REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
Today we focus on hot releases from Sixx:AM, prog supergroup Flying Colours and Brit buzz band Marmozets.
We review and rate the latest sounds from Virgil & The Accelerators (pictured), Electric Wizard and Alunah.
Plus there’s new music from 1349, Winterfylleth and Sanctuary.
And we cast a critical ear over Witch Mountain, Nonpoint and Krieg.
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/Blues Rock
Busily forging their reputation as a blues rock trio par excellence, Virgil & The Accelerators should have been fast-tracked to mainstream success long before now. Three years after their dazzling debut, The Radium, landed on Classic Rock Magazine’s radar there’s no doubt its follow-up is long overdue and Army Of Three is the sound of a band maturing fast.
If blues rock is still at the band’s thumping heart then listen carefully to this Chris Tsangarides-produced belter and flavours of Lenny Kravitz, classic Fleetwood Mac and Thunder all come to the fore. Frontman Virgil McMahon boasts the range to be a glorious amalgam of Kravitz, Lindsey Buckingham and Danny Bowes and his guitar wizardy ain’t half bad.
It’s brave, bordering on the foolhardy, to kick off this record with six minute-plus plodder Take Me Higher but fast forward to track three and the sparkling All Night Long is what this brilliant band is all about. Right song, wrong place.
The epic Through The Night and quickfire It Burns are neatly juxtaposed to reveal VATA’s true potential. The underground surely can’t contain this thrill-a-minute threesome any longer. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Three-mendous
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Doom Metal/Occult Rock
The fact that singer Uta Plotkin has now left Witch Mountain is surely a major blow for the Oregon outfit. For on Mobile Of Angels, the band’s fourth full-length, she delivers a stunning, seductive performance, her bluesy tones the perfect foil for Rob Wrong’s Iommi-fied riffs, and carrying the album’s lighter moments with incredible grace.
In fact, Uta’s contribution is such that it puts the band light years ahead of many of the acts inhabiting the occult rock sphere. However, Mobile Of Angels isn’t all about the vocalist: the band’s subtle execution of Sabbath-inspired rock, mixed with heavy blues, is a joy to listen to – and a fine production job, courtesy of Billy Anderson, doesn’t hurt either. His deft touch brings a real warmth to tracks like Can’t Settle, allowing the rhythm section of Charles Thomas and Nate Carson to flourish.
One criticism – at just six tracks (one an admittedly excellent cover of Mountain’s Don’t Look Around), Mobile Of Angels is a little on the short side: it would have been nice to hear Plotkin bow out with some more material. Nevertheless, it’s still a fabulous effort -and certainly does not scrimp on quality. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Witch’s Brew
Genre: Hard Rock
Nikki Sixx rocked this very website to the core with his band’s peerless This Is Gonna Hurt – the 2011 RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE YEAR. Needless to say, expectations were sky high in the weeks before Modern Vintage dropped and Sixx:A.M.’s third long player has been on heavy rotation all week.
The problem is it’s an incredibly confusing body of work. Gotta Get It Right must boast the most ironic song title of 2014 because Sixx:A.M. just don’t – at least not where track number two is concerned. Whisper it quietly but this poppy affair is more like The Feeling than the hard rock classics that punctuated This Is Gonna Hurt.
Sure, there’s an undercurrent of 70s-influenced glam rock across Modern Vintage (hence the title) but Relief – and by the third song you’ll be desperately searching for some – recalls a different era when the UK’s goth rock royalty ruled. Think Sisters Of Mercy meets The Mission given a jaunty U2 makeover.
Get Ya Some’s faintly Latin groove works well but Let’s Go – five songs in – is the first tune that actually sounds like Sixx:A.M.. And only just.
Modern Vintage is just weird. And never weirder than when the band cover Drive by The Cars. It’s not what we expected. And not what we wanted. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Sixx, Ahem
Genre: Doom Metal/Sludge Metal/Stoner Metal
In their 21st year and with eight studio albums under their belts it’s about time Dorset’s premier doom mongers gain the recognition and respect their music deserves.
And if the leap from the redoubtable UK indie Rise Above to Spinefarm might smack of selling out it’s not: Time To Die doesn’t eschew Wizard’s core sound or sentiments despite its major label release.
Spaced out opener Incense For The Damned is an unequivocal case in point: at almost 11 minutes it’s hardly the song most likely to usher in a new era of fanciful commercialism.
Jus Oborn’s vocals are typically eerie – doubling up as producer, Wizard’s multi-talented main man must have experienced a feeling of incredible pride as work was finally wrapped up on Time For Die. Electric doesn’t quite do this record justice. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Time To Die Hard
Genre: Black Metal
Ferocious, single-minded, absolutely unrelenting – 1349’s sixth full length sounds like it was forged in hellfire.
The Norwegians, powered by Frost’s inhuman drumming, are in fine form here, blasting their way through eight hyperspeed black metal ragers: tracks like the phenomenal Godslayer, which fuses its violent assault with some surprisingly melodic guitar leads, the vicious, hateful Golem, and the contorting, head-mangling Postmortem all conjure up visions of pure mayhem.
And as well as being a thoroughly enjoyable slice of Nordic BM, Massive Cauldron of Chaos is also a real statement of intent from the quartet. From Ravn’s unholy rasp, to Archaon’s blistering axework, they’ve put their all into this album and it shows. Simply put, when it comes to creating cold-hearted, straight to the point black metal, 1349 have proved that they have few equals.
To use football parlance, this opus is a massive result. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Chaos Reigns
Genre: Black Metal
It may be difficult for English black metallers Winterfylleth to ever top the majesty of The Mercian Sphere, their second opus. 2012’s The Threnody of Triumph came close, as does this new effort. But neither has quite as many ‘hair standing on end’ moments as their 2010 predecessor.
However, The Divination of Antiquity is still a formidable album from one of modern BM’s brightest stars, and a record which even sees the quartet incorporate some lighter touches into their distinctive, wind-swept sound; A Careworn Heart, for instance, veers into ‘post-metal’ territory not dissimilar to French luminaries Alcest.
There’s real depth to this work and you get the impression that a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into its lengthy compositions. There’s variety too. Foundations of Ash will make you dream of charging into battle, broadsword aloft, while Forsaken In Stone drops the tempo and ups the sense of drama.
Yes, you’ll need to take your time with this one, but let The Divination of Antiquity flow over you and the rewards will be great. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Divine
With Nevermore now on hiatus, Sanctuary – the US band vocalist Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard launched their careers with way back in 1985 – are now back with their first album in 25 years. Which is good news for anyone who missed them first time round. And good news too for original members Lenny Rutledge and Dave Budbill, who spent time away from the music industry until Sanctuary reformed in 2010.
But is their comeback any good? For the most part, yes. Dane’s vocal performance is exceptional. Rutledge and fellow axeman Brad Hull’s axework is pristine. And there is plenty of high grade, fists in the air, thrashed-up power metal on offer, such as the excellent The World Is Wired and the raging Frozen – which will be lapped up by anyone with a Testament back patch.
There is, however, a little too much stodge on The Year The Sun Died, with songs like the dull ballad One Final Day (Sworn To Believe) detracting from an otherwise fine effort.
But hey, this is still a welcome return from a group who never got a fair crack of the whip first time round. And that’s worth celebrating. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Solar Power
Nonpoint’s angst-ridden, groove-driven eighth album may either get you partying like it’s 1999 or see you reaching for the stop button: metal has moved on a lot since bands like Nonpoint emerged in the late 90s, and the Florida band are often consigned to the bin marked ‘nu-metal’ by many rock fans.
However, the recent resurrections of bands like Limp Bizkit and Coal Chamber, for better or worse, indicate that there’s life in the nu-dog yet. And to be fair, The Return offers some fine songwriting – Elias Soriano delivers a formidable chorus on Razors, while Take Apart This World employs the light/heavy dynamic very well indeed.
However, F**k’D, is a clichéd embarrassment, and much of The Return, such as Never Cared Before and Know Myself relies on fatty – and ultimately rather dull – riffery.
Is there a point to Nonpoint? Certainly. But this album is unlikely to win them legions of new fans, or a place on metal’s top table. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Blunt
Genre: Black Metal
Now approaching their 20th year at the dark heart of underground US black metal, Krieg have conjured something very special indeed in Transient.
It’s a multi-textured work that takes in crust, post punk and even shoegaze, with the bleak, Killing Joke inspired Winter, with its repetitive drum rolls a la Paul Ferguson, rubbing shoulders with the melodic, (almost) indie rock of Walk With Them Unnoticed.
Home, meanwhile, lays down spoken word passages on top of an ambient soundscape, throwing another curveball into the mix.
Of course, as you’d expect from mainman Imperial and his cohorts, Krieg’s latest offering boasts a rotten, blackened core throughout, which reveals itself most obviously on tracks like Atlas with a Broken Arm and Time, but also infects the punky, raging Circling The Drain too.
Krieg’s anti-formula for black metal surely marks them down as one of the genre’s most inventive and broad minded acts. And Transient shows that there’s no danger of their well of inspiration drying up any time soon. Awesome stuff. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Blitzkrieg
Genre: Doom Metal
Another seminal doom metal album and another memorable record fronted by an exceptionally talented female singer. Just as Witch Mountain (see above) must be mourning the loss of Uta Plotkin, members of Alunah must be praying Sophie Day is here to stay.
The charismatic, eerie, foreboding vocalist is the big draw where this quintessentially British band is concerned. Pitching every note perfectly, Day envelopes the listener in a stifling atmosphere of bleak brilliance.
The title track marries a haunting vocal tone with trad metal lead guitar and scuzzed up riffs spawned to blow the biggest speaker stacks this side of a Spinal Tap arena show.
When doom is delivered with such aural dexterity it offers wild hope rather than instilling a deep fear. And on this evidence Alunah, three albums into an incredibly exciting career, can be the standard bearers for a genre in rude health. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Awakening The Belief
Genre: Progressive Rock
Steve and Neal Morse. Mike Portnoy. Casey McPherson and Dave Larue. The term supergroup is far too easily bandied about in 2014 as musician mates hook up right, left and centre to busy themselves with self-indulgent side projects.
But any gathering involving the aforementioned quintet is worthy of the term. And yet that’s only half the story.
So many star-studded collaborations disappoint: delivering far less than the sum of their parts. Flying Colours aren’t just super on the surface, their super group status is rubber stamped with each and very track on the uplifting Second Nature.
If 12-minute opener Open Up Your Eyes could be an exhausting introduction to the unique skills of the different Colours then it’s delivered in such a way that the time flies by. It’s pure prog heaven but don’t expect the same formula time and time again. Mask Machine is brilliant Bowie-esque power pop with lashings of Muse while Bombs Away is ‘Genesis does the blues’.
This was never going to be an average rock record. The surprise is that Flying Colours integrate so many unexpected twists and turns. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Flying High
Genre: Alt Rock
Billed by Kerrang! Magazine as ‘the most exciting young band in Britain’ it’s clear that Marmozets are doing something right. But if angsty vocals, angular riffs, jarring time signatures and songs about consuming too much booze aren’t your thing then this ‘achingly cool’ quartet aren’t likely to float your boat. As such this adrenaline-fuelled debut is more Marmite than Marmozets.
Love or hate the band – and there’s no in-between – their energy is remarkable. Feisty front woman Beccy Macintyre makes Hayley Williams sound like Nina Simone but can she honestly be called a singer? Sure her screeches, screams and occasional short bursts of something approaching melody make for an intriguing vocal mix but if singing involves holding a tune then Macintyre has some way to go.
Is It Horrible (think Arctic Monkeys on speed) ask Marmozets four songs in to their ‘disaffected youth by numbers’ debut and, yes, for the most part it is. If you’re under the age of 18 it’s horrible in a good way but anyone over 30 might believe ‘horrible’ is too lame an adjective to describe The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets.
Like Def Leppard before them Marmozets can’t spell to save their lives. But at least the Lepps make music. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Marmozzzzz