Welcome to this week’s round-up of the very best in new rock and metal. We review and rate the latest offering by former Accept frontman Udo Dirkschneider (pictured) as U.D.O. return with Rev-Raptor.

And we deliver the rushonrock verdict on new releases by She Wants Revenge, Theatre Of Tragedy, Hammerfall, Ipsissimus, and Mayan.

U.D.O. – Rev-Raptor (AFM)

Delivering his usual tried and tested mix of Priest-meets-Scorpions-meets-Motorhead, the metal survivor that is Udo Dirkschneider clearly believes vehemently in the old adage ‘if it ain’t borke don’t fix it’.

And while the safety-first approach to Rev-Raptor will no doubt earn the praise and respect of his die-hard devotees, an obvious lack of ambition is unlikely to impress the masses desperately seeking a modern metal standard.

Placing the title track and follow-up Leatherhead at the top of a decidedly average tracklist doesn’t help Dirkschneider’s cause as both are metal at its lamest and laziest. And yet things do improve slightly as the fist-pumping I Give As Good As I Get ups the ante and Terrorvision evokes memories of 1988’s classic Mean Machine.

But if its consistency you’re looking for then you won’t find it here – in between toe odd highlight nestle stinkers such as Dr Death and the painfully clichéd Rock N Roll Soldiers. Both would do well to make a Helloween B-side.

It’s good to know that, at the ripe old age of 59, Udo is still going strong. His band, on the other hand, is simply still going. SR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Bum Rap


Ipsissimus – The Way Of Descent (Metal Blade)

Four years after their Trampling The Host demo caused ripples on the US black metal scene the time has come for Ipsissimus to make a statement as standard bearers for a genre in flux on the other side of the Pond. But whether Metal Blade debut The Way Of The Descent does that is open to question.

A familiar barrage of ugly Satanism, intense percussion and nasty growls ticks all the boxes where black metal’s critics are concerned but at times this album appears to do just that – sticking rigidly to a formula which can offer much greater room for manoeuvre.

Of course Ipsissimus probably can’t afford to deviate too far from the conventional black metal route favoured by fans and fellow bands alike on this, their first opportunity to tackle a congested and notoriously unreceptive market.

Hence they do the best they can in the circumstances – playing with passion, professionalism and credibility without offering much in the way of a unique selling point. The progressive thrash of nine minute epic Monakhourgia / The Prince of Tyre is engrossing enough and the instrumentally accomplished The Third Secret Of Fatima hints at untapped potential.

Ipsissimus will, of course, rise or fall on the strength or weakness of this patchy debut but the best bits suggest album number two could be worth a serious punt. Stick with this band and it’s likely they’ll repay your faith – and then some. SR

rushonrock rated: 6/10 Uncertain Descent


Theatre Of Tragedy – Last Curtain Call (AFM)

The farewell album from this versatile band of remarkable contrasts is truly engaging stuff and if, as seems likely, this really is the end for Theatre Of Tragedy then Last Curtain Call is a fitting and fantastic testimony to their incredible depth and genre-defying ambition.

Often choosing a new direction just when their path to success seemed assured there will be those who claim Raymond István Rohonyi and co. frequently blew their best opportunities to cement a position in rock’s big league.

And yet, by staying true to their artistic values and remaining one step ahead of tired trends, Theatre Of Tragedy can look back upon a body of work par excellence. This live set offers compelling evidence that their evolution from gothic metal heroes thru industrial rock and electropop wannabes to nu-goth veterans was a natural and rich progression.

Bring Forth The Shadow is the perfect snapshot of a varied career with Rohonyi’s growls, Nell Sigland’s soaring operatic harmonies, industrial metal and classical music all molded into one heady rock mix.

But where Theatre Of Tragedy truly excel are on the shorter, commercial numbers such as the synth-pop bombast of Fragment and the Pet Shop Boys-meets-Rammstein electro snarl of the risqué Image.

A timely reminder of a band much loved and sorely missed: nostalgia has never sounded so good. SR

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Theatre Of Dreams


Hammerfall – Infected (Nuclear Blast)

There’s a lot to take in for heavy metallers familiar with Hammerfall. Not many would have anticipated that the release of Infected would constitute such an extreme thematic move from a band accustomed to traipsing for glory on medieval battlefields to a one running from zombies. Yes Hammerfall fans you heard right. But that’s not the only shock here – good ol’ band mascot Hector is missing from the front cover for the first time ever!

Now that you lot who actually give a shit can recover from a minor cardiac attack, I will say that the zombie concept is, in reality, a loose concept that only surfaces on the first and last track of the album. After being informed that there’s been a sector breach, all ambiguity and curiosity is swished aside in opening track Patient Zero, with zombie themes oozing through pump-fisted traditional metal riffage. But don’t stop there to make  your judgements – the beginning is somewhat a deceiving one.

In terms of production this is the first time the Swedes have ventured without usual producer Charlie Bauerfeind on a studio album since 2000. Instead, at the helm is James Michael of Sixx:AM fame, who worked with Motley Crue on New Tatoo and produced 2008’s Saints Of Los Angeles. The influence is undeniable. Hammerfall are developing a hard rock sound with the addition and it’s definitely going to piss off some fans. It’s far from cock rock or anything like that, but the obvious sticklers of Hammerfall’s traditional and power metal sounds will probably have huge reservations, especially with biggest culprit I Refuse.

Having said this, you only have to listen to Bang Your Head to sense that the quintet are still attempting to cement themselves to the heavy metal bedrock that they became renowned for. The song is about Joacim Cans discovering his beloved genre of music through the mighty Saxon album Strong Arm Of The Law, in the small Swedish town where he grew up. Hammerfall still loyally clutch their hands around that flag and force themselves to fly it every time, despite obvious differences from their classic Crimson Thunder sound. Through one medium or another, the band still clearly have an undying love to express.

Ridden with the power metal influence many came to love Hammerfall for, Send Me A Sign is the gentle ballad of the record that will appease some old school fans, alongside final track Redemption, which has an epic Halloween-theme keyboard beginning and sees Cans produce his best vocal performance on the album.

In all, Hammerfall might be gradually drifting away from their traditional metal/power metal sound and I’m not sure it’s a good thing. Whether you like it or not, Hector’s gone awol and the zombies are closing in. CR

rushonrock rated: 5/10 Spectacular Fall?


MaYaN – Quarterpast (Nuclear Blast)

Famed for his work with symphonic metallers Epica, Mark Jansen ventures into altogether heavier stylistic territories with side project MaYaN. Jansen is joined by his former bandmate Jack Driessen of After Forever fame and drummer Arien van Weesenbeek from death metallers God Dethroned, but guests include Epica singer Simone Simons, ReVamp’s Floor Jansen, Sons Of Seasons’ Henning Basse and Italian opera talent Laura Macri.

Whilst his intentions see him maintain the symphonic elements that fans will be accustomed to with his primary project, there’s an ambitious medley of death metal, power metal and the occasional, unsuspected blackened riff.

Truth is, MaYaN are a not a first listen, first love band. Quarterpast takes at least a few listens to appreciate in order to become fully immersed in the rich diversity that’s on offer. When you do, you won’t regret it.

Mark Jansen’s compositions are as epic as they are complex making this one intense mixing pot. Symphony Of Aggression perfectly begins the album, both thematically and musically. MaYaN would probably be best summed up as a Symphony Of Aggression and it’s reflected with its progressive nature snaking into blackened death metal riffing, rabid blastbeats, low grunts and an adventitious addition of Simons’ lulling vocals.

A great start really gets better when fifth track The Savage Massacre ensues into a fury of symphonic death, only to burst through into a chorus that resembles more a power metal act than anything remotely harsh, before again transcending into an operatic interlude with a backdrop of proggy guitar picking. Be taken into a quirky carnival ride at the beginning of War On Terror, before allowing yourself to be taken in by the brutal verses that are again chock with diversity, even featuring a brief series of backing shouts that resemble a street punk yelp.

Truly worth taking the risk, Mark Jansen has created a unique entity that many will admittedly find hard to fathom. But wrap your head round it and you’ll benefit from what is a magnificently ambitious record. CR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Mark Of Quality


She Wants Revenge – Valleyheart (Eleven Seven)

If this album had been rolled out in the mid 80s then it would be heralded today as some kind of post-punk, nu-wave retro classic. As we’re midway through 2011 it’s impossible to avoid the belief that the so-call ‘darkwave’ of Justin Warfield and Adam 12 is nothing more than a carbon copy of every album your David Bowie/Joy Division/Depeche Mode loving girlfriend drooled over on a Saturday afternoon.

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then She Wants Revenge clearly revere their heroes with a devotion bordering on the blind. When they do attempt to underpin their electro-rock with a modern twist – as on the excellent Must Be The One – then a U2-like transformation ensues. And despite their homage the past there’s every reason to imagine this duo hitting the very biggest arenas in the future.

Throw a full-scale light show into the mix and She Wants Revenge have all the tools to command vast stadiums the world over. With their inoffensive, chart-friendly alt rock providing the perfect soundtrack to coffee bar liaisons in every corner of every city, a clever marketing man could easily launch the LA act into the commercial stratosphere.

But do She Wants Revenge have that killer track to call their own? Kiss Me could be the one serious contender with it’s de-tuned riff and scuzzy nod to Bowie’s glam-rock pomp. It’s the kinda song you could reasonably expect to hear 24-7 on Radio Two and yet it has enough about it to bring out the lighters and the arms aloft at summer festivals across the globe.

If you yearn for a time when angular jackets, eye make-up, badly dyed hair and pastel shades prevailed then She Wants Revenge might be your bag. True fans of pumped-up rock should avoid Valleyheart like the plague. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Revenge Is Sweet

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