NIGHTQUEEN “For Queen And Metal”

NIGHTQUEEN
“For Queen And Metal”
(Massacre Records)
I am of the persuasion that if a label is ready to spend money on your music/promotion then you can’t be that bad a band. There is no way that a label like Massacre signs a band with the intention of losing money on it. With than in mind and the fact that I’ve already interviewed Nightqueen I have pretty high expectation on finally getting to hear this album in its proper shape. Call this symphonic metal. Call it female fronted metal. All I know is that this is some pretty cool metal. I like the fact that Nightqueen doesn’t come off too cheesy. It could easily have been a cliché party but they manage to keep it true. There is an atmosphere to this album that keeps reminding me of stuff I like. I find this one hard to resist. Another Belgian band that gets my two thumps up. Anders Ekdahl

SHEAR “Breaking The Silence”

SHEAR
“Breaking The Silence”
(LifeForce Records)
I have nothing but respect for the Finnish metal scene. As with the Swedish I ravel over how many new acts that keeps popping up. It’s like there is a band behind every tree in the Finnish forests. Shear might not have the greatest and most eye-popping name but just by being Finnish you kinda know that this will be, if not great at least good. You gotta hand it to the Finns. They sure know how to play heavy metal. Shear is nothing but heavy metal. Kinda makes me think of Synergy (Kimberly Goss) but I also wander across the Baltic Sea to Sweden and bands like All Ends and One Without that tries to take metal to another level. This is so metal that you need an extra barrel to carry it all. This is just as good as I expected, perhaps a tad better than that too. All in all another top notch metal release from the land of the thousand lakes. Anders Ekdahl

THORNIUM “Dominions Of The Eclipse”

THORNIUM
“Dominions Of The Eclipse”
(Soulseller)
Thornium was one of the first second wave of Swedish black metal bands that I got into. I managed to track down their first album in a local record store and I was so pleased with myself for having found it. The music wasn’t perhaps what I had expected but at that time this whole aggressive black metal style was pretty new to me and it took some time getting used to it. Originally released in 1995 this proved to be a whole different beast to the stuff I was used to. I can’t say that it impressed me that much back then. There was something to it that didn’t strike a nerve in me. I thought it was a bit too primitive in sound. Today I can appreciate it better for what it is. There are some really good tracks on this disc and for most part it is a good black metal album. For a debut it was/is decent. As a testament to a black metal scene in being it serves as a fine document. Anders Ekdahl

Cannibal Corpse – “Torture”

Cannibal Corpse – “Torture” (Metal Blade)

Last of the great old school death metal bands, and still goin with OG’s Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz, this Buffalo crew have boldly gone where others have feared to tread – staying true to that classic death metal style and in doing so earned the respect and admiration of fans the world over as being at the forefront of death metal. Interestingly on “Torture” they have gone right back to their early albums, but befitting their years of experience, instead fine tuned that original style to make songs like ‘Followed Home Then Killed’, ‘Intestinal Crank’ and ‘As Deep As the Knife Will Go’ even more nasty and evil but in a sorta sophisticated way with better musicianship – check out those bone crunching bass runs from Webster and man, George now sounds even more guttural just like Barnes used to, but in his own kinda special way! A big shout must go out to Erik Rutan who has delivered A1 production as per his usual high standard, and really worked these guys to create an album that is uber death metal par excellence – I can’t wait to hear these ditties live cos they will be ripping apart mosh pits! If you wonder how after 24 years these veterans are still able to stand their ground against younger bands then look no further than “Torture”, cos it’s 12 amped up songs from the original so solid crew who still remain true to their hack n slash roots.

Touchstone – “Mad Hatters – Enhanced / Discordant Dreams / Wintercoast”

Touchstone – “Mad Hatters – Enhanced / Discordant Dreams / Wintercoast” REISSUES (Steamhammer / SPV)

No, this isn’t some forgotten band from the mists of time but a very happening British neo prog / melodic metal band whose opening slot at London’s High Voltage Festival in 2010 was enough for Zakk Wylde to comment ‘..Great set – you guys will never be 1st on again!..’. Prior to that, the band released no less than an EP, 2 albums and a double live opus before signing to SPV / Steamhammer! Prior to releasing their much anticipated third studio album, “The City Sleeps”, due out in October, SPV have done the canny thing of reissuing their previous albums. Beginning with “Mad Hatters”, which was Touchstone’s first release, this EP has been remastered and as a bonus features 2 live tracks recorded in Philadelphia and taken from the aforementioned “Live In The USA”album. Listening to the likes of ‘Misguided Fool’, there is a strong Genesis / Pink Floyd influence although the hard rock certainly does give it a hard edge, not to mention the female co-vocal, which adds a touch of Fleetwood Mac in there too! Moving on to “Discordant Dreams” songs like ‘Being Hannah’ mix Simple Minds with Asia’s harmonies whereas ‘Original Sin’ on the “Wintercoast” album mixes the likes of Yes with funky new world Rush! Tremendous diversity indeed, captured by excellent composing and executed by nigh on perfect musical delivery, it’s easy to see why Zakk Wylde felt the heat that day in the park.

Sleepy Hollow – “Skull 13”

Sleepy Hollow – “Skull 13” (Pure Steel Records)

Bob Mitchell. Now there’s a name. Man, this guy coulda been, and shoulda been up there with Eric Adams, John Oliva and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth! This Jersey City hardass kinda reminds me of England’s equivalent to Brian Ross, having played in a number of underground US Metal acts such as Warloc, Attacker, Vyndykator, Nighthunter and of course Sleepy Hollow. Formed at the end of the 80s, they were one of the first US power / doom metal bands and although only releasing their infamous ’89 Demo’ and self titled album in ’91, created quite a stir on the East Coast opening for the likes of Savatage, Manowar, Trouble, Pantera and Whiplash, as well as reaching cult status in Europe. Shame therefore, that by ’93 they were pretty much burned out and Bob retired the band, going on to become a ring announcer in wrestling no less! History lesson over and 20 years on, Bob has now reunited Sleepy Hollow with it’s original line-up of Steve Stegg (guitars), Steve Brink (bass guitars) and Tommy Wassman (drums) and “Skull 13” is their comeback album. And what a ripper it is too! It’s like nothing has changed since the 80s: same sound, same guys and amazingly, Bob’s voice is still the same as I remember it, like a cross between Udo Dirkschneider, TT Quick’s Mark Tornillo and Metal Church’s Dave Wayne. Musically there’s loads of Judas Priest, along with some Savatage and Riot on songs like ‘Death Of A Horseman’, ‘Face Melter’ and the aptly titled ‘The Legend Retold’. This is an amazing comeback for the man and it’s a true honor to be graced by such a genuine metal hero.

The Union – “Siren’s Song”

The Union – “Siren’s Song” (Payola Music)

The Union is the collaboration between ex Thunder guitarist Luke Morley and vocalist Pete Shoulder – a man who has the notable distinction of being one of only three Brits (the other two being Eric Clapton and Peter Green) to win the prestigious W.C. Handy Blues Foundation award. Needless to say blues rock is what they play (thought u were gonna say death metal LOL – Ed) whether it’s incorporating at times gospel on ‘Cut The Line’ or the driving blues riffs on ‘Burning Daylight’ or a funky 70s Zepp groove on ‘Blame It On Tupelo’. Besides his obvious blues capability, Shoulder also shows his vocal versatility on the light country acoustic of ‘Make Up Your Mind’ and the more heavier Black Crowes like ‘Black Gold’, while being perfectly complemented by Morley’s riffing and slide guitar work, which comes into its own on ‘Time’. With bonus and live tracks completing “Siren’s Song”, it’s nice to see that the 14 tracks bear witness to the musical excellence between these two gentlemen, whose talent goes well beyond their credentials.

Desultor – “Master of Hate”

Desultor – “Master of Hate” (Abyss Records)

Holy f–k, how fast is this album!?! With names like Mack Murder (Guitar & vocals) and Ragnar Rage (Bass), odd man out is drummer Michael Ibrahim and its little wonder he’s drumming so fast – just to get away from the other two I imagine cos they call this Murder Metal LOL!!! This is an album of contrasts characterized by hyper speed technical death riffing mixing melodic virtuoso soloing, Halford-esque vocals that combine soulful with death with screaming – and of course, that aforementioned relentless double bass precision drumming. Even weirder are the songs themselves, like ‘Black Monday’, ‘Division Insane’ or ‘The Luxury Of Pain’, which times are ambient or melodic, yet with this underlying brutality that somehow Desultor pull off, just like their ancient ancestors from which their name derives, that of a skilled charioteer who would leap between galloping horses! An awesome album and musical accomplishment, this is extreme metal supreme bar none!

Ivory Gates – “The Devil’s Dance”

Ivory Gates – “The Devil’s Dance” (MS Metal Records)

Search for something and tell us? Hmmm, how about Fates Warning? With a tinge of Queensryche in the Geoff Tate vocals? Well, no matter as these Brazillians play a decidedly modern progressive heavy metal – with a special emphasis on heavy! From Hugo Mazzotti’s crunching bass to Matheus Armelin’s heavy riffs, songs like ‘Beyond The Black’ and ‘Under The Sky Of Illusions’ form the perfect backdrop for Felipe Travaglini’s clean, wailing vocals and Fabrício Félix’s technical drumming. If this wasn’t a showcase in musical dexterity then the epic 21 minute closer ‘Suite Memory’ will leave no doubt in your mind, bringing back memories of those early Rush days of lengthy multi section concertos, tempting even the devil himself to dance LOL.

ANGUISH

Swedish doom is a well known force to reckon with inside the charred walls of metal. Think Candlemass, Count Raven as well as Draconian and you get a pretty broad picture of what the Swedish melancholia can do to you. Anguish is another of these sad and mellow mindsets put to music. Being a Swede I have this inherent in my genes. I might seem odd to some Mediterranean European, but it makes me happy listening to sad music. The sadder, more doomier the better I feel. No, I’m not some sort of masochist. I am Swedish. So when I heard Anguish’s album “Through The Archdemon’s Head” it made me feel like I’d won a million on Lotto. This is so sad and heavy that I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven, or pretty close to heaven at least. I feel like I can carry the burden of the World on my shoulders so why not an interview with them. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

Let us start with the standard question of why doom metal? What’s so special about it?
-You can put in much more feeling into doom metal than for example death metal.

How important is it to have a band name that fits the mood of the music?
-It’s for the listener, who after has read the band title, can predict what the music and lyrics are about.

When you write music do you have to weed out bits pieces that wouldn’t fit or does writing music for Anguish come as easy as your ABC?
-Not exactly like that, but we do pick out the best parts, but it is not very much parts that have been erased.

How much of an effortless chore was it to record the album? Do you enjoy the whole studio experience?
-It’s really boring when you have done all your parts, to just sit there and wait for all the other members to play their parts. But after all, I do enjoy being in the studio.

How do you distinguish yourself from all the other doom metal bands with an album out there trying to be heard?
-I don’t know how they do, but we trust in the label to do all the promotion, and Dark Descent are very good to promote our album.

What kind of world domination agenda have you mapped out now that the album is done?
-Now we are just waiting for Doomsday 21 december 2012.

Sweden’s been quite leading in doom ever since that first Candlemass album. Can you benefit from that when you try to expose the band to the international metal scene, in that being Swedish is synonymous with quality?
-I can’t say Swedish is synonymous with quality, just take a look at Trouble from Chicago, professional musicians who plays quality Doom Metal. Or Black Sabbath from Birmingham, which are the biggest Doom metal band in the world.

I guess every Swedish town with any sort of pride has a metal scene. Whats it like in your hometown?
-Mostly Death metal like Degial, Invidious, Reveal, Veternus, Graveless. And some thrash, like Die Hard. Then of course Watain. I think it is some glam/sleeze and other shitty bands here too.

Swedish towns are not exactly known for catering to the music fans with loads of places to play. What kind of live scene are you a part of?
-There are some small places where you can play, like clubs and so on. I’m not a part of it.

Are you the one to carry the banner of Swedish doom high now that Candlemass are on its swansong?
-Yes, but Anguish and Candlemass are not the only ones who plays Doomsday music in the cold north.