And there’s a heavy feel to this week’s big releases with Black Sabbath, Power Trip and Children Of Bodom leading the charge.
We run the rule over Civil War (pictured), Master Musicians Of Bukkake and Summoning.
And we review and rate the latest releases from Bad Sign, Shining, The Black Dahlia Murder and From The Vastland.
Plus there’s a new take on former glories with Thanatos and Necropsy re-releasing material.
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: Heavy Metal
“Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end,” asks the typically doleful Ozzy Osbourne as he opens up his first Black Sabbath record in 35 years. Both, is the answer.
It’s hard to imagine the reformed – classic (minus Bill Ward) – line-up conjuring up another collection of trad metal tunes quite so compelling as those spread across the sprawling 13.
Given Tony Iommi’s serious health problems, Ozzy Osbourne’s constant battle against his personal demons, Geezer Butler’s occasionally baffling off-message comments and Bill Ward’s exodus it’s incredible Sabbath got this far.
13 does feel like the beginning of the end then. But taken in context it also sounds like an album marking the end of the beginning – the record Ozzy and co. should have made a long time before the disastrous Never Say Die marked a pitiful parting of the ways.
If this is it – for whatever reason (and there are plenty) – it’s a fitting finale for the godfathers of metal. There are one or two average tunes but no obvious weaknesses. Enjoyed in one brooding, self-reflective sitting it could be a classic concept album were there any obvious concept.
Instead the content is familiar Sabbath fare: death, darkness, depression, anti-religious and anti-establishment. And if Ozzy, Iommi and Butler lack some of the urgency, hunger and credibility so endearing in their younger selves then these ageing multi-millionaires do a decent impression of men still enamoured by metal’s edgier traits.
Live Forever, making its presence felt after the midway point, is the highlight as it fuses the past with the present to create what amounts to a farewell letter from the three amigos. Whether it is remains to be seen but, on reflection, 13 offers Sabbath the chance to bow out gracefully with their heads held high. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Black Is Back
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Death Metal
Spread across three CDs and four years, this raw collection of deathly demos and rabid rarities proves just how vital Necropsy were to the burgeoning Finnish death metal scene in the early 1990s.
Just what the band’s brand of brain-crushing noise sounds like on four slabs of heavyweight vinyl is anyone’s guess but surely that’s the place to start for true devotees of a genre that’s suddenly soaked in retro cool.
Finnish scribe Timo Hanhirova has quizzed Necropsy frontman Janne Kosonen to get the lowdown on the band’s devilish early days and the complementary essay is a delight in itself.
One word of warning – after CD one (or record one) it’s already clear this is music made for the truly committed with the bludgeoning Mental Disturbance, the merciless Scars Beyond Recovery and the downright cruel Chronic Agony more than a match for most pairs of ears.
Approach the second and third collections with extreme caution. Only the strong will survive. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Tomb Raiders
Genre: Thrash/Death Metal
Next year sees the original Dutch masters celebrate 30 years of thrashing but the thinking behind the decision to re-release 2000’s Angelic Encounters right now remains unclear.
With a new album via Century Media due in 2014 it seems this is nothing more than an appetiser for the anniversary celebration to come.
In truth, however, this revamped version of Angelic Encounters could be the record founder member Stephane Gebedi always wanted to release at a time when the band was going through a period of familiar turmoil.
It’s been tweaked rather than radically changed but sounds incredibly fresh as a result. Within seconds of the first play it’s impossible not to admire the powerful production and when Into Utter Darkness kicks in that’s exactly where you are.
This is old school European thrash metal bursting with attitude. As a taster for the follow-up to 1999’s Justified Genocide it more than does the job. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Strange Encounters
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Still seeking the acclaim his musical dexterity surely deserves, Alexi Laiho remains a largely peripheral figure in mainstream metal as the driving force behind flying Finns Children Of Bodom.
But Halo Of Blood offers further evidence that the guitarist/vocalist belongs in the big time. Hot on the heels of last summer’s career-spanning compliation, the follow-up to 2009’s riveting Relentless Reckless Forever packs a fret-fuelled punch.
Scream For Silence is 80s West Coast metal with a deafening growl – an insanely hummable hook piercing deep inside the consciousness and never loosening its grip.
Lead single Transference might not boast the snappiest of titles but it’s a terrific blast of Laiho brilliance. And the pseudo ballad Dead Man’s Hand On You proves it’s not all balls-to-the-wall bluster from the Bodom kids.
COB have come a long, long, way since the brilliant Blooddrunk marked the band out as ones to watch. Still watching? You should be. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Kids Are Alright
Genre: Black Metal
From Sao Paolo to Osaka, New York to Sydney, metal is adored across the globe. Bands have sprung from the mountains of Norway, the beach towns of California, and the sweltering streets of Indonesia.
Black metal from Iran though? Now that will turn heads. Kamarikan, the second album by one man BM outfit From The Vastland, has been released through the Freedom of Speech – Music Builds Bridges Foundation… and its presence on Norwegian label Indie should see the opus get the exposure itdeserves.
Multi-instrumentalist Sina draws from Persia’s ancient past for his inspiration, but clearly loves his spiteful, Nordic BM as much as the rest of us, as tracks such as The Ahriman Wizard and Darkness All Over The World prove.
Middle Eastern scales are often employed in metal to awesome effect – just listen to Nile or Melechesh – but permeating right through From The Vastland’s music, they have even deeper impact… you can almost feel the searing heat of the desert when the title track blasts from your speakers.
A brave record from an even braver musician (in Iran, underground metal takes on a new meaning) Kamarikan needs to be heard. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Making History
Genre: Death Metal
The Black Dahlia Murder just keep churning them out don’t they? Six albums plus an EP in just ten years is pretty good going by modern standards, but as vocalist Trevor Strnad admitted last year to RUSHONROCK, it’s an approach designed to keep things exciting.
And exciting is exactly what Everblack is. The Michigan mob have never let quantity rule over quality, but in the past, their vicious brand of death metal could be a bit, well, samey.
This opus doesn’t see the band reinventing their trademark sound: the pummelling rhythms, lacerating riffs and Strnad’s caustic vocals are still all present and correct. But the hooks are much sharper and the writing far more polished than on past efforts. Into The Everblack, a menacing, almost sinister tune which keeps things nice and simple, is a prime example; Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn, with its punchy, chest beating chorus, is another.
Mention must also go to Ryan Knight and Brian Eschbach’s axework – the two six stringers complement each other wonderfully, and the duo unleash some of the best solos you’ll hear in modern DM.
A focused,fearsome and technically astounding record, Everblack is a true career peak for The Black Dahlia Murder. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Killer
Few bands can claim to have invented their own genre, but Blackjazz – the title of Shining’s 2010 opus – defines the Norwegians’ sound very nicely. Playing a furious fusion of jazz and extreme metal, the band would see chairs-a-flying riot down at Ronnie Scott’s.
You’d be mistaken in thinking, though, that One One One, the third part of the ‘Blackjazz’ trilogy, would be some sort of avant-garde, self-indulgent mess. Instead, Shining’s seventh album, is a tight, focused affair that really, really rocks. It’s packed with explosive, imaginative and seriously catchy tunes like I Won’t Forget and The One Inside, songs which quickly get their hooks into you and won’t let go.
And boy, can mainman Jørgen Munkeby play the sax. Deploying his instrument like a lead guitar, he adds extra spice to One One One’s plethora of great riffs, but also unleashes wild, solo break-outs akin to Black Flag’s Gregg Ginn, or Slayer’s Hanneman and King.
Thinking man’s music – yet easily accessible and completely addictive – One One One is a triumph. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Shine On
Genre: Progressive Folk Rock
There’s a psychedelic, other-worldy and almost hypnotic quality to Far West that guarantees a listening experience like no other.
It’s not accessible, it will never be commercial and more conservative rock fans will, inevitably, balk at the lack of a recognisable hook or singalong chorus.
Structure is surrendered at the expense of experimentation and focus falls by the wayside – ousted by myriad melodic twists and rhythmic turns.
Taking elements of the Canterbury Folk movement as their inspiration this is either wildly ambitious or hopelessly ridiculous. Either way, it works.
Some of the surreal sounds here ripple with invention with the percussive twists an obvious highlight. Taken as a whole it’s a triumph of musical titillation but judging each song in isolation is pointless. To appreciate it at its most moving, Far West should be judged as one piece of magical, aural evolution. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Master Blasters
On the title track of their hotly anticipated debut album, Texan quintet Power Trip evoke memories of early Bay Area thrash at its ear-bleeding best: Manifest Decimation is brutal, frank, fierce and to the point.
There is the heartfelt delivery of passionate lyrics, the soaring solos and grinding riffs, punishing rhythm section and focused fury.
It’s as if Power Trip have read the history of thrash in one frenzied sitting and poured their hearts and souls into a generic yet effective tribute.
Conditioned To Death mimics Slayer and Death Angel with its no-holds-barred assault on the senses and some axe work to die for. It’s that good.
In fact right now Power Trip’s biggest challenge is creating their own identity while staying true to their thrash metal ideals. Expect the Dallas mob to do just that. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Tripping Out
Genre: Heavy Metal
Touted as one of 2012’s most exciting newcomers, Sabaton offshoot Civil War are finally in a position to prove they can turn potential into something sustainable in the fickle world of metal.
Immediately coming across all Dio-era Black Sabbath, it’s clear The Killer Angels is better than your average debut. Mixing strong imagery with perfectly produced melody, there’s a rousing quality to Civil War’s best material.
Lead single First To Fight bristles with menacing intent and if I Will Rule The Universe is just a little lame lyrically then it benefits from the classy musicianship that runs right through the middle of this uplifting record.
Civil War don’t exactly rip up the metal rule book but theirs is a sound different enough to demand attention. The follow-up to The Killer Angels can’t come soon enough. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Angels Delight
Genre: Alt Rock
Bad Sign’s debut album, despite sounding like a bad French restaurant, is a ride through the genres that have influenced the making of the record.
There are countless flavours that permeate through the songwriting, from the more gritty Band Of Skulls-esque sound on the opening track Cuba to the Twin Atlantic-ish vibes on Affirmation.
This is a rock album through and through, and vocalist Joe Appleford’s voice is more of the side course to the main of drums, guitar and bass.
De L’Amour kicks things off in excellent fashion with the gritty Cuba – filled with the beautifully harsh and hoarse voice of Appleford and the undulating rhythms of Jonathon Harris’s guitar.
Despite falling down slightly in the middle of the album through ‘samey’ songs, it soon picks up again with the excellent final third. Songs that impress are the building, swooping Tonight and the laboriously titled Vicissitude Pt.2, in which Appleford shows off his vocal range with an impressive show of high pitched singing that would make Matthew Bellamy blush.
De L’Amour marks a good start for the threesome from London. It’s a (for the most part) varied album that keeps the listener on their toes. Keep an eye, and an ear, open for these boys. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Good Sign
Genre: Epic Black Metal
With six of Old Mornings Dawn‘s eight tracks clocking in at more than eight minutes it’s safe to say this isn’t an album for the faint hearted. What is required is a firm constitution, an afternoon spent in splendid isolation and a set of solid and reliable wall-to-floor speakers.
Given all of the above it’s possible Summoning’s latest offering will impress even the most grizzled of cynics. Epic is an over-used word when describing metal’s more expansive acts but here the description fits just fine – folky, medieval melodies jostle for position alongside thundering bass lines and growling vocals. It’s a heady mix and each song – save for the brief instrumental intro – is a saga in itself.
There are, inevitably, periods when Summoning appear to lack direction as Old Mornings Dawn drifts and drags its way through meandering mid-sections and occasionally irritating instrumental stretches. But it’s a minor complaint in the face of some fabulously accomplished modern black metal.
As musical projects go this must be one of the more ambitious. It’s testimony to Summoning that they just about pull it off. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Dawn Chorus