Our last look at new music before Christmas sees the mysterious Spectra Paris (pictured) offer up a seasonal selection guaranteed to send shivers down your festive spine.

And we review and rate the latest releases by veteran thrashers Tankard and hardcore label mates Ektomorf.

Tankard – Vol(l)ume 14 (AFM)

There’s something very Anthrax circa 1989 about the 14th studio album dreamed up by the mad Germans of Tankard. This is smile-on-your-face, party all night thrash metal from the Frankfurt four piece but be warned – it’s not all about drinking and head banging 24 years after their Zombie Attack debut burst onto the metal scene.

Black Plague (BP) sounds more like Anthrax than the US band themselves – think I’m The Man – but the message on this brutal, repetitive track is a serious one as Andreas Geremia and his mates lament the BP oil spill and craft a meaningful commentary on all things natural disastrous.

But then Tankard are still at their best when poking fun and there’s a classic line from Rules For Fools which sums up everything great about this bunch of veteran hoodlums. ‘They hit the stage but didn’t hit a note’ is the kind of classic couplet we’ve come to love from a crew dedicated to their work and determined to have a blast. A Christmas cracker.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Thrash Mental

Ektomorf – Redemption (AFM)

After rolling out seven albums in 10 years it would be easy to believe Hungarian metal heads Ektomorf were more focused on quantity rather than quality. And you’d be right.

A patchy release suggests a prolific work ethic really is proving to be an Achilles heel. This isn’t a bad record but it often sounds jaded, forced and, worryingly for the Ektomorf boys, just a little bit dated.

Their metal cum hardcore does grate after a while with tunes like God Will Cut You Down simply not cutting the mustard in an age when heavy bands require that certain X Factor to stand out from a packed crowd. Opener Last Fight is the right choice to kick things off – it’s the outstanding tune here – but from this point onwards the descent into dirge is quite rapid.

For Ektomorf 2011 should be a time to take stock, regroup and rediscover the cutting edge groove which made them such a relevant and exciting act just five years ago.

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Flippin’ Ek

Spectra Paris – Christmas Ghouls (Out Of Line)

Looking for an alternative take on Christmas? The gothic-tinged, pop rock of Italian sexpots Spectra Paris could be just what you need with the dark and teasing Christmas Ghouls a worthy addition to the festive roster.

The Italian version of Movie Ghouls is particularly haunting – Elena Alice Fossi and her crew love to whip up a calm yet disturbing storm of audio devilry. And the soundscape underpinning Christmas Ghouls conjures up images of dark winter nights with a warm inner glow.

Underground they may be but if you’re sick of Wham, can’t stand Slade and never want to hear that East 17 song ever again then try the alternative soundtrack to the holiday period for size. You will be surprised, perhaps even pleasantly.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Yule Love It