And there’s a distinctly melodic flavour to today’s selection with big hitters Heart (pictured) leading the charge.
Frontiers label mates Vanden Plas, House Of Lords and W.E.T. unleash another raft of AOR classics.
But if you prefer the heavier stuff then there’s a welcome return for NWOBHM legends Battleaxe and more metal courtesy of Crematory.
We review and rate Bast, Morbus Chron and Adrenaline Mob. And we check out new music from fast-rising rockers Seven Deadly.
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: Melodic Rock
Billed as the album that won back the hearts of those who followed the Wilson sisters before they ‘sold out’, Fanatic proved to be one of the surprise hits of 2012. Ironically it’s the oft derided 80s hits that still sound best on this 14-track live companion recorded at the magnificent Caesars Colosseum.
What About Love, These Dreams and Alone were Heart’s answer to the MTV boom and set them alongside Leppard, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Europe as bona fide stars of the hair metal scene. Millions of albums were sold on the back of a brand new look and a sleek new sound and the live reboots of all three – a quarter of a century down the line – sparkle.
Ann and Nancy might have moved on but this astute set appeals to every generation of Heart fan – and there’ve been a few. If Barracuda still evokes fond memories of a band breaking through then Fanatic’s title track is the sound of the Wilson sisters worrying about nobody but themselves.
With more headline shows planned for the spring the Fanatic tour rolls on. But if you can’t enjoy Ann and Nancy in the flesh (or you live in the UK) then Live From Caesars Colosseum is a cracking alternative. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Hail Caesars
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Melodic Metal
It doesn’t take Seven Deadly long to lay their cards on the table with furious opener Play The Game fusing nu-metal, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and thrash metal – in fact it’s more metal than a pan of nails.
Life Begins To Fade comes across like Nickelback on steroids with the mid-song samples making for another fascinating juxtaposition of sounds.
Marrying Linkin Park’s ambition with Bring Me The Horizon’s bravado, it’s clear Seven Deadly don’t lack confidence.
Oblivation does have its rough edges but as debuts go it’s a dangerous statement of intent. Renowned for their live energy, Seven Deadly now have the studio cuts to complement the stellar shows. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Deadly Intentions
Genre: Hard Rock
If Shinedown hadn’t been so utterly focused on creating commercial perfection this is how they could have sounded: classic enough to pique the interest of 70s rock fans and with the edge to captivate metal’s new breed.
Adrenaline Mob might suffer from accusations that they’re manufactured, middle-of-the-road and, consequently, mundane. But look beyond the lame ‘supergroup’ label and Men Of Honor is mighty hard rock record.
The neat juxtaposition of Dearly Departed’s impassioned power and Behind These Eyes’ beefed-up balladry proves beyond doubt that Adrenaline Mob are so much more than the sum of their parts.
Forget what you might have heard or what your mate thinks he’s read. This baying Mob demands attention. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Mob Rules
Genre: Heavy Metal
As Battleaxe blaze into action, opener and title track Heavy Metal Sanctuary acts like some kind of riff-laden Tardis, with early-80s North East England its chosen destination.
Thirty years after Burn This Town announced the Wearsiders as Sunderland’s answer to Saxon, orginal members Dave King (on fantastic form here) and Brian Smith have crafted a belting record bound to stir the loins of NWOBHM aficionados the world over.
Recorded in Newcastle and mastered by local hero Fred Purser – of Tygers Of Pan Tang fame – it’s gratifying to realise raw, industrial metal like this still exists.
Every song features a fantastic solo, King’s grizzled vocals and the ‘Best Of British charm’ that catapulted Maiden and Leppard into the big leagues. Battleaxe were always bloody great. It’s good to have them back. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Battle Hardened
Genre: Doom/black metal
It could be argued that the UK’s black and doom metal scenes have never been healthier – certainly in terms of quality output. And Londoners Bast meld the two genres together seamlessly, and in real style too.
As befits an album recorded at Conan’s Skyhammer Studio, Spectres is monstrously heavy, with tracks like Denizens boasting a titanic, crushing groove.
But Bast’s BM passages, which bring to mind the likes of Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth, elevate the album to even greater heights: there’s a depth and maturity to the trio’s music which can’t be ignored. Post rock influences also seep in, and Outside The Circles Of Time, Spectres’ stunning closer, wouldn’t be out of place on a Neurosis record… if the US act listened to a bit more black metal.
Could Spectres be the extreme metal debut of the year? It’s only February, but you wouldn’t bet against it. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Having A Bast
Genre: Thrash Metal
It’s no surprise that producer Bill Metoyer is the brains behind the brilliantly sharp sound underpinning the fifth album from Californian thrashers Hirax. Renowned for his work with Slayer, this cracking record is what Kerry King and co. would have sounded like with Saxon’s Biff Byford on lead vocals.
Twelve tracks, clocking in just shy of 40 minutes, fly by in a flash – the first evidence that this is a thrash metal masterpiece favouring quality over quantity. Delve deeper into Immortal Legacy’s finest moments and you’ll discover lyrics rich in epic imagery and fretwork Jeff Hanneman would have been proud to call his own.
Opener Black Smoke blazes a glory trail into the darkly disturbing Hellion Rising while three-parter Thunder Roar allows frontman and founder Katon W. De Pena ample opportunity to let rip. With Immortal Legacy Hirax have finally found their place in the story of classic US thrash. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Rax And Ruin
Genre: Death Metal
Scandinavian death metal is experiencing a resurgence at the moment, and Swedes Morbus Chron are among the bands leading the charge.
The reason? This quartet play some of the most original, genuinely creative DM you’ll hear in a long time. Sure, Sweven has a spine chilling vibe, and draws on the spirit of past masters, but its unorthodox time signatures, sophisticated arrangements and dextrous fretwork combine to create a truly progressive work of dark art. Think Mastodon if they were brought up in early 90s Stockholm and you might come close.
Tracks like Chains and Towards A Dark Sky aren’t exactly easy to digest, but every play of Morbus Chron’s sophomore opus reveals something new, exciting, or just plain creepy, with its lengthy instrumental passages allowing Edvin Aftonfalk and Robert Andersson’s guitars to soar to great heights.
A death metal album for the soul, rather than the mosh pit…Sweven is a triumph. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Chronplex
Genre: Gothic Metal
Ever heard of EBM Metal? Join the club. But that’s not stopped oddball Germans Crematory coining the phrase to describe Atiserum.
EBM – or Electronic Body Music – combines post-industrial music, electronic music and synthpunk (yes, we’ve done our research) and now it has a gothic offshoot.
Still keeping up? Good. Except Antiserum isn’t. Good, that is. It’s distinctly average. Singalong ‘anthem’ Shadowmaker is the obvious exception but elsewhere the fusion of so many styles is jarring in the extreme.
Quite what Crematory hoped to achieve with Antiserum is wholly unclear. They may be pioneers of the EBM Metal scene but on this evidence there won’t be a rush of bands keen to join them. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 EBMmmmm
Genre: Melodic Rock
The follow-up to 2011’s mightily impressive Big Money provides further compelling evidence that James Christian (aka Mrs Robin Beck) is enjoying an Indian summer as a melodic rock craftsman par excellence.
If Epic is all about the stunning guitar work then Live Every Day (Like It’s The Last) – a trademark power ballad bursting with emotion – allows House of Lords’ talented frontman ample opportunity to showcase his star quality.
Equally at home belting out the fast-paced rockers as he is feeling his way carefully through the stripped-down Bryan Adams-esque title track (perhaps an ode to his precious wife), Christian is the architect of perfectly constructed modern rock.
Precious Metal is more polished rock but the sentiment’s there. Oustanding work from a band that can do no wrong. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 House About That?
Genre: Melodic Rock
When will W.E.T. flood the rock airwaves with their classy brand of retro-soaked melodic rock? A band that’s been on the brink for so many years, a line-up strengthened by AOR royalty and a songbook underpinned by soft rock classics really should be guaranteed far greater commercial success.
If one criticism can be levelled at Jeff Scott Soto and his merry band of balladeers it’s that they consistently fail to back up some truly brilliant studio material with the live shows their songwriting deserves.
Live In Stockholm proves W.E.T. are so much more than an album-driven supergroup (as expected) but in so doing it simply whets the appetite for the full UK headline tour fans crave.
Scott Soto is in fabulous form on standards Learn To Live Again, If I Fall and the evocative Brothers In Arms but this is singer who breathed new life into post-Steve Augeri Journey. Meeting all expectations, Live In Stockholm is the sound of a band on the verge of the big time. But then what’s new? SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Stockholm Is Where The Heart Is
Genre: Progressive Metal
The dangers of paying homage to the progressive metal greats are there for all to see – go too far with your vision of overblown pomposity and it’s quite possible you’ll completely lose the plot.
Vanden Plas aren’t completely out of it just yet. But Chronicles Of The Immortals is zany enough (not least with its bizarre tracklisting) to suggest total creative meltdown is just around the corner.
The follow-up to 2010’s ludicrously-titled The Seraphic Clockwork is a collection of bizarre twists and unexpected turns with opener VISION 1ne followed by VISION 2wo THE BLACK KNIGHT and VISION 3hree GODMAKER (you get the idea).
There’s no doubt Vanden Plas’ quintet of imaginative musicians are ridiculously talented but here they take their ambition too far. Nobody is calling for a back-to-basics approach from the progressive masters – back to reality would be a start. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 No Plas For This