NEW RELEASES FROM GRAHAM BONNET, CIVIL WAR, THE DOOMSDAY KINGDOM, DEPARTED AND MANY MORE 28th November 2016
Edition Five of You Spin Me Round. They say that video killed the radio star but this is not strictly true because while Metal musicians are still making great albums, there will always be a demand to hear them.
Here's the latest selection of the best of the recent releases.
GRAHAM BONNET: 'THE BOOK'
Out Now (Frontiers Records)
The album shows that Bonnet has lost none of his intense vocal ability and his enthusiasm for the material shines through. There's some outstanding vocal work on the fast paced opener 'Into The Night' whilst 'Rider' takes a more laid back approach but Bonnet's vocals really carry the number and it turns out to be a real highlight.
Further on you have 'Dead Man Walking' which has all the hallmarks of a rock classic from the diving guitars and thundering drums to Bonnet's, at times, understated vocals. If you're looking for something a bit less rock orientated, then there's always 'The Dance' which is more an AOR track. It gives Bonnet a chance to stretch his voice, reminding you of what a great singer he really is. It also showcases the talents of guitarist Conrado Pesinato with a blistering guitar solo.
'Earth's Child (I Am Your Son)' also provides a platform for the excpetional talent of Pesinato who really is worth the price of admission here, as he gives the great Ritchie Blackmore a run for his money in the guitar solo stakes. Indeed, there's a good comparison here as the second disc is jammed with re-recorded classics from Bonnet's past career, including storming versions of the Rainbow classics 'Lost In Hollywood', 'All Night Long', 'Eyes Of The World' and 'Since You Been Gone' which are great beefed up versions with the thundering bass of Beth-Ami Heavenstone very prevalent in the mix.
The bonus disc also takes you through Bonnet's past career outside Rainbow including re-recorded gems like 'Assault Attack', the title track from the 1982 Michael Schenker album along with 'Dancer' and 'Desert Song' from the dsame album. There's also a handful of re-recorded Alcatrazz tracks like 'Island In The Sun' from the 1983 'No Parole From Rock'n'Roll' release and from 1985s 'Disturbing The Peace' you have 'Will You Be Home Tonight'. Plus a re-recording of the ubiquitous 'Night Games' single, originally produced by Status Quo's Francis Rossi, which puts a new dynamic on an old classic giving it a rougher, rockier feel than the original. Listening to this album there's no doubt that Bonnet is back and he's back with full force live and in the studio – and it's not before time.
LEPROUS: 'LIVE AT ROCKEFELLER MUSIC HALL'
Out Now (Inside Out)
Norwegian prog Metallers Leprous have earned a reputation as a moody, atmospheric and intense live act over the years and after releasing their fifth studio album, 'The Congregation', to critical acclaim in 2015 they decided it was time to record a show and put out a live release. Using a crowdfunding approach they drew people not just from their native land but from many countries to the Rockefeller Music Centre in Oslo in June this year to put their dramatic attitude to being on stage onto film. Now they are releasing it to the world in DVD, CD and vinyl versions.
This being a special performance there are some extras and guests of course so while the set list is similar to that toured around the world recently here we get two drummers on most songs, some expanded visual presentations and a guest or two including Emperor's Ihsahn who often uses members of Leprous in his solo touring band.
Most of the songs here are from their two most recent albums as you might expect and sonically all the elements you would expect from the band are present and accounted for. Einar Solberg's voice is strong and melodic, rising even in falsetto mode above the intensity around him. The complex rhythms employed by both the guitars and drums are delivered with all that trademark edge and ferocity. When Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Oystein Landsverk hit a chord it stays hit! Ihsahn gets the chance to add his screams on the older epic closing number 'Contaminate Me' which shows a harder edge than their new material and ends things on even greater intensity than what's gone before.
So this is a typically excellent Leprous performance sonically but the really interesting thing about this release is the visual element. Typically a Leprous show will be shade and light, in that order. Dark corners lit with neon lights and back projections and films are what they like and thus as a DVD it makes for a very dark looking picture on your screen. Add into that a style which takes lots of odd angles on the musicians, has lots and lots of really quick cuts and edits and features some of the on stage films being inserted for periods full screen over the music and you have the most unusual live dvd I've seen from any band, probably ever.
I think the style of the visual side here will polarise opinion, some will love it and some will clearly not. I sit in the latter camp as sitting through the whole dvd is a sometimes uncomfortable and frustrating experience. They seem to have gone for an art house progressive Metal film style but to be honest I should have expected that from this most experimental of modern prog Metal bands. The CD version of this release can be recommended for sure but I'd check out bits of the DVD first before buying to check and see if you enjoy their creative vision here. Fascinating stuff though.
Out Now (Independent)
Back in November 2013, Ben Brookland Bennett left Cambridge five-piece The Treatment due to due to personal reasons and his name slipped from view for a couple of years. Now he's back and he's pressing the pedal firmly down with his new band, Departed.
Currently a touring four piece, I caught up with them at hard Rock Hell recently where they held court to an enraptured audience but head back just a couple of months and the band, then a three-piece featuring Mark Pascall (Empire Of Fools) and Heaven's Basement sticksman Chris Rivers Nuttall, along with Brookland Bennett released the band's self-titled debut EP.
Ever since Hard Rock Hell, this EP has been on at MetalTalk Towers and, I'll tell you, we're not even close to tiring of it yet. With a running time of around twenty-five minutes this is one serious disc full of good time rock'n'roll numbers with crunching guitars, superb vocals and fist pumping anthems, where there's no room for slushy ballads and any over indulgent acoustic bollocks!
The first track, 'Are You Ready', incredibly enough has one of the best guitar solos of the EP but there's plenty more to like further on like the super fast pace of 'Superstitious' or the mid-paced tempo of 'Steal Your Crown'. 'Dreaming' was one of the first songs I heard by them when I caught then more by accident than design at Hard Rock Hell and the studio version is just as good as the live version.
'Pretty Little Thing' is a real highlight with the short acoustic guitar intro fooling you into thinking it's going to be a ballad but then the heavy guitar and drums kick in which takes the track up a notch. It may not the fastest paced rocker here, but the power of the track is almost tangible. Solid heavy rock tracks are a trademark of the band already so here's wishing them all the success they so richly deserve.
PRIMORDIAL: 'GODS TO THE GODLESS (LIVE AT BANG YOUR HEAD FESTIVAL GERMANY 2015)'
Out Now (Metal Blade)
The music of Primordial, from The Republic Of Ireland, projects a very unique atmosphere that evokes images of ancient battlefields, dark monasteries, mad monks and haunted graveyards and this live offering is nothing short of an experience.
They do things their own way do Primordial and it was only last night I was remarking that too many Metal bands are all doing the "hey, hey, hey" thing and "let me see your hands" way too often and it's starting to become monotonous now. Primordial give it "Heathens raise your fists!" instead (on 'Heathen Tribes') and the intro of "There is no grave in this world that will keep my body down" on 'No Grave Deep Enough' is one to sit up and take notice of.
You've got some stunning guitar riffs and melodies here, all darkened to within an inch of pitch blackness and the demented vocals of AA Nemtheanga take you on one scary journey. He starts off a little too over enthusisatic though which means he drifts slightly out of tune occasionally during the first two numbers, 'Gods To The Godless' and 'Babel's Tower', but don't let that detract from what is a quality live opus.
'The Alchemist's Head', a song about William Blake, is pure evil sounding while other tracks such as 'Empire Falls', 'As Rome Burns' and 'The Coffin Ships' all demonstrate Primordial's penchant for variety and substance. You won't find anything else quite lke Primoridal out there and this first live album should elevate them towards the success they deserve.
DOPE: 'BLOOD MONEY PART 1'
Released 25th November 2016 (SPV/Steamhammer)
If you were hoping for old school Dope, get ready to 'Cry Motherf**ker Cry', because 'Blood Money' is far from a throw-back album. Unlike fellow nu-Metallers Korn, Dope have taken a brave new step with this release, edging away from the gritty, primal heaviness of their roots and into something much more, dare I say it... MAINSTREAM.
I know! The horror! I couldn't believe my poor brutal ears. "Where has the rage gone?" you will probably ask yourself after the first listen, much like I did, leading me to wonder whether Dope should consider changing their name to Medicinal Marijuana.
There ARE screams throughout the record, but they certainly don't deliver the same ball-smashing grittiness heard on 'Life' or 'American Apathy'. In fact, it feels as if Edsel and the gang are targeting a very specific audience with this release, and it's not your old school 90s nu-Metal junkies. Instead, it's for fans of modern Metalcore, with some riffs that feel very reminiscent of bands like Killswitch Engage or Pierce The Veil.
If clean vocals and catchy choruses are your thing, great! You'll probably really enjoy this album. But if you were expecting 'Life 2.0', steer well clear. 'Blood Money' probably won't be on your playlist for those late-night Call of Duty sessions.
THE OUTLAWS: 'LEGACY LIVE'
Out Now (Steamhammer/SPV)
I have always had a soft spot for US southern rockers The Outlaws. They have never had a particularly high profile in the UK but they were one of the bands on the bill supporting The Who in a sunny day at Celtic Park in Glasgow in June 1976 and this happened to be my first ever live gig. I really enjoyed their set and have had an interest in bands into three guitars and stetson hats ever since.
As it turned out that performance was them in the middle of their peak years between 1975 and 1980 and their near fifty year history outside that has been full of line up changes, sad losses and aborted reunions. The sad death of founder member(and former Lynyrd Skynyrd man) Hughie Thomasson almost derailed the latest reunion but as the current line up features founder members Henry Paul on guitar and vocals and drummer Monte Yoho they have continued and now we have a double live album celebrating the band's long career.
In the heady days of the seventies releasing a double live album was a big deal and The Outlaws 'Bring It Back Alive' was a big success for the band back in 1978. 'Legacy Live' is culled from a selection of recent live shows in the USA and is actually a fine successor. The Outlaws sound has mostly leaned towards the more country end of the southern rock genre and all the hits in their country rock style such as 'Holiday' and 'Freeborn Man' are here and all sounding very good. Despite the lack of the departed Thomasson all the vocals, harmonies and guitar work sound just right, this is unmistakeably an album by The Outlaws.
What edges these guys into rock territory is that three guitar attack which really livens up the countryfied numbers and when they let things loose a bit and put some fire in their belly that six string trio really drive things up another gear. 'Hurry Sundown' has some terrific soloing as does the atmospheric 'Trail Of Tears' and of course they relive their most famous moment from those glory days with the slightly renamed 'Green Grass And High Tides Forever'. Slimmed down to thirteen minutes compared to the twenty minute epic that is on 'Bring It Back Alive', it is still a pure southern rock classic with enough frantic soloing to bring a yee haw out of just about anyone who loves the genre.
This is an album aimed solely at the converted, a nostalgia trip of epic proportions for people who say they don't make bands like that any more. It really works though, and is a hugely enjoyable trip down memory lane for anyone who loves three guitar rock done like only sons of the south do. Green grass and high tides forever indeed.
GUNS OF ANARCHY: 'GUNS OF ANARCHY' EP
Out Now (Independent)
Hailing from Watford, Guns of Anarchy are a four piece influenced by Rainbow, Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith and of course AC/DC and Airbourne with all these influences clear to hear in the first track here, 'Cashing Cheques', which is a straight ahead rock song with a catchy chorus that certainly wouldn't look out of place on an AC/DC or Airbourne album. The track Is a highly polished effort and works well as the opening track.
Next up is 'Hang 'Em High' which has a much rawer edge to it with bass player Lex Gifford really coming to the fore early on with his thundering bass lines before the catchy chorus takes over. There's a really good guitar solo here, courtesy of Marty Venus, and it's the icing on the cake, really.
The final number, 'Scream', is another fast paced track with a great guitar riff at it's core. It gives frontman Ollie Tindall a chance to showcase his excellent vocals and thanks to this trio of knock out tunes, the band are firmly placed on my "To See" list, so let's hope that's sooner rather then later.
THE DOOMSDAY KINGDOM: 'NEVER MACHINE' EP
Out Now (Nuclear Blast)
The Doomsday Kingdom, brainchild of Doomfather and Candlemass virtuoso Leif Edling, have released their demo EP, 'Never Machine', and Leif says this is "only the beginning of a new reign of Doom Metal" and it's exciting that there is more of this to come.
If you're expecting a Candlemass clone then you're in for a big surprise as vocalist Niklas Stålvind has a totally different style to Messiah Marcolin and actually displays more than one different range on these four tracks, for example the title track - if the late Midnight from Crimson Glory went Doom, this is probably what he would sound like while 'The Sceptre' is reminiscent of Halford on 'Nostradamus'' slower tracks.
The riff on the EP opener and title track is simply hypnotic while the standout track is actually the slowest song, 'The Whispering', which is nothing less than a melancholic delight. This track is a classic, no less and Doom Metal is most definitely about to experience a massive upgrade.
Leif says about the EP: "It's rough, it's raw, it's direct! It gives a hint of what's coming!" and that the album is nearly ready. "I'm very proud of this album!" he adds and this taster categorically suggests that he damn (Doom?) well should be!
Out Now (Inside Out)
Brighton progressive rockers Maschine have had a few things to deal with since their debut album, 'Rubidium', was released in 2013. Main man Luke Machin has had heath issues to contend with and there have also been line up changes with new drummer James Stewart and the wonderfully named keyboard player/vocalist Marie-Eve de Gaultier joining the band.
The new line-up has been together for some time so there is certainly no feeling of any bedding in on the album. As befitting any self respecting prog band these days, 'Naturalis' is a concept album, basically about the power of nature for both good and ill. Machin has written all the material again but done his best to involve all his band mates in arranging the songs so every musician gets to shine.
The album is book ended by two 11 minute plus epics in 'Resistance' and 'Megacyma' and both of these songs show Maschine at their best with flowing twists and turns, powerful guitar driven sections and a nice sense of melody added by the combination of male and female vocals, a little edge that most other prog outfits can't match.
The four songs in between the two epics have a little more experimentation in their sound. For me I really like the mellow melodies of 'Make Believe' but I'm less fond of the jazzy tinges that come to the fore in 'Night And Day', 'Hidden In Plain Sight' and 'A New Reality'. Many prog fans love it when jazz elements are brought in, for me there's an art to it and these elements stay too jazzy for my personal taste.
This is undoubtedly a hugely competent album showing a young band maturing and developing and finding their own sound. As difficult second albums go it is very well done indeed. Musically Maschine may be heading in directions which will please many of their fans and the prog cognescenti but for me I prefer them at their most powerful and without quite so many jazzy touches though so I'm a little conflicted about the album. Check it out yourself and make up your own mind.
Out Now (Independent)
Formed somewhere around 2009, Sheffield based Normaliser describe themselves as a progressive post-Metal band though they started out as an industrial punk-Metal act but changed direction after they realised "that wasn't very good"! Their sound combines elements of doom, prog, sludge and, of course, Metal, but this hotchpotch of influences actually makes quite a good sound once you get into things.
Released in 2015 but it's only just come to the attention of us here at MetalTalk Towers and never ones to shy away from discovering a new band, initial listens were encouraging. 'Observe And Perish' kicks things off with a slow and heavy intro and you're well over two-and-a-half minutes in before the lyrics, performed by Daniel Callaghan, really kick in. There's something of a surreal feel about Callaghan's performance before they're joined by the deeper background vocals of drummer Chris Daniels. Beneath all this, there's a simple guitar underpinning everything and as the track heads to its climax it speeds up with the heavy riffing from courtesy of Callaghan.
'Abort Retry Fail' follows but this is a much simpler track with the lyrical guitar and the merest touch of drums before the sound builds and builds during the instrumental track before reverting to a flanged guitar sound before going straight into 'Cataclysmic Firestorm' - the heaviest track here by some margin. The death Metal style vocals from Daniels early on give way to the more tuneful vocal performance from Callaghan in this mid paced number. This may be a prog influenced band but there's no keyboards here, just heavy guitar driving the song onwards making this a real favourite of mine.
'State Of Nature' is an interesting track, and the longest track here, and it too works very well. Again, the guitar takes centre stage almost drowning out the vocals from Callaghan early on before the track settles down. Callaghan sounds not unlike Dave Mustaine (from Megadeth) and you can almost imagine the sneer on his face as he vocally battles with Daniels. But it's not finished there as the aggression subsides and the track takes a quieter more introspective direction with bass player Nathaniel Wells leading the way as the clean vocals return.
There's a lot going on here in the just under forty minute duration of the album but it's one of these albums that you can't resist returning to over and over again. Normaliser are definitely worth checking out if you're looking for something a bit different to listen to.
SIRENIA: 'DIM DAYS OF DOLOR'
Out Now (Napalm Records)
Norwegian gothic Metal veteran Morten Veland comes across as a man with a mission to show the world his own musical vision no matter the obstacles. 'Dim Days Of Dolor' is either Sirenia's eight or ninth album (depending on whether you include 2004s 'Sirenian Shores' as an album or an EP at twenty-one minutes long) and features the band's fifth female singer over those releases. Add to that multiple other line-up changes and a split back in 2001 with the band Tristania which resulted in the formation of this band and you could surmise that Veland could be one of those visionaries who are simply unable to compromise with any competing opinions about musical direction. Previous female singer Ailyn who sang on the last four Sirenia albums revealed that her departure earlier this year was not her decision.
All these line-up changes and particularly the revolving door of frontladies have left Sirenia as a band who have prospered alongside the rest of the better known bands in female fronted symphonic Metal despite a lack of a recognisable frontwoman. In a live arena they can lack personality at times but what has carried them this far is the song writing of Veland and his dark, bleak and above all gothic take on symphonic Metal. If the horror film artwork and the combination of the words Norwegian and Metal in describing the band aren't enough to convince you that this is a band who thrive on a melancholy outlook on life, there is Veland's own description of his songs as being "reflections on life, death, love, hate, paranoia, anxiety and mental decline". Maybe this is what living somewhere which is dark for six months at a time does for you.
There might not be a lot of laughs to be had here but that doesn't mean that 'Dim Days Of Dolor' is not an enjoyable album, far from it. As someone who has found Sirenia's output patchy at times this album seems more cohesive and complete and one of the best things they have ever done. New singer Emanuelle Zoldan may be French but her version of the Metal soprano singer fits in beautifully with the overall vibe here, part of the sound without totally dominating the songs. There is some fine guitar work too but the predominant impression I am left with after each listen is how well put together each song is.
This is not a doom Metal album despite the dark outlook and there are little nods to power Metal, Therion style pomp, melodic symphonic Metal and even the occasional bit of pop sensibility all over the place. However each individual song is beautifully crafted whether there are many twists and turns required or a more straightforward and very effective use of choirs or growling male vocals.
I like 'Dim Days Of Dolor' a lot, there is a lot going on within it and worth exploring. You could say that Mr Veland has become the Phil Spector of gothic Metal, creating a dark, cold wall of sound, and when he gets it this right melancholy can be a joy to wallow in.
CIVIL WAR: 'THE LAST FULL MEASURE'
Out Now (Napalm Records)
March 2012, and the Metal world was rocked by the news that not one and not two, but four (no, really!) members of Swedish Power Metal quintet Sabaton had quit the band for, as the statement said at the time, "unspecified reasons". Even now there hasn’t really been an explanation as to what was the catalyst that caused the large exodus from the band.
As Sabaton continued, those who left quickly regrouped and within a matter of months Civil War was formed and their first release, barely six months later, was the self-titled EP in late 2012. The nucleus of Civil War to this day still retains three of the original four ex-Sabaton members, drummer Daniel Mullback, guitarist Rikard Sundén and keyboard player Daniel Myhr.
After the initial EP came their first full length album, 'The Killer Angels', in 2013 and then the excellent 'Gods And Generals' in 2015 which was met with critical acclaim. 'The Last Full Measure' is their new release and with it, the band continues to build on their previous works without straying far from their Power Metal roots.
The album is full of songs related to wars and fighting (again) and there's no time for soppy ballads here, just a dozen full-on tracks with the outstanding 'Tombstone' leading the way with its jaunty intro before the guitars and drums crash in and Johansson's trademark vocals come in. Also worthy of a mention is the relentless 'Gladiator' which shows Johansson at his best with his powerful vocals rightly taking centre stage, especially during the chorus. If you're a Power Metal fan then these guys should really be on your radar so get out there and get a copy because this needs to be in your record collection.
Edition Six of You Spin Me Round here in three weeks and it will be the last of 2106. We'll resume again early January...