Every Sunday we focus on tomorrow’s hot albums today and one title will be crowned the rushonrock Record Of The Week.
We rate and review the best of the rest – so you don’t have to.
This week’s featured releases include Canadian glamsters Blessed By A Broken Heart (pictured), Battle Beast and Lillian Axe.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Heavy Metal
With trad metal en vogue and a classy crop of bands leading the 2012 charge it’s vital Battle Beast aren’t allowed to slip beneath the radar.
It might take some time to fully appreciate the intermittent male/female vocal mix courtesy of Anton Kabanan and Nitte Valo – more Evanescence than Judas Priest – but ultimately it’s what could set the feisty Finns apart from the crowd.
At the heart of everything Battle Beast do is a pounding rhythm section and some stunning guitar work forged in the West Midlands circa 1979 and brought bang up to date in a nation better known as the home of Battle Metal.
Of course calling your album Steel leaves little to the imagination and this is a non-stop lesson in metal. When, with the belting opening track, we’re invited to Enter The Metal World who, in their right mind would decline?
The Band Of The Hawk is a stone cold classic and the title track is a gem. If you liked Doro Pesch with Warlock then you’ll love this. Let Battle commence! Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Beast Of An Album
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Heavy Metal
It’s almost 30 years since Lillian Axe emerged from the fertile US rock scene and in that time the New Orleans band has experimented with every facet of hard rock and heavy metal imaginable.
Remember the glam phase? Then there were the NWOBHM-inspired years. And these days there are obviously progressive and more melodic touches to a band never afraid to experiment.
XI: The Days Before Tomorrow oozes confidence and smacks of class – it feels like a Best Of as Steve Blaze and company effortlessly mould the highlights of a bulging back catalogue to create what could well be a career high.
If opener Babylon is the sound of a band initially feeling its way then the Axe hit their stride just as soon as the opening chords of Death Comes Tomorrow filter through. From that point forward this is as fine a rock record as you’ll hear all year. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Axe Heroes
Having cut their teeth opening up for genre-leading acts including Death Angel, Kreator and Exodus it’s clear that Greek thrashers Suicidal Angels know their stuff and know how to deliver.
Bloodbath is a classic thrash album played with focus, fury and flair. Moshing Crew serves up a modern anthem for men with long, greasy hair everywhere and the ear-bleeding solo is so piercing it’s beautiful.
Where SA tend to reference early Anthrax, the fantastic Chaos (The Curse Is Burning Inside) fuses the very best of Death Angel and Testament – an atmospheric instrumental intro segueing into a full-on thrash masterclass.
Singer Nick Melissourgos occasionally veers towards the odd growl but manages to resist the temptation – delivering his vocals crisply, clearly and consistently. This is old school heaven forged in hell. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Fallen Angels
Genre: Pop Rock
That AOR is experiencing a long overdue revival is cause for serious celebration but one of the downsides of the current boom is that quality will occasionally suffer in the face of quantity. It’s A Beautiful Life is a thoroughly depressing case in point.
To recap, Mark Spiro is one of the most prolific songwriters and producers in the business with countless credits for soundtrack classics and hit singles under the names of other artists.
And the fact that this is his eighth solo record would suggest nothing less than an assured statement of pop rock intent.
In fact it seems that experience counts for nothing where Spiro is concerned. It’s A Beautiful Life is a stale, cumbersome and cringeworthy attempt at aping late 80s Roxette or an Elton John-penned Disney film score.
The lyrics are woeful, the production frothier than a sickly cappuccino and any hint of an uplifting rock riff is consistently suppressed. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Downward Spirol
Genre: Power Metal
Seven albums in 12 years is good going by any band’s standards but there’s another side to the prolific Iron Fire (formerly Misery and Decades Of Darkness) that has hitherto prevented a concerted push for commercial success.
The Danes go through band members like a vindaloo through the arse with no fewer than 16 musicians laying a claim to be former members. Even Spinal Tap must admire the fact that Iron Fire are seven drummers in and counting!
But if the current quartet can stick together then Voyage Of The Damned can provide a platform for a fresh assault on the hearts and minds of the metal faithful.
Leviathan’s fast-paced Helloween-esque sound mixes melodic vocals with well-placed growls while Final Odyssey duffs its cap to mid-80s Queensryche with a progressive approach to power metal. This lot might be more of a brand than a band but there’s every reason to keep the Fire burning. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Iron-ised
Genre: Thrash/Groove Metal
If you’re still searching for the soundtrack to February’s mooted cold snap then look no further. This, as the jolly title would suggest, is music perfectly crafted for long, dark, freezing nights spent alone and in fear.
The Danish metal crew – and the fact that they’re more groovy than thrashy shouldn’t divert attention from their inherent nastiness – know how to stir the shit and induce nightmares. In fact it comes easy to The Kandidate.
No song dares to nudge past the four-minute mark and the pace of FTIPOD is one of it’s most frightening features. One of many, mind you.
Taking an old school approach to making a record and underpinning it all with a thoroughly modern misery must be a winning formula at a time when recession and depression is biting hard. The Kandidate have got it all wrapped up – probably with industrial strength rope and spiky bits of metal for good measure. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Death Is An Option
Genre: Doom Metal
In stark contrast to label mates The Kandidate there’s never any suggestion that The 11th Hour believe in the old adage that ‘less is more’.
Their immersive, emotive and evocative doom metal is lavishly spread across seven awe-inspiring tracks with all but one comfortably surpassing seven minutes.
Don’t imagine for one moment you can enjoy Lacrima Mortis in a series of bite-sized chunks. This is a record that demands full attention and several sittings: you come away feeling as if you’ve just sat through the antithesis to a moving Sunday service with a constant pseudo-religious theme creating tension and relief in equal measure.
The unnerving crying that comes and goes on Tears Of The Bereaved could have been so very cheesy. In fact it adds depth to the doom and an understated volume to the key message of a thoroughly thought-provoking track. Clever stuff from a cerebral crew. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 11th Heaven
Genre: Future Extreme Metal
There are times when metal does itself no favours and Nexus Inferis are, by design, a band guaranteed to add grist to the mill of those who insist the genre is populated by acts dedicated to doing nothing more than making the most unpleasant noise possible.
This often sounds like a pack of angry wolves tearing apart their own and that’s when there’s a decipherable melody running through A Vision Of The Final Earth’s less extreme tracks.
At its worst this is an album designed to give critics a headache and fans a nasty kick in the crotch. As ambiguous as it is ambitious, tunes (if that’s the right word) like The New Strain are a strange mash-up of Sci-Fi soundtrack and death metal dirge.
If this is what the final earth will sound like then get out now. Hopefully Nexus Inferis’s vision is a little skewed and there’ll still be room for Steel Panther for a good few years yet. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Nex Please
Genre: Glam Metal/Hardcore
They’ve got a guitarist called Shred Sean, pen tracks called Shut Up And Rock, Rockin’ All Night and Scream Like You Mean It and look like the bastard sons of the Sunset Strip.
However, BBABH aren’t all about glammed up hair metal – just yet. Almost 10 years after their inception the Canadian crew is still struggling to shake an identity crisis rooted in metalcore but they’re closer than ever before.
Skip straight to the made-for-80s-MTV weepie I’ve Got You (our guilty pleasure of the week) and you’d have no inkling that this lot used to be a pretty surly bunch.
These days they’ve just about left behind their angrier side – albeit doing a decent impression of A7X on the growling Love Nightmare.
In 2012 BBABH are more Motley Crue than Million Dead. It’s a timely transition set to transform the Quebec-based quintet from also-rans to key players. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Blessed Relief