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Halestorm - 'The Strange Case Of...' (roadrunner) 4/5

I've been looking forward to getting my hands on this, the second full length album from Pennsylvania rockers Halestorm for a while now. After all I was more than a little blown when their 'Hello, It's Mx Hyde' ep hit the stacks at the turn of the year.

So was it worth the wait? Well lets just say this album comes out of the corner swinging. The triple whammy of the cuts Love Bites (and So Do I) with its full on old school hard rock sensibilities, Mz Hyde with its Diamond Head style riffage coupled to some sweet commercial rock and boogie beats and the back side booting power rock anthem of I Miss The Misery leave the listener in no doubt at all that Halestorm are on helluva band and they mean hoof buttock with the most serious of intentions.

And there's more. You get cuts like the teen angst anthem Freak Like Me, the wonderfully danceable Rock Show (my personal fave cut on the album) and superb headbangably frenzied You Call Me Bitch Like It's A Bad Thing; all of which are fantastic exercises in old school hard rock with a modern twist.

OK there are a few sour moments, there middle of the album is dominated by a trio of power ballads, Beautiful With You, In Your Room and Break In, all of which are fairly naff sounding sub Fleetwood Mac lighter waving radio friendly soft rock numbers that really do the band no favours at all and go some way to undo all the good work they have done on the albums heavier cuts. Add in the closer Here's To Us, which sounds a bit too Theory of Wifebeater for comfort, and the band come damn close to dropping the ball. But fortunately when Lzzy Hale and the boys are capable of pulling a cut like American Boys out of the hat when you need them too you know things ain't that bad.

Basically, Halestorm are one great rock and roll band, and a pretty ordinary bunch of soft rockers and with this album if you listen to the former and ignore the latter your in for a bit of a treat.

Pretty damn good all things considered

For fans of... Paramour, Psycho Kiss, Black Veil Brides, The Dirty Youth etc....


Cauda Pavonis - 'Peace Through Superior Firepower' (CPX / Resurrection Records / AF Music) 5/5

Bristol based death rockers / gothic gods / darkwavers (call them what you will) Cauda Pavonis are a bit of an institution on the UK underground.With a string of impressive albums, eps and other releases dating back to the 1990's and a gig list that includes headline slots at the famous Whitby Gothic Weekender, they have built themselves a reputation as being one of the UK music scenes best kept secrets, and now we have their latest studio album on our hands.

Now if you have yet to experience the Cauda sound I will try to explain. Built around the powerful and compelling vocals of Su Wainwright, the band are rooted firmly in the old school gothic rock traditions of Lords Of The New Church, Libitina etc.. but also bring in other styles like an almost Gary Numan use of synths and sequencers, Within Temptation style vast soundscapes and a Theatre Of Hate style dance-ability. All in all a sound that is compelling and engaging. And what is more they know how to use it to maximum effect. Just take the albums lead single Forgotten Heroes - here you get a driving beat, a catchy as hell hook, meaningful lyrics and a vocal performance from Su that can only be described as spine tingling.

There are nine tracks on offer here, each one a real golden nugget of deathrock excellence. Cuts like Warriors with its old norse spoken intro, the moving ode to escapism of World Beyond The Window and the majestic title track are all classic Cauda material that will enthuse their existing followers and entice newcomers with equal measures. However on a closer listen you find the real secret to the Cauda formula, their attention to detail and the quality of their arrangements. Opening number 11th Hour starts out with a ticking clock riff motif which returns in various forms through out the track and is joined by a chiming counterpoint line over the chorus. On the dark fairy tale Terror In The Nursery you get hints of musical boxes, and creepy 'beast beneath the bed' style licks, plus some blood chilling growls on the bridge (from drummer Dave Wainwright). I could go on, but I don't want to spoil your fun, get the album for yourselves and find the licks and tricks for yourself - they are there on all the tracks if you care to look.

This a class album from a band on fine form, apart from the aforementioned Su's vocals, you get the rhythm section of bassist Rob Quick and drummer Dave Wainwright driving the whole thing along like a hard steamed locomotive and the guitar of Chris Hines adding to make the already wide sound as vast as the plains of chaos themselves.

In short, this is the jewel in Cauda Pavonis' crown and an album that will treasured by all fans of dark music for a long long time


For fans of.... Theatre Of Hate, Libitina, Lesbian Bed Death, Xmal Deutschland..... etc

The Dynamite Pussy Club - 'Church Of Yeah!' (Motorsounds Records) 4.5/5

For such a middle class and gentile city Bath has a surprising habit of serving up some real left field alternative music, and now in the wake of the likes of Amebix, Fabric, The Subhumans and The Flame I bring you The Dynamite Pussy Club with this their debut album.

Now you can tell this lot have a bit of an anarchic approach to music when you read their press blurb and see they list amongst their influences as The Three Stooges and David Lynch; and list in their interests Brillcream, pointy white leather shoes and sausages. Obviously a band who don't take themselves too seriously, and thats already a good mark in my book.

With a line up of a drummer and two guitarists (one of which occasionally breaks out a theremin) this lot play a form of very anarchic rockerbilly / psychobilly, sort of Brides Of Kong meets The Cramps type of thing with added disco noise and a bucket of tongue in cheek attitude. there are ten cuts on offer, nine of which come in at the two and a half minute or less, with the closer, Boogie Sides being a four and half minute epic by comparison. All in all the tunes on offer are pretty sweet, tracks like Testify, Under The Groove (in my opinion the albums stand out cut), Sick and Allergic Reaction all bounce by in a wall of glorious irreverent fun filled boogie, that leaves you hungry for more.

Musically this is pretty cool as well, despite a deliberately messy approach the performances here are tight, engaging and entertaining, with Chris Mambo's Jerry Lee Lewis style snearing vocals, Danny Sauve's noise guitar work and Eddie Boogies tribal drumming all combining to make one hell of a sonic experience.

All in all this a damn fine debut from a band that shows a shed load of promise and I'm tipping for bigger and better things.

Well worth checking out

For fans of... The Cramps, The Brides Of Kong, The Meteors, Elvis Hitler etc.....


Gringo Star - 'Count Yer Lucky Stars' (Gigantic Music) 3.5/5

Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Gringo Star are another one of the current wave of American retro rock outfits that seam to be popular stateside at the moment. This is their second album.

Now this lot worship firmly at the alter of the mid to late 60's British Invasion sound, coming over like the result of a multi-band horror smash between Beatles, early Yardbirds, Psyche era Status Quo and The Kinks, with The Monkees and Amen Corner piling into the wreckage. And to be honest, whilst this lot are no where near The Pillbugs in their attempt to recreate the swinging 60's pop sounds, they aint to shoddy either. Cuts like the Yardbirds influenced title track and the Beatleseque You Want It are all groovy little workouts that  really do make you want to put on your Carnaby Street threads and find a go-go to go-to.

However there are a few other places such as the sub Tom Jones ballad Esmeralda and the Herman's Hermits B-side sound-a-like Jessica where they seam to get too caught up in the nostalgia trip and forget that not everything that came out of the UK in the 1960's was fab. Still there are enough good tracks like the Kinks fueled riff heavy Make You Mine to make up for a the few dropped balls.

Worth a look

For fans of... The Pillbugs, The Beatles, The Kinks, Lois etc....

Exumer - 'Fire & Damnation' (metalblade) 4/5

Back in the mid 1980's when thrash was young German outfit Exumer were amongst the leading light in the genre. then after two critically acclaimed albums and  numerous tours the band folded in 1990. There was a one off festival appearance at the 2001 Wacken festival, then in 2008 they reformed, and since then have been gigging world wide whilst preparing for this, their first album in 24 years.

So was the wait, just shy of a quarter of a century worth it? Well listening to this one makes me feel like its 1986 again, and that is not a bad thing. Basically F&D is a ten track cakewalk back to those heady day. Cuts like Fallen Saint, Vermin of the Sky (my fave cut on offer) and Devil Chaser are all sweet old school thrash workouts. Not particularly fast or aggressive by modern standards, but still dripping in 1980's style brutality menace and power. Vocalist Mem V. Stein snarls and barks out his bile and anger like a good un, the guitars of HK and Ray Mensh churn, thrash and shred like a pair of Glasgow razor boys at chucking out time, and the demolition crew rhythm section of T. Schiavo and Matthias Kassner drive the whole thing on like a rogue bulldozer. Good stuff, good stuff indeed.

OK, so this album sounds like Exumer sounded back in the day. And there is nothing wrong with that, so often a classic thrash band will try to reinvent themselves for a modern audience and fuck up big time (at this point I will enter into evidence Onslaughts 'Shadows Of Violence' album). Furthermore these days sounding like a classic 1980's thrash band can be an advantage, there is a big revival in retro rock going on at the moment as the youth of today are rediscovering the classic rock and metal of the 70's and 80's; and therefore there is a whole new audience out there just waiting to be 'Exumed'.

Pretty damn good

For fans of... Slayer, Onslaught, English Dogs, Testament, Megadeth etc....

Crazy Lixx - 'Riot Avenue' (frontiers) 5/5

Swedish sleaze fueled rockers Crazy Lixx have been together since 2002 and along with the likes of Sister and Royal Republic are one of the big players in the glam side of Sweden's current classic rock revival. This is their third album.

Now I've been living with this one for a couple of weeks now, and this is the fourth time I've sat down to review it, but I've been having problems with this album, its so damn good and infectious, every time I've played it I've ended up head banging around the flat like a demented teenager, air guitars, the works. So this time I've got the girlfriend to tie me down in front of the computer and beat me with a whip until I've finished writing this one up.

As you can guess I'm like this one big time. From the up tempo double whammy opening of Whiskey, Foxtrot, Tango and Youngblood through to the almost southern boogie closing epic of Only The Dead Know, this album just drips class. It's like all your fave glam and sleaze rock acts rolled into one glorious eleven song package. You get the the classic riffing of Ratt (Youngblood), the mob yell choruses of Poison (Fire It Up), the late night sleaze of Dogs D'Amour (Downtown), the strut and swagger of Skid Row (Sweet, Bad & Beautiful), the full works and its formed into a down and dirty whole that makes this one of the best glam rock / hair metal albums of the past 10 years at least.

I really cannot praise this album enough, the performances here are spot on. Danny Rexon's vocals are distinctive, direct and remind me somewhere of the great Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Guitarist Andy Dawson is a rare talent, a glam metal guitarist who knows exactly how to read a song and knows when to go OTT and when to rein himself in. Chuck in the rhythm section of Loke Rivano (bass - now sadly departed from the band) and Joél Cirera (drums) who are as tight as a ducks chuff and as driving as Finnish Rally driver in an old group B car, and you do have a band who knows not only how to rock out like a bastard but also how to bring the best out in each other.

In short this is a great album and with glam rock getting a new audience thanks to the likes of the Black Veil Brides,  an outfit that really could go places.

A True Classic
For fans of... Moltey Crue, Ratt, Kiss, Skid Row, Black Veil Brides, Sister etc....


Modern Day Escape - ' Under The Gun' (standby) 4/5

With out doubt the real surprise of 2011 was the success of Black Veil Brides as they exploded out of the California underground to stake a real claim at world domination. Now we have Ohio post emo boys Modern Day Escape attempting to follow in their wake of their label mates with this their second album.

Now with former BVB stickman Sandra Alva thumping the pig skin and taking a very similar approach to production as BVB followed on their 'Set The World On Fire' opus it would be too easy just to dismiss this lot as a band of bandwagon jumpers and move on. But to do that would be to do MDE a huge disservice, cos this record is a pretty impressive work in its own right.

There are eleven cuts on offer here and to be honest they are pretty good. Cuts like Life's A Bitch, Tigers Blood and Feels On The Darkside are all prime slices of top notch commercial mainstream hard rock; bursting with angst fueled teen attitude, mosh pit friendly headbangable aggression and enough catchy hooks to keep a tuna fisherman going for several weeks. All good fun stuff.

All the classic hard rock influences are on show, you get dollops of Moltey Crue, hints of Iron Maiden, Kiss style riffage, post hardcore shouty bits and more... and the end result is another album that could just well help in making the mainstream cool again.

OK its not all good news, there are a few places, especially on the opening cut City of Thieves where the sound is a bit confused and messy and the result is that this album isn't as immediately accessible as the aforementioned BVB opus, but its worth sticking with, especially when it comes to the closing cut Demons Down Below, a track that has 'classic' scrawled all over it.

The bottom line is that this is the sound of the new mainstream, and if it means more of this kind of stuff, and less Nickleback, 30 Seconds To Mars, Theory of a Wifebeater kind of yawn rock then the world is going to be a better place.

Pretty damn good

For fans of... Black Veil Brides, Halestorm, Dear Superstar, Shinedown etc....

Tyketto - 'Dig In Deep' (frontiers) 3/5

Another US East Coast outfit on the comeback trail, Tyketto first emerged out of New York in the late 80's and like many of the second wave of US hair rockers had their careers cut short by the whole grunge movement of the early 1990's. They first split in 1996 after four albums, reformed in 2004 and broke up 'for good' three years later. However less than 12 months later they reformed and have spent the last four years touring their butts off world wide and preparing for this, the first album of new material in 16 years.

Now I will be honest and say I'm finding this on a little bit of a let down on first listen, I have a copy of the bands first album on vinyl, and find this latest offering a bit light weight in comparison. It's a wee bit too radio friendly for my tastes, a bit lacking in drive and balls. It' not until the fifth track on the album you get anything resembling a real rocker, when the the opening riff of The Fight Left In Me cuts in, but even then that riff resolves into something not all that gutsy and pretty middle of the road. In fact true rock out moments on this one are a bit few and far between. Theres the rather groovy slide blues of the title track and the riff heavy and driving Sound Off (the best cut on offer by a country mile), but thats about it really. The rest of the album is made up of light weight US daytime rock radio tunes, rather cheesy power ballads and sub Bon Jovi lighter wavers.

Shame because this album is well penned and played and you know that Tyketto are a band who can rock out like bastards when they want to, but here they never seam to get out of second gear. Still fm radio stations in the mid west will lap it up ever if the rest of the world may find this album a bit lacking in fire.

Try before you buy

For fans of... House of Lords, Beggars & Thieves, Bon Jovi, REM.....

Trixter - 'New Audio Machine' (frontiers) 4/5

Back in the late '80s / early 90's, New Jersey hard rockers Trixter were a promising new act in the second division of US rock. Their first two albums made small dents in the US rock charts and great things were expected, but following a rather disappointing album of cover versions in 1994 the band fell apart. however 2008 saw a reformation for a live album, a compilation album and reunion tour, and now at least we have the first album of new original Trixter material for 20 years.

Now this one starts of very strongly, the opening cut Drag Me Down kicks off with a sweet little blues fired acoustic moment, that has hints of Soundgarden about it, before cutting off into a pretty impressive Cinderella style hair metal workout, all sleazy strut,' na na na na' hooks and down and dirty riffage.

Having set the stall out Trixter continue with pretty much more of the same, and thats fine with me, cos listening to this album takes me screaming back to those heady days of hair spray heroes like Ratt, Poison, Nevada Beach and the like when the whole glam revival stuff provided the musical counter point to my heavier, more thrashy listening and kept me lurching drunkenly around dance floors well into the wee small hours.

Cuts like Dirty Love, Machine, Tattoos And Misery and Save Your Soul all sleaze from the speakers like a drunken personnel manager at an office party and start a party with your libido that could well end up in a compromising position with the girl from the typing pool and a final warning from the boss. And then there's the fantastic closing cut, Walk With A Stranger a number that sounds like Bon Jovi before they sold out to the MTV big hit single machine. Ok, there are a couple of skippers, namely the two cheese laden power ballads Live For The Day and The Coolest Thing, but I can over look two duff tracks when the other nine on offer are so strong.

Over all this is a pretty damn fine album and one that Trixter should be proud to have recorded.

Strongly Recommended

For fans of... Cinderella, Poison, Tyketto, Black Veil Brides etc....


Heart Of A Coward - 'Hope and Hindrance' (self released) 3.5/5

It seams that Milton Keynes has got a bit of a metalcore scene going at the moment, and the latest offering from the city of the concrete cow is this debut release from Heart Of A Coward.

Now I have a bit of love hate relationship with metalcore over all, especially the recent UK metalcore acts of the past few years. While some of it has been real cutting edge stuff, so much of it tends to fall back into the same old same old metal core cliches of by the number song construction and very formulaic and tiresome clean & dirty vocal interplay. So how does this one match up?

To be honest its a mixed bag. Some tracks such as We Stand As One, Light, Nightmare and the epic closing cut of Break These Chains they do have a shed load to offer as brutal blast and smash riffage is intercut with some nice AFI style acoustic moments and sound samples to keep a good flow going and maintain interest. However in a few places such as the track All Eyes To The Sky and especially on Shade, they fall back into the pit of metalcore cliche and seam to wander aimless down the path where a thousand others have gone before. A couple of years ago this sort of stuff was cool and cutting edge, now its just dull predictable.

Still this one does have more to recommend it than not and one metalcore fans should at least check out at some point.

Worth a look

For fans of... Terakai, AFI, Screaming Eyes, We Die Tonight, The Ottawa Hoax...

Elysian - 'Wires Of Creation' (self released) 3.5/5

Australian progressive death metallers Eylsain (not to be confused with the Greek power metal band of a similar name) are a fairly new edition to the worlds metal scene. They have only been together a couple of years and this is their debut release.

Now as far as debut releases goes this one isn't too bad. Blending elements of old school Pink Floyd style prog rock, with OSI / Dream Theater type prog metal and huge slices of growly voiced death metal stylings the band forge an interesting range of sonic soundscapes and moshable metal workouts.

Now to be brutally honest I'm finding this one a bit of a double edged sword. I'm loving some parts but others are leaving me a bit cold. It all comes down to the vocals of Ben Garner. Don't get me wrong as a deep gruff and growly death metal vocalist he is excellent, and on tracks like Sense Offender and Play The Hand, when Elysian are in full on metal mode he sounds great. But sadly when the rest of the band go off on their proggy trips and Mr Garner is still in growl and snarl mode the vocals don't seam to sit quite right with the music.
This is a shame cos Elysian are a band with a helluva lot of potential, but they need a bit more light and shade in vocal department to bring the best out of them. Maybe they should check out Fornost Arnors amazing 'Death of a Rose' album to see how a more subtle and considered approach to the vocals could really bring out the best of them.

Still this is a new band, still finding their feet, and this album still has a lot to recommend it over all and I'm sure that given time to develop they could mature into an act that could rank up there with the very best of them.

Worth checking out

For fans of... Fornost Arnor, Fates Warning, OSI, Opeth etc....

Job For A Cowboy - 'Demonocracy' (metalblade) 4.5/5

With three full length albums and three eps under their belt Arizona death thrashers Job For A Cowboy have been building a growing reputation as one of the underground metal scenes most likely to succeed, and now we have their latest album to remind us exactly what these guys have to offer.

Now I will confess that I've come late to the JFAC party, It wasn't until last years Gloom ep that I started to really pay them attention; and I'm seriously wondering what I've been missing, cos that aforementioned ep and this album here are a we bit good to say the least. There's a good load of of old school death metal in the bands sound, but also in there are some goodly slices of of Megadeth style thrashings and even hints of Bathory type black metalisms just to broaden the sound and lift the band above the same old same old death metal sensibilities.

There are nine cuts on offer here, each a finely crafted exercise in brutal metal excess.Vocalist John Davy grunts and snarls like a good un and the twin six stringers of Al Glassman and new boy Tony Sannicandro are to die for as they blend relentless steam hammer riffage and speed blur thrash outs with some some really rather beautiful melodic lead sections and Priest-U-like twin harmony lines.

It's hard to select any highlights as I'm liking the whole album lots but if I had to pick just one track for individual praise it would have to be the epic closer Tarnished Gluttony with its slow and doom laden opening, post sabbath riffs, glorious middle breakdown and relentless build up into a truly earth shattering, yet downbeat climax.

Very very good indeed

for fans of.. Not Above Evil, Exumer, Goatwhore, Megadeth....

Violet - 'The Brightside EP' (small town records) 4.5/5

Derby outfit Violet first got together a few years back they have issued their debut full length album back in 2010 and now have followed it up with this their current ep.

Now I like a band who likes to mix their genres and influences, and mixing it up is something that Violet do to the extreme. Take a track like Seven For A Secret, it kicks off with a guitar riff thats all Journey style stadium AOR, transmutes it into a nice commercial and melodic You and Me At Six type mainstream radio rocker and then... WHAM, from out of left field comes a wall of snarling and aggressive hardcore style vocals and razor blade riffing, then it spends the rest of the four minute play time bouncing the styles off each other like some huge game of musical bumper cars.

There are eight tracks on offer here, five on the main ep and three bonus cuts, and they all show the same glorious intermix and reciprocity of styles. You really do get a bit of everything, commercial mainstream rock vocal lines, old school hardcore growls and snarls, indie boy jangly guitars, massive stadium rock progressions, touches of metal riffage, dollops of post punk attitude... this ep is really one nice big bowl of musical chuckit served up as hot as it comes. Highlights? Well I'm loving all but the closing bonus track Away From Everything is to me this ones true stand out cut.

Now I know the mix of styles my alienate some of the less broadminded out there, but but believe me anyone who like s to experiment with their listening will find much here to reward them

Highly recommended.

for fans of... Converge, AFI, You And Me At Six, Dear Superstar, Funeral For A Friend....