Plus we deliver our verdict on new releases by Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, Stormzone, Dragonland, Oz, Iron Saviour, Svolk and Nemesea.
Ignore this late contender for rock release of the year at your peril.
The first album of original Fastway material for more than two decades manages to bridge the generation gap with consummate ease and a whirlwind of well crafted tunes is guaranteed to blow away the most grizzled of cynics.
Two things are immediately obvious as Eat Dog Eat makes a lasting impression. Firstly, Fast Eddie Clarke should have been making so many more records in this vein during the past 20 years. Secondly, former Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson should just be making more records. Period.
On stage the duo have been honing a tight live partnership for several years but this classic album is the result of like-minded musos clicking as a creative force to be reckoned with.
Jepson, putting a frustrating, if initially productive, spell with Gun behind him, has never sounded so good. If the Little Angels really are no more then this must be the vehicle of choice for one of British rock’s true treasures.
Opener Deliver Me is almost Black Country Communion-esque with the focus on heavy blues rock but Leave A Light On and Sick As A Dog – with its incredibly catchy chorus – show Clarke and Jepson in their most positive light.
This is a veritable joy from start to finish and it would be an understatement to suggest Eat Dog Eat has been well worth the wait. Fastway are back with an almighty bang and the rock world is far better for it. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Way Too Good
Late converts to the metal melting pot that is Die Apokalyptischen Reiter will find this career-defining collection a fascinating record of unlikely evolution. For the die-hards – many of whom had a part to play in the typically opaque track listing – it’s a delightfully dark trip down memory lane.
During the past 16 years founder Fuchs and his band of weird and wonderful colleagues have dabbled in just about everything metal – from trad to folk and melodic to death – without ever truly honing a sound of their own.
That desire to experiment and entertain is never more evident that when DAR take to the stage. Boasting enough energy to power a small nation and featuring the eye-catching Dr Pest there’s no doubt this band is at its best with a baying crowd to rouse.
DAR’s albums have always struggled to capture the mood but the very nature of The Greatest Of The Best means that’s not a problem. Such is the variety of material on offer that there’s never a dull moment and this is one record that demands multiple repeat plays.
The juxtaposition of old and new might make Fuchs and co. cringe because, make no doubt about it, this band has come on leaps and bounds given bigger budgets and better recording tools. But there’s a certain charm about the tracks culled from the early days of an act that could never be pigeon-holed – and would never want to be.
The Greatest Of The Best does what it says on the tin and does so with all of the self-confidence and bravado we’ve come to expect from Germany’s best kept secret. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 So DARn Good
Sweden’s Dragonland have a passion to create fantasy-based music “that actually tries to be mature and that enriches said fantasy world with inspiration from millennia’s of human mythology”.
What’s more interesting about this Gothenburg act other than the fact they’re not bawling their lungs out to the sounds of jagged death metal is the fact they also state that “to make a neo-classical album filled with overtly bombastic clichés of steel clad warriors was out of the question.”
Being a big Rhapsody Of Fire fan and realising the ridiculous but necessary OTT antics of the band, this is an album that sounds tantalizing. Perhaps there can be a half-way point where fantasy music need not be grated with the finest lashings of mozzarella!
Well, Under The Grey Banner still emphasises all that is typically HUGE about power metal concept records – ambition, a backdrop of symphony, vocal pitches that reach for the heavens and yes, even that extra cheese topping. But it’s not without its finer intricacies.
It’s not like Dragonland drop the neo-classical thing because they can’t do it, they just don’t need to be showy about it in order to make a good record. The Tempest reveals their fine talents in this respect, but as expected from their initial statement, the Swedes don’t overdo it. Fire And Brimstone hears guest vocals from Fred Johanson playing the part of ‘the antagonist’ throughout, but with less involvement than any Christopher Lee narrative in the aforementioned Italian act.
The beautiful ending of The Black Mare leads us into Lady Of Goldenwood and it’s something you immediately get a good sense about. It’s a lovely track that breaks the album up without losing its flow in any way – also giving a folkier dynamic to the record with Olof Morck’s violin, while his fellow Amaranthe singers Elize Ryd, Jake E and Andy Solveström all make great contributions.
Dûrnir’s Forge has a mid-breakdown that even sounds mathy with the unusual rhythmic structures pulled out by sticksman Morten Lowe Sorenson. Pair that with some chuggy (almost djentified) riffing on The Trials Of Mount Farnor and rare melodeath verses of the title track – you realise this is probably a tad more modern and concise in some episodes than first thought. For a fantasy release it’s not quite up there with the ironically, neo-clasically-embracing Pathfinder debut album, but it’s certainly a fine record to get lost in. CR
rushonrock rated: 7.5/10 Grey Matter
Firstly, a big welcome back is in order. Oz have spent just under 20-years dormant before deciding to return to the studio for a follow-up to 1991’s Roll The Dice. Last year, drummer Mark Ruffneck (Pekka Mark), vocalist Ape De Martini and bassist Jay C. Blade (Jukka Lewis) decided to roll back the years and reformulate the Finnish heavy metal act alongside guitarist Markku Petander.
Burning Leather is retro – there’s absolutely no attempt from the metallers to update their sound with the times – and in an age where reinvention is a term batted from ear to ear in a self-conscious sweat, it’s perhaps with a great degree of charm that Oz return with this phoenix record.
Whilst this sixth album isn’t the greatest comeback we’ve ever heard, there’s old-school heavy metallers out there that will buzz from its rough recording quality, traditional sound and general nostalgic feel.
As soon as that play button switches, it’s like you’ve leaped back to the early 80’s – playing from an old vinyl in a booze-stinkin’, smoky room with the creaks of battered old leather jackets as beardy men lift bottles to their lips. Second track Search Lights outlines some historic context of their 20-year out in charismatic fashion while Gambler reveals Oz’s addiction to fist-pumping heavy metal but this time make it their finest moment.
Enter Stadium follows up and snakes into a more hard rocking style for a tune that is loosely anthemic and with one function – to remind everyone that this is a band that still mean business.
On the whole, this is a modest return to form from Oz. They should be commended for going through with a reunion that many would never have imagined. Exciting stuff for those immersed in 30-year-old NWOBHM. CR
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Oz-mosis
A host of top power metal musicians have been involved with Iron Savior. Gamma Ray wizard Kai Hansen played for five-years as Savior’s guitarist, Blind Guardian’s Thomas Stauch drummed with them for a year and sticksman Dan Zimmerman (formerly of Freedom Call and also Gamma Ray) make up their A-list of power metal clientèle. But despite their departure more than 10 years ago and the exit of Stormzone’s Yenz Leonhardt this year, the vision of musician Piet Sielck continues with seventh album The Landing.
The German’s sci-fi concepts spill into this record to continue the story he began over 14-years ago. However, this time round he’s joined by the line-up that outed 2002’s Condition Red. Fans might not call it their favourite Savior record, but it shouldn’t stop them from enjoying it. Epic intro Descending opens the album before the metal-punch of The Savior which would definitely interest Sabaton fans for its hefty riffery and thick layers of vocal harmonies.
You call a track Heavy Metal Never Dies after nearly 15-years in the genre and immediately you do yourself no favours – it’s likely you’re going to be wading in a quicksand of horrendous metal cliches without a hand of help to save you from the mediocre abyss. But somehow, Iron Savior pull it off with anthemic purpose.
Moment In Time is a hair-raising heavy metal highlight with a backbone of bravado power metal and smart neo-classical picking that hears Iron Savior’s ambition matched with an equally impressive delivery. R.U Ready is a disappointment that tips the album slightly out of balance in its ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ themed songwriting and ordinary chorus. The Landing might fire a couple of blanks but it finishes strongly with the beautiful ballad of Before The Pain and the reflective yet energetically upbeat closer No Guts, No Glory. CR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Savior To Savour
Bear metal? Well now I’ve heard it all. You haven’t misread – it’s the very term Norway’s Svolk are using for their music. Apparently a mix of stoner, metal and a ‘Nordic redneck attitude’ constitutes to the coining of the term. Trouble is, it’s not as exciting as it may initially sound.
It’s very ordinary in fact and there’s nothing here to make this a distinguishable record for one reason or another. There are of course, warning signs before the music gets to your ears – the inventive title Svolk ‘Em All is where the alarm bells should begin. But even with no prejudice upon listening, there’s no denying the frustrations that this album create.
The five-piece generate some solitary moments that impress, but it’s agonizingly inconsistent. Anchor is far too plain and lacking charisma in its transitions and Dead 30 is a predictable number.
Well crafted soloing, some nice twists of riffola and better hard-rock styled lyricism make Miss Alcohol a highlight of this second attempt. Inferno is another rare surprise for its Helloween-esque riffery and Maiden-styled duelling, but unfortunately it stops there. The Norwegians show glimpses of potential but fail to utilise it fully on Svolk ‘Em All. CR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Bear With Us
Holland has cultivated plenty of icy, gothic metal acts in the last decade. Nemesea can be added to the long list of them. Their third album is however, different in the respect that their focus is on broadening their appeal to a mainstream audience.
At points in this record, Nemesea are closer to Snow Patrol than any symphonic metal act. It’s an accessible edge they’ve always had, but now fully exploited. The pop choruses of the Dutch act are chart-climbing – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re up there with the best of female-fronted acts.
They’re easier to listen to than Evanescence or Within Temptation (not that either are a particular earache) and are probably targeting a crowd who have a few Nickelback records as opposed to any Nightwish or Lacuna Coil. It makes for easy listening – a little too easy. Lyrically Nemesea don’t challenge themselves and much prefer sticking to direct yet generic pieces of writing, which is fine if you don’t fancy thinking for 55 minutes.
Sometimes it’s better to go for a route-one attitude, but on The Quiet Resistance, it’s just a little too basic to wield serious emotional power. CR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Resistance Is Futile
If Queensryche ever hear this powerful statement of melodic metal they’ll be kicking themselves. This is the record Geoff Tate and co. should have made – rather than inflict the terrible Dedicated To Chaos on unsuspecting rock fans the world over.
Former Sweet Savage vocalist Harv certainly has more than a bit of the Tate about him as he belts his way through 12 tracks of focused fury mixing Maiden with Saxon and the ‘Ryche with Y&T. But that’s no bad thing. Across Zero To Rage the singer pulls off a stunning display of vocal dexterity – ably backed by the dual guitar drive of Keith Harris (luckily there’s no sign of Orville on backing vocals) and Steve Moore.
Epic opener Where We Belong briefly showcases the Northern Irish band’s Celtic roots and if there’s one criticism of the outstanding Stormzone it’s that they don’t employ a little more aural variety. The superb Last Man Fighting outlasts Where We Belong but every second of this soul searching seven minute-plus track is a joy to behold.
Stormzone possess that happy knack of making metal with melody and if Ronnie James Dio were alive today this is the record he’d rush out to buy. It’s almost too much to take in one sitting such is the pummelling Moore production but sitting through an entire play of Zero To Rage is a liberating and life-enhancing experience.
The dire artwork in no way represents the treasure trove of metal that lies beneath and it has to be hoped that Rodrigo T Adolfo (the chap credited with the calamitous cover) has another day job. It would be an absolute travesty if Stormzone’s killer record was overlooked because it’s wrapped in something wholly unappealing and utterly misrepresentative of a metal tour de force.
Judge this on the music alone and you’ll be taken aback by the sheer quality of Zero To Rage. Northern Ireland is home to some of the finest rock and metal bands on the planet right now – it’s time to move Stormzone to the top of the pile. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 In The Zone
This week’s reviewers: Simon Rushworth, Calum Robson