FROM THE VAULT
It’s easy to see why Graveyard have such a strong appeal among rock purists. With their old school node to American blues tangled up in Swedish folk and acid-laced psychedelia they create a memorizing hybrid of toxic ‘70s heavy rock. The Gothenburg four-piece burst on the scene in 2006 formed from the ashes of obscure Swedish legends Norrsken. A couple years later, they released their self-titled debut on Transubstans Records (TeePee in the US) to rave reviews including a spotlight from Rolling Stone’s Dave Fricke and a showing at SXSW. After a US tour with Clutch and The Sword they returned to Sweden and recorded the landmark Hisingen Blues (2011). Since then they have never looked back selling out shows around the world and playing large scale summer festivals including Sweden Rock and Wacken. Lights Out comes as the third outing from the group and continues to pummel their rapidly growing audience with massive doses of thunderous riffs powerful rhythms and hook-filled melodies that echo Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy.
The second the needle hits the groove, there is a subtle difference in sound as the record reverberates and lunges forward. Recorded entirely in analog, the tones are refreshingly warmer with the guitars crisp and charismatic, even preserving the occasional flaw or blemish. It has a handcrafted feel to it that absorbs the atmosphere it’s played in. “An Industry of Murder”, the album opener, is a dusty blues number encased in a air-raid siren. Frontman Joakim Nilsson uses his throaty howl to tell the story of society’s corruption over a hypnotic lick that keeps repeating with intoxicating seduction. A similar theme crops up in the bludgeoning “The Suits, the Law & the Uniform” and the swagger of “Fool in the End”. Amidst the social commentaries there’s also room for introspection as found in “Endless Night”, a beastly track that pulls from the heavier guitar-driven days of Deep Purple and early Rainbow with churning, layered guitars and a bombastic drum beat. The message reverberates: “I’m going to war / to war with myself.”
“Goliath” was served up as the album’s single presumably due to its bouncing groove and almost pop likeability. Clocking in a just under three-minutes, it does everything right from urgent riffing and Hendrix-like solos to a swinging dance beat. Countering the frantic nature of the record’s more phallic numbers is the slow-burning epic “Slow Motion Countdown”. A splash of piano and an earthy folk vibe carry on for six minutes of pure retro ‘70s bliss with Nilsson crooner-like vocals haunting, chilling and embracing. The soulful blues of “Hard Time Lovin” hints at stoner psychedelia while the thundering “Seven Seven” is gruff slice of hard rock on steroids. The 35-minute disc closes out with “20/20 Tunnel Vision,” a torment soliloquy that harkens back to the ballad writing of Uli Roth-era Scorpions. Lights Out returns to the shear beauty of classic rock song writing without overblown studio trickery, wailing guitar solos or electronic drum machines. It’s pure, mesmerizing and unadulterated with a dynamic range in genius musicality.
Website: Graveyard, Nuclear Blast
Raise Your Fist
Metal maven, Doro returns with what might well be the best outing of her long, illustrious career. Basking in full heavy metal and arrayed with a handful of emotionally charged, gut-wrenching ballads, the Düsseldorf darling has returned to the chemistry that crowned her the “Queen of Metal”. Focusing all her energy into Raise Your Fist (her 11th solo album) the five-foot-two-inch bombshell explodes with one monster track after another. Lead single and opening song “Raise Your First (In The Air)” debuted on video at this summer’s Wacken 2012 festival to the cheering of 80,000 rabid fans. The power anthem is a classic heart-pounding, foot-stomping roarfest best played at full volume during a heated football match. Doro proves she’s not one to sit back on former glories with a soaring voice that’s bigger and better while still able to touch the soul. Her band maintains its thunderous rhythm section in the steady drumming of Johnny Dee (Waysted, Britny Fox) and artistic bass playing of Nick Douglas. Guitarists Bas Maas and newcomer Luca Princiotta slice and dice thick, chugging riffs into perfect wedges of teutonic feedback.
“Cold Hearted Lover”, “Revenge” and “Victory” have a palpable force that makes even the strong, weak in the knees and crumble under shear weight. Each one builds around a massive riff that beckons to be played on a stadium stage with a wall of Marshalls resonating feedback. Easily some of the heavier songs Doro’s written, they hearken all the way back to her Warlock days. Yet, the magic on the record isn’t just what comes blasting out of the speakers it’s in the subtle nuances of a quacking voice and a bleeding heart. Thirty years in the business has taught Doro how to pour her heart and soul into her songwriting. She delivers with the duet “It Still Hurts” teaming up with Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, an odd pairing that breathes emotion and passion from the most unlikely source. She tackles human rights in the industrial grind of “Freiheit” made all the more lethal sung in German. Her melodies are simple and easily memorable and when she whispers her ballads “Free My Heart” and “Engel” (also sung in German) the mood is as intoxicating as it is divine.
Spliced between the softer moments are the rapid-fire assault of “Rock Till Death” and the urgent double-kick drive of “Take No Prisoners” both sounding like classic Hellbound. Counter that with the Sabbath dirge of “Grab The Bull (Last Man Standing)” featuring guitarist Gus G. and the Motörhead-like “Little Headbanger (Nackenbrecher)” bringing it all together with tremendous energy, confidence and power. The pacing, mixture of tempos and structure give the record a sonic, well-balanced tone. Possibly the best she’s ever achieved. The crowning jewel must be “Hero”, her tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio. Over the delicate stains of an acoustic guitar, the songstress sings the chorus first before the verse. With reverence, respect and lyrical prowess Doro honors metal’s greatest singer, “Like a rainbow in the dark, you put meaning in our heart. You’re our hero, like no one.” The song smolders with emotion before launching full speed with twin guitars roaring and a pounding rhythm section that shakes the walls. No one has yet delivered such a warm and sincere dedication. Check out our interview with the “Queen of Metal” herself by clicking here.
Money and Celebrity
Warner Bros. Records
Punk-rock and roll is still alive and well in the capable hands of UK indie hipsters The Subways. Nearly ten years old they return with the energetic Money and Celebrity and another furious 12-tracks that see the three-piece enthusiastically rocking out. After three years in the underground they burst on the scene in 2005 with their debut Young for Eternity and it’s hit “Rock & Roll Queen”. The big break came when the track was featured in the Guy Ritchie gangster film RocknRolla (2008) helping the record go gold in the UK. Three years later came the Butch Vig-produced All or Nothing and another run at the chart with freebie single “Boys & Girls”. Three seems to be the magic number here as they’ve now released Money and Celebrity their third album after three years which moves the band closer to pop and an observance (or obsession) with fame and not always fortune. Lead single “We Don’t Need Money To Have A Good Time” is catchy enough. It’s rough and ready with a slick chorus created in a moment of what bandleader Billy Lunn (guitar, vocals) called writers block.
The rest of the disc hinges on the party, or lack there of. Roaring opening track “It’s A Party” kicks off with a staccato riff, slamming bass and heart-bounding drum kick. Bassist Charlotte Cooper shouts her way in, teetering between duet and backing vocalist. Drummer Josh Morgan is up front and center when the laser hits “Celebrity” where his rat-tat-tat gives the song its driving beat leaving room for the bass to fill the gaps. Billy still hangs on to his favorite chords bashing away with his Green Day-meets-7 Seconds riffs. The other half of the record’s title, “Money” sparks a bit more adventure with its garage rock overtone. The guitar texture and delivery is something that could be explored in the future as it works very well in the threesome. The duel vocals of Charlotte and Billy creates a dynamic tension that, though predictable, has become an essential part of The Subways’ sound. That sort of call and response elevates “Rumour” to one the discs more clever pieces. It also gives Billy the opportunity to stretch out his signature scream.
It’s in the middle of the disc that the band becomes more power pop than punk rock. “I Wanna Dance With You” is Charlotte’s vocal spotlight. She makes the song her own as it begins with a chorus lead then to the verse. “Popdeath” captures an early Pleasure Seekers vibe with some nice 60s guitar-drum interplay and a tasty guitar solo. The record reaches its peak in the shout-along chorus of “Like I Love You” a high-energy time bomb that goes off at just the right moment. Coming in at under three minutes makes it the perfect radio-friendly hit. “Down Our Street” and “Friday” fall in a similar category but carry a bit more aggression and beefy guitar. Having seen The Subways live “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” certainly has the ability to work the crowd into frenzy. By the time the group sang, “She has a way of making me feel wild, she’s the devil with a kiss kiss bang bang” the place went nuts. Instantly enjoyable Money and Celebrity it a sweet guilty pleasure that packs a great pop punk punch. Check out our interview with the band by clicking here.
Website: The Subways
DIE TOTEN HOSEN
Ballast der Republik
Warner Music Group (Germany)
Germany’s biggest punk rock export Die Toten Hosen deliver their 15th platter Ballast der Republik as they hit their 30-year anniversary mark. The record showcases the vitality of a group still ripe with fresh ideas as they pack rock anthems, drinking songs and classical strings into 16-tracks with a sturdy punk attitude. Though the five-piece are often socially conscience and can get openly political, they don’t take themselves too seriously - their name literally means “The Dead Trousers” or figuratively “The Dead Beats”. In 1982, when they first formed, they took elements of punk rock wanting to play music like The Clash, Nine Nine Nine, The Damned, the Ramones or Johnny Thunders. They were fascinated by the US and UK punk culture and plotted a future that capitalized on the same intensity and energy. In creating the musical path for Ballast der Republik the group focused high energy into a series of layers and textures to create an emotional statement. Though the lyrics are sung in German, the music strikes right to the soul.
“Drei Kreuze (Dass Wir Hier Sind)” begins the album with a delicate prelude combining the sweetness of orchestral strings with distorted guitar before launching into the dance rhythm of the album’s title track “Ballast der Republik”. Several tracks including “Tage Wie Diese”, the new wave-like “Altes Fieber” and beer-soaked “Das Ist Der Moment” build from a melodic verse into a crashing chorus with a barrage of a thousand voices. Others, like the chugging “Traurig Einen Sommer Lang”, the staccato riffing of “Zwei Drittel Liebe” and the anthemic “Schade, Wie Kann Das Passieren?” are pure amped-up, guitar-driven punk rock. To contrast the intensity of the album, the band include the acoustic strumming of “Draußen Vor Der Tür” for a tender reprise and push the limits with the gorgeously crafted “Drei Worte” where its luring folk balladry turns into a high-octane ball of fire with amplified feedback. Songs from Ballast der Republik that deserve maximum volume are be “Ein Guter Tag Zum Fliegen” with its heavy hitting drum beat and “Oberhausen” with its killer guitar tone.
The song “Europa” raises as one of our personal favorites due to is vaudeville-like presentation. It’s that unexpected twist that keeps the band interesting and relevant. Still, Die Toten Hosen are the best at writing songs that are easy to sing along with and “Reiß Dich Los” is one of those great football ‘chants’ that instantly makes friends. The last two songs on the disc celebrate the band’s long-standing union. “Alles Hat Seinen Grund” (Everything Has Its Reason) springs to life with a bouncing piano undercurrent while the bass-heavy “Vogelfrei” (Freebird) gets the joint jumping. If you’re discovering Die Toten Hosen for the first time, Ballast der Republik is a great place to begin. It has all the essential ingredients that make the band one of the best in their genre. If you get the deluxe edition it has a second disc with DTH cover versions of German pop, punk and rock songs hand selected by the group as their personal favorites. American audiences will find their reworking of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” especially entertaining. To check out our exclusive interview with Die Toten Hosen guitarist Breiti and drummer Vom click here.
Website: Die Toten Hosen
Stoner / doom / metal gods Grand Magus descend from their thrones in Sweden to deliver a punishing array of massive riffs in the form of nine classic tunes set to emblaze their legacy upon millions. A lot has happened since their 2010 major label debut Hammer of the North (Roadrunner). They return with a new label (Nuclear Blast), a new drummer and a new disc. After five critically praised long players, the bands have fine-tuned their Priest meets Maiden barrage, adding a bit more groove (a bit less doom) and finishing number six (The Hunt) off with a raw but polished production. Vocalist and guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson leads the mighty three piece in a concourse of battle hymns made all the more heroic with the thunder of bassist Fox Skinner and the tribal drumming of new guy Ludwig “Ludde” Witt. Epic tales of Viking lore fill the lyric pages with “Starlight Slaughter” leading the charge as it etches out ripe ‘70s power chords with shades of Deep Purple and Rainbow. JB’s gravel-tinged voice lurks somewhere between Ian Gillan and Ronnie James Dio with full expression and dynamic range. He sells it as good as any of his influences while the guitar wails with a hook-filled lead.
Galloping in on wings of steel is “Sword of the Ocean”. Its’ Iron Maiden presence gives it an anthemic quality and opens the field for drummer Ludde to bust sod with his heavy rumblings. Following in quick fashion is “Valhalla Rising”, and it’s piano intro before converging on the ears with a metallic mixture of heavy rock and pummeling melody. The guitar tone is thick and chunky with a chorus ringing out “hail, hail, hail” like the droning march of death invaders. The secret weapon on the album is the Swedish folk-like “Son Of The Last Breath”, a two-part tale of Thor. Almost 7-minute long is revels in a majestic build up with Part I, aka “Nattfödd” consisting of a four-minute acoustic guitar and violin duet, and smooth, clean vocals. The full band joins in on Part II: “Vedergällning” making way for an emotional outburst of JB covering a range of vocal styles from guttural death metal to a soaring, inspirational melodic strain. Turning the pages back to old school Magus is the Priest-like riffing “Iron Hand”, a soon to be classic with all the heavy elements we’ve come to expect from the Stockholm-based trio.
It’s actually the middle of the album that has proved to be our favorite. Fourth track in “Storm King” kicks in a with a monster riff; hooky, repetitive and addicting. JB gets full effect from his vocal prowess reminding us of his days in Spiritual Beggars (On Fire, Demons). The track is a rousing fist-pumping, Saxon-like anthem destined for the big stage. Elsewhere is the bluesy “Silver Moon” reminiscent of the best of classic NWOBHM with a fantastic chorus and massive guitar action. Title track “The Hunt” adds a bit of Skynyrd southern rock to the mix as the swampy acoustic picking builds to a gruff swagger that launches the band into a full metal attack. The record ends with “Draksådd” (Swedish for dragon’s teeth) and features double tracked vocals and finishing off in a fade-out with more acoustic guitar. A trio of demo versions of “Storm King”, “Silver Moon” and “Sword of the Ocean” are included as a bonus, bringing the song count to an even dozen. The Hunt has all the right pieces, in all the right places for a true headbangers masterpiece.
Website: Grand Magus, Nuclear Blast
Beyond Hell / Above Heaven
Volbeat are current touring behind their fourth barnburner Beyond Hell / Above Heaven. Though the record is a couple years old, this is the first opportunity the band has had to tour America as a headline act with Iced Earth and Hellyeah as support. This time around the band are using a few of their friends as guest musicians. Barney Greenway (singer, Napalm Death), Mike Denner (guitarist, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond), and Mille Petrozza (singer, Kreator) all join in. Singer Michael Poulsen leads Volbeat with bassist Ander Kjølholm and drummer Jon Larsen. A change in the ranks recently occurred when album guitarist Thomas Bredahl was replaced by Hank Sherman of Mercyful Fate. Within a matter of a few short years the four-piece have taken the world by storm. Their recent offering has reached number one in numerous countries including Finland, Sweden and Denmark. It has also reached #3 in Germany and #8 on the European chats. For the Copenhagen group the quick rise to success has been surprising but did come with a lot of hard roadwork.
The record itself is full on metal and classic story-telling as only Volbeat can do it. From the of swagger of “The Mirror and the Ripper” to the fan tribute, barroom anthem “Thanks” the record rolls through numerous elements of complex influences while still keeping it melodic, catchy and packed with energy. “Heaven Nor Hell” is the record’s harmonica blaring, rockabilly anthem and stands true to its intent with massive riffs and a fists-in-the-air drumbeat. The song’s harmonica talent is courtesy of Henrik Hall of Love Shop. With a classic Slayer-like intro “Who They Are” is die-in-the-wool thrash Slayer as is cow punk “7 Shots” featuring both Mike Petrozza of Kreator and Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. The unforgettable “Fallen” has a Foo Fighters feel and pulls out the most emotional delivery on the record. “16 Dollars” is pure punk-rock (with Jakob Oelund of Taggy Tones playing the slap bass) while the fierce “Evelyn” with it occasional shock-n-awe death metal vocal outbursts, courtesy of Mark “Barney” Greenway (Napalm Death), are what make this band so unique.
While Volbeat showcase their influences upfront and center with a modern take on The Misfits, Metallica and Slayer, they pull it off in a rare combination of confidence, grace and honor. They continue to craft an overall unique style, almost impossible to describe, while still keeping it fluid, masterfully melodic, and filled with raw energy. A hint at reality, “Being #1” has that ultra-melodic romp that could easily be the group’s next big single while the brisk-paced “Better Believer” is a powerhouse. There are a couple oddities, “A New Day” takes on a funky beat with “Magic Zone” caught between punk and straight up rock ‘n’ roll. The addictive “A Warrior’s Call” was released last year as a single for Danish boxer Mikkel Kessler, nice to see it appear in album form, however it does breakup the storyline mojo of the disc. But over all, it’s exactly what you would expect from Volbeat: catchy melodies filled with lots of groove, tasty riffs and strong power chords. Check out our exclusive interview with band drummer Jon Larsen by clicking here.
Website: Volbeat, *Wacken 2012*
Last Rays of the Dying Sun
Small Stone Records
It’s always exciting to see an up-and-coming band we love and enjoy make it into the big leagues. After slogging it out in the Jersey bar circuit for several years now, our mates Infernal Overdrive deliver their first “official” release through Detroit’s Small Stone Records. Years ago the band were called Loud Earth, a throwback to Sabbath sludge and stoner heaven. The band dissolved after an impressive demo and later regrouped with a clear direction and all the right pieces to create the massive riff-o-rama that is Last Rays of the Dying Sun. The four-piece are Rich Miele (guitar), Mike Bennett (drums) and bonded by brothers Marc (guitar, vocals) and Keith Schleicher (bass). Three out of the four sing adding a layered texture to the vocals. Though this is the band’s “big label” debut, four of the album’s eight tracks have been around for a couple years. The songs are baked in southern ‘70s hard rock with catchy riffs and plenty of power rumbling in the pipes.
The disc was recorded at Translator Audio, Brooklyn, NY with producer Andrew Schneider (Throttlerod, The Brought Low, Hackman) and mastered in Ann Arbor, MI by Chris Goosman (Ted Nugent, Acid King, Dixie Witch). Fans of our site will immediately make the Small Stone connection and that’s exactly where the band belong as their vibe is defiantly Detroit retro. Take for instance “I-95” which opens the disc with a solid guitar wail and foot-stomping drumbeat. Tambourine is added for flavor but the song bellows like fellow Boston-natives Roadsaw, mixing biker thunder with a Pat Travers/Leslie West riff-fest. Second track, “The Edge” is pure old school Nugent, including the repeat riff and frantic, almost MC5 delivery. Schleicher voice is ragged and ready to rock. The drums hammer and the bass drives laying down a solid bed for some sexy solo leads. “Duel” has more Fu Manchu in the groove. It’s mostly in the chorus, but the build in the verse is still very Scott Hill/Brant Bjork. The track also boasts our favorite solo - frayed, not over played and sparked with cosmic energy.
What sounds like a live track, “Cage” continues the Fu Manchu adulation while launching into a pulverizing Kinks lick with a dash of Hendirx and Trower in the solo breaks. The drum and bass are huge in the mix with plenty of room to appreciate Miele’s guitar flash. Back on home turf is the rockin’ swagger of “Deported to Jersey” as the band return to loud guitars ready to “testify” to the masses. The middle break and subtle tempo change are classic power rock. “Electric Street Cred” comes alive in a wall of feedback frenzy while “Rip It Out” is Ace Frehley on steroids. “Motor” is a 13-minute stoner masterpiece. A heavy bottom end brings to mind Sabbath, Sasquatch and Mountain. The riff is clean but thick with a layered solo painting in all the little nuances - perfect for a psychedelic ride. The echo on the vocals adds to the song’s dripping mysticism while the guitar floats over the top. An awesome cover illustration by Alexander Von Wieding makes the whole thing complete.
Website: Infernal Overdrive, Small Stone Records
Tee Pee Records
Germany is quickly reestablishing itself as a hot bed for new talent celebrating all things hard rock and heavy metal. In the last few months we’ve gotten great listening pleasure from the likes of the Nitrogods (Berlin), Accept (Solingen) and the V8 Wankers (Offenbach). The Germans have always done metal with true conviction and teutonic density. On the darker side is the power trio Kadavar who play a blend of Doom, Psych, Stoner and Classic Rock not too far from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Hawkwind. Tee Pee records, the same label that first introduced Graveyard to the US, snapped these guys up and are currently in the business of making them international stars. The band consist of Wolf Lindemann (vocals / guitar), Mammoth (bass) and Tiger (drums) and revel in the deep dark sludge newer bands like Brutus, Witchcraft, Abramis Brama and Gudars Skymning have found so exhilarating. They offer a riff rock roar that’s captivating and catchy without getting lost in a psyched out haze.
To date, the only way to get the album is on vinyl, exactly the way it should be (use the download card if your too lazy to recorded it on your own). The Tee Pee website says a CD version is coming sometime this summer (2012). In truth, the best listening happens when the needle nestles into the groove on side “A” and the warm fuzz penetrates your mind. First track “All Our Thoughts” is a 70’s flashback with classic krautrock elements. The production is bone dry so the drums and bass are upfront and personal while the guitar lays down a hypnotic rhythm before busting sod with a snake-winding lick. Wolf’s vocals stick to a higher register reminiscent of Sword, Wolfmother and Ghost - think Ozzy meets Robert Plant. The lyrics have that retro occult vibe that seems to be making a comeback. “Black Sun” stretches out to six minutes plus as the rhythm section follows the guitar lead. Wolf’s vocals are instantly addictive as he spins a tale of yore and pushes the song along, which quickly becomes a favorite for repeating. The drums subtly rattle the cage on “Forgotten Past “ where riding the high-hat colors the groove. A slow, plodding tempo is interrupted when the band changes pace and the bass and guitar duel it out for total power.
Flipping the record over to side “B” gets us to “Goddess of Dawn” a wooly, monolithic rifflord that sticks to a simple blues chug ala Sabbath. The power trio surge with such intensity, and the lyrics so few that the song almost becomes an instrumental. What vocals there are echo with reverberating madness as the guitar plays its relentless death march. Only the wah wah solo breaks up the grinding pace. “Creature of the Demon” was the single the band (and label) put out preceding the long player. Billowing over a jazz-like drumbeat comes a fusion of melodic guitar runs that maintain their texture while still heavy as hell. The bass is in the pocket right behind the main riff when the vocals fly in with a howl to the moon. Easily one of the catchiest numbers in the bunch. The eight-minute “Purple Sage” closes out the album with a more psyched out landscape. It begins with what sounds like slide blues played backwards before entering a spacey Hawkwind-like acid trip. After a minute and a half comes the pounding drums followed by the rhythmic bass and thirty seconds beyond that…the distorted guitar. It all merges into a melodic drone with the vocals a million miles away. Complicated with so much going on yet deceptively simple. A brilliant interpretation of UFO’s Space Rock. The album is out in Europe on This Charming Man Records and in the US on the above-mentioned Tee Pee Records. Get it!
Website: Tee Pee Records
The Quill first came to our attention in 1999 with the release of their second album Silver Haze. Though they sounded like a mix of Deep Purple meets Soundgarden, there was just enough ‘70s stoner / hard rock that kept us interested. That was 13 years ago. A lot has changed with The Quill but they still create a smoky Zeppelin Purple Hendrix vibe with just a hint of Seattle Sabbath in the mix. After their fourth album Hooray! It’s A Deathtrip (2003) they played Germany’s Wacken Open Air to 70,000 crazed fans and joined forces with Norwegian band Gluecifer and US Stoner kings Monster Magnet for a full scale tour of Europe. With an increase in their popularity they were back in the studio in ’05 recording album number five In Triumph. What was supposed to be their leap to supernova was cut short when lead vocalist Magnus Ekwall (Chris Cornell, Soundgarden sound-alike) split leading the group on a global search for a new set of pipes. Magnus Arnar was found in their own backyard of Sweden and picked up the retro ‘70s march in a style more fitting Deep Purple and early Whitesnake than Soundgarden or Alice In Chains.
With the arrival of Full Circle we get a more tuned in Quill. Akin to Corrosion of Conformity, Kyuss and Monster Magnet, they benefit from a Sabbath-like dirge and though somewhat retro, still put a modern pedal-to-the-metal releasing some serious nitrous oxide to their testosterone-driven rock. Though Ekwall is missed Arnar does a fitting job with his Coverdale-like growls and howls. Careful to match the lyrics to his vocal phrasing is a key element to the success of the singer transition. Arnar bellows “Should I turn to Jesus or the Devil’s right hand,” in opening track “Sleeping With Your Enemy” with all the gravel of Stormbringer. The current line up of guitarist Christian Carlsson, bassist Robert Triches and drummer George ‘Jolle’ Atlagic keep the rock aggressive yet melodic. Songs like title track “Full Circle”, “Bring it On” and “Pace That Kills” are riff lord mothers from the deepest, darkest recess of the troll-infested forests of Sweden. A hint of Alice In Chains adds just enough flavor to raise hairs while heads bang in unison to the tribal beat.
The Quill sheds much of their stoner rock/alt-metal skin as the record moves into a late ‘60s, early ‘70s influence making way for “24/7 Groove”, “More Alive” into the gorgeous “Black Star”. Carlsson’s guitar tone is warm, yet dense giving off a mountainous Leslie West quality. “River of Moonchild” breathes classic Page with an acoustic balladesque intro that feeds a bass/drum rhythm. The guitar rides over the top slicing its way through the pounding beat before dropping musical notes like rain. “No Easy Way Out” takes a shift into Allman Brothers territory with a laid-back country flare. Because the band has played numerous European festivals, a couple tracks are made for the big stage. “Medicine” is a sledgehammer of a song, all beef and brawn with a massive chorus, while “Running” locks into a Blue Cheer rumble. The record ends with “Waiting For The Sun” creating an Audioslave sensation of euphoria. 13- tracks on the album and not a boring one in the bunch. The only thing missing is the organ chops of Anders Haglund that bathed the early albums in a moody swell. Check out our interview with original Quill members guitarist Christian Carlsson and drummer George ‘Jolle’ Atlagic by clicking here.
Website: The Quill
AXEL RUDI PELL
Circle of the Oath
With his 15th studio album German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell take his brand of metallic symphonic rock to new heights with Circle of the Oath. Comparisons to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow are ripe for the picking as Pell drifts into the same mystic tales of renaissance flare while building bulging numbers of metallic proportion. The record kicks off with the acoustic atmospheric “The Guillotine Suite” before launching into the chugging mayhem of “Ghost in the Black.” The rhythm section of bassist Volker Krawczak and drummer Mike Terrana is thick and ominent leaving plenty of room for Pell’s six-string gymnastics. Though never overdone, Pell’s playing is all about melody with plenty of ‘80s-styled open chord riffing. His solos are simple, poignant and meaningful never distracting from the song structure. Keyboardist Ferdy Doemberg adds plenty of Deep Purple-like color but knows when to pull back and let the guitar drive the song. Singer Johnny Gioeli is pure magic. A voice built for big rock with his tenor range capturing the imagination and telling the story with conviction and visceral power. His ability to catch a hook chorus like “Run with the Wind” and “Fortunes of War”, then embed it into your brain is what makes a singer great.
The pride and joy of this album is its title cut Circle of Oath. Nine-minutes long, it’s built from a Jimmy Page-like acoustic strum then layered with Gioeli doing his best Robert Plant. The guitar and voice collide in a swelling crescendo that not only reflects Kashmir but Sabbath’s Headless Cross. Pell has mastered an ability to punctuate shadows of his influences ranging from Uli Roth , Blackmore and Iommi into his own cacophony of melodic hooks and slicing solos. Every ARP record has a quintessential ballad and “Lived Our Lives Before” is the gem on this opus. Gioeli soars over Pell’s delicate picking for a Scorpions-esque polish. The tension of hard vs. soft continues to add flavor in the massive “Bridges to Nowhere” featuring a thundering bottom end with the heaviest lick of the record. It’s pure chills-ville when Gioeli hits those impossible high notes. The record ends with the chanting “World of Confusion” a nod to Uriah Heep with just enough German teutonic thrust to bring the headbangers out in mass with horns in the air and flailing hair in perfect unison to each down beat. Check out our interview the guitar hero Axel Rudi Pell by clicking here.
Website: Axel Rudi Pell, SPV Records, *Wacken 2012*
Another Night of Passion
When a record starts out with a song called “Rocklahoma” there’s so doubt what it’s content will be. Straight out of the Scorpions, Judas Priest, Def Leppard school of song writing comes the tenth Mad Max offering Another Night of Passion. The German metal band have been kicking around since 1982 and was the vehicle for launching singer, song writer, producer Michael Voss. They have come and gone but are back again returning to the riff-roaring kick-ass attitude that got them attention with 1984’s Rollin’ Thunder. As part of the ‘80s metal scene Mad Max studied the genre at the feet of the masters so it’s no surprise Another Night of Passion picks up the banner and holds it high and proud. “Rocklahoma” is a modern day Scorpions-centered “Dynamite”, “Fallen from Grace” is straight up Dokken even giving a co-write to Don and “40 Rock” is classic Y&T complete with the Mad Max signature edge. The guitars are cranked up to eleven, layered and huge. The bass and drums are heavy as a Chevy and the Voss vocals are in fighting shape. “Metal Edge” puts it all together in a fist-in-the-air anthem with a chorus that sticks like glue.
Mad Max were even able to replicate the Michael Wagener production in the gargantuan “You Decide” that’s all balls and metal to the bone. “Welcome to Rock Bottom” takes on the multi-layers that gave Def Leppard their massive sound. The treatment brings a stadium feel to a promising crowd pleaser ripe for the live stage. “Back and Alive” do just that by bringing in an audience sound bite to give the illusion a live recording. It defiantly gives the song presence. Two tracks standout as premium property. “Black Swan” is surging Judas Priest, a platinum rocker with twin guitars blazing over a double kick drum. The second captivating number is “The Chant” a Queensryche-like monster that was written under the spell of a Maldive voodoo moon. It’s just creepy enough to get hairs raised or maybe that’s the killer riff. No tribute to eighties rock would be complete without a power ballad and Another Night of Passion closes out with the spectacular “True Blue” a searing blues instrumental filled to the brim with the spirit of Gary Moore. Mad max may be taking a snap shot of the past but they have come up with one of the best rock/metal albums of any decade. Check out our interview with Mad Max maestro Michael Voss by clicking here.
Website: Michael Voss, SPV Records
Thirty second into this CD and your head will start to sweat. The Nitrogods hail from the bowels of Germany and give new meaning to the concept of power trio with an injection of 70’s had rock blues. They are loud, obnoxious and totally cool! A Motörhead tribute band in every sense with still enough originality to kick your teeth in. The band are Oimel Larcher (bass, vocals and Lemmy sound-a-like) with ex-Primal Fear dudes Henny Wolter (guitars, vocals) and Klaus Sperling (drums), together they form the perfect union of greasy, metallic, rock ‘n’ roll that gets under your skin like a Tijuana tattoo. First track in on their self-titled debut is all it takes to be converted. “Black Car Driving Man” is a slidewinder riff with a heart-pounding drum - starting off with a ‘belch’ as Larcher does a dead on impression of Lemmy. Three minutes of pure octane get the blood pumping as the band drag the listener through the chorus “I’m a black car drive man / motherfucker for life.” If that doesn’t do it, annihilate your ears with the chugging “Demolition Inc” where even your shoes aren’t safe with its devil’s boogie and crosscut razor guitar.
The record’s expanding mid-section packs a wallop with the dusty “At Least I’m Drunk”, a ZZ Top slide-bar blues that takes in the darker recesses for Muddy Water and Howlin’ Wolf. A minute in, it changes gear into a bar room sing along with a bit of Irish swagger and a slosh of heady brew. When Wolter takes over vocals in the rapid-fire “Gasoline” all bets are off as the guitar whips up a frenzy of AC/DC retro riffs and a pulverizing rhythm stampede. Larcher’s raspy voice is ideal for the band’s gritty style and delivery so it’s no surprise when Nazareth frontman Dan McCafferty steps in to share a duet on “Whiskey Wonderland”. The gravel in their combined voices could fill a fleet of dump trucks. The track is our personal favorite as it combines southern rock with Texas blues and spins in Motörhead with Staus Quo. Fastway’s Eddie Clark also lends a hand on “Wasted In Berlin” a big guitar tune delivered at warp speed bringing back all those fond memories of Hammersmith after dark.
Nitrogods isn’t all ‘in-you-face turbo-charged rock’, they take time out to groove it up a bit. With “License to Play Loud” they find that happy medium between hip shakin’ and toe tappin’ with an occasional solo flying in to add some edge. “Rifle Down” is all electric slide with serious swagger. Having done world tours with power metal band Primal Fear and Thunderhead guitarist Wolter knows his way around six strings and he’s not faking. The belter “Lipsynch Stars” is the band’s blues-suede comment on a music industry that living the lie. The band pride themselves on keeping it real; no Auto-tune, Melodyne, Beat Detective. They use a lot of vintage equipment, a 1966 Gretsch guitar through a 1963 Vox AC30, real drums, real bass, real vocals all turned up very loud. Songs like the grinding “The Devil Dealt the Deck”, the pounding “Riptide” and jackhammered “Zombie Train” fly the flag of back-to-basics rock. Finally something worth bragging about!
THE BLACK KEYS
2012 marks the ten-year anniversary of The Cutting Edge online webzine. For such a momentous occasion we needed a special album and in El Camino we found just that. It was in 2002 that we reviewed The Black Keys underground debut The Big Come Up. We were enamored with the duos ability to create dark blues-rock heralding back to the 1920s with a sound that reflected the primitive recording of the era. We are just as impressed with the way they have grown and developed into a sonic 1960-70s whirlwind. Over the years Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) have become the darlings of mainstream music media Spin, Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly to name a few. They’ve pushed boundaries from stripped down delta blues to fuzzed out Howlin’ Wolf to post-punk garage. With El Camino they are firmly rooted in an era the spans late fifties to early seventies stadium rock with a touch of disco. Citing The Clash, The Cramps, T. Rex and the Ramones as inspiration the two-piece paint a broadening spectrum with the help of additional vocals and keyboards merging raw energy and pop sensibility with astonishing results.
The Black Keys introduced El Camino with an internet video of a middle-aged southern brother dancing and lip-syncing to the record’s opening track “Lonely Boy” in a parking garage. The primitive ‘garage’ guitar and hypnotic go-go beat of the song prove the boys were stepping up a notch to the pantheon of pop rock without overtly prostituting their art. After six albums, one would think the well had run dry but with the hollow retro sounds of “Dead and Gone” and the wicked Sonics-like riffing of “Gold On The Ceiling” there are still plenty of ideas for the band to chew on. Producer and co-writer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley) was instrumental in crafting a more polished sheen to the duos down and dirty blues leaving the record more riff-driven. “Little Black Submarines” capitalized on the guitar that landing some where between Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin with an acoustic subtle hymn exploding into an all out tympanic assault. The wide use of harmonies also added texture to the group’s more layered sound with vocals and hand-clapping recorded in the bathroom of the studio to capture the natural echo.
It’s the middle of the record that really strikes a chord. Beginning with the eerie Jimmy Page-like tuning of “Run Right Back” the BK accentuate their love for hook-filled rock that eventually becomes more infectious with its dance-groove. Though the lyrics are often muddled in meaning, the tonality of the sung word becomes an instrument in and of itself. “Nova Baby and “Mind Eraser” find the momentum and pacing of the tune to sharpen their edge more than a deep philosophical meaning. The later is made all the better with a pounding boogie piano that shatters the band retro blues rut. “Sister” falls right in line with the band’s open chord tribute to glam while “Hell of a Season” and “Stop Stop” turn the sixties into a modern disco. Just as the El Camion coaché defined an era with the Stones ‘Miss You” and J. Geils Band “Flamethrower”, so the name defines the next great step for the Black Keys in their exploration of American root rock splendor.
Website: The Black Keys
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