REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
Rock n roll heroes the Quireboys unleash their second long player in a year while Winery Dogs, Accept and Vicious Rumours offer up stellar live sets.
There’s new music from mysterious Norwegians Tusmorke (pictured) and an intriguing EP from German supergroup Unisonic.
Metal titans Massacra get the reissue treatment and there’s new music from Corrosion Of Conformity and Ulsterman Matty James.
Plus we review and rate the latest releases from Allegaeon, Channel Zero and Dylan Carson.
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: Classic Rock/Rock N Roll
If there’s one band that doesn’t require an excuse for a celebration it’s The Quireboys. And so it should come as no surprise that the original rock n roll heroes are marking 30 years in typically flamboyant style.
New album Black Eyed Sons has been released as a lavish three-disc package featuring the follow-up to 2013’s critically acclaimed Beautiful Curse, an audio version of last summer’s triumphant main stage acoustic set at Sweden Rock and a DVD showcasing the band’s full electric set in London. A new essay bringing the band’s story bang up to date and specially commissioned artwork make for one of this summer’s genuine highlights.
The new music is a revelation. If Spike’s raspy drawl is instantly recognisable then the carefully crafted elements of Southern rock, Americana and country ensure this is the most diverse and compelling Quireboys album yet. It might have taken 30 years but it’s a case of better late than never for a band brave enough to unlock its obvious potential and finally put ambition ahead of tradition.
Of course it wouldn’t be the Quireboys if everything was perfect. Although the band brings down the curtain on their Sweden Rock set with Seven O’Clock, the album sleeve says different with Sex Party printed in error. And the mid-set mixing is often a confusing muddle – at one point Spike reveals the band have released a new album only for the action to cut to Mona Lisa Smiled from the previous record.
The DVD is, however, a huge improvement on 2007’s shoddy One More For The Road with multi-angle camera work and a sound quality that does justice to the talent coursing through the current Quireboys’ line-up. If you thought this band was a fading bunch of ordinary Joes think again. Black Eyed Sons is visionary stuff. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Boys’ Own Stuff
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Acid Folk Rock
Imagine a more mellow Turisas. A floaty, folksy band rooted in early Jethro Tull. A modern-day rival for Hexvessel and WolfPeople. This is rock in the loosest sense of the word but it’s psychedelic twists and trippy vibe make for a memorable listening experience – even if Gamle Aker Kirke has more than a hint of Spinal Tap offshoot The Folksmen.
Norwegians Tusmorke make music most mere mortals couldn’t hope to imagine – even in their wildest dreams. Swapping between trance-inducing lyrics delivered in their native tongue and a haunting English language tone, fusing sweeping organs with folk-inspired touches and harking back to a time of simplicity and passion, theirs is a sound perfectly pitched for a long, hot summer.
And if it does rain then simply close your eyes and imagine: Tusmorke will comfortably transport you to wherever you wish to be. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Tusmorke The Merrier
Genre: Melodic Power Metal
Next year marks the 30th anniversary of Vicious Rumours’ seminal debut album Soldiers Of The Night but the USA’s answer to Iron Maiden continue to laugh in the face of the advance of time.
The band’s NWOBHM influences are never far away but Geoff Thorpe and co. have always complemented brazen riffs with a power metal sheen. A solid mix on Live You To Death 2 serves the Bay Area crew well and the odd Dragonforce fan might find themselves drawn to some seriously speedy stuff.
Although it’s obvious why Vicious Rumours have never been promoted to power metal’s big leagues (tracks like Towns On Fire and Mastermind are proficient rather than genuinely punishing) a set culled from shows in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Oakland serves its purpose: as exponents of the ultimate live metal show Thorpe and co. continue to set the standard. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Due Punishment
Genre: Classic Rock
A year after the LA supergroup’s self-titled debut dropped to widespread critical acclaim it’s time to judge whether Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy can cut it live as classic rock trio. The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Unleashed In Japan allows all three legends of the genre to express themselves with total freedom – released from the studio the three-piece breathe new life into Elevate, Not Hopeless and Stand.
Time Machine comes across as even grungier than its studio cousin while I’m No Angel’s sensational riff is given licence to soar in the live environment with Kotzen on top form.
There’s something wondrous about The Winery Dogs on this form and Unleashed In Japan will only increase the clamour for more live shows. Meeting demand would appear to be the band’s biggest challenge right now. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Top Dogs
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
Massacra’s name never graced the big league of extreme metal, but the Frenchmen nevertheless cooked up some rather tasty thrash/death metal during their 11-year existence. Century Media has seen fit to re-issue the band’s first three albums, starting with their debut – Final Holocaust – which has been re-mastered by Patrick W. Engel.
A step back in time for those with tattered, pre Chaos AD Sepultura shirts in their bottom drawers, this album screams 1990 (the year of its release), and while it’s no classic, shows a band eager to propel themselves onto the same stages inhabited by Slayer, Kreator, Possessed et al.
Tracks like Beyond The Prophecy and War Of Attrition are rough and ready, but show plenty of youthful exuberance, and although the early live material tagged onto the end of this opus is pretty ropey, Final Holocaust itself has been well worth resurrecting. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6 /10 First Strike
Genre: Death/Thrash metal
A far more focused and technically accomplished effort than their debut, Enjoy The Violence (Massacra’s second opus) showed the French act maturing and their music evolving at a quick pace.
Yes, the likes of Ultimate Antichrist still see the quartet unleashing furious death/thrash like it was going out of fashion, but the time changes are snappier, there’s a more pronounced of slower, creepier passages, and the songwriting is altogether more refined. Sublime Extermination in particular stands out, and could easily take its place alongside vintage Sepultura material.
Plus, the five rehearsal tracks that make up this bundle, including Cyclone and Trained To Kill, thankfully boast enough charm to justify their inclusion, and make you long for those days in the garage, clad in blasting out Slayer riffs on a cheap guitar while wearing high-tops. Or maybe that’s just me…RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Violence Is Deadly
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
By the time they reached album number three, Massacra were a force to be reckoned with, and listening to this album – originally released in 1992 – you hear a band confident in their own abilities and determined to make their mark.
The production is beefed up, the songwriting honed and the riffs are complex, taught and at times, devastating – check out Defying Man’s Creation or the pulverising Baptized In Decadence.
And while much of Signs Of The Decline ploughs a similar Cavalera shaped furrow to Enjoy The Violence, there are strong hints of Death and Morbid Angel thrown into the mix too.
Plus, the album – which is boosted by two live tracks – is also a reminder that when Massacra guitarist/vocalist Fred Duval passed away in 1997, the metal world lost a genuine talent.
Signs Of The Decline’s re-issue is not just a history lesson; it’s a fine piece of extreme metal. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Mass Killing
Accept was founded in 1968, disbanded in 1997 and finally reunited in 2009 with Mark Tornillo as its new frontman.
All Areas: Worldwide, originally released in 1997, features recordings from the 1993 Objection Overruled tour and the 1994 Death Row tour – just as the band went on its indefinite hiatus
The double album reflects on some of the peaks of the band’s career with Udo Dirkschneider’s triumphant return as frontman – it’s also the first album to feature Wolf Hoffmann as solo guitarist. Hoffmann demonstrates the full range of his skills, especially on songs such as Breaker, Bulletproof and Fast As A Shark.
Also notable is the amazing work of drummer Stefan Kaufmann – he lays the foundation for the band coming together at its best.
This album is a definite reminder of why Accept was one of the biggest bands in metal back in the 80s and 90s. The production reflects an electric atmosphere – the songs are delivered flawlessly and, at a time when lip-syncing is prevalent, it showcases live music at its most emotive.
The extended versions of Princess Of The Dawn and Balls To The Wall overshoot the mark and devalue the album’s overall experience but it remains a winner on so many levels. Accept no imitations. Tanya Nies
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Accept The Best
Genre:Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
For The Kingdom, a taster for Unisonic’s soon-to-be-released full length album, is the perfect vehicle for Michael Kiske’s unique vocals. Complemented by breakneck guitar riffs and a heavy bass sound this gripping teaser hints at something special later this year.
You Come Undone follows hot on the heels of the title track and is compelling head-bang-and-chant-along heavy rock. Kai Hansen and Mandy Meyer trade guitar hero licks as Dennis Ward (bass) and Kosta Zafiriou (drums) give the tracks their underlying tone.
The EP also includes four live recordings from the Masters Of Rock Festival back in 2012. The tracks demonstrate the live skills of Unisonic and prove they’re so much more than an accomplished studio act.
Creating the right mix of heavy and melodic, the quartet capture the mood and delight their fans – never more so than on Souls Alive. It’s the sound of a band that loves its music and relishes the live arena. TN
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Uni(ted) Kingdom
Genre: Death Metal
Colorado troupe Allegaeon have been making some serious noise in the underground since their 2008 inception, and their take on contemporary death metal, infused with melodic suss and bursting with technical prowess, is certainly compelling.
Elements Of The Infinite, the band’s third full length, should see them reacher greater heights, as it manages to blend virtuoso musicianship with punchy, head cracking grooves, rather than succumbing to the convoluted arrangements which plague similar acts.
Guitarists Michael Stancel and Greg Burgess are a guitar-tab transcriber’s nightmare, unleashing both chrome plated riffs and sparkling, dexterous solos at every turn: Dyson Sphere and Tyrants Of The Terrestrial Exodus are just two of the tracks which turn heads due to their fretwork.
Granted, Allegaeon’s songcraft isn’t quite as polished as their playing, but they incorporate a sense of drama into their work, and when the quintet hit home, as in Gravimetric Time Dilation, they hit home very hard.
An exciting effort from a promising act, Elements Of The Infinite is a step in the right direction for Allegaeon. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Force Of Nature
The second album since Channel Zero’s return to action in 2010, Kill All Kings is their first opus to be recorded without original member Phil Baheux behind the kit – the drummer sadly passed away in 2013 and his place is ably filled here by Soulfly/Stone Sour sticksman Roy Moyorga.
CZ’s sixth full-length, then, is a poignant moment for the Belgians and thankfully it doesn’t disappoint, cracking skulls with raging thrashers like Mind Over Mechanics or its title track, and hooking you in with weighty groove metal gems such as Crimson Collidor and Electronic Cocaine.
Granted, the quartet’s particular brand of metal might be a bit old had these days – Kill All Kings could have been recorded 20 years ago – but Franky De Smet-Van Damme and his cohorts have done themselves, and their fallen brother, very proud with this catchy, uplifting body of work. A killer effort. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Royal Ascent
It’s no surprise that doom/drone pioneer Dylan Carlson has composed the soundtrack to a Western (in this case, a film about German pioneers traversing the Canadian west), given his main band Earth’s atmospheric forays into sparse, hazy Americana in recent years.
Containing minimal percussion, Gold’s focus is on Carlson’s shimmering, stripped down guitarwork… which evokes endless, dusty plains and sun-baked landscapes, rather than gun fights at the O.K. Corral. The man stretches out every note and makes every sound wrung from his instrument count… and he does this like no one else.
Some might say Carlson’s style is dull. However, on Gold, his playing makes perfect sense. A world away from Earth’s early 90s doomscapes, this album is another example of his unique ability to create feelings, and conjure up visions, from the simplest, barest music.
A summer blockbuster? Maybe not. But this opus is utterly absorbing nonetheless. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Gold Mine
When COC’s 80s-era line up of Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin re-grouped to release a storming, self-titled effort in 2012, it was proof that the band could still thrive without the axework of Pepper Keenan.
IX, however, lacks the immediate impact of its predecessor, and there’s little on here as powerful as Psychic Vampire or The Doom, or as catchy as classic cuts like Vote With A Bullet. It’s not a poor album by any means and there are fine tracks to get your teeth into, such as On Your Way, Denmark Vesey and the hard driving Trucker… all of which boast trademark COC riffery and excellent drumming from the revitalised Mullin.
It’s just that too often, IX sounds like a band who used up their best ideas in 2012’s sessions. Brand New Sleep, for instance, is a lacklustre opener and Who You Need To Blame is just plain boring.
A disappointment then, but not without its plus points for long-time fans. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Rusty
Genre: Classic Rock/Country Rock/Blues Rock
Multi-instrumentalist and singer Matty James might have made a million 25 years ago. At times the supremely talented Ulsterman sounds like he could take on Cinderella and Poison as an acoustic balladeer but he’s just as likely to give the Gaslight Anthem a run for their money.
Whatever the style, whatever the genre, honesty and passion lie at the heart of Last One To Die. There’s a sense that James means just about all of it: from the evocative opener Leaving to the stirring title track (featuring Tyla from the Dogs D’Amour on slide guitar and backing vocals) there’s heartfelt appeal aplenty.
Same Old Me (Brand New You) is an outstanding piece of work but will it – or any of this – be heard by a wider audience? It’s a brave move to embrace diversity and do something different but it’s a fact that 21st century consumers find comfort in musical boundaries. It’s to James’ credit that his music can’t be pigeon-holed and yet it could cost him dearly in the pursuit of greater recognition.
Last One To Die is a rootsy, revealing and rousing rock record. Fingers crossed, that should be enough. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Matt Finish
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.