More great rock and metal coming your way this week includes the return of Joe Satriani and The Posies plus a typically heavyweight release from Dimmu Borgir. We review and rate them all plus the latest efforts from Iron Fire, Grave Digger, Stahlmann, Bangalore Choir and Man-Eating Tree!

Joe Satriani – Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards (Sony)

The original guitar hero roars back with yet another tantalising mix of rock n roll, electronica, blues, jazz and soul. There really is no end to this man’s talents and quantity never appears to dilute quality where Satch is concerned.

The big news here is that there’s one dud track. Yes, you read that right. Two Sides To Every Story is jazzy but never snazzy and nothing like the kind of tune you’d expect to emanate from Satch’s fretboard. Thankfully it’s the exception to the rule: in this case that you’re listening to pure electric guitar gold.

The mid section is absolutely magnificent. The Golden Roon, Littleworth Lane and the short but sweet Solitude are up there with anything this musical maestro has conjured up in the past. Far from jaded after his stint with supergroup Chickenfoot, Satch seems to have found yet another new lease of life to show the young pretenders just how it’s done.

This is delightful stuff from a living legend. Catch him live in the UK later this month! SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Joe Cool

Bangalore Choire – Cadence (AOR/Metal Heaven)

After hitting the rock scene in 1992, Bangalore Choir have never really hit the headlines or the mainstream. Their new release is, in fact, only their second album after spending the majority of time since their conception in hiatus.

Their sound is a throwback to 80s hair metal – unfortunately even then it probably would have been lost amongst most of its competitors. That’s not to say this record is a bad one, quite the opposite. But like their first spell in the ‘spotlight’ nothing grabs the attention.

The tracks blur seamlessly and just when you feel you’ve listened to a couple of tunes on a rock journey of discovery, you’re actually nearing the last station.

Guitarists Curt Mitchell and Andy Susemihl  stand out, delivering some phenomenal shredding efforts on most of the album with Tomorrow and Power Trippin particularly outstanding.

David Reece’s gruff vocals gives the sound a little edginess, the nearest comparison would be towards the Ratt direction crossed with a dash of Bon Jovi. The album feels more mature than first attempt On Target but in this case that’s not for the best.

Dig Deep seeks to aim a throwback to their debut and hits the spot before slipping into more and more of the same. The effort the band went through to get back together and release a new album at all is impressive but for three quarters of the album BC seem to play for the safe option. A few tweaks here and there could easily make it third time lucky. AS

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Choir Practice?

The Posies – Blood/Candy (ryko)

Since The Posies reformed in 2001 after a two year hiatus what they brought with them was the exact thing they left – feelgood power pop songs.  Nine years after that reformation they’re back with Blood/Candy.

On the basis of this album they haven’t lost any of the spark that got them to major record label status a in the mid-1990s.  It’s also abundantly clear that they have managed to inspire bands like Cold War Kids to create a power pop sound.

Opener Plastic Paperbacks is piano driven and has the sound that wouldn’t be out of place at any cowboy saloon.  The theme continues with Licences To Hide being a real joy for the ears.  The Posies haven’t lost any of their distinctive pop side and songs like Take Care Of Yourself and The Glitter Prize have all the catchiness needed in pop.

There are few setbacks along the way however as Accidental Architecture is a tedious attempt at what sounds like a rejected song from a Broadway musical.

The album is encapsulated with the excellent Notion 99 which has a sound reminiscent to The Eurythmics.  It’s a strong ending to an album which provides many pop delights and shows that The Posies still do have it. TW

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Candy Floss

Iron Fire – Metalmorphosized (Napalm)

One does grow tired with samey, repetitious and overly-done power and speed metal.  Iron Fire never gained mainstream recognition in the way other powerhouses of the genre have, but that doesn’t mean they can’t shake themselves free from the mire of mediocrity – well at least to some extent.

The album marks Iron Fire’s tenth year as a recording band, with Martin Steene the sole original member left in the band.

Metalmorphosized is not an album that would lead the mutiny so to speak, but it would definitely be there, fighting the cause and handing out propaganda on the street.  It’s not a revolutionary piece, but rather something that ardently reiterates the continuation of an overall scene – speed metal.

Before even mentioning how Drowning In Blood sounds, it can’t really have a more archetypal name. Nevertheless the harmonious and exceptionally catchy chorus is inescapable.

Left For Dead starts with some nice guitar duelling, and falls into an atypical off-beat.  Although the song later gives us our required overdose of hand-beating, head-slinging rambunctiousness, it’s good that there’s a willingness to add these (albeit very small, but important) quirky touches.

Whilst the weighty 10-minute Phantom Symphony provides promising vocals and has a more symphonic sound, it still fails to pull off what Blind Guardian or Gamma Ray can do with epics of that length.

Ultimately Metalmorphosized strays over no dangerous borders and keeps within the confines and chooses to stick within them.  And there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s utilised with convincing skill and likeable charm, which is exactly what Iron Fire have done on this album. CR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Fire In Their Bellies

Grave Digger – The Clans Will Rise Again (Napalm)

For a German band, choosing to write songs about North Britain may seem like an unusual choice of subject matter.  It probably is.  Grave Digger haven’t only ambitiously handpicked their topic, but have also tapped a little further into their power metal potential with this release.

Heavy metal-heads of the 1980s may well remember their classic pioneering sound. But despite being forerunners in an influential movement, present-day Grave Digger show no desire to clasp onto old glory.

The Clans Will Rise Again has renewed them with a more modern sound and removed them from the retro soaked regurgitation that has marred many.

One thing that has been a constant for Grave Digger is the raspy, gruff voice of Chris Boltendahl.  Like some monstrous half-breed of Rob Halford and Eric Adams on a serious dosage of steroids, he pounds through Paid In Blood to prove those vocal chords need no oiling.

Sound the bagpipes in introduction track Days Of Revenge and you might as well be up north in bonny Scotland.  However, more subtle touches of the pipes in Highland Farewell, alongside an incredibly catchy chorus herald the song as an album standout.

On the epic scale, a song like When Rain Turns To Blood proudly stands as the ultimate tune to top off an impressive album.  They may have clocked up a lot of miles, but they’re not simply dragging themselves along.  Grave Digger are built on building – and what better formula is there to have than that? CR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Clanstastic

Stahlmann – Stahlmann (AFM)

Translating as Steel Man in English, these pumped up industrial metallers have a sound very close to fellow countrymen Rammstein.

This perception isn’t merely made because it’s a German man singing in German. Throughout the album there’s a continuation of riffs that resemble the work of Paul Landers, Richard Kruspe and Oliver Riedel.  Milan Fras, of Slovenian band Laibach, are a blatantly dominant influence on lead vocalist Mart, as well as Bavarian folk rockers Schandmaul.

It’s a very punchy album in the respect that, unbelievably, not one song weighs over four minutes.  My Prayer is a welcome ballady break in the record, closer to power metal than energetic industrial, while finishing track Last Curtain is the pick of the bunch.

Self-titled track Stahlmann serves up a menacing heavy sound doused in electronica. However, the track only puts them closer to a Rammstein rip-off than a credible band.  To any Rammstein fan, Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen? immediately springs to mind.  The repetitious shouts of ‘Stahlmann!’ are very similar to the Rammstein debut hit.

Musically there’s no doubt that Stahlmann have some gems but they’re seriously let down by the fact they are trying to take a whole ton of gold from Rammstein’s mine, as opposed to a nugget here and there to build a credible stature. CR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Ramm Raid?

Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra (Nuclear Blast)

If Dimmu aren’t going to be troubling the Radio Two playlisters anytime soon then this right royal romp is about as commercial as Black Metal is every going to get. The purists might turn their back on the genre-defying Norwegians en masse but this is one of those moments when underground could go global.

Gateways is a classic case in point. This might actually interest popular rock radio with its pin sharp production and NWOBHM instinct and it’s just too sparkling to be pure Black. Right through a remarkable body of work the band’s trademark evil is complemented by an emotive choir and full orchestra. And we really mean complemented – Shagrath’s horrible snarls sound so much more effective given the full backing of so many talented musicians.

If you’ve always steered clear of these heavily made-up Scandinavians and their doom laden subject matter this is the record to discover something new, exciting and ethereal. It’s still heavier than your average concrete slab but there’s a subtlety jostling for position with the trademark aural obliteration.

This is an epic effort best enjoyed in one long sitting with the Jagermeister flowing and the volume turned to 11. Even if you’ve never, ever entertained the idea of Dimmu before we defy you to miss the significance of this landmark release. Hell, you might even enjoy it… SR

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Black Bawl

The Man-Eating Tree – Vine (Century Media)

In the absence of a new System Of A Down record anytime soon this weird and wonderful release could easily fill the void so cruelly created by solo-obsessed Serj T and his buddies.

Quite apart from frontman Vesa Ranta frequently sounding like a dead ringer for Mr Tankian, the decision to favour sharp key changes and employ striking anti-rhythms makes this perfect fare for those demanding more for their metal money.

Ex-Sentenced singer Ranta (we love the name -ed) seems to have discovered the perfect platform for his unique talent and tracks like This Longitude Of Sleep stir the emotions and plant the seed of Vine’s obviously addictive quality. Never knowing what’s coming next – and at times this could be Marillion on speed – can be either wildly frustrating or incredibly fulfilling: we’re confident you’ll agree that the latter is true with The Man-Eating Tree.

If we come across a sillier band name all year we’ll happily eat our Lawnmower Deth hat. But, let’s face it, that’s just not going to happen. And while it would be wrong to judge an excellent album on the back of a ridiculous title that’s the biggest fear here. Take our word for it – this is serious stuff wrapped inside a pretty ill-advised package. Ignore the name and feel the music. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Tree-mendous

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Andy Spoors, Calum Robson, Tom Walsh.