Manowar – “The Lord Of Steel Live”

Manowar – “The Lord Of Steel Live” EP (Magic Circle Entertainment)

After a 5 year wait, the metal gods known as Manowar returned last year with their album “Lord Of Steel”. With it the band came full circle from the return of original drummer Donny Hamzik after 26 years to their sound veering away from the epic style back to the band’s early meat n potatoes shake it with steel groove. Now that takes balls. Even more so when you consider they have fans in over 40 countries and how fanatical they are. Well the proving ground was last year’s World Tour and if you didn’t make it to one of those dates then this EP is proof positive that a new era in Manowar has opened! Recorded across 6 European dates, it’s more the case of trying to work out which crowd is loudest as Karl Logan cranks out the evil riffs to ‘Thunder In The Sky’ and Hamzik redeems his past with his pounding double drums! With ‘Expendable’ bringing in a bit of sass that’s been amiss since “Battle Hymns” it’s back to Logan as he churns a heavy dirty sound out for ‘Hail, Kill And Die’ as Eric Adams shows us that his vocals are still one of the finest in metal leading thousands in a chant of ‘Manowarriors’ – ‘…heavy metal we believe, if you don’t like it fuckin leave..’. Manowar are back so fuck the world and death to false metal! Continue reading

Fleshgod Apocalypse – “Labyrinth”

Fleshgod Apocalypse – “Labyrinth” (Nuclear Blast Records)

Well, I’ve never been one for Italian opera but Fleshgod Apocalypse are something else – a glorious mix of death metal, classical orchestras and wailing female sopranos that are as flamboyantly decadent as ancient Rome itself! Add in the thunderous procession drumming, trumpets and even piano and you’ve got complexity upon complexity that if handled incorrectly could be a disaster but with the right skill and bravado races like a Ferrari. Well, Fleshgod Apocalypse have it in bunches and run like a Formula 1 team – for a start there’s three vocal variations from clean to gruff to the aforementioned femme before combining the other elements that have been arranged masterfully to achieve maximum effect on stupendous concertos like ‘Warpledge’, ‘The Fall Of Asterion’ and ‘Pathfinder’. Inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, “Labyrinth” uses this as a metaphor in exploring the search for one’s self and identity through the maze of life in the ultimate quest of freedom and individuality. This really is a superb release vibrant with energy and an amazing mix few could pull off to such a degree of pedigree that goes well beyond the realms of death metal alone – bravo – truly a gift from the gods themselves! Continue reading

Saltatio Mortis – “Das Schwarze Einmaleins”

Saltatio Mortis – “Das Schwarze Einmaleins” (Napalm Records)

On the strength of their “Manufactum III” live opus earlier this year I was expecting to hear more of the same jolly medieval rock but the prevalence of bagpipes on “Das schwarze Einmaleins” have taken the band more into the Scottish or even Celtic folk territory which is kinda unusual given these guys are German as indicated by their use of even their own national anthem on ‘Wachstum ueber alles’! Giving Scotland’s own Pipeline (or the Dropkick Murphys – Ed) a run for their money, it makes for a bizarre combination especially as Alea der Bescheidene sings in German although if you can get over that then numbers like ‘My Bonnie Mary’ and ‘Abrakadabra’ still retain their knees up appeal amidst his punkish vocals, punchy melodic riffs and yes…those omnipresent bagpipes lol. Continue reading

Equilibrium – “Waldschrein”

Equilibrium – “Waldschrein” EP (Nuclear Blast)

Although these guys have been around for over a decade this is really the first I’ve heard of Equilibrium so it’s just as well that this EP is a sorta filler while we await their 4th album next year. Impressively opening with the title track these Germans play a mix of folk along with the incredible guitar melodies of early Children Of Bodom before moving onto a symphonic rework of ‘Der Sturm’ which came off their debut in 2005. With a previously unreleased track ‘Zwergenhammer’ increasing the tempo, vocalist Robse shows his contrasting screech meets growl vocals amidst the pomp of the keyboard harmonies and the majestic ‘Himmelsrand’ – a cover version of the Skyrim video game – brings it all home in it’s epic glory of bombastic choirs and thunderous drum work. Quite a variety here showcasing their talent, Equilibrium are definitely one to take note of now and leave me salivating of what to expect next year! Continue reading

End Of Green – “The Painstream”

End Of Green – “The Painstream” (Napalm Records)

Self described as ‘depressed subcore’ this German goth rock band have been around since the early 90s, playing well renowned festivals like Wave-Gotik-Treffen and Wacken Open Air. These days I tend to feel a more emo rock style characterized by waves of teen heart wrenching melodies along with Michelle Darkness’s sad vocals on songs like ‘Don’t Stop Killing Me’ and ‘Standalone’ – perfect accompaniment for a rainy day! Interestingly they don’t have a German Kraut rock sound making them universally appealing to emos all over the world (groan – Ed) or anyone in love with autumn lol. Every now and then they do try and ramp it up like on the rock n roll ‘Chasing Ghosts’ and the darkwave title track but for the most part sadness is bliss with End Of Green. Continue reading

The Defiled – “Daggers”

The Defiled – “Daggers” (Nuclear Blast Records)

The Defiled are the happenin band this side of the Atlantic so it comes as little surprise that NB have snapped this lot up! Winning Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods Award last year, they wasted no time in starting a Pledge campaign for this album the proceeds of which have now gone to the release of their live version of their debut “Grave Times” to coincide with their first US dates. Musically The Defiled should go down a treat playing techo metal core mixing the aggro vocals of Stitch D with AvD’s strong, flowing keyboard harmonies as the rest of the band chop it to the strong grooves of ‘Porcelain’, ‘Five Minutes’ and ‘No Place Like Home’. A veritable melting pot of contemporary styles, they’ve sensibly left it to renowned producer Jason Suecof (All That Remains, Devildriver, Trivium etc etc) to bring out their sound which he’s done big time both for airplay and the arena. The Defiled are the best thing to come outta London in a while, having the stones to seriously take on their Stateside counterparts pound for pound no holds barred! Continue reading

Mono Inc. – “Nimmermehr”

Mono Inc. – “Nimmermehr” (NoCut)

This German electro goth band made a big hit last year in their country with “After The War” rising to number 6 in the album charts! Thankfully, and bravely, Mono Inc.have gone for a harder and darker feel to this album. There’s still The Sisters Of Mercy meets Depeche Mode mix, but overall everything is a lot harder from Katha Mia’s drumming to Martin Engler’s deeper baritone vocals. Likewise, the keyboards also sound a lot darker although overall the band’s sound remains as alt rock with plenty of passionate melodies, dance grooves and catchy poppy choruses judging by songs like ‘My Deal With God’ and ‘Heile, Heile Segen’. Still, they show a more heartfelt side to themselves on the ballad ‘A Better Way To Die’ where Engler comes into his own taking an almost gruff Shane McGowan style amidst the flowing violins. Also noted for his culinary skills offstage, Engler is an associate of noted German musician and actor Joachim Witt, who also collaborated on the inspirational track ‘Kein Weg Zu Weit’, particularly poignant given Engler’s breakdown and hospitalization during this album’s production. It also clearly shows that rather than rest on their new found success, Mono Inc. continue to break new ground, ever conscious to maximize their potential and opportunities that may not be around tomorrow. Continue reading

I, The Writer – “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”

I, The Writer – “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” (Self Made Records)

One to keep an eye out for in the melodic metal core league is I, The Writer, a sextet from London’s burgeoning suburbs with equal amounts of talent and furor! Although still in their youth they are already making an impact thru their OTT live shows even if the music, although competently played, is very much trademark standard metalcore. Mixing JB and Mitch’s screamo n clean vox, it’s the same for the music that contrasts raw aggressive riffs with heaps of guitar melody and catchy vocal harmonies on songs like ‘To Be A Man’, ‘Chin Up’ and ‘This Night Will End’. There’s a definite anger underlying the material and I suspect it’s from JB’s own reflection of seeing his father doing time in prison but there’s also a definite positivity there too, indicating hope that should be encouraged by this promising release. Continue reading

Festival Review – Hellfest 2013!

Over the last few years France’s Hellfest has grown from strength to strength to become one of Europe’s largest and most diverse festivals. Determined to exceed last year’s record of 112,000 attendees the organisers sought once again to assemble a line-up that would prove its worth and without a doubt they succeeded – where else could you see Def Leppard, Danzig and The Buzzcocks playing the same field except in the tiny village of Clisson?! Continue reading

SOiL – “Whole”

SOiL – “Whole” (AFM Records)

Awesome – SOiL are back – and in their original incarnation! Formed in the late 90s, this Chicago band sold over one million records worldwide with their major label debut “Scars” in 2001 before vocalist Ryan McCombs departed to join Drowning Pool in 2005. Well, now they are “Whole” again and right off the (baseball) bat I am truly impressed by how classic this sounds – it’s the 90s all over again – and straight in the vein of “Scars”! McCombs’s hoarse, aggro vocals were built to destroy any stadium along with the strong groove metal that makes up songs like ‘Pyschopath’, ‘War Gone’ and ‘Loaded Gun’. Drums on the album were performed by Will Hunt who is best known for his work with Black Label Society and boy, does he pound those muthas – it’s just heaps of attitude from start to finish! Heavy, raging and aggressive, this is the album that SOiL shoulda recorded after “Scars” but WTF, it’s great to have these dudes back to kick our asses once more in the pit!!!! Continue reading