OSMIUM “The Misery Harvest”

“The Misery Harvest”
I’m a huge fan of Soundgarden and Black Sabbath. That the latter influenced the former there is no doubt about. So when a band comes along that bridge the gap between these two bands I can but not to love it. Osmium form New Zealand blew my socks off from the very first note I heard. This wasn’t like anything I had heard in very long time. With the heaviness of Black Sabbath (and any other band influenced by the GODS) and the melodic sensibility of Soundgarden this turned out to be a very fine amalgamation of heaviness and melodies. You might hear something completely different in the music but that is the charm of this album. Whether you like the heavy doomy end of the spectre or the more melodic side of things doomy you’ll find it here. If you fancy your music light-hearted and cheerful you’re in the wrong place. For the rest of us this could very well be the closest to doom heaven we’ll get this year. Anders Ekdahl

PIGEON TOE “The First Perception”

“The First Perception”
(LifeForce Records)
I’m no worse than I can appreciate a fine prog metal album. It just takes me a bit longer to get into it than with a full on blast of trad metal. German Pigeon Toe are new to me and even though they are seasoned musicians in their own right that doesn’t mean too much to me. What I like about prog metal is the use of contrasts. Where they go from the soft to the hard, from the simple to the complex. Pigeon Toe are no exception. The transitions floes effortlessly and you only have to sit back and enjoy the ride. This is no roller coaster ride. More like a pleasant trip down a country lane as dusk is about to settle. Modern reference points could be Opeth without the death metal bits’n’pieces. This gives me the same sort of joy listening to. Anders Ekdahl

SECRETPATH “The Wanderer”

“The Wanderer”
I liked Italian Secretpath’s previous demo. I found their clash of death and black to be quite enjoyable. With a new demo in my hand the expectations are higher this time. Will they be able to match or even surpass the previous one? Italian black metal is not my strong side. I haven’t heard too many bands of that ilk coming from the Italian metal scene. Those that have come my way have so far been worth my time. What I found strange was that I came to think of early Necrodeath when I heard this new demo the first time round. There is something to this band that I really like, especially their early stuff. Secretpath brought out that same feeling. For that they get plus points. This five tracker turned out to be everything I had hoped for and some more. This is (still) pretty cool death/black metal. Anders Ekdahl

SOLO SHOOTS FIRST “This Is The Famous”

“This Is The Famous”
Half the fun of doing this is to discover new acts, bands that you’d never hear of otherwise. To constantly be surprised by all the talent there is out there in metalville. Solo Shoots First are new to me and with that a blank slate. This is to my ears hardcore the way hardcore sounded in the late 90s/early 00s. I shouldn’t say thankfully but this is as far away from the modern metalcore as you can get. And while this might appeal to some of the more adventurous metalcore fans this should first and foremost appeal to those of us that miss out on good hardcore acts with a metallic edge. Solo Shoots First might at first have looked like another trend sucker but turned out a “well worth spending time on” band. Anders Ekdahl

SUBJECT MATTER “Smash The Mould”

“Smash The Mould”
At time a band comes along that you have no idea what to think off. Subject Matter is one of those bands. There’s a punky edge to their music that makes me think of 90s OC punk/hardcore (you know who I think of) as well as of a more bluesy hardrock band. Can’t get my head around this all the way. That I find myself nodding my head to the beat of this just adds to the overall confusion. This is not the kind of stuff that frequents my stereo on any kind of regular basis but I can’t help liking this. There is a charm to it that I don’t usually find in this kind of stuff. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it pop punk but there is that kinda vibes too in this. If I’d partied then this would be the kind of music I’d party to. Anders Ekdahl

SIMONE TERIGI “Rock Meditations”

“Rock Meditations”
I find it hard to have any sort of opinion on instrumental albums as they are so scarce in my collection. So whenever one comes along all I can do is take it in and try to enjoy it for what it is. “With “Rock Meditations” I just opened up my mind and let it embrace my senses. This is the kind of stuff that I could put on after work just to wind down from the stress of it all. That Italian Simone Terigi usually is found in the prog metal band Lucid Dream is hard to tell from this album. As a break from all the metal I’m flushed with this is a nice piece of time alone with myself. As a mental break this works wonders. Much more than I ever thought it would. For that alone I recommend it. Anders Ekdahl

TRIBUNE “Elder Lore – The Dark Arts”

“Elder Lore – The Dark Arts”
(Corpse Corrosion Records)
Canadian metal has always held a high standard. From the sappy Loverboy, the more traditional Triumph to Razor’s thrash to Rush’s progressive tendencies to today’s scene. If it’s Canadian you’re pretty damn sure that it will be of the highest quality. Not all is good though. Tribune are good and that’s an undisputable fact. This is what could be described as modern metal without it turning into any of that crap Nu Metal that Korn seemed to spawn. This is modern metal in that they mix different styles of metal to make for their own cohesive one. You get good old thrash mixed with melodic metal mixed with the death-ier side of things. This is one impressive album. One that will spin often on my stereo. Anders Ekdahl

Axel Rudi Pell – “Circle Of The Oath”

Axel Rudi Pell – “Circle Of The Oath” (Steamhammer/SPV)

Aha – the Teutonic master of melodic rock metal returns in fine style with his trademark heart wrenching melodies and tear jerking harmonies! “Circle Of The Oath” is Pell’s 15th album no less, and Steamhammer / SPV have spared no expense in offering it in 4 different formats from standard Jewel Case to Digipack (CD plus bonus live track + poster) to double LP (Gatefold, printed inner sleeves, colored blue marbled vinyl) to a limited edition boxset (2 LPs, Digi, Poster, Sticker, Postcard, + 2 more gimmicks). Joining him on bass is his old friend Volker Krawczak – arguably the foundation on which Axel’s sound is built upon, ex Hardliner Johnny Gioeli whose vocals bring a late 70s US rock style into the mix, keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg (who worked with Helloween, Holy Moses, and Therion), and mighty Mike Terrana (Rage, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony MacAlpine, Steve Lukather etc) on the pounding drums! Musically I tend to think of ARP as a more melodic, almost rock equivalent to Dio (or a metalized version of Rainbow – Ed), which I guess is no truer than on the closer ‘World Of Confusion’ or even the slow ballad ‘Lived Our Lives Before’, with it’s bluesy Blackmore-esque solos. However, for me, ARP is best defined by his fast power rockers like my personal fave ‘Run With The Wind’ that show Axel’s prowess as a guitarist who can hold his own onstage against the likes of Ulrich Roth on 40 minute solos! Whatever your view though, 30 years on this German musical legend is still going strong and in fine form – Axel Rudi Pell, I salute you for not breaking your oath!!

Moonspell – “Alpha Noir”

Moonspell – “Alpha Noir” (Napalm Records)

Moonspell are Portugal’s premier metal band. When I first saw them in the mid 90s they were a blackish metal band, and since then they’ve evolved more towards goth metal and these days into a self described ‘dark metal’ band who owe their influences as much towards the Sisters Of Mercy as much as to Type O Negative. “Alpha Noir” is probably their most ambitious project in their career, not in the least because the special edition will contain a twin album – “Omega White” – that contains material especially dedicated to those aforementioned bands! “Alpha Noir” itself is an incendiary album to say the least with raw, growling vocals mixed with neo gothic metallic riffs and a pounding rhythm topped off with dark keyboard atmospherics and haunting melodies on songs like ‘Love Is Blasphemy’, ‘Axis Mundi’ and the decadently titled ‘Lickanthrope’. Although by no means original, Moonspell have had the best part of two decades to work this style to perfection and the result is no better captured than on this exquisite album that exudes sophistication but not without savagery!

Crystal Viper – “Excepta”

Crystal Viper – “Excepta” (AFM Records)

Fronted by vocalist / guitarist Marta Gabriel, this Polish HM act have shifted from the power metal in their previous album “Legends” to traditional heavy metal on “Excepta” with huge doses of Iron Maiden right from the Bomber ‘arris twanging bass right thru to the Murrayesque riffs judging by songs like ‘The Spell Of Death’ and ‘It’s Your Omen’. Ironically, it’s Marta’s voice that is the exception being rawer and of course feminine compared to Mr Dickinson, although it certainly doesn’t lack any less power! Crystal Viper also try to show more versatility on this release, offering an HM cover of Vader’s ‘Tyrani Piekiel’ (‘Tyrants Of Hell’), an extra (album only) cover of Demon’s classic ‘Night Of The Demon’, and a power rock ballad in ‘Ghosts Of Sherwood’ which will be the theme song for the forthcoming 3D cinema horror movie “Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood” – the harmony choral of which reminds me of REM’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ LOL!