Cannibal Corpse – “Torture”

Cannibal Corpse – “Torture” (Metal Blade)

Last of the great old school death metal bands, and still goin with OG’s Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz, this Buffalo crew have boldly gone where others have feared to tread – staying true to that classic death metal style and in doing so earned the respect and admiration of fans the world over as being at the forefront of death metal. Interestingly on “Torture” they have gone right back to their early albums, but befitting their years of experience, instead fine tuned that original style to make songs like ‘Followed Home Then Killed’, ‘Intestinal Crank’ and ‘As Deep As the Knife Will Go’ even more nasty and evil but in a sorta sophisticated way with better musicianship – check out those bone crunching bass runs from Webster and man, George now sounds even more guttural just like Barnes used to, but in his own kinda special way! A big shout must go out to Erik Rutan who has delivered A1 production as per his usual high standard, and really worked these guys to create an album that is uber death metal par excellence – I can’t wait to hear these ditties live cos they will be ripping apart mosh pits! If you wonder how after 24 years these veterans are still able to stand their ground against younger bands then look no further than “Torture”, cos it’s 12 amped up songs from the original so solid crew who still remain true to their hack n slash roots. Continue reading

Touchstone – “Mad Hatters – Enhanced / Discordant Dreams / Wintercoast”

Touchstone – “Mad Hatters – Enhanced / Discordant Dreams / Wintercoast” REISSUES (Steamhammer / SPV)

No, this isn’t some forgotten band from the mists of time but a very happening British neo prog / melodic metal band whose opening slot at London’s High Voltage Festival in 2010 was enough for Zakk Wylde to comment ‘..Great set – you guys will never be 1st on again!..’. Prior to that, the band released no less than an EP, 2 albums and a double live opus before signing to SPV / Steamhammer! Prior to releasing their much anticipated third studio album, “The City Sleeps”, due out in October, SPV have done the canny thing of reissuing their previous albums. Beginning with “Mad Hatters”, which was Touchstone’s first release, this EP has been remastered and as a bonus features 2 live tracks recorded in Philadelphia and taken from the aforementioned “Live In The USA”album. Listening to the likes of ‘Misguided Fool’, there is a strong Genesis / Pink Floyd influence although the hard rock certainly does give it a hard edge, not to mention the female co-vocal, which adds a touch of Fleetwood Mac in there too! Moving on to “Discordant Dreams” songs like ‘Being Hannah’ mix Simple Minds with Asia’s harmonies whereas ‘Original Sin’ on the “Wintercoast” album mixes the likes of Yes with funky new world Rush! Tremendous diversity indeed, captured by excellent composing and executed by nigh on perfect musical delivery, it’s easy to see why Zakk Wylde felt the heat that day in the park. Continue reading

Sleepy Hollow – “Skull 13”

Sleepy Hollow – “Skull 13” (Pure Steel Records)

Bob Mitchell. Now there’s a name. Man, this guy coulda been, and shoulda been up there with Eric Adams, John Oliva and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth! This Jersey City hardass kinda reminds me of England’s equivalent to Brian Ross, having played in a number of underground US Metal acts such as Warloc, Attacker, Vyndykator, Nighthunter and of course Sleepy Hollow. Formed at the end of the 80s, they were one of the first US power / doom metal bands and although only releasing their infamous ’89 Demo’ and self titled album in ’91, created quite a stir on the East Coast opening for the likes of Savatage, Manowar, Trouble, Pantera and Whiplash, as well as reaching cult status in Europe. Shame therefore, that by ’93 they were pretty much burned out and Bob retired the band, going on to become a ring announcer in wrestling no less! History lesson over and 20 years on, Bob has now reunited Sleepy Hollow with it’s original line-up of Steve Stegg (guitars), Steve Brink (bass guitars) and Tommy Wassman (drums) and “Skull 13” is their comeback album. And what a ripper it is too! It’s like nothing has changed since the 80s: same sound, same guys and amazingly, Bob’s voice is still the same as I remember it, like a cross between Udo Dirkschneider, TT Quick’s Mark Tornillo and Metal Church’s Dave Wayne. Musically there’s loads of Judas Priest, along with some Savatage and Riot on songs like ‘Death Of A Horseman’, ‘Face Melter’ and the aptly titled ‘The Legend Retold’. This is an amazing comeback for the man and it’s a true honor to be graced by such a genuine metal hero. Continue reading

The Union – “Siren’s Song”

The Union – “Siren’s Song” (Payola Music)

The Union is the collaboration between ex Thunder guitarist Luke Morley and vocalist Pete Shoulder – a man who has the notable distinction of being one of only three Brits (the other two being Eric Clapton and Peter Green) to win the prestigious W.C. Handy Blues Foundation award. Needless to say blues rock is what they play (thought u were gonna say death metal LOL – Ed) whether it’s incorporating at times gospel on ‘Cut The Line’ or the driving blues riffs on ‘Burning Daylight’ or a funky 70s Zepp groove on ‘Blame It On Tupelo’. Besides his obvious blues capability, Shoulder also shows his vocal versatility on the light country acoustic of ‘Make Up Your Mind’ and the more heavier Black Crowes like ‘Black Gold’, while being perfectly complemented by Morley’s riffing and slide guitar work, which comes into its own on ‘Time’. With bonus and live tracks completing “Siren’s Song”, it’s nice to see that the 14 tracks bear witness to the musical excellence between these two gentlemen, whose talent goes well beyond their credentials. Continue reading

Desultor – “Master of Hate”

Desultor – “Master of Hate” (Abyss Records)

Holy f–k, how fast is this album!?! With names like Mack Murder (Guitar & vocals) and Ragnar Rage (Bass), odd man out is drummer Michael Ibrahim and its little wonder he’s drumming so fast – just to get away from the other two I imagine cos they call this Murder Metal LOL!!! This is an album of contrasts characterized by hyper speed technical death riffing mixing melodic virtuoso soloing, Halford-esque vocals that combine soulful with death with screaming – and of course, that aforementioned relentless double bass precision drumming. Even weirder are the songs themselves, like ‘Black Monday’, ‘Division Insane’ or ‘The Luxury Of Pain’, which times are ambient or melodic, yet with this underlying brutality that somehow Desultor pull off, just like their ancient ancestors from which their name derives, that of a skilled charioteer who would leap between galloping horses! An awesome album and musical accomplishment, this is extreme metal supreme bar none! Continue reading

Ivory Gates – “The Devil’s Dance”

Ivory Gates – “The Devil’s Dance” (MS Metal Records)

Search for something and tell us? Hmmm, how about Fates Warning? With a tinge of Queensryche in the Geoff Tate vocals? Well, no matter as these Brazillians play a decidedly modern progressive heavy metal – with a special emphasis on heavy! From Hugo Mazzotti’s crunching bass to Matheus Armelin’s heavy riffs, songs like ‘Beyond The Black’ and ‘Under The Sky Of Illusions’ form the perfect backdrop for Felipe Travaglini’s clean, wailing vocals and Fabrício Félix’s technical drumming. If this wasn’t a showcase in musical dexterity then the epic 21 minute closer ‘Suite Memory’ will leave no doubt in your mind, bringing back memories of those early Rush days of lengthy multi section concertos, tempting even the devil himself to dance LOL. Continue reading

Opera Diabolicus – “+1614”

Opera Diabolicus – “+1614” (Metalville Records)

Now this is different – a doom opera incorporating theater and dark musical elements! Opera Diabolicus is the brainchild of multi instrumentalist composer David Grimoire and bassist / lyricist Adrian de Crow. The idea sprung to life in 2006 when the two of them met at a stage play of Umberto Eco’s book ‘The Name of the Rose’ in Gothenburg. Wanting to take their concept into musical excellence, they assembled a formidable cast of Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Notre Dame, Therion, Dimmu Borgir), Mats Levén (Krux, Therion), Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil), Jake E (Amaranthe, Dreamland) and Camilla Alisander-Ason on vocals, daemonic voices and ghoulish sounds. With Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) producing, what immediately strikes me is the superior quality of this project in pretty much every aspect from the musicianship to song writing to the dark, sinister atmosphere of its literary inspiration. From ‘Blood Countess Bathory’ to ‘Stone By Stone’ to ‘The 13th Guest’, there is a symphonic undercurrent to the material that in the main reminded me of King Diamond with hints of 70s Alice Cooper and a pinch of old school death. Moreover, there is a real heaviness countering the exquisite melodies, even in the way the instruments sound, from Shaw’s pounding drums to De Crow’s rumbling bass – quite different to other rock opera type productions that I’ve heard in the past. Even if you aren’t one for this type of concept I guarantee you will be blown away by this album, if nothing else by its sheer class and perfection! Continue reading

H.E.A.T – “Address The Nation”

H.E.A.T – “Address The Nation” (Edel earMusic)

If you crossed Bon Jovi, Loverboy and some Eurovision boy band, you would end up with H.E.A.T, who more than just coincidentally come from the same municipality as their more famous Swedish elders, Europe! To say they’re pretty boy rockers is something of an understatement with lyrics like ‘..you’re nothing but a teaser, a dirty Mona Lisa..’ on the upbeat 80s rocker of ‘Heartbreaker’ or the shakin’ AOR of ‘Falling Down’, it’s hard to ignore those highly addictive melodies, vocal harmonies and swanky synth rhythms. And if that wasn’t enough, they give Barry White a run for his money on the crooner ‘In And Out Of Trouble’, complete with sexy saxophone and female harmonies – man, this really is a trip back to the 80s! However, in the 5 years since their inception, H.E.A.T have released no less than 3 albums, toured the world and played the likes of Sweden Rock and Download, indicating they are being groomed for the big league indeed – or there’s a lotta 40 somethings still wanting to shake their fat asses out there LOL! Continue reading

Agent Cooper – “From The Ashes”

Agent Cooper – “From The Ashes” EP (Binary Recordings / Universal)

Anyone familiar with Stuck Mojo’s Rich Ward will know what a funky, kick ass character ‘The Duke’ is. Agent Cooper is made up of the cream of Atlanta’s rock talent who spent the decade recording and touring with Fozzy and Stuck Mojo. As eclectic as they sound, these guys play a contemporary rock n prog mix drawing its inspiration from 70s Queen and Genesis on tracks like ‘Tornado Dreams’. However, being good ol’ Southern boys, and associates of ‘The Duke’, they also offer something special, real special in melding a southern rock element on songs like ‘Mother’ and ‘Misunderstood’ that adds some real soul and passion to a prog style not commonly associated with it. In that respect, Agent Cooper have pushed the boundaries of musical conventionality out’ve place, leaving us either appreciative, aggravated or just plain astonished! Continue reading

Witness The Fall – “Witness The Fall”

Witness The Fall – “Witness The Fall” EP (www.facebook.com/witnessthefall)

This is an excellent little EP released by this unknown Scottish band, who have sadly lost a coupla members since, so even if this is the last we hear from ’em, a fine short lived legacy they’ve left behind! Essentially mixing the passionate melodic death of In Flames with an aggro core style especially in Nels vocals, WTF play a brutal, yet palatable style on songs like ‘Victory’, ‘The Tragedy Of Man’ and ‘Righteous Kill’. Best of all, there seems to be a natural feel to the material, with nothing contrived, as reflected in the band’s no plan, gimmicks or scene BS, but just a buncha guys getting offa their asses to do what they love best, writing some kick ass music about things that meant something and letting everyone else know that they enjoyed doing it! Continue reading