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Wednesday 1 March 2023

Reviews: Godsmack, Lovebites, Pist, Air Raid (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Godsmack - Lighting Up The Sky (BMG)

According to main writer and band founder Sully Erna, Godsmack's eighth album Lighting Up The Sky will be their last. Well for now anyway. It's intended to be their last recorded output though they are not splitting up and will continue to tour. The reason why this is will be their last, is that Erna believes it's the best album of their career, he has stated this multiple times in interviews so after a gap of five years since their last album, is Lighting Up The Sky the definitive Godsmack album? 

Well it's an album that has done away with most of the alt rock/grunge/nu metal trappings from their early years, the band now a classic hard rock act still have a dept to Alice In Chains (Growing Old) but they a hard rock band now, Tony Rombola given as many chances to rip out a guitar solo as possible, Hells Not Dead and a few others to be honest feeling like Volbeat in places. There's still that rhythmic heart Godsmack have always had though the years on Let's Go that's guided by the drums of Shannon Larkin and bass of Rob Merrill, it undulates and throbs into yet another solo. 

Erna's rhythm guitar, his vocals, his production and everything else he does is just as great now as it was back in 1995, though probably more honeyed and worn than it was back in those early days, but that is a very good thing as he carries the emotion of these songs that all have a sense of finality about them. A strong to note to end their recording career on, Lighting Up The Sky is probably the best Godsmack album so far. 8/10 

Lovebites - Judgement Day (JPU Records)

Japanese symphonic metal shredders Lovebites return with their fourth studio album Judgement Day, having recruited new bassist Fami, the five piece enter a new chapter with the same cinematic, virtuoso passion and drive that brought to life their last three albums and has seen them tour with major acts such as Dragonforce.

Shred music is massive in Japan as I've mentioned before and Lovebites take inspiration from the early Shrapnel artists as Midori and Miyako counterpoint each other with plenty of twin harmonies and electrifying solos as Miyako builds walls of synths and orchestration to make their music very broad in scope.

As it has always been drummer Haruna blastbeats with intensity while Fami brings a slap bass playing style that gives Judgement Day a fresher approach, with bassline on Stand And Deliver (Shoot 'Em Down) going a bit Motorhead. The triumphal We Are The Resurrection, melding the Japanese shred scene with the European power/melodeath sound as Mikko Karmila and Mika Jussila's mix and mastering give it a bite.

It's quite European sounding record actually, more than before, but obviously Asami's vocals still very Japanese but the title track is very Symphony X, The Spirit Lives On going onto a wild Stratovarius rampage as Wicked Witch takes a more Germanic route with the Teutonic touch of Helloween. Lovebites are quickly making a name for themselves outside of their native Japan and Judgement Day is their most European sounding album to date with all of the flare of their shred metal heritage. 7/10

Pist - The Bleak Unrest (Self Released)

Bury bruisers Pist, slap themselves across the face and bring more Transylvanian Chunder on their first album since leaving APF records. The change of label means nothing as what they still have Chris Fielding recording it, Joe Clayton mixing it, Russ Russell mastering it for full audio brewtality. 

At just 38 minutes of dirty blackened, stoner metal The Bleak Unrest is prime Pist, Dave Rowlands' snarling, spiteful vocals, spewing venom over heavily distorted riffage from John Nicholson and Jack Trelawny, tremolo picking, pinched harmonics and pneumatic drill grooves as the songs morph from the hardcore thrash inspired violence of Death To All, the doomy sludge of Their Voice Is Not Mine, into groove-driven Pantera-esque sounds of Life's A Lie and even some skin shredding death metal on Chorus Of Nothing with ease. 

Pist do have melody, it's not all violence, there's acoustics on Until This World Has Fallen Apart, which mixes black metal, Mastodon and Iron Maiden, it's just the melodies are concealed like a flick knife against their usual sledgehammer approach. Mike Collins' bass grinds your bones on Sharpen The Knife, Andy Hunt's punishing drumbeats bolster the outro and give us full black metal blastbeats on Embrace The Grey. Self released and more pissed off and nihilistic than before The Bleak Unrest is Pist putting down the beer can and joining the picket line to shout at scabs! 8/10

Air Raid - Fatal Encounter (High Roller Records)

It seems like the NWOTHM shows no signs of stopping, much like how bands from the original wave are still releasing albums, many of them still sticking to the tight jeans, bullet belts and high tops. This second coming of 80's inspired classic/trad/speed metal has produced some modern day classics that stuck to their inspiration. Air Raid I would consider to be on of the first bands to try to bring back that NWOBHM sound along with Screamer and Enforcer, this Swedish band are the Saxon to their Priest and Maiden, part of a triumvirate that makes up the Swedish contingent of the NWOTHM. 

This of course is why they are on High Roller Records, the modern day equivalent of Sanctuary records. Press play on their fourth album and you'll probably be transported back to the days of the Tommy Vance rock show where heavy metal ruled the world, but Air Raid's music here is a little more refined than some of the fellow bands. Yes there's gallops everywhere (See The Light), twin guitar harmonies and more hooks than fisherman's tackle box, but they stray into using synths on In Solitude where one Mr Schenker is an influence as much as Mr Malmsteen is on perky instrumental Sinfonia/speedy One By One and Gary Moore (Run For Cover/After The War/Wild Frontier) is on Edge Of A Dream

Fatal Encounter looks further West than many of the bands playing this type of music, while they stay largely to Europe and The UK, Air Raid go for the American slickness on tracks such as Let The Kingdom Burn (though you could also say Magnum), though they head East with a cover of Make-Up's Pegasus Fantasy in Japanese! Retro heavy metal worth throwing your horns too but with melodic phrasing from the Pacific coast, Fatal Encounter is the best of a trio of continents. 7/10

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