And to kick things off it’s a case of double vision – with both Vision Of Disorder and Vision Divine vying for top marks.
Eagerly anticipated albums from Lynryd Skynyrd, Rival Sons (pictured) and Band Of Horses add a retro-feel to this week’s batch of brand new records.
And at the heavier end of the scale we review and rate Winterfylleth, Down and Danko Jones.
Plus we take a look at new music from blues queen Joanne Shaw Taylor and folk metal heroes Elvenking.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we check out the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Classic Rock
Jay Buchanan is, by a country mile, the best thing to happen to classic rock for the best part of two decades. Charismatic, steeped in retro cool and possessing of a voice born to express the very essence of the blues, he is the natural heir to Plant, Coverdale, Rodgers et al.
However, every celebrated frontman needs that fabled guitar hero at his side and Head Down sees the long-anticipated emergence of Scott Holiday as Buchanan’s perfect foil. Sporadically brilliant on Pressure & Time, this time the cerebral six-stringer is the model of consistency – ensuring every note counts and laughing in the face of complacency.
Buchanan and Holiday are rock n roll brothers in arms and Head Down their immaculate blueprint for critical acclaim. Fair minded peers should lap this up but jealous rivals will grow to hate the Rivals on the back of a brilliant album: this is a record guaranteed to shred the confidence of bands striving to reach a higher creative plain.
Head Down sets a standard few could have imagined – even on the back of the brilliant Pressure & Time. Rival Sons will rival the greats in years to come and this will be the reference point for their emergence as genuine classic rock royalty. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Sons Shining
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Black metal
With their second effort, 2010’s The Mercian Sphere, Winterfylleth didn’t so much fly the flag for British black metal as raise it proudly aloft from the nation’s highest peak. A majestic body of work, it was rapturously received, and alongside albums by Wodensthrone and Fen it heralded a new dawn for the UK’s extreme metal scene.
So does The Threnody of Triumph surpass its predecessor? Not quite, but there’s been no dip in standards either.
What’s so exciting about Winterylleth is the band’s ability to fuse primal BM energy with soaring, rousing melodies and a true sense of the ‘epic’. On the likes of A Thousand Winters, The Glorious Plain and Void of Light, there are moments that make your hair stand on end, passages that transport you to the windswept, ancient landscapes from which the quartet draw so much inspiration.
Powerful, passionate and truly unique, Winterfylleth are in the ascendancy and with The Threnody of Triumph, they’ve demonstrated their prowess once again. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Triumphant
Genre: Metallic hardcore
Comeback albums can be a letdown – they’re often slapdash efforts that don’t live up to the hype. But thankfully, The Curse Remain Cursed is a case of ‘all good things come to those who wait’.
For with their first full-length since 2001, Vision Of Disorder have surpassed all expectations, producing 11 tracks of taut, metal-edged hardcore which will put many a younger band to shame.
It seems that the Long Island act’s lengthy hiatus has done nothing to blunt their songwriting skills, and on the likes of Annihilator and Blood Red Sun, they deliver punishing, muscular anthems which seethe with aggression but never descend into knuckle-headed bludgeon.
Vocalist Tim Williams gives the album plenty of variety too, mixing hardcore barks with grunge-tinged melodies and using his range to magnificent effect.
Intelligent, exciting and shot through with pure adrenalin, The Curse Remain Cursed is a masterclass in metallic hardcore. Just don’t leave it so long until the next one boys…RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9.5/10 Welcome Back
Genre: Alt Rock
Seattle has spawned its fair share of noteworthy guitar acts over the years but none has proved quite as endearing as Band Of Horses. Their lazy, hazy brand of countrified classic rock may be a little too bland for the more demanding music fan but Mirage Rock is absolute pleasure.
Evoking memories of America’s songwriting greats Band Of Horses have a happy knack of describing the ordinary and, with a touch of natural musicality, creating a sound that is often extraordinary.
In the hands of a less talented band lead single Knock Knock would only be half the song it is here. Yet Ben Bridwell breathes vitality and a sense of reality, constantly lifting Band Of Horses beyond mediocre and into the big leagues.
Similarly Dumpster World would sound embarrassingly contrived delivered by almost any other band but the Horses have penned a 21st century classic. Mirage Rock is the sound of a band on a roll. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Horse Play
Genre: Southern Rock
Last Of A Dying Breed proves Skynyrd aren’t simply survivors. Trading on their Southern Rock legacy would be far too easy for a band that deals in severe doses of harsh reality and this album is all about a determination to evolve.
Familiar themes of working class struggle, the simple pleasures in life and an appreciation of all things female do, however, make this a typical Skynyrd record. Yet a focused approach and some ferocious riffs bring a staple sound bang up to date.
An album for ageing devotees and Southern Rock virgins alike, Last Of Dying Breed bridges generations and, paradoxically, breathes new life into a genre still in thrall of its leading lights.
And that’s the only downside to this driven record. On the back of this album Skynyrd will continue to dominate the Southern Rock scene for years to come – their sustained success overshadowing young pretenders and thereby indirectly contributing to the demise of the movement they lead. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Dying For More
Genre: Hard Rock
Released in the face of some pretty stiff competition the latest album from Canadian noiseniks Danko Jones could have sunk without trace.
In fact RNRIBNB is the band’s best work to date, mixing the commercial nous of the Foo Fighters with the attitude of AC/DC (it’s no surprise master mixer Mike Fraser was behind the desk during the production of Below The Belt‘s bombastic follow-up).
Legs might come across as a touch immature but Just A Beautiful Day is a belter of a song and it’s that contrast in styles – and in this case the juxtaposition of two entirely different compositions – that makes Danko Jones such a fascinating proposition.
This is a surprisingly good album with a definite edge. Defying categorisation and delivering on the promise of 2003’s We Sweat Blood it’s taken a decade for Danko to find their feet but this is strident stuff. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Slam Dank
Genre: Doom Metal
The people of New Orleans have been conditioned to contend with the most vicious of storms but those living in close proximity to Philip Anselmo’s workplace during The Purple EP sessions must have found their resolve sorely tested.
The first of four EPs to be released during the next year, this six-track slab of new Down material was self-produced and recorded at the Pantera man’s New Orleans studio Nodferatu’s Lair.
And for the sake of the locals let’s hope the soundproofing was industrial standard. Witchtripper is a terrifying blast of modern metal while Open Coffins screams classic doom. Throughout, the noise is unrelenting.
It feels good that Down is back. Good in a bad way. A very bad way. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Purple Reign
Genre: Folk/Symphonic Metal
Given the full Dennis Ward treatment Elvenking’s seventh studio album is way more melodic than you might expect.
In fact a bizarre mix of Skid Row meets Korpiklaani crossed with Avenged Sevenfold and even Journey (Forget-Me-Not) makes for one of the most intriguing releases of the week.
Layer upon layer upon layer of both male and female vocals jockey for position with the odd violin and a swathe of keyboard licks to create an intense and involving sound.
Poor Little Baroness could easily be a collaboration between 80s hair metallers Danger Danger and symphonic warblers Within Temptation (bring it on!) and Era could, given a decent break, cross musical boundaries with its brave approach to metal mash-ups.
On the other hand this is a record that clearly struggles to define its own identity and, by trying to be all things to all men, it could just as easily sink without trace. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 King Size
Genre: Melodic Metal
Fabio Lione has delivered consistently sharp metal vocals for the best part of 15 years and reunited with Vision Divine the Ferrari of rock singers is in purring form.
The band’s first album since 2009 may be built on the familiar idea of a complicated concept but this is no predictable rehash of former glories.
Having insisted his focus is now set firmly on Vision Divine and Rhapsody Of Fire – following a stint fronting Kamelot – Lione appears a frontman reborn. Beyond The Sun And Far Away is brilliant stuff mixing Maiden and Queensryche to thrilling effect.
Olaf Thorsen doesn’t hold back with some serious shredding while Alessio Lucatti’s trademark keys are never far away. The epic space-themed saga might be too far fetched for some but the music is out of this world. Welcome to planet rock. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Clear Vision
Genre: Blues Rock
Last seen complementing Annie Lennox at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, Joanne Shaw Taylor is primed to take her trademark blues rock to the next level.
This is some of the most emotive music you’ll hear all year – JST’s trademark husk of a voice crawling all over the kinda licks and hooks most mere mortals can only dream of.
Tied And Bound is typical of the high brow bar room fare on offer here while Standing To Fall, with its subtle Hammond tones and improv-style soloing leaves the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention.
If Bonamassa is the blues rock king then JST is the genre’s flowering queen. Almost Always Never should be almost always on play – and it will be. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Taylor Made