FM – “Synchronized”

FM – “Synchronized” (Frontiers Music)

Battle Helm Rating

Something of a supergroup when formed in 1984 when singer Steve Overland and his brother, guitarist Chris (both formerly of Wildlife) teamed up with drummer Pete Jupp (ex-Wildlife and Samson), bassist Merv Goldsworthy (ex-Diamond Head and Samson) and keyboardist Didge Digital, FM’s potential was quickly realized in a signing to CBS followed by a run of dates with Meat Loaf that year. Tours with Tina Turner, Foreigner, and Gary Moore followed after the release of their debut in 1986, culminating in the band supporting a white-hot Bon Jovi on their “Slippery When Wet” tour. Issuing follow up albums “Tough It Out” and “Takin’ It To The Streets” saw further touring with Status Quo and Whitesnake, and two more albums until “Dead Man’s Shoes” in 1995, when the band split up. However, some 12 years later, FM reunited for a ‘one-off’ headline performance at a sold-out Firefest IV at Nottingham Rock City. Since then, the rest is history with the band returning to full form, releasing 4 full length albums and a live recording, as well as touring with Foreigner, Journey, Thin Lizzy and Heart, and festival appearances including Download, Planet Rockstock, Sweden Rock, Graspop, Steelhouse Festival, Frontiers Rock Festival, HRH, HRH AOR, Cambridge Rock Festival, and in 2018 their first-ever live show in the US at Melodic Rock Fest 5! “Synchronized” is band’s 12th release, containing 12 wholesome melodic rock tracks that hold back nothing in bringing back all the passion and memories from the glory days, amply proving that this British melodic rock band still hold a premier place even today. And why would you doubt it listening to the likes of ‘Ghost Of You And I’, opening movingly through Jem Davis’s delicate piano and soothing keys, and led by Steve Overland’s soulful voice, the gentle guitars strum out, bringing graceful passion in abundance before breaking your heart through their wailing solos – man, it couldn’t be anymore perfect. Then there’s ‘Walk Through The Fire’ with its unashamed 80s synth sound (think “Miami Vice”) that took me right back to the arena days of the band, while the powerfully melodic chorus and backing harmonies whisk you off in utter bliss as if made for a hit video, steadily building the passion over the course of the song until a climax of squealing guitars and Overland’s passionate highs – wow. Slowing it right down to the slide guitar blues of ‘Angels Cried’, the moving piano and Overland’s heartfelt tones, while being melancholic as you might expect, are also strangely uplifting, especially when the gospel like chorus with its light backing harmonies really touches your soul – and shines a light of hope to radiate it immeasurably. And that’s what sets this fine band apart, and continually proves that even after a hiatus lasting a decade, FM are simply unforgettable.

Grave Digger – “Fields Of Blood”

Grave Digger – “Fields Of Blood” (Napalm Records)

Battle Helm Rating

‘…we did it again and put on the kilts…’ says founder vocalist Chris Boltendahl when asked how he would be celebrating Grave Digger’s 40th anniversary. Thus, in closing the Highland trilogy set by “Tunes Of War” in 1996 and “The Clans Will Rise Again” in 2010, comes this 20th studio album covering the battlefields of Stirling, Bannockburn and Culloden as seen through the eyes of the Highlanders on the fast and furious ‘Freedom’ with its razor riffing, fiery solos and double bass attack, while equally presenting a seldom presented emotional take on Scotland’s history through all its triumphs and griefs on ‘The Heart Of Scotland’, experienced dramatically through pounding warrior drums, epic bagpipes and celtic melodies, while passions are unbound on the (power) ballad of ‘Thousand Tears’, a vocal duet featuring the soprano majesty of Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast. It’s a masterful achievement by all accounts, not in the least given that the band recorded as a 4 piece following the departure of longtime drummer Stefan Arnold, who was replaced by keyboardist Marcus Kniep and has done a magnificent job covering both instruments! But what makes Grave Digger stand the test of time is how they have stayed true to their course of no frills old school power / heavy metal, mixing brutality with speed and melody to perfection as can be evidenced on the 12 tracks here. It’s no better summed up than on ‘All For The Kingdom’, with its heavy power riffing and pistoning double bass drums, while Boltendahl’s rough ‘n’ ready voice provide the perfect lead to the incredible chorus, resonating passion and heroism in epic glory, while Axel Ritt’s superb neo classical solo is just simply outta this world! Building the grandeur on ‘Union Of The Crown’, the expansive sound works a treat in a stylish blend of wailing guitars, fast neo classical breaks, mid tempo double bass drums and power riffs as the emotionally charged voice of Boltendahl takes us to another moving chorus that is as deep as it is melodic, but oh so incredibly electric and highly catchy in every regard. Bringing it all together on the 10 minute title track of ‘Fields Of Blood’, it’s straight out’ve “Braveheart” with its stirring bagpipes and military drumming before sounding the speed metal charge led by Jens Becker’s pulsating bass in building to the ambient but epic chorus, followed by a melodic folk evolution touched in places by heavy metal and even a prog piece, until looping back to its original soundscape. Wow, this album is truly a special celebration by one of Germany’s most successful heavy metal pioneers!

Árstíðir lífsins – “Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir”

Árstíðir lífsins – “Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir” (Ván Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Concluding the two-sided story constructed around the later period of the Norwegian king and saint, Óláfr Haraldsson (995-1030), this 5th album, along with last year’s predecessor, depicts the lives of two siblings and their individual experiences during the turbulent times of early 11th century Norway. Based much more on Skaldic, and also partly on Eddic poetry, “Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir” points to historical battles and other happenings as described in Kings’ sagas and other old Norse sources, despite the main characters themselves in the story being fictional. Sung entirely in old Icelandic, this concluding chapter was composed and recorded at the same time as its brother album, so is the perfect continuation in every aspect in bringing the astonishing soundscapes of Árstíðir lífsins, meaning ‘seasons of life’, once again to the fore! Skillfully forging epics crafted from the elements of black metal, ambient, folkloric chants and even string orchestrations, the composing talent is matched by the high musical abilities of Stefán (guitars, bass, vocals & choirs), Árni (drums, string instruments, effects, vocals & choirs) and Marsél (storyteller, vocals & choirs). Darkly slide riffing in on the 10 minute ‘Sem járnklær nætr dragask nærri’, it doesn’t take long before the savage speed hits, although it’s the thick, ominous atmosphere in the background that makes this song such a heavyweight, especially when the pagan choirs mix beautifully with chiming Norse melodies to build the captivating intensity that doesn’t let up a heartbeat from start to finish! Blastbeating in at nuclear levels on the 8 minute ‘Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita’, Árni’s power drumming adds the dramatic contrast to the slower demonic drawls and screamo, while the whirring guitar touched off exquisitely by epic tones is no less affecting on the soul, as are the spoken narratives that evoke thoughts of mystical spells being cast amid a flurry of Nordic melodies. Reversing the polarity on ‘Um nætr reika skepnr’, the serenity couldn’t be more striking through its drawn out weeping violins and synth ambiance, providing the background to Marsél’s storytelling narrative as spoken through his deep voice, ghostly whispers and other sound effects. Blasting back in on ‘Er hin gullna stjarna skýjar slóðar rennr rauð’, the undeniable power of the whirring Nordic riffola is breathtaking, and when the dark choirs add their measure to the black screamo and melancholic violins, you know why Árstíðir lífsins are such a force to be reckoned with. Ending with the titanic 17 minute ‘Ek sá halr at Hóars veðri hǫsvan serk Hrísgrísnis bar’, the epic soundscape of guitars and chanting choirs mix with black drawls as the song becomes ever more intense through blast beating and shredding melodic fretboard work reminiscent of Dissection, while pagan chants and wailing guitars add even more darkness and beauty before a blissful mix of melancholic violins, acoustic guitars, spoken word and weather effects brings this utterly awesome track, and indeed, spectacular album, to a fitting conclusion. If you did not catch the last album, then do not miss this one….

The Headlines – “Warpaint”

The Headlines – “Warpaint” (Metalville)

Battle Helm Rating

Apparently outcast for not having enough tattoos and wearing too much pink in their native Sweden (!), little has stopped The Headlines from playing over 300 shows all over Europe, including supporting The Levellers and finding themselves new territories in Asia, North America and Russia! Formed in 2005 and now expanded into a 5 piece, The Headlines have released 5 prior albums as well as EPs and singles, mixing the melodic punk rock influences of Bad Religion, Rancid and Green Day with an old school rebellious touch of The Clash in vocalist Kerry “it’s my own fucking revolution” Bomb’s riot grrrl attitude! And that’s where it’s at: while others are fixated on image (and possibly jealousy), The Headlines have put it all into their music, which while being as energetic as one might expect, also contains tons of deep hooks and catchy melodies along with heart felt croons to set “Warpaint” well apart from the punk pack. Indeed, the sound on this 12 track release is highly polished thanks to award-winning producer Chips Kiesbye, who’s worked with The Hellacopters, Backyard Babies and Millencolin, indicating the awesome potential that The Headlines have, and with Bomb taking over main vocal duties and dropping the bass into Sophie Ward’s hands, the future looks set for this Swedish band! It’s certainly hard to ignore the instant catchiness of the raw but melodically alluring guitars on ‘Sounds From The Underground’, wailing and crooning as Bomb tells the tale not with negativity, but with a strong can do ethic to pull yourself up in building to the uplifting singalong chorus, encouraged by the positivity of the harmony shout outs. Kicking in sharply on ‘Warpaint Authority’ to Jake Lundtofte’s punchy riffs, Bomb’s girlie singing belies the punk lyrics of ‘..if you fuck with her and fuck with me, fucking gonna fuck with you!!..’ and as the melodies grow along to the soulful croons of ‘..molotov cocktails in the air…we’re that generation we don’t care..’ the song builds to another hugely catchy chorus with its raucous chants of ‘Warpaint! Warpaint!!’ – brilliant! Hitting up the punk rock ballad on ‘The Storm’, the raw but heartbreaking guitars mix perfectly with the deep emotions of Bomb’s soulful voice, and while sad in its tone, thanks to the punk fire charging it, still comes fighting outta the gutter resonating plenty of hope and love. Whaling away for the massive singalong ending in ‘Underdog’, it’s all hands to the pump in a mix of punk and new wave riffs, wailing melodies, mixed male and femme lead vocals, background and harmony shout outs all centered around another positive and inspiring message about making it in this world. Whatever the views of their hometown scene, The Headlines seem to be happening everywhere else thanks to their amazing music!

EPICA – Studio vlog album #8 (Part 5)

Dutch symphonic metal giant EPICA recently entered Sandlane Recording Facilities to record their eighth album. In March, keyboard player Coen Janssen and bass player Rob van der Loo, together with producer Joost van den Broek, traveled to Prague to record with the renowned “City of Prague Symphonic Orchestra”. In the fifth Studio Vlog episode, you will get a behind-the-scenes look at these recording sessions.

Coen Janssen comments: “Yes! It finally happened!! We recorded our new album with a full symphonic orchestra!!!  Of course this has been a life-long dream of ours and this time it was the next logical step to take to enhance our sound. So we spend 3 awesome days in the beautiful city of Prague to record with the well-known City of Prague Symphonic Orchestra, and boy are you in for a treat!!! I am sure the orchestra adds a new layer and depth to our sound and I am beyond excited for everyone to hear it!!’”

EPICA new album is scheduled for release this fall through Nuclear Blast Records. In support of this album the band will comprehensively tour Europe during the ‘Epic Apocalypse’ co-headline tour with APOCALYPTICA and support-act WHEEL.

LIVE DATES: Design Your Universe – 10th Anniversary Shows – Latin America
03.09.2020                CL    Santiago – Teatro Caupolican *RESCHEDULED*
05.09.2020                 EC      Quito, – El Teleferico *RESCHEDULED*
06.09.2020                 PE       Lima – Centro de Convenciones Barranco *RESCHEDULED*

The Epic Apocalypse Tour 2020 w/ APOCALYPTICA, WHEEL
21.10.2020                 CH       Zurich – Komplex
22.10.2020                  CH       Lausanne – Komplex
23.10.2020                  IT         Milan – Fabrique
25.10.2020                  HU       Budapest – Barba Negra
26.10.2020                  CZ        Brno – Hala vodova
27.10.2020                  D          Munich – Tonhalle
29.10.2020                  S          Stockholm – Berns
30.10.2020                  N          Oslo – Sentrum
31.10.2020                  DK        Copenhagen – Amager bio
02.11.2020                  D         Hannover – Capitol
03.11.2020                  D         Hamburg – Docks
04.11.2020                  D          Berlin – Columbiahalle
06.11.2020                  PL        Warsaw – Progresja
08.11.2020                  D         Leipzig – Haus Auensee
09.11.2020                  AT        Vienna – Gasometer
21.11.2020                  Fi         Helsinki- Ice Hall *NEW*
26.11.2020                  P          Lisbon – Coliseum
28.11.2020                  E          Murcia – Gamma
29.11.2020                  E          Madrid – La Riviera
30.11.2020                  E          Barcelona – Razzmatazz
01.12.2020                  F          Toulouse – Bikini *NEW*
03.12.2020                  F          Paris – Zenith
04.12.2020                  BE        Brussels – AB
05.12.2020                  UK        London – Roundhouse
07.12.2020                  UK        Bristol – O2 Academy
08.12.2020                  UK        Glasgow – O2 Academy
09.12.2020                  UK        Manchester – Academy
11.12.2020                 NL        Amsterdam – AFAS Live
12.12.2020                 LUX      Luxembourg – Den atelier
15.12.2020                 D         Cologne – Carlswerk Victoria
16.12.2020                 D         Wiesbaden – Schlachthof
17.12.2020                 D         Ludwigsburg – MHP Arena

Tickets and VIP upgrades for all shows are available from www.epica.nl/tour

DEE SNIDER – Prove Me Wrong

“While live entertainment has been curtailed for now, we cannot let the spirit of live entertainment die within us. Any music I’ve ever loved and listened to, I always imagine what it would be like live. When I was young and couldn’t go to shows, all I had was what I thought the bands would be like live. We must keep our desire to see and hear the great new music out there in concert, because that’s its true habitat.  Bands on stage with fans cheering them on in the audience is the way the rock gods intended it to be.” – DEE SNIDER

It is abundantly clear that right now, music lovers around the world are craving the return of live concert experiences. This summer, legendary heavy metal frontman, actor and radio personality DEE SNIDER has just the thing to keep live music where it belongs – with the fans! July 31, 2020 will mark the release of For The Love Of Metal Live – a larger than life live performance album and DVD/Blu-Ray collection hitting retailers via Napalm Records. Combined behind-the-scenes footage, various detailed interview clips, insightful personal commentary and electrifying live performances make this release an entertaining experience that every heavy metal fan needs in their collection!

The DVD/Blu-Ray and accompanying live album (available in various formats, see below) features audio captured from several DEE SNIDER festival performances worldwide – from the United States to Europe, Australia and beyond. In addition to tracks from Snider’s solo catalog like “I Am The Hurricane” and “For The Love Of Metal”, Twisted Sister favorites such as “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and even a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”, the audio portion of For The Love Of Metal Live also features a brand new original studio track, “Prove Me Wrong” – a thrashing, confident metal hit.

“Prove Me Wrong” sees DEE SNIDER asserting himself as the absolutely unstoppable legend he is – excelling throughout his years, leaving any naysayers in the dust, and cementing his legacy as one of the greatest heavy metal frontmen of all time. DEE SNIDER says about “Prove Me Wrong”: “‘Prove Me Wrong’ are words that I’ve thought in my head since the day I began rocking. I had a monster chip on my shoulder and dared the world to knock it off… nobody ever could. At this point in my career I thought I’d let everybody in on what has kept be going all these many years. Prove me wrong!”

VADER – Bones

Polish death metal legends VADER released their 16th studio album, Solitude In Madness, recently via Nuclear Blast. Never one to rest or relax, VADER have done it all over the course of their 37-year history. From playing super-aggressive thrash under the watchful eye of Communist Poland to touring the globe and enjoying a near-maniacal fanbase, there’s no stopping the Piotr ‘Peter’ Wiwczarek-led outfit. Speed and power are back as the driving factors in VADER’s fiendish yet proficient death metal!

In a trailer released today, guitarist Spider reveals a playthrough for the band’s latest single, ‘Bones’.

Order Solitude In Madness on a variety of formats here: nblast.de/VaderSolitudeMadness

 

BPMD – Evil

BPMD – the new juggernaut featuring heavy metal icons Bobby Blitz (Overkill) on vocals, drummer Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Sons of Apollo), bassist Mark Menghi (Metal Allegiance) and guitarist Phil Demmel (Vio-lence, ex-Machine Head) – recently announced the release of their upcoming full-length album of ’70s rock covers, American Made! The 10-track homage to some of rock music’s greatest treasures drops on June 12, 2020 via Napalm Records.

Today, the members of BPMD are thrilled to reveal another track from the album – their re-energized version of the blues standard “Evil”, originally written by American blues musician Willie Nixon. BPMD’s version is actually inspired by another popular re-imagining of the song by hard rock greats Cactus, and can be experienced via a brand new lyric video, linked below!

Bassist Mark Menghi says about “Evil”: “Cactus is a lost American treasure that needs more recognition. They were doing things on their instruments (and as a band) before many of their contemporaries/peers/labelmates of the time. We were fully aware that the great Willie Dixon wrote this tune for Howlin’ Wolf in the early 1950’s… Cactus reimagined the song for the their time of the early ’70s, we reimagined Cactus’ version for our generation in the early ’20s… so for a tune that is 65+ years old that’s still being covered says something… a good tune can stand the test of time.”

Frontman Bobby Blitz adds:”I choose my cuts on the record for two reasons: 1) how they would fit my voice, and 2) a deeper, heavier cut. I really love the grit in Rusty Day’s voice on the Cactus track and wanted to replicate it with my own, not copy per se, but for sure not lose that grit. The song to me, though blues based, is the perfect bridge into the heavy metal that followed. I used the basic vocal line as to not lose the integrity but reimagined it with more of a ‘metal’ phrasing. ‘Evil’ is really one of the BPMD tracks I am most proud of. You’re a long way from home…”

Acclaimed drummer and Cactus member Carmine Appice says about the cover: “A new twist on ‘Evil’, one of the best, kick-ass blues/rock songs of all time. This version will appeal to BPMD’s heavy metal fans. I was glad to hear the Cactus arrangement of the song, but with the bass, drums and guitar heavied up even more… Phil’s guitar solo revs up with lots of energy… with Portnoy and Menghi kicking under it, while keeping that energy going. Bobby’s vocals sit nicely on top and I really liked the change in some of the phrasing. Great job, guys!”

DEVIN TOWNSEND – Sprite

Devin Townsend is set to release ‘Empath – The Ultimate Edition’ on the 5th June 2020, and today a brand new video for the track ‘Sprite’ has been launched. This video is part of some of the brand new visuals that make up the accompaniment to Devin’s stunning 5.1 mix that is contained on this new version of ‘Empath’, and was created by Crystal Spotlight. Watch it now here

This comprehensive version of 2019’s acclaimed album contains the original record and bonus disc across 2 CD’s, plus 2 Blu-Ray discs. The first blu-ray contains the 5.1 Surround Sound mix by Devin, with visuals for the full record, plus a stereo visualiser.

The second blu-ray contains a raft of bonus material, including ‘Acoustically Inclined – Live in Leeds’, a recording from his April 2019 acoustic tour where he performed tracks including ‘Love?’, ‘Deadhead’, ‘Thing Beyond Things’ & more.

It also features the full Empath Documentary, a ‘Genesis 5.1 Mixing Lesson’, a full album commentary & more. The four discs sit inside a beautiful art-book that contains new liner notes and images from the making of the album.

Pre-orders are now available here:

https://www.omerch.eu/shop/devintownsend/

https://Devin-Townsend.lnk.to/Empath-TheUltimateEdition

Devin has been hosting live concerts in his home studio this month, each one raising money for healthcare workers around the world. The second, which took place on 25th April sold 3420 tickets raising over £65,000 ($81,000) for the NHS in the UK.

For each show Devin has put together an impressive 4-camera rig, controlled using nothing more than an Xbox controller. The previous show in aid of Vancouver’s General Hospital sold close to 2000 tickets, and raised nearly $50,000. The third was in support of North Shore University Hospital in New York. In total he has raised around $186,000 in support of these charities. Each show saw the people who donated the most receive generous prizes from Fishman, Toontrack, Dunlop, Planet Waves & D’Addario, KSR, Line 6, Darkglass, Fractal, Mooer & Omerch. A big thanks goes out to all these companies who supplied prizes, as well as to all the people who watched the shows and donated money.

The Great Kat – Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony for Guitar and Symphony Orchestra

The Great Kat is the only guitar/violin double virtuoso shredding Beethoven’s masterpieces at high speeds and bringing his genius masterpieces to a whole new generation with metal. The Great Kat, “Reincarnation of Beethoven”, continues her celebration of Beethoven’s 250th Birthday year with this powerful new recording.

Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony was originally dedicated to Napoleon, whom Beethoven believed was a democratic leader attempting to rid France of the monarchy for the equality of the working class. Beethoven was furious when he found out that Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France in 1804, and tore off the title dedication page of his symphony, MANIACALLY scratched out Napoleon’s name and changed the symphony’s title to “Eroica” (“Heroic”) Symphony. NOW The Great Kat Guitar/Violin Hero shreds this historic work with metal!

The Great Kat, Juilliard grad violin virtuoso and “Top 10 Fastest Shredders Of All Time” (Guitar One Magazine) expands on the maniacal heroic vision of Beethoven by shredding both guitar and violin at INCREDIBLE speeds with Symphony Orchestra on Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. The Great Kat is the only guitar/violin double virtuoso shredding Beethoven’s masterpieces at high speeds and bringing his genius music to a whole new generation with metal. The Great Kat, “Reincarnation of Beethoven”, continues her celebration of Beethoven’s 250th Birthday year with this powerful new recording.