There’s the return of Californian thrash legends Testament, a big-name collaboration in the shape of Squackett and a timely reissue from Malefice.
We review and rate new music from Striker, Dust Bolt and the excellent Grave Digger. Plus we check out Tankard‘s latest and albums from Vore, King Of Asgard and Dew-Scented.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Thrash Metal
Chuck Billy has always looked like the man most likely to deliver one of thrash metal’s most deafeningly destructive albums but many years have passed since The New Order hinted at the career-defining opus to come.
Where 2008’s fabulous The Formation Of Damnation saw the band confidently feel their way back to the top, Dark Roots Of Earth may well be that classic Testament record. Billy suddenly has the sound to bolster his image.
Opener Rise Up is a killer tune with the chanted chorus tailor made for some mosh pit mayhem when the band bring this record on the road. A sensational solo rips the opposition to shreds and this Testament special leaves you aching for more.
Thankfully the quality follows thick and fast and with metal god Andy Sneap back at the helm the production is perfectly suited to the Californian crushing crew. Native Blood’s mix of melody and metal could belong on Master Of Puppets while the title track ups the ante emotionally and aurally.
Testament’s best ever? Maybe. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Earth Shattering
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Black/folk metal
They might not be too keen on the ‘Viking metal’ tag, but Swedish quartet King of Asgard make the kind of music that would grace any rampaging Norseman’s iPod. And to be fair, their monicker is inspired by Thor himself.
However, you’ll not find any of the twee, ‘plastic axes in the air’ moments on …to North favoured by some Viking-themed acts: instead, King of Asgard envelope their folk melodies with frost-bitten, blackened guitar work that’s not too far removed from Norwegian legends Enslaved (before they got all proggy on us).
And it makes for an impressive opus which fuses epic bombast with heads down, windmilling riffery, a style executed perfectly on The Nine Worlds Burn and Bound To Reunite.
It may be over two decades since Bathory first lit the torch of Viking-inspired metal, but in albums like …to North, it’s clear that the fire still burns bright. Recommended. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Majestic
Genre: Thrash metal
Icarus sees German quintet Dew-Scented celebrate their 20th anniversary with 11 tracks of ferocious, full-throttle thrash.
This album – the band’s ninth – also boasts an overhauled line-up, seeing vocalist Leif Jensen reunited with sometime live guitarist Marvin Vriesde and featuring three brand new members in drummer Koen Herfst, bassist Joost van der Graaf and six stringer Rory Hansen.
Unfortunately the revamped Dew-Scented don’t land the hooks – the real killer blows – to match their impressive musicianship and passionate, aggressive delivery.
There are some fine moments on Icarus, such as the first pumping Thrown To The Lions and the cold, melodic riffing of Gleaming Like Silver, just not enough of them to make it truly stand out.
Caught between the resurgence of old schoolers like Testament or Kreator and thrash metal’s exciting new breed, Dew-Scented are in an awkward position. But they’ll have to do better than this to sniff major league success. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5.5/10 Fails to reach the heights
Genre: Death metal
Vore’s fourth album lives up to its name – a blunt, heavy instrument designed to (presumably) smash through stone and wake the dead.
Gravehammer, which first saw the light of day last year and has been re-released by AFM, is packed with mid-paced, heads-down chugathons that are a world away from contemporary DM’s technical contortionism.
The US trio score points on several tracks: The Cruelest Construct opens the album with a huge meathook of a riff and nods respectfully to Brit legends Bolt Thrower, The Unseen Hand combines militaristic rhythms with dazzling lead work and The Claw Is The Law sees the band at their catchiest.
Elsewhere, Vore let themselves down with too much uninspired filler, and you sometimes wish they’d up the pace and add a little variation to proceedings.
A frustrating album but not without its merits, Gravehammer may hint at better things to come from the three-piece. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Graveyard smash
Genre: Thrash Metal
If Terrorvision were a thrash metal band then Tankard would be their soul mates. Not only do the bands share a passion for alcohol-themed tunes, they have a happy-go-lucky optimism in common: A Girl Called Cerveza is, as a result, an outside bet for feelgood hit of the summer.
Where label mates Testament (see above) have brutality in their DNA, Frankfurt’s finest are more like your cuddly thrash buddy. They can still make one hell of a noise but it all seems pretty relaxed by comparison.
And there’s the nub of the issue where Tankard is concerned. Thirty years into a prolific career and they still can’t claim to be consummate professionals, preferring to work to live, rather than live to work. Just like Terrorvision. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Tanked Up
Too often star-studded collaborations fall frustratingly short of reasonable expectation. A Life Within A Day is the very antithesis of underwhelming disappointment.
Doing justice to the talents of the big-name duo fronting a richly immersive project, this majestic album kicks off in scintillating style. The buoyant title track fuses Zeppelin, Yes and Asia to pull together the pantheon of Great British rockers within one song.
Squire underpins the tantalising Tall Ships with a typically grooved-up bass line, Hackett gradually emerging to put his own Genesis-esque stamp on an exquisite tune.
Moments of magic abound but there’s none of the smug self-confidence attached to so many so-called supergroups. This is music from the heart and it never misses a beat. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Squacking Stuff
Genre: Thrash Metal
In a big week for thrash there’s no room for weakness and yet, however hard they try, Dust Bolt just can’t hold a candle to fellow countrymen Tankard, let alone this week’s kings of loudness, Testament.
At least Violent Demolition doesn’t direct the listener down a blind alley. This is unrelenting, fast, ear-piercing metal forged out of a desire to destroy everything in its path.
There’s none of the subtlety favoured by the genre’s more mature standard bearers but a raw angst can’t compensate for a lack of focus and a nagging feeling of unfinished business.
But these are early days for Dust Bolt and their time may yet come. Possessing the perfect tools, they must find the key to unlock perfection. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Lightning Bolt
Genre: Power Metal
With 2010’s RUSHONROCK RATED 8/10 The Clans Will Rise Again, the veteran metallers of Grave Digger proved there’s still plenty left in the tank. On this evidence the momentum has been maintained.
The fist-pumping Metal Will Never Die is unashamedly clichéd and should thrill fans new with its addictive combination of pace and power – the Usain Bolt (rather than Dust Bolt, see above) of trad metal.
The three live tracks showcase Grave Digger at their appealing best with the gutteral German vocals far more forceful than on any recent studio album. Six tracks and six killers. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Dig This
Genre: Speed Metal
It’s quite some time since Canada unleashed a credible metal act on the world but Striker attack from the off to suggest mainstream success is theirs for the taking.
Dealing in Dragonforce-like speed and Maiden-esque passion, any fan of balls-to-the-wall metal will lap up adrenaline-fuelled tunes like Let It Burn and the brilliant Lethal Force.
Vocalist Dan Cleary is the ace in Striker’s pack and if this band’s goal is to deliver stadium anthems with basement club belief then their singer sets the standard.
Two albums in and the Canadian quintet’s potential is there for all to hear…just don’t mention Anvil. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Armed And Ready
Genre: Thrash Metal
When Malefice burst onto the scene with the raw yet raucous Entities the buzz on the underground metal scene was audible.
This remastered version – released five years after the original – is a timely reminder that second album syndrome is nothing more than a myth.
Marking the band’s move from Metal Blade to Transcend Music, Entities now sounds like a proper metal record made by proper metal men.
Dreams Without Courage clearly benefits from the revamped production while Traitor To All You Know still sends shivers down the spine. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Ent-ertaining