Dagoba – “Post Mortem Nihil Est”

Dagoba – “Post Mortem Nihil Est” (earMusic)

Fast rising up the ranks of the French extreme metal league comes Dagoba, who on the strength of this album look set to be right on the heels of Gojira! Having seen these guys over the years at various festivals I’ve never questioned their ability to deliver par excellence extreme metal, however, “Post Mortem Nihil Est” is something altogether different. Produced by none other than Machine Head’s Logan Mader, Dagoba have taken a step back from flooring the pedal (bet that was difficult being French lol – Ed) and instead gone for the quality in their song writing, which is heavily influenced by Machine Head’s heavy groove metal along with a dose of symphonic black metal a la Dimmu Borgir. Hoarse vocals, dirty twisting dervish riffs, and blasting drum work define songs like ‘The Realm Black’, ‘Kiss Me, Kraken’ and ‘The Day After The Apocalypse’ which at times are delivered with hyper speed whilst at others using slow, crushing brutality. As I said, there’s a strong groove throughout the 11 tracks on this 5th album from Dagoba, who also sensibly use subtle keyboards to add even more background atmosphere on what is undoubtedly their finest hour. Continue reading

Scorpion Child – “Scorpion Child”

Scorpion Child – “Scorpion Child” (Nuclear Blast)

Following in the recent revival of 70s hard rock n heavy metal comes Scorpion Child – an’ all from Texas y’all! If I thought The Answer and Rival Sons sounded like Zepp then vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black is probably one of Robert Plant’s unplanned tour creations so close is he to the legendary singer. Besides the heavy take on the 70s with plenty of raw rock guitar graced with wah, deep bass and solid drums (not forgetting those hippy afros lol – Ed) Scorpion Child also try to corner the psych rock market with plenty of trippy riffs thru songs like ‘King’s Highway’, ‘In The Arms Of Ecstasy’ and the simply chooging ‘Paradigm’ with its upbeat tempo – not exactly pure stoner although you’d certainly appreciate it if you were down to your last weed heh heh. I haveta say that of all the revival bands these guys are the best as their music has a very natural feel to it and isn’t really retro but sort’ve a modern take on those 70s classics – so can you dig it man? Continue reading

Arrayan Path – “IV: Stigmata”

Arrayan Path – “IV: Stigmata” (Pitch Black Records)

Well, it’s certainly been a busy year for Arrayan Path – these guys (minus keyboardist George Kallis) already released a heavy metal album under their sister project Astronomikon – and fabulous it was too – and now comes Arrayan Path’s fourth album! If I were to compare the two bands then I’d say that whilst both are epic but Astronomikon is straight up HM whereas Arrayan Path is more of a melodic power metal band. Indeed, as Nicholas Leptos soaring vocals come wailing in, brother Sokratis piles in an intense mixture of power riffing and heart rousing melodic solos, and George Kallis’s keyboards add to the dark atmosphere of biblical songs like ‘Disguising Your Soul’, ‘Cursed Canaan’ and ‘The Bible Bleeds’ you know this is one epic album! Added to this comes the magnificent orchestral arrangements handled by Vagelis Maranis (ex-Sanvoisen) who also created some beautiful choral harmonies using his voice as well as guest appearances from Armageddon’s Jimmy Mavrommatis on vocals and guitar solos by Kikis Apostolou amongst others. All in all you’ve got one helluva book of battle hymns! Continue reading

Payload – “Odyssey Dawn”

Payload – “Odyssey Dawn” (Shadow Records)

Pure heavy metal mayhem from Finland! Despite their unassuming name and no frills style, Helsinki’s Payload play a surprisingly addictive brand of HM successfully captured on this excellent debut. Formed in 2008 by lead guitarist Vic Lausas & vocalist Risto Sundberg, the two have already seen their fair share of lineup changes in their rhythm section but have soldiered on regardless to produce this fine mix of Iron Maiden riffing, Megadeth rhythms and hard rock melodies. Raw vocals, even more raw chugging guitar and a neck snapping rhythm will have you headbanging in glory to steam hammer songs like ‘War Machine’, ‘Unleash’ and ‘Poison Cure’, made all the more lethal by the equally raw production! All in all an excellent debut from this unassuming band deserving more recognition! Continue reading

Megadeth – “Super Collider”

Megadeth – “Super Collider” (Tradecraft / Universal)

Let’s face it, Dave Mustaine isn’t a man that has ever been without controversy. In fact, some might say the two go hand in hand! Earlier this year, Mustaine announced that Megadeth would be parting ways with Roadrunner and his 14th album would instead be released on Tradecraft, his own label. Seems they both musta known something. “Super Collider” has caused huge controversy since its release and it’s easy to see why: this isn’t the Vic Rattlehead thrash that Mustaine has been dishing out since 1983 that made his name legendary. Rather, “Super Collider” lives up to its name in every way – a veritable melting pot of different styles (yeah, he said styles – Ed) from the slide geetar country rock of ‘The Blackest Crow’ to the 70s hard rock of ‘Burn!’ to the old school HM of ‘Built For War’. So what happened to da thrash?! Well, if you can bring yourself to get over your initial shock then look closer at the epic ‘Dance In The Rain’ – which has gotta be one of the best Megadeth tracks I’ve heard in years in all Vic Rattlehead’s classic glory – or the piston pounding ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’, which again has classic ‘deth written all over it. It’s all still Megadeth and certainly identifiable from Mustaine’s drawl which has gotten deeper and darker, and there’s still heaps of sarcasm and cynicism plastered all over the 14 tracks here so even the keyboards on ‘Dance In The Rain’ do little to lighten it up ha ha! Additionally the technical musicianship is still up there as Mustaine does fine justice to a cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Cold Sweat’, but I guess if you’re not used to the idea of Megadeth actually doing covers then of course it’s gonna cause unease. And that’s it really, after nearly four decades of dishing out the thrash the fifty something Mustaine has tried to do something a little different – and once again courted controversy – so I’m up for giving the guy a break cos “Super Collider” is indeed a fine all around metal album. Continue reading

The Black Dahlia Murder – “Everblack”

The Black Dahlia Murder – “Everblack” (Metal Blade Records)

With over 10 years under their belts, it’s hard to talk about melodic death metal and not mention this Michigan crew. Driven by relentless blast beat drum work, fast chopping riffs and the screech / guttural vocals of Trevor Strnad, “Everblack” continues the band’s six album career with no signs of any wimp outs or compromise! Since we last heard from ’em there have been a coupla replacements in bassist Max Lavelle (formerly of Despised Icon and Goratory) and drummer Alan Cassidy (formerly of Abigail Williams) who have certainly added value especially in Lavelle’s dirty, growling bass lol! Brian Eschbach still brings out the most amazing melodies to add soothing splendor to the raging torrent of songs like ‘Phantom Limb Masturbation’, the Evil Dead inspired ‘Raped In Hatred by Vines of Thorn’ and opener ‘In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me’, which sees the band for the first time lyrically tackle their infamous namesake unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (aka Black Dahlia) in vivid prose as it’s written from the point of view of her killer attending her funeral. “Everblack” sees The Black Dahlia Murder come of age in all aspects and in many ways even more blissful and brutal than they ever were! Continue reading

Masterplan – “Novum Initium”

Masterplan – “Novum Initium” (AFM Records)

Formed at the turn of the century when guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were asked to leave Helloween following discussions about a side project, whereupon their destiny came into being – hence Masterplan! Driven principally by Grapow, the band has featured a variety of line-ups although always made up of high calibre veterans including Riot’s Mike DiMeo as well as their on again off again relationship with vocalist Jørn Lande, who was himself replaced in 2012 by Rick Altzi (At Vance, Herman Frank etc) and joined by drummer Martin Škaroupka (Cradle Of Filth) and ex-Stratovarius / Devil’s Train bassist Jari Kainulainen. Together, this solid line up embodies Grapow’s master plan to get the band touring a lot more and if anything, “Novum Initium” reflects this in its epic, melodic songs like ‘Keep Your Dream Alive’, ‘Pray On My Soul’ and ‘Return From Avalon’. Soaring vocals, powerful rhythms and most of all, heavenly guitar and keyboard melodies executed to perfection by superior musicianship are the order of the day here, yet graced with a catchy and in some cases singalong feel. Altzi’s vocals are not a million miles away from Jørn’s and if anything they are rockier, indicating once again Masterplan’s desire to get moving on the live front. With Grapow demonstrating his finger talents equally off the fretboard in mixing and mastering the album in his own studio in Slovakia, “Novum Initium” wipes the slate clean in favour of a new start. Continue reading

From The Vastland – “Kamarikan”

From The Vastland – “Kamarikan” (Indie Recordings)

Metal from ancient Persia! You really haveta admire people who struggle against the odds to follow their dreams: such is Sina, the creator behind the one man metal project known as From The Vastland. If that wasn’t enough then when I found out that he’s based in Teheran – that’s in IRAN by the way folks – then you gotta be wondering if he’s risking life and limb to do this?! Well, Sina’s been at it for the best part of 10 years and escaped so far to produce this amazing album, which took the best part of a year to achieve. Playing all instruments, singing, as well as handling all the technical aspects I’m astounded by how good “Kamarikan” came out and truly puts some bands in the free world to shame. From The Vastland is raw black metal from the mix of cat screeching and belching vocals to the evil fretboard warblings and of course, plenty of blast beats! Amidst all the furor Sina has sensibly chucked in melodies and slow Marduk-esque riffs that take songs like ‘The Ahriman Wizard’, ‘Vortex Of Empty Cosmos’ and ‘Night Sentinel’ to a very high standard indeed and up there with his international compatriots, enjoying the support of Thor Anders Myhren (Morbid Angel, Myrkskog, Zyklon), André Kvebek (Pantheon I) and Vegard Larsen (Keep of Kalessin) in delivering his live set at the Inferno Festival this year! Drawing heavily from Persian history, mythology and Zoroastrianism, Sina has wisely stayed away from the traditional anti religious stance normally associated with black metal, which may be why he has remained tolerated by the Iranian authorities. Given this I would have liked to have seen more of his country’s musical influence coming across in the music, which for the most part is typically western, but it’s a minor gripe given to have even gotten this far should be gratitude in itself. Continue reading

Summoning – “Old Mornings Dawn”

Summoning – “Old Mornings Dawn” (Napalm Records)

This Austrian duo have been going since the mid 90s when this type of dark ambient or atmospheric black metal was being pioneered by the likes of Mortiis. Heavily keyboard driven, it sorta reminded me of some of the early programmed music on computer games back then, although it ultimately evolved into a style of its own that Summoning still purvey to this day – this being their 7th album – which coincidentally took 7 years to make! With a heavy Tolkien presence always inspiring both the band’s music and lyrics the overall atmosphere of songs like ‘The White Tower’, ‘Earthshine’ and ‘Of Pale White Morn’ is very earthy and based on folk sounds like horns and violins albeit ironically reproduced using synthesizers. Still, as with all solo / duo projects, Silenius and Protector focus their strength of composition into creating wonderfully epic songs that don’t rely on power as such, but a poignant blend of heavily reverbed sounds from black metal vocals to creatively programmed drum work also integrating guitars as well as those aforementioned traditional influences. Delicately mixed so that no one sound is overpowering, “Old Mornings Dawn” presents its multi faceted effects both majestically and in a style befitting Middle Earth! Continue reading

Diamond Drive – “Temporality”

Diamond Drive – “Temporality” (Noiseheadrecords)

Diamond Drive hail from Denmark and seem to take inspiration from their bigger brothers in Volbeat. Playing a fusion of aggro metal mixed in with powerful melodies, they have been growing steadily since their inception in 2007. Troels Pedersen’s vocals happily shift between screamo and soulful to the max whilst the rest of the band follow suit mixing brutal riffing with magnificent melodic warblings amidst a punchy aggro beat. It’s not unheard of, but Diamond Drive’s success comes from wrapping all of this in a catchy and commercially appealing package that has garnered them music awards, touring Europe several times and being invited to play the big summer festivals, where songs like ‘Soaking Wet Sun’, ‘Nineteen Eighty Fear’ and ‘Down The Drain’ seem engineered to perfection for! Now working with some of industries best, “Temporality” was produced by Jacob Bredahl (The Burning, The Kandidate, Koldborn), mastered by Tue Madsen ( The Haunted, Sick of It All, Mnemic), with cover artwork by Mircea Eftemie (Soilwork, Strapping Young Lad, Nevermore) and photos by Stefan Wessel (Rammstein, Chris Cornell, Timberland) – now that’s Formula One in my book. Continue reading