It’s that time of the week again when we check out the very best in new rock and metal.
There’s a blast of the past courtesy of Whitesnake plus new tunes from Crazy Lixx and the Joe Lynn Turner-fronted Rated X.
We check out the new Frank Turner record and deliver our verdict on Machine Head’s (pictured) latest metal opus.
There’s progressive rock courtesy of Kaipa. Plus we run the rule over United Progressive Fraternity.
There’s new music from Solefald, Job For A Cowboy, Blodhemn and Downfall Of Gaia. And we celebrate the return of King Diamond.
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
Machine Head – Bloodstone And Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
Earlier this year Machine Head embarked on a stripped down club tour of the UK in preparation for what promises to be another exhausting schedule planned around the release of Bloodstone And Diamonds.
The back-to-basics approach hinted at the music to come on this bludgeoning trad metal masterpiece. Think The Blackening’s maturity mashed up with The Burning Red’s brazen ambition and Unto The Locust’s polished production – it’s like the Best Of Machine Head as heard through 12 pummeling new tunes.
Rob Flynn and co. know what it means to be metal’s hottest property and while their star may have waned in the last two years this is an album designed to wrestle back their mantle. And then some.
Now We Die is about as brutal an opening statement as possible. It’s classic Machine Head – furious and foreboding in equal measure. Flynn has created a winning formula without ever sounding predictable: supreme self-confidence sits at the heart of Bloodstone And Diamonds.
Night Of The Long Knives sounds like a festival anthem in waiting and Game Over confirms it’s anything but for this exceptional band. Metal is alive. And kicking. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Diamonds Geezers
BEST OF THE REST
Whitesnake – Live in ’84: Back To The Bone CD/DVD (Frontiers)
Genre: Hard Rock
You’ve got to hand it to David Coverdale. Just when it looked like Whitesnake were running out of steam again the master of reinvention has revisited the vaults, identified a fresh anniversary and even revealed plans for a new album with recent recruit Joel Hoekstra.
Live In ’84 isn’t the first live Whitesnake album and, knowing the Cov, it most certainly won’t be the last. But we’ll stick our necks out here and say it’s the very best.
The main man is in sparkling form as he fuses his blues rock past with what would be Whitesnake’s future as lords of the hair metal landscape. The audio and visual footage from the band’s 1984 Super Rock Japan set is genuinely exciting stuff and serves as a timely reminder that Coverdale and co. were already a very big deal before 1987 sold bucketloads and MTV fell under the Teessider’s spell.
Released as a 30th anniversary celebration of Slide It In – and as a tribute to the late Jon Lord, Cozy Powell and Mel Galley – it’s a magical insight into a pool of creative talents at the peak of their powers.
The bizarre footnote, tucked inside the back of a terrific 20-page booklet, that attempts to apologise for the quality of some of the recordings here surely misses the point – this was 1984 and this was a band living and breathing rock and roll like it was always meant to be. We’ll excuse the odd bum note. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Bone Crunching
Frank Turner – The Third Three Years (Xtra Mile)
Genre: Punk Rock/Folk Rock
It’s only a couple of years since Turner was the talk of the town, selling out Wembly arena, performing at the Olympics and releasing two critically acclaimed albums. Having won over the punk public, he shed his Etonite image, with his wordplay and brutal honesty, giving fans his heart and soul with each performance.
This time around, Turner has returned with an arrogant, slap in the face for his paying customers, with a selection of re-worked, previously ‘unheard’ tracks and an array of ill-fated covers. Building his career on the strength of his lyrics – and his honest, punk messages – even his biggest fan will never claim him to be the world’s greatest singer. With this in mind, you have to ask, in what universe did Turner think it would be a good idea to cover McCartney, Mercury, Petty and Springsteen?!
Turner’s fans are not going to be pleased with this release and it begs this question, how much time is he spending working on Mongel Horde? Was this a label decision to keep fans occupied or was this just a half-hearted idea by Turner himself? Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Taking A Wrong Turn
Solefald – Norrønasongen: Kosmopolis Nord (Indie Recordings)
Genre: Avant Garde
A fascinating and at times bewildering album, Norrønasongen: Kosmopolis Nord, is a typically left-field offering from Norwegian duo Solefald. Folkish vocals and instrumentation sit alongside electronica and rock to create an oddly coherent work, and one which contains beauty, melancholy and drama.
Det Siste Landskap (An Icelandic Odyssey Part Iv), with its combination of spoken word and gentle singing, underscored by a driving beat, really sparkles; Norrønaprogen, meanwhile, starts with a slow, downbeat trudge, accompanied by violins, before dancing a jig around the listener, and then delving into metal as it draws to a close.
Lazare and his fellow songsmith, Cornelius, don’t stick to any rules, and their musical explorations – while requiring patience – are intriguing. A little too off the wall? Perhaps. But Norrønasongen: Kosmopolis Nord, Solefald’s eighth album is a slice of sonic adventurism worth hearing. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Soleful
Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx (Frontiers)
Genre: Hair Metal/Sleaze Rock
Hot on the heels of 2012’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Riot Avenue, the saviours of sleaze-tinged hair metal are back with the best album of their career.
It might have taken 12 years and a few bumps along the road but the Swedes’ remarkable journey from ragged Sunset Strip throwbacks to serious players on the melodic rock scene is complete.
Girls Of The 80s might lean a little too heavily on Steel Panther’s Eyes Of A Panther but crafting a truly original ode to the ultimate decade of decadence is no easy feat 30 years down the line. And it’s a belter.
Opener Hell Raising Women and the hot to trot All Looks, No Hooks confirm this is no progressive metal masterpiece. But if party rock’s your bag then this is an absolute blast from start to finish. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 De-Lixx-ious
Job For A Cowboy – Sun Eater (Metal Blade)
Genre: Death Metal
It seems like a long time ago that Job For A Cowboy were being written off as an over-hyped ‘MySpace band’. 2012’s excellent Demonocracy showed that the Arizona outfit were here to stay… and Sun Eater reinforces their place in modern death metal.
Their technical ability has always been one of their strengths and guitarists Al Glassman and Tony Sannicandro dazzle yet again, infusing their work with more melody than on previous excursions. Bassist Nick Schendzielos, meanwhile, brings to mind DM luminaries such as Steve DiGiorgio and Tony Choy, as his fingers dance across the fretboard.
The quintet are undoubtedly at their best when they strip their convoluted songs down and allow the hooks to sink in – as on the dazzling Buried Monuments and the album’s standout track, Sun of Nihility, which is technical DM at its very best.
Elsewhere, JFAC fall into the trap of being too clever – something which has affected them before: The Synthetic Sea and The Celestial Antidote suffer as a result, with these tracks lacking the focus and groove which could have made them killers.
That’s a minor quibble though, considering the sheer quality present on the band’s fourth album, and anyone who doubted JFAC could live up to early expectations has been proved very wrong indeed. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Solar Flair
Genre: Progressive Rock
Screwed-Upness could well be the worst title this website has ever had the misfortune to come across and it’s one of Sattyg’s many quirks that the song itself is spellbinding. Bizarre yet brilliant, the fusion of a steampunk-style rhythm with some truly stunning lead guitar work makes for 13 minutes of pure progressive madness.
Three songs in and it’s only to be expected. Kaipa kick things off with the monstrous 15-minute epic A Map Of Your Secret World and if you survive that chunk of multi-instrumental magic then negotiating the remainder of Sattyg is a breeze.
This year marks the Swedes’ 40th anniversary (they were previously known as Ura Kaipa) and on this evidence age is no barrier to pushing the progressive rock boundaries. Sattyg is sumptuous stuff. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Kaipa Cheer
Blodhemn – H7 (Indie Recordings)
Genre: Black Metal
If you want straightforward Norwegian black metal, brimming with spite, bile and hatred, you’ve come to the right place.
Blodhemn – solely the work of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Invisus – isn’t going to set the world on fire with H7. What the album does do, though, is remind everyone that played with spirit and passion, black metal is a soul-shattering, primal force. Slettet Av Tid, with its searing tremolo picking and rapid-fire percussive bombardment, is a case in point, as is the opening onslaught of Flammenes Virke.
H7, then, provides much to enjoy, but it’s let down by both the insipid, slow-paced Åndenes Ansikt and Veiten, which is too drawn out for its own good – as if Invisus tried to shoehorn too many ideas into its seven and a half minutes.
Still, this is only Blodhemn’s second full-length… and the promise shown here should bode well for the future. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Drawing Blood
Downfall of Gaia – Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay (Metal Blade)
Genre: Extreme Metal
Initially dealing in raging crust punk, Downfall Of Gaia went into a doomier, heavier direction with their second album, 2012’s Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes.
This follow-up still sees the quartet embrace their love of sludge and post-rock, but it’s a notably more furious affair than its predecessor: opener Darkness Inflames These Sapphire Eyes sets the tone, atmospheric, gentle strumming suddenly giving way to violent blastbeats and punishing, blackened guitarwork, before descending into gloomier, slow-mo territory.
Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay is certainly not for the faint hearted and its lengthy tracks require some patience. However, the band are a unique proposition and thankfully not simply another Isis or Neurosis clone.
Currently scattered across Germany and the US – Downfall of Gaia have forged ahead, and that should be applauded – as should the powerful songwriting behind such potent tracks as To Carry Myself To The Grave.
A fine example of 21st century extremity, this opus should see Downfall of Gaia gain the fanbase they so richly deserve… and tear through a few eardrums along the way. Outstanding. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Ascending The Throne
King Diamond – Dreams of Horror (Metal Blade)
Long time King Diamond fans will need no introduction to songs like Dressed In White and The Family Ghost. However, this compilation – handpicked by the man himself and split, over two discs, between his Roadrunner and Metal Blade material – is still a worthwhile exercise in honouring the Dane’s lengthy career.
Containing 23 tracks, ranging from early classics like Black Horsemen to more recent cuts like the creepy Shapes Of Black, Dreams of Horror represents a swathe of metal history, and makes for a great introduction to King Diamond, should you need one.
And even you’re not a long-time fan, we’d defy anyone not to bang their head and raise the horns to the classic riffs of Sleepless Nights and Welcome Home. It might be seven years since the legendary showman’s last album, Give Me Your Soul…Please, but this collection shows he is still one of metal’s most important figures. Hail the king. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Rock Royalty
Genre: Hard Rock
Is Joe Lynn Turner forever the bridesmaid and never the bride? The naturally gifted blues rock hero has experienced a number of creative highs – Rainbow’s Difficult To Cure, Yngwie J Malmsteen’s Odyssey and Sunstorm’s self-titled debut the pick of an impressive CV spanning the decades.
However, from day one inconsistency has always dogged Turner. Whether it’s restlessness, poor personal choices or a lack of opportunity, the 63-year-old has never truly fulfilled his huge potential.
On You Are The Music, one of Rated X’s better efforts, he delivers a line about ‘mysteries we don’t understand’ and it’s increasingly difficult to fathom where it all went wrong – or at least not so right – for one of rock’s finest frontmen.
Unfortunately this below-par album smacks of one last, desperate hurrah. Even the decision to revive the Blue Murder rhythm section of Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin can’t save this so-called supergroup with guitarist Karl Cochran a virtual passenger. This Is Who I Am sings Turner two songs in. It’s not. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 X Rated
United Progressive Fraternity – Fall In Love With The World (Inside Out)
Genre: Progressive Rock
Risen from the ashes of Unitopia, the marvelously titled United Progressive Fraternity have set the bar ridiculously high with this mind-bending debut.
Whether it’s the orchestral soundscape of opener Overture (We Only Get One World), the jazzy Choices or 21-minute mid-set epic Travelling Man this is an album that’s constantly asking questions and posing the listener serious challenges.
Mark Trueack’s voice might occasionally grate – lacking the bite of a Fish, for instance – but the brains behind UPF has created a mesmeric amalgam of progressive rock, jazz and AOR.
The fact that prog glitterati Jon Anderson and Steve Hackett have lent their names to FILWTW says it all. If only there was just a little less saxophone… SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 United Front