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Viking Skull - 'Cursed By the Sword' (transend) 4.5/5

This is the third full length opus from Corby based 'Viking' metal outfit Viking Skull and the first for Transend.

Now from the off lets clear up any confusion, although Viking Skull do admit to being influenced by and inspired by all things viking, this album is not true Viking metal as such, there's no Amon Amarth / Falconer / Turisias / Kivimetsan Druidi style longship rowing epic nordic stylings here. Instead on first play of this album you get huge chucks of Battleaxe and Fist style NWOBHM and large helpings of post NWOBHM aggression in the style of acts like Drunken State all wrapped around a vocalist who does a damned good Blackie Lawless (WASP) impression. And to be honest I am pleased about that, cos the result is a Brit band playing tin the classic Brit metal style that I grew up listening to and as a result is right up my musical street.

To say I'm liking this one lots is a gross understatement. There are ten tracks on offer, all sweet as a nut old school headbangers that take me back to those air punching and head banging days back at Bristols old Granary Club in the 1980's. You get cuts like the savage and boogie driven Machine Gun Honey,  the AC/DC fueled Second Left On Harris, which features classic lyrics like 'I've got 1,000 watts of rock and roll, turn it up and watch your neighbours cry' and fantastic tongue in cheek beer goggle anthem You Look Like I Need A Beer. It's larger than life, in your face and what's more important, is delivered with a sense of humour that in these days of dead pan metal is a breath of fresh air. However my fave track here has to be the Sabbath inspired Sleepwalk, a true metal epic if ever there was one.

Musically this album is first rate, its aggressive and heavy yet it still manages to maintain a full on dance-floor friendly boogie attitude that will make even the squarest of old metal-heads wanna dust off the old air guitar and jam along; and that is something the current UK metal scene needs more of. The production here is spot on as well. it's tight enough to pull the sound together nicely but remains loose enough to allow the bands raw attitude and fire to shine through to the max. Not a balance that is easy to achieve.

Over all this is a great record and one I'll be playing a lot, both on air and for my own pleasure.

Well worth getting

For fans of... Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Battleaxe, Drunken State...

Furyon - 'Gravitas' (frontiers) 4.5/5

When the Sunday Rockshow first launched on BCFM one of the first unsolicited demos to arrive was from a young Brighton band called Furyon. I was very impressed with what was on offer and have been following the bands development from a distance ever since. Now five years on we have this their first full length release on key international rock label Frontiers.

And what a release it is. One of the things that really impressed me about aforementioned early demo was the bands ability to write and construct classic metal tracks yet at the same time keep them sounding fairly accessible and radio friendly, and that has not changed. The opening cut on this one Disappear Again manages to come over as accessible and FM happy as anything the likes of Nickleback or Avenged Sevenfold can cook up, yet still manages to keep a good old school Saxon / Marshall Law metal vibe going at the same time, and that's no mean feat.

Then with the stall well and truly set out Furyon go on to show their diversity. To pick just a few highlights... Stand Like Stone comes over a bit like Iron Maiden jamming with Mastodon, Don't Follow mixes Lamb Of God style riffage with a classic vocal delivery from Matt Mitchell that reminds me somewhat of a husky Rob Halford. Voodoo Me, a re-recording of what struck me as the stand out track on that early demo, is a classic little pop-metal number that comes over like Tygers Of Pan Tang on a Def Leppard trip and Our Peace Someday is a track as good as anything Ion maiden have delivered on their past few album and features some fantastic guitar work from Pat Heath and Chris Green.

However to me the stand out cut is the closer, Desert Suicide, which starts out sounding a little like a classic Canterbury era Diamond Head number, all darkly acoustic with shock beats then builds and build into a spine tingling epic where the light and shade are played to maximum effect and it leaves the listener feeling they have indeed just heard something very special indeed.

Over all this is a cracking album that should help shove Furyon up the league of British metal and bring them closer to recognition they undoubtedly deserve.

Very highly recommended

For fans of... Avenged Sevenfold, Diamond Head, Iron Maiden, Marshall Law.....