a huge wedge of funk.
Other notable songs throughout the album include Ataraxie which has unbelievable amounts of speed as well as some truly unreal drumming from Nicholas “Le Fou” Wells, instrumental Sonata En Mi Mineur which brings the pace and craziness right down with a stunning solo straight from the David Gilmour book of prog guitar solos as well as some stunning flamenco guitars and the mighty nearly 19 minute In’el which manages to incorporate all the elements in prior songs into one monstrous epic. Despite the stunning musicianship throughout where this album does fall a bit short is its length. With ten songs spread across 71 minutes it is just way too long and by about the fourth song things start to get a bit repetitive and despite the musical pyrotechnics being exploded into my ears I did find my attention waning on the second half of the album.
I’ve often said that technical death metal is very much style over substance and First Fragment also fall into that trap. What helps make them stand out over a lot of other bands in the genre though is that their level of musicianship is above and beyond most others and there is some stupid amounts of musical talent in tech death. From a musicianship point of view Gloire Éternelle is an jaw dropping piece of work but from the perspective of a metalhead with a short attention span it is a bit bloated and a bit too much to stomach in one sitting. 7/10
Giöbia & The Cosmic Dead - The Intergalactic Connection: Exploring The Sideral Remote Hyperspace (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Matt Bladen]
5...Strap into your seat. 4...Check instruments. 3...Finalize functionality. 2...Prepare for ignition. 1...Lift off! A as that needle hits the groove of this space rock split, you will be transported into the realms only explored by USS Voyager. The wordy The Intergalactic Connection – Exploring The Sideral Remote Hyperspace is a collaboration between Italian Astronauta's Giöbia and Scottish space travellers The Cosmic Dead. At only four tracks, both bands deliver mostly instrumental space rock, full of swirling psychedelia, atmospheric shoegaze and even some rock as well. The split has been compared to the bands such as Gong, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd (post Syd, pre Dark Side) and I can hear why as soon as the first of the three songs by the Italians.
Canyon Moon straps you into that 60's/70's vibe of heavy synths/organs, cascading against the guitars, bass and drums that get the groove going. Giöbia are a more traditional sounding band, with a more direct rock driven approach, moving into Spaghetti Western themes on Julia Dream. The Cosmic Dead are a more ethereal than their Italian counterparts with all band members playing wah while they also have a fiddle player that really adds an otherworldly feel to sprawling desert rock anthem Crater Creator, their only track on this split but with a run time of 19 minutes it makes an impression. Jump on to this journey and explore the outer limits of space. 7/10
156/Silence - Don't Hold Your Breath (Sharptone Records) [Matt Bladen]
Don't Hold Your Breath is made up of four slices of aggression. It's almost an encore to 156/Silence's previous full length released in 2020. The EP feels raw as if what we here is exactly what they were playing in the studio, no overdubs or musical additions, just blasting metallic hardcore. Musically there's no real difference between this EP and their previous album, the band tapping a rich seam of creativity allowing the songs speak for themselves though with vocalist Jack Murray, they shout, growl, roar and snarl, rather than speak. He has an impressive delivery that reminds me a bit of Corey Taylor back in the early days of Slipknot. However on Coup De Grace (The Final Blow) he adopts straight hardcore delivery which is ideal for this songs use of synths and varying time signatures. This for me is the best track on the EP, I'm not the worlds biggest metalcore/hardcore fan but 156/Silence do have something to them. If you missed their full length this would be the best access point to get into 156/Silence. 7/10