And some heavy hitters make a play for top spot as Scorpions (pictured) and Europe unveil their latest offerings.
Rising stars Knock Out Kaine and The Toi prove there’s plenty to get excited about as far as homegrown talent is concerned.
We deliver our verdict on Mangled’s latest collection. And we assess Dead End.
Plus we rate and review Bedemon and Johansson And Speckmann.
Every week we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Melodic Rock/Hair Metal
It takes giant sized cojones to take on Europe and the Scorpions in the race to seize RUSHONROCK’s Record of The Week accolade. But this is the best debut by a Scottish band since fellow Glaswegians Gun released the classic Taking On The World 26 years ago.
Time might stand still where The Toi are concerned – Water Into Wine is an explosive album rooted in the mid 80s – but nobody listening to this will care. It’s so uplifting, so smart, so keen and so jam packed with sing-along choruses that The Darkness might as well shelve this summer’s follow up to Hot Cakes (The Toi collaborator and fan Dan Hawkins might be wishing he’d taken a step back from helping to break his new favourite band).
This impressively unfashionable trio have set the benchmark for pop metal in 2015 and – on songs like I’m Still Crying, The One and Down By the River – set it unbelievably high.
Remember when Danger Danger looked capable of taking Bon Jovi’s crown and when Love/Hate had the potential to knock Motley Crue off their perch? The Toi recall those heady days with a collection of modern anthems guaranteed to excite any rock fan schooled on MTV excess. Sensational stuff. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Toi Good Toi Be True?
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Classic Rock
If this really is the Scorpions’ last studio album, then they couldn’t have kicked it off with a more appropriate opener.
Going Out With A Bang launches their 50th anniversary release and it’s well titled. The German rockers really are leaving us on a high.
That is of course, if you really believe this is it for Rudolf Schenker, Klaus Meine and company. Wasn’t previous album Sting In The Tail supposed to be their swangsong?
Since then, they’ve released Comeblack, a bizzare if highly listenable album of covers and re-adapted classics of their own and Unplugged – a double album of an acoustic concert in Athens.
And their farewell tour has gone on and on and on though the UK has frustratingly been off their itinerary so far with only one date pencilled in for these shores this summer.
Return To Forever is a blend of newly written tracks and material they’ve rediscovered from the Blackout and Love At First Sting recording sessions in the early-80s when they were on the verge of conquering the world.
The link between then and now is obvious but the same could be said of Unbreakable, Humanity Hour One and Sting In The Tail after the naff experimentation on Eye To Eye and the dull Pure Instinct.
All the essential Scorpions ingredients are there, rousing rockers, beautiful ballads, incredibly catchy tunes and of course lyrics which raise a chuckle for more than one reason.
And Meine’s unique voice sounds as good today as in the band’s heyday. One more album, chaps? Ian Murtagh
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Trademark Teutonic Class
Genre: Classic Rock
Last week Whitesnake revealed plans to release The Purple Album but the timing couldn’t have been much worse. Europe have beaten DC and co. to the punch.
What every fan of the original 80s hair metal heroes believed to be possible has been achieved on the wonderful War Of Kings as Joey Tempest leads his band towards the promised land in triumphant fashion.
This is Europe’s most 70s-centric record yet and the truest reflection of its respective members’ early tastes and influences. Layer upon layer of luscious Hammond organ jostle for position with John Norum’s bluesy hooks and Tempest’s magnificently mature pipes.
Add a retro-fuelled Dave Cobb production and even the most cynical of Scando pop haters will surely be forced to accept that the glorious transformation of Sweden’s rock chameleons is complete.
The depth and authenticity underpinning the title track, Praise You and Angels (With Broken Hearts) is dazzling but the highlight is Norum’s riff on full-on party anthem Days Of Rock N Roll: demand a refund if this doesn’t get an airing at the band’s latest run of live UK shows. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Kings Of Rock
Genre: Hard Rock/Rock N Roll
No second album syndrome here then. Knock Out Kaine’s upward trajectory continues at pace with the raucous Rise Of The Electric Jester as Lincoln’s finest deliver on the promise of gutsy debut House Of Sins.
There’s no doubt Dean Foxx boasts one of the finest, sleaziest, dirtiest voices in rock and it’s only on the Terrorvision-lite Boxes that he sounds way, way removed from his comfort zone.
Elsewhere, on upbeat opener 16 Grams Of Heart Attack and trademark ballad Because You Were There, the formidable frontman channels his inner Jizzy Pearl to create vivid pictures of the rock n roll lifestyle Knock Out Kaine are so determined to embrace.
Best of British and brilliant live, there’s no doubt this super-cool quartet are still far from the finished article when it comes to honing their studio sound. But Rise Of The Electric Jester proves there’s still plenty of potential in the tank. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Kaine And Able
Genre: Death/Doom Metal
Gloomy Dutch death metallers Dean End have recently reformed, so it’s perhaps a good time for their early work to be resurrected by Vic Records. This compilation covers the band’s demos and Wartime In Eden EP from the early 90s, plus a few live tracks – and is really one for the collectors.
There’s a hint of the embryonic Paradise Lost to much of Dead End’s material, which mixes deathly vocals with slow burning, doomy riffs – though they’re not averse to quickening the pace either. It’s a shame, then, that the act split in 1993, as tracks like Bleeding and Purity show they could have been a powerful proposition at a time when ears where being opened to all things glum, thanks to PL, My Dying Bride and Anathema.
However, there are some fairly amateurship stabs at songwriting here, like the decidedly dodgy Dreamer’s Lament or Tales From The Real Life, and much of Forever Is Not Eternal fails to sparkle. Let’s see what the revamped Dead End bring to the table…Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Walking Dead
Genre: Death Metal
Formed way back in 1989, Mangled were one of the Dutch death metal scene’s original outfits and while remaining relatively low key until their split in 2006, they still managed to conjure up some quality work.
Through Ancient Times is a collection of demos, their debut album and two EPs, plus some (even more) obscure material, including live and pre-production tracks. It’s a mammoth compilation, and credit to Vic Records for getting Mangled back out there.
The band’s quasi- experimental take on DM is intriguing, with tracks like The Emptiness Of Being, featuring keyboards and female singing, while the cut-throat riffing on Goatrider and Eve of Mourning is formidable – even if the vocal delivery supplied by Pepijn Houwen sometimes lets Mangled’s music down.
It’s not an essential purchase by any means, but Through Ancient Times still has much to offer DM fans who like to look beyond the genre’s giants for sustenance. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Past Life
Genre: Doom Metal
An offshoot of doom legends Pentagram and featuring that band’s original members Randy Palmer, Geof O’Keefe and Bobby Lieblin, Bedemon brought tritones and groove to the 1970s US underground. And boy, did they do it well, if this achingly cool collection is anything to go by.
One play of Axe To Grind, with its classy leadwork, or the bluesy Into The Grave and you’ll be heading out across the States on a Harley, bandana tied round your head and some psychedelic substances stashed under your petrol tank… with some hellhounds on your trail too, obviously.
Put simply, anyone with Sabbathian spirit flowing through their veins, anyone who appreciates heavy music with soul, needs to hear Child of Darkness as soon as possible. OK, the recordings aren’t perfect, but hey, who cares when you can nod along to One-Way Road or Frozen Fear like the 80s, 90s and noughties never happened.
A must-have for all doomsters, this record is a history lesson you shouldn’t ignore. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Dark Past
Genre: Death Metal
They might sound like a firm of Scandinavian tax advisers, but Johansson and Speckmann are in fact two death metal veterans intent on flying the flag for old school extremity. Paganizer and Ribspreader’s Rogga Johansson mans both four and six strings, while legendary Master vocalist Paul Speckmann lends his unmistakable, guttural growl to proceedings. On the whole, it works.
There’s nothing game changing here, nor much variety, however when the band – complete with Norwegian drummer Brynjar Helgetun – get into their dastardly groove, they’re a fearsome proposition. A Grave For This World is a real highlight, all pulverizing riffery and double kick drums, and Johansson and Speckmann are certainly at their best when taking a mid-paced route – Within Reach another prime example of their command of this style.
Elsewhere, Mask Of The Treacherous occasionally descends into uninspiring meat and potatoes blasting, but it’s still worth the attention of this duo’s acolytes – and does their collective legacy no harm at all. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Masked Brawl