We check out the latest work from Gus G’s Firewind (pictured), a raft of Frontiers Records releases from Great White, Hardline and Wig Wam plus some bleak metal courtesy of Burzum.
There’s the return of Six Feet Under and an eclectic offering from Gary Lucas And Gods And Monsters.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK and round up the BEST OF THE REST from the worlds of rock and metal.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Hair Metal
Pop metal acts like Wig Wam were supposed to have been blown away by the storm of grunge and nu-metal that dominated the mainstream rock scene for 15 years.
But there’s a reason these balls-to-the-wall hair metal devotees topped the Norwegian charts with their 2005 Eurovision hit In My Dreams and a reason this band continues to produce no-holds-barred glam rock.
Using Kiss and Sweet as a reference point – and regularly dipping into the very best of late 80s pomp – Wig Wam are wonderfully overblown and brilliantly self-deprecating.
It’s impossible to listen to Wall Street without a smile as wide as New York’s business district plastered right across your face. The Bigger The Better wouldn’t sound out of place on a Steel Panther tribute to Gary Glitter: it’s so silly it’s seriously good.
Wig Wam have that happy knack for penning the kind of mainstream Scando metal anthems beloved of h.e.a.t, Reckless Love an their ilk. Remember Europe before they became depressed and cynical blues brothers? You do now!
Wall Street is a joy from start to finish. It’s rock’s equivalent of a 99 sugar cone with flake and raspberry sauce – a delicious treat on a lazy, hazy summer day. Feast on your hair metal fantasy. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Wam I Dreaming?
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Black Metal
The very name Varg Vikernes still sends shivers down the spines of even the most hardened of black metal devotees. A hero to some, he remains a hate figure in the eyes of many more.
Eighteen years after a conviction for the murder of guitarist Oystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth, and his involvement with arson attacks on churches, the notorious Vikernes has lost none of his artistic ambition or the ability to shock.
And the remarkable Umskiptar is both mature and menacing, gut-wrenching and glorified.
Vikernes has timed his latest opus – the third since his release from prison three years ago – to perfection with Umskiptar released on the same weekend that the Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath got back down to business.
At times this monumental, brooding, melancholic offering apes the very best of Sabbath’s original incarnation with the nine-minute epic Alfadanz (Elven Dance) a beast of a black metal classic. Disturbing and essential listening. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Burzumbelievable
Genre: Death metal
The death metal scene seems overburdened with bands whose technical skills outweigh their ability to create downright nasty, disturbing music.
Six Feet Under, though, hark back to a time when Autopsy and Obituary first crawled out of the underground, playing the kind of creepy DM that’s as infectious as a zombie bite.
Undead, the US quintet’s ninth full-length, sees former Cannibal Corpse growler Chris Barnes and his crew on fine form, with 12 tracks of slow to mid-paced gristle to digest.
Long-serving guitarist Steve Swanson and new boy, ex-Chimaira six stringer Rob Arnold, prove masters of their craft throughout. And on the likes of Formaldehyde and Blood On My Hands, the pair conjure up a genuinely chilling atmosphere, topped off perfectly by Barnes’ acid-gargling vocals.
Add new recruits Kevin Talley (drums) and Jeff Hughell (bass) to the mix, and you have a revitalised line-up that could take SFU to new heights. They’ve certainly made a fine start with this album. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Barnes-storming
Genre – Hard Rock/Hair Metal
Just as there is with LA Guns, there’s a damaging schism at the heart of Great White that threatens the very fabric of this fine American institution.
With top dog Jack Russell ostracised from his former band mates – following an enforced absence due to serious illness – this is the first album to feature Terry Ilous on lead vocals.
And that would be fine were it not for the fact that Jack Russell’s Great White are a gigging entity founded at the end of last year and seemingly destined to confuse and confound fans in equal measure.
In such circumstances Elation doesn’t feel quite right. Ilous makes a decent fist of some typically robust rock n roll tunes and his bluesy rasp is a neat fit for the familiar riffs and hooks served up by long-serving duo Mark Kendall and Michael Lardie. But filling Russell’s shoes is a tough ask.
On the strained ballad Hard To Say Goodbye and distinctly average opener (I’ve Got) Something For You it seems the genuine Great White are suddenly, somehow, inferior. And yet Feelin’ So Much Better, the ‘Stonesy’ Resoultion and Love Train are as good as anything they’ve done in the past. The jury, like Russell, is out. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Black And White
Genre: Heavy Metal
There’s little doubt Gus G’s alter ego as the new Zakk Wylde has raised the profile of his work with Firewind to such an extent that Few Against Many demands a detailed critique.
And it’s surely no coincidence that the band’s resident axe hero has taken his game to the next level on this raucous record after a spell playing live with Ozzy Osbourne under the fierce glare of the world’s metal media.
As ever Gus’s guitar work is exemplary. But here he plays with the confidence and freedom of a musician reborn and, seemingly, thriving in the face of the fresh pressure of juggling two demanding day jobs.
The anthemic title track allows the face of Firewind to caress the fretboard as only he can with a Malmsteen-esque solo laid on top of a riff Def Leppard would have been proud to call their own 20 years since. Either side of Gus’s moment in the limelight there’s a song heavy enough to satisfy the most demanding of metal heads.
Few Against Many benefits from a slick production job that places Firewind in direct competition with US heavyweights Shinedown and their ilk. Ozzy be warned… SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Firestarter
Genre: Alt Rock
When you consider Gary Lucas boasts quite a pedigree as a Grammy-nominated songwriter and sometime collaborator with Jeff Buckley it’s difficult to understand how he can be responsible for this dog’s dinner of a rock record.
Described as an avant-rock supergroup – and featuring Billy Fica (Television), Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers), Jason Candler (Hungry March Band) and Jo Hendel – the current line-up of Gods And Monsters looks good on paper. On this evidence they won’t sound anywhere near as good in the live arena.
Opener LuvzOldSweetSong sets (or should that be setz?) the tone with its toe curling lyrics and instantly forgettable hooks. Chime On is ok but Lucas should be way beyond making music that is nothing more than mediocre.
Climb The Highest Mountain will have you jumping off the nearest cliff and Lady Of Shalott probably missed the cut on the last Game Of Thrones soundtrack – by some considerable distance. To conclude, The Ordeal Of Civility is as about as bad as it gets where recorded music is concerned. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 2/10 Ordeal From Start To Finish
Genre: Melodic Rock
Sounding very much like Yngwie J Malmsteen’s Heaven Tonight, the chorus of What I’d Like is what fans of top quality melodic rock, rooted firmly in 80s hair metal, will love. This is an exceptional example of why the old ones really are the best as Hardline reprise their early 90s heyday with the natural heir to Double Eclipse.
Founder and silver tongued frontman Johnny Gioeli might be the only original Hardline hero flying the flag for AOR perfection but having surrounded himself with a slick band of fellow Europeans it hardly matters.
Sweeping keys, soaring hooks, neatly positioned strings, a natural sense of rhythm and Gioeli’s emotive delivery ensures every song’s a winner – Never Too Late For Love is an absolute belter and Stay fuses Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi to brilliant effect.
Danger Zone could comfortably loop 24/7 on any melodic rock radio station and listeners would never switch off. In fact we’re tuning in right now… SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Hardline, Easy Sell