Deep Black Sees – “Inside Outside”

Deep Black Sees
“Inside Outside”
(Rising Records)

Influenced by the 3P’s of Pink Floyd, PFM and Porcupine Tree, it comes as no surprise that this Sicilian band are the latest discovery of famed producer Sylvia Massey (System Of A Down, Tool, REM etc). Essentially an eclectic band fusing Progressive/Psychedelic/Ambient with rock and metal, DBS produce as you can imagine a variety of sounds ranging from 70s Hammond organ to piano to beast vocals on songs like ‘Ashes From My Eyes’, ‘Soul Freedom’ and ‘Weeping Tears’. Whilst the initial perception may be one of another Ulver, Enslaved or Opeth, these guys are are actually far more straightforward, combining only a coupla elements here and there without loosing the overall structure of the song – or its heaviness for that matter – and they have a very West Coast sound that undoubtedly Massey would’ve cottoned onto, hence their high profile gigs in San Francisco preceding their signing onto Rising!

Skin The Pig – “Article XIX”

Skin The Pig
“Article XIX”
(Big Out Records/Antropine)

These guys are originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland, and the contrast in their music is a poignant reflection of that troubled city which can go from relative normality to riots, bombs and bullets in hours! Tranquil harmonies and soft emo core vocals soon give way to hoarse vocals and chundering mega metal riffs reminiscent of At The Gates or even Metallica on songs like ‘I Rise, You Fall’, ‘Shadows Of Broken Wings’ and the moving ‘Yet Nameless’. Eleven years of experience has given these affable piglets the edge in controlling this beast of a band who present you with a rose before kicking your ass!

Bitch – “Be My Slave / Damnation Alley”

“Be My Slave / Damnation Alley”
CD/DVD (Metal Blade)

Infamous on 80s Sunset Strip for their outrageous S&M shows that eventually got them targeted by Tipper Gore’s equally infamous PMRC (Parents Music Resource Centre) resulting in their ensuing “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” stickers, it’s easy to discount Bitch (and many did). Despite all this, Bitch were the first female fronted metal band to get signed to a label, “Damnation Alley” being Metal Blade’s first non compilation release and more importantly, the band played alongside the likes of WASP, Armoured Saint and even had Slayer and Metallica open for them! Now, almost 30 years later and Betsy Weiss (aka Betsy Bitch) is still going and it seems fitting that these long forgotten albums are given a dust off and spruce up by original engineer and producer Bill Metoyer, a legend in his own right! With an almost nihilistic punk sound, even the remaster does nothing to tart up Betsy’s raw amped vocals, the distorted guitar of David Carruth or the pummeling rhythm on the 16 tracks like ‘Heavy Metal Breakdown’ or the sleeze n roll ‘Leather Bound’ or the freight train chugging ‘World War III’. Don’t be expecting any finesse here, angry tracks like ‘Saturday’ were reflective of a lifestyle that defined the underground sound of early 80s LA, in turn inspiring (one way or the other) teenagers like Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. Trivia fans will note that a long lost track that even the band had forgotten in the form of air punching ‘Let’s Go’ is also included having been discovered by Metoyer whilst rummaging thru the tapes! Of course, the bonus DVD (supervised by co founder David Carruth) is the coup de grace comprising of 10 live tracks like ‘Skullcrusher’ from the band’s extensive library of videotaped shows as well as 2 music videos. All in all, a mother of a package and with Betsy still strutting the strip, one way or the other, the bitch is back.

Ilium – “Genetic Memory”

“Genetic Memory”
(Escape Music)

Man, you can’t go wrong with a vocalist like Mike DiMeo. Ex Riot, ex Masterplan, this dude’s vocals rock! And now he’s found the next platform for his talents in the form of Aussie band Ilium, who themselves have been thru many changes since their inception in 1998. Musically it’s not a million miles from Riot with power mixed in with metal and of course, heaps of guitar driven melodies like on the amazing ‘Ephemeral’, ‘Grey Stains The Rainbow’ and ‘The Immortality Gene’. At times quiet, whilst during others fast n furious, Ilium are always spell bounding on the 11 tracks on this excellent album!

Powerwolf – “Blood Of The Saints”

“Blood Of The Saints”
(Metal Blade)

‘…we are damned at midnight, sanctified with dynamite..’ – I love these guys LOL! With just the right mix of singalong melodic metal and a truly fun live show they are always majestic thanks to the classical operatic vocals of Attila Dorn. Hailing from Romania, there seems an almost natural obsession with werewolves , which when coupled with the musicianship of the German Greywolf brothers (!) comes across as a mixture of Transylvania meets Iron Maiden meets Lordi on songs like ‘Dead Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘All We Need Is Blood’ and ‘Murder At Midnight’. Touring heavily this year with this all important 4th album, be sure to catch them in the full moon when their blood is up and their teeth are sharpest!

Lock Up – “Necropolis Transparent”

Lock Up
“Necropolis Transparent”
(Nuclear Blast)

Long awaited since their last album comes the latest release from death noise super group Lock Up comprising Shane Embury, Nick Barker, Tomas Lindberg and new boy Anton Reisenegger of Chile’s Pentagram following the sad passing of Jesse Pintado. Aptly titled, this album is extreme in every sense from Lindberg’s almost hardcore screams, Barker’s relentless blast beat drumming and Embury’s brutal bass runs that take us back to the early days of death metal on the 16 unforgiving songs herein like ‘Roar Of A Thousand Throats’, ‘Anvil Of Flesh’ and ‘Vomiting Evil’. It might’ve been 8 years since we last heard from these guys, but they have returned with a furor that few peer bands can match nor a passion for their roots that many have long forgotten. Total decimation!

Iron Lamb – “The Original Sin”

Iron Lamb
“The Original Sin”
(Pulverised Records)

Utter mayhem. Rock n roll meets punk meets Swe-death in this incredible crossover that piles in Motorhead with Dismember with Poison Idea! Featuring veterans from the Swedish Extreme Metal community such as Johan Wallin (General Surgery, ex-Repugnant, etc), Thomas Daun (Dismember, ex-Insision, etc), Daniel Ekeroth (ex-Dellamorte, author of “Swedish Death Metal” book) and Grga Lindström (Ghost, ex-Repugnant), songs like ‘Dubious Preacher’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Like You’ and ‘I Don’t Like You’ leave a trail of destruction that few punk bands with could hope to match musically. Add in the nihilistic attitude and samples from classic movies like ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘The Warriors’ and it’s the end complete from these sheep with brains!

Anterior – “Echoes of the Fallen”

“Echoes of the Fallen”
(Metal Blade Records)

To me Anterior are one of the success stories of our new found technological age: formed in school at the tender age of 17, this Welsh band came to worldwide attention largely thru social networking. That’s not saying they’re not good – far from it in fact. Anterior take the original Gothenburg melodic death sound, polish it up and then add in a touch of metalcore on songs like ‘Sleep Soundly No More’, ‘Blood In The Throne Room’ and ‘Echoes Of The Fallen’. The melodies are what make Anterior to me: deep and meaningful, as well as being executed brilliantly by the twin guitars of Leon Kemp and Steven Nixon, sometimes melancholic a la Paradise Lost, or else epic and driving like At The Gates. By no means original, Anterior do however, offer a fresh and invigorating quality to a classic sound, and to a new generation. Given it’s been 4 long years since their debut, I’m glad Anterior have returned with such a strong sophomore in “Echoes of the Fallen”, which shows they are very much alive and kicking!

Van Canto – “Break The Silence”

Van Canto
“Break The Silence”
(Napalm Records)

Indeed – how can one ignore this unique sextet who amazingly use their voices to deliver the sounds of guitars, bass and keyboards! Beginning five years ago, “Hero Metal A Cappella“ was born, as well as the battle cry “Rakkatakka Motherfucker“, which turned into a catch phrase among open-minded metal and music fans around the world. Since then Van Canto have been anything but silent by touring constantly – their Wacken show going out to some 20 million YouTube viewers – and having seen them at a bursting to the seams show at RockTower, I can vouch for their performance cos it’s having 5 frontmen in your face! Musically, Van Canto play (or mebbe I should say sing!) a brand of epic metal, passionate and rousing listening to the likes of ‘Black Winds Of Hate’, where Inga’s wailing femme vox offer an excellent contrast to her male counterparts. Although still in the learning on their own material, Van Canto always offer superior covers and on this 4th album, they offer nothing less than an excellent war drum version of Sabaton’s ‘Primo Victoria’ featuring Sabbaton frontman Joakim Broden, a sexy rock out version of Alice Cooper’s ‘Bed of Nails’, and a deeply emotional ‘Master of the Wind’ by Manowar no less. Definitely worth a look live, this latest opus is sure to garner them even more exposure worldwide!

Sinner – “One Bullet Left”

“One Bullet Left”
(AFM Records)

Holy crap, I almost did a double take when I heard the likes of ‘Back On Trail’ or ‘Mend To Be Broken’, thinking it was the latest Thin Lizzy album so uncanny were the riffs and even the vocals of Matt Sinner! Since the 80s, Sinner have been a mainstay in Germany’s hard n heavy scene although Matt’s more recent involvement with the likes of Primal Fear are likely where most people place him these days. However, “One Bullet Left” is something else, excelling in every sense of it’s title with passion and fury thanks to the bands turbo charged 3 guitar line up! As such even ballads like ‘Suicide Mission’ are gutsy and balls out without losing their passion, just the way hard rock should sound! Complete with a clean n big sound mix, “One Bullet Left” shows that Matt Sinner still has plenty of rounds left in his arsenal!