Plus we look at the latest albums from The Poodles, King Kobra, Norther, Cerebral Bore and While Heaven Wept.
Don’t forget every Sunday we bring you bang up to date with the very best in new rock and metal. If it rocks it rushonrocks!
If you’d staked your pay packet on the surprise hard rock release of the year to date it’s unlikely golden oldies Uriah Heep would have looked good for your money. However, this blistering, organ-fuelled romp of a record is their best for decades with Bernie Shaw, on vocals, jostling for position with Messrs. Rodgers, Coverdale and Hughes at the top table of classic British rock.
It all gets going with the aptly titled Nail On The Head – Heep hit it and hit it hard with all five members allowed to showcase their unique talents early doors. It’s a 70s throwback boasting modern steel and has you feverishly digging out that battered vinyl copy of 1973’s Uriah Heep Live – this tune wouldn’t sound out of place back then and it fits into place perfectly right now.
There’s nothing wrong with unleashing a belter first but too many bands follow up with forgettable fillers leading to some real shit come the final track. Not so Heep. Seemingly rejuvenated after a slew of recent (and some might say unnecessary) reissues it appears Mick Box and his merry men have drawn on the very best of their back catalogue to deliver a genuine statement in 2011.
Money Talk is a magnificent song while the six minute-plus Trail Of Diamonds teases and tempts the listener with a proggy backstory underpinning a modern rock tale of creative excellence. Either song could slug it out with Nail On The Head for the best of a heady bunch but the raucous opener just about takes the honours.
If you thought Uriah Heep were long past trading on vibrant new tunes, preferring instead to rehash and repackage their numerous former glories, you were wrong. This is the unequivocal proof. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Heep Of Fun
While Heaven Wept have always been lugged with the doom metal tag, in particularly exploiting the sub-genre’s more epic side since their formation in 1989. But despite a longstanding existence, Fear Of Infinity is only their fourth full-length studio album.
Regularly disrupted by numerous line-up changes and tweaks in direction, Tom Phillips remains the sole remaining founder and creative driving force of the US act. With this new record released just two-years after the critically acclaimed Vast Oceans Lachrymose, the talented multi-instrumentalist has demonstrated that While Heaven Wept can whip together a number of genres with confidence and essentially morph a unique entity of sorrow and dejection.
If the ‘doom’ association puts you off, then you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s just as much power metal, symphonic soundscapes and tinges of classic prog to appease your ears. But if the broad affiliation with the aforementioned category is something that generates the extreme ‘opposing poles on a magnet’ effect and you’re expecting the genre’s purities then it’s likely that you may want to give it a miss.
Having said that, it can be understood just why people call this type of music ‘epic doom’, certainly after listening to the opening to Obsessions Now Effigies which is arguably WHW at their best. A backdrop of keyboard choir is subtle but beautiful behind some huge, slow riffs and minimalist sections of lead guitar picking that demonstrate just what it takes to create a pleasurable listen without focusing too eagerly on overly excessive work.
Unplentitude follows up with it’s acoustic nature, serene piano and emotional harmonies to emanate the serene yet melancholic atmosphere that best typifies the band. To Grieve Forever is the soft, weeping ballad of the record that runs like treacle, being ever so sweet, but flowing very slowly – and for a song that is more than six minutes, its length can be its only criticism.
Finality draws the album to a close, but only after seven minutes of its blissful, reflective aura gives way to a moderately paced structure chock with intense harmonising to finish an emotionally charged and epic album. CR
rushonrock rated: 8.5/10 Heavenly Stuff
Expectation can be so cruel. All geared up for a full-on overblown follow-up to 2009’s impressive Clash Of The Elements, fans of Swedish pop metal heroes The Poodles have been counting the days until the release of Performocracy. In the event it’s a huge letdown lacking the spark, humour, ambition and trendsetting this band had become renowned for.
But what about the positives? Bring Back The Night, with its U2 meets Bon Jovi refrain, is what tis lot really should be aiming for. It’s their natural sound and suits them well. The lyric ‘I am the snow on the mountain side/I am the sea, I am the tide’ may not be Bob Dylan-esque but frilly fantasy is The Poodles to a tee. Sadly this standout track meets little competition as Performocracy plays out with all the excitement of a wet night in Grimsby.
Gone is the smile-on-your-face excitement and, in its place, a stilted set seemingly constrained by a need to put a fresh twist on former glories. Nobody wants the same record and over again but in the case of The Poodles if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Ignoring that pertinent, age-old adage they’ve gone the other way and tinkered with a winning formula to such an extent that they’ve all but lost that tasty winning ingredient.
Action!, replete with its exclamation mark, is possibly the most ironic song here. Performocracy is less about action and more about self-satisfaction as one of Scandinavian metal’s brightest hopes make an album designed to kill expectation and confound even the most die-hard of fans. Desperately disappointing stuff from a band that can do so much better. SR
rushonrock rated: 4/10 Performocrappy
Three albums in four years at the back end of the 80s established King Kobra as one of the classic bands of the glam metal scene but founder member Carmine Appice called time on the project after the fantastic King Kobra III. Well timed in light of the imminent grunge explosion it nevertheless felt like the band had unfinished business.
If 2001’s Hollywood Trash (the clue is in the name) did nothing to remedy that then, a decade on from that ill-conceived comeback, Appice has only gone and pulled a rabbit out of the bag. This self-titled comeback is so cool you start to shiver just as soon as rousing opener Rock This House rolls off the speakers with real intent.
Frontman Paul Shortino has a lot to do with just how accomplished this record sounds. Hugely (no pun intended) underrated, the ex-Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot and Shortino singer has been waiting for a platform like this for some time and makes the most of a golden opportunity.
Live Forever is a soaring power ballad which will have Frontiers bosses licking their lips with delight and if We Got A Fever strays into Steel Panther territory with its ‘My gun is fully loaded/I’m gonna shoot you with love tonight’ lyric it’s important to remember that this album is a glorious throwback to a time when the Panther would have been global chart toppers.
Appice has never been anything less that a fantastic drummer and what always set KK apart from their lightweight glam rivals was a truly powerful rhythm section. More than 25 years after they burst onto the scene nothing has changed in that respect with Appice’s fellow founder member Johnny Rod back on bass and back to his best.
A perfect record for 2011 let’s hope this time the comeback’s for real. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Kings For The Day
Aleksi Sihvonen had a tough act to follow when he succeeded Petri Lindroos as the growler behind Norther’s more bombastic moments and the eyes of the metal world will be focused on his debut with the Finnish behemoths. On this evidence the new man behind the mic can breathe easy as he delivers a professional set perfectly at one with Kristian Ranta’s trademark riffs.
Always sitting somehwere in between traditional death metal and the speedier side of melodic power metal, the Helsinki mob have the ability to polarise and unite in equal measure. But with Circle Regenerated they’s crafted a record capable of appealing to fans of both genres and an album with the ability to bring a number of lapsed Norther fans in from the cold.
Some Day showcases the band’s ability to mix those death metal conventions with an operatic twist and the soaring keys are a familiar trademark. Sihvonen’s accomplished guttural delivery coupled with Children Of Bodom-style fret work works well alongside Tuomas Planman’s focused tinkling – as an introduction to post-Lindroos Norther this tune’s a great place to start.
Closing In is the one track which may cause the band’s death metal followers to revolt en masse with it’s AOR-influenced guitar solo giving an otherwise grisly affair a clean and sparking edge. If Norther did hit singles then this would be their obvious chart topper. Compelling is the word.
Mixing genres is both brave and dangerous but these fearless Finns know their strengths and play to them time and again. Circle Regenerated is right up there with 2003’s Mirror Of The Madness and suggests the future is safe in Sihvonen’s hands. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Norther Lights
This week we’re having a bit of a full blown carnival of female-fronted metal, but this (mostly) Scottish act encompasses a whole different spirit. If you thought Angela Gossow was scary, then check out Cerebral Bore’s frontwoman on their re-issued debut Maniacal Miscreation.
A number of copies were released last year but Earache have re-released this battering, brutal, bloody record to the death metal masses.
Dutch woman Som Pluijmer’s guttural vocals are just as low, if not lower than many of her male peers, and if you don’t believe me, then dare to listen yourself. Her death metal dynamism is evident, spouting another select sonic attack in the form of a screeching over-boiled kettle whelp, most noticable later in the album in Flesh Reflects The Madness.
The Bald Cadaver is a true vile mess of rapidly changing riffs, and lyrics with no room for metaphor (unless intended in some obscure ‘A Serbian Film’ way) leaving no ambiguity with lines like “I will lick this rotting c**t” and “Bow to me, ripping entrails, severed torso.”
Entombed In Butchered Bodies is as disturbing as you would expect, but this isn’t just a simple quest for notoriety. As far as death metal goes, Maniacal Miscreation focuses solely on typical DM topics, but if that’s your usual bowl of guts as opposed to a tuneful cup of tea, then you’ll be pleased to hear that this debut will swing some aggressive yet enjoyable punches of the genre’s insanest sensibilities – if that makes any sense at all. CR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Bore Whole
This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson.