Today’s top picks include the return of alt rock heroes The Black Keys and Brit rockers Absolva (pictured).
There’s new music from Neal Schon and Frontiers label mates Timo Tolkki’s Avalon.
Plus we check out the outrageous Outloud and sludge metal stars Crowbar.
We review and rate the latest Orange Goblin reissue and run the rule over Serpentine Path, October File and Eyehategod.
And there’s new music from Arthemis and Black Anvil.
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: Alt Rock
Eight albums in and The Black Keys have finally unlocked their potential – and it’s not all down to uber-catchy lead single Fever.
There’s little doubt that the upbeat pop rocker has the potential to open doors previously slammed shut in the faces of quirky duo Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney but Turn Blue’s trump card is its versatility.
Drawing on the understated cool of predecessor El Camino, tapping into the band’s early ambition and blending their occasionally patchy past with the sound of an assured future this is a record for rockers everywhere.
Whether it’s the catchy riffage of opener Weight Of Love or the Southern Rock flavour of set closer Gotta Get Away there’s no getting away from the fact this is the sound of the Black Keys turning on the style. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Black N Blue
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Sludge Metal
The announcement that Kirk Windstein was quitting Down raised eyebrows across the metal world, not least because he formed such a potent partnership with fellow guitarist Pepper Keenan. But in renewing his focus on Crowbar – the band he founded in 1989 – the Lemmy of sludge metal has created one of the best albums of his career.
Crowbar’s tenth full length is of course, a brooding, behemoth of an album, flattening all before it with titanic riffs. The crushing Walk With Knowledge Wisely, the hardcore-inflected Ageless Decay… the New Orleans mob unleash seven shades of hell at every turn.
However, there’s an emotional depth to Symmetry In Black which makes this opus far more than just a good ol’ doom-out, with Windstein baring his soul over tracks like Amaranthine and The Foreboding, and delivering an astonishing vocal performance in the process.
After a quarter of a century in the business and on the road, Windstein may be forgiven for wanting to wind down. Thankfully for us, Symmetry In Black shows he has plenty left in the tank. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Back In Black
Genre: Doom Metal
Featuring the likes of Unearthly Trance’s Ryan Lipynsky, Ramesses’ Tim Bagshaw and Winter’s Stephen Flan, Serpentine Path is something of a doom supergroup. And given its members’ combined output, it’s no surprise that Emanations, the Anglo-American quintet’s sophomore effort, is a lumbering, colossally heavy and downright miserable body of work.
The plus points? Essence of Heresy is a strong opener, and Treacherous Waters boasts a huge, slow-mo riff that makes Black Sabbath’s first forays into the dark side sound featherweight in comparison.
But too much of Emanations plods along without the killer hooks or deft grooves that would lift it to the heights attained by its creators’ other projects. And there are acts out there, such as Conan and Coltsblood, who are making this type of music with more verve and imagination.
Better than the sum of its parts? Not on this occasion. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5.5/10 Downward Path
It’s all too easy to brand Brit quartet October File a Killing Joke tribute act, given vocalist Ben Hollyer’s similarities to KJ’s Jaz Coleman, and the bands’ driving, quasi-industrial assault , which brings to mind Youth and Paul Ferguson in their prime. And it’s true that songs like Reinvention channel the post-punk legends’ spirit, if not their famous eccentricities or electronic dabblings.
However, there are far worse bands to be influenced by, and with The Application of Loneliness…, October File have created a damn fine album which should be listened to on its own terms. The Water and Heroes Are Welcome are a case in point – crackling with energy and propelled by a potent rhythm section, they’re stirring, bold tracks which demand attention from rock fans of any persuasion.
Not the most original opus then, but one full of passion and power, The Application of Loneliness… should lift October File to greater heights. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Prime Condition
Genre: Sludge Metal
The first Eyehategod album in nearly 15 years, and the last to feature drummer Joey LaCaze, who sadly passed away last year, this self-titled release has been much anticipated.
Spawned in 1989 and creating an unholy, meth-addled fusion of Black Sabbath and later-period Black Flag, the NOLA outfit have since defined the ‘sludge’ genre, and Eyehategod shows they’ve lost none of their feedback drenched swagger, or their tar-thick groove.
Long time fans, then, will lap up this opus, which – bar some hazy, Southern rock axework on the likes of Worthless Rescue – doesn’t deviate one bit from the quintet’s trademark vicious (and viscous) assault on the senses.
So you’ll hear Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton peeling off mighty riff after mighty riff, while Mike IX Williams leads from the front, spitting venom over tracks like Framed To The Wall and the noxious Flags And Cities Bound… and that’s just the way we like it, thank you very much.
A triumphant return from a legendary act, Eyehategod is metal for the broken, dispossessed and alienated, from a band where substance always mattered over style. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Eye Infection
Reissued through Candlelight, Healing Through Fire – Orange Goblin’s sixth full-length – is packaged up here with an additional two live tracks (The Ballad of Solomon Eagle and They Come Back (Harvest of Skulls)) – but any self respecting rock fan should own this album anyway.
Why? Because it’s chock full of infectious, heavy-ass riffs and stomping rhythms, and boasts an air of confidence born of a band who know they’ve made a huge leap forward in songwriting.
Originally released in 2007 via Sanctuary, Healing Through Fire bridged the gap between OG’s earlier, (admittedly great) stoner metal efforts and the more mature, focused material found on 2012’s A Eulogy For The Damned – which was a real breakthrough for the affable Brits.
This album though, is stunning in its own right, showing off guitarist Joe Hoare’s awesome riff-writing prowess to devastating effect and even delving into whiskey soaked blues on a Beginner’s Guide To Suicide.
Further whetting appetites for the quartet’s next opus, Healing Through Fire’s re-release is a reminder of how truly great Orange Goblin are. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Firestorm
Genre: Heavy Metal
Italy’s molten metal scene is white hot right now but the world is still waiting for a nation of committed rockers to deliver its first truly global heavyweight.
Seven studio albums in and there’s no doubt Andrea Martongelli’s men have paid their dues and this could be the record that redefines Arthemis’s future,
At times a bizarre mix suggests the classy quartet are playing in their own front room – the awkward mid-set silences are no reflection of a typically frenzied Welsh crowd at Hard Rock Hell – but an assured set is mightily impressive when it matters most.
Live From Hell proves Arthemis can play a brand of intoxicating power metal that gives Dragonforce a run for their money. Down the bill at Download next month, blink and you’ll miss ’em. But they deserve a tilt at glory. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Hell Yeah
Genre: Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
The follow-up to 2012’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Flames Of Justice is a predictably feisty affair as Chris Appleton, Martin McNee and Dan Bate build on the foundations of their balls-to-the-wall debut.
Any fears of second album syndrome striking down the former members of Fury UK are swiftly assuaged as a record rooted in NWOBHM drama and delivered with trademark zeal roars out of the blocks and maintains a punishing pace.
Epic mid-set highlight The Altar And The Cross is as good as anything Iron Maiden have managed in the past two decades – its classic fusion of light and dark allowing Absolva to unleash their full rock arsenal.
Never Back Down might have nicked a riff from Steel Panther and Live For The Fight is a just a little clichéd but Anthems To The Dead is another compelling album courtesy of a criminally underrated trio. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Dead Good
Genre: Black/Death Metal
Although labelled a black metal band early in the career, Black Anvil draw from myriad influences and have successfully carved out their own niche in the US extreme scene.
Yes, there’s plenty of blistering tremolo picking and dark melodies on Hail Death – and opener Still Reborn makes you reach for the corpsepaint and bullet belt.
However elsewhere, the New Yorkers deal in more progressive fare (Until The End, Next Level Black)… and there’s even a cold-hearted cover of Kiss’s Under The Rose thrown in too.
It makes for an intriguing mix, and although some of the album’s lengthier tracks drag a little – and lose momentum in the process – Hail Death is a solid third effort from the quartet, with plenty of thrashed-up grooves to get your teeth into.
Accessible and (dare we say it) enjoyable, this opus doesn’t quite top its predecessor, Triumvirate , but Hail Death should nevertheless establish Black Anvil as a force to be reckoned with. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Death Dealers
Genre: Hard Rock
Rarely has an album title been so misleading. Outloud have refined their brand of excess-all-areas party rock to deliver another lesson in unabashed, 80s-influenced, face-melting cheese.
From the off the garish Greeks want to ‘rock you to death’ and those with a slightly weaker constitution may well succumb to a killer combination of singalong choruses and eye-watering solos (check out the frantic fretwork on I Was So Blind).
Chandler Mogel’s vocals are a revelation while the ever-reliable guitar hero Bob Katsionis is in blistering form – their blossoming partnership peaks on the terrific One More Time.
The AOR-flavoured One More Dream and ballad It Really Doesn’t Matter tick all of the right soft rock boxes as Outloud ramp up the clichés. Let’s Get Serious? Let’s not. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Greek Riffs
Genre: Blues/Hard Rock/Jazz
The ZZ Top-esque blues blast that ushers in Take A Ride – featuring the magnificent Marco Mendoza on lead vocals – sets the scene for what will surely go down as one of the feelgood collaborations of 2014.
Neal Schon might be the figurehead where So U is concerned but Black Star Riders’ Mendoza, Journey drummer Deen Castronovo and Jack Blades (Night Ranger/Damn Yankees) are key members of a classy team steeped in rock n roll history.
Blades co-writes many of this remarkable record’s highlights – including the soaring nine-minute title track – but stays out of the limelight before providing ‘guest background vocals’ on Serenity and Shelter. It’s down to Mendoza and Schon to share the lead vocal duties and it’s clear both men sense an opportunity to emerge from the shadows of Messrs Pineda and Warwick.
Schon’s moving tribute to mentor Carlos Santana – the mesmerising instrumental Exotica – isn’t only about the lead guitar: Mendoza is prominent in the mix for a reason as he lets rip with salsa-flavoured bass lines and complements a volley of Castronovo drum rolls. Stirring stuff from a stellar cast. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 U Bet
Genre: Symphonic Metal/Power Metal
Part two of Avalon’s metal opera journey sees another celebrated line-up join conductor-in-chief Timo Tolkki on a typically overblown flight of creative fancy. For fans of heavy symphonic music it’s an absolute dream as Floor Jansen, Simone Simons, Fabio Lione and David DeFeis jostle for top billing. For everyone else it’s just plain silly.
Tolkki’s mind is clearly awash with fantasy, futuristic visions and quasi-political comment and he’s a more than decent multi-instrumentalist – the song structures are stunning in their complexity. Tunes like the foreboding Rise Of The 4th Reich strike a familiar chord at a time when Europe’s far right is on the march but a serious message is swiftly forgotten such is the scale of this constantly evolving concept album.
Clearly admired by his peers and beloved of symphonic metal devotees, ex-Stratovarius star Tolkki has a place in the hearts of a genre on the rise. Without a keener focus his best work will be forever lost on the masses. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Timo Their Lives