It’s that time of the week again when we check out the very best in new rock and metal.
And this week we revisit the corporate rock of multi-million selling Daughtry, the folk metal of Ensiferum and the post punk of Cold In Berlin.
We review and rate the latest releases from Snew, Helstar, Threshold, Extomorf, The Pineapple Thief and Over The Threshold.
Every Sunday we reveal the identity of the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we reveal the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Daughtry – Break The Spell Tour Edition (Sony)
Imagine this. If Joe McElderry had chosen to sing an Aerosmith number – or even belted out a version of Number Of The Beast – during his X-Factor auditions then he could easily have been the UK’s very own Daughtry…
…if, that is, us Brits really ever wanted our very own Daughtry.
The man – and the band – is perceived as both the devil’s music (in a most un-metal way) and every desperate housewife’s dirty dream: think a sharper version of Shinedown or a slightly nicer take on Nickelback. But for so many people it works in so many ways.
Since winning over the soft rock community on season five of American Idol, the super cool Chris Daughtry has comfortable shifted more than seven million albums with the band that shares his name. And if sales slumped dramatically upon the release of 2011’s Break The Spell there’s no doubt the man can rock.
Indeed, if you can forgive Daughtry the fact that he’s the spawn of reality TV then this reissued ‘UK Tour Edition’ – featuring polished pop rock in the shape of Crawling Back To You and Rescue Me – suggests he may well be worth watching as the opening act on Nickelback’s UK tour this autumn. Comes with bonus DVD boasting video clips and live tunes! Welcome to your next guilty pleasure. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Spellbinding
BEST OF THE REST
Ektomorf – Black Flag (AFM Records)
Genre: Thrash Metal
There’s no doubt that Sepultura and Soulfly loom large in Ektomorf’s record collection, but there’s much more to Black Flag than Cavalera worship.
For this Hungarian quartet’s delivery is aggressive, passionate, ferocious… and impossible to ignore, especially during the confrontational hardcore blitz of Fuck Your God, and the album’s pounding title track.
Founder Zoltan Farkas – Ektomorf’s remaining original member – puts in one hell of a shift on the mic too, spitting venom and anger all over the band’s ninth opus, and showcasing his deeper, more melodic side on Private Hell.
A bonus track – the pointless murdering of Foo Fighters’ hit The Pretender – takes some of the edge off Black Flag though, as do the rather naff spoken word passages of Feel Like This. But these are small flaws on an otherwise decent effort. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Flying the flag
Cold in Berlin – And Yet (Candlelight)
Genre: Post punk/goth
With their second album, London quartet Cold in Berlin have crafted a tense, menacing and, at times, unnerving opus.
The band’s stripped down sound draws from the darker edges of post-punk and US noise rock, and is spearheaded by vocalist Maya, whose screeching, jarring delivery evokes Siouxie Sioux or Poly Styrene.
And Yet is therefore difficult to digest and will have some listeners running for cover – especially considering Maya’s obscenity strewn, disturbing lyrics.
Others, however, will lap up a band who’ll drag them headfirst into urban Britain’s dark underbelly – and do so with songs as powerful as The Lie, John or …and The Darkness Bangs, a haunting, atmospheric track that is the album’s best moment by far.
And Yet will grow on you – whether you want it to or not. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5.5/10 Cold comforts
Over Your Threshold – Facticity (Metal Blade)
Genre: Death metal
Technical death metal is often too dense, too convoluted, for its own good. German quintet Over Your Threshold, however, allow their tight, complex music space to breathe and flourish. It’s a refreshing change.
The Munich band are closer in spirit to technical DM’s progenitors – Death, Atheist, Cynic et al – than many of their contemporaries and Facticity, their debut full-length, makes an instant impression. Jazzy harmonics, fretless bass runs, blast beats, razor sharp riffing… they’re all present and correct, but they’re accompanied by song writing suss too.
Highlights include the whirlwind assault of Desolation Row and the catchy Obscure Mind Status, where guitarists Lukas Spielberger and Kilian Lau really go to town with some dazzling melodic leadwork.
In truth though, Facticity deserves end-to-end attention – there’s little filler here – and it should quickly propel Over You Threshold up the underground ladder. Impressive. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Technical Ecstasy
Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm)
Genre: Folk Metal
The folk-loving, fist-pumping brethren of Finnish metallers Ensiferum are a pretty prolific bunch. Unsung Heroes is their fifth full lengther in 11 years and it’s a fantastic example of everything that’s so endearing about this fast-rising genre.
Whether you totally dig Turisas, lapped up every minute of Tyr’s classic 2011 album The Lay Of Thrym or can’t get enough of the cracking Korpiklaani this is a record that fully embraces the expansive musical opportunities offered by the folk metal movement.
There’s the brilliant Last Breath – the growiling and emotive penultimate song – the inspirational call to arms of the spine-tingling title track and set closer Passion Proof Power clocking in at a frankly ridiculous 17 minutes-plus!
Outstanding in its field (a field no doubt filled with fur-wearing natives shaking various sharp weapons and the odd bizarre horn). SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Ready To Ensiferumble?
The Pineapple Thief – All The Wars (Kscope)
Genre: Progressive Rock
Far from instantly accessible and yet well worth a significant investment of time, this is another thoroughly enjoyable piece of work from The Pineapple Thief.
All The Wars follows the very best traditions of British progressive rock with ambitious soundscapes, cerebral time signatures and thought-provoking lyrical themes making for an immersive musical experience.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Bruce Soord’s vehicle for artistic fulfilment occasionally veers towards Verve-esque indie rock but there’s enough of a progressive edge to appeal to fans of It Bites, Magnum and more.
Last Man Standing is the standout song but the acoustic-led title track runs it incredibly close. This record is surely destined to be an underground hit: it deserves to be so much more. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Pineapple Cocktail
Helstar – 30 Years Of Hel (AFM)
Genre: Speed Metal/Thrash Metal
It’s 30 years since fret-burning Texans Helstar threatened to match label mates Megadeth and Exodus step for step in the race towards thrash metal immortality.
But in spite of the moderate success of 1988’s career high A Distant Thunder, commercial success never happened for a band ultimately slowed by significant line-up changes and label indecision.
Listening to openers Angels Fall To Hell and Toward The Unknown it’s impossible not to sympathise with visceral vocalist James Rivera – his life’s work is far better than record sales would suggest.
So much of this 20-track compilation is quality metal underpinned by a passion and power rarely heard in the bland music of Helstar’s modern-day imitators. Seek and enjoy. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Hel Yeah
Snew – What’s It To Ya (Maman Music)
Genre: Hard Rock/Sleaze Rock
Sounding more and more like AC/DC (I Got A Rocket and Pull My Stinger are scarily similar to everyone’s Aussie favourites), the infectious Snew have made a conscious move away from their sleazy roots towards a harder rock sound on What’s It To Ya.
Vocalist Curtis Don Vito is still an acquired taste – frequently stepping into the dangerous territory of club singersville on Electrolux – but there’s a sense that this guy really means it.
And Snew are triers. Never the most talented band on the block they nevertheless put every ounce of energy they possess into their frenzied music, sweating for the cause and creating a crunching party album as a result.
Another punchy production courtesy of long-term collaborator Bobby Owsinski makes the most of Snew’s raw aggression and Clever Girl is soaked in retro cool. But this is average ‘DC imitation at best. And Airbourne do it better. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 The Snew Order
Threshold – March Of Progress (Nuclear Blast)
Genre: Progressive Metal
It’s almost 20 years since the release of Threshold’s Wounded Land – an accomplished album that immediately drew comparisons with the very best in British progressive rock.
Since that jaw-dropping debut dropped in 1993 a steady flow of impressive – if rarely outstanding – records have followed. Yet this, their first in five years, is surely Threshold’s tour-de-force.
Opener Ashes sets the bar impossibly high but the Queensryche-esque Return Of The Thought Police is even better. And this is an album that grows in confidence and stature with every fresh song.
If you like your metal thought-provoking, urgent, relevant and, above all, different then Threshold have served up your favourite album of 2012. No contest. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 ‘Hold Your Breath