Cradle Of Filth – “Hammer Of The Witches” (Nuclear Blast)
Cradle Of Filth are England’s premiere black metal band and certainly no strangers to controversy. Back in the early 90s their infamous (and now banned) ‘Jesus Is A C–t’ t-shirts were causing as much rage offstage as the band were causing on it! Signed to cult label Cacophonous and with the potential to rival even Norwegian firebrands Mayhem, CoF’s gigs were riotous affairs that were fueling a burgeoning British black metal scene. However, for reasons that some of those early fans will never forgive them for, CoF themselves appeared to be on their own journey – that of commercial stardom – embracing the mainstream press as accolades were bestowed and questions were raised as to their truly satanic beliefs beyond their make up. Strangely enough, as the underground distanced itself, the band themselves took it all in their stride, evolving over time by bringing in gothic, occult and symphonic elements to complement their sound, along with fresh members while growing all the time. These days only vocalist Dani Filth remains in a CoF which is more internationally diverse as is its style. Still shrouded in occult imagery and capable of ferocious blast beats with a screaming fury that make’s Filth’s voice a cornerstone of their sound, CoF today are more of an extreme metal band, happily soaking up their past experiences of goth, symphonic and even melodic death along with their black roots. “Hammer Of The Witches” is the band’s 11th album and sees a return to a twin guitar sound courtesy of new guitarists Ashok and Richard Shaw, both of whom show their quality through their heavy raging riffs along with some dextrous melodies that gives CoF a thick driving sound but one continuously refreshed through their creativity. Filth’s ear shattering 5 octave range screams are relentless throughout the 11 tracks but largely thanks to Lindsay Schoolcraft’s suave keyboards, ranging from catchy harpsichord melodies to passionate atmospherics and her tender femme vocals, songs like ‘Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych’, ‘Blackest Magick In Practice’ and ‘Deflowering the Maidenhead, Displeasuring the Goddess’ are given a real dimension of class – what a lady! With Martin Škaroupka adding in his tasteful orchestrations brilliantly contrasted by the brutality his relentless drum work, “Hammer Of The Witches” does a lot to win back my early respect for the band, albeit this time not for their extremeness of their imagery but for their enthralling music.
U.D.O. – “Navy Metal Night” DVD/2CD (AFM Records)
Since from his Accept days Udo Dirkschneider has always had a military theme (even if the man himself is anything but a warmonger) so its little wonder that he decided to make a special show last year inviting the German Navy Orchestra and choir on a unique musical collaboration! The first thing that struck me was just how many people were crammed onstage but at least there was no need for any pyro with Udo of course being right up front in the crowds face, who of course duly sang along to every song arms aloft! Opening with the brooding ‘Das Boot’ film theme, the orchestra soon showed its worth adding its symphonic splendor whether on its own on the epic build up to ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’ or providing a deeper and wider atmosphere be it through backing horns on ‘Heart Of Gold’ or providing choral majesty to complement the soulful guitar work on ‘Days Of Hope And Glory’. Far more radical however was the jazz cabaret rework of ‘Cut Me Out’ which is even more funked up than its original version although ‘Trainride In Russia’ gets more balls to the wall this time round thanks to heavier guitars and that powerful orchestral backing making it worthy of a Red Square march! Of course, the icing on this very rich cake has to be the ballad duet of ‘Dancing With An Angel’ with none other than German metal queen Doro Pesch whose smooth femme vocals brilliantly contrast with Udo’s own unique cat purr style – and backed once again by some emotional cellos and horns – very cool indeed. With everyone including the orchestral going balls out for closer ‘Animal House’, the 18 tracks on “Navy Metal Night” prove that going beyond a highlight in Udo’s 40 plus year career, this spectacle simply has to repeated – and so it will be in a few weeks at Wacken where the man will be joined by the German Federal Armed Forces Orchestra no less!!!!
Powerwolf – “Blessed & Possessed” (Napalm Records)
If you’ve never heard Powerwolf then you truly must be in holy damnation, else you will no doubt be reveling – nay slavering like a hell hund – to get your paws on this 6th chapter in the bible black of the ‘wolf! “Blessed & Possessed” is not just the band’s most mature release but also their best bar none, bringing together all their experience in their 12 years of touring and composing. This is so good you could be forgiven for thinking this was a best of compilation such is the immense hit potential of the 11 tracks herein, but in reality it attests to the strength of the band in not just doing what they do best, but doing it even better than before! No frills, no effects, no concepts, just straight up tongue in cheek singalong songs with addictive catches and deep, epic hooks all skillfully arranged to get any metaller (actually anyone) breaking into song, frantically air punching and dancing irresistibly – seriously, I challenge anyone to defy the overwhelming power and charms of songs like ‘Armata Strigoi’, ‘Dead Until Dark’ and ‘Army Of The Night‘. From chivalrous keyboard melodies to cavalier guitar solos all brought together with unforgettable epic rhythms, Attila Dorn’s opera metal vocals spew forth tongue in cheek Latin lyrics backed by choirs and orchestrations guaranteeing this marvelous album is in my top 10 for this year. This band just goes from strength to strength and not even silver bullets can stop them!!!
Evo / Algy – “Damned Unto Death” (High Roller Records)
The bastard twins from hell return! Infamous punk / metal legends Evo and Algy Ward are back with this anarchic offering that will no doubt be the final straw from those unfortunate to have crossed them. Famed as The Damned’s bassist and later Tank’s rough n tuff frontman, Algy Ward at one point could’ve been classified as Lemmy’s protege while Evo, drummer / vocalist for Warfare represented all that was anarchic in Margaret Thatcher’s 80s Britain. Mad dogs and Englishmen bar none! As individuals, prison (or padded) cells were all that Britannia could do to contain these terrors, but as a combo, not even Satan could bear to take ’em! Despite folding Warfare back in the 90s – permanently according to numerous interviews with Evo – I’m surprised that this collaboration hasn’t occurred sooner given these two go back donkeys years probably to when Evo played with punkers the Angelic Upstarts? Well, no matter as this mini album takes you right back to those glory days when punk n metal crossed to produce the sorta nosebleed offering that few can forget….or forgive. With the lads handling their respective instruments i.e. Evo on drums and vocals, along with electric violin, Ward swings the axes on 3 new songs like the Venom like ‘Anger, Violence, Hatred’ to blistering covers of Motorhead’s ‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S’ given an even more raucous rendition and shooting bullets into Status Quo’s ‘Tune To The Music’ – although don’t be expecting any boogie, just raw guitars, heavily strummed bass, guttural vocals and of course, shattering OTT drums. As per the characters of these two legends this mini album doesn’t mince words, and of what is played – amidst belches and farts – its damned the torpedoes and full speed ahead sir!
Bone Gnawer – “Cannibal Crematorium” (Pulverised Records)
Glory unto death! Originally formed as a recorded project by two of the underground’s death metal legends in Massacre’s Kam Lee and Rogga Johansson of Paganizer, Ribspreader (and a million other bands), Bone Gnawer steadily became a real band with the inclusion of Naglfar’s drummer Ronnie Lie and multiple axe murderer Ronnie Bjornstrom (Taedeat / Hate Ammo)! An utter bloodbath that mixes the best of the old school with the new, “Cannibal Crematorium” also includes an incredible array of guests undoubtedly attracted by the reputation of Lee and Johansson, and these include Benediction’s Dave Ingram and Acheron’s Vincent Crowley among the better known names. Bringing together Lee’s bestial vocals, Lie’s nuclear speed drums and Bjornstrom‘s dirty guitars chop and rev up to high speed on songs like ‘Modern Day Cannibal’, while crushing equally on the slower, prowling ‘Carnivore Beneath’. However, Bone Gnawer’s true pedigree is in mixing the old with the new like on the epic title closer ‘Cannibal Crematorium’ with its diddly dee guitars and some utterly smashing drum work – simply magnificent! With the project’s original concept rooted in the macabre world of psychotic cannibals and serial killers, the music is reflective of this twisted insanity, hooking you in fiendishly with cool grooves and catchy hooks before cleaving you asunder in this stylish slaughter fest that features death metal’s best!
The Dropper’s Neck – “Nineteen | Sixteen” EP (www.facebook.com/Thedroppersneck)
Already hot off an EP and last year’s acclaimed debut “Second Coming” that was produced by Paul Tipler (Placebo & Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster), this Essex crew continue to impress with their cool blend of Dead Kennedy’s era punk rock tinged with Velvet Underground experimental rock and backed with a heavy Queens Of The Stone Age bottom end! With the vocals alternating between Jello Biafra vibrato to screamo, the twin guitars are equally diverse, melding rock n roll licks with punk melodies and some heavy as shit slide riffing, all backed of course by a destructive rhythm to boot. Despite the grim body strewn cover and warring song titles like ‘Line Me Up For The Firing Squad’, ‘Somme’ and ‘Monster’ there is actually a very upbeat and positive energy to the material which is highly catchy especially in those ultra power riffs. Furthermore, despite their obvious influences (which the band make no attempt to mask) the complex song arrangements allow that diversity to actually be melded into a sound that The Dropper’s Neck could call their own so kudos for that, especially for a band so young. Now on a national level, this lot have a reputation for trashing venues up and down the country as they continue to build their fan base by hitting the road with several UK tours this year, so prepare for some serious DIY punk chaos!!!!
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