Blues rock hero Joe Bonamassa (pictured) is back with yet another solo album and there are new releases from Nuclear Blast buddies Sabaton and Grand Magus.
We check out I Am I, the brainchild of ex-Dragonforce frontman ZP Theart, and deliver our verdict on the new career-spanning Children Of Bodom compilation.
There’s new music from Nightmare, Driver, Sonata Arctica, Kill Devil Hill, The Reticent and Malice.
And from that lot we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK!
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Blues Rock
Worry no more. Joe Bonamassa really can burn the candle both ends, pack 25 hours into every day and rest only on the eighth day.
The New York bluesman is hopelessly in the grip of workaholicism yet Driving Towards The Daylight, his tenth studio album as a solo artist and, incredibly his eighth release since 2009 (including live albums, Black Country Communion and his collaboration with Beth Hart) shatters the myth that quantity is winning over quality.
Quite simply, this is his finest effort yet and the beautiful title track may just be the best song Bonamassa has ever written.
That does not necessarily mean it’s the stand-out track on album which adds a jazzy tinge to his trademark blues rock.
An album which showcases JB’s fretwork, voice and songwriting ability also highlights his ability to put his own imitable stamp on classics by blues legends such as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson.
But it is the little known A Place In the Heart, written by ex-Whitesnake axeman Bernie Marsden and Bill Withers’ Lonely Town, Lonely Street which prove the showstopping covers on an album which early sales figures suggest could bring Bonamassa a richly-deserved and long overdue commercial breakthrough. Ian Murtagh
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9.5/10 Driving Rock
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Power Metal
The evolution of Children Of Bodom has been a singularly beautiful thing. These days their brand of polished power metal has the potential to take Alexei Laiho and co. to the next level but this career-spanning compilation takes immense pride in the band’s diverse back catalogue.
Featuring tracks from 1999’s raw debut, the aptly named Something Wild, and its angry follow-up, Hatebreeder, there’s clear evidence that melodic death metal meant everything to COB in the early days.
It’s testimony to the strength of that material that it doesn’t sound out of place alongside the pick of last year’s Relentless Reckless Forever – a record that represented a huge leap forward for the feisty yet newly focused Finns.
If Holiday At Lake Bodom represents 15 Years Of Wasted Youth then let’s hope COB don’t grow up too fast. 15 Years Of Middle Aged Maturity doesn’t have the same allure. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Children Of The Revolution
Genre: Power Metal/Melodic Rock
ZP Theart might have been lying low since his surprise exit from Dragonforce but on this evidence he’s not been sitting still.
Although there are still flashes of Theart’s former band there’s a clear shift towards melodic rock and a step away from the full-on power metal that made his name.
Stay A While is a glossy AOR power ballad and Cross The Line features Leppard-esque guitars – I Am I are making a serious play for 80s-philes with a slick production job and some classic choruses.
Yet Theart’s range has always ensured he can turn his pipes to just about anything and In The Air Tonight sounds more Blackie Lawless than Phil Collins (thankfully). An album of different shades and definite promise. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Theart Of The Matter
Genre: Power Metal
More user friendly than fellow Finns Children of Bodom (see above), the supremely talented folk of Sonata Arctica nevertheless pack just as much power into their metal.
With progressive tendencies and Tony Kakko’s distinctive vocals there’s much to admire on Stones Grow Her Name.
And it’s no surprise this record shot straight to the top of the Finnish charts to hand Sonata Arctica their second number one album and sixth top three seller back home.
But SGHN isn’t all good: Shitload Of Money is far from the band’s finest hour and I Have A Right is just a little too cheesy for its own good. Could be a grower but could yet turn out to be the poor relation of 2007’s classic Unia. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Arctica Roll
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
There’s a glorious 70s throwback feel to this latest killer release from one of the finest metal bands on the planet. And if Grand Magus have chosen to ape the Dio-fronted Sabbath in the recent past then The Hunt is steeped in classic rock.
Opener Starlight Slaughter could have been handpicked from some Deep Purple/Rainbow hybrid and follow-up Sword Of The Ocean is awash with a similar retro cool – even if vocalist Janne Christoffersson can’t resist screaming ‘metal’ in a Rob Halford style.
Judas Priest, of course, have frequently been at the heart of Grand Magus’s finer metal moments, as evidenced on Hammer Of The North and Iron Will.
And while some fans will wonder why The Hunt doesn’t offer more of the same what this record does offer is a fabulous example of a band confident enough to explore exciting new musical landscapes without ever ditching their proud heritage.
Another belter from a band that can do no wrong. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Grand Statement
Genre: Battle Metal
Fusing the storytelling zeal of a modern-day Turisas with the power metal pomp of Edguy, Sonata Arctica and their ilk, the conflict-obsessed Swedes of Sabaton are something else.
And a seventh studio album in 12 years proves they’ve lost none of their passion for presenting history against a backdrop of crunching riffs, soaring solos and emotive lyrics.
Carolus Rex takes a step back in time to focus on the fall of the Swedish Empire and the result is one of the most moving and thought-provoking Sabaton albums you’ll hear.
A Lifetime Of War is serious stuff and Killing Ground is, as the title suggests, a gut-wrenching comment on a bloody period in Scandinavian history – only brought to an end in the early 18th century when Sweden ceded large swathes of their empire to Russia.
Sabaton often sound like Turisas’s crazy cousins and that’s their only fault: if singer Joakim Broden could only deliver his vocals in a less overblown fashion this band would begin to get the credit it surely deserves. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Sabaton And On
Genre: Melodic Metal
Rob Rock (vocals) and Roy Z (guitar) have always packed a considerable punch as genuine hard rock cognoscenti but throw them together and the effect is often startling.
As Driver, on 2008’s Sons Of Thunder, the duo released a re-recorded classics and new cuts to widespread critical claim: here they repeat the trick and maintain the momentum.
Rising Son allows Rock to cement his credentials as a singer perfectly suited to delivering melodic metal with considerable panache and Always On My Mind is a magnificent piece of work.
Experienced keyboard player Ed Roth (Glenn Hughes, Ronnie Montrose) adds various touches of complementary class to an album that may well be destined to drift beneath the mainstream radar but clearly deserves much better. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Countdown To Success
Genre: Progressive Metal
Fans of Opeth’s groundbreaking Heritage should welcome Le Temps De Detruit Tout with open arms as this intricate tableau of progressive rock seeks to emulate 2011’s standard bearer for a genre in rude health.
In Pursuit Of Redemption and Mutually Assured Destruction set the scene for a cerebral and assured album and moments of mediocrity are few and far between.
However, a frankly bizarre cover of REM’s Losing My Religion only serves to frustrate those seeking a big finish and begs the question: ‘why?’.
One-man band Chris Hathcock is an insanely talented individual and The Reticent continues to provide a vehicle for his unique brand of hypnotic metal. A sleeping giant. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Reticent To Save Us
Genre: Sludge Metal
The curse of the so-called supergroup can condemn a band even before their best material ever sees the light of day.
However, Kill Devil Hill – featuring Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Heaven And Hell, Dio) and Rex Brown (Pantera, Down) – don’t allow such superstitious crap to cloud their focus on the pin sharp self-titled debut from Kill Devil Hill.
Already rolling out made-for-festivals anthems with a familiar sense of impending doom, the band’s big hitting rhythm section provide the platform for new kid on the block Dewey Bragg to lay his cards firmly on the table.
Throw in the flawless work of guitar hero Mark Zavon and it’s clear that Kill Devil Hill are much more than a means for Appice to pass the time before retirement.
Voodoo Doll rocks out to often chilling effect while We’re All Gonna Die is delivered (we hope) with a wicked wry smile. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 All Kill-er, No Filler
Genre: Heavy Metal
The follow up to Judas Priest’s Nostradamus? Not quite.
But this dead ringer for a vintage Judas Priest record might as well be with Halford-esque vocals and Tipton-like riffs piercing each and every metal-as-anything track.
And if you can get over the fact that New Breed Of Godz (or should that be Old Breed Of Imitators?) isn’t an album conceived in the West Midlands be denim and leather clad Brummies then it’s actually a damn decent listen.
In keeping with their heroes, Malice have an ear for a catchy chorus and a killer hook and their tribute to the Priest is immense.
Hell Rider and Circle Of Fire are the pick and wouldn’t sound out of place on Painkiller. If Priest’s new album sounds half as good Halford will be doubly happy. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Malice Intended
Genre: Heavy Metal/Power Metal
France might be renowned for its fine wine, snails in garlic and the nation’s annual cycling Tour but for the next month it’s all about the metal.
Nightmare’s straightforward approach to the genre precedes Gojira’s latest offering and it’s clear from the impact and evolution of both bands that something’s brewing across the Channel.
The Burden Of God is consistently competent and occasionally compelling but Nightmare have fallen short in their bid to produce an outstanding body of work.
Hailing from the heart of the Alps and the picturesque town of Grenoble it’s impossible to imagine frontman Jo Amore and his mates scaling the heights after almost 30 years trying.
But these are halcyon days for French music and tracks like Sunrise In Hell and The Preacher prove Nightmare can still hold their own within a nation never better placed to make a permanent mark on the metal scene. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Nightmare Vision