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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Reviews Black Country Communion, Sparzanza, Metalite, Haema

Black Country Communion: BCCIV (Mascot Records)

Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, Derek Sherinian (and Kevin Shirley) are back, the bridges have been rebuilt, the handshakes accepted and now everyone is back to being friends these men return to what brought them to the dance. I don't need to explain who these guys are you should know, but with what is probably the biggest gap between albums for any of the members this record has been highly anticipated for anyone that loves a supergroup. Now I'm a fan of any project Joey Bones is involved in but I do have a particular affinity to Black Country Communion, it's a real supergroup and there previous three albums have all been must-hear records. Yes the debut was more immediate and their third outing did show signs of strain but with the musicianship and experience these men have, the records are never going to be crap. Has the wait been worth it?

Well some may say that the first time round BCC squeezed the Zep/Purple influences for all they're worth, BCC are shamelessly retro but exciting and their ingeniously titled fourth album reminds you of that initial impact of their debut but with the folk and prog influences that crept in on albums 2 and 3. The record starts with the count in, Boham's torte snare and then the grooving riff as 'The Voice Of Rock' proves his mettle as both a vocalist and bassist giving the track it's walking bassline, On The Crow he even plays a bass solo in the songs elongated solo section. Contrive is the ideal start giving you instant gratification from the band with fat Zeppelin rocking, it's followed up by Over My Head which brings in lighter textures with Sherinian's organs bubbling away and Hughes reaching his higher register. Things take a turn into Free, The Faces and Zep 3 on Last Song For My Resting Place which is Bonamassa's first lead vocal of the record and it's real Isle Of Avalon stuff as the mandolin wind giving way to Bonamassa's incendiary soloing on a song that could have easily been kept for a Bonamassa solo record but suits the BCC ethos much better.

Since the band came about in 2010 Kevin Shirley has been twiddling the knobs and acting as the de-facto fifth member his production technique is brilliant, he really brings out the perfect sound for a band. Take the psychedelic swirling of The Cove as an example, the music is exemplary as it should be but he clarity of the production really makes it sparkle. At 70-odd minutes it might be hard going for some but you do get to hear four (five) experienced musicians at the height of their powers, BCCIV is a clarion call from BCC, the clouds that brought an end to the band have cleared and they are all once again on the same page playing the music they do so well. 9/10

Sparzanza: Announcing The End (Despotz Records)

Sweden's Sparzanza are one of those bands that I've seen posters of in various venues and ads in various magazines but I've never heard anything by them. I'd always assumed they were an AOR band but upon playing their eighth album I realise how dead wrong I was. Looking a previous reviewer have dubbed them "The Swedish Tremonti" and I'd say that comparison holds up, Sparzanza play a heavy style of melodic metal that has chunky riffs and big sing along choruses, I'd even say there was a lot of Evergrey in there too (To The One) albeit without the progressive nature although the epic Whatever Come is close. Vocally Fredrik sounds similar to Papa Het with booming croon which he sometimes shifts into a scarred bark, which lends a bit of LOG groove to The Dark Appeal.

Announcing The End 
is somewhat of a provocative title with the songs aimed at being an incitement to the apocalypse, there's no let up, it's about as far away from AOR as possible, the riffs are distorted and chug away from the self titled opener, there is very little time to compose yourself before the next song beats down on your ear drums. The only time the band ease off on the riffs is when they add melodic flourishes like the piano on Truth Is A Lie or on the gigantic fist-in-the-air choruses. Sparzanza have really impressed me on this record, they are nothing like I thought they were, I really enjoyed their muscular modern melodic metal, looks like I have two tasks now, find their earlier albums and see them live where I'm sure these albums get heavier again. 8/10

Metalite: Heroes In Time (Inner Wound Records)

Sweden seem to produce a new band every 40 seconds and they are always so widely varied it's hard to keep up. Metalite are Swedish  and like fellow Swedes Amaranthe they have a very bouncy style of power metal that is built on EDM beats. Heroes In Time is the band's debut record and it's a collaboration between singer Emma Bensing and guitarist Edwin Premberg who along with their superior band do an admirable job of nailing the sound Amaranthe have done so successfully. It makes you think though how many of these types of band does one country and indeed a record buying public need? Yes there is no argument about Metalite's talent but they do sound exactly like Amaranthe with some Dynazty and Nightwish thrown into the pot. There's very little else I can say about this record, if you like Amaranthe then you'll love Metalite, as the advertising Meerkat says "Simples". 7/10

Haema: Insurrection (Sliptrick Records)

There must be something in the water in Northamptonshire, punishing groove metal seems to flow out of there like lava, it's invariably red hot and slow moving, bludgeoning you with every low end chord. Gutworm used to and Krysthla do this better than most, so when you see that Northampton troupe Haema's debut EP is produced/recorded by Krysthla/Gutworm's Neil Hudson it's safe to assume that it's going to have the razor sharp sound of their own records. Musically Haema continue with the hefty groove metal of their peers with the dark electronics of Fear Factory. Insurrection has five tracks or precision brutality featuring down-tuned riffs, buzzing electronics and bouncing nu-metal bottom end, it kicks into gear with Eden which has the clean/harsh vocals with waves of synths over big groovy riffs and breakdown in the middle section, sounding similar, as most of this record does, to Burning Red era Machine Head fused with the rap rock of Rage Against The Machine, listen to Free Man and tell me otherwise. Haema are a band out of time, their music would have seen them on top of the world in the year 2000, but with this nu-metal sound coming around it might be time for Haema to lead the revival. 7/10

Monday, 18 September 2017

Reviews: Satyricon, Anubis Gate, Dead Cross, Night (Reviews By Paul)

Satyricon: Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Napalm Records)

It’s been four years since Satyricon, the eighth album from the Norwegian duo of Satyr and Frost. The band hasn’t been idle in the meantime, releasing Night At The Opera and Frost of course, drumming with 1349. To label Satyricon as Black Metal is probably a challenge these days but whilst they certainly have taken a different path from the evil of Dark Medieval Times and Nemesis DiviniaDeep Calleth Upon Deep still has its roots deep in the black metal earth. Satyricon was loaded with more accessible tracks such as Nekrohaven. Deep Calleth Upon Deep doesn’t have that initial spontaneity about it, with much of the album slower paced and brooding. Frost’s drumming retains the inevitable fills and blast beats and Satyr’s vocals remain harsh and gravel soaked. It’s only on about the fifth listen that I really got to grips with it.

The sharp edge of the guitar, the subtle undertones of the keyboards all combine with a staccato construction, change of pace and smouldering intensity. After the opener The Midnight Serpent, Blood Cracks Open The Ground grabs the attention with some neat hooks and a slightly chaotic sound. The atmospheric title track rattle along with some enhanced female wailing adding to the sinister sound. My biggest complaint with the album is that it often blends into one. So each track is very similar to the previous one. That isn’t a problem if the tracks are all immense but they just aren’t here. The Ghosts Of Rome has a different feel to the rest of the tracks, almost indie in its feel, but the female backing vocals repeat exactly what was heard on the title track. Good but could have been better. 7/10

Anubis Gate: Covered In Black (Nightmare Records)

Danish outfit Anubis Gate have been delivering progressive metal since their debut release Purification back in 2004. Covered In Black is their seventh release and their first since 2014’s Horizons. The band comprises Kim Olsen (guitar/Keys), Henrik Fevre (bass/vocals), Michael Bodin (guitar) and Morten Gade Sorensen (drums). The band specialise in soaring, sweeping melodies similar to Fates Warning with intricate time changes and variations in depth and power. Opener Psychotopia is a classic example, building to an operatic crescendo before closing and merging into

The New Dehli Assassination which has an Eastern flavour. There are some crushing guitar riffs hidden in tracks such as The Combat. Anubis Gate vary their style throughout the album, with Fevre’s clean vocals prominent. It might be a little overblown in parts but there is no doubting the quality of the band and the similarities to bands like Dream Theater do become more apparent as the album progresses. In fact, by the time you reach A Journey To Nowhere this is even more obvious. The trilogy of Black, Blacker and Blackest are impressive as is the nine-minute Operation Cairo which is another track with Eastern flavours and climbing walls of sound. Covered In Black is a strong album which will won’t appeal to all. However, if you like your music with an intricacy that not all bands can follow, Anubis Gate will certainly appeal. 7/10

Dead Cross: Self Titled (Ipecac Records)

Take Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Mike Patton (Faith No More) , Mike Crain (Retox) and Justin Pearson (The Locust Head, Retox) and you get Dead Cross, who distribute 27 minutes of high intensity hardcore punk and metal which pulls no punches. There’s hooks, and even a bit of melody on occasion but mainly it’s just a hefty blow to the bollocks. I’m not a huge fan of hardcore punk and this does little for me with its snarling aggression and Patton’s screaming vocals.

Of course, Patton wasn’t the original vocalist but stepped in when Gabe Serbian left. Patton subsequently recorded his own vocals to the existing tracks which included amending the lyrics. Highlights here? The gothic tinge of Bela Lugosi’s Dead and the car crash of Church Of The Motherfuckers. Some will love this. I don’t. 6/10

Night: Raft Of The World (The Sign Records)

The opening 4 minutes and 45 seconds of track one of Swedish rock outfit Night’s album Raft Of The World was enough. Fire Across The Sky was a reasonably decent hard rock track until Oskar Andersson opened his mouth. I couldn’t reach for the off button in time for track 2, Surrender to start but by then I was waving the white flag to make it end. As Mrs H said, “it was nice when it stopped”. The remaining seven tracks may be great. I’m not taking the risk. 2/10

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Spotlight: Interview With Angel Vivaldi (Interview By Matt)

Guitarists Andy James and Angel Vivaldi head out on a tour together around the country. They stop at Clwb Ifor Bach on 21st September 2017. We spoke to Angel Vivaldi about the tour and other things.

MoM: Hi guys Matt here from the Musipedia Of Metal. We’re heading to your gig at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, which is the first date on the tour. What can expect from the show?

Angel: I think fans are really going to enjoy this tour and leave very inspired. I’m going to be performing brand new material off of (New album) Synapse for the first time, so that will definitely be something very special. Andy and I will also be doing a song together which I’m sure many fans are looking forward to.

MoM: Have you guys ever played together in the past? Are we going to see any clashing of egos?

Angel: We recently had a few opportunities to play and jam out together. Our newest music video collaboration is a good example of our energies and how well we compliment each other. Andy and I are good friends and respect each other, so I highly doubt there will be any of that. We both just do our thing and help to support one another in our efforts.

MoM: You are both known as ‘shredders’ what do you think of that tag?

Angel: I'm perfectly fine with it. I don't subscribe to the stigma attached with that label. Many associate it with a particular lack of emotion, but what people don't understand is that shredding (when done in moderation), can provide much more emotion. The reason why is because a guitarist had to dedicate years of hard work and discipline in order to paint with "teal," or "crimson." Those colors just don't come from standard guitar players. We can go beyond.

MoM:
Both of you guys are incredible players, you’ve both toured a lot as solo instrumental artists with some band experience. Which do you prefer solo or playing within a band?

Angel: I certainly prefer being a solo artist. I am very strong in my vision for my art and also how I handle the business aspect of said art. I do, however, very much enjoy collaborating with other like minds and also learning from them. My time with 40 below summer and Vext both proved very beneficial for my development as an artist and sound businessman.

MoM:
Angel you have numerous philanthropy projects as a parallel to your music career as well as staunchly supportive of the LGBT+ community. Is there anything you are working toward now or anything else you wish to do or achieve outside of musical sphere?

Angel: I’m always working on different causes behind the scenes as it’s less about my ego/people knowing and much more about helping people. I’m currently working to develop a Youtube segment which is focused more on environmental awareness and different things people and musicians can start doing to shape their lifestyles for the betterment of our world. The music industry has a very large responsibility to our environment with so many artists constantly touring, polluting our planet and consuming much more than is needed. Hoping to launch once this album cycle becomes less time consuming.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Cats In Space (Review By Paul and Matt)

Cats In Space, Hand Of Dimes & Kaato, The Globe Cardiff

Paul's view:

It's rare that a support band attracts me more than the headliners but when Hand Of Dimes, the blues soaked hard rock South Walians were announced as main support for Cats in Space, it was a given that I'd be there.

First up were the tour support to the Cats for their entire U.K. Tour, Australian outfit Kaato (8) whose impressive track record includes having Mitch Malloy in their ranks for their debut release. The band were crammed onto the stage, with no room to let rip but that didn't stop them delivering 30 minutes of sleazy rock. Their sound merges Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and countrymen Airbourne in a dirty low hipped swagger. Frontman Kurt Lowry captivating with his showmanship, and what a voice.

Clean, strong and absolutely breathtaking, hitting notes at times that he shouldn't have been allowed to get anywhere near. Alongside Lowry, bassist Mika Nuutinen, former Inglorious guitarist Jack Edwards, guitarist Hunter Lovan and drummer Mitch Pike all put in excellent shifts in the cramped conditions with Pike probably further forward than usual allowing his animalistic drumming a fair showcase. It was Lowry's stunning voice that captured most of the attention. The penultimate song was a freestyle cover of Larry Williams' 1957 hit Bony Maronie allowed all of the band to demonstrate their chops and really engaged the audience. A great reception for a very enjoyable and talented band.

If there was one highlight at the rain sodden Steelhouse Festival this year then it was Hand Of Dimes (9). Their quite brilliant Friday night set was the main reason we toughed it out over the weekend with their magnificent slot with Bernie Marsden simply fantastic. The band stepped in for King King on the Sunday and put in another great shift. The band are tighter than a Scotsman at the bar and even though they only had 30 minutes their set was worth the admission fee on its own. The rhythm section of Mark Maybry and David Stephenson set the pace, Neil Garland added some soothing keyboards and sweet harmonica whilst Colin Edwards lead guitar was soulful and measured in all the right places. 

Of course, the focal point of the band as always was Ynysybwl's favourite son, Nev MacDonald, whose performance every time is just astonishing. Why this man isn't playing to capacity stadiums every night is a mystery to me. His vocals are amongst the best in the British hard rock field, gravelled when needed but usually much smoother. He has no trouble with the higher notes, as was seen on the beautiful Jacob's Ladder, and he rocked with ease on the harder edged Guilty and Bad Reputation. With a partisan crowd shouting good natured abuse at every opportunity, this was a fun set but so professional. The 30 minutes disappeared quickly with the fabulous Sail On bringing the house down. A Welsh institution, Hand Of Dimes should be seen at every opportunity. I can't wait for the next time. *Special thanks to Mark Maybry for the guest list invite as well. Many thanks!*

Matt's View:

Paul and Mrs H had to leave after Hand Of Dimes due to dog related issues so it was left to me to review the headliners. With Hand Of Dimes getting a raucous ovation from the partisan crowd, the headliners had a big task ahead of them but with the theme from The Sweeney blaring out of the PA the band took to the stage decked out like a proper rock band with lounge coats, crazy hats and lots of denim and leather. They sauntered on stage with beaming smiles and kicked things off with Too Many Gods the title track of their first album, what hits you as Cats In Space (9) start a set is just how perfect their sound is, slickly mixed to really compliment the band's colossal melodic rock stylings. Steevi Brown's percussive power is instantly impactful he drives the band along from the rear of stage bashing the skins with aplomb, he's a focal point for sure but then the entire band are focal points all totally set in their roles on stage, their collective live experience paying dividends, in enthralling the sadly thinned crowd.

As they moved between Too Many Gods and their latest record Scarecrow it's the quality of the songs that sits on par with the quality of the performance, these cats have claws (sorry) they are a much heavier prospect live than on record the dual guitar harmonies of Greg Hart and Dean Howard remind you off the classic Lizzy harmonies each man sharing solos and lead breaks, like Gorham and Robertson as Jeff Brown slings his Rickenbacker bass with an assured confidence swaggering from amp to front of stage as he finger plucks his grooves. The musical palette of the band differs they bring a lump of Foreigner, a dash of Lizzy, the soaring harmonies of Queen, with the glam rock stomp of The Sweet. The live backing vocals too were also greatly appreciated for those of us that do always feel a little shortchanged by backing tapes.

The Cats kept a fine pace with full of propulsive rockers such as Timebomb, tonight dedicated to guitarist Dean who recently recovered from a heart attack, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party and Jupiter Calling. These upbeat songs were punctuated by a few huge ballads (Mr Heartache & Scars), the poppy Last Man Standing, the progressive Scarecrow, they are much more than the standard AOR act they can be perceived to be. As I said earlier in the blog the band were on top form, you wouldn't guess this was the first stop of the tour they were polished to near perfection with Andy Stewart's racks of keys not overpowering but complimenting as another lead instrument in every song behind the mic and rounding out the band is Paul Mazi whose vocals are exemplary shifting between Paul Stanley and David Lee Roth while prowling the stage like a strutting tomcat.

There aren't many gigs where every band lives up to your expectations, there are precious few that exceed them but this was one of those times, a young band who show promise, old hands with experience and a headliner who have everything you could want from a live (indoor so no pyro) rock show. Having only caught the end of Cats In Space when they supported Thunder in Cardiff earlier this year seeing their headline performance was an eye opener, my only disappointment was how many left after Hand Of Dimes and didn't stay to see the Cats that got the cream. (Enough with the cat puns I know). 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Reviews: Banditos, Persona, Wicked Stone

Banditos: Visionland (Bloodshot Records)

I really liked Banditos debut and fresh off seeing them live (in a KFC) I picked up their sophomore album Visionland named after the defunct $60 million theme park that was built in the late ‘90s near some of the band members’ childhood homes in Bessemer, Alabama. Apparently the park was shut down after only five years and it stands as a metaphor for the overlying optimism for life this album represents. Visionland also sees the band bring more psychedelic vibes to their already established Southern Country jams. Fine Fine Day starts the record with a New York glam riff driven (thanks to bassist Jeffery Daniel Vines) ode to vodka as the hazy middle section spirals wildly Jeffery David Salter woozily playing some slide while Stephen Alan Pierce II bashes his banjo. Everything stays groovy for Strange Heart the first outing for the soul drenched vocals of Mary Beth Richardson atop the psychedelic meanderings that creep and crawl.

The kaleidoscope of colours continues on the title track which brings sweeping guitars from both Salter and Timothy Steven Corey Parsons as Randy Taylor Wilde drives it with a shuffle. Banditos self titled record owed a debt to Neil Young, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan but this on brings Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and the Grateful Dead; Thick N Thin especially is a Jerry Garcia surf-rocker. With three vocalists to choose from each has their own identity Parsons takes the country rockers, Pierce a folkier Dylan twang and as I've said Richardson has an old soul with Etta James coming through on the shimmering broken heart ballad Healin' Slow, placing this in the middle of the record as the end of 'Side 1' is a stroke of genius, it allows for Lonely Boy to wash over you with it's laid back approach as Fun All Night has swagger to it and exhibits Mary Beth's mastery of the kazoo (yes folks the Kazoo).

I like Banditos, I liked their country rock first album and I like their psychedelic second album, there's an honesty here that is the sound of friends creating the music they want from their collective heart and soul. You can't really argue with that the optimism that at the heart of this record, let the music bring you in to Banditos Visionland. 9/10

Persona: Metamorphosis (Self Released)

Persona's debut album was highly rated by us here at MoM Towers, it was a very powerful debut with a mixture of progressive, power and extreme metal elements along with touches of the Middle Eastern themes of Orphaned Land or Myrath. So on their second full length Metamorphosis you'd think it would be more of the same but this second album sees the band ramp up the symphonic and death influences aiming more at the Epica sound than the previously mentioned Middle Eastern themes. Take a song like Hellgrind it's a furiously frantic with explosive drumming from Youssef Aouadi leading the charge as the death metal scythe through the rhythms of Aouadi, bassist Nesrine Mahbouli and rhythm guitarist Yosri Ouada. Frontwoman Jelena Dobrić gives a schizophrenic vocal performance with her soaring cleans and guttural roars throughout the track.

In fact she pulls this trick off numerous times during the album and every time it makes you really appreciate her vocal prowess, she's not the only member of the band that impresses though keyboardist Walid Bessadok moves the band out of your typical melo-death sound into a more progressive sound with the huge Gothic organ sound on In Memoriam really giving the track legs and it even features a piano solo for that proper baroque Jim Steinman playing Opeth sound. The Tunisian band have not improved on their debut but have maintained a high quality by evolving their musical output with some songs still meeting the 'female fronted metal' criteria with the final two piece of The Seeress Of Triumph and Epilogue: Final Deliverance but this record is so much more than that it has the rampaging death metal I've talked about but there are also the powerful Katatonia-esque The Omen Of Downfall, the electronic Netherlight and shred happy Esurience Guilefulness Omnipotence which showcases the guitar prowess of Melik Melek Khelifa. I have a bit of a soft spot for Persona and their latest album is heavier and more aggressive than their debut which can only be a good thing. 9/10

Wicked Stone: Ain't No Rest (Self Released)

There's a little theory I like to call the 'Planet Rock Effect', this is the theory that no matter how generic a band is if they given airplay extensively on Planet Rock, the UK's only 'rock' station on digital radio then the act will be hailed as the 'next-big-thing' and will play all of the Planet Rock sponsored festivals thereby getting a bigger audience and more airplay and a fandom that will inspire the next generation to do something similar until modern rock becomes bland. Now I know in my King Creature review I said they needed radio play but that's because they are a bit different a bit heavier than a lot of the music played on Planet Rock so unfortunately this is really the only way to establish yourself as a name act. Wicked Stone are the ideal example of the 'Planet Rock Effect' obviously talented musicians and by all accounts a crafted live show, their album is mediocre at best, the title track is also their first single and it has been given lots of airplay on the station, yes it exposes them to wider audience but a wider audience of people who already like this sort of music no matter what.

Unfortuantely for Wicked Stone their distorted rock riffs, numerous lead breaks and heavily cliched lyrics on tracks such as Another RoundGet In Get OutSlide really drag the record down into the doldrums. Nearly every song is about women or drinking or driving, not that there is anything wrong with those things but it's been done by bands a thousand times before bands that do it so much better. Wicked Stone are sort of like Nickelback-lite without the ballads achingly formulaic and not very interesting, there will be those that disagree and they are entitled to their opinion but these are also the people that think playing Opeth's lightest song on rock radio station is a guilty pleasure. 5/10

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Reviews: Cannabis Corpse, Cripper, From North, Pulvis Et Umbra (Reviews By Paul)

Cannabis Corpse: Left Hand Pass (Season Of Mist)

There is only one marijuana themed death metal outfit and here they are with album number 4. The four-piece from Richmond, Virginia follow up 2014’s From Wisdom To Baked with another powerful ode to the weed. It’s skull crushingly heavy whilst retaining the humour that we’ve come to expect. In Dank Purity and Final Exhalation hammer hard and as expected from Landphil of Municipal Waste, the Cannibal Corpse parody continues unabated. Closing track, The Fiends That Comes To Steal The Weed Of The Deceased makes worth listening to the album for that title alone. 7/10

From North: Self Titled (DownFall Records)

I must admit that opening track Volund The Smith, on the self-titled debut by Swedish folk metallers From North took me totally by surprise. A massive, raging beast of a track, it took the best part of the song for me to acclimatise to the aggressive but quite impressive sound these guys make. He Who Hates follows and once again it worked superbly. Haken Johnsson’s gruff vocals work fantastically well, but it’s the crunching guitar work that makes this record more enjoyable than many of the rather dire folk metal outfits about today. Yes, there is still the hurdy gurdy wail in the background but this is more Amon Amarth than Eluveitie. It’s not all fantastic with Ship’s Tale a little weak and several tracks slightly repetitive but overall this album is a heartfelt passionate and impressive release. A drunken evening with a roaring fire calls for those From North. Light the beacons. 7/10

Cripper: Follow Me: Kill! (Metal Blade)

I was unaware of Cripper who hail from Hannover, Germany. Follow Me: Kill! Is the band’s fourth record, and follows 2014’s Hyena. The band has a powerful sound, huge chunks of thrash and melodic death metal combine with haunting gothic elements to produce a stunning release. Lead singer Britta Görtz, who also sings for Critical Mess, has a snarl comparable with Arch Enemy’s past and present vocalists, although she favours the Angela Gossow sound with a growl so deep it could curdle milk. It’s not all from the gut though and she varies death growling with clean vocals on the mammoth Running High, the penultimate track on this impressive release. For an album that clocks in at just shy of an hour this fairly raced by and the cutting guitar work of Christian Brohenhorst and Jonathan Stenger add steel. It’s high octane fury from start to finish, and you can take your pick of tracks. Opener Pressure is particularly malevolent but there isn’t a poor track here. If you like your riffs huge and hard, then Cripper will certainly be a band worth checking out. 8/10

Pulvis Et Umbra: Atmosfear (Self Released)

Multi-instrumentalist Damy Mojitodka’s project Pulvis Et Umbra has been in existence for over 15 years although this is only the third record Pulvis Et Umbra (Italian for Dust & Shadow) has released. It’s an interesting mix of influences, ranging from ferocious death metal to calmer, Opeth-like passages and some virtuoso guitar work. There is a lot going on in every track, with roaring gravel gargling shouty vocals, huge chugging riffs and blast beats pounding away. The tracks are short with the album coming in at just under 35 minutes but there is no cessation in the barrage during that time. The haunting Divinity Or Icon and the title track probably stand out most. There is a nagging problem for me with all multi-instrumentalists and that is that it often feels like everything has been thrown into the mix just because it can This is often the case on Atmosfear, with a palette that is just too demanding. 6/10

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Reviews: Lionize, Voodoo Six, Gaerea, Implore (Reviews By Paul)

Lionize: Nuclear Soul (The End Records)

It seems longer than three years since Jetpack Soundtrack. The fifth record by the Maryland rock funksters was crammed full of delicious sounds to provide substantial auditory delight. Since then the band has been regular visitors to the UK with a couple of supports to good friends Clutch as well as their own tour which culminated in a magnificent set at Bloodstock this year. Two EPs kept fans happy but at last album number six is here and what an absolute treat it is. Whilst retaining all the elements of previous releases, there’s a fresh energy about Nuclear Soul. A harder edge to the rock is balanced by the magnificent Hammond organ and Rhodes piano work of Chris Brooks whilst the funk current which has always surged through the band remains in plentiful supply.

Once again, the band has included intergalactic themes and added more social commentary on the state of the world. Coming from the States must give them endless subject matter but the words of Election Year could apply to just about any country and certainly rings true in the UK with the line “Don't trust the government” so appropriate. Lionize has always been a rock ‘n’ roll band at their core, despite the reggae rock label. Album opener Darkest Timeline and March Of The Clones flex those rock muscles whilst Face Of Mars and Power Grid add groove and funk with Henry Upton’s bass lines free to wander. Nate Bergman’s soulful voice is supported with superb harmonies on many tracks, Brooks and Upton adding depth.

The blues soaked Let You Down slows the pace after the rage of March Of The Clones and there is a soulful side on Fire In Athena. The title track haunts with poignant lyrics and a slow burn which reaches a crescendo before this superb piece of work closes with the racey rocker Blindness To Danger. Nuclear Soul has so much going on that it takes several listens to really appreciate it. Bergman’s guitar work is fantastic throughout, Brooks riotous but controlled keyboard work underpin everything whilst Chase Lapp’s drumming links with Upton’s rampaging bass lines to provide a concrete foundation. This is very likely to be my album of the year. Lionize: to give a lot of public attention and approval. Absolutely. 10/10

Voodoo Six: Make Way For The King (Cadiz Music)

I must be honest, I thought Voodoo Six had gone their separate ways. After 2013’s Songs To Invade Countries To, they completely disappeared off my radar so it’s pleasing to find that the band’s melodic hard rock sound returns, with album number five, Make Way For The King. Opener Electric is a statement of intent, stomping, clean and fresh. Nik Taylor Stoakes blues soaked vocals and Matt Pearce’s sterling guitar work immediately catching the ear. Pearce shouldered all the guitar work on this record, impressive work.

The title track follows, a catchy number that will be well received in the live arena but everything else of the album pales after you reach the magnificent 8-minute epic Amen which is the centre piece of the whole record. It is just a monumental track and one that deserves airplay which it will never get because of the duration. There is a hard rock throughout, such as the stomp of Until The End, but Voodoo Six can also mix it up, such as on the Godsmack sounding Release The Hounds. I played Fluke regularly when it came out back in 2010 and this record is likely to be another that is likely to be on the playlist for some time. A welcome return. 8/10

Gaerea: Self-Titled (S/T)

Portugese black metal outfit Gaerea present a mysterious image. Their Facebook page has silhouetted masked figures cloaked in swirling mist. No names or details of the band. Their debut six track EP promises to ‘bring and present you what your system could not solve by itself. We'll cover the daylight with ashes and smash the massive skull that's blocking your brain and will to evolve’. What follows is atmospheric, sky burning black metal.

Final Call brings the doom, slabs of mountainous riffs and powerful drumming but soon explodes into a frenzied onslaught. And that’s pretty much how it stays. Vocals that sound like Satan’s arse after a vindaloo, combined with a battery of hyperactivity. It’s far from appalling, and at time interestingly mixes the heavier elements of Alcest with Winterfylleth. It’s black metal, pure and simple. Punishing but not overly impressive. 6/10

Implore: Subjugate (Century Media)

If you want fast, thrashy blackened death metal with a crust and grindcore topping then you may want to check out this German outfit. Subjugate is their second full release and it’s short, sharp and oh so intense. With tracks lasting the typical two minutes, Implore accelerate at breakneck speed, whipping the neck so hard that a surgical collar is essential at the end of this album. The usual mix of influences are clear here, with shades of Napalm Death and Municipal Waste in the mix. It’s brutal and should clearly been heard in the live arena where no doubt these guys are absolute carnage for a three-piece. Enter at your own risk. 6/10

Reviews: Josh Todd, Kee Of Hearts, The Midways

Josh Todd & The Conflict: Year Of The Tiger (Century Media)

With Buckcherry in split into two pieces vocalist Josh Todd and guitarist Stevie D have formed a new band called The Conflict and it seems as if Todd is doing stuff that he has maybe wanted to do for a while but that wouldn't fit in the mould of his former band. Only Push It is Buckcherry-like the rest of the album is a jukebox of genres with Erotic City taking the band into strange Pattonesque oddness, there's some rap metal riffs on Atomic which means Todd can spit meaningful lyrics with his sneering, scarred vocals, it's a trick repeated on the groove heavy antagonistic Fucked Up. The majority of this record is a lot heavier than anything Buckcherry produced with fat riffs throughout you are taken through more styles such as the incendiary title track kicks things off with two boots full of punk attitude and leather clad metal chest beating of BLS which leads into Inside driven by the head kicking riffage of Motörhead but with a big chorus hook. As always Todd's lyrics are reflective, political and personal, the pumping riffs keep the blood pressure up and fire burning hot with only the Southern stomp/clap of Rain and the continuing country vibe of Good Enough slowing it down. Year Of The Tiger sees a new side of Josh Todd's musical spectrum, far away from the sleazy hard rock of his past it's him trying something a bit nastier and louder and it works well. 8/10

Kee Of Hearts: Kee Of Hearts (Frontiers Records)

This obscurely titled record is yet another collaborative project from Frontiers. This time it's former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello and Fair Warning vocalist Fair Warning, they have brought in the two house musicians on bass and drums under the musical direction of Alessandro Del Vecchio who guides the project as producer. You get what you'd expect from this collaboration it's slick melodic rock with choruses that get your fist pumping (A New Dimension), Heart's vocals soar with a smooth croon he has the ideal AOR vocal singing of lost love on Crimson Dawn and Stranded. Obviously with Kee Marcello in the band it's going to be a bit guitar centric with Marcello doing the soloing and riffs he showed during his two album tenure in Europe. Kee Of Hearts is your typical Frontiers projectm, maybe the membership isn't as well known as some of their others but they have a solid slab of AOR that doesn't do anything out of ordinary but is perfectly listenable. 7/10

The Midways: Rorschach (Second Avenue Records)

Aussie band The Midways Louche rock n roll with pub rock back beat and a punk attitude. The music here is pretty standard fare the three piece bringing one-two drumming with easy head nodding riffs. My Way is this ad nauseum slow and lumbering over 3 minutes and it goes on like this with Black Sheep. Only the songs that inject a bit of pace such as Different Kind make your ears prick up. Id describe this as indie rock it's Oasis with Nirvana's grunge so if you're excited by that more power to you but the record does nothing for me I'm afraid. 5/10

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Reviews: Dagoba, Leng Tch'e, Lionheart (Reviews By Rich)

Dagoba: Black Nova (Century Media)

Despite having existed as a band for 20 years and having developed a huge following over in mainland Europe, Dagoba never seem to have gained much attention over here in the UK. That could hopefully be about to change from the strength of Black Nova which is the seventh album by these French industrial metallers and probably the strongest album of their career thus far. The sound Dagoba have established on this album is a combination of hard hitting groove based riffs mixed with electronic and industrial influences and some impressively epic symphonic arrangements whilst the vocals by frontman Shawter range from harsh screams to some impressive clean vocals.

Special mention must also go to drummer Nicolas Bastos who puts in an incredible performance. The sound is not too dissimilar from what Dagoba have put out on their previous albums but the strength here lies with the hugely improved songwriting. Many of the songs here will have you banging your head whilst many of the cleanly sung choruses are definite earworms especially on a song such as Inner Sun. This is a hugely enjoyable album of catchy industrial groove metal and is definitely the best album Dagoba have released to date. Hopefully it will have the desired effect and bring about some new fans of the band. 8/10

Leng Tch'e: Razorgrind (Season Of Mist)

Belgian grinders Leng Tch'e strike back with their first new release in seven years and album number six Razorgrind. Leng Tch'e have always had an interesting sound which mixes grindcore and death metal with monstrous grooves. That is the sound mainly on offer throughout Razorgrind with things kicking off with the truly ferocious Gundog Allegiance. These levels of ferocity and intensity remain with tracks such as Cibus and AnarChristic though as we head into the second half of the album we get a few experimental touches with more melody and a few dare I say progressive flourishes. Unfortunately there is also a good chunk of the album which falls by the wayside being all too formulaic and uninspired to make much of an impression. Leng Tch'e have released an enjoyable album of grinding madness which pushes the genre into some uncharted territories but is bogged down by some forgettable material. 7/10

Lionheart: Second Nature (AOR Heaven)

After a whopping 33 years Lionheart finally return with their second album Second Nature. This is the first release by Lionheart since their debut album Hot Tonight in 1984 and luckily for fans of the band the album has definitely been worth the wait. The 2017 version of the band still contains three original members - guitarists Dennis Stratton (formerly of Iron Maiden) and Steve Mann and bassist Rocky Newton. Joining them are new members drummer Clive Edwards and vocalist Lee Small. The album contains a mix of material written back in the 1980's and some new songs written since the band's reformation last year.

 As such there is a wonderful retro sound throughout this album of 1980's style melodic hard rock. The vocals by Lee Small are an absolute delight throughout as is the stellar guitar playing. The retro sounding synths add to the old school 80's charm of this album. Second Nature is chock full of insanely catchy tunes such as Give Me The Light, 30 Years, Heartbeat Radio, Lionheart and an impressive cover of Chris de Burgh's Don't Pay The Ferryman. If you are a fan of AOR and melodic hard rock then this album is a must hear and if you are old enough to remember Lionheart back in the day this is an admirable and very overdue second album. 8/10

Monday, 11 September 2017

Reviews: Masterplan, Progenie Terrestre Pura, Incantation, Impalers (Reviews By Paul)

Masterplan: Pumpkings (AFM)

The world is awash with power metal bands. Some are excellent, some are shite and the majority churn out routine music which is neither sac-grabbing or vomit inducing. It’s just routine. So it is with album number 5 from German power metal outfit Masterplan. The difference is that Pumpkings, as you might have twigged from the title, is a collection of tracks written by main man and guitarist Roland Grapow while he was in Helloween. There a couple of decent tracks tucked away here; check out Step Out Of Hell and opener The Chance. Avoid the seven-minute pain of Mr Ego, which does vocalist Rick Altzi no favours as it stumbles to a finale. In fact, it’s the shorter tracks on this release that stand strongest. The grandeur of The Time Of The Oath requires the might of Ronnie James Dio to carry it off; indeed it would have worked fabulously with the legendary vocalist. Take Me Home, a five-minute rampage with a quite thunderous bass line rescues the tail end of the album but unfortunately, it’s too little too late. 6/10

Progenie Terrestre Pura: OltreLuna (Avantguarde Music)

Atmospheric black metal from the Veneto no less in this captivating and quite astonishingly good second album. I can count on one finger the bands I’m aware of from this region of Italy it’s a blisteringly good one. OltreLuna (Over The Moon) is a complex, multi-layered composition and it almost defies description. As well as ambient black metal, there are jazz passages, ethereal haunting female vocals which contrast splendidly with the death growls of Emanele Prandoni and more time changes than a Cardiff Bus timetable. It’s a lengthy piece of work, 55 minutes for six tracks means some extensive episodes, but it doesn’t feel boring at any stage.

Opening track [. Pianeta.Zero.] flies by, whilst the crushing heaviness of [.SubLuce.] is balanced with some incredibly delicate passages. Having flown solo for the first EP and album releases, Davide Colladon (guitars, drums, synths) is joined by Prandoni and bassist Fabrizio Sanna for this release. Repeated listens enhance the experience. Ensure you allow time to immerse yourself in the release though, especially the 11+ minutes of the title track which starts with a tribal tempo which calms and sooths the furrowed brow before the pace increases with evocative pipes blending in with a choppy guitar and ever rising drumming which quickly explodes into full out blast beats and howling gravel edged vocals. This may be one of the albums of the year. Get it and submerge yourself into a different world. Quite magnificent. 9/10

Incantation: Profane Nexus (Relapse)

In a year where fellow New York Death Metal legends Immolation and Suffocation have already released fine albums in 2017, it’s good to report that Incantation, although not now based in New York, have made it a hat-trick with album number ten. Uncompromising throughout, the band, with sole original member John McEntee’s traditional indecipherable death growl is front and centre, mix it up to great effect. The blistering opening of Muse and Rites Of The Locust are followed by the initially slower paced Visceral Hexahedron. The variety of the tracks on Profane Nexus is significant, such as the segue from Stormgate Convulsions from the Thunderous Shores Of Infernal Realms Bey into the crushing Messiah Nostrum. It remains disgusting gut piercing death metal throughout with slicing lead work from Sammy Lombadozzi whilst long time drummer Kyle Severn relentlessly abuses his kit. It’s filthy, its guttural and dripping with malevolence. 8/10

Impalers: Celestial Dictator (EvilEye Records)

Not to be confused with the horror metal outfit Impaler who first stalked the earth in the 1980s, Impalers is a four-piece thrash outfit from Denmark who’ve been active for close to ten years. Celestial Dictator is their third album but the first I’ve heard by the band. It’s a bit of a schizophrenic record because although it’s fast and furious thrash metal, it is a real mix of styles which lead to some confusion. We get the obvious chug of Anthrax on Color Me White and Sun, the Metallica heavy Into Doom, the snarl of early Slayer on Believe with bits of Megadeth, Morbid Angel, Kreator, Armored Saint and just about every other thrash legend in the mix. Now, I’m hugely partial to a nice wedge of thrash and Celestial Dictator is not a bad album. It just does little to raise the heart rate above resting pulse level and if a thrash band can’t get the blood pumping then there is something wrong. A little on the average side. 6/10