Bloodbound – “Rise Of The Dragon Empire”

Bloodbound – “Rise Of The Dragon Empire” (AFM Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Absolutely amazing! Consistently releasing albums since they were formed in 2004, this Swedish band have released 7 prior LPs and played concerts in 25 countries, touring with the likes of Hammerfall, Sabaton and UDO. The brainchild of former Street Talk members Fredrik Bergh (keyboards) and Tomas Olsson (lead guitar), Bloodbound has also included Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart), Urban breed (Tad Morose) and Pelle Åkerlind (Morgana Lefay) in its ranks at various points in its career. Now comes “Rise Of The Dragon Empire” and it’s a complete winner with unbelievable songs throughout, taking in power, epic and folk metal in an irresistible package. Clearly there will be comparisons to Sabaton’s powerful epic melodies, although the vocals of Patrik J. Selleby are far more soulful and higher, while the use of folk and heavy metal definitely gives these guys their own highly catchy sound. It’s all over tracks like ‘Magical Eye’, opening with delicate violins which then gets more dramatic as the guitars build the passion while Selleby lures your heart through his passionate tones before the irresistible heavenly chorus just blows your mind. Mixing power with epic metal, ‘Blackwater Bay’ is a non stop singalong full of pomp and majesty, driven by the powerful trumpeting melodies of Bergh’s keyboards, while manly choirs chant out the stirring chorus as Daniel Sjögren keeps military time with his pounding but precision drum work, setting the perfect medium for Olsson’s solo that is so beautifully melodic words can’t describe it more. ‘Balerion’ is nothing short of pumping energy fuelled by Bergh’s keyboards and Sjögren’s pistoning double bass beats, but Selleby’s singing just takes it to a new level with the melodies, and backed in kind by Olsson’s excellent guitar, even gives the song a pirate punk edge that totally works in the expert hands of this talented band. Closing with ‘Reign Of Fire’ the folky pipe intro with birdsong soon explodes into a huge stirring melody with the keyboards, bombastic drums and heartfelt vocals backed by massive warrior choirs as Olsson exudes his own flowing passion before closing as ambiently as it started. Honestly, there are so many good songs on this album it’s been difficult to choose the standouts, although that doesn’t present a problem in rating this superb release a well deserved 5 stars!

Battle Beast – “No More Hollywood Endings”

Battle Beast – “No More Hollywood Endings” (Nuclear Blast)

Battle Helm Rating

Steadily following from its 2015 predecessor, this 5th release from Finnish heavy / power metallers shows they have firmly found their feet both musically as well as a band. With the addition of lead guitarist Joona Björkroth, Battle Beast have at last brushed off the last traces of longtime guitarist and main songwriter Anton Kabanen, although his pop rock metal is still evident in some of the 11 tracks here. However, with all the band now contributing to the song writing, there’s more of a variety with symphonic rock, ballads, stadium rock and even touches of AOR evident in the material, some of which even combines these styles! Still, it’s all been done very well indeed, from the composing to the musicianship and of course, the sterling sound which definitely promises fulfilment on the live front for any of these tracks, attesting to the talent of the band. Likewise, there’s a more epic vibe gracing all the numbers with a real feeling of strength running through all of them, be it during the quieter or more thunderous moments probably manifesting the confidence and fortitude of the members. Thundering in like a cavalry charge on ‘The Golden Horde’ led by Noora Louhimo’s powerful singing and screaming, the fast kick beats meld slickly with Joona Björkroth’s breathtaking breaks and solo to culminate in the massively catchy singalong chorus resplendent with stirring warrior melodies. With its atmospheric film score intro courtesy of Janne Björkroth’s keytar and some light military drumming from Pyry Vikki, Louhimo’s soulful highs take ‘Raise Your Fists’ into an irresistible rocker with huge, stirring grooves topped off brilliantly by tender melodies before another smoking solo from Joona Björkroth just burns you with its passion. Although opening delicately, ‘Eden’ soon erupts with abundant power melodies and even more heart stealing emotion in Louhimo’s singing, proving that behind all the screams and power, this woman also has a voice – and an incredibly moving one at that – and only matched by Joona Björkroth’s orgasmic wailing solo, so not surprising they chose this song to be their single! Closing this amazing album with ‘World On Fire’, its back the original Kabanen pop rock sound, with tons of harmonies, big synths, hearty (key)guitar and of course, Louhimo’s angelic girlie singing all powering a monster melody that hooks you in right from the off with energy and an undying passion until the end. What more can I say – the beast is back!

TNT – “Encore Live in Milano”

TNT – “Encore Live in Milano” CD / DVD / Blu-Ray (Frontiers Music)
Battle Helm Rating
Formed in 1982, TNT are Norway’s first ‘heavy metal’ band, releasing 12 studio LPs and selling around 5 million albums worldwide. While they do have their heavy moments, I’d describe TNT more as a melodic hard rock band, certainly by today’s standards, but that probably matters little to their legion of longtime fans! Since 2015, the band have been on a rollacoaster ride with American vocalist Tony Harnell, whose departures and re-appearances both for logistical reasons and other disagreements finally culminated in a new vocalist, Baol Bardot Bulsara, being recruited to sing on “XIII”, release last June, which Harnell was originally scheduled to perform on. As such, this special live album, recorded during TNT’s headlining set at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, may be the last time we hear from him. It’s really a shame for all, as the collaboration between Harnell and founder guitarist Ronni Le Tekrø is truly special, as amply evidenced on this special set of 15 classics lifted from timeless albums like “Knights Of The New Thunder”, “Intuition”, “Tell No Tales”, and “My Religion”. From the crunching riffs on ‘She Needs Me’, Harnell’s soul and highs take the song to the next level, grabbing your attention and filling your heart full of grace as the harmonies become even more uplifting before Le Tekrø’s fretboard burning and axe wails add the quintessential ‘TNT’ to the mix – fantastic! Soaring even higher on ‘Forever Shine On’, Harnell proves why despite all the troubles over the years, he remains the fan favourite and there’s little to doubt him here, adding the hooks and catches to Le Tekrø’s raw guitar that soon goes into overdrive as it screams and funks out in his own masterly hands. Closing with the classic ‘Everyone’s A Star’, Harnell leads with his wails backed by the solid rhythm including founder drummer Diesel Dahl that soon get the crowd clapping as Le Tekrø teases them on to the grand finale of feedback, screams and roars! Whether we see Harnell ever again with TNT remains a question, but this live album serves as a fitting testament to a great performance with him, and as such cannot be missed by fans.

Usurper – “Lords Of The Permafrost”

Usurper – “Lords Of The Permafrost” (Soulseller Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Prepare for decimation – Usurper are back!!! Much to the lamentation of some, while to other roars of euphoria, Chicago’s kings of the underground have returned with their 6th album in “Lords Of The Permafrost”. Still with founders Rick Scythe (guitars) and Joe Warlord (drums), Usurper were formed back in 1992, when extreme metal combining black, thrash, death and heavy metal hadn’t been invented in name, although the style was certainly being fashioned as manifested by the band’s early work, primitive and visceral as it was. Despite folding in 2005 after releasing “Cryptobeast”, demand for Usurper, especially live, has been unrelenting and so it comes as little surprise that the band has returned to the studio, calling back vocalist Dan Tyrantor and shortly after enlisting Project: Tsunami bassist & long-time Usurper fan Scott Maelstrom to step in as their newest member. Clearly recognising the success of bands like Behemoth who have the taken the style into genre of their own, this line up of Usurper have stepped up big time on “Lords Of The Permafrost” in all aspects from technicality to song writing across the 8 tracks here – while keeping to their original ethos of creating atmospheric, memorable and brutal songs. From ‘Cemetery Wolf’ that’s certainly true thanks to Scythe’s dirty, crunching guitar dribbling dark melodies alongside heavy, brutal riffs conspiring with the pummelling tom work of Warlord to create the menace that Tyrantor drawls over unhurriedly, as the song builds before exploding into a catchy razor riffing headbanging groove – and ending with a howling wolf call naturally! Speeding into ‘Warlock Moon’ Tyrantor roars over the hyper speed pedalling, cymbal frenzy and slide riffing before the song hammers in another massive groove, all slickly timed to the varied tones of the vocalist – unleashing an absolute banshee of a scream – before a cascade of drums rolls, down tuned riffs and wails ends the number. On ‘Gargoyle’ it’s more of a mid tempo gallop with even some folky melodies added before the aptly named Maelstrom brings his thunderous bass to bear as Usurper attempt (and succeed) in a singalong chorus as Warlord goes into a background drum frenzy before Scythe’s solo proves that it is as malevolent as it is rock n roll – awesome! Stronger than before and musically superior to any past line-ups, prepare for the return of Chicago’s dark heavy metal horror monsters.

Iron Griffin – “Curse Of The Sky”

Iron Griffin – “Curse Of The Sky” (Gates Of Hell Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Well, if you thought that multi-instrumentalist Oskari Räsänen (who’s also the drummer for Mausoleum Gate) was onto something with his one man heavy metal band when he released his EP two years ago , then prepare yourselves for the wonders of this full blown affair! Taking stock and now expanded to include the astounding vocals of Maija Tiljander, “Curse Of The Sky” is 7 stirring numbers of epic proportions influenced by 70s proto metal, folk and hard rock and rooted in fantasy, swords and sorcery with some medieval twists. Recorded by Räsänen, who even took a bus and his portable recording equipment to track the demo with Tiljander, there is a highly organic sound that simply oozes 70s atmosphere from the prominent bass to the musty church organs and no effects natural guitar. Over it all come Tiljander’s superb vocals that resonate not only her incredible range but her breathaking siren-esque power like a valkyrie riding over scores of warriors on a battlefield. The in the main low tempo of the music, which has a slight melancholia to it, allows all the emotion and passion from Tiljander’s captivating vocals to really grab you right from the start in ‘Reign Of Thunder’, with its flowing medieval melodies and mesmerising crescendo wails of ‘..only the strongest will survive..from the anger of the gods..’ right through to the more upbeat ‘Dawn Of Struggle’ with its galloping bass and raw background guitar reminiscent of Maiden – until Tiljander’s spectacular femme soul dispels any notion of Bruce Dickinson even attempting to step in her place ha ha! I have to give every credit to both Räsänen and Tiljander for pulling this awesome musical experience off no better exemplified than by the 7 minute closer ‘To The Path Of Glory’, with its gentle guitar, delicate flute and folk harmonies slowly building the power through an epic doom style as Tiljander wails in so passionately, followed by increasingly heavier bass, harder drum work, and of course, that all possessive church organ! An album to be listened to from start to finish, and for anyone appreciating Räsänen’s vision, that will happen all by itself anyway…..simply irresistible.

Hell Fire – “Mania”

Hell Fire – “Mania” (RidingEasy Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Hell Fire began when bassist Herman Bandala moved to San Francisco from Tijuana in the hope of forming a heavy metal band. Since then that dream has become a reality, with Hell Fire on an unstoppable roll following their debut and now onto their 3rd release in “Mania”! The lure of this band is simple: catchy songs played with conviction and most of all, an authentic heavy metal sound that goes right back to the 80s. That’s right, despite being based in the home of (Bay Area) thrash metal, Hell Fire actually go  back to bands like Iron Maiden and Riot while acknowledging the inspiration of local legends Metallica. In fact, the style, attitude and vibe from the band remind me of a youthful Metallica, Megadeth and Exodus, so these guys might be well onto something given the strength of the 10 tracks here. Opening with the aptly titled ‘Warpath’ it’s an unbelievable mix of Motorhead and Riot given the chugging riffs, double bass drumming and the raw screams from vocalist / guitarist Jake Nunn before the wild but melodically spirited solo from Tony Campos comes in. Rumbling in on ‘Isolator’ thanks to Bandala’s heavy, rumbling bass, there’s an interesting mix of raw riffing with catchy, warbling power melodies that makes for an epic groove topped off nicely by Nunn’s equally throat strained singing, while both his solo and Campos’s resonate even more catchy melodies, both of the heavy and power metal variety. Closing off with ‘Masochist’ with grim bass in the background only adds the dramatic contrast of the twin melodic guitars on this epic number, with Nunn really singing his heart out, not forgetting the smashing drum work of Mike Smith, before it all takes off speedily driven by twin solos into pure heavy metal head banging heaven – excellent! Certainly living up in every aspect, “Mania” is everything any lover of true metal could crave for.

Rock Goddess – UK Tour

London born rockers ROCK GODDESS will be hitting the road this coming September as they continue promotion of new album THIS TIME, which charted at number 10 in the official UK rock chart earlier this month.

“We were so gutted at having to cancel the last few dates of our recent tour due to my admission into hospital after the Birmingham gig”, says vocalist/guitarist Jody Turner, “however, I can guarantee that normal service will be resumed – come this tour we will be firing on all cylinders! We are so excited to be doing our own tour of the UK this year.”

Joining ROCK GODDESS on the September UK tour dates are Glasgow rockers HEAVY PETTIN’, who reformed in 2017 initially for a one-off performance at Winterstorm Festival in Troon, Scotland. As Turner continues, “We are especially excited to be touring with Heavy Pettin’, this is going to be a night you do not want to miss.”

Since reforming in 2014, ROCK GODDESS have taken their time to get it right, easing themselves back into the scene with UK and European festival slots plus a short tour as Special Guests to the mighty Saxon in 2018.  In between shows, the band have worked tirelessly on making sure the album has a current take on the classic ROCK GODDESS sound.

“We never saw ourselves as just treading the nostalgia circuit,”states Turner. “We always saw a new album as part of our evolution, and we still have a lot to say. But the principle is still the same; make an album, go out and tour, and bring the music to the fans, hopefully gaining new fans along the way.”

And, as HEAVY PETTIN’ frontman, Hamie, enthuses: “Rock Goddess and Heavy Pettin’ together!! It’s one helluva bill, in front of the best rock fans anywhere! It’s gonna be Epic!”

ROCK GODDESS and HEAVY PETTIN’ UK tour:

31 August: The Tivoli, Buckley

1 September: Thekla, Bristol

4 September: Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

5 September: The Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool

6 September: Oran Mor, Glasgow

7 September: Yardbirds Rock Club, Grimsby

8 September: The Robin 2, Bilston

Tickets on sale from Friday 22 March 2019, and available from all venue and usual outlets. ARE YOU READY?

Revocation – “Vanitas”

After releasing their latest album, The Outer Ones, last year to critical acclaim,Revocation embarked on a headlining world tour in support of it. During their European trek with labelmates Rivers Of Nihil, the band filmed a video for the album track “Vanitas” (directed by Rivers of Nihil’s Jonathan Topore), which can be seen now here:

Revocation will head back out on the road in April/May, this time with Whitechapel, Dying Fetus, Fallujah, Spite, Uncured, and Buried Above Ground. See below for all dates!

“Chaos and Carnage” tour dates w/ Whitechapel, Dying Fetus, Revocation, Fallujah, Spite, Uncured, Buried Above Ground
Apr. 18 – Sayerville, NJ – Starland Ballroom
Apr. 19 – Worcester, MA – Palladium
Apr. 20 – Reading, PA – Reverb
Apr. 23 – Pittsburgh, PA – Rex Theater
Apr. 24 – Cleveland, OH – Agora Theatre
Apr. 25 – Chicago, IL – Conrod Music Hall
Apr. 26 – Pontiac, MI – Crofoot
Apr. 27 – Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
Apr. 28 – Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze
Apr. 30 – Denver, CO – The Oriental Theater
May 2 – Berkley, CA – UC Theatre
May 3 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
May 4 – Phoenix, AZ – The Pressroom
May 5 – Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater
May 7 – Springfield, MO – The Complex
May 8 – Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond Ballroom
May 9 – San Antonio, TX – Rock Box
May 10 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Live
May 11 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
May 12 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
May 13 – Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theatre
May 15 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
May 16 – St. Petersburg, FL – Jannus Live
May 17 – Winston Salem, NC – Ramkat

Produced by Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Queensryche, Whitechapel, etc.), The Outer Ones sees Revocation pushing both the death metal and progressive elements of their signature sound harder than ever. “I knew that I wanted to go in a darker direction, and this is our most death metal album to date,” states vocalist/guitarist Dave Davidson. “Sometimes when death metal bands go down the prog route they lose some of that edge, but we wanted to keep the aggression at the forefront of what we do while still pushing our boundaries.”

Moving away from the societal and historical themes that informed 2016’s Great is Our Sin, this time Davidson has immersed himself in the fantastic, evoking one of the great writers of the sci-fi/horror genre. “The title is my ode to H.P. Lovecraft and the entities of pure cosmic horror that rule that universe he created. Since the new music we were writing was so evil and spacey in sections it seemed to be the right title to fit the overall vibe. But while the lyrical content is largely influenced by such writings, in every allegory there is of course some reflection of the real world, so I enjoy writing in a way that could have one overlaying meaning and then another deeper, symbolic meaning as well.”

To preview and purchase The Outer Ones, please visit: metalblade.com/revocation

ANTHEM – Cryin Heart

Japan’s leading traditional heavy metal stalwarts ANTHEM are set to release their re-recorded greatest hits album, Nucleus, on March 29th via Nuclear Blast. In anticipation of the release, the band have premiered another live video for one of their re-recorded tracks. ‘Cryin Heart’, featuring guest drummer Mad Ohuchi, is taken from their 1988 album Gypsy Ways. A live version of this album is included with the CD release of Nulceus. Check out the video for ‘Cryin’ Heart’, here

The band has also announced their first ever European festival appearance. On April 26th-27th 2019, ANTHEM will play at the Keep It True festival in Germany.

Mixing and mastering of Nucleus was done by esteemed producer and engineer, Jens Bogren (OPETH, DIMMU BORGIR, SEPULTURA etc). All of the tracks on the album, except ‘Venom Strike’, were written after the band’s reunion in 2001 – proving that ANTHEM have always has been a ‘current band’ that does not have to rely on their past.

YOB – Amoeba Green Room Session

YOB, who kick off a new round of North American tour dates on Tuesday, share a recently taped Amoeba Green Room session. The session was filmed during the band’s previous national tour and features the songs “The Lie That is Sin,” “Breathing from the Shallows,” and “Our Raw Heart,” the title track from the band’s critically-acclaimed 2018 album.

Our Raw Heart surfaced on a wide range of best of 2018 lists, nabbing the #1 spot in Decibel Magazine’s extensive year-end issue, as well as receiving nods from NPR, Rolling Stone, ArtForum, Mashable, New York Magazine’s Vulture, Noisey, Treble and more. Consequence of Sound’s Heavy Consequence said of the album that they placed at the top of their 2018 countdown: “Our Raw Heart… possesses a serene almost uplifting quality,” while PopMatters, who also placed the release at the top of their Best Metal of 2018 list, said “… true art… offers us an insight into the most frightening of human emotions. Our Raw Heart acts as a portal to another’s pain…”

Tickets, as well, as exclusive ticket and merch bundles, are on-sale now. The bundles, which can be found via yobislove.com, includes an entry ticket, an exclusive t-shirt as well as the option of vinyl or CD versions of Our Raw Heart.

YOB Tour Dates (All dates with Voivod and Amenra except where noted):

March 26  Minneapolis, MN  Fine Line
March 27  Chicago, IL  Thalia Hall
March 28  Columbus, OH  Ace of Cups  SOLD OUT
March 29  Cleveland, OH  Grog Shop
March 30  Toronto, ON  Phoenix
March 31  Buffalo, NY  Town Ballroom
April 2  Portland, ME  Geno’s  SOLD OUT
April 3  Boston, MA  Royale
April 4  Brooklyn, NY  Warsaw
April 5  Philadelphia, PA  Union Transfer
April 6  Richmond, VA  Broadberry
April 7  Raleigh, NC  Kings
April 9  Knoxville, TN  Concourse
April 10  Atlanta, GA  Masquerade (Hell)
April 11 New Orleans, LA  One Eyed Jack’s
April 12  Houston, TX  Warehouse
April 13  Austin, TX  Barracuda
April 14  Dallas, TX  Gas Monkey
April 16  Denver, CO  Marquis Theater *
April 18  Phoenix, AZ  Club Red +
April 19  San Diego, CA  Brick by Brick + SOLD OUT