FROM THE VAULT
DOWN ‘N’ OUTZ
The Further Adventures Of…
Bludgeon Riffola Ltd.
The much scrutinized pub rockers proved it once again with their sophomore outing…they’re no second-rate cover band. They are indeed the genuine article. The combined talents of Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) and Quireboys Paul Guerin (guitar), Guy Griffin (guitar), Keith Weir (keyboards), Phil Martini (drums), with recently added Share Ross (bass) raise more than a few eyebrows. Their inception began with a phone call to play support to Mott The Hoople for their London reunion gig in 2009. The date turned into a record, then a tour in support of a couple surprise runaway hits. It’s been four years and now we’ve got The Further Adventures Of… blaring from the stereo. With the band’s second album, freed from the confines of post-Mott material, the band plow headlong into Hoople’s rough diamonds. “Rock and Roll Queen” has already caught fire with FM radio using its infectious chorus and dirty edge. Modern production (by Elliott) has given the track a new shine, properly suited and well dressed, paying homage to its original 1969 release.
With a proper dusting and polish, the Down ‘n’ Outz resurrect the deeper album tracks of the Hoople back catalog cherry picking the ’74 classic “Marionette” with it’s piano intro and layered texture along with “Whizz Kid” a heavy-handed wild rumbler. Elliott, a shameless champion of English glam, nails his vocal performance capturing the best of Hunter and Bowie in his zealous timbre. The band rise to the challenge forging new muscle to the aging tunes. Nine-minute “The Journey” (Brain Capers, ’71) stands out from the crowd with its stirring balladeering and guitar finesse. The solo alone keeps hairs upright and pays just due to the original. “Stiff Upper Lip” (Drive On, ’75) and “Broadside Outcasts” (Shouting and Pointing, ‘76) are the only two numbers outside the Hoople box. Know as the Nigel Benjamin albums to hardcore fans after the vocalist replaced Ian Hunter, Elliott and company take on the challenge of a more adventurous structure to elevated the song’s complexity. Less pub and more art meets with visceral punch and overt addiction.
The country swagger of “Original Mixed-Up Kid” (Wildlife, ’71) shows the band’s confidence in building a diversified repertoire. An acoustic base with violins and mandolin recall Rod Stewart’s early solo work giving the old time number the blessing of clarity and sophistication. “One of the Boys” (All The Young Dudes, ’72) is probably the most recognized song in the bunch and most apt to be a fan favorite. The power in the bass and drums of the track make it a heavyweight contender for a single while confirming Hoople’s ability to write dynamic gems worthy of a modern showcase. “Sea Diver” (also from Dudes), a melancholy piano-base ballad, does wonders for Elliott’s reputation as a singer. Within its beautifully layered strings, Elliott’s soulful voice becomes central to the song’s emotion confirming his ability to touch deeply. An inspiring D’N’O original, “The Revenge of the Shipwrecked Hedgehog” is a rollickin’ promise of future recordings with the same handcrafted style of Hoople’s tradition and honesty. Check out our exclusive interview with Joe Elliott here.
Website: Down ‘n’ Outz
On their debut album for Crusher records, Göteborg’s Hypnos deliver a massive dose of heavy action boogie rock stoked in the fires of eternal bliss. The five-piece play NWOBHM-style music mixed with ‘70s influence forged in the same cauldron as Witchcraft, Horisont and Graveyard. Last summer the band teased with “The Mountain/Viper” 7” single. Though ambitions (coming in at the six-minute mark) what greeted the ears when the needle hit the grooves on “The Mountain” was an onslaught of guitars over a thumping, rhythmic beat. Halford-like vocals seared away any comparisons to vintage Status Quo leaving behind a blinding array of metal-infused boogie. A melodic, hook-filled jam broke the song in half carving out slabs of memorable delights and inspiring hope for a full-length LP of the same. On the flipside ‘Viper” was classic Sin after Sin Priest with chugging guitars laying waste to all comers and solidifying Hypnos as a serious contender for power-infused rockin’ metal.
The self-titled Hypnos debut brings seven more monster tracks to the fold beginning with the epic “Hands of Evil”, a dangerous headbanger using bombastic bass and drums to set the tone for the rest of the album. A staccato riff brings the track into clear focus as menacing vocals growl out a classic tale of good vs. evil. Eight-minutes to fully stretch out gives the band plenty of time to explore influences from Thin Lizzy to early Scorpions. Title track “Hypnos” has a measured pace with a beautiful-crafted melodic intro through the verse then builds into a slamming rocker by the chorus. The guitars are fluid with distinct European flare while the drums bash away in frantic abandon. The slow blues grinding of “Nightmares” lends itself to the soulful chanting of quintessential ‘70s Detroit rock reminiscent of Frijid Pink, Bob Seger and Mitch Ryder while “Moving Too Fast” uses twin guitar harmonies and galloping rhythms to end side one with a fast paced retro rumbler that flashes back to Riot’s Fire Down Under.
“The Mountain” reappears as an inspiring, high-energy blast to fuel the record’s second side. Sequencing the album with two extended numbers to begin each side is a handy nod to vinyl’s heyday and a masterstroke of genius. The swagger of “Invaders” has the band balancing on the tether between heavy rock and proto metal with fierce twin guitar calisthenics culminating in Maiden-like soloing. Not to be outdone, “Abracassus” takes the vocals outta sight in an intense elevation not heard since Gillan, Dickinson and Halford ruled the airwaves. The track’s simple, melodic chord progression is part of its charm, tattooing a permanent mark on the cerebral cortex. Pile driving to a glorious finish is “How to Handle Madness” reaching full speed straight from the gate with a rapid-fire drum attack, fueled up guitars and a throbbing bass line. Eight tracks and 35-minutes is nowhere near enough, leaving the listener salivating for more. Hypnos is easily one of the best ‘take-no-prisoners’ debut’s heard this year.
Website: Hypnos, Crusher Records.
Hailing from Oslo, Norway, Lonely Kamel issue their fourth album since landing on the scene in 2008. Coming from a frosty landscape culturally famed for its Black Metal output, the quartet pride themselves on their heavy blues and stoner desert vibe that pulls as much from Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. That being said, opening track “Shit City” roars out of the box with a punky Motörhead assault that’s fueled by a greasy guitar riff. A raw, unapologetic attitude runs deep throughout the album’s nine tracks. It’s almost as if they wanted to record simple, loose and cheap without sticking too close to their old-school stoner ways. Yet, it’s the almighty riff that becomes the key element. “I Feel Sick” puts that riff up close and personal with an ‘in-your-face’ delivery that can’t be ignored. Arching back, it snaps like a cobra spewing venom while lashing out one razor sharp lick after another. Built over a rhythmic backbone, the song becomes a ripe show contender.
The heavy psych of “White Lines” builds on the band’s stellar guitar work dancing between fuzzy feedback and Clapton-esque wailing. The sixties groove is unmistakable finding similarity with Monster Magnet and Atomic Bitchwax. The mish-mash of different influences keep the whole thing interesting bordering on addictive. Elements of Hawkwind blow through the six-minute “Freezing” like a winter storm as it extends out to fully explore the ebb and flow of the only real stoner jam on the record. The sludgy “Seal The Perimeter” continues the stuttered rumble of the band’s second LP Blues For The Dead (2010) with amplified layered guitars and sinister, disjoint soloing. The vocals growl with heated aggression spiting out the lyrics “Have you ever climbed up city hall while your thinking like a poison spitting cobra laughing yourself to death?” It’s only after the first side of the album plays out that the record’s title comes into clear focus aimed more at the hostile, polluted political environment of a wasted society than a direct location.
Taking their cue from Led Zeppelin, “Is It Over” is a majestic piece of cock rock. The slow flowing guitar and duel-vocal harmonies are quickly replaced by power-chord, vocal-driven verses, that light up a posturing blimp with chest-beating “Oohs, Ahhs and “Please, please, please.” Whereas, a bit of AC/DC sneaks into “BFD” with a hook riff, dry drums and tattoo swagger. If this track doesn’t get you off your ass and start shakin’ you’re stone cold dead! “Nightjar” is quick to follow with more of a southern swing in its desert dust grooves. The drums keep hammering, the bass bouncing, the guitar grinding until mid-song when it churns into a slurry of mud before firing back into full-throttle fury. Marathon track “Falling Down” is pure Brant Bjork-meets-Bachman Turner Overdrive. Set to rhythm on a truckdriver’s pulse with fuzzed-out guitars and thumping bass, the song traps itself in the subconscious and festers into a cosmic mindblower. Get this monster collection at any cost, then kick back and dig it!
Website: Lonely Kamel, Napalm Records
From the opening riff of “Ahead Of You All” its obvious The Dagger’s debut is going to be a blinder. The complete re-birth of Dio-era Rainbow transcends the album’s 10 tracks with immaculate playing and eloquent song craft. The basic structure of the band was formed in 2009 by death metal agents Fred Estby (drums), David Blomqvist (guitarist), Tobias Cristiansson (bassist) and Tyrant (guitar), who are or have previously been involved in groups like Dismember, Grave or Necronaut. After auditioning several possible singers, Jani Kataja (Mangrove, Sideburn) was offered the job in 2012. The Stockholm five-piece next started making waves the following year when they cut a 7” single with Quartz cover “Mainline Riders” and original B-side “Dark Cloud.” The tribute to seventies heavy rock was a welcomed surprise and a skilled progression for the players. Nowhere is that more apparent then in the album track “1978”, where a Thin Lizzy groove, twin guitar harmony, and rumbling baseline set the band’s musical direction.
While legendary acts such as early Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Judas Priest or Rainbow obviously leave their mark on The Dagger, the band does not rely on resurrecting the ‘70s/’80s-era of hard rock. Instead, they have carefully constructed a unique sound that focuses on heavy riffing, vocal melodies and guitar elegance. The Priest-like clarion of “Call Of 9” and “Electric Dawn” give the record an authentic power and precision. The guitars wail and moan with elements of blues and metal forged in steel while remaining emotionally charged. Kataja vocals fit seamlessly as a voice rooted in classic rock standing alongside Glenn Hughes or Rob Halford. Cristiansson and Estby are the engine that chugs and rattles along to the dense pounding of “Nocturnal Triumph” and the thick fray of “Dark Cloud”. Lyrics sing of timeworn adages that pervade heavy rock - the mythical, the battle ready, the lasting traditions and the ode to the downtrodden. “From the day I was born,” sings Kataja in “Dark Cloud”, “I’ve been drawing the shortest straw…misfortune is my name as the dark cloud show the way.”
The cathedral-like organ of “Ballad Of An Old Man” brings an added dimension to the gloomy ballad. A Uriah Heep-moment happens as the guitars crash together in riveting crescendo right before the chorus, keeping the spirit of 1972 sonically preserved. Equally inspiring is the Blackmore-like “Inside The Monolithic Dome” that reaches full charge when its galloping rhythm and twin-guitar attack in blazing glory. True to the mechanics of vintage rock, The Dagger generate the right feeling for the sound they like to hear themselves. “Skygazer” has risen as a personal favorite casting its spell with a B3 Hammond and Fender jam that’s absolutely spine tingling. The added chorus “Keeper of Rainbows” resonates the band’s sole objective. Logging in at nearly six minutes is a beautiful tribute to Sabbath-era Dio in the “Heaven and Hell”-inspired “Dogs Of Warning”. With plodding, dense stride, the song embodies the best of retro rock and showcases why it’s still worth exploring. Writing songs, rehearsing, jamming and recording live together has resulted in an authentic and captivating slice of old school rock. Cheers to the keepers of the flame.
Website: The Dagger, Century Media
For fans of hard rock blues, Blues Pills is a marvel. The band originated when Zack Anderson (bass) and Cory Berry (drums) left rising stars Radio Moscow to pursuer a musical direction more along the lines of Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac. The Iowa-based rhythm section was introduced to Swedish singing sensation Elin Larsson while in California. A two-song demo was cut and the three were immediately offered a record contract and tour of Spain. While in Europe they met 16-year old French guitarist Dorian Sorriaux whose skill far surpassed his tender age. The band released the Bliss EP in 2012 but it was their stunning live performances at key festivals including Roadburn, Desert Fest and Crossroads that brought them to the attention of Nuclear Blast. The label contracted for the release of second EP Devil Man and the live Crossroads set Live at Rockpalast. Building their foundation on the strength of singles before albums (or in this case EPs), Blues Pills are now in prime position to take the world by storm with the eagerly anticipated released of their full length, self-tilted debut.
The album takes it influences from early seventies bands Free, Fleetwood Mac and Grand Funk Railroad. With Larsson soulful voice, there are also obvious comparison to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. Producer Don Alsterberg (Graveyard, Free Fall) did a skillful job bringing subtle nuances out of the newer tracks while allowing the older song to mature in strength. Fans of the band will recognize EP favorites “Devil Man”, “The River”, “Black Smoke”, “Astralplane” and “Little Sun” all previously released. Playing the songs live for audiences across Europe has slightly changed their original composition. The band reworked the older tracks in an effort to freshen up their appeal. In most cases it works, however on “Devil Man” the a cappella introduction is lost reducing it’s original dynamic impact. “The River” maintains its haunting folk-like refrain with medieval charm while “Black Smoke” has slowed not only to feature Larsson’s voice but give the song dynamic impact as it plows into the second verse.
Both “Astralplane” and “Little Sun” from the Bliss EP have become more expanded and atmospheric in their new form. They blossom like cherished mushrooms under the spell of moonlight and their former guttural delivery remain a ghosted shadow in the melody. Of the five new songs, “High Class Woman” blazes with searing heat and was an obvious choice as the first single. The power of the band comes into clear focus under a rumbling rhythm and hip-shaking riff. Nasty, dirty and deliciously sensual, the track is the fuse that ignites the band and sets the pace for the record. Benefiting from a hypnotic drumbeat comes “Ain’t No Change” where layered guitar and bass turn it into a mid-tempo rocker while “No Hope Left For Me” pulls from the group’s past as the guitar drips with elegant grace and the rhythm slows to a shuffle. The Chubby Checker cover “Gypsy” is a flashback to groove and classic R&B with a garage rock vibe. Of the many highlights on the disc, “Jupiter” leads the pack as a fuzzed out stone cold killer.
Website: Blues Pills, Nuclear Blast
I’ve lived with this album for months until its seeped into every pore and infiltrated my very bones. It’s one of those lazy Sunday afternoon records, silky smooth stoner blues dripping with fuzz. Child is a three-piece from Melbourne, Australia. They’ve been spreading their brand of slow-burn electric blues since forming in 2012. As the months turned to years, they’ve perfected their knack for writing dirty Louisiana swamp rock that tastes like smoky oak moonshine. Guitarist and singer Mathias Northway wraps his vocals around a melody so sweet it’s like rock candy, while drummer Michael Lowe and bassist Jayden Ensor build an essential powerhouse rhythm section so tight it’s crushing. In February 2014 they released their self-titled debut through digital outlet, bandcamp.com with staggering results and leading to tours with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Kadavar, Kylesa, Meat Puppets and Brant Bjork. They’ve played just about every whiskey dive on the continent and are now looking to spread across the pond.
Yet to be signed to a record label puts even more fire in their belly as heard on their self produced debut. It’s a clean, emotionally charged, huge-sounding platter basking in retro ‘70s on steroids. The Free-like groan of “Trees” is blinding. A slow, plodding number with Northway’s searing leads penetrating through the haze of feedback. It’s simply chilling. His voice hauntingly moans out a lover’s tale that’s part Howlin’ Wolf and the other Blind Lemon Jefferson. The solo break is beautifully constructed with just enough elements to feed the song without over baking. The relationship-ending “Stone by Stone” is groove central as Lowe’s moody drumming sits behind Ensor’s leading bass. The riff is subtle yet effective moving into a more jazzy direction with a warm textured Fender tone. Northway blossoms as a storyteller using the verse to set up the chorus where he pleads, “Lady, do the right thing / put it back together stone by stone.” It’s a weeper if you’re in the zone.
“There’s a war in my head and it ain’t leaving soon,” echoes the voice from “All Dried Up”. Elements of Stevie Ray Vaughan permeate through the loose guitar before the chorus is cloaked by a massive cathedral-like organ. It’s a measured builder, but once the track gets going there’s no stopping until the ending jam fades. A thick layer of fuzz blankets the 8-minute “Mean Square”, where the fusion of stoner grooves and cascading blues create a memorizing liquid magma. The band leaves plenty of space between the notes allowing the song to bend and morph into a mountainous mass. The epic “Blue Overtone Storm/Yellow Planetary Sun” uses all twelve minutes left on vinyl to explore a cosmic drift through open jams and progressive astral wandering. The beauty of the exercise is found in the closing minutes as they spill out into a sludgy wall of sound. All five songs are wrapped in a dynamic Nick Keller (Beastwars) illustration of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
No More Hell to Pay
No More Hell to Pay was the album we always wanted Stryper to make - hard, aggressive, and in your face. Without sacrificing integrity, honor or true grit, it goes toe-to-toe with modern metal like Skillet, Demon Hunter and 12 Stones. In the early days of Christian metal Stryper was at the top to the heap. They maintained classic elements of hard rock and were brazen enough to soldier into the devil’s camp waving the Christian flag. Their tours with Ozzy, Ratt and Bon Jovi in the early ‘80s were all the street cred they were ever going to need to win respect from the metal community. Guitarist Oz Fox put up some heroic riffs in ‘Yellow & Black Attack’, ‘Soldiers under Command’ and ‘To Hell with the Devil’. However, the ballads “Honestly”, “All of me” and “I Believe in You” which capitalized on Michael Sweet’s golden-throated high notes oftentimes alienated their metal legions. For their 30th anniversary they return to their hard rock metal roots falling more inline with their heroes Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Van Halen with what maybe their best record yet.
First track, “Revelation”, is a wake up call. The production is superb as layered guitars cascade over bombastic drums and reverberate bass in a polished symphony. Michael Sweet’s voice has not aged and is still able to hit those piercing highs. Fox’s guitar is heavy, steady and aggressive while drummer Robert Sweet and bassist Tim Gaines converge into a thundering rhythm section. The opening number is only the bait to pull the unexpected into the title track “No More Hell to Pay”. Sounding almost like Queensryche, the epic it a true metal classic that builds on a solid beat, catchy riff and razor-sharp lead. The vocal is open and full especially in the hook chorus. Most albums only have one or two songs this good, but here, most of the songs reach this height. The apocalyptic “Marching into Battle” would give Saxon a run for its money while “Legacy” is an ear-piercing pseudo-thrash giant in the wake of Death Angel. But it’s the incredible Doobie Brothers cover “Jesus Is Alright with Me” that is the most remarkable. The chugging guitar, crystal clear harmonies and sonic punch make it the album’s jeweled crown.
The ‘80s taught us to beware of the lethal power ballad. It could easily derail what would otherwise be a good album. Stryper, steer clear of the ‘sap gap’ and go straight for the mature, honest beauty in “The One”, a gorgeous tune that follows a more traditional ‘70s approach and actually adds an amazing dynamic to the opus. Taking a further risk, they add “Te Amo” a second love song penned to the departed that rocks with a heavy metal beat. It works due to excellent craftsmanship and may be the album’s surprise runaway hit. The metallic “Saved By Love”, Dokken-like “Sticks & Stones” and fist-pumping “Water Into Wine” touch on the obvious Christian reference without being overdone - a delicate balance but one that works with immense precision. “Sympathy” is the record’s second big epic as it pleads for mercy against a wall of heavy rock. The Dio-like element in “Renewed” is unmistakable showing the band’s tribute to an icon made all the more poignant when the voice gets ragged at the end.
Website: Stryper, Frontiers Records
Sweden rock giants Abramis Brama return with their sixth studio album since forming in 1997. Enkel biljett, sung entirely in Swedish, is as much a tribute to the band’s stamina as it is a striking force of classic hard rock. With 17 years experience, the Stockholm foursome have mentored many including Witchcraft, Grand Magus and Count Raven. Since the release of their last studio outing, Smakar söndag in 2009, the band have seen a few changes. Original bassist Dennis Berg retired to be replaced by Mats Rydström (Backdraft, Pontus Snibb 3). The switch took place at the conclusion of the band’s 2012 European tour, which included a live performance on the legendary German TV show Rockpalast. Rydström joins long-time members Peo Andersson (guitar), Ulf Torkelsson (vocals) and Trisse (drums) for a fresh new beginning with rejuvenated energy. First single and title track “Enkel BiIjett” is an incredible return to form bolstered by a dense riff and throbbing rhythm section. The track was released as a vinyl split with Norway’s Black Debbath January 2014 and was immediately picked up by the Swedish national and commercial radio becoming a bonfire hit. (Click here)
With nine-finely crafted songs, Enkel Biljett (one-way ticket) ignites with a spark of fire and intensity. Andersson’s edgy guitar workout flexes with muscle-bound riffs while finding psychedelic folksy elements in the more delicate passages. Torkelsson vocals have increased in strength and delivery creating a keen sense of melody with passion and conviction. The eight-minute “Vaggar Mig TIll Ro” is a stellar example of ‘70s rock fused with modern aggression. The song flows from balladlike harmonies to dense crescendos, then closes with a subtle folk interlude - a captivating feature of the magic of Abramis Brama’s music. Shadows of pioneering ‘70s Swedish band November fuel the intensely aggressive “S.M.E.L. (Sanning, Myter Eller Lögn)” were Deep Purple and Black Sabbath are equally worshiped. Yet, it is the savory elements of the acoustical “Lång Tripp” and the slow-burning “In Aeternum (Et Semper)” where reflections of Santana and Led Zeppelin weave an intoxicating ring of mystic wonder that breathes depth into the band’s well-honed progression.
Rydström gets plenty of opportunity to strut his stuff. “Ett Steg Från Graven” becomes his signature piece with his bass calisthenics focused and relentless. Other dimensions of the group’s interplay come in the wake of boogie-tinged “Blåa Toner”, a refreshing take on the blues with fierce riffing, a thick groove, hi-hat patter and a vocal growl that makes ‘moaning at the moonlight’ a positively chilling experience. Foghat-like “Ber Om Nåd” is a righteous tribute to deer-skin fringed jackets, Camaros and roll-yer-own reefer. The track’s sonic swagger and hypnotic beat brings the guitar to the forefront where Andersson lays down a restrained but piercing solo. The record closes way too soon with the bass-driven instrumental “Jonzos Bolero”, a moody, emotional composition with a climax mid-section. The haunting backing vocals give the work an ethereal atmosphere with cosmic undertones and a lasting reflection of the band’s stoner roots.
Website: Abramis Brama, Transubstans Records
ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL
Check ‘em Before You Wreck ‘em
Rise Above Records
England’s premier high-octane trio, return to deliver their sophomore slug-to-the-gut with 12 tracks of no-nonsense, retro-gressive proto-rock ‘n’ metal. Claiming to worship at the alter of Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore, Buffalo, Rose Tattoo, AC/DC, MC5, Budgie and Status Quo, these speed dustin’, weed smokin’, beer guzzlin’ trouble makers are perfect fuel for the devil’s own barbeque. Drop the needle on any cut and a psychedelic boom-fest comes thumping forth from the speakers. “Bulletproof” is the caustic masthead with a pile-driving riff, dense drumbeat and heart-pounding bass. A nice little boogie number, the track changes course midway to offer a tribute to the likes of Iron Maiden and Budgie with a wink and a smile. Less subtle is “Captain Merryweather” an ode to underrated Canadian six-string slinger Neil Merryweather. The eight-minute monster begins innocent enough with some laid-back fuzz only to erupt into a mind-blowing cosmic frenzy. Obviously, essential classics like Merryweather’s Space Rangers and Kryptonite didn’t escape this lot.
Led Zeppelin casts a big shadow over Check ‘em. Growling like a mad dog, “Shaker Your Head” throws in a little “Hey Hey What Can I Do” for sweetener with guitarist Johnny Gorilla taking no prisoners. Bassist Louis Comfort-Wiggett lays down a hot bed of groove and bump while drummer Bill Darlington hits loud and proud. Borrowing the album title from their debut, the band musters up a frenzied cow-punk classic in “Don’t Hear It…Fear It!” Part psycho jam, part bass showcase, the track twists and turns making room for a swinging guitar solo. Then there’s the Page-meets-Nugent sledgehammer of “2 Tonne F*ckboot” an off pace rocker that patches together just enough meat and potatoes rock to counter the freaky time changes a hallmark of the best prog rock masters. True, there’s quirkiness to this latest batch of songs. They jump and spin but are so full of vim and vigor that it works. Hard to imagine all that noise comes out of three Hasting boys.
If there’s a real cranker, it’s got to be “Do It Now” which hits hard and dirty with the chorus up front and rollercoaster exhilaration. Gorilla’s greasy, fuzzed out riff and snarling vocal fuses together a fist-pumping anthem over an open-chord hook. A standard by which all Neanderthal garage rock must be measured! Like Grand Funk and Humble Pie, “Running From Home” has some in-studio laughter captured during the recording. An old school vibe is felt in every drum roll, bass reverb and wooly guitar tone which credits luck as well as skilled production. The frenzied “Happiness Begins” and the echoing “The Thicker The Better” find their inner Motörhead with a barrage of helldriving punk and speedfreak commotion. If there’s two songs to see live, these are the ones. Buckle in and let the band peel into a smoke-filled haze. The closing seven-minute “Late Night Mornings” rumbles to a fitting finish with melodic swagger, a cinematic soundscape and a storyline that boogies to the bone. Check out our exclusive interview with guitarist Johnny Gorilla here.
Website: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Rise Above Records
Triumph And Power
Nuclear Blast Records
Back with their seventh opus, Sweden’s Grand Magus deliver the pinnacle of their 14-year career with Triumph and Power. In a mere ten songs, the group explore a wide scope of power metal while digging in deep with true conviction. Following the brilliance of 2012’s The Hunt, the three-piece offer up the more confident Triumph And Power with dense guitars, tribal drumming and thundering bass while maximizing a progressive song craft. As the title clearly indicates the band celebrate their Viking roots with songs forged in steel, blood and dominance. Much like Manowar, Hammerfall and Judas Priest, the trio revel in the glory of the battle with fires burning and screams still echoing under bright moonlight. The title track “Triumph And Power” sets the stage with the chugging guitars and menacing vocals of Janne “JB” Christoffersson. Keeping the riffs simple and effective is the beauty of the song while JB’s wolf-like growl brings terror to the chorus, “Fight for glory until death, hail victory.”
Built for an LP format, Triumph And Power is equally divided into thematic sides. Side 1 is all about blood and steel beginning with the glory ride of “On Hooves Of Gold”, a haunting cinematic soundtrack that captivates with a piano intro before launching into a full scale attack on the tympanic membrane. Drummer Ludwig Witt keeps his marching orders heavy and basic with plodding precision. At full volume, his skin bashing is felt as much as it is heard. “Steel Versus Steel” is all about the power riff, a killer tune that puts the band in league with all the metal giants that have gone before them. Medieval brash and brawn, and taking no prisoners is the slamming “Fight” a track christened in the hallowed halls of Sabbath and Maiden. The bass grooves of four-string master Fox put a gallop in the song’s sultry swagger as the trio ready their armor. “Dominator” has the raw metal of Accept / UDO locked within it’s hook chorus. A call to arms, the track rattles along a jarring drum kick and power chord melody moving head long into the bellowing title chant.
Side 2 lists three of five songs with Swedish titles. The folk balladry of instrumental “Arv” (Inheritance) uses acoustic guitar and a primitive beat to make the transition to the Gregorian “Holmgång”, a majestic piece that looms large as the power trio inflate in sonic grandeur. The lyrics breathe unearthly threatenings with a warrior’s cry “In the end their can be only one and justice will be done” Following the layered guitar pattern of vintage Priest “The Naked And The Dead” sets a-blaze the story a dying warrior. “There are times you realize / How the pain can change your life”, howl’s frontman JB as the band swirl around him in a rain of cascading crescendos. The track boasts one of the record’s best solos, etched with a slight wah-wah and just enough distortion to make it lethal. A Jew’s harp introduces the melancholy “Ymer”, a second instrumental that builds on a battle-worn snare beat and bleeds into the acoustic refrain of “The Hammer Will Bite”. And bite it does with the sonic fury of a doomsday holocaust echoing the chant “bow to the might of fiery death from above.” Perfect in every way!
Website: Grand Magus, Nuclear Blast
Bridge The Gap
Guitarist Michael Schenker is boldly declaring a return to his classic rock roots with the knockout punch Bridge The Gap. Recruiting a lineup of skilled journeymen including vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow), guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay, with ex-Scorpions rhythm section Francis Buchholz (bass) and Herman Rarebell (drums), Schenker has amassed an elite tour-de-force. The 13-tracks on Bridge the Gap fuse the guitarist’s past with his present determination to celebrate rock’s glory years. Organizing the record with what is now his signature formula, Schenker begins with the short instrumental “Neptune Rising” before unleashing the sonically rich “Where The Wild Winds Blow”. His melodic riffs immediately capture the imagination while painting a vivid soundscape, complete with brief acoustic interludes. The mood varies from dark to jubilate while the songcraft remains focused and razor sharp. White’s vocals are steeped in Dio-era Rainbow, bringing a familiar warmth and polish to the whole affaire.
It’s been 35 years since Schenker last worked with Buchholz and Rarebell on the classic Scorpions’ Lovedrive. Elements of their old camaraderie ring crystal clear in the frantic “Land Of Thunder”, recalling the quick paced “Another Piece of Meat” with the clarion of Schenker’s own “Captain Nemo”. The rhythm section not only adds a ‘70s flavor but a rich, authentic texture to the proceedings. “Horizons” stands at the top of the heap with a pounding drum beat, catchy chorus, and one of Schenker’s best solos. The fusion of melody and thunder are inescapable and perfectly placed. One can’t help but sense a tribute to Ronnie James Dio in the magnificence of “Lord Of The Lost And Lonely” that features not one, but two incredible solos. “To Live For The King” pays homage with “tapping” guitar arpeggios and a beautiful solo that follows the chorus. The mid-paced “Temple Of The Holy” balances on a marching beat and is followed by what is perhaps the album’s most poignant track “Shine On”, a monster Dio-like anthem for big arenas.
Emphasis is placed on Findley’s use of the 7-string guitar, which adds one additional string to extend the bass range. It creates a darker mood, and is more commonly heard in Russian or Brazilian guitars. Its use in “Black Moon Rising” is bone-chilling, feeding the dense Sabbath-like dirge of a mean rocker. Drifting slightly into Jethro Tull territory is the medieval folk number “Bridges We Have Burned”. Possibly autobiographical in nature, the song finds its pacing in a menacing chug with White hitting his vocal stride. Boosting intensity, is the quick succession and erratic staccato riffing of “Because We Lied”, a surprise and dramatic expansion to Schenker’s playing. The summation of the record rests in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Symphony”, a modern tribute to the past, with White singing, “the music we live for, the music we love.” As the disc winds down, Schenker pulls out one more killer in “Dance for the Piper”, a tight thundering riff-a-thon with classic written all over it. Final track “Rollin” (bonus) features the record’s producer Michael Voss singing a laidback “summer” ballad with layered acoustic guitar and good vibes. To read our exclusive interview with Michael Schenker, click here.
Website: Michael Schenker
Bad Omen Records (UK)
Twenty years hard at it and Asomvel are just as honest and brutally heavy as ever. Formed in Harrogate, North Yorkshire UK, the leather-clad three piece stick to basics and hammer out a consistent barrage of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll. Drawing similarities to Motörhead, Tank and Nitrogods it’s as much about attitude as blues metal riffs. In a blow that would level a lesser band, vocalist, bassist and bandleader Jay-Jay Winter was taken in a fatal van accident three years ago. Crushed by the devastating event, the band tenaciously forged on with guitarist Lenny Robinson, drummer Jason Hope and newfound bass/vocalist Conan. Earlier this year they entered Mutiny Studios in Bradford with producer James Atkinson (Gentleman’s Pistol) to celebrate the spirit of Jay-Jay Winter. What surfaced was11 astonishing, hook-filled power rockers that reek of stale cigarettes, late night boozing and sweat-soaked denim. Titled Knuckle Duster, the album picks up where Winter and company left off back in 2009 with their much-acclaimed heavy hitter, Kamikaze.
The production of Knuckle Duster balances the density of the instruments with the raw energy of the band’s live show. Uncluttered and devoid of studio gimmicks, the sound is dry and passionate with an artful texture that allows the whole thing to breathe. The infectious hook on first track “Dead Set on Livin” charges in like a raging bull tossing its weight around while kicking up dirt and spitting blood. Conan fits in perfectly belching out a beastly growl that’s characteristic of the band’s signature vocal. His thick bass beat locks in with Hope’s pounding drum in a cavalcade of thundering terror. Winter’s apparition haunts “Cash Whore” where his partly penned lyrics fuel the engine of the track’s speed-metal fury. “Sell your soul for rock n’ roll / Be true to what you know” is the band’s anthem to live by. Stoking the flames are the hype-action of “Stranglehold” and bombastic, “Shoot Ya Down” where a bit of snot-nosed punk snakes it’s way into the fiber of what makes this band so great.
“Trash Talker” and “Waster” land mid-way through the record like a giant fireball outta the sky. Riff-heavy with a Sabbath-like dirge, both tracks have a sonic density that defies description. Open-chord brilliance keeps “Trash Talker” permanently lodged in the brain while the slow and plodding “Waster” crushes anything in its wake. Robinson’s guitar tone and biting edge solos are a nice change of pace in today’s limp rock market. Galloping in on the wings of hell is title track, “Knuckle Duster”, one of the first songs written for the record. An intense lesson in proper head banging metal scripting, it defines Asomvel in three quick minutes. Like “Wrecking Ball” and “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing” it brings guitar, bass and drums together in a whirling cyclone of pissed-off rage. The pacing of the disc is essential to it presentation. Keeping the tastier bits for last includes the speed freak, “Final Hour” with some of the band’s best playing, and the hefty; blues swagger of “Hangman’s Rope”. Check out our exclusive interview with the band by clicking here.
Website: ASOMVEL, Bad Omen Records
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