Archive for the ‘Metal’ Category

220px-JudasPriestFirepower18 studio albums in, and Metal Pioneers Judas Priest are still relevant. There are many bands from the past who are making great music nowadays. Kreator have been as good in the past 10 years as they ever were in the ’80s. You can add Saxon and Accept to that list. Queensryche since Todd joined too.

Priest’s best moments on Redeemer Of Souls and Angel Of Retribution were in that sort of sphere as well but not to the unquestionable level of the above mentioned renaissances. Judging from how magazines, podcasts, blogs and websites I care about have reacted to Firepower however, I was expecting seriously great things when pressing play for the first time.

I’ve been hammering this record non-stop in the car for about half a month now, repeat listening to it over and over again. Its taken a while to grow on me as I had such high expectations after the last Saxon album and also all the hype surrounding this, that it almost did more harm than good setting me unrealistic expectations, but after taking a good long time to really digest it and understand how I feel about it, I can definitely confirm Firepower is a bit of a banger.

There are a few moments of variety, such as the slower closer ‘Sea Of Red’ and the brief instrumental ‘Guardians’ but most of the material is just straight ahead well written classic heavy metal. Highlights for me include ‘Evil Never Dies,’ ‘Rising From Ruins,’ ‘Flame Thrower’ and especailly ‘Traitors Gate.’

That being said, its an album you can listen to all the way through, and its an album you can happily listen to on repeat. I once heard the phrase ‘an album you can get lost in’ and that’s exactly how I feel about Firepower. The performances pop. Rob’s vocals are more energetic than on the previous record. Travis’ drums are that little bit harder. The production is a lot sharper and more metallic as well. Everything sounds that little bit harder and heavier. Maybe its having that Andy Sneap involvment? Who knows, but everything rips. The band sound twenty years younger.

I wouldn’t go overboard and start heaping tonnes and tonnes of hyperbolic praise on this personally. I wouldn’t argue its better than Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller. I like Angel Of Retribution and Redeemer Of Souls well enough already not to go down that ‘best album since Painkiller’ route, but I will say it is a worthy addition to the band’s catalogue and no disapointment whatsoever. A pedantic person may be inclined to argue it is a bit overlong, and that a few songs are a bit forgettable compared to the better ones, but those are arguments that can be made for pretty much every album nowadays. Iron Maiden fans are well used to it at this stage and it doesn’t stop us buying their albums.

After Nostradamus I thought this band may be hitting a downer period and after KK left the band it seemed quite unlikely they would be anything more than a nostalgia act but that’s two albums now they’ve proved that fear wrong. The band are arguably on an upward streak and they are starting to sound almost as fresh and relevant as the new Accept and Saxon albums have been. Considering by how long Priest pre-date those bands its even more impressive really. It isn’t just as amazing as I was expecting, but what I was expecting wasn’t realistic to begin with, but the more I play Firepower, the closer it gets to being a reality.

If you like Priest, get it. If you like Classic Metal, get it. Hell, if you like Metal at all, get it!

220px-Cover_LiveinSPSepultura have a good few options if you are into live material. There is the Chaos DVD with the Under Siege video on it with the band touring Arise and playing all their Thrash era songs. There is the Under A Pale Grey Sky cd with the last ever gig of the Max Cavelera line-up on it, playing a lot of material off of Roots and Chaos AD. There is the newer Rock In Rio DVD with the Les Tambors Du Bronx percussion group augmenting them. There’s also plenty of live material on bonus tracks and compilations.

Best of all however, is Sepultura Live In Sao Paulo. It was the first video album with the Derick Green line-up, the first time you got to see and not just hear live versions of material from Roots and Chaos AD and its the only place to hear straight up unaltered versions of material off the Derick Green albums. It was released in 2005 when they were touring Roorback, back when they were still a Gold-selling band.

You get to hear an amazing blend (21 songs!) of material all the way from their earliest EPs and albums with early material like ‘Necromancer’ and ‘Troops Of Doom’ beside the mega-hits from the ’90s like ‘Territory’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ mixed in with more modern gems like ‘Choke’ and what has to be one of the band’s best ever songs in ‘Sepulnation.’ (For me, its in the top 5 songs they ever recorded, any era).

Visually, the album is great. Its really well shot and edited, with no fancy distracting weird camera angels or lenses and no too-fast music video style choppy cuts. The stage set up and tasteful circle of lighting around their tribal ‘S’ logo banner looks really great, and the soundjob and mix are perfect. Sometimes the guitars or the vocals can be too quiet in a live recording, or some times the drums have way too much reverb, or sometimes you can’t hear the crowd’s energy; but here everything is perfectly balanced hear and it all sounds thick and chunky.

The band’s performances are excellent and it really shows off what great musicians they are. I never ‘got’ how good a drummer Igor is until I saw this! I didn’t much care for Derrick Green as a frontman before I saw this an it utterly changed my mind.

It looks great, it sounds great, the tracklist is great and the band play great. What more could you possibly want? Oh well, if you still do want more there is an absolute tonne of extras, with music videos, more live songs, a short making of documentary and biography, a bigger documentary about the band from 1998–2005 and other stuff as well (photogalleries etc.)

Overall; this is a damn strong release from a very important band, and there’s so much on it its great value for money. If like me you were skeptical on them without Max in the band, go on youtube and check out live versions of tracks like ‘Chaos AD’ and especially ‘Sepulnation’ off of this and just try not to be converted! If you are new to the band altogether this is a great starting point blending the best parts of all the eras together.

Prong – Zero Days Review

Posted: March 26, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews

prongzerodayscdThere’s an argument to be made that a lot of bands put out their best material on their first to fifth album, or before they turn 40 years old. Think about all the bands who were better when they were newer. Of course, there are exceptions. Notable among those exceptions are New York’s mighty Groove Metal Veterans, Prong.

Tommy Victor, who basically is Prong in the way that Dave Mustaine basically is Megadeth or Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails or Jeff Waters is Annihilator, has arguably only been getting better and better the more he works. Especially since the band really hit their new stride with their 8th studio album, Carved Into Stone in 2012. Basically, ever since then, everything the band touch has turned to gold. Great production, great tone, great vocals, great choruses, great riffs. Absolutely consistent, basically no filler, no drop-off from album to album.

You may have guessed already from that introduction, but I like Prong’s newest album, 2017’s Zero Days. I like it a lot. It is Prong’s 11th full-length studio album (not counting remixes, covers albums and compilations),  and it is an absolute gem.

It follows that perfect formula of the past three studio albums perfectly, delivering more of that fantastic modernized Groove Metal with small hints of the different parts of their career all refined and with a lot of chug, pace and groove balanced out with catchy but not saccharine melodies. ‘Bad Ass’ are really the best words to describe their current sound.

Combining the crunchy, crushing riffs of a Pantera, the eerie melody and mechanical sensibilities of a Fear Factory, the hardcore-influenced groove of a ’90s-era Sepultura and muscular power of a Machine Head, but with an updated sound and masterful production job; Prong batter the audience with a perfect blend of styles as easily enjoyable by a Black Label Society fan as a Five Finger Death Punch or a Pitchshifter fan.
Highlights include the speedy Hardcore influenced ‘Force Into Tolerance’ with its bouncy floor tom drive, opener ‘However It May End’ & also ‘Interbeing’ with their fat bouncy ’90s riffing, as well as ‘The Whispers’ which seems to be a hark back to their classic single ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’ but with a much more melodic chorus that sounds like it should be in a pro wrestling event.

Just because they’ve been going a while, doesn’t mean Prong aren’t putting out some of the best material of their whole career. This album is a superb blend of tooth-kicking riffage and sweet but uncommon melody. It has all the advantages of Nu Metal without all the questionable drawbacks. Its fun, its bouncy and its accessible, but it still has ferocious riffs, impressive guitar solos and a direct through-line to beefy hardcore, classic thrash metal, and the slightest hints of industrial lurking deep in the background. If any of that sounds good to you, check this album out and check the three studio albums that preceded it too. You won’t be sorry.

Prong – Beg To Differ Review

Posted: March 17, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews
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Prong-begtodifferBack in 1990 New York’s Prong were really onto something. They had been mixing Thrash Metal and Hardcore Punk as many others had before, but managed to do it in a very creative way and come out with a Groove Metal gem that would see them entering the same sort of territory as Pantera, Machine Head, Fear Factory and ’90s era Sepultura would do soon after.

Maybe its the tone and the production job from Mark Dodson (Suicidal Tendencies, Anthrax), maybe its the tempo, or maybe its nothing more complicated than the songwriting, but this album feels like history being made. The blistering Thrash Metal opener ‘For Dear Life’ is chunky riff-driven fun, and there are reappearances of that spirit here and there throughout the album, but basically after that it slows down a bit, and mixes a Sabbathy riff focused 3-4 minute structure with the power and grit of Thrash, the bark and streetwise nature of Hardcore and that charming early ’90s sound to create a damn solid, memorable and interesting album. A pretty good example of the album’s style overall would be ‘Right To Nothing.’

Tommy Victor’s iconic voice ties it to what would follow, but this may sound a bit different if you are expecting it to sound identical to their classic Cleansing record or their amazing four newest albums. Its a bit more simple and a bit less sophisticated, but it is very charming. One-dimensional is the wrong term, but, focused!

If you like Prong but don’t own this yet, dig back and don’t miss out! If you like any of the other bands listed above, make it your business to check Prong out as well!

BLS-Grimmest-hits-CackblabbathBlack Label Society are very much ‘old dependable.’ Every album is worth owning. For me I do have to admit preferring their Metal side to their Rock side and consequently thinking the first four albums and also Order Of The Black are the best, but even with that being said, nothing they do it bad.

2018’s Grimmest Hits (a studio album, not a greatest hits, in case you didn’t know) is their tenth proper Studio album. If it is your first BLS album, then you’ll probably love it, if you already own a few, then you’ll probably like me enjoy it, but not think it is the best. Like AC/DC or Hatebreed or Motorhead, the band do have album on album variation, but they always sound distinctly themselves and a causaul person may say ‘heard one, hear em all.’

Its pretty much the usual fayer here, with a bit more Sabbathy and a bit less Groove Metal than some of their other work, but still very much more of the same. A few great ballads, a mix of fast, slow and mid-tempo Metallic rock songs with incredible guitar solos and vocals that owe a lot to both Layne Stayley and Ozzy Osbourne.

Highlights this time around include ‘Seasons Of Faulter,’ ‘A Love Unreal’ and the very catchy southern ballad ‘The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away.’

Its the kind of album you have on in the car and listen to over and over again without realizing how much you actually listen to it. You wouldn’t call it your favourite ever album but you certainly get your money’s worth in the end. Recommended, not a disappointment, but not their greatest. If you are a new fan try something like 1919 Eternal first, move on to this when you’re already a fan.

Saxon – Thunderbolt Review

Posted: March 4, 2018 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews
Tags: , ,

220px-Album_cover_of_Saxon_-_Thunderbolt_(2018)Now, I don’t claim to be the world’s biggest or most devout Saxon fan. I only got into them about five or six years ago after hearing ‘Denim & Leather’ in an episode of both Metal Evolution and also Heavy Metal Louder Than Life and feeling like I needed to hear more. Since this was in my most financially broke student period its been a slow process gathering their discography. At present I own only about ¾ of their albums, but to be fair, have seen them live about 3 times (would’ve been four, but one was cancelled). Slowly, slowly they’ve won me over more and more and more until I’d now consider them one of my absolute favourite bands (if not for a mental block about having to have the full discography I have), and its a rare day you catch me without a Saxon t-shirt on, even at work.

Saxon have had several distinct periods over the years. The unsigned and first album era. The classic and most publicly beloved era of the next 3-5 albums where the bulk of their live setlist and greatest-hits tracklists will be drawn from. The more commercial 3 albums after that in the mid-late ’80s. The early ’90s comeback. The early ’00s comeback. The late ’00s comeback. Their current three comeback albums. Yeah, when I saw them live, singer Biff Byford joked “we’re on about our tenth comeback now!”

Even though they were already on an amazing comeback with Sacrifice, the public considered their last album Battering Ram a comeback as well, and judging by the chart performance and critical and fan reaction to this current album, 2018’s Thunderbolt (their 22nd studio album), the same thing is happening again.

Much like German Metal Legends, Accept or Kreator; Saxon are playing and writing better now than so many younger bands, than so many of their peers, and arguably than themselves in much of their classic discography.

Even as a new fan, this record is not something you want to be missing out on, this isn’t just a reason to tour or one or two new songs to add to a setlist for one tour, to be forgotten forever after, this is a damn strong, exciting, vital sounding album!

Highlights include the bombastic strung-up moody album-centerpiece ‘Nosferatu’ with its astonishing guitar work, dynamic mix of tempos and evocative lyrics, as well as the furious Motorhead tribute ‘And They Played Rock N Roll’ and the heavy ‘Predator’ which features guest vocals from Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg.

To be honest though, apart from an instrumental intro, there is not one skippable song on the whole album. Even towards the end of the album, tracks like ‘Speed Merchant’ are just as good as anything at the start of the album. It makes sense that the band are playing six or seven songs from this record live at the moment, as it is some seriously strong material. With Paul Quinn’s searing guitar solos, Nigel Glocker’s mighty drumming and Andy Sneap’s absolutely perfect production job… this is exactly what Heavy Metal is supposed to sound like; punchy, heavy, vital, catchy, impressive and fun!

If you like Saxon then this is no album to miss, if you are lapsed its a good re-entry point, and of course, if you are new or newish to Saxon then this is mandatory listening. I know some people would call it sacrilegious to compare it to career triumphs like Strong Arm Of The Law, Wheels Of Steel, Demin & Leather or Solid Ball Of Rock, but this tight, consistent and damn entertaining album is honestly good enough to be both up there with the best Saxon material but up there with the best Heavy Metal material coming out at the moment. I would have it over Iron Maiden’s latest at the moment, and they are on a high period as well. Don’t miss out, get struck by the Thunderbolt now!

I went to go see the mighty Saxon last Friday in Cardiff; this was my third time catching the NWOBHM legends live and my second ever concert in Wales. (It would have been my fourth time seeing Saxon but I’ve already written before about the time I had tickets and it got cancelled due to Lemmy from Motorhead getting diabetes.)

The trip to the venue was great, now that I know the way it was a lot less stressful to find than the time I went to see Mastodon and this time the city centre was a lot quieter and less full of boozed-up thugs. I got there a bit late and missed all but the last minute of the opening act, Rock Goddess, so just got to hear them chant ‘Heavy metal – rock and roll’ about six times and take a bow. I remembered the really good comfortable spot from the Mastodon concert – behind the sound/lighting desk, so I headed there and remained there for the rest of the show, great sound, great view and no people bustling you around.

I caught the Metallica-inspiring also-NWOBHM legends Diamond Head next. It was kind of strange to see them be their own roadies. Usually you get excited when the band but I saw Brian Tattler for like 15 minutes before the band were ready just setting up the guitar, I can see why roadies get hired and how annoying it must be nowadays when records aren’t selling as much. They were a man down due to a serious hospital operation but they soldiered on regardless, dropping all the best and heaviest songs from Lightening To The Nations and Borrowed Time. They also dropped one new song from their self titled album (‘Bones’). I didn’t know this beforehand; but they have a younger guy on vocals (Rasmus Bom Andersen). He was a very good frontman, jumping in the air, pumping up the crowd, trying to get people enthusiastic and doing a very good job of mimicking the original vocals. I’ve been listening ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ a lot recently so I really enjoyed it live – he did it justice. The crowd were into it, but not so into it. The band were pretty good; not so tight, but that’s obviously due to the man-down situation and totally understandable. Hey, I’m just happy to be seeing songs like ‘Its Electric’ and ‘Lightning To The Nations’ live.

When they dropped ‘Am I Evil?’ though…the whole atmosphere changed. The crowd sang almost every word, the room warmed up, the band looked five-times as confident and all the energy that was sort of missing before came into the room. It felt like a real heroic moment. Previously the crowd seemed to view them as a bit of a ropey pub band based on how they reacted, but for that last song they treated them how they deserved, like stars.

After a wait, the mighty Saxon took the stage, opening up with the intro and title track of the new album. I had been a bit cold on ‘Thunderbolt’ when it was the previw single but when I heard the album and listened to it on repeat it fell in to place for me. Seeing it live made it even better. Its a really strong tune. Biff mentioned we were the first audience to ever see it live, which got a big cheer. They also dropped some other fairly recent material such as ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Battering Ram’ (also so good live!). Its nice to see them not just being a nostalgia act.

There was also all the big classic songs you’d expect such as ‘And The Bands Played On,’ (Side note – I never think about how short that song is!) ‘Strong Arm Of The Law,’ ‘Crusader,’ ‘747 (Strangers In The Night),’ ‘The Power And The Glory’ etc.

They also played a good four-six tracks off the new album overall, such as ‘Sniper’ ‘The Secret Of Flight’ ‘Predator’ and ‘They Played Rock And Roll.’ Nibbs did the backing parts that Amon Amarth’s singer Johan Hegg does on the album, which was quite fun. My favorite moment was hearing ‘Nosferatu’ live.

They mentioned that they had filmed their next music video in the venue the previous night and also that the students were filming the concert (maybe that will be their next concert film or maybe just on youtube later, I’m not sure).

They did two encores. They ended the main set with ‘Princess Of The Night,’ and then they came back and did ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ and ‘Wheels Of Steel’ then they went off again and came back once more and did ‘Denim And Leather.’

The band were absolutely phenomenal. I’ve seen Saxon three times so far and this was unquestionably the best. They were absolutely on fire. The power and confidence and audience reaction was really special. The band seemed really taken aback and grateful and Biff kept commenting on what a great crowd it was that night (which I do agree with, I’ve seen a lot of concerts but its rare to get such good applause and sing-alongs and fans demanding you come back again after you’ve already done an encore).

It appears the band are on an upswing; Biff mentioned the new album was their first to enter the UK Top 30 albums chart since the mid-80s and joked that he ‘almost chocked on my cornflakes when I heard that!’ which was very amusing. He was quite amusing all night to be honest. Someone suggested they play ‘Crusader’ early on in the set and he started doing the ‘Who dares battle the Saracen?’ voice from its intro but said ‘Its not time for Crusader, that comes later’ which was pretty funny in context and got a good crowd reaction.

The band were stunning too. As well as Biff’s excellent stage presence and banter, the guitar solos were so good. Doug and Paul were so impressive – they really are absolute guitar heroes. Nibbs is the rowdy guy with all the energy and gets the crowd going. Best of all of course, as if I would say anyone else, (how many times have I banged on and on about my drummer-crush on his skills?) was the incomparable ‘Engine Room’ – Nigel Glockler! I’ve already written at length about how he elevates the songs with the extra cymbal catches and well timed extra double kicks on the old stuff before he was the drummer and his own stuff is badass to begin with. He has a star power and talent level that really lifts Saxon above so many of their NWOBHM peers and shows you why they are not only relevant now when so many of their peers fell by the wayside but arguably better now than even in their classic period.

The whole concert was an absolute triumph, the old stuff, the new stuff, the stage presence and the performances. Scorching solos and powerful fills. I had an absolutely great night. I really recommend you catch Saxon live if you haven’t already and if this turns out to be available now the students have filmed it, check the video out.