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30.9.11

Novel Of Sin - ' Sound Of Existence' (Kreative Klan) 4/5

I get a lot of acts through my inbox who try to claim to be 'extreme', sadly when it comes down to it very few make muster and most sound pretty ordinary. However there are exceptions, and Italian outfit Novel Of Sin are one of them.Hailing from Ravenna on the Adriatic Coast, they have been around for five years now and have just released this their debut album.

And what an album!! This has to be one of the heaviest, most intense and down right brutal releases that has ever assaulted my battered old lug-holes. As soon as the obligatory intro track fades away and the first song proper, Voices, Prayers and Remembrances, strikes up we are faced with a full on sonic rampage that lays total waste to all that is in its way. It's as heavy a classic Black Sabbath in lead boots, as angry as a nest of very pissed off wasps and as brutal as battlefield surgery in the 100 years war.

Tracks like Fragile, A Key To Nowhere and Extinguish storm from the speakers like a panzer division in full blitzkrieg mode, take hold of your head by the ears and bashes it repeatedly against the nearest wall until your a bloody mess. But there is more going on here than a mindless extreme deathcore onslaught. With in the hammerhead bash and bludgeon there is a lot of interesting stuff going on; sweet and almost melodic guitar lines swirl around the mix, the rage fueled grunt and scream vocals sometimes breakdown in moments of almost innocent cohesion for brief moments, all of which makes for a very rewarding listening experience.

Ok there is one track here, the dance remix Fragile 1.9 that lets the whole side down (for me at least) with its cruddy rave beats and happy-jungle-euro-trance-or-whatever-you-call-this-crap feel. But don't let that put you off, you can always do what I did and delete the offending so called 'music', forget it ever existed and just enjoy the extreme metallic brutality of the rest of the album.

In conclusion, this is one extreme album that really does live up to its claim and is a must hear for people who like their metal taken to the max.

For fans of... Glorior Belli, Kratornas, Stigma, Fallbrawl......

24.9.11

Various Artists - 'Fest 10 Compilation #1 / #2' (fest 10) 4/5


Now Fest 10 is a very popular festival held every year around Gainesville in Florida that seams to specialise in in punk and all things related, and to help promote this years event, (at the end of October) they have issued a couple of free download compilation albums featuring a number of the acts who are booked to perform.

Now like all compilations these album are a mixed bag, and you do have to shift through the shit and the plain ordinary to find the real gems. But believe me the effort is well worth it for there are a number of great track on offer here. There are 46 songs on offer on these two albums, so you will forgive me if I don't give an in depth on every track and every band. But here's a taster of some of the nuggets to dig for...

We have the superb AFI influenced A Wilhelm Scream, a great all girl street punk outfit from Minneapolis called The Soviettes, the 'oi' filled Bouncing Souls, the wonderful Clash influenced Off With Their Heads, the New Model Army styled The Arrivals and The Brokedowns, The X-Ray Spex go emo stylings of The Candyskins, the infectious Banquets with the wonderful 'Sexy Ghosts', the country punk fusion of Good Luck, the plod and grind of Mood Ring.... and there are loads more, but you get the picture. and these are my picks, you may find something I didn't get into, but would be far more your cup of tea.

But there's something more interesting here than a mixed bag of young up and coming bands, it's rare that you can find a real cross section of a nations up and coming young talent all in one place, and for free to boot. so if that's not reason enough to download and explore these albums nothing is.


In Shot - well worth an explore.


The links to download these albums for free can be found here...
Volume 1 - http://fest10.bandcamp.com/album/fest-10-compilation-1
Volume 2 - http://fest10.bandcamp.com/album/fest-10-compilation-2

Mastodon - 'The Hunter' (roadrunner) 4/5

Now this is the fifth full length opus from Atlanta psyche metal outfit Mastodon, and I will be honest and say that until now they have slipped under my radar. I was aware of the band, had never really got around to checking them out, (so much music, so little time) but when this little album slipped into the old BCFM inbox the other day I though I would give them ago.

Now things start off promisingly, the first two cuts Black Tongue and Curl of the Burl are both nice and doom laden metallic floor fillers full of some great Sabbath influenced riffs and a great bash and grind feel. Other high spots include the epic space opera of Stargasm, the relentless headbanger of All The Heavy Lifting, the well trippy title track, the headlong thrash out of Spectrelight, the almost folky sounding Creature Lives and the albums epic prog metal concluding track The Sparrow.

In fact with the exception one track, the disappointing metalcore by numbers workout of Blasteroid, this is a pretty good record with much to recommend it. There are epic metal bits, killer riffs, good vocals intelligent lyrics, some well chilled out almost folky prog moments.. all stuff that should win Mastodon fans and admirers well beyond the metal scene.

Over all I'm fairly impressed with my first real encounter with Mastodon, and will get round to checking some of their earlier albums out at some point. Highly Recommended

The Crooked Axis - 'Strange Girl (demo)' (self released) 4/5

This is another lucky find from a bit of random net surfing. French outfit The Crooked Axis have been around for a couple of years and are a side project by members of other French acts.

Now this six tracker is a fantastic exercise in tripped out psychedelia that had me hooked from the off. Opener I'm Not There, Yes I Am comes over like something Ohio impro-trip outfit Quarkspace would cook up and that's followed by the dark and freaky No More which reminds me of Gong meets Amon Duul II. We are talking real 'stone-groove-free-festival-roll-up-a-doofer-and-expand-your-mind' stuff here. It's as spacey as floating through the Horsehead Nebula whilst out of your tree on mushrooms.

The more you get into it, the better it gets. Couscous Pot - my fave cut on this offering - sounds like Dog Age jamming with Here and Now with a guest Dave Brock vocal, and by the time we get to the excellent Before We Come Down we are in classic Krautrock and Canterbury Sound territory with a sound like the great Todd Dillingham jamming with Jane. Throw in the epic closer of Right To Oblivion with its sonic head nods to 'Lonesome Crow' era Scorpions, early Black Sabbath and primordial Grateful Dead and you have something that will keep your average head, hippy, flower-child, space cadet, stoner and psyche freak happy for hours. 

This is music that really makes me want to gather up a few friends, find a field and lay back under the stars as the vibes flow over me. This is acid psychedelia of the very highest order and I would recommend this to everyone who wants to unlock their inner flower-child.

for fans of - Quarkspace, Todd Dillingham, Gong, Amon Duul II, Here and Now, The Pillbugs.... etc

This album can be downloaded for free from - http://fxofxs.bandcamp.com/album/strange-girl-demo-aug2011

23.9.11

Wornaway - 'Wornaway' (self released) 4/5

Aussie groove metal outfit Wornaway, are one of those lucky finds. I was killing a bit of time doing a bit of random net surfing when I stumbled on this little gem of an ep. They are from the city of Brisbane and as far as I can make out this is their debut release.

And what a little cracker this six tracker is. Six songs - well five plus a two minute intro track, each one a neat and nifty exercise in all that's good about the underground metal scene worldwide. We get Failure - a corking thrash and grinder that reminds me of Brum metal up and comers and Sunday Rockshow faves Zombie Xtras; The Wasted - a dark and aggressive mid tempo headbanger that has shades of Imicus about it and an excellent chill out mid section. Then there's Living Is A Dying Art - my fave track on this release which is classic Aussie rock and manages to stay dark and brutal whilst retaining a snifter of that trademark boogie sound that under pins most Australian rock. Kissed By Flames features a sweet little introduction before heading off into Sacred Mother Tongue territory; whilst closer Deliverance is a three and a half minute micro-epic that smacks of the band Metallica could have been if they hadn't fallen in love with the money and their own hype.

There is top rate musician ship on show here, the vocals are gruff and brutal, but never become unintelligible. The guitars bludgeon like baseball bats and slice like razors with equal measure, whilst the drums are as tight as Ian Thorpes swim suit after a particularly heavy lunch. All good stuff.

Over all this is a great ep by a band that shows great promise. Wornaway are definitely a name to watch out for.

For Fans of... Trivium, Zombie Xtras, Sacred Mother Tongue, The More I See...

This ep can be downloaded for FREE from - http://wornaway.bandcamp.com/album/wornaway

Charred Walls of The Damned - 'Cold Winds on Timeless Days' (metalblade) 4.5/5

Now to me and many older metalheads Tim 'Ripper' Owens is best known as the guy who was plucked from tribute band obscurity to help screw up the mighty Judas Priest for a couple of albums before Rob Halford saw sense and returned to the fold. Still he went some way to redeem himself during his stint with Iced Earth. Now he has moved on again and we have 'Cold Winds On Timeless Days' the second album from his current outfit Charred Walls Of The Damned.

And I'm glad to say with this release the ghosts of those two Priest albums are well and truly laid to rest as Mr Owens and the rest of his crew hit us with a record that is 100% their own and not chained to the tails of others From the opening track Timeless Days with is acoustic intro and huge power metal resolution to the epic metal workout of the closer Avoid The Light, CWOTD have served up a very strong metal album indeed.

Mr Owens vocals are remarkable, sure there are shades of Rob Halford in his delivery and range, for that is after all part of the guys style, but he also shows there is more to his talent than a mere Halford clone. There are shades of John 'Armored Saint' Bush, Bruce Dickinson and even Biff 'Saxon' Byford in there as well, he has the range the power and the delivery to carve himself a notch up there amongst the very best of them as himself.

But a great metal vocalist does not a great metal album make. You need  the musos there to to weigh in as well, and thankfully the rest of CWOTD are more than up to the task. Jason Suecrof, better known as Trivums desk jockey, is an axe hero of the highest order, capable of everything from brain melting shred solos and face ripping riffs to some sublime mellow interludes with an easy that has to be heard to be believed. Add in the powerhouse rhythm section ex Death / Iced Earth sticksman Richard Christy and former Testament bassist Steve DiGorgio and you have a metal band capable of taking on the very best of them.

Highlights on this impressive album include Maidenesque Forever Marching On, the darkly epic The Beast Outside My Window, the power metal anthem of Bloodworm and fist raising grind and bang of Admire The Heroes. But to be honest, there is not a single weak track on offer here, every track is a real jewel to be enjoyed and treasured forever.

In short this album is just great and is a worthy addition to cannon of metal classics.

For fans of... Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Helloween....

3 - 'The Ghost You Gave To Me' (metalblade) 3/5

OK, just clear up any confusion, this 3 are the American post prog outfit, not the short lived Keith Emerson project from the late 1980's, neither are they the hardcore punk out fit of the same name. This is this 3's sixth full length studio album and their fourth for metalblade.

First impressions are this album is very pleasant, there are 12 cuts on offer, all well played, produced and penned and over all I'm reminded a little of the likes of Styx and Rush in both terms of style and delivery. Vocalist Joey Eppard is has a very distinctive voice, sounding female in places and a touch like Geddy Lee or Jon Anderson in others.

However as pleasant and listenable as this record is it does contain very little in the way of a 'wow' factor. It does have its moments, such as on numbers like Numbers - the albums true stand out cut with some truly epic riffage and snappy drum work, the title track with some nice complex syncopated rhythm work and epic powerchordage and It's Alive with it's 'Yes-u-like' feel. However on a lot of the rest of the record the band seam content to bounce between competent but forgettable stadium rock and the same old acoustic 'away-with-the-fairies' fodder we so often get fobbed of with as prog rock these days.

The over all result, for me at least, is that I am finding this album very hard to get into, just when you hear a track and think its getting good, the next song comes along and lets you down. All this results in a very patchy album that promises lots but doesn't quite deliver when you want it to. I get the feeling that this album is trying to be all things to all people; progressive, prog metal, stadium rock, indie, alternative... and is danger of falling down the gaps between multiple stools as it tries but just fails to touch all bases.

This album basically is a basket of missed opportunities, and if 3 could work out exactly what sort of band they wanted to be and worked towards that end they could produce something remarkable, but at the moment they are firmly in the also ran camp.

for fans of... Porcupine Tree, Wishing Tree, Crowded House, Rush....

22.9.11

As You Drown - 'Rat King' (metalblade) 4/5


As You Drown come from Southern Sweden and play 'extreme death metal'. They have been around for some 8 years and this is their second full length album.

OK, I will question the term 'extreme' here, as there are a lot more bands out there far more extreme than As You Drown, but as for the death metal part, then we do have a good album on our hands here. Now 'Rat King' is allegedly a concept work built around the old European folk law traditions of the King Rat concept, a deep seated myth that has inspired everything from pantomime villains ('Look out Dick Wittington, he's behind you...'), to James Herbert's classic horror novel cycle and even Chas and Dave numbers. What this album has to offer on the lyrical front to this mythos I cannot say.. I'm normally pretty good at picking the lyrics out of death grunts, but this album has beaten me, so I'll just take the bands word about the concept and concentrate on the music itself.

Musically this album ticks all the right boxes for its genre. There's lots of nice interesting thrashy riffs, and the aforementioned vocals my be unintelligible, but they add to the feeling of power an brutality of the over all sound in fine style. All the songs on offer here are pretty good, from the opening cut, Conqueror with is steam-hammer assault and sublime epic breakdown, via aggressively brooding You Should Be Paranoid and ear raping fury of Rabid Wolves In Sheep's Clothing; to the sonic napalm of The Nothing and beyond - there is enough good stuff on offer here to keep yer average death thrash aficionado more than happy. But the albums real killer cut is the closer Cleansing Hands, with its epic build up from almost nothing to a grinding metal climax and then on to a chilling bass synth conclusion.

So over all, this is a pretty good record and one I would recommend to all fans of death thrash everywhere.

For fans of.... Vader, Cannibal Corpse, Job For A Cowboy etc...

21.9.11

Chronographs - 'The Outhouse Sessions' (self released) 4/5

Chronographs are a young five piece 'technical hardcore' outfit, originally from Worcester but now working out of the London area. They have only been together a year or so and have issued this three track ep whilst working on their first 'official' release that is due later this year.

Now as debut demo ep's goes this is quite impressive. There's no nonsense on show here, the opener Tides cuts in with a tasty bit of mid tempo brutality with a riff that tips a hat to Rage Against the Machine and features a couple of nice urgent and angsty melodic sections to provide a little light and shade. Dutch Courage is a better than average metal core workout; whilst the real killer cut is the closer Toska. A brutal and jagged interplay of machine gun rhythms, twisted riffs and angry post screamo vocals that resolves into a sublime climax that to my ears sounds like Periphery minus the self indulgence.

Over all this is a strong debut and one that shows great promise for the future.

For fans of... Screaming Eyes, The Hotel Ambush, Somnus, Aliases, etc....

This ep can be downloaded for free from here... http://chronographs.bandcamp.com/album/outhouse-sessions

20.9.11

The Swine - 'The Shade of Shit To Come' (self released) 4/5

The Swine are in reality one Canadian guy by the name of Aaron M. whose mission statement is 'to commit artistic suicide' and describes his music as powered by "sleep deprivation, shitty broken guitars, vox amps, a microphone he bought at value village for 4 dollars,", yup we are talking 'bedroomcore' time.

Now after many years of being an avid John Peel listener, I've grown fond of this type of ultra low-fi stripped down DIY punk and hardcore, and while I will admit, there is nothing here that will ever bother anything but the ears of the most underground and adventurous listener, for those who like their music so far out of left field it is disappearing over the boundary fence, this tasty five tracker has a lot to offer.

The opening cut Neon Suicide 1997 comes over a bit like a stripped down Melt-Banana, or Rolo Tomassi after an Eve Spence sex swap opp, all angry and angsty sonic experimentation. On the next track, Radio Hit, we are heading into more traditional hardcore territory with a sound that comes across a bit like and early demo from The Oppressed. Enriching Your Life Through The Power of Grindcore is classic crust core in the vien of The Electro Hippies, whilst Everyone Dies wouldn't stand out of place on a Pissed Jeans release. However the real treat is the closer Armageddon Song, a dark and twisted little nugget that sounds like Billy Bragg doing a Tom Waits impression, or maybe its the other way round.

Now I know this isn't going to everyones cuppa rosy by a very long chalk, but this is grass roots music at it's rawest. And if the true spirit of punk is that everyone can be a band, express themselves and make music then this is punk in its purest form.

for fans of... Rolo Tomassi, Melt Banana, Rottern Noise, Take A Sledgehammer To Your Nan....

This album can be downloaded from here... http://theswine.bandcamp.com/

Streetfight Silence - 'Secrets' (self released) 2.5/5


Streetfight Silence are a young band from Berkshire and this is their debut ep, althought they have banged out a couple of singles over the past year or so.


This band play sort of wanna be commercial indie rock in the sort of Coldplay, Nickleback type of style, and sadly I'm finding this release sadly lacking. Don't get me wrong, these lads have some good ideas I particularly like The Police style intro to Promise I Will Stay, but they let themselves down in so many ways. First of all the production here does them no favours at all. This type of commercial rock thrives on the big chorus, the immense guitar sound and this is what this ep doesn't have. Those nice choppy indie guitar lines that should sound so big and epic are tinny over powered by the lead vocal. Vocalist Russ hasn't got that bad a voice, but he sounds very one dimensional and almost annoyingly lifeless. Backing vocals seam to to be gaffer tapped over the top of the mix rather than bedded in properly and add nothing to the sound other than extra noise. The guitars are well played but again lacking in depth, everything is at the same level, so when you want a big impact moment nothing happens. The drums, especially the snare are far too high in the mix, whilst the cymbals are all to often lost. I really hope Streetfight Silence produced this themselves and these errors can be put down to inexperience and youth, cos if they paid someone to produce and mix this they really should be asking for their money back.

It's a shame for there is the germ of a good band in here somewhere. The Rhythm section is tight and some of the tracks on here, like Shining Armour and Seeing Ghosts (the best track on offer here) show the glimmer of a bent towards good catchy songsmithing. Ok in other places such as the ballad Conquer The World they aint so hot, but these lads are still young and have a lot to learn. I really would like to hear this outfit after a visit to to a studio with a producer who knows what he is doing, cos then we could really tell exactly how good Streetfight Silence are.

In conclusion I don't think this ep is going to do this band any good outside being a rough demo to get gigs with, and I wouldn't advise any of them to quit the day jobs at the moment either. BUT I would also advise them not to quit music either, rather keep working at it, learning from their mistakes and to take reviews such as this as constructive criticism; cos even the very best had to start somewhere.

for fans of... Coldplay, Nickleback, 21 Against etc...

The Subways - 'Money and Celebrity' (cooking vynil) 4/5


OK guilty confession time. I have a bit of a soft spot for this type of lightweight home grown pop punk, recent releases by Zaptopeks,  Kiria and The Skuzzies have really rang bell. Now I am finding myself develop a strong liking for this the third album from Essex upstarts The Subways.

Now all to often pop punk gets a bad press, mainly due to the endless wave of Blink 182 clones that have been flooding out of the states over the past ten years or so; and this is a shame, especially for our home grown take on the genre. For like so many other musical styles before UK bands have a good knack of taking something from over the pond and giving it a distinctive British vibe.

This album is a case a point. There are 12 cuts on offer here, 11 of which are packed with nice, slightly cheesy, but hellishly infectious little commercial punk numbers, none of which are over three and a half minutes long, packed with crisp riffs, tub thumping drums,  loads of up beat choruses and plenty of woo woo woo and hay yeah sing along bits. All good, if slightly predictable stuff.

Over all I'm reminded of those classic early albums from The Zatopeks, especially on tracks like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Friday, Like I Love You and It's A Party.But there is more to this album than that, the more you listen the more you begin to notice a real depth to both the music and the lyrics. Popdeath is groovy and cutting look at the price of fame, Down Our Street is a slice of social observation that reminds me of The Monkees classic 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' and Rumours is a bit of a rocker with some really tasty unison riffage on show.

Then we have 'the other track', Celebrity. Now I dunno if its a fault on my promo copy, but on this copy of the album the track is 3.23 of silence. It could be a pressing error, but even if it is, the effect is perfect - a song with nothing to say about people with nothing to say. 

Over all this album is very well done, highly listenable and while it may not be earth shattering it is good fun and wont do the reputation of either The Subways or British pop punk in general any harm at all.

Worth a listen or five.

For fans of.... The Zatopeks, The Skuzzies, Babyshambles, Kiria etc...

19.9.11

Cypher 16 - 'The Metaphorical Apocalypse' (self released) 4/5


London outfit Cypher 16 are an outfit that has been making a bit of name for themselves of late having toured places as diverse as the states and India as well as playing shows opening for the likes of Lacuna Coil and Mudvayne. To date they have put out a string of eps of which this is the latest.

 Now imagine if you can a mad mix of Tangerine Dream and Megadeth, and you'll get where these guys are coming from. You get walls of brain smashing metal of the first degree - all razor riffs, blast beats and relentless bludgeon, all over laid with a glorious almost ambient keyboard wash. Tracks like The Metaphorical Apocalypse, I Am Scientist and Lonely Road and all killers that stand up to repeated listening and I'm impressed with the quality of Jack Doolan's vocals. He's got the power, the control and the melody without having to resort to the cliched pig grunt or screaming.

If I have a compliant about this ep, then its a small one, a lot of the songs are very vocal heavy, and whilst Mr Doolan is a great singer with something to say, I get the feeling that on most of the tracks the rest of the band seam to be crowded out and don't get chance to shine. It's only on the track Stone that they really come into their own, and its a shame for all of them really do have something to show, especially guitarist Stuart Deards. A guy I would have loved to have heard more lead work from.

That gripe aside I really do like this five tracker and I would recommend it to everyone who likes their metal intense and intelligent.

For fans of... Awake, Spires, Fates Warning, Megadeth etc...

Get this ep FREE from here - http://www.mediafire.com/?txkmgol8jd89ilt

Van Susans - 'We Could Be Scenery' (Beatnik Geek) 3/5


Van Susans come from Bromley in Kent and play fairly mainstream indie rock in the same vein as outfits like The Pigeon Detectives. Now normally this sort of stuff isn't my bag and I would really bother writing a review, but there is something about this debut five tracker that made me take note.

The lead track, Cha Cha Bang starts with a nice rocky riff before carrying on reverting to standard indie fare, big hooks, fuzzy guitar washes and the like. Then we have Get Up, Get Out - with it's indie by numbers choppy delayed and chorus heavy guitar riff and 'hay hay' sing-a-long hook, the angsty Plans with its 'I'm not pissed off cos my girlfriend has dumped me - honest' type lyrics that students and indie kids love so much and the closer Glow, a wrist slittingly depressive little ditty 'We used to make love by starlight, but all she can do now is watch me burn..' yeah real uplifting stuff.

However the track that stands out, not only above the rest of this ep, but above a lot of indie rock in general is the second cut Bones. Again its a down beat track with some standard lost love lyrics, but it's played with a drive and fire that counter points the dower vocals perfectly. I normally have little truck with this kind of music, but this is one track I can't stop playing, it really is that good.

So over all I would give this ep a miss, unless your into down beat student indie - but I would also recommend you seek out Bones as a single track download as it's a song that is truly genre defining.

In short - a bog standard indie ep with one true killer track

for fans of... The Soup Dragons, The Pigeon Detectives, Manic Street Preachers, MGMT etc...

Steve Hackett - 'Beyond The Shrouded Horizon' (Inside Out / EMI) 4.5/5

I find Steve Hackett albums are a bit of a glorious lucky dip, you never know what your gonna get until you give them a first spin, will it be the traditional prog Steve? Steve the blueser? classical Steve? World music Steve? or a combination of some some or all the above...

Now this is the 22nd solo studio release from the former Genesis six stringer and all around guitar legend, and I'm glad to say it falls into the all of the above category. It's not that Steve is any less a blues player or classical player than he is in any other style, it's that Mr Hackett is such a diverse and inventive player that you really do want to hear him cover all bases.

So whats the new album like? Well if your familiar with his solo work you will know what to expect. If not, well then your in for a treat. This album is a cracking listen from the atmospheric and uplifting opener of Loch Lomand (NOT the cheesy Scottish folk tune) to the twelve minute closing epic of Turn This Island Earth with its 300 track orchestration - there is not a weak moment on show. And you get all sides of Steve to marvel at as well. The old school proggers will love the prog Steve on tracks like The Phoenix Flown and A Place Called Freedom; fans of classical 'Bay Of Kings' style Steve will dig tracks like Wanderlust and Summers Breath; whilst fans of Steve the blueser are in for a real treat on Catwalk when his joined by Yes bassman Chris Squire and ex AC/DC and Judas Priest drummer Simon Phillips for one of the dirtiest low down slow blues sleaze outs you'll hear in a long time.

I could go on for hours praising the pants of this album, but I have a stack of other albums to process and review - but take it from me Mr Hackett is a man who never fails to deliver goods, be it as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter or producer and Beyond The Shrouded Horizon is another winner that should in everyone's record collection.

For fans of .. great guitar work and great music in general.

Captain Horizon - 'El Nibre - ep' (self released) 4/5

Birmingham alt-proggers Captain Horizon are completely new to me. I stumbled on a link to this free download ep on Facebook and decided to give them a go, sight unseen so to speak.

Now I'm glad I bothered cos this four tracker is a bit of a find, Kicking off with Turn Away, a track that reminds me of Bristol's Jebo, this is a tight and well delivered package. Vocalist Steven “Whitty” Whittington has an honest no nonsense voice that has a touch of the Toby Jebsons (Little Angles / Gun) about it and g-man Josh Watson is a real talent whose style ranges from the epic Dave Gilmour type solos to Johnny Marr-u-like sweet chiming rhythm lines.

El Nibre is a bit of a rocker that the ducks buttocks tight rhythm section of James “Mez” Merrix and Alex Thomson drives along in fine style, while Climbing The Waterfall is a fine slab of intelligent commercial rock that wouldn't sound out of place on an album by Young The Giant. However the real gem is the closer Strong Enough a chilled out mini epic that has the ghost of Hawkwind on the intro before floating dreamily away into Porcupine Tree / Darwins Radio territory.

Over all this is a damn good listen from a band who with a bit of luck could go places far beyond their native West Midlands.

for fans of... Porcupine Tree, Jebo, Young The Giant, Sleeping With Giants... etc

'El Nibre' can be down loaded from http://www.captainhorizon.co.uk

10.9.11

Dream Theater - 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' (roadrunner) 3.5/5


More prog metal now, and this times it's Massachusetts outfit Dream Theater who enter the spotlight with A Dramatic Turn of Events, their eleventh studio opus and the first since the departure of their long term sticksman Mike Portnoy.

Now Dream Theater fans, and there are a lot of them, will find nothing out of the ordinary on offer here. There are nine tracks, all but two weigh in at 7 minutes plus, four are ten minute plus epics and all are typical DT fayre. Slick, complex, perfectly penned, performed and produced. All the hallmark sounds are here as well, opener On The Backs of Angels is your standard Maiden meets Fish era Marillion type of thing, Build Me Up Break Me Down has  touch of the Queensryches about it (old Queensryche, not the sad ghost of a band they are now), Lost Not Forgotten features a tasteful piano intro from Jordon Rudess before launching to some fairly self indulgent widdling interposed around a Megadeth influenced riff; This Is the Life has a bit of Hogarth era Marillion simpers about it with a solo from John Petrucci that is pure Steve Rothery... and so it continues.

Now I can't help feeling that I've heard it all before. As good as this album is, it's still the same sort of stuff Dream Theater have been serving us up for the past few albums, and whilst I have no problems in bands sticking to their tried and trusted formulas, when your dealing with musicians of this caliber I can't help but feel there is a wee bit of laurel resting going on here. Don't get me wrong, there are parts of this album that are just brilliant. Take the first couple of minutes of Bridges in the Sky with its huge choral sound, or the instrumental section in the middle of Outcry, with its complex interplay of rhythms, or Nektaresque conclusion to Breaking All Illusions as just three examples.

But we are talking sections of tracks here rather than full songs. I just can't put my finger on what it is, but I just don't get a wow factor here, not one that lasts anyway. Maybe it's cos Dream Theater have been at the top of the prog metal tree for years, they have always been a band I've admired greatly and their albums have never failed to blow me away before; but recent releases from the likes of Opeth, Spires and especially Arch / Matheos have hit me with a bigger punch and left me with a bigger buzz than this album does.

Apparently Mr Portnoy left because he felt the band should take a bit of time out and refresh themselves before they started going stale, the rest of the band disagreed and so he left, and after living with album for a while I can't help but feel that Mr Portnoy is being proved right.

For hardcore DT fans only

for fans of...Queensyrche, Fates Warning, Awake, Opeth etc...

Opeth - 'Heritage' (roadrunner records) 4.5/5


Swedish outfit Opeth have been around for over 20 years now, and time can change a band, but time has changed few bands as much as it has changed Opeth. With only vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt surviving since the bands formation, they have evolved from a full on death metal outfit via various forms of metal and progressive metal until at last they have arrived with Heritage, an album that can only be described as full blown prog rock, with the metalisms reduced to almost non-existence.


Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, for although my inner metalhead feels a little let down, my inner hippy is chuffed to bit's with whats on offer on this Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) produced opus.Opening with the title track, (in effect a short 2 minute piano piece) it soon cuts into The Devils Orchard a cracking little track that manages to blend a riff that sounds a little like 'Pictures At An Exhibition' era Emerson Lake and Palmer. Then we have I Feel The Dark that starts off sounding a bit Jethro Tull before moving into King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator territory. In fact the whole album is dripping classic progressive rockisms. Tracks like Slither and Haxprocess explore the same territory Pallas and Pendragon have been probing on recent albums, whilst other, such as Famine and The Lines in My Hand are in the Focus, Nektar and Eloy vein. There are snatches of Yes, Genesis, Porcupine Tree, Twelfth Night, PFM, and the rest in the mix, but yet at the same time it manages never to sound generic or dated. What's more there isn't a death grunt vocal or blast beat drum pattern to be seen.


The performances are first rate, especially the guitar work of Fredrik Åkesson, who manages to do pull off the expected Andy Latimer-U-Like soaring solos and the Steve Howesque twiddly bits with a perfection few can muster. And on the closing instrumental Marrow Of The Earth, his playing can only be described as sublime.


Now I can see this album not impressing many of their older fans who preferred their death and progressive metal stuff, but equally I can see many hardcore progressive rock fans embracing this new sound. Especially in light of the wave of hippy-trippy-away-with-the-fairies female fronted neo-folk stuff that so often gets passed off as prog these day.


This is a good album, a brave album and one that Opeth should be proud of producing. Buy it Now!!

For fans of... Pallas, Pendragon, Porcupine Tree, Camel etc...

The Devil Wears Prada - 'Dead Throne' (roadrunner) 4.5/5

It's metalcore time again, but this time its Ohio Christcore outfit The Devil Wears Prada who are in the spotlight with 'Dead throne'. their fourth full length album.

Gotta say from the off, that this is a good record, and is better than most of the Brit metalcore that's around at them moment. It could be that TDWP are four albums into their career and so have had chance to polish their sound and delivery, it could be that with major label backing they have bigger recording budgets, it could be that keyboardist James Baney gives them a dimension most other hard and metalcore acts lack. Whatever the reason Dead Throne is a very impressive and accessible record.

Kicking off with the title track, we get some great pound and bludgeon with those delicious keyboards giving the whole thing a real epic feel, and so it continues for the next couple of tracks. The clean and dirty vocal interplay between Jeremy DePoyster and Mike Hranica is some of the best I've ever come across and even in the shouty grunty bits, you can still hear the lyrics, which no doubt will make their fellow christians very happy indeed. OK they do get a wee bit preachy in places 'I saw the light of God, walk in the light of God' etc. But I'm a great believer in free speech and freedom of faith, and TDWP have got just as much right to sing about God as Behemoth have to sing about the Devil, it don't stop me or any one else digging the music big time, and after all I suppose even angels like to form a circle pit from time to time.

Highlights include My Question with its huge stacked vocal chorus, the drifty and almost trippy Kansas with some delightful clean guitar work, Chicago with its epic build up from almost nothing to a huge wall of brutal sound, the relentless thrash out of Constance and darkly epic of Pretenders. Hell, white-metal, has come a long long way since the days of Stryper, and music in general is all the better for it.

Basically this is a great album and all wanna be metalcore outfits world wide should pay close attention, this is how it should be done. Very Highly Recommended.

For Fans of.... The Bled, Dillinger Escape Plan, Malefice, Screaming Eyes and God.

9.9.11

Panic Office - 'Blue Hour' (self released) 5/5


A great pleasure of doing a radio show over an extended period of time is when you find a promising young band at the very start of their career and see them mature and develop into an act that can cut it with the very best of them. Case in point is Somerset band Panic Office. Back in early 2007, this lot were a bunch of sixth formers who had just issued 'Ghost Music' an album length demo that showed a musical maturity way beyond their tender years. That album was highly rated in our album of the year round up, and still picks up airplay on the show from time to time even now.

Now, five years on, we have the follow up record.. Now this record has been a long time in coming. I first heard demo versions of some of the songs on offer here four years ago, but with university and other such things getting in the way, recording continued at a snails pace, an odd session here, an odd session there, whenever a couple of the band could get together - with often many months between studio dates. Many lesser bands would have abandoned such a project, but Panic Office are from Somerset and like that counties better known products, fine cheese and farmhouse cider, they are made of strong stuff, and now at last Blue Hour has arrived.

Now you can tell from the off that this album is  real labour of love. The production here is spot on, there is not a note out of place and the mix is crystal clear; like a fine gem that has been cut and polished to perfection. The music is equally as impressive. Blue Hour still retains the Mars Volta influences that was the trade mark sound of Ghost Music, but we have other things added to the mix as well, there are hints of Muse and Radiohead, touches of Tangerine Dream, a dash of Pink Floyd or two even a touch of The Jesus and Mary Chain style post goth shoegaze floating around the sound.

I've been playing this album through over and over trying to select a track or two for praise and deeper analysis, and I've failed miserably. From the opening sweet riff of Through Blue To Black with its double picked guitar line to the chiming grandeur of the closing bars of Blue Hour itself this album is one long highlight. Although I will say my favorite moments on offer are the darkly paranoid Fusion, with its civil defense film voice over, the wonderful mob choir on the middle section of Song For July and Gloriously angst fueled Help, But Then Don't.

Bottom line is Panic Office have, over the past four years produced in Blue Hour a record that many a better known and better supported band would sell their grandmothers to have made. This record, should open doors and lead on to bigger and better things for them, and after putting so much time and effort into producing it, it is the very least they deserve.

In Short - Find it, buy it and love it.

For fans of... Mars Volta, Muse, Tangerine Dream, The Jesus and Mary Chain... etc

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band - 'How I Go' (roadrunner) 4.5/5


Now I'm a fussy bugger when it comes to the blues. Being raised by a blues and jazz loving father I developed a taste for the pure blues from a young age, then as I grew up and my tasted broadened I also took to some of the classic white boy bluesers like George Thorogood and Pat Travers. So I like to think I can tell good blues when I hear it. to me good blues should speak from the soul and be played with real emotion. Which is why I took a dislike to the likes of Gary Moores blues period (too many notes, no real feeling) and Steve Miller (too safe and souless). Now I have been aware of Kenny Wayne Shepherd for sometime, but also heard too many people making Steve Miller comparisons, so have avoided his work until this album dropped into my in tray the other day. So I thought its time to bite the bullets and see what he actually sounded like.

Now I must say from the off, this is NOT a straight blues album. Sure there is a very very strong blues influence here; songs like Oh, Pretty Woman, Backwater Blues, Yer Blues (yup the old Beatles classic) and Heat of the Sun are all old school blues numbers and boy can Mr Shepherd play the Blues!! These tracks drip angst and emotion and on the aforementioned Heat of The Sun he lays down a solo that can only be described as a real tear jerker (this song is already a walkman fave of mine and I've only had this album a few days). However there are more strings to this guys bow than playing classic blues licks on a beat up old strat.. There are also good dollops of country rock on songs like Show Me The Way Back Home; whilst in other places such as on Come On Over, Strut and The Wire we are heading into Doc Holiday / Grinderswitch southern boogie territory and  the real suprise comes on Dark Side of Love which is a funk blues fusion of exceptional quality.

Apparently, like all good bluesers Mr Shepherd is completely self taught, with his only instruction coming from tricks and licks taught to him local blues men like Bryan Lee, and a stack of Albert King records and boy does it show. His playing is fresh, original and full of fire and emotion, this guy doesn't play blues he feels them and that's the way it should be.

In short - this album is great and a must have for all fans of the Blues and Americana.

For fans of... George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ry Cooder, Peter Green etc...

Staind - 'Staind' (roadrunner) 3.5/5


Most bands do the eponymous album thing on their debut release, but always ones to do things different, Massachusetts alt rockers have waited until album number 7 to do it, still it takes all sorts so they say. But is this latest offering any good?

Well lets just say its typical Staind material that's on offer here. All the tried and tested Staind trade marks are on show, the ploddingly heavy grungy riffage, the angst ridden vocals, the big majestic choruses with faux commercial hooks. Tracks like Falling with its stadium rock sensibilities, Wannabe with its Queens of the Stone Age / Static X vibe and post core growled bridge; the Pearl Jam / Soundgarden influenced Take A Breath etc all go to show this is a band who know their sound, their influences and their audience and aint gonna change a thing. And there is nothing wrong with that, bands like AC/DC, Motorhead, Status Quo etc have been sticking to their tried and tested formulas for years with no real ill effects, so as long as Staind themselves are happy then long may they continue.

I will admit I've never been a huge fan of this band, but I will take nothing away from them in terms of musicianship and their ability to do what they do in style. And as mainstream rock goes they are miles better than Nickleback, Theory of A Wife Beater, 30 Seconds To Mars, My Chemical Toilet and the rest of the Kerrang fm fodder.There is a least a bit of real edge and talent on offer here, especially on the track Paper Wings (this albums real stand out track) and that should be praised and encouraged.

All in all a pretty good effort

For fans of... Alice in Chains, Kids in Glass Houses, Pearl Jam, Lost Prophets etc...

8.9.11

Glorior Belli - 'The Great Southern Darkness' (metal blade) 4.5/5


I don't often get much music of French origin troubling my inbox, but when it does it tends to be something worth taking note of. So in the wake of goth outfit Modern Funeral Art and proggers Delusioned Squared (both of whom were album of the year contenders in recent years) I give you this, the fourth full length studio release from Paris based death metal outfit Glorior Belli.

And what an album this is. Right from the opening bars of the first number, Dark Gnosis, it is clear that we are listening to something a wee bit special. the vocals growl and roar like a legion of demons, guitars thrash and churn like satanic dervishes whilst the rhythm section hammer home a Danse Macabre that would blast the very fallen angels out of the deepest pits of hell and into the moshpit. It's as heavy as the gates of Dis, as dark as Beelzebub's own ring piece and and as intense as tripping on mushrooms whilst base jumping off the Eiffel Tower in the mother of all thunderstorms.

Track like Negative Incarnate, Bring Down The Cosmic Scheme and Chaos Manifested, scream out of the speakers and batter you into submission with wave after wave of skull smashing fury. So it continues for the first five tracks, until we reach the mid point of the album and the title cut, a slow and menacing satanic worship tune that lets us gather breath for a few minutes, before the grinding heaviness returns to batter the listener into a bloody but happy pulp just in time for epic and glorious closing number Horns In My Path.

Over all I'm reminded somewhat of classic Filipino death grind outfit Kratornas, and as I'm a huge fan of Cebu's finest export I mean that only in terms of highest praise.

Basically this album is epic in scope, has lyrics like a Dennis Wheatley novel and is packed with dark brutality. What more do you want from a black / death metal album? It's just great.

for fans of... Kratornas, Fleshcrawl, Kronos, October Tide... etc

Rose Funeral - 'Gates Of Punishment' (metalblade) 3.5/5


Sadly, these days Ohio death core outfit Rose Funeral are better known for an unfortunate and bizarre series of events from early 2010 that involved an internet flame war, a popular card game and a violent altercation between the band and concert goers, than they are for being musicians. This is a shame for incidents like that can haunt a band for the rest of their career and detract from the music they produce. Anyway 18 months or so on from said incident they have just issued their latest full length album on metal blade records.

Rose Funeral play death metal in the Behemoth, Cradle of Filth vein and they do it fairly well. There are 11 cuts on offer here, and they range in quality from the passable to the fairly noteworthy. There is nothing too out of the ordinary on this album. On the opening track, Legions of Ruination, you have the standard Black Sabbath cloned intro, all doomy and rain soaked sound effects, so beloved of death bands since the beginning of time, that rips into a relentlessly paced Behemoth style work out with death grunt vocals and the obligatory melodic shred guitar solo, which leads into the very similar sounding Grotesque Indulgence. 0/10 for originality, but I'll still give it a good 8/10 for delivery. Beyond The Entombed features are rather short and seemingly pointless piano intro before ripping into more standard deathcoreisms including the obligatory doom plod middle bit.

However it does get better. False Divine (which features a guest appearance from Morbid Angels Steve Divine) couples blindly fast sections that has a touch of the Napalm Deaths about them, with some machine gun vocal delivery with a Corpse Grinder style sludge middle section and a nice dark synth driven conclusion. Arise Infernal Existence has a middle section that heads off into Pallas / Pendragon progressive rock territory; and Malignant Amour (which features another guest vox-box, this time opera diva Kate Alexander) is a tasty cut that sounds like Within Temptation resurrected for a staring role in a George Romero movie.

For me though the stand out track is the closer Gates Of Punishment, a true epic that has touch of the early Slayers and classic Amon Amarth about it and an orchestral section that tips the hat towards Imperial Vengeance.

Now this album is in no way a classic and doesn't stand up to recent releases from the likes of Fornost Arnor, Fortune Favours The Brave and the aforementioned Imperial Vengence. But it aint to bad either. In the blurb that came with my promo copy the band say that they are looking at each new album they release as "a huge climb in sound from now on.", and if they can put the whole 'Uno-gate' saga behind them and consontrate on developing their sound they could, given time turn into an outfit of real note.


In short - A good album from a young band on their way up

For Fans of..  Behemoth, Cradle of Filth, Not Above Evil, Berserker... etc

Crowned By Fire - 'Prone To Destroy' (Digital Media Records) 4/5


I gotta admit I knew naff all about Los Angeles metal merchants Crowned By Fire until this opus arrived in my inbox. Apparently vocalist John Fitterer is one of Californias leading tattoo artists and body piercers, whilst guitarist Justin Manning's regular day job is as roadie, personal assistant and guitar tech to a certain Zak Wylde. Now according to the bumpf that came with this, this album was actually recorded a few years ago during a tour of Italy and has seen a local release in the US, but now has gone world wide thanks to a new deal with the label Digital Media.

Now to be honest as far as metal albums go, this is a good un. It's rooted firmly in the fertile metallic soil of Pantera, Slayer, Black Sabbath, Armored Saint etc; and whilst it isn't that original or ground breaking fans of good old no holds barred traditional metal will find a lot here to satisfy them. Riffs grind and pound relentlessly, solos are whammy bar heavy scream outs, vocals are gruff and dark without resorting to the cliched post core pig grunts.All in all its a great listen.

Highlights include the post sabbath brutality of Get Under The Dirt. the Motorhead influenced Witch In The Window, Shake the Bag which sounds like St Vitus on PCP, As Above So Below which has a hint of Raven about it and the wonderfully titled Vulture With A Rifle - a track that features an intro riff that can only be described as a real killer and reminds me a bit of the legendary Cirith Ungol.

Now I don't for a minute think that this album will make Crowned By Fire international metal superstars, its far too cult and rough around the edges for that. But it will win them a lot of friends on the international metal underground and assure them a damn good stab at cult status in the years to come.

In short - The stuff cults are made of.

For Fans of.. Slayer, Pantera, Cirith Ungol, Motorhead, In Solitude

6.9.11

Somnus - 'The Stench of Deceit' (self released) 5/5

Over the past few years I've seen Bristol metal-grind merchants Somnus spring from the ashes of several previous worthy local outfits, and mature into an act that has become not only one of the most interesting bands on their local scene, but one of the UK's most promising, and note worthy metal bands. Taking their cue from a potent blend of old school thrash, the late 80's grindcore and sludge scenes and big healthy dollops of classic doom and death metal; we have a band that developed a sound that is rare if not unique in UK metal. Now we have, 'The Stench of Deceit', a six track mini album that really is something to take note of.

Opening with the darkly acoustic The Subtle Kiss Before The Slaughter, a track that wouldn't sound out of place on an Ambix record, Somnus serve up a platter of killer tracks that leave all and sundry no doubt that they are a band that means business. The subtle kiss of the opener soon gives way to Nothing Left But Ashes, a full on brutal assault on the ear drums that provides a perfect soundtrack for the social paranoia of a post 9/11 world. Vocalist James Matthew Wragg spits anger and rage not in a style not unlike Johnny Doom (of Doom / Police Bastard fame), but manages also to deliver some powerful melodic lines as well, without resorting to the cliched post emo vocalisations so beloved of so many of the modern metalcore wannabes.

And so it continues, Killer sees the rhythm section of Jason Cole and Joe Christmas, working up a righteous frenzy that perfectly counterpoints the angry vocals and venomous lyrics; The Stench of Deceit features some relentless riffage from Darren 'Baz' Barrett, has all the attack and brutality of American soldiers attending an Iraqi wedding and again some excellent lyrics and an incredible vocal performance from Mr Wragg. H.I.V. is a blindly fast paced, whiplash inducing thrash out with blast beats a-go-go, that stirs memories of the likes of Sore Throat and the aforementioned Amebix; whilst closer A Better Place - the albums true stand out track delivers all the above and once more contains some wonderfully biting and insightful lyrics. I mean any song that delivers the line '...suicidal monkeys on L.S.D.' has gotta be worth checking out.

In a time where the UK metal scene is awash with third rate metalcore bands with nothing to say, bands like Somnus stand head and shoulders above the rest and come as a real breath of fresh air. I really can't praise this band and this album highly enough. But don't take my world for it, Buy it, play it loud and love it forever.

For fans of... Doom, Anterior, Sore Throat, Amebix, Napalm Death, Carcass, etc...

4.9.11

Crash Street Kids - 'Sweet Creatures' (code 7) 5/5


I gotta confess I was really nervous about receiving and reviewing this album. You see Arizona sleaze fueled retro rockers Crash Street Kids have a very special place in my heart. Our paths crossed just when the BCFM was first launching, they sent me a copy of their second album, Chemical Dogs, and I fell in love with their good old fashioned down and dirty tarnished glam rock approach.I played it almost non stop both on air and for my own entertainment. The more I played the more I liked it, and the more the shows listeners asked for more. It won our Album of the year award for 2007, and still ranks in my top five albums of all time. then came the 2009 follow up Transatlantic Suicide, and last years classic double live set Live From The Waist Down. Both amazing releases that were highly placed in the shows album of the year charts. Then back in the summer I got wind of a fourth album was on its way.

Now you gotta understand the first three studio albums CSK released form a kind of triple concept work. They tell the story of 'The Kid', a mysterious guy, maybe from the future, maybe from within our own id's, who arrives in the 1970's and becomes a rock and roll superstar and lives out all our rock and roll dreams before ending his tale in a set of strange circumstances 'one night in Berlin'. So having seen The Kid killed off at the end of Transatlantic Suicide, I was feeling baffled as to what will happen next. A sequel? the start of a new story? a bog stand album of assorted songs? And whatever it was, could the band follow on such an epic cycle and keep themselves sounding fresh and vital? Well we now have our answer, and I'm glad to say all my trepidation has been for nothing.

Sweet Creatures is another loose concept work, that manages to follow on from the previous albums without being either a clone or a sequel. Here we have a story of a group of young women who are living the seedier side of the rock and roll life style; the booze, the money, the drugs, the sex parties... It's a story that has been told a million times, but has become so intertwined with the whole rock and roll mythos that it never grows stale; and when the story is being told by a band of the caliber of CSK you know it's gonna be told well.

Musically this album is another winner. all the traditional worn-proudly-on-the-sleeves CSK influences are here. Mott The Hoople, Sweet, Slade, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, ELO, Bowie... all the classic 70's stuff, mixed in with huge dollops of balls out rock and roll and played to immaculate perfection. Hell this band make this kind of classic rock timeless. This is a brand new album, but it could have been recorded at any point from 1970 onwards and it would still sound great. From the 'Sweet' sounding opener Sweet Creatures; via tracks like Alice Cooperesque Asylum, the Iggy influenced Bad, Yeah, Bad, the plaintiff Third Avenue Vampires with it's Ziggy era Bowie hat tips and the glam rock fest of Mary Queen of Rock to the Steve Harley toned Angel and beyond, every track here is a gem of the highest quality. However the albums real killer and biggest suprise comes on the final track Harlot of The Flies. A track with a signature riff that wouldn't sound out of place on a Black Sabbath or Uriah Heep record, a dark and menacing scratched rhythm guitar line, a shiver inducingly evil sounding wah wah solo and despite a fairly uplifting chorus a dark and sudden ending that just leaves you screaming out loud for the next CSK album and the continuation of this dark and twisted tale.

Basically CSK have done it again. they have produced another all time classic opus that should, if there is any justice in the world, turn them from being regional US heroes into worldwide superstars.

BUY OR DIE!!!

for fans of... Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, Slade, Sweet, Roxy Music and classic rock in general

3.9.11

Arch / Matheos - 'Sympathetic Resonance' (metalblade) 4.5/5

This is a rather interesting one. Arch/Matheos are a brand new prog metal outfit formed around the core of former Fates Warning duo John Arch and Jim Matheos along with ex Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera, former Halford drummer and current Sebastian Bach sidekick Bobby Jarzombek and another former Fates Warning guy, Frank Aresti on the six string.

Now with that kind of talent lined up you would be expecting Sympathetic Resonance to be something worth checking out,  and you would be right. Opening with the eleven minute epic Neurotically Wired, this album is as fine a slice of prog-metal as you'll hear anywhere. When its prog it drips all the power and variety you'd expect to find on any Pallas or Pendragon album, when its metal it has all the balls of classic Armored Saint and when they combine the two you have a sound that Dream Theater would be proud of.

There are six songs on offer here three of which weigh in at way over the 10 minute mark and shortest one is still well over five. Yet at no point do they fail to hold the interest. Midnight Serenade is a fabulous slice of moody broody musical darkness that comes over a bit like Mercyful Fate without the faux operatic vocals. The thirteen minute epic Stained Glass Sky is a real classic in the making, with an expertly performed four minute intro before the vocals cut in and comes over like a beefed up Canterbury era Diamond Head. Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me) sounds not unlike Helloween on an Emerson Lake and Palmer trip, whilst closer Incense and Myrrh ( a light weight at a mere five and a half minutes) features a beautiful acoustic opening section that resolves to a wonderfully slick anthem for our time.

 Over all this is a damn fine record, one of the best prog metal releases of the past few years and is a must buy for proggers and metal heads alike.

 for fans of... Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Pendragon, Demon, Evergrey etc

House Of Lords - 'Big Money' (frontiers records) 2.5/5

OK, for those who don't know, a quick history lesson. Back in the 70's there was an American pomp rock outfit called Angel, rock gods in the US, virtual unknowns in Europe, They split in the early 80's and keys player Greg Guffria put his own outfit together under the name Guffria. Two albums later a certain Gene Simmonds decided to sign them to his own label and got them to change the name to House of Lords and brought in vocalist James Christian. From the late 80's til the early 90's they put out a string of three very high quality soft metal albums, made distinctive by Guffiras sharp and edgy synth work, Christians husky but sweet vocalisations and some first rate song writing. The band split in 1993, but since then there have been several reformations with numerous personnel changes.

Which brings us to the bands latest reincarnation and their latest studio release Big Money. Now right from the off you can tell there is something vital missing on this album. House of Lords was always Greg Guffiras band in all but name, it was his song writing and inspired synth playing that made them stand out from the crowd. And sadly Mr Guffira is not involved in this latest incarnation of the band. His replacement, Jeff Kent does a fair job, and on a couple of tracks, most noticeably the songs  Living In A Dream World and Run For Your Life, he does manage to keep the classic of spirit of House of Lords alive, these are two tracks that retain all the majesty and epic soundscapes that made House of Lords a stand out outfit.

But sadly two good songs do not a good album make. The rest of this opus is to be honest a big disappointment. The rest of the tracks are fairly limp hair metal headbangers meets light weight stadium rock anthems, that sound over all like a collection of Warrent b-sides; forgettable, uninspiring and to be honest not very good. Big Money, One Man Down, Hologram, Once Twice... all the rest is a catalogue of disappointment. However the real let down comes from the power ballad, The Next Time I Hold You, one of the most cliche soft-rock-love-song-by-numbers I've ever had the misfortune of hearing, a song that is so sickly it could possibly induce type 2 diabetes in the listener. And it's made all the worse by the fact it's coming from the band who recorded Remember My Name, one of the greatest rock ballads of all time.

Don't get me wrong, this album is well performed by talented musicians, but House Of Lords set themselves a very very high standard over those early albums and Big Money comes nowhere near to the standard the band themselves set.

For fans only

for fans of... Saga, Styx, Loverboy Warrent

1.9.11

Sebastian Bach - 'Kicking And Screaming' (frontiers records) 4/5

Those of you with long musical memories will recall that around the time Guns And Roses were breaking through with their remarkable Appetite For Destruction album there was another outfit also setting the world on fire. They were called Skid Row (not to be confused with the old Irish Blues rockers from the early 70's!!). Now to be honest I always preferred Skid Row to G'n'R, and when Axel and his crew were vanishing into clouds of drug abuse, internal disputes and  over blown self indulgence, Skid Row did bang out a series of really quite excellent hard rock albums. But they never got the deserved breaks and soon vanished off the radar. But now, lord knows how many years on we have this solo effort from Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach to remind us that the spirit of Skid Row is still very much alive and kicking.

Ok as albums go Kicking and Screaming isn't perfect, but it aint bad either. There are plenty of good old balls out rockers on offer here, Dance On Your Grave, Caught In A Dream, Dirty Power and the like are all classic slices of headbangablity that do have echos of classic Slave to The Grind era Skid Row about them and even the inevitable hair metal power ballad Dream Forever comes over like sleaze fueled nostalgia trip rather than an cliched lighter waver. Then we have the albums stand out track As Long As I Got The Music, a number that shows the likes of Nickleback exactly how modern commercial rock tracks should be penned and performed.

It isn't all good news though, in a couple of places, most noticeably on the song I'm Alive Mr Bach is heading into Theory of A Wifebeater, sorry Deadman, territory (although thankfully without the thuggish sexist lyrics), but these moments are few, and more than compensated for by cuts like Live The Life and Lost In The Light.

Mr Bachs vocals are as fresh and infectious as they were on 18 And Life all those years ago and praise must also be heaped on his side kicks, guitarist Nick Sterling, and former Iced Earth drummist Bobby Jarzombek for helping to make Kicking And Screaming a very listenable and enjoyable album indeed.


Well worth a good listen

For fans of - Skid Row, Guns And Roses, Poison, Ratt, Faster Pussycat etc...

Screaming Eyes - 'Greed' (this is core records) 4.5/5


It's metalcore time again kiddies, but this time we have a twist, Screaming Eyes are not a bunch of hopefuls from some bland south east English dormitory town; they are infact from Piedmont in Italy.

Now I'll admit that the fact these guys are Italian came as a bit of a suprise to me. Not cos I doubt the Italians ability to play great music - everyone from PFM to Speedjackers and Deluded By Lesbians has proved Italy rocks with the best of them; its just that Screaming Eyes sound so English. Sounding like a mixture of Skin The Pig and Malefice they have produced a really rather remarkable little opus that stands proud alnong side, if not above the very best of the current UK metalcore scene.

There are 10 tracks on offer here. Ten slices of shear musical brutality that grab you by the sonic short and curlies and pull with all the power they can muster, and they can muster a lot of power. The opening track Sentenced smacks you round the head like a few tonnes of dolomite marble dropped from a great height and other tracks like My Reason, My Fire and Cash-O-Crazy just explode from the speakers and leave your ears feeling a bit like Pompeii after the big one.

However as I said before when there is a big genre scene around you need a trick or two under your toga to make you stand out from the plebeians, and fortunately Screaming Eyes have just that. The instrumental And Nothing Else Shall Remain is a wonderful moment of musical tranquility amid the pound and bludgeon that wouldn't sound out of place on a Goblin soundtrack to a Dario Argento movie, One Last Trip features a melodic middle section that springs out of nowhere and teasing lifts you out of the metallic hellfest, only to throw you back in head first and the closer Dream Pt.9 has a couple of very strange progressive type sections that make me think of Amon Duul II for some reason.

Basically this is a great record - Buy It NOW

For fans of... As I lay Dying, Skin The Pig, Malefice, Anterior, Trivium etc

Uriah Heep - 'Live In Armenia' (frontiers records) 4/5

Of all the great founding fathers of UK hard rock and Heavy Metal I've always felt Uriah Heep, have had a rough deal over the years. Despite being just as successful commercially as the likes of Led Zep, Purple and Sabbath, and filling just as many stadiums with just as many rabidly loyal fans, they have always had a rough ride from the critics and are never shown as much credit as their aforementioned peers as being one of the true greats.

Still I get the impression that the band themselves are well past caring (if they ever cared at all), they have blazed trails for UK rock all over the world, First UK rock act to play in the Soviet Union, First into China and now we have a double live set recorded in Armenia of all places.

Now there is nothing too surprising on show here, Live In Armenia is a guided tour of the bands 40 year career, from the early classics like Gypsy and July Morning (a song that has inspired a folk tradition in parts of Eastern Europe, what other band can claim that?) and a whole host of tracks taken from their more recent releases like the Wake The Sleeper album from a few years ago. All good stuff, although as a bit of a Heep fan myself  would like to see some of the stuff from the late 70's albums like High And Mighty and Fallen Angel recorded, or at least performed, live at some point.

The performance is top notch as is to be expected from a group of guys who have been fine tuning their craft for over 40 years. Mick Box is on blistering form, especially on the solo for Look At Yourself, and his interplay with Phil Lanzon on the keys is sublime.

There is one small downside, Vocalist Bernie Shaws haranguing the crowd to stop videoing the show gets annoying in places; 'This night is a special one just for you', (right, so when's the official 'Live In Armenia' DVD out then guys?) - To be fair I can understand where he is coming from, but they surely they could have lost those bits at the editing and mastering stage.

That gripe aside, this album is a very worth addition to the cannon of Uriah Heep albums, a must buy for all Heep fans and a great starting place for anyone new to the band who wants to check out some of the true masters at work.

For fans of... Deep Purple, Budgie, Led Zeppelin and the masters of classic rock

Weapon - 'Set The Stage Alight (30th Anniversary Edition)' (weaponrock) 4.5/5


No matter how old I get, I will always take comfort in the fact that my teenage years and early 20's were set to the soundtrack of two of the UK's greatest musical movements, The '77 punk boom, and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. So its always a pleasure to rediscover gems from that era that you last rocked out to many years ago. so with that in mind I give you this re-issued and updated version of Weapons classic 1981 opus Set The Stage Alight.

I used to have this album on cassette back in the day, and it was a bit of a permanent fixture in my Walkman for a year or so until it went the way of all tapes and became a mass of brown spaghetti wrapped around the play heads and damaged beyond repair. But now I have this re-issue on CD and sitting hear playing through it is like a host of old friends you haven't seen in years rushing into a room at a suprise party.

But enough of the nostalgia trip, what is this album like? Well to be honest its typical NWOBHM fare in the vein of Sweet Savage, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Jaguar, Dark Star etc. Not very 'heavy' by today's standards, but laden with memorable riffs, catchy vocal hooks, care-free guitar solos, pounding rhythms and played with an enthusiasm that so many of today's so called 'serious' metal acts have forgotten how to capture.

Tracks like Set The Stage Alight (a Tommy Vance Friday Rock Show fave in the early 80's), One Night Stand, Midnight Satisfaction, Liar and the rest of the album to be honest all go to show what a cracking band Weapon were back then, and also points out what a lottery the whole NWOBHM era was, with bands like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard becoming international superstars and equally worthy outfits like Weapon bound for the cult status file.

Maximum praise for the four guys who recorded this classic. Vocalist Danny Hynes has a voice that is powerful, tuneful and instantly likeable, guitarist Jeff Summers is a guitar hero in all but mass adulation and the ducks backside tight rhythm section of Baz Downes and Bruce Brisland hold the whole thing together with bolts of pure British Steel. The songs are expertly penned and despite being 30 years old are just as fresh as they were when this album first came out.And you younger ones remember without the likes of Weapon and the NWOBHM you wouldn't have yer thrash and death, and metalcore at all. This is where it all started.

Fans of the band are also in for a treat for this edition contains four early demo tracks, that are if anything even more urgent and classically NWOBHM than the main album, (just check Jeff Summers slick solo on Remote Control to see what I mean)

Now I've penned the above in the past tense, but I, and fans of the whole NWOBHM will be glad that Weapon are still very much alive and kicking, and there is a new album on the way, that if the latest single Ready 4 U (available through the usual outlets and NOT featured on this reissue) is anything to go by should be just as much a classic as this their debut opus.

So if you've not heard Weapon before, load up and check out this gem whilst your waiting for the new album, you'll love it, I promise.

For Fans of - Marseille, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Sweet Savage, Dedringer, Def Leppard etc...