Author Archive

Sigiriya – Darkness Died Today

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 11th May 2014 by Paul

Sigiriya
Darkness Died Today
Released April 21st, 2014
Stoner metal
Released via Candlelight Records

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Sigiriya’s new album is called Darkness Died Today, which isn’t a very Heavy Metal sounding title, but don’t be fooled; this is straight up Stoner Metal. The band hail from Wales, not a country particularly known for its contributions to Metal unless you’re a huge fan of Bullet For My Valentine or you think that Budgie are the best thing since powdered milk. Fortunately the Welsh are not ones to let the team down, and when they do strap on some guitars to make some Heavy Metal noise they do it well. Case in point: This album.

On the face of it, you might expect some Pentagram and early Doom influences from this band, judging by their logo. Whilst it’s certainly heavy as hell and full of fuzz, this album only flirts with dark and doomy riffs and mostly chugs along on a well thought out Retro-Rock riff-fest. The style hits the sweet spot between Heavy Metal and Classic Rock, in the classical Stoner Rock tradition.

The band doesn’t sound particularly unique, but I don’t think that is what most Stoner Metal fans are looking for anyway. At 38 minutes in length this record doesn’t overstay its welcome or get too boring, though some of the songs may be a bit droning at times. The band can write generic rock hits but they can also segue into something monumentally heavy every now and then that may surprise the listener. Every time the album threatens to slow down and get tedious, the band pulls another rabbit out of the hat and hits you hard with a great riff that will get your head banging or at least your foot tapping.

Like the bird on the cover, the album soars through a smoky wasteland – a wasteland of cool desert rock riffs and a thick heavy atmosphere. All around a good listen and a solid album. Highly recommended.

3.9/5

Paul Gibbins

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Allen Weber – Hot Shock

Posted in Experimental, Instrumental with tags on 7th May 2014 by Paul

Allen Weber
Hot Shock
Released: Summer 2013
Self-Released

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Allen Weber’s Hot Shock’s music gives the impression of peacefully bobbing along the ocean, just offshore of some tropical island. What a shame I had to listen to this during a dreary British winter. The band’s eclectic style includes: Jazz, Caribbean, Funk, Blues, Rock and R&B, which they have managed to form into a pleasantly cohesive sound that benefits from all these influences by never becoming boring or stale.

You can see that certain songs have a particular leaning to a style. For example one song might focus mostly on Jazz whilst another may adopt a more funk orientated sound, but fortunately the music casually blends from one end of the spectrum to the other making it feel more interesting. They call this “Sandunga Jazz Fusion”. I can imagine seeing this band perform in a city centre on a sunny day or perhaps in some cool restaurant. The music totally suits a laid back afternoon – it speeds up, slows down, and sometimes goes off on some interesting tangents as the listener is taken on a journey through funky riffs and bluesy solos.

There’s still plenty of energy too, though far removed from the more intense sounds usually featured on Valkyrian Music. It’s a fun album and just about every song is worthwhile and earns its place on the record. This is a good effort from a talented band.

4/5
Paul Gibbins

Hell – The Age of Nefarious

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd November 2013 by Paul

Hell
The Age of Nefarious
Released October 25th 2013
NWOBHM
Released via Nuclear Blast
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Hell are one of the greatest success stories in the recent renaissance of NWOBHM. Of all the bands that have come back from the dead to play the oldest style of Heavy Metal, Hell has been one of the most successful. This EP, The Age of Nefarious offers a new song as well as three live performances from their Human Remains album. Hell have a style that goes beyond the simple punk rock/Motorhead formula that typifies NWOBHM, being more theatrical and epic, like Dante’s Divine Comedy played through a Heavy Metal filter. I managed to catch the end of Hell’s set at Bloodstock 2011, and it was clear that the band are very talented performers, the recordings here sound just about as good as they do in the studio, however the problem is that the audience is very quiet in the mix here, so it doesn’t feel like there is all that much point in listening to these over the album versions from Human Remains. It’s a good release though and a good, though short preview of what is to come on the next album. The Age of Nefarious doesn’t deviate much from the sounds on Human Remains, which is largely a good thing. It sounds like Hell are getting ready to release a great album, and I look forward to hearing it.

3/5

Paul Gibbins

Hell online:

http://facebook.com/hellofficial

 

End Of Green – The Painstream

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , , on 28th August 2013 by Paul

End Of Green
The Painstream
Released16th August
Depressive Rock
Released via Napalm Records

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German rockers End Of Green can be best described as the hard rock Type O Negative. That doesn’t quite tell the full story, but it’s a good start. The band describe their music as depressed subcore, an unholy trinity of doom, gothic and hard rock. This release leans more toward a more accessible rock sound than previous efforts and despite the depressive subject matter; it makes for some pleasant listening. Having been producing albums since ’96, the band has clearly developed some noteworthy talent and experience, which really shows on this album. Each one of these melancholy rockers has a great hook and a simple but effective formula, with occasional splashes of gothic theatricality and black humour.

At 11 tracks, it’s difficult to pick any weak moments, and this is a very strong album. From slow, depressing, droning dirges to more pop orientated, upbeat songs with great hooks, this album has a lot going for it, and the band never wallow in their excesses but manage to sound fresh all the way through. Released just as summer is fading into autumn, this is one of the best examples of all things gothic and gloomy in 2013. A very pleasant listen.

4/5

Paul Gibbins

Black Sabbath – 13

Posted in Metal with tags , , , , , , on 2nd August 2013 by Paul

Black Sabbath
13
Released June 10th, 2013
Heavy Metal
Released Via Vertigo Records

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In 1970, this Birmingham quartet created the first Heavy Metal album and gave birth to the genre that would go on to conquer the underground music scene for the next four decades. Legend has it that the band took their name from Boris Karloff’s horror film Black Sabbath after wondering if people would pay for a similar Gothic and disturbing experiencing from music. What resulted was an unholy orgy between Hard Rock, Blues Rock, Prog, and no small parts of Psychedelia, Lovecraftian horror and nuclear anxiety that today is infamously known as the Devil’s music: Heavy Metal. Tony Iommi, having lost the tips of some of his fingers in an accident at a sheet metal factory created his own unique style of playing guitar with dropped tuning and incorporating the so-called “devil’s tritone”, leading to the creation of the heavy, riff driven music the band would go on to define. Thus it can truly be said that the music of Heavy Metal was quite literally created in an industrial accident.

After going through many line-up changes, and releasing over ten albums throughout their decades long career, the band have finally returned in (almost) their original line-up. Sadly, Bill Ward declined to join due to contract negotiations going sour, and is replaced here by Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk. The end result is surprising and pleasing.

13 has a lot of things going for it. After the lacklustre Sabbath albums of the 90s, Tony Iommi has fortunately found his stride once more, following on from the well-received Heaven and Hell album The Devil you Know, the album features some of the band’s strongest song writing since Born Again. Once more, the gothic, occult theme has returned, with many of these songs resembling the band’s first eponymous song, and with recognisable progressive elements that made Vol. 4 and Sabotage innovative. Having Ozzy back is a big plus also, and the band effortlessly step back into their roles as a cohesive unit. Despite these strengths, the album often comes across as slow and plodding, which isn’t so much of a problem for long term fans and those that recognise the band’s influence on Doom Metal, but won’t win the band any new converts. It’s unlikely that any of these songs will become regular rock radio staples or appear on the Iron Man 4 soundtrack, but that’s OK, as this album is full of good moments and will sell well due to band’s deserved rabid cult following. Those new to the band would be better off sticking to the anthems on Paranoid that made the band into revered legends.

There are also certain trademark Sabbath elements that are missing. The album could certainly benefit from some more of the acoustic work that livened up previous Sabbath albums and showcased their underappreciated versatility. The album also lacks a solid, no-frills headbanger like Paranoid, instead making its statement to the world with the single God Is Dead. A great song no doubt, but at eight minutes long and with a tedious pace it is unlikely to have great appeal to the average festival-goer who just wants four minutes of catchy riffs and a sing-a-long chorus. The fact that this song is the second on the album, and follows on from the similar and also eight minutes long album opener End of the Beginning is proof that the band is doing things on their own terms and isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel or creating an album of radio hits, instead making an album that feels more deep and contemplative. And why not? After all if anyone deserves to take this route, it should be a band as influential and successful as Black Sabbath who don’t really have anything to prove to anyone except that after all this time, the original line-up can still make decent music; and they have definitely succeeded. This album will likely grow in its appeal over time and contains much of what made the band great – epic, apocalyptic riffing, gloomy atmosphere, and most importantly a sense of dread and anxiety that distinguished the band from the love and peace hippy bands that saturated the sixties and seventies. Best moments include End of the Beginning, God Is Dead?, Age of Reason, Zeitgeist, Dear Father, and Live Forever. It may not match their 70s masterpieces, or become a legendary comeback album resembling Painkiller, but this is a great record that features a band returning to what made them great and will most definitely please long term listeners.

4.5/5

Paul Gibbins

 

Hot Shock – Hot Shock Demo

Posted in Experimental, Instrumental with tags , on 16th July 2013 by Paul

Hot Shock
Hot Shock Demo
Released: Summer 2013
Jazz Fusion
Self-Released

Sometimes on a sunny afternoon, Heavy Metal just doesn’t cut it. Instead, something jazzy and bluesy goes down better. Hot Shock describes their music as Jazz Fusion infused with Latin, Caribbean, Funk, Blues, R&B, and Rock. If this sounds like an enjoyable musical cocktail to you, you’d be right. This laid back sound makes for the ideal chill out track, with vague flourishes of each of the previously mentioned genres fading in and out naturally. Neither style dominates any song, but Jazz is indeed the underlying style that drives each song forward. The music here is instrumental, and the band aren’t afraid to take their time, with most of the songs gleefully meandering beyond the five minute mark. Not the most complex or inspiring music, but then again that’s not the point and it’s difficult to dislike music in which the musicians are clearly enjoying what they do. I look forward to hearing more.

3.5/5

Paul Gibbins

 

Helloween – Straight out of Hell

Posted in Metal with tags , , , , , , , , on 20th May 2013 by Paul

Helloween
Straight out of Hell
Released January 16th, 2013
Power/Speed Metal
Released via Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH

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Along with Blind Guardian and Grave Digger, Helloween are one of the longest running and most prolific bands of the German Power Metal scene. Their career is a textbook example of the journey that many metal bands go through. Their first album, Walls of Jericho was a highly acclaimed debut that shortly followed by the band’s masterpieces: The Keeper of the Seven Keys parts 1 and 2. In typical eighties Metal band style, the group entered their second decade of existence with an awkward experimental phase in the early nineties, recording Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, to far less success and acclaim than their previous releases. After this, the band bounced back with The Time of the Oath and Better than Raw and have since settled into a more stable pattern of creating a decent album every few years for the last decade or so. This brings us to 2013 and Straight out of Hell.

What should listeners expect of this album? It’s a solid effort from a mostly solid band. Worth at least a listen or two, the record features a relatively diverse amount of songs that showcase Helloween’s great style. Fast songs, slower songs, the epic 7 minute opener, anthemic songs and a decent sprinkling of the band’s trademark eccentric humour for good measure make up this record. Some album highlights include Far From The Stars, Church Breaks Down, the title track Straight out of Hell, the gloriously cheesy Hold Me in Your Arms and the epic starter track Nabatea. This is a reliably good record that should sit comfortably in the collection of any Helloween fan, but also any fan of modern Power Metal. With typical Maideneque song writing that has so often defined the band, soaring choruses and epic, neoclassical elements, this album is proof that Helloween can still write some entertaining songs.

3.5/5

Paul Gibbins