We review and rate the Scando kings’ Stand Up And Fight plus there’s our verdict on Voodoo Circle, Shakra, Jag Panzer, Evergrey, Assassin, Oliver Weers, Sideburn, Pushking, Di Apokalyptischen Reiter, Before The Dawn and D.R.U.G.S..
Voodoo Circle – Broken Heart Syndrome (AFM)
Whitesnake have a new album out next month and, amazingly, Broken Heart Syndrome is not it. Pass this music on blind to any fans of bluesy rock and there’s a fair bet nine out of 10 listeners would claim it belonged to David Coverdale and company. The likeness is incredible.
The question is this: are Voodoo Circle simply lazy rip-off merchants or is the quality of the fare on offer here so good that it’s a case of imitation being the most sincere form of flattery? Choose the latter and enjoy what is a smashing affair from start to finish.
For fans of early Whitesnake there’s the delicious Devil’s Daughter and for fans of heavy Whitesnake there’s ballsy opener No Solution Blues. And for those of us who rate the hair metal years there’s the sumptuous King Of Your Dreams. Even DC doesn’t manage to cover every era on one record so Voodoo Circle do it on his behalf.
If Forevermore, the genuine article released on March 25, is anywhere near as good as Broken Heart Syndrome then fans will be talking about a modern-day Whitesnake classic. If it fails to hit the mark then Voodoo Circle can help to ease the pain. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Circle Of Life
Turisas – Stand Up And Fight (Century Media)
Battle Metal’s conquerors return with the record which could define their career and one thing’s immediately certain – Stand Up And Fight is just as likely to polarise opinion as it is to unite rock’s armies behind the wacky Norse warriors.
At times more sparkly than a flashing Skrymir and often sharper than a piercing Steinsnautr, this album is a bold bid to add a glossy sheen to Turisas’ trademark chants and rough-edged riffs. Think Kiss in animal pelts and smeared with blood and you can imagine the quintet taking these tunes and transferring them to enormodomes with ease.
And that has to be the next step for Turisas. Their theatrical twists and dramatic turns are made for expansive stages replete with overblown special effects and wild light shows. Stand Up And Fight has been written to realise those dreams – if anything the songs are more accessible and less complicated than on their previous long players but the tunes are more addictive than ever.
Opener The March Of The Varangian Guard picks up where previous record The Varangian Way left off but it’s a brief and polished nod to the past. By the time Take The Day! takes hold it’s clear this is a new and improved Turisas with ambition and confidence coursing through their veins.
Those who jumped on board long ago might find Stand Up And Fight too much of a leap for a band rooted in Norse tradition and far folkier in their early days. But this will be the Turisas album that takes Battle Metal to the masses. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Turisassy
Die Apokalyptischen Reiter – Moral & Wahnsinn (Nuclear Blast)
There’s something strangely comforting about the gutteral growl of DAR’s Teutonic anthems – every time you see this band in action it’s like downing a strong German wheat beer on a balmy Bavarian night. But until now their live shows have failed to transfer to record.
Moral & Wahnsinn changes all of that. There’s no crazy gimp cavorting around the stage with whips and chains in tow but there is plenty of passion and even some Scorpions-style whistling on Gib Dich Hin (well, whistling at least). It’s a rich aural treat from a band that doesn’t believe in doing things by half.
Choosing to work harder than ever on the tunes to match their visual tours de force, the blues rock refrain of Hammer Oder Amboss is one of DAR’s most accomplished and appealing songs to date.
The axe work across Moral & Wahnsinn is pretty wondrous and, mixed neatly with the trumpets, keys, whistles and wails there’s never a dull moment on this blast of an album. Dir Gehort Nichts pulls everything together in perfect synchronicity before this band of sublime contrasts delivers the Alice Cooper-esque doom and spooky gloom of Dr Pest.
Looking to broaden your rock horizons in 2011? DAR are a great place to start. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Reiter On Track
Pushking – The World As We Love It (earMUSIC)
Russian rockers Pushking have fired a shot across the bows of rock with their first international release. And they’re not alone. Backed by an army of classic rockers that quite frankly reads like a festival billing of yesteryear, Pushking pour a glass of neat Russian rock.
Like a bottle of its country’s finest export, it’s all about the mixer. Whether you want a twist of Alice Cooper, a measure of Bonamassa or a dash of Glenn Hughes there’s a taste for everyone.
Churning out 80s rock since 1994 Pushking have never taken their music outside of their nation’s borders. So to give the rest of the world a wake-up call, producer Fabrizio Grossi rustled up his little black book of rock and propelled The World As We Know It from mediocrity to superstardom.
The record really kicks off when the grandmaster of rock Alice Cooper lays his vocals down on Troubled Love. The ever recognisable tones of Dan McCafferty resonate over I Love You and Glenn Hughes shines incredibly on a handful of tracks, Why Don’t You a particular high note.
The problem with this kind of album, not that there has been many with the same scale as this, is it begins to sound like a compilation. Pushking end up sounding no more than a glorified house band for the who’s-who of rock. The one track without guest vocals is fantastic and even with a section sung in their native tongue, My Reflections After Seeing The “Schindler’s List” Movie gives a great impression of the band. Unfortunately there is no follow up and although it’s easy to get carried away with the guests it should have been Pushking’s moment. But when Push (ahem) comes to shove it’s anything but… AS
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Kings Of Celebrity
Oliver Weers – Evil’s Back (Metal Heaven)
X Factor. Not the first show that comes to mind when you say rock. In fact it probably conjures up some pretty warped or disturbing images for most rock fans and what they would do to Mr. Cowell. But in Denmark one man has built a rock/metal career out of their particular version of the ‘talent’ show.
After singing Queen’s The Show Must Go On, Oliver Weers shot to the nation’s rock darling and hasn’t looked back since. Forget Jamie Afro Archer’s sense of rock – this guy knows the real deal and comes out swinging.
The album’s title track sets the pace for the entire album with swirling drums and guitar riffs supporting Weers’ gruff vocals to create a typically Scandinavian rock sound. The album’s highlight without doubt is Hero. Sharing the vocals with Stella Black Rose’s Rebecca Armstrong, the pair manage to gel astonishingly well to create a sound anything but manufactured.
The rest of the tracks and in particular Demolition Man sound like 80s rock cannon fodder, with nothing really new explored. Rainbow Star changes the pace up to give the album once last crescendo before the end. The record seems to act as a base for the future with Weers never really stretching himself as he seemed to for that TV performance. AS
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Which Weer Now?
Sideburn – Jail (Metal Heaven)
Ever had that feeling just after you’ve finished listening to a great album? The feeling that if only there were other bands just like them or someone capable of giving you more of the same. Well if you’ve just finished listening to an AC/DC album then search no more.
Swiss quintet Sideburn create that classic rock sound that is guaranteed to get you turning up the volume dial and dusting off that air-guitar. For the purists and rock fans that believe there is no place for imitation then this could be one to avoid. But for the rest of us, its everything you could wish for in a minor release.
Airbourne have made a name for themselves creating a similar noise, so why no-one else should get in on the act is anyone’s guess. From the first guitar hook on Live To Rock to the final growl on Creedence, the album reads as an affectionate yet original tribute to one of the rock greats.
Although they have been round for around a decade Sideburn are one of the European bands that is respected in their own country but nowhere else. It’s unlikely that Prison will catapult the band in to fame but its easy listening and wouldn’t be out of place in middle America bars and bowling alleys. There’s nothing wrong with recreating a tried and tested rock sound especially when the sound belongs to AC/DC. It’s not as polished but there is enough originality to make this their own. AS
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Burn To Disc
Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows – D.R.U.G.S (Warner Bros.)
When Chiodos’ singer Craig Owens was booted from the band who knew what was to follow. Difficult times and difficult addictions, one could easily imagine Owens being a lost talent fading into the black never to be heard from again but, no, that simply wouldn’t do.
Who would have thought he was about to embark on a personal journey which would be better than the last? 2010 saw Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows emerge as an explosive, break-onto-the-scene with a bang, monster of a band who were ready to capture your imagination and steal your hearts. Classified and certified, if you feel you want to put a label on them, “post-hardcore” is the chain to tie around their necks. But they’re more than just that – catchy as hell, visual and unique with an individual artistic talent which may make you controversially inclined to think that d.r.u.g.s were indeed the fuel this band is fed with.
With the band line up being dropped via YouTube by Owens introducing clips over the past few months, they’re using the mother’s teet method of drip feeding you until you’re hooked. So who have we got? Guitars and vocals are Nick Martin (Underminded) and Matt Good (From First to Last), bass powerhouse Adam Russell (Story of the Year), drummer Aaron Stern (Matchbook Romance) and then Craig takes the steer as showman extraordinaire.
This method of drip feeding the fans seems to be doing the trick; monthly teaser song releases have worked their cultish following into frenzy. The first single dark veined Sex Life was launched on January 18 and you can see these guys taking the mainstream rock world by storm with a sound comparable to that of The Used – Owens is an equal match to Bert Mccracken vocally and musically but with a sharper edged sword.
The new self-titled album is full of the promised killer riffs, catchy hooks, chunky bass and interspersed with catchy electronic sounds and even a slither taster of dubstep thrown in the mix. This is an album jam-packed with fist throwing angry attitude and slick in production. Who’d have thought Owens would have upturned the urn and used the ashes for a phoenix of an album: this is a band full of new hope and about to venture out on a stage near you so make sure you’re ready for them! LK
rushonrock rated: 9/10 The DRUGS Do Work
Before The Dawn – Deathstar Rising (Nuclear Blast)
Formerly a one-man mission, Before The Dawn was founded in 1999 by Tuomas Saukkonen after his ambitions and interests as a drummer diversified. But despite increasing in members before debut album My Darkness and going on to carve the critically acclaimed 4:17AM, Saukkonen ousted everyone for motivational reasons and returned with a new line-up in 2005. Six-years have gone by and now with their fourth record since then, the Finns show no signs of seizing up just yet.
Twelve years as father of this project, Saukkonen and his talented company prove with Deathstar Rising that they can poignantly craft something that bleeds dark but runs beautiful. An exceptional mix of melodic death metal and gothic metal might provoke prejudgement from any death metal (or even melodeath) sticklers who are hellbent with one intent – to headbang untl they’re red with rage and waking up the next day with their neck feeling like Andre The Giant just stood on it. So let’s get it straight from the start.
For anyone trying to get the general gist – this certainly ain’t no Deicide or Obituary. But if you think more along the lines of Amorphis with small hints of Placebo (they have actually covered The Bitter End) then there’s a good chance you’ll really enjoy this one.
The First Snow introduces us unassumingly with melancholic acoustic guitar formulating a lovely introduction that thumps head-first into the second track Winter Within. Give it a matter of seconds and the mix of careful lead, gruff screams, clean vocals and accessible riffing all come together nicely to execute a captivating formula sure to at least induce a curiosity or possibly even a hunger to hear more.
With a few listens later you soon realise that the latter unavoidably establishes itself after each track. Increasingly mesmerised, you might hit half way point after the impressive Unbroken with your cynical eye cautiously prepared, only to find yourself dilated with a fantastically melodious assembly of guitars on Judgement.
The form continues with wailing, shivery harmonies on Sanctuary before Wreith ends characteristically – with a fine balance constituting some of the heaviest work on the record with an acoustic fade-out. Absorbing the savoury spoils of gothic metal and using them to emotionally electrify melodeath, Deathstar Rising has the potential to please ears loyal to either genre, but more importantly has the power to drop the jaw of previous pessimists. CR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Dawn Breaks
Evergrey – Glorious Collision (SPV)
On a roll right now, the progressive metal powerhouse that is Evergrey follow up Torn – one of our albums of 2008 – with the equally impressive Glorious Collision. Some might even suggest this fabulous body of work surpasses any of their previous work.
Underpinning everything that is endearing about the Gothenburg crew is the vocal performance of Tom S Englund and he dances across a series of symphonic-leaning metal with aplomb. Reaching a creative crescendo on the uplifting Wrong, it’s fair to say this super-talented singer almost always gets it right.
The chugging metal riffage of You seamlessly segues into a sequence of Nightwish-style keys and every time Evergrey think about hitting the really heavy notes it’s as if they rein themselves in, reassess and refocus. Not your average metal band, this is an act which thinks long and hard before every fresh move.
In fact opener Leave It Behind Us is, briefly, about as furious and brutal as Evergrey get – a pure metal intro gives way to those familiar keys and the cleanest of melodic vocals from the imperious Englund. If youy liked Torn you;ll just love Glorious Collision. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Glorious Return
Jag Panzer – The Scourge Of Light (SPV)
The late 80s-era Yngwie Malmsteen style classical metal intro to Condemned To Fight hints at Jag Panzer’s deep yearning to be considered as more than your staright-ahead metal act. Yet however hard this lot try – and boy do they try – there’s simply no getting away from the fact that NWOBHM-influenced noise is what they do best.
And that’s no bad thing. When the Panzer do hit the mark – as with The Setting Of The Sun – you wonder why they have ambitions to be anything more than a tight-as-spandex full throttle metal package. With all the tools to get heads banging and air guitars tuned, their often intoxicating blend of Maiden meets Queensryche can become quite addictive.
There’s no doubt the vocals are a rip-off mix of Bayley-era Maiden and Mindcrime-era Geoff Tate but there’s no denying that style suits the songs on offer. In fact the Panzer don’t even try to hide their primary influences on the rousing Call To Arms – so much so that they veer towards tribute act territory on this Maiden-heavy fist pumper.
This band will never win any prizes for originality but there’s a certain value in doing something well. Jag Panzer are faultless in their delivery of retro-soaked metal and this, in itself, is worthy of the highest praise. SR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Panzer Attack
Assassin – Breaking The Silence (SPV)
Don’t get confused between this 2011 release and the Darren Wharton-inspired Dare record of the same name. Where one is all about lush keys and melodic twists the other is a thrash-punk mash-up which lurches from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Assassin’s new album is, of course, the latter. Right from the off it has a very Anthraxy feel and fans of the Bay Area thrash legends will love songs like the bellowing title track and the no-holds-barred No Fear.
That headbanging moderday classic mixes Lemmy’s vocals with Testament’s talent for a pounding rhythm section and it’s an appetising mix that shoukd make for a feast of an album.
Sadly joke songs like the interminable I Like Cola spoil an otherwise solid effort. How a banal blast of teenage drivel can make a major label record is beyond belief – in this case it’s too sad to be funny.
Assassin are clearly out for a good time and they’re quite capable of getting the party started. But don’ be surprised if you’re minded to leave early. SR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Pain In The Assassin
Shakra – Back On Track (AFM)
So you’re looking for a fix of heavier-than-average sleaze metal? Shakra – who sound more like a North African folk ensemble – could well be what you’ve been searching for.
Boasting a vocal style which mixes Mike Patton with Jizzy Pearl, there’s plenty to admire in this less than pretentious release. It rolls along at a pleasing pace and rocks when required – even if cumbersome titles like B True B You sound like they’ve been ripped off an 80s Stock, Aitken and Waterman single.
I’ll Be is as good as anything you’ll hear from either version of the LA Guns but Shakra always steer towards the metal side of sleaze. That is until the first – and obligatory – ballad rears its head in the shape of When I See You.
Acoustic-led and painfully formulaic, it probably sends the girlfriends of Shakra’s various members trembly at the knees. For the rest of us there’s the fast forward button and Bon Jovi’s better efforts. But when this band rock they really rock and we’ve already filed them under ‘ones to watch’. SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10
This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Andy Spoors, Calum Robson, Louisa Kouzapas.