Category Archives: Album Review

Is the band’s new one any good? What about one of the previous albums? This is where you can be guided by our team of experts.

Corrosion of Conformity – No Cross No Crown

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick “The Fish-Man” Ossian

Before giving my opinion here, let it be known that I am somewhat biased when it comes to COC. I have been a fan since  they first hit the big time.  I remember calling the radio station to request Albatross, a hit for them at the time.  Unfortunately for those of us who were followers of the metal machine that they had become, their last record was Arms of God in 2005.  Corrosion of Conformity hail from Raleigh, North Carolina, and they are Pepper Keenan on vocals and guitar, Woodroe Weatherman on guitar, Mike Dean on bass and vocals and Reed Mullin on drums and vocals.

It is evidently a really good year for hard rock and metal, because Corrosion is back!  It could also be said that they are back in fine form.  They have plenty to offer with this latest set of tracks, from the chop-and-slaughter of opener the Luddite to the squalling leads of  Wolf Named Crow.  There are a couple of throwaway tracks, so to speak, but it seems everyone is using intros and interludes nowadays.  Novus Deus, No Cross, Matre’s Diem and Sacred Isolation all fit into this category.

Never fear, dear reader.  There are ten other tracks on board, and they are all arse-kickers.  The Luddite signals the return of the boys better than most opening tracks I’ve heard all year.  It’s medium tempo, and a bit of a drone, but it has great chops and the rant at the end is awesome.

Cast the First Stone is more of an attack track, if you will.  It is very uptempo and very in your face.  There is an excellent lead guitar bit here also.

Little Man is a big heavy riffing monster.  There are plenty of guitars throughout the mix here, and this particular number is a slower, grinding pounder.  Sort of a blues metal slam, if you will.  The drummer is very busy as well.

Forgive Me shows that the boys are ready to get back to the attack.  It is again, rather bluesy, but with a super big beat and lots of riffing and lead guitar.

Nothing Left to Say is a different sort of beast.  It begins with a weird intro, giving way to a blues lead guitar snippet.  The blues here reminds me of their track Redemption City.  There is a bluesy psych fade at the end à la Hendrix.

Old Disaster is another chops fest, with plenty of heavy attack.  The fact that they return to the blues metal format again and again just reminds you how good they are at it.

E.L.M. is another very heavy “we’re back” sort of number.  Not sure what the letters stand for, but there it is.

The title track is up next, and it is a veritable leviathan.  The FX intro reminds you of a creepy swamp.  There are priests chanting, more blues heaviness, and just a real rocking attitude throughout.

The closer, A Quest to Believe ( A Call to the Void) gets 5 cool points for sheer title awesomenicity.  It is another barn burner that will no doubt get you off of your couch and on your feet.

In short, if you are a COC fan, and you have been anticipating a fine return to intensely rocking form, than you will NOT be disappointed.  Go out and get it now!

Verdict: 10/10

 

Mr. Plow – Maintain Radio Silence

Review by Rick “The Fish-Man” Ossian

Mr. Plow are a stoner/doom metal quartet from Houston, Texas.   At least, that’s who/what they are on first glance.  However, if you dare to look/ listen a bit closer, you will find that they are much, much more.  Mr. Plow is Greg Green on bass, Jeremy Stone and Justin Waggoner on guitar and vocals and Cory Cousins on drums.  As I said, they are more than just another of the myriad of doom and gloom outfits that litter the countryside.  They incorporate elements of psych, blues, heavy metal, hard rock and even spoken word-style rants of sorts.  This is more like some of the garage-metal acts from the 60’s and 70’s if you ask me.

For example, let’s take a listen to the first track, Sigil.  I’m thinking, oh there’s going to be a Cookie Monster vocalist and nothing but giant repetitive riffs, right?  WRONG!!  Sigil contains relatively clean vocals and plenty of good riffs, but not just end-of-the-world slams from the brontosaurus department.  These are regular rock/metal riffs.  Some are bluesy, some are psych, some are BOTH.  It’s just unreal what these chaps have come up with here.  My most sincere wish is that they gain public notoriety of some sort so that they can be heard on the world scene.  Yes, they are that good!

The second track, Samizdat, is another pocket full of blazing rock heaviness.  If you look up the title, you will find that it is a very righteous practice indeed – making controversial materials available for regular blokes to enjoy. Pretty cool, eh?  I thought so.  The song is very well done also.  It IS more consistent with the stoner/doom tag, but it is also a perfect example of why I always say that stuffing bands into pigeonholes is not always the best idea.  Genres be damned, I say!

Shaolin Cowboy begins with a nice intro riff.  This is more super heavy metal than it is stoner.  I was again expecting sludgy, doomy stuff, but instead I got heavy garage rock again.  I also got clean vocals again.  There was also a super sweet psych lead guitar solo.  How many doom bands do you know that have wickedly cool lead guitar solos?  Drummers should take note of the excellent drum work at the end.

Matchstick features more heavy-as-fuck riffing.  The vocals are a bit buried, as is customary with a lot of the doom and gloom sect.  There is some ominous shit going on here, like one of those warning feedback intros that creeps you all out and prepares you for a wicked tune.  It again reminded me of something more along the 60’s/70’s psychedelic vein.  “He’s more than he shows/more than you’ll ever/know…He brings the reckoning“.  He brings more than that.  He brings a big bag of psych/blues/stoner Heaven!

Memento once again reaches into an Iommi-sized bag of riffs for our intro.  It is fuzzy but very good.  Mostly clean vocals again, and some very heavy drumming.  I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned it, but the drummer is very busy for the most part on all of these tracks.

Johnny Gentle has that sweet creepy bass intro stuff that I’m always on about, plus more Riff City architecture, as usual.  This one is a chugging, uptempo riff cluster made for a superhero movie (“save us now”), but it would seem that Johnny is not the hero the people needed.  There is, however, some very good music here.  I’m loving this so far, but I shouldn’t go all fanboy just yet.  Wait till you hear the second half of this monster!

Million Bucks is up next, and it is, naturally, about a woman who looks like- you guessed it, a million smackers.  It is another garage-style HM gangbuster with some  sludge thrown in for good measure.  Sludge slams up against an uptempo, moving beat with a little psych/wah on the side.  “The perfect drug for me”, they say.  Women CAN be very addictive.

The title track is the next track for our perusal, and it is an epic (sorry) behemoth in more than mere time alone.  It has a wicked intro riff with a guitar feeding back.  No big deal, you say?  Stay tuned, dear readers, as our heroes soon turn this one into a giant drum fest with some serious head-banging guitar to boot.

Spark Arrester features a fuzzy riff intro and a big, heavy beat.  The riffage is very heavy and will take you right down Heavy Duty Boulevard if you are not careful.  Riff City is loaded down with some serious traffic tonight, folks!

Hammer Smashed Face wins 10 point for cool title of the day, hands downs.  I love the super heavy riffs and the prophetic vocals.  They are, again, slightly buried at times, ala sludge or doom/stoner metal, but I can still hear them clearly and that’s all that matters.

Paxton is an excellent tribute to the late actor Bill Paxton (True Lies, Twister, Alien, etc.).  It contains a feedback intro with some appropriate slamming and killer riffs.  These guys can really JAM when they want to!  They are SFB (super fucking bad), as Dr. Jacobsen would say.  Not only that, but the lyrics are unmistakably Bill: “When the aliens attacked you gave them hell/In the great beyond we wished you well/GAME OVER MAN/ You bitched about your situation but you never ran”!!

The final track of the day is an excellent closer titled Southbound.  The main cat in this track is headed south because of a zombie apocalypse.  Nuff said.

If you are into rock, and you like your rock heavy, then there is a really good chance that you will like Mr. Plow.  If you do not like rock, then you probably will NOT like them.

Verdict: 9/10

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard/Slomatics – Totems Split EP

2018, Black Bow Records

Review by Rick Ossian

When I first saw this item in my inbox/things to check out itinerary, I decided that the name alone was worth investigating these new sounds.  Many of you have no doubt checked out an album cover (vinyl or CD or what have you) and thought, “Wow, what a cool cover! I should buy this and see what these guys sound like!”  That was indeed the case here, and I was amply rewarded for my efforts.

I was, in fact, so excited, that I contacted the band (MWWB) via their Facebook page to let them know I was going to be reviewing their latest work.  They said they would share the link! I also got a message from them in regards to the running order:

“Hey, Master and His Emissary & Eagduru are MWWB, the other tracks are Slomatics. Slomatics do a spoken word on the outro of Eagduru, and Jess from MWWB sings backing vox on the Slomatics song Master’s Descent. Hope this helps”.

Now there was no turning back, as one can obviously see.  Therefore, I decided to dive headfirst into the tunes and see what was going on.

As you might imagine, my first concern was where the ‘split’ was.  In other words, where did Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard end and where did the Slomatics begin?  As I listened, I realized that the distinction didn’t really matter.  When listening to the songs, it occurred to me that both bands were of the same mind when it came to the music.  Both are post-apocalyptic doom and gloom purveyors.  Both put freaky vocals on top of the sludge to enhance the proceedings; at least, that’s what the music led me to believe.

For example, when I listened to the final track, I was reminded of things that I had noticed from the first track.  From the monumental pounding of The Master and His Emissary to the space-like dirge of Master’s Descent, this could be both bands at the same time!

Of course there are riffs that could signal the end of the world.  Of course there are strange vocals throughout.  There are also lots of FX and synth-laden intros.  I was reminded of Sleep at some moments, which made perfect sense because of the similarity in genres.  The first track even made me think it was an instrumental until the chanting broke out.  Doom and gloom lords will no doubt fanboy fawn over Eagduru and Ancient Architects, both mega-epic leviathans of echo and mighty riffs with angelic and oftentimes indistinct mutterings of vocal over the top of everything.

Let us get to the meat of the music right here and now.  If you like your metal in molten sludge form, then you will no doubt enjoy this new pairing of the boys from Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics.

Verdict: 9/10

 

 

Divinity Compromised – Terminal

Qumran Records/No Dust Records

Review by Rick Ossian

This five-piece outfit from Northwest Chicago have been out there for a while now.  They were formed in 2009, and released their debut in 2013, entitled A World Torn.  They also played Prog Power XIV in 2013.  This LP, Terminal, is their sophomore effort.  Divinity Compromised features Lothar Keller (The Skull) on vocals, Andy Bunk on bass, Ben Johnson on guitars and keyboards, Mike Mousel on drums and Jeff Treadwell on lead guitars.

First up is the title track, and it is a powerful number featuring Kayla Dixon (Helion Prime, Witch Mountain) on vocals.  There is, of course, a YouTube video, as it is the lead-off single as well as being the lead-off track.

Shelter in Place is a good uptempo track, with lots of riffing and a bit of spooky, vampiresque vocals (a la Type O Negative).  The engine room is busy, with big bass runs and lots of double bass drumming.  There is also some lovely piano and a sort of rap/spoken word section.  There are also guests on this number, namely The Sinful Dwarfs.

My Escape begins life with a beautiful piano intro, acoustic guitars and gentle vocals.  This is sort of a wandering journeyman number, with some bluesy elements and some nice shredding along the way.  It doesn’t really kick in at first, but when it does it does so very nicely.

The Definition of Insanity is next on the docket, and this one is a bit longer than the majority of the tracks.  Most are six minutes or so, and this one is 7-plus.  It starts out with the pedal to the metal, with some excellent riffing and some almost growly vocals.  This is potent stuff, with a nice squealing shred about half-way through.  More spoken word stuff, this time vaguely political (a la Queensryche).

The Last Refugee is another hard-charger, sort of symphonic at times.  On board here we have another special guest, one Paul Kuhr (November’s Doom).  Again we have some growly vocals, almost bordering on Cookie Monster fare.  When they mix these with the clean, or straight, vocals, it seems to do pretty well.  This one reminded me of Pagan’s Mind or even Symphony X.  The piano/vocal closing bit resonates nicely.

Free to Speak features a wicked main riff and some pretty cool, pretty much straight forward rock.  Lots of big bass work and symphonic background, as well as some good shredding on the lead guitar section.  This is prog metal at its finest, folks.  I have heard better, but not by much.

Legacy starts out with a somber piano intro and some string action – sounds like violins, but is most likely keyboards.  This one is very intense but very mellow.  The vocal parts once again reminded me of an older Queensryche.  The arrangement is also beautiful in its orchestration.  The lead guitar parts are of a bluesy nature, for the most part, but still some serious shredding involved.

The Fall of istoria has lots of power and features much more of the double-bass drum slamming and lots of big, symphonic riffs.  Great vocals and excellent guitar work as well.

Saving Grace is the big finale.  At just over eight minutes in length, it overpowers the other tracks with sheer force alone.  It starts out kind of slow and determined, but very powerful and potent.  Haunting vocals again, as well as lots of big bass, drums and guitar – and all at the same time!  There are no less than three separate guitar solos, which is very cool in my opinion.  There is never any shortage of guitar on this collection, by the way.

In short, if you are a big fan of prog metal, and you lean toward the direction of a bit heavier fare, than this is definitely for you.

Verdict: 9/10

 

Tankard – One Foot In the Grave

 

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Having last reviewed Tankard in these very pages (R.I.B., 2014), I am somewhat familiar with these Teutonic terrors already. Tankard hail from Frankfurt and have been toiling in the thrash rock territory for nigh on 35 years now.  These beer and thrash metal hooligans have to their credit 14 studio LP’s, two compilations, two DVD’s and a live LP.  They will be at Metal Frenzy Fest in June and July, featuring many other metal stalwarts such as Rage, Vader, Destruction, Amorphis, Stratovarious and Fleshgod Apocalypse.  Their ranks include Gerre on vocals, Frank on bass, Olaf on drums and Andy on guitar.

Since the last time I reviewed them I had sort of a weird idea.  I assigned a brand name of a beer to each tune, just as sort of a fluke, being it was Tankard and all.  Well, this time out I was just going to go with light (pilsner), or ale, or a dark brew to help describe these musical minions.  Seemed like a good idea at first – then I realized each song was, indeed, a darker brew!

Take the first track up, for instance.  Pay to Pray is fast and heavy as fuck.  We are in Riff City here, my lovelies, and things are tough, like a street gang.  Even the vocals are more of a throaty shout than anything else.  They get the job done, people.  They have this shit down.

Meanwhile, on Arena of the True Lies, we have another heavy uptempo number.  I loved the sound on this number, by the way.  Normally I don’t get bogged down in semantics, but this is the aural equivalent of a jack hammer or buzzsaw with just a touch of studio polish.  Great stuff, and they throw in a couple of quick guitar solos to boot!

Don’t Bullshit Us! gets at least five cool points just for the title.  It should probably also get points for being Super heavy as fuck.  I know I probably curse too much and probably use the word HEAVY too much, but other better words admittedly fail me at the moment!  This is a wow moment here – a no-holds-barred onslaught on the senses, with an aggressive attitude, a nice guitar piece, and that stop-time on a dime dramatic shift stuff that I’m always on about.

The title track, by slight contrast, is also a very cool piece, with one of those foreboding intros that give you gooseflesh if done just the right way.  It is also super fast thrash, which seems to be becoming a pattern for these blokes… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Syrian Nightmare, for which Tankard have already released an official lyric video.

This is another really heavy tune, with lots of shredding plus a nice guitar bit right out of the box.  This one is kinda proggy – well, there’s some noodling going on.  Nothing to get too excited about.  This sounds like Hell on Earth.  The guitar part makes me wonder if things are getting a bit formulaic.  I would say perhaps just ever-so-slightly.  Again, I’m not going to worry about that. No big deal and not really significant to our purposes here.

Northern Crown features some nice leads and is full of dramatic heavy stuff, including the obligatory guitar solo.

Lock Em Up! features more of the stop-on-a-dime dramatic time shifts and complicated arrangements.  There is more heavy riffing and more guitar soloing.

The Evil That Men Display is a slight alteration in proceedings.  It begins life with the threat vocal intro, then it’s super slam thrash from that point on.  So, not that much different, but still, change is change!

Secret Order features a violin intro, of all things!  There is also some vocal chanting (monks) during the chorus.  This is a slam jam at about a minute in, really fast and very heavy.  I would venture to call this historical metal.  Not bad at all.  There is also a violin outro.

Sole Grinder is another Heavy as Fuck/Riff City adventure.  I would also use my colleague Dr. J.’s S.F.B. here. If you haven’t heard, S.F.B. refers to the Super Fucking Bad-Ass content of the tune!

Summing up briefly, Tankard’s latest is a no-brainer.  If you like beer, and you like thrash metal, there is a good chance you will like Tankard.  Check them out!

Verdict: 9/10

Accept – The Rise of Chaos

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Since the addition of Mark Tornillo for the reunion of the band in 2010, these stalwart Teutonic terrors have not rested on their laurels in the least.  In fact, their list of accomplishments reads like a CV of a band half their age.  Their releases Blood of the Nations, Stalingrad and Blind Rage have hit #4, 6 and 1 respectively in their native Germany.  They have also hit #1 in Finland.  The Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK have also yielded high-charting spots for the boys.  Wacken, Masters of Rock and Bang Your Head are among the festivals they have played.  Their list of musical milestones keeps growing and growing.  Along with Mark at the vocal helm are Wolf Hoffman on guitar, Uwe Lulis on guitar, Peter Baltes on bass and Christopher Williams on drums.

Now we come to the best yet – at least, from what I’ve heard.  Naturally, when we hear the first track of a new LP or CD, we expect it to be an arse-kicker!  We want to hear the boys (or girls) open with something incredible.  Something hard-charging, something that grabs your attention and won’t let go.  Luckily for us, The Rise of Chaos is like that on every track!  Surely you jest, Rick, you are kidding us all!  How could there possibly be ten arse-kickers in a row?? It’s not possible.  That, dear reader, is why you must listen.

I’ve decided to go backwards…at least in order of tracks.  Just to kind of shake things up a bit, you know?  The last tune on this wondrous collection is called Race to Extinction.  It was at this point in my listening that I had ultimately decided that the boys deserved top marks.  This outing never let up for a second!  No Blues, no ballads, just one rocker after another!

Carry the Weight is an uptempo, speedy, jamming number.  It’s almost thrashy in its delivery, and the lyrics are somewhat predictable, but the pace is relentless.  “Don’t carry the weight on your shoulders/Don’t carry the weight all alone/It’ll turn your heart to stone”.  In my notes it says HOT DAMN!, so you can imagine my excitement.

Worlds Colliding is another holy shit moment.  Gods, I love the riffs/licks/leads/rock guitar jamming that these blokes have got going!  This is clearly some of the most exciting Hard Rock/Heavy Metal I have heard all year.  The most important thing here is that it is not diluted.  The delivery, the execution, everything is pure Rock“Am I going crazy? Am I losing my mind?” Let’s hope not, Mark! We need you to be lucid for when the ultimate tour comes along!  Please, please play the US, especially the midwest ( Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, etc.).

What’s Done is Done is really good as well.  I found myself several times wondering how they keep up the pace.  This tune will lead you down the Heavy as Fuck Hallway and on the road to Riff City.   “What’s done is done/ the bullet has left the gun/It’s over/You can’t unring the bell”.  Almost haunting lyrics, but the playing is even better. There is an absolutely infectious rhythm bouncing along through this one.  The lead guitar solos work well with the tune as well, and in fact on every track the leads work very well.

Analog Man contains a sentiment that I’ve often professed.  Being “an analog man in a digital world“.  Yes, I get tired of the constant downloading of MP3s.  I prefer CDs over those, and I prefer vinyl over compact discs as well.  I know that I am old – I get called grandpa and griefer all of the time!  That’s what I get for trying to keep up with the kiddos at my job… There is some serious jamming going on here.  Keep up the good work, boys!

No Regrets had me marvelling at the fact that there were five arse-kicking tunes in a row.  It was at this point that I was determined to find and purchase the physical product.  I am hoping for a  vinyl release… I probably mentioned that already!

Kool-Aid get five kool points just for the title.  According to my notes, this was another holy crap moment.

The title track, Rise of Chaos (remember Rise of Chaos?), is probably one of the best tracks here.  It is difficult to pick a favourite, however, as they are all very good.  They come charging out of the box with a wicked lead that will tear your head off!

Hole in the Head is another hard charger.  It will remind you of the things that you DON’T need.

Die By the Sword is where I began this musical adventure.  It is another excellent tune.

In short, if you were an Accept fan back in the old days, then you will no doubt enjoy this collection.  It is not Balls to the Wall or Fast as a Shark, but it’s just as good, if not better.  Top marks!

Verdict: 10/10

Ascentia – Pathways EP

Bandcamp link

On first listen to this quartet of tunes, one may forgive Ascentia for dubbing themselves prog metal.  Don’t get me wrong – this IS proggy, and it is most definitely metal/hard rock.  But it is oh, so much more.  I, for one, am eagerly anticipating a full-length outing from these blokes.  There are two long ones and two short ones.  Tunes, that is.  The order varies from one source to the next, so I will go with what I was presented with initially.

Incidentally, Ascentia hail from Greensboro, North Carolina, and they were formed in 2008.  Their personnel is as follows: David Godwin on lead vocals (and very clean, straight vocals for the most part), Preston Bass on bass and vocals (how appropos), Michael Martin on guitars and vocals, Nathan Elko on drums and vocals and Justin Krick on lead guitar.

First up is Catharsis, an uptempo jam and unfortunately one of the shorter numbers.  As is evidently the norm for these fellows, they pack a lot of punch in a few minutes.  This number is only three-and-a-half minutes, but they get a lot accomplished in that relatively short span of time.  Catharsis is an uptempo jam with heavy-as-fuck riffing and excellent vocal work.

Perseverate is one of the longer numbers (6:44), and begins life with a bit of doom and gloom for all you folks who like their jams a bit darker than most.  It reminded me a bit of Hawkwind or maybe even earlier Alice in Chains, only heavier!  Only a minute-and-a-half in and we get our first guitar solo, a tasty blues jam that will make the hair stand up on your neck.  This is fairly heavy stuff, and a bit disjointed at times but still pretty cool despite the messiness.  Some folks think Keef of the Stones is a sloppy lead player, but look how well he did!  At 4:20 David decides to go skyward with his vocals, which gives way to another guitar bit at 4:35.  Five minutes in he resorts to screaming, followed by another guitar solo.  Big finish at the end, of course!

Aphelion (a point in the orbit of a planet when it is furthest from the sun) is up next, and it is a rambling beast at 8:16 in length, and features another cool doomy intro with heavy bass licks.  The production seems a bit muddled herein, but other than that, both thumbs way up!  There is some pretty decent riffing here, but the track doesn’t really seem to go anywhere from whence it began. Ah, well, nobody’s perfect.  At four minutes in we get an instrumental breakdown jam, then a nicely delivered guitar bit at six minutes.  A good track overall but perhaps a bit long…

The final track, Revenge, features a big guitar opening with both axes wailing away.  This is a total guitar jam that unfortunately ends far too soon at a robust three-and-a-half minutes.  I was again reminded of perhaps a slightly heavier Alice In Chains.  At 2:30 I was noticing the disjointed, chaotic proceedings I had noticed above, but it still works somehow.  The vocals break down and do a bit of a growl to accompany the relatively clean vocals.  Another big finish and we are done far too soon.  Hopefully these blokes will do a full-length recording soon.

To recap, they may not be completely prog, and they may not be completely metal.  They are a meeting of the minds of those two, if you will, and they serve both genres proudly!

Verdict: 9/10

Cydemind – Erosion

Asher Media

Review by Rick “The Fish-Man” Ossian

Let us say for just a moment that you happen to be a Prog Metal fan.  Not only that, but a prog metal fan that happens to REALLY like Classical music, and the violin in particular.  If that is the case in your musical world, then look no further for your next musical adventure.  You have struck gold, found the Holy Grail, use whatever comparison you prefer and enter here.  Cydemind are the find of the month, hell maybe even the year.

Hailing from Montreal, these fellows have an EP to their credit already, titled Through Mists and Ages.  This LP is their first full-length, and features instrumental metal, heavy on the violin and the piano.  On board for your listening pleasure are the players: Olivier Allard on violin, Camille Delage on keys, Kevin Paquet on guitars, Nico Damoulianos on bass and Alexandre Dagenais on drums.  Together they form a seriously tightly knit unit, and the jams speak for themselves!

Derecho is first up, and it is a longer one, damn near 14 minutes all told.  It begins beguilingly enough with strumming guitar, then violin, then piano. It is all seemless and beautifully woven together.  It is, at times, more like jazz/rock fusion, but there are more often moments when things get very metallic.  If I was going to draw comparisons, I would no doubt begin with Kansas, but more likely I would go with someone like John McLaughlin’s band Mahavishnu Orchestra.  Only heavier…

Next on board is the title track, almost a half an hour in length, and the single longest number for these recordings.  Now, granted, 30 minutes is a long time to sit and listen to ONE song.  However, I sat through it and I don’t recall being bored once.  There is, of course, a beautiful piano intro, but it doesn’t take long for the real jams to kick in.  There is a musical journey awaiting us here, and there is lots of heavy rock/metal on this track!

As one might imagine, a half-hour track must have lots of movements in it, right?  Right as rain, my readers.  At 3:45 we hear some nice piano plus rhythm, and there is a lovely synth jam at five minutes in with the violin to accompany it.  At eight minutes in there is another violin, guitar and keyboard jam, giving way to peaceful, even restful piano at about nine-and-a-half.  Then there are some waves on the beach FX, so don’t fall asleep yet!  There are duels a-plenty to come; violin and drums, piano, heavy chords and riffing with some violin on the side.  There is some extremely tasty piano and violin playing here, as one might have begun to expect at this point.  Fourteen minutes in, we find more jamming.  There are virtuosos at work here, folks.  The interplay even during the relatively quiet passages is just fucking brilliant.

Well, I could sit here all day and tell you about the lovely half-hour jam here, but with all of the upshifts and downshifts in tempo, soloing, jamming together, it is more of a listening experience than I can recall having in quite some time.  So, moving right along…

Track Number Three is Red Tide.  It begins life with an atmospheric FX intro, followed by more instrumental metal with violin.  The piano work is, again, exquisite, and there are plenty of drums and guitars to make one keep their ears tuned.  Nice jam at the end as well

Stream Capture is much the same as the aforementioned tracks, but is slightly mellower than the others.  There is a nice acoustic fingerpicking intro which gives way to some more beautiful piano work.  The drums and the piano plays big roles in this number.  There is some nice shredding at the 3:20 mark.

Tree of Tales is heavier, again with a classical flavour.  It starts with some nice riffing, and the violin is very lyrical and melodic.  It takes the place of what would no doubt had been vocals had the group not had such a competent violin player. There is even some solo violin at the three-minute mark.  Another big jam at the finish.

Today’s closer is also the shortest number on board.  At a mere five minutes in length, What Remains reminds us that there are times when you can be mellow, but you need to leave your audience hammered with the last tune.  Cydemind indeed accomplishes that and then some.  Everybody gets a chance to shine on this one, and it is over far too quickly for these ears.

In short, if you are a fan of classical violin, jazz fusion, or prog metal, then this is definitely for you.

Verdict: 9/10

Gnash Rambler – Gnash Rambler

Independent/Asher Media

Review by Rick Ossian

Gnash RamblerTo those of you in the know, the Nash Rambler was a vehicle of some repute.  This outfit, who named themselves after the aforementioned vehicle, formed in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2007.  They play rawk and roll.

They are “a raging four-piece with an arsenal of sweaty, blistering three-minute power post punk anthems.  Apparently the best-kept secret in Vancouver, but word is getting out“.  Gnash Rambler are Brad Mitchell on drums, Regina Australialus on bass and vocals, Nick Venditti on guitar and vocals and Dave Shannon on lead guitar and back up vocals.  They released an EP “Nasty, Cutish and Short” in 2009 and began work on a full-length, Once and For All, in 2011.  This is their self-titled debut.  They have shared the stage with Helmet, The Melvins, Poison Idea and Jello Biafra.  They refer to their sound as “hooky punk rock/metal-tinged power pop”.

No One Gives a Fuck is the opener for these recordings, and is a punchy start to things.  It is, as most of the tracks here are, short and sweet and to the point.

Dues and Don’ts reminds me of a totally fucking heavy Stray Cats, like hillbilly heavy metal, if you will.  Lots of noise and big punk/metal riffs.

Bad Karma, the first single from the record, is a bit longer, but again features a speedy, uptempo delivery and big riffs. According to Nick, it is about “how friendships and alliances can often be worthless than the paper they were printed on. Always read the damn contract.”.

Downtown Rock features big everything; big drums, big bass and big guitars.  There is a nice lead guitar solo at the 1:45 mark and a little instrumental breakdown at 2:45.  These blokes are consistent if nothing else.

Buick Spyder Beyond Our Means is another number with a very quick tempo.  There is high-speed riffing and lots of busy bass and drum work.  The guitars are good, and do a bit of galloping like so many of our other hard rock and heavy metal friends.  At 1:20, things kick into an even faster gear for us, and at 2:45 there is a shift into Riff City territory.  At about three minutes the vocals kick in, and at 4:15 there is some serious guitar shredding going on.  This track is all about the bass. Go Regina!

Buick and Blues For Boogie, the next track, are the longer numbers at five and change apiece.  They squeeze a lot into these lengthier tracks, as yo will hear if you get a chance to listen.  Blues features one of those spooky intros with acoustic guitars and a nice thunderstorm going in the background.  It also ends the same way.  In between we get lots of nice storyteller mode stuff.  I was reminded of Jason and the Scorchers or The Blasters, only a bit more metallic.  Three minutes in finds us enjoying another lead guitar solo.  There are also some notable bass and drum licks here.  There is even a bit of harmonica for all of you blues purists out there.

Jello Mold features some cool vocal ranting.  This is a sort of ‘boogie’ metal, if yo will.  Killer drums and bass, with a wicked growl at 1:25 followed by some powerful guitars around two minutes in.  This is flat-out testosterone rock, with super big Riff City power chords abounding. “Gonna cut your soul from a Jell-O mold/ Nasty vicious funny and cold”.  Kind of scary when you consider the delivery and the vocals…

Doin’ It All Wrong is a big jam with heavy riffing.  It is simple but strong.  There is some shredding at 1:30, first on the guitar and then briefly by the bass.  This and the follow-up, I’m Het, are both a bit comedic, and they are short, heavy punk stuff.  “You’re so hot, I almost forgot!”

PAX Americana features another creepy intro, plenty of big bass, vocals and guitar.  A nice shred at the two-minute mark, plus a bit of a rap/rant at 2:45.  Some of these tunes give one the impression that Gnash‘s tongues are very firmly implanted in cheek…

Man Over is another speedy number with punk riffing plus big bass.  At one minute in there is some serious shredding and rhythm riffing.  I caught myself doing a bit of headbanging during this one.  Another shredding solo pops in at 1:55.

The closer for today, Sex Beat, is another heavy metal/punk slammer.  No point in letting up now, right?  Lots of guitars, big bass and drums – in fact, I caught myself uttering ‘wow’ at the bass more than once!

In short, if you like your tunes hot, hard and heavy, with more than a bit of speed, then Gnash Rambler may be right up your proverbial alley.  They mix punk and power pop and heavy metal to great effect on this, their full-length debut.

Verdict: 8/10

Blaze Bayley – Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II)

Blaze Bayley Records

Review: Carl Pickles (The Guv’nor)

This is something of a strange one to review, since I’ve got a lot of time for Blaze Bayley.  I’ve met and interviewed him a couple of times and he’s an excellent bloke.  He always, and I do mean ALWAYS puts on an excellent show.  The real strange thing for me is that I know Blaze’s guitarist, Chris Appleton.  Another excellent bloke.  You’ll have heard several of my chats with Chris if you listen to The Wyrd Ways Rock Show.

What’s stranger (for me, at least) is that I know his little brother, Luke (Iced Earth bass player) and I met all of those through Chris’s mum, Lynne!

So here’s my somewhat biased review:

Welcome to the second of a three album concept, following the adventures of one William Black.  This chap made his debut on last year’s Infinite Entanglement album, and will make his third appearance next year, going by the release schedule for the last album and this one.

To do the introductions, Blaze’s current band is made up of members of British Heavy Metal act, Absolva, in the forms of Chris Appleton (guitar & backing vocals), Martin McNee (drums), and bassist, Karl Schramm.  This album also features backing vocals from Mel and Jo of up-and-coming British Symphonic Metal band, Aonia, making it something of a showcase of Northern England’s underground talent pool.

As you’d expect if you know about both Blaze and Absolva, the album gets off to a strong start.  There are some unusual backing vocal effects going on, and this permeates the rest of the album.  Certainly no complaints from here.  It’s always good to be a little surprised.  Something that can definitely be said is that Endure and Survive has a sound that’s very much it’s own.  The vast majority of the songs wouldn’t feel out of place on one of the stronger Maiden albums (and praise doesn’t really get much better than that, really, does it?).

There are times when spinning this one that it strikes yet again how good Blaze’s voice really is.  Not sure the operatic inflection fully works, but if it allows him to harness the full power of his instrument, fair enough.  He’s developed an awesome set of pipes as he’s got older, and is a very different singer to the one who left the Tamworth Terrors, Wolfsbane, to join Iron Maiden all those years ago.  Another thing that slaps you in the ears is that Chris Appleton’s rhythm guitar playing, right the way through is both exemplary and imaginative.  Think Geezer Butler on the early Sabbath albums, and you’ll get the idea.  He doesn’t do “the usual”.  This guy should be a much bigger star than he is.

As I mentioned earlier on, you’re really not going to mistake this album for anyone else.  It’s Proper Heavy Metal.  Now, I will freely admit I’d probably enjoy the narration that appears at various junctures more if I’d listened to the previous album more recently (that’s one I’m going to have to put right in short order).  Still, it doesn’t get in the way of a very decent collection of songs.

It’s not all Traditional Metal, though.  There are moments of light and shade.  That’s something Blaze has learned from a certain Mr Harris.  Eating Lies, for example, sets off with a little bit of acoustic, leading into some emotive guitar playing from Chris.  Of course, Blaze puts his all into it, as you’d expect.  After a bit more Proper Heavy Metal, Remember is a real curveball.  Spanish guitar from Chris and an accordion and violins.  It’s the sort of thing you might hear accompanying a Latin thing on Strictly… if that sort of thing floats your boat.  Anyway, this song is almost a palate cleanser and is, oddly enough, one of the standouts.

Right the way through, the Absolva boys, Chris, Karl and Martin show their quality.  The drumming right through this album shows a quality and deftness some might find surprising (having seen Absolva a few times, I wasn’t).  On the strength of this album alone, Blaze and the boys should be well up the bill on the SOPHIE Stage at Bloodstock, at the very least.

So to sum it all up… yes, it’s a concept album.  It’s part two of three.  But don’t let that put you off.  Is it up there with the likes of Operation: Mindcrime?  It’s less histrionic, more measured and if anything a little more coherent, but only time will tell.  It’s certainly worth top marks.

Verdict: 10/10