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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Reviews: Silent Descent, Scream Serenity, Kiss The Gun, Reece

Silent Descent: Turn To Grey (Self Released)

Described as "Enter Shikari for sweaty Goths" Dartmouth metal band tag themselves as trance metal and the rich layers of buzzing synths on Voices, Vortex, Rob Rodda all subscribe to this description. Without the electronics Silent Descent are an impressive modern groove metal band with excellent clean/harsh vocals, Gravesend is probably the best to show this having limited electronics meaning this melodic death metal track with a massive chorus and some cinematics of bands such as Xerath, although in the breakdown there are some lyrics that are rapped. No such frivolity on the dark Paths Winding which is a slow burning ballad that highlights another side of the band. However with the synths in place Silent Descent become a more intriguing act as the metallic aspects are in total synth with the EDM beats almost like Soilwork releasing an album with Pendulum.

Having been on the scene for over a decade now the band have managed to survive the Rising records debacle and come back stronger with their best album to date firmly out of their formative nu-metal influenced sound the Silent Descent of 2017 still retain their influence but throw in a bit of forward thinking to keep them releasing quality material. I know a few of you might turn your nose up at this record and musical style but I think if it's got the ability to make you nod your head or tap your feet it's worth a few spins, Turn To Grey is worth way more than that. 8/10

Scream Serenity: Eye Of The Storm (3Ms Music)

Before now the only band I’d heard of from Lowestoft are The Darkness, now however I can add Scream Serenity to that list. Those expecting glammy, campy metal will however have to continue with Mr Hawkins and co, Scream Serenity are a thoroughly modern hard rock act taking their sound from the metallic American radio style of Alter Bridge, Shinedown and (former tour mates) Black Stone Cherry. Jordan Fennell and Ian Messenger are the riff masters with Jack Hardy bringing the groove and Jon Lindow the percussive power. Messenger and Fennell’s guitars are dirty and distorted, the perfect foil for Fennell’s sneering vocals, listen to Good Business and you’ll get why Scream Serenity have supported BSC etc. 

Their music is immediate, swaggering hard rock with big hooks and heaviness that will satisfy the heaviest of metal fan, especially due to the incendiary solos on tracks such as Save Yourself which arrive, raise hell and leave. You can hear on this debut that these songs have been mastered in the live arena; there is a confidence to this record that has come from hours of performing and writing. Scream Serenity have been called the UK’s answer to BSC and with this record you can see why, they’ve got a bit more guts than say Stone Broken but for all their bluster and heavy rocking they also have a post-grunge edge to their music and can write angry Chad Kroger ballad on with ease Run Away and the title track. Eye Of The Storm is a great beginning for this band, it lays down a foundation of heavy concrete on which to build the rest of their career. 7/10

Kiss The Gun: Nightmares (3Ms Music)

Sailsbury band Kiss The Gun are a mishmash of session musicians brought together to play melodic hard rock. Fronted by the Nadin Zakharian who was a semi-finalist on The Voice Of Georgia the remaining members of the band have served time with Jessie J and Pixie Lott (guitarist Gerry Hearn), on cruise ships (drummer/trombone player Rob Taylor) and in the NWOBHM/ 90’s dance music scene (bassist Dave South). Nightmares is their debut record and it’s at the lighter end of melodic rock moving into AOR at points, it has got some NWOBHM riffs running through it (Writing On The Wall) but the backing synths, vocals, lyrical content and general feel of the record all puts it in the realms of FM, Heart and the lighter side of Halestorm. 

They actually share a lot of musical similarities with American band Hydrogyn, Nadin’s vocals are deeper than the usual soaring soprano’s but it adds character to the slower pieces such as title track and drips with attitude on Run Run Run. There are a few problems with this record, the production is little muddied and they go one too many times to the ballad well with Drowning creeping in on the Alanis Morrisette style of self loathing. A perfectly adequate piece of work but it’s a little too safe at times and there are more slow parts than I’d like. 6/10

Reece: Ignited (Self Released)

Caerphilly three piece Reece are named after frontman Rob Reece, it’s his vocals and basslines that are the backbone of this band. Ignited is their debut release and comes after the band have been touring the live scene relentlessly, the music is powerful, melodic rock with progressive touches and pop mentality, throw a dash of Kings X into a pot with It Bites, Dan Reed Network and late 80’s Rush and Reece is the concoction you would get. 

Reece’s funky technical basslines take control syncing with Russ Rogers’ expressive drumming for the band’s main rhythms, fleshing out the sound are Jon Davies’ multi-tracked guitars. The band's progressive leanings mean that they can really give their music a work out, they tackle breezy pop rock on Hold On (which has some The Police sounds to it), get a bit ominous with the modern rock of Painless, a bit of Floyd on the title track and Wasteland is an anthem. Ignited stands out as seriously impressive debut record from this trio, great hard rock from the Welsh yet again. 8/10

Friday, 8 December 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Diamond Head (Live Review By Paul)

Diamond Head, O2 Islington Academy 2

Earlier in the year I’d missed Diamond Head’s headline set at Amplifed due to the flooding of my tent. I’d been due to interview Karl Wilcox, drummer with the NWOBHM legends at the event but Karl was fantastic and was happy to conduct the interview by email. The interview is available to read in the blog. When I noted that the band were playing in London when I happened to be working there I contacted Karl who was very generous in providing guest passes to get into the gig.

I arrived too late to catch Dead Man’s Whiskey so apologies to those guys. Cairo Son (7) were in full swing as I made my way into the packed venue. The London based three piece have a somewhat stoner/grunge sound which was well received. Playing tracks from their two albums, 2016’s Storm Clouds and their debut Hearts Against The Feather and throwing in a newie as well, Cairo Son were really enjoyable. Vocalist and Guitarist Magdy, who introduced himself as half Egyptian and half Polish was not only a decent singer but a tidy guitarist too, chucking out fat riffs for fun. Alongside him bassist Rico and drummer Ed laid down a rock hard foundation. With two albums out and a third in progress, Cairo Son is definitely a band worth checking out if you get the chance.

As Mars - The Bringer Of War blasted out of the speakers, a trimmed down Diamond Head (9) took to the stage. Missing rhythm guitarist Andy Abberley, there was more responsibility on bassist Dean Ashton to provide the heavy, but he didn’t shirk for one minute. A hugely energetic performance, alongside guitarist Brian Tatler meant that you didn’t even notice the absence. A perfectly paced set, with a couple of tracks from last year’s self-titled release sat comfortably alongside the numerous classics that the band possess in their locker. It’s only when you catch these guys live that you realise how bloody good they are. Tatler is a stunning guitarist, with the rare skill of making everything look simple. Up front the energy of vocalist Rasmus Andersen was infectious, the audience in full voice and pumping fists in the air. Wilcox is a fantastic drummer, little fills and tricks fitting neatly alongside the solidity and power which give the band such a firm footing,

As I said the set list was crammed full of classics which really do excel in the live setting. Highlights included In The Heat Of The Night, Shoot Out The Lights, Lightning To The Nations as well as the more recognisable The Prince, It’s Electric and a blisteringly fast and heavy Helpless. By the time we got to Am I Evil? The crowd was in a frenzy but it was the signature song that really got the place moving. A magnificent song, a real metal monster and still sounding brilliant. The band extended it slightly, before closing their main set. A deserved encore concluded a fabulous evening and a demonstration that, even 40+ years after they first formed, Diamond Head remain a must see band in today’s scene.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Stone Stour (Live Review By Paul)

Stone Sour & The Pretty Reckless, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff

The first thing I noticed about this gig was how significantly the capacity had been cut. The three sides of the arena pushed forward to funnel the audience closer to the stage. Despite the huge advertising of 2 for 1 tickets Corey Taylor's Stone Sour (which is surely how they should be described) pulled about 4000 fans to the Welsh Capital. Contrary to Taylor’s diatribes on stage throughout the evening, this was Stone Sour’s first ever gig in Cardiff (unless I’ve missed something) [Ed- You are correct they have played Bristol but this was the Cardiff debut] and whilst Slipknot are regulars to the City, this was the first opportunity many had to see the band, something confirmed by the show of first timer hands later in the evening. The second thing to note was that try as it might, the sound at the Motorpoint was up to its usual standard, resulting in the entire gig sounding like it was being played underwater.

So, having got that out of the way, we settled down to the extended support set from Taylor Momsen’s insipid outfit The Pretty Reckless (3). Devoid of any stage presence, the band’s turgid and monotonous songs lasted for an age. A dire light show, minimal interaction with the crowd, which for an actress was surprising, all added to the wish that we’d stayed in the pub. Maybe I’m just getting old, as many of the admittedly younger audience were word perfect and thoroughly enjoyed them, but if they played in my garden I’d draw the curtains.

No change in the sound, which continued to have all the clarity of a 1981 black metal album, as Stone Sour (7) hit the stage. A rip-roaring set list was punctuated with motormouth Taylor unable to refrain from chatting shite between each song. 50 minutes in and the band had managed eight tracks. On record, Stone Sour are electric, clear, solid and heavy. Live, despite the twin guitar of Josh Rand and Christian Martucci, they were thin and flat. Occasionally the band hit their rhythm, such as the blistering 30/30-150 and Made Of Scars. When the band did hit top gear, it was for the older stuff, such as Cold Reader and Get Inside from the debut release.

Hesitate was ghastly, although Through Glass impressed. By the time Taylor had gushed about his love of Wales and the UK, and the band had totally butchered Sabbath’s Children Of The Grave it was time to leave. I had great expectations about this gig and having seen them a few years ago in Brixton I know that they can be a stunning live act. I apologise if you disagree with this review. It’s my opinion. However, the numbers streaming out before the encore suggested that it wasn’t just me.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Reviews: Cavalera Conspiracy, Witchery, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden (Reviews By Paul)

Cavalera Conspiracy: Psychosis (Napalm Records)

To be honest, I was expecting another skull crushing face melting onslaught from the Cavalera brothers, but Psychosis is an absolute mind fuck. It starts as expected, with the rampaging Insane, Terror Tactics and Impalement Execution delivering exactly what I was braced for. Get to the middle section of the album though, and there are synths and complex time patterns that really freak you out. Crom is slower but sinister, Hellfire maintains the eerie feel whilst Judas Pariah has echoes of avant garde metal ala Celtic Frost in their prime.

The title track uses more synths and is just majestic, building slowly, with old school metal riffs interspersed with Igor’s patterns and rhythms, and even the odd horn or two to add to the melodrama which builds and builds. As you continue to scratch your head as to what you’ve just heard, Excruciating finishes the album at break neck speed, Max Cavalera’s guttural vocals, the huge riffs of Marc Rizzo and the undercurrent of groove all merge into a track that Sepultura would love to write.  It soars off into a slow-paced mid-section which heralds the use of a hurdy gurdy (for fuck’s sake!) and another sinister, evil brooding segment which sounds more like the soundtrack to a horror film than a metal assault. I’m still confused but what an album. Astonishing. 9/10

Witchery: I Am Legion (Century Media Records)

This is another impressive release. Album number 7 for the Swedish thrash outfit whose line-up consists of Arch Enemy bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, guitarists Patrik Jensen of The Haunted and Richard Rimfält. Drummer Chris Barkensiö with Angus Norder remaining on vocals after his 2016 debut with the band on In His Majesty’s Infernal Service. The pace is relentless, following a similar vein to previous releases with a demonic, satanic theme throughout. Tracks such as True North, Dry Bones and An Unexpected Guest all drip with the eerie undercurrent that bands such as Satyricon and Dimmu Borgir possessed in their earlier days.

I’m writing this with a heavy cold and my throat is raging, just how Norder’s vocals must surely make him feel, such is the guttural bile that spews forth. Crashing riffs, battering drums and roaring lines make this an album for those who like their thrash with a mix of black metal. There is a groove which underpins much of the album although the 100mph all-out thrash is still here in The Alchemist and the spine ripping Ragnarok. Well worth a listen for those who like their thrash with a nod to the horned one. 7/10

Black Sabbath: The End (Live) (Eagle Rock Records)

When the forefathers of heavy metal announced their final tour, a few tears were shed across the metal world. The powerful unit that has contributed to some of the most anthemic metal monsters of all time had not long completed their tour in support of the rather good 13 when they called time. The End is the recording of their final gig on 4th February 2017 in Birmingham. Having witnessed their shambolic headline set at Download in the pissing rain the year before this is the closest I was going to get to the Sabs swansong.

It’s a decent enough package, and if it does demonstrate one thing it’s that retirement was the right decision. Whilst Messrs Iommi and Butler are still magnificent in their playing, with Butler’s demonic bass lines and Iommi’s riffs still a thing of beauty, sadly Ozzy’s vocals are absolutely shot and he at times he sounds completely out of it. His inter-song ramblings suggest that he’s in the process of having a stroke, such is the slurring incoherence at times. He’s way ahead of the band on the opener Black Sabbath and struggles to keep pace at other times. That’s when he’s not shouting, “we love you” and “go crazy”.

The music is fabulous, as the band crash their way through a range of classics, albeit nothing post-1978. However, the production is at times muddy, the inclusion of Rat Salad and Dirty Women is as bewildering now as it was at Donnington, and the eight-minute drum solo could quite easily have been ditched. Tommy Clufetos is a fine drummer but he isn’t Bill Ward. As Hand Of Doom closes you can easily hear Ozzy mumble “going for a break” whilst he leaves the band to storm through a Supernaut/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Megalomania instrumental montage. The final gushing from Ozzy as he asks the audience to chant “one more song” before the inevitable Paranoid rounds off the evening and history is just a little sad. If this is the final epitaph, then it’s a shame that it wasn’t a little more cohesive. RIP.  6/10

Iron Maiden: Book Of Souls: Live Chapter (Parlophone Records)

For those that witnessed the Book Of Souls World Tour through 2016 and 2017, this is the live recording of the exact show that Iron Maiden delivered night after night. Recorded at 14 different locations, it highlights the band running through the best of their last album with a few classics added in. The set list is identical to their show in Cardiff and so if you’ve read our review from that night in May this year then you’ll get the picture. As always, the crowds are fanatical, with the usual mental chanting from the South American crowds. Fear Of The Dark is one of two Brazilian recordings, with set closer Wasted Years the other. Both crowds are crazy.

Two tracks from the sodden Castle Donington headline set and The Number Of The Beast live from Wacken are also included. To be honest, this is Iron Maiden live, but with extra polish to highlight the best of the band. The sound is crisp and clean, totally unlike the muffled tinny effects we got at the Motorpoint, whilst Bruce’s vocals are perhaps a little more controlled than usual. But what else would you expect from the machine that is Iron Maiden? Are there reasons for this album? Well, it captures those tracks from The Book Of Souls which are unlikely to be played again. Apart from that, Maiden tend to release live albums following every world tour so it’s unsurprising. It’s pleasing enough. 7/10

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Reviews: SKAM, Babylon Fire, Jono, Eisley/Goldy

Skam: The Amazing Memoirs Of Geoffrey Goddard (Self Released)

Third album from Leicester rockers Skam sees them taking a risk and doing a concept record, now don’t worry rockers they’ve not gone prog, no this record is still full of hard hitting classic rock riffs (The Iron Cross) but with a narrative arc about the adventures of the titular Squadron Leader who jolts through time on a test flight.

Whether you buy into the story or not it doesn’t encroach itself on the record too much, there are two spoken word pieces but that’s about it. For the most part the songs on this record stand up pretty well outside of the concept doing what Skam do best. Neal Hill sets terrific pace with his raucous drumming, he’s the heavy biscuit layer to this hard rock cake, the dense bass lines of Matt Gilmore are the cheese and appropriately enough Steve Hill’s guitars are the sweet berries riffing and soloing on top of everything as he croons the storyline with his conceptual lyrics.

The record is very old school you can hear the grooves have been formed out of years on the road and recorded with all three members in the same room; you can hear that unity on every track. Take It Or Leave It is certified banger, this one will go down a storm on stage, Peace Of Mind has an American radio rock sound to it, Bring The Rain has thick groove and Fading Before The Sun brings a grunge touch. Skam have always impressed as rock band and TAMOGG is a strong record with an interesting but never convoluted or distracting concept. Pick up the record and rock out, no frauds or swindles here just authentic rock music. 8/10

Babylon Fire: Heresy In Black (Self Released)

Well this has been a long time coming, having seen Babylon Fire numerous times, it was with a heavy heart that I witnessed their final show with original vocalist Mark D at Bloodstock 2014. Since then they have been a sporadic with their appearances but they have emerged a few times since then with the original line up of Rishi Mehta (Lead Guitar), Ryk Swillo (Bass), Mark Cooper (Drums) and original member Will Reece (Lead Guitar) who left before they recorded their debut record. This addition of Reece has meant that they have reverted back to their earlier dual guitar sound while retaining the big groove riffs of Five Finger Death Punch.

This EP sees them return with new vocalist Dan Buxton and a renewed sense of purpose, unlike their more straightforward debut the EP is more progressive in tone, Raven Cursed is a multi-faceted piece that changes time signatures throughout but always keeps that modern metal chug and the harsh/clean vocals, Devil’s Night does a similar trick to Trivium having the metalcore aggression mixed with classic Maiden licks.

It’s a jarring difference to their debut album with the bludgeoning Coup de Grace and the title track having the heavy groove of their single guitar years. Heresy In Black sounds fresh and exciting it brings a band I’ve had a lot of affection for back to full strength, five heavy tracks wrapped in yet another excellent Very Metal Art cover, it’s the rebirth of one of the best bands on the British metal underground, now I just need to see them demolish the live stage again. 8/10

Jono: Life (Frontiers Records)

I've missed out on the previous albums by Jono but on the back of this third record it sounds like I'll need to do some discovering. The band, led by singer Johan Norby play progressive symphonic rock music that had the drama and pathos of Queen and Meatloaf. Apparently their previous record was very Steinman sounding but this one is more Matt Bellamy than Meatloaf.

Life opens with the operatic Sailors which builds on a hip shaking riff, has some 80’s synth work, an explosive guitar solo and kicks off the record with a taster of what’s to come. There was a band called Foxy Shazam that I loved (the singer recently featured on a Macklemore single) and Jono sound a lot like them, I’d imagine Queen making this sort of music if they still wrote new music.

The Muse progressive electronic rock sound is writ-large on Crown and Downside with pulsing synths and massive piano chords. The Magician has the dramatic overtones of Mr Loaf, while Trust meanwhile adds huge Queen flashes. The record is driven by Norby's expressive voice and Johan Carlgren's flamboyant piano playing that at its best in To Be Near You which is a huge ballad that culminates with a massive guitar solo. Life is an excellent bombastic record that has a pomposity that is constantly backed up by the virtuoso playing involved. 8/10

Eisley/Goldy: Blood, Guts & Games (Frontiers Records)

Singer David Glen Eisley and guitarist Craig Goldy made their names in Giuffria back in the 80's, this was before Goldy went on to join Dio's solo band a position he had until RJD's untimely death. This record is them coming back together to rekindle their musical partnership started back then, Blood, Guts & Games is probably lighter than any of the projects Goldy has been involved in since as this record is built on bright and breezy melodic rock built on Goldy's clean virtuosic guitar lines, some glistening synths and Eisley's Bonnet-like vocal, with touches of House Of Lords, Def Leppard and Night Ranger the music here varies from smooth AOR on Lies I Can Live With, synth heavy rocking on Soul Of Madness and powerful riffs on No More Prayers In The Dark. It does a lot of what you would expect, there is a saccharine slickness throughout underpinned by Goldy's guitar prowess, it's well written and performed from two musicians that still meld well after all these years. 7/10

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Reviews: Electric Wizard, Wolf Counsel, Bloodlust, Shakra (Review By Paul)

Electric Wizard: Wizard Bloody Wizard (Witchfinder Records)

Three years since the UK’s definitive doom metallers released Time To Die and the Dorset outfit thunder back onto the radar with a lumbering beast of an album, Wizard Bloody Wizard. Crammed to the gills with the expected sack full of hefty riffs, crashing drums and sheer sinister evil we’ve come to expect, this is 43 minutes of rampaging doom with the usual stoner edge. Over 20 minutes shorter than their previous long player, the album sees new members Clayton Burgess and Simon Poole making their debut/return respectively joining Jus Osborn and Liz Buckingham. The Sabbath edge remains, especially on the Geezer Butler like bass line rampage of Necromania and Reaper, the distorted fuzz running throughout the tracks. Album closer Mourning Of The Magicians is the epic piece on the release, all 11+ minutes of intense heaviness. I’m not a huge fan but if the Wizard walks by then you really must take notice. 8/10

Wolf Counsel: Age Of Madness/Reign Of Chaos (Czar Of Bullets Records)

We seem to be inundated with Swiss bands at the moment and they are coming with a variety of styles. Wolf Counsel formed in 2014 and have released an album a year since 2015. This is their third release following 2016’s Ironclad and it’s a full-on doom fest. Full of atmosphere, crashing riffs and heavier than a blue whale playing a double bass, this release gives you just over 40 minutes of ball-breaking power. Vocalist Ralf Garcia’s voice lingers unpleasantly, providing the eerie feel, whilst his bass playing locks with drummer Retro Crola to lay down a huge undercurrent. Guitarists André Mathieu and Ralph Huber riff away neatly as the mist rolls in. Semper Occultus has a massive groove which cannot fail to get the head nodding whilst the epic title track is like orienteering a vast mountain range, such is the variation in peaks and dips. A huge sound adds to the whole release which benefits from repeated plays. Well worth checking out. 8/10

Bloodlust – At The Devil’s Right Hand (Caverna Abismal Records)

Spewing up from the pits of the earth, well Perth, Australia to be precise, let me introduce you to the car-crash blackened death metal of Bloodlust and their sophomore release which follows 2015’s debut Cultus Diaboli. With the three band members carrying the ludicrous names of The General (Guitars), Spectre (Bass, Vocals) and Disaster (Drums, Vocals). With a sound that sits somewhere in a toilet of 1983, this Satanic babble is perhaps as ridiculous as it gets. Tinny guitars, bollock battering drumming and gargled vocals combine to some of the most comedic music I’ve heard for several years. Lots of “bleuargghs” only add to the comedy value which had Mrs H chuckling all around the kitchen. Tracks such as Wolves of the Warcursed Earth, Deadly Force and the seven-minute plus Hell-lite Shadows of the Black Sun all leave you scratching your head in confusion. Venom did it so much better. This is not very good. 4/10

Shakra: Snakes And Ladders (AFM Records)

Last year’s High Noon received a reasonable rating here at MOM Towers. Album number 11 continues in the same vein with more saccharine coated middle of the road melodic rock from the Swiss outfit. With the focus very much on the melodic, tracks such as Something You Don’t Understand, The Seeds and the title track are rather routine and repetitive. The same line-up that recorded High Noon returns on Snakes And Ladders but to be honest, this time around, it’s the similarity of the songs that makes it a tedious listen. The band are technically competent, and I know from experience that there is a vast market for this music, but it just doesn’t float my boat I’m afraid. 6/10

Friday, 1 December 2017

Reviews: Bloodshot Dawn, Dante Fox, Phidion, Cold Cell (Review By Paul)

Bloodshot Dawn: Reanimation (Hostile Media)

It’s been a while since the melodic death metal of UK outfit Bloodshot Dawn crossed our radars. After the success of their first two albums which culminated in a triumphant opening slot at Bloodstock Festival in 2014, frontman and founding member Josh McMorran took time out to re-evaluate the direction and sound of the band. The entire line-up from Demons departed, except for McMorran and in came Canadian guitarist Morgan Reid, drummer James Stewart (also Vader and Divine Chaos) and bassist Giacomo Gastaladi. For the first time, McMorran reckons that Bloodshot Dawn now “work as a unit instead of separate solo efforts within the band”. Recorded across Europe, including Germany, Czech Republic and Sweden due to the location of the various band members. Featuring a plethora of guests including Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore), Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams, The Faceless) and Mendel Bij De Leij (Aborted) and with an additional ear and eye from Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry added to the final guitar pieces Reanimation is a huge, natural sounding record.

Aside from the usual blistering pace and growling vocals that we’ve come to expect from Bloodshot Dawn, there is now a maturity which can only come from a period of reflection and change. Multiple time changes, well-paced and with huge servings of melody and hooks that have always been a trademark combine with magnificent technical playing. The superb Survival Enthroned is the stand out track for me, although the imperious Upon The Throne Of Fear comes damn close. But there isn’t even a mediocre track on this release with each song containing something unique and interesting. The breakdown in Soul Affliction for example, makes you stop and check that it really happened and the intro to Shackled is immense, with some dynamic drumming from Stewart and riffs so meaty you could feed a family for a week off them. The Battle For The Omniverse ebbs and flows, with some brutal playing and vocals that make your throat sore just listening to it. As I said, Reanimation is a huge record in every sense. With some killer artwork from Chris Kewli gracing not only the cover but throughout the inlays of the CD, Bloodshot Dawn are back in every sense. Brilliant. 9/10

Bloodshot Dawn hit the road in January 2018 and play Fuel on 21 January. Find their dates here:

Dante Fox: Six String Revolver (AOR Boulevard)

I must be honest UK outfit Dante Fox and singer Sue Willetts have passed me by for the past 28 years. Whilst I was aware of their name I’d have failed to tell you anything about them. However, putting that right was easy with their latest album, Six String Revolver, which is a masterful demonstration of female fronted melodic rock. In Willetts the band possess a vocalist whose range impressively mixes Pat Benatar and Ann Wilson. The songs are strong enough to stick in the memory whilst you can’t fail to be drawn to her clean powerful voice. Sure, it’s AOR, so the songs have a certain element of cheese and repetition but with the backing of three technically solid musicians in Tim Manford, Alan Mills and Eric Ragno, there’s sufficient here to separate it from a lot of the other outfits who sit in a crowded field. Stand out track is probably the acoustic version of All That I Need which has some delicate harmonies and showcases the subtle shades that the band can deliver. 8/10

Phidion: The Throws Of Scourge (Self Released)

Formed in 2003, Phidion’s debut album follows several demos and EPs released over the years. A steady line-up which comprises Christos Chatzikonstandinos on guitar, Oliver Palmquist on vocals. Peter Pettersson on drums and bassist Olaf Landin has helped and the Swedes have delivered a ferocious release which takes no prisoners. Strong drumming, cascading riffs and guttural vocals, the mainstays of any self-respecting death metal outfit are all here in abundance but in addition there is a power and pace which is too often missing.

Anthropophagus changes several times, massive chunks of stomping power segueing comfortably into the more frantic assault. Similarly, the haunting tomb of Mother Pestilence batters relentlessly at times whilst slowing to match the tolling bell whilst the brooding Slaves To Eternal Insomnia (aren’t we all) just crushes. Intricate and technical playing enhances the release with the drumming at full throttle and Chatzikonstandinos adding some mean fretwork. Phidion are a decent addition to the already bursting death metal scene. 7/10

Cold Cell: Those (Avantgarde Music)

Formed in Switzerland in 2012, the immediate thought when opening track Growing Girth kicks in is whether Tom G Warrior is involved, such is the Triptykon/Celtic Frost Avant Garde feel. According to the blurb, Cold Cell is ‘the manifest of the individual human being’s prison. The modern new world’. Given that rather stark statement, it’s not surprising that the band’s third album is 54 minutes of hymns to urban desolation. Now I thought that Growing Girth was an ode to middle-age but as the despair flooded out of the speakers I realised that I might have been quite a way wide of the mark. Each track is epic in both construction and delivery, industrial tinges and echoing effects and the overpowering sense of hopelessness and foreboding.

It’s astonishingly heavy, skull crushing in parts, such as Seize The Whole which pulverises from start to finish. There’s bits of Behemoth, Emperor and even echoes of Gojira in the mix but it’s good stuff. With two tracks, Tainted Thoughts and Heritage clocking in at over 20 minutes between them don’t expect this to be a pacey instant number. You must work with it but the rewards are there if you like your metal black with a sense of impending doom, focusing on the hopelessness of man. Just don’t put this on if you want to cheer your granny up this Christmas. 7/10

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Reviews: Lesoir, Galactic Cowboys, Stalker, King Bison

Lesoir: Latitude (Gentle Art Of Music)

Netherlands band Lesoir are an interesting act, they bewitched me with their previous record so it's with great anticipation that I delved into the fourth album from Lesoir. They are a band very difficult to pigeonhole classing them as artrock means that they have a very broad palate (no pun intended) to play with, they have the cinematic textures of Anathema, the progressive heaviness of Tool and the fiery attitude of Skunk Anansie or Alanis Morissette. Whereas the previous release Luctor Et Emergo was a rockier record with big heavy riffs, Latitude is a much more artistic, experimental and ambitious, creating beautiful multi layered soundscapes as frontwoman Maartje Meessen along with guitarist/keyboardist Eleen Bartholomeus harmonize beautifully with distinctly empowering lyrical content that deals with climate change, mankind’s role on this planet and the band's friend who survived the Bataclan terror attack.

The music is melancholic but pins it's impact on the existence of hope, for all the bad there will be good you just have to find it. The slow burning Modern Goddess starts with a single piano before the rest of the band come in and with a dynamic drum fill from Bob van Heumen the strings swell and as quickly as it begins it ends. It's the beginning of 13 song journey, the dramatic In The Game follows with chunky riffs from Ingo Jetten's bass, it moves into the dark, uneasy and fidgety Icon which is the first time guitarist Ingo Dassen can let rip. The album progresses with more dense music that really needs to be listened to intently so you can get the full effect, In Their Eyes once again relies on a slow building delivery that explodes at the end with Maartje giving a brilliant, emotive performance.

I mentioned Anathema earlier and the Liverpool band can be heard right the way through the record, they have similar panache and use of musical alchemy to hit you right in the feels, the employment of orchestral elements are measured but let rockers such as Gone And Forgotten have more of an impact for every orchestral epic though they also bring some attitude filled alt rock on Cheap Trade which is followed by the Portishead ambience of Comforting Rain. This fourth album will be hard work for those looking for a quick musical fix but if you think an album needs multiple listens to really appreciate it then Latitude will satisfy your needs, it's fantastic. 9/10  

Galactic Cowboys: Long Way Back To The Moon (Mascot Records)

I’d never heard of Galactic Cowboys before but apparently they were a band originally between 1989 and really 2000 with members shedding like skin before that leaving only bassist Monty Colvin and vocalist Ben Huggins by the end. However after a few reunion shows in 2009, the band reformed in 2016 with all of the original members and Long Way Back To The Moon is their long awaited new album, their first since 2000. Galactic Cowboys are apparently a progressive metal band who cite The Beatles and Anthrax as major influences, as this record opens up it’s very easy to see why, all the band contribute to the harmonic backing vocals but it’s at odds to the chunky stomping thrash riffs.

A song such as Drama highlights this very well, however you can also hear the more traditional prog metal of Dream Theater on Amisarewas which builds on Dane Sonnier’s intricate guitars with Alan Doss steadying the pace with his drumming. Now I’m not going to criticise the music on this record it’s clearly the work of talented individuals but much like King’s X (a band who Galactic Cowboys are often compared to) I just can’t get into this record, having listened to it a few times it doesn’t leave me with an impression, it does get better as it progresses, getting proggier later but for the most part I think this is technically proficient but I don’t find it particularly memorable. 6/10

Stalker: Shadow Of The Sword (Napalm Records)

Shadow Of The Sword is the debut album from squealing speed metalllers Stalker who hail from the foreign shores of New Zealand. Speed metal tends to come from either the Nordic countries or Canada so it’s time to hear a band from the Southern hemisphere doing this leather clad machismo. They really ramp up the retro, the production has an 80’s hollowness, the guitar riffs are distorted and too busy playing at a million miles an hour to really give much differentiation, while the vocals are scratchy and go into the high squeak once too often. It’s pretty standard fair and if you’re into retro metal then you’ll lap this up, otherwise you might actually find it a bit annoying. 6/10

King Bison: Snake Head Burial EP (Self Released)

King Bison are what you’d get if Viking Skull got into a bourbon soaked brawl with Motorhead and Pantera, it’s dirty mudslinging metal riffs, piledriving groove and raw vocals galore with songs named Filthy Son Of A Bitch and Demon Tongues & Leather you already know what you’re getting. The four tracks on this EP give you enough of a flavour to want more (hint the flavour is Southern smoked chipotle), it’s all over in flash of heaviness as the Plymouth band batter you from the outset. Snake Head Burial is a mere taster for the band’s bludgeoning heaviness, a full length will need a bit of variation, maybe a couple of cleaner bluesier tunes, to keep the attention the maximum but these four songs do enough to get the blood pumping and your drinking hand active. 7/10

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Joanne Shaw Taylor (Live Review By Paul)

Joanne Shaw Taylor, Colston Hall Bristol

This was a rescheduled gig, owing to Joanne’s illness at the time of the original date. Coming five days after the eight-date tour ended, JST was due to be home in Detroit but had stayed on to fulfil this date so much appreciation to the Black Country guitarist for not just cancelling the event. The rescheduling to a date so close to Christmas and a Saturday had the inevitable fall out though, as throughout the stalls in the Colston Hall there were pockets of empty seats. The balcony was closed and there was a real end of term feel about the gig (without the board games – which may be puzzling to younger readers but would have been fully appreciated by much of the mature audience).

The original support act for JST’s tour was Dan Patlansky but we were treated to Nashville’s own Sonia Leigh (9) who has been on tour in the UK herself for several weeks. Supported by the precocious talent of 20-year-old Katy Hurt and The Healers, Leigh pulled out the performance of the evening. Playing a range of tracks from her albums, her Nashville drawl fitted in perfectly with the low-key level of the evening and received a huge response from those who got in early. With a number of albums to her name, Leigh chose her tracks wisely, including Walking In The Moonlight and the smouldering Jack Is Back. With confidence oozing through the band she turned the microphone over to Hurt at one stage, and we got an extra treat as she has a voice which is just fabulous. A cross between Stevie Nicks and Dollie Parton, this Country lady has a fantastic career ahead of her. Leigh was gracious, humble and her who show was just superb. You can check her out supporting Broken Witt Rebels on their current tour. They play the Thekla on 7 December.

13 months ago, we’d been wowed by the sheer talent of Joanne Shaw Taylor (7) at a rammed and raucous gig in The Globe in Cardiff. I was sufficiently impressed to have written in my review, ‘Joanne Shaw Taylor is a bit special. Her latest tour, for a girl who gigs as hard as she rocks, took in The Globe, probably for the last time as she is surely destined for much larger venues in the future’.  Well, she remains a stunning talent and she and her band coped well with some prolonged technical difficulties with her wireless guitar connections, but the feel of the event was somewhat lessened by the larger, all seated venue which, whilst welcome to many in the audience served only to stifle any atmosphere. This meant that there was complete silence between songs after the applause had died down, something very unusual. The sound throughout the evening was poor, with the balance causing us to question our own hearing. Now I realise that sound is subjective and a very technical matter but when you are paying decent cash for a show in a venue of the Colston Hall’s calibre, I expect better.

At one point a member of the audience quite rightly shouted his frustration and eventually JST’s sublime guitar work began to cut through the mix. With a catalogue of blues rock to play, JST also threw in two covers to the set, which was similar to that of the previous tour. Bones, by a relatively obscure band called The Hoax and Wild Is The Wind, the Johnny Mathis song made famous by David Bowie and covered on JST’s last release Wild. A single encore of Tied And Bound and the gig was over. Relief on the stage that it was over and probably in a great number of the audience. JST is a fabulous talent, an amazing guitarist and her band are spectacularly good musicians. But get to see her where you can move, dance and sway and close your eyes whilst she envelopes you in her music, not in an uncomfortable fold up chair. That’s what the blues is all about.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Reviews: Daniel Cavanagh, For All We Know, Dirty Thrills, Idlewar (Reviews By Paul)

Daniel Cavanagh: Monochrome (Kscope)

Listening to The Exorcist, the opening track on Anathema main man Daniel Cavanagh’s debut solo release Monochrome, you immediately understand what he meant when he described his album as having “a late night, candlelit feeling, evoking the light of dusk as the summer sun sinks below the horizon, setting the scene for thoughts and meditations that many people will relate to.” A beautiful, evocative piece which wrenches at the heart and soul, full of emotion and feeling. It’s a song that could easily be accompanied by a chilled glass of wine as the evening tapers. Perfect in front of a roaring fire with a loved one. If it had surfaced in the middle of The Optimist or a future Anathema release you wouldn’t have been disappointed. This track was apparently considered so good by Anathema that the rest of the band would have made this the centrepiece of an album. Cavanagh said, “taking it from the band was not an easy decision – but I’m glad I did!”

Monochrome features guest appearances from Anneke van Giersbergen, with whom Cavanagh has worked with on several occasions before and who is perhaps more widely known for her work with Devin Townsend. She adds some deliciously delicate vocals to several tracks including This Music and the stunning, haunting Soho. Cavanagh played virtually everything on the album, highlighting just what a fabulously talented musician he really is. He has enrolled another brilliant musician in Anna Phoebe, whose violin work adds texture to the piano on The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours. Cavanagh described the album as “a deeply reflective and personal offering, inspired by internal feelings of love and loss” and you truly feel that as the album progresses. Soho is the kind of track that would comfort in those long hours of despair after losing a loved one. Monochrome contains some lengthy tracks, with three songs close to ten minutes each in length but what that allows Cavanagh to do is build his melancholic pieces.

The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours is a perfect illustration of this, solo piano joined by violin before synths reminiscent of Cavanagh’s Floyd influences intertwine with the piano, allowing a peak that then slows and falls to more dramatic piano. Dawn is short at under three minutes but is one of my favourite tracks, the combination of looped acoustic guitar and Phoebe’s violin just magical. Penultimate track Oceans Of Time is a delightful duet between Cavanagh and Van Giersbergen, subtle piano and simple drum beat all that is needed to guide the track perfectly along its path. And then you arrive at the simply blissful Some Dreams Do Come True, which is mesmerising. It is simple, a lone piano riff looping for part of the track, but with added effects and tempo. The waves crashing on the shore provides a calming effect, whilst Phoebe’s violin is subtle and understated. It’s an instrumental which brings a lump to throat, such is the emotion pulsing through it.

I’ve played this release at least once a day for two weeks and it continues to improve. It will not be to everyone’s tastes but there will be few modern-day Anathema fans who will find this anything but genuinely magical. 9/10

For All We Know: Take Me Home (Self Released)

The solo project of Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie is a mellow affair, with relaxed, almost pop style rock on the first listen. Peel away the outer layers though, and on second run through you are suddenly confronted with some much more complex compositions. The album features a host of guest musicians who add to the melody and quality of the songs. It’s mainly light, delicate and rather fine at times. The vocals of Wudstick (Ayreon) are smashing, clean, gentle and soothing. With members of Pain Of Salvation (Leo Margarit on drums and ex POS bassist Kristoffer Gildenlow), the ivories of Marco Kuypers (Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer) and Thijis Schrijnemakeo (Hammond) and the lovely vocals of Anneke Van Giersbergen adding to several tracks. The overriding progressive elements on tracks such as Let Me Fly, Fade Away, The Big Wheel and the retro sounding We Are The Light, would sit on either Devin Townsend or Steven Wilson releases all grab the attention. Jolie’s guitar playing is understated, and becomes more apparent on repeated plays. It takes time but has become an album of real enjoyment. 8/10

Dirty Thrills: Heavy Living (Frontiers)

London based blues rockers Dirty Thrills make no pretence about their influences with Led Zeppelin and Rival Sons most prominent. Heavy Living is 45 minutes of superb, cock strutting blues rock which is pleasing to the ear. Louis James’ vocals are full of heart and soul, hitting the notes with the same effortless ease that Sons’ frontman Jay Buchanan does. Add in a dollop of The Temperance Movement and the sweetness of Vintage Trouble on tunes like Lonely Soul which sees a beautiful piece of interplay between James and guitarist Jack Fawdry and it’s not hard to see why these guys have picked up some prestigious touring slots over the past two years. Impressing at events such as Ramblin’ Man Fair and Planet Rockstock, I’d say that Dirty Thrills are heading upwards at speed. It’s simple, quality music which appeals to the connoisseur. If you like your Thrills Dirty, then Heavy Living is going to get you even messier. 8/10

Idlewar: Rite (Off Yer Rocka Records)

This beauty has been out for a few weeks now but it’s better late than never. Rite is the second album from the South Californian power trio whose recent set at Hard Rock Hell was well appreciated by the Musipedia crew. The band kick out the jams from the off, their high velocity stoner sound warm and inviting. The difference with Idlewar in comparison to many other bands is that these guys have a real Soundgarden feel. Check out the opening salvo of Sullen MoonBreak and Keep Your Word. James Blake’s vocals haunt and mesmerise in equal measure, whilst Rick Graham's jangling guitar turns into crushingly heavy riffs in an instant. There’s more than a nod to Alice In Chains as well with the likes of Strain and Panic echoing shades of the Seattle grunge masters. James fuzzy bass and Pete Pagonis’s accurate drum work support Blake throughout. Rite is a solid, impressive release from a band who are as good on album as they are in the live arena. 8/10