There’s new music from metal heavyweights Voivod, Holy Grail and Suicidal Angels. But of you like things even louder we deliver our verdict on the latest albums from Nightfall and Lightning Swords Of Death.
There’s melodic rock in the shape of AOR Heaven stable mates Taste and Shylock.
Plus there’s the long-awaited return of a bona fide AOR legend as Steve Lukather (pictured) unveils his latest collection of solo material.
Giant X complete the week’s reviewed and rated releases – read on to find out which album’s scooped the coveted RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK title.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: AOR/Melodic Rock
Brothers in AORms, Christoffer and Felix Borg have thrown down the gauntlet for chorus-driven guitar heaven in 2013 with the latest example of why Sweden is at the very heart of melodic rock’s latest renaissance.
Evoking memories of Europe, Leppard, White Lion and more at their commercial peak, this peach of an album is wrapped in multi-coloured spandex and coated with a crate full of glossy hair spray.
From the brash cover to the brazen rallying call of opening track Back To The Future this record isn’t out to be innovative, cool or genre-defying. It’s an album aimed at good times, partying and perfecting those air guitar poses.
In My Arms (Tonight) even introduces that most 80s of song title techniques – the brackets – and there’s very little the Borg brothers don’t know about a period when style sent substance packing. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Impeccable Taste
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Thrash Metal
Much vaunted Canadians Voivod have been pedaling their distinctive brand of politicized thrash metal for more than 30 years but it has taken all of those three decades to craft what could be considered the band’s best album yet.
The Quebec quartet – still featuring ever-present Michel Langevin behind the drums and again including founder members Denis Belanger (vocals) and Jean-Yves Theriault (bass) – have always promised to cut their less cerebral rivals adrift.
Yet until now Voivod has never quite captured the fusion of power and precision that courses through Target Earth from start to finish.
Thankfully all good things come to those who wait and this monster of a record is very, very good. Juxtaposed epics Mechanical Mind and Warchaic provide the meat in the Target Earth sandwich with Langevin and Theriault cooking up a rhythmic storm. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 On Target
Genre: Black metal
US black metal is arguably the strongest it’s ever been in terms of global reach, with bands such as Nachtmystium and Wolves In The Throne Room pushing the genre’s boundaries and gaining great acclaim in the process.
And Lightning Swords Of Death, though not as experimental as some of their countrymen, still manage to twist the genre to their own, demonic image; their music slithers with sinister intent, plunging the listener into a blood stained abyss.
There’s a darkly psychedelic quality to this album’s disturbing title track and the appropriately titled Acid Gate, but Oaken Chrysalis, a more straight-up BM blaster, is the real highlight, signing off the album with pace, power and panache.
Nine years since their inception, LSOD look set to carve themselves a bigger slice of the BM pie… and possess a soul or two in the process. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Chaos reigns
Genre: Melodic /symphonic death metal
Greek outfit Nightfall have been a ‘feeder band’ in the past, with figures such as Nile drummer George Kollias and former Rotting Christ man Giorgios Bokos coming from their ranks.
And while Cassiopeia, a lofty concept album based around the arrogance of humanity and the transition to a new world, might not put them in the extreme metal champions league, it does boast plenty of strength in depth.
The lead work is solid, the symphonic flourishes well executed and the vocals, courtesy of founding member, Efthimis Karadimas give the album plenty of bite; when Nightfall are at their best, such as on Oberon and Titania, or Akhenaton, The 9th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, they’re highly impressive.
The rub? A tendency to overcomplicate their arrangements and lose focus – but doesn’t that happen with most concept albums? RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Night vision
Genre: Hard Rock
Hewn from the same hook-rich slab of European hard rock that spawned Scorpions, Bonfire and Gotthard, there’s no doubt Shylock are on the money when it comes to unleashing slick melodies and rousing riffs.
Walking Tall benefits from a sharp production, punchy tunes and the precise musicianship we’ve come to expect from Matthias Schenk and his men during the last decade.
Lyrically, however, Shylock rarely venture beyond tired cliché and generic tosh – the truly toe-curling Rock DNA a tune so terrible it would even sound wrong in Steel Panther’s mock rock hands.
Sliding Through Emotions brings a tear to the eye – but only because it’s so bad. And when Shylock burst into Taken It Too Far that brave admission isn’t a moment too soon. That another five songs follow is a surprise – and not a very pleasant one at that. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Tall Tales
Genre: Heavy Metal
Ride The Void is the record that sees retro-fuelled trad metal titans Holy Grail comfortably overtake Black Tide as America’s standard bearers for all things hard and heavy.
The follow-up to 2010’s critically acclaimed Crisis In Utopia, this pulsating romp through power chord heaven is a victory punch for all things pure and molten.
Bestial Triumphans might be the most ridiculous song title of the decade but the track itself is a bellowing brute of a tune that batters the listener into whimpering submission.
Crosswinds comes a close second with its ‘beefed up Lizzy’ take on classic rock but Holy Grail’s trick is their innate ability to fuse speed with melody. This is fast and furious – but it’s always focused. And focused on forging the best modern metal in the business. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Grail Storm
Genre: Thrash Metal
Suicidal Angels don’t beat about the bush. This band just doesn’t do standing on ceremony. Straight to the point, they punish from the off.
Quench Your Thirst With Christian Souls kinda proves the point. It’s a song many less confident acts would hide away towards the end – fearing instant judgement and widespread outrage. But Suicidal Angels have never lacked confidence.
Wearing their hearts – blackened, of course – on their (blood stained) sleeves, the Greek thrashers follow up last January’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Bloodbath with another belter of an album.
Three long players in five years is prolific by any band’s standards. But Suicidal Angels manage to fuse quality and quantity with effortless panache. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Angels Delight
Genre: Hard Rock
Running Wild’s Rolf Kasparek and Peter J Jordan created the classic rock vehicle that is Giant X in a bid to present a ‘different side’. But different isn’t always good.
In this case it’s just about average. Where Badland Blues is a gritty, melodic and mightily impressive tune, Now Or Never is a poor man’s Saxon and On A Blind Flight never gets off the ground.
Consistency is a problem – as is Kasparek’s vocal style. Renowned for being a little rough around the edges, his gravelly tones tend to grate and on ballad Nameless Heroes there’s a need for something softer.
Giant X is clearly an opportunity for two supremely talented musicians to spread their wings and break free from the constraints of the day job. And it is different – but so many bands do it better. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 X Rated
Genre: Melodic Rock
It’s not until the final track on Transition that Steve Lukather can bring himself to (perform) Smile. But the perfect set closer bookends a period that started with 2010’s mournful All’s Well That Ends Well and concludes with this comparatively upbeat and optimistic follow-up.
In Lukather’s world, of course, positivity is all relative. Even here there are moments of aching self-reflection but if you’re a fan of AOR Toto-style then this record ticks most of the boxes.
There’s melody in spades and an inherent pop rock sensibility that underpins Transition’s finer moments – of which there are many. If opener Judgement Day is a little flabby (clocking in at more than seven minutes) then Once Again, with its discreet piano groove and bluesy refrain, is classic, streamlined Lukather.
Last time out the multi-talented musician poured cold water on a possible Toto reunion but three years down the line the band that defined a world class performer is preparing for its 35th anniversary world tour. Transition is the ideal stopgap. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Luk Who’s Back