And there’s new music from Clutch, Everclear (pictured), Lost Society and Intronaut leading the way.
We finally deliver our verdict on Dio‘s Dream Evil Deluxe Edition. And Anthrax reissue Worship Music with a tasty little EP.
Plus we review and rate new albums from Virginmarys, Tear Out The Heart, Jungle Rot, Six Feet Under and Necrocurse.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Hard Rock
Think Clutch are a stoner band? Think again. Always imagined that the Maryland mob deal in generic grunge? It’s time for a swift reappraisal. Had this lot down as metallic Southern Rock from day one? Do yourself a favour.
Clutch might have been all of the above and more during the past two decades but Earth Rocker is the album that seamlessly pulls together all of their various sounds and influences to create 2013’s definitive hard rock record.
This is the album that will surprise the cynics, make fools of the doubters and blast the door wide open where Neil Fallon’s band is concerned. Mr Freedom is a cracking classic rock beast underpinned by growling vocals and a thunderous rhythm while the Southern-flavoured doom of D.C. Sound Attack (complete with harmonica intro) is simply delicious.
Clutch have always threatened a record of Earth Rocker‘s ethereal quality and it’s been well worth the wait. From start to finish this accomplished set bristles with intent and warns those clinging to genre classification to keep an open mind – or else. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 What On Earth?
BEST OF THE REST
It would be easy to dismiss Tear Out The Heart as just another run-of-the-mill metalcore band. Very easy. But look beyond the generic beatdowns, harsh/clean vocal juxtapositions and swooshed hair, and you’ll find some serious songwriting talent in the St Louis outfit’s ranks.
Granted, Violence, their debut offering, descends – on many occasions – into circle pit-friendly bludgeon (Only Posers Die being a prime example), but some well crafted choruses and melodic passages give parts of the album a real sense of drama too.
TOTH have also taken a leaf out of The Devil Wears Prada’s book in their deft use of keyboards, an approach employed particularly effectively on Closure and Infamous Last Words, and enhanced by a sterling production job from Attack Attack’s Caleb Shomo.
So while Violence is laden with genre clichés, there’s promise on show too: album number two may well be one to watch out for. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5.5/10 From The Heart
Genre: Death metal
Straight up, honest to goodness death metal is what you get with Jungle Rot. But should you really expect anything else from a band with song titles such as I Am Hatred and Pronounced Dead?
The Wisconsin outfit are now on album number eight, though their impact on the DM scene hasn’t been as strong as their 19 year career might suggest… and this latest opus will do little to change that.
Yes, it comes blasting out of your stereo like a rocket propelled grenade, and is brimming with brutality. But for all its neck bulging aggression, Terror Regime doesn’t land many killer blows.
There are some highlights though: the quartet’s cover of DRI’s crossover classic I Don’t Need Society is a welcome change of style, while the furious, hardcore-powered Ruthless Omnipotence will give you a (welcome) bloody nose.
However, in a genre that’s seeing old masters make welcome returns, and young upstarts make instant impressions, Jungle Rot need sharper songs to really make the cut. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Hard Rot
Genre: Death Metal
With their Boss Heavy Metal pedals set to kill, a penchant for horror (just look at the album cover!), and a vocalist called Hellbutcher, Necrocurse might have to forget about that Glastonbury main stage slot.
Sewn together from members of Nifelheim, Swordmaster, Runemagick and Sacramentum, this Frankenstein’s monster of a band play old school, savage Swedish death metal … and play it very, very well.
With Grip Of The Dead, the self styled ‘death metal rebels’ pay homage to the greats of the genre – Entombed, Dismember etc – but stop short of cloning them, and while their debut never strays too far from the left hand path, tracks such as The Devil Cobra and Speed To The Grave have a thrashy spirit all of their own.
Unashamedly retro? Yes. But Necrocurse will pull you into their own nasty netherworld – and you’ll love them for it. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Gripping
Genre: Classic Rock
The Virginmarys are an old fashioned band rocking out in an age of shortening attention spans, bro-step and ridiculous pre-teen pop.
King Of Conflict is the feelgood, guitar led, gritty and fun antidote to all of those problems. Dead Man’s Shoes kicks off the album in great fashion – it’s got single material written all over it and a chorus that is as contagious as flu in a high school classroom.
In fact, the whole album contains great choruses that hook their claws into you and refuse to let go from Portrait of Red (Baby treat my body like a canvas) to Just a Ride (You lied, you lied, you lied you liar!).
The record is very polished and those who believe that their rock and roll needs to have a bit more of a garagey, self-produced feel might not take too kindly to the production on the record. However, they should look beyond that and listen to the great lyrics that are littered through the album.
Taking the Blame is a great example, containing the infectious line ‘Just the personal punch-bag for your stiff upper lip…. I’m your Freudian slip’. In fact, King Of Conflict is a hotbed of great lines, including ‘She’s burning the candle/at three different ends’.
However the variation of sound is limited across the album – and that is the missing key ingredient. Even though all the tunes are good rock songs, it can be a bit of a struggle listening to the whole album in one go. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Conflicting Views
Genre: Death metal
It’s not quite ten out of ten for Six Feet Under’s tenth full-length, but Unborn is nevertheless a solid slab of crunching death metal that will keep fans of the US act happy.
Coming hot on the heels of last year’s excellent Undead and billed as its ‘demented fraternal twin’, this album continues in the same vein; melodic guitarwork adds more texture to SFU’s trademark stomp, while the influence of mainman Chris Barnes’ writing partners, Rob Arnold, Jari Laine and Ben Savage, is clearly evident.
There’s even a hint of a (slightly) more commercial sheen to Unborn, especially on the likes of Zombie Blood Curse and Prophecy, and guitarists Steve Swanson and newcomer Ola England make the most of the space afforded to them – they’re outstanding on slow burning opener Neuro Osmosis, for instance.
So while it may not reach the heights (or depths) of Undead, this opus still affirms SFU’s continued relevance in modern DM – and ten albums down the line, Barnes certainly shows no sign of letting up. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Blood Brother
Genre: Classic Rock
For many 1987 represented the glorious peak of the MTV-inspired hair metal era with Def Leppard’s Hysteria, Whitesnake’s 1987 (!) and Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation the pick of a mightily impressive commercial rock bunch.
In the same year Ronnie James Dio released a fourth album under the Dio name and went on to play Donington’s Monsters Of Rock as special guest to Bon Jovi and above Metallica, Anthrax, W.A.S.P. and Cinderella.
However, in a big year for the little man Dream Evil just didn’t do Dio justice. Save for the iconic title track and the brooding Naked In The Rain this patchy collection of hard rockers neither replicates the melody of Holy Diver or The Last In Line nor captures the sound of the time. It’s both stuck in the past and unable to do justice to a proud legacy.
What makes this reissue something special, however, is the inclusion of the full Monsters Of Rock set featuring classics Neon Knights, Children Of The Sea, Holy Diver, Long Live Rock N Roll and Rainbow In The Dark. It’s a Dio Best Of played out to a capacity Donington crowd and it’s a dream set for any fan of Ronnie James. And in this case it puts the deluxe into the deluxe edition. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Dio Don And Dusted
Genre: Thrash Metal
The Metallica-esque intro to Diary Of A Thrashman, from Lost Society’s major label debut, is clearly in thrall to the Finnish band’s heroes and it’s a cracking example of old school thrash with a modern steel.
Disappointingly it’s a rare highlight on a record that suffers from a poor mix, patchy production, a lack of consistency and little originality. Perhaps all of the above is only to be expected from four wide-eyed teenagers with lofty ambitions and a lack of experience.
This is a band to revisit in two, three or four years when time spent on the road touring Europe, learning lessons from their more savvy peers and writing with a greater maturity will help to reveal the real Lost Society.
Fast Loud Death is the sound of a band feeling its way, stumbling here and there and ultimately tripping up altogether. But it’s also the sound of potential, passion and convincing power. Ones to watch. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Lost Focus
Genre: Progressive Metal
Intronaut is a band that’s never going to sell millions of albums, never going to sell out arena tours and never going to infiltrate the mainstream. On the plus side their progressive metal will never be tainted by commercial pressures or major label influence.
Seven years after the release of debut Void, the Los Angeles band have hit their stride – this trancy, trippy and cerebral set of modern metal an example of what’s possible when four talented musicians explore the seemingly impossible and favour experimentation over safety.
There’s nothing safe about Habitual Levitations. Even the ridiculously overblown title is dangerously long and will have iTunes librarians the world over running for cover. Killing Birds With Stones kicks things off and at eight minutes-plus it sets a pulsating tone – it’s to Intronaut’s credit that the pace never slackens. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Nauty But Nice
Genre: Thrash Metal
Initially available as a bonus disc within the Worship Music special edition package, this EP of covers – and two versions Anthrax’s Crawl – pays homage to a slew of 70s icons.
And as unlikely as it may seem one quarter of the Big Four don’t do things by halves when delivering their take on Boston, Journey, Cheap Trick and more.
Anyone who witnessed Joey Belladonna joining Steel Panther on stage last year for a sparkling rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’ won’t be surprised to discover the reborn pocket rocket is more than capable of swapping full-on thrash for AOR sheen.
Yet Anthrax’s bold takes on Smokin’, Keep On Runnin’ and Big Eyes must be heard to be believed and the only sub-standard cover here is their version of AC/DC’s TNT – seemingly the one dead cert. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Cover Stars
Genre: Post Grunge/Alternative
Released in the US last summer, the latest long player from Portland’s Everclear follows a tried and tested formula for radio friendly alternative rock. It’s inoffensive, occasionally interesting but largely insipid stuff.
The upbeat title track is up there with the band’s best work and would slot neatly into any career-spanning retrospective alongside familiar hits Santa Monica, Wonderful and I Will Buy You A New Life. However, there’s a real sense that Invisible Stars is the work of a band with very little to offer that’s new and innovative.
Too much of the material here is throwaway alt rock unlikely to stoke the fires of fans rightly expecting so much more from the post-grunge pioneers. Everclear used to be at the forefront of everything that was exciting about America’s fast-moving 90s scene. Nowadays they’re just lost in the crowd. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Fallen Stars