Gamma Ray – “Skeletons & Majesties Live”

Gamma Ray – “Skeletons & Majesties Live” 2CD / DVD (earMUSIC)

With Kai Hansen busy showcasing his new band Unisonic and this being the last gig for long time drummer Dan Zimmerman, Gamma Ray have issued a monster 2 hour live album that should satiate even their most gluttonous fans! Continuing on their ‘Skeletons In The Closet’ concept which was sampled in their “Skeletons & Majesties” EP in 2011, the essential purpose was to showcase unplugged versions of classics such as the acoustic ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’ and new versions of lesser well known material like the upbeat ‘Men, Martians And Machines’. In between is the more familiar stuff like the galloping neo classical ‘Hold Your Ground’ and some serious piss arounds in ‘Future World’ – complete with Elvis impersonations! Zimmerman is in fine form and goes out in style, as is the musicianship of the rest of the band, which really brings to life the material completed by superb live production. With the DVD and Blu-ray also featuring additional bonus tracks, lots of behind the scenes bonus material, rare archive material and interviews with the band, “Skeletons & Majesties Live” is a bumper end of year pressie from Gamma Ray to their fans as well as anyone wanting to see a less familiar side to them. Continue reading

Vanderbuyst – “Flying Dutchmen”

Vanderbuyst – “Flying Dutchmen” (Van Records)

More smoother than a spliff of ‘Jock Horror’ in an Amsterdam ‘coffee’ shop, Vanderbuyst are without doubt the Dutch hard rock kings! Taking inspiration from 70s hard rockers like UFO, Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, these 3 Dutchies add their own paffy style and Amstel groove to rockin songs like ‘Give Me One More Shot’, ‘In Dutch’, and ‘Frivolous Franny’. Sticking to the basics i.e. untempered rock vocals, cheeky warbling guitars, punchy school of rock rhythms and ‘Kathmandu’ solos, Vanderbuyst offer an unpretentious sound that can be counted on in today’s dodgy, uncertain times – 200 shows in 16 countries in the last coupla years can’t be wrong for Holland’s best export! Continue reading

Humanity Delete – “Never Ending Nightmares”

Humanity Delete – “Never Ending Nightmares” (Dead Beat Media)

Mayhem from Malaysia! Filthy, distorted death grind in the spirit of early Dismember and Massacre comes courtesy of this unholy collaboration between Sweden’s war master Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Ribspreader, Demiurg, Bone Gnawer and many, many more) on all instruments and lyrics by Dead Beat Media’s own Jill Girardi, with a special emphasis on Malaysian black magic and ghostly legends! Formed as a project almost 10 years ago, I’m really glad Rogga has finally given this some light cos songs like ‘Black Oil Defiler (Orang Minyak)’, ‘Retribution of the Polong’ and ‘The Jenglot’ are superb examples of the genre at its best – from his guttural vocals to that vicious chainsaw guitar – an excellent closer to the end of the year, so even if the goddamn Mayans get their wish I’ll go out in style ha ha! Continue reading

Sin Of God – “Limbus”

Sin Of God – “Limbus” (PRC MUSIC)

Blistering death metal from Central Europe!!! Sin Of God are from Hungary and were only formed a coupla years ago but that don’t matter when you’ve been listening to huge doses of Nile, Morbid Angel, Behemoth and Immolation (in case you still haven’t pigged out enough lol). Rough, bestial vocals, evil whirring riffola and face ripping precision drumming are the feature of songs like ‘Demonshrine’, ‘Kill The Irrelegious’ and ‘The Son Who Beat The Death’ – ok, their English may be a bit iffy but their musicianship and sticking to the best principles of technical death metal are second to none especially as a bit of exotica. Continue reading

Grief of Emerald – “It All Turns To Ashes”

Grief of Emerald – “It All Turns To Ashes” (Non Serviam Records)

Although formed over 20 years ago, Sweden’s GoE have undergone a multitude of changes caused by unstable line-ups until a solidification in 2009 when they released an album called “The Devils Deep” that was very much in the black / death vein inspired by the likes of Dissection. Now with “It All Turns To Ashes” they have gone one step further in introducing prominent black keyboard melodies a la Cradle Of Filth while keeping the raw screaming vocals, jumping fretboard wizardry and ferocious battery drumming on cool songs like ‘Stormlegion’, ‘Where Tears Are Born’ and ‘God Of Carnage’. “It All Turns To Ashes” certainly works a treat in revitalizing a classic sound with an added dimension, albeit in a non patronizing manner that should give Grief of Emerald a long waited and deserved recognition. Continue reading

Circle Of Reason – “A Favour For A Stranger”

Circle Of Reason – “A Favour For A Stranger” EP (www.facebook.com/circleofreason)

For a modest 3 tracker EP, England’s Circle Of Reason certainly generate quite a stir with their flashy brand of alt grunge rock that combines Alter Bridge, The Smashing Pumpkins and Muse. Mellow, laid back Cobain-esque vocals mix with dirty grunge riffing and powerful melodies on atmospherically charged songs like ‘Sea Of Voices’, ‘Chasing The Sun’ and ‘Silver Scene’ – all of which are video singles that have graced the likes of Kerrang! TV, Scuzz and Lava TV! Equally so, the band have toured with a range of bands from Girlschool to Fighting With Wire to Idiom, attesting to both the diversity in their music and thus corresponding appeal to a wide range of fans, although I would say it’s the quality and depth of songwriting which is the measure of this poignant band. Continue reading

Nightwish – “Nightwish – Imaginaerum The Score”

Nightwish – “Nightwish – Imaginaerum The Score” (Nuclear Blast)

These Finns were already a top of the line symphonic metal band when they released “Imaginaerum” last year – now comes the film score re-interpretations by famed Finnish flautist Petri Alanko to the band’s highly anticipated movie! Filmed in Canada and featuring appearances by all Nightwish members (as well as the last appearance by vocalist Anette Olzon) the screenplay is the vision of lead songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, essentially dealing with a dementia sufferer slipping into a coma whose only memories are that of a ten year old boy. Following on from “Dark Passion Play” and inspired by film directors like Tim Burton and painter Salvador Dali, “Imaginaerum” is expected to a lavish dark emo adventure. As such, Alanko’s score is built to similar lines and from the opening tracks, it’s clear that nothing has been spared in its perfection from grandiose production to orchestras and choirs in making the likes of ‘Heart Lying Still’ and ‘I Have To Let You Go’ deeply passionate but also powerfully inspiring. In particular the use of Uilleann pipes goes a long way to achieving this on the likes of ‘Sundown’ which bear strong similarities to the panoramic score in the film ‘Last Of The Mohicans’. I really admire what has been created here between Holopainen, director Stobe Harju and Alanko: “Imaginaerum The Score” isn’t just a rehash Nightwish’s material but rather a piece of art in itself, honoring the band’s original work with Olzon’s vocals and Emppu Vuorinen’s guitars while still being radically different. This is possibly one of the most significant moments in the history of metal and while not initially being my cup of tea, has now inspired me to go and see the movie! Continue reading

Vicious Rumors – “LIVE You To Death”

Vicious Rumors – “LIVE You To Death” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Vicious Rumors are another legendary Bay Area metal band that take us right back to the halcyon days of thrash with bands like Testament, Death Angel and Forbidden. Yet despite coming from thrash central, only a hint of this would rub off into Vicious Rumors music, which for the main was blistering power metal a la Judas Priest to the max! Screaming vocals, turbo charged twin guitars, wailing solos and rapid fire drum work are the nature of ‘Soldiers Of The Night’, ‘Let The Garden Burn’ and ‘Abandoned’ – all in all 9 tracks spanning the band’s 10 year discography. Additionally, the band also offer a coupla covers, the best being classic Priest’s ‘Running Wild’. Despite their 33 year duration, the band never broke big owing to I suspect an ever revolving door of line-up changes as well as the sad demise of vocalist Carl Albert in the mid 90s. But make no mistake, the sheer roster of people playing in this band at one time or another (try Vinnie Moore, Brad Gillis and James Rivera to name but a few!) speaks bounds about this band whose cult status has never waned and continue to remain an underground favorite! Continue reading

Mammoth Mammoth – “Hell’s Likely”

Mammoth Mammoth – “Hell’s Likely” (Napalm Records)

And Hell followed with them…if one mammoth isn’t enough to trample the masses then try two when you’re chasing mayhem, hunting unicorns and murdering Fuzz lol! Australia’s MM have clearly been taking too much of everything but in doing so have created a lethal concoction of Kyuss, Motorhead and Rose Tattoo with their chugging rock n roll. Bottom heavy bass, stoner riffs and raw rock dawg vocals smelter songs like ‘Demons To Fight’, ‘Bury Me’ and ‘Another Drink’ into the next dimension as they subliminally whisper ‘..I’m a danger to, a danger to…myself..’. Definitely way out there, these Aussies are more awesome than God’s tits! Continue reading

The Very End – “Turn Off The World”

The Very End – “Turn Off The World” (Steamhammer / SPV)

The Very End are a modern thrash metal band hailing from Germany, and in particular the city of Essen, famed for spawning the likes of Kreator and Sodom no less. However, despite having a thrash base very much like Petrozza et al, there’s also a strong melodic element to the band indicating a desire to be open to other influences – as such, I’d therefore also include comparisons to the likes of Arch Enemy and Nevermore. Flowing guitars amidst chopping riffs and soulful vox amidst a more traditional gruff style define strongly structured songs like ‘Maelstrom Calling’, ‘Orphans Of Emptiness’ and ‘The Black Fix’ – the latter featuring Entombed’s LG Petrov on guest vocals. With famed producer Waldemar Sorychta completing the circle of talent “Turn Off The World” is a fine example of contemporary / post thrash to finish off the year in fine style! Continue reading