Crystal Viper – “Excepta”

Crystal Viper – “Excepta” (AFM Records)

Fronted by vocalist / guitarist Marta Gabriel, this Polish HM act have shifted from the power metal in their previous album “Legends” to traditional heavy metal on “Excepta” with huge doses of Iron Maiden right from the Bomber ‘arris twanging bass right thru to the Murrayesque riffs judging by songs like ‘The Spell Of Death’ and ‘It’s Your Omen’. Ironically, it’s Marta’s voice that is the exception being rawer and of course feminine compared to Mr Dickinson, although it certainly doesn’t lack any less power! Crystal Viper also try to show more versatility on this release, offering an HM cover of Vader’s ‘Tyrani Piekiel’ (‘Tyrants Of Hell’), an extra (album only) cover of Demon’s classic ‘Night Of The Demon’, and a power rock ballad in ‘Ghosts Of Sherwood’ which will be the theme song for the forthcoming 3D cinema horror movie “Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood” – the harmony choral of which reminds me of REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ LOL! Continue reading

Running Wild – “Shadowmaker”

Running Wild – “Shadowmaker” (Steamhammmer/SPV)

Yarrr – get ready to be keel hauled once again by Cap’n Rolf! Running Wild are German pirate legends going back to the mid 70s and formed the part of the first wave of German HM alongside the likes of Accept, Living Death and Grave Digger, although I would’ve said they were probably the most mellow of that lot. So, in many ways it doesn’t come as a surprise that “Shadowmaker” isn’t really a metal album as such, but more metalized rock with lots of 70s rock influences like Thin Lizzy on ‘Sailing Fire’, while on the more rock n roll numbers like ‘Me + The Boys’ Rolf’s voice sorta reminds me of Krokus, or even 80s Priest on the singalong ‘I Am Who I Am’. Having seen the best (and worst) side of 35 years, they called it day after their Wacken 2009 performance but last year, Rolf and guitarist Peter Jordan reactivated the band although I’m not sure who else is contributing besides them. Whether “Shadowmaker” turns out to be a comeback album or epitaph, Running Wild have turned out a swashbuckler of an album in every sense from composing to musicianship to production and finally marketing it in 3 different formats from limited 1st edition CD plus bonus DVD to double album (printed inner sleeves & clear vinyl) to limited edition boxset (2 LPs, CD/DVD, Poster, Sticker, Postcard, 30 page book)! Continue reading

Stick To Your Guns – “Diamond”

Stick To Your Guns – “Diamond” (Sumerian Records)

‘…I wait for the day we can stop trying to figure each other out, and just start to understand..’. Stick To Your Guns Jesse Barnett seems more like a visionary than a vocalist, and whose band is more than a musical medium but one from which to project his viewpoints – and he has many from social justice to sexism to homophobia to organized religion to name but a few! Originating from Orange County, which had a big straight edge following back in the 80s, STYG have built up their burgeoning reputation thru relentless grass roots touring and passionate performances, as well as playing memorial shows for deceased fans, working with women’s shelters and supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It’s all been done before especially when I think of pure punk bands like Propagandhi, but Barnett’s drive to enlighten has taken him to the heart of the Bible Belt to conquer intolerance thru a ‘…voice of acceptance, not a voice of repentance…’ i.e. not by crusading against it, but compassionately appealing to the humanity that it preaches but sadly does not seem to practice. It is an admirable stance which I can empathize with, along with challenging the introspectives of the hardcore scene of not accepting what is, or trying to get by but seeking to live an actual life. But what me makes me a true believer is that the music of Stick To Your Guns is no less poignant and moreover, amazingly powerful where Barnett’s hoarse voice is driven by his fueled emotions, with aggressive, heavy guitar work and the unbridled anger of the pummeling drum work completing the mix on songs like ‘Such Pain’, ‘Empty Heads’ and ‘Life In A Box’. Finished off by ‘Wailing Wall’ singalong choruses, intelligent samples from Jiddu Krishnamurti and just the right amount of emo melody in the right place, “Diamond” is exactly what is sez and the most well rounded hardcore album I’ve heard in a long, long time. Continue reading

Villa Rise – “Wastelands”

Villa Rise – “Wastelands” EP (Monarch Records)

Originally hailing from Sydney, Australia, this emo post hardcore band have taken quite a gamble by firstly relocating to the UK, and now releasing this EP for FREE! Thankfully, it’s not cos it’s crap but hopefully down to some canny marketing or genuine social consciousness – certainly vocalist Jarrod Martin roars like he’s the last man on earth, while guitarists Ben Clink and Brendon Farneli have achieved a harmonious duality in their contrasting styles of clanging metallic riffola and arpeggio melodies. Completing the circle of angst and isolation are bassist Kyle Usher and drummer Alex Wood, who could fit the EP’s tale of a young man who descends into madness, because of his inability to accept the positives in his life. Wonderful. Continue reading

Huntress – “Spell Eater”

Huntress – “Spell Eater” (Napalm Records)

Huntress are a Cally heavy metal band featuring the ear piercing coloratura soprano (i.e. four octave range) vocals of one Jill Janus, who grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, before embarking on a career as a teenage opera starlet. Years later, Janus moved to Los Angeles, discovered thrash metal and began stripping the opera from her voice, whilst maintaining its awesome power. But the childhood impressions of the Catskills, and in particular its ties to the occult, never left her and she soon began giving herself to the dark side of bands like Dissection, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Needless to say, Huntress reflect all these things and songs like ‘Snow Witch’, ‘Eight Of Swords’ and ‘The Tower’ hark back to the days of early Mercyful Fate or even Angel Witch, conjuring up images of sorcery with dark heavy metal riffs and melodies – and of course, those banshee vocals, which apparently can break glass! Continue reading

Holy Moses – “30th Anniversary – In the Power Of Now”

Holy Moses – “30th Anniversary – In the Power Of Now” 2CD (Steamhammer/SPV)

30 years on and Germany’s thrashers Holy Moses are still shredding it out there. Still fronted by terrifying front woman Sabina Classen, whose vocals have been largely credited with originating today’s female death / thrash style, the band continues to deliver its no frills 80s style thrash with scant regard for commercialism. In commemorating their anniversary, Holy Moses (now with GiftDwarf / ex Rebellion drummer Gerd Lücking) decided to re-record 20 of their most favorite songs like ‘Finished With The Dogs’ on this double CD, which now sound a lot more solid in terms of their production compared to their previous versions i.e. thicker guitars and you can actually hear the bass LOL. In addition they offer a coupla new tracks ‘Borderland’ and ‘Entering The Now’ which certainly don’t show any signs of wimping out and continue in German neck snapping thrash style a plenty! Continue reading

At Vance – “Facing Your Enemy”

At Vance – “Facing Your Enemy” (AFM Records)

Germany’s At Vance essentially play melodic hard rock led by master guitar magician and composer Olaf Lenk (ex-Velvet Viper) and vocalist Oliver Hartmann (ex-Centers), whose voice could be a dead ringer for Dave Coverdale’s! And AOR Whitesnake is a pretty close comparator to where At Vance are at, with husky rock vocals, heart breaking melodies and sultry keyboards defining songs like ‘See Me Crying’ or ‘Don’t Dream’. I used to think that At Vance were sorta power metal and funnily enough they offer a neo classical instrumental in ‘March Of The Dwarf’ but it seems strangely out’ve place both in terms of its title and style compared to the rest of this album, which is a fine one for crooners rather than rockers. Continue reading

Savage – “Sons Of Malice”

Savage – “Sons Of Malice” (Minus2Zebra Records)

Forever synonymous with their debut album “Loose N Lethal” and in particular its kick ass track ‘Let It Loose’, these NWOBHM merchants are right back where they started 30 years ago, in the Midlands kicking out their own brand of Brit meat n potatoes metal i.e. nay frills, nay bovver, just real ale LOL! Well the heart of Savage, namely bassist / vocalist Chris Bradley and guitarist Andy Dawson are once again back together and promisingly now joined by Bradley’s son Kristian also on guitar and old buddy Mark Nelson on drums. As I remember them, it was the incredible fusion of Dawson’s fast raw guitar mixed with Bradley’s melodic vocals amid a tight sassy rhythm that belted out songs like ‘Dirty Money’. In 2012 the band is a less savage beast, albeit still with Dawson’s guitar and Bradley’s voice defining the band, but the tempo has slowed and on the likes of ‘Junkyard Dogs’ a strong blues element is present. Still, songs like ‘Waking The Dead’ and ‘Now’ definitely hint towards past glories but with a more mature approach i.e. the difference between an 18 and a 48 year old! In summation, this isn’t a thrash album to prepare you for Aardschok part 2 but if it’s pounding (and I do mean loud) Brit rock anthems you’re craving then “Sons Of Malice” will do you proud! Continue reading

4Bitten – “Delirium”

4Bitten – “Delirium” (Rocksector Records)

Although hailing from Greece, 4Bitten owe more to 70s hard rock legends like Led Zeppelin or even Glenn Hughes in their punchy but funky grooves. Added to that Fofi Roussos’s power femme rock vocals clearly inspired by Janis Joplin or even Suzi Quatro, and it’s easy to see why they’ve supported Dan Reed in the UK and last year the likes of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Blaze Bayley, Michael Schenker Group and Uriah Heep in Athens! Listening to the likes of ‘Burning The Candle’, ‘Far From Grace’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ the band are indeed a tight outfit with a solid sound and musicianship, as well as possessing a subtle blues element that gives them an added laid back touch whilst not tripping them out. “Delirium” is an important step in the band’s career that will allow them appeal to the mainstream rather like The Answer or Black Stone Cherry whilst keeping level heads. Continue reading

Anvil – “Plugged In Permanent” / “Absolutely No Alternative” / “Speed Of Sound” / “Plenty Of Power”

Anvil – “Plugged In Permanent” / “Absolutely No Alternative” / “Speed Of Sound” / “Plenty Of Power” 2in1 REISSUES (Steamhammer/SPV)

I would imagine that by now Anvil are a household name – what more can be said about them LOL?! Still, like or loathe em, cry or laugh at em, Anvil are now Canada’s most famous heavy metal band. These reissues are undoubted cash ins on that new found infamy and essentially cover their Massacre (Records) era as well as heralding the introduction of Ivan Hurd and Glenn 5 into the band. Listening to the likes of ‘Doctor Kevorkian’, ‘Green Jesus’, ‘No Evil’ and ‘Beat The Law’ its all pretty much sameo Anvil, from Lips’s rock / metal guitar work to Reiner’s far out drum work. Although technically without fault in terms of the musicianship, the problem seems to be that none of the material comes to within spitting distance of their earlier material i.e. “Metal On Metal” and as such fails to appeal other than in perpetuating a legacy. Given that the landscape had changed considerably in the 2nd half of the 90s with new genres of metal leaving heavy metal all but dead then this rehash of early 80s proto thrash was understandably all but overlooked other than by Anvil’s die hard fans. Perhaps the addition of some new bonus material might’ve enhanced today’s marketability of these albums, but given their 2 for 1 selling point, I guess they will always be relegated to the bargain basement. Continue reading