Manilla Road – “Mystification”

Manilla Road – “Mystification” RE-ISSUE (Shadow Kingdom Records) Like Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road were one of the first proto metal bands formed in the late 70s and as such their sound was seen as eclectic at the time, but in many ways they were forerunners of it. Just sampling main man founder Mark ‘the Shark’ Shelton’s riffs and long drawn out solos (still played on his BC Rich Warlock – Ed) sets the tone for many of today’s epic metal bands. If that weren’t enough then his vocals would definitely fit into today’s power, symphonic and even prog bands being… Continue reading

Alien – “Eternity”

Alien – “Eternity” (AOR Heaven) Wow, it doesn’t get more 80s than this! Alien was formed in Gothenburg in 1986 by guitarist Tony Borg and vocalist Jim Jidhed and after just 2 singles were signed by Virgin Scandinavia worldwide! Despite success and on the verge of hitting the US, Jidhed left the band to pursue a solo career and there began the inevitable line up changes through the 90s and the new millennium. Whilst the band have been active and continued to periodically release material I’m not sure how much impact they continue to make outside of their native Sweden.… Continue reading

Diabulus In Musica – “Argia”

Diabulus In Musica – “Argia” (Napalm Records) Although still centered around the beauty and the beast vocals of founders Zuberoa Aznárez and keyboardist Gorka Elso, this Spanish symphonic rock / metal band is now with a new backing line since 2012’s “The Wanderer”. Musically though, it’s not much different being steeped in Basque romanticism and red blooded Latin passion as reflected by Aznárez’s angelic vocals, and stylishly contrasted by Elso’s growls n grunts amidst his suave keyboard work that resonates majesty as well as delicate emotion, at times gracing the realms of filmscore metal. Heavily influenced by the classics songs… Continue reading

Below – “Across the Dark River”

Below – “Across the Dark River” (Metal Blade Records) Legendary has it that after only one, unreleased EP, this Swedish doom lite band was booked on a 10 day tour through Denmark, Holland and Germany with the final show being at the Hammer Of Doom festival! Well, that’s easy to understand when you hear this debut that was incidentally produced by Andy La Rocque, who I understand was equally excited by the band’s potential, as they sound like a lighter version of classic Candlemass right down to the last chord. From Zeb’s wailing, which hits Messiah’s operatic highs although possessed… Continue reading

Martyr de Mona – “Impera”

Martyr de Mona – “Impera” (In At The Eye Records/Universal Music) With three records, a Best British Band of the year award and having supported Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, Avenged Sevenfold and Alter Bridge, these guys are without doubt the band everyone is watching! Mixing rock with prog and metal but without trying too hard to be much of one thing, Martyr de Mona bring it in style with massive riffs and heaps of reverb in modern, prog hinting riffs contrasted by hard hitting drums that certainly get your chest beating, especially when it all comes together in a… Continue reading

The Drip – “A Presentation of Gruesome Poetics”

The Drip – “A Presentation of Gruesome Poetics” (Relapse Records) Despite their seemingly wimpy name, flip the switch on this Washington crew and a flood of grindcore will smash into your face! Speedway riffing that glides up n down the fretboard so fast n raw I can’t even make out the bass lays waste to nauseous ‘songs’ (?) like ‘Catalyst’, ‘Bygones Only Burn Once’ and ‘Lash in, Lash out’ along with quadruple beat snare smashing blastbeat drumming. Think Nasum, Rotten Sound, Insect Warfare and The Drip’ll be in the same rabid pool. Brandon Caldwell’s vocals were the one thing that… Continue reading

Noctem – “Exilium”

Noctem – “Exilium” (Art Gates Records) Despite Spain being deep in economic recession, Noctem have returned with a fiery album that could set the Mediterranean ablaze! Playing blackened death since 2007, these guys no doubt have Behemoth in sight as an example of the success of extreme metal, and have stepped up to the plate accordingly. Beleth’s guttural vocals lead the rampage in fine Johan Hegg style as Exo’s par excellence guitar work dances around him like a matador to the bull – mercilessly shredding at times whilst at others conjuring some magnificent Spanish guitar influences especially in the solos… Continue reading

Blackwater – “Blackwater”

Blackwater – “Blackwater” (The Path Less Traveled Records) Blackwater hail from Illinois with its proud tradition of doom especially in Trouble, so it comes as no surprise that doom meister vocalist Eric Wagner (Trouble, Dave Grohl’s Probot, the Skull, Blackfinger, L.I.D.) is producing this debut! Formed at the turn of the century but taking almost a decade to solidify a heavy enough line-up, Blackwater needless to say take their inspiration heavily from Trouble during their 90s Def American era, but are also mature enough to have influences going back to 80s heavy metal and even 70s heavy rock so little… Continue reading

Gamma Ray – “Empire Of The Undead”

Gamma Ray – “Empire Of The Undead” (earMUSIC – Edel) “Empire Of The Undead” is Gamma Ray’s 11th album but the first without long time drummer Dan Zimmerman. Given that these guys were one of the founding pillars of modern German power metal, there’s actually precious little of it on this album. Whether it’s the departure of Dan or Kai Hansen’s involvement in the hard rock / heavy metal band Unisonic I don’t know, but this album contains a wider range of material other than where the band’s roots began and gave us acclaimed albums like “Land Of The Free”.… Continue reading

Gotthard – “Bang!”

Gotthard – “Bang!” (G Records / PIAS) As solid as the Saint-Gotthard Massif they’re named after, Gotthard burst back as their fiery album title suggests! Despite losing co founder vocalist Steve Lee in 2010, new singer Nic Maeder has clearly found his feet as no better proven than on this 14th album from Switzerland’s best known modern hard rockers, whose last eleven albums have all reached number 1 in the Swiss album charts, as well as achieving multi-platinum status in other parts of the world. Produced by Charlie Bauerfeind & Gotthard’s own co founder guitarist Leo Leoni, “Bang!” has a hard driving… Continue reading