Archive for Heavy Metal

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
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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

Heaven Below – Good Morning Apocalypse

Posted in CD, Metal, Rock with tags , , , on 13th November 2016 by izaforestspirit

Heaven Below

Good Morning Apocalypse

Released 14th October 2016

Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal

Released EMP Label Group

‘Good Morning Apocalypse’ is the third album from the Los Angeles -based, American hard rock band Heaven Below. The band was formed back in 2008 by singer Patrick Kennison (Union Underground) and Marty O’Brien (Disturbed, We Are the Fallen). After two albums, various line-up changes and extensive touring, Heaven Below began to work on what has been described as the “most ambitious” album of their career – Good Morning Apocalypse. This is a concept album about a modern day Dr. Faust and his dealings with the devil. It features guest appearances from Udo Dirkschneider (U.D.O., Accept), Kobra Paige (Kobra and the Lotus), Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, Watchtower) and Lita Ford.

As with any concept album, if you want to find out more about the story then I suggest that you check out the band’s website or read the song lyrics. That’s precisely what I did and I can say that the story itself is worth reading but I’m not going to talk about it here. After all, this isn’t a book review… So let’s discuss the music instead.

Now, I’ not particularly fond of the term “epic” since it’s grossly overused and it has essentially become a fancy way of describing something larger than life with very little meaning. In this case however, I can’t think of a better way to sum up the overall feel of the opening track Nefarious Angels feat. Jason McMaster — an epic and passionate heavy metal song with explosive guitar tunes and catchy choruses. A great way to start an album. Renegade Protest Movement has the atmosphere of a rebellion in the works with a simple call to action “come, join the Renegade Protest Movement!” It is like a forceful and aggressive blow that hits you right in the face. Ready or not, here it comes!

Devilina And The Damage Done (feat. Kobra Paige) caught my attention as one of the more melodic tracks on here. Kennison’s duet with Kobra Paige adds an extra dimension to the song giving it a somewhat softer feel without losing any of the power in the vocals. For those who prefer a more aggressive style then Killing The Deadman is the song for you – a straightforward yet highly effective onslaught of guitar riffs and compelling vocals with a very brief melodic interlude towards the latter half of the track. And let’s not forget Udo Dirkschneider’s appearance on Black Sunrise/War of The Gods, which transforms the song giving it a more dynamic feel.

In summary ‘Good Morning Apocalypse’ is a multi-faceted and complex album which mixes traditional heavy metal with elements of both modern and classic hard rock. Each one of the guest musicians leaves his or her own mark on the music. Heaven Below have created a winning formula of powerful vocals, catchy choruses and skillfully executed guitar melodies.

4/5
Iza Raittila

 

Existance – Breaking the Rock

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , on 22nd October 2016 by izaforestspirit

Existance
Breaking the Rock
Released 15th October 2016
Heavy Metal
Released via Black Viper Records


‘Breaking the Rock’ is the second album from the French heavy metal band Existance. The band was formed back in 2008 by Julian Izard (son of Didier Izard from the speed metal band H-Bomb). Existance expressed their aim to “keep the spirit of the 1980s heavy metal alive”. Their music has been compared to the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon.

First off is Heavy Metal Fury with a deceptively slow and melodic guitar intro paving the way to some classic heavy metal in which most of the emphasis is on the guitar riffs and Izard’s melodic vocals. The 80s heavy metal influences are fairly easy to detect; the guitar patterns, riffs and vocal style reminds me of the more prominent bands from the NWOBHM movement such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. If it’s retro-style, heavy metal guitar riffs you’re after, you will find them in abundance on tracks such as All Is On Fire, Pain In Paradise.

As with most classic heavy metal albums, there’s usually at least one slow ballad to show the band’s ‘softer’, more melodic side and (hopefully) underline the skills and vocal range of their singer. On here we get Sinner of Love in which it’s definitely the vocals that enter the spotlight. Izard’s vocals are a good match to the guitar melodies giving the song a pleasant vibe. By contrast there’s the adrenaline-packed title track which really speeds things up in the riff department.

Overall, ‘Breaking the Rock’ is more than just a homage to 80s heavy metal. Existance did a great job of replicating the sounds of that era in metal music and their influences are fairly evident. It’s practically a genre-defining album. This is classic heavy metal in its purest form.

3.5/5

Iza Raittila

Powerwolf live in Tampere

Posted in Gig, Live, Metal with tags , , , on 19th October 2016 by izaforestspirit

Civil War, Powerwolf
Klubi, Tampere, Finland
18th October 2016

It’s a while since I’ve been to a metal concert. The last time I saw some metal bands live was at Tampere Metal Meeting festival a few months ago. Now summer is over, it’s getting darker and colder and the leaves have all but fallen… I’ve never really suffered from the autumn blues as each season has its good points. Autumn means that Halloween is soon upon us and what better way to celebrate it then with some über-theatrical and ultra cheesy, horror-themed power metal brought to Finland by the German extravaganza that is Powerwolf.

First up was the Swedish power metal band Civil War which features former members of Sabaton. I was intrigued by them precisely due to the connection to Sabaton. Yet what I heard turned out to be different to what I was hoping to hear. Like their world-renowned countrymen, Civil War’s lyrical themes revolve around various historical events and they play heavy metal. But that’s where the similarities end; their music is slower with an emphasis on ballads and story-telling rather than catchy battle tunes for the mosh-pit. 2.5/5

Luckily Powerwolf were worth the wait. I’m not too familiar with their music but after that show I can safely say that I’m a Powerwolf convert. Their show was exactly what I like to hear from a power/heavy metal band – full of theatrics, ‘pomp and circumstance’ , songs about priests, religion, werewolves, vampires and chanting in Latin. Yes, just like most bands of this genre, their music is cheesy as hell but damn entertaining. The highlights included: ‘We Drink Your Blood’, ‘Dead Boys Don’t Cry’, ‘Army of the Damned’ and ‘Blessed & Possessed’ (the title track of their new album). 5/5

 

In summary I wasn’t too impressed with Civil War’s performance but I really enjoyed Powerwolf. It’s rare that a band impresses me this much during a performance, turning me into a fan of their music practically overnight. It happened last year with Helloween and now in 2016 with Powerwolf.

Iza Raittila

Darkthrone – Arctic Thunder

Posted in CD, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 16th October 2016 by izaforestspirit

Darkthrone
Arctic Thunder
Released 14th October 2016
Blackened Heavy Metal
Released via Peaceville Records

The Norwegian metal duo Darkthrone doesn’t need much of an introduction. Their early albums such as ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ are regarded as classics of the black metal genre. Also, let’s not forget their drummer Fenriz’s witty comments and his passion of underground music. They’re one of those bands who isn’t afraid to alter their style and experiment with something new. Since the start of their career they have gone through various transformations ranging from death metal to black metal followed by experimentation with punk and heavy metal music. Personally I lost track of them after ‘The Cult is Alive’ album back in 2006. Then recently I heard their new song ‘Tundra Leech’ on Youtube and I decided to give them another go.

First up is the familiar, eerie sounding Tundra Leech – the track which convinced me to obtain a copy of this album. It’s great to hear Nocturno Culto’s haunting voice again, sounding just as grim as he did in the band’s early days of black metal. Nocturno Culto is singing on all the tracks on here which is really good in my opinion. I’ve always preferred his harsh and creepy vocal style to Fenriz’s hooting clear vocals. As for the music, the guitars have this old school feel to them as if they were trying to replicate similar riff patterns as they used in the 90s. By ‘old school’ I mean a mixture of old school black metal with a slight thrash metal tinge audible in the guitars.

In other words it’s still very grim-sounding but it’s way too fast and too catchy to be considered “true” and “kvlt” black metal any more. Boreal Fiends stands out due the melodic instrumental intro at the start; slowly drawing you closer into the deep dark forest with the grim guitars, drums and Nocturno Culto’s haunting howls as your only guides. Then there’s Inbred Vermin, a bit of an oddity, which sees the band play around with some heavy metal and (dare-I-say-it?)…Motörhead-esque guitar patterns mid-track, neatly sandwiched between frostbitten, ultra-haunting howls and black metal guitar riffs. These guys clearly enjoy both these styles, so why not combine those two? And why not? Who says that Motörhead doesn’t go well with Hellhammer or Celtic Frost? Also why stop there when you can also add some thrash metal into the mix? That pretty much sums up what the managed to achieve rather successfully with the title track.

Overall this ‘Arctic Thunder’ sees Darkthrone revisiting their roots – the sounds that have influenced them in the early days and putting a new spin on it. It’s got the same eerie and cold atmosphere as their highly regarded black metal albums, but it’s not restricted to one specific metal genre. The closest thing I can think of to describe their current sound would be something like ‘blackened heavy metal’. Luckily I’m not any kind black metal purist, so grim and frostbitten ‘blackened heavy metal’ sounds just as good to me.

4/5
Iza Raittila

Helstar – Vampiro

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 18th August 2016 by izaforestspirit

Helstar
Vampiro
Released 26th August 2016
Heavy Metal/Power Metal with Speed Metal elements
Released EMP Label Group

 Helstar are veterans of the American heavy metal scene. The band was originally formed back in the early ’80s and they have released a number of albums including the critically acclaimed ‘Nosferatu.’ Their latest opus ‘Vampiro’ sees them return to the vampire theme with more tales of Dracula and other blood-suckers.

First they lure you in with a deceptively melodic intro to Awaken the Darkness – an eerie tale of Gothic horror brought to you with the aid some thrashing guitar riffs and high-pitched vocals. So that was the bait and now the real hunt begins. For what follows is Blood Lust – a much faster song with pummeling drums and aggressive guitar melodies reminiscent of the band’s early days back when they played speed metal. As for the vocals, singer James Rivera has an impressive range which incorporates all of the following: the clean, story-telling variety akin to the likes of Dio and Iron Maiden, the high-pitched style and the somewhat less pleasant screams.

From The Pulpit to The Pit is a slightly more complex track; featuring a progressive-style bass and drumming intro followed by some viciously fast guitar riffage and more pummeling drums. Yet it’s not all just thrashing and pummeling, this song also has some melodic parts to it, which are mostly audible in the guitars. Then there’s the Repent in Fire – a catchy power metal song packed with playful guitar riffs and powerful vocals which reminded me of Iron Maiden at times.

Overall, it’s great to see a band that’s been around for so long who can still produce something new and exciting. Rather than taking a stab in the dark in an attempt to produce something different or experimental; they have stayed true to their roots. ‘Vampiro’ is classic Helstar but with a new, modern spin on it.

4/5

Iza Raittila