There’s the low down and dirty blues rock Americana of the fast-rising Tedeschi Trucks Band and progressive metal from Brit upstarts The Safety Fire.
Trent Reznor returns with what could be the most ambitious Nine Inch Nails record yet. And supergroup The Winery Dogs prove there really is life after Black Country Communion.
AOR Heaven serve up soft rock treats courtesy of the late Brett Walker and super Swedes Niva. And trad metal titans Wolfpakk return to the fray.
Hair metal heroes Reckless Love (pictured) rock out in fine style with their latest party opus and Saint[The]Sinner build on their metalcore potential with a well-timed mini-album.
Plus we check out new music from DevilDriver and Vista Chino.
Every Sunday we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK and round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Blues Rock/Americana
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi boast a chemistry on and off the stage and the married musos don’t hold back on the brilliant Made Up Mind – allowing their merry band of hired hands to explore every aspect of blues, country and Americana to exhilarating effect.
Ten-strong at the last count, and featuring a flautist and horn section to boot, boundaries aren’t a big thing where TTB is concerned. Made Up Mind is all about exploring music’s vast possibilities and defying genre and convention.
Yet there’s a reassuringly retro feel to the bulk of this groove-laden record with the magical Misunderstood benefiting from Trucks’ instinctive fretwork, an impassioned performance from his missus and some suitably inspiring organ and brass to create a 70s-flavoured blues-busting masterclass.
Layer upon layer of raw rock n soul infiltrate almost every song here and those new to TTB will hardly be surprised to discover the band’s rousing debut Revelator won a Grammy for Best Blues Album. Don’t bet against more gongs for the masterful Made Up Mind. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Trucks Top
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Industrial/Alt Rock/Dance Rock
Trent Reznor is the Doctor Who of rock. Regeneration is in his DNA and Hesitation Marks is his most stunning transformation yet.
Mixing elements of Massive Attack, classic Red Hot Chili Peppers, the dance rock pomp of Depeche Mode and U2’s stadium anthem swagger there’s more pop and less rock on this remarkable record.
But if traditionalist industrialists will find tracks like Find My Way and the funked-up jazz rock of All Time Low too much to stomach then this could be the NIN album that takes the band to a whole new level. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Top Marks
Genre: Classic Rock
Another week and another supergroup. But are the Winery Dogs in danger of being dismissed as a poor man’s Black Country Communion or a less meaty Chickenfoot? No chance.
A sparkling self-titled debut allows Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy ample opportunity to showcase their incredible skills but it’s only on the odd track – Not Hopeless is a prime example – where this classic rock record creeps into vanity project territory.
Otherwise opener Elevate overcome’s Sheehan’s inevitably dominant bass to set a spirited tone and We Are One points a glorious middle finger at the critics.
This is post-grunge precision given a classic rock sheen – or should that be Sheehan? And that’s good enough for us. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 The Dogs’ Bollocks
Genre: Hair Metal
How long can Reckless Love keep reinventing the ‘all style and no substance’ soundtrack to the late 80s? How long is a piece of string?
Spirit picks up where previous anthem-led albums Reckless Love and Animal Attraction left off – only this time the production is sharper than a pair of frontman Olli Herman’s fur-trimmed cowboy boots.
I Love Heavy Metal will go down a storm with any fan of hairspray, denim, spandex, leather and MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball as it name checks just about every essential band and hit single of rock’s excess all areas era.
Better than Steel Panther? You bet. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Spirit Level
Genre: Melodic Rock
Given the sad passing of Brett Walker prior to this posthumous release it’s incredibly tough to pen an impartial review of Straight Jacket Vacation.
However, in truth, this is a rather average record that leans too heavily on a familiarly generic West Coast sound and drifts along at a pedestrian, albeit pleasantly relaxing, pace.
A respected songwriter, yet less lauded as a recording artist, Walker does soar on the standout I’m Gonna Fly but moments of brilliance are dulled by too much mediocrity. Straight Jacket Vacation is background music for a long, hot summer. Nothing more and nothing less. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Straight Talking
Genre: Progressive Metal
Darlings of the UK progressive metal scene, The Safety Fire have stepped up to the plate for the release of their second full-length album.
If debut Grind The Ocean was the sound of a band stretching too far, too soon then Mouth Of Swords benefits from a more focused, calmer and cannier approach with Derya Nagle (who also produced this accomplished body of work) and Joaqin Ardiles emerging as a titanic twin guitar force.
Red Hatchet and Wise Hands are the tasty meat in the middle of a mouthwatering prog metal sandwich that will have fans of the genre feasting on its delights for weeks and months to come. Out on tour next week – catch The Safety Fire while you can. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Swords Play
Following up on their four-track 2011 EP Da Vinci’s Demise, nine-track mini-album The Curious Tale of Mistress Murder should help to project Saint [The] Sinner onto a larger stage.
Delve beneath the dark nature of the album – a selection of song titles include The Lament and Mistakes & Heartbrakes – and the listener will find that they can enjoy the song craft and vocals just as much as the message inside them.
However, STS fall into the trap of over thinking their music – which can to pretentiousness in their music. This is especially the case with the preaching, penultimate track, Dead Man’s Poem.
Yet for the most part this is a record that demands attention with infectious hooks and well-judged change-ups between the visceral, guttural vocals of Dimitri Gjiknuri and the cleaner lines of Jimi Laughton. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Sinner Sanctum
Ballad In A Misty Light is clearly what these Swedish melodic rock overlords do best with frontman and founder Tony Niva hitting new heights on a soaring track with its roots firmly planted in late 80s MTV heaven.
Disappointingly – and surprisingly – the up-tempo rockers on Magnitude just don’t suit the singer’s incredible vocal range. Melody swiftly segues into animalistic screeching on Perfect Life and Always Somewhere but both tunes benefit from blazing guitar solos.
Niva often sound like AOR’s next big thing but frequently find their potential lost in a muddy and ill-conceived mix. It’s a frustrating quandary – especially when standout Let It Shine proves just how impressive this band can be. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Niva Say Never
Genre: Heavy Metal
Cry Wolf, Wolfpakk’s follow-up to their 2011 debut, shows little deviation from the tried and tested formula that has been followed by countless bands many times over. It’s an album that has no surprises in store stylistically – something not necessarily a bad thing.
The fact that there were nine contributing vocalists and four contributing guitarists means that the album has an incredible diversity to it – whether that’s from the classic hair metal riffs and vocals of the title track Moonlight to the more hard rock sounding Pressure Down. There is even a 10-minute epic in Cry Wolf thrown in for good effect.
But whether it’s classic or hard rocking, each song is played with the precision and ability that you would expect from a band with so much experience, and using such a varied talent pool.
Classic metal is making a comeback this year and Wolfpakk are certainly running with the field. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Pakking A Punch
Genre: Thrash Metal
Boasting a new label and a settled line-up it’s high time DevilDriver deliver on a decade of metal thrashing mad potential. But Winter Kills is a safety-first slab of generic riffage smacking of a dangerous decision to take stock and tread water.
This is a record that showcases DevilDriver’s skillset to perfection but there’s no discernible difference between this album and the best of 2011’s Beast or previous long player Pray For Villains.
Dez Fafara does give his all on the titanic title track and killer lead single Ruthless but then doesn’t he always? What Winter Kills lacks is a game changer, a glimpse of the future and a promise of greater glories to come.
Instead Desperate Times says it all. The pressure is on. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Winter Of Discontent
Genre: Desert Rock/Stoner Rock
Kyuss Lives!, in all but name, Vista Chino usher in the end of summer with a suitably low key collection of de-tuned grooves and pounding riffs. John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork might have been forced to change the name but the songs remain the same.
Right from the off, with the angular and ambitious Dargona Dragona, Vista Chino lay down a marker. This is Kyuss rebooted for 2013 – Kyuter and considerably Kyooler.
Whether you’re still revelling in the glory of Sabbath’s Ozzy-fronted comeback or getting to grips with new kids on the block Graveyard or Free Fall, this is a record steeped in 70s swagger and strong enough to make a statement four decades hence. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Peace Full