And there’s another bumper crop of hot releases with The Poodles, Gov’t Mule and young Brits Bad Touch leading the charge.
We review and rate the latest sounds courtesy of Hardcore Superstar and Stoneghost.
Plus we run the rule over Zodiac (pictured), The Hirsch Effect and Serpentine.
We check out new music from Crom Dubh, Macabre Omen, Ultraviolence and Falconer.
And we deliver our verdict on new albums from Dayseeker and Zebrahead.
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: Hair Metal
With 2013’s self-confident Tour De Force, The Poodles delivered a dogged response to criticism of the below-par Performocracy – and bagged the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK in the process.
Fast forward two years and Scandinavia’s finest are top dogs again with the deliciously overblown Devil In The Details. Fresh from last month’s show-stealing gig at Hard Rock Hell AOR, the super Swedes prove they’re in the form of their lives with the studio album to back up their sparkling live show.
Pumped up opener Before I Die is the ideal ice breaker but it’s on The Greatest that The Poodles show their true colours – crafting a melodic rock anthem par excellence that fuses a fine Jakob Samuel vocal with some spirited axe work from the ever-dependable Henrik Bergqvist.
Everything might trade on some of the corniest lyrics penned since Def Leppard’s late 80s heyday but The Poodles have perfected the art of shameless cliché. It’s what makes this band damn near perfect. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Top Dogs
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Classic Rock
This is not, as the album title so tantalisingly suggests, a Gov’t Mule album recorded under the influence. Just imagine that…
In fact this is the time Warren Haynes, Matt Abts, Jorgen Carlsson and Danny Louis rolled up to the Tower Theater in Philadelphia and delivered a set of Rolling Stones classics on Halloween.
Frightening? Well not really. Scarily effective? That’s more the case as tracks including Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker), Wild Horses and set closer Brown Sugar are given the full Mule treatment.
There’s an energy, passion and instinctive vibe underpinning what is a glorious celebration of live music rather than a lame homage to rock n roll royalty. Wrapping up their 20th anniversary celebrations in style, this is a wonderful blast of enduring retro rock given a classy reboot. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Ass Kicking
Genre: Blues Rock/Stoner Rock
With back-to-back RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 studio albums the Zodiac boys can do no wrong but laying their reputations on the line with a selection of crucial live cuts is a brave move.
And, in all honesty, it’s a move that backfires.
Part of Zodiac’s redoubtable charm is their laid back approach to groove-laden stoner-influenced blues but there’s relaxed and there’s lazy – the Road Tapes smack of a band taking it a touch too easy.
Make no mistake, the near 10-minute version of Rock Bottom Blues offers a riveting insight into what these boys can really do but it’s a rare example of things coming together on a record that’s looser than Ozzy Osbourne’s morals.
Zodiac are a great live band. Unfortunately the tale of the Tapes suggests otherwise. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Rocky Road
Genre: Melodic Rock
Adam Payne’s debut with hotly tipped Welshmen Serpentine is a mixed affair. Founder member Gareth David Noon’s admission that Circle Of Knives would fuse a harder rock sound with more familiar AOR moments rings true but after the critical acclaim heaped upon 2011’s Living And Dying In High Definition it’s difficult to fathom why the band would choose to change direction.
Perhaps Payne is more comfortable rocking out or maybe Noon simply felt he was going too soft in his old age. Whatever the thinking behind Circle Of Knives’ ballsier moments, it does Serpentine no favours.
For long-time fans this patchy record doesn’t kick in until The Hardest Fall – four songs in and this is finally a tune to match soaring expectations. Next up is the equally compelling Bleed – featuring some supreme guitar work – and the record’s affecting mid-section is where the real action’s at.
But Circle Of Knives is bookended by material that does nothing to bolster the reputation of a band that once promised so much. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Knives Are Out
Genre: Classic Rock/Blues Rock
On No Excuse, lead singer Stevie sings ‘That’s the day that the blues found me’ and thank the lord that it did. Had the blues walked idly by and left some other musical genre to discover Bad Touch’s throaty frontman it’s likely this splendid debut would never have seen the light of day.
Two years after the wide-eyed hopefuls caused quite a stir opening up for The Quireboys it’s time to gauge whether raw potential has morphed into proven class.
Two songs in and there’s little doubt Bad Touch have nailed it. By the time the brilliant, blues-soaked Preacher takes centre stage – featuring a fabulous blast of retro harmonica – the dye is cast and those record labels that passed up the chance to pick up one of the best live bands in Britain must be kicking themselves at an opportunity missed.
Something Someone could have been culled from a Blackberry Smoke record and No Excuse screams classic Free. These boys know their music and their music knows no bounds. Exciting times. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Touch Of Class
Genre: Sleaze Rock
It’s typical Hardcore Superstar to kick off with a track called Don’t Mean Shit. These happy-go-lucky Swedish sleazesters might act like they don’t care but HSS isn’t this sexy by accident: it’s every bit as attractive as predecessor C’Mon Take On Me and features a healthy quotient of killer cuts.
Party Til I’m Gone is a bone-headed anthem par excellence and Off With Their Heads is even sillier than the title suggests. Hardcore Superstar weren’t put on this earth to grab Grammys by the fistful and form the basis of a university module on popular music culture – their sole mission is to put smiles on the faces of merry punters. And their expertise in this field is unequalled.
Wrapping up with Messed Up For Sure it’s safe to say there won’t be a better blast of 80s-inspired, testosterone-fuelled party rock all year. Superstars indeed. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 HSSterical
Genre: Hardcore/Chamber Music/Death Metal/Jazz/Electronica/Pop
This must be what an acid trip sounds like.
German experimentalists The Hirsch Effekt don’t recognise boundaries. And they don’t lack ambition. And Holon: Agnosie is a tough listen.
Imagine landing in a foreign territory where little makes sense and a cacophony of unsettling sounds batters the senses and inspires fear.
That’s the effect (or should that be Effekt) of bizarre compositions Simurgh, Bezoar and Fixum. Welding the darkest black metal with elements of jazz, hardcore and electronica shouldn’t work…and it doesn’t.
It’s difficult to ascertain who this record is aimed at. Not us, for sure. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 In-Effekt-ive
Genre: Folk/Power Metal
Hot on the heels of last year’s Black Moon Rising is this re-issue of Falconer’s 2001 debut, an album which saw the Swedes realise their medieval-inspired musical vision. Remastered by Andy LaRocque, it sounds fresh and energised, and tracks like Heresy in Disguise really come to the fore.
OK, so Falconer are a tad cheesy, but they’ve built up a decent following by sticking to their trad metal-meets-folk guns over the last 16 years and their first album boasts plenty of fine moments, the heroic Wings of Serenity being just one of them
However, what should really please long time Falconer fans is the second disc, which boasts glistening acoustic versions of Winds…, Royal Galley and Mindtraveller, plus a swathe of demo material that gives this package some extra crunch.
A great introduction to the band for the uninitiated and a worthwhile purchase for devotees, this ‘Ultimate Edition’ is worthy of the name. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Soaring High
Genre: Thrash metal
Northern Italy isn’t exactly a thrash metal hotbed, but you might think Turin could be the next Bay Area after listening to Deflect The Flow. Ultraviolence come out kicking and screaming on Burning Through The Scars and the young quartet keep up the energy levels throughout their second album, ripping through the likes of the Suicidal Tendencies meets Megadeth rager Why So Serious and the quickfire Lost In Decay likes there’s no tomorrow.
Ok, if you own a few Death Angel, Testament and Exodus oldies, you won’t find much to match those 80s classics here. However, there’s a feeling of exuberance on this record – and a whole hearted devotion to thrash – which sweeps you along with it. Plus, the four piece know how to a play a little too – which helps when you’re trying to emulate guitarists such as Gary Holt and Alex Skolnick.
Not a game changer then, but at least Deflect The Flow gives thrash metal’s new breed a run for their money. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Putting the boot in
Genre: Black Metal
Originally formed in Rhodes but now operating from London, Macabre Omen haven’t exactly been prolific since their inception in 1994. This is only their second album in 21 years – and it’s taken mainman Alexandros a decade to follow up their debut. So has it been worth the wait? Absolutely.
The founding guitarist/vocalist/bassist, joined by T.J.F. Vallely on drums, has created something pretty special here, a titanic collection of pagan BM that strikes exactly the right balance between epic songwriting and straight up, extreme metal violence. What’s more, with every listen, tracks like the moving From Son To Father (written after the passing of Alexandros’ father) and the Bathory-inspired I See, the Sea, reveal more depth, more feeling: Macabre Omen have taken their time over this opus and it shows.
Ok, so the production could have been better, the vocals stronger… but Gods Of War – At War is nevertheless a mighty black metal album – and an original one at that. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 War Cry
Genre: Black Metal
Windswept black metal, with subtle post rock and folk influences, is all the rage these days… at least in the UK. And joining the throng of quality acts – Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone, Fen et al – is London-based quartet Crum Dubh, who infuse their aggressive BM with Celtic melodies and a keen sense of drama, a la Irish legends Primordial.
The result is an assured, deeply emotional debut album, an opus that further strengthens the British extreme metal scene and one which should see Crom Dubh (named after an Irish harvest god) join their brethren in making inroads full length.
There are many highlights: Kings II sounds like an ancient Irish battle hymn; The Invulnerable Tide brings to mind Ukrainian BM heroes Drudkh; Cutting Teeth II melds furious tremolo picking with masterful temp changes; and the title track segues effortlessly from blastbeat extremity into one of the most stirring, uplifting moments on the album.
In short, Crom Dubh have set the bar high with Heimweh – let’s hope they now get the fanbase they so richly deserve. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Divine
Genre: Metalcore/Post Hardcore
Heavy and soft. Clean and dirty. Joy and anger. The pain of having loved and lost. Dayseeker’s Origin could be every teenager’s guide on how to survive a period of life in which nothing makes sense and all you have to help you through is a few song lyrics and the Internet.
The follow-up to their debut album What It Means To Be Defeated, Origin feels like an extremely personal album and deals with a lot of lead singer Rory Rodriguez’s experiences in life.
Other topics such as religion are covered in A God Without A Face while in Never See The Sun Rise deals with the death of a child – which ends the album on such a poignant and emotional note that repeated listens may be too much to bare for those with a soft heart. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Original
Genre: Pop Punk
This is the band that helped to spark the punk pop revolution: bands like Zebrahead, Yellowcard and Bowling For Soup laid the foundations for All Time Low and You Me At Six.
Indeed some of the songs here could have been taken from a collaboration album with Bowling for Soup, Yellowcard and Zebrahead. Playmate of the Year could have been High School Never Ends’ raunchy cousin, while there are hints of Ocean Avenue throughout the album.
This is a record that will delight old fans of the band and pull in new converts. It should, of course, do exactly that as a compilation of all of Zebrahead’s finest songs – plus a new tune Devil On My Shoulder, which is so good it sounds like it belongs in what is effectively a ‘Best Of’ album.
The Early Years – Revisited includes a little bit of everything that made the Orange County Rockers so famous, and what continues to make them a great band in 2015. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Head Boys
Londoners Stoneghost almost never were. Several years spent toiling at the coalface of metal had failed to reap rewards – leaving frontman, founder and father-to-be Jason Smith on the verge of throwing in the towel.
Fortunately for those who appreciate their music heavy, passionate and with a healthy nod to old school thrash, New Age Of Old Ways was finally deemed furious enough to warrant a release via Mascot and suddenly the band’s infectious, groove-laden noise is causing quite a stir.
The Pantera-esque Second To Breathe is the perfect place to start: imagine Audioslave channelling their inner Slayer – it’s seven minutes of molten, monstrous metal that demands attention.
The decision to wrap things up with the demo version of Mother Of All Bastards is the right one – Stoneghost are the real deal and this manic set closer whips up a storm. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Stone Cold Classic