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Sunflower Dead – Coma

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , , , on 12th November 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Sunflower Dead
Coma
Released  16th November 2018
Hard Rock
Released via Combat Records

Featuring former Fear Factory bassist, Christian Olde-Wolbers, Coma is the latest recorded work from Californian rock band, Sunflower Dead. If you’re expecting chuntering, mechanical metal, however, sit back and prepare for a surprise. This is nothing like the aforementioned metal giants of the 1990s.

Drawing in equal parts on nu-metal and 80s classics, SD have melded together a surefire concoction, utterly guaranteed for rotation on mainstream alternative channels. Big chunks of Korn, Dope, and Disturbed have been cherry picked to form a large part of the body of sound, but are equally matched by volumes of Skid Row, and Zakk Wylde (especially in some of the lead work shredding). Everything is further fleshed out with something else of the band’s own creation, plus a spritz of something akin to Pist. On. jamming with Sevendust.

Nothing groundbreaking, then, yet it still has character worth giving a chance. It wouldn’t be too much of a shock to see this band taking the reigns of the soundtrack for a sequel to Queen Of The Damned. Looking over their back catalogue, Coma is certainly a big step up from previous releases, but continues in the same style. Existing SD fans should get a real kick out of it. Personally, I’ve moved away from such things for the most part, as years have gone by. I wouldn’t shy away from it, but I’d be more likely to plump for yet another spin of Demanufacture. Maybe I’m just old…

3/5

Paul Macmillan

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Bad Wolves – Disobey

Posted in Metal, Rock with tags , on 3rd October 2018 by Paul Macmillan

Bad Wolves

Disobey

Released 11th May 2018

Melodic metal/hard rock

Released via Eleven Seven

It’s been some time since I listened to a full album of music of this ilk. Falling somewhere between the ballparks of nu and 00s melodic metal, the tone really pulls me back to when I was a young un. To be honest, I didn’t even realise people were still putting out releases quite so earnestly in this style. It’s no big surprise when you find out that Bad Wolves feature among their ranks former members of Snot and In This Moment. The result is neither as urban or as soft as that might lead you to believe, however; possibly under the influence of other contributors’ previous employ in the likes of Devildriver and Divine Heresy.

The full and final effort is most assuredly accessible, mainstream heavy metal, but so much time has traveled by since that sound was originally formed, that it’s somewhat ‘retro’. If you dug into the easier metal bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’ll no doubt have some familiarity with Sevendust, and, unavoidably, Killswitch Engage. Throughout Disobey, whether in emotional melody or grunting angst, these are the kind of artists who are brought to mind. It’s not as technical as the former, or as strictly structured as the latter. They would maybe have been more at home during the heyday of such trends, rather than stepping into a scene which has exploded into diversity, and away from the swansong of traditional progression paths via big labels. Perhaps the protracted release and promotion schedule (the first single came out November 2017), is aimed at finding a new way to get around this.

This is an easy listen, and a well executed album, but I do wonder if modern metal fans will be as inclined towards it as they might have been a generation ago. (Yes, it has been that long!) Their huge single in Cranberries cover track, Zombie, will no doubt keep them remembered for years to come. Could it have been bigger with different timing, though?In my own opinion, the album kicks the a*** off bands like Nightwish or Ghost, as music with a significant amount of clean singing, but I would have likely been more instantly gripped by it 15 – 20 years ago. It’s a hard call as to how far this could go with metal Joe public, now. In total, we can be a fairly unpredictable bunch.

3.5/ 5

Paul Macmillan

Blue Cheer – Live At Rockpalast – Bonn 2008

Posted in Gig, Live, Rock with tags , , , on 9th September 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Blue Cheer

Live At Rockpalast – Bonn 2008 (double live CD & DVD)

Hard rock/Blues

Released 31st March 2017 via M.I.G.

 

Blue Cheer might ring a bell, but I’d be lying if I said I thought they were a household name. This is certainly the first time I’ve actively sat down and listened to them, or rather, watched, as is the case here. Not for the first time, I wish I’d paid more attention. This is some badass old-school riffing, with an incredible level of energy for doomy blues/metal, especially doomy blues/metal churned out by three fairly haggard looking old dudes.

The video itself is a little odd. The footage is great; nice angles, every member gets some screen time, and the quality is nice. It’s more a case of the setting. It’s a little like a cross between a music college theatre and The Old Grey Whistle Test stage. From the start, you can spot bar maids carrying crates (not trays) of empty glasses, and punters making their way to and from the toilet. It is nice, up close, and personal, but there’s something about it which seems at odds with the massive sound coming from the stage.

And it is massive! This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, though. If my German is correct, the announcer tells us at the start that they once claimed the title of ‘loudest band in the world’. Sharing that part of rock and roll which saw the likes of Cream, Sabbath, and Motorhead at their most basically visceral, this is absolutely a band who were part of the melange which gave birth to what we now know as heavy metal. There are all the best characteristics of what made that movement in the beginning. Suzzed out, aggressive blues. Post-Vietnam punk energy. UK power trio riffs. It’s all there.

Sadly, founder and frontman, Dickie Peterson, is no longer with us, otherwise this band may still be giving the young ones a run for their money. If you, like me, hadn’t given Blue Cheer a proper day in court, and you want to dig deeper into the (pre-) history of stoner doom, give this a spin. It’s a great performance, featuring some surprisingly recognisable musical moments which may or may not have been pinched by a number of our heroes down the line. I’m looking at you, Clutch and Alice In Chains.

4/5

Paul Macmillan

Hordes Of Belial – The Burning H8: Final line-up

Posted in Festival, Live, Metal, Misc., News with tags , on 18th July 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Organisers of Scottish hard rock and extreme metal showcase, Hordes Of Belial, have announced the full line-up for their 8th yearly edition of the event. Sub-titled “The Burning H8”, it again fills two stages with veterans and newcomers from across the underground spectrum. Travelling from classic thrash with Virus to brand new filthy doom with Dolour, the HOB battle train stops off at some of the best, secret beauty spots of death, trad, black, crossover, and just straight up metal along the way.

13 bands in all will take to the two stages this September 30th, two less than the 15 which have featured in recent years. The quality is convincing, though, especially when looking back at the event’s history. HOB is one of the places where Scottish bands such as Dog Tired, Ramage Inc, and Party Cannon started rubbing shoulders with bigger names, and where the likes of De Profundis and Diesel King based their first forays north of the border. There may be bigger shows, but few are as focused on diving into the depths to retrieve the treasures which grace the Hordes Of Belial stages each and every year. Even if you hadn’t heard of any of the bands, you can still be sure there are some priceless gems within.

 

Event Details:

Hordes Of Belial – The Burning H8

Beat Generator Live, 70 N. Lindsay St., Dundee

Saturday September 30th 2017

Doors: 15:25

Ages 14+

Virus, Dog Tired, Damaj, Overoth, Rabid Bitch Of The North, Drekavac, Perpetua, Catalysis, Drive By Killer, Somaesthesia, Multistorey Lover, Dolour, Volcano X

Advance tickets now £10 from www.wegottickets.com

Solitary – The Diseased Heart Of Society

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 18th June 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Solitary
“The Diseased Heart Of Society”
Thrash metal
Released March 03rd 2017
via UKEM

If you pretty much live for the full Baskin Robbins, 31 flavours of thrash, Solitary’s latest release is an absolute must for your collection! No messing about with too much unnecessary cross-over into other genres, The Diseased Heart Of Society just gets straight to the point. It’s doubtful this would be a surprise to those aware of the band’s 2014 live opus I Promise To Thrash Forever. While this might put certain restraints on musical endeavours, Solitary pull it off with such flair you wouldn’t ever care.

This could be down to them being an expert hand at cherry-picking the essence of some utterly classic albums, without simply replicating them. There are definitely some shades of Master Of Puppets, as well as the hugely underrated …And Justice For All. I think I pick up a hint of The New Order era Testament (in fact I Promise… features an excellent cover of Into The Pit), as well as incredible lead-work nods to Rust in Peace and/or Countdown To Extinction. While these are artists who play in the same park, if not by the same rules, Solitary have created their own hybrid game. I think they might have pinched all the newer equipment, too.

Sharp, crisp guitars, thundering drums, driven bass make the production on this release a bit of a gold standard for me, and highly enjoyable to listen to for that aspect alone. This musical backdrop makes the perfect nest to carry what is possibly my personal favourite element of TDHOS; the vocals. Now, there is certainly an undeniably English accent, but the delivery fully puts me in mind of German band Rage’s frontman Peavy Wagner! That might not work for everyone, but right here, that is God status!

As much as I would normally lean towards it, I’m not sure if diversification would help in this case, or end up being a bit of a downer. The thrash energy is high, the solos are on fire, and the hooks are plentiful. One thing I do know is this is a solid keeper, and a prime example of the UK metal, and thrash, scene.

Paul Macmillan

4.5/5

Maxdmyz – Alchemical Metal (EP)

Posted in Alternative, CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 17th June 2017 by Paul Macmillan

Maxdmyz
“Alchemical Metal” (EP)
Released April 17th 2017
Electronic/metal
Released via Renegade Records

This swift EP from London’s Maxdmyz is an odd, and mildly confusing one. Hell, I don’t even know for sure how we’re supposed to pronounce their name! Yet it’s the audio which keeps chucking out curveballs.

Swamped in the soundscape of 1990s rock and metal, collective tastes are somewhat obvious. The electronic edge of Obsolete era Fear Factory taken to its club friendly extreme, and the odd power-pop metal of Faith No More’s The Real Thing; the classics of that era are the big player’s in the canon of influences on display. One could also put some credence behind picking out the occasional nod to Alice In Chains, One Minute Silence, Rage Against The Machine, or even early nu-metal such as Hed(pe) or System Of Down.

There is plenty play on more current trends, though, albeit far more subtle in application. It does take a bit to push the overarching style to one side to filter them out, and then another shove to allow your head the space to blend everything back into one again. It’s no wonder they opted for the title of Alchemical Metal, as this pulls on predecessors from all throughout the metal and rock kingdom. From flecks of melo-death to stoned-out sludge, old-school to futuristic, the sonic melange is openly bizarre.

Not for the first time in reviews, I have to say, this should, in theory, have ended up a bit of a mess of mismatched tropes and idioms, but has managed to come together as one solid sound. Hopefully, the prevalence of this type of free-roaming artistic success story is a sign of things to come. Slightly disjointed at times, if you really look for it, but delivered with passion and talent, accessible, yet powerful and genuinely musical.

Paul Macmillan

3.5/5

Damaj -The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Posted in CD, Metal with tags on 12th December 2016 by Paul Macmillan

Damaj – The Wrath Of The Tide (EP)

Released March 1st 2017

Heavy metal

Self-released

Although Greenock’s Damaj have been cutting about for some three years or more – playing with Blaze Bayley, Tygers Of Pan Tang, and headlining Spanish festivals, as you do – The Wrath Of The Tide appears to be the first physical release they’ve put their name to. It presents a somewhat personal blend of numerous classical elements, drawn from the spectrum of metal; thrash, prog, and classic British heavy metal being the order of the day.

Vocally, there is much in line with the more accessible edge of the current UK scene, comparable to the likes of Reign Of Fury or Sumer, but the music behind is telling a different story. The lead work on the guitars is quite the trip. Incredibly professional in terms of technical ability, yet without plumping for mindless shred overkill, it really feels like something great has been accomplished in this respect. There are some very nice touches and twists in many of the riffs and rhythms, too, indicating that consideration and taste have been injected throughout. If I was to be mean, I’d have to say there’s something about the production value on this release which doesn’t quite click for me. It’s like later Voivod (i.e. the eponymous 2003 album). The edges of the sound are a little too… fluffy.

However, this doesn’t stop the integral energy of the collective breaking through. In fact, it doesn’t seem too farfetched to wholeheartedly believe Damaj have an almighty live presence, based purely on this EP. Now that they’ve cut their teeth on the recording front, and nailed their song-writing style to boot, they’ve laid the groundwork to make themselves a formidable force.

4/5

Paul Macmillan