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Bambi Killers - 'Invisible ep' (self released) 4.5/5

As I was an impressionable teenager in the late 1970's when the likes of The Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash etc exploded onto the public consciousness it is inevitable that I have developed a bit of a taste for punk of the ol' skool. So when I find a new band who play no bullshit, heads down, pogo til yer puke and have a good time doing it type punk, I tend to sit up and take notice. So with that in mind I give you this demo ep from Swansea outfit Bambi Killers.

And what a classic this is. Five tracks of good old no nonsense punk that take me screaming back to the old days of cider fueled safety-pin and bondage trouser mayhem that marked some of my earliest musical fascinations and kept me on the floor at school discos until the NWOBHM came along.

Opening with riff heavy title track, that sounds not unlike a more controlled Exploited, this disc just rocks. Vocalist Cluffy spits fire and venom like a pissed off Becky Bondage on laughing gas and the rest of the band of Pumpa, Muppet and Bom Tarker keep the thunder coming like the good 'uns they are.Get Up Get Out Get Off is a relentlessly paced slam dance floor filler. Weight Of The Morning sounds a little like Poly Styrene fronting the Subhumans and Lights Out is nifty little ode to sexual frustration in the style of The Adverts. All good stuff, very good stuff indeed.

However the real killer is the closer, a cover of the old Rolf Harris track Two Little Boys, played in the style of The Toy Dolls, that blows the balls, cock and most of the lower abdomen off the Splodgenessabounds version from the early 80's.

Having seen this outfit live a couple of time, and can safely say they are every bit as good on stage as they are in the studio; I am therefore content that the future of punk of the ol' skool is in safe hands.

In short - A must for all punk lovers

For fans of... Vice Squad, The Adverts, The Clash, Toy Dolls, The Ruts etc...


In Archives - 'Traitors' (self released) 3.5/5

I know I joke about it, but hardly a week goes past without a new metalcore outfit stuffing their latest offering into my inbox, and this week is no different. This time it's Peterborough noise merchants In Archives who are chancing their arm.

Now this outfit are very new, they only formed last year, although apparently their various members have been around on their local scene for a while, and as 'core stuff goes this aint to bad. Its brutal, got some nice lead guitar work, the traditional clean and dirty vocal interplay and riffs that variate from the fast as frigg to the dark and doomy. Tracks like Lost At Sea and The Oncoming Seasons are the sort of stuff that will keep your average circle pit going all night. 'Core fans will love it.

However, like a lot of the 'core that's around at the moment it is a bit formulaic and doesn't really stand out from the crowd of other 'core wannabes that are bombarding my in tray at the moment, but as long as In Archives are content to cater to their 'core audience and not seeking broader horizons, there is nothing wrong with that.

In Short - Core kids will love it, the rest may wanna try before they buy

For fans of ... Converge, Pay No Respect, The Bled, Skin The Pig

Black Iris - 'Black Iris' (self released) 3.5/5

It's metal time again, and this time it's Surrey outfit Black Iris who are stepping up to the plate with this four tracker to see if they can stand out from all the other hopefuls.

Well things start off promisingly. This ep's opener The Tangled Web We Weave is a bit of a classic of epic proportions, eight minutes long, nice melodic vocals counter pointed with the usual pig grunting, some fast and intense riffage and a slick widdly yet tuneful wah wah guitar solo. And thus it continues. It's Only Just Begun has hint of the old Iron Maidens to it - even to extent of sounding a tad like Phantom of the Opera on its lead break. Better Luck Tomorrow wouldn't be out of place on an Alter Bridge album whilst closer (and this ep's stand out track) Heart Still Beats is as tasteful a slice of contemporary commercial metal as anything the likes of Bullet For My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold or Killswitch Engaged could cook up.

Don't get me wrong, this ep isn't perfect, it sounds a tad too generic to be truly remarkable, but Black Iris are a young band with their first release and they show enough talent here to show that given time and guidance they could develop into something a bit special.

In Short - Worth a look.

For Fans Of.. Killswitch Engaged, Alter Bridge, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine.

Anterior - 'Echoes Of The Fallen' (metal blade) 5/5

I have been hearing good things about Anterior for sometime, nearly every band I've had on the show over recent months has been tipping them as the next big thing in UK metal, and now at last we have Echos of The Fallen, the debut album from this hotly tipped outfit. So does it live up to the expectation and hype?

The answer is a simple YES. It's been a long time since I've come across an album by a British metal band that has hit me with so much wow factor. It's tight, powerful, slick, controlled and played to absolute perfection. Echoes Of The Fallen straddles the gap between thrash and mainstream metal. You get blasts that echo (pun intended) 'The Force' - Onslaughts incredible 1986 album, the mark by which all British thrash shall be measured, yet other sections are pure Judas Priest / Iron Maiden - melodic harmony guitar lines a-go-go and then there are hints of other greats here Dragonforce, Black Sabbath, Saxon, Marshall Law... all the good stuff.

A track by track breakdown is not called for here, for every number is a complete gem but a few highlights include: the epic opening of To Live Not Remain;  some wonderfully doomy riffage in By Horror Haunted; the brain bludgeoning brutality of opening to The Evangelist - a track that resolves into something so epic Dragonforce would sell their souls to have penned; the face melting intensity of Venomous; the sublime lead guitar work on Senora de las Sombras... I could go on, but you get the picture. Basically there is not a weak moment on show here, this album is just 44 minutes of metallic heaven.

Remember this is a debut album from a fairly new band, and if they are this good at the start, just imagine what they can be once they have got a few more releases under their belt and done a few tours to hone their already impressive sound... I have a feeling we just might be witnessing here the birth of the new metal gods.

In short this is an album that MUST be added to the collection of everyone who claims to be a metal fan.

For Fans of... Slayer, Trivium, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dragonforce etc etc etc...


Fall Against Fate - 'If Not For Ourselves' (self released) 4.5/5

As I keep saying, there is an awful lot of quality metal core around in the UK at the moment, and the bar has been set very high by the likes of Cinderfall and Terakai etc, so it's getting hard and harder for any band in the that genre to stand out from the crowd. So next up for the high jump we have Fall Against Fate from Hertfordshire with their second album 'If Not For Ourselves'. Can they clear the bar and give us something to take notice of?

Well the good news is that not only do FAF clear said bar, but they have also raised it to a new level. This album ranks among the very best of what this genre has to off. It' powerful, intense, brutal and slick, yet at the same time shows enough invention, melody and intelligence to mark it out as something beyond the ordinary, something to hail as genre defining.

Every track here is something special, from the semi commercial melody's of So Real, to the Rolo Tomassi like Le Corps and the wonderfully titled mini epic I Hate Godzilla, He Destroys Cities (funny I love Godzilla for the same reason), each track is a real gem that entertains, brutalises, enthralls and enraptures at the same time. Amazing stuff.

So in conclusion if you like your metalcore then buy this album. And if your in a band that plays metal core pay special attention, for this is the album that sets the standard.

For fans of...  Pay No Respect, Maliface, Rolo Tomassi, Cindersfall etc...

Byron Nemeth Group - 'The Force Within' (digital nations) 4/5

Ok I'll have to be up front and say I've always had a bit of an issue with solo guitar instrumental albums... all that technical mindless widdle the likes of Yngwie Malmstein and co used to serve up left me cold and wondering what the hype was about. It was 99% style over substance, technically superb, but to the average listener who wasn't a guitar wank freak, it was soulless and lacking in any form of imagination. However over the past few months I've had a couple of releases arrive through my door that have made me take another look at the whole guitar instrumental album thingy. first up we've had 'War march' from Sacred mother Tongue axpert Andy James, and now this little tasty offering from Ohio g-meister Byron Nemeth.

On first listening I began to realise that this album is less Malmsteinesque mindless masturbation and more Ronnie Montrose / Steve Hackett style guitar lead prog; in fact the title track from this album wouldn't seam out of place on one Mr Hacketts more recent offerings with its slick melodic lead lines and synth wash backing. I will go as far as to say that melody is the key word here, Yes Mr Nemeth does go in for the odd bit of technical flashiness, such as the conclusion to Frankenstein's Lullaby, nowhere does he make the mistake and let his playing descend into the mindless blur so many so called guitar heroes consider playing. The whole album does come over as a band work rather than a solo guitar album, the keyboards share just as much of the lead work as the guitar does, and each track is a complete piece of music rather than being an excuse for yet another 5 minute guitar solo. And for that I, and everyone else who hates six string onanism must be thankful for.

Just to select a few choice moments; Dream Catcher is a great track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Yes album, I Don't Mind is a beautiful chill out moment and the closer I am The Walrus (yes the Beatles number) comes over like a classic cover by The Shadows.

All in all a worthy album and a must hear for lovers of all good guitar music

for fans of... Steve Hackett, Ronnie Montrose, The Shadows et al...

Lenny Kravitz - 'Black And White America' (roadrunner records) 4/5

It only seams like yesterday Lenny Kravitz seamed to explode out of nowhere with his infectious funk groove driven brand of hard rock, so I'm a little amazed that he now reached album number 9 in the form of 'Black and White America', how times flies when your having fun! Anyway the bottom line is there's a new LK album around and it's a pretty good one.

Musically this album does just what it says on the tin, it's a stylistic cake walk through the history of American popular music from both the white and African American traditions. you get tracks like the Black And White America itself and Come On Get It that are firmly rooted in the P-funk traditions of Parliament, The Faith of A Child is classic gospel, Rock Star City Life and In The Black and good old hard rockers with a Tom Petty vibe about them, Liquid Jesus is a track that drips classic soul and Motown influence and tracks like Boongie Drop heads off into hip-hop territory (featuring as it does a certain Jay Z as guest rapper).

The album is well played, well penned and well performed. My only complaint being that in trying to embrace so may different styles and genres on one album, and doing each one so well, this album does in places hang together more like a compilation release rather than a full blown album, but as individual tracks there is nothing to find fault with here.

Highlights? well the disco strut of Superlove features some great guitar work, Looking Back On Love has more than a hint of the Carlos Santana's to it (and I love Carlos) and my personal fave cut is the sleazy rock stomp of Stand.

Couple the musical excellence with lyrics that talk about racial harmony, love, peace and empowerment (man) you have a really good and very listenable album. Nice one Mr Kravitz

For fans of... Good American music in all it's guises.


The Dirty Youth - 'Fight' (RMR records) 4/5

This is the new single / sampler from female fronted Welsh rockers The Dirty Youth and its a rather interesting little three track package.

Starting with Fight itself, the lead single from their forthcoming debut album these lads and lass lay out their stall in fine style. The track sounds like either Within Temptation without the gothic pretensions or maybe Kids In Glass Houses on a metal trip, depending on how you look at it. But whatever your view point you can't deny that this is a great slice of headbangable old school style metal. They follow on with the B-side Crying Out For You, that keeps the pace up in fine style whilst sounding a tad like the late lamented SAL. Then we have the bonus track, a stripped down piano/vocal version of This Is For You, which for me provides the high point of this worthy release. This track is spine shiver inducing to the extreme and shows that there is more than one string to the bow of this promising young outfit.

With the once great SAL sadly no more the field is open for The Dirty Youth to claim the crown as kings of South Welsh female fronted hard rock as their own, and judging by this release they might just as well do it. Well worth checking out.

for fans of.. SAL, Paramour, Within Temptation, Doro, etc


The Kix - 'The Kix (demo ep)' (Self Released) 5/5

Women in rock bands are nothing unusual these days, but all girl rock bands are still a fairly rare beast. This is a shame cos in the past we've seen outfits like Fanny, The Runaways, Girlschool, Rock Goddess, Vixen, Jezzabelle, L7 etc who have all proved that the so called 'fairer sex' can lay down just as much thunder as the fellas. Well now we have The Kix come along to add their names to the honour role of women who can rock with the very best of the blokes.

The Kix are based in Aberdare, South Wales, and play rock of the old school in the vein of Girlschool, Rock goddess etc. Now I can't help but notice some interesting parallels between these talented young ladies and the classic NWOBHM outfit Rock Goddess. They consist of two sisters on guitar and drums and a best friend who plays the bass, they are still in their late teens and early 20's and play an infectious brand of groove driven rock and metal (hell drummer Charlotte even looks a little like RG drummer Julie Turner did in the early 80's). All of this is fine with me, I loved Rock Goddess and always thought they should have been huge.

But don't think for one minute that these girls are a Rock Goddess clone outfit. There is a lot of good stuff going on this five track offering. the opener Look Alive cuts in with a riff that sounds a little like Orgasmatron era Motorhead, then has a couple of riffs that sounds a bit Groundhogsy. Louder Than Words is a glorious glam punk work out in the Runaways style, Out of The Blue has a hint of the Iron Maidens about it. Same Old Story is a stomping semi blues fueled rock-out track with a delicious break down section in the middle and Off My Back has the feel of a classic Suzi Quatro number. Not a duff track on offer here and the louder you play it the better it sounds.

Much praise is due here for the musicianship on show as well, vocalist / guitarist Sam Bolderson has the looks and voice of Joan Jett and the guitar playing ability of the late great Kelly Johnson, her sister Charlotte on the kit is duck arse tight and smacks the pig skin with a power that is inversionally proportionate to her size and underneath it all is the rock solid bass playing of Kate Marshall who must surely rank along side the aforementioned Ms Quatro and Enid Williams as proof that women can play as good as any man. Whats more, I've seen these girls live and and they can do it in concert as well as in the studio and to say I'm blown away by The Kix is an understatement.

In short - A fantastic demo from a band that should be bound for big things.

For fans of... Girlschool, AC/DC, Motorhead, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue etc...


Elephant 12 - 'Elephant 12' (I Blame The Parents Records) 4/5

Now I will confess from the start I really can't stand dance music, repetitive bass lines and endless 4 to the floor drum beats really do bring out a psychotic reaction in me, I have get away from it or I find I have a growing rage and an urge to physically attack the DJ or band or whatever is producing the noise. This intense dislike extends to dance/rock fusion outfits like Prodigy, Does it Offend You Yeah and Pendulum as well, so when I received this new EP from Elephant 12 and read the release blurb, I was quite prepared for the worst, and was all geared up to spit venom in the face of another bunch of rage inducing fusion merchants.

However after a couple of play troughs, the first rather tenuous and subsequent ones at louder volumes, I am glad to report there is nothing here to induce rage. Far from it, this ep is less dance/rock fusion and more hip-rock mash up; and I am partial to rap in small doses and have a lot of time for acts like King Prawn and Rage Against The Machine, who blend rock and rap and electronica; and as this is where Elephant 12 are coming from I will admit I'm beginning to get quite a liking for this ep. Nowhere does the electronica and dance drum beats ever impose on the music, they are there to kick the songs along, but it's the vocals and the guitar riffs that focus the interest just like all good rock should do.

The over all effect does sound like the aforementioned King Prawn jamming with the aforementioned RATM, melodic semi rapped vocals with a hard punk / SKA edge over laying some great metal riffage. All four tracks are great, but to me the real killer is the dark and brooding Money Talks a great little song that really does have a very infectious groove to it.

In short - a cracking little ep that's worth checking out.

For fans of... Rage Against The Machine, Primus, King Prawn, Lillydamnwhite etc....

21 Against - '21 Against' (self released) 3.5/5

21 Against are yet another of those annoyingly talented Welsh outfits, and like a lot of those annoyingly talented Welsh bands, this lot come from Llanelli. This 6 track mini album is apparently their second release and they are getting a fair following in the US and Canada already having toured over the pond a few times.

First up I gotta say there is nothing wrong with this album, it's expertly played, well produced and shows a great flair for song writing. In fact a couple of tracks on here are real classics. The opener Say What You Need kicks of with some tasty power chordage then soon cuts into a great little bop along number that wouldn't sound out of place on an album by their compatriots and near neighbours V0iD, Breakdown has a certain Lostprophets air to it and the closer Shouldered is a great anthem that should get the most hardest to please crowd going when performed live.

However in other places they are sadly heading into Nickleback / 30 Seconds To Mars territory and while that may be fine for fans of modern US rock radio and Kerrang fm, for anyone looking for more than the same old commercial rock fodder it comes over as a bit of a disappointment. Maybe its all those trips stateside are having an effect, but I can see a danger here of a great band alienating its home fans in order to obtain the mighty dollar.

Still 21 Against as a band have a lot to recommend them and this album is still good enough to be worth checking out, please don't let my own tastes distract you from something you may like, and I'm sure whether in the UK or the US they are a band with a worthy future ahead of them.

In short - worth checking out

for fans of... V0iD, Lostprophets, 30 Seconds To Mars, Stereophonics... etc


Red Enemy - 'What We Are Contained In Is What We Are' (Invictus Music) 4/5

It's been a while since we had a band out of the Irish Republic to make us sit up and take notice, recently it's been Wales that has been the musical powerhouse of these islands. However just to remind us that the Emerald Isle is still rocking we have this rather tasty ep from Red Enemy.However don't think for a single minute that because this lot are from Eire that your gonna get Horslips style folksy shenanigans, U2 style stadium rock or even  Thin Lizzy you like jiggy hardrock. Far from it. Red Enemy play hardcore with a capital 'ard and take about as many prisoners as Brian Boru did at the Battle of Clontarf.

This five tracker is brutal to the extreme - cuts like Betrayal and No One Will Remember Our Names attack your ears and sensibilities with all the power, rage and anger of a gang of feral youths on a looting spree in Croydon. Guitar riffs bark away like machine gun fire, drums pound the ears with a relentless tattoo and over it all is some menacing growled vocalisations that spit venom and bile like the wrath of the Morrigon.

I've gotta admit I am partial to a bit of hardcore from time to time and as far as hardcore stuff goes this is one of the best debuts I've encountered in a fair while, It's tight and in your face without ever loosing control of the feeling of pent up menace the ep generates. I can see Red Enemy becoming big players in the angry world of hardcore - Highly Recommended

For fans of - Converge, The Bled, Dillinger Escape Plan etc...


Death Remains - 'A Thousand Lives' (self released) 4/5

Yup it's Brit metalcore time again, and this time it's London hopefuls Death Remains who are stepping up to the plate with this, their four track debut ep.

Now there's an awful lot of this sort of stuff around at the moment, and for any band to stand out from the hundreds of wannabes out there, they have to serve up something a little bit special, and whilst A Thousand Lives isn't exactly earth shattering, it is noteworthy enough to make peeps take notice of them. Take the second track Cincinnati Bow Tie, it bops along like most standard metalcore releases with horse growled vocals and old school thrash metal riffage at a relentlessly frenzied pit friendly pace, then suddenly it cuts to a brief section that can be only described as a sublime doom metal moment. Great stuff.

In fact all four of the tracks on offer here have some trick up their sleeve to make them stand out out from the crowd. In addition to the aforementioned Cincinnati Bow Tie; Innocence has a couple great layered harmony clean vocal sections; Diminished Responsibility also features a grind doom moment to relieve the brutality (or maybe to grind your face into the floor with) and Laid To Waste breaks up the bludgeon with some nice rhythmic variations and machine gun burst drum fills.

It remains to be seen if Death Remains can keep the interest going over more than a four track ep, but the signs are promising and I'll be keeping an eye on their progress from here on in.

In short - A worthy debut

For fans of... Malefice, Terakai, Cindersfall, Pay No Respect, etc...


Zombie Xtras - 'Devil In The Flesh' (self released) 4/5

When BCFM and The Sunday Rockshow first launched, one of the first bands I sort of connected with was Birmingham Zombie Xtra's. They had just put out a remarkable mini album entitled 'The Killing Fields'. It was an album I took too immediately, it got played a lot on the show and ended up on the shortlist for our album of the year award.

Now four years later ZX are hitting us with their second album 'Devil In The Flesh'. I'll be honest here, 'Devil In The Flesh' isn't as immediate as 'The Killing Fields', the Rage Against The Machine influenced groove that made Killing Fields so effective is not so obvious this time around, instead Devil In The Flesh has a more old school metal groove to it and comes over almost like Black Sabbath on a stoner groove trip.

However I'm not saying that this release is any lesser a work than it's predecessor. It may not have hit me with Killing Fields in your face 'wow' factor, but after living with this record for a few weeks I'm finding I'm still loving every one of the seven tracks on offer here.The grinding bludgeon of the title track, the damnation boogie of Invocation and the epic Sabbathesque The Longest Journey are especially praise worthy. This album really is a grower.

Although I will say my favourite cut on offer here is the bonus track Redneck Agenda, a song with some biting political lyrics that really does sound a little like ZZ Top on a Cradle Of Filth trip.

If you've encountered Zombie Xtra's before you really should track down this album, I promise you you will not be disappointed. On the other hand if your new to these guys, Devil In The Flesh is as good a place to start as any.

Well worth checking out.

for fans of... Black Sabbath, In Solitude, Stone Axe...


Theory Of A Deadman - 'The Truth Is..' (roadrunner) 1/5

This is the fourth full length album from Canadian stadium rockers Theory of A Deadman and the good news, for fans of the band, is that this typical TODM material, fans of the band will love it. However the bad news, for people who like good music is that there is another TODM album thats gonna be all over MTV, Kerrang FM, youtube, planet rock etc... and drive us all to distraction.

I honestly can't see the attraction in this lot. On the whole this album, is insipidly bland, average in performance and musicianship at best and produced in that 'lets try to be edgy when were not' style of production that modern stadium rockers love so much (hello Nickleback, Bon Jovi et al.)

I've played through this album several times now, trying to find something positive to say, and yes I will say that on two or three tracks there are a few memorable riffs. But that's about it I'm afraid. Even those songs that start with a good riff, soon degenerate into bland pop rock fodder. Tyler Connolly's lead guitar work is some of the most uninspired I've heard in a long time, with the sole exception of eight bars in the middle of Drag me To Hell he is content to blandly play the melody of the verse he has just sung, and the rest of the band never do much else to raise this turgid music mess even a few inches of the cesspit of pap this album creates around itself.

And then we come to to Mr Connolly's lyrical musings. Over the whole album his blind sexism and hatred of women shines out like the neon banner of a wife beaters convention. Scan through the lyrics and you soon get the idea that he LOVES women. Providing they are 'On Their Knees' performing acts of oral sex on him and 'shutting the fuck up', other than that they are are all bitches that should either shape up or ship out, or get a 'good slap'. Now over one or two songs I could dismiss this as writing 'in character' but over every song on 46 minute long album (and previous releases as well).... that says to me the guy either has serious issues he should get looked at, or he is a complete arsehole that needs to learn that real men don't slap and abuse women. Maybe you could get away with this stuff to an extent in the 1980's, but even the likes of AC/DC and Guns And Roses never went that far and with that much venom. It's an outdated attitude that's not only offensive, but shows the complete lack of self esteem of female 'fans' who let him get away with it.And a curse on all the TV stations and Radio stations who continue to encourage him by playing his sexist bullshit all the time.

So that's it, it's albums like this that make me shun the mainstream as a whole. Why bother with this crap when you can listen to the recent releases by the likes of Yes, Iron Claw, Powerwolf, Work of Art, The Effect and even Kids in Glass Houses? come on I'm waiting for an honest and intelligent answer.

In short - a terrible album, avoid like the plague

for fans of... bland music and spousal abuse.

Yes - 'Fly From Here' - (Frontiers Records) 5/5

For many Yes without Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman are a hollow shell. This happened many years ago, and the hollow shell re emerged with a cracking album in "Drama" - Fast forward 31 years and people are saying exactly the same thing now Yes are again without Jon and Rick. But has history repeated itself? Is the new album "Fly From here" a cracking album? You bet your proggy album collection it is.

First thing you have to understand is that this new album is no "Close To The Edge" or "Relayer" but then again nothing the band did afterwards with Jon and Rick measured up to those masterworks.
What we have here is catchy melodies that twist and turn into your mind and stay there in a good earworm sort of way. Steve Howe delivers some of his best lead guitar work for a number of years and is prominent on many tracks.

The title track is nearly 24 minutes of musical heaven, with all the Yes sensibilities you could want.
"The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be" features a lovely Chris Squire lead vocal and i kid you not, also a beautiful McCartney bass line near the end.

"Life On A Film Set" starts off with a sound very reminiscent of early King Crimson or one of the beautiful Greg Lake moments of ELP before sucking you right into the vortex of that quirky Yes sound. I always loved the earlier prog laced with pop sensibilities of Yes when they first started out and this song ticks all the boxes.
The Steve Howe penned "Hour Of Need" is a beautiful little 3 minute number ( although this author would have preferred the full 6 plus minute version only available on the Japanese release - Only a minor gripe though )

"Solitaire" is a Howe penned acoustic number evoking memories of "Mood For A Day" from the "Fragile days" and finally "Into The Storm" ends the whole kooboodle off in rousing fashion with Steve Howe again to the fore with a great solo at the end, and the whole band sounding as if they are truly enjoying themselves.
Benoit David is not Jon Anderson and Geoff Downes is not Rick Wakeman, but hell who cares when you have a collection of songs as good as these lovingly produced by Mr Trevor Horn.

My verdict is this "Yes" sound refreshed, rejuvenated and bloody damn great.


for fans of - classic progressive rock


Powerwolf - 'Blood Of The Saints' (metal blade) 5/5

I've got a real soft spot for the big Teutonic epic power-metal stuff. I've loved it ever since I first discovered the likes of Helloween and Mercyful Fate way back in the 1980's (Yes I know MF are Danish, but lets not split hairs here). I was over the moon when Dignity scooped our Album of The year award a few years ago with their Project Destiny album, and just when I was getting a bit fatigued by the endless wave of metalcore wannabes I was being sent, along come the mighty Powerwolf to remind me, and the world in general that metal is at its best when given the vast epic treatment.

This is the fourth album from these Germano-Romanian gods of steel, and it is faultless. From the atmospheric opener of Angus Dei to the closer of Ira Sancti (When The Saints Are Going Wild), Blood of The Saints is one full on, gloriously over blown, epic work that is as vast in concept as it is in delivery. Choirs chant layer after layer of harmonious backing vocals, church organs duel with freak out guitar solos and the middle of it all, standing like proud metal guardians of the wolfs den of rock are the band themselves, laying down some of the best epic metal thunder I've heard since Manowars Triumph of Steel album.

Like their earlier releases there are lots of Werewolf references on this album, and there is nothing at all wrong with that, the world needs a lot more Lupine-metal anyway. But it isn't all howls at the moon stuff. There is a wonderful cleaver and tongue in cheek approach to the lyrics, just check out Sanctified By Dynamite, Dead Boys Don't Cry and Murder At Midnight to see exactly what I mean.

I've had this album for a few weeks now, and I just can't stop playing it, over and over at very loud volumes (my neighbours must love me). I'm sure if you give this album one play through you'll be doing the same.

One of the best metal albums of the year so far.

For Fans Of... ManOwar, Mercyful Fate, Dignity, Helloween, Turisas etc

Arcite - 'We Lie Awake' (self released) 4/5

Geordieland (Newcastle-On-Tyne to you non English readers) has a fine metal tradition, in the past its given us the likes of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Venom, Warfare, Skyclad, Sabbat, Atomktaft and of course Raven, and now we can add Arcite to this honour role.

This self released 5 track ep is a bit of a killer. It's brutal, aggressive and superbly delivered. Even the weakest track on offer, the opener Asylum, is a bludgeoning wall of riffage that takes no prisoners, and it gets better from there. By the time you get to the midway point of In My Family Arcite are sounding like Cradle of Filth on steroids as they lay down a relentless barrage of brain crushing thrash and throat rotting growled vocals. However this eps real gem is the closer  In Taylor's Eyes - a full on metal assault of the ear drums that wouldn't sound out of place on a Malefice album, and when the singer cuts the growling and suddenly goes into an almost melodic ascending sixths section you get a real shiver down the spine. This track alone is worth tracking this ep down for and should become seen in future years as something of a classic.

I am amazed that this rather talented band are still unsigned, (Where are Transcend when you need them?) but I can't see them staying that way for long. Highly Recommended

For fans of... The More I See, Sacred Mother Tongue, Malefice, Revoker...


Mutant Beatniks - 'Fountain' (self released) 4/5

 Now for something completely out of leftfield, and to be honest I'm not sure if you can call this music.I had better explain. Mutant Beatniks are a loose collective of producers and sound technicians working out of Bath in the UK. They take a radical approach to their work, using 'found sounds' - sometimes location recordings, other times sounds found on old tapes and videos salvaged from charity shops,  and snippets of radio and TV broadcasts; to create audio sculptures and sound scape paintings. 

Its hard to describe or compare this stuff with anything else, the closest I can think of is maybe the early sonic experimentation of White Noise, or those linking sections you find on some of the early Hawkwind albums. Haunting noises flow in and out of your hearing, cats cries transmute into the sound of sea gulls and into waves, bagpipe drones become inter weaving sonic strands that play tag around your hearing range, snippets of conversation become 'almost' drum beats.... Its very hard to describe, and has to be experienced to be understood.

The best way to experience this, or any other Mutant Beatniks material (there are a fair few albums about), is in a darkened room, with head phones and just trance out as the sound flows over you. It is a most enjoyable sonic experience I assure you. There are 15 tracks on offer here, but it would be wrong to single out any moment for praise above any other moment. Listening to this album is like walking around an art instillation, it must be enjoyed as a whole to gain the full impact of this remarkable work.

Is this music, is this sonic art? I don't know, but I do know it is a most interesting and rewarding sonic experience.

For Fans of... Avant-garde experimentation, and sonic art.

 'Fountain' can be downloaded free from here...

Kids In Glass Houses - 'In Gold Blood' (roadrunner) 4/5

This is the third full length opus from young Cardiff based upstarts Kids In Glass Houses, and marks a significant change from their older material. This album has ditched a lot of the pop punk sensibilities and sees the band heading in a more mainstream rock direction. Now I know this may cause the inevitable cries of 'sell out' from some of their older fans, but it will also make many people, like myself, who were not overly struck on their older material give them a second look.

To be honest In Gold Blood is a great rock album, Tracks Like Teenage Wonderland, Gold Blood and Animals are superb slices of commercial rock, catchy hooks, danceable beats and infectious grooves, yet at the same time intelligently constructed with great lyrics.And I've gotta give praise to the rhythm section of Andrew Shay and Philip Jenkins for driving the whole thing along with such energy.

Stand out tracks?  Well every one of the 11 songs on offer here is a winner, but I do have a particular liking to Fire with its lazy back beat and late night sax solo, Diamond Days - which sounds a little like a Don Henley track and Black Crush which provides the albums true rock out moment.

In a world where the commercial rock scene is too often dominated by bland insipid uninspiring tripe (yes Nickleback, Theory of A Deadman, 30 Seconds To Mars - I AM looking at you), this album is a breath of fresh air. Highly Recommended.

for fans of... Fightstar, Funeral For A Friend, Lostprophets, 30 Seconds To Mars etc...


Jorn - 'Live In Black' (frontiers records) 4.5/5

Norwegian metal master Jørn Lande is a busy bugger. Not only is he working his nuts off with Masterplan and Allen Lande; guesting on albums by Avantasia, Push king and ex Uriah Heep keys wizard Ken Hensley; performing in rock operas AND organizing Ronnie James Dio tributes, but he can still find time to record and tour with his own solo project Jorn. And it's with Jorn that this his latest release comes. Live In Black, is of course a double live CD set, recorded at last years Sweden Rocks festival and comes with a DVD to accompany the live audio albums (sadly the DVD was not issued in the promo package I received so I'll leave that out of this review).

Now it is my sad duty to report that I'm not 100% up to speed on this guys career, all I've heard is the odd Masterplan track and a few tracks off his Ken Hensley collaboration; and I'm now beginning to wonder what I have been missing, cos I'm liking what I'm hearing here very muchly. Not only does Mr Jørn sound uncannily like the late great Ronnie James Dio in his vocal inflection, range and delivery, whilst his band comes over like a glorious mixture of Dio, Tony Martin era Sabbath and Accept with a hint of the Judas Priests thrown in as well. In short, all the great metal stuff that provided the sound track to my youth. The overall result is a live album that easily stands alongside the likes of Live Evil, Live After Death and the other great metal live albums of years gone by.

Highlights? Well the power wail of Stormcrow is spine tingling, the relentless plod and pound of Spirit Black is truly epic, the riffing on Man Of the Dark is to die for and Soul of The Wind has just gotta be a true metal classic. Hell I'm not normally one who cares too much for cover versions, but there's a version of Thin Lizzy's Are You Ready on here that can only be described as a belter.

I'm now gonna go off and track down the rest of this guys stuff and I'll advise anyone with a taste for good old school metal to buy this album, and do the same.

For fans of.. Dio, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween etc...

Work Of Art - 'In Progress' (frontiers records) 4/5

There is a lot of good stuff coming out of Sweden at the moment, so far this year we have had some killer product from Royal Republic, In Solitude, Sister and now pop-proggers Work Of Art are here with their second studio album to show us that not only does Sweden still rock like a good 'un, but they can do it in all genres.

Coming from the same starting point of the likes of Asia, Magnum and Saga; In Progress is one of the best pop-prog albums I've come across in a good few years. The opener The Rain sets out Work of Arts stall in fine style and the rest of the album keep up the pace, even the odd p*w*r b*ll*d like Once Again is saved from lighter waving naffness by some tasty guitar work and some epic key changes.

Highlights include the synth driven stomp of Never Love Again, the Magnumesque Eye of The Storm, with its off the wall moog solo; the Styx influenced Call On Me and the surprisingly headbangable Emeile. however for me the best track on offer here is Until You Believe, which has a touch of the Cheap Tricks about it.

No doubt about it, you'll have to go along way to find an album in this genre that is this good and this memorable. Highly Recommended.

For fans of... Magnum, Asia, Cheap Trick, Saga, Styx, etc...

Xorigin - 'State Of The Art' (frontiers records) 3/5

There is a place where AOR, prog rock and hard rock meet, and if you look at that point carefully there you will find Norwegian outfit Xorigin. Now as far as I can make out, this lot have been around for a good few years, but have only just got around to issuing their debut album. And I gotta say its not a bad effort.

Sounding like a multi band horror smash between Europe, Loverboy, It Bites, Vow Wow and Glory; State Of the Art is a nicely performed 11 song package with some great cover art work. Over all it reminds me of American melodic rock legends Drive, She Said, especially on tracks like Too Late, Crying For You and The One For Me. And that leads me to my main issue with this album. just like Drive, She Said, you know there is a damn fine hard rock band in here somewhere, but they just don't quite deliver the goods when you want them to. Everything is a little to restrained and too controlled. Where as Europe, Loverboy and especially Vow Wow really knew how to cut loose and rip it up from time to time; Xorigin just tend to play it a little too safe. While this restraint works well on softer more AOR type numbers like Said And Done and In The Blink Of An Eye, when it comes to the rockier tracks like Gina, your just wishing they would live a little more on the RAWK side and really give it more stick.

Still this IS an old metal head speaking, and over all the album is very pleasurable and contains a really nice surprise in the form of What Love is All About, which sounds like Big Generator era Yes, and is a track worth getting the album for in its own right.

In conclusion - Try before you buy, unless your a real AOR head.

For fans of... Yes, Asia, Journey, Glory, Europe, Drive She Said

Toby Hitchcock - 'Mercury's Down' (frontiers records) 3.5/5

With US proggers Pride of Lions taking a couple of years out, it is inevitable at the solo albums would come crawling out of the wood work - and so we have this effort from vocalist Toby Hitchcock to keep the fans deck happy until the Pride reforms.

First impressions are that Mercury's Down is a tad more commercial than POL. This is less Asia / Mystery and more Toto / Journey so to speak. Not that that is a bad thing on the whole, I'm not adverse to a little stadium AOR once in a while, and as stadium AOR albums go this isn't a bad one.

You have some fantastic rock out tunes on this album, Strong Enough features some guitar work to die for, If It's to Be (It's Up To Me) is a belting feel good anthem in the Journey mode; 'I've got what it takes now, I'll make my own breaks now...' - whilst Just Say Goodbye hits home with all the power and verve of a classic Night Ranger track. And there can be no doubting that Mr Hitchcock has the perfect voice for the genre, he comes over like a pumped up Steve Perry meets Lou Gramm on steroids; supreme power, perfect control and pitch perfect.. All good stuff.

OK there a couple of tracks where where this album sinks towards stadium rock cliche, most noticeably on the  inevitable power ballad One Day I'll Stop Loving You (lighters at the ready people) and on the opening sections of the John Farman-esque A Different Drum. But thankfully those moments are more than off set by tracks such as Tear Down the Barricades and the title track closer.

In short a worthy addition to the canon of AOR must haves

For fans of... Journey, Toto, Survivor, Night Ranger, Loverboy


Trivium - 'In Waves' (roadrunner records) 4/5

Now I know I'm going against a certain trend here, I know its fashionable to slag off Trivium as having sold out, and lost their 'metal core' roots. But hell I'm going to nail my colours to the mast and say this is the first Trivium album I really like. OK the older albums may have been heavier, more 'core, more moshpit friendly and less commercial than In Waves, but they never really impressed me, they were ok ,but other bands did it better, far better in some cases, and I found a lot of Triviums output boring.

But with In Waves, their fifth full length release I am glad to say they have matured as a band and are showing there is more to these Florida noise merchants than pubescent mosh music for 'core scene kids, and are beginning to show Trivium are an intelligent outfit, that has something to offer to the wider rock world in general.

On tracks like Watch the World Burn, Black and Inception of The End they are heading into Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Armored Saint territory, sweet guitar solos, catchy hooks and killer - yet controlled riffage. There is still a fair bit of 'core in here as well, numbers like At Skyline's Severance are still moshable enough to keep your average pit happy, and my fave track on the album 'Caustic Are The Ties That Blind' manages to blend face shredding growled trash with a middle section that wouldn't sound out of place on a Blue Oyster Cult album (I kid you not).

I have a good feeling about this album, this could be the one that promotes Trivium from the championship league of 'core wannabe's into the premier league of world metal bands. I know some of the less open minded metal fans may equate this with 'selling out', but anyone with half an ounce of musical intelligence will understand this is progress and will be glad to see the maturing of a great band who are bound to conquer a wider audience with this great album. Highly Recommended.

for fans of... Megadeth, Underoath, Machine Head and great metal in general.

Aliases - 'Safer Than Reality' (basick records) 3/5

There nothing essentially wrong with this debut release from UK progressive metalcore outfit Aliases, It's well played, ticks all the right boxes for the genre... fairly complex song structures... CHECK, shouty death grunt vocals interspersed with some melodic vocalisations... CHECK, jerky chuggy riffs with 'star burst' bits of guitar widdling... CHECK etc etc etc. In fact its a damn fine and very listenable little mini album.

It's just that as a whole this album stays a little too close to its title, and comes over more than a little safe. The complex structures just aint as complex as say Periphery, the riffage doesn't let rip in the way Terakai does, the vocals are set to stun, rather than to kill like Skin The Pig. In short each time you listen through you find the experience enjoyable rather than memorable and your wishing the experience was a little more full on, a little more intense.

You see there is a lot of this sort of stuff coming out of the UK at the moment, and a lot of it is extremely good, and whilst I can't find any real fault with Safer Than Reality, I can't find anything here to make it stand out from the crowd either. They come close in a couple of places, such as on Sirens and The Reality of Beliefs; but even those tracks tend to fall slightly short of being truly memorable.

In short... Close but no cigar

For fans of... Terakai, Skin the Pig, The Bled, Pay No Respect...

Grifter - 'Grifter' (ripple music) 4.5/5

OK, first up, PLEASE do NOT confuse this outfit with a rather limp indie shoegaze band from the states of similar name. If you want angst ridden teeny post rock walk away now and save yourself a whole world of pain and possible ear damage... If however you want to hear some down and dirty good old biker rock from Plymouth in the UK, then stick around, cos I think you'll like.

Formed by a group of veterans from the Plymouth area rock scene, Grifter have been around since 2003 and have chalked up a long list of self released eps that have won them friends and rave reviews all over the UK, and now they are hitting us with their first full length album. And worra album it is; dripping classic hard rock sensibilities from first to last this album just rocks. There's the smattering of all the greats in Grifters balls out rock approach; ZZ Top, AC/DC,  Juicy Lucy... even bits of some of those great but forgotten NWOBHM outfits like Split Beaver, Handsome Beasts and After Dark. Basically this right up my musical alley. It ain't original, it ain't cleaver, it is just rock and roll with a capital RAWK.

There's 11 tracks here, and each one is a stomping greasy down and dirty biker bash floor filler, and with titles like Asshole Parade, Strip Club, Piss And Gas et al. you know EXACTLY where these guys are coming from; and in a time when too many rock bands are trying to be over cleaver and too flash for their own good Grifter are a breath of fresh air.

Highlights? well the album is one long highlight, but I will confess the damnation boogie of Young Blood Old Veins with its message of keep on rockin' strikes a particular chord with this aging old rocker 'THE CLOCK'S TICKING - BUT I'M NOT LISTENING..' Hell yeah!!

Buy this album, and play it LOUD!

For fans of -  Dumpy's Rusty Nuts, Handsome Beasts, Airbourne, Rose Tattoo, AC/DC, ZZ top etc

Imperial Vengeance - 'Black Heart Of Empire' (transend records) 4/5

This is the second full length album from Essex 'steam metal' outfit Imperial Vengeance, and after their flirtation with World War One on their debut release 'At The Going Down Of The Sun', they now step back in time and serve up a delicious slice of metallic Victorianism that can only be described as a complete gem. This album even sounds Victorian, with its haunting orchestrated passages, gin palace pianos and penny dreadful narrated sections. Hell if they really did have heavy metal in Victorian England I could well image Charles Dickens being in this band, or at least serving up some lyrics for them.

The albums first four tracks: Scenes Of Inked Treachery / Black Heart Of Empire / The Voice Of Thelema / The Ghost Of Light form a nice little conceptual suite in the aforementioned 'penny dreadful' style. (Apparently, on release the album will come with a 'penny dreadful' novella to accompany it - sadly my advanced review copy didn't come with it, so I can't comment). But from what I can make out it's a dark and twisted tale of hauntings, death and terror... all good stuff.

Beyond the concept section the album continues in much the same vein. Main man C Edward Alexander (ex Cradle Of Filth) is in fine form, with barked vocals, driven guitar work and powerful orchestrated sections, and there's some tasty operatic vocalisations from guest song bird Lori Lewis (vocalist with Therion) to provide the perfect counterpoint to the Blind Beggar knife fight brutality; this is most true on The Devil In The Detail, which for me is the standout track on this really rather excellent album.

Now I wonder if this is available on wax cylinder?

For Fans of... Cradle Of Filth, Cathedral, Within Temptation, Whitechapel etc..