Battlecross – “War Of Will”

Battlecross – “War Of Will” (Metal Blade Records)

This Detroit crew have been fast rising and it’s easy to see why with their brand of steamin’ but catchy n furious melodic death / thrash! From Gumby’s primordial roars / screams to the whirring tornado guitars of Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala songs like ‘Force Fed Lies’, ‘Wage A War’ and ‘Beast’ will not just have you spinning in the circle pit but also in your head thanks to those catchy grooves! With just the right amount of guitar melody that owes as much to Slayer as it does to Maiden adding icing to their material, Battlecross’s music is without a doubt built for the live scene they have done an excellent job to capture that atmosphere on “War Of Will”. Drums on this album were provided by Shannon Lucas, whose relentless and inventive technical beats have been a mighty fine way to complement the rest of the band. Although Battlecross draw comparisons with the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder, I’m simply overwhelmed by their speed, technical capability and outright catchiness that owes as much to Pantera as it does to In Flames. All in all a devastating sophomore showing no let up in their assault – soldier on boys! Continue reading

Venomous Maximus – “Beg Upon The Light”

Venomous Maximus – “Beg Upon The Light” (Napalm Records)

If you’re a big fan of occult rock then Venomous Maximus are just the trip for you. Hailing from Houston TX, these guys mix the proto doom style of Pentagram with the likes of Witchfynde using an upgraded conventional sound. From Gregg Higgins’s low, tripped out vocals to the crunching guitars of Christian Larson and the hard pounding rhythms of Trevi Biles and Bongo (guess he’s the drummer lol – Ed), Venomous Maximus have a distinct 70s sound based on the power of the almighty riff. And they’ve got it bunches, along with meth fueled solos and trans dimensional melodies. Although unknown from their previous bands, these guys have been kicking around for a few years and it’s translated in songs like ‘Funeral Queen’, ‘Moonchild’ and ‘Hell’s Heroes’, all of which have a rich, powerful sound that combines the best of stoner, doom and occult into one fireball of a package! Continue reading

Lonewolf – “The Fourth And Final Horseman”

Lonewolf – “The Fourth And Final Horseman” (Napalm Records)

After last year’s mightily impressive “Army Of The Damned” I was eagerly looking forward to the next installment from these French medieval metallers! Produced by none other than Powerwolf’s Charles Greywolf this had everything on the cards to be the ‘big’ one for Lonewolf. Indeed, Charles has given the album an epic feel with a definite loud sound! Frontman Jens Borner sounds like he’s leading a final assault on a castle while riff hacking furiously with his axe along with fellow knight in arms Alex Hilbert. Behind them comes the siege engine rhythm barrage of Rikki Mannhard and Tonio Bussière together producing songs like ‘Time For War’ and ‘Dragonriders’. It’s certainly epic and full of panache being characteristically French but what was alluring last year were those power melodies, almost folk like but as deadly as a well aimed arrow. They’re still here but take a more Maiden-esque form this time round which isn’t as passionate although ‘The Brotherhood Of Wolves’ shows more what the band were capable of with it’s graceful soloing and medieval melodies. Either way Lonewolf are no less exciting in my book, rather like a horseman atop his steed galloping into the sunset, the stuff of legends…. Continue reading

The Quireboys – “Beautiful Curse”

The Quireboys – “Beautiful Curse” (Off Yer Rocka Recordings)

Blimey, I remember these guys from the 80s! Formed in 1984 to be precise, The Quireboys play a very easy living style of rock or gypsy rock n roll as some might describe it. Although I don’t exactly follow the band this is their first release in the last 3 or 4 years but by gad, it all sounds just like it did when as a teenager I heard hits like ‘Hey You’. Bloody hell, they even got Chris Tsangarides to do the production (bet he was relieved after Anvil lol – Ed)! Spike’s still on vocals, along with guitarists Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin who put in some fine slide work, as does Keith Weir on the funky keys and heart breaking hammond organ. Together they shake, rattle and roll like a cross between The Rolling Stones and Mott The Hoople on ‘Homewreckers And Heartbreakers’, kick back on ‘Beautiful Curse’ and reflect on the poignant ‘Twenty Seven Years’ where Spike croons ‘..yeah, I made it…and you know I can take cos I made it thru the tears..’ – a definite statement that The Quireboys are back and have never sounded better. Continue reading

Gavin Rossdale – “Wanderlust”

Gavin Rossdale – “Wanderlust” REISSUE (Ear Music)

Gavin Rossdale will always be known and loved for being the front man of 90s Brit post grunge band Bush. Since that time he’s dabbled in acting and married singer Gwen Stephanie, but more recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest thanks to the comeback of Bush. As such this reissue of his 2008 solo album is well timed, if perhaps questionably related. Right off I’ll say that it’s not like Bush at all, rather going into a more mainstream rock sound while retaining elements of melancholy from his previous band. But he has assembled a stellar cast from drummer Josh Freese (The Vandals, A Perfect Circle) to guitarist Chris Traynor (Helmet, Bush) and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac (Fleetwood Mac, Avenged Sevenfold) certainly giving the heavier songs like the nightmarish trip of ‘If You’re Not With Us You’re Against Us’, the bopping ‘Another Night In The Hills’ and the brooding bonus track ‘Jungle In The Circus’ an added darkness complemented by the superlative production skills of Bob Rock. Whilst the softer, more poppier material unsurprisingly didn’t really do a whole lot for me, “Wanderlust” was still appealing especially in it’s more sullen grooves although it was by no means a substitute for Bush. Continue reading

Reaper In Sicily – “Islands”

Reaper In Sicily – “Islands” (www.facebook.com/reaperinsicily)

Wow, this young Welsh outfit literally came outta nowhere to win the 2009 Kerrang! Best Unsigned Band Award, landing themselves a label and even radio and TV airplay – until guitarist Matthew Jenkins was diagnosed with leukaemia. Best buddies, the rest of the band hung out for this recovery and thankfully now have this amazing debut to show for their kindness. Playing high energy rock with chunks of catchy melody and harmonies songs like ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, ‘Chuck Norris Got A Chainsaw’ and ‘Down But Not Out’ are the stuff teenage anthems are made of, reaching out and grabbing you while staying for days in your head as you subconsciously hum them. I actually thought they had a chick for a vocalist – until I discovered he was called Rhys Bernardo lol – but those adolescent Hanson-like wails mixed in with kitten screamo will undoubtedly have girls clawing at him, as will the labels once more as these boys scythe their way across the UK on their upcoming summer tour! Continue reading

Manowar – “Warriors Of The World”

Manowar – “Warriors Of The World” 10th Anniversary Remastered Edition (Magic Circle Entertainment)

Manowar have and continue to remain one of the most enigmatic bands in the world. Even within the world of metal they are something of a rogue beast, turning their nose at both the herd and the seeming bosom of industry, preferring to trudge the wilderness in spiritual solitude and beholden to none. Whilst nature suggests that any creature on its own is doomed, Manowar have not only survived, but have grown stronger drawing together a fanatical following of elite metal fans who treat the band’s independently funded tours with almost religious reverence and the camaraderie of an extended family. More than that, I would say that Manowar embody what is quintessentially American – independent, freedom spirited and with a deep patriotism that outsiders see as almost theatrical. In many ways “Warriors Of The World” typifies this, mixing the band’s own metal from its hammering opener ‘Call To Arms’ (which itself was inspired by Wagner) to the opera of ‘Nessun Dorma’ to the band’s tribute to Elvis in Mickey Newbury’s ‘An American Tribute’. Originally released in 2002, “Warriors Of The World” represented a turning point in the band’s career and hence its choice for commemoration and remastering at the plucky hands of the man himself, founder bassist Joey DeMaio, who still fiercely drives the band to this day. With the remixing done by the equally regarded Ronald Prent, their combined expertise has resulted in a clearer, more expanded sound – not to mention louder! Other than that it’s pretty much the same album although now including a bonus live track in “House Of Death” recorded during the Battle Hymns MMXI 2011 Tour at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. Sound purists will love this as will any die hard fan (are there any other? Ed) although the rest of the world will go on wondering what it is that makes the phenomenon known as Manowar so special. Continue reading

Bonfire – “Live In Wacken”

Bonfire – “Live In Wacken” (LZ Records/ Sony)

This one goes all the way back – not just cos it captures a long lost performance from 1998 but also because Bonfire have been going since 1972 if you can believe that! Originally thought lost, this live Wacken set captures this German hard rock band on home ground and in full steam as they march through their 13 track set from singalongs like ‘Champion’ to their cover of Billy Squier’s ‘The Stroke’ to their classic hit ‘Sword And Stone’. Although now apparently remastered, the sound still remains pretty raw, which I guess is reflective of Wacken back in those days when it was up and coming rather than the monster festival that it is today. Still, Bonfire’s melodic rock holds its own and was probably a welcome contrast to the bands who played that year from Exciter to Cradle Of Filth to Gamma Ray! Although they continue to remain relatively obscure outside of their native Germany Bonfire’s brand of catchy hard rock remains timeless and generically appealing so you could do worse than to check out this bumper live opus both as an opportunity to hear Bonfire as well as an early Wacken show! Continue reading

Sirenia – “Perils Of The Deep Blue”

Sirenia – “Perils Of The Deep Blue” (Nuclear Blast)

Sirenia were formed at the turn of the century by Tristania’s Morten Veland. Since then there has been a veritable revolving door of musicians although the current line up including Ailyn (who was on X Factor Spain) seems to have been fairly stable over the last few years – well, this is her third album which makes her Sirenia’s longest standing vocalist lol. Despite releasing five prior albums, the sound has remained in the symphonic / gothic metal arena which is pretty much where “Perils Of The Deep Blue” is with wailing female soprano vocals, bombastic neo classical riffs, big opera choirs and a liberal dose of electronica on songs like ‘Cold Caress’, ‘Seven Widow Weep’ and ‘The Funeral March’. For his part Veland adds in his own harsh vocals and the album has a much more epic and harder feel than I remember prior albums being with the possible exception of the commercial (and Norwegian sung – including clean vocals from Morten!) rock groove of ‘Ditt Endelikt’. In many ways Sirenia could be compared to Nightwish and why they never capitalized after Tarja left is a shame. Nevertheless “Perils Of The Deep Blue” is a commendable release that at least steers them in the right direction to that if that be their path. Continue reading