Saltatio Mortis – “Manufactum III – Live auf dem Mittelaltermarkt”

Saltatio Mortis – “Manufactum III – Live auf dem Mittelaltermarkt” (Napalm Records)

Saltatio Mortis aren’t really a metal band but what they describe as medieval rock, which apparently is pretty big in Germany, the home of the guys. The band take their name from the medieval ‘dance death’ which was played by minstrels during the Middle Ages to cheer folk up as plague, persecution and poverty ravaged their lands. As you can imagine, the goal was joviality and essentially giving people the will to live, so the emphasis is on uplifting melody and pipes a plenty they have – from bagpipes to medieval pipes to highland pipes to small pipes to Uilleann pipes! Along with this comes a hearty jest inspired to get the crowd going and revel in a right royal knees up. Well, Saltatio Mortis came together in a medieval Christmas market and therefore it seems apt that this live concert took place at the Hamburg Öjendorf’s medieval market – and quite a party it sounds like judging by the hearty aplomb of songs like ‘La Ride’, ‘Pirate’s Life’ and ‘Fiat Lux’ which are crowd singalongs to say the least. Merry music is what these boys make and just as in times of old, the need to be cheered has not left us during these harsh times. Continue reading

Aosoth – “IV: Arrow In Heart”

Aosoth – “IV: Arrow In Heart” (Agonia Records)

This has gotta be one of the most haunting albums I’ve heard in a while. These French black metallers have clearly gone to a lotta trouble to create a creepy atmosphere through their songs, which go beyond traditional black metal into the epic realm right from the outset of the 11 minute title track opener. Whilst there are the usual evil sound bytes, which incidentally are used to great effect, it’s actually Aosoth’s music played dextrously thru non standard instruments like 5 string basses and primitive dull thudding drums which achieves a spectacularly morbid sound of decay on songs like ‘One With The Prince With A Thousand Enemies’ and ‘Under Nails & Fingertips’. With the cryptic MkM adding the finishing touches thru his equally foetid tormented vocals and tortured drawls it’s a masterful experience indeed and one that places Aosoth at the top of the French black metal league. You can literally feel death creeping all over you on this one. Superb. Continue reading

Adept – “Silence The World”

Adept – “Silence The World” (Panic & Action Records)

Sweden’s Adept offer an interesting take on their country’s more common association with melodic death by being a melodic metalcore band! Mixing the heavy rhythms of At The Gates with rebounding core riffs and pensive technical melodies, it’s Robert Ljung’s diverse vocals that make a difference on songs like ‘The Toughest Kids’, ‘Means To An End’ and ‘The Ocean Grave’ mixing Zakk de la Rocha shout outs with emo harmonies and aggro core vocals. Whilst I don’t think there’s anything here that hasn’t been done before it’s an interesting enough fire n ice combination with certainly plenty of aggression whilst still retaining their nation’s signature sound. Continue reading

D-A-D – “Dic.nii.lan.daft.erd.ark”

D-A-D – “Dic.nii.lan.daft.erd.ark” Deluxe Edition (AFM Records)

Known as the Kings Of Danish Rock, D-A-D have been rockin since the 80s, when they were a cowpunk band known as Disneyland After Dark – that is, until Disney Corp threatened legal action! Since then they’ve grown mainly in their homeland although they are known in Europe. Essentially a pure rock band, their history has also seen elements of glam, indie and punk also feature in their material but in the main it’s throaty rock vocals, power rhythms and rock out melodies that allows these guys to hold their own at flagship festivals ranging from Roskilde to Wacken. I guess the bottom line is that despite being old rockers D-A-D’s music is timeless in its appeal to generation after generation by sticking to the true elements that make rock music what it is, and in many ways they set the blueprint for today’s Scandinavian rockers like Backyard Babies and Hardcore Superstar. This monster deluxe package is a re-issue of their 2011 album “Dic.nii.lan.daft.erd.ark” with songs like ‘Breaking Them Heart By Heart’, plus 5 acoustic versions including ‘Last Time In Neverland’ and no less than 11 live tracks culminating in ‘The Place Of The Heart’. It’s rock to shake the rafters, mellow hearts and still be cheeky to Mickey lol Continue reading

Hypocrisy – “End Of Disclosure”

Hypocrisy – “End Of Disclosure” (Nuclear Blast)

lol these guys must be Nuclear Blast’s longest signing band as I swear they formed pretty much at the same time over 23 years ago! Although Swedish, Hypocrisy embody a number of different elements from US death metal to melodic death to heavy metal. “End Of Disclosure” is no exception and takes us right back to the band’s early beginnings with main man Peter Tägtgren’s screech mixed with guttural vocals, whirring riffs and masterfully propelled by Immortal’s Horgh on the nuclear drums (no pun intended). Despite all this, the real power of songs like ‘Hell Is Where I Stay’, ‘When Death Falls’ and ‘The Return’ actually lies in the melodies that only make the material catchy but adds real substance and atmosphere to it. Additionally the production is amazing, which isn’t surprising given Tägtgren’s reputation as a producer in his own right, but he’s gone for a simple-is-effective style this time by minimizing the keyboards and instead concentrating on each riff to be heard with a no interference guitar sound – it works a treat in my opinion allowing the music to be appreciated while not taking anything away from the band’s obvious power. “End Of Disclosure” continues Hypocrisy’s tradition in fine style while reflecting a band comfortable in their maturity. Continue reading

Gloryhammer – “Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife”

Gloryhammer – “Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife” (Napalm Records)

lol if you thought Alestorm were something with their ‘pirate metal’ theme then the news is that maniac frontman keyboardist Christopher Bowes has now turned his hand to mid tempo ‘heroic’ epic / power metal in Gloryhammer! Centered around his homeland of Scotland, these are the tales of the Kingdom of Fife, where the great hero Angus McFife (not a real bloke btw) wages an epic war against the evil wizard Zargothrax (not a real bloke either) to free the people of Dundee in the name of glory and steel. I think the SNP would love this heh heh! Eccentricities aside, Bowes has done a fine job of recruiting vocalist Thomas Winkler (Emerald) who possesses both the majestic and melodic talents to pull this off on songs like ‘Hail To Crail’, ‘Beneath Cowdenbeath’ and ‘Quest For The Hammer of Glory’. Musically, it’s got elements of Freedom Call on the power side with a mellower Manowar on the epic element, complete with glorious choruses, impressive horns and Bowes own classical keyboards. Most of all, “Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife” impresses throughout for indeed being heroic in its theme so I hope the fantasy concept doesn’t put anyone off this otherwise excellent power metal. Continue reading

Wardruna – “Yggdrasil”

Wardruna – “Yggdrasil” (Indie Recordings)

Formed by ex Gorgoroth drummer Kvitrafn, Wardruna is the musical and spiritual extension of his shamanic beliefs based on a concept around Norse runes and traditions owing much to none other than Gaahl, who also sings. This isn’t modern music by any form, but rather an intent to connect with the past to revitalize ancient traditions and I would imagine, lost spirituality. Modern instruments are kept to a minimum with the preference being on the traditional like animal hide drums, deer-hoof percussion and bone flutes, with again the emphasis being on not just achieving authentic sounds but also a ritualistic approach to creating the instruments to begin with. It is clear that Wardruna is not just a goal but also a spiritual journey! For me, the vocals are really special: a mixture of shamanic and throat singing as undertaken by Kvitrafn and Gaahl, but also a female vocalist in Lindy Fay Hella who may also be bringing in a rune magic dimension. With some parts of the album recorded outdoors and featuring the sounds of natural elements like water, stones and trees you can imagine Wardruna playing this live in a cavern or deep in the forest or atop a mountain top – whatever the medium the resonating effect of their runic music is nothing short of magnetic. Continue reading

Covered Call – “Impact”

Covered Call – “Impact” (AOR Heaven)

Simply divine. Covered Call’s first album “Money Never Sleeps” melted my heart back in 2009 and I couldn’t wait to hear this sophomore which follows without disappointment in the same luvvy crooning AOR style as before: melody, melody and did I forget to mention it – melody ha ha! From housewives to rockers, Covered Call’s mission is to make you feel good whether it’s on soft ballads like ‘When The Lights Are Out’ to power ballads like ‘Hold On’ or crooning cryers like ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, emphasizing their time invested in the song writing as well as musicianship. Taking influence from US 80s AOR like Tyketto, John Parr and even elements of Van Halen, their talent is their catchiness and Covered Call have it in bunches to flood the airwaves – and all this from a part time band – so well done guys, you’re more dependable than global financial markets! Continue reading

Hammerfist – “Isolation”

Hammerfist – “Isolation” EP (Ghost Town Records)

Furious bark blast hardcore from Orange County, CA. Driven by the Haines brothers in Jake on the aggro vox and Swayho on the pounding drums, Hammerfist certainly live up to their name on this raging EP that mixes Integrity and Agnostic Front on hard boiled songs like ‘Forest Of The Dead’, ‘Carry The Weight’ and ‘Ultima Thule’. There is an inherent violence that defines their style and Hammerfist seem like a solitary predator lurking out there, sharpening its teeth and savoring its moment to strike – don’t be in the pit when this lot come wading in…. Continue reading

The Memphis 77 – “Get Alive”

The Memphis 77 – “Get Alive” EP (Secret Entertainment)

High energy rock n fuckin roll from Finland! In the land of the midnight sun this lot are so out of it they could light up a goddamn town. Raw frenetic vocals, manic drumming and then Jimmy Scissors guitar kicks in and man, you’re racing down an icy road with no brakes and reckless abandon ha ha. Still, with songs like ‘No Buddy’, ‘Small Time Lovers’ and ‘Get A Life’ you’ll be going out in style mixing The Clash’s adrenaline od with the heart felt melodies of Hanoi Rocks. That’s why they call it rock n roll baby… Continue reading