The HAARP Machine – “Disclosure”

The HAARP Machine – “Disclosure” (Sumerian Records)

Holy crap, like a whirling dervish this UK extreme prog metal band will leave your head in tatters – not unlike their namesake mind control weapon! These guys seem to court controversy, complete with a Muslim guitarist who only a year ago saw the band denied entry to the US!! With matching lyrics addressing many of today’s socio political issues The HAARP Machine’s music is equally complex, diverse and certainly lush in using Asian instruments from sitars to santoors and gongs! Centered around the technically dextrous guitar work of Al Mu’min and Michael Semesky’s alternating soulful / growls songs like ‘Lower The Populace’, ‘From Vanity To Utility’ and ‘Machine Over’ drive into you amidst blast beats, fretboard warbling wizardry and exotic eastern melodies. These guys are clearly on a mission to awaken the masses from their slumber – and “Disclosure” is definitely hard to ignore!! Continue reading

Hundred Days – “Mission Exodus”

Hundred Days – “Mission Exodus” (Rogue Rock Records)

Blazing hard rock from Britain! Hailing from the cider capital of the world (i.e. Somerset – also famous for hosting Glastonbury) and named after the hundred days in the Napoleonic Wars, I’m highly proud to say these Brits stand as tall as their redcoat ancestors all those centuries ago. This is full blooded, sweaty man’s music the way it should be played – with fiery passion, loving soul and style befitting a country gentleman naturally! Yanked out rock riffs as thick as Cheddar cheese, raw rock vocals that could fell a knight and scrumpy jack thumping drums kick it on songs like ‘Suicide Joe’ or ‘Whatever Happened To You’ and stomp all over Hughie Lewis’s ‘Power Of Love’ lol! Best of all, they have a simple yet original sound beholden to none although hints of Alter Bridge, AC/DC, and Zepp are there but what more could you ask for – it’s man hugs all around mate. Continue reading

Forgotten Tomb – “…And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil…”

Forgotten Tomb – “…And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil…” (Agonia Records)

With 12 years experience and no less than 6 albums under their (bullet) belts, Forgotten Tomb are probably one of Italy’s best known black / death bands. They play a very catchy style reminiscent of Celtic Frost mixed in with black metal thrashing but also a strong rock groove – definitely not the norm but it certainly works on cool songs like ‘Let’s Torture Each Other’, ‘Love Me Like You’d Love The Death’ and ‘Nullifying Tomorrow’! Death grunt vocals mix with clanging metallic guitars amidst thick almost doom like rock riffs showing a confident wit from a band clearly at ease with their delivery while giving the impression of not being self styled egomaniacs – undoubtedly stemming from surviving near-death car accidents and hospitalizations (stay off those Ferraris boys – Ed!) lol. Continue reading

Dead Harts – “Born Into Rags To Die No Richer”

Dead Harts – “Born Into Rags To Die No Richer” (Transcend Music)

Dare I say have a nice day…as romantic as dining in a steelworks, Sheffield’s Dead Harts are certainly as rough n ready as their run down city. This is ugly, primitive hardcore from the raw, feedback drenched guitars to the brooding bass and most of all, Matthew Baxendale’s (oo’er sounds a bit posh lol – Ed) base throat destroyed ‘vocals’. Yeah, there are emocore melodies on songs like ‘All Washed Up’, ‘Headhunter’ and ‘Caesar’ but for the most part they are pit fighting assaults with heaps of aggression: when you go down you know this feral mob will kick you in. Mix early Agnostic Front with Norma Jean and Dead Harts is probably what you’d get on a bad day. But amazingly these thugs have already played at Download (!), with no less than a European and even Russian tours scheduled next year – man, I know these are hard times but are people really that pissed off? Continue reading

Obsession – “Order Of Chaos”

Obsession – “Order Of Chaos” (Inner Wound Recordings)

Classic power metal par excellence! Obsession is an American heavy metal band formed in 1982 famed for starting the career of vocalist Michael Vescera. They first came to attention after appearing on Brian Slagel’s legendary Massacre 2 compilation and released two albums on Enigma before splitting at the end of the 80s. Vescera then went onto success firstly with Japan’s Loudness and finally with Yngwie Malmsteen for the next 15 years. In 2004 Obsession reformed due to demand from the ‘true’ metal scene and released “Carnival Of Lies” two years later. The follow up, “Order Of Chaos” was actually set to be released last year but Vescera went off again – this time to join Animetal USA together with Chris Impellitteri, Rudy Sarzo and Scott Travis – clearly a man in demand! Despite all this, Vescera has remained true to his roots of melding power melodies with blistering metal on songs like ‘Twist Of The Knife’, ‘Cold Day In Hell’ and ‘Act Of God’ with scant regard for a ballad: steroided power vocals, blazing power riffing, crazy out’ve control soloing and non stop double bass drumming – way ta go babaay!! “Order Of Chaos” reminds me of bands like Dokken and TKO at their heaviest and it comes as no surprise given Vescera has a couple of ex members of Don’s band in BJ Zampa and Chris McCarvill in his formidable line – all of whom demonstrate superior musicianship. Totally outstanding – definitely my highlight album of the year for this genre!!! Continue reading

King Dude – “Burning Daylight”

King Dude – “Burning Daylight” (Van Records)

Despite being tucked away in the rainy northwestern corner of the US, Seattle has always been at the forefront of cutting edge music. And King Dude might be the next big thang. Mixing together dark, pagan folk with acoustic country rock n roll, this king takes the dark side of Johnny Cash n Jim Jones right into the pits of Hell. The ‘king’ in this case is Book Of Black Earth guitarist / vocalist TJ Cowgill but the trippy almost shamanic trance in songs like ‘Jesus In The Courtyard’, ‘My Mother Was The Moon’ and ‘Lord, I’m Coming Home’ is a million miles from the death / punk of his crusty buddies. This is far darker my friends, vividly atmospheric and captivating from TJ’s vocal drawls to the melancholic melodies and haunting harmonies. Country n Western will never be the same and has death in TJ’s name. Hail to the king baby. Continue reading

YoungBlood – “No Retreat”

YoungBlood – “No Retreat” (Eonian Records)

OMG. Depending on whether late 80s hard / glam rock a la Slaughter, Warrant or Extreme was yer thang, YoungBlood will undoubtedly bring back all those memories – good or otherwise lol! This isn’t actually a new band but an original group who formed in the Midwest and initially recorded the 16 songs on this album back in 1989! I don’t know what happened after that but the band folded and it has taken the best part of thirteen years for them to be formally released. Truly astonishing and also tragic given the quality of the material n musicianship which is up there with the best of those 80s bands. Songs like ‘Heat Of The Passion’, ‘My One And Only’ and ‘Get Down To It’ take us back to the days of air punching rock anthems, acoustic ballads, get-the-funk-out party groovers and most of all – heaps of hairspray! Vocalist Bobby Sisk is one of these pretty boy rockers with a barnet that would put a lion to shame and with such high vocals you wonder if he got kicked in the nuts, but a champion crooner he certainly is, along with the stadium shakin’ guitars of Jeff Diehl and Eric Saylors. “No Retreat” was a treasure waiting to be discovered and what’s even more awesome is that YoungBlood still have another 29 unreleased tracks held in reserve! Continue reading

Cauldron – “Tomorrow’s Lost”

Cauldron – “Tomorrow’s Lost” (Earache Records)

Yeah, I can see why these Canadians are a bit hit on the Euro circuit, especially in the ‘true’ metal league given how early 80s they sound! Taking their inspiration from the 1st generation of NWOBHM bands and in particular Angel Witch, Raven and of course Maiden (although by no means confined to them), Cauldron even have a retro sound right down to hard rock tinges and raw dirty guitars! Singer / bassist Jason Decay has one of those girlie high vocals that bring a melodic constant throughout Cauldron’s material be it on the free wheeling ‘Burning Fortune’, the occult groove of ‘Relentless Temptress’, or more mid tempo stuff like ‘Nitebreaker’. Additionally, the production sound is very akin also to the 80s, when bands had a no frills approach to recording such that their albums were faithful reproductions of their live sounds and vice versa. Cauldron live as well as play the 80s – it’s like these dudes are stuck in that era but just grew up a coupla decades later lol! Continue reading

The Fallen Within – “The Day You Died Inside”

The Fallen Within – “The Day You Died Inside” (Noiseheadrecords)

This Greek band formed just under a decade ago and have undergone significant changes thru their line-ups, sound and even look! Their debut “Intoxicated” mixed the aggro groove metal of Soulfly with the mellow death of In Flames (complete with neck ties) and was recorded in Athens, mixed in Finland and released on an Italian label! This sophomore is equally diverse but different with songs like ‘How Do I Rise From The Dead’, ‘Still Tearing Me Apart’ and ‘Crawling Down The Hallway’ mixing the brutal chopping riffs of Soilwork with emocore melodies, and the biggest change being the strong electro dub keyboards adding a dance groove in some cases! With vocal styles to match from emo-mello to screamo to death, The Fallen Within continue to flirt with diversity, not to mention haircuts all around! Continue reading

Driven – “A Breakdown Of Character”

Driven – “A Breakdown Of Character” EP (www.facebook.com/drivenuk)

This lot might hail from the leafy suburbs of north London, but their style of aggro metal sees their up turned noses pointing decidedly towards Texas, not in the least given how much they sound like Pantera! But hold up, this would be an at times slightly more tempered Pantera, one also mixing in soulful vocals and melodic guitar licks reminiscent of Kirk Hammett into songs like ‘Ghosts’, ‘Uproar’ and ‘Vacant Throne’. It’s an interesting take indeed on what might’ve happened if Dimebag n Anselmo had carried on as a heavy metal band instead of the furious monster that Pantera became but for the mo this lot are far beyond driven. Continue reading