And today we turn our attention to the latest albums from Aussie power trio Tracer, guitar hero Joe Satriani and revamped Brit rockers New Device.
There are new releases from super Swedes Bai Bang (pictured) blues rock sensation Danny Bryant and Brit noiseniks Heights.
Plus we check out the latest offerings from The Ocean and Shade Empire.
Every Sunday we review and rate the latest sounds creating a buzz on the rock and metal scene.
We name the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we reveal the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Post-Grunge/Classic Rock
Warning: this is not the new Soundgarden album. But it really could be.
Michael Brown sounds more like Chris Cornell with every passing note but that’s only half of the story. Why El Pistolero could be the perfect post-grunge album is more to do with the quality of the songwriting, the confident delivery and the Kevin Shirley sheen.
To say Tracer have come of age on this outstanding record would be to ignore what’s gone before. The assured power trio probably proved themselves on the third of their quickfire back-to-back European runs in support of 2011’s much-lauded Spaces In Between. Come the end of that intense touring schedule it was obvious Airbourne weren’t the only new Aussie band worth shouting about.
The difference in 2013 is that a bold body of work has been born from experience. Experience on the road, experience of media patronage and the experience of fans from abroad flocking to their shows on the back of a handful of decent tunes.
El Pistolero – featuring the four part Suite Del Desperado – is more than a contender for 2013’s album of the year. It’s the mid-year leader. Shirley only deals with the real deal and Tracer are definitely that. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Tracing Certainty
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Hard Rock
Fourteen albums in and it’s becoming no easier to make sense of whether Joe Satriani exists on another musical plane altogether or whether he’s simply adept at getting more out of his favourite instrument than the majority of his peers.
Unstoppable Momentum is like almost every other Satriani record – flawless, on the face of it. It’s impossible to criticise Satch as he doesn’t make poor albums but it’s almost as difficult to ascertain whether momentum overshadows progress where one of rock’s most talented guitarists is concerned.
Lead single A Door Into Summer is a gloriously upbeat affair and album closer A Celebration fizzes with fret-burning panache. The canny juxtaposition of Jumpin’ In and Jumpin’ Out sees Satriani at his playful and powerful best.
Unstoppable Momentum is, indeed, the sound of a technically brilliant guitarist in no danger of letting writer’s block halt his pursuit of a career-spanning canon the envy of a generation. But is it also the sound of a musician as comfortable and complacent as he is confident? SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Momenterm?
Genre: Hard Rock
The very best of British when they burst onto the scene alongside the likes of Dear Superstar, Voodoo Johnson, The Crave et al, it’s taken New Device a few years and several line-up changes to finally hit their stride.
But Here We Stand is a polished and professional statement of intent that sets the band apart from the chasing pack and suggests sustained success is, after all, more than a dream.
Trading outright rockers with assured ballads and a whole bunch of stadium-sized singalong anthems, New Device have freed themselves of second album syndrome – instead emerging from the studio in rude health.
Vocalist Daniel Leigh is a revelation as he handles every fresh challenge with aplomb. This is a new dawn for New Device and Here We Stand can be a new benchmark for rootsy, gutsy British hard rock. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Modern Device
Genre: Blues Rock
The race to become the next Joe Bonamassa is hotting up and on the evidence of Hurricane a certain Danny Bryant is leading the chasing pack.
Like Bonamassa, blues is at the heart of his most impressive work but the likeness doesn’t end there – this is commercially appealing and never comes across as a niche recording. Bryant has recorded his Sloe Gin (Bonamassa’s 2007 mainstream breakthrough) and it sounds fantastic.
That has plenty to do with an astute Richard Hammerton (Manic Street Preachers) production that mixes raw emotion with touches of necessary polish.
Bryant is a brilliant exponent of his craft and opener Prisoner Of The Blues is perfectly pitched at those new to his talent – hear this and you’ll be hooked. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Danny’s The Boy
Genre: Hair Metal
In 2011 Bai Bang were Living [the] Dream and two years on it seems the Swedes have yet to wake from their sleepy state of rock-fuelled euphoria.
That’s great news for everybody who loves their hair metal sugar-coated, chorus driven, laced with overblown guitar solos and made in Sweden.
Scandinavia is, of course, where the genre is at its very best right now – h.e.a.t. and Reckless Love taking their cue from old stagers Bai Bang (formed in 1988) to keep the spandex flag flying.
But in reality All Around The World takes its inspiration from South Yorkshire.
This album is a blueprint for classic Def Leppard with opener Everybody Everywhere an obvious nod to the Sheffield band’s commercial peak. But it doesn’t end there: Bai Bang (the song) is a dead ringer for Nine Lives from Leppard’s 2008 Songs From The Sparkle Lounge.
If imitation really if the greatest form of flattery then Joe Elliott and co. should be very proud indeed. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Bang On
Genre: Post Hardcore
Old Lies… is the second album by British four piece Heights and it marks a change in direction from their debut as former bassist Alex Monty steps up to claim the sole vocalist role. Musically, it’s a faster, more energetic album that sounds like it was written how Heights like to play their live shows.
Old Lies… is an album packed full of angsty lyrics and aggressive snarly guitar but despite all the hard and fast exterior there is a softer side that sometimes slips into the realms of cringy, emo-ish soul-searching. March 1964 is a perfect example of this, as the lines ‘Mother /Father /what could I have been?’ permeate through the music.
Despite this occasional lapse, Heights are able to write great material when they steer away from all of that. The Noble Lie is a perfect example of that. It’s a song with a message but it doesn’t get clichéd, it doesn’t get over-bearing or pushy. All it has is a great chorus and infectious guitar hooks that will be well received in moshpits up and down the country. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Ahead For Heights
Genre: Epic metal
Game Of Thrones – one of the best TV shows ever? Quite possibly, especially if bloody battles, fire-breathing dragons and marching hordes of the undead get your pulse racing. All that it’s missing (for metalheads, at least) is the kind of soundtrack that, on the evidence of Omega Arcane, Shade Empire could write with ease.
For the Finns’ fusion of pounding, extreme metal and symphonic bombast is tailor-made for scenes of king-usurping carnage, or long, frost-bitten marches across windswept mountain ranges.
Ruins is a perfect example of Shade Empire’s trademark sound, emerging from a majestic intro to unleash a black metal firestorm – complete with thunderous kick drums – while Ash Statues will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end; the track is ‘epic’ in the truest sense of the word.
One listen to Omega Arcane and you’ll be convinced that Shade Empire should be as huge as their music sounds. Awe-inspiring. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Imperious
Genre: Progressive metal
The Ocean and concept albums go hand in hand, and Pelagial, the band’s seventh full-length, shows no sign of them steering off course.
For this is yet another lengthy, complex and magnificently arranged opus from the Berlin-based proggers, a constant flow of music, loosely divided into ‘episodes’ designed to drag the listener from the ocean’s surface to its dark depths. As such, its opening parts – Epipelagic, Mesopelagic – Into the Uncanny – have a lighter essence, but by the time the album reaches Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance and Benthic: The Origin Of Our Wishes, it has taken a decidedly heavier, slower turn; you’ll almost feel crushed by the pressure. That, of course, is the idea.
Like much of The Ocean’s back catalogue, Pelagial is an ambitious, visionary project that takes time to absorb. It requires patience and contemplation: let it wash over you though, and you’ll reap the rewards. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Sea-Shape