And whatever your taste in all that’s loud and proud you’ll find something right here.
We run the rule over new records from Sammy Hagar (pictured), The Answer, Alter Bridge and new Joey Jordison side-project Scar The Martyr.
There’s new music from Coney Hatch, Bowling For Soup, Fates Warning and Kids In Glass Houses.
Reissues from Rush and Harem Scarem are reviewed and rated plus we check out the latest offerings from Japanese Fighting Fish, Sarke and Midday Veil.
And we deliver our verdict on The Mezmerist, Cult Of Luna and Emblazoned.
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: Classic Rock
If most of us recorded an album with our mates the toe-curling results would be too embarrassing for words. But Sammy Hagar’s friends aren’t just any old buddies.
And it would seem remiss of the former Montrose and Van Halen man to ignore the opportunity to rope in pals of the calibre of Kid Rock, Heart’s Nancy Wilson, Neal Schon of Journey and Chickenfoot ally Joe Satriani to create the feelgood record of the late summer.
This glorious celebration of classic rock often sounds too good to be true – even the bizarre pick of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus (featuring Schon, Van Halen’s Michael Anthony and Chili Pepper Chad Smith) sits snugly alongside the more traditional choices here – but it meets the highest expectations. And then some.
Not Going Down – a commission from Rival Sons’ Jay Buchanan – is a belter (and the video’s even better) and Wilson is on wonderful form on the chilled out duet All We Need Is An Island.
At 65 Hagar should be sitting back and picking up his pension. Instead he’s picking up where Montrose left off in 1976 (indeed, the appearance of Denny Carmassi and Bill Church on Not Going Down simply adds to this thrilling mix of rock royalty). Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Sam’s The Man
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Melodic Rock/Hair Metal
Taking Def Leppard and Van Halen as their lead, the sugary sweet Canadians of Harem Scarem enjoyed 21 years of critical acclaim and very little commercial success before calling it a day in 2008.
It’s no coincidence that the Toronto quartet came together in the same year Leppard’s career-defining Hysteria blew the opposition out of the water: Mood Swings followed six years later and this 20th anniversary edition of an underground classic screams hair metal heaven at a time when the genre was languishing in the pits of grunge hell.
The big ballads (Just Like I Planned is an exact copy of several Bryan Adams numbers), harmonised vocals (Stranger Than Love apes early 90s Leppard) and polished riffs (Had Enough could be Extreme and Nuno in their pomp) are in thrall to a genre that refused to die.
Sadly for Harem Scarem they came to the fore when hair metal was on life support. Two decades on and this outstanding album confirms their status as the crown princes of pop rock. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Hare Metal
Genre: Hard Rock
Myles Kennedy is a class act juxtaposed alongside ultimate guitar hero buddy Slash. Mark Tremonti’s 2012 solo album All I Was showcased his own skills as a six-stringer par excellence.
Yet here’s the puzzle. In tandem Kennedy and Tremonti just don’t cut it as bona fide rock gods: buzz band Alter Bridge might have the star names, the arena billing and the Classic Rock Magazine cover but they still lack the spark to set them apart.
Thousands of UK fans would disagree. AB III charted inside the top 10 three years ago and the glossy Fortress – backed by the band’s biggest headline run to date – looks set to follow suit. But are the Bridge simply the right band in the right place at the right time as twitchy tastemakers search for the next generation of arena rock behemoths?
Addicted To Pain, Lover and the epic title track ooze confidence and commercial appeal but this is a band with no soul. And that’s simply not rock n roll. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Altered State
Genre: Prog Rock
Doesn’t time fly? It only seems like yesterday that Rush’s Vapor Trails were lighting up the prog rock atmosphere and ushering in another exciting new era for this ever-evolving and triumphant trio.
Originally released in 2001 – long before Messrs. Lee, Peart and Lifeson completed their unlikely transformation from quirky nerds to cool rockers – this powerful set included the outstanding One Little Victory and the teasing Secret Touch. Both tunes stand the test of time.
Now both tracks, along with 11 other songs, have been remixed and re-imagined. According to Lee ‘every song has been given a new life’. Perhaps.
The real Rush aficionados out there will, no doubt, find much to admire in the way their favourite band has managed to reinvent a record that was bloody good to start with. But why fix what ain’t broke?
‘New life’ or ‘new marketing ploy’? You decide. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Trails Gone Cold
Genre: Hard Rock
It’s a big week for Canada’s rock community. With Harem Scarem and Rush (see above) reissuing classic albums, fellow countrymen Coney Hatch are all about bringing something new to the table. But after a 28-year famine is Four a riff-stuffed feast?
Yes and no. Connected is overly cheesy, Down And Dirty is pretty tasteless and Holding On is sickly sweet. But Blown Away, Boys Club and Revive are mouthwatering modern classics suggesting it was high time the Hatch reopened. Temporarily, at least.
Whether Four is an aperitif to something more substantial remains to be seen. But it’s about time they served up something fresh – Coney Hatch have been dining out on their early 80s canon for far too long. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Sugar Coney
Genre: Classic Rock
The Answer sound angry. Bitter, almost. A decade spent chasing their dreams, serving up defiant kick-ass rock n roll, slavishly shadowing AC/DC and lighting up stages across the globe has done very little in terms of delivering what this band truly deserves: global success and arena headline status.
Perhaps the reality has sunk in. Maybe the penny has dropped. Or New Horizon could simply be a middle-fingered salute to the masses who are largely to blame for failing to embrace the best British classic rock band of a generation. Whatever is behind this angst-ridden yet focused, feisty yet ambitious album it makes for a watershed moment in The Answer’s career.
Paul Mahon’s guitar tone has never sounded so raw. Cormac Neeson, more than ever, sings every word from the heart and the rhythm section of Micky Waters and James Heatley harks back to an era when British blues rock relied on a pounding underbelly.
Tracks like Leave With Nothin’, Spectacular and Call Yourself A Friend deal with life’s ups and downs, hopes and fears, expectation and reality. The Answer have clearly had enough of being billed as rock’s next big thing: New Horizon sounds like it’s now or never for Northern Ireland’s finest. Let’s hope it’s the former. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 ‘Rizon Stars
Genre: Heavy Metal
Not content with playing the primary percussive role in Slipknot and Murderdolls, the prolific Joey Jordison is the driving force behind another hotly anticipated side project.
Yet Scar The Martyr’s self-titled debut is a disappointingly generic example of metal by numbers – the quality police finally catching up with JJ after a run of bona fide hit albums.
Newcomer Henry Derek just doesn’t have the experience or the clout to make a meaningful impression and his weak vocals struggle to emerge from a muddy mix.
Nobody begrudges Jordison or his masked mates the chance to let off steam outside the ‘Knot. But this lazy effort lacks the hard rock thrust of Corey Taylor’s Stone Sour or the dark humour of Shawn Crahan’s Dirty Little Rabbits. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Martyr Dumb
Genre: Pop Punk/Alt Rock
Kids in Glasses have been around for seven years now. They have produced three albums that have all met with some degree of success, and their fourth, Peace, is unlikely to disappoint their followers.
They have progressed from being the new kids on the block with the hard edged pop-punk sound of first album Smart Casual , to being the poster boys for clean guitar hooks with a more commercially accessible sound.
Peace is a more assured body of work from the Welsh punksters. It feels more mature, right from the title song Peace – which is a big, catchy singalong tune that is bound to please the punters.
But in trying to speak for the people that love them so, they have verged slightly into the ironic.
And not in the good sense.
In VIP frontman Aled Phillips sings ‘If all men are created equal, then who are all these VI people.’ Conveniently forgetting that he is, now, one of those VI People. But it is a minor blemish on an otherwise polished and catchy record. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 House About That
Genre: Pop Punk
Some things will always be the same. The world will always be round, the sun will always rise in the East and Bowling for Soup will always write albums about breaking up, drinking beers and girls.
Their latest effort, the entirely fan-funded Lunch. Drunk. Love is no different. They deliver it in their unique tongue-in-cheek manner but there is also a serious undercurrent about the work that they produce – and it has driven them since their debut album Bowling for Soup all the way back in 1994.
Unfortunately, that formula is starting to get tired. At some stage bands need to grow up and BFS are perpetually stuck in the days of their youth – not a bad thing, but after 10 years something has to change.
The songs themselves are solid – there isn’t a track that stands out for its cringy awfulness. However, there is only one song that stands out for being a great track, something like a High School Never Ends or Girl All The Bad Guys Want, and it is the penultimate song, Right About Now, which features the wonderfully gritty vocals of Erik Chandler.
It is Chandler’s vocals that make the song. And therein is the lesson. Give Chandler some more vocal responsibility for the next album. Because sometimes change is good. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Soup’s Off
Genre: Progressive Metal
Celebrating 30 years in the shadow of genre leaders Queensryche and Dream Theater, the fabulous Fates Warning refuse to disappear quietly.
As pioneers of the progressive metal scene – and beloved of peers including Mike Portnoy – the US heavyweights should be able to call upon a far wider fan base.
That they remain an underground oddity is baffling given the quality of their work and the talent of dual guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti.
Darkness In A Different Light, the band’s first studio offering for almost a decade, is laden with pure progressive goodness. Firefly and Desire are fantastic compositions and if O Chloroform is an overly pretentious filler then it’s a rare low point. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Warning Shots
Worshipping at the altar of Bathory, Black Sabbath, Motorhead and a slew of other spikes and leather-clad metal acts, Sarke slay the old school way.
Aruagint certainly doesn’t win any medals for technical wizardry, but that’s not the point, as this bunch of extreme metal luminaries – including Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto on vocals – just want to rock-out, albeit with Satan as their wingman.
Strange Pungent Odyssey, for instance, is (almost) a black metal boogiedown, while Ugly does exactly what it says on the tin; Lemmy would be proud he’d inspired such a piece of unapologetic, filth-incrusted mayhem.
Sarke’s third album also strikes a nice balance between mid-paced, heads down stompers such as Jaunt Of The Obsessed and the crushing melancholy of tracks like Jodau Aura, which are clearly inspired by Celtic Frost (pre-Cold Lake, obviously).
Sick of slick metalcore, tech-death or pompous, overblown BM? Here’s the antidote. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Sarke Attack
Genre: Progressive Rock/Psychedelic
Listen to The Current for long enough and you can almost see the incense drifting out of your speakers and permeating every corner of your room: this is hypnotic, trance-inducing music, drawing on drone, krautrock, electronica, prog and quite possibly, a love of hallucinogenic fungi, but with a sound all of its own.
Great Cold Of The Night, the album’s closer, is the most ‘rock’ track on this opus, hitting a heavy, dark groove with oodles of tension, and showcasing Emily Pothast’s haunting vocals superbly.
Elsewhere, The Current can lapse into the languid at times, with only patient listening – preferably taking place in a dark room filled with hazy smoke – bringing true reward.
But Midday Veil’s journey into the cosmos is on the whole, an enjoyable ride, and open minded folk would do well to get on board. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Electric
Genre: Psychedelic Metal
A curiosity, rather than a cohesive album, The Innocent, The Forsaken, The Guilty combines US act The Mezmerist’s extremely rare 1983 and 1985 EPs, taking listeners on an acid-tinged journey into the past.
NWOBHM riffery (Arabian Nights) rubs shoulders with extended psych-jams (Victim of Environmental Change) and the results, while intriguing, don’t really elevate The Innocent… to ‘hidden gem’ status.
And although guitarist/vocalist Tommy Mezmercardo could certainly play a bit, especially when he lets fly over Roger Abercrombie or Steve Conrad’s driving basslines, his high pitched singing style isn’t going to be for everyone
A lost ‘classic’ then? Probably not. But metal historians could do worse than adding this compilation to their collections – and the appearance of Black Sabbath sticksman Bill Ward on the first four tracks should generate some wider interest in this release. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Space Oddity
Before the release of this year’s Vertikal, it was hard to see how Cult Of Luna could top albums like Salvation and Somewhere Along The Highway: but somehow they managed it.
Vertikal II doesn’t top its older brother, but the four tracks on here are similar in their depth and power to the material on the Swedes’ last album – and follow the same, linear path, honed in part by Fritz Lang’s influential sci-fi flick, Metropolis.
Light Chaser is probably the pick of the bunch, with its hypnotic, cyclical riff underscored by a pounding, relentless industrial beat, but the somewhat heavier Shun The Mask comes a close second, building to the kind of crescendo that has become the Umea outfit’s trademark.
Futuristic, yet channelling a primal energy few ‘post’ bands can muster, Vertikal II is real treat. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Moon-Raker
Genre: Death/Black Metal
Fierce, hard hitting blackened death metal is offered up by Emblazoned on this short but sweet EP; the effort is a maelstrom of blastbeats, barbed riffs and barbaric vocals, with a seam of pure darkness running straight through it.
The Wisconsin quartet – formed from ex-members of Jungle Rot, Enfold Darkness, Micawber and Decrescent – aren’t just about heads down brutality though, with In Ex Cathedra, the EP’s strongest track, bringing some unearthly melodies to the fore, and Kevin Forsythe’s creepy leadwork giving The Living Magisterium a sense of spine chilling dread, especially on Bound By Eternal Penance.
With just four tracks and an intro to feast on, you’re left wanting a lot more by the closing bars of this opus… let’s hope there’s a lengthier follow-up in the offing. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Blazing
Genre: Alt Rock
After receiving inspiration from a Foo Fighters documentary, the Leeds-born, London-based rockers decided to record this album in a home studio.
However the process couldn’t have been more different, with Grohl’s home studio costing more than most professional ones, while JFF recorded in the most stripped back fashion they new.
This turned out to be a stroke of genius as the band have produced a really intriguing record with keeps you entertained from start to finish.
The variety on this album means it is almost impossible to turn off as you never really know what’s coming next. One minute it feels like Velvet Revolver, the next like you have landed in a theatrical production of an early Ramones record.
Albums like this are often weird and quirky as the band don’t have the talent to write a solid album that has a consistent flow. However this is not one of those and each track feels like it is meticulously planned with the order well thought out. Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Fighting Fit
* Picture of Sammy Hagar by Randee St. Nicholas