Porcupine Tree (pictured) head the list of no fewer than nine bands vying for your hard earned cash this week as rushonrock goes into reviews overdrive.
Check out our verdicts on deluxe Venom and deluxe Million Dead, new metal in the shape of Cinders Fall and Last Stop China Town, reborn rock from INME, remodelled rock by Juliette Lewis (now minus her Licks) psychedelic weirdness from Stardeath And White Dwarfs and a fabulous new record by Frank Turner. Take a deep breath…
Porcupine Tree – The Incident (Roadrunner Records)
There is a reason these prog-metal masters have made 10 records, been nominated for a Grammy and stand alone as the band of choice for so many fellow musicians. Porcupine Tree’s expansive sound is on a plane all of its own and while huge commercial success will always elude them, critical acclaim is theirs for the taking.
Dividing this release into two CDs is typical. Refusing to be constrained by anything as trivial as a single disc, songwriter Steven Wilson devotes the first CD to The Incident – one story divided into 14 chapters – and the second to four radio friendly rockers (if PT do such a thing).
As always the result is a brain-frying assault on the senses and this is one album which requires hours of devotion rather than a couple of plays. Try Octane Twisted for a flavour of The Incident but closing track Remember Me Lover is the best thing about a brilliant record.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Tree-Mendous
Venom – Black Metal Deluxe Edition (Universal/Sanctuary)
If history has defined Venom as thrash-mongering doom merchants there’s so much more to these Geordie trailblazers than devil worship and dodgy solos. Refresh your memory with this monster package and you’ll discover a band driven by melody, mischief and mystery.
The remastered record is nothing new to fans who own the version released last year. Even so the songs sound crisp, focused and strangely fresh with Teacher’s Pet a raucous expression of teenage tomfoolery in amongst some frankly disturbing subject matter.
Of course the real treat on this deluxe edition is the Seven Dates Of Hell DVD featuring the band’s brushed-up appearance at Hammersmith Odeon in 1984. This proves that Venom could really play – and that they really meant it.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Backing Black
Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed (Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records)
Folk punk is not a genre we ever thought would tickle our fancy but the outstanding Frank Turner has changed all that. Fusing his rock roots with an ear for the haunting acoustic hook, the singer songwriter has completed a comfortable transformation from hardcore screamer to social commentator and only serious commercial success now eludes him.
Of course Turner would feel his credibility was compromised if he went from busking on street corners to playing packed arenas but those days can’t be too far off. Where the thumping title track would impress any metal crowd, the instantly attractive Isabel would have Radio Two listeners politely requesting more.
We had very high hopes for this record. Frank goodness we weren’t disappointed.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Turner’s Prize
Cinders Fall – The Reckoning (Transcend Records)
Think of your worst hangover, add a hammer to the head and complete the cranium-pounding experience with a flock of seagulls screaming in your ear and you come close to this unrelenting CD from UK upstarts Cinders Fall.
Opener Dead Zone, from this high-tempo five-track EP, says it all. A quintet of killer tracks, capable of bringing sombies back to life, features brilliant guitar work, a slick rhythm section and, well, some disappointingly weak vocals. Not weak in the quiet and reserved sense but weak in the sense that they lack consistency and focus. Even screaming and shouting is an art. Honest.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Rise And Fall
INME – Herald Moth (Graphite Records)
Once in a while a band records its career-defining record and those who believed INME did just that with 2007’s Daydream Anonymous are wrong. This is a giant leap forward from that impressive album and gets rid of any lasting impression that Dave McPherson and his band are still clinging to the ’emo kids’ image which first brought them to the attention of rock fans everywhere.
Never afraid to fuse classic rock hooks with nu-metal power this is the perfect soundtrack to 2009. If McPherson’s endearingly British vocal style doesn’t always sit comfortably with his band’s newly Americanised (in a good way) sound then it ultimately works. Add his passionate refrain to some truly outstanding fret work from new recruit Ben Konstantinovic and you have one of the rock releases of the year.
Some of the solos belong on the very best 80s hair metal classics while the often dark subject matter and angst-ridden delivery is lifted from the decades before and after. Sensational songs like Single Of The Weak and All Terrain Vehicle (and there are many, many more) are evidence that British rock really is enjoying a golden era.
If you had doubts about INME in the past it really is time to revise that opinion. And fast.
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Herald’s Success
Million Dead – A Song To Ruin Deluxe Edition (Xtra Mile Recordings)
It is difficult to pinpoint a more epic metal core classic than Million Dead’s The Rise And Fall. And if you don’t already own it then the near-15 minute celebration of a band at their creative peak is worth buying this deluxe edition for alone.
The almost psychedelic feel of the song’s long drawn out conclusion had fans clamouring for more as the closing tune on the album’s original release. Six years later and there are five more titles added to an already impressive track list with Frank Turner on fire throughout.
Those who have only chanced upon Turner (reviewed earlier) in the years following his impressive transformation into a folk punk troubadour may baulk at some of the singer’s wilder moments on ASTR. But then, as now, he means what he says and says what he means. Awesome stuff.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Dead But Not Forgotten
Stardeath and White Dwarfs (Warner Bros.)
The plural of dwarf may be dwarves but it would be a crying shame if this US band’s failure to fully grasp the English language resulted in a bad review. We’ve all made mistakes but thankfully this lot get everything else spot on.
There’s a reassuringly old school feel to the psychedelic, prog-influenced stoner rock delivered in spades by Dennis Coyne and his creatively adept cohorts. The Sea Is On Fire appears to set the scene for a fuzz-heavy record but no two songs are even remotely the same on an album which asks so many questions of the listener.
Stick with it and you might just learn to love what could be the cult classic of the year. Silly name, no regard for the plural and frankly disturbing artwork. But other than that this is energising stuff.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Stars In Their Eyes
Juliette Lewis – Terra Incognita (Roadrunner Records)
First INME, now Juliette Lewis. Reinvention is in the air and if you’d only just begun to warm to the garage rock style of Ms Lewis and her (now ditched) Licks then this album will come as a rather rude awakening.
Rambling or ambitious depending upon your point of view there are more twists and turns to this remarkable effort than an Amalfi Coast tourist route. The hands-down winner within a field of 12 tracks vying for top dog is the rootsy, bluesy Hard Lovin’ Woman but try finding its like elsewhere on Terra Incognita (unknown territory) and you’ll be sorely disappointed.
And that’s a shame because movie star turned rock vamp Lewis has the haunting pipes perfectly suited to delivering downbeat classics. Fair play to the leading lady for making yet another brave career move but we fear producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has removed too much of Lewis’s feisty snarl in favour of his own mellow, meandering Mars Volta blueprint.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Terra-fying
Last Stop China Town – Into The Volcano (Fool’s Paradise)
There’s a lot to like about Last Stop China Town – namely their Maiden-esque delivery, Priest-style panache and Saxon-laden subject matter. In fact as a study of the influence of the NWOBHM 30 years after it blew UK rock apart there are few finer examples in record stores right now.
From the punding bass line which underpins opener Mechanical Sunrise to The End Of Days – bizzarely sounding like it features a guest vocal from Justin Hawkins – there is clearly a determination to make this a metal album for the masses. And it works.
Whether fans of the NWOBHM and 2009’s new wave of traditional metal alike will find the whole thing a touch too formulaic is open to debate. But this could yet become one of rushonrock‘s favourite metal releases in many a year.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Metal Eruption