“Wolves In The Battlefront”
I gotta admit that I do not understand the name of this band. What the hell is VIKINGORE? But I’ll give them the chance to prove themselves musically before I totally write them off. This could very well be one of the better releases of 2013 for all that I know. OK, so this gives me vibes of Amon Amarth. I love Amon Amarth’s foot stomping metal. This isn’t as good as that. But in its own right this isn’t too bad. There is a groove to this that I can follow. It’s is melodic enough for me to want to shout along with the lyrics. In all fairness I really don’t need much more than that to get going. So not the most original album to ever be released but who cares. Originality can at times be overrated. As long as the music gets my heart pumping I really don’t care what it sounds like. I’ll take a hundred Amon Amarth clones over one single avant garde metal band that sound like shit. Anders Ekdahl
Primus – “Sailing The Seas Of Cheese” Deluxe Edition (UMC / Polydor)
If you’ve never heard of Primus before then you missed out on a whole world of weirdness ha ha! From the quirky bass slapping persona of founder Les Claypool to ex Possessed Larry LaLonde’s free wheelin’ guitar work, trying to pin a label on the band’s music would be one of the enigmas of the 90s – psychedelic polka rock was just one! “Sailing The Seas Of Cheese” was first released in ’91 and was the band’s major release debut, containing the hits “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” (my personal fave) and “Tommy The Cat” (featuring Tom Waits), both of which received heavy play on MTV with the album itself finally going platinum. Personally supervised by Claypool, this Deluxe re-release has been remixed in Dolby 5.1 Surround and has live bonus tracks of ‘American Life’ and ‘Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers’ as well as a bass nectar dub remix of ‘Here Come the Bastards’ – still as quirky as ever lol! Comparing it to my original album, the remix hasn’t dramatically added or removed any elements but instead fattened up the sound so you can hear a lot more to tracks like the rippling ‘Is It Luck’ as LaLonde’s guitar licks start to spiral around my mind – dammit, that’s enough weirdness – first time around was band enough! Available in an equally bewildering array of formats from yellow vinyl on randomly selected copies to two six-panel digipak configurations, the audio pack also has four different video streams with trippy looking visualizers, previously unpublished photos and new liner notes. Proof that Primus are still sailing the seas of cheese!
Anvil – “Hope In Hell” (Steamhammer / SPV)
And so the Anvil juggernaut continues….like Frankenstein’s monster resurrected by Sacha Gervasi in their infamous rockumentary, Canada’s never say die 80s metallers soldier on with perhaps their most prophetically titled album. Having ousted longtime bassist Glenn Five, Lips and Robb Reiner are now kicking out the jams with Sal Italiano (ex Cities and longtime Anvil fan friend) – and what can I say, against all the odds, Anvil’s comeback is tighter than ever before! Robb’s drumming is still par excellence – and now with monstrous cowbell – as Lips’s riffs continue to exploit every line in the metal bible of riffola as Sal adds his muscle into making a big bass sound. I’ve always wondered if Anvil were better off as a quartet but this line-up finally answers the question – no! The other thing that jumps out is that “Hope In Hell” is easily the band’s fastest and certainly most energetic album for a while. There’s a new vigor in songs like ‘The Fight Is Never Won’, ‘Call Of Duty’ and ‘Shut The Fuck Up’ – typical Anvil ha ha – but the band’s sound remains timeless and much as critics may find it hard to accept, Lips and Reiner are never gonna change so get over it people. Even more so, “Hope In Hell” is probably the album in recent years closest to those early 80s classics that the band churned out, and this gives us a higher hope that the band are firmly on course to top their legacy.
Immolation – “Kingdom Of Conspiracy” (Nuclear Blast Records)
If you love technical death metal then this will have you in rapture – as one of the original purveyors of this style these New York legends have been going since the mid 80s, having set the blueprint that many would follow in their wake. Deep growing vocals, awesomely fast technical drum work and most of all, Robert Vigna’s outstandingly complex riffs and fearsome technical solos that make him one of death metal’s greatest guitarists define songs like ‘Bound To Order’, ‘God Complex’ and ‘A Spectacle Of Lies’. Despite their ferocity, things have moved on decades later with the band lyrically shifting away from traditional DM concepts to deal with more societal issues ranging from state control to manipulation of the masses by the powerful elites – not to worry, it’s still dark folks ha ha! Likewise the music has also become more palatable, with careful arrangements and subtle melodies here and there skillfully handled by Vigna but in no way detracting from Immolation’s brutality – if anything they enhance it! Like the other technical death metal I rate – Nile – Immolation have masterfully taken their sound to push out the boundaries without weakening their core and “Kingdom Of Conspiracy” is their next outstanding release on their evolutionary journey.
A Pale Horse Named Death – “Lay My Soul To Waste” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Formed by Type O Negative drummer Sal Abruscato and skillfully aided by Seventh Void guitarist Matt Brown, A Pale Horse Named Death combines the best of 90s Brooklyn from the modern goth of Type O to the melancholy of Life Of Agony adding in the trippy self destruction of Alice In Chains in Abruscato’s vocals. Slow, haunting goth melodies matched by spacey harmonies form the backdrop to Brown’s slithering guitar work although the overall tempo has a fair amount of forward motion, so I wouldn’t call it doom by any means but heading into the dark waters of Danzig or even early White Zombie. There’s a definite swanky NY groove to those bands and A Pale Horse Named Death are no different, swaggering on monster songs like ‘Killer By Night’, ‘Devil Came With A Smile’ and ‘Shallow Grave’, all graced with a blackness that reaches into your soul to blissfully consume it from within.
Battle Beast – “Battle Beast” (Nuclear Blast)
These Finns literally burst onto the scene a few years back – not in the least courtesy of the steroided shrieks of femme vocalist Nitte Valo, who unbelievably left the band last year despite their triumphal march! Since then they have found Noora Louhimo so the obvious question on this follow up album is – is it “Steel” part 2…? Answer – No! Firstly the music itself has shifted away from Accept style anthemic metal that Nitte was so suited to a more melodic commercial rock metal very close in fact to the latest Lordi (who incidentally have gotten heavier themselves). As such Noora’s vocals are perfect for this, bringing her feminine cat purr vox to songs like ‘Out Of Control’ and ‘Into The Heart Of Danger’. Don’t get me wrong, she can certainly hit the high notes too, judging by the Manowar like ‘Fight Kill Die’ or the piercing ‘Black Ninja’ but I just don’t think Battle Beast need a constant air raid siren right now and in that respect, Noora’s tones fit more into the rest of the band than her predecessor’s. That aside, the central theme of catchy choruses, crunching riffs and blistering solos remains and the renewed line-up on this album has proved that it is still strong, wild and hungry as ever!
Gothminister – “Utopia” (AFM Records)
America has Marilyn Manson, Norway has Bjørn Alexander Brem – lawyer by day, Gothminister by nite! Tortured by the insanity of eventually being unable to separate this dark reality from imagination, “Utopia” is a concept album along with a feature length horror concert film reflecting the dark wave / goth music Brem composes, along with a hefty amount of theatrics. Laugh you may, but Gothminister have already released 4 albums and played Wave Gotik Treffen, M`Era Luna and the Schattenreich Festival in front of 10,000 people! Highly atmospheric to almost cinematic proportions, songs like ‘Someone Is After Me’, ‘All Alone’ and ‘Helldemon’ feature heaps of samples amidst a strong dance beat – with occasional blast beat flurries – atop of which Brem lays his goth vocals. Strangely no keyboardist is mentioned in the undead line up although they feature both prominently and throughout the album. Still, it’s a small question when what really impresses about Gothminister is that they are probably one of the few bands in their genre who concentrate as much on their music as they do on their make up.
Leprous – “Coal” (Inside Out Music)
Despite being around for over a decade, this Norwegian modern prog outfit are still only in their early twenties! But such is the lure of leprous that it has seen them being used as Ihsahn’s backing band, as well as touring with Opeth and Therion. Strangely enough, I wouldn’t say that Leprous resemble any of these groups, but highly talented musicians they are, and beautiful their music certainly is! From Einar Solberg’s superb angelic vocals (not to mention his keyboard talents) songs like ‘The Valley’, ‘Salt’ and the epic ‘Contaminate Me’ (with Ihsahn guesting on screams) possess an ambient, almost trance like feel on the one hand whilst at others are dark and melancholic. This is definitely not for those who like their music superficial as Leprous penetrate the layers of your subconscious with crunching bass lines, loads of splash cymbals, hypnotic vocals and amazing, far out melodies – including some cheeky Queen like fiddle work – to create moments of intensity balanced with the magnificence of tranquility.
Vektor – “Black Future” REISSUE (Earache Records)
Gotta admit, when I first saw the cover to “Black Future” I actually thought it was something from Voi Vod, but it is in fact a re-issue of Vektor’s 2009 debut on Heavy Artillery Records. Still, the Voi Vod comparisons are valid given some of the experimental breaks that Vektor undertake – fueled by classic post-apocalyptic films like ‘THX 1138’ and ‘Blade Runner’ – amidst their Teutonic inspired 80s thrash! Throat strained, spat vocals and even more shredding guitar played at break neck speed with dull, thudding drums courtesy of biscuit tin production immediately bring to my mind Kreator’s “Endless Pain”. Yet, some of the melodies are reminiscent of early Rush whilst the dual solos are almost Scandinavian so clearly there’s a lot more to this young Arizonian band whose name was inspired by a biology class. The other thing that’s noteworthy is that despite their obvious speed the actual length of the songs is pretty long (well at least by thrash stakes) which when coupled with the occasional use of space age sounds take Vektor well beyond your run of the mill garden thrashers to space galloping speedsters!
Darkfall – “Road To Redemption” (Noiseheadrecords)
Darkfall are a death / thrash band that have been going since the mid 90s when they were formed by vocalist Thomas Spiwak, who remains the sole founder over successive line up changes too numerous to mention. Well known in their native Austria as well as surrounding countries like Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic where they’ve toured over the years Darkfall are veritable road dogs, having played just about festival and venue you’d care to imagine – clearly they’re one of these bands that will play anywhere if you give ’em the chance. Musically they reflect their live show, meat n potatoes death / thrash with hoarse vocals a la Kreator, massive power riffs a la Testament and an even more aggressive rhythm a la Behemoth. Songs like ‘War Has Come’, ‘The Gods Await’ and ‘Never Ending Hate’ are clearly made for fist banging, crowd shout outs, and neck snapping headbanging. It’s not Metallica but it’s definitely music for muthas!