And today marks the welcome return of Battle Metal overlords Turisas with what could be the Finnish band’s make or break record.
There’s the latest sounds from wacky Germans Saltatio Mortis (pictured) and some seriously black metal courtesy of Watain.
We run the rule over Frontiers stable mates Arc Angel and Fergie Frederiksen and review and rate End Of Green.
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: Battle Metal
It’s a brave move by Mathias ‘Warlord’ Nygard and his army to kick off Turisas 2013 with an over-produced piano-led track that sounds like it belongs in a West End musical. Whatever happened to plain, old, bruising Battle Metal? Perhaps it’s had its day.
Then again Ten More Miles opens up with a typically Turisas military-style salute to the masses and the uplifting chorus – namechecking the band – sees the Viking crew revisit more familiar territory…without ever going the full distance.
Turisas 2013 is a record of evolution but has it gone too far?
The album title itself is bizarre but if it’s all about emphasising a distinct shift in style and content then it might well prove inspired. There’s a distinct sense of Turisas moving forward – to within touching distance of a Maiden-esque future paved with gold and giant arena stage sets. And Nygard is clearly the driving force.
The singer has overseen a number of key changes to his troops in recent years – half of the band has only been around since 2011 – and there’s no doubt his influence is greater than ever. In fact, it wouldn’t be a massive stretch to say this an album built for a dictatorial Warlord – with his band mates simply along for the ride.
Run Bhang-Eater, Run! mixes old school metal with jazz (honestly) and allows Nygard another chance to mix it up. Set closer We Ride Together offers six-and-a-half minutes of neo-classical Turisas but even here the band’s a very different proposition to previous incarnations. Too much change, too fast? Only time will tell. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Turisassy
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Black Metal
When Swedish devil worshippers Watain released 1998 demo Go Fuck Your Swedish ‘God’ it was ludicrous to imagine the band ever habituating a place in mainstream metal. Theirs was the sound of the evil underground.
Fifteen years on and The Wild Hunt is their Black album. It’s a groundbreaking, gut-wrenching, gung-ho and gargantuan record on a scale impossible to visualise even as recently as 2007’s Sworn To The Dark.
They Rode On is the Nothing Else Matters of The Wild Hunt with its clean vocal, searing honesty and acoustic riff. Ok, it’s a singalong ‘ballad’ in isolation but it’s a massive leap forward for a band that’s always hidden behind a barrier of growls, screams and a bludgeoning, stubborn refusal to fully evolve.
Those looking for evidence of Watain’s glorious past fused with the band’s exciting future should skip straight to All That May Bleed with its foreboding lyric and guitar solo stolen straight from a sci-fi epic.
With a luscious production, one of metal’s most reliable rhythm sections and Erik Danielsson’s trademark tones, The Wild Hunt is the Watain record you never believed was possible and the one Watain album you just won’t want to put down. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Wat The Hell?
Genre: Gothic Metal
Germans End Of Green wallow in a perpetual state of darkness, doom and depression with their grandiose Gothic metal surely making a play to soundtrack the world’s end.
With a wardrobe consisting of black, black, black and the odd splash of dark grey, the lyrical thrust of The Painstream dealing in lonliness and desperation and bass lines to slit your wrists to this is no late summer barbecue music.
But for all of their pessimism and self-persecution there’s a strangely uplifting tone to so many of End Of Green’s more immersive tunes – as a whole The Painstream offers a soundscape in which to lose yourself.
Holidays In Hell takes the listener on a mighty trip into the depths of Gothic-influenced reflection and Standalone (‘there’s no end to this strife’) – with its sense of utter dejection – puts a positive spin on negativity. Inspired or insipid? The jury’s out. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Green With Envy
Genre: Medieval Metal
Eight members strong – at the last count – and possessed of an incredible talent for crafting incomprehensibly wacky tunes, the men from Mannheim manage to mix trad metal with a myriad of medieval-inspired instruments otherwise only found in museums.
It all makes for a heady brew way more diverse than anything Finntroll can offer but far less cohesive than those folk metal bands making a concerted play for the mainstream.
The Eastern-influenced Krieg Kennt Keiner Sieger is a fist-pumping anthem typical of Saltatio Mortis’s trademark appeal – Trivium-style riffs juxtaposed with piped sounds more akin to an Arabian market. Suddenly the slogan Medieval Metal just doesn’t seem anywhere near adequate enough.
My Bonny Mary will have Alestorm fans leaping with joy – in a pirate jig fashion – and Sandmann sounds like Richard Marx covering Rammstein. This is one bizarre band. But it works. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Schwarze Beauty
Channelling Marillion, Magnum, Yes and more, Arc Angel embark on a quest to bring cerebral AOR to the masses: Harlequins Night is no exercise in sugary-sweet pop rock with some seriously deep and meaningful lyrics complementing the expert musicianship.
If As Far As The Eye Can See’s ‘holier than thou’ refrain tends to grate then it becomes clear there’s an earnest determination to deal with some of life’s more difficult situations on an album that demands more of the listener.
War (Battle Wounds Of Life) maintains the theme of emotional and physical struggle while the prog-fuelled pomp of Amnesia (For The Rest Of Your Life) sets Arc Angel apart from so many of their Frontiers label mates.
Fortune Teller 2 could be lifted from just about any modern-day Magnum record but that’s no slight on a band bursting with ambition and creativity. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Angel Dust
Thanks to 2011’s glorious RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Happiness Is The Road there’s been a huge amount of hype and expectation surrounding Fergie Frederiksen’s follow-up. Any Given Moment picks up where is predecessor left off with hook-laden AOR flowing from every track – the Journey-esque Let Go the first of a series of melodic rock gems punctuating this classy record.
The Whitesnakey riff that ushers in standout track Price For Loving You reinforces Frederkisen’s reputation for reinventing pop metal’s late 80s heyday but familiarity comes thick and fast on Any Given Moment.
With punchy keys, chorus-driven anthems and the main man’s trademark vocals this is an exercise in ultimate AOR. I’ll Be The One is superb and Time Will Change proves to be a deeply ironic title with its retro synth-inspired twist.
Frederiksen is enjoying a long overdue swansong and Any Given Moment is a legacy record. Skip to the Europe-influenced ballad How Many Roads for a sparkling example of one of AOR’s finest voices. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Finest Moment