“Total Depravity”
From the first note I thought that this was going to be a total Entombed rip-off but it turned out to be a bit more original than that. This is heavy death metal with a slight Swedish touch. Perhaps along the lines of Grave in their heavier moments. That only brings along nice memories. And nice memories you can’t have too many of, even if it is death metal you reminiscence about. Continue reading

Virgin Steele – “Age Of Consent”

Virgin Steele – “Age Of Consent” REMASTER (Steamhammer / SPV)

Originally released in the late 80s, this was ‘barbarian romantic’ metallers Virgin Steele 4th album although described by vocalist Dave DeFeis as ‘…the one that got away..it was sent out without any promotion or fanfare (and) many people were completely unaware of its existence…’. Given that, DeFeis has gone outta the way this time round to do this album justice by firstly re-mastering all the songs resplendent in two formats: double digipak incl. new booklet with rare photos and new liner notes by David DeFeis; Double digipak incl. new booklet with rare photos and new liner notes by David DeFeis. Naturally, there is wealth of bonus material, which is worth buying for in itself as it perfectly encapsulates the sheer breadth and depth of Virgin Steele’s talent and musical dexterity from the early Slayeresque thrasher ‘The Curse’ to the 70s hard rock cover of Bloodrock’s ‘Breach Of Lease’ to an epic take of Priest’s ‘Screaming For Vengeance’. Elsewhere, there is an acoustic and somewhat melancholic version of ‘Noble Savage’ and the dark, romantic piano composition of ‘Under The Graveyard Moon’, written by DeFeis only in August 2011. With a total of 23 monumental tracks, this re-issue not only puts to rest any historical unfinished business, but serves as a definitive compilation for anyone wanted to check out the wonders and majesty of a band who inspired the likes of Queensryche and Metallica no less.

The 11th Hour – “Lacrima Mortis”

The 11th Hour – “Lacrima Mortis” (Napalm Records)

The 11th Hour is a Dutch/Swedish collaboration between 2 death metal veterans Ed Warby, known mainly for his work as the drummer for Gorefest and Hail of Bullets, and Rogga Johansson, the man behind countless bands such as Paganizer, Ribspreader and The Grotesquery. Together, they made 2009’s doom release of the year in “Burden of Grief”, a bleak concept album about the last days of a man dying from a lung disease. Laden with funeral doom, a morbid sound and contrasted by some of the most beautifully melancholic melodies ever, it was hauntingly captivating. As such, “Lacrima Mortis”, which describes the last tear shed by a dying person, is their long awaited follow up – and not without controversy given Rogga’s absence owing to illness. As such, Officium Triste’s (and also 11th Hour live) vocalist Pim Blankenstein stepped in to provide the brutal, guttural roars. Musically, while tracks like ‘Rain On Me’, ‘We All Die Alone’ and ‘Nothing But Pain’ continue in the same plodding, mournful style, the overall sound has shifted somewhat from funeral to a more gothic / death / doom sound (well beyond Paradise Lost at their heaviest) with keyboards now providing more of a share of the melodies, which thankfully remain rich and textured throughout. Ironically, this may have arisen as a result of the band’s unexpected success on the live circuit but whatever the case, it’s still an incredibly crushing experience that will not leave you unmoved.

Wolfsbane – “Wolfsbane Save The World”

Wolfsbane – “Wolfsbane Save The World” (www.wolfsbanehms.com)

Famed thru singer Blaze Bayley after he joined Maiden back in the 90s, Wolfsbane had a short if illustrious life of 3 albums before finally impoding in 1994. Now, 17 years on, Blaze has rejoined the original line up and this self produced album of ‘don’t give a fuckery’ is the result – and a fine effort it is too! Engineered by guitarist Jase Edwards, the first real challenge after so long must’ve been of recapturing the band’s classic sound of traditional British rock mixed in with a healthy dose of Brit eccentricity. Thankfully, Wolfsbane have plenty of British pride and haven’t let the side down with all the band showing fine form on songs like ‘Blue Sky’, ‘Live Before I Die’ and ‘Did It For The Money’. With the country going thru hard times and so many things wrong, Wolfsbane have sensibly stuck to the basics and play it like the HMSs (that’s Howling Mad Shitheads) that we know them for – yeah, in an uncertain world it’s nice to know that we can still count on Blaze & co to save our miserable asses!

Anvil – “Strength Of Steel” / “Pound For Pound” / “Worth The Weight”

Anvil – “Strength Of Steel” / “Pound For Pound” / “Worth The Weight” REISSUES (Steamhammer / SPV)

By now this Canadian band need no introduction: having cried welfare thru their 2008 rockumentary “Anvil! The Story Of Anvil” – the highest grossing rock documentary in UK rock history I might add – these guys found a new lease of life and things certainly look rosy with their latest album “Juggernaut Of Justice”. Capitalizing upon this have been the inevitable cash ins and with a mega compilation already being released by Sony, SPV have made a prudent move to re-release (in gate fold colored vinyl no less) Anvil’s 4th, 5th and 6th studio albums. With songs featured in the rockumentary like ‘Toe Jam’ and ‘Mad Dog’, these were crucial albums in what should’ve been Anvil’s career development. However, it was not to be and it’s easy to see why second time around in my case: while showcasing enviable musical dexterity, the 29 songs when listened to back to back simply blur into one endless speed metal succession. Not a problem, except that none of the material compares to any of that on the suavely produced Forged In Fire”, let alone the mighty meaty “Metal On Metal”, which remains Anvil’s finest hour. I dunno what happened, but the classics that remain the backbone of Anvil’s live set stopped coming and so too did the fans like myself. I’m not sure if it would’ve been financially viable, but the band should’ve considered a ‘best of’ albeit made up of selected tracks to be re-recorded, which might’ve given them a new lease of life. As they stand, these re-releases are purely for the collector, everyone else would do better saving their shekels seeking these releases in the bargain bins – no doubt there’s plenty of copies.

Metal For Cancer – “Let’s Unite In Rock”

Metal For Cancer – “Let’s Unite In Rock” (www.metalforcancer.com)

No, it’s not some kinda sick joke: the Metal For Cancer Dragon Slayer All Star Project was founded by Australian based Neo Classical and Power metal musician Richard Ofsoski, after the passing of his wife due to cancer. Being by Cheryl’s side every step of the way and witnessing the battle had a profound effect on Richard, who was determined to do something, and so MFC became his crusade. Harnessing support from Swedish musician Henrik Flyman of Evil Masquerade, the two produced the track ‘Let’s Unite In Rock’, which is very Dio sounding – and what better inspiration could one want, given his association with a similar charitable cause – Hear ‘n’ Aid – in the 80s. With 100% of the proceeds going to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, MFC have produced an excellent song, for a worthy cause, and inspired by a legend.

Take The Seven – “Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious”

Take The Seven – “Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious” (www.taketheseven.com)

Kicking off the new year in thankfully mellow style comes this promising band from the heart of England. Essentially playing soft punk pop, the real clincher of TTS are their unashamed melodies and harmonies on tracks like ‘Through The Crossfire’, ‘History Is Written By The Victors’ and ‘Duchess’. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they are almost AOR, especially in the guitarwork, reminding me a lot of late 80s US bands like Tyketto in those passionate melodies. Despite the heavy sounding titles of their songs, there seems to be an unpretentious, easy going nature to the band in matching their music so TTS offer a lotta promise in the making.