Iron Monkey – “9-13”

Iron Monkey – “9-13” (Relapse Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Oh my gawd. The terror has returned. Back in the mid 90s, one of the most terrifying bands (both onstage and off) were spawned from middle England’s bleakest cities – and with a sound from hell. As the fearsome five some wrought havoc up and down the country leaving trashed venues, pissed off promoters but ultimately shocked audiences in awe of their musical intensity yet their down to earth friendliness, Iron Monkey soon had a condemning press on their back (apart from yours truly), while the underground couldn’t get enough. Whether it was the sick, down tuned sludge noise, or the late but great JP Morrow’s certified ugly ‘vocals’ but a self titled debut soon had them signed to the equally foreboding Earache Records for their brutish southern fried sophomore, along with artwork from enfant terrible artist Mike Diana (introduced by yours truly). As things looked up (and down for the rest of the world) Iron Monkey spread their slime across Europe, although not before losing founder guitarists Jim Rushby and Stu Watson along the way. Sadly the band would go the same path, eventually self combusting before the millennium. Even more tragically, JP Morrow passed away a coupla years later, aged just 28 years old. Forgotten by many much to their relief, the irony is that over the years the band developed a cult following and formed the impetus for this rejuvenated Iron Monkey, with none other than Jim Rushby (guitar / vocals) and Stu Watson (bass) and now joined by Scott Briggs (Aeons of Eclipse / Gorgy / Deaf Revival) on drums. When the rumors first circulated, history replayed itself with the trio once again dismissed (in some cases as imposters ha ha!) but to all worshipers at the temple of the Iron Monkey, this is the same hell-ish feedback drenched down tuned noise as it was back then – complete with even more ugly ‘vocals’ that JP would be proud of. Connoisseurs of the band would probably see “9-13” as somewhere between that foul debut and the more sophisticated “Our Problem” which is where this Monkey’s talent is best, and it works a treat here on the 9 visceral tracks spewed out in bile but with plenty of style. Concentrating on the god almighty power of the riff at its catchiest yet bludgeoningly brutish, the talent is in the finesse of how this trio have taken the winning qualities of the first band and concentrated them even more, along with subtle hooks and intelligent arrangements to create even more monstrous tracks like the bollocking yet rollicking ‘OmegaMangler’, the frenzied bestial riffola of ‘Doomsday Impulse Multiplier’ and the gargantuan 9 minute overload of ‘Moreland St. Hammervortex ‘. Prepare yourselves for the Monkey madness once more!

OZ – “Transition State”

OZ – “Transition State” (AFM Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Quite possibly the oldest Finnish heavy rock band, OZ were formed in 1977 and soon defected to Sweden where they became more commonly associated, recording their acclaimed 1983 sophomore “Fire In The Brain” – featuring no less than Quorthon of Bathory’s arm on their album cover! Despite a strong follow up the next year in the more metallised “III – Warning” that was released on Combat Records in the US, the market for heavy rock / metal was soon fizzling out in favor of specialized genres and so too did OZ by the early 90s. Close to 2 decades would pass before founders Mark Ruffneck on drums and vocalist Ape De Martini would reform the band, sign to AFM and release their “Burning Leather” compilation in 2011. Since then OZ has been steadily getting back to form with touring although in 2013, family issues saw the core members in hiatus while the Swedish members continued with their own projects. Solely returning to the fold, things came full circle for the band when Mark Ruffneck turned back to Finland to recruit a fresh new line up – ironically from his hometown! Still calling themselves heavy rock, “Transition State” is the band’s first new album since 1991 but man, does Mark Ruffneck have his s–t together (along with this talented line up) because this is top notch heavy rock with metallised tinges across its 13 hard rocking tracks – seriously, it’s like going back in a time warp but amazingly combined with today’s production technology! From the chugging 80s riffola and wild stallionz soloing on opener ‘Bone Crusher’ its like NWOBHM has returned with some excellent vocals from Vince Koivula who is like a young Bruce Dickinson no less, while on ‘Heart Of A Beast’ his soul oozes with the instantly hooking guitar melodies along with a highly catchy chorus to produce another hit that while not aggressive, hits home no less. Honestly, there are no fillers on this album attesting to Ruffneck’s composing talent – not to mention his hugely respectable dedication to genuine heavy rock! If you love dexterous twin guitar work then ‘Drag Me To Hell’ will certainly do that with yet more catchiness in the accompanying melodies and this continues on the much darker ‘Whore Of Babylon’ which is, in fact, proto doom along early Candlemass lines with its slow, occultish tones and Koivula hitting the Messiah sopranos – along with some tasty neo classical soloing – brilliant! Hitting the gas on ‘Demonized’ with its speed almost approaching power metal, the intricate fret board work is complemented by yet more catchy riffing as Koivula unleashes his heavy metal screams while on ‘We’ll Never Die’ the band kick serious stadium ass on this singalong anthem that had me air punching just like back in the 80s – yeah! While I’m certain that some may find this variety of styles a tad annoying, this in essence is what heavy rock used to be about with bands covering what are today distinct genres of their own, so I have to commend Ruffneck and his new band of rockers for not just sticking to his guns, but pulling it all off so masterfully. An excellent (and authentic) release from one of the original purveyors of Scandinavian heavy rock that not only brings back a ton of memories but I hope spurs a resurgence for this long missed genre!

HELLOWEEN – Pumpkins United

Earlier this year German Power Metal legends HELLOWEEN announced that they would be reuniting with former members Kai Hansen (guitar) and Michael Kiske (vocals) for a World Tour under the banner of “Pumpkins United”. It would mean bringing together the classic line-up of the band that recorded the seminal ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2’ albums (1987/88). Continue reading

Nikki Sixx – “The Heroine Diaries” Anniversary

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Nikki Sixx’s drug-soaked NY Times bestselling memoir, THE HEROIN DIARIES and SiXX:A.M.’s The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack. To commemorate more than a decade of sobriety and life lessons learned, Nikki Sixx and SIXX:A.M. revisit the seminal work; announcing Tenth Anniversary Editions of the book and album in multiple formats including: digital LP, CD, CD / DVD, and Special Edition Vinyl, and Graphic Novel. Fans can get a jump start TODAY by pre-ordering these and more exclusively at PledgeMusic. Continue reading

MOONSPELL – Evento

There’s only one metal band that is able to hit official album charts on #1 in their home country Portugal, while they belong to the worldwide pioneers of dark art: Naturally and for the first time ever, MOONSPELL’s brand new album ‘1755’ comes and is sung in portuguese. Set for release on November 3rd 2017 on Napalm Records, this record will outclass all standards you have ever heard from MOONSPELL before! Continue reading

We Came As Romans – artwork

Michigan Post-hardcore outfit WE CAME AS ROMANS have just released another look into their heavily anticipated fifth album, Cold Like War. Watch as the band discuss the album’s artwork here. Cold Like War will be available on October 20th via SharpTone Records and you can pre-order the album here: http://geni.us/WCARColdLikeWar Continue reading

IRON MONKEY – Crown of Electrodes

Cult UK doom/sludge outfit IRON MONKEY has shared the official visualizer video for “Crown of Electrodes”, the first track off 9-13, first new full-length in almost two decades. Watch the video here. 9-13 is set for release on October 20th on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com and all retail outlets. Continue reading

BLUES PILLS – Bliss – Live

Sweden based blues rockers BLUES PILLS have announced the release their first ever DVD/Blu Ray, Lady In Gold Live In Paris, on November 3, 2017. The release features the band sold out performance at Le Trianon in Paris, France on October 30, 2016 in front of 1,200 euphoric fans.Today the band have released their performance of the song ‘Bliss’, taken from the forthcoming release: Continue reading

BEAST IN BLACK – Beast In Black

International heavy metallers BEAST IN BLACK will unleash their debut album Berserker, in three weeks via Nuclear Blast Records. To give their fans another musical taster of what to expect from this 10-track power package, the band founded by BATTLE BEAST guitarist Anton Kabanen have launched a lyric video for ‘Beast In Black’, over on YouTube. Based on a picture by Anato Finnstark / Finnstark Illustration, the clip perfectly underlines the energy of the album’s opening track. Check it out now Continue reading