Soilwork – “The Ride Majestic” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Definitely not a band without controversy, I guess some people can’t get over the fact that like a lotta bands who change over time, Soilwork have done so too. Formed in the midst of Sweden’s melodic death genre back in the mid 90s, it’s hardly surprising that is how they sounded too, but over time have become influenced by metalcore from the US and in short, become less Scandinavian sounding. Then there’s the brutality, which I would say is less raw than it was, but is now more polished so that heavy chopping rhythms and even blast beats sit comfortably beside some of the most beautiful and intellectually crafted melodies that have always been a part of Soilwork’s sound, either to a great or lesser degree. “The Ride Majestic” certainly isn’t a blast to the past in appeasing some, neither is it another radical departure sure to cause further ructions, but more reflective of the band’s 20 years experience with plenty of variety in the material ranging from brutal to more soulful songs but always with a mellow death core and resplendent with those dazzling melodies. Despite its deathly cover, this is some of the most exciting and optimistic music that leaves one feeling emotionally hopeful indeed. From the blurring metalcore of the title track opener, Speed’s raw larynx vocals are measurably contrasted by sunshine harmonies, as is Dirk Verbeuren’s ferocious drum work by guitar melodies that have love written all over them. Later offering an ‘Aspire Angelic’ mid tempo version (Verbeuren excepted) of this number, there are certainly plenty of Scandi guitar melodies that clearly show Soilwork haven’t forgotten their roots, along with Speed’s deathly drawls. With ‘Petrichor By Sulphur’ mixing in a catchy US metalcore groove with some prog tranquility, it again shows the skill in composition and mastery in musicianship that make Soilwork who they are today. Likewise, ‘The Phantom’ takes us right back to the blurring blast beat days of the mid 90s, with Speed threatening to scream himself out, so I’m kinda thankful for those soulful vocals and what can I say about those breathtaking guitar solos – again simply mind blowing! Best of all for me though was the closer ‘Father And Son Watching The World Go Down’, a Scandi rock opus with bunches of emo harmonies and scintillating guitar melodies making this a very slick piece indeed – and if this is where Soilwork want to go, then I’m all for following them. Like I said, get over it.
Tad Morose – “St.Demonius” (Despotz Records)
Continuing their amazing comeback from 2013’s “Revenant” comes “St.Demonius”, which takes us back to the classic early releases of Tad Morose. Formed in the early 90s, this Swedish prog / modern metal band were just a little ahead of the pack, getting signed to Century Media and once vocalist Urban Breed was on board, things really started to take off for them, playing all over the world at Wacken, Milwaukee Metal Fest, Prog Power USA and Sweden Rock! Parting ways with Breed in 2003, a logistically ill fated replacement in US based Joe Comeau (ex Annihilator, ex Overkill, ex Liege Lord) resulted in the band being dropped and thereafter a 10 year absence from the scene. Still, “St.Demonius” proves that Tad Morose have lost none of their touch, and moreover still continue to play in their classic epic modern metal style with hints of prog! Now with Ronny Hemlin (ex Steel Attack) joining sole founder guitarist Christer ‘Krunt’ Andersson the band return to the road once more with this 8th album. Despite their style, Tad Morose have gone for a more stripped down approach in losing the keyboards in favor of bringing the rhythmic aspect of the dual guitars more to the fore, resulting in a far more heavy and driving sound on songs like the slow n brooding ‘Day Of Reckoning’ or the fast n furious ‘The Shadows Play’, with its machine gun licks and stampeding double bass drumming from longtime drummer Peter Morén! If questions arise over atmosphere then this is where Hemlin’s superb soprano vocals come into play, adding flair and panache in his soulful melodies, soaring range and naturally, his screams like on the epic ‘Fear Subside’. With the new line-up completed by bassist Tommi Karppanen (ex Morgana Lefay) and guitarist Kenneth Jonsson (ex Torch), expect a less complicated, more melodic yet heavier Tad Morose this time round!
Die Krupps – “V – Metal Machine Music” (Steamhammer / Oblivion / SPV)
Industrial metal. EBM. Neue Deutsche Härte. Long before Rammstein there was Die Krupps. Pioneered by mastermind Jürgen Engler since 1980, Die Krupps has long had its influence on the German musical landscape for decades, even sitting comfortably alongside Nine Inch Nails and Ministry as co-innovators of 90s electro metal. Unfortunately burned out by heavy touring during this period, Die Krupps took a 10 year plus break, biding their time to return as the scene grew to finally release their 8th album “The Machinists Of Joy” in 2013. Although this was more of a tribute to the band’s past in industrial old-school EBM, the cover of that album pays tribute to Lou Reed and in particular his 1975 “Metal Machine Music”album that reputedly had a huge influence Engler, who took its title and literally developed a style that was experimented in the 90s and is now perfected in Die Krupps own “V – Metal Machine Music”!!! With its post apocalyptic Mad Max style cover and songs like ‘Road Rage Warrior’, ‘Battle Extreme’ and my personal fave ‘Kaos Reigns’, this is a very aggressive album that is sure to surprise some both in its music as well as its politically charged lyrics, many of which go to the heart of German society, which the US residing Engler long escaped. From its brutal, tough sound to the use of fierce, old analogue synthesizers the man machine sound is completed by Marcel Zürcher’s phat thrashing riffs and ex-Accuser Volker Borchert’s insane blast beats! With Engler’s own trademark Deutsche vox adding the finishing touch to this excellent return to fine form, Die Krupps prove they are still capable of taking on new challenges with old school tricks – so world watch out!
Backyard Babies – “Four By Four” (Gain Music)
They’re back…..after a career from the late 80s spanning six albums, the pioneers of Swedish sleaze rock announced a hiatus that lasted until last year. But with the same line-up that has stuck together all along, five years simply wasn’t enough to spell an end to Backyard Babies, merely some time out needed to recharge their batteries before launching an album that shows they can go through anything together no matter what – just like a 4×4! Taking their influences from the melodic aspects of 70s US punk and glam rock n roll a la Hanoi Rocks, Backyard Babies take in a whole lot and pack it into a big punch coming right back at you. From Nicke Borg’s eternally adolescent vocals guaranteed to break a million teenage hearts to Dregen’s awesome guitar that churns out everything from punk pop melodies to sweat drenched trash rock riffs and crooning tearful rock n roll – hell, he even chucks in some tasteful slide – it’s all on 101% proof songs from the motorvatin’ ‘I’m On My Way To Save Your Rock N Roll’ to the street struttin’ ‘White Light District’ reeking of attitude and the sensitive, heart breaking ‘Mirrors Shall Be Broken’ – this is Backyard Babies 2015! I think these guys took a long hard look at their past and what they (and the fans) love about Backyard Babies is carved into the nine tracks along with a renewed hunger reflected in the high energy delivery of this superb return album. Like their heavily tattooed bodies, “Four By Four” proves that Backyard Babies are rock n roll for life until the day they die!
Ahab – “The Boats Of The Glen Carrig” (Napalm Records)
If you’re feeling slightly somber then Ahab are definitely not the band to reach for! Playing ponderous funeral doom that could make a rundown cemetery look like Disneyland, this grim quartet typically favor seafaring themes to match from horrifying shipwreck tales to murderous mutinies and of course, cannibalism! With an apt sound to boot, expect nothing less than hoarse guttural vocals, monster waves of crushing noise, and a rhythm that could fell a leviathan with a single, devastating blow. Never ones to let up on our suffering, these Germans go one step further on “The Boats Of The Glen Carrig”- naturally about another shipwreck which descends into yet another dark tale of desperate survival in the savage sea weed infested Sargasso Sea with the added dimension of sea monsters, be they real or otherwise. As such, the material now also lends itself to a more psychedelic feel in some places, enhanced by clean trippy vocals while elsewhere on songs like ‘The Isle’, ‘Red Foam’ and ‘The Weedmen’ the sound is actually more sludgy. With 4 out of the 5 tracks clocking in between 10 – 15 minutes long, Ahab once again manage to deliver a pulverizing dark epic of classical proportions!
Black Trip – “Shadowline” (Steamhammer / SPV)
If you like taking a trip back to the old school then this rocking metallic jolly courtesy of ex-Nifelheim, ex-Necophobic and Enforcer members really goes beyond the black! Anyone expecting anything remotely close to those previous bands can take a walk, but the extremity is still there – in the sheer range of 70s heavy rock and early 80s metal that you’ll find inherent in the 11 tracks making up this excellent blast to the past. Early Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Montrose, early Maiden….the list is endless as Joseph Tholl does an excellent job vocally, at times hinting of Phil Lynott, whilst at others blatantly Paul Stanley and even Sammy Hagar – not bad at all for a Swedish dude! If that isn’t enough then the dual guitars of Peter Stjärnvind and Sebastian Ramstedt really show what this album is made of – plenty of timeless power grooves and catchy warbling riffs, adventurous breaks and needless to say, heaps of classic soloing that all pay homage to the sound of an era where everything played to excess was de rigueur as if dictated by the rock gods themselves! Call it tacky, call it passé, but to the seasoned connoisseur songs like the Lizzy swank of ‘Berlin Model 32’ and the made-by-Maiden ‘Clockworks’ were what all the excitement was about for generations of rockers back then. My personal fave ‘Over The Worldly Walls’, brings back all the memories of those early Kiss stadium shaking shows with anthemic singalong choruses that would stay with you long after the show was over so I have to give Black Trip the kudos they deserve. With my new hero Nicke Andersson (Entombed, Hellacopters, Imperial State Electric) perfectly capturing both the sound and the essence of what these guys are all about on this more diverse, yet bigger album, all that’s left to say is – Spinal Tap, eat your heart out!
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