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Thursday 15 December 2022

Reviews: Scream Maker, Rob Moratti, Highlord, Heron (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Scream Maker - Blood King (Frontiers Music Srl)

Having already released this album in January of this year, Scream Maker are now signed to Frontiers so the Italian label are reissuing this Polish bands most recent album in anticipation of their next one coming in 2023. From Warsaw Scream Maker perform some classic heavy metal that's part NWOBHM, part thrash with some meaty riffs and powerful vocals. Formed by guitarist Michał Wrona, he's joined by vocalist Sebastian Stodolak, bassist Jan Radosz, drummer Tomek Sobieszek, and fellow guitarist Bartosz Ziółkowski. 

Their move to Frontiers seems a sure thing seeing as they have collaborated numerous times with Alessandro Del Vecchio who has produced and mixed in the past, and mixes two tracks on this record, the chugging When Our Fight Is Over and the NWOBHM-like Hitting The Wall, the former utilising keys as well. That's not to say Tomasz "Zed" Zalewski doesn't do a bad job either, the rest of the album (all 13 tracks) sound big and boisterous from the Maiden-like Mirror Mirror, the thrashy title track, while Scream Maker reminds me of Queensryche due to its mid-pace riff and histrionic vocal, Die In Me too is a Tate-like ballad. 

Over an hour in length Scream Machine's third full length has a lot of great classic metal on it but with differentiation that brings in prog, melodic rock and even thrash at times, the 15 tracks don't ware out their welcome. Expectation will be high for thei next album on the back of this one. 8/10

Rob Moratti - Epical (Frontiers Music Srl)

It's mad that Epical, the fifth solo album by singer Rob Moratti, is his debut on Frontiers. I'd have thought they'd have snapped him up years ago but no the Final Frontier/Moratti/ex-Saga vocalist hasn't been on their books all these years. Consider the universe balanced as now Moratti has the melodic powerhouse of Frontiers behind him he can remind everyone what a hell of a vocalist he really is. 

I love Moratti's voice I liked it when he was in Saga, though I remain a Michael Sadler man, but here he really goes for it, the keyboard heavy rocking of Masquerade tapping into both the AOR and prog styles from Moratti's past. AOR especially present on Nothing Left To Say. His vocal harmonies and choruses ring out on the album, making you want to attempt to sing along, but if course miss those stratospheric high notes. Drummer Felix Borg and keyboardist Fredrik Bergh co write these songs, flexing their creative muscle over these excellent melodic cuts. Joining them in the band are Joel Hoekstra (guitars), Pete Alpenborg (guitars/keys) and Tony Franklin on bass. 

There's a couple of guests here too but it's about Moratti, tracks like Valerie better than anything on the most recent Journey record, Hold On too has that Schon/Cain/Perry drive to it. Epical is such a treat for melodic rock fans, great musicianship and brilliantly soulful vocals that soar, it's got pretty much everything you want. A collaboration made in paradise. 9/10

Highlord - Freakin' Outta Hell (Rockshots Records)

This is an odd one! It's heavy power metal with the emphasis on the heavy, that also has prog and symphonic elements to bring in as well. This Turin based band have been around since 1997 and have released eight albums before Freakin' Outta Hell, but this ninth album could be their heaviest yet.  Andrea Marchisio's vocals grittier but still have a great range. 

As with the vocals the guitars of the title track are dirty and distorted making this a more American sounding power metal, muscular riffs, powerful drums and orchestral swells all part and parcel of Highlord's style. The prog influence too is much stronger here, though with Sweet Unknown and Eyes Open Wide they retain their power metal roots. Freakin' Outta Hell is a solid record from this Italian band, bringing in the progressive sounds present on Off The Beaten Path they manage to carry on their legacy with more heavy metal moments. 7/10 

Heron - Empires Of Ash (Sludgelord Records)

If it's on Sludgelord you know it's going to be heavy as a safe full of gold, and similarly contain some sparkling examples of heavy sludge/doom/stoner etc. Heron's new album Empires Of Ash is in the middle of the Sludgelord remit definitely, nihilistic roared vocals, paint stripping heavy riffs and otherworldly synths that dwell in the post rock realm adding a dissonance and aggression to their downbeat lyricism and overall feel. 

Created by an experienced Vancouver quartet Empires Of Ash, leans on the heavy even when they delve into some ethereal percussive styles on The Middle Distance, it isn't long before they come back with doom riffs and harsh screams. Their songs climb and descend building atmosphere as they go before the punishing heaviness returns again, the likes of Hauntology emphasise this with some hardcore coming on Hungry Ghosts and the growling With Dead Eyes. Jamie (vocals), Ross (guitar), Scott (guitar) and Bina (drums) have packed this record with all manner of disgusting noises, unveil it at Xmas when you want family to leave. 7/10

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