We’ve jumped on the Lynyrd Skynyrd bandwagon just a little bit late but we’ve finally reviewed and rated the Southern Rock stars’ latest live album.

Elswehere we check out the new releases by Winterfylleth, Limbonic Art and new kids on the block Dirty Sweet.

Plus we revisit one of 2009’s finest releases as Therapy?‘s Crooked Timber gets the deluxe treatment.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Live From Freedom Hall (Roadrunner/Loud&Proud)

Now it’s not good form to start a review of a stunning record on a negative note but there’s something we have to get out of our system right away. If Gimme Back My Bullets isn’t one of Skynyrd’s finest moments then we’re Michael Jackson’s biggest fan so why that definitive track warrants no more than 131 seconds on this live album is anyone’s guess.

Then again that’s where the criticism starts and finishes as far as Live From Freedom Hall is concerned because this is a brilliant example of a band – albeit a much changed act – best heard in front of a packed house blasting out a hit-laden back catalogue.

By trimming …Bullets it may well be that Skynyrd were able to guarantee more than 12 minutes of set closer Freebird and a solid seven-and-half minutes of the mesmerising Simple Man. Two cast iron classics, they ooze emotion and quality in equal measure and in both cases there’s never any danger of the songs dragging on.

Live albums are, by their very nature, hit and miss affairs. But a sympathetic production, mixing noisy adulation with on-stage class, puts the listener right in the heart of the heady Southern Rock action. A must for any Skynyrd fan and well worth a punt for any other fan of live music. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Live Force

Therapy? – Crooked Timber Deluxe Gold Edition (DR2 Records)

This riotous return to the band’s early 90s form was rightly hailed one of rushonrock‘s albums of the year in 2009 but does this hasty update really cut the reissue mustard. Yes. And no.

It’s difficult to deny there’s something glossily appealing about the cartoon artwork mounted on a shiny gold case but this was never going to be a case of style over substance. With tracks as powerful as Clowns Galore, Exiles and the pounding title track there’s enough to satisfy the most demanding post-punks, metal heads and alt rockers.

Therapy?’s genre-defying status means the three-piece have always been perfectly placed to dabble in remixes and alternative versions and that’s what sets the Crooked Timber Gold Edition apart from its predecessor. Take the Bong-Ra Gutteral Exodus Mix of Exiles – some might say this is pure self-indulgence but those in the know will appreciate Andy Cairns and co. enjoying the opportunity to push the boundaries yet further.

If you don’t own Crooked Timber then you’ve done well to bide your time because this is the version you want. And if you did take the plunge in 2009 download the extra tracks and digest at your leisure. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Therap-utic

Limbonic Art – Phantasmagoria (Candlight Records)

The opening track to this intense and diverse slice of challenging Norwegian black metal is like listening to the Sex Pistols on speed. Whether they mean it or not the lads from Limbonic Art play thrashy rock with a punked up attitude and all of that makes for one of the most immersive listening experiences of the year.

Clearly unafraid of stretching themselves to the limits of a relatively restrictive genre, the Scandinavians never sound better than when chanting with disturbing vigour on the magnificently titled Crypt Of Bereavement.

But they sound almost as good building a relentless and highly charged atmosphere on Dark Winds – employing what sounds like a battered old church organ to ramp up the Hammer Horror-style sense of foreboding.

Phantasmagoria will be too extreme for the average rock fan’s tastes but it demonstrates that Black Metal boasts much more than meets the eye. If you fancy dipping your toes into some of rock’s murkier waters then this is the place to start.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Art Of Noise

Winterfylleth – The Mercian Sphere (Candlelight Records)

I’m walking through a forest.  There are subtle whispers in amidst the lingering fog.  A twinkle of sunlight struggles its way through the stretching branches of the tall bare oaks.  A rabbit darts into view, its eyes glint and flicker and in a pang of fear it bolts to its burrow.

If you want to go there, plug your earphones in, sit back and listen to this second album from British band Winterfylleth.

The Mercian Sphere may be packed with the kind of energy you would expect from a black metal album, but that’s not simply it.  Winterfylleth have successfully demonstrated that they can mingle some beautiful ambient and acoustic sounds into their music without it feeling out of place at all.  The transitions that take place are stunning.

Not being afraid of trying a lovely folk melody, Children Of The Stones has a Nick Drake feel to it, and is performed just as well as the heavier songs on the record.

Winterfylleth gambled when they put two songs over 10 minutes at the core of the album.  Nevertheless, it has paid off.  Both songs reaffirm that they have the talent to transcend into differing atmospheres, making you feel as if you’re a part of a long medieval journey.

The mixing of the album reminds me of the way Finnish band Moonsorrow have recorded in the past.  The vocal shouting isn’t completely at the forefront of the mixing, which allows the instruments to take prevalence (without drowning out the vocals) and generate a powerful balance.

Defending The Realm is a great example of how Winterfylleth can transcend from harsh bombarding screams to anthem-like, epic vocal harmonising.  The result is a polished finish to a fantastic album. CR

rushonrock rated: 9/10

Dirty Sweet – American Spiritual (Acetate Records)

US upstarts Dirty Sweet can’t seem to decide whether it’s best to hang on to the coat tails of Oasis and pursue an indie rock ideal or craft some kind of classic rock legacy leaning heavily on the Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones.

Perhaps the reaction to this generally patchy but occasionally catchy album will push them in one direction or another. Right Dirty Sweet’s familiar brand of lazy, hazy guitar scuzz will find favour with NME and Classic Rock Magazine readers alike but feting both camps is an ill-conceived long-term strategy.

When it comes to the crunch fans want their bands to fall on one side of the fence or the other and, thought it pains us to say so, this sounds more like an indie classic than a classic rock statement with every fresh listen. Opener Rest Sniper. Rest is a reasonably jaunty effort and Star Spangled Banner could give Lynyrd Skynyrd a run for their money but if you’re looking for consistency there is none.

Over the years we’ve always admired bands which refuse to be shackled by lazy genres but we also have enormous respect for the acts which accept their destiny and retain a focus. Dirty Sweet fall into the former category for now but a move towards the latter should be made sooner, rather than later. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Bitter Sweet

This week’s Rock Solid team: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson.