And today’s top picks include hot new music from US heavyweights The Cringe, Lionize and The Drip.
Scandinavia is well represented as hair metal throwbacks H.E.A.T. jostle for position with old school thrashers Lost Society.
And there’s even a taste of Spain on the menu with Diabulus In Musica (pictured) making their symphonic metal presence felt.
Below, Pet Slimmers Of The Year and Vredehammer serve up some heavy sounds. And they’re more than matched by Triptykon, Limb and Nux Vomica.
Plus we cast an eye over the latest Ronnie James Dio tribute record and a Record Store Day release from punk troubadour Beans On Toast.
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: Hard Rock/Hair Metal
No strangers to critical acclaim on this very site, H.E.A.T. continue to make a concerted play for world domination. Hailing from the same Stockholm suburb as Europe they’ve inherited their idols’ talent for penning crazily catchy tunes and finally discovered the art of perfect production.
Tearing Down The Walls captures the band’s incendiary live sound without ever compromising on the slick delivery synonymous with 2012’s Address The Nation and earlier effort Freedom Call.
The title track is a typically rousing anthem and if The Wreckoning relies on a toe-curling play on words it’s a worthy addition to another wonderful record.
All The Nights and Enemy In Me ensure quality courses right through the band’s fourth – and best – long player. A brief run of summer dates in the UK can’t come soon enough. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Maximum H.E.A.T.
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Thrash Metal
There’s nothing like an ample serving of old school thrash metal to tickle the tastebuds of those used to feasting on Anthrax, Slayer, Death Angel and Testament. Terror Hungry is mouthwatering in its retro-flavoured intensity and will have Bay Area devotees drooling.
Second from last, Mosh It Up sums it up: Belladona-esque shrieks coupled with Mustaine-inspired riffs make for this rebellious record’s standout moment as four minutes of inspired metal melt the eardrums and burn the opposition.
Hot on the heels of 2013’s Fast Loud Death, it looks like Lost Society are on a roll with Lethal Pleasure and Thrashed Reality soaked in thrash metal’s glorious past but with enough of a modern edge to give this band a bite at future success.
Bearing their teeth on album number two, this is brilliant stuff from the feisty Finns. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Terror Vision
Genre: Hard Rock/Sludge
Beloved of tour buddies and label mates Clutch this could be the year when Lionize become the mane men.
Moulding scuzzed-up guitars with 70s-flavoured keys and soulful hard rock vocals it’s like Rival Sons turned up and down-tuned – the effect is quite dizzying.
There’s elements of classic Deep Purple, dirty Zeppelin and even the space rock absurdity of Hawkwind. The jazzy Kravitzy vibe of Electric Reckoning is handily juxtaposed with the moody Evolve – which is exactly what Lionize do on this mind-bending, spellbinding release.
Clutch might be the headline act when the two bands hit the road this month but miss the support and you’ll miss out. This lot are special. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Lionize On The Prize
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Three albums in and Spanish contenders Diabulus In Musica have crafted a perfectly polished Eastern-tinged album of folksy symphonic metal.
It would be easy to write off Zuberoa Aznárez and her band mates as a pale imitation of Within Temptation or a dated Delain clone but the reality is different: DIM offer an intriguing alternative to the genre leaders.
Where too many symphonic metal bands struggle with the combination of clean harmonies and angsty growls this classy quintet nail it. From The Embers is a fiery blast of ambition and if Aznárez skirts a little close to Broadway musical territory on Inner Force there’s no denying she boasts a fantastic range.
Whether DIM will light up the biggest stages beyond mainland Europe remains to be seen but Argia offers compelling evidence that they deserve the opportunity. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Argia Bargy
Geenre: Alt Rock/Post Grunge
Unlikely bedfellows for Steel Panther on last month’s run of UK shows there’s very little ‘hair’ or ‘metal’ about The Cringe. And whereas their big mates are a plastic parody of 80s excess there’s a biting reality underpinning this quartet’s best work.
A frankly bizarre band name belies an erudite, politicised, urgent and exciting line in alternative rock with John Cusimano’s vocal style often reminiscent of Rush’s Geddy Lee. Allied to a guitar sound fusing classic Tom Petty, the lighter side of Soundgarden and America’s alternative rock heartland, it’s clear The Cringe boast a sound that’s seriously affecting. Gotta Find A Way even smacks of a youthful, punkish vitality.
Regulars at the SXSW festival and with three previous long players under their belts, it’s not as if Cusimano and co. are fresh-faced newbies feeling their way – they’re just new to the UK. But key cuts like Deep Girl and Lord Jim have universal appeal with guitar slinger Roto the ace in a supremely talented pack.
America’s tastemakers turned on to The Cringe some time ago – it’s time us Brits played catch up. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Cringe Worthy
Grindcore kings Nasum are long gone, Brutal Truth are about to call time on an illustrious career and Insect Warfare, one of the scene’s greatest recent alumni, are no more. So it’s up to bands like Washington State’s The Drip to keep the grind flag flying high and thankfully, A Presentation Of Gruesome Poetics sees them doing just that… and in fine style too.
This six track EP is a fine example of what’s great about grindcore: furious aggression, barbed-wire riffs and spine snapping time changes, with no fat or filler to get in the way. And at just over 12 minutes long, it ram raids through your speakers, does the business and gets out fast – very fast.
Opener, Catalyst plunges headlong into violent blast beats, before teasing with some metallic, mid-paced sections, while Lash In Lash Out, the EP’s closer, is sure to decimate dancefloors wherever its unleashed.
This is a blistering effort from this US quartet – and we can’t wait for more. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Poetry in motion
Genre: Doom metal
Inspired by Candlemass, King Diamond and Headless Cross-era Sabbath, Below specialise in epic doom metal that’s fuelled by red wine and Gothic novels, rather that reefers and acid tabs. Their debut is an impressive opus, with tracks like Trapped Under Ground and Bid You Farewell boasting both heavyweight riffs and powerful vocal performances from lead crooner Zeb (not a great metal name, it has to be said).
In fact, it’s the frontman’s potent set of pipes which lift Below above many Candlemass acolytes, and his voice is given sterling treatment by producer Andy La Rocque, who also succeeds in letting the quintet sound natural(ish) rather than over-polished… as is the fate of many ‘epic’ bands.
The downside to Across The Dark River is it’s tendency to lumber around rather than stride forth, and a stronger chorus or two would have been welcome.
Nevertheless, this is a confident, assured debut album, from a band who know their history, and know how to embrace the darkness. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Below Par
It would be easy to dismiss Pet Slimmers Of The Year as yet another post-rock band whose iPod playlists are laden with Isis, Cult Of Luna and Explosions In The Sky ditties. However, the Peterborough trio offer far more than just quiet/loud dynamics and banks of effects pedals.
Sure, Fragments Of Uniforms is a grower, and there are plenty of ‘heard this somewhere before’ moments, particularly on opener Arterias. Delve a little deeper though, and you’ll find some true gems on this debut: the glistening dreamscape of Tides, is one; the heavier, harder hitting Mare Imbrium another. The latter track’s crashing drums, menacing atmosphere and gargantuan riffs are startling when in full flow… and are reminiscent of instrumetallers Pelican at their peak.
OK, so you might need a little patience to get the best out of Pet Slimmers’ debut, and some segments do blend into one… but stick with it, and the rewards are many. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Pet Sounds
Genre: Black metal
From the sturm und drang bombast of opener, The Awakening, to the militaristic might of Admissa, this is a debut which never lets up, and shows that Norwegians Vredehammer have truly arrived.
Black metal, especially the violent onslaught of bands like Marduk, is at the heart of Vinteroffer, but death and thrash dynamics make their presence felt too. If it’s too slick for BM kvltists, that’s a shame, as Vredehammer’s command of songwriting is stronger than many more established acts, and their blend of spiked riffery, frost-coasted atmospherics and pummelling rhythms is a joy to behold – especially on the likes of Suicide Forest and We Are The Sacrifice.
Guitarists Per Valla and Kristoffer Hansen can also play a bit too, and they’re not afraid to inject some melody into their vicious axework, or let fly with some outrageous solos.
An album for all extreme metallers, then, rather than BM scenesters, Vinteroffer is a triumphant first opus. 2014? It’s hammer time. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Vinter Soldiers
Genre: Extreme metal
Dio. Lemmy. Iommi. Halford. All figures who have shaped metal as we know it. All legends in their own right. In extreme circles, though, the name of Tom G Warrior carries just as much weight… if not more. With Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, he laid the blueprints for black and death metal, and stands tall as one of the progenitors of both genres. But with Triptykon – Celtic Frost’s successor – he’s still making awe-inspiring, visionary and otherworldly music. Music that challenges the listener, music that pushes them harder.
The darkness which spews from Warrior’s soul and cascades through tracks like Demon Pact and Altar Of Deceit, imbues his work with a feeling few bands can ever match, and while Melana Chasmata doesn’t better Triptykon’s debut, 2010’s Eparistera Daimones, it’s a monstrous opus nonetheless.
Opener Tree Of Suffocating Souls lays down the gauntlet, a headlong charge into the abyss with a pitch black guitar tone for company, while slower tracks such as Boleskine House, where Vanja Slajh’s softer vocals complement Warrior’s snarling delivery, cut deep into the heart. Consistently majestic throughout, this is an album, not just a collection of songs to skip through on a playlist.
Triptykon were born from Celtic Frost’s dissolution, and are carrying on their legacy like no one could have ever imagined; what awaits following Melana Chasmata, we can only guess at. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Death Trip
Londoners Limb are effortlessly cool. Boasting more bottom end than most doom bands, and a stripped back, tar thick sound akin to The Melvins, they could play with everyone from Eyehategod to Clutch and still see crowds raising glasses and nodding along to their big, bad grooves.
Their debut is heavy without being outright ‘metal’, and is all the better for it… there’s no need to chuck a pointless solo into tracks like the crushing Gift Of The Sun, as it would only detract from the fuzzed out, gonzo riffs on offer. Yes, a whole album-full of this kind of stuff can get a little samey, but when you have songs as great as Vathek and Twelve Ghosts in your armoury, who cares?
Limb are welcome newcomers in a scene which can be too downright depressing for its own good, and while this opus is a heavy old unit, with plenty of aggro thrown in, it will still put a great big smile on your face. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 In On A Limb
Genre: Extreme Metal/Hardcore
‘Epic crust’ might be a contradiction in terms, but it’s one way of describing this multi-faceted debut from Oregon’s Nux Vomica. ‘Awesome’ would be another.
On its three lengthy tracks – Sanity Is For The Passive, Reeling and Choked At The Roots – the band embrace d-beat, hardcore, doom and the ice cold ‘post metal’ of Neurosis and Cult Of Luna, to create music which is intriguing, atmospheric and at times, brutally direct. Few bands can draw inspiration from as many corners of the extreme scene and make their songs work this well… and this is just the start from Nux Vomica.
One criticism – the near 20-minute long closer, Choked At The Roots, runs out of steam a little towards its conclusion, but otherwise it’s masterful, slowly building the tension and then letting fly with barrages of black metal infused crustcore, and boasting some finely crafted melodic segments too.
How this all works played in a sweaty room full of mowhawked reprobates is anyone’s guess, but you’d certainly like to be there to find out. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 The Nux Of The Matter
Genre: Classic Rock/Hard Rock
You don’t need to be a fan of thrash metal to enjoy This Is Your Life, the charity tribute album to the late, great Ronnie James Dio.
If you’re a fan of Rainbow, the Dio-era Black Sabbath or Dio’s years fronting his own band, this is an album you’ll get plenty out of.
Dio wasn’t just one of the finest vocalists classic rock has ever produced, he was also a talented songwriter whether alongside Richie Blackmore, Tony Iommi or Vivian Cambpell.
And some of his best material is here, including Rainbow’s Starstruck, sung by Saxon’s Biff Byford, backed by Mortorhead and a stunning medley of songs from Rising, widely acknowledged as his greatest album, by Metallica.
Anthrax kick off proceedings with a blistering Neon Nights from Sabbath’s Heaven And Hell and there’s a hugely enjoyable Last In Line by Tenacious D.
Rob Halford’s Man On The Silver Mountain is disappointingly lifeless while only those out and out metalheads will truly appreciate Killswitch Engage’s version of his solo classic Holy Diver.
A warning, however. This album may tick many boxes but Dio himself sings all these tracks better on the original albums. Ian Murtagh
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Do Ron, Ron, Ron
Genre: Alt Rock
Arguably the smallest “Best Of” collection ever released, this six-track special edition released specially for Record Shop Day is also one of the most enjoyable listens for festival fans. The rise of the lovable maverick over the last few years has seen him gain a genuine cult following with his happy go lucky punk striking a vibe with many fans in the 18-30 age bracket.
This short collection ties together six of his finest tracks, highlighting the Essex boys’s nature as a real modern day wordsmith. There are few out there with such a down to earth storytelling nature, making everything sound so romantic, especially when singing about the current economic climate. This kind of talent is often overlooked in the music industry because lyrics as ‘out there’ as these will never get radio play. But that’s what makes this kind of music so magical. Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Beans Rehashed
Since its creation in the US in 1997 Record Store Day has continued to grow as more and more artists and fans get involved in the occasion. This year has seen a plethora of releases across the board but for London based label Xtra Mile it comes as a joint celebration as the mark their 10-year anniversary.
The collection, released as part of a four-vinyl box set, even contains a rare single from Frank Turner’s new hardcore project Mongol Horde, as well as specially released singles from Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun and Chris T-T. Despite these names, the compilation’s real stand out comes in explosive form American eccentrics, Larry And His Flask as they bring us a track penned by Beans On Toast, entitled The Battle For Clear Sight.
This day couldn’t have come more perfectly for a label who have spent a decade building on the success of obscure bands that no one else would have taken on, so let’s hope for the success of individuality that Xtra Mile stick around for a long, long time. AK
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Xtra Milestone