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Wednesday 9 November 2022

Reviews: Black Mirrors, Massive Wagons, Black Hole, Iron Kingdom (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Black Mirrors – Tomorrow Will Be Without Us (Napalm Records)

After an acclaimed EP and album, Belgian rockers Black Mirrors come back into view with their second album for Napalm Records. Led by the powerhouse vocal of Marcella Di Troia, Black Mirrors are 90’s rock fans dream, shifting between riffy, off kilter alt rock, down tuned grunge and lots more into a sonic soup that will thrill fans of Hole, Nirvana, Screaming Trees and more recently British alt rock groovers Band Of Skulls. 

The four piece balance those often lamented melodies with forceful rock riffs and those sneering vocals, tracks such as Snake Oil delivering plenty of fuzz for Di Toria to display that great, gritty, punky, bluesy vocal, that yes is similar to Lzzy Hale, in the way that there’s a fire to it. Lost In The Desert is hooked on open bass chords, there’s an angularness to the title track as first single Hateful HateI’ll Kill You goes down the route of Hole both musically and with its attitude. 

Black Mirrors can do bluster well but they can also do torchlight ballads as Ode To My Unborn Child shows with its spooky Americana ala Mark Lanegan, the theme continued on the churning Through The Eyes Of A Giant. The band lean heavily on their 90’s influences even roping in multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes for the funky Collapsology (Raise Your Voice) which unsurprisingly sounds like Queens Of The Stone Age. Tomorrow Will Be Without Us is a 90’s rock record released in 2022 with the benefit of pick and choosing the best bits to suit what’s needed. 7/10

Massive Wagons – Triggered (Earache)

I’ve always been under the impression that Massive Wagons are a rock band that appeal to the lowest common denominator. They seem to have huge appeal (you may even say massive) but I’ve never understood it, but perhaps it’s their tongue in cheek, do what I want attitude to life that endears them to the heavy drinking, heavy partying rock clientele. So with trepidation, I pressed play on their fourth album, ‘dangerously’ titled Triggered. First song and we’re off to a bad start with Fuck The aHatersHaters which has the refrain “I don’t swear in my songs but fuck the haters”, and sounds like something your Sixth Form band would write. 

It’s juvenile and repetitive first song so it’s on to Please Stay Calm which has some Def Leppardisms but nothing else, Generation Prime features Benji Webb so its ragga punk that takes a shot at the Amazon Generation. There’s still nothing to dissuade me from my opinion that for all ‘fun’ Massive Wagons offer, they are just ripping off a load of other bands and trying to see what sticks. From the pub rock of A.S.S.H.O.L.E, to Southern rocking of the Gammon bashing (kudos on that at least) title track, the Motorhead noise of Sawdust and Giulia is a standard girls name song, which is shame as so much could have been done with a song about an Alfa Romeo, c’est la vie. 

Yep, there’s nothing on Triggered that will change my mind about Massive Wagons, I don’t get the popularity, however this record will sell loads. 5/10

Black Hole - Whirlwind Of Mad Man (Rockshots Records)

When I first listened to Black Hole I did think they were Greek, they play a symphonic driven style of heavy prog/power metal that is rife in the Hellenic scene, drawing from other European acts such as Firewind, Grave Digger and Evergrey but mainly it was the heavy accent of their singer Fabio, who has a dramatic style that but sounds a lot like former Firewind man Apollo Papathanasio. However I was wrong as Black Hole hail from France and this second album is again taking their heavy power/prog assault to the world once again, adding new member Christophe on keys/orchestrations, giving this album a wider soundscape than their 2018 album Lost World

His sonic fingerprint has noticeably improved the scope of the music with tracks such as the dramatic Legend Of The Justine benefiting from his input as does the mega ballad My Precious Dream which highlights Fabio's other comparison, Klaus Meine, as I'm sure this a Scorpions song. Mostly though Black Hole are built around the powerful riffs and shredding solos of Matthieu with the tough backline of bassist Patrick and drummer Bubu giving songs like Breaking The Rules both it's march and it's gallop. With Roland Grapow on mixing/mastering it sounds epic much like Masterplan, with every instrument highlighted, this does mean that on headphones you are battered with sound. There will be people that will dislike Fabio's voice but it's a muscular croon and suits the bands more aggressive style, still I do get if you don't. 

At 14 tracks though it is long, the wall of sound production method making for aural workout without the addition of a Maiden cover, Fear Of The Dark which is augmented by synths and also Dream On originally by Aerosmith where Fabio unfortunately (for him) attempts the highs that famously fucked Steve Tyler's vocal chords. If cinematic prog/power metal that is as part Hans Zimmer, part Dream Evil then is something you want in you life then welcome the Whirlwind Of Mad Man. 7/10

Iron Kingdom - The Blood Of Creation (Iron Kingdom Records)

More lovely traditional metal from Canadians Iron Kingdom, this is their fifth studio album, led by founder member Chris Osterman (guitar/vocals), it's his sneering vocals and twin axe attack along with Megan Merrick that gets that NWOTHM bounce going on tracks such as In The Grip Of Night which starts the second side, if you buy the cassette version of course. 

This second half closes with the epic thirteen minute title track which is similar to those great epics such as Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Hallowed By Thy Name etc. It's filled with drama and pathos, acoustic guitars throughout as Leighton Holmes (bass) and Max Friesen (drums) dictate the pace of this monumental track which ends the way the Tides Of Desolation, the intro of this record begins, giving you a great continuity if you listen to it on repeat. 

Away from these cinematic moments Iron Kingdom play a lot of galloping Maiden-like metal such as Sheath The Sword, as well as Priest on Queen Of The Crystal Throne, Helloween on Hunter And Prey while Witching Hour is in the style of Mercyful Fate. The Blood Of Creation is a strong fifth album from an experienced band, who exhibits that the Canadian traditional metal scene is surely the strongest. 7/10

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