REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
And today we focus on the latest offering from former Mountain favourite Leslie West, the return of space rockers Hawkwind and new music from thrash metal royalty Sepultura.
David Reece, Carousel Vertigo and Mad Max all deliver rock n roll albums worthy of note.
And there’s new music from Sideburn (pictured), Lita Ford, Warbringer and Vengeance.
Buckcherry drop their debut Best Of selection and haunting vocalist Lisa Cuthbert releases her second solo album.
Close Your Eyes, Neurotic November, Noctum, Hail Of Bullets and The Doomsayer complete another bumper week for the music we love.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Blues Rock
Building on the firm foundations of 2011’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Unusual Suspects, former Mountain man Leslie West has constructed a firm contender for blues rock album of the year.
Like his previous long player, Still Climbing features a slew of guests including Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti, Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and blues heroes Johnny Winter and Jonny Lang.
Punctuated by carefully chosen covers given a new lease of life, this is a record rich in emotion and steely determination. West’s bold decision to turn his trademark Blackstar amps up to 11 pays off with a series of heavy blues anthems harking back to Mountains’ heyday.
Tremonti emerges from his Alter Bridge haze with a stunning performance on opener Dyin’ Since The Day I Was Born but Snider’s dual vocal on Feelin’ Good doesn’t quite come off. That said, Still Climbing is all about the sparkling peaks rather than the occasional trough. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Go West
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Thrash Metal
Juxtaposing a ridiculously verbose title with some of the tightest and most focused tracks to come out of the thrash metal scene for some time, Sepultura continue to defy convention and respect tradition all in one compelling set.
TMBHAHMBTH might not roll off the tongue but its songs leap out of your speakers like legions of metal beasts on a mission to lay waste to 2013’s plastic rock. Sepultura don’t believe in messing about and Dead Embryonic Cells sets a tenacious tone.
More trademark fury follows as Trauma Of War segues into the epic statement that is The Vatican. In stark contrast to that over-complicated album title, Grief requires just one word to grab the attention.
Had Death Angel not just delivered The Dream Calls For Blood this could have been the sound of thrash metal in 2013. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Thrashing The Opposition
Genre: Space Rock/Prog Rock
Hawkwind might be a very different beast from the band that rode through the 1970s on the crest of a endearingly creative wave but almost 45 years on from their conception this is a group that still breaks new ground.
Assault & Battery’s gothic flavour evokes memories of Sisters Of Mercy’s late 80s heyday but it’s on the whimsical Where Are You Now that Dave Brock and his hired hands channel their inner space rocker.
Operating on a level beyond most progressive peers, there’s a familiar sense of energising freedom at the heart of Spacehawks. Hawkwind have turned unpredictable expressionism into an art form within the boundaries of conventional rock.
It’s comforting to know there’s still a place for pieces of work by slightly mad musos who should know better but couldn’t care less. Spacehawks is one of those wonderfully uninhibited works. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Hawk Ayes
Genre: Hard Rock
Last year’s Living Like A Runaway was Lita Ford’s best studio album in decades and this complementary live disc maintains the blonde bombshell’s rock n roll momentum.
Leaning heavily on that critically acclaimed record, the title track and rousing rocker Relentless showcase an artist enjoying a new lease of life freed of personal baggage and a professional crisis of confidence.
Guitarist Mitch Perry rolls out a raft of mouthwatering riffs but it’s Ford’s vocals that prove the former Runaway retains one of rock’s most unique and moving voices.
Classics Kiss Me Deadly and Close My Eyes Forever tap into the partisan Californian crowd’s penchant for 80s hair metal and go down a storm. It appears Ford is revving up for an Indian Summer and we’re along for the ride. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Lita Fire
Genre: Hard Rock
It’s more than 20 years since Bangalore Choir’s classic On Target confirmed David Reece as a blues rock vocalist par excellence. Compromise charts the development of a singer who refused to stand still during two difficult decades.
Opener Disaster mixes Kiss, classic Sammy Hagar and 70s Whitesnake as Reece lays his cards on the table with surprising confidence. Clearance Clearwater Revival cover Fortunate Son suits the main man to a tee and piano-led ballad Someone Beautiful evokes Styx at their AOR-best.
With flavours of Free right across Compromise this is a hard rock record with obvious shades of blues: Reece sings every note with impressive conviction and this is no generic label-driven roster filler.
Destined to fly below the radar this is an album worthy of a wider audience and due respect. Reece has crafted a career-best record without compromise. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Reecespect
Genre: Hard Rock
Swiss cheese or Euro-rock timed to perfection? Sideburn’s Electrify has landed at just the right moment for a band looking to make the move from European favourites to global contenders.
Mixing AC/DC with the Quireboys and Bonafide with Black Star Riders, this is a retro-fuelled album featuring sleazy, bluesy riffs to die for.
Best enjoyed with a bottle of Bourbon and some barbecued ribs – or if you can’t get a ticket for the next Airbourne show – Sideburn do everything right for those of a down n dirty rock n roll persuasion.
Bad Boys, Bad Girls, Rock N Roll is a gravel-toned slice of bar-room rock Bon Scott would have been proud to have called his own. Slow burner Black Powder is almost as good. Electrifying stuff. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Sideburning Ambition
Genre: Piano-based Rock
Fans of Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush and classic Clannad will find much to enjoy in the ethereal and haunting Paramour.
Lisa Cuthbert’s second solo album isn’t a rock record in the strictest sense but the combination of powerful vocals set against some truly tantalising piano will have new converts flocking.
A concept piece based on the stories of survivors of Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Asylums, the deeply affecting Paramour is about as cheery as a wet Wednesday in Chesterfield. But it’s dark themes make for an immersive listen.
Cuthbert is a special talent trading in brave tunes and bristling emotion. Paramour is a special record. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Paramour Please
Genre: Hard Rock
Bubbling under. The next big thing. A band not of their time. Just a few of the labels attached to US rockers Buckcherry over the years – the post-80s sleaze-tipped hard rockers who never quite made it big.
Of course The Best Of is, by no means, a bookend on the career of Josh Todd and co. and the quality of the 12 cuts on offer here suggest the best may yet be to come.
Crazy Bitch still sounds as infectious as ever while Sorry would surely have been huge had it hit heavy MTV rotation 25 years ago.
Buckcherry boast the anthems, the look, the big-name fans and the rock n roll style. Todd and guitar hero Keith Nelson are genuine talents with true charisma. If this band has never piqued your interest then perhaps it’s time to taste the ‘Cherry. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Bucking The Trend
If the metalcore explosion is dead and buried, no-one told The Doomsayer, who have come out of the blocks kick, screaming and spitting venom with this slick debut.
It’s true that the Italian outfit, like many of their contemporaries, indulge genre clichés a bit too often – I Am History, all beatdowns and downtuned chug, being a case in point. However there’s no denying the band’s spirit, energy and sheer force of will.
And with tracks like the stunning Echoes – an atmospheric piece reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada’s later material – they show a mature, more considered side to their songwriting… something they could certainly build on.
Are The Doomsayer going to give metalcore’s giants sleepless nights? Unlikely. But Fire Everywhere is full of promise, and deserves attention. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Flame-on
Genre: Death Metal
Will Bolt Thrower ever get round to making another album? Who knows. But Hail Of Bullets have stepped into the breach very capably, with their war-themed death metal onslaught showing no signs of abating.
After tackling the Eastern Front with debut Of Frost And War, and focusing on The Pacific Theatre on 2010’s On Divine Winds, it’s now the story of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel which comes under the spotlight, with the quintet blasting and bludgeoning through tracks such as Tobruk and The Desert Fox as part of their history lesson.
Martin Van Drunen again unleashes a formidable vocal performance, the ex-Pestilence and Bolt Thrower man proving the perfect spearhead for DM ragers like The Final Front, and sticksman Ed Warby pounds away like remorseless heavy artillery.
There’s very little progression from On Divine Winds to III, but fans will probably be relieved at that, rather than disappointed: this is death metal for battlefields, not iPods. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Bullet-belting
Who would have thought that, in the days of nu-metal, or during the rise of metalcore, that ‘occult rock’ bands like Ghost and In Solitude would one day be the next big thing? And while Sweden’s Noctum aren’t quite in that deadly duo’s league, they come very close to giving them a run for their money.
Final Sacrifice – a fictional horror story set to, well, metal – is laden with 70s hard rock swagger and glistens with NWOBHM steel, and boasts some fine musicianship to boot. Frontman David Indelöf was clearly born to sing this music, and his guitar interplay with Daniel Johansson on Deadly Connection is a joy to behold.
Opener Conflagration is probably one of the album’s weakest tracks, but one you dive into the rest of Final Sacrifice, you’ll be rewarded with wondrous riffs and huge choruses – Temple Of The Living Dead being a fine example.
Evil, heavy and a whole lot of fun, this sophomore opus deserves a place on your altar. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Worthy Offering
Genre: Thrash Metal
One of the many acts to be thrown up by the thrash revival, LA’s Warbringer could have stepped straight out of 1986, with their collective denim jacket a mosaic of Sacred Reich, Testament, Exodus and Megadeth patches.
Their songcraft and musicianship, however, lifts them above mere tribute band status – anyone who let their dandruff fly to classics such as Into The Pit, Whiplash or Wake Up Dead will surely gorge on neck snappers like Hunter-Seeker and One Dimension.
And while the quintet may have knocked out four albums in five years (Hetfield and co take note) they certainly haven’t spent their creative juices yet, as the more progressive strains of Leviathan prove.
Quality permeates through IV, but guitarists John Laux and Jeff Potts deserve a special mention – their incendiary riffs and lightning strike leads are exceptional.
Thrashing is Warbringer’s business – and on this evidence, business is booming. Let’s have another album for 2014! Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Waging War
Genre: Hard Rock/Screamo
A Line in the Sand, the third album by Close Your Eyes, is a belter.
Back with a new vocalist in Sam Robinson, the group from Texas combine traditional hard rock, screamo and good old fashioned rock ‘n roll.
With 15 songs, they have given themselves plenty of time to experiment with their sound and to encompass all the specific sounds that have influenced them.
This album is chocker-block full of plain good tunes, from Fame And Glass (which sounds like the noise produced by Essex chaps We Are The Ocean) to the energetic Burdened By Hope there is hardly a poor song to be found.
They pull in influences such as their childhood friends in the song Kings Of John Payne – a tune that would have even the most stony hearted individual reminiscing about their younger days.
A Line In The Sand is a great album and it’s clear that CYE have laid down a serious marker. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Sand Castle
With names like Dirty, Bear, Yoshii and Paiste, you might be forgiven for thinking that Neurotic Novemeber were more of a Teletubbies side project then a metalcore band with an axe to grind.
The reality is that the four-piece, from Florida, make songs that would turn Dipsy, Laa Laa, Po and Tinky Winky’s brains into mush.
Anunnaki, which means the mighty or majestic ones in Hebrew, is the band’s first release on the Victory Records label and contains a few elements that wouldn’t necessary fit easily with the metalcore sound.
Chief among them is the spitting rap during Nonchalont, Parents and Wasabi Anguish (a verse of which is borderline parody of Little Britan’s Ting Tong Macadangdang) but somehow manages to work well alongside the banshee like vocals of Dirty.
But apart from those two instances of breaking the mould, Anunnaki has little else that surprises the listener. The music is constantly gritty and heavy, while the vocals are as intimidating as ever.
And all in all, this is a piece of work that is designed to make your ears bleed, not give them a cuddle and a cup of tea. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 November Reign
Genre: Hard Rock
Mad Max might have burst onto the scene in the late 80s – debut Night Of Passion arriving in the same year as Leppard’s Hysteria, Whitesnake’s 1987 and Guns N Roses’ Appetite For Destruction – but this is their best offering yet.
Streets Of Tokyo sounds like it’s leapt straight off the latest Steel Panther record and that’s no criticism of a classy track within an album of hard rock nuggets.
Rokker Your Life leans heavily on classic Leppard and Bring On The Night marries a Van Halen intro with a Destiny-era Saxon riff and chorus. The reference points may be clear but this is Mad Max sticking to a path they know well with a clear and focused vision.
Interceptor surprises from start to finish and even manages to leave 2012’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 comeback album Another Night Of Passion in the shade. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Maximum Rock
Genre: Hard Rock
Leon Gowie boasts a Marmite voice guaranteed to have listeners running for cover or begging for more. As frontman with Dutch rockers Vengeance he’s grating rather than gratifying, irritating rather than inspiring and listless rather than lively.
Given a different band and a different outlook Gowie could be good. This clearly isn’t the right platform for the uniquely talented frontman but after three decades as the voice of Vengeance it’s obvious the message isn’t getting through.
The bluesy Back To Square One is a rare highlight and a truly terrific tune. At this point band and singer morph into one genuinely moving unit only for the stultifying mediocrity to bit back.
If making this record was a Piece Of Cake woe betide Vengeance during the tough times… SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Sponge Cake
Genre: Classic Rock
Mighty by name and mighty by nature this belter of a record will be ripping up the critics’ 2013 Best Of lists as we speak – its heady blend of Bon Scott-era AC/DC, vintage Aerosmith, classic Black Crowes and hot and heavy Humble Pie capable of making the hairs on the back of the most cynical critic’s neck stand on end.
Opener Mighty Good Woman is almost too good to be true with its rifftastic 70s vibe an instantly endearing sound. And things just get better and better with bluesy ballad I’m Your Man – replete with Hammond organ – one of the tunes of the year.
Joe Bonamassa fans will lap up the scorching intro. to Help Me Through The Day and Black Crowes devotees will just love the delicious 3rd Degree, featuring some top tinkling from John Deaderick.
Had it not been for the irrepressible Leslie West (see RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK above) Mighty would have romped home as this week’s most impressive new release. It’s not far behind. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 VertigOMG!