Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Reviews: Night Ranger, Wratheon, Blood Lightning, 20 Watt Tombstone (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Night Ranger - 40 Years And A Night With Contemporary Youth Orchestra (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Do we need another rock meets classical album? Do we especially need another melodic rock band making another rock meets classical album? Truthful answer is no. But that won’t stop them so here we go with Night Ranger’s 40th anniversary live release. Recorded at the Key Bank State Theatre Cleveland on 9th November 2022, the set features some of their biggest hits, with members Jack Blades (vocal/bass), Kelly Keagy (vocal/drums), Brad Gillis (guitars), Eric Levy (keys) and Keri Kelli (guitars) joined by The Contemporary Youth Orchestra which features 80 plus musicians aged 12 to 18, representing more than 40 schools in Ohio. 

Now I’ve never seen Night Ranger live (I don’t think), but based on this evidence they give one hell of a show, in their native Cleveland they have the crowed eating out of their hand with the call and response of High Road, which leads into their oldest track Night Ranger, a dirty blues number which started it all off, here extended to 10 minutes with drum solo. Of course since then they have become a bigger better version, though with the same melodic rock song writing aimed at arenas, so with the addition of an orchestra they take on a different dimension, especially ballads such as Goodbye. Closing with Don’t Tell Me You Love Me and Sister Christian and just soon as you can light your Zippo and shout “Motorin’” it’s all over, albeit after over an hour. 

What we have is an impressive live retrospective from melodic rock stalwarts, the orchestra adds a little bit but not much to the overall performance. Fans will love it and go all out on the full Blu-ray etc but for everyone else it won’t be a necessity, still it’s at least pretty good. 7/10

Wratheon – Becoming Nil (Seek & Strike) [Matt Bladen]

Although associated with deathcore, more specifically blackened deathcore, Seek & Strike have shifted their focus to ‘proper’ black metal by releasing the debut album from US black metal act Wratheon. A one-man project directed by Wratheon (real name David Foster) himself, Becoming Nil has the aggro-blasphemic extreme metal of a band such as Watain with the flesh ripping assault of Hellripper. Foster himself plays pretty much everything in the studio, drumming coming from Theodor Borovski who also mixed/mastered the album. 

This debut album is 30 minutes of icy, glacial black metal that attacks you savagely without a moment to rest. One foot in black metal and one in thrash, Becoming Nil is a wild, reckless record that will incite chaos when played live. With the torrid crashes of Set Your Body Ablaze shifting into the swirling vortex of We’re All Fallen, this isn’t just raw, unmusical extremity, thought has been put into composition and layering, the blasting drums and hissing bass, creating the noisy foundation, allowing the guitars to be added from distorted to clean on top, resulting in the racket of Dragged Into The Light where thrash metal soloing is just there amongst the vocal screams or the cavernous melodic doom instrumental The Descent

It’s all part of David wanting to find “beauty in small moments” so those melodies are always right near the top of the discord. A study in nihilism, Becoming Nil bursts forth from the abyss with intent and intensity. 8/10

Blood Lightning - Blood Lightning (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

I am very excited about Ripple Music dipping their toes in the traditional metal/NWOBHM pool with the debut from “supergroup” Blood Lightning. These guys have been ripping it up and generating all sorts of buzz in their local Boston metal scene and now are ready to expose their kick ass heavy metal to the rest of the world. How could anything be bad with members of GOZU and Worshipper? Well, it can’t and in fact this deserves all your horns up immediately.

The Dying Starts kicks us off with a nice old school metal riff and brings that NWOBHM feel you will get throughout all of Blood Lightning. The guitar work is killer, and the vocals hang in there with the great playing as well. There is an underlying crunch to Blood Lightning that you get right up front with Hitting The Wall, where that stoner rock background of some of the members have no choice but to come through. This track is chunky goodness, and how about that solo? I love the high pitch vocals that come in around the end as well. Let’s get those 80s trad metal vibes going. Bananaconda opens with a cool bass line and a psych-tinged guitar sound that gives Dio era Sabbath vibes. 

The post Ozzy and even post Dio Sabbath stuff looms large over the influence of Blood Lightning (more on that later). Face Eater is just that, with another old school metal riff and would not sound out of place on one of those NWOBHM comps next to Diamond Head or Saxon. We get our first high pitched scream on this one and it also has a super catchy bridge with cool background vocals. Blankets has a riff that could have been taken from a GOZU record and the best vocal performance on Blood Lightning. So given the influences of the band, why not close the record with a cover from Born Again, as vocally Jim Healey channels Ian Gillian and hits all the notes while the band nails the cover of Disturbing The Priest.

Blood Lightning, while not the typical Ripple release, is the typical awesome of the stuff Todd puts out. NWOBHM/80s Trad Metal played by members of awesome stoner/psych bands put out by Ripple Music. What possibly would stop you from checking this out and blasting it immediately. 8/10

20 Watt Tombstone - The Chosen Few (Self Relased) [Rich Piva]

20 Watt Tombstone is not here to screw around. They are kicking you in the face with their brand of no-nonsense stoner rock with a bit of a boogie too it, call it a Clutch/Raging Slab mass up, and wow am I here for it. Think of a heavier ZZ Top, dirty stoner blues goodness, with some desert rock worship as well. Their latest offering (album or EP, not sure), The Chosen few, kicks all sorts of ass. The heavy duo from Wisconsin hit on all cylinders on The Chosen few, and I can’t image that this is not going to be a beloved offering to the folks who dig this kind of heavy rock.

Heavy and catchy with that southern rock boogie happening, tracks like Bomb That Saved The Day will stay with you all day and night. No bass required here, as the two of them make enough sound for ten. The opener, Prophet Man has a Clutch like riff and that Raging Slab boogie I mentioned and is the perfect encapsulation of what these guys are all about. I’m only three listens in and I am already singing along. Chosen Few is simple yet awesome heavy southern grooving stoner goodness. Bask in the awesome sliding riffs of Black Top Sorrow and the heavy blues of the Chris Stapelton cover of Midnight Train To Memphis. Another cover may turn me off a bit considering how short this album is but when it’s 20 Watt Tombstone doing ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid I have nothing but wonderful things to say. you lose none of the awesomeness with the closer, the heavy blues killer track Magnolia.

My only complaint about The Chosen Few is that it is too short. 20 Watt Tombstone is not very prolific, so at eight tracks and 25 minutes, with two of those eight covers, seems a bit lite. But for what you get, this is nothing but killer stoner heavy blues rock that must be heard. Southern stoner boogie via Wisconsin, and I am so here for it. 9/10

No comments:

Post a Comment