We review and rate the latest crop of Frontiers Records offerings including a new Dokken album, a live Kix record and the return of Pride Of Lions.
NWOBHM comeback kings the Tygers Of Pan Tang are back with Ambush and melodic prog rock royalty Magnum (pictured) deliver their latest opus.
There’s modern metal courtesy of Devin Townsend, retro metal from Witchcraft and hardcore metal from As I Lay Dying. Plus we check out the new albums from Satan’s Wrath and Kryptos.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we ensure you’re up to speed with the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Metal/rock/gospel/Devin Townsend!
There’s prolific and then there’s Devin Townsend. Epicloud is his fifth album in four years; music just seems to pour out of the guy. Thankfully, ‘Hevy Devy’ is also one of the finest songwriters in the game, so his work always brims with quality – whatever genre he’s exploring. And in this case, he’s reaching for the stratosphere.
For Epicloud truly lives up to its name, delivering 13 uplifting tracks that will light up your day with their soaring melodies, majestic songcraft and sheer grandeur.
From Liberation, with its turbo-charged chorus, to the overwhelming, fist pumping power of Grace, to the delicate, spiritual Divine, the opus engages and enthrals from start to finish… and the vocal performances from guest Anneke Van Giersbergen and Devin himself are dazzling throughout.
‘Epic’ is an overused word these days, but on this album, the likeable Canadian has redefined it. Awe-inspiring. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Cloudburst
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Heavy Metal
A first album in five years and it’s been well worth the wait where doom metallers Witchcraft are concerned.
The psychedlic Swedes pile on the atmosphere, crank up the volume and create a wall of brooding noise: it’s retro-soaked hard rock leaning heavily on the genre-defining albums of the 70s.
Dystopia is a deliciously dark example of what Witchcraft do best with its sprawling riffage and a solo to die for. But this is a record that keeps on rewarding.
With a new Graveyard album incoming these are heady times for Swedish metal. Enjoy the ride. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Legendary
Genre: Melodic Rock
Bob Catley is the king of melodic rock and remains the reliable foundation on which Magnum’s classy sound is built.
In tandem with the prolific Tony Clarkin the veteran frontman has enjoyed an Indian summer – his most recent work both within and beyond this band oozing class.
Brand New Morning, released in 2004, started the golden run and if Magnum’s next two albums maintained consistency then The Visitation upped their game.
A year on and On the 13th Day is more of the same. The Planet Rock-approved Blood Red Laughter is already destined to be a sure-fire live favourite and So Let It Rain is a sensational song matching the best of the band’s late 80s chart-busting material. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Lucky 13th
Genre: Soft Rock
According to Survivor’s Jim Peterik the over-produced Pride Of Lions are his vision of 80s melodic rock perfection. Well, if that’s the case then something’s gone horribly wrong somewhere along the line.
Opener Immortal sounds like Michael Ball playing Joey Tempest in a second rate version of Rock Of Ages. The lyrics are horribly hackneyed and do nothing to bolster Peterik’s reputation as one of the all-time great songwriters.
So what of the vocals? Singer Toby Hitchcock’s career has been on an upward curve for a number of years now but this record halts that unrelenting march to the top.
Delusional is like listening to Status Quo doing a Gaslight Anthem tribute and it’s not until Tie Down The Wind that POL threaten to hit their stride. Shine On’s Chicago-esque chimes are pleasant enough but the hotly anticipated Immortal is a hugely disappointing record. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Dented Pride
Genre: Hair Metal
If your idea of musical heaven is a high-pitched pop metal party then Live In Baltimore could be the perfect soundtrack to a life of unabashed escapism.
Indeed, ithe idea of Poison on laughing gas or a young Axl Rose feeling his way tickles your fancy then there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Kix’s 1989 Billboard hit Don’t Close Your Eyes still epitomises the iconic late 80s power ballad and it goes down a storm in front of a frenzied Baltimore crowd.
But so does everything else on this rough and ready celebration of a revived art form.
Midnight Dynamite is the pick of the bunch and it’s probably best to quit while you’re ahead (it’s just a shame the band didn’t do the same). Set closer Yeah, Yeah, Yeah includes a horrible, rambling diatribe that’s never funny and certainly not clever. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Baltimore And More
Song titles like Slaves of the Inverted Cross and One Thousand Goats In Sodom, not to mention their very monicker, should give you an idea of what this band are about.
However, Satan’s Wrath – former Electric Wizard man Tas Danazoglou, who provides bass, drums and vocals, plus guitarist Stamos K – shun the hyperspeed blasting of corpse-painted Scandinavians (you can’t headbang to it, apparently) and instead take their inspiration from proto black metal acts such as Celtic Frost and Venom. As such, Galloping Blasphemy is simple but effective, a homage to the spirit of Cronos, Tom G Warrior, Quorthon et al, an ode to dark, sweaty venues, bullet belts and spiky wristbands.
Mix in some Maiden-inspired melodic guitar work (there’s a reason that ‘galloping’ is used in the title) and voila, you have the perfect soundtrack to a house party in Hades. The devil always did have the best tunes you know…RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Horns-up!
What’s always been so endearing about As I Lay Dying – their blistering live shows aside – is the consistency of the band’s recorded output. Although they’ve never quite shaken off the ‘metalcore’ tag, or had the success of, say, Killswitch Engage, the US quintet have always delivered the goods – and their sixth full-length is no exception.
For Awakened is a chrome-plated, state-of-the-art metal album that oozes passion throughout and in Wasted Words, boasts one of the best songs the San Diegans have ever written.
The group’s trademarks – the scorching riffs of Phil Sgrosso and Nick Hipa, the roared versus clean vocals, the sweeping, melodic leads – are all present and correct. Plus, the writing is as strong as ever, with choruses that burrow deep into your consciousness and hook themselves in.
OK, this opus probably won’t propel AILD much further up the summer festival bills, but its power, energy and sheer class demand attention – and it’s a real wake-up call for some of the band’s lazier contemporaries.
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Waking the dead
Indian quartet Kryptos are proof, if it was needed, of metal’s global reach, its ability to transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries.
Hailing from Bangalore, the band are now on album number three – their first for AFM – and what an album it is. With The Coils Of Apollyon, Kryptos mine a rich vein of thrash and classic metal – Mercyful Fate, Kreator, Priest, Maiden etc – for their raw material, and use this to forge something imaginative, inspiring and truly exciting.
The riffs, courtesy of Nolan Lewis and Rohit Chaturvedi, come think and fast, and on songs like The Mask of Anubis and Nexus Legion, they’re a joy to behold, fusing melody with aggression to scintillating effect.
The downside? An occasional tendency to meander and lose focus. However, it’s a minor quibble, as on the whole, Kryptos succeed in reminding us why we like metal in the first place. And that’s worth celebrating, wherever you are in the world.
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Rocket from the krypt
Genre: Hard Rock
In 1987 – for many the peak of the hair metal era – Dokken released one of the year’s definitive albums and Back For The Attack climbed as high as 13 on the Billboard chart.
It was the blueprint for hard rock perfection with a classy Neil Kernon production job transforming tracks like Heaven Sent into the anthems of a generation.
The decline set in soon after and there are some who insist Don Dokken never rediscovered his best form following the departure of guitar hero George Lynch.
But Broken Bones offers a glimmer of hope for fans harking back to the mid-80s glory days. The title track is hard rock heaven and Fade Away is a power ballad par excellence.
Whisper it quietly but Dokken can still deliver. Broken Bones has fixed a lot. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Dokken Roll
Genre: Heavy Metal
When Whitley Bay’s Tygers Of Pan Tang burst onto the NWOBHM scene their signature sound was defined by the vocals of kick-ass singer Jess Cox. Thirty years on and Ambush signals the true beginning of the Jacopo Meille era.
If the Italian was feeling his way on 2008’s Animal Instinct then TOPT’s second album in four years sees one of metal’s most underrated frontmen firing on all cylinders.
Managing to fuse the blues rock melody of Joey Tempest with the metal chops of classic Geoff Tate, Meille’s style didn’t initially seem the most natural fit for the revitalized Tygers. But on These Eyes and Man On Fire it’s impossible to imagine anyone else complementing Robb Weir’s signature guitar sound.
A neat reprise of classic hit Suzie Smiled (Hey Suzie) offers a respectful nod to the band’s most faithful fans. But Ambush is all about the future now Meille has truly earned his Tygers’ stripes. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Men On Fire