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Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 25th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Metallica

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct

Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal

Released: 18 November 2016

via Blackened Records

So, it’s been 8 long years of buildup and hype. For many metal fans though, some trepidation. As Metallica don’t have a sparkling reputation for album releases. In my opinion, they haven’t made a solid album since “The Black Album”. I mean they’ve had the odd decent tune here and there. They just haven’t made a solid full album. So this album, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct was met with a lot of ears. How is it?…. It’s good. I’m not going to say great but it’s good. I think the whole thing is really damn good and definitely their best work in a long time. I guess it was too much to expect them to release a full on thrash album. Then again I don’t think they needed to.

The album sounds great. The production is sharp and they sound tight. Particularly on the title track ‘Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’ and on ‘Atlas, Rise’. The riffs are nice and they actually sound somewhat like Metallica. Weird, I know. Through both discs they’re pretty damn consistent. With a well composed and well arranged sound. It feels like someone took the time to put it together. I like the experimentation with other types of metal too. Ok, they’re not going crazy with this album, they’re playing it pretty safe, still it’s nice to hear.

Saying that though. I do feel that this album plods along at points. Never enough to get boring but it does feel a little long winded. This is way more apparent on disc two. Which feels like Metallica are overstaying their welcome. There are some nice riffs though, like the opening to ‘Confusion’ and I quite like the last song ‘Spit Out The Bone’ it was a good way to cap off the album. So hey not all bad there.

So, yeah Metallica are back. I’m not going to say this is a return to form. However, it is a solid album, and that’s all I really wanted from them. Just something that I can play and have a little fun with. Hardwired… works quite nicely. It’s got some brilliant songs, excellent guitar solos and it sounds like Metallica actually wanted to make this album. Which makes this a good album in my books.

3/5

Mick Birchall

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Civil War – The Last Full Measure

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 10th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Civil War
The Last Full Measure
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released: 04 November 2016
via Napalm Records

My God, this has been a great year for power metal. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to Civil War, they’re a band that I’ve seen live and I think they’re a lot of fun. Mixing the traditional power metal formula with other musical ideas to make a new tone. So  when I heard there was a new album on the way I was quite interesting. I’ve like their previous work so hopefully the new record The Last Full Measure works.

Well I like this one. It’s definitely their sound. That heavy handed power metal with a noticeable twang that brands their signature. The grooves and riffs are fun and build to their respective choruses. These are usually pretty grandiose. The sheer presence that these guys have it great. Everything is full force, the songs don’t such worm their way in as the band beat the melodies in. Songs like A Tale That Should Never Be Told and Tombstone are brilliant tracks. They definitely hook in listeners for a fun ride. I can imagine getting pretty hyped during these songs at a concert.  

Although I have praised this album it has a few shortcomings. I will admit as much as I like some of the songs, this album was such a chore to get through. The album plateaus in intensity and there a lot of moments where I should be getting amped. Yet, I never get true satisfaction as the song has lost the luster. Gangs Of New York has this problem. I want to just love it but I get bored quite easily.

This isn’t the best album. With the slew of great power metal this year. This album just gets lost in the shuffle and in my opinion doesn’t do enough to dig itself out. There are some great songs but the album as a whole is just OK. I’d recommend it if you’re interested. If you’re looking for something massive an album experience that sticks with you. Then maybe look somewhere else. It’s OK.

2.5/5

Mick Birchall

Hammerfall – Built To Last

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 5th November 2016 by mickbirchy

Hammerfall
Built To Last
Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Released 4th November 2016
via Napalm Records

Hammerfall return once again with their brand of power metal. Their tenth album Built to Last is a pretty fun romp and is another fantastic piece to their legacy. Their musicianship and chemistry shines through. They really prove why Hammerfall are Built to Last.

The album opens with the old school style tune, Bring It. A fun way to open proceedings. Quickly followed up with the anthemic Hammer High. A song that I feel should become their new anthem. Built To Last really has a immense feel to it. With big choruses and well excited music. The guitar solos are beautiful and the when the music swells for a big chorus it’s a wonderful sound. The production has this flair of old school metal, like Judas Priest or Grim Reaper. The riffs are so defined and the rhythm is so tight when it all comes in together. It makes for one hell of a listening experience. The vocals of Joacim Cans ring beautifully as the intense metal bubbles below. The infectious sound worms it’s way into your ear and definitely keeps you hooked. The soulful ballads are particularly good. As they usually are in power metal. The creativity and imagination paint epic mental pictures in your mind. You don’t want that feeling to end.

You’d think after 10 albums and two decades of writing they might be short of ideas. Well in my opinion, there are very few original ideas anymore. Yet, if a band can get.me to hear something in a new way then it’s much appreciated. Hammerfall deliver the music with a sharp and crisp tone. Nothing sounds muddy or distorted. It’s beautifully clear. Every note and every beat is felt and it’s effective. Not a second is wasted on the album at all. In all honesty I don’t have that much more to say so I’m going to end it there. Otherwise I’d just be covering ground I’d already done. It’s an excellent album and I recommend it.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Acid Reign announce UK tour!

Posted in News with tags , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

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Coming off the back of their now already legendary headlining set on the Sophie Lancaster Stage at this year’s Bloodstock festival, it is with great pleasure that rebooted UK thrash legends Acid Reign announce their first headline UK tour for 26 years!

Dubbed the “April Fools Tour”, Acid Reign, led by enigmatic frontman Howard ‘H’ Smith, will be playing six dates across the UK in March/April 2017 bringing old/young friends Shrapnel with them as special guests.

 In their own words:

“We didn’t have any intention of touring next year just writing a new album but when this came up it was too good to turn down. Since Bloodstock we have had so much interest it made total sense to do this and we are all really pleased we can get back out on the road. See you there”

31/03/2017   SOUND CONTROL MANCHESTER

01/04/2017   LORDS OF THE LAND GLASGOW (*no Shrapnel)

02/04/2017 THE CLUNY NEWCASTLE

07/04/2017   TALKING HEADS SOUTHAMPTON

08/04/2017   UNDERWORLD LONDON

09/04/2017   EXCHANGE BRISTOL

Tickets on sale Friday October 14th @ 11am!

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/the-underworld/1034363

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/the-cluny/1034563

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/exchange/1034536

http://www.seetickets.com/event/acid-reign/talking-heads/1034639

Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

Sonata Arctica
The Ninth Hour
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 7th October 2016
via Nuclear Blast

The last time I talked about Sonata Arctica on this site I gave them a relatively positive review. I enjoyed “Pariah’s Child”, it was a fun record with a lot of good tunes. It got me into the band and I’ve considered myself a fan ever since. So I snapped up the opportunity to take a listen to the new record, “The Ninth Hour”.

Straight from the first song, “Closer To An Animal”, I knew I was listening to a bolder product with more focus and solid songwriting.  Every element of the album is alive and energized. The synth is just uplifting and makes for a nice atmosphere with its diversity. The songwriting is beautiful and is filled with emotion and passion. From slow and somber songs to the heavy and faced paced straight up metal songs. They just make an impression on every song.

The lyrical content is pretty simple when you think about it. The message of the album is life a good life, be kind to people and stop killing the planet. It sounds simplistic and something you’d sing to your kids. Yet, just because you learned it when you were young it does make these morals false. Sometimes you need simple things just said to you and Sonata Arctica really sell it. Tony Kakko’s voice sounds absolutely amazing on this album. He always seems to manage to match his voice to the emotion of the song and it sounds so sweet every time.

This is an excellent album. In my opinion, Sonata Arctica are the undisputed kings of power metal. If I were to recommend songs from the album, firstly “Life”. This is a belting track with a genuinely inspiring and cheerful chorus that sounds glorious. The other song I’d recommend is “We Are What We Are”, which sound sorrowful and passionate.  It’s a beautiful album that really live up to their reputation as one of the best. I love it

4/5

Mick Birchall

Crobot – Welcome To Fat City

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , , , on 27th September 2016 by mickbirchy

Crobot
Welcome To Fat City
Hard Rock, Glam Rock
Released: 23rd September
via Nuclear Blast Records

The third album from the hard rockers Crobot brings us more well-constructed riffs, thick funky bass lines, and just a feel-good feeling all around. The American foursome made some absolute belters over the years and the new album Welcome To Fat City, is just more of what they’re so good at, if not a more focused and refined version of it. The album shifts gears from blues, funk to hard rock and beyond without so much a batting an eye. I first heard Crobot in the run-up to this year’s Graspop Metal Meeting when I was listening to all of the band playing the festival.  Then I watched them perform and I was truly blown away by the musician and skill. When they announced that they were bringing out a new album I knew I had to have it.

Welcome To Fat City, is a really well-made album the production is fantastic.  It really is a great sounding album, everything sounds crisp and powerful. From the booming basslines to the shrieking guitars, the groove of every song is so well controlled and has an energy to them that sounds wonderful and keeps you in high spirits. The riffs are enjoyable and engaging and with lyrics that keep you entertained.  For me, I found this to be the most accessible album from Crobot, not that they haven’t been in the past but this album just feels easier on the ear and the production is spot on. It’s just all really likable.

The hazy funk sound is a lot of fun matched by the intense powerful vocal performance that sounds excellent but I felt at times gets lost in the music, not in a big way but just enough to be noticeable. The best songs on this album, in my opinion, are “Temple In The Sky” for it big noisy chorus and it’s grooved up riff.  Also, I’ve really enjoyed “Easy Money” for the weird guitar effects and maddening smooth bass. In fact, the guitar weirdness is something that crops up a lot in Crobot’s music, sound like the guitar has broken mid-riff. It actually a nice technique that gives their music a unique little stamp and separates them out from the plethora of riff-rock out there today.

Overall, this is an insanely catchy and fun record that has all the right ingredients to not only please their core fan base but does enough to bring in newcomers. It’s unique, intense and above all… fun.  Something you’ll want in your record collection.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Skyharbor unveil ‘Chemical Hands’ ahead of their UK / European tour

Posted in News on 27th September 2016 by mickbirchy

Indian prog-metallers Skyharbor unveil new song and video ‘Chemical Hands’, the third single from their upcoming third album, set for release in 2017.

First premiered on Metal Hammer, check out ‘Chemical Hands’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv3njIwtAmk

Guitarist Keshav Dhar says: “Chemical Hands is possibly the boldest, most experimental song we have written to date. After releasing two fairly straightforward singles, we felt it was time to let rip and showcase the more bizarre and angry side of the upcoming new record.

“Michael Di Lonardo has created an absolutely stunning video for the song, perfectly representing the lyrical theme while being ambiguous enough for fans to pick their brains and stroke their goatees over. We’re stoked, and we hope our fans will be too.”

Skyharbor will hit the road with Sithu Aye and Modern Day Babylon throughout Europe following their appearance at Euroblast festival, where they play along sideAnimals as Leaders, Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya and many more.

Full dates are:

Oct-01   EUROBLAST FESTIVAL w/ Animals As Leaders / Born Of Osiris / Veil Of Maya + more
Oct-02    Sub 89    Reading, United Kingdom
Oct-03    The Globe    Cardiff, United Kingdom
Oct-04    Exchange    Bristol, United Kingdom
Oct-05    Talking Heads    Southampton, United Kingdom
Oct-06    Dingwalls    London, United Kingdom
Oct-08    Plug    Sheffield, United Kingdom
Oct-09    Newcastle University Students Union    Newcastle, United Kingdom
Oct-10    Audio    Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct-11    The Craufurd Arms    Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Oct-12    Patronaat    Haarlem, Netherlands
Oct-13    Logo   Hamberg, Germany
Oct-14    Freirwerk   Munich, Germany
Oct-15    Flosserplatz   Aarau, Switzerland
Oct-16    Legend Club   Milan, Italy
Oct-17    A38   Budapest, Hungary
Oct-19    Fluturum  Prague, Czech Republic
Oct-20    Elfer   Frankfurt, Germany
Oct-21    Garage  Saarbrucken, Germany
Oct-22    Gibus  Paris, France

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