Vera Grace – “Rotations”

Vera Grace – “Rotations” EP (

From the English wilds of Oxfordshire come Vera Grace, who are a modern metalcore band influenced by the likes of Underoath and Oceana – although these laid back lads don’t try too hard in being at it! Formed just a year ago after toying with idea for some time, Vera Grace fuse Stephen Nulty’s raw ‘words’ with the delicate guitars of Jonjo Williams and Chris Thirtle on songs like ‘Esther’s Imagination’, ‘Lost’ and ‘I Am The Earth’. Although heavy, “Rotations” appealed to me more in it’s laid back groove, ideal for lazing away on a sunday afternoon on a green field somewhere after a heavy hardcore nite in the pit LOL. Continue reading

Saxon – “Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken”

Saxon – “Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken” DVD / 2CD (UDR Music)

‘..where were you in ’79 when the dam began to burst?..’ – NWOBHM legends Saxon were one of the front runners that’s for sure, and also one of that movement’s most prominent proponents, playing the first Monsters Of Rock festival back in the 80s and continuing right thru that decade until the decline of English heavy metal in the late 80s. But in Germany, the scene was starting to take off and in 1992, Saxon were invited to play the Wacken Open Air, and in a similar relationship with the Donnington fans, have since been adopted by that festival’s fans as ‘their’ band – indeed, promoter Thomas Jensen is also Saxon’s band manager! It is indeed a rare opportunity for any band to be associated with two iconic events in heavy metal history, let alone enjoy a rebirth that has arguably made them more popular than ever before! “Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken” is Saxon’s most ambitious live product to date, reveling in the majesty of both their legacy and continuing title as key headliners as demanded by the fans: a DVD highlighting Saxon‘s Wacken shows in 2004, 2007 and 2009 with no less than 30 songs, plus 2 live CDs with the entire Glasgow Apr 2011 performance, complete with behind the scenes footage and slideshow extras. As OTT as their 1 ton eagle, it’s available in a variety of packages from a 1,000 copy limited edition (since sold out) to a bumper digipack to a 3 gatefold vinyl edition. All in all a fitting tribute both to the longevity of this enduring band and their fans both young and old! Continue reading

Quimera – “Immortal”

Quimera – “Immortal” (

‘…what would you do, if you could live forever?…’. Currently based outta NYC comes mysterious contralto tessitura vocalist Quimera, whose namesake band play a powerful and deeply passionate combination of classical, symphonic and cinematic rock. For a relatively unknown band, “Immortal” is highly ambitious given that it is a double album no less with 20 tracks! Sultry femme vocals combine with gothic cellos, operatic choirs, atmospheric keyboards, concerto percussion and the fluid contemporary guitar work of composer Patrick Rundbladh on songs like ‘The Forgotten’, ‘Fleur Du Mal’ and ‘Victoria’s Lullaby’, that are driven by a sweet passion which can only come from a heart crying l’amour, l’amour! On the face of it, there’s really no doubting Quimera’s talents, who not only writes from her soul to touch others across the human divide, but also possesses an enviable professionalism to strive for the highest standards in both songwriting and musicianship. Continue reading

HeXen – “Being And Nothingness”

HeXen – “Being And Nothingness” (Pulverised Records)

Wow, HeXen have been goin since the turn of the century and take off where thrash metal arguably left by introducing huge amounts of progressive melodies into their toons that will either send you nuts or turn you into a true believer! Glass in throat vocals, Hartoonian’s rumbling bass and chopping Kreator-esque thrash rhythms on songs like ‘Defcon Rising’, ‘Indefinite Archetype’ and ‘Walk As Many, Stand As One’ stand shoulder to shoulder with Ronny Dorian and Tak Arayan’s classically influenced soloing and prominent melodies, all in all adding an interesting new dimension that sees “Being And Nothingness” leaping the abyss and bravely pushing out the boundaries of this well defined style in good taste. Continue reading

Collisions – “Believe In This”

Collisions – “Believe In This” EP (

Fresh offa tour with Hed(pe) comes Collisions, who mix electro metal with DnB (drums n bass) to create a fiery fusion of agit rock highly reminiscent of bands like Senser. Against this heavy dub beat comes Olly’s street ragga raps, with the electronics adding a calming groove thru some cool melodies and overlays. With a matching in-yo-face production, songs like ‘Fire Fire’, ‘Push’ and ‘Chasing Forms’ leap out at you and one can only imagine what Collisions are like live cos man, are they heaving like one big rave! Infectiously addictive thru their no holds barred energy and funky but punky grooves, look out for Collisions, cos they look to headin to tha big time, big style. Continue reading

Shadowside – “Inner Monster Out”

Shadowside – “Inner Monster Out” (Inner Wound Recordings)

Brazil’s Shadowside are quite a mix befitting both the ethnic composition of their nation as well as their sound which melds angry guitars and nu metal rhythms with progressive melodies. Added to this is vocalist Dani Nolden whose vocals which remain sexily husky (down boy – Ed) whether she’s being melodic or aggressive, but able to stand their own ground against guest vocalists Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity), Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) and Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil) be it on the title-track, or the bottom heavy bounding ‘Habitchual’ as well as their closing cover of Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ – where rather than compete with Lemmy’s glass-in-throat larynx, Dani instead thrashes it out Sabina Classen style – yea babaay! Musically, Shadowside seem to reflect a wide range of bands from a heavy Skid Row to Disturbed to even Maiden, who they incidentally supported in Rio de Janeiro last year, and having undertaken a successful European tour supporting WASP previously, this all important 3rd release looks set to move them into the light. Continue reading

Marauder – “Elegy Of Blood”

Marauder – “Elegy Of Blood” (Pitch Black Records)

Marauder are Greek heavy metal legends who have been around for over 20 years. In fact, when they first started, Pitch Black Records manager Phivos was sending off for their demo, so he must be really savoring that two decades on they’re now signed to him! Despite their aggressive name, Marauder play a classy brand of power / melodic heavy metal but with enough guts to be worthy descendants of Alexander: vocalist Alexandros Kostarakos can certainly hit the highs while ably shifting into a melodic stance as does the rest of the band on songs like ‘Roman Empire’, ‘Hiroshima’ and ‘Black Gold’ which contain a mixture of heaviness and melody, essentially the components of classic HM. Truth be told Maraude’s music is more likely to appeal to the true metal genre, given its classic style with scarcely any sign of modernity, and is as bold and uncompromising as the Spartans who held Thermopylae! Continue reading

End Of September – “End Of September”

(Ulterium Records)

This Swedish female fronted band started only a few years back, but suffered a 2 year hiatus when their original vocalist left before Elin Redin joined them. Despite being compared to the likes of Evanescence or Within Temptation, listening to songs like ‘Fallen’, ‘Left In This World’ and ‘Waiting For The Rain’ I’d say there’s really nothing gothic nor symphonic about them but essentially they play hard rock with Erik Tordsson’s guitar being almost Alter Bridge / Creed like in its heavy, fuzzy, post grunge sound, while Redin’s femme vocals, while being high, aren’t in any particular style. Overall, End Of September show a lot of promise musically but having not played any gigs yet, it remains to be seen whether they can take this band beyond a personal passion to that of a commercial one. Continue reading

UDO – “Celebrator”

UDO – “Celebrator” 2CD (AFM Records)

Wow, legendary ex Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider reaches retirement age this month and what better way to celebrate it than with a double album titled “Celebrator”! With a combination of 25 unreleased tracks, B-sides, bonus and rare tracks “Celebrator” is exactly what it sez it is – commemorating the man’s career from his early days with the Raven cover of ‘Born To Be Wild’ to ‘They Only Come Out At Night’ with Lordi. There are also some interesting takes on classic songs like the piano version of ‘Balls To The World’ and an orchestral version of ‘Tears Of A Clown’ where we get to hear different, softer sides to UDO’s voice as well as a dance collaboration with Russian techno act Faktor 2 on ‘Platchet Soldat’. But for me, it’s hearing Mr Dirkschneider giving Mr Halford a true run for his money on ‘Metal Gods’ that makes me wonder how good this would’ve sounded onstage as a duet – happy birthday Mr UDO! Continue reading

Castle – “Blacklands”

Castle – “Blacklands” (Van Records)

Castle are back – in black. When this off the wall trio from San Francisco (where else – Ed) emerged with their debut “In Witch Order” last year it was an interesting fusion of psychedelic occult inspired rock from the 70s, but amped up for this apocalyptic year! I guess one of the reasons for this was that it was originally conceived by guitarist, songwriter and producer Mat Davis as a solo project, with much of the material already written and demoed before bassist / vocalist (and soon to be spouse) Elizabeth Blackwell and drummer Al McCartney joined the band. As such, “Blacklands” is an altogether more structured affair with cleaner production and less gothic rumblings from Blackwell’s bass. However, her raw voice is even more prominent this time, making the doomier songs like ‘Corpse Candles’ even more haunting than they sound! Elsewhere, it’s more of a thrashier feel like on the chugging ‘Curses Of The Priests’ with its gruff dual male / female vocals, while the heavy n epic ‘Dying Breed’ allows Davis to close off in style with heaps of feedback and wailing psychedelic guitar, effectively trademarking Castle’s brand of ‘witch- thrash’! Continue reading