Devil To Pay – “Fate Is Your Muse”

Devil To Pay – “Fate Is Your Muse” (Ripple Music)

Goddamn – prime stoner sludge from the Indiana wastelands! Reputedly inspired when singer / guitarist Steve Janiak was hospitalized in a drug-induced coma, these backwoodsmen lay on the juice with syrup thick riffs from dirty guitars, fuzz toned bass and shed smashing drums. You could hear Devil To Pay if they were playing in the middle of the Ozarks! Still, they have a prime rockin edge that shifts songs like ‘This Train Won’t Stop’, ‘Wearin’ You Down’ and ‘Black Black Heart’ into a higher gear compared to their more weed hazed cousins. Janiak’s own vocals mix in Jerry Garcia with even a little Danzig in his more soulful moments but overall DTP is one of these balls out bands in the spirit of Karma To Burn, COC and the mighty Scissorfight. Continue reading

Maegi – “Skies Fall”

Maegi – “Skies Fall” (Kardanadam Media / Distributed by Cyclone Empire)

Maegi is the modern prog metal project of Turkish vocalist Oganalp Canatan (Dreamtone, Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki’s Neverland), who incidentally wrote, engineered and produced “Skies Fall”. The album itself is based on a concept of planetary invasion, as inspired by War Of The Worlds and especially Canatan’s favourite – Battlestar Galactica – although the aliens in this case are the victors, hence the apocalyptic titles of songs like ‘Take No Prisoners’, ‘Those We Have Left Behind’ and ‘Demise Of Hopes’. Thankfully the music itself is far more optimistic, in the main being uplifting mid tempo modern prog metal skillfully played by the cast of Turkish musicians Canatan has assembled. Their style is surprisingly Western although that may have been intentional given the guest vocals from Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl to Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio Disciples), Zak Stevens (Savatage, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Circle II Circle) and Jerry Outlaw (Jon Oliva’s Pain). Together they produce soaring epic vocals, heaps of layered melodies, techno soloing with a tight poignant rhythm and percussion sure to inspire mankind’s fight back! Continue reading

Magister Dixit – “Maze of Thousand Ways”

Magister Dixit – “Maze of Thousand Ways” (PRC Music)

Cacophonous furor from Canada! One of Quebec’s very first black metal bands to emerge in the late 90’s, Magister Dixit is back with a vengeance after 6 years! Still with founder guitarist/ vocalist / keyboardist W Solstice at their hateful helm, these guys take it straight like it was back then: no nonsense black metal played at mach 3 with searing levels of brutality. Heavily influenced by the likes of old Emperor and Abigor, songs like ‘Blizzard King’, ‘ Sinister World Of Dementia’ and ‘L’Héritier du Mal’ are an impenetrable wall of noise created by evil hyper speed black riffing, screeching banshee vocals and blast beat drumming. However, look deeper (if you dare) and W Solstice has also crafted some excellent keyboard harmonies that are almost classical keeping in line with their Latin name and every now and then the guitars drop in the odd -dare I say it – In Flames melody! Magister Dixit certainly play quality old school black metal but with line up problems hampering the band in the past it remains to see how long the devil will grant this version its stay on Earth. Continue reading

ADE – “Spartacus”

ADE – “Spartacus” (BLAST HEAD Records)

Wow – this should be the soundtrack to Spartacus the series man! Gladiatorial aggro death from Rome trampling all asunder just as their legions did in ancient times! ADE are the Italian equivalent to Amon Amarth, with hoarse vocals, furious chopping rhythms and battering drums courtesy of none other than George Kollias! Add in the roar of the mob, vestal virgin wailing and most of all, seductive ancient music played via lutes, pipes and mandolins and you are there in blood, sex and death of the Colosseum on battle hymns like ‘Decimate The Coward’, ‘Six Thousands Crosses’ and ‘Divinitus Victor’. ADE have achieved on this album what no other Italian band in history have managed – to create an epic sound befitting the awesome might of their ancient empire in all its majesty, furor and decadence. Now go bathe in its bloody splendor! Continue reading

Cry Havoc – “New Life”

Cry Havoc – “New Life” EP (www.facebook.com/cryhavocuk)

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war! Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceaser”, this feisty English band sound like a buncha redcoats ready for a ruck: throat wrecked Jägermeister vocals, heavy power riffing and piston engine rhythms literally lift this sucka off the deck and right in your face – it’s wild man, wild! Metallica, Pantera and a dab of Slayer mix with the ass kicking street sass and the rock melodies of Skid Row on raw, but highly catchy songs like ‘Ignition’, ‘Alone’ and ‘Losing Everything’. An excellent release that brings the fire back into British steel, this EP was way too short so I can’t wait to hear more from these barrack room brawlers!!!! Continue reading

Avantasia – “The Mystery Of Time”

Avantasia – “The Mystery Of Time” (Nuclear Blast)

Avantasia is the rock opera supergroup created by Tobias Sammet, vocalist of Edguy. Despite giving the impression of closure following his last release in 2011, I guess Tobias couldn’t live without Avantasia along with his fans! “The Mystery Of Time” opens a brand new concept into the Avantasia saga, that of how time rules every aspect of peoples’ lives , and if it can be controlled can in turn control them. Powerful stuff, and Tobias has indeed once again assembled a powerful ensemble with Biff Byford (Saxon), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow), Bob Catley (Magnum), Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids) and Eric Martin (Mr. Big) providing guest vocals with Bruce Kulick (Kiss) and long time collaborator Sascha Paeth on guitars. The album will also feature for the first time the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg, a symphony orchestra very active in TV and film as well as providing live performances of silent films such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Musically, this incarnation of Avantasia reflects its cast in being a combination of modern and melodic rock defined by the flowing lead vocals and abundance of backing harmonies. Added upon this comes the masterful guitar work of uplifting riffs and passionate solos with of course the Babelsberg orchestra delicately bringing in violins, cellos and piano to cap off songs like ‘Dweller In A Dream’, ‘What’s Left Of Me’ and ‘Sleepwalking’. The overall effect leaves one with hope, great hope and positivity from the heart that whatever the challenge people will somehow prevail as they have done thru the ages, and that is no better needed than in current times. Whilst I wouldn’t say I was ever a big Edguy fan, Tobias has truly impressed me with Avantasia, the superiority of which cannot be disputed and now stands on the cusp of mainstream recognition. Continue reading

Beyond The Shore – “Ghostwatcher”

Beyond The Shore – “Ghostwatcher” (Metal Blade Records)

Kentucky metal core crew BTS may not be as frenetic or OTT as their cousins elsewhere, but they sure know how to write some appetizing enough songs on this short but sweet album! Tempering their speed, the band have gone for mid tempo crushing brutality mixed in with some amazing melodies layered on top, finished off by Andrew Loucks throaty but not ugly vocals. There’s also plenty of quiet reflective passages which also use piano for example to add to the dark but somewhat emo atmosphere of songs like ‘Half Lived’, ‘Homewrecker’ and ‘Breathe On Ice’. But what really grabbed me about “Ghostwatcher” were the killer chundering and rebounding guitar riffs just a yankin and crankin at times almost heading into djent territory – it’s one helluva beat I tell ya – enough to ghost you right outta your soul! Continue reading

Spock’s Beard – “Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep”

Spock’s Beard – “Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep” (Inside Out Music)

Formed by the Morse brothers in the early 90s, in many ways Spock’s Beard defined modern prog that took inspiration from the likes of Yes and Genesis – not in the least when multi instrumentalist Neil left the band for a solo career and drummer Nick D’Virgilio took up his vocal duties in true Phil Collins style, which also heralded a new era for the band. History over, the new album features yet another line up with D’Virgilio himself now gone only to be replaced by vocalist Ted Leonard and drummer / vocalist Jimmy Keegan. But the surprise is that Neil Morse is back – well at least in a song writing capacity – although the band are adamant this will not herald a return to early Spock’s Beard. Indeed, I would say the newcomers have inspired a move into modern technical rock much in Rush’s vein, although definitely not a shift away from prog. With so many vocal talents now in the band needless to say the new Spock’s Beard have that area nailed with Ted’s smooth voice and heaps of backing harmonies, which are very much the prominent feature of songs like ‘A Treasure Abandoned’, ‘I Know Your Secret’ and ‘Something Very Strange’. Alan Morse’s guitar also rocks out a lot more, with more breaks and dare I say it, wilder solos not forgetting Dave Meros’s crunching Ricky bass and the space age effects from keyboardist Ryo Okumoto. This is a very accessible album indeed for all but the purist progsters and anyone wanting to check out what has been the fuss about Spock’s Beard need look no farther. Continue reading

Thy Art Is Murder – “Hate”

Thy Art Is Murder – “Hate” (Nuclear Blast)

Furious death-core from down under! These Sydneysiders bring it on full steam on this album from CJ McMahon’s roaring death growls to the heavy chopping staccato rhythms shifting into fast blurring death at a seeming whim! Holding it all together come the pulsating guitars of Andy Marsh and Chris Brown with their abrasive riffs contrasted by brilliantly fluid melodies that add a definite technical – and atmospheric – element to songs like ‘Gates Of Misery’, ‘Defective Breed’ and ‘Shadow Of Eternal Sin’. It’s pretty much a new band from the one that started 6 years ago, but “Hate” is a big step up with a big sound production that has garnered Thy Art Is Murder with lots of support coming from the West Coast which is sure to see these Aussies up there with the likes of Cattle Decapitation and even Hatebreed. Continue reading

High Priest Of Saturn – “High Priest Of Saturn”

High Priest Of Saturn – “High Priest Of Saturn” (Svart Records)

From out of the icy wastelands of northern Norway come Trondheim’s High Priest Of Saturn, who play heavy psychedelic rock. Besides the expected plodding doom pace, down tuned distorted guitars and creepy organs, it’s Merethe Heggset’s haunting, eerie vocals that make High Priest Of Saturn a surreal experience on songs like ‘Kraken Mare’, ‘Protean Towers’ and ‘Crawling King Snake’, all of which clock in over the to mega therion 10 minute mark. It’s like you’ve died and gone to 70s heaven, complete with fuzzy production n flares that make them comparable to SF’s Acid King. Either way it’s one helluva trip man. Continue reading