REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
And as record labels worldwide gear up for the busiest time of the year for the biggest releases on their roster there’s something for everyone.
We review and rate Dregen‘s debut solo album and check in with UK progsters Touchstone (pictured).
There’s new music from Running Wild, Eden’s Curse, Walking Papers and Stone Temple Pilots feat. Chester Bennington!
Roadrunner celebrate 30 years at the forefront of rock and metal with a four-CD compilation.
And there’s new music from fast-rising US metallers Edge Of Paradise, Dance Gavin Dance and Illumination.
At the heavier end of the scale we feature Broken Hope, Dark Design, Asomvel, In Solitude, Monsterworks and Argus.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we reveal the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Backyard Babies and Hellacopters hero Dregen has taken a while to dip his toes into solo territory but good things come to those who wait.
The sleazy guitar god, most recently a key factor in Michael Monroe’s spectacular revival, appears to have it all. Little wonder he’s temporarily ditched Monroe to bleed every last drop out of this brilliant album.
Flat Tyre On A Muddy Road and 6-10 are two of the finest rock tracks you’ll hear all year while One Man Army marries Alice Cooper (yes that’s almost the riff from No More Mr Nice Guy) with Primal Scream to produce a foot-stomping classic.
Apparently striving for a record that fused Kiss, Slayer, the Beastie Boys and Miles Davis, the dependable Dregen has done all of that and more. Monroe might struggle to win him back. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Dregs To Riches
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Heavy Metal
On the chorus of the haunting Ghost it’s impossible to avoid the fact that Edge Of Paradise frontwoman Margarita Monet sounds spookily like a late 80s Lita Ford. Of course that’s no bad thing.
Add in elements of classic Skid Row (on In A Dream), the NWOBHM-focused Break Away and a glossy Michael Wagener mix and it’s obvious why this band’s big news on the retro-obsessed LA scene right now.
But Monet really lets rip on title track Perfect Shade Of Black – opening up her powerful pipes to reveal a vocal range her peers on the female-fronted metal scene can only dream of.
As a taster for the 2014 album of the same name this strictly limited EP (only 200 copies are available) screams of a band on the brink of realising its potential. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Edge Of Glory
Genre: Blues Rock/Alt Rock
Yet another Duff McKagan side project and this time the former Gunner channels his inner blues rocker alongside Walking Papers founder members Jeff Angel and Barrett Martin.
A re-released version of last October’s critically acclaimed US album, the horn-infused funk rock of Red Envelopes sits comfortably alongside the post-grunge of The Whole World’s Watching and the laid back vibe of U2-ish Leave Me In The Dark.
As an example of classic American songwriting Walking Papers’ invigorating debut takes some beating and it seems Duff can do no wrong.
Settling in nicely alongside some of his closest Seattle buddies this is way better than Loaded, more likely to last that Velvet Revolver and a world away from the destructive sound of Guns N Roses. McKagan may have found his true rock home at last. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Walking Tall
Genre: Alt Rock
Fanboy Chester Bennington appears to have landed his dream job fronting STP as Linkin Park take a while to rest on their laurels. And it shows.
Rarely in recent years has Bennington sounded so enthused, so confident and so cool. This taster for a brand new post-Scott Weiland STP album is the sound of a band rebranded, rebooted and reborn. It’s an incredibly exciting release within the world of rock.
Opener Out Of Time might stick to the traditional alt rock mould but there’s a Beatles-esque rock n roll vibe underpinning the brilliant Black Heart with Bennington’s poppy vocal the icing on the retro cake. Same On The Inside even has a hint of classic Oasis at its heart.
This is STP like you’ve never heard them before. And if you’d lost faith in the band a long time ago this is deserving of an all-embracing second chance. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Temple Of Rock
Genre: Heavy Metal
Into their fifth decade at the forefront of traditional heavy metal, the redoubtable Running Wild continue to stick the tried and tested formula of punchy riffs, head-banging choruses and searing solos.
But has predictability finally caught up with Rolf Kasparek and his loyal clan?
Opener Soldiers Of Fortune could, in all honesty, belong on any Saxon record and hardly pushes the envelope in the age of Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium and even Biff Byford’s best new efforts.
There’s not a bad song here. Similarly nothing grabs you by the balls and screams ‘modern metal classic’. Running Wild appear to be slowing to a jog. Side project Shuffling Sensibly will surely follow. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Cool Running
Genre: Melodic Metal
Serbian singer Nikola Mijic and one-time Dragonforce tinkler Steve Williams have been drafted in to give Eden’s Curse a much-needed shot in the arm and Symphony Of Sin is nothing if not ambitious.
The eight minute-plus opener sees Mijic battle for top billing alongside a 46-piece orchestra and the poor bloke must have wondered what the future held after a breathless fight to made himself heard on this epic composition.
But things get better for the talented frontman – reminiscent of Joe Lynn Turner at his best – as he stamps his mark on the Williams-inspired Break The Silence, the Marillion-esque Unbreakable and passionate acoustic-driven ballad Fallen From Grace.
Symphony Of Sin suggests Mijic and Williams might well be the missing pieces of the Eden’s Curse jigsaw. Welcome to a band on the cusp of greatness. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Sinspired
Few labels have done more for guitar-driven music than Roadrunner and the US label’s recent expansion into the classic rock/heritage market (adding bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rush to their roster) means an all-encompassing genre-unifying compilation is the most obvious next move.
Four discs of fantastically varied rock and metal make for an eclectic – if occasionally overwhelming – overview of all things denim and leather.
Juxtaposing Obituary with Black Stone Cherry, Death with Airbourne and Dream Theater with Cradle Of Filth is a gamble.
But the decision to divide the four CDs into ‘Foundations’, ‘Horns Up’, ‘And Metal For All’ and ‘Rock For Ages’ makes this expansive volume of work a little more accessible to the masses.
After surviving last year’s ropey restructuring of a bloated business – and losing a slew of staple artists in the process – XXX is a confident message that Roadrunner is back on track and here to stay. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 XXX Rated
Genre: Progressive Rock
Kim Seviour has never sounded better as she feels her way across the beautiful soundscape that is Oceans Of Time.
The haunting voice of Touchstone adds an ethereal flavour to some of the most emotive progressive rock on the planet and this must be the album that fires Herefordshire’s finest into the big leagues.
Perhaps best known for their penchant to pen an epic prog masterpiece, this accomplished quintet are, in fact, at their best keeping it tight. Contact, Solace and Through The Night all clock in at less than five minutes but all three songs will live long in the memory.
Never been touched by Touchstone? Now is the time. Skip straight to Contact and lose yourself in Seviour’s vocal joust with guitarist Adam Hodgson – pure genius. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Seviour Of Prog
Largely leaving their doom roots behind and going for a straight up, classic metal sound on album number three, Argus are following a similar path to the likes of Grand Magus.
And like the Swedes, the Pennsylvanian quintet can know how to write a hulking riff or two, and are fronted by a singer can truly do this kind of material justice. Granted, Butch Balich doesn’t quite reach the standards of Magus man JB Christoffersson, but the power and sheer guts in his delivery would make many a singer green with envy.
However, while there’s plenty of steel in the band’s axework (No Peace Beyond The Line a good example), as well as some endearing Maiden-esque leads, Beyond The Martyrs is more meat and potatoes than fine dining – despite Balich’s best efforts. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Plod Rock
Genre: Progressive Metal
Producing an album based around the life cycle of the Earth is an ambitious aim. So is shoe-horning a plethora of different influences, from alternative rock, to thrash, death and black metal, into one opus and creating something cohesive, and worth listening to.
Londoners Monsterworks have tried both with this record, and while it’s ambitious, the mish mash approach just doesn’t quite work. The hyperspeed, blast beat powered Bookended By Extinction, for instance, is a mess – not helped by some jarring vocal performances.
Where they get it right, such as on the melodic, wistful Aeon Of Man, the quartet show they can pen a tune (as long as you can bear the high pitched wailing), but on the whole, Earth feels like it’s going to fall apart at any moment. Approach with caution. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 3.5/10 Hard Work
In Solitude’s sophomore effort, The World.The Flesh.The Devil, was always going to be a hard act to follow. The Swedes’ breakthrough opus sent shockwaves across the metal world, and highlighted a new generation’s love of metal’s older gods, and grasp of its dark arts.
Sister, therefore, is a big moment for the band. And thankfully it doesn’t disappoint.
In Solitude have built on their Mercyful Fate-influenced, occult driven sound to create something truly special, stirring in the pitch black melancholy of The Bad Seeds, and even a dash of The Doors, into their cauldron – and bringing forth a collection of genuinely great songs.
The stunning Death Knows Where, for instance, sparks into life with a barbed, NWOBHM-inspired riff, before bowling you over with a huge chorus, while A Buried Sun could score a Nick Cave penned western noir, and Pallid Hands has hooks Ghost would kill for.
Sister is a well honed, superbly written and triumphant album – forget Avenged Sevenfold – it’s In Solitude who should be hailed as metal’s saviours. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 In-Form
Like the denim and leather clad, amphetamine snorting , Special Brew swilling bastard offspring of Motorhead and Venom, Asomvel rock hard, heavy and do it with a spittoon full of attitude.
Knuckleduster isn’t clever, but tracks like Dead Set On Livin’ and Shoot Ya Down are a whole lot of adrenalin-fuelled fun, and were born to be played in a sticky basement venue (or at biker rallies).
Three years after the death of original vocalist Jay-Jay Winter, the Brit trio – lead by founder Lenny Robinson on guitar – have done his memory proud with this opus, and from the dirty boogie of Waster to the punk powered Stranglehold, Knuckleduster never lets up.
Put simply, on their 20th anniversary, Asomvel have puked up a rip roarer of an album, and anyone who has played air guitar and banged their head to Bomber, Damage Case or Black Metal will lap it up… with a great big grin on their face. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Motorized
Genre: Thrash Metal
A confident, assured debut, Prey For The Future offers a tasty blend of power and progression: it’s not quite ‘thinking man’s thrash’, but the technical prowess and slick song structures on show lift this opus beyond mere mosh fodder.
There’s a rhythmic dynamism to tracks like Dark Design and Meditations which injects them with an energy, a zest, which puts a real spring in their step. Much of this is down to the spectacular bass work of Matt Mercer, who is clearly at the top of his game: this guy needs to be heard, as does vocalist Andrew Bertrand, a fine singer whose polished, 80s metal pipes give Prey For The Future a sense of gravitas.
The downside is that Dark Design don’t quite have the riffs to make maximum impact. However, they’ve laid some solid foundations with this first full length, and do a sterling job of metal-plating Kansas’ Dust In The Wind to boot. Promising stuff. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Intelligent Design
Genre: Death Metal
Resurrected following a lengthy hiatus – and the suicide of original vocalist Joe Ptacek – Chicago’s Broken Hope are back… and they aren’t taking any prisoners.
Omen Of Disease, the band’s first full length in 14 years, is a ferocious assault on the senses that roars into life with Womb Of Horrors and never lets up, with the title track a real highlight, all guttural growls, crunching riffs and scattershot solos.
New vocalist Damian Leski in particular puts in a hell of a shift – the ex-Gorgasm frontman could wake up Satan himself with his bestial roar – but it the quintet as a whole are a solid, fine-tuned death metal machine, helped no doubt by founding member and guitarist Jeremy Wagner’s long time in the game.
With a CV going all the way back to the nascent late 80s scene, his class certainly shines through on tracks like the stomping Predacious Poltergeist.
Bludgeoning, brutal and as nasty as a dose of the plague, Omen Of Disease is a welcome return for Broken Hope. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Bone-Breaker
Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island are Illumination – another band in the long line of nearly post-hardcore bands to make their breakthrough this year.
Departures, their first full length release, is nearly post-hardcore in the way that it contains some sections that melt your face off and others that melt your heart.
The opening tracks, Voice of the Voiceless and Hollow Disposition have their roots in the more traditional scream/singing formula. The guitars are frantic, the drumming is unforgiving.
But then the album changes direction for six minutes or so as Giving up my Pride and Time to Change My Ways bring the ferocity and anger down a peg. Proper singing is employed for the most part, which actually makes for a pleasant interval from the previous songs.
Departures isn’t a game changer, but that sometimes isn’t what is needed. It is a good, varied album that marks a promising start for another young band. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Illuminating
Dance Gavin Dance are one of the poster bands for the underground alternative/scream scene. They have produced five albums before their latest release, Acceptance Speech, which could be the album that sees them breaking through the glass ceiling and into the mainstream.
The hypnotic combination of lead singers of Jon Mess and Tillian Pearson, the latter sounding refreshed after putting out his own solo album, works like a dream – they both complement the sound of the album and don’t try to engage in a battle of egos.
With the exception of some dogdy rap on Acceptance Speech and some the techno-inspired ending to Death of the Robot with Human Hair this is an incredibly well constructed album – with a range of sounds that could easily become overbearing if it was attempted by a group who didn’t know exactly what they were doing.
There are elements of scream/post-hardcore on the first few songs, but DGD keep things varied and refreshing through Doom and Gloom and Strawberry Swisher – two songs that see Pearson truly come into his own.
An excellent piece of work by a group that seem to get better with age. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Gavin The Zone
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.