SHY “S/T”

SHY
“Shy”
(Escape)
I’m old enough to remember Shy’s debut album “Once Bitten… Twice Shy”. Not that I remember too much of it but I still have memories of it. That was in the early 80s. Now it is 2011. Is Shy still relevant even to an modern hardrock audience? Continue reading

SINCERA “Cursed And Proud”

SINCERA
“Cursed And Proud”
(Abyss)
I think I remember Fester. I know I bought that first Fester album simply because it was released on No Fashion Records, along with Marduk’s first album. Sincera is as far as I understand some sort of continuation of Fester. I had kind of expected a more retro oriented album but this turned out to be quite contemporary in its dark/black metal approach. Continue reading

SINGLE BULLET THEORY “IV”

SINGLE BULLET THEORY
“IV”
(Goomba)
There is a certain charm to the band name Single Bullet Theory. It is a statement of intent if any. I kind of expected Single Bullet Theory to be along the lines of Machine Head’s debut album but this turned out to be something totally different, yet equally good. Continue reading

Fornost Arnor – “The Death Of A Rose”

Fornost Arnor
“The Death Of A Rose”
(Witch-King Records)

Not quite as insane as The Dillinger Escape Plan but still well off the wall comes England’s Fornost Arnor who aren’t named after some quaint little village covered in roses, but a city from Tolkien’s Middle Earth! Thankfully they don’t sing about Orcs either but seem to have drawn inspiration from the likes of Opeth in producing epic musical experiences – in this case fusing blackish riffs a la Emperor and Mouth Of Sauron vocals coupled with prog melodies, acoustics, soft passages and even femme vocals. It’s quite an achievement and largely pulled off by founder Greg Chivers’s potent song writing and excellent arrangements in using each musical style (technically delivered excellently by the rest of the band I might add) on majestic songs like ‘Lady Heresy’, ‘Path Marked Unknown’ and ‘Aspire For The Darkest Hour’. As you are swept on this captivating journey by the 8 tracks on “The Death Of A Rose” you’ll visualize rolling green fields, spell bounding lakes and haunting fiery mountains – on second thoughts, mebbe Fornost Arnor have indeed taken you to Middle Earth!

Speed Limit – “Unchained / Prophecy”

Speed Limit
“Unchained / Prophecy” 2CD REISSUE
(Karthago Records)

Despite being neighbors to the mighty metal market of Germany, little is known other than to connoisseurs, about the early 80s Austrian metal market? Well Speed Limit were one of the forerunners, beginning in the late 70s, releasing their debut “Unchained” in the mid 80s and its follow up “The Prophecy” in 1988. As with many metal bands, the 90s heralded a dark period and Speed Limit tried to go with the flow by becoming more hard rock before splitting in 1994. In 2008 they made their comeback reunion and have been playing in the HM Division 2 mainly around central Europe. However, with time both their aforementioned albums have become collectors items, so as part of their 25th anniversary both albums have been reissued in a double CD, complete with 16 page booklet containing the usual rare pix etc. The 15 tracks pretty much capture the history of the band, from the Accept sounding ‘Marriage In Hell’ to the melodic metal of ‘Lady’ to the drippy AOR of ‘No Lies’ to a bizarre drunken rendition of ‘My Bonnie’ (a tribute to tour mates Nazareth?)! It’s miles away from the likes of Belphegor which is ironic as Hell Lennart used to play in Speed Limit but if you desire to enter the Austrian metal mists of time then look no further than this bumper package!

The Browning – “Burn This World”

The Browning
“Burn This World”
(Earache Records)

Straight outta big D (Dallas) comes The Browning – strange name whether it’s from one of the band members streets or the firearms company! Even stranger still is the band’s sound – a mixture of metal and electronica or ‘ravecore’ as they are now being labelled by their fans. Hoarse vocals and chopping riffs are accompanied by electronic trance rhythms on songs like ‘Tragedy Of Perfection’, ‘Dominator’ and ‘Standing On The Edge’. In a way The Browning sorta remind me of 90s electronic bands like Prodigy although the influence of electronica varies greatly in the mix between songs such that some of them are out and out dance whilst others are more trance like. Whilst I don’t feel there’s anything dramatically new here in the music (or the title for that matter), there is obviously a niche for this sorta mix and The Browning have enough firepower to make something of it. I’m just glad they no longer incorporate rap into their fold like they used to LOL!

Screaming Shadows – “Night Keeper”

Screaming Shadows
“Night Keeper”
(Jolly Roger Records)

Wow, I hope this album gets wider attention because it is a power / classical metal album par excellence! Screaming Shadows are a little known Italian band despite this being their 3rd album but I hope “Night Keeper” cracks it for them because it truly rates a triple A: superb musicianship in all depts; intelligent song arrangements; excellent use of melodies and most of all, played with passion and style! Screaming Shadows take inspiration from the heavy metal greats like Maiden in their foundation and then add power or classic or symphonic elements from Rhapsody or Edguy to create exquisite songs like ‘Holy Knights’, ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Free Again’. These guys are so confident that 3 of the 12 tracks are instrumentals no less, but when you play a guitar like Frances Marras does, why worry LOL! Definitely a superior album, Screaming Shadows must rank as a strong contender for being Italy’s numero uno metal band!

Puddle of Mudd – “Re:(Disc)overed”

Puddle of Mudd
“Re:(Disc)overed”
(Goomba Music)

Allegedly named after the Missouri River flood of ’93, this post grunge band having been going it solo for close to 20 years. Prior to working on a new album in 2012, the band have released “Re:(Disc)overed”, an album of no less than 13 classic rock covers – yes, covers! What motivated this? Well, according to guitarist Paul Phillips ‘….I think we needed something like this because it was a no pressure situation. We just wanted to do something for fun in the studio. We had a great time, and I think it was the right thing to do…’ although don’t think that the project was, as main man Wes Scantlin would say, ‘..easy peasy..’. Indeed. The problem with covers, especially with heavy weight numbers like the Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’, Bad Company’s ‘Shooting Star’ and even Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’, is that if you’re a respected band, you don’t just do a cover, you do a GOOD cover! By and large, Puddle of Mudd have done a fine job, drafting in the hammond and harmonies on The Beatles ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and Scantlin doing a fine job in the vocal dept on Clapton’s ‘Cocaine’ and Free’s ‘All Right Now’. Perhaps their most remarkable feat is pulling off Zepp’s reggae ‘D’yer Mak’er’! If I hadta be super critical then it’s on ‘TNT’ where Bon once again fools ’em and not even Scantlin can nail the twisted wailings of AC/DC’s original vocalist. But maybe that’s not Puddle of Mudd’s fault, as it seems that the covers they excel in coincidentally fall closest to their rock realm?

Nile – “Worship The Animal (1994 -The Lost Recordings)”

Nile
“Worship The Animal (1994 -The Lost Recordings)”
(Goomba Music)

Man, talk about a blast from the past! I wouldn’t exactly say these are ‘lost’ recordings but this is essentially Nile’s demo from back in 1994 which means some of you out there might not have been even born LOL. I have a special place in my heart for Nile given they were fatefully signed by Relapse Records at the Expo Of The Extreme in 1996, an event I had some involvement in at the time – as I recollect we almost didn’t allow the label into the venue owing to a mix up! With a unique middle eastern theme thanks to then drummer Pete Hammoura, Nile were a cutting edge death metal band who threatened to (and later did) take the levels of technicality of the genre to a new level. Seventeen years ago, however, the band were still finding their feet and as such songs like ‘Nepenthe’ and ‘Surrounded By Fright’ are certainly not the whirring hyper speed techno tornadoes that one might associate with the bands music today. Instead they are much slower and dirtier, almost doom like with ‘Mecca’ having a southern groove like Crowbar. So current fans of the band wishing to delve into the band’s distant past should understand this is a true demo – albeit well produced and still remarkable for the time, almost worthy of the gods themselves.