Lordi – “To Beast Or Not To Beast”

Lordi – “To Beast Or Not To Beast” (AFM Records)

It’s the 20th anniversary for these Finnish hard rockers and after taking a softer approach with their previous album “Babez For Breakfast”, you couldn’t have asked for a bigger change in “To Beast Or Not To Beast” given it’s aggression! Much of this is owed to seeds that former drummer Otus planted before his tragic death as well as guitarist Amen taking a bigger role in the compositions. Added to this a change in keyboardist with the arrival of Hella and new drummer Mana that sees the band erring more into the metal arena on songs like ‘I Luv Ugly’ with heavier riffs, harder rhythms and wilder soloing. I guess it’s a good thing for any doubters of the band’s cheesy theatrical image although I’ve always loved their catchy harmonised hard rock that took them to win Eurovision 06! In that respect I’m glad they’re still producing addictive songs like ‘Happy New Fear’ or ‘Horrification’ which could be a worthy successor to their hit ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ and Mr Lordi’s penchant for penning tacky lyrics certainly haven’t been lost with lines like ‘…fuck you, fuck you asshole sincerely with love..’ sung thru his still gravelly voice lol. With a tribute drum clinic track for the aforementioned Otus tacked onto the end, this album is both befitting as a tribute to the band’s 2 decade history as well as setting an all important foundation for their future! Continue reading

Suffocation – “Pinnacle Of Bedlam”

Suffocation – “Pinnacle Of Bedlam” (Nuclear Blast)

I’d say this is a pretty apt title for this seventh album from these New Yorkers given they were inducted into the Long Island Hall of Fame alongside Billy Joel, Joan Jett and Twisted Sister! Going on 25 years, Suffocation have been dishing out their brand of technical death metal and there is scarcely any sign of a let up on “Pinnacle Of Bedlam” given just how fuckin fast it is. Songs like ‘Sullen Days’, ‘Cycles Of Suffering’ and ‘Rapture Of Revocation’ are scything examples of frictionless blurring death amidst guttural vocals, tornado riffing graced by technical lead breaks and backed by furious unrelenting double bass drumming. Suffocation are masters at what they do and given the unpretentious consistency of their material make them one of the genre’s mainstays. Continue reading

Arkona – “Decade Of Glory – LIVE”

Arkona – “Decade Of Glory – LIVE” (Napalm Records)

Apparently killing with numbers was a widely employed Russian military tactic during WWII. Well Arkona seem to have done the same by issuing this monstrous 31 track live album – possibly the largest in rock history!? Celebrating their 10th anniversary at the prestigious People Concert Hall in Moscow, these pagan metallers spared no expense in dragging in a 9-piece choir, a string quartet and 2 background vocalists to accompany the band’s own folk instruments. Unmistakeably driven by the louder than loud Masha Scream, the crowd is whipped into patriotic national fervor through songs like ‘Skvoz’ Tuman Vekov’, ‘Slavsia, Rus’ and ‘Goi, Rode, Goi!’ that are a mixture of upbeat and slow tranquil pieces. Given Arkona sing exclusively in their native Russian their international appeal beginning in central Europe speaks bounds about the power of their music and their entertaining live show – of which Masha is no small part! I’m not sure how many concerts they performed to compile this album as the tracks have been edited rather than continuously rolling which sorta takes away from the full ‘live’ experience but given the sheer number like I said you’ll still be exhausted well before the end! Continue reading

Neaera – “Ours Is the Storm”

Neaera – “Ours Is the Storm” (Metal Blade Records)

Hammering modern death metal from Germany! This is a veritable storm of an album: baroom bass, harsh pounding drums, heavy chundering riffs and a vocal mix of roaring meets screaming styles lays waste to songs like ‘Ascend To Chaos’, ‘Walk With Fire’ and ‘The Deafening’. Neaera’s key is the liberal use of intelligent guitar melodies that are added atop their furor which rather than temper it, create more of a definition to their material by giving it a catchy flavor. Quiet by nature, these five dudes certainly make a racket once they get going and with Tue Madsen at the helm, have been fully unleashed on this 6th album to the max complete with an even louder mix! A heavy touring band, I think Neaera have played 400+ shows in 25 countries as well as big festivals like With Full Force and Summer Breeze in their native Germany making them one of those wrecking machines that quietly roll in but leave a bombed wasteland in their wake! Continue reading

Long Distance Calling – “The Flood Inside”

Long Distance Calling – “The Flood Inside” (Superball Music)

There’s certainly a lot to get out from this German post rock band: mashing elements of modern prog keyboard harmonies with heavy reverb guitars and ethereal vocals songs like ‘Nucleus’, ‘The Man Within’ and ‘Tell The End’ are diverse pieces of latent energy that slowly build or unravel into walls of intensity that have seen them go thru a range of guest vocalists including John Bush (Armored Saint, Anthrax) and Jonas Renkse (Katatonia)! In between, Long Distance Calling delve into deep ambient passages driven by electronic wizardry or amazingly fluid solo guitar work that seem to hold no end before a change is actioned unexpectedly at least to the listener but amazingly at the complete control of the band – a timeless experience that has seen them grace the stages of renowned festivals such as Rock am Ring, Wave Gotik Treffen and Roadburn. Definitely another band who take their compositions beyond music into a surreal experience, Long Distance Calling should be on the inter stellar line to contacting new worlds! Continue reading

Evil Invaders – “Evil Invaders”

Evil Invaders – “Evil Invaders” (Hammerheart Records)

Barmy Belgians from Brugge – what more can one say! With names like Jöe Anus (I see he included an umlaut lol) and naming your band and debut after Razor’s prestigious 2nd album be prepared for the worst: helium high vocals, raw chopping thrashola riffs played at breakneck speed, twanging bass, pummeling drums – and a fuckin cowbell! Man, these guys must be straight off the funny farm – only in their 20s but dressed to the nines like I used to: clapped out Nike’s (with the tongue hanging out naturally), skin tight black jeans, black leathers and mop head hairdos that could champion a sheepdog ha ha. Still, they play mean mutha thrash a la Razor or Destructor on wild songs like ‘Speed Invasion’, ‘Tortured By The Beast’ and the superbly named ‘Alcoholic Maniac’. Now I know what Mike Judge listened to when he created Beavis n Butthead! Continue reading

Valor – “The Yonder Answer”

Valor – “The Yonder Answer” (Pitch Black Records)

And so comes the latest signing to Greek label Pitch Black Records – Valor – who play melodic heavy metal. Smooth soulful vocals, flowing keyboard harmonies and a tight, but not too harsh rhythm bring an epic passion to songs like ‘Follow Me’, ‘Bravest’ and ‘Crossroads’ – although don’t be fooled by their one word titles: Valor can certainly play! The twin guitars are the key here for me, being the real element of the ‘metal’ in the band but also adding even more melodies during the more lulling moments and yet also quickly shifting tempo into a galloping Maiden-like pace on other occasions. Funnily enough the album gets heavier the more you get into it and even at times a little prog but their style reminded me a lot of NWOBHM band Praying Mantis, who bravely strode between heavy n melody also in fine style! Continue reading

Hatebreed – “The Divinity Of Purpose”

Hatebreed – “The Divinity Of Purpose” (Nuclear Blast)

When I co promoted these guys back in 1999 for a show, I knew they were destined to take metalcore (or crossover as it was then known) to a new level. Since then, Hatebreed have been bludgeoning and bruisin’ their way across the globe and are a regular festival favorite – their intense moshpit at last year’s Hellfest would attest to that brutality! And that’s just the way it is on this album – old school stomp core that’s right in your face brimming with unbridled HATE. Jamie Jasta’s vocals are still as aggressive and backed up by some cool Biohazard-esque gang shout outs while the chopping mugging guitars of Frank Novinec and Wayne Lozinak – complete with some cheeky Slayer licks – just crank and shank you on songs like ‘Dead Man Breathing’, ‘Nothing Scars Me’ and ‘Before The Fight Ends You’. Backed by Beattie n Byrne’s thug heavy rhythms and a big sound production, this album confirms that Hatebreed’s purpose is to set every arena afire – and they are undisputed gods at that. Continue reading

Dio – “Dream Evil”

Dio – “Dream Evil” 2CD Deluxe (UMC / Mercury)

It’s been just over two and a half years since the passing of Ronnie James Dio, but his legend continues! “Dream Evil” was Dio’s 4th album and released in 1987, featuring newcomers Craig Goldy and Claude Schnell on guitars and keyboards respectively. This deluxe package essentially features the original album – untouched as far as I can tell – complemented by a bonus CD crammed with a coupla singles but more importantly, most of the 1987 Monsters Of Rock set totaling some 11 tracks that span the very best of Dio’s career from the blazing ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ to a crowd chundering ‘Long Live Rock N Roll’ and a simply ripping ‘Neon Nights’ amongst others! If you were at this Castle Donnington show or even the one in ’83 you’ll know what I mean – the man was simply amazing! As far as I can tell the only track missing is ‘Children Of The Sea’, which is of course on the “Dio At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987” album. But if you don’t have that then this is a worthy enough purchase, complete with Wendy Dio endorsed booklet to remember one of rock’s great legends by! Continue reading

Saxon – “Sacrifice”

Saxon – “Sacrifice” 2CD (UDR Records)

‘..less tricks, more power..’ quipped Biff Byford when asked about this 20th album in Saxon’s prestigious history. I’d certainly agree with that as even the title might be a misnomer cos it’s wi’ nowt taken out easily the band’s heaviest album for yonks! “Sacrifice” brings back the raw power of the classic NWOBHM years and commendably crafts them into the epic metal style now more commonly associated with the band. Despite producing the album with Andy Sneap at home in Yorkshire, Biff’s vocals have taken a less up front approach in favour of bringing Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt’s raging twin guitars more to the fore on songs like ‘Guardians Of The Tomb’, ‘Stand Up And Fight’ and ‘Wheels Of Terror’. With Nibbs Carter hammering his bass and Nigel Glockler still faithfully and masterfully pounding those drums (and certainly plenty of cymbal work) this is classic Saxon bar none! If the power of “Sacrifice” wasn’t enough of a shocker then the perfectionist feel to the album, reflecting the experience of Saxon’s 38 year career could no more be better demonstrated by the bonus material made up of re-recorded and acoustic versions of amongst others ‘Requiem’, ‘Frozen Rainbow’ and ‘Just Let Me Rock’ – all given the same top notch treatment and in my opinion a new lease of life. This is how true bonus tracks should be: as value adding extras and not fillers to carry a mediocre album. Only just into the year and out of the blue these bold as brass veterans return with this superb release – and I’m still trying to work out where the ‘sacrifice’ is lol! Continue reading