Rejuvenated Swedish legends Europe (pictured) are back with the eagerly anticipated Bag Of Bones.
And there’s new music from Hanging Doll, Hawkwind and Huntress.
Plus we check out the latest tunes by Fueled By Fire, Crystal Viper, Angelus Apatrida, and Winter In Eden.
Every Sunday we name the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we make sure you don’t miss a thing by wrapping the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Classic Rock
Like watching a favourite child blossom over a number of years, witnessing the glorious evolution of Europe has been a beautiful thing. We loved their 80s bombast but we love their bluesy transformation even more: Bag Of Bones is the culmination of a supremely talented band’s journey to classic rock redemption.
Those who continue to talk of Joey Tempest and company in terms of The Final Countdown and Carrie are missing the point. Two outstanding songs in their own right, those chart-topping hair metal behemoths are clearly the sound of a band reacting to the trends of the times and the pressures of commercially driven label bosses.
Fast forward 25 years and Europe have become the band they always wanted to be. Tempest has added emotive deep notes to his spectacular vocal range and John Norum must now be classed in the same bracket as Bonamassa, Moore and classic Whitesnake duo Moody and Marsden.
In fact even more so than Last Look At Eden, the stunning Bag Of Bones is richly evocative of the 70s blues rock heroes Tempest and Norum worshipped as kids. It’s the sound of musicians working as one with the aim of creating something quite perfect: that lofty ambition has been achieved with room to spare.
Single Not Supposed To Sing The Blues says it all: a sumptuous life story wrapped up in a title that pokes fun at the lazy critics who continue to tarnish one of rock’s true survivors with the brush of big-haired 80s has-beens. Album closer Bring It All Home has more in common with the band’s early years but it sets the perfect seal on this record and a decade of wondrous development. Bag Of Bones? More like a treasure trove. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Success In The Bag
BEST OF THE REST
Hanging Doll – The Sacred & Profane (Rocksector)
Genre: Gothic Metal
In a congested genre populated by some of the most talented female-fronted acts on the planet the good folk of Hanging Doll are right up against it.
Having paid their dues building up a fervent fan base across the West Midlands there are those who insist this band is ready to take the next step.
Yet The Sacred & Profane singularly fails to match the best gothic metal music money can buy despite digging deep into the realms of histrionic harmonies and often sublime symphony.
Sally Holliday, Dan Leddy and co. boast talent, ambition and a bucket load of live experience. This record reflects very little of that. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Hanging On In There
Winter In Eden – Echoes Of Betrayal (Lycan Records)
Genre: Symphonic Rock
Vicky Johnson is clearly the ace in the pack where Winter In Eden are concerned. Visually striking and vocally challenging, she has the potential to lift her band to the next level.
Whether that potential is fulfilled very much depends on WIE’s ability to better Echoes Of Betrayal. It’s a solid album that allows Johnson the opportunity to showcase her various talents and yet that ‘standout’ moment never arrives.
Possession is an assured piece of symphonic rock and parts three thru five of The Awakening attempt to push the boundaries underpinned by a progressive tendency.
Johnson is flawless throughout but WIE are still striving for their own identity as they battle to emerge from the shadow of bigger name European contemporaries. It’s early days but there’s a sense that the dreaded career crossroads is already approaching fast. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Mild Winter
Fueled By Fire – Plunging Into Darkness (Noise Art)
Genre – Thrash
One of the best thrash metal records to come out of America in years finally gets a full European release and from the off this meaty beast of an album more than justifies the hype.
The Californian wrecking crew have added a bonus track to the US edition of Plunging Into Darkness in the shape of Deadly Restraints and the colossal album closer only adds to the sense of sheer power.
Ex-Skeletal Remains axe grinder Chris Monroy brings his A-game to the table, rolling off a series of killer riffs and brain-shredding solos.
And Rick Rangel excels as Fueled By Fire’s frenzied frontman – the master blaster rapidly making a play for the title of thrash metal’s king in waiting. A blast from the past with a nod to the future. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Fire Starters
Hawkwind – Onward (Eastworld Recordings)
Genre – Space Metal
The enduring vehicle for Dave Brock’s vivid imagination motors Onward and this sprawling follow-up to 2010’s Blood Of The Earth once again proves there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
Somehow managing to fuse the best bits of a 40 year-plus back catalogue with a sound planted firmly in 2012, Brock and his schizophrenic cohorts have crafted yet another genre-defying, mind-blowing acid trip of an album on a par with their most acclaimed work.
Southern Cross might share its name with an infamous care home group but this is no nod to old age on Brock’s part: in fact Hawkwind has rarely sounded so fresh on Onward’s obvious highlight.
If there’s one criticism of this latest piece of space metal mayhem it’s that there’s no consistency of quality. At times Onward sounds like a hastily thrown-together batch of demos that have been lying dormant in some ageing hippy’s back bedroom – then again hasn’t that always been the case where Hawkwind is concerned? SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Onward And Upward
Huntress – Spell Eater (Napalm)
Genre: Heavy Metal
In a week when female-fronted bands are forcing their way to the fore one woman sounds a whole lot angrier than the rest.
Huntress’s charismatic Jill Janus is the devilish focal point of America’s next big (metal) thing and Spell Eater is her compelling statement of intent.
Imagine Warlock meets Saxon in a haze of NWOBHM belligerence and you get a feel for one of the finest debut albums we’ve heard in a long while.
Snow Witch and lead single Eight Of Swords trip off Janus’ tongue like jagged shards of steel. On Spell Eater Huntress sound like the best live band we’ve never seen. Until we do the jury is out on JJ and co. – but only just. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Spellbound
Angelus Apatrida – The Call (Century Media)
Spanish eyes were smiling on Albacete’s Angelus Apatrida when RUSHONROCK RATED 8/10 Clockwork caused quite a stir in thrash metal circles two years ago.
The Call, we are delighted to report, is better still.
The classic Metallica-esque rhythm of Blood On the Snow beats the listener into a quivering pulp but there’s plenty more where that came from.
AA have the potential to be Spain’s most popular export since Rafa Nadal and right now they’re serving up sets unrivalled on the thrash metal scene.
This is assured stuff delivered with a demonic enthusiasm. If this is how far AA can come in two years just imagine the music they’ll be making a decade down the line. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Answering The Call
Genre: Heavy Metal
The female Bruce Dickinson fires up the vocal chords and blasts into action on high octane opener Witch’s Mark and the ferocity of Marta Gabriel’s delivery never relents.
This is polished heavy metal the way it was always meant to be with a terrific twin guitar attack complemented by screams of manic delight from the band’s dominant frontwoman.
Child Of The Flame could have appeared on an Dio-era Sabbath record and Poland’s answer to Iron Maiden have clearly spent a considerable amount of time brushing up on their metal history since 2010’s Legends.
This is an album rich in retro reference points but perfect for the boom in trad metal and ultra-professional in every aspect. It’s Your Omen bristles with evil intent and the Vader cover of Tyrani Piekiel is an impressive example of Crystal Viper wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
A right metal romp from start to finish, this is one of the week’s must-listen titles. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Crystal Clear