And there’s a bumper crop of releases bringing together everything from AOR to metalcore and hair metal to folk metal.
Kicking things off there’s the latest raft of Frontiers releases including a live set from Sebastian Bach, a retrospective from Stryper and new music from Pretty Maids and De La Cruz.
Norwegian metal lords Kvelertak (pictured) deliver album number two and Finnish folk metallers Finntroll are back.
There’s new music from Visions Of Atlantis, Serenity, Warpruna and Scottish noise merchants Bleed From Within.
Plus we check out the latest release from Spinefarm signings Vega.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we reveal the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rarely does a metal band so heavily reliant on a growling vocal style venture with such assurance into classic rock territory. However, Kvelertak’s decision to do just that could well propel the ambitious Norwegians into the big leagues.
Imagine Thin Lizzy mashed up with classic Opeth. Or vintage Maiden fronted by Behemoth’s Nergal. Kvelertak’s three-guitar melody coupled with singer Erlend Hjelvik’s grizzled delivery makes for a unique and endearing sound that never suffers from the fact that this energetic six-piece write exclusively in their native tongue.
You won’t be able to understand the lyrics but Meir‘s intention is pretty clear – to rip up metal’s form book and redefine the genre’s often stifling boundaries. Remember when Metallica released the Black album? Meir represents the next great reinvention of metal. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Meir Mortals
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Hair Metal
Revision complete, exams passed and a place at hair metal college confirmed: De La Cruz have clearly worked their butts off to hone the perfect 80s sound and six years after the Def Leppard wannabes got together their time has surely come.
As dedicated students of big hair, spandex and cheese-filled choruses this killer quartet deserve first class honours and more. Street Level is the sumptuous sound of a band that has left no stone unturned in its pursuit of the ultimate hair metal pastiche and it’s a lesson in imitation as the greatest form of flattery.
Whether aping Sparkle Lounge-era Leppard on the luscious Gimme Love and Dreaming – singer Roxxi Catalano is a dead ringer for Joe Elliott – or paying homage to 1987-esque Whitesnake on the layered intro to Invincible there’s a fantastic retro flavour to a record that still sounds so 2013. Reckless Love and H.E.A.T. are looking nervously over their shoulders as we speak…. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Cruz Control
Black metal, folk metal, viking metal – all genres which have evoked the spirit of ancient ancestors, especially those keen on fur, longboats and drinking horns.
Norwegians Wardruna, though, have tapped even deeper into the heathen heart with Yggdrasil, the second instalment of their Runaljod trilogy. Lead by multi-instrumentalist Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, one time drummer with BM outfit Gorgoroth, and featuring the considerable vocal talents of Lindy-Fay Hella – plus former Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl – this album sounds like it was forged thousands of years ago, rather than in 2013.
With historic instruments such as deer-hide frame drums, Kraviklyra (a Norwegian stringed instrument) and goat horns employed throughout, and lyrics written in Norse and even proto-Norse, Yggdrasil certainly has both feet planted firmly in the past. The album feels connected to nature, while simultaneously weaving a magical spell over the listener, and if you’re not completely entranced by the beautiful, atmospheric Solingren, you have no soul.
Fans of Selvik and Gaahl’s previous outfit may wonder what the folk is going on, but open minded metal fans should embrace this mesmeric, fascinating door into another world. Incredible. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 History Lesson
Genre: Melodic Rock
In 2010 Pandemonium landed on the RUSHONROCK reviews desk threatening to be the best record Pretty Maids had produced in 20 years. It proved to be anything but.
So when Motherland dropped last month it’s safe to say there was no rush to review the Danes’ latest offering – until the first bars of opener Mother Of All Lies rang out loud and proud.
As comebacks go this album is like Red Rum winning the ’73 Grand National, Liverpool lifting the 2005 Champions League title and last year’s European Ryder Cup victory all rolled into one. It’s the sound of a band back from the dead and back on track.
Sad To See You Suffer is a modern rock classic with singer Ronnie Atkins finally laying to rest the ghosts of Pandemonium’s poor production and patchy songwriting. As passionate on Hooligan as he is delicate on the Leppard-esque Infinity, this is a career high for a vocalist who’d lost his way on the band’s previous long player. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Pretty Impressive
Genre: Christian Rock
Fresh from a barnstorming set on last week’s Monsters Of Rock cruise, the mercurial Michael Sweet and his bible-bashing buddies deliver a set of re-recorded classics and a couple of barnstorming originals for good measure.
Of the new material the groove-laden Bleeding From The Inside is a belter – even if the bluesy riff sounds remarkably like something Free might have recorded back in the day – and Blackened is a stereotypical Stryper fist-pumper.
But it would have been nice to hear more of the same. Instead this is a familiar Best Of set allowing Sweet and co. to profit from a back catalogue locked away by previous labels.
Stryper aren’t the first band to go down this road (earlier this month Def Leppard released yet another ‘new’ recording from their glory days as they continue to haggle for the rights to their Hysteria-era sets) and they won’t be the last.
But Sweet must surely accept fans will see through his claim that the 2013 versions of Stryper’s most familiar anthems ‘sound better than the originals in many ways’. Honesty is the best policy here and this is an honest reappraisal of Christian rock staples. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Second’s Out
Genre: Hard Rock
The audio version of former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach’s debut solo CD/DVD package confirms what any fan of the flamboyant singer already knows – his controversial transition from hard rocker to metal head is all but complete.
Two sets – featuring six duplicate tracks – throw together classic anthems from Skid Row’s MTV-bothering glory days and a sprinkling of material from Bach’s solo work.
The chart-busting favourites 18&Life, I Remember You and Youth Gone Wild get the biggest cheers from both the French and LA audiences. But all three feature the screaming metal edge favoured by Rock Of Ages extra Bach following his return to the world’s biggest stages.
Anyone who witnessed a stellar Download Festival set last summer won’t need reminding that one of the most colourful characters of the early 90s still has what it takes as an intoxicating frontman.
But for as long as the towering singer sees himself as more Rob Halford than Jon Bon Jovi there’ll always be those harking Bach to the good old days. And as for the unforgiveable album title? Don’t even go there. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Bach Catalogue Live
Genre: AOR/Melodic Rock
Patronised by none other than Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott – and leaning heavily on Sheffield’s finest on this sugary sweet second long player – Vega can surely eclipse label mates The Treatment and Reckless Love as melodic rock’s next big thing.
Following up 2010’s RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Kiss Of Life with the equally polished What The Hell!, the band chosen to open up for AOR legends FM across the UK this month are on fire.
Singer Nick Workman has never sounded so good as he rifles through a set including lead single White Knuckle Ride, power ballad Cry and arena anthem in the making Hands In The Air.
It’s the record fans of late 80s heavyweights Leppard, Europe, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi have been waiting for and next month’s Hard Rock Hell AOR festival set can’t come soon enough. Miss it and miss out. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Hell Yeah!
If you’re sick of the sound of alt rock arena behemoths Biffy Clyro then fellow Scots Bleed From Within offer an angrier and altogether nastier take on rock from north of the border.
The bastard sons of the NWOBHM and Scandinavia’s more brutal black metal crews, the brutal quintet scream evil intent and visceral rage. Uprising is as uplifting as it is unpleasant.
Tunes like It Lives In Me express deep feelings of inner doubt and devilish mistrust with singer Scott Kennedy refusing to hold back and reveling in his role as ferocious flag bearer for these Celtic ear crushers.
Uprising is rarely refined yet it remains clinically focused. If Bleed From Within are not quite the saviours of British metal then they’re quite capable of givinbg the genre a timely shot in the arm. And a painful one at that. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Ear Bleeding
Genre: Folk Metal
On the mesmerising Mordminnen the crazy folk of Finntroll manage to surpass themselves in terms of outrageous ambition and aural dexterity.
A band renowned for pushing the boundaries rolls out a humppa-fuelled anthem mixing folky fun with good time swing and underpinned by old fashioned metal. It must be heard to be believed.
Blodsvept never quite eclipses 2010’s majestic RUSHONROCK RATED 10/10 Nifelvind (and what could?) but three years after that monster release rewrote the folk metal rule book there’s another killer record in town.
Finntroll have found the secret to crafting metal that rocks. The band’s ear for a harmony – however complicated when set against a backdrop of bizarre traditional instruments – should be bottled. It’s infectious, inspiring and incredibly interesting. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Rock N Troll
Genre: Symphonic Metal
On Ethera the multi-talented Maxi Nil comes of age as a serious contender for the crown of symphonic metal’s best female singer. A lavish production and intense lyrical journey ensures this essential album is a marked improvement on the tentative Delta.
And as a tribute to the late Nicole Bogner – the band’s original female vocalist who died last year at the tragically young age of 27 – this is the perfect Visions Of Atlantis record.
If the bizarrely titled Clerics Emotion might have been lost in translation it is, nevertheless, the outstanding song here. Allowing Nil to showcase her full range and featuring sparkling musicianship it’s a definitive VOA track – offering a nod to the past and giving fans an exciting glimpse of the future. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Ethereal
Genre: Symphonic Metal
The exotically named Clementine Delauney debuts for the Austrian symphonic metallers on the follow-up to 2011’s Death And Legacy and it’s immediately clear her partnership with Georg Neuhauser works a treat.
Serenity’s sweeping melodies demand complementary vocals of supreme quality and the band has thrown together a duo more than capable of doing justice to some of the most intricate metal around.
The Art Of War is a rousing anthem while the psychedelic intro to Shining Oasis neatly segues into a dreamy ballad mixing chunky riffs with Eastern flavoured strings and trademark keys. Serenity’s various members know their strengths and War Of Ages is evidence of a band singing from the same hymn sheet and yet finding the space to celebrate individual talent.
Symphonic metal is a fast-rising genre showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon: Serenity are leading the charge. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Serene Progress