And this Sunday marks Todd La Torre’s recording debut with Queensryche as the Seattle prog metallers look to a future without Geoff Tate.
Elsewhere we check out the latest from hard hitting Vikings Amon Amarth, rising British hard rockers Exit State and former Savatage frontman John Oliva.
There’s retro 70s rock courtesy of rising stars Scorpion Child plus new music from Israelis Orphaned Land and Palehorse.
And we check out reissues courtesy of Sister Sin (pictured) Dio and Mat Sinner.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Progressive Metal
Examples of great bands tragically diluted by the departure of their iconic lead singer litter rock’s history books. On this evidence Queensryche won’t be adding their own chapter to a familiar story any time soon.
A terrific debut from Geoff Tate’s successor – soundalike Todd La Torre – ensures the Seattle titans can look forward to the future with confidence. This assured self-titled release puts the ‘Ryche back where they belong as leaders, rather than followers, of the progressive metal genre.
At times La Torre sounds so similar to Tate it’s like listening to Rage For Order all over again. But Queensryche’s trademark guitar sound demands a powerful hard rock vocalist boasting a wide range and high pitch. La Torre delivers on both counts and adds enough of his own personality to counter the criticism that he’s no more than a Tate clone.
Redemption and Don’t Look Back (which the band appear in no mood to do) are classic Queensryche and there’s a sense of much-needed post-Tate creative freedom writ large across this record. Michael Wilton, in particular, is like a man possessed as he reinforces his reputation as one of metal’s most adept guitarists.
After the disaster that was the aptly-named Dedicated To Chaos, Queensryche have re-emerged in triumphant mood. Geoff who? Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Torre-fic
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Classic Rock
Although dated (and blighted) by the bizarre robotic voice over that makes its presence felt early on, this 2000 album is an often overlooked piece of classic Dio that did much to inspire the revival in classic rock five years later.
Marking the return of Craig Goldy as a guitar hero par excellence, the marriage of Ronnie James Dio’s enduring vocals and some inspired fret burning makes for a fascinating record.
Completely at odds with the nu-metal of the day, Magica wears its classic rock roots loud and proud – even throwing in a Dire Straits-style riff into Fever Dreams. As Long As It’s Not About Love is a trademark ballad allowing Dio free reign to showcase his unique talents and Goldy shimmers on the outro to Eriel.
If you always thought Dio was all about the mid 80s then think again. Magica more than holds its own alongside the classic quartet of Holy Diver, The Last In Line, Sacred Heart and Dream Evil. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Pure Magica
Genre: Classic Rock/Psych Rock
Hailing from Austin this retro-fuelled quintet wear their hair long, their leather jackets battered and their influences on their sleeves. This is heavy rock rooted in the early 70s and perfectly timed to impact upon on a growing scene dominated by Graveyard, Free Fall, The Sword and their ilk.
Vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black could be fronting a glam metal band when he lets himself go but on Antioch he is the epitome of classic Robert Plant and there’s no doubt Scorpion Child do Zeppelin very well indeed.
At an ambitious 13 minutes, set closer Red Blood (The River Flows) continues the Zeppelin theme (think Zeppelin III) and marks out these feisty Americans as ones to watch. Great name, great hooks and a great sense of history: welcome to Scorpion Child. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Child’s Play
Genre: Hard Rock
Truly one of the finest rock vocalists in a generation, former Savatage frontman Jon Oliva has drawn on his vast experience traversing genres and breaking new ground to deliver a record compelling in its diversity.
From the title track’s progressive intro to the rough and ready hard rock of the rousing Soul Chaser and the funky horns ushering in Ten Years, there’s never a dull moment as Raise The Curtain raises the bar.
But has Oliva gone too far? Perhaps overly-influenced by his stint with Trans Siberian Orchestra, the veteran singer could be accused of pushing the boundaries too far. On Soldier he sounds like the lead in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical – and that’s never good.
Raise The Curtain is a rare treat if you’re prepared to enjoy your rock with an open mind. But expect the unexpected. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Curtain Call
Genre: Hard Rock
In the wake of 2011’s RUSHONROCK Rated 5/10 Black Veins, it was suggested Exit State had come too far, too fast. The hasty follow-up to debut Death Of A Rockstar was a patchy affair but its highlights demanded this band stayed on the radar.
Let’s See It All is an assured and more mature slab of hard rock that proves the Burnley band can fulfil their massive potential. Opener Pull The Thread pulls no punches and the title track almost admits a wider view was required before planning the future.
Exit State have seen it all – and learned most of rock’s valuable lessons – touring alongside Michael Schenker, Blaze Bayley and Black Spiders and their on-stage prowess has never been in doubt.
With Let’s See It All the confident quartet finally have the album to complement their bombastic live shows. Save Us From Ourselves is the strongest track here – Exit State might have done just that. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Healthy State
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
For long-standing Amon Amarth fans, 2006’s With Oden On Our Side represented something of a career peak, with subsequent efforts Twilight Of The Thunder God and Surtur Rising seeing the band climb up the metal tree and gain a huge following, without offering anything as potent as mid-noughties anthems Cry Of The Blackbirds or Asator.
Deceiver Of The Gods, though, sees the beardy Swedes back on course as far as quality is concerned. Yes, it still sounds like Amon Amarth, transporting you to bloody Norse battlefields and boasting riffs as crushing as Thor’s hammer. But they have sharpened their songwriting and given the whole album a sense of focus: there’s no filler here, just a collection of devastating, Viking powered belters like As Loke Falls and Blood Eagle.
Acclaimed producer Andy Sneap has worked his magic too, drawing out the band’s melodies to stunning effect (Warriors Of The North a perfect example), yet leaving none of their trademark aggression on the studio floor.
Currently celebrating 21 years in the game, Deceiver… is exactly the album Amon Amarth needed to make right now. Oden would be proud. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Divine
Brutal, abrasive, jarring, disturbing… you wouldn’t file Palehorse under easy listening. Harm Starts Here conjures images of decaying urban centres rife with tension, of dank alleyways strewn with syringes and smelling of fear. The two bass band don’t do ‘nice’ music. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Londoners’ third album is rough and raw – and on tracks like Charnel No.5, dripping with feedback and unforgiving in its heaviness. Whether they’re hacking lumps off New York noise rock, or deconstructing doom metal, Palehorse assault the senses like few other bands… and make some members of the sludge seem tame in comparison. That’s not to say there aren’t lighter, more reflective moments on Harm Starts Here, with Skin Flick closing the album in a (slightly) more subtle, fashion.
But on the whole, this opus is a punishing, caustic piece of work: approach it with caution, but do approach. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Apocalypse Now
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
Liv Jagrell is cut from the same cloth as Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Doro Pesch and Maria Brink – a rock goddess as powerful as she is sexy and a metal queen fashioned to rule vast stages the world over.
Dance Of The Wicked goes back to the start and Jagrell’s startling debut. This 10th anniversary reissue of Sister Sin’s first record may be raw but it showcases the potential of a frontwoman now billed as one of metal’s rising stars.
Featuring bonus tracks in the shape of three demos -and Jagrell’s duet with Doro on Rock N Roll – there’s more than enough reason to revisit Dance Of The Wicked. And it’s obvious why US label Victory were quick to take a chance on the fist-pumping Swedes.
Jagrell is a far more polished performer in 2013 but there’s a certain charm to opener Kiss The Sky and ballad Tragedy Loves Company. It’s proved to be an enduring charm. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Sister Act
Genre: Progressive Metal
Israel’s premier metal band made waves with 2010’s emotive The Never Ending Way Of The ORWarriOR and All Is One offers compelling evidence that one of the most progressive albums of the decade was no flash in the pan.
Controversially consigning the bulk of their death metal influences to history, this is Orphaned Land making a serious play for the mainstream – and it works.
Kobi Fahri can still growl with the best of them but All Is One is more about an increasingly melodic approach to metal with Mira Awad providing a perfectly complementary female vocal.
In the past Orphaned Land have transcended the religious divide, announced the Middle East as metal’s next heartland and refused to be constrained by genre. Now they’ve made the record that could define their career. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Land Of Plenty
Genre: Hard Rock
To date this remains the only ‘solo’ release from Sinner/Primal Fear driving force Mat Sinner but it’s a record the prolific bassist/singer should count amongst his very best creative achievements.
Very much of its time, the 1990 album pays due homage to an 80s scene that had spawned a multitude of chart-busting rock bands every corner of the globe. With strong choruses, punchy power chords and slick solos at the heart of every song it’s Sinner’s passionate play for a piece of the commercial action.
Mixing the melody of Germans Bonfire with the raw sleaze of Ratt, Back To The Bullet is a bona fide hard rock classic. Every Second Counts rolls along at a relentless pace and ballad Call My Name – with its Leppard riff – is a made-for-MTV gem reminiscent of Danger Danger.
Sinner’s vocal – with its trademark rasp – doesn’t always fit the chart-friendly blueprint but a pin-sharp production job polishes even the roughest of edges. With horse samples (really), the sound of broken glass (yep) and the cheesiest of lyrics, Bite The Bullet is a triumph of style over substance. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Bullet Proof