Monuments – “Gnosis”

Monuments – “Gnosis” (Century Media)

Like nothing on this Planet. Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far to describe this Djent / Modern Prog metal band, but they certainly play some of the heaviest shit I’ve heard from this style lol! Punchy, stop-start Meshuggah riffs wrenched out’ve specially designed eight string guitars, heaps of slapping bass and a drummer who’s so precise it’s hard to tell whether he’s using his hands or feet on those double bass pedals – heavy, heavy, heavy! I believe Monuments used to employ two vocalists with raw / smooth contrasting styles but they’ve now been replaced by a single vocalist in Matt Rose, but who seems more that able to mix it on songs like ‘Doxa’, ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ and ‘Regenerate’ having sung with UK drum ‘n’ bass act The Qemists while growing up on a diet of Pantera! As such Monuments have added another dimension to their superior sound allowing them to move effortlessly from aggressive to ambient while remaining spiritually intense all the time – impressive, most impressive!! Continue reading

Kryptos – “The Coils Of Apollyon”

Kryptos – “The Coils Of Apollyon” (AFM Records)

Man, if Maiden evolved into a thrash band then Kryptos might’ve been their name – and if they came from India lol! That’s right, we’re talking the land of curry, turbans and elephants – Kryptos might be that country’s leading band although I’ll be the first to confess that I haven’t a foggiest about any scene there! Melodic riffs and guitar warblings that could’ve graced Davy Murray’s fret boards spring to life on songs like ‘The Mask Of Anubis’, ‘Eternal Crimson Spires’ and ‘Vision Of Dis’ – all brought at a galloping Maiden pace which is hardly surprising give how popular Harris & co are out there. However, it’s Nolan Lewis’s thrash vocals that stop anyone short of decrying the band as out n out plagiarists – reminiscent of Kreator’s Mille Petrozza but mellower I would say, prompting the question of what may have happened had Maiden kept Di’anno and moved into thrash? As for Kryptos, aside from the mystique that they hail from an exotic Asian country there isn’t too much here there hasn’t already been previously covered despite the band executing their work excellently, so perhaps the real appeal to “The Coils Of Apollyon” is that the release in itself coming out’ve a heavily religious country like India is that it has happened. Continue reading

Anvil – “Still Going Strong / Back To Basics / This Is Thirteen”

Anvil – “Still Going Strong / Back To Basics / This Is Thirteen” REISSUES (SPV / Steamhammer)

The last of Anvil’s back catalog re-issues, these 3 albums serve to acquaint anyone with the band’s recent history – not that there’s too much change! You haveta respect Reiner and Kudlow for timelessly dishing out the same brand of power infused heavy metal that was fresh and invigorating back in the early 80s, but today is very much the domain of the classic connoisseur. I actually bought “Still Going Strong” back in 2002 and can attest it’s pretty good – possibly the best of all three albums – with power slabs like ‘Race Against Time’, the furious ‘Sativa’ and the classic ‘White Rhino’ showcasing Robb’s still world ranking technical drumming! Those still unfamiliar with Anvil’s sound will find it rooted in 70s hard rock like Cactus as well as the more established legends like Sabbath, such that the band’s undeniable power effectively mixes funky grooves, jazz tinges and wild guitar work. “Back To Basics” is less convincing to me, with only ‘Chainsaw’ making a real impression and the rest of the album being too repetitive with Lips seemingly going off on one of his benders. Which brings us to the ‘comeback’ album that was the feature of Sacha Gervasi’s rockumentary movie on the band. Opening with the title track, ‘This Is Thirteen’ sounds like a rehash of 83’s ‘Forged In Fire’ and the repetitive trend continues with ironically the more punkier tracks like ‘Flying Blind’ and ‘American Refugee’ making a more contemporary impression. Even with Chris ‘CT’ Tsangarides’s knob twiddling karma the classics are missing although there is a hint of that old glory in ‘Thumb Hang’, actually the first song that Reiner and Kudlow wrote but ironically never making it onto vinyl until now lol – ladies & gentlemen, I give you rock’s latest dinosaur legends! Continue reading

Axehammer – “Marching On”

Axehammer – “Marching On” (Pure Steel Records)

The latest in ‘true’ metal resurrections, LA metal band Axehammer only had a couple of demos out in the 80s while playing legendary clubs such as the Whisky, Troubador and Gazzaris (today known as Key Club). Despite recording a debut, management problems and the arrival of the glam metal scene soon resulted in the band disbanding and to all intents and purposes, forgotten. Then in the late 90s their demos resurfaced and finally prompted a proper release of their “Lord of the Realm” album, although it would be almost another decade before the band would formally reform resulting in the recording of “Windrider” with legendary producer Bill Metoyer. Since then the roller coaster has continued with band members leaving or simply dying, leaving only guitarist Jerry Watt as the sole original member, although his strength and belief in his band have remained steadfast, at last resulting in success with the band touring with the likes of Michael Schenker, Lizzy Borden, Gamma Ray and playing European festivals like Headbangers Open Air. Moreover, the release of the aptly titled “Marching On” is very much proof that Axehammer haven’t dulled in any way! Drawing inspiration from Maiden and Priest, Watt’s driving guitar work very much forms the basis of songs like ‘Fire Away’, ‘Demon Killer’ and ‘Swing The Steel’ which are to all intents and purposes pure heavy metal mayhem! New Brazilian vocalist Kleber Freitas has a powerful high end voice but amazingly resists the temptation to scream like Halford and Dickinson, adding to the finesse of Axehammer’s material while Horacio Colmenares’s bass twangs like Stevie Harris could be plucking it himself and Joe Aghassi’s drums just pound and crash away like on a riot rampage! All in all a truly excellent release done in fine style from one of the original purveyors of classic US heavy metal who truly deserve a second bite at the cherry! Continue reading

Redline – “Vice”

Redline – “Vice” (Escape Music)

Hit the throttle baby – if your idea of freedom is to hit the road on your bike and yer old lady ridin’ pillion, then Redline has gotta be what you’re listening to! Whether its the sun kissed freeways of California, winding mountain roads of Europe or rolling thru the wilds of the English countryside, this new Brit hard rock band have got your groove whether it’s hard n fast, down n dirty or something more laid back. Hailing outta Birmingham, the same rock city that gave us Sabbath, Priest, Diamond Head etc, Redline’s driving hard rock brings an immediate smile to my face with its classic sound. From the Brit rock vocals of Kez Taylor to the thumping drums of Mark Biddiscombe and most of all, the motorin’ twin guitars of AD and Steve Petty that growl just like the engines on a bike, these rockers know the feel of yer motor and the fire that pulses in your veins giving it all to ya on ‘We Came To Rock’, ‘Black Sky’ and the anthemic ‘King Of The Mountain’ – dedicated to the high velocity Isle Of Man TT Races no less! This really is a steaming rocker of an album and it’s no surprise Jimmy Lea from Slade has made a guest appearance on the album and they’ve already toured with the likes of Saxon, UFO, Tesla and Raven. I can’t wait to see these guys on the road cos this material simply was born to burn live!!!!!! Continue reading

Die Hard – “Conjure The Legions”

Die Hard – “Conjure The Legions” (Agonia Records)

Black thrashing mayhem from Sweden! Die Hard take it right back to the good old days of Venom, Kreator and Bathory when punk n metal crudely fused together to create the ugly bastard son known as thrash! Formed in 2005, these guys have done their homework with a A+ star rating for catchy songs like ‘Satanic Uprise’, ‘Sanctify The Morbid’ and the aptly titled ‘Thrash Them All’ that feature in abundance scything apocalyptic riffs, screaming dragster solos, galloping drums, ugly vocals, metalcore chants, vicious chugging bass – like I said, total thrashing mayhem – need I say more…?!?!?! Continue reading

T.C.F. – “Where Madness Reigns”

T.C.F. – “Where Madness Reigns” (PRC / Malevolence Records)

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a crossover album this good – especially one that harks back to the good old days of the 80s when bands like SOD, DRI, Carnivore and Nuclear Assault reigned! T.C.F. actually hail from Holland but true Dutchies they are, do their tribute in fine style with just the right blend of hardcore and metal to knuckle you on songs like ‘An Eye For An Eye’, ‘We Will Survive’ and ‘Slave Of The Suit’. Aggro vocals are shouted out amid speedy thrashcore riffs, wild soloing and frenetic staccato drumming, all of which remain true to the original style, and what’s more is that it’s all done by just three guys (a metalhead, punk and thrasher no less lol) and so well an’ all. Complete with disco samples and a Mugabe speech, “Where Madness Reigns” is the best contemporary tribute to old school crossover currently whether you wanna fight, fuck or just go plain mental to it! Continue reading

Septic Christ – “Guilty As We Were Born”

Septic Christ – “Guilty As We Were Born” (Malevolence Records)

Septic Christ are a buncha jolly Germans who play old school thrash when it was fun to do so i.e. before bands began taking themselves and their Bermuda shorts too seriously lol. Still, might as these guys may enjoy a beer or ten, don’t discount their music cos they certainly play tight and on ten! Relentless frash riffola, wang bar excess, stampeding drums and gruffola vox are guaranteed to bring on the mosh pit madness with songs like ‘Bomb Monte Carlo’, ‘Be A Man’ and ‘Screwed And Ill’. What’s even better is that this isn’t a retro trip but Septic Christ have done their homework and read the thrash bible diligently – as such their beats and rhythms, whilst drawing inspiration from decades gone by, are still very much tuned for today’s headbanger. Along with a classic 80s thrash album cover, Septic Christ remind me a lot of Municipal Waste, M.O.D, Anthrax or even early thrash bands like Re-Animator or Deathrow which is no bad thing when you wanna get beered up, tune in and let yer brain drop out! Continue reading

Marillion – “Sounds That Can’t Be Made”

Marillion – “Sounds That Can’t Be Made” (earMUSIC)

Wow, I remember these guys way back in the 80s when they appeared as a new band in Kerrang! – complete with a vocalist strangely titled ‘Fish’ lol! Still, one couldn’t help but marvel at their debut “Script for a Jester’s Tear” which took the band to the forefront of the British neo prog movement. Since then there’s been the usual band changes but the most significant had to be the departure of Fish in the late 80s and the arrival of his replacement Steve Hogarth such that fans very often cite this as reflective of the two eras in the band’s history. Judging by this album, the Marillion of today is very different to that which I heard back then such that it’s barely a prog band – although there are still elements in there – but more of a modern soft rock band. Songs like ‘Montreal’, despite clocking in at a heavyweight 14 mins or even ‘Power’ are anything but that, being more ethereal, carried off in atmospheric splendor by Hogarth’s excellent high end vocals, at times reminiscent of Phil Collins – albeit only in a breath – as well as the truly breathtaking keyboards of founder member Mark Kelly – not to mention the rest of the band, who also put in superior musical performances. As I said, it’s all pretty light stuff so I guess the band must channel their energy in a more cerebral direction these days if ‘Gaza’ is anything to go by. The longest song on the album, which I guess is reflective of this Middle East conflict in general, was a bit of a surprise to me coming from a band like Marillion given its heavy subject matter never ceases to inspire conflict – verbal or otherwise! Yet despite the cliched Arabian melodies, Marillion bring a calming, reflective musical perspective to it all, thankfully in an unpatronizing way to both sides. I did wonder while listening to the album if at first the band should have considered either a name change or doing this sorta music as a side project, but upon reflection, they seem to be doing what they originally started, but only in a more real world dimension so well done lads. Continue reading

Vision Divine – “Destination Set For Nowhere”

Vision Divine – “Destination Set For Nowhere” (earMusic)

Like Ferrari, Italian modern prog metal band Vision Divine bring together a number of talents steeped in richness and grandeur! Formed in the late 90s by ex Labyrinth guitarist Olaf Thörsen, he was soon joined by Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Lione although the ability to commit to this band as well as their other projects soon presented problems resulting in the inevitable line up changes, although Vision Divine continued nonetheless. However, in 2008 he rejoined the band and with “Destination Set For Nowhere”- the band’s eight album no less – has brought his vocal splendor to the majesty that is Vision Divine! Listening to the likes of ‘The Lighthouse’, ‘Beyond The Sun And Far Away’ and ‘Mermaids From Their Moons’ Lione certainly brings an epic proportion to these songs, which in some cases are up tempo, although not quite pure power metal. For the most part, the material is highly atmospheric and in no small part thanks to Thörsen’s superb guitar work and Alessio Lucatti’s amazing keyboards, which remind me a lot of Marillion. Together, they do true justice to the album’s concept of brave souls leaving Earth in search of a new Eden by steeping their vision in mystique, majesty and magnificence! Continue reading