REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC

The return of metal legends Sepultura is the highlight of this week’s batch of new releases but there’s much more to Brazilian beef on the menu.

We review and rate the latest records by Reece/Kronlund, David Mark Pearce, Drakonian, Stream Of Passion, Die Verboten and Cuba Cuba.

And don’t forget to check out the very best in new music right here every week. 

Reece/Kronlund – Solid (AOR Heaven)

It’s a given that whatever music David Reece lends his voice to will be greatly enhanced as a result and this latest collaboration with Martin Kronlund is a classy case in point.

Enjoying a rich creative run on the back of Bangalore Choir’s critically acclaimed comeback album and his stint fronting Gypsy Rose, Reece is rapidly redefining the boundaries of 21st century AOR.

The American is in tip top form on the Eastern-flavoured Samurai and if Animals And Cannibals offers up a rather awkward rhyme then it’s followed by the fantastic power ballad Remember You.

As a partnership Reece and Kronlund play to one another’s considerable strengths and manage to craft what must be one of the finest melodic rock records of the year.

Fierce, focused fret work complements a husky, heartfelt vocal delivery and on Paint The Mirror Black that heady combination works an absolute treat. This isn’t just solid, it’s bordering on the spectacular. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 So Solid Crew

 

David Mark Pearce – Strange Ang3ls (AOR Heaven)

Cornwall isn’t renowned for its musical heritage but David Mark Pearce is on a one-man mission to prove the sleepy south west county can become a major noise on the melodic rock scene.

Using contacts forged during a decade working in the music business, the multi-instrumentalist and producer has crafted a killer AOR record packed with memorable hooks and soaring singalong choruses.

Ex-Yngwie Malmsteen singer Goran Edman shares vocal duties with John Payne and, while this is no competition, it’s clear that the former is better suited to Pearce’s best compositions.

Shelter Me From The Rain is dripping with a cool confidence while Tell Me Why – clocking in at more than six minutes – showcases some outstanding keyboard licks and dazzling fretwork.

There are references to 80s Brit heroes Dare and any number of new age Scandinavian AOR wannabes on what turns out to be a joyful celebration of retro-soaked melodic rock. Pearce even evokes memories of classic Satriani and Vai on the epic Every Time It Rains – the track which truly reminds us of an exceptional talent deserving of a greater stage. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Ear Pearce-ing

 

Cuba Cuba – Where Else Is Safe But The Road? (Walnut Tree Records)

Preferring to stand on the lighter side of angular indie rock, Welshmen Cuba Cuba might harbour ambitions to become Cardiff’s answer to Biffy Clyro but the inconsistent quintet have work to do.

Sure, this edgy debut is rich in potential but some decidedly patchy moments – especially when the band disown any pretence of rock for a more pleasant, poppier approach – are frustrating to say the least.

Here is a band that has shared stages with acts as diverse as Friendly Fires and Funeral For A Friend and their music is perfectly suited to – and diametrically opposed to – both.

50 A Night would get the Glastonbury crowd on its feet but is more likely to earn the band a shower of bottles than any round of applause in front of a more rock-minded audience.

Yet magnificent closer Away (pt 2) is an impressive sonic assault, as erudite as it is atmospheric, capable of bridging the gap between genres: it wouldn’t sound out of place on Linkin Park’s latest offering and showcases an ambitious band at its expansive best.

With their Twin Atlantic-lite sound this lot are ones to watch. But where you’ll watch them next very much depends on how Cuba Cuba translate WEISBTR into the live arena. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Road Trip

 

Sepultura – Kairos (Nuclear Blast)

Is this the kairos moment, the window of opportunity to finally cease all modes of criticism and fire Sepultura back into revered seas of positivity?

No is the answer, but not for the fact that Kairos is a weak effort – it is, in fact quite the opposite.  But what can you expect from a band that has redefined the meaning of ‘divided opinion’ in its 26-year career.  Since Max Cavelera left the band in late 1996 and was followed by younger brother Igor ten-years later, the Brazilian-based act have endured a rough storm of scrutiny, but have never given up. Twelfth record Kairos marks a return to a straight-laced assault of intimidating thrash somewhat.

It’s a record that flirts on the tougher fringes of a delicious back-to-basics jagged sound.  There’s straight-up groove, slight death metal hints in Derrick Green’s vocal style and a colossal slab of untamed thrash.  Green is at his best here – no doubt Kairos is his kairos moment, and if this was any other band, then perhaps this would be the record to finally put the critics to sleep.

Spectrum begins proceedings with simple yet effective mean-riffing that makes a solid statement of just what Kairos has set out to do – kick you in the face in steel-toe-capped vengeance.  But don’t be fooled by their enthusiastic haste, as there are some surprising gems to be found in amongst the raw thrashy brimstone.

A heavy set cover of Ministry’s Just One Fix is jaw-dropping in both senses of the word – unexpected yet astonishing.  Embrace The Storm speaks volumes about Sepultura as a band in it’s content, but gives one of the heaviest, darkest performances on the album, apt in epitomizing the band’s last ten-years of history.

There’s simple, hard moments that will have thrash buffs salivating for more Seps by the end of it, even after another completely unexpected but rampant cover found in Prodigy’s Firestarter – which closes the album.

A return to a rougher, thrashier strategy with some odd rifts along the way. CR

rushonrock rated: 7.5/10

 

Die Vorboten – Aufschrei (Sonic Attack)

This is pretty brutal, frightening stuff and if Die Vorboten attempted to write the soundtrack to their suppressed lives in the former East Germany then they may well have succeeded. This is bleak from start to finish.

Unfortunately bleak and brutal is no longer enough in the congested field of industrial metal. And Die Vorboten lack both the nous of Eisbrecher and the wider appeal of Rammstein as they look to carve their own niche in a genre populated by some pretty classy bands.

By trying to put a new twist on a familiar sound the new kids on the industrial block only succeed in sounding more contrived than ever. But they do show flashes of potential and a hint that they could, one day, possess that magic USP.

The Abba-esque beat underpinning Schreitl and the Kraut-rock urgency of the intro to Der Weg are genuinely inspiring and maybe a move away from their heavier metal instincts is the right direction for Die Vorboten.

Hear a track like Extreme and it’s likely you’ll instantly dismiss this bunch of newbies as mentalist rather than experimentalist. But there’s more to Die Vorboten than Rammstein gimmickry – it just needs to come to the fore. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Industrial Wasteland

 

Draconian – A Rose For The Apocalypse (Napalm)

Choosing the hottest weekend of the year to immerse yourself in some darkly moving gothic doom metal might not be the best idea in the world. Sunny spells and soaring temperatures have always required a soundtrack of hair metal and AOR – the fact that Draconian still prevail without a downpour or gale force wind in sight makes this album all the more remarkable.

This is not one of those records that makes an immediate impact and pummels the eardrums from start to finish. It requires hours of reflection and reassessment with none of the 10 tracks on offer clocking in at less than five minutes: three exceed seven minutes. Heavy going, yes. But well worth the commitment in the end.

The contrast of death metal-esque growling and focused female melodies make for a fascinating vocal mix and the top notch production job allows both Anders Jacobsen and Lisa Johansen to showcase their full skill sets. Ultimately the unlikely  juxtaposition of sweet and sour makes this record the artistic triumph it swiftly turns out to be.

It’s typical of Draconian’s belief in their ability that opener The Drowning Age is likely to polarise opinion and determine how you approach a complicated yet addictive album. Either you’ll be sucked into an atmospheric tour de force or opt for the easy life, roll out the deck chair and settle down to an afternoon of Bon Jovi, Winger and Journey. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Rose Tinted

 

Stream Of Passion – Darker Days (Napalm)

Fronted by the haunting and intoxicating Marcela Bovio, the studio project turned serious live prospect that is Stream Of Passion finally looks poised to challenge the big guns of symphonic metal.

Darker Days is crisp, confident and compelling. Bovio knows better than anyone the capacity and range of her voice and is well aware that it can take her and her band to an exciting new level.

Miles apart from little known 2005 debut Embrace The Storm and easily outperforming 2009 follow-up The Flame Within, this is a record rich in emotive songwriting and ready to announce Bovio as the belle of the symphonic/gothic/progressive ball.

The short but sweet Spark might last a mere 156 seconds but it’s the best vocal here – it’s not rock but it kicks Kate Bush into touch with its sleepy operatic refrain. If Bovio needed a platform to showcase her talents then this is it but the briefest song on Darker Days is surrounded by equally classy compositions.

Making your mark as a metal woman has never been more difficult but the cream will always rise to the top. Bovio and co. are the best of the rest where female-fronted symphonic metal is concerned but this album could lift them out of the chasing pack and into the realms of serious contenders. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Stream Flowing

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson

 

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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