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Chimp Spanner - 'All Roads Lead Here' (Basick) 4.5/5

This is the new mini album from Chimp Spanner, the prog metal alter ego of Blessed Inertia guitarist  Paul Antonio Ortiz. Just like its two full length predecessors it was recorded entirely in his Colchester based home studio.

Now I gotta admit I do like this one lots, in a time when a lot of progressive metal is inaccessible overly self indulgent own backside exploring djent, finding a nice slick smooth intelligent semi ambient work like this is a breath of fresh air. In fact playing through this one you can't help but compare Mr Ortiz with some of the greats of prog guitar past, Steve Hillage, Steve Hackett, Andy Latimar and the rest, which is top notch in my books. Add in the fact that his backing and keys work counjours up images of the likes of Quarkspace, The Enid, King Crimson, Church of Hed, et al. and you have in this record on very enjoyable and chilled out package.

The main body of this one is the three part suite Mobius, a fifteen minute epic that is a pure joy to listen to as it takes you on a glorious psychedelic musical voyage that is as uplifting as it is inspirational. The other three songs on offer are equally good, especially the soaringly majestic Cloud City, a track that has more than a hint of classic Camel about it.

Over this is one great record and is a must have for all proggers and lovers of fine music in general.

Highly Recommended

For fans of... Steve Hillage, Steve Hackett, The Enid, Camel, King Crimson, Quarkspace, Pink Floyd...

Psycho Kiss - 'Monkeying Around' (Psychic Cliff) 4/5

Neath outfit Psycho Kiss are yet another outfit from the seemingly endless line of hellishly talented Welsh rock bands that are exploding from the land of song at the moment, and just like The Bambi Killers, The Effect, Anterior, Betty Swallaux, V0iD, The Dirty Youth and all the others once again they are upholding the very high standard we have come to expect from the thriving Welsh rock scene. Apparently the band have been around for a few years and have built a solid reputation and a fair following through solid gigging before releasing this their debut album.

There are ten cuts on offer here, each a sweet little gem of a number, that ranges in style from the dark and brooding ballad of Little Man via groove rock numbers like Monkeying Around and huge stadium rock anthems like No Good Pretending to balls out rockers like This Is Love.

Helen Ceri Clarke's vocals are to die for, I don't think Wales has produced a female rock vocalist of this caliber since Catrin Southall of the legendary SAL; there is power and melody here with a touch of the old Janice Joplins, and none of the operatic shriek many female rock singers inflict on us.Add in some fine performances from the rest of the band, especially some tasty lead work from g-man Paul O'Brien, and you have in this album a real gem of a debut release that should open doors for them way beyond the Valleys.

Well worth checking out.

For fans of... SAL, The Dirty Youth, Obsessive Compulsive, Rock In Your Pocket.....

RAM - 'Death' (metalblade) 4.5/5

Apparently RAM were formed back in about 1999 by a bunch of Swedish metal nuts who shared a mutual loathing of the then popular Nu-metal scene, and since then they have gone from strength to strength to the extent that they are now releasing this their third full length studio album.

Now as I have said before many times in this blog, I'm a child of the NWOBHM, for me much of the the early 1980's was spent in various clubs and concert halls around part various parts of England giving myself self inflicted whiplash injuries headbanging to the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Tyson Dog, The Mama's Boys and countless other purveyors of classic old school metal. So when I got this one through my inbox and gave it a spin I was more than a little turned on by the metallic delights on offer here. This is after all my first real encounter with this band and it's ringing my bell big time.

Right from the off you know these guys mean business, the double header of Death / .....Comes From The Mouth Beyond starts off sounding a little prog rock then suddenly launches into a galloping driving riff fest that is pure Iron Maiden garnished with slices of Accept and Marshall Law. And it carries on from there I Am The End has hints of Saxon about it, Frozen is a slower metal ballad that hat tips Jaguar and Under The Scythe is pure Sweet Savage. Other musical reference points include Praying Mantis, Sledgehammer, Angelwitch, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Pagan Alter, Tytan and Blitzkreig.

Now don't for a minute think that just because this outfit looks back 30 years or so for its musical cues you have an album of dinosaur metal. RAM's obvious love for this kind of stuff comes shining through. They have taken the sounds and styles of one of metals greatest and most influential and productive eras, and not only made that sound their own, but have also reinvented it for the modern age; something I salute them for.

Add in the fact this record is expertly produced, penned and played and you have here a real gem of a record that will bang the heads of metal fan s world wide regardless of age.

Very very good.

For fans of... Iron Maiden, Saxon, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Weapon, Sweet Savage, Accept....


Blood Ceremony - 'Blood Ceremony' (metalblade) 4.5/5

Canadian occultic rockers Blood Ceremony have recently signed to Metalblade, and as so often happens with metalblade signings before any new material surfaces there is a little archive raiding, and so we have this re-issue of the bands 2009 debut album.

Now anyone getting this one expecting walls of Behemoth style satanic deathism, or Slayer-u-like devil thrash are going to be in for a big shock. While there is a strong early Black Sabbath vibe haunting this record the most noticeable influences here are more in the Jethro Tull, Black Widow dark folk rock style, with goodly dollops of Iron Butterfly influenced primordial hard rock thrown is as well.

Tracks like The Rare Lord and Into The Coven are all sweet and engaging folk metal work outs with haunting flute solos, jiggy organ passages and seductive female vocals from the hugely talented Alia O'Brien, which perfectly counterpoint the primitive doomy folk metal backing from the rest of the band. The result is an album that sounds like it was conceived and created about 1971 as the sound track for a long forgotten Italian horror movie. And any album that features a short sound clip from the classic Brit biker horror flick Psychomania 'There you go my little green friend' has gotta be alright with me.

In world of metalcore, post thrash, and ham fisted Djentisms, the fact that bands like Blood Ceremony are still out there and recording albums like this comes as a welcome change and a breath of musical fresh air and I for one await their next record with great interest.

A devilshly good album

For fans of... Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Black Widow, Skyclad, Inkubus Sukkubus....

Wim Oudijk - 'Tree' (folkwit / disco fair) 5/5

Now I first discovered Dutch musician, composer and producer Wim Oudijk via his work with Florida based Canterbury Sound legend Todd Dillingham (their most recent collaboration is Todds excellent 'Songcycle 2011' release) and now for the first time I am experiencing the genius of Mr Oudijk's solo work.

Tree is in effect a 46 minute long concept piece in ten parts telling the story of a pine tree from its birth from a cone, to its maturity, its felling and a number of possible afterlives as the wooden horse of Troy, boats, furniture, Christmas trees and firewood. And all I can say is 'wow'. I've been sitting here all day listening to this one over and over trying to work out exactly what to say about it, apart from the old 'fuck me this is fantastic'.

This album runs the full range of musical styles from neo-classical sections, acapella vocals, folk influenced moments, snatches of progressive rock and lots and lots of well tripped out psychedelia. It's all blended together with Wim's distinctive and flawless production style, immaculately played and superbly realised into a spine tingling whole that easily ranks alongside the lost Beach Boys classic Smile as one of the truly great psyche concept works of all time.

This is indeed a work of true genius, a masterwork of the highest order and one that all lovers of really great music should have in their collection.

A masterpiece.

For fans of... Todd Dillingham, The Beach Boys, The Pillbugs, Electric Crayon Set, Caravan etc...

Lamb Of God - 'Resolution' (Roadrunner) 4/5

Well the first of the big hitters of 2012 have chucked their hat into the ring, as Richmond (thats Richmond USA NOT Richmond Yorkshire) metalheads Lamb Of God unleash studio album number seven on the world.

Now I'll be honest and say I've not really payed LOG that much attention, before now, not that I don't like them, but its been a case of so much music so little time and they have slipped under my radar, so I'm coming at this one a fresh and with no real preconceptions.

First impressions are rather good, the double header of Straight For The Sun and Desolation lay out the albums stall in fine style with a wall of post Pantera southern style thrash, gruff yet intelligible vocals, brutal riffs and some fine widdle and shred style lead work, and so it continues for the next 14 tracks.

There is nothing really original or earth shattering on show here, infact there is only the short linking passage, the bluesy Barbarosa, to give a short break from the albums blast and bludgeon. But that doesn't mean its a dull record, there's enough creativity and musical invention on show to make the tracks stand apart from each other and more than enough energy and attitude to make for a compelling listen. Highlights include the groove grind of Invictus, the infectious Terminally Unique - a track that sounds Iron Maiden spiked with ground glass and the headlong thrash out of Visitation. However the true stand out cut on offer is the closer King Me with is blues influenced introduction, epic build up and tasteful use of synths and female backing vocals which gives the whole piece a progressive metal vibe.

Over all this is good solid record, Lamb of God fan will love it to bits, and other metal heads will find it an attractive proposition as well.

Pretty Good

For fans of... Mastodon, Machine Head, Pantera, Not Above Evil....

Betty Swallaux - 'Grinding Betty' (self released) 4.5/5

Just a few short months after hitting the world with a very strong demo release, Llanelli grindcore experimentalists Betty Swallaux are back with their debt album.

If you have managed to track down Betty Swallaux's demo you'll know Gaz Wooloff and his crew have developed an almost unique sound, blending elements of industrial grindcore and extreme metal sensibilities with 'nintendo-core' style electronica, elements of progressive rock and great slices of traditional punk, add in the in your face use of drum machines and loops and the result is a sound that is as near unique as you'll hear anywhere.

This nifty eight tracker kicks off with Fantasy, a nifty little number that starts out sounding like something from a 1990's console game sound track before plunging head long into a wall of glorious Electro Hippies influenced noise. Other high points include Ramstein on acid industrial grind of Deep, the wonderful Give Me Some More, a track that bizarrely wouldn't sound to out of place on an album by the late great Robert Calvert and gloriously brutal Cruel Britannia (in my books the stand out track on the album) with its damning political lyrics and breakneck slam dance frenzy riffing.

There a couple of cover versions on show here as well... the old Divynils standard I Touch My Self is a pretty straight forward rendition in the Betty Swallaux style and makes for an enjoyable listen. Then theres a stripped down and rebuilt version of America (Just Say No), an early single by Bristol band Alien Stash Tin that blows the balls off the original.

Another plus here is the production, Its about as slick as its possible to get with a home recording rig and still maintain Betty Swallaux unique sound and jagged edge attack. Something the guys should be proud of.

Over all Betty Swallaux are one of the most unique, innovative and exciting projects around at the moment and should be bound for international cult status at the very least, and this album will only go to help that process along in fine style.


For fans of... Ramstein, Amebix, 23 Skidoo, Electro Hippies, Elephant 12....


Lay Siege - 'Obolus' (self released) 3.5/5

Milton Keynes hardcore / metalcore outfit Lay Siege are angry young men, but when you come from a neo-brutalist new town populated by concrete cows its only natural that the blood will boil from time to time. Now this lot have been around since 2010 and as far as I can tell this is their debut mini album.

Now there are six cuts on offer here, all short and sweet workouts in the old metallic hardcore style of things, nothing too ground breaking but all more than competently performed and penned. You get all the trade mark sounds you would expect from this sort of outfit; pig grunt vocals, a nifty selection of riffs that range in tempo from the death grind via the post Priest old school metalisms to some sweetly controlled neo-thrash, blast beat drumming etc etc etc...

OK to be honest I'm finding this one enjoyable, but to my ears its lacking a real wow factor. There's a lot of bands out there doing this sort of stuff at the moment, and there is nothing here to make Lay Siege a stand out outfit. Although I will say that there is promise on show, a couple of tracks, namely Snarling Teeth and Solitary Confinement are pretty good and show that this band could yet develop into something noteworthy. I will be watching their development with interest.

Worth a quick look

For fans of... Somnus, Screaming Eyes, Terakai, Cindersfall.....


Future Pilots - "Demo ep" (self released) 4/5

This is the debut ep from Bristol based alternative rockers Future Pilots, an outfit whose personnel are drawn partly from the English West Country and party from the Czech Republic.

Now I'll admit I've a high bench mark when it comes to alt and indie rock, I've heard so much bland and generic stuff in the genre that an act has to be something a bit special for me to take notice. Thankfully, Future Pilots are anything but bland and generic.

There are five songs on offer here, and whilst they do fit neatly into the whole alternative/indie pigeon holes, there are enough good ideas and interesting experimentation going on here to lift the band well above the same old same old bucket.

Opening cut Money Can't Buy Protection has lots of nice jangly indie guitars but the whole thing bops along with a post punk attitude and some wonderfully dirt riffs under pinning the neo-brit-pop sensibilities. Next up is Size 5 Blues a sweet almost laid back cut that for some reason reminds me of 70's folk rockers Hudson Ford with its soft shoe shuffle rhythm and tongue in cheek lyrics.

As this demo goes on it just gets better. Assange, a song about the wiki-leaks guy is a bit of a rocker with some almost metal power chordage counterpointing some catchy clean and jangly bits and a main riff that tips a hat towards the likes of The Dirty Youth or The Skuzzies - oh yeah mustn't forget some tasteful lead work as well.

Take It All sounds a bit like The Who jamming with the Arctic Monkeys, and the final track Comfort is a bass lead gem with an almost Half Man Half Biscuit feel worked into the normal indie rockisms.

Add in the fact that singer Honza Syrovatka has a charming and engaging voice and delivery; and the rest of the band are all fine fine musicians and you have something here that hints of great things to come.

This lot a definitely a band to watch out for.

Well worth a look

for fans of... XTC, Vivian, Having Thin Moonshine, The Mudheads...

Zeroking - 'Kings of Self Destruction' (self released) 4.5/5

I've been keeping a close eye on West Virginia hard rockers Zeroking for sometime now, ever since they hit us with their debut single Stone Cold Bitch a year or so back. Since then we've had a couple more equally impressive single releases and a sneak preview promo ep, all of which has left me really looking forward to the album release. And now at long last we have King Of Self Destruction.

And having lived with this one for a week or two now I can gladly say the wait was well worth it. Zeroking are a balls out hard rocking four piece consisting of Andy Haught on vocals, Chris Webb whacking the pig skins, Shane Day on guitar and  Paul First driving it home on the bass. They play good old fashioned hard edged rock and metal in style of Skid Row, Ratt, Motley Crue and Pretty Boy Floyd, and they do it in fine style.

There are thirteen class cuts on offer here (plus a trio of bonus tracks), and from the opening Dead Rock Star to the closer Leaving Los Angeles, every one is a a gem of a little self contained tale of feel good rock and roll debauchery, sleazy sexuality and good time party flashbacks. We get the classic in the making Girls Of California with its epic acapella opening line "You know your bound for stardom when the girls of California wanna fuck you..."; the sleazy party anthem (and my fave cut on offer) of Southern Lady, Ex-Godiva, the barnstorming Showtime Revolution and the riff driven floor filler of The Party's Over. But to be honest there's not a weak link on the entire record. Even the unavoidable ballad Valentine is a sweet little track with some tasteful cello work to lift it above the ordinary.

As for the band, Mr Haught's vocals are distinctive, powerful and engaging - managing to sound something like Sebastian Bach and Blackie Lawless. The rhythm section as tight as tailor made fetish gear and the guitar work of Shane Day is most enjoyable both for his grinding riffage and his intelligent lead work. (special praise to him for the solo on Black Friday).

Over all this is a damn fine debut from a band who deserve to be better know, and is well worth anyones time checking out.

Highly Recommended

For fans of... Motley Crue, Trucker Diablo, Crash Street Kids, Ratt, Skid Row.....


Not Above Evil - 'The Transcendental Signified' (self released) 4/5

Early last year I received a copy of 'Deification', the debut full length release by Manchester multi influenced metal outfit Not Above Evil. Sadly I didn't review it as I wasn't running this blog at the time, but I played a few tracks off it on BCFM, and it got good feedback, and the Radio Satan 666 listeners loved it; so marked them down on my mental list as ones to watch. Now, less than  year later Sideeq Mohammed and his crew have issued their second album The Transcendental Signified.

Now this is pretty good, NAE take their musical cues from a number of diverse influences. There are large slices of Behemoth and Bathory style black metal in their sound, a fair bit of old school Slayer type thrash as well, and then, just to take the edge off the bang and bludgeon there are bits of Lamb Of God and Mastodon-U-Like southern metal thrown in the mix as well. The result is most pleasing to the ear and makes for a far more complete and rounded sound than on the preceding Deification opus. It's almost as if NAE have come of age musically.

All the extremely brutal slash smash and slay of the proceeding album is here in abundance. Tracks like the opener Crossroads crawl from the speakers dripping menace and metallic mindfuckisms like and H.P. Lovecraft novel made sonic reality. Yet where as Deification tended to steam roller along laying waste to all its path, this album is more controlled, more considered and is all the better for it. We get tracks like Nexus where raw speed is sacrificed in the name of darkly controlled riffage and almost Machine Head style song structures and Amon Amarth type epic storytelling.

Just to select a few more highlights; we have Death and Transformation, one of the best thrash-outs I've heard since Onslaughts seminal album The Force; Legion with its Behemoth referenced attack and drive and my fave cut on offer here, the epic closer of The Duel, a classic in the making that build from a deceptively sweet and mellow introductory riff into a multi-sectioned meisterwerk that showcases exactly how good a band NAE really are.

Add in the fact that every member of this band delivers the goods in playing their parts to almost perfection and the production, which the band did themselves, is spot on, and you have an album that will do NAE's grow reputation no harm at all and will only add to their status as one of the UK's most promising up and coming metal acts.

In short - a damn fine album from a band to watch

For fans of... Lamb Of God, Elimination, Anterior, Behemoth, Slayer etc....

Tylean - 'Formaldehyde EP' (Bast Records) 4.5/5

Darkwave / alternative singer songwriter and self confessed 'cello rapist' TyLean originally hails from Wapwallopen in the USA, but these days is based in London, UK. Over the past few years she has served up a trio of really quite remarkable albums, that featuring just keyboards, vocals and cello, explore the darkest textures of the human condition with an insight that few artists can match. Now we have 'Formaldehyde' a four track EP of finely presented slices of musical darkness to add to her canon of works.

Now if your not familiar with this ladies work, be warned. This is not easy listening, far from it, TyLeans music makes the likes of Bjork sound mainstream. But please don't take that as a negative comment. This is very very good stuff, it's just very very dark.

We start off with Love Always Dies, a dark and downbeat tale of lost romance that speaks of 'sleepless nights and tearful goodbyes', Tyleans vocals are bleak and sorrowful, and they are rocked gently along with a simple piano line and a haunting cello solo. Next up there's The Dark The Blue and The Grey, a moody and brooding piece that is almost disturbing in delivery, with its discordant chords, heartbeat rhythms and multilayered  vocal lines. Then there's Big Hearts that spins off into a dark jazz vibe, almost like a gothic Billie Holiday, all late night piano and heart rending lyrics; and then to conclude there is Amputation Of A Heart, in my book the real stand out track on this impressive EP., with its free form intro, sawing cello riffage and almost operatic vocals. Spine tingling stuff.

So we have the songs here, and I'm glad to say we have the performance as well. TyLeans vocals are some of the very best, she can take in everything from heart broken whispers to primal screams, from jazzy resignation to operatic resolution like very few others can. Add in the fact she can play a mean piano line that steps well away from the expected cliche and she can use a cello to add attitude, attack and atmosphere and you have here a four tracker that is a real gem.

And there's more. It seams TyLean is not only a musician of extraordinary talent, but she is a bit of a painter. This ep comes with her original art work on the cover and with more original paintings to illustrate each track, now I'm no art critic, but I know what I like and I love the artwork as much as I'm loving the ep.

In short - Another winner from TyLean

For Fans of... Bjork, Tori Amos, Errin Williams, etc......

For more info and details how to get hold of this ep...

Primal Fear - 'Unbreakable' (Frontiers) 4.5/5

Just in case you don't know, German power metal outfit Primal Fear came together in the late 1990's around the core of vocalist Ralf Scheepers (ex - Gamma Ray / Tyran Pace) and Bassist Matt Sinner (ex-Sinner), and have since become fairly major players on the European metal scene. Now they are hitting us with studio album number eight, 'Unbreakable'.

Now as a fan of both Gamma Ray and Sinner I've kept an eye on Primal Fears development over the past 14 years or so and grown to really like their no frills, straight forward, highly headbangable brand of pacey power metal; and I'm glad to report, that this new album stay true to the bands core direction, whilst taking their delivery to the next level.

There are 12 cuts on offer here, and everyone of them is a balls to the wall metal classic. There are metal floor fillers like Bad Guys Wear Black with its sub tribal almost boogie beat and air punching anthemic chorus 'Bang your head and never turn it down....'; power metal epics in the finest Teutonic rock traditions of Scorpions and Helloween like the eight minute plus Where Angels Die; spine tingling semi ballads like Born Again (a track that contains an early contender for lead guitar solo of the year) and of course lots and lots of good old school power metal cuts like the storming Blaze Of Glory and break neck riff fest of Give Em Hell.

The band are on fine form, Ralf Scheepers vocals sneer and wail with an infectious venomosity, the twin guitars of new boy Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt drive and wail like the good 'uns they undoubtedly are and the rhythm section of Matt Sinner and Randy Black keep the whole kit and caboodle rolling along like a trans European express train on a falling grade.

OK this is not the most original album I've ever heard, far from it, but for anyone who likes their metal old school and stripped of the trappings of pretentiousness then this is as good as it gets.

In short - a belting album that will put a smile on the faces of most metalheads.

for fans of ...  Helloween, Gamma Ray, Machine Head, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc....

Red Kyte - 'Look To The Sky' (self released) 3.5/5

Red Kyte are a five piece indie type pop-rock outfit based between Brighton and Oxford, and this is their debut album.

Now as indie rock type stuff this isn't too bad. there are eight tracks on offer, most of which follow the fairly safe indie rock formula of big walls of fuzz guitars with a chiming lead, Aled Phillips style plaintiff vocalisations, big hooky choruses etc. It is a tad generic, but fortunately not too annoyingly so; this band are no Tiger Please or Kids In Glass Houses, but they are mercifully several cuts above the likes of My Extraordinary and Street Fight Silence - mainly due to the fact this lot can, when they put their minds to it turn out a good tune.

Don't get me wrong. not everything on here is top notch, the best material on offer here is is placed towards the end of the album, meaning the listener has to struggle through a couple of fairly uninspiring indie rock by numbers cuts like Hearts Of Stone and You Are My Gold before they reach the good stuff.

And the good stuff IS worth looking out for. You get the chilled and laid back Not Letting Go which has a certain Radiohead vibe about it. Safe Side which is a bit of rock that hints at the aforementioned Tiger Please. Sharks is a great anthem with a catchy hooky chorus, that has fan fave penned all over it. Then we have the mini epic closer of ...But Where Do We Go From Here? that smacks of Kids In Glass Houses jamming with The Verve and features a very nice Hammond organ chord at the very end.

Over all this album isn't earth shattering, but its a competent and promising debut from a young band that if they started to develop their own sound and move away from the well worn indie rock pathways could turn into an outfit of note.

For Fans of... Tiger Please, Kids In Glass Houses, Lost Prophets, Radiohead etc...


Dario Mollo Tony Martin - 'The Third Cage' (frontiers) 4.5/5

Ooo this is a good un. This is the third studio opus from sometime metal supergroup Mollo / Martin. Formed around the core duo of ex-Crossbones axpert Dario Mollo and former Black Sabbath and Forcefield vocalist Tony Martin, and also featuring some of the great and the good from the Italian metal scene such as ex Voodoo Hill drummer Roberto Gualdi and former Crossbones bassist Fulvio Gaslini, Mollo/Martin play good old school hard rocking metal in the style of Rainbow, late era Sabbath etc. And they do it very very well indeed.

I've always had a great admiration for Tony Martin as a vocalist, and its a particular bug-bear of mine that those great albums he did with Sabbath, such as Headless Cross and the magnificent Tyr are not hailed as the classics that they undoubtedly are, and are dismissed by the philistines as inferior to the product of the Ozzy and Dio era's. Still he has a great and distinctive voice, sounding like a mix between Dio and Maybe Graham Bonnet and boy can the guy belt em out, Just listen to the cut Still In Love With You (no NOT the Lizzy track of the same name) or the albums opener Wicked World and you will hear storming performances by one of the best rock vocalists of the past 30 years.

As for Mr Mollo; well I will admit I'm not all that familiar with his stuff, having not heard the past two Mollo / Martin albums and only having heard a few odd Crossfire tracks over the years. However I will say his playing on this one is impressive to say the very least. When he is riff riding he can churn them out along with the very best riff merchants of times gone by (Iommi, Brock, Tipton etc) and when he is playing his freak out lead work he has a touch of the Richie Blackmores or the Michael Schenkers about him, and thats a sure way to get this old metalhead sit up and take notice!!

However you need more than great guitar work and amazing vocals to make a good album, you need the songs as well. And thankfully I can say that 'The Third Cage' has great songs in abundance. To pick a few at random you have Wardance, a cut that wouldn't sound of of place on a classic Rainbow album such as Straight Between The Eyes, and then there's Blind Fury and Cirque Du Freak (the later being my fave cut on offer here) which revives memories of Tony Martins time in Sabbath.

OK I'll admit the sound here is rooted firmly in the 1980's, but hell there was a lot of great stuff around back then and in a musical world awash with endless formulaic metalcore wannabes and angry young thrash revivalists, a bit of expertly performed and produced old school metal makes for a welcome change once in a while.

This really is a good record, older metalheads and hard rockers will lap it up, and I recently played this to my 13 year old nephew who has just discovered the world of rock and metal, and he was raving about it, so I can see some of the more open minded younger crew getting into this as well.

Well worth a listen or six.

For fans of... Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, UFO, Crossbones etc....

Beyond The Bridge - 'The Old Man & The Spirit' (Frontiers) 5/5

Ah the new year is here, and first releases of the year are beginning to fill my inbox. Now I do like this time, the months of Jan and Feb are when many labels release their new signings, and I just get such a buzz from hearing new bands.

So first up we have this, the debut album from Frankfurt outfit Beyond The Bridge. Now the germ of this project first formed apparently some 13 years ago as a high school band under the name Fallout. They were regulars on the local circuit for a couple of years, then as is the way of many school bands, adult life and university called and the band fell apart. However guitarist Peter Degenfeld-Schonburg had a plan, a 'meisterwerk' of a vast concept opus he had been working on with his old friend and keyboardist Christopher Tarnow. So by late 2005 with university nearly finished Peter decided it was time to get the band back together. With some old Fallout personnel returning and some new faces joining in a new band slowly came together under the name Beyond The Bridge and work on the album 'The Old Man & The Spirit' started.

Now in 2012 after much hard work, fitting in around other musical 'jobs' (all members of this band are professional musicians - playing sessions or working in other outfits), the album is out, and bloody hell, its a cracker.

The Old Man & The Spirit is a work that manages to sit perfectly between the worlds of classic heavy metal and old school prog rock. The concept here is a simple, yet engaging tale of an old man facing death and the dilemmas and memories that are running through his mind. It is a tale told simply, clearly yet with purpose and passion and delivered with a superbly polished and meaningful musicality tht is so often sadly lacking these days.

From the opening cut of The Call with its almost Diamond Head influenced metal riffage and Eloy style mellower moments, to the closer of All A Man Can Do (a true epic of a shade under ten minutes duration) not only is there not a weak moment on offer, but the whole album is constantly sending shivers up my spine, and in my book that is the mark of something very special indeed.

The musicianship here is flawless, every member of this seven piece outfit plays their role to perfection, but I must give special praise to the two vocalists; Herbie Langhans for delivering the male vocals with power and clarity that reminds me of former Diamond Head vocalist Sean Harris and especially female vocalist Dilenya Mar- whose powerful jazzy almost Janice Joplin style delivery is a breath of fresh air in a time when most metal devas are doing the operatic style stuff.

As this is a concept album, and such a smooth flowing one at that, it would be wrong to single individual tracks out for praise, after all, this is a work that should be listened to in one go to get the full effect. But personal highlights of mine include Doorway To Salvation, a prog-metal classic that sounds like Dream Theater stripped of the 'head up the backside' self indulgence; the shiver inducing prog-tastic The Difference is Human where Dilenya Mars vocals are given a full run out and my personal fave, the almost balladic World Of Wonders which makes you want to wave a lighter in the air without the slightest hint of irony.

The bottom line line is this is a great album, and should become seen in future times as one of the true classics, and it should be in the collection of ever discerning progger and metalhead.


For fans of... Opeth, Martyr, Within Temptation, Royal Hunt, Diamond Head, Darkesis etc....