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29.7.14

'Heaven and Earth' - YES (Frontiers) 4/5


I have listened to the new Yes album “Heaven And Earth” for a few days now and deliberately held off a review until now because I find that “First listen reviews” are in the main an emotional response to that first listen whether that that be positive or negative, and are rarely objective. So here we go “Heaven And Earth” reviewed by a fan of over 40 years, but stepping outside of the Yes bubble and listening to it as a fan of music in general with no pre-conceived ideas as to how I think it should sound. The album opens with a nice e-bow intro from Steve Howe before Geoff Downes unmistakable keyboard sounds enter the fray. Before I continue, many people accuse Geoff of making Yes sound like The Buggles or Asia which completely misses the point. What people are hearing is the keyboard style of Geoff Downes which would be just as distinctive whatever band he was in. Case closed there….But I digress.

When vocalist Jon Davison enters the proceedings my feeling is that this guy was born to sing for Yes. No he is not Jon Anderson, he has a softer voice without the edge and pure power that Jon Anderson brought to Yes, but then again this album is a more restrained affair so the more gentle vocals are entirely appropriate. There is a lot of space between the music which lets the whole album breathe naturally, indeed given some of the criticism the band has received since the departure of Jon Anderson it would have been easy for the band to take the route of playing it safe with longer instrumental passages with less emphasis on Davison. In a perverse way, by making a more song oriented album with Davison dominating the writing and putting him on display to such a degree, it can be argued that Yes have made a very bold move with “Heaven And Earth”

 The instrumental section of the opener “Believe Again” raises things up a notch with a signature Howe solo, underpinned by Squires more restrained but still strident Bass. Whites playing in keeping with the album is more restrained and serves to help to give the album a consistency, sound and style which is both pleasing and uplifting. To my own ears “Believe Again” sounds very much like 1977 “Going For The One” Yes. It’s retro, and has a very classic Yes sound.

 “The Game” again sees the band keeping things simple while all the time keeping this listener interested with it’s earworm in a good way chorus. Howe again displays some great restrained guitar work. Both Davison and Howe shine on this song which is rapidly becoming one of my favourites. To my own mind, if Yes were a new band, “The Game” would be a live staple for many years. I did say that this would be a review by a Yes fan stepping outside of the Yes box and this brings me on to “Step Beyond” which is the track on the album I am finding it hard to get my head around. There are a lot of pleasing moments on the song, but to these ears they are mixed in with a tweeness that I have to be honest and say that I find a wee bit cringeworthy and because of that “Step Beyond” is a skipper for me.

 “To Ascend” is a simply beautiful song and has become another favourite of mine. Howe introduces us to the song with an intro which briefly echoes a more Genesis sound before entering into the main body of the song with beautiful laid back guitar from Howe and a gorgeous vocal melody from Jon Davison. Perversely enough the vocal melody and style seems to echo previous vocalist Benoit David and some of his vocal stylings with “Mystery” Geoff in addition pops up with a lovely piano run not unlike Tony Banks to these ears. “To Ascend” is one of those shorter songs which have the same effect on me as “A Venture” from “The Yes Album” Not that they sound anything alike, but is proof ( if any were needed ) that Yes are just as competent at writing shorter songs as they are at writing sprawling epics. It is a truly beautiful song.

 Up next is “A World Of Our Own” which sees Yes dipping their toes into new territory. The song has a slow seductive moody “Swing” feel which wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid period “Wishbone Ash” album ( hey some of these dudes used to hang out with “The Ash” in earlier days so it’s not a complete surprise ) The song still manages to retain that Yes flavour we all know and love and actually shows Davison with a subtle underlying menace to his voice. The vocal harmonies as displayed on most of this album are crisp and clear. “Light Of The Ages” is a solely Davison penned song, and again echoes and brings to mind a past period of the band. There is a restrained power to this song which is both deceptive and pleasing. A worthy sole songwriting debut by Jon Davison.

 “It Was All We Knew” is a sole Steve Howe penned number, which has Yes in pure happy pop mood ( When I say pop I mean GOOD pop – The Beatles, The Beach Boys and more latterly Crowded House ) Again the song is a good earworm and has a feelgood factor that raises a smile of satisfaction and happiness when I listen to it. “Subway Walls” ends the whole package with that distinctive Geoff Downes style which has become an integral part of Yes these days. In complete contrast to the rest of the album this is the one track where the band enter into more familiar Prog territory. There is in fact a distinct “After Forever” feel to the track and displays some wonderful little twists and changes. Geoff Downes brings to the table some tasty Hammond which is a pure pleasure to hear. “Subway Walls” is a bonafide classic Yes song and sits comfortably with some of the more recognised classics. Steve Howe gets to shine as the whole band build to a crescendo of pure eargasm.

In summary I normally prefer my Yes to rock out a little bit more, but by the same token I also love the softer and more restrained side of the band like “Soon” “Onward” etc. “Step Beyond” aside, my own view is that Yes have delivered a beautiful album chock full of clever straightahead songs which once inside your head will stay there. It is not always about bizarre time signatures and sprawling epics, sometimes it can be about just how strong the songwriting is in shorter form, and Yes have certainly delivered this with Heaven And Earth. It is a beautiful album and one I personally think will win some doubters over given time. A solid 4 out of 5.

REVIEW BY IAN RAGGETT

For fans of - King Crimson, Asia, Genesis, Fright Pig and all good prog in general

8.1.13

Dans Pick of 2012

Regular listener to the BCFM Sunday Rockshow and Hot Wires bassist Dan Seward brings us his pick of the best albums of 2012....

1. Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day
Led Zeppelin gives you your musical education. It's where heavy rock began. So, where to begin... I didn't use to like Jimmy Page's guitar tone, but this recent live recording makes it sound that little bit better. This double Cd live recording was recorded in 2007 at London o2 arena. Featuring Jon Bonham's son Jason Bonham on drums. The songs stand the test of time. There's lots of variety and diversity to the way they play. The musical style has embelishments and dynamics which make it interesting such as in: "Good times, bad times" and "Ramble on" where the verse riff and rhythm begin with a main rhythm and then one that follows the riff, it flows into the chorus which is directly built on top of from the verse riff. In "Black dog" a good blues tradition valuing is present when the riff starts and stops to allow a vocal acapella dynamic then hammering back in with the riff. The version of "Stairway to heaven" is well worth listening to featuring some nice pipe organ and endearing guitar work. They hit you with slow blues, smooth, sophisticated and raw, in both "Since I've been loving you" and "Dazed and confused". They convey of plate mesmorising chaos in "Misty mountain hop". My personal favourite is "Kashmir" with it's epic, cinematic riff bolstered by it's well navigated chorus counterpart. Old favourites "Whole lotta love" with a long psychadelic dive in the middle and "Rock n' roll" with it's instantly recognisable chant of "It's a lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely life". 
9/10
If you like this you may also like: Doors, Deep purple.
 
2. Black Country Communion - Afterglow
Black country Communion are a supergroup featuring Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, Glen Hughes and Derek Sherinian.
Joe Bonamassa wields his Gibson Les Paul studio guitar. High flying work horse mode is in abundance on this album, where guitar solos flutter their wings with patterns of beauty in songs such as "Midnight sun" and awsome rhythm guitar in songs like "Dandelion". It's not that we haven't heard this sort of thing before but it's done so well and with genuine passion , it takes the bit of the formula that's proven and kind of enhances it to a higher level. The drums so on the ball they kicksnactivate with power in oodles of a style of which would cause trouble for a lot of today's powerhouse metal drummers. Where as the 2nd album was full of woeful odes to society and emotional subject matter, "Afterglow" is more upbeat and musically enfusing.The bass keeps thundering away, sometimes with quite flamboyant style. Keyboards hot-rod their way through. Whatever your rock angle, it's worth checking this out if you wanna give the classic/retro with a new slant a go. 
8.5/10
If you like this you may also like: The answer, Airbourne
 
3. Axewound - "Vultures"
Axewound I would call HATECORE but when I say this I don't mean 1- dimensional, I mean a fully fledged onslaught that never fails to interest with it's intensity. All the best of brutal down to it at the pinnacle. God this is a good year for supergroups and Axewound feature members of Bullet for my valentine, Cancer bats and Glamour kill. They spell it out hell is a heaven for the hateful intent of mixing up a mecca of a moshpit world you could think of as a misery for anything but worship of jarring guitars, bashful sometimes simple, never overstated. It would appear to be the point is to recognise the hatred ignited by ignition. Sometimes with harmonised guitaring. Extreme point blank melodying in songs including: "Cold", "Exorchrist" and "Collide"(with it's orchestral/piano leanings). There are a few high-speed guitar solos such as the awsome solo in "Vultures". Fall forward flung riffing power in "Destroy" and "Blood money and lies". Drums are potent throughout.   
9/10
If you like this you may also like: Cancer bats, bullet for my valentine, Bring me the horizon,Slipknot
 
4. Over your threshold - "Facticity"
Some German death metal wizadry courtesey of that limericky one beat bass-snare rhythms. Some grungifying bits
stick out of the starts and ends of a mainly falling plight, which maybe in a stoner abborition seek to control a evil but playful giant wicker robot like the one depicted on the cover illustration. Although they are a German metal band their vocal phrasing seems not to vary from those of metal bands from english speaking countries. They leave you there, venting in low to the ground, pacified melody which counters the affliction of the (in death metal terms) mid-tempo. So there is switching of moods and sometimes it's like a battle between the two. 
8.5/10
If you like this you may also like: Cradle of filth, any death metal band that comes to mind but this band really are quite unique for there genre.
 
5. Enslaved - "R I I T I I R"
If ever there was a band to release an album dignifying the neon dazed to ultimateism it would be Enslaved. This album has a bit of a Telecaster sounding twangy hammering bleeding knuckle metal. It's all pulled off so smoothly and so calmly with their dark gothic catchy choruses such as in "Death in the eyes of dawn" with lyrics that read: "Blinded are my eyes, tied are my hands, sleeping wide awake, got lost within myself". This could mean a lot to someone looking for a sense of psychosis type bliss. Most of the tracks are long and some have more prog-rock leanings than metal, particularly "Storm of memories" and "Forsaken". Where they really shine through is their ability to take you on a voyage with dry wit, and dwelling on riff led barren soundscapes. Aswell as this, on another
level you can note the bite of their rampant soily death metal. The soloing is kind of like you might have heard before but it's more like the highlights of a gifted player. 
8/10
If you like this you may also like: Opeth, Hammers of misfortune
 
6. The Gaslight Anthem - "Handwritten"
Let's look at it like this; a well groomed garage rock sounding band stepping out with all the right hooks and punky sounds with lead breaks to carry it off for the whole show that anyone can catch on to. As writer Nick Hornby notes is of that boy meets girl subject matter that makes simple, addictive listening. Highlights include: "45" and "Handwritten". The album features just enough kick and grit in the arrangements to qualify it for rockularity. I think this may have been said before, but to quote: "Hey, hey turn the record over" "Hey hey and I'll see you on the flipside". Indeed. 
8/10
If you like this you may also like: Stereophonics, Ash
 
7. Last Wind - "Return of a sonic assassin"
An all star line up including Groundhogs drummer Ken Pustelnik and the bass player from psychadelic rock band the Heads aswell as some former members of Hawkwind. A duo of guitarists (the album also includes some synth sounds from the vocalist) with a spacey slt-fying outing with it's Shaun Rydery-ish twists, like tales of fate from down the pub on acid. Sometimes akin to Alien stash tin. Quirky humour and wit run amok with a take it as we fuck you with it approach and solid rhythm section. Lead guitar entailing a constant fast rip roaring though I believe it to be multi-fx driven sound. It gets that in between early rock and punk notion which people may be familiar with of bands like the stooges, well imagine that going off on a mellow tip, an engine rooted more in a philisophical wisdom as opposed to a wheel of explosion. It has been said that the vocalist Paul Hayles is more of a "Chanter" than a singer. Lyrics such as in "Slots" where it is said: "for some reason it's always a woman's voice saying hang on to that money, keep it for another day" and "that's what money's for ain't it". In "Day trippers": "We used to take a stroll, take a pill or two" definitely work in their favour.
9/10
If you like this you may also like: Happy Mondays, Hawkwind.
 
 8. Neal Schon - "The Calling"
A solo outing from Journey's lead guitar player. He's been deemed as a Satriani-like player. Indeed the title track does remind me of a Satriani title. It's mainly whammy led lead lines, long sustaining and as instrumental music goes it's pretty enticing. Backed sometimes by world music percussion and often slightly funky drumming. I'd give it credit it's interesting to the point where I'd say Schon gets his theories accross in tracks such as "Primal Surge" and "Song of the wind 2". Rarely stopping for a bit of rhythm guitar with nice arpeggios on songs such as "Irish field" he's a talented player in that department too. His quick bursts of speed are nice skirmishes, to coin this I'd say think of Hank Marvin with distortion and rock etiquette, let the guitar sing you a song.
 8/10
If you like this you may also like: Joe Satriani, Santana
 
 
Reviews by Dan Seward

26.10.12

Crimson Sky - 'Dawn' (selF Released) 4/5

Its been three years since Bristol prog rockers Crimson Sky hit us with their impressive debut album Misunderstood, and since then there have been a few line up changes, mainly the replacement of vocalist Holly Thody with new girl Jane Setter, the arrival of new keysman Moray Macdonald. But after a very quiet couple of years they are back with this new four track ep.

Over all this is pretty good, there are two brand new tracks on offer. Crimson Sky is a neat little cut that sounds like Seasons End era Marillion jamming with cult NWOBHM act Runestaff - all Mark Kelly style keyboard widdles under pinned with some nice tasty faux-metal riffage. Then you have The Park, this ones stand out track, a number that kicks off with an almost MC5 proto-punk groove before switching into a feel and vibe that smacks of classic Pendragon with a hint of Stray thrown in for good measure. Pretty good stuff. Vocalist Setter may not have the 'rawk chick' snarl that made her predecessor so distinctive, but her almost ethereal alto tones and impressive range more than do the business. And it must be said that the keyboard of Mr Macdonald really do raise the standard of musicianship in the band by several clicks, and that is not a reflection on the rest of Crimson Sky, all of whom are pretty competent players in their own right.

The other two cuts are re-recorded versions of numbers from the Misunderstood album. The first, The Sea, is a pretty good rendition of an already impressive track, noteworthy for Mr Leamons tasty Steve Rothery / Andy Latimer style lead guitar work. However the new version of After The Rain provides a pretty downbeat ending to the ep, as compared to the rest of the tracks on show it comes over more than a little limp, as its Fleetwood Mac meets Mostly Autumn acoustic stylings and trip away with the fairies vibe come over as a very light weight and finish the ep with a whimper rather than the bang this releases deserves, (and to be honest isn't as good as the Misunderstood version.)

However don't let that put you off as the rest of this one is well worth a listen, and if Crimson Sky continue to follow the road laid down on tracks like The Park there could well be a brighter dawn ahead for them.

Worth a look or three

For fans of... Marillion, Runestaff, Pallas, Pendragon, Delusion Squared, Porcupine Tree etc....

10.9.12

Mortor - 'Shoot Em Up' (self released) 4/5

Now I don't know too much about Mortor. They come from Canada and this is I think their debut full length album, and thats about it, the press info that came with this one was a bit sparse and there aint a great deal of info around on the net either. But when I got my hands on this one and saw the album cover I was interested, after all anything with Nazi zombies on it has to be worth at least a look.

Now this is good, from the moment you click play your hit by a full on metal blitzkrieg that kicks off by sending a stuka like wave of pounding thrash and bludgeon beats  to blast a way into your head, and thus making opening in your minds defenses for the panzer divisions of Cannibal Corpse style speed and grind riffage and legions stormtrooping growled and snarled vocal delivery to punch on deep into your soul and capture your psyche. And this is one occupation I'm not going to object to.

This album is just relentless, cuts like For Glory, Under The Flag, Clusterfuck and Trigger Happy just roll you up with all the subtly of G.I.'s at an Iraqi wedding. This is metal at the bleeding edge, its raw, in your face, mosh pit friendly and very very enjoyable. However theres a softer side to Mortor, (although they do try to hide it). Take the cut Whiskey Surgery, heres a cut that has an almost rock and roll guitar solo in the middle and cuts like Point Blank and  Days Of Our Knives show a little light and shade, as tempo changes and some minor key riffage just work their way into to provide some colour to the relentless blast and batter. And check out the guitar work on Bonesaw... that is to die for.

Now theres a fair bit of this sort of stuff around there and whilst Mortor are no Cattle Decapitation, they are no slouches either and with a bit of luck and hard work they cold become a name to watch for in the future.

Pretty damn good

For fans of... Cattle Decapitation, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Kreator, Carcass.....

Van Susans - 'Paused In The Moment' (Beatnik Geek) 4/5

I first encountered UK alt / indie rockers Van Susans back last year when they issued their "We Could Be Scenery'' ep, and to be honest I wasn't that impressed, but that release did have one killer track that showed that the band did have something to offer. then a few months back we had their last single Bricks Not Sticks or Straw, a track that was a huge step in the right direction, and now we have this the bands debut album on our hands.

Glad to say this album is every bit as good as that single, in fact the aforementioned track kicks the album off and lays out the stall for whats to come. Big powerful pop rock ballads in the Beautiful South vein, spiced up by a huge Waterboys type celtic lighter waving vibe, hints of dirty rock and roll attitude, a dash of an almost Undertones style to song writing and catchy hooks by the truck load.

Highlights on offer include the vast and anthemic Fireworks with is sweet piano motif, the Subways style pop punk work out of The Road, the deeply introspective Disappear, the indie pop floor filler of Popo, the downbeat foot tapper of Notice Me and the drive indie rock workout of Served Cold with its rather tasty acoustic guitar lead and soaring fiddle lines. In fact there's not a weak track on show.

So this has me puzzled, was I wrong about that ep? Nope, I've just given it another listen and still find it lacking, but I'm loving this album. Why should that be? Well not long after the aforementioned ep was released Van Susans hit the road for a lengthy tour opening up for the Beautiful South, a band I've always had the utmost respect for as purveyors of good solid serious pop rock, and maybe something rubbed off onto the Van Susans, But whatever happened, the fact remains that in around a year, this lot have gone from being bog standard indie rock wannabes into an act that really do have something to offer the word musically. And long may they continue.

Pretty Good

For fans of... The Waterboys, The Beautiful South, Whiskey and Lace, Jimmy Eat World.....

8.9.12

C.F.A. - 'Managed By The Devil, Brought To You By The Grace Of God' (Ripple) 4/5

CFA (aka The Cody Foster Army) hail from Tacoma, Washington State in the US, and have been around for four or five years now. They are a three piece whose greatly experienced members cut their teeth in such luminary underground cult punk outfits such as Inbreed, Daisy Love, Toxic Shock, Miserable Bastards, Stump, Crash Landing, Buckwildz, and Mico De Noche. This is the bands debut album.

Now this is a very interesting one, CFA play a very curious and nearly unique sounding blend of stoner rock old school hardcore punk and sludge fired primordial thrashy doom metal. Tracks like The hard and driving Shake Your Ass, Never free and Sons Of The Soil and pretty much the rest of this sixteen tracker fly past in a glorious mix of old school metal riffage, hardcore screamed vocals and buckets of raw punk attitude. Other highlights include the Sabbath with a glue bag doomy pound of Kick Rocks and the Venom influenced Holy Colonoscopy.

There also a couple of very interesting cover versions on show, there's the old Bob Marley classic Iron Lion Zion, stripped of its Reggae back beats and given a full metal work over, and the result is pretty impressive, sounding a bit like The Subhumans over all. However the best track on the whole album is a version of the old Creedance Clearwater classic Fortunate Son, played fairly straight, but a LOT heavier, here CFA have taken a track inspired by the pointless conflicts of the 1960s and made it relevant to the pointless conflicts of the modern age.

Over I like this album lots, but I do fear a little for CFA in this age of excessive sub genres and musical pigeon holes. I can see many of the metal heads and stoner freaks finding it a bit too hardcore, and the core scene kiddies finding it a bit too old school metal. But I also live in hope that anyone who likes real musical experimentation will find this a refreshing and interesting mix of styles with a lot to offer the broadminded listener.

Well worth checking out

For fans of... P.O.T., Mighty High, Cannabis Corpse, Venom.....

6.9.12

Mos Generator - 'Nomads' (Ripple) 4.5/5

Its been five years since we last heard any brand new material from Seattle grungy stoner retro rockers Mos Generator, but now at long last we have album number five, and believe me, the wait was worth it.

This one kicks off with the riff heavy Cosmic Ark with its post Sabbath riffage, Ozzy-u-like vocals, it's sludge and grind soundscapes and mellow middle section resulting in something that sounds like it could be taken from Sabbaths Technical Ecstasy, a belter of a track. And having set up the stall, Mos Generator continue in fine style. All that time out hasn't changed them at all, all the classic Mos Gen trademarks are here, the heavy as hell riffage, the searching and emotive lyrics, the flashes of 60's psyche rock, the undercurrent of Seattle grunge, the sweet blues licks... all the elements that have marked Mos Gen out as leaders in the current field of retro fueled stoner rockers. OK they may not have shown a huge amount of progress since that classic eponymous 2002 debut album, but hell, progress for progress sake is a bad thing, Mos Gen have got a winning formula and if it aint broke don't fix it.

Highlights? well the whole album is just great, but listen out for the highly intelligent and well realised re-working of the Judas Priest classic Solar Angels, the vast and highly headbangable I Can't Get Where I Belong and the epic closer This Is A Gift Of Nature with its hard and heavy riffage and wonderful breakdown and slow build section leading to a truly earth moving climax. However my fave cut on offer has to be the dark and doomy Step Up with is sub death metal sensibilities and big anthem style hook.

Basically Mos Gen are back, they are in fine form and anyone who loves their rock, raw, grungy, classic and in your face should sit up and take notice.

Great Stuff

For fans of... Stone Axe, Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, The Groundhogs...

29.8.12

The Texas Flood - 'Worth The Whiskey' (self released) 4.5/5

There is land to the west that is wild and lawless, where the men are tough and the liquor is harsh. And from these bad lands (near Swansea) come The Texas Flood. Part of the NWOATYWRB (New Wave Of Annoyingly Talented Young Welsh Rock Bands), TTF are a blues rocking power trio who take their cue from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and this is (I believe) their second ep.

Now I first encountered this lot when they played on the same bill as Alien Stash Tin earlier in the year, and I was more than a little impressed that three young guys, barely into their third decade, not only had such a strong handle on classic blues rock, but also the fact they played like guys who had been blues rocking for decades. So I put in a order for their EP and at last its here.

Now there are four tracks on offer here. We kick off with Barking Like An Underdog, an excellent slice of get down and boogie blues rock that has echoes of Jason and The Scorchers about it. Then there's Holding My Own, a slick and subtle ode to masturbation that kicks along like Slug The Nightwatchman (remember them? - damn they were good). Living On The Edge is a glorious Georgia Sats like booze 'n' blues work out and closer Worth The Whiskey comes over like Stevie Ray jamming with Motortrain in a Texas redneck bar and not getting shot. All in all four great tracks.

As for the musicians. Well the core of the band is the superb rhythm section of Tom Williams and Ben Govier, two guys who know how to swing and know how to boogie; a tight unit that just locks down on the beat and keeps the music driving on in classic style. This allows the mercurial talent of singer / guitarist Tom Bradford to shine through - here is a guy who plays like George Thorogood and sings like Ronnie Van Zant. Add in the fact that these guys can write great songs full or infectious hooks and wonderful tongue in cheek imagery and you have in TTF a band that could well go places.

In short a great ep from a superb young band that show a truck load of promise, and is a must for southern boogie and blues rock fans everywhere. Yeeehaaaa South Wales Will Rise Again!!!

Excellent

For fans of... ZZ Top, Motortrain, Jason and the Scorchers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Georgia Satellites....

28.8.12

Grave Digger - 'Clash Of The Gods' (Napalm) 5/5

Koln band Grave Digger first set sail on the seas of metal way back in the early 1980's, and ever since then they have have been plundering the sonic seascapes with their distinctive brand of legendary piratey power metal in fine style, and now we have this, studio album number sixteen, to remind us that Grave Digger are still up their with the very best of them.

OK I have always been of the opinion that what German metal does best is the big epic power metal type of thing, and in my mind Grave Digger, a band I've been a fan of ever since I first heard their album War Games way back in nineteen eighty something, have always been in my mind one of the acts that sums up that form of Teutonic sub thrash epic metal best, and this album is in my mind could well be their finest hour yet. Eleven tracks each one a vast sounding head bang frenzy that grabs hold of your brain stem and forces your head to ossilate violently to the music until your a happy sweaty mess on the carpet.

Blending their pirate / power metal musical style with lyrics that draw heavily from Greek history and mythology, these guys have cooked up real gem of an album. Kicking off with a rather salty sounding shanty by the name of  Charon, that soon explodes into the power metal thrash out of God Of Terror, this album just kills. Other gems include the razor riffed and turbo fueled Helldog, the huge anthem of Walls Of Sorrow with its references to the seige of Troy, the dark and doomy grind of Call of The Sirens and the 'Iron Maiden on steroids' work out of the closer Home At Last.

Vocalist Chris "Reaper" Boltendah, has the perfect voice for this kind of metal, deep gruff and growling, yet at the same time more than powerful enough to deliver those huge air punching man-rock choruses that is the hallmark of power metal. High praise as well to axe swinger Axel "Ironfinger" Ritt, whos riffs smash into your ears like a unit of very angry hopolites and whose solos stike you down like the bolts of Zeus himself. And for the record, the rest of the band; Stefan Arnold (Drums), Jens Becker (Bass) and HP Katzenburg (Keyboards) are no slouches either and do thier part in delivering the Grave Digger sound to the masses in fine style.

All in all this could well be the best slice of power metal I've heard since Powerwolfs 'Blood Of The Saints' from back last summer, and whether your rowing a longship to Vinland, sailing the Spanish Maine on the prowl for English merchentmen or going off to Troy in your Tireem to deliver a wooden horse to Helen, this album makes for the perfect sound track. Of course us lesser mortals will more likely play this one in the car on the way to work or crashed out on the bed / couch with a cold one, but believe me it's just as good for that as well.

EPIC

For fans of... Powerwolf, Primal Fear,  Royal Hunt, Viking Skull, Ex Deo... etc

23.8.12

Fifteen English Pounds - 'Sin City' (self released) 4/5

Fifteen English Pounds hail from the sleepy town of Evesham, in the English Midlands, a place best known in UK rock circles as being the birthplace of 80's OTT glam rockers Wrathchild. This album is a compilation of various demos the band have issued over the past few years brought together into one rather groovy 10 track collection.

Now FEP play hard edged rock of the old school, and they are rather good at it. Kicking off with the high speed blues rock work out of Sin City (not the AC/DC track), this one just screams along, full of tales of sex, motorbikes and rock and roll excess. You get cuts like Effigy with its frenzied harmonica solo, the air punching anthem of Rock N Roll Heaven, the UFO sounding Human Sacrifice... all great stuff. In fact there isn't a weak track on show at all.

If you wanna draw musical comparisons with the great and the good of rock and roll past then if you think of the likes of AC/DC, and NWOBHM legends like Tobruk, Spider, Idol Rich, Tokyo Blade etc then you will be in the right ball park.

The musicianship here is first rate, it's not trying to be to slick and not trying to be overly cleaver, its just a load of great honest balls out, heads down and see you at the end performances. Vocalist Ade Danby has a powerful and compelling voice that reminds me of Toyko Blades Alan Marsh in places, and g-man Andy Crump has a style that draws comparisons with the late great Gary Moore (just check out Cool Tone to see exactly what I mean). Chuck in a rhythm section that's ducks arse tight and as driven as Lewis Hamiltons McLaren and you have a pretty impressive band that can really deliver the goods.

OK, in places the production is a little rough around the edges, but hell, what do you expect from a small up and coming band on a budget, and this can easily be overlooked.

All in all this is a cracking album from a cracking band that has 'cult hero' scrawled all over it, and one that all discerning lovers of the UK underground rock scene should add to their collections.

Impressive

For fans of... Trucker Diablo, Grifter, Dear Superstar, Iron Claw etc....

21.8.12

Lace And Whiskey - 'Running Out Of Time' (Self Released) 4/5

East London rockers Lace And Whiskey have been around since 2008, they play a sort of Americana influenced soft acoustic indie rock and roll, and this is their debut full length album.

Now I'll be honest here, when I got this in my inbox the other day and first played it through I didn't like it at all, but having lived with it for a few days and given it a second chance, I can say its growing on me rapidly. OK I ain't gonna start claiming this is the best release ever to cross my inbox, I will say it is not without a lot of merit.

Based around the slick and introspective guitar work of  Melissa Collett and the direct and sincere sounding vocals of Andy Hodgson, Lace and Whiskey have created a fairly engaging album, that brings to mind the likes of Frank Turner and New Model Army in terms of approach and attitude.

Highlights include the Frank Turner influenced Don't Ask Questions, the hard edged Confuse The Mind, the dark and disturbing Isolation and especially the spine tingling instrumental Night Of The Armada - a track that shows Melissa Colletts six string slinging ability in fine style.

All in all this is a good debut from a band that have a fairy unique approach and could go places.

Worth checking out

For fans of... Frank Turner, New Model Army, The Levellers, Duckfeet..... etc

8.8.12

The All-Seeing - 'The All-Seeing (demo)' (self released) 4/5

(sorry but I have no idea why the cover art loads rotated)

Time for another lucky random surf discovery. The All-Seeing are a stoner rock outfit from Sweden and this, as far as I can work out is their debut demo single. Apart from that I know naff all about them.

Gotta say this is a sweet little two tracker. Kicking off with a 7 minute minute epic entitled No Place, with its grinding post grunge distorted bass, doomy plod and slog riffing and anthalmic vocals, you can't help but draw favourable comparisons with the mighty Mos Generator and Somerset weed-heads P.O.T. The other cut on show is a sweet little three minute pot and roll work out called Sky, with a head bangable riff, a distant and down beat vocal and a rather short but sweet noise rock guitar solo.

All in all this little demo is highly enjoyable and goes to show that rare gems await the discerning music fan whose prepared to do a bit of net trawling looking for the best of what the underground has to offer.

Sweet.

For fans of... Mos Generator, P.O.T., Stone Axe, Dark Earth....

(download this single for free from http://theall-seeing.bandcamp.com/ )

Firewind - 'Few Against Many' (Century Media) 4/5

This is album number eight from Greek metal gods Firewind and main project of Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G.

Now I am a bit of a Firewind fan I will confess, their 2008 album The Premonition being a particular fave of mine. So I was a bit excited about getting this one to say the least. However having lived with it for a while now, I will say I'm finding it a bit of a double edged sword.

On the up side this album is a pretty good exercise in power metal. There are 10 tracks on show, all of a high standard. Gus G is in fine form, check out the wonderful shred and widdle solo on Losing My Mind for an example of a guitar hero at is best. Vocalist Apollo Papathanasio shows once more that he is one of the most distinctive and engaging vocalist in metal at the moment. As for the music, well tracks like Another Dimension with its driving riffs and the huge anthalmic Glorious are all first rate examples of modern commercial metal.

However I do one issue with this album and that's the production.To my ears its a bit too well produced, everything is polished to perfection, and whilst on tracks like the chilled out and introspective Edge of A Dream it works well, in other places the stacked vocals and layered guitar lines and big keyboard wash only serves to take the cutting edge off the whole thing. Riffs that should kill merely stun, solos that should blow the mind tend just to titillate... I dunno may be its a personal thing on my side, but I like my metal with a little bit of the rough edges left on.

Still that gripe aside I can't really say anything negative about this one, and the fact that its topped the Greek album charts and is generating highly favourable fan reviews means they are doing something right here, and more power to Firewind for that.

Pretty Good Overall

For fans of... Helloween, Dragon Force, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Primal Fear....

Fen - 'Of Losing Interest' (Ripple) 4.5/5

This is the fifth album from British Columbia based stoner prog outfit Fen, an outfit that has been around since the late 1990's and their second for Ripple music.

First impressions of this one are very favourable, like a lot of Ripples roster the term stoner rock is the first thing that springs to mind as the opening cut Riddles lurks from the speakers and conjures up sonic images of early Rush, Black Sabbath and Triumph. However as the nine tracks on offer play you begin to pick up a lot more diversity of influence and sound that many of their retro rocking stoner counterparts. A Long Line has an almost Kashmir style Zeppelin vibe to it. The Glove, with its not so subtle lyrical references to Michael Jackson, hints at the work of Max Webster, Light Up The End is a sweet acoustic led pseudo ballad that hints at The Grateful Dead on a Rainbow trip and Snake Path reminds me a little of Blue Oyster Cult in places (a very good thing indeed in my book)

As is to expected the playing and production here is faultless, Doug Harrison and Sam Levin are both superb guitarist, each capable of laying down some spine tingling lead work and joining together in some classic Wishbone Ash style twin lead sections - just check out the lead playing on Pilot Plant. Another big plus is the lyrical content; which serves up some very intelligent and quite dark imagery that is delivered by Mr Harrisons Burke Shelley / Geddy Lee type vocals in spine tingling style.

All in all a great record from a first rate band, and a release that will do both Fen's and Ripple's growing reputation the power of good.

Highly Recommended

For fans of... Mos Generator, Rush, Stone Axe, Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin...

7.8.12

Los Criptozoos - 'La danza del cadáver' (self released) 5/5

This is another lucky random surf find, Los Criptozoos hail from Castellón in Spain, they have been together since 2009, play a highly infectious brand of rock and roll fueled pop punk and this is their second album.

Now what first attracted me to this one was the fact that these lads sing in their native tongue. I will freely admit that my Spanish abilities none existent, so I can't tell you what they are going on about, but there are times when listening to songs in a language you can't understands adds to the listening experience. You find that vocal rhythms and melody take on a greater importance and gives the songs a whole new twist and vibe (I love French rap for that exact reason), and listening to this album is really pleasurable experience.

Blending influences that range from old school Clash / Stiff Little Fingers type old school punk, Mighty Mighty Bosstones style bop-able sub-ska sensibilities with buckets of traditional rock and roll feel good attack and big helpings of uplifting Latino get down and party rhythms, they have forged one of the most accessible and likeable pop punk releases I've heard in a long long time.

There are 11 tracks on offer, each one a real get down and boogie gem of high energy punk rocking excellence. Tracks like Xic Dolent, (whose lyrics seam to be about nuclear power), La Danza del Cadaver (The Dance of The Corpse - that one I can translate) and Quein se queja all dance into your ears and get your feet tapping your fists pumping and a smile on your face as wide as the straight of Gibraltar.

On top of that there is some first rate musicianship on show,  just check out the groovy bass line on the wonderful Ska driven Tormenta de feugo (Torment of Fire?) and the sweet rock and roll style guitar solo on Nada nuevo for starters. The vocals are melodic, direct, infectious and demand that you join in even if your Spanish is as bad as mine the drums are tight and driving and the whole thing is played and produced to perfection.

Basically, as you can guess I'm loving this to bits, and I'm sure you will as well, especially as its a free album (see below for download details), I've now got a huge urge to see this lot live, so if your a punk promotor reading this, please try to bring these guys to England on tour sometime, you will have a real hit on your hands I'm sure.

Just Amazing!!

For fans of... The Clash, The Subways, Stiff Little Fingers, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Blunders....

(Download this great album free from here -  http://loscriptozoos.bandcamp.com/ )

Spires - 'Lucid Abstractions' (Self Released) 5/5

One of last years most exciting releases was undoubtedly Spirals of Ascension, the debut album from Manchester prog metal outfit Spires. That release picked up a lot of airplay, both on BCFM and RS666 and narrowly missed out on being shortlisted for the BCFM shows album of the year award. Now Spirals have issued this new five track acoustic album as a follow up. Apparently the idea for this one came about after a series of unplugged show the band performed late last year. It is four new tracks and an acoustic rendition of Spirals of Ascension the title track from their debut album, and its damn good.

Kicking off with a nice and mellow cut entitled Under Bloodstained Skies, this album is breath taking in concept and scope. Stripped of the razor edged metalisms of their debut album Spires have forged in this album (and yes I will say album, cos although the band are calling it an ep, anything with a play time of nearly 40 minutes says album to me) a quiet and deeply introspective exercise in acoustic prog rock that not only shows them as first rate musicians and song writers, but as masters of the soundscape, as they weave delicate patterns of light and shade that flit moth like across the ears and bathe the soul in a gloriously dreamy wash of aural delight.

Highlights? well the whole album flows together perfectly and almost seamlessly but my personal fave moment has to be the spine tingling Perception, a track that is spine chilling, uplifting and head soothing all at the sametime.

All in all this is a fantastic release that shows that Spires are indeed an outfit that are capable of greatness, and the fact that these guys are still unsigned is a travesty. However if they keep issuing material of this diversity and quality they will not be independent for long.

If you only get on progressive album this year, make sure its this one.

For fans of... Fornost Arnor, Awake, Dream Theater, Fates Warning.....

To get you hands on a copy of this gem visit www.spiresband.co.uk (but if you want a CD copy, hurry this comes as a limited pressing of 500 copies)

6.8.12

Big Viking - 'Fucks' (self released) 3/5

Big Viking come from Michigan in the US, and apart from that I know naff all about them. I stumbled on this three tracker as a random surf find, and I'm pretty glad I did, if only for the opening cut.


Sounding like a motorway horror smash between Cannibal Corpse and Converge, this one kicks off with a superb little cut entitled Ray Romano Chop House, a cut that grinds like a bastard, grunts and screams like struck pig and is generally three and a half minutes of fairly impressive in your face metal punk cross over action. Hell theres even a couple of light tongue in cheek spoken interjections to break up the asre grinding intensity.

The other two cuts Bud Dink and Amulet Dead are a pair of flawed gems. They are well played and very enjoyable, but suffer a little from slipshod production and fairly big volume drops, which after the magnificence of the lead track comes over as little bit frustrating, hence I've docked a mark or two. Still it's nothing that can't be cured with a little playing around in Audacity or other such software but a listener wants to download and enjoy, not download and remix.

However believe me this ep is worth getting hold of for the lead track alone, when its a free download you can't really complain that much.

Check it out now

For fans of... Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Decapitation, Converge, Amen....

(Download this ep for free from - http://bigviking.bandcamp.com/ )

4.8.12

Triumph - 'Live at Sweden Rock Festival' (frontiers) 4.5/5

From the mid 1970's right through to the early 1990's Canadas Triumph were right up there with very biggest names in rock, albums like Sport of Kings and Allied Forces sold by the truck load, and they toured the world playing in the biggest venues. However in the early 1990's guitarist and band main man Rik Emmett departed for a solo career, and Triumph fell from view into the were are they now file to spend the next 15 years almost forgotten. Then in 2008 the band reunited for a one off appearance at the legendary Sweden Rocks Festival and as often happens the one off lead to a small tour, which lead to a bigger tour and before you could say I Live For The Weekend the band were back together full time. Now since then there has been no new Triumph material - in fact the band have said there will not be any new studio albums in the foreseeable, but the band have been doing a fair bit of archive raiding and they have just issued this, the full set from that Sweden Rock reunion gig.

Now I will confess I was a bit of a Triumph fan back in the day, but over the past 20 years their albums have been laying at the back of the record rack - in fact I can't remember when I last played a Triumph album for my own enjoyment, and a flick through my playlist archive shows I've only span one Triumph track on air since the BCFM show started, and that was 3 years ago (something I intend to redress over the next few months). So I am finding listening to this one a bit of a journey of rediscovery.

And what a pleasant journey it is. The album kicks off with When The Lights Go Down, a glorious slice of stoner rock, that shows just where the likes of Stone Axe and Mos Generator are getting some of their influences. Other highlights include Allied Forces - a cut that comes on as a real surprise when you realise exactly how heavy Triumph could be from time to time; the aforementioned I Live For The Weekend, always my fave Triumph number, and a rock and roller that still sounds as fresh as it it did back in the 80's; and then there's the epic and progressive Blinding Light Show with Mr Emmett showing he still knows his way around a fret board. All good and classic stuff and when you reach the final notes of the wondrously uplifting Fight the Good Fight you end up with a wonderfully satisfied feeling of having rediscovered something very very good indeed.

This album is a great live document, the production is spot on, showing the pure talent of the band and capturing the excitement of the live situation perfectly. This one will certainly remind the world of Triumph and exactly how good they still are. There's only problem, this has left me wanting more Triumph, new Triumph, I'm sure musicians of this class and standard are still capable of writing and recording anther killer album to add to their back catalogue. Come on guys whatdya say?

Triumphful

For fans of... Rush, Van Halen, Stone Axe, The Rods.....

Various Artists - 'The End is Near' (Shire Records) 4.5/5

The End Is Near is the title of a series of highly successful punk weekenders held in the sleepy Wiltshire town of Trowbridge, that are rapidly becoming some of the most important events on the UK punk scene, having attracted the likes of The Sub-Humans and Rita Lynch in recent times. Now the organisers have put together this rather tasty 15 track compilation celebrating and showcasing some of the best acts that have appeared at the events.

Now this is a rather good un over all, kicking off with Disco, a rather neat slam and boogie cut from The Blunders, this CD is a great portal into the best punk from the English West Country and beyond. I'm not going to give you a track by track breakdown - far better you dig yourself a copy up and explore it for yourself. But I will point out a few of the highlights on offer...

There's Petrol with the driven and frenzied Feed Yourself, Hater UK give a glorious low fi rendition of the Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson classic Hey Santa!. Instrumental noise grind merchants We Are Romans serve up a groovy little cut entitled Heligoland and the irrepressible Rita Lynch gives the spin tingling Longing. Chuck in The Dynamite Pussy Club with Vampire Blues and nine other pretty damn god and infectious cuts from the likes of The Set Backs, Bite The Buffalo and A-Heads and you have a real treat for all those who like it a bit on the punk side.

There is an old joke that says 'punk aint dead, it just smells that way', well this gem not only shows that punk is alive and kicking, but it till has something to say and is laying waste to small Wiltshire towns in the process

Get a copy and pogo til you puke

For fans of... PUNK

31.7.12

Boots N All - 'Up Your England' (self released) 4/5

I dunno too much about Boots N All. They come from the sleepy English town of Warminster and they play a rather impressive brand of in your face and fuck the system brand of Oi! punk, and this is their new five track ep.

Now anyone who has bit of Oi! knowledge will know exactly where these guys are coming from. Kicking off with a rather good little moonstomper entitled You Moved To America, a track that to my ears draws favourable comparisons to the legendary The Oppressed, this ep just blast along in a wall of gloriously aggressive righteous fury that puts a sonic Doc Martin full in your face and demands that you join the pogo pit. All five track on this one are just great, Freedom, Psycho, Oi Oi (What You Gonna Do) are all prime slices of the very best Oi fueled punk; however my fave cut on offer is the fantastic title track, a real underground punk classic in the making that sticks a lyrical boot into all aspects of 'the system' from the armed forces and the police, to the legal system and the royal family. My kinda music indeed.

OK I will be honest and say the production here is a bit rough, but as I have said before and will keep on saying when it comes to punk, production counts for nothing. Punk is about the three A's, Attack Attitude and Aggression, and those are three things that Boots N All have by the bucket load. Whats more the production here, or rather lack of only adds to that great punk DIY low budget feeling and ethos and makes the over all delivery all the better for it.

In short, what with the world of economic crisis, money grabbing bankers and Torey Governments the time is right for a bit of angry street punk to shout out for the masses, and when its Boots N All doing the shouting you just know you wanna join in.

First Rate Stuff


For fans of... Oi Polloi, Hard Skins, The Oppressed, Cockney Rejects, Chaos Reunion....

28.7.12

Various Artists - 'The Ripple Effect Presents Volume 1 - Head Music' (Ripple Music) 5/5

Five years ago a couple of Californian music lovers set up The Ripple Effect, an online magazine where they could share their love of old school stoner and modern underground rock. To say the idea was a success is a vast understatement. Since the site was launched Ripple has grown into one of the most respected music sites in the world, has its own radio station and of course Ripple Music, a label that has rapidly become one of the most vibrant and cutting edge in the whole realm of underground music with such acts as Grifter, Stone Axe, Mighty High, Mos Generator and Iron Claw on their books. Now to celebrate the first five years of The Ripple Effect they have issued this twenty three track compilation album, representing the very best of the kind of stuff Ripple have been championing over that time.


Now this compilation is a real delight to listen to, most of the 23 cuts here are previously unreleased, and every track is of the very best of whats happening on the current stoner, retro and underground classic scenes.


I'm not gonna give you a track by track breakdown, this is a free download album, go get a copy for yourself and have an explore. However I will point out a few highlights. There's the glorious stonehead groove of Torso with One, the fantastically sleazy Swear It To The Sun from Voodoo Johnson, Dark Earths highly headbangable eponymous post Sabbath work out and Concrete Sun with the underground classic of Silver Tear... infact every track on this one falls somewhere in between the 'yeah thats pretty damn good' and 'fuck me sideways that was great' camps.


There is still a huge market out there for this kind of new wave old school rock, and with retro rocking bands like Gypsyhawk and Dear Superstar on the edge of the mainstream, the market for this kind of classic rock is only gonna grow, and I have no doubt that Ripple will be there to bring you the very best of it for many years to come. Whats more this is a FREE record, so download it NOW and expand your head with the effect of ripples of superb music


Get this album NOW


For fans of... Stone Axe, Mos Generator, Fen, Black Sabbath, the classic and the underground....

Get your copy here for FREE - http://therippleeffect.bandcamp.com/album/the-ripple-effect-presents-volume-1-head-music

27.7.12

The Spittin' Cobras - 'Year Of The Cobra' (Omega Records) 5/5

If you take a couple of ex-pat Brits who have cut their teeth playing with the likes of Ginger (ex Wildhearts / Quireboys), hook them up with a couple of talented types from the musically active melting pot of Seattle, cook well in a huge pot of classic hard edged rock and roll and season with an endless series of gigs traveling in a large motorhome (thats an RV to you American types).... Then result will sound something like The Spittin' Cobras.

Gotta say from the off I'm loving this one, nine cuts of pure, no bullcrap, heads down and let the dandruff fly, air guitar a gogo old school hard rock, that once again shows that the US underground rock scene has thrown  off the post emo teen agnst fakery and the pig grunting devil worshiping sub genre fixated death thrash scenecore sensibilities and has at last remembered how to rock like bastards once more.

This album kicks off with a rather tasty headbanger called All The Way, a track that hits you like a sonic sledgehammer and pounds your brains into a gloriously satisfied mess. And then it just doesn't let up, cuts like Hooker With A Heart Of Gold, Built For Speed, Criminal Mastermind and Throw Your Horns all come at your ears like speeding bullets and pepper your head with wonderfully enjoyable rock and roll buckshot. All the greats are referenced here, Motorhead, AC/DC, Foghat, Quiet Riot, Odin, Aerosmith... and believe me this record sounds just as good as the very best those classic acts have produced.

The final track on this gem is a storming balls out rendition of the Rainbow classic Long Live Rock And Roll and when you have bands like The Spittin' Cobras out there you just know Rock and Roll aint nowhere near dead yet!!

Just Great

For Fans of... Gypsyhawk, Crash Street Kids, Antique Scream, Airbourne....

25.7.12

Gypsyhawk - 'Reverly & Resilience' (metablade) 4.5/5

Pasadena hardrockers Gypsyhawk have been causing a bit of a stir in classic rock circles over the past year. Certainly their reputation reached my ears long before any of their music did, tales of a band from California who sounded like a mad mix of Thin Lizzy, Golden Earring and UFO certainly made me keep a special eye out for them. Then I got hold of Hedgeking, the lead single from this album, and that really impressed me, and now we have this their debut album for Metalblade on our hands.

And I gotta say from the off that its every bit as good as I was expecting. Kicking off with Overloaded, a track that just drips classic Thin Lizzyisms; bass playing singer Eric Harris doing a damn fine Phil Lynott impression whilst guitarists Andrew Packer and Ian Brown do the twin lead bit in the style of the 'Renegade' era pairing of Scott Gorham and Snowy White. Hell if the late great Mr Lynott was still with us this is what Lizzy would be sounding like.

Having laid out the goods in fine style Gypsyhawk then take us on an eleven track cake walk through a damn fine classic rock soundscape. Highlights include the Golden Earring fueled The Fields, Frostwyrm with its hat tips to the likes of The Almighty and Wild Horses, the majestically epic Night Songs From The Desert and the post Motorhead rock out of The Red Wedding. Chuck in a belting cover of the Rick Derringer classic Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo to wrap the whole thing up and you have a damn fine album indeed.

It is indeed great to find acts like Gypsyhawk, who along with the likes of Crash Street Kids, The Muggs and Antique Scream are keeping the old fashioned, no bullshit hard rock flag flying proud and proving once and for all that not all modern rock and metal is inaccessible sub genres and and angry youths with emo haircuts. And long may they continue.

Highly Recommended

For Fans of... Thin Lizzy, Golden Earring, Airbourne, Crash Street Kids, Motorhead etc.....

19.7.12

Rummer And Grapes - 'Ground Control' (New Model Label) 4.5/5

Now despite being named after a London student boozer, Rummer And Grapes are in fact from Italy, and are, along with the likes of Bi-Polar Sluts, Speedjackers, Having Thin Moonshine etc part of the exciting new wave of Italian rock that is beginning to make waves beyond their homeland. They issued their debut long player a couple of years back, and have now returned with this rather cool and groovy three track ep.

Now there is lot of interesting influences on show here; a touch of good old indie / alternative rock, a hint or two of The Subways style pop punk and a smattering of good old fashioned hard rock sensibilities; all served up on a platter of Delain / Nightwish style female fronted post goth styling.

Of the three tracks on offer we get Between Darkness And Light which starts out sounding a little like Within Temptation at their very best and builds into a cracking commercial hard rocker that is dripping huge hooks and vast sweeping riffs. January 12th has a certain Lacuna Coil quality to it with its huge guitar soundscaping, spine tingling vocal and massive chorus. However the real killer cut on offer is the title track Ground Control, a ripping track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Subways or Skuzzies album, with its bouncy post punk light and choppy riffs, air punching anthem of a chorus and shiver inducing use of samples - a classic cut if ever there was.

All in all this is a great release, and goes a long way to build on the already impressive reputation of this band and for that matter new Italian rock in general

Seek and buy.

For fans of... The Subways, Nightwish, Where's Billy, Trillium etc....

15.7.12

Elisium - 'Becoming' (Self Released) 4/5

Coming out of Fredericksburg Virginia, in the USA Elisium are a three piece industrial-groove metal outfit who's mission statement reads "we believe music is more than just entertainment, and that our lives, and the very fabric of the universe are united by rhythm and vibrations and harmony. With song lyrics and themes ranging from determination, reincarnation, and man's many attempts at describing the universe, we are not afraid to tackle serious themes in powerful ways." They have have been around for eight or nine years and previously had a full length album released in 2004.


Now this six tracker (well five tracks and an intro piece) is an interesting one. Using Tool as a starting point and sounding not unlike Chicago outfit Treble Damage, these guys have cooked up a rather tasty little mini album that blends elements of industrial grind, groove metal, prog rock and pop punk into an infectious and engaging package that really does stand up to repeated listening. 


The most accessible track on offer is undoubtedly a rather fine and groovy cover of the Men Without Hats classic Safety Dance a track that has already proved a big hit with the BCFM show listeners, becoming the most requested track of the year so far. But I can't help but feel it would be shame for such a good band and album to become known for one 'novelty' cover version, for this album has a lot more to offer.


Tracks like AGV, Bombshells and especially the closer Surface all go to show that Elisium are an act to take notice of, they are heavy and grinding, light and introspective, epic in scope and heartfelt in delivery. All the marks of a damn fine band that could with a lucky break and enough determination go places.


In short a great release, and whilst it may take a bit of tracking down, believe me the effort will be worth it.


Worth a look or four


For fans of... Tool, Treble Damage, AFI, Amebix, Soundgarden.....

14.7.12

Campus - 'Empathy' (Small Town Records) 4.5/5

With two full length albums under their belt already Belgium based hardcore / screamo outfit Campus have recently undergone a bit of a line up change and are now a five piece and have just issued this their latest four track ep.

Kicking off with a rather vicious and angst fueled little rage rocker of a title track this ep is a nice short an sweet exercise in all that good about hardcore punk. Snarling and aggressive barked and growled vocals and mercilessly pound and pummel beats are inter-cut with soaring and uplifting clean vocals and some perfectly sweet melodic lead guitar lines. If your familiar with the work of the likes of Converge, While She Sleeps, Terakai, Red Enemy etc then you'll know exactly where these guys are coming from, and  if the like of the aforementioned bands are your thing then check this one out, it will be right up your street. This ep is raw to the bone, dripping bleeding heart emotion and delivered with an attitude and approach that marks them out as being up there with the very best in their field.

Of the four impressive cuts on offer, in my humble opinion the best of the crop is the closer Young Bastard, a song that just bleeds sorrow, rage, anger and rebellion from a slashed musical artery of raw emotion, then stitches the wounds with a solid wall of hard driven determination. Very Very good stuff indeed.

I know hardcore isn't everyones cup of tea, but if you like your music on the bleeding edge of empathetic emotion then you really should add this one to your collection.

Bloody Great.


For fans of.. Converge, Terakai, Red Enemy, Gay For Johnny Depp, The Hotel Ambush....

Titans Eve - 'Life Apocalypse' (self released) 4.5/5

This is the second full length offering from Vancouver metal merchants Titans Eve, a band who seam to love doing it old school and touring their butts off across their fairly vast native land in a beat up old van and to be honest its quite a good one.

There are eleven cuts on offer here (if you include the obligatory short intro and a short linking instrumental number). Mixing old school power metal in the Anvil, Exciter, Armored Saint mode with good healthy dollops of Onslaught, Megadeth, Exumer type late 80's trash, the band have in this release served up a damn fine platter of good old fashioned, no bull shit heavy metal, that sets the head banging, the pulse racing and makes even this old headbanger want to start a circle pit right here in his own office.

Just to pick a couple of highlights, there's the headlong slam dance of Life Apocalypse with its blast beat drumming and distinctive signature riffing. Then there's the high speed thrash out of Destined To Die - a cut that reminds me of Onslaughts classic 'Power From Hell' debut album; a gloriously chilled and melancholy out instrumental entitled A Wound That Never Heals - complete with a rather groovy bongo drum line!! and the divinely majestic Frozen In Time - an true mini epic if ever there was that goes from slow and acoustic to Priest-U-like twin guitar harmonies to heavy as fuck grind and pound and back again. All damn good stuff.

Got single out a couple of people here for special praise. First up the vocals of Brian Gamblin, a guy whose delivery is gruff and aggressive, yet never falls into the trap of the old cliched pig grunt all of which means you can hear what the guy has to say. And I always say if you have something to say, make sure people can hear it. Add in the fact that both Brian and his brother(?) Kyle Gamblin play a mean and impressive guitar that can balance on the line between melodic delivery and brain melting shred and the rhythm section of Jesse Hord and Casey Ory are as tight as a Scotsmans wallet and you really do have a line up that can deliver the metal in fine style. On top of that the production here is first rate, its smooth enough to give Titans Eve a huge and ear shreddingly vast and aggressive sound, yet is rough enough around the edges to keep the whole kit and caboodle bouncing along with the hungry urgency this kind of metal demands.

All in all a pretty impressive album that will win them a lot of friends. At the time of writing Titans Eve are about to hit the road in support of the legendary Anvil, so if your in Canada and get chance to see em, do so, and where ever you are in the world, buy this album. You will not regret it.

Very Impressive


For fans of... Anvil, Armored Saint, Onslaught, Six Feet Under, Portrait, Raven.....

The Effect - 'Lioness' (self released) 5/5

I first encountered young Swansea band The Effect a year or so back when they supported my outfit Alien Stash Tin over in Wales and blew us off stage, they had just released their debut ep (reviewed here) and that release proved a big hit with the people of radioland and got a lot of airplay on the BCFM show. Now they are back with this, their second ep release.

Now Lioness kicks off where the bands previous effort 'Everything has Gone' left off. There are seven tracks on off (well five main songs, an intro and a bonus track) and just like the band debut its another fine package of expertly played and produced, catchy as hell, commercial hard rock that shows these guys have a musical maturity well beyond their tender years. Batting firmly off the modern commercial hard edged rock wicket of the likes of Kids In Glass Houses, Lost Prophets, Muse, Funeral For A Friend, Shinedown etc, these lads lay down a fine edgy and angsty sound-scape for the new generation, all huge hooks, massive guitar sounds, pounding rhythms and some truly sublime breakdowns.

Now my only real criticism of the bands previous ep was the fact they lacked a little in the light and shade department, and seamed to hold back in places and never really let themselves rock out. However I'm glad to say that on this one that issue has been addressed. OK they never quite let rip into Funeral For A Friend style post hardcore aggression, but on tracks like Vulture and As The World Came Down they do step the RAWK dial up a few notches, just enough to give the band a bit of quality light and shade, and believe me they are all the better for it.

Highlights? well the whole ep is damn good and highly entertaining, but to select just two fave cuts on mine, we have to single out the title track, which is a glorious angry anthem to teen rebellion that builds from from something fairly quiet and introspective into a huge air punching anthem to die for; and the bonus track True Colours which is a superb slice of modern moshpit friendly commercial hard rock to die for.

At the moment The Effect are local heroes in parts of South Wales and almost unknown elsewhere, but if they can carry on releasing stuff like this I can only see far bigger and better things for these guys in the future. I'll watch their development with interest

Get hold of this ep NOW!!


For fans of.. Muse, Kids In Glass Houses, Shinedown, I Divide, Lost Prophets etc...

13.7.12

Wig Wam - 'Wall Street' (frontiers) 4/5

Now I'm convinced that somewhere in Scandinavia there is a big machine where talented musicians are thrown in one end and great glam rock bands come out the other, over the past year we've had Crazy Lixx, Royal Republic and many others hitting  us up with great new albums; now we have Oslo band Wig Wam with their fourth studio album Wall Street.Now if you think you have come across this lot before, then your probably either a fan of Scan-glam or your a regular viewer of the Eurovision Song Contest, this lot represented Norway in 2005 with a track called In My Dreams, a song that was number 1 in Norway for a long long time and has made them household names in their homeland.

Anyway enough of the history lesson, whats this album like? Well there are 11 tracks on offer here and over all its pretty good. The opening two cuts Wall Street and OMG (I Wish I Had A Gun) are both balls out rockers that take a swipe lyrically at cash culture, bankers, the state of the word economy. Heavy? Nah not really, its all tongue in cheek highly headbangable fun stuff. Then we have a quick change of gear for the highly quirky Victory Is Sweet with a huge chorus, children's choir, orchestral backing and massive sing-a-long hooks. And so it continues... I'm not going to give a track by track breakdown, but take it from me its all good stuff. Other highlights include The Sweet sounding The Bigger The Better, the lighter waver of a ballad in the form of Tides Will Turn (again look out for a massive hook), the dark and driven One Million Enemies and the sleaze filled sex out of Try My Body On (with the biggest hook of all!!) Not really a weak moment on show, even the aforementioned ballad isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Now if there is any justice in the world, Wig Wam would be international superstars with albums like this under their belts, but we all know that justice and the music biz don't exactly walk hand in hand, but  have no doubt that Wall Street will at the very least become a bit of fave with those who like to seek out the good music that lays beyond the stuff served up on mainstream radio.

Pretty Damn Good

For fans of... L.A.Guns, Crash Street Kids, The Sweet, Ratt, Crazy Lixx.....

Circus Maximus - 'Nine' (frontiers) 4/5

Prog metal time again, and this time its Norways own Circus Maximus in the spotlight with this their third studio outing.

Now this is a pretty slick and impressive offering from Michael Eriksen and his band of slick power prog metallers, ten cuts, each a well penned, played and produced slice of musical edification that marks this lot out as leading players in the well populated field of European prog metal.

Once you get past the obligatory short intro track you get into the real stuff, first up there's the impressive Architect of Fortune a 10 minute plus epic that manages to be involved and complex yet avoids the Dream Theater style pomposity and self indulgence. Other highlights include the maidenesque Namaste, the huge and uplifting anthem of Reach Within, and the pair of epic closing tracks, the nine minute Burn After Reading with its superb interplay between guitarist Mats Haugen and keys man Lasse Finbråten; and the ten minute plus The Last Goodbye with its long and glorious build up into a breath taking Yes influenced finale. All in all, damn fine stuff indeed.

Now all the prog metal tick boxes are met on this one; complex riff structures, tempo and key changes, huge soundscapes, deep lyrics, Yes style harmony vocals, huge choruses.... Yet there is more to the Circus Maximus sound than the traditional European prog metal cliches, theres an almost AOR / Stadium rock feel in places here, and Circus Maximus are all the better for that it gives them an accessibility many of their contemporaries lack and a sound that will win them friends beyond the hard core prog metal audience.

Over all a good and very listenable record that stand up to repeated listening.

Worth a spot purchase


For fans of.. Opeth, Yes, Royal Hunt, Dignity, Fates Warning, Dream theater....