Here’s another band that has been going for a while now but doesn’t seem to have come too far, or as far as they’d liked. I’m not sure if I have heard any of their previous albums although it feels like I do. That’s the problem with a large collection and a really bad memory; you forget what you have and haven’t heard. For some reason I get a Xysma feeling about this record; that it could go in any direction whatsoever. This could be the most gripped out jazzy extreme album since Naked City, or it could be some of the greatest blackish metal to ever been released. From the first note I feared that this was going to be some tripped out psych metal but it turned out to be a not so bad album after all. Sure it is trippy and almost hippy like but it has enough qualities to make this time well worth invested if you like your metal dreamy and loose around the corners. Anders Ekdahl
“Our Condolences 1988 – 1992”
This one I remember from my fanzine reading days. I don’t think I was that impressed with them back in the 80s because I can’t recall ever writing them about ordering a demo. But I could be wrong. This might be just what I missed out on in the 80s/early 90s. That this was going to be anything but old and crude I had no illusion about seeing as old this is. You can hear that death metal had just about come to Norway when this was recorded. There is a thrash metal feeling lingering about the sound of OLD FUNERAL. Listening to this I get mixed feelings. I remember why I didn’t care too much about the band in the first place yet I can hear the progress the band made and enjoy the music for that reason. If you were there in the first place this collection serves as a great reminder. If you weren’t you gotta be hardcore into this stuff to enjoy it to its fullest. Seeing as I was there and that I like the raw sound of the South American bands this reminder of a Norway not so fully developed makes me feel like 18 again. Anders Ekdahl
RAGE OF ANGELS
RAGE OF ANGELS??? I don’t remember getting sent this one. But then I get sent a lot of stuff and some slips my mind. But that only makes it so much more fun discovering it all over again. This might just prove to be a massive blast of great music. When I hear albums like this I am transported back to the late 80s/early 90s when I was deeply into this kind of hardrock, especially the American bands. Over the last 20 years I haven’t paid too much attention to this kind of music even though it always been there with me. So now that I have a chance to hear this kind of hardrock that is heavily rooted in a more bluesy tradition I enjoy it to the fullest. I like this the way I like early to mid Whitesnake. Not so heavy on tempo but full of emotions and melodies this makes for a great break from al the stressed out stuff that usually comes my way. Anders Ekdahl
“Within Darkened Disorder”
I don’t think this is the REQUIEM I think it is. I remember a Belgian band by the same name from the 90s but seeing as it is a great name for a metal band more than one bands have come up with the great idea to use it as a band name. This is a Swiss death metal band that re-releases a 2010 album in a re-mastered format. Being their sixth album they are still new to me. I haven’t paid too much attention to the Swiss death metal scene in the last decade or two so it is no wonder that this band comes as a surprise to me. Musically this is death metal in a very American way with the very thick sound that you have to cut with a very sharp knife to get through. Played the right way (like Incantation or Immolation) this is some pretty great stuff. Played the wrong way and it just end up being one huge mass of noise. Thankfully REQUIEM play it the right way making this a pretty good death metal album. Anders Ekdahl
“Circus Of Lost Souls”
OK, I might have hoped for a female solo artist by the name of SHANNON and not a bunch of French dudes but as this is what it is I just have to deal with that. I do expect this to be some very uplifting hardrock. Wouldn’t mind if it is borderline heavy metal. And borderline it might be but for most parts is stays in the right side of hardrock. I like hardrock that is more traditional, as this is. This reminds me of the stuff that I grew up on. Bands whose names I might have forgotten but whose spirit still lives on in me. This does in parts remind me of a band like Pretty Maids. You don’t really know if it is hardrock or heavy metal. All that you know is that you sit on your couch digging like a fool simply because this is that good. And that is really all I need to know that this is good. Anders Ekdahl
I’ll admit it. I didn’t get this whole mix of metal and rock’n’roll we saw years ago. I thought it was crap for most of the time. A bad attempt at creating a new trend. I have no idea how mixing folk metal and rock’n’roll will work but I fear the worst kind of stomping your feet and swinging your hips kind of stuff. But I could be wrong like Cinderella not going to the party. I have nothing against bands that experiment with its sound. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. I’m not sure what I feel about VARGSHEIM’s sound. This going from soft to hard and back to soft. I feel that I need some time getting accustomed to it before I totally write this of as crappish. Having sat through the whole album I can honestly say that I can enjoy it for what it is. It wasn’t as bad as I thought at first. Give it some time and I’m sure that I will fully get it. Anders Ekdahl
Another Swedish act that I had no idea existed before I got sent the latest 6 track record. I try to make it my mission to know about every Swedish band out there but I fail miserably time after time. So much that I soon will give up trying and just admit that there are too many Swedish bands to keep up with them. When I hear growling I get a death metal feeling. When it is a female doing the growling I often get an Arch Enemy feeling but with ZEPHYRA it is more of a thrash metal sound. This wasn’t as immediate as I would have liked. I wouldn’t have minded if this had hit me in the face like a right hook. Now that it didn’t do that I have to re-caliber my sensors and take it for what it is. There is a melodic angle to this that combined with the rather moderate tempo make me think of bands like Hearse. Anders Ekdahl
Hatebreed – “The Divinity Of Purpose” (Nuclear Blast)
When I co promoted these guys back in 1999 for a show, I knew they were destined to take metalcore (or crossover as it was then known) to a new level. Since then, Hatebreed have been bludgeoning and bruisin’ their way across the globe and are a regular festival favorite – their intense moshpit at last year’s Hellfest would attest to that brutality! And that’s just the way it is on this album – old school stomp core that’s right in your face brimming with unbridled HATE. Jamie Jasta’s vocals are still as aggressive and backed up by some cool Biohazard-esque gang shout outs while the chopping mugging guitars of Frank Novinec and Wayne Lozinak – complete with some cheeky Slayer licks – just crank and shank you on songs like ‘Dead Man Breathing’, ‘Nothing Scars Me’ and ‘Before The Fight Ends You’. Backed by Beattie n Byrne’s thug heavy rhythms and a big sound production, this album confirms that Hatebreed’s purpose is to set every arena afire – and they are undisputed gods at that.
Dio – “Dream Evil” 2CD Deluxe (UMC / Mercury)
It’s been just over two and a half years since the passing of Ronnie James Dio, but his legend continues! “Dream Evil” was Dio’s 4th album and released in 1987, featuring newcomers Craig Goldy and Claude Schnell on guitars and keyboards respectively. This deluxe package essentially features the original album – untouched as far as I can tell – complemented by a bonus CD crammed with a coupla singles but more importantly, most of the 1987 Monsters Of Rock set totaling some 11 tracks that span the very best of Dio’s career from the blazing ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ to a crowd chundering ‘Long Live Rock N Roll’ and a simply ripping ‘Neon Nights’ amongst others! If you were at this Castle Donnington show or even the one in ’83 you’ll know what I mean – the man was simply amazing! As far as I can tell the only track missing is ‘Children Of The Sea’, which is of course on the “Dio At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987” album. But if you don’t have that then this is a worthy enough purchase, complete with Wendy Dio endorsed booklet to remember one of rock’s great legends by!
Saxon – “Sacrifice” 2CD (UDR Records)
‘..less tricks, more power..’ quipped Biff Byford when asked about this 20th album in Saxon’s prestigious history. I’d certainly agree with that as even the title might be a misnomer cos it’s wi’ nowt taken out easily the band’s heaviest album for yonks! “Sacrifice” brings back the raw power of the classic NWOBHM years and commendably crafts them into the epic metal style now more commonly associated with the band. Despite producing the album with Andy Sneap at home in Yorkshire, Biff’s vocals have taken a less up front approach in favour of bringing Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt’s raging twin guitars more to the fore on songs like ‘Guardians Of The Tomb’, ‘Stand Up And Fight’ and ‘Wheels Of Terror’. With Nibbs Carter hammering his bass and Nigel Glockler still faithfully and masterfully pounding those drums (and certainly plenty of cymbal work) this is classic Saxon bar none! If the power of “Sacrifice” wasn’t enough of a shocker then the perfectionist feel to the album, reflecting the experience of Saxon’s 38 year career could no more be better demonstrated by the bonus material made up of re-recorded and acoustic versions of amongst others ‘Requiem’, ‘Frozen Rainbow’ and ‘Just Let Me Rock’ – all given the same top notch treatment and in my opinion a new lease of life. This is how true bonus tracks should be: as value adding extras and not fillers to carry a mediocre album. Only just into the year and out of the blue these bold as brass veterans return with this superb release – and I’m still trying to work out where the ‘sacrifice’ is lol!