Michael Monroe (pictured, centre) returns to the fray this week with a live taster ahead of next year’s studio album – we review and rate the former Hanoi Rocks frontman’s latest. Plus we check out band mate Ginger as The Wildhearts‘ reissues are rolled out and while we’re on the subject of reissues there’s a couple of Black Sabbath albums to check out. And we rate Deathstars, Ill Nino, Monster Magnet, White Widdow, Alexisonfire and more!!

Cradle Of Filth – Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa ()

They’re constantly dubbed as one of the most controversial bands around and have perpetually divided people with their weird wonderland of twisted gothic fairy-tale and lavish theatrics.  It’s safe to say Cradle of Filth will forever be a marmite band.

Last release Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder illustrated exactly that, with extremely mixed reviews for an extreme band.  So now you’re wondering where I stand?

Cradle of Filth have to be taken exactly for what they are.  I know you might now be saying ‘come down from that fence you coward’!  But it’s true.  Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa doesn’t cover up their history of cheesiness, or their heavy orchestration and nor does it embrace a pure black metal sound, which has been a constant source of debate in fan circles.

There’s still a great deal of symphonic influence as per, and Dani Filth’s voice can still force out the squealing of an old-school kettle over-boiling, but on single release Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned) we hear Filth sing quite melodically.  Yes, you heard right.  It may be as commercial as you’ll hear the Suffolk band, with some female vocal parts and irresistibly captivating guitar riffs from Paul Allender.

Even for those who long for the old Dusk And Her Embrace or Damnation of A Day, some of Allender’s work is noteworthy, with more marks of genius on the outstanding The Spawn Of Love And War.

The mark underneath these words isn’t reflective of any fence sitting but rather, I feel, representative of a relatively strong release that doesn’t have the potency of some of their older material.  And so begins another debate, old COF vs new COF. I’ll leave that one for another day. CR

rushonrock rated: 7/10

Deathstars – Night Electric Night Anniversary Edition (Nuclear Blast)

Re-releasing their previous album alongside a second disc of remixes and old demos, Deathstars celebrate their tenth anniversary with this record.  Night Electric Night surfaced as their third album effort at the end of last year to much critical acclaim.

Whilst personally I prefer second album Termination Bliss, the concept of Night Electric Night (as the title suggests) continues Deathstars’ dark themes, but instead focuses on the band’s treatment in dealing with grief and bleakness – by channelling it into a destructive party lifestyle.

Paying a direct homage to their fans, Deathstars allowed three of their tracks to be remixed by three lucky fans.  The Last Ammunition is turned into a dance, electronica tune, and while it’s imperative to realise that most remixes aren’t going to excel the original songs, this remix doesn’t really give us an interesting take on it, feeling lacklustre and empty.

Also, remixes from The Kovenant, Sybreed and Dope Stars Inc are present on the album, but most don’t reinvent songs in a new light.  The rare joy of the bunch is hearing bass player Skinny Disco remix The Fuel Ignites with his new banjo, showcasing some serene picking alongside some subtle touches of pedal steel guitar. The Nightfuture of Century remix of Opium also stands with it as a track to savour in amongst a mammoth list of bland remixes.

The glitter spread ‘deathglam’ that encompassed the third album divided many fans. If you’re still yet to give it a chance, it’s probably best to buy the album without the second disc. CR


Michael Monroe – Another Night In The Sun: Live In Helsinki (Spinefarm)

Filling the void between Monroe’s Hanoi Rocks swansong and his new band’s forthcoming debut album this surprise hit proves to be much more than a lame stopgap. Live records like this don’t come around too often but once glance at the cast list and it’s clear why this rough and ready blast of a set really, really works.

Monroe has never sounded better and the decision to bring along for the ride Steve Conte, Ginger Wildheart, Sami Yaffa and the superbly-named Karl Rockfist was inspired. At a time when supergroups are truly super the new Michael Monroe band is an absolute belter – the decision to play under his name draws you in and once you’re there the rest of the guys rip your ears to shreds. In the best possible way.

If 2011’s studio album is an extension of this raucous affair then hold on to your hats – it’s going to be one hell of a rock n roll ride. Only last week Ginger revealed he’d added some of his pop rock gold dust to a number of new tunes and expectations are suitably high.

For now we have 15 tracks underpinned by furious energy – a mix of Monroe classics, a few covers and a snapshot of the the upcoming material. Dysfunctional is delivered with demonic focus and I Wanna Be Loved has never sounded so cool – or so apt. If Monroe really wants to retain the affection of the rock faithful he’s played a blinder by pulling together the best line-up he’s ever had the privilege of leading.

Hear this and you’ll be desperate to catch the band live with Motorhead next month. We know we are! SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Mon More For The Road

White Widdow – White Widdow (AOR Heaven)

Aussies aren’t shy. Fact. And there’s no holding back on what must be one of the most confident debuts of all time as the wonderful White Widdow roll back the years to bring 80s hair metal bang up to date.

Vocalist Jules Millis might hail from Melbourne but with a voice like this he wouldn’t be out of place treading the boards on the Sunset Strip – and he’s got the tunes to take him there. Mixing slick Survivor-esque rockers with the odd weepy ballad, WW whip all fans of classic AOR into a spandex-clad frenzy and the sooner they set foot in the towns and cities of the UK the better.

Tracks like Tokyo Rain and Fire & Ice recount a golden age of MTV-friendly pop metal while the fabulous Broken Hearts Won’t Last Forever will have heavily made-up groupies falling at the band’s feet.

The Widdow won’t win any prizes for originality but if the gongs are being dished out for pure retro cool then this lot will clean up at the back end of 2010. If fellow Aussies Airbourne can forge a career from aping AC/DC then there’s no reason Millis and his mates can’t do the same working from the blueprint of 80s rock. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 White Hot

Ross The Boss – Hailstorm (AFM)

Missing Manowar? Let Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman and his band of the same name ease the pain on this simple yet glorious slab of hard as f**k rock. The follow-up to 2008’s New Metal Leader debut proves there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet and in vocalist Patrick Fuchs the super charged shredder has found the perfect foil for his punishing riffs.

Think Ozzy-meets-WASP-meets-Maiden-meets-AC/DC (that’s a big meeting – ed) and you get a flavour of this full-on assault on the senses. The brilliant Burn Alive could be hewn straight from Black Ice and yet RTB aren’t afraid to revisit their epic metal roots on tracks like the Maiden-esque Behold The Kingdom.

Fuchs boasts the range and the vigour to lift this album to unexpected heights and his unrelenting effort frequently threatens to overshadow the main man. But this is a true team effort with variety clearly the spice of life-affirming metal.

Title track Hailstorm might try to pack too many styles into one sub-four minute blast but elsewhere RTB get things absolutely right. This could easily fall under the radar in the UK – it’s your mission to make sure that’s not the case. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Boss Sounds

Alexisonfire – Dog’s Blood EP (Roadrunner)

Welcome to a little (trick or) treat in the shape of a four-track Hallowe’en EP from everyone’s favourite post-hardcore crew.

And if you’re up for some really scary shit (rather than dunking apples or dressing up as witches) then this might just hit the mark.

Released today as a spooky special, the short and definitely not sweet quartet of tunes kick off with the title track. Featuring the classic line ‘In dogs’ blood we will all drown’ it’s a rather downbeat and gloomy affair which features suitably frightening growls and some gruesome chord changes. But at six minutes it aims high as the Hallowe’en anthem of choice for 2010.

Follow-up Grey relies on a chugging bass line and some rather nifty – and almost proggy/melodic – guitar work and the general theme of scaring the shit out of all-comers is impressively reinforced.

We’d like to say the mood lightens with Black As Jet and Vex. But, as the far-from-jolly titles suggest, we’d be lying. Listen with the lights out and you’re quite likely to piss yourself (laughing, maybe). SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Fire’s Cracker

Katra – Out Of The Ashes (Napalm)

They dabbled in Eurovision back in 2007, gained a great deal of attention in their homeland following their performance and ultimately landed a record deal.  Now, Finland’s Katra release their third album, although this one can be considered their first as a complete band.

Katra Solopuro founded the project when she organised a group of session musicians to back her talented vocals.  Out Of The Ashes isn’t anything wildly innovative or experimental, but is still a solid listen and definitely for fans of other female fronted gothic and symphonic metal acts.

Delirium is a satisfying album opener, but is immediately bettered with single hit One Wish Away.  By the standards of other forerunners in the genre, this song is up there with the best of them.  The clean instrumental production can be admired, giving a texture of quilted melodic guitar work, supported by symphonic keys and brought to life with Solopuro’s voice.

If you’re a fan of a lulling ballad you won’t be disappointed either, with Envy giving a fine guitar mix of both acoustic and distorted styles, complimenting the consistent and icy clear vocals of Katra herself.  Classically trained, Solopuro isn’t as operatic as fellow Finn Tarja Turunen, and whilst she doesn’t have a particularly defining feature to separate her voice from the crowd, nothing can be taken away from what is essentially a soft yet powerful set of pipes.

It may not be the most ambitious effort of the year, but one thing that can be established is that Katra don’t do really do anything wrong on this album. CR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Kat’s Cream

Fejd – Eifur (Napalm)

Brothers Patrik and Niklas Rimmerfors have a history playing folk music, so when they got together with three other familiar musician friends from Swedish metal band Pathos, the result was Fejd.

As you would expect, folk structures dominate and instruments vary from bagpipes to jew’s harp – apparently one of the world’s oldest instruments.  But that’s all fitting for Fejd, who describe themselves as Medieval folk rock, and resemble fellow genre sharers Schandmaul.

The eclectic mix of weird and wonderful instruments is welcome most of the time. Eifur shows careful usage of them, avoiding the common problem of many other advocates of folk tinged metal or rock who use their folk instruments as gimmicks.

The low voice of Patrik Rimmerfors is met with vocals from his brother, together generating some hearty harmonisations.  Opening with Drangen Och Krakan gives Eifur a relatively strong start, before the deep bass line of Fargot musters a mystical atmosphere and we get to hear that jew’s harp adding to it all.

One shame about the album is the recording quality, and although it isn’t drastically bad, there’s no doubt it could have been improved.  Whether it was done for some rustic quality is unsure, but it wouldn’t seem so.

Yggdrasil is an album favourite, offering a bouncing, foot-tapping structure, laden with some intricate bouzouki picking, sat beside synth-keyboard.  We hear yet more beautiful instrumentations, finishing the album with some beautiful pipes and strings on Trollfard.

Don’t expect the weight of Turisas, Finntroll or King Of Asgard from Fejd: they have their own sound which isn’t so much tamed, but rather fluently controlled to fully express the folk roots of the Rimmerfors brothers. CR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Fejd Away

Monster Magnet – Mastermind (Napalm)

As of yet, there are no signs of letting up.  Monster Magnet smash their 20 year milestone in activity, with the impressive Mastermind, their eighth studio effort to date.

What better way to begin an album than with the viscous sleaze guitar of Hallucination Bomb, joined by a sludgy bass line that sounds like it’s intoxicated with substances banned in most countries.

Dave Wyndorf has headed Monster Magnet since the beginning of their  existence, and is now the only original member, like Dave Brock and Hawkwind in that respect.

Speaking of which, there’s some Hawkwind influence in here big time, with Bored With Sorcery and Perish In Fire being Monster Magnet’s ultimate bow to the masters of Space Rock with their effective power chord riffs from Ed Mundell and Phil Caivano.  That’s not to say that they are simply stealing from Hawkwind.

The Titan Who Cried Like A Baby and Time Machine confirm that Monster Magnet have their own quirky taints of diversity, whilst continuing their original stoner driven sound.  Importantly for the New Jersey band, they have a lead singer that can chameleon his voice from the low, crystal clear vocalisations to the hard rocking, whisky soaked rasps to suit this divergence.

There may be one or two dud tracks that don’t really rouse anything, with the simple and repetitive 100 Million Miles and final track All Outta Nothing.  However, in fairness to Monster Magnet there’s variety across the board, allowing this album to be a truly pleasurable listen. CR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Master-ful

Krieg – The Isolationist (Candlelight)

Anyone who names their band after the German word for ‘war’ makes it perfectly clear what they intend, swiping any preconceptions that we should anticipate this to be a light-hearted cheer-fest.  For Krieg that exacts the perfect warning.  After 15 years in activity, The Isolationist shows Krieg to garner a traditional sound with the black rawness of a coal sponge.

Leader of this one man band for 15 years now, Lord Imperial (known mortally as Neill Jameson) continues the lo-fi racket of jagged noise with some ambient involvement, but predominantly grounds his project in traditional black metal roots.

No Future follows this aesthetic with a banging raw pace to open up the album, but it’s All Paths To God that disproportionately stands out with its remarkable sequence of pain-filled riffs that only get more impressive with the breakdown later in the song.

Unfortunately tracks like Ambergeist epitomise the all too easiness of a brutal sound without anything to guide it.  Things only become more frustrating when you realise that an excellent slogging riff finally makes its presence known near the end of the song.

I would say that Remission and Religion III disappoint for very different reasons, but having any real love or hatred toward either of them is very difficult because of their emptiness– the feeling is simply indifferent.

If your ideal sound is the bruised up vile face of untainted aggression and the withstanding loyal purity to the traditional elements of the genre, then you may enjoy The Isolationist.   However there’s essentially nothing here to elevate it further, and whilst it may be classic in style, it doesn’t hack it as an overall classic.

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Solitary Pleasure

Woe – Quietly, Undramatically (Candlelight)

Go back to 2007 and Woe was a one man project with Chris Grigg at the helm of a cold and isolated sound.  Joined recently by fellow band members of other project The Green Evening Requiem and featuring two Woods Of Ypres members, the Philadelphia band now feels more complete.

Quietly, Undramatically is a fine effort, cashing itself in as a valuable US black metal album of this year.

It may not be the most impacting build-up track to an album, but No Solitude speaks volumes about Woe, in the respect that many songs on the record take some time to fully take off, and the runway before it leaves a little more to be desired.

Get halfway through the title track Quietly, Undramatically and you’ll be pleasantly thrown back by a break of coherently layered vocals, both preceded and later followed by a driving force of lovely guitar work.

At the centre of the album, A Treatise On Control and Without Logic both have uninspired introductions, but later pick up in pace and in poignancy.  Under the shrieks, you can feel the impressive shifts that are taking place, evoking an unremitting, dark melodious melee.

They don’t need to dress themselves silly with over-done cliché corpse paint or pretend they’ve got some winy vendetta with God by acknowledging his existence when mistaking Satanism for atheism. They’re stripped down to the essentials, not in a musically minimalistic way but in a way that proves Woe to be bleeding out some material that is most importantly genuine, and also refreshing too. CR

rushonrock rated: 7/10

Wildhearts Reissues: Earth vs The Wildhearts/Fishing For Luckies/P.H.U.Q./Endless Nameless (Lemon Recordings)

As a statement of intent The Wildhearts’ rock n rollathon of a debut Earth vs The Wildhearts (1993) was stunning. From the off it appeared ex-Quireboy Ginger had stumbled across something very special indeed in the shape of a bunch of instant pop rock classics – none catchier than the super cool Caffeine Bomb. Almost two decades later and this first slice of Wildhearts is tastier than ever – bundled together with an extra disc of even more singalong goodies and it’s got to be top of every rocker’s Christmas wishlist! (8/10)

The momentum was well and truly sustained as Fishing For Luckies (1994/1996) followed a year later – the mouldy fruit bowl featured on the album’s cover hiding a delicious crop of fresh cuts threatening to announce Ginger as one of the most influential rock stars of the decade. Brazenly upbeat in the face of grunge and yet loud enough to appeal to the heavier crowd, The Wildhearts second record thrust the band into the mainstream – the fan-only edition followed by a general release which spawned Top 20 smash Sick Of Drugs. Geordie In Wonderland remains one of Ginger’s finest moments and yet again we’re treated to a bonus disc of worthy single tracks and rarities. (9/10)

The band’s second/third album (depending upon where you place the fan-only Fishing For Luckies version!!), P.H.U.Q., kicks off with the live favourite I Wanna Go Where The People Go and barely eases off. Nita Nitro is typical of the band’s smile-on-your-face cynicism and the brilliant Cold Patootie Tango wouldn’t have sounded right written by anyone other than The Wildhearts. Four Sick Of Drugs single tracks are the highlight of the bonus disc but it’s difficult to find anything not to like about a fabulous reissue (8/10)

And so to 1997’s Endless, Nameless and here’s the first sign of a band struggling to match quantity with quality. Ginger has always been a prolific songwriter – whether he’s operating within the Wildhearts’ fold or as a solo artist – and every so often he takes his eye off the ball. Well, not so much every so often, more once in a blue moon. And while tunes like Anthem and Urge (both top 30 hits) stand alongside the best of the band’s bulging back catalogue, tracks like Pissjoy and Thunderfuck tend to let the side down. The bonus disc pulls together all of the Anthem and Urge B-sides – including the classic Genius Penis! (7/10) SR

Lost In Vegas – A State Of Mind EP (Self-Released)

In amongst the hectic music distribution of the Christmas rush, West Midlands debutants Lost In Vegas crash onto the scene with this first mini-album.

From A State Of Mind you can sense a potential that could manifest into commercial success, but not just yet.  Introducing themselves with Wash Away gives good first impressions with its urgent rapidity and nice off-beat drum structure.  The chorus is an admittedly simple and repetitive one, and much like the remainder of the album in this respect.

Unfortunately, after a coursing intro of guitar that closely resembles Lostprophets, Nothing does nothing to maintain interest, and is ultimately made worse by poor, generic lyrics.

With Breathe and the ballady pop Chasing The Dragon, there’s further material for the imagination and not in any genre challenging or thought provoking way, but in wonder of how popular Lost In Vegas could be with their accessible catchiness.

Whether they intend to or not, this record will attract a teen audience and if worked on, could culminate in a whole lot of mainstream heat.  It won’t be breaking any boundaries by any means, but popularity – definitely a possibility. CR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Lost Souls

Black Sabbath – Seventh Star Deluxe Edition (Universal)

It would be easy to dismiss this reissue as nothing more than one for the completionists. It hardly ranks alongside the first crop of Ozzy classics and doesn’t bare comparison with this year’s Dio-fronted re-releases. But there’s more to Seventh Star – and particularly this two-disc version – than an opportunity to extend the Sabbath legacy beyond its natural sell-by date.

For starters there’s Glenn Hughes on lead vocals and the decision to recruit the former Trapeze man allowed a natural progression from Ozzy’s screech, thru Dio’s melody and towards the blues. The AOR-focused single No Stranger To Love will still appall Sabbath die-hards to this day but judged in isolation it’s a perfect response to the burgeoning hair metal scene and suits Hughes to a tee.

Illness forced the premature departure of Tony Iommi’s preferred frontman and disc two picks up where Hughes left off – showcasing Sabbath’s June ’86 Hammersmith Odeon show with unknown US singer Ray Gillen on vocals. His version of Neon Knights is superb and it’s little wonder he’d stay on board to record the original version of The Eternal Idol. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Sabbath Mk III

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol Deluxe Edition (Universal)

Ray Gillen’s rapid elevation from Glenn Hughes understudy to Sabbath mainman didn’t last long and by the time The Eternal Idol hit stores in 1987 the US singer was long gone. Seeking to return to Sabbath’s heavier roots, Tony Iommi completely overhauled his band’s personnel and sound with Tony Martin’s vocals making the final cut.

Gillen actually recorded eight tracks for the what was set to be The Eternal Idol and if you’re no fan of the Martin era then check out the bonus disc of this fascinating two-CD package. There you’ll find the original recordings for the album that never was with Gillen sounding every bit as good as he had done at Hammersmith a year earlier.

Still, Martin was more of an Iommi man and on Ancient Warrior he gives his stab at superstardom every ounce of energy he can possibly muster. It’s a valiant effort but when you’re following Osbourne, Dio and Hughes the pressure must start to tell and there’s some decidedly patchy performances here.

Iommi, as always, lays down some stunning riffs and as the one constant in the Sabbath story his consistency is there for all to behold. Perhaps he felt a pang of guilt for delivering the records his label demanded – and nobody else wanted – but all credit to the ultimate guitar hero: he still rocks. SR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Fallen Idol

ill nino – Dead New World (AFM)

Like your Latin metal? You’re not alone. ill nino have shifted in excess of one million records since bursting onto the scene on the back of the nu-metal boom. Still staying true to their roots – there’s plenty of early Papa Roach in here – there’s a modern rock feel to their better moments and it’s mightily impressive.

Almost Lostprophets-like in their ability to layer vocals over incredibly catchy choruses, the New Jersey mob might just have made their career-defining record. The Art Of War is a cracking metal anthem and Serve The Grave isn’t far behind but then just about every song here stands up to the closest scrutiny – mixing some seriously heavy power chords with insightful lyrics and magical bursts of light and shade.

But for all you drummers out there the real reason to pick up a copy of ill nino’s latest – and possibly greatest – album is the performance of founder member, producer, manager and tub thumper Dave Chavarri. The percussion throughout is on a different level and even the laymen out there can’t fail to notice there’s something special going on here.

You’ll be beating the shit out of everything in front of you for weeks to come. Fact. SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 ill? This Is Sick!

Sully Erna – Avalon (Spinefarm)

You know Sully Erna as the driving force behind US metal titans Godsmack and as one of the most ridiculously talented musicians on the planet. This guy can sing, write songs, play guitar and drum (probably all at the same time if he feels like it) but can he make a good solo record?

Well, you’d imagine so. In fact Avalon is a little bit of a let down – failing to leap out and grab you by the short and curlies and ultimately sounding like the background music at your favourite hair salon.

The title track starts the ball rolling (slowly) and it’s possibly one of the dreariest tunes we’ve heard all year – if Erna wants to provide a contrast between his day job and his side project then he certainly succeeds here: Godsmack would be booed off the stage if they ever delivered a sub-standard song like this in the live arena.

Following up with eight minute-plus epic 7 Years is brave, bordering on the foolhardy. It feels more like 70 years by the time you’ve sat through Erna’s earnest attempt at something epic and there are very few highlights to follow.

Expectations were high. They’ve been dashed. Simple as that. SR

rushonrock rated: 4/10 Surly Erna

This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson.