Sodom – “Decision Day”

Sodom

Sodom – “Decision Day” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Battle Helm Rating

Under the reign of founder bassist / vocalist ‘Onkel’ Tom Angelripper, Sodom has remained one of the cornerstones of German thrash, along with Destruction and Kreator. Like their peers, they’ve had to evolve with time but of the three, I’d say that Angelripper and his boys have branched out the least, pretty much remaining true to their thrash roots and delivering consistently. Naturally, over the years they’ve become better musicians, not to mention acquired heaps of experience along the way, and its reflected in the composing and sound quality of the songs. “Decision Day” is the band’s fifteenth studio album and pretty much encapsulates this. While Angelripper’s raw, screeching vocals remain as distinct now as when as I first heard “In the Sign of Evil”, things have come a long way thanks to the musclebound but dexterous guitar work of Bernemann, whose mean riffs are superbly contrasted by his flamboyant soloing and catchy licks. Held together by Markus Freiwald’s equally fierce but technical drumming, Sodom are an airtight trio bar none! Of course, while the likes of ‘Vaginal Born Evil‘ take me back to those early days, the band show their song writing maturity on ‘Blood Lions’ which covers trophy hunting and ‘Rolling Thunder’, which deals with D Day. Personally, I think Sodom are at their best when covering socio-political issues such as on ´Belligerence`, in which Angelripper offers his scathing critique of current international events. So with plenty of hostility and speed, Sodom aren’t afraid to mix in melodies to enhance the atmosphere of their music, and this adds the right epic vibe especially to the historical material they cover. With an excellent ‘big’ sound courtesy of Cornelius ´Corny` Rambardt, who also doubles as the drummer of Angelripper’s side project Onkel Tom, ´Knarrenheinz` one again graces the cover, this time brought to life by legendary Joe Petagno on yet another quality serving from these veteran German thrashers!

Running Wild – “Rapid Foray”

Running

Running Wild – “Rapid Foray” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Battle Helm Rating

Although caught up in the emerging German metal scene of the mid 80s, Running Wild were actually formed in 1976, thus making them 40 years old as a band! Centered around a tongue-in-cheek pirate image as founded by vocalist, guitarist and composer Rock´n`Rolf Kasparek, Running Wild are a well known name, even if mainstream success as eluded them. Still, the fact that they’ve stuck to the same formula over the years is probably what’s kept them alive! Essentially playing heavy metal driven by raw, roaring guitars and speed dropped in during their heavier moments, there’s a huge emphasis on memorable, catchy songs employing bunches of power melodies designed to elicit a crowd response – and 30 years treading those stage boards attests to that success! Despite being knocked out through 2014 with a shoulder injury, Kasparek has bounced back with what must be one of Running Wild’s best albums and definitive of their sound. From his own rock meets metal vocals to the double bass-driven speed of ´Warmongers`, his guitar along with fellow swashbuckler Peter Jordan sink right in – and don’t let go – as the hard rocking ‘Stick To Your Guns’ comes waylaying into you before the unforgettable megaton title track delivers the knock out blow. With no disappointments whatsoever across the 11 tracks I strongly urge you to check out “Rapid Foray”!

Delain – “Moonbathers”

Delain

Delain – “Moonbathers” (Napalm Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Following hot off their “Lunar Prelude” EP earlier this year comes the full blown “Moonbathers” – and what a rocker it is! Although 10 years into their career and now onto their 5th full length album, Delain have been a relatively low key band until recently, when they have undertaken some serious touring. Well, that’s all paid off in “Moonbathers”! This is an absolute gem of an album that both rocks across its 11 tracks and is probably the most catchy of all Delain’s releases. Although classified as a symphonic band, I would say that’s taken something of a back seat here, with strong metallised rock and a huge emphasis on live energy taking its place. Bearing in mind that the material is also diverse from heavy tracks to ballads and rockers, I cannot commend the band more for maintaining the energy consistently throughout the album, not to mention their own excelling musicianship and a par excellence production, courtesy of founder keyboardist Martijn Westerholt himself! Given all that, it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve covered Queen’s ‘Scandal’ masterfully from Charlotte Wessels own stupendous soaring vocals to the addition of guitarist Merel Bechtold, whose youthful talents only add to the star quota here. There really isn’t one track here that I didn’t enjoy for its breathtaking excitement although ‘Fire With Fire‘, ‘The Glory and the Scum‘ and ‘Danse Macabre‘ certainly stood out for me, and that’s really saying something given the overall quality of this amazing album!

Helstar – “Vampiro”

Helstar

Helstar – “Vampiro” (EMP Label Group)

Battle Helm Rating

Killer! This is by far the best Helstar album I’ve heard in years!!! Now on Dave Ellefson’s EMP label and with legendary Bill Metoyer (Slayer, WASP, Armored Saint, Sacred Reich) mixing, “Vampiro” takes me back to the early 80s with releases like “Nosferatu”. I mean, the twin guitars of founder Larry Barragan and Andrew Atwood are simply phenomenal – monster heavy hooks, mesmerizing classically inspired riffola and blinding hell fer leather solos – man, what more could you ask for?! Well, there’s the signature vocals of James Rivera – a legend in his own right having handled the mic for Malice, Vicious Rumors, Flotsam & Jetsam and probably a 1,000 other underground bands – as high as ever and always with that classy, operatic element adding a hint of the macabre to heaven (or maybe I should say hell) sent songs like ‘From The Pulpit To The Pit’, ‘To Dust You Will Become’ and ‘Off With His Head’. With Garrick Smith’s bass and some serious precision drumming from Mikey Lewis cementing the package, “Vampiro” is the complete circle from this renowned speed / thrash band formed 35 years ago who have seen it all but still continue to deliver the goods!

Dark Forest – “Beyond The Veil”

Dark

Dark Forest – “Beyond The Veil” (Cruz Del Sur Music)

Battle Helm Rating

Heavy Metal from the woods! If you’re a fan of folk / medieval metal along the lines of Elvenking or Falconer and with a distinct English flavor, then you need to venture into this Dark Forest. Bravely calling themselves Heavy Metal and now onto their 4th full length release in “Beyond The Veil”, it doesn’t come any more grandiose than the 12 epic tracks herein clocking in at over 70 minutes! Richly inspired by folkloric tales, mythology and ancient history, along with paganism and magic, this is a band that writes from the heart about what they want, so expect deep, atmospheric compositions befitting their themes as the power of the woodland comes to life on hugely catchy songs like ‘Where The Arrow Falls’, the Children of Bodom like ‘Blackthorn’ and the 15 minute epic of ‘The Lore Of The Land’. Needless to say, the music is no less spell bounding especially with the amazing up front twin guitars of founder Christian Horton (ex Cloven Hoof) and Pat Jenkins, who deliver some of the most passionate and beautiful melodies I’ve ever heard, reaching right into my heart and soul to carry me off back through time or to some mythical land, sung out by the soulful bard like vocals of Josh Winnard (ex Wytch Hazel). By all accounts a superb album, and despite their name, all I saw was the blinding light of uplifting strength, limitless positivity and huge amounts of heartfelt love!

Chuck Mosley And VUA – “Demos For Sale”

Chuck

Chuck Mosley And VUA – “Demos For Sale” (EMP Label Group)

Battle Helm Rating

Already establishing itself as a fast up n coming label, Dave Ellefson’s EMP Label Group is throwing out some amazing releases from both new and veteran acts. Legendary Faith No More vocalist Chuck Mosley is next, going back to his debut solo 2009 release “Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food” that featured guests like Korn’s Jonathon Davis, Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum and Rob Zombie’s guitarist, John 5. Recorded over several years and featuring his backing band, the Vandals Against Illiteracy (VUA), the album came out to mixed reviews with many finding it too off the wall and diverse – ironic when you consider that that was the initial reaction many had to Faith No More when they began! “Demos For Sale” is a compilation of demos and early mixes  ‘.. as a better representation of their initial vision for the songs…’ from that 2009 release. Diverse it certainly is from the post punk noise screamo of ‘Tractor’ to the trippy alt rock ballad ‘Sophie’ written about Mosley’s youngest daughter to the punk pop wah of ‘Punk Rock Movie’ and the dark n heavy bass driven ‘Bob Forest’. But I did like ‘The Enabler’ featuring Jonathon Davis and John 5, mixing hard stomping rock and raw guitar with Mosley’s trippy rapping mixing in remarkably well and of course, a cover of Faith No More’s own ‘We Care A Lot’ given a more street sound with Mosley  rapping coolly all over it. With all the songs having a good sound I wouldn’t see this as a ‘B list’ (re)issue but a worthy contemporary complement to the original release and moreover, attesting to why Mosley remains a cult figure and luminary to many across the world.

HAMMERFALL – The Sacred Vow

Sweden’s Heavy Metal legends HAMERFALL are back, and are not just celebrating 20 years of a successful career which inspired an entire genre and beyond, but they are also releasing their brand new and 10th studio album ‘Built To Last’ on November 4th 2016 on Napalm Records! Today the band unleashed the first track by unveiling a lyric video for the song ‘The Sacred Vow’. Continue reading

OBITUARY – “Loathe”

Death metal legends OBITUARY have announced Ten Thousand Ways To Die, a special two-song single containing a pair of brand new studio tracks plus a bonus live set of twelve classics and fan favorites from the band’s storied catalog. Recorded in eleven different cities during the band’s highly successful 2015 Inked In Blood world tour, the live tracks capture the incredible performances of a band that has stood atop the death metal pantheon for almost 30 years. Ten Thousand Ways To Die is sure to satisfy new and die-hard OBITUARY fans and will quench the bloodthirst of listeners until the band’s new album drops in Spring 2017. Continue reading

EKTOMORF – Euro dates

After completing their US tour and playing major festivals, EKTOMORF will be on the road again in Europe October / November 2016 – with a killer set consisting of songs from the band’s latest album “Aggressor” and all their classic hits. Confirmed support acts are: Hemlock from the US, Hot Beaver from Hungary and Arise In Chaos from the US. Get your tickets and see you in the mosh pit! Continue reading

In Flames – “The End”

Legendary melodic metal act IN FLAMES announce the release of their twelfth full-length studio album ‘Battles’, out November 11 via Nuclear Blast (worldwide, excl. North America) and Eleven Seven Music (North America). Recorded in Los Angeles, the 15-track album sees the band taking a new approach while staying true to their vision and encompassing their unique, signature sound. IN FLAMES brought in Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson (PAPA ROACH, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE) as a collaborator on ‘Battles’, creating an album that speaks to all IN FLAMES fans alike. Continue reading