Reckless Intentions – Stitches

Newcomers ‘Reckless Intentions’ drop their engaging debut EP ‘Lights’, via all outlets on Friday 14th July, but before then, the pop-punkers reveal their new lyric video for ‘Stitches’. Amalgamating contagious vocal melodies, memorable hooks, and probing power chord rhythms, the tunesters have all of the raw fundamentals to be one of the key players within the UK scene. Continue reading

Axel Rudi Pell – “The Ballads V”

Axel Rudi Pell – “The Ballads V” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Battle Helm Rating

With 36 years under his belt, guitar wizard and melodic rock god Axel Rudi Pell takes his place in the annals of hard rock heavy metal history. Owing much of his early inspiration to Ritchie Blackmore, Pell’s monumental 25-year anniversary show in Balingen in July 2014 included Doogie White (ex-Rainbow, MSG) on vocals and erstwhile Rainbow keyboard legend Tony Carey, not to mention that his current drummer is none other than Bobby Rondinelli! That said, Pell’s own style of melodic hard rock metal is very much his own, although his musical journey has seen him record and tour with some of the finest rock vocalists: Charlie Huhn (Ted Nugent, Gary Moore, Victory, Humble Pie, Foghat), Rob Rock (Impelliteri, Driver, Joshua, Avantasia), Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Soul Sirkus, Talisman, Journey, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and now, Johnny Gioeli (Hardline, a project started by Journey guitar legend Neal Schon). Continuing ‘The Ballads…’ series with this 5th release, Pell has brought in yet another icon, and one synonymous with the power ballad: Bonnie Tyler! Wasting no time, she makes her presence felt on the opening number, ‘Love’s Holding On’, dueting fabulously with Gioeli on an aptly composed number that is typically heart felt, yet uplifting and inspirational especially when Pell’s own guitar comes in, adding even more soul, yet being the maestro that he is, not overshadowing his partners. In a complete departure, Pell ambitiously takes on Ed Sheeran’s ‘I See Fire’ (from ‘The Hobbit’), in a sterling rock interpretation but using a moving piano instead of the acoustic guitar while adding his own emotional guitar solo towards the end – something that I’d normally consider trepidatious in lesser hands than ARP’s. Of course, Gioeli is there once more, his presence hard to ignore not because of this obvious power, but rather his touching tones that truly reach the soul. Not to disappoint fans,On The Edge Of Our Time’ is a new number, but also a ballad in classic ARP style with a moving sailing away chorus graced once again by Pell and Gioeli with plenty of atmosphere from Ferdy Doernberg’s keyboards. With the remaining numbers culled from recent releases, I particularly liked his take on Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My’, inspired by the legendary TV series ‘Sons Of Anarchy’. Renowned for his live performance, Pell also includes 2 live tracks, a previously  unreleased live recording of his own ballad ‘The Line‘ from last year’s Rock Of Ages Festival, which incidentally has an awesome guitar sound, so you can imagine it reaching out to the crowd, its wailing solos touching their souls as it has done mine on many occasions. Closing off and returning to the aforementioned 25-year anniversary show is the Purple classic ‘Mistreated’ and while Blackmore’s name shall remain hallowed to humble folk like me, Pell’s interpretation once again sent my heart fluttering in adding his own credible version, going well beyond a cover and certainly not detracting from the original. Again with plenty of soul with Carey’s and Doernberg’s church organs prominent in the mix, the vocal trade off between Gioeli and White makes this the ’14-minute emotional ride for everybody involved  on that stage that night’ as Pell himself says – and I’m sure that was equally so for the crowd offstage!!!

The Obsessed – “Sacred”

The Obsessed – “Sacred” (Relapse Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Their first album in 20 years, The Obsessed remain one of the cult acts in the stoner / doom metal scene even to this day! Formed in 1976 by guitarist / vocalist Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, himself a cult figure given the sheer number of bands he’s played in (including Saint Vitus, Mentors and Place of Skulls), The Obsessed ground to a halt despite releasing an acclaimed album in “The Church Within” back in 1994. Still, interest in the band has never faded and so the reunion shows have continued over the years, if anything to build the impetus for a full time return last year following a signing to Relapse. “Sacred” is 14 tracks spanning the length and breadth of Wino’s career with a range of styles from classic doom to stoner to fuzz rock and hippy trippy groove outs. Opening with the aptly titled ‘Sodden Jackal’ the grim, down tuned guitar spells out the ominous riffs with Brian Constantino’s drums adding the heavy pounding while Wino wails – his voice amazingly youthful despite being in his mid 50s – before launching into a blistering solo and a slow Sabbathy drawn out end – classic man! I would’ve dearly liked an entire album of this but sadly its the heaviest track on the album with the likes of ‘Punk Crusher’ being more laid back stoner – not counting the furious Motorhead on speed skull smashing passage. That said, there’s plenty to get excited about like the rhyming swamp groove of ‘Razor Wire’ with its super catchy bayou like chorus and true to life lyrics like ‘…I’d rather get high than pay the rent..’ ha ha. Then there’s the chugging biker rocker ‘Be The Night’ with its cool, catchy groove which keeps the momentum as Wino adds wild breaks from his dirty guitar along with a John Kay style vocal. Heading back into the swamp (high on ludes) comes the 9 minute instrumental ‘On So Long’ with its droning guitar and sludge trippy pace – although it contains some of the best solo guitar pieces mid song that I’ve ever heard from a doom band in a few years! Closing in fine Hendrix style both vocally, Wino’s cheeky, teasing guitar licks giving way to some irresistible okey slide guitar and you just know that you can’t take the country outta this boy – but then why would you want to when he’s just so damn good!

Wolfpakk – “Wolves Reign”

Wolfpakk – “Wolves Reign” (AFM Records)

Battle Helm Rating

The brainchild of Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, Michael Schenker), Wolfpakk is their melodic metal all star project – and ambitious it is to say the least – featuring no less than 26 all star guests! Quite how the 2 vocalists manage to pull this cast is beyond me, but on this 4th album there’s Biff Byford (Saxon), George Lynch (Dokken), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne), Ronny Atkins (Pretty Maids), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne), Tony Harnell (TNT), Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.), Oliver Hartmann (Avantasia), Timo Somers (Delain), Brad Gillis (Night Ranger), Pasi Rantanen (Thunderstone), Danny Vaughn (Tyketto), Michael Vescera (Yngwie Malmsteen) – to name but a few on the 11 excellent tracks here. Using their collective experience, the duo’s success in Wolfpakk has been a combination of song writing as well as arrangements, naturally fine tuned with each guest in mind and then eliciting the very best performance from these top names – and it works a treat. From the rich, melodic guitar driven opener of ‘Falling’ with its flowing neo classical breaks mixed with crunching riffs, the high vocals and harmonies send the feelgood vibe soaring into the heavens – and that’s before the heart shattering neo classical solo hits home! With the temperature soaring on ‘Run All Night’, Michael Vescera (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) does a fine job adding his scream to his soul on this excellent combination of genteel melody contrasted by a hammering rhythm including some smashing double bass drum work – unreal and even more so when the amazing guitar solos – oh yeah, there’s more than one – start trading and turn you into a quivering mass of rock jelly ha ha. Biff Byford brings the heaviness of ‘Blood Brothers’ with its native American chorus chanting and piston driving drums to a new high with his excellent soulful vocals giving a real epic touch iced off superbly with classy guitar melodies placed just in the right place to get the heart pounding once more. The energy level and top notch performances on “Wolves Reign” just doesn’t let up, even until the closer of ‘I’m Onto You’ which is like a melodic Accept rocker vocally, but has all the raw, crunching riffs to sway the hips and shake the head. Thoroughly enjoyable, Sweeney and Voss have done another commendable job to realize what many would consider to be only dreamable!

Cloven Hoof – “Who Mourns For The Morning Star”

Cloven Hoof – “Who Mourns For The Morning Star” (High Roller Records)

Battle Helm Rating

Long gone may be the outlandish costumes, along with the tongue in cheek names of ‘Wind’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Earth’ – but thanks to the spirit of Lee ‘Air’ Payne, NWOBHM legends Cloven Hoof are not just still going, but very much onto a 2nd lease of life! Bolstered by the growing ‘true’ metal movement along with a resurgence in NWOBHM, Cloven Hoof release this follow up to 2014’s “Resist Or Serve” album, and a mighty fine one it is too! Immediately noticeable is that it is not a retro or nostalgic trip but rather a modern sound naturally evolved from 80s, completed by excellent sound production that does justice to the material which is mixture of classic Cloven Hoof epics along with more heavier numbers across a range of moods and atmospheres. As such this is probably the band’s first release that has allowed the line up to stretch to its full sonic capability. Undoubtedly, this has been achieved by Payne recruiting new members into the band, most notably the 5 octave vocal delivery of ex Omen singer George Call, along with ex Phantom-X drummer Danny White. Having suffered in the vocal department in their history, Call not only makes up for this but brings out the best in the material with his incredible delivery that could easily match the likes of Bob Halford! Equally, there is sterling lead work from Luke Hatton, whose virtuoso talent shine and burn their way across the 9 rousing tracks here. Literally exploding with ‘Star Rider’ the chugging riffola of Chris Coss’s rhythm guitar melds with Call’s soaring soprano, yet all the while keeping up the energy as well as the catchiness of the song with its singalong chorus before Hatton’s searing solo melds into the thundering rhythm of Payne and White. Unleashing the double bass drumming on ‘Time To Burn’ it could almost be Priest although the irresistible melodies, including the subtle vocal harmonies(!) are what give Cloven Hoof their niche in making them the cult band of today, while on ‘Mindmaster’ the monster steamhammer beat is like a tank revving before firing its wails in Calls screams and Hatton’s guitar – oh yeah, this is true heavy metal alright! For me, the epic ‘Go Tell The Spartans’ with its heart felt passionate matching neo classical splendor and the  closer of ‘Bannockburn’ with its delicate acoustics before slashing into a Maide-esque gallop and of course, a huge singalong chorus sum up the awesome talent of this amazing cult band! Like I said, long gone are the theatrics, but now replaced by back to basics playing from the heart in what must be Cloven Hoof’s finest hour.

Night Demon – “Darkness Remains”

Night Demon – “Darkness Remains” (Steamhammer / SPV)

Battle Helm Rating

If you yearn for the glory days of NWOBHM or are appreciative of today’s ‘true’ metal scene then California’s Night Demon will no doubt be a name familiar to you. A 3 piece fronted by bassist / vocalist Jarvis Leatherby, who’s the current bassist in Cirith Ungol and is the live vocalist for Jaguar, Night Demon rose to fame over the course of an EP and their noted 2015 debut “Curse Of The Damned” – not to mention numerous festival appearances around the globe! Taking their inspiration from the likes of Grim Reaper, Raven and Diamond Head, Night Demon ably mix melody into their molten metal across a range of tempos complete with an authentic 80s sound. Laugh as you may, but this meat n potatoes style is exactly what original heavy metallers and today’s true metallers crave, and this power trio deliver it in abundance across the 10 tracks here. From the blistering opener of ‘Welcome To The Night’ Armand John Anthony’s guitar feedback gives way to the smashing drums of Dusty Squires before galloping off into a mix of heavy riffing and an abundance of melodies. Equally so are Leatherby’s vocals, reminiscent of Kevin Heybourne of Angel Witch in their soulful highs and unafraid to add in harmonies to the heavy metal passion steaming from the band in ‘On Your Own’. The essence here is to keep the material fresh and unrepetitive and the band are constantly working, especially John Anthony who warbles, dishes out lead breaks and licks aplenty, not to mention a generous amount of quality soloing like on ‘Dawn Rider’. My favourite track had to be the fast n heavy ‘Black Widow’, with plenty of headbanging rhythm and a catchy singalong chorus just begging for air punching out to! Equally, they impressed on the softer closing title track, with plenty of brooding passion and distant haunting vocals, along John Anthony’s emotional guitar reaching the soul through its classy work in yet another memorable song. Despite having significantly improved production this time around, the band haven’t over indulged themselves but rather opted instead to move closer to their live sound which in essence is how a heavy metal record should sound these days. Great work guys!  

Jupiter Falls – “Faces In The Sand – Part One”

Jupiter Falls – “Faces In The Sand – Part One” (Broken Road Records)

Battle Helm Rating

These guys have gotta be one of the hottest bands in the UK right now! Formed just 4 years ago, they have meteorically risen from having their debut produced by Roy Z to touring with Jake E Lee & Red Dragon Cartel before delivering a sophomore to worldwide critical acclaim, along with more dates in the UK as well as in France. Well on their way to stardom, now comes this 3rd album and it’s nothing short of a blinder! Besides their impressive song writing, it’s the awesome rock sound as well as their passionate in delivering hugely catchy and energetic material that makes you just wanna get up – and well, rock out!! From ‘Nothing To Me’ taking a leaf from Axl Rose’s brashness, Jupiter Falls bring in their own rousing Brit rock chorus along with a very cool squawk box vocal and some wild but melodic guitar soloing – whoa, it’s air guitar time man! And that’s the key here: these Yorkshire lads ably mix up tender melodies with memorable red blooded rock served up smouldering just the way true rockers like it. From the acoustic passion of ‘Call Me’ reminiscent of Tyketto all the band excel in their delivery here with vocalist James Hart varying his clean vocals subtly to be tender on the one hand while still able to handle the heavy duty double bass driven aggression of ‘It’s Your Problem Now’. The twin guitars of Deano Silk and Zachari Daniels have an equally huge part to play, very much in the Alter Bridge style of driving the momentum, while adding to the passion on ‘Follow Me’ – not to mention air god wildness on ‘Sickened’! With their sci fi name I did wonder if Jupiter Falls had any prog in ’em and on This Is A War We Cannot Win‘ its answered, drawing from the likes of Fates Warning, but still keeping it very much rock with its massive, impassioned chorus, fuelled by Hart’s power and passion – and yes, those huge, heart felt guitars yet again. A truly impressive release from what must be Yorkshire’s worthy rock successors to Def Leppard.

DIMMU BORGIR – Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse

A week remains until Norwegian symphonic black metal giants, DIMMU BORGIR, will unleash their highly-anticipated double-DVD/BluRay Forces Of The Northern Night. Today, the band have unveiled another live video of their monumental song ‘Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse’ from the live ritual in Oslo together with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Schola Cantorum Choir. See symphonic black metal reach an entirely new level with this clip Continue reading