REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
And there’s the usual eclectic mix as we run the rule over Killswitch Engage‘s Jesse Leach-fronted return, guitar hero Eric Johnson‘s latest reissue and the new one from Spock’s Beard.
There’s a metal blitz from Bring Me The Horizon plus the latest sounds from Alice Cooper guitarist Orianthe (pictured) and label mates Amaranthe.
Plus we check out new music by Bobaflex, Beyond The Shore, Face The Ocean and The Shaking Sensations.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we reveal the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Prog Rock
The debut of Ted Leonard as the third vocalist of prog rock princes Spock’s Beard proves far more captivating than could have possibly been expected.
Following in the well-trodden footsteps of legendary duo and founder members Neal Morse and Nick D’Virgilio was never going to be an easy task.
That Leonard eases through his first studio audition with flying colours offers hope that the future of Spock’s Beard could be as dazzling as the band’s glorious past.
I Know Your Secret fuses Hold Your Fire-era Rush with It Bites and Marillion to deliver every prog rocker’s dream and the upbeat Afterthoughts has a hint of classic Beatles at its heart.
Brief Nocturnes… is brilliant stuff. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Beard Trimmings
BEST OF THE REST
Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the noisiest band from South Yorkshire since Saxon but maturing with age isn’t on the BMTH agenda.
Oli Sykes and his band of metalcore brothers still play like the starry-eyed kids who unleashed the killer Count Your Blessings on the British metal scene back in 2006.
And that’s both a good and a bad thing. Staying true to their ideals adds credibility and authenticity to Sempiternal as a vital addition to the BMTH canon.
But hopes that the crushing quintet would evolve into the nation’s new flag bearers for modern metal appear to have been quashed.
There’s nothing that’s either new or exciting about Sempiternal’s staid set – it’s on a par with previous BMTH records but is that really enough in 2013? SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 New Horizon
Genre: Classic Rock
Up Close sounded like one of the coolest guitar-focused rock records around when it was originally released two years ago last December. The passage of time has only served to reinforce the fact that this record is an incredible journey through blues, soul, pop and and rock.
Johnson is in prime form as he picks his way through a 15-track masterclass in fretboard wizardry and while this European release is simply a subtle rebranding of the original record it’s perfectly timed for this week’s UK headline tour.
Of course perfect timing has never been a problem for Johnson and while critics continue to berate the feted muso for bring all things to all men, the variety of styles on a constantly evolving album is what makes Up Close well worth another look.
The bluesy Texas sits neatly alongside the AOR-tinged Gem and these back-to-back belters are symptomatic of Johnson’s appetite to constantly juxtapose genres. Up Close is for the open minded – and those open to guitar music in all of its various guises. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Magic Johnson
If you think that metalcore is plastic, disposable mosh fodder which has run out of steam as a genre, Ghostwatcher could be your exhibit A. Even if you don’t, it’s still hard to see how Beyond The Shore will make much of a dent in a scene lead by the likes of The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage.
Granted, the Kentucky crew’s debut is admittedly full of passion, commitment and energy, and is technically accomplished, but sadly it offers little new: a beatdown here, a clean sung chorus there, a crunchy riff or two slung in for good measure…just nothing worth tattooing your neck for.
A chink of light though is the almost djent-like, tech pulse of #Dreamkiller, which boasts a sound not unlike the excellent Born Of Osiris. Perhaps it’s a direction Beyond The Shore might want to embrace more whole-heartedly next time around… Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4.5/10 Core Bore
Genre: Alternative rock
This Newcastle quintet’s debut EP – at nine songs more of a mini album – is a mature, superbly written piece of glistening alternative rock in the vein of Angels And Airwaves and The Maine, perfect for a sunkissed festival stage (if such a thing exists any more).
FTO’s stirring melodies are carried with aplomb by lead vocalist Andrew Stickley, and thanks to producer Kyle Martin (the band’s former drummer), every element of the band’s sound is allowed space to breathe.
The boys have plenty of ambition too, shown by closing track The End, a quasi-ballad replete with subtle strings, keys and heartfelt emotion. It’s a brave conclusion to the EP, and a departure from the band’s more rock-orientated, upbeat style, but well worth waiting for.
The UK may seemingly be locked into an eternal winter, but give Deliverance a spin and you’ll be transported to a land of beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets – without the hassle of a Ryanair check-in. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Delivering The Goods
Genre: Post Rock/Instrumental
Given their moniker, you’d expect The Shaking Sensations to be a revivalist rock ‘n’ roll outfit, perhaps with a double bass player. Instead, this Copenhagen five-piece are more Explosions In The Sky than Great Balls Of Fire, more plaid shirts and beards than winklepickers and quiffs.
Taking inspiration from the landscapes of the homeland, the quintet’s music is windswept and wistful, and while the band play with two drummers, Start Stop Worrying is uncluttered and spacious, a case of less is more in many places.
The downside? Like many post-rock albums, its tracks blend too easily into one – though perhaps that’s the idea – and there are a number of outfits, such as This Will Destroy You and Russian Circles, doing this kind of music with more panache.
Still, while The Shaking Sensations may not be as visionary as some of their contemporaries, their atmospheric melancholica still has the power to captivate… if not elevate. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Danish Post-ry
Jesse Leach is back and after all the hype Disarm The Descent has finally dropped. It’s a record mixing beautiful melody with blunt brutality: the sound of modern metal filtered, mixed and allowed to mature.
It’s a sound as intimidating as it is intoxicating.
Leach nails it from start to finish – his vocals representing a heartfelt message to fans and critics alike that this time it’s for real. But far from Killswitch taking the expected step back to the pre-Howard Jones era this record represents a huge leap forward in terms of commercial appeal and critical clout.
It’s 14 months since Leach’s heavily rumoured return was rubber-stamped and the response – on tracks like The New Awakening and No End In Sight – is utterly compelling. Metal has rarely been in such rude health. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Engaging
Genre: Pop Rock
Genuine female guitar heroes might be few and far between but Orianthe is the perfect fusion of musical talent, assured confidence and enchanting eye candy.
Flying solo – replete with soaring solos – Alice Cooper’s beautiful and ballsy six-stringer spreads her wings and crafts a heavenly amalgam of classic hard rock, country, soul and blues.
Think Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze Of Glory given a Gary Moore makeover with backing vocals by Heart’s Wilson sisters, Alannah Myles and Sheryl Crowe and you’re halfway towards appreciating a truly affecting modern rock record.
Only Orianthi could have imagined her third solo album would sound this good but the ambitious Aussie deserves immense credit for scaling this creative peak.
Whether excelling on the bluesy How Do You Sleep, impressing with the funk-meets-soul of How Does That Feel, coaxing her audience with the countrified Another You or signing off in style with the retro ballad If You Were Here With Me absolutely nothing is left to chance. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Rock Heaven
Genre: Melodic Metal
Squeezing three layers of vocals into any metal anthem is more than most bands can reasonably manage but Amaranthe clearly relish the challenge.
The Nexus is another neat example of how the Scandinavians stride forth with confidence where so many peers never dare to tread.
Timing is everything where Amaranthe’s intricately woven compositions are concerned and the trick is knowing when the growls complement the melodic vocals and vice versa.
Co-singers Andy, Jake E and Elize get it right every time and The Nexus never falters. Amaranthe could be accused of writing formulaic melodic metal but it’s a formula mixed to perfection. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Nexus Please
Genre: Hard Rock
It’s more than a year since Hell In My Heart was given its US release but there’ll be plenty of rock fans outside North America keen to check in with West Viginians Bobaflex once word gets around.
This album is the culmination of the McCoy brothers’ arduous ascent from the fringes of the late 90s nu-metal scene to the top of the hard rock tree.
It’s 15 years’ worth of soul-searching, maturing and undiminished self-belief and the result is a more than decent modern metal record.
There are nods to Buckcherry, Avenged Sevenfold, Black Stone Cherry and Wednesday 13 on an album strong on punchy power chords and killer choruses.
But Bobaflex have finally found their own identity, honed a unique sound and written a record that will stand the test of time. Hell yeah. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 The Real McCoys
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.