Dead Harts – “Born Into Rags To Die No Richer”

Dead Harts – “Born Into Rags To Die No Richer” (Transcend Music)

Dare I say have a nice day…as romantic as dining in a steelworks, Sheffield’s Dead Harts are certainly as rough n ready as their run down city. This is ugly, primitive hardcore from the raw, feedback drenched guitars to the brooding bass and most of all, Matthew Baxendale’s (oo’er sounds a bit posh lol – Ed) base throat destroyed ‘vocals’. Yeah, there are emocore melodies on songs like ‘All Washed Up’, ‘Headhunter’ and ‘Caesar’ but for the most part they are pit fighting assaults with heaps of aggression: when you go down you know this feral mob will kick you in. Mix early Agnostic Front with Norma Jean and Dead Harts is probably what you’d get on a bad day. But amazingly these thugs have already played at Download (!), with no less than a European and even Russian tours scheduled next year – man, I know these are hard times but are people really that pissed off? Continue reading

Obsession – “Order Of Chaos”

Obsession – “Order Of Chaos” (Inner Wound Recordings)

Classic power metal par excellence! Obsession is an American heavy metal band formed in 1982 famed for starting the career of vocalist Michael Vescera. They first came to attention after appearing on Brian Slagel’s legendary Massacre 2 compilation and released two albums on Enigma before splitting at the end of the 80s. Vescera then went onto success firstly with Japan’s Loudness and finally with Yngwie Malmsteen for the next 15 years. In 2004 Obsession reformed due to demand from the ‘true’ metal scene and released “Carnival Of Lies” two years later. The follow up, “Order Of Chaos” was actually set to be released last year but Vescera went off again – this time to join Animetal USA together with Chris Impellitteri, Rudy Sarzo and Scott Travis – clearly a man in demand! Despite all this, Vescera has remained true to his roots of melding power melodies with blistering metal on songs like ‘Twist Of The Knife’, ‘Cold Day In Hell’ and ‘Act Of God’ with scant regard for a ballad: steroided power vocals, blazing power riffing, crazy out’ve control soloing and non stop double bass drumming – way ta go babaay!! “Order Of Chaos” reminds me of bands like Dokken and TKO at their heaviest and it comes as no surprise given Vescera has a couple of ex members of Don’s band in BJ Zampa and Chris McCarvill in his formidable line – all of whom demonstrate superior musicianship. Totally outstanding – definitely my highlight album of the year for this genre!!! Continue reading

King Dude – “Burning Daylight”

King Dude – “Burning Daylight” (Van Records)

Despite being tucked away in the rainy northwestern corner of the US, Seattle has always been at the forefront of cutting edge music. And King Dude might be the next big thang. Mixing together dark, pagan folk with acoustic country rock n roll, this king takes the dark side of Johnny Cash n Jim Jones right into the pits of Hell. The ‘king’ in this case is Book Of Black Earth guitarist / vocalist TJ Cowgill but the trippy almost shamanic trance in songs like ‘Jesus In The Courtyard’, ‘My Mother Was The Moon’ and ‘Lord, I’m Coming Home’ is a million miles from the death / punk of his crusty buddies. This is far darker my friends, vividly atmospheric and captivating from TJ’s vocal drawls to the melancholic melodies and haunting harmonies. Country n Western will never be the same and has death in TJ’s name. Hail to the king baby. Continue reading

YoungBlood – “No Retreat”

YoungBlood – “No Retreat” (Eonian Records)

OMG. Depending on whether late 80s hard / glam rock a la Slaughter, Warrant or Extreme was yer thang, YoungBlood will undoubtedly bring back all those memories – good or otherwise lol! This isn’t actually a new band but an original group who formed in the Midwest and initially recorded the 16 songs on this album back in 1989! I don’t know what happened after that but the band folded and it has taken the best part of thirteen years for them to be formally released. Truly astonishing and also tragic given the quality of the material n musicianship which is up there with the best of those 80s bands. Songs like ‘Heat Of The Passion’, ‘My One And Only’ and ‘Get Down To It’ take us back to the days of air punching rock anthems, acoustic ballads, get-the-funk-out party groovers and most of all – heaps of hairspray! Vocalist Bobby Sisk is one of these pretty boy rockers with a barnet that would put a lion to shame and with such high vocals you wonder if he got kicked in the nuts, but a champion crooner he certainly is, along with the stadium shakin’ guitars of Jeff Diehl and Eric Saylors. “No Retreat” was a treasure waiting to be discovered and what’s even more awesome is that YoungBlood still have another 29 unreleased tracks held in reserve! Continue reading

Cauldron – “Tomorrow’s Lost”

Cauldron – “Tomorrow’s Lost” (Earache Records)

Yeah, I can see why these Canadians are a bit hit on the Euro circuit, especially in the ‘true’ metal league given how early 80s they sound! Taking their inspiration from the 1st generation of NWOBHM bands and in particular Angel Witch, Raven and of course Maiden (although by no means confined to them), Cauldron even have a retro sound right down to hard rock tinges and raw dirty guitars! Singer / bassist Jason Decay has one of those girlie high vocals that bring a melodic constant throughout Cauldron’s material be it on the free wheeling ‘Burning Fortune’, the occult groove of ‘Relentless Temptress’, or more mid tempo stuff like ‘Nitebreaker’. Additionally, the production sound is very akin also to the 80s, when bands had a no frills approach to recording such that their albums were faithful reproductions of their live sounds and vice versa. Cauldron live as well as play the 80s – it’s like these dudes are stuck in that era but just grew up a coupla decades later lol! Continue reading

The Fallen Within – “The Day You Died Inside”

The Fallen Within – “The Day You Died Inside” (Noiseheadrecords)

This Greek band formed just under a decade ago and have undergone significant changes thru their line-ups, sound and even look! Their debut “Intoxicated” mixed the aggro groove metal of Soulfly with the mellow death of In Flames (complete with neck ties) and was recorded in Athens, mixed in Finland and released on an Italian label! This sophomore is equally diverse but different with songs like ‘How Do I Rise From The Dead’, ‘Still Tearing Me Apart’ and ‘Crawling Down The Hallway’ mixing the brutal chopping riffs of Soilwork with emocore melodies, and the biggest change being the strong electro dub keyboards adding a dance groove in some cases! With vocal styles to match from emo-mello to screamo to death, The Fallen Within continue to flirt with diversity, not to mention haircuts all around! Continue reading

Driven – “A Breakdown Of Character”

Driven – “A Breakdown Of Character” EP (www.facebook.com/drivenuk)

This lot might hail from the leafy suburbs of north London, but their style of aggro metal sees their up turned noses pointing decidedly towards Texas, not in the least given how much they sound like Pantera! But hold up, this would be an at times slightly more tempered Pantera, one also mixing in soulful vocals and melodic guitar licks reminiscent of Kirk Hammett into songs like ‘Ghosts’, ‘Uproar’ and ‘Vacant Throne’. It’s an interesting take indeed on what might’ve happened if Dimebag n Anselmo had carried on as a heavy metal band instead of the furious monster that Pantera became but for the mo this lot are far beyond driven. Continue reading

As I Lay Dying – “Awakened”

As I Lay Dying – “Awakened” (Metal Blade Records)

Gotta say, never knew AILD to be this intense! Right from the off this is one tornado of an album that just rips into you and doesn’t let up. AILD have an interesting mix combining the emocore vocals of Tim Lambesis with the mello death chopping rhythms of At The Gates all those years ago. But it’s their energy and vibrant pace that really socked me: considering the band have been together for over 12 years I’d be expecting something mebbe more slower or conceptual but song titles like ‘No Lungs To Breathe’, ‘Overcome’ and ‘Resilience’ say it all that this band are far from their sell buy date! If there has been experimentation then working with famed producer (and drummer of punk rock legends The Descendents) Bill Stevenson has made all the difference by bringing in some fresh perspective without changing the band’s core style. I would say he has deffo injected some punk freneticity in the songs to make them truly vibrant while also streamlining them to make them more aggressive. Lambesis’s lyrics in this album also seem to have taken a darker, more pessimistic path but it all works and reflects the maturity and experience of this San Diego crew. “Awakened” has certainly been a wake up call for me and might be the finest hour for AILD – and then some! Continue reading

Satan’s Wrath – “Galloping Blasphemy”

Satan’s Wrath – “Galloping Blasphemy” (Metal Blade Records)

‘…now that the thousand-faced moon is risen, Satan’s Wrath is upon thee..’ – lol, not withstanding the Beelzeblurb, this Greek duo of Tas Danazoglou (Vocals, Drums, Bass) and Stamos K (Guitars) have produced one helluva catchy album that embodies what heavy metal par excellence is all about! Haunting vocals, razor ripping riffs, insane soloing and a manic rhythm set the pace on racy songs like ‘Between Belial and Satan’, ‘Slaves of the Inverted Cross’ and ‘Hail Tritone, Hail Lucifer’. Despite their overtly Satanic theme, funnily enough I wouldn’t classify these guys as such – well no more so than Venom or Possessed were back in their day – but would certainly say that “Galloping Blasphemy” has all the hallmarks of a worthy contender to Venom’s immortal ‘Black Metal’! Continue reading

Demonic Death Judge – “Skygods”

Demonic Death Judge – “Skygods” (Inverse Records)

Wow – talk about a throwback to the 90s! These Finns remind me a lot of Brit noise sludge crew Iron Monkey during their “Our Problem” era. Ultra heavy stoner noise thick riffs, Stonehenge drumming, and most of all, screaming-like-no-tomorrow vocals! If that wasn’t enough to smash some decibels into your fried out brain, DDJ also chuck in some Shamanic melodies which is enough to send songs like ‘Aqua Hiatus’, ‘Nemesis’ and ‘Cyberprick’ right out into the far beyond, cos that is what they are – totally fuckin massive man, you can feel the earth shake as the gods fall outta the sky on this one – RIP Johnny Morrow, you got the last laff after all mate! Continue reading