Tag Archives: San Francisco

Doll Skin announce new album, tour and spot on Vans Warped Tour

Phoenix pop-punk favourites Doll Skin have announced the release date for their upcoming second album Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is due for release on 16th June via EMP/SPV in Europe and EMP Label Group in the US.  Produced and mixed by Cage9 frontman Evan Rodaniche (who also produced albums by Lacey Sturm, and Powerman 5000), Manic… is the follow up to Doll Skin’s EMP debut, 2016’s In Your Face Again, which was produced by Grammy Award winning Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, which spawned multiple singles including, Family of Strangers, Let’s Be Honest, and Furious Fixation.

2016 saw the band tour much of the year with Otep, Lacey Sturm, Fire From The Gods, Hellyeah, Dead Kennedys and more, before settling in to record their new record.  Not to be outdone by last year, the band kicked off 2017 in equally notable fashion with a packed hometown show supporting former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5, and the announcement that the band would join the lineup of the 2017 Vans Warped Tour from June 16-25, appearing on the “Hard Rock” Stage alongside Metal and Punk bands such as The Dickies, Municipal Waste, The Ataris, TSOL and more.

In addition to the stint on Warped Tour, Doll Skin have announced a run of headlining dates in April and May, as well as the release of Shut Up (You Miss Me) as the first single from the new album.

Drummer Meghan Herring says:

“How excited are we for Warped Tour?? Psyched. Ecstatic. Beside ourselves. We’re feeling it all at once. Before we were even a band, I would go to Warped with the girls. Now our names are on the poster. It’s a surreal feeling. The lineup this year is absolutely incredible as well. Let’s do this!!!”

And on the subject of the new album Herring adds:

“We are so crazy excited for this new record to be released!! The sophomore album is an entirely different beast. It’s colorful, loud, and all over the place. It really shows the world who we are.”

Vocalist Sydney Dolezal adds:

“I am so excited to be hitting the road again this spring! We’ve got some great new tunes that we know you’ll all love, and I can’t wait to see all of our friends and fans around the country!”

Tour Dates:
DOLL SKIN Headlining:
4/29 Tucson, AZ. @ The Loudhouse w/ Dead Horse Trauma
4/30 Albuquerque, NM. @ The Co-Op
5/02 Lubbock, TX. @ Backstage Live w/ Never Say Die
5/03 Abilene, TX. @ My Place w/ Never Say Die
5/04 Ft Worth, TX. @ Ridglea Theatre w/ Never Say Die
5/06 Hutchinson, KS. @ The Rusty Needle w/ Another Lost Year & Never Say Die
5/09 Peoria, IL. @ Rail II w/ Drugs Delaney & Evil Engine
5/10 Crest Hill, IL. @ Bada Brew w/ Drugs Delaney & Evil Engine
5/11 Ft Atkinson, WI. @ Hijynx w/ Evil Engine
5/12 Mt Calvary, WI. @ Maximillians w/ Evil Engine
5/13 LaCrosse, WI. @ The Warehouse w/ In Solace
5/18 Colorado Springs, CO. @ Sunshine Studios
5/19 Salt Lake City, UT. @ Club X
5/20 Las Vegas, NV. @ Adrenaline
VANS WARPED TOUR 2017 PRESENTED BY JOURNEYS:
June 16 — CenturyLink Field – Seattle, WA
June 17 — Oregon State Fairgrounds – Salem, OR
June 21 — Balloon Fiesta Park – Albuquerque, NM
June 22 — Fear Farm – Phoenix, AZ
June 23 — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV
June 24 — Utah State Fair Park – Salt Lake City, UT
June 25 — Pepsi Center – Denver, CO

Death Angel: UK Shows Announced


San Francisco Bay Area thrash legends Death Angel, who seemingly never slow down, are very pleased to announce that they will be playing four UK headline shows this August. Support to be announced shortly.

Fiery front man Mark Osegueda checked in with the following comment:

“I am extremely proud to announce that Death Angel will finally be returning to the UK for a string of headlining shows in August of 2017.
These will be the first Death Angel shows in the UK since the release of our album The Evil Divide!! And we have been biting at the bit to get back there!
Expect nothing less than a special in your face set that will leave exhausted, and satisfied! Yet! Wanting for more! See you on stage, in the pit, and at the bar”

The Death Angel dates are as follows:

8th August – Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms
9th August – Glasgow, Audio

10th August – Bridgend, Hobos
11th August – London, Underworld

Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

Blackened Records

Review by Mabh Savage

Was there ever an album title that felt so apt currently? For a year when so much seems to have gone so wrong, even their logo has been adapted to a ‘glitch’ version, which seems to be breaking up, like there’s a poor reception signal on an old TV set.

Musically, the album is much less 2016 than 1983. There’s a real sense of the band returning to their roots. Death Magnetic (2008) started in a dark, haunting style, before kicking it with some crunching riffs. There’s no such ‘easing in’ on Hardwired. The very first notes grab you by your roots and start forcing your head up and down rapidly. There is physically no way to not head-bang to this music.

The title track is also the first track on the album, and while the staccato beat forces you to twitch uncontrollably, the lyrics tell you just how shit everything really is.

We’re so fucked
Shit out of luck”

No really, don’t beat about the bush, tell us how it really is guys! This kind of Punk Metal approach to lyric writing is most refreshing at the moment. It sums up the desperation felt across a nation, even across the globe, and instead of trying to be poetic about it, goes straight to the heart of things; we’re fucked guys.

Does the album cheer up from this point?  Nope!  The shortest track apart from the just-over-three-minute opener is 5.45, and these are long tracks of crushing misery, angst and pain.  And I love it! Atlas Rise! is a monster of a tune, a real anthem with a chorus and post chorus guitar riff reminiscent of early Maiden, circa Killers. Now that We’re Dead has such an unusual ‘tappy tappy’ drum sound accompanying classic, crunchy guitars and a sound so wide it needs a stadium all to itself.

Moth Into Flame is a classic Metallica shout-a-long track.  Chromatic guitar riffs, 2/4 drums that have been produced to sound as if they are coming from everywhere all at once, and a brief melody in the refrain that gives way to more anger and bile.

Dream No More sounds just for a moment like Rage Against The Machine, then morphs into something slower than the previous offerings; a reprieve, if you will. Halo on Fire continues this slower pace, but with some more mainstream sounding drums and melodies that are actually quite fantastic. The last couple of minutes of this song are like the end of a great movie, gripping and epic.  Great song.

The album is split into two CDs, if actually owning music is your thing.  Doesn’t everyone use Spotify these days? I always feel weird streaming music from a band that once spent a couple of years trying to get Napster shut down…

CD two takes us straight back to chug-town, with a guitar riff that speaks of Black Sabbath to start with, then simply early-day Metallica by the time we hit the second minute of the song. ManUNkind is one of the worst song titles I have ever heard, but what a tune!  The gentle start lulls you into a false sense of security before your ear drums are assaulted by some extremely densely produced drums and guitar.  Classic Hetfield single word pronouncements pepper this fun and bouncy track.

James Hetfield sounds really angry on this album. Vocally there is a tone of bitterness and self-loathing, that melds with the incredibly produced tapestry of Metal and Thrash to create one of the most upbeat yet downhearted albums I have heard this year.  Fuck your false optimism and positivity.  This is how it is.

Here Comes Revenge is a song title that kind of sums up the feel of the whole album for me. This album says ‘We’re pissed, and we’re not going to take it lying down.’

Hardwired has shot straight into the US charts at number One, which is not unusual as the last five studio albums before also did the same. What’s interesting is that although 282000 actual albums were sold in the first week after release, the songs were streamed 9.3 million times. That’s an awful lot of people listening to one album in one week. The album has also hit the top spot in another 22 countries.

Back to the tunes, Am I Savage seems a bit thinner than some of the other offerings.  The sound isn’t as fat, and Hetfield isn’t as, well, angry.  Murder One will be emotional for some, as it’s an ode to Lemmy Kilmister. Hetfield said that “Motörhead had a lot to do with Metallica sitting here right now”, so this song is a fitting tribute to a hugely influential man.

The final track, Spit out the Bone is an unrelenting war-horse of a track, crushing from the start, then moving into some crazy stop/starts. All the vim and venom is back, and we end the album with over seven minutes of vicious Metal aggression.  

This album is unusual in that guitarist Kirk Hammett is not listed as a credited songwriter. There’s nothing nefarious about this; apparently the poor guy lost his iPhone, on which he had recorded hundreds of riffs, which may have eventually made it onto this album. Gutted. Isn’t it strange to think that, without that odd little incident, this album may have been an entirely different beast.

This is a great album, one of their best in recent years. Its main flaw is that it sets the bar so high from the start, leaving some of the later tracks struggling to reach those heights. What I think is really special about this album though, is that it should appeal to all Metallica fans, even those that haven’t looked sideways at their albums since they heard Enter Sandman. Go on, give it go. I dare you.

Verdict: 8/10

The Agonist announce new album release

The Agonist have announced they will release their new album Five on 30th September through their new label, Napalm Records.  They also released the first official video from Five, called The Moment.

Watch it here:

About making the video, singer Vicky Psarakis stated:

The Moment was probably the most exciting and demanding video I’ve had to shoot so far. Chris (bassist/FTB Visuals director) came up to me with the idea to create a “storyline” with a close up of just my face singing the lyrics underwater. And we achieved it by building a box with a plexiglas panel that fit my head, while the rest of my body was standing and perfectly dry. I guess you could say it was scary and awkward to have just your head submerged underwater and a bit dangerous to have to perform the entire song in that position, but honestly, I wouldn’t mind doing the whole thing all over again!”

If that’s not enough for you, here’s the lyric video for the first song released from the album, The Chain:

Five was produced by Mike Plotnikoff at West Valley Studios.  Mike has engineered and produced such artists as Buckcherry, Flyleaf, My Chemical Romance, Apocalyptica, P.O.D, Halestorm, Skillet, Seether, Three Days Grace, Aerosmith, and Kiss.

Maor Appelbaum handled the mastering at Maor Appelbaum Mastering studios.  Maor has had the pleasure of mastering recordings for major international acts such as: Faith No More, Yes, Starset, Ill Nino, Dokken, Fates Warning, Sepultura, Yngwie “More is more” Malmsteen, Armored Saint, Lita Ford, Butcher Babies, and more.

Five Track Listing:
1. The Moment
2. The Chain
3. The Anchor And The Sail
4. The Game
5. The Ocean
6. The Hunt
7. The Raven Eyes
8. The Wake
9. The Resurrection
10. The Villain
11. The Pursuit Of Emptiness
12. The Man Who Fell To Earth
13. The Trial
14. Take Me To Church (Hozier cover) (Bonus Edition Only)

Just to put the proverbial tin hat on it, and get their moneysworth out of Napalm’s PR team (hello Andy and Will!) the band have also announced a slew of tour dates across the world with various bands:

European Tour:
27.09.2016 – Fryshuset Klubben- Stockholm, Sweden
28.09.2016 – Sticky Fingers – Gothenburg, Sweden
30.09.2016 – Tube – Dusseldorf, Germany
01.10.2016 – Epic Metal Fest – Tilburg, Netherlands
02.10.2016 – De Kreun – Kortrijk, Belgium
04.10.2016 – Opera Concert Hall – St. Petersburg, Russia
05.10.2016 – Клуб Театръ – Moscow, Russia
07.10.2016 – Sala Becool – Barcelona, Spain
08.10.2016 – Sala la Burbuja – Castellon, Spain
09.10.2016 – Sala Maladar – Seville, Spain
11.10.2016 – Sala tbc – Lisboa, Portugal
12.10.2016 – Sala Lemon – Madrid, Spain
13.10.2016 – Sala Azkena – Bilbao, Spain

Canadian Tour with Xandria, Epica and Fleshgod Apocalypse:
04.11.2016: Quebec City, QC @ Imperial Theater
05.11.2016: Montreal, QC @ Corona
06.11.2016: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Hall

American Tour with Arkona, Epica and Fleshgod Apocalypse:
08.11.2016: Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
09.11.2016: Minneapolis. MN @ Cabooze
11.11.2016: Saskatoon, SK @ Saskatoon Event Center
12.11.2016: Calgary, AB @ Marquee
13.11.2016: Edmonton, AB @ The Ranch
15.11.2016: Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre
16.11.2016: Seattle, WA @ Studio 7
18.11.2016: San Francisco, CA @ Social Hall
19.11.2016: Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent
20.11.2016: Las Vegas, NV @ Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel
22.11.2016: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
23.11.2016: Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
25.11.2016: Dallas. TX @ Gas Monkey Live
26.11.2016: Austin, TX @ Empire Control Room
28.11.2016: St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theater
29.11.2016: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
01.12.2016: Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage
02.12.2016: New York, NY @ Webster Hall
03.12.2016: Worcester, MA @ The Palladium

Armored Saint announce performance at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest kick-off party

Just back from a stomp across Europe, Armored Saint will be making a special appearance back in the USA this fall at the Ozzfest Meets Knotfest kick-off party.  This particular bash is exclusively for those brave souls who will be camping at this double-header music and lifestyle weekend.

The September 23rd pre-festival concert will give campers early access to the campsite, allowing them time to prepare for a night of performances from Armored Saint, Havok, Exmortus and Thrown Into Exile. For tickets and more information, please visit: http://www.ozzfest.com and http://www.ozzfestmeetsknotfest.com

As well as the festival appearances (which also includes the famous Loud Park Festival over in Japan), Armored Saint have also lined up some US tour dates, bringing Queensrÿche and Midnight Eternal for the ride:

Sept. 23 – San Bernardino, CA – Ozzfest Meets Knotfest kick-off party
Oct. 8 – Tokyo, Japan – Loud Park Festival

Armored Saint tour dates
w/ Queensryche, Midnight Eternal

Nov. 15 – Showbox At The Market – Seattle, WA
Nov. 16 – Ace of Spaces – Sacramento, CA
Nov. 18 – House of Blues – San Diego, CA
Nov. 22 – Alamo City Music Hall – San Antonio, TX
Nov. 23 – Scout Bar – Houston, TX
Nov. 25 – Clicks – Tyler, TX
Nov. 26 – Trees – Dallas, TX
Nov. 29 – Mavericks at the Landing – Jacksonville, FL
Nov. 30 – Culture Room – Fort Lauderdale, FL
Dec. 1 – The Cuban Club – Tampa, FL
Dec. 2 – The Music Farm – Charleston, SC
Dec. 3 – Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
Dec. 4 – Chameleon Club – Lancaster, PA
Dec. 6 – Irving Plaza – New York, NY
Dec. 7 – Rex Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA
Dec. 8 – Diesel Concert Lounge – Chesterfield, MI
Dec. 9 – Concord Music Hall – Chicago, IL
Dec. 11 – Limelight – Peoria, IL
Dec. 13 – The Waiting Room – Omaha, NE
Dec. 14 – Kanza Hall – Overland Park, KS
Dec. 15 – The Black Sheep – Colorado Springs, CO

Evile, Blasphemer, Tyrant @ The Venue, The Parish, Huddersfield 28/05/2016

West Yorkshire as a whole has a strong underground Metal scene, despite the lack of venues willing to host the bands and quality promoters willing to put in the effort to properly promote the shows.  The Parish in Huddersfield is one of the small venues fighting the good fight, helping nurture the underground scene.  In past years, they’ve hosted Gama Bomb, Ginger Wildheart, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Marmozets, Wheatus and everyone’s favourite, Evil Scarecrow.  On this particular night, it was the turn of local heroes, Evile.

Tyrant @ The Venue 28.05.16
Leeds band, Tyrant, making a return from retirement last year, to open for Evile

Before the main event, though, there were two more local bands to hit the small stage in The Venue.  First up were 80’s-style Thrashers, Tyrant.  They’ve been around for a few years, plying their own particular brand of solid classic Thrash, and came out of retirement to play this gig.  The slot they had was a very short opening set to sparse crowd.  Generally they had a pretty decent time of it with some quality musicianship and songs.  Unfortunately, they were hampered by the frontman’s cringeworthy attempts to be funny.  The shame is that his “hilarious” joking around will probably be remembered more than their sadly too-short set.

Verdict: 6/10

Blasphemer @ The Venue 28.05.16

At 9pm, the lights came down and Blasphemer‘s infernal noise roared out of the amps.  Now this is more like it! Powered from the back by My Dying Bride and former Bal Saggoth stixman, Dan Mullins, Blasphemer‘s early 90’s Death-meets-Slayer-tinged Thrash finally gets the venue going, with the mosh pit in full swing by the second song.

Like Tyrant, Blasphemer suffered from having a length of set that didn’t really give us time to get to know them properly, but this short, sharp shock certainly served as a very interesting taster.

Verdict: 8/10

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Evile’s Matt Drake – less banter, more Thrash than before!

Evile are, of course, much more in the vein of classic Bay Area-style Thrash, merging influences from the likes of Exodus and Slayer with more than a splash of Teutonic Titans, Kreator.  It’s been a long time since they’ve played a stage this small, but their level of professionalism shines through, ramping up the intensity in a way you can only get from sweatboxes like this one.

This is a new version of the line-up, having only played a handful of gigs in this formation.  New boy six-stringer Piers Donno-Fuller has stepped in replacing Ol Drake, making the band meaner, Thrashier and most importantly tighter than before.  Matt Drake keeps the banter to a bare minimum, accentuating the band’s more aggressive new attitude.  The rhythm section of bassist Joel Graham and drummer Ben Carter are their usual selves: tight as those things Ben beats the tar out of during the set.

This is a very different beast from the one that headlined the Holmfirth Picturedrome.   The traditional circle pit (egged on by manically-grinning Joel) kicked off during the opening chords of Cult.

IMG_4001
A slightly out-of-focus Joel Graham – It was hard to take decent photos!

From this evidence, it looks like Evile have evolved into a leaner, meaner, tighter, more efficient machine making the Kreator analogy more apt.  This was a welcome return for one of the best UK bands currently on the circuit.  Based on this show, the new album can’t come soon enough.

Verdict: 9/10

Death Angel Release New Video

As part of the warm-up for the release of San Francisco Bay Area thrash legends Death Angel‘s new album The Evil Divide on 27th May via Nuclear Blast, the band have released a video for the track Hatred United / United Hate

The video was directed and edited by Tommy Jones for Videohammer Studios during the band’s recording sessions for The Evil Divide and features renowned tattoo artist Bob Tyrrell and includes a special guest guitar solo from Andreas Kisser (Sepultura).

The Golden Grass – Coming Back Again

thegoldengrasscover

Electric Assault

Review by Rick Ossian

amazon_badgeThis is one of those incidents where the name of the group simply says it all.  We have one objective if we’re going to listen to these fellows – we must all jump into a time machine and make a sonic journey back to the 1960’s and immerse ourselves in the waters/music(s) of the time.  Think Blue Cheer with a bit more of a psych lilt and a bit less pounding your brain into submission, and you’ve got the right idea.  Anyone familiar with the term ‘garage band’ or ‘garage rock’ or the Nuggets compilations will know straight off what I’m on about.  The Golden Grass are purveyors of nothing more or less than hippie garage psych, with a touch of classic hard rock and Yes, even Heavy Metal thrown in for good measure.

Hailing from Brooklyn, this is the first full-length outing from the band, who got rolling around 2013 from the sounds of the 7″ info in their bio.  They are comprised of Professor Plum Brandy (Michael Rafalowitch) on electric guitar and lead vocals, The Golden Goose (Adam Kriney) on drums and lead vocals and The Fireball (Morgan McDaniel) on bass guitar.  They combine Blues, Metal, Hard Rock and Psych to weave a tapestry of good tunes and even better times on this collection of recordings.  The title of the album bears a slight resemblance to an old Jefferson Airplane number, but I digress, as I often do.  Let’s get into the tunes, shall we?

goldengrassgroupshot

First up is Get It Together, a number with loads of guitar, both lead and bass.  The bass actually sounds like it could be a solo instrument (à la Lemmy, Geddy Lee or Ox), and is turned way up and added to the front of the mix, as it should be.  There are a couple of guitar solos, a brief one at three minutes in and a longer excursion at the five-minute mark.  What would a psych tune be without a couple of guitar bits?  There is that and plenty more to spare in this six-and-a-half minute tour-de-force.

Reflections is full of reminiscing, riff-happy 60’s/70’s rock.  They throw in a lot of stuff on this one, even bells/chimes at one point.  There is a brief guitar bit before we even hit the one-minute mark, and again some serious bass guitar licks as well.  Some nifty rhythm riffing is going on here also.  We also have two more guitar spots, one at three minutes and one at four-and-a-half.  I was again reminded of 60’s area West Coast acts, mainly San Franciscans such as The Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Shadow Traveller is another big whopping number, clocking in at just over 8 minutes, and is driven by the bass guitar and a rowdy harmonica.  A very nice Psych intro gives way to some cool riffing, and at 1:30 we get our first salvo of some serious guitar work.  The lyrics may be basic but they are to the point; “Get out of the shadows/Don’t let the darkness get to you/Take my hand/Understand”.  There are several guitar bits here (2:30 and 4:00 in particular), the latter sounding a bit like a guitar refrain, if you will.  There are also some leads at 4:45 and seven minutes in.  We have some pretty cool shifting too, at 4:15 there is a shift to pure Blues Boogie, and again at six minutes in we get some changes.  It always helps to keep things flowing if you change things up a bit here and there, I say!  The guitars close things out with the obligatory Psych fade, where things get considerably mellower than before.

Hazy Daybreak is no more or less than a strum-happy interlude.  It features good Psych FX and an early morning acoustic mixed with electric feel.  There is a brief bit of finger-snapping (1:15), and before we know it this neat little instrumental ditty is over.  It is noteworthy even though it is only about two-and-a-half minutes long.  Moving right along, then!

Down the Line is an absolute Psych monster, at almost 10 minutes the longest number on board today.  This tune alone is worth the ride, as you will hear once you’ve listened.  A lovely drum roll gives way to a sweet main riff, sort of a heads-down psych boogie (à la Status Quo), and we’re off.  Again, some serious bass licks come to the fore, and the vocals have that refreshing bit of a garage feel to them.  This rough-hewn feel gives the classic rock edge some attitude, and we also get some brief usage of FX pedals as well.  There are many smaller guitar bits, the one at 3:30 and the riffing at 7:30 are particularly noteworthy.  The downshift to a quirky psych breakdown at 4:20 is long and glorious, but mainly for heads only, if you understand my meaning.  It takes up the major of the midsection in this tune.

See it Through is another heavy Psych number, just over six minutes in length.  It has plenty of guitar and feedback and that beautiful Boogie bass we have come to love.  There are other things that pay homage to the days of old also, such as handclaps and cowbell (3:30).  At 3:15 there is another Psych breakdown, and before we know it this garage psych-fest is over, all too soon.  Looking forward very much to their next outing!

Verdict: 9/10

Death Angel announce New Album

San Francisco Bay Area thrash legends Death Angel have recently announced their brand new album The Evil Divide, which is due for release on 27th May via Nuclear Blast.  The band have recently released a trailer previewing some new music and the album cover artwork of their upcoming release, which you’ve probably just watched.  If you haven’t yet, click the YouTube link above.

Artwork for the album was created by renowned tattoo artist Bob Tyrrell, following a suggestion by guitarist, Rob Cavestaney:

Both Mark and I had been tattooed by Bob, and when the subject of album artwork came up.  We approached him to create the design. We wanted an image that would represent the idea of ‘The Evil Divide’; something beautiful, yet simultaneously wicked, hence the death moth. Bob realised our vision with mere pencil and paper, and now we proudly present to you the cover artwork for our 8th studio album, The Evil Divide.”

The album was recorded at AudioHammer studios in Sanford, Florida (not the fictional town that Hot Fuzz was set in!) with producer Jason Suecof (Trivium, Deicide), who previously worked on 2010’s Relentless Retribution and 2013’s The Dream Calls For Blood.  Mastering duties were handled by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound in New York City.

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

download (6)

Metal Blade

Review by Tom Mead

amazon_badgeAmon Amarth are a shining example of what a band can achieve through hard work and determination.  Their sound, style and image have not changed much in 20+ years, but relentless touring and a string of consistently strong albums have led to this bunch of Swedish Vikings becoming one of the biggest Metal bands in the world. Suffering a recent setback with the departure of long-term drummer Fredrik Andersson, Amon Amarth have followed the AC/DC template for replacing an important band member: quickly find a replacement (session drummer Tobias Gustafsson, of Vomitory) and record a quintessential album.

Jomsviking, the band’s 10th full-length release, is a concept album featuring an original story about love, loss and revenge, based on the legendary Jomsviking warriors, a secretive group of mercenaries who were sort of like a Viking equivalent of Samurai.  Don’t worry if the words “concept album” send alarm bells ringing in your mind; this is by no means a major departure from the band’s usual sound!  It is arguably the case though that Amon Amarth have shifted slightly over the years from a pure Swedish Death Metal sound to one that has a bit more in common with NWOBHM and other more overtly melodic metal styles (whilst still retaining Johan Hegg’s trademark harsh Viking roar); this was particularly the case on their previous album, Deceiver of the Gods, and Jomsviking follows suit with several gentler passages used to convey different parts of the story.  Nevertheless, there is plenty here to satisfy old school fans and new converts alike.

The opening three tracks are amongst the strongest the band have ever recorded. Lead single First Kill erupts into life with rapid-fire drums and guitar harmonies, leaving the listener in no doubt which band they’re listening to; we’re in familiar, comfortable territory here.  Wanderer maintains your attention with a bouncy, palm-muted riff (somewhat reminiscent of Gods of War Arise from fan-favourite album With Oden on Our Side) and contains one of Amon Amarth’s best guitar solos.  A melancholic spoken-word passage segues into third track On a Sea of Blood, where axemen Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg are again on top form with Thrashy riffs and Maiden-esque harmonies aplenty.  There’s also a deliciously heavy bridge where Johan Hegg sings of a dragon attacking our hero’s ship: “the dragon sweeps down with a roar, sky and ocean shake” (NB: this story is not inspired by true events…). This all drags the listener into the album’s concept with ease, the story fitting the music comfortably.

Other highlights throughout the album include Raise Your Horns, One Thousand Burning Arrows and A Dream That Cannot Be.  Raise Your Horns is what every Viking album needs: a drinking song!  Heavy and catchy, with a guitar melody you’ll be humming/chanting for ages, this will surely find a place in Amon Amarth’s live set.  One Thousand Burning Arrows is a melancholic and captivating song about a Viking king’s funeral; it’s probably the closest the band ever get to a ballad! And A Dream That Cannot Be features a rare collaboration with another artist, in the shape of German Metal siren Doro Pesch.  Her impassioned vocals contrast with Johan Hegg’s nicely, with the effect being a Death Metal approximation of The Phantom of the Opera, without being at all cheesy.

It is however very difficult to make a truly great concept album; how do you ensure every chapter of the story is equally engaging?  In Amon Amarth’s case, this is magnified by the fact that they have a distinctive, easily identifiable sound.  As with several of their other albums, they have struggled to create enough ideas to make their sound captivating enough across all the album’s tracks.  Songs like One Against All, At Dawn’s First Light and Vengeance Is My Name contain good riffs and are generally catchy, but they contain several musical ideas found elsewhere on Jomsviking and Amon Amarth’s back catalogue, making them sound somewhat formulaic.  Still, there are worse formulae for Rock/Metal bands to stick to…

In general, Jomsviking is more or less business-as-usual for Amon Amarth and is unlikely to disappoint old or new fans.  Yes, it’s somewhat inconsistent, but they’ve done a good job of telling a decent story on an album that is not out of place, in terms of style or substance, with the rest of the band’s catalogue.  Not many bands make it to ten albums, and there’s enough evidence here to indicate that Amon Amarth still have plenty of fuel in the tank (or mead in the drinking horn; pick your own Viking metaphor…)

Verdict: 8/10