Skinny Puppy – “The Greater Wrong Of The Right”

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Skinny Puppy – “The Greater Wrong Of The Right” re-issue (Metropolis Records)

The pioneers of industrial and electro rock have returned! Formed in the 80s by Nivek Ogre (vocals) and cEvin Key (the rest), Skinny Puppy fused a number of styles from new wave to punk to electro noise along with sampling to form a sound that would inspire later bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy and Ministry. Fuelled themselves by the world around them, their lyrics and political stance also took the form of addressing issues on the environment, animal rights, and AIDs. It was not without its toll however, and with the use of drugs leading to increasingly erratic behavior in the band, resulted in the death of keyboardist Dwayne Goettel in 1995, as well as the ultimate demise of Skinny Puppy. But close to a decade later, the band were back and 2004 saw them release “The Greater Wrong Of The Right”, their 9th & first new full-length LP since 1996’s “The Process”. Not only more positive in it’s vibe, it heralded a more rave orientated style to songs like ‘DaddyuWarbash’ and ‘Past Present’ along with recognizable lyrics from a once intelligible Ogre. Still, songs like ‘Neuwerld’ were anything like easy listening, featuring dark melodies inspired by events like 9/11, off key singing and monotone choruses guaranteed in the serious weirdness stakes – Marilyn Manson sounded tame by comparison! But with the continued strong mix of outlandish beats and samples like on the electro reggae of ‘Goneja’, Skinny Puppy’s material still had more to do with a mind altering experience than mere dance or even rock. Now remastered to bring out these songs to have an even greater effect on the senses, this landmark album is one of the most defining moments in Skinny Puppy’s history, a band alone that defined history in their time.

Red Dragon Cartel – “Red Dragon Cartel”

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Red Dragon Cartel – “Red Dragon Cartel” (Frontiers Records)

Red Dragon Cartel is none other than Jake E Lee – Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist from 1982 – 87, recording both “Bark At The Moon” and “The Ultimate Sin” with the madman before moving on to form his own band – Badlands – so to many this is an amazing comeback given the relatively low profile Lee has kept for the last 15 years! Well, in my book that’s 15 years worth of songs and still having uber musicianship, “Red Dragon Cartel” is the album that anyone who remembers him will want as an essential purchase. Opening with ‘Deceiver’ Lee flicks his plectrum right at Sharon as he cranks out chords that are so close to ‘Bark At The Moon’ their lawyers must be already shuffling about uncomfortably – brilliant ha ha! Musically it’s a cross between his two bands being a mixture of 80s guitar metal n hard rock as his talented guitar work drives and dances around a string of vocalists from Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander on ‘Feeder’ – who also does a good take on Ozzy (Sharrrrrrron!!! lol – Ed) – to Paul Di’Anno on the aptly titled ‘Wasted’. With Sass Jordan and Five Finger Death Punch’s Jeremy Spencer taking ‘War Machine’ back to Sabbath era Ozzy and In This Moment’s Maria Brink bringing in a dark, alt groove on ‘Big Mouth’ Lee’s reputation has brought in a respected cast including Pantera’s Rex Rocker and Scott Reeder of Kyuss to feature on a guest list that could rival any of Ozzy’s backstage queues. I am so glad this guy is back!!! Classic or modern, Lee’s work is nothing short of his outstanding legacy on this fine album that goes beyond mesmerizing technicality to just rock you out – easy to see why there was no doubt in everyone’s minds that he was – and still is – the worthy successor to Randy Rhodes!

Kampfar – “Djevelmakt”

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Kampfar – “Djevelmakt” (Indie Recordings)

“Djevelmakt” is Kampfar’s 6th album and marks the 3rd creative wave for this eclectic band from Norway. Formed 20 years ago, the ‘band’ was just vocalist Dolk and guitarist / bassist Thomas at the time, releasing “Mellom Skogkledde Aaser” and “Fra Underverdenen” as well as several EPs. The second wave took Kampfar into the live arena with the addition of Jon (bass) and Ask (drums), as well as producing 2 more albums, “Kvass” and “Heimgang”. With their 2011 album “Mare” starting the 3rd cycle, that of refocusing the creative side of the band, “Djevelmakt” affirms it, bringing together the old aspects of Kampfar while polishing it to modernity without losing any of the raw energy and passion that is so inherent in this band, as well as their music and live show. With a cover amalgamating 3 different works of art, never let it be said that Kampfar are not complex – even if it is unpretentiously so – as they fuse Norwegian Black Metal at its most visceral, along with Norse folklore and even naturalistic elements. With haunting shrieks capable of clearing out a bat cave, raw epic riffing and supernatural melodies mixing with old school blast beats on songs like ‘Blod,Eder og Galle’, ‘De Dødes Fane‘ and ‘Svarte Sjelers Salme’, the effect is nothing short of intense both from an acoustic but also emotional perspective. Kampfar’s music is timeless, but beyond that it is honest – an unbridled expression of the pure human spirit at its most freest.

Ektomorf – “Retribution”

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Ektomorf – “Retribution” (AFM Records)

‘…every time I see your face, my rage…starts to burn!!!…’ – oh fuck yeah, if you loved old school Sepultura, you’re gonna love this!!!!! There is so much pissed off rage, so much anger and frustration on this album that it should come complete with a riot control warning. The mastermind of Zoltán “Zoli” Farkas, a gypsy from Hungary who’s grown up in the doubly repressive environments of racism and communist state control, it’s easy to see how he feels judging by abrasive songs like ‘Who The Fuck Are You’, ‘I Hate You’ and ‘Mass Ignorance’. Still, thanks to the nurturing of Tue Madsen, instead of one mindless outburst comes a heavy dervish groove machine armed with socially conscious lyrics capable of challenging any political system! Less than a couple of years since “Black Flag” and now armed with a new band, the energy is simply overflowing in the bitter roars of Farkas, accompanied by loads of heavy dirty guitars that simultaneously explode with pounding rhythms on monster waves of groove that simply make you want to slam your body to – awesome!! At times almost punk like it certainly evokes memories of “Arise” and “Chaos AD” in both its style and sound and with occasional dark interludes offering stark contrast to its otherwise brutal blight “Retribution” is aptly titled, the raging voice for the oppressed by the oppressed.

Hammercult – “Steelcrusher”

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Hammercult – “Steelcrusher” (Sonic Attack / SPV)

‘…rules are meant to be broken!!!..’ Widely regarded both as a super group and the most extreme band in Israel, Hammercult came to fame by winning the 2011 Israeli Wacken Metal Battle and subsequently the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle itself! Shortly after they were signed by Sonic Attack, whose owner Karl-Ulrich Walterbach is none other than the founder of the 80s cult label Noise Records. Needless to say Hammercult play thrash in the old school but heavily mixed with elements of modern death metal, punk, black metal and hardcore. As vocalist Yakir Shochat says ‘…it’s like a mixture of old Running Wild and Kreator on steroids!..”! I’d haveta agree with that as there are strong guitar melodies to counter the blistering power of Shochat’s screeching vocals and the relentless beat on songs like ‘Metal Rules Tonight’, ‘We Are The People’ and ‘In The Name Of The Fallen’. With a cool Middle Eastern groove further adding to their style Hammercult show they are much more than a heads-down retro thrash band but rather individuals unafraid to play their music as they see fit to live their lives in a country perpetually in a state of war. As refreshing as it is inspirational, “Steelcrusher” has also roped in Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser as guest soloist, Chris ‘Zeuss’ Harris (Soulfly, Hatebreed, Agnostic Front), who mixed and mastered the album, and renowned artist Andreas Marschall (Blind Guardian, In Flames, Running Wild and Hammerfall) whose early work for Noise now brings him full circle with them through the dynamism of this band – don’t miss out on one of the most happening bands this year as they prepare to pummel you with hope!

Steel Prophet – “The Goddess Principle”

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Steel Prophet – “The Goddess Principle” reissue (Pure Steel Records)

US Metal lives! Steel Prophet go all the way back to 1983 and the days of Agent Steel, Fates Warning and Jag Panzer. Despite having numerous musicians passing through their ranks the band has pretty much been centered around guitarist Steve Kachinsky Blakmoor and vocalist Rick Mythiasin. Like a speedier version of Iron Maiden, Steel Prophet’s sound was defined by the wailing siren-esque vocals of Mythiasin and Kachinsk’s classical virtuoso playing as accompanied by the rest of the band’s technical capability. “The Goddess Principle” is the band’s legendary debut, released initially in 1995 to much acclaim for its high class musicianship and progressive sound which gave an epic feel to songs like ‘Prophecy Upon Us’, ‘Souls Without Honor’ and ‘Penance of Guilt’. Sophisticated lead-passages feature alongside catchy and distinctive choruses, while speedy parts are as natural as their more quieter moments with an intelligent use of keyboard atmospherics. Released as a limited edition of 500 copies to commemorate the band’s signing to Pure Steel Records, I don’t believe the sound has been changed in any way, being true to its original but earthy production where you can hear every instrument in the clear mix and the band literally feel like they are playing in front of you – an impressive enough introduction to a legendary band indeed!

APOSTOLUM “Winds”

APOSTOLUM
”Winds”
(Moribund)
This has all the characteristics of being a great ride down the black metal highway. Just from looking at the cover I get a feeling that this is going to be right up my alley. There is a dark aura surrounding this album with the promise of this being a really cool ride. I would like to call this DSBM (depressive suicidal black metal). A genre that has grown quite a bit in recent years. So if you like bands like Sweden’s Shining or Italy’s Forgotten Tomb or any other black metal act in that same vein then this will be for you. I like that this is so as somber as it is and still being dark and cold in that typical black metal way. Anders Ekdahl

DEAD ENDS “Petrichor”

DEAD ENDS
“Petrichor”
(This Is Core)
OK, this is a band that I have no idea where they come from or where they are going. They are new to me but then so many others have been and I’ve established a connection with them. I hope that that will happen this time too. I am not the biggest fan of stuff like Dead By April that are a bit too poppy in their sound. DEAD ENDS is another of these bands that play some sort of modern metal. It is wrong to call it metalcore because it has more in common with bands like Sonic Syndicate but perhaps a bit harder at the edges. We’ve heard a number of these bands coming from the British Isles for example in recent years so this Italian band should fit very well in that bunch if you like all these bands with four letter names that I can’t remember but whose music resonates well with me. Anders Ekdahl

DEATHPOINT “Sinister”

DEATHPOINT
“Sinister”
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It might be just me but I’ve always had a good eye towards Canadian bands. From Loverboy to Triumph to Rush to Helix to Razor to Slaughter. In 2013 I came upon a bunch of new Canadian bands that impressed. 2014 seems to start the same way. DEATHPOINT shouldn’t be judged musically based on their promo shot. That alone would have you think this is some sort of indie band. Musically this is so much harder than that. I get some Deftones vibes listening to this (without it really sounding anything like that). There is that drive to not be stuck in the same rut. I also get an In Flames (latter day) feeling from this. This has been another Canadian band that impressed me. Anders Ekdahl