And each week we name our coveted RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK before rounding up the best of the rest.
This week we review and rate the latest music from the SPV Steamhammer roster including Freedom Call (pictured), Vengeance and Nitrogods.
Perhaps controversially we assess the new album from The Boss as Springsteen makes a rare appearance on these pages. And there’s the return of a Black Crowe with Rich Robinson back to his very best.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Power Metal
Initially conceived as an occasional side project there’s no doubt Germany’s Freedom Call have evolved into a serious power metal outfit in their own right. But 2012 could be their most challenging year yet.
Dan Zimmermann’s decision to leave the band he co-founded left a void many fans feared would be too great to fill. Yet Chris Bay is no quitter and Freedom Call begin a brave new era with a quite brilliant record.
Their trademark Maiden-meets-Helloween-meets- Queensryche sound is still evident in spades. Heavy Metal Warrior pays homage to the genre that inspired Freedom Call in the first place but Back Into The Land Of Light is more melodic and AOR tinged.
There’s pop punk in the shape of Hero On Video and even a nod to The Gaslight Anthem and their ilk on Power + Glory as Bay and his buddies prove they’re nothing if not versatile.
The many faces of Freedom Call make for a cracking listen and almost everything is delivered with a healthy dose of humour. Land Of The Crimson Dawn might lack Zimmerman but it sure does shimmer man. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Call Of The Wild
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Heavy Metal
Imagine Motorhead at their sleaziest or the Wildhearts at their most metal: Nitrogods’ brazen brand of no-nonsense hard rock and roll doesn’t break new ground but it might just snap your senses.
A basic yet bullish debut, the self-titled release from Henny Wolter, Klaus Sperling and Lemmy-like frontman Oimel Larcher rolls along at breakneck speed and never lets up.
At Least I’m Drunk veers towards more toned down stoner metal but Lipsynch Stars is a full-blown sleaze fest and Wasted In Berlin is a party anthem par excellence.
It’s all been done before. But Nitrogods do it with enthusiasm, energy and engaging riffs. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Gods Of Metal
Genre: Classic Rock
Fast approaching their 30th anniversary, Dutch masters Vengeance deliver what could well be their finest album to date.
The first to be released since the unexpected death of guitarists Jan Somers it does, nevertheless, feature the much-missed axeman. As such Crystal Eye could be a slightly sombre affair and yet it swiftly evolves into a celebration of expertly-crafted classic rock.
Fusing AC/DC with Van Halen on the groove-laden Barbeque, there’s an uplifting mood from the start. Desperate Women wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid-80s Motley Cue record and Whole Lotta Metal will put a smile on the faces of rock fans the world over.
Boasting the considerable talents of drummer Chris Slade (ex-AC/DC) and guitarist Keri Kelli (ex-Alice Cooper) it’s perhaps no surprise that Crystal Eye rocks hard. Founder Leon Goewie has played a blinder – now let’s hope we see him play live. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Eye Opener
Genre: Post Grunge/Indie Rock
Every so often a much-hyped album singularly fails to meet the wild expectations of reviewers everywhere. In 2012 that album is Into The Sea.
Combine irritating vocals hewn from a toddlers’ singing group, lyrics imagined in some desperate drug-fuelled haze and a sound leaning far too heavily on mid-90s alternative rock and you have the recipe for a vomit-inducing diet of utter dirge.
‘Where’s the urgency?’ asks singer Joe Lloyd at one point: a good question that’s never answered on this laborious effort from the Nottingham-based siblings.
About as inspiring as a compilation of Jonas Brothers B-sides, Into The Sea induces waves of angst, derision and anxiety on equal measure. Perhaps that’s the point or perhaps Swound! are a whole lot poorer than the hype would have us believe. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 3/10 Sea Sick
Genre: Classic Rock
The Black Crowes proudly boast sales of more than 30 million albums worldwide but another frustrating hiatus is upon us. Looking to fill his time productively Rich Robinson has rolled out the long-awaited follow-up to 2004’s Paper and the result is quite spectacular.
Mixing classic rock with country and carefully considered splashes of jazz, this is a record rich (pun intended) in confidence and maturity. Every song, without fail, throws up a pleasant surprise and Through A Crooked Sun is one album you’ll want to play time and time again.
Lead single Hey Fear perfectly captures the thought-provoking nature of a cerebral release but there’s plenty more where that came from. Robinson refuses to play it safe and ultimately plays a blinder.
The Black Crowes will, inevitably, be back. Until then it’s worth remembering that Rich Robinson is bona fide rock n roll royalty – with or without his brother in tow. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Rich Pickings
The outstanding tune on The Boss’s latest offering is the rousing Shackled And Drawn as he proves he can still teach young bucks The Gaslight Anthem a thing or two about seriously spine-tingling songwriting.
But Wrecking Ball is a rather frustrating juxtaposition of soaring highs and unlikely lows. Lead single We Take Care Of Our Own tends to grate after a second helping and Rocky Ground is exactly that where an artist of Springsteen’s repute is concerned.
On the flipside the fantastic and atmospheric The Depression is an obvious anthem of the times moulding everything that is great about The Boss into four minutes of finely crafted punk0infused pop rock.
Wrecking Ball is a record of extremes, likely to polarise opinion and raise questions relating to its creator’s longevity in a rapidly changing and ultra-competitive market. So much of it is classic Springsteen and yet as a whole it’s far from a Springsteen classic. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Spring In His Step
Genre: Heavy Metal
If what you want is more metal for your money then it’s time to give this polished crew a try. The Philadelphia quartet return to the fray with their fourth full-length album and offer further evidence that there’s more to US metal than Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot.
Taking the traditional NWOBHM-inspired route can be a dangerous journey for any band lacking the requisite power tools. Yet Pharaoh don’t need to worry about a dearth of talent – their only concern should be how to pack everything they can muster into one record and 10 tracks.
Taking a couple of tracks to really get going, The Wolves is a wonderful song encompassing every brutal twist and terrifying turn synonymous with adoringly generic metal. Fusing early Maiden with Saxon and even the odd touch of Black-era Metallica, this record rocks from start to finish and deserves a greater stage than the underground scene.
Pharaoh have a feel for metal the way it’s meant to be. And in 2012 that’s saying a lot. Miss this and miss out. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 See The Light
Genre: Post Grunge/Alt Metal
Most rock fans can name their favourite South African metal bands on one finger (or maybe just a thumb) but Seether are doing all they can to prove there’s more to their home country than lions, rugby and red bush tea.
Released in the USA last year and featuring smash hit single Country Song, the critically acclaimed HOSBLTF is finally available in the UK with a host of bonus tracks and an accompanying DVD. Designed as a final push to break the band over here it’s the perfect introduction to a band pulling up trees across the Pond.
The Elder Kepson Renix of Country Song is superior to the original and latest US single Tonight demonstrates exactly why Seether’s stock is rising in the land of radio plays and MTV rotation.
There’s enough variety and scope here to separate Shaun Morgan and his buddies from the countless alt metal clones all chasing a piece of the post-grunge action. Seether has pedigree (four million album sales worldwide) and, more importantly, songs. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Seether Light