And today we feature another raft of riveting new releases including the latest from Hardcore Superstar, Dan Reed, Steven Wilson and Soilwork.
There’s some truly heavy stuff from Cnoc N Tursa, Ruins, Nader Sadek and Raven Black Nights.
There’s also new music from Russian folk metallers Arkona (pictured), Thyrfing and Wolfchant.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we bring you the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Progressive Rock
Funky basslines, sweeping electronica, understated groove and a jazzy cool – that’s just opener Luminol and what a statement of expansive intent! Clocking in at 12 minutes it’s part Yes, part Santana, part Zeppelin, part Tull and even part elevator music.
Wilson has the wow factor but even he sets the bar impossibly high with an epic introduction to The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories). It’s a wonder there’s anything left in the tank to pad out the remainder of this lush and moving album.
But there is. The introduction to Drive Home is dazzling, ceding to haunting acoustica and a Lennon-esque vocal. It’s a truly exceptional track and the perfect showcase for one of British rock’s most progressive talents.
If you like your rock rich with technically perfect guitar solos, rhythms to relax mind and body, ambitious melodic twists and unexpected vocal turns this will by your album of 2013. Impossible to fault and easy to love, TRTRTS (AOS) takes Wilson to the next level. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Stark Raven Mad
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Sleaze Rock
Sweden’s new breed might be hogging the limelight in 2013 with 2012 RUSHONROCK Record Of The Year winners H.E.A.T. leading the way but old stagers Hardcore Superstar still have what it takes to produce an album of pure party rock.
Since 1997 the Sunset Strip devotees have ignored industry pressure, media derision and a degree of self-doubt to create a canon of work that, 16 years later, demands respect and revision. C’Mon Take On Me distills the best of the band’s most vital work – indeed the follow-up to 2010’s Split Your Lip often sounds more like a compilation of key career-spanning cuts.
On Stranger Of Mine the band have never sounded more like Guns N Roses with vocalist Joakim Berg almost bursting with pride as he bids to emulate hero Axl. It’s a compelling likeness and an essential cog in the Hardcore Superstar wheel.
Cutting The Slack and One More Minute mimic the best of late 80s MTV-driven commercialism but Berg and co. never stray into the territory of blatant duplication. Hardcore Superstar have their own sound and it’s a sound worth hearing. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Superstardom
Genre: Heavy metal/doom
Old school album title, old school artwork, old school riffs… Aussie quartet Raven Black Night have their feet firmly planted in the early 80s – or even further back, given their obvious worship of Tony Iommi’s Gibson SG.
This band just love denim, leather and metal in all its glory, and tracks such as If You Choose The Dark and Fire In Your Eyes, with their mammoth, stomping grooves, are great fun.
However, appreciating Barbarian Winter depends on your tolerance of Jim Petkoff’s NWOBHM warbling: when reined in, his voice fits like a glove with RBN’s trad style, but over a pointless cover of Black Sabbath’s Changes, it’s nails on blackboard time… the Planet Caravan-esque Nocturnal Birth isn’t much better either.
And that’s a shame, as when they turn it up to 11, these Adelaide boys clearly know how to party… and write a hook or two to boot. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Time Travellers
Genre: Black/folk metal
Part of the burgeoning ‘heritage metal’ movement, Cnoc An Tursa share much common ground with labelmates Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth. But it’s the blood soaked battlefields of Scotland, rather than those of ancient Albion, which inspire this four piece.
The Falkirk outfit’s rousing black metal draws on Scottish folk melodies and poetry, infusing their long awaited debut with a fiery spirit that old Robert The Bruce would have been proud of. And on tracks such as The Lion of Scotland and Culloden Moor, Cnoc An Tursa show a grasp of songcraft which matches their passionate delivery.
A symphonic feel sweeps through The Giants of Auld, thanks to Rene McDonald Hill’s keyboards, which subtly combines with its folk elements to stunning effect. But there’s nothing cheesy about this quartet, and they’re unlikely to attract the dreaded plastic swords and facepaint brigade any time soon. Instead, Cnoc An Tursa are deadly serious about their music… and have given Scottish metal a powerful new voice. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Gigantic
Genre: Death/black metal
The brainchild of artist Nader Sadek – a set designer for the likes of Mayhem and Sunn O))) – this album is the live realisation of 2011’s In The Flesh project.
Recorded in November that year, Living Flesh brings together a host of death/black metal alumni under one banner, including Cryptopsy’s Flo Mounier and Aura Noir’s Rune Eriksen, and as such, you wouldn’t really file this performance under easy listening.
Indeed, darkness oozes out of every pore of this opus, reflecting Sadek’s theme of petroleum’s insidious influence on our lives, and Carmen Simoes’ operatic vocals – occasionally making their appearance alongside Steve Tucker’s growls – only heighten its unsettling, disturbing ambience.
But while this show may have been a powerful experience ‘in the flesh’ (the album is packaged with an accompanying live DVD, unseen by RUSHONROCK), its impact is weakened on record… and surely there was no need for a near five-minute drum solo. Disappointing. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Art Attack
Genre: Black/death metal
Tasmania is about as far away as you can get from black metal’s European heartlands, but Ruins still manage to plug straight into the genre’s cold-hearted core.
The Hobart outfit’s downtuned assault owes much to Swiss legends Celtic Frost, and there’s a strong hint of Tom G Warrior in Alex Pope’s death grunts.
However, Place Of No Pity is no pastiche, and instead offers a mature, well-crafted lesson in the dark arts, awash with slick time changes (A Lesson in Ruthlessness) and dare we say it, groove (Let Them Perish) – propelled all the way by Dave Haley’s venomous drumming.
Indeed, the sticksman, who also batters the kit for Tasmanian tech deathsters Psycroptic, is incredible here, giving Ruins the kind of muscular rhythmic dynamism most bands would kill for. Combine this with Pope’s iron clad riffs, and you have a devastating formula.
Destroyer 666, Nazxul, Portal… Australasia has spawned some fine extreme metal acts in recent years – and Ruins deserve their place alongside them. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Tasmanian Devils
Genre: Pop Rock
‘Disappointing’ and ‘Dan Reed’ and not words you’d expect to see in the same sentence and yet Signal Fire is a strangely soulless offering from one of the most creative rockers on the planet.
It’s all a far cry from the Dan Reed Network days but that’s no surprise and shouldn’t, in isolation, be a criticism. The man responsible for a slew of late 80s/early 90s funk rock classics has long since morphed into something more than the voice of Rainbow Child.
The thing is Signal Fire is a sudden and alarming step back. Reed’s appetite for evolution is almost non-existent on this limp collection of soft rock standards – at his worst he comes across as aping some kind of whimsical Phil Collins Disney soundtrack.
Dan Reed is a hugely talented musician and this month’s live shows will be a treat to behold. Fingers crossed Signal Fire is simply a bump in the road on the journey to career fulfilment. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Reed It And Weep
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
The most striking aspect of The Living Infinite is the explosive vocal performance of founder member and master blaster Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid. There is no discernible weakness and no hint of holding back: the result is a resounding triumph for one of metal’s most underrated songwriters.
Post-Peter Wichers there’s no doubt Soilwork had it all to do. The decision to do it within the framework of an uber-ambtious double album only served to heap the pressure on Strid and his colleagues. That their response is The Living Infinite is nothing short of spectacular.
Swirling soundscapes of metallic brilliance punctuate lyrics that scream – or in Strid’s case sing at volume – a new creative dawn. In retrospect there will be those who argue Wichers’ departure has brought the best out of his long-time colleague and fellow founding member. With The Living Infinite as evidence their case is watertight. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Soilwork In Progress
Genre: Pagan Metal
Given a platform to bring their expansive back story to life Arkona deliver – and then some. Russian pagan metal might get a bad rap (or no rap at all) but this engaging live set suggests a decade dedicated to honing their craft has been time well spent.
Mixing Slavic imagery with a slew of traditional instruments Arkona’s sound is both unique and unifying. There’s a strong sense of togetherness between band and audience and the often exacting challenge of mixing live music with crowd reaction is handled with aplomb.
Singer and tinkler Maria “Masha Scream” Arkhipova is an acquired taste but if there’s one overriding conclusion to be reached from giving Decade Of Glory Live a whirl it’s this – pagan metal has rarely sounded better than when delivered in a Russian tongue.
Arkhipova – boosted by a stage crammed full of hired hands and armed with 10 years of rousing anthems – is in her element. Whether her music reaches out to Western markets remains to be seen. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Glory-ous
Genre: Viking Black Metal
The cut and thrust of Norse mythology runs deep through Thyrfing’s most compelling and aurally challenging work and De Odeslosa is no different.
But after a five-year wait for new material from the Stockholm six-piece there’s a definite sense that a typically bruising record could have offered so much more.
Fordom is a fantastic return to form but the sweeping melody, folky strings and well-positioned growls that make for a memorable tune are rarely replicated to such forceful effect.
De Odeslosa suffers from a classic creative imbalance – moments of true brilliance are quickly forgotten in amongst generic dirge and poorly focused mediocrity. Viking black metal is a genre that demands passion, excitement and a prevailing sense of risk-taking – Thyrfing don’t deliver those key characteristics often enough. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 De Odesloser
Genre: Black Metal
Embraced By Fire is underpinned by a rather frustrating battle for supremacy between the growls of Lokhi and the clean vocals of Michael Seifert, the desire for melody above manic noise and the quest for commercial appeal over underground respect.
Struggling to forge a singular identity in the face of so many conflicting desires this is an album that ultimately falls short but only after a genuine fight to be something far better.
Element‘s NWOBHM riffs really hit the mark and here the two contrasting vocal styles combine to thrilling effect. But it’s an exception, rather than the rule.
The haunting, clean vocal at the heart of Turning Into Red offers a tantalising glimpse of what Wolfchant could be given a sharper focus and a more rigid mission statement. Attempting to be all things to all men rarely makes for metal harmony and Embraced By Fire is the sad proof. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Cry Wolf