Wolfpakk – “Wolfpakk”

(AFM Records)

Whoa – thundering heavy metal courtesy of alpha dawgs Michael Voss (Ex-Casanova, Mad Max) and Mark Sweeney (Ex-Crystal Ball)! Screaming vocals, smashing drums, wolverine vocals, crunching guitar and keyboards that don’t bleet like sheep – yeah, this is just what the heavy metal doctor ordered on songs like ‘Slam Down The Hammer’, ‘Ride The Bullet’ and the kinky ‘Reptile’s Kiss’. With strong ballsy melodies featuring unashamedly throughout, this amazing debut may stop short of being brutal, but it nonetheless reeks of man stink chest beating and if that wasn’t enough in itself, features no less than 30 guest musicians including Paul Di’Anno (Ex-Iron Maiden), Tony Martin (Ex-Black Sabbath), Jeff Scott Soto (Ex-Y. Malmsteen, Talisman), Tony Franklin (Ex-Blue Murder, Robert Plant), Mat Sinner (Primal Fear), Neil Murray (Whitesnake) – a veritable hunting pack indeed!

Axel Rudi Pell – “The Ballads IV”

Axel Rudi Pell
“The Ballads IV”
(Steamhammer / SPV)

The ballad meister bar none, it’s been 7 long years since ARP graced us with his last compilation of tear jerking, babe crooning and man sized tear ballads. Where others might cringe, ARP unashamedly adds acoustics like he does on the cover of Kiss’s ‘Love Gun’ and his personal piano tribute to Dio on ‘Holy Diver’. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially on the Phil Collins ‘In The Air Tonight’ or Leonard Cohen cover of ‘Hallelujah’, but elsewhere on his own material like ‘No Chance To Live’ he shows us his song writing prowess and his once lofty ambitions to become the next guitar god of metal. Loathed by some, unknown to more but undoubtedly loved by many others as judging by his 1.5 million album sales and the sheer number of guest musicians that have collaborated with him over the years, he remains out there, soldiering as he did since those early 80s days of Steeler, carving what he may in his single minded quest to put the melody into metal.

Pro-Pain – “20 Years Of Hardcore”

CD / DVD (AFM Records)

Arguably the last of the original 90s crossover bands, Pro Pain celebrate their 20 year anniversary by giving is this year’s bumper package bar none! The CD has 4 brand new songs like ‘Damnation’ featuring trademark roaring vox, corrosive guitar mit some classy rock n roll, and a stomping rhythm to boot! Then there’s 4 re-recorded songs like ‘Foul Taste Of Freedom’, a Böhse Onkelz cover version of ‘Keine Amnestie Für MTV’ and 14 live tracks from a Czech show. But wait up, unlike many bands who rehash the same live show on the DVD, Pro Pain instead give us another 12 track live show from Serbia, 3 songs from With Full Force, 5 more from Berlin, and yet another 5 tracks filmed by fans including ‘Iraqnophobia’ – respect to the man Gary Meskil, if this isn’t da bomb, then you don’t know shit!

Arkona – “Slovo”

(Napalm Records)

Russian pagan metal band Arkona have been making quite a stir on the live circuit especially after the release of their “Goi, Rode, Goi!” EP that saw them expand their sound as well as their audience. Now with “Slovo” it all comes together in showing a band that has come of age in bringing together the elements making up Arkona from the folk to the shamanic to metal, all with a distinct Russian flavour complete with Stalin’s singing masses and da-da-da groove! “Slovo” is also the band’s most ambitious project to date, bringing together orchestras and choirs like on the intro ‘Az’ before the metal suddenly assaults you like a T34 tank brigade and Masha’s macho vocals kick in. On the more upbeat tracks like ‘Leshiy’ there is an almost dance beat but elsewhere like on the delicate folk melody of ‘Tam Za Tumanami’ show the incredible, yet genuine diversity this band have. This is probably no more apparent than on the spoken word prayer of ‘Predok’ where’s Masha’s hushed, almost ghostly echoed words give way to the battle cries of ‘Nikogda’. But for me, it is the epic closer of ‘Zimushka’ that brings it all home, with it’s tempered tribal drumming, wailing trance like vocals and folk flutes, producing a strong spiritual vibe that gives a very ancient feel to this song. If you only buy one album of this genre this year then simply make it this one, as you will be simply not be disappointed.

Coma Divine – “Dead End Circle”

Coma Divine
“Dead End Circle”
(SPV / Oblivion)

This is the latest symphonic and gothic rock creation from regarded dance, art and vocal talent Sonja Kraushofer, who is well known for singing in L’Ame Immortelle and Persephone. But this band is different. Right from the album cover of a burned out child’s doll to the West Coast nu metal meets electro goth sound complemented by the band’s own post apocalyptic look (straight outta ‘The Crow’), they sorta remind me of Coal Chamber when I first heard the upbeat opener ‘Burn Sister’, to the bass end heavy ‘About A Girl’. But elsewhere like on ‘Secret Lover’ it’s pretty much straight goth rock a la The Mission or the brooding emotional epic ‘Praise The Fallen’, complete with cellos and violins. Sure to appeal to zillions of tennie goth chicks with mascara running, mebbe there’ll be a few guys in there too LOL!