It’s that time of the week again when we check out what’s hot and what’s not. Check out the RUSHONROCK verdict on Black Country Communion (pictured), UFO, Helmet and Night Horse to name but a few!

Helmet – Seeing Eye Dog (Work Song)

When bands reform after time apart there’s always a good chance the cooling-off period has seized them up.  After a dormant spell of six years, Helmet reformed in 2004 to both criticism and praise.

Seeing Eye Dog is their third album since the big reunion but this is no lucky seventh long player.

So Long tries to kick-start an album that essentially drags along with the engine wheezing in first gear up a 45 degrees hill.  Lyrically, the chorus is poor and the riffs bland.  It doesn’t have the grunting edginess of the Betty album or other oldies.

Morphing contributes to the album with a dreamy, obscure instrumental in the same vein as some long My Bloody Valentine prelude.

For the best part the more pop-orientated tunes such as La Water grate, but She’s Lost has some sections that are good.  Melvins-esque guitar always helps, but the track still seems disjointed from the half, with a long break in sound before activity suddenly begins again.  It does nothing for extra impact and instead only adds to already dumbstruck ears.

You just wonder where the New York based band are going next.  Listening to Seeing Eye Dog doesn’t induce a passionate hatred for the record but urges caution and the suggestion to haphazardly sidestep it. CR

rushonrock rated: 4/10 Dog’s Dinner

Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion (Mascot)

Expectation can weigh heavily on the shoulders of those blessed with exceptional talent and fierce ambition. Similarly it can inspire something quite unique and incredibly special: step forward Black Country Communion.

When it was first mooted that Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian were set to pool their considerable artistic resources the collective gasp of disbelief reverberated across the rock world. Everyone said this really should be rather good but supergroups have, of course, developed a nasty habit for serving up far less than the sum of their parts.

Not so BCC. This is a fabulous throwback to an era when British blues rock commanded huge respect and classic albums rolled off a conveyor belt greased by soaring riffs and memorable hooks. Hughes and Bonamassa revel in a gripping duel for vocal supremacy while the latter is unleashed as a bona fide guitar hero firing off piercing solos for fun.

Bonham has never sounded better, appearing both confident and comfortable in the presence of such exalted peers. Sherinian’s subtle touches simply complete a quartet born for greatness but leaving it late to blossom.

Lead single One Last Soul is the perfect introduction to this remarkable band but the epic Song Of Yesterday (the title is a giveaway) rolls back the years to a time when Hughes, in particular, was rightly revered as a true rock and roll hero. Bonamassa was no more than a starry eyed kid back then but that’s the joy of this engaging album: fusing generations, spanning generations, enlightening generations: BCC does it all. SR

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Backing Black

The Absence – Enemy Unbound (Metal Blade)

Following in the footsteps of Obituary and Deicide, The Absence are yet another band that emerged from the Florida death metal scene.

What is comforting about Enemy Unbound is that it is far from an attempt of sheer imitation like countless others who simply can’t conjure a crushing sound with a unique twist.

The Absence do have the usual abhorrent death metal growls but also possess a throttling thrash sound with influences from Scandinavia too.  Melodic solos dominate the album and whilst the shredding work is spectacular, at times it can grow tiresome.

Wartorn is a good example of the Scandinavian in The Absence, featuring a thumping intro and guitars constantly working in harmonious unison like that of Children of Bodom’s self-titled track.  However, unlike them there is no intoxication of power metal, giving The Absence a rough and jagged edge.

Final track Triumph continues my confusion over hidden tracks. After seeing that the song was 12 minutes long and after hearing a fantastic intro, I thought I was in for an epic treat. Unfortunately the build-up finished after two minutes, and so began a boring eight minutes of silence. What made it worse was the fact that, when the music started again, a clever acoustic, war-like march ensued, leaving me tearing my fucking hair out saying ‘why didn’t you use that for the beginning to an actual 12 minute song?!’

Thankfully, The Absence show promising potential that, with some tender work, could blossom into something far more impressive.  They certainly have the talent for it. CR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 The Absence Makes The Heart Grow Stronger

UFO – Best Of A Decade (SPV/Steamhammer)

To the countless UFO compilations add this strange but endearing beast. Cynics might identify it as the most obvious cash cow for the relaunched SPV label but there is some merit in showcasing the golden years of this enduring British institution.

The best compliment it is possible to pay UFO is that their latter day material is, on the whole, every bit as good as the music Black Country Communion (see above) are peddling in 2010.

And while Pete and his buddies could so easily have sat on their proverbial arses, playing sizeable gigs packed with familiar classics, a longstanding work ethic has prevailed. Hence the band continues to make great music and makes a point of playing it – often at the expense of some back catalogue favourites.

Tracks like Hard Being Me and Daylight Comes To Town stand alongside the very best tunes from the band’s commercial heyday. Oozing emotion and bleeding quality they are proof that the decision to pen original material long past their perceived sell-by date has reaped unexpected rewards.

Of course this wouldn’t be a UFO Best Of without Doctor Doctor and a live version of that brilliant standard brings a cracking record to a close. If you thought UFO ceased to exist after 1980 think again. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 UFOldies

Tarja – What Lies Beneath (Spinefarm)

If you’ve never heard of Tarja, chances are she’ll take some getting used to. But stick with the former Nightwish singer and the payoff is strange yet compelling. Almost like a trip to the West End to watch Metal: A Musical!

Hearing operatic vocals over some heavy guitar solos and an even heavier bass is almost the definition of a juxtaposition. But it works.

Until My Last Breath feels almost Evanesence like and I Feel Immortal is the closest to stadium rock the album gets.

Dark Star is a standout track with Tarja’s vocals dovetailing brilliantly with her band’s backing effort. Falling Awake is the first single released from the album and features guest guitarist Joe Satriani, who delivers one of the highlights of the record with an outstanding solo.

But then every track feels epic and wouldn’t feel out of place on a movie soundtrack for the latest apocolyptic blockbuster. The only flaw to an otherwise enjoyable album is the nagging thoughts that crop up when listening. Is this what Katherine Jenkins would have sounded like if her agent took her another way? Am I listening to a bizarre version of Beauty and the Beast? No? It’s just me then!? AS

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Tar Very Much

Night Horse – Perdition Hymns (Teepee)

Thanks to one of rushonrock’s favourite US labels the art of retro metal and kick-ass rock and roll is alive and kicking. Teepee keep on serving up some of the finest riff-fuelled fare around and this Southern-fried piece of 70s-inspired metal is one of our picks of 2010.

Opener Confess To Me thunders along at a rip-roaring pace and sets the tone for a cracking album bursting with sleazy intent. Throughout this record the guitar solos are sensational – juxtaposed with some memorable metal boogie. Angel Eyes sounds like the Black Crowes and Quireboys jamming with the Foo Fighters and, incredibly, it works.

It may well be that Perdition Hymns is best enjoyed with a bottle of Jack and some seriously strong Cuban cigars – or maybe just after you’ve leafed through your Lynyrd Skynyrd collection and bemoaned the fact that they never turned it up to 10.

Come Down Halo is like a less polished, more abrupt Black Stone Cherry and that is, believe us, a very good thing. There’s something raw and real about Night Horse and we like it. No, we love it. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Horsing Around

Elvenking – Red Silent Tides (AFM)

Fusing NWOBHM flavours with battle metal bravado, the puzzling Elvenking appear to be a band grappling with their identity and failing to make full use of their obvious talents.

Right from the off there’s something just not right about frontman Damnagoras’ vocal style and it begins to grate. He’s good, can hold a tune and never delivers less than 100% but it’s just too clean and calculated for a band steeped in folk metal tradition.

There are times, when listening to tracks like The Last Hour, that Elvenking could be the latest metal boy band to emerge from the Welsh valleys. But the melodic twists and mysterious turns swiftly bring us back to the Italian act’s roots – and reinforce the view that six albums in and all sense of direction and focus has been lost. Runereader is super stuff but the album’s obvious highlight isn’t matched.

Freely admitting that their best music is influenced by bands far and wide it seems Elvenking have allowed themselves to drift too far and too wide. Diversity can be an asset but in this case it’s undermining a very talented band – The Cabal, with its pirate-metal riff and multi-layered chorus, is where Damnagoras and his mates should be heading. But we seriously doubt it’s where they’ll eventually end up. SR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Red Alert

Athorn – Phobia (AFM)

On Ferryman the intriguing Athorn plough a Maiden-esque furrow while paying tribute to Metallica with the prominent and pertinent  ‘wherever I may roam’ lyric. And if you’re a fan of the power of British metal coupled with the intricacy of post-80s thrash then this record might be right up your street.

Opener Angel Of The Fall is a rumbling, angry old track and an odd choice to kick off an impressive album. It’s the least expansive and most contrived song on this record but, rest assured, the pace picks up and the passion shines through as the boys from Hannover quickly find their stride.

This is, essentially, classic German power metal but it’s more than that. Mixing snarling vocal styles with clean, sweeping solos is a neat trick and frontman Carsten Frank has never sounded better.

Closer Schizophrenia clocks in at seven minutes-plus and is well worth every second. Opening up with offbeat percussion and giving way to the most powerful vocal performance you’ll hear all week there’s an epic feel to a frantic track featuring blistering axe work and a haunting mid-section. Excellent stuff. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Athorn A*

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson, Andy Spoors.