SPHERE “Homo Hereticus”

SPHERE
“Homo Hereticus’”
(Masterful Records)
I like Polish death metal. Have done so even before it got on everybody’s lips. I don’t know what they have put in the water down in Poland but they are sure good at creating some of the most explosive death metal the world has seen. Sphere are no exception. This is death metal the more brutal way. It’s like stepping in front of a bulldozer, or ending up between a brick wall and a dumpster truck. You can’t escape the inevitable. You will be flattened like a pancake at the mercy of Sphere. Think Hate, think Behemoth, think any other Polish death metal act and you can add Sphere to that list of great death metal acts. “Homo Hereticus” is a fine slice of death metal. I will keep an eye on Sphere in the future. Anders Ekdahl

STILLBORN “Asesino”

STILLBORN
“Los Asesinos Del Sur”
(Ataman Productions)
This Stillborn is not the good old Swedish doomish metal act that had their 15 minutes of fame in the late 90s. No, this is a Polish one with the same name but different music style, death metal. I’m a huge sucker for death metal done the well. Poland has a history of great death metal acts. Stillborn turned out to be another one. This is death metal in its most primitive and brutal form. Think Impiety and you get a pretty good idea of where to find Stillborn stylistically. There is something special to being hit by a ton of bricks. You just have to accept your fate and then deal with it. Stillborn leaves you no leeway. You just gotta accept that they are here to turn you into a total pulp of human flesh. Anders Ekdahl

STUKA SQUADRON ”Tales Of The Ost”

STUKA SQUADRON
”Tales Of The Ost”
(Metalbox)
I’ve read about Stuka Squadron’s live shows. From that I’ve made up a picture of what they’ll be like musically. Don’t know if that picture is true but I’m about to find out if this is the new Lawnmower Deth of metal. I have no idea why some British bands feel the need to dress up their music in different images (think Rock Bitch, Lawnmower Deth etc.) when the music itself would do the talking alone. Stuka Squadron, despite their image could be the best thing that has happened to UK heavy metal since NWOBHM. They could also be the worst thing since pickled cheese. This wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. This is heavy metal in the tradition of good old British acts. It makes me think of bands like Tygers Of Pan Tang, Tokyo Blade and the likes. And for that alone I like Stuka Squadron. This turned out to be a positive surprise. Anders Ekdahl

Huntress – “Spell Eater”

Huntress – “Spell Eater” (Napalm Records)

Huntress are a Cally heavy metal band featuring the ear piercing coloratura soprano (i.e. four octave range) vocals of one Jill Janus, who grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, before embarking on a career as a teenage opera starlet. Years later, Janus moved to Los Angeles, discovered thrash metal and began stripping the opera from her voice, whilst maintaining its awesome power. But the childhood impressions of the Catskills, and in particular its ties to the occult, never left her and she soon began giving herself to the dark side of bands like Dissection, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Needless to say, Huntress reflect all these things and songs like ‘Snow Witch’, ‘Eight Of Swords’ and ‘The Tower’ hark back to the days of early Mercyful Fate or even Angel Witch, conjuring up images of sorcery with dark heavy metal riffs and melodies – and of course, those banshee vocals, which apparently can break glass!

Holy Moses – “30th Anniversary – In the Power Of Now”

Holy Moses – “30th Anniversary – In the Power Of Now” 2CD (Steamhammer/SPV)

30 years on and Germany’s thrashers Holy Moses are still shredding it out there. Still fronted by terrifying front woman Sabina Classen, whose vocals have been largely credited with originating today’s female death / thrash style, the band continues to deliver its no frills 80s style thrash with scant regard for commercialism. In commemorating their anniversary, Holy Moses (now with GiftDwarf / ex Rebellion drummer Gerd Lücking) decided to re-record 20 of their most favorite songs like ‘Finished With The Dogs’ on this double CD, which now sound a lot more solid in terms of their production compared to their previous versions i.e. thicker guitars and you can actually hear the bass LOL. In addition they offer a coupla new tracks ‘Borderland’ and ‘Entering The Now’ which certainly don’t show any signs of wimping out and continue in German neck snapping thrash style a plenty!

At Vance – “Facing Your Enemy”

At Vance – “Facing Your Enemy” (AFM Records)

Germany’s At Vance essentially play melodic hard rock led by master guitar magician and composer Olaf Lenk (ex-Velvet Viper) and vocalist Oliver Hartmann (ex-Centers), whose voice could be a dead ringer for Dave Coverdale’s! And AOR Whitesnake is a pretty close comparator to where At Vance are at, with husky rock vocals, heart breaking melodies and sultry keyboards defining songs like ‘See Me Crying’ or ‘Don’t Dream’. I used to think that At Vance were sorta power metal and funnily enough they offer a neo classical instrumental in ‘March Of The Dwarf’ but it seems strangely out’ve place both in terms of its title and style compared to the rest of this album, which is a fine one for crooners rather than rockers.

Savage – “Sons Of Malice”

Savage – “Sons Of Malice” (Minus2Zebra Records)

Forever synonymous with their debut album “Loose N Lethal” and in particular its kick ass track ‘Let It Loose’, these NWOBHM merchants are right back where they started 30 years ago, in the Midlands kicking out their own brand of Brit meat n potatoes metal i.e. nay frills, nay bovver, just real ale LOL! Well the heart of Savage, namely bassist / vocalist Chris Bradley and guitarist Andy Dawson are once again back together and promisingly now joined by Bradley’s son Kristian also on guitar and old buddy Mark Nelson on drums. As I remember them, it was the incredible fusion of Dawson’s fast raw guitar mixed with Bradley’s melodic vocals amid a tight sassy rhythm that belted out songs like ‘Dirty Money’. In 2012 the band is a less savage beast, albeit still with Dawson’s guitar and Bradley’s voice defining the band, but the tempo has slowed and on the likes of ‘Junkyard Dogs’ a strong blues element is present. Still, songs like ‘Waking The Dead’ and ‘Now’ definitely hint towards past glories but with a more mature approach i.e. the difference between an 18 and a 48 year old! In summation, this isn’t a thrash album to prepare you for Aardschok part 2 but if it’s pounding (and I do mean loud) Brit rock anthems you’re craving then “Sons Of Malice” will do you proud!

4Bitten – “Delirium”

4Bitten – “Delirium” (Rocksector Records)

Although hailing from Greece, 4Bitten owe more to 70s hard rock legends like Led Zeppelin or even Glenn Hughes in their punchy but funky grooves. Added to that Fofi Roussos’s power femme rock vocals clearly inspired by Janis Joplin or even Suzi Quatro, and it’s easy to see why they’ve supported Dan Reed in the UK and last year the likes of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Blaze Bayley, Michael Schenker Group and Uriah Heep in Athens! Listening to the likes of ‘Burning The Candle’, ‘Far From Grace’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ the band are indeed a tight outfit with a solid sound and musicianship, as well as possessing a subtle blues element that gives them an added laid back touch whilst not tripping them out. “Delirium” is an important step in the band’s career that will allow them appeal to the mainstream rather like The Answer or Black Stone Cherry whilst keeping level heads.

Anvil – “Plugged In Permanent” / “Absolutely No Alternative” / “Speed Of Sound” / “Plenty Of Power”

Anvil – “Plugged In Permanent” / “Absolutely No Alternative” / “Speed Of Sound” / “Plenty Of Power” 2in1 REISSUES (Steamhammer/SPV)

I would imagine that by now Anvil are a household name – what more can be said about them LOL?! Still, like or loathe em, cry or laugh at em, Anvil are now Canada’s most famous heavy metal band. These reissues are undoubted cash ins on that new found infamy and essentially cover their Massacre (Records) era as well as heralding the introduction of Ivan Hurd and Glenn 5 into the band. Listening to the likes of ‘Doctor Kevorkian’, ‘Green Jesus’, ‘No Evil’ and ‘Beat The Law’ its all pretty much sameo Anvil, from Lips’s rock / metal guitar work to Reiner’s far out drum work. Although technically without fault in terms of the musicianship, the problem seems to be that none of the material comes to within spitting distance of their earlier material i.e. “Metal On Metal” and as such fails to appeal other than in perpetuating a legacy. Given that the landscape had changed considerably in the 2nd half of the 90s with new genres of metal leaving heavy metal all but dead then this rehash of early 80s proto thrash was understandably all but overlooked other than by Anvil’s die hard fans. Perhaps the addition of some new bonus material might’ve enhanced today’s marketability of these albums, but given their 2 for 1 selling point, I guess they will always be relegated to the bargain basement.

BLACK BREATH “Sentenced to Life”

BLACK BREATH
“Sentenced to Life”
LP Edition
(Southern Lord)

Care for a cup of hot tea or perhaps a hammer to the face? Black Breath are new to me but this record features some good old fashioned speed / thrash metal complete with cover art that is almost identical to Exciter’s classic Feel the Knife 12″ EP! No metal fan should notice that…! Truth be told it’s exactly what made me pick this up! It’s not an Exciter copy however, I’d actually compare the sound more to classic Slayer but I sense some influences from Sodom in there as well. Another fantastic slab of vinyl to put in your collection.

-Josh Cook