And it’s clear Christmas is coming with three big-hitting CD/DVD packages leading the charge.
Europe (pictured), Def Leppard and Ted Nugent have all pieced together pin-sharp audio-visual packages for your listening and viewing pleasure – we review and rate them all.
There’s new music from blues rock buzz bands Blues Pills and The Graveltones. And we check out some classic rock and roll from North East favourites The Attention Seekers.
Crazy Arm and Chris TT both have brand new albums out now and we deliver our verdict on both – plus new music from I Am King.
At the heavier end of the scale there’s the return of Ihsahn, the definitive Paradise Lost compilation and new music from the Earls Of Mars.
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: Blues Rock
Elin Larsson harnesses the soul of Janis Joplin, the style of Stevie Nicks and the force of classic Aretha Franklin to create a retro rock sound that fits snugly alongside genre trailblazers Free Fall, Graveyard and Scorpion Child.
Blues Pills’ Devil Man EP might belong in the late 60s/early 70s but it’s brand new and brilliant. The only disappointment is that there are no more than four songs here.
But it’s all about the hype where Blues Pills are concerned and drip-feeding a snippet of the band’s best work will see the classic rock community reaching fever pitch.
Thought St Jude were the saviours of female-fronted blues rock? The Pills have come up on the inside, run their rivals off the road and parked a four-track classic slap bang in front of the home for next big things. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Thrills And Pills
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Sleaze Metal
Dear oh dear oh dear. Damn Dice might look the part with their Crue cuts, sleazy stares, punked-up pouts and slashed denim but when it comes to the music so many bands do it better.
Stuck somewhere between the post-punk howl of Hanoi Rocks and the harder end of the hair metal era, the fresh-faced quartet rely on a thumping rhythm section to hide their numerous rough edges.
Trailing buzz bands Reckless Love, Rebellious Spirit, Santa Cruz and fellow countrymen Falling Red by some distance, it’s difficult to imagine Damn Dice bagging that lucky break anytime soon.
Heart On The Run is about as good as it gets but of the six tracks here none has the craft or quality to make a lasting impression. Looks aren’t everything. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Dicey
Genre: Blues Rock
For a two-piece Jimmy O and Mikey Sorbello make one hell of a noise. But it’s a good noise, a gratifying noise and a noise that’s made more than the odd grizzled rock critic sit up and take notice.
Nominated in Classic Rock Magazine’s 2013 Best New Band category – on the most competitive shortlist in recent memory – The Graveltones are going places. And this year they’ve already gone places as the opening act for fellow Best Band nominees The Temperance Movement.
But if The Graveltones – who have also opened up for Rival Sons in the last 12 months – still have work to do then Don’t Wait Down is the ace in their pack.
Packed with punchy, rhythmic, driving blues their delicious debut is an album rich in emotion, meaning and authenticity. Songs like the epic Six Billion, the magnificent I Am A Liar and the doleful Dying On Your Feet are pure blues rock gold. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Well Toned
Genre: Folk Rock/Classic Rock
Multi-talented singer songwriter Alan Fish is a familiar face on the North East live scene and in recent years The Attention Seekers have, in spite of their inappropriate name, quietly gone about the business of building a loyal and knowledgeable fan base.
This collection of live favourites, unique takes on the band’s favourite Alan Hull compositions and a spirited new recording of Loud Guitars’ Out Of Me brings their sound and vision bang up to date with a typically understated cool.
If vocalist Paul Liddell’s quirky accent occasionally jars – bizarrely filling closed vowel Geordie couplets with ‘photograrf’ and ‘larf’ – then there’s much to embrace here. Fish’s no-frills guitar work is reassuringly heartfelt (check out Water) and there’s a familiarly warm tone to the best of the band’s folk rock interpretations.
Should The Attention Seekers actively pursue a more visible platform in the future who knows where this wonderful band might end up? In an age of processed reality television pap, Fish and his mates prefer plain and simple reality. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 The New Seekers?
Genre: Classic Rock/Hair Metal
When RUSHONROCK bumped into Joey Tempest outside his Leicestershire hotel, on the morning of the band’s Download show, the first topic of conversation was the previous weekend’s monster set in Sweden.
Back on home turf Europe had performed a mammoth 28-song career-spanning show featuring guest performances from Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker as the must-see headline act.
Little wonder Tempest was struggling to get too excited about a 35-minute slot on the second stage at Donington.
Thankfully those who only caught the truncated UK version of the summer’s hottest ticket can now feast their eyes – and ears – on this lavish three disc CD/DVD record of Europe’s Sweden Rock triumph.
Not surprisingly Tempest sounds just a little nervous as he feels his way through opener Riches To Rags. More new songs follow but by the time a belting version of Scream Of Anger segues into Superstitious (John Norum’s solo is sumptuous) this is Europe at their stellar best.
With too many hits to mention – and further evidence that the band has morphed into a genuine blues rock force in recent years – this is the truly compelling story of a remarkable band’s creative journey.
Encoring with The Final Countdown and sending their home crowd into a frenzy, Europe may never play a show quite like it again. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Swede Dreams
Genre: Classic Rock/Hair Metal
Not to be outdone by fellow 80s hair metal heroes Europe (see above), the mercurial Def Leppard have created an audio-visual treat of their own with the high-production Viva Hysteria!.
Performing the ultimate hair metal album Hysteria in the home of US excess, Las Vegas, always oozed potential and a band renowned for its close attention to detail capitalised on a golden opportunity to cement their brand.
Selling out an 11-date residency at The Joint At Hard Rock Hotel, the Lepps squeezed every last drop out of their mega-selling 1987 release – playing the album in its entirety every night.
The footage captured here would make Mutt Lange proud – it’s so slick that it’s a wonder Joe Elliott doesn’t slide straight off the stage and into the throng of 40-something devotees for whom time stood still 25 years ago.
Pin-sharp footage, Elliott’s best vocal performance for years, a battling display from Vivian Campbell and a crowd-pleasing Greatest Hits set ensure the ultimate Leppard experience. Finally embracing the high-definition age, the band responsible for setting new audio standards now look as good as they always sounded. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Vegasteria
Genre: Hard Rock
To complete the hat-trick of this week’s CD/DVD treasures who better than the Great White Buffalo himself – Ted Nugent? Featuring the man himself alongside Derek St Holmes, Greg Smith and ‘Wild’ Mick Brown this is a predictably raucous and riotous romp through a back catalogue bursting with Detroit rock city pride.
Footage from the hugely popular I Still Believe Tour has Uncle Ted in firebrand form – jostling for top billing with the iconic St Holmes to recreate the on-stage chemistry of The Ted Nugent Band’s glory days.
The crazyfied classics come thick and fast with Stormtroopin’ an early contender for set highlight. Need You Bad and Turn It Up are perfectly juxtaposed while an incendiary version of Cat Scratch Fever still spills over with the Nuge’s trademark fun factor.
There are very few performers of Nugent’s vintage who can match the 64-year-old’s vivacity and vitality but his passionate delivery is a pure joy to behold. If this is to be the final live record of a legendary rocker then it’s a worthy send-off. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Negentlemen Only
Whatever’s in the water on Mars (there’s got to be some somewhere), has had a strange effect on this British quartet. For The Earls’ self titled debut is eccentric, bizarre, slightly unhinged and a whole lot of fun.
Think Clutch having a late night jam with Tom Waits and Tony Iommi in a creepy dive bar after a heavy session on the whiskey and you might get close… or nowhere near at all.
Creepy, quirky piano motifs, gonzo riffs, quasi-scat vocals, a waft of accordion – you’ll hear all of that and more during the band’s magical mystery tour, and there’s much to love about tracks such as The Last Glass Eye Maker and The Astronomer Pig (and not just their titles either).
Everyone needs a band like The Earls Of Mars in their lives – all hail the red planet! Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Mars Attacks
Genre: Extreme/Progressive Metal
As a member of Emperor, vocalist/guitarist Ihsahn helped to re-define extreme music in the 1990s. And while Das Seelenbrechen is a world away stylistically from In The Nightside Eclipse, it’s clear the unbridled spirit of black metal still burns deep in his heart. Ihsahn, you see, has always been an innovator – as well as supremely gifted musician – and his fifth solo effort shows just how deep his well of talent goes.
Even by the Norwegian’s standards though, Das Seelenbrechen is breathtaking in its scope – from the taught rhythms and staccato riffs of NaCl, to the astral, Floyd-inspired leadwork of M, to the avant-garde tumult of See, the album’s closer.
The mellower Pulse, with its electro-goth undertones, shows a lighter shade to Ihsahn’s personality (is this the same guy who wrote I Am The Black Wizards?), yet there’s plenty of ferocity in his work too… even if it will probably be too ‘out there’ for the corpse-painted hordes.
Emperor might be re-uniting for a few shows next year, but it should be the release of the Das Seelenbrechen that really gets the pulses racing. A triumph. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Imperial
Genre: Gothic/Doom Metal
Marking a quarter of a century in the metal game by releasing a bog standard ‘greatest hits’ comp might be good enough for some bands. Thankfully, it’s not for Paradise Lost, who have chosen to celebrate their anniversary with this lengthy collection of rarities – and a rather tasty new tune, Loneliness Remains.
Tragic Illusion 25 sees re-recorded old nuggets, such as the magnificent Gothic, rub shoulders with covers (including Spear Of Destiny’s Never Take Me Alive) and tracks like The Last Fallen Saviour, which somehow didn’t make the cut for last year’s Tragic Idol opus, but certainly deserves its place here.
There are even orchestral versions of Last Regret and Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, which are beautifully arranged, and boast an even greater sense of drama than the original versions… guitars be damned!
A treasure trove for fans and a fine way to toast the ‘Lost’s career, Tragic Illusion 25 is essential listening for those who like their metal as dark as the rain-laden Yorkshire skies. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Use Your Illusion
I Am King burst onto the scene with their debut album One Hundred through Rise Records – who have a good track record of producing the sort of album and the sort of sound that I Am King are trying to perfect.
And by signing to a label that already includes artists like Hounds Like Houses, Like Moths To Flames and Sleeping With Sirens, they have given themselves the best possible chance to make it big.
One Hundred opens strongly with the well balanced Alpha, which descends into grungy, gritty scream-core in parts, before Sam Sky’s vocals bring it out of the territory that would scare off a lot of listeners.
Then again there is little variation on the album in regards to the make-up and type of song, which does lead to it feeling slightly repetitive.
But it’s rare that you get a perfect debut album and if they may have some way to go to replicate the songwriting and craft of post-hardcore icons like Funeral For A Friend, I Am King have created a genuinely heavy, moshable beast that will doubtless bring them more success than failure. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Kings For The Day
Genre: Punk Rock/Alt Rock
Now here’s an album screaming of a vintage sound with a fresh perspective and a new path for the Devon-bred punk band, Crazy Arm.
Hitting off with a gospel solo and smooth country guitar twang, from the start Oh Death/Hell To Pay cries of the band taking Americana cocktailed in their own kicks and style.
The second track, Remembrance, really sets the album’s tone, calling of the wild with its tight harmonies and running guitars: it could fit the soundtrack of a slick Spaghetti Western.
In an album filled with strong harmonies, dextrous melodies and rich textures it is difficult to choose a grape from the bunch. However, standing out above the rest are the songs Fossils and We Don’t Go There Anymore.
A fine example of the band’s more melancholic abilities, Fossils is a calm yet emotive experience and is a work of deft craftsmanship. We Don’t Go There stands at the other end of the spectrum, and with its fast pace and return to melodic reach, it will be on repeat for several days.
Crazy Arm have really found and filled a niche with The Southern Wild and there is little, if any, work of this style and calibre being produced elsewhere in the UK. Alexander Lerche
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Arms Race
Genre: Alt Rock
Chris T-T has returned with his ninth album, The Bear, following up from 2010’s Love Is Not Rescue, and it’s just a little bit complicated. Bringing about a complete change from the previous album’s light-hearted approach, his latest effort comes as a resonant movement, but tangled in its ability of enjoyment.
Opening with the quasi-reflective 1994, which starts with a distorted wave of guitars before stirring up reminiscent notes of piano-laden garage, it brings home the impression of a band playing down their local.
Forward on and the confusion sets in.
Some of the tracks seem as though they belong on a different record. Idris Lung’s underlying guitar riff seems strikingly familiar to Daft Punk’s Arena, and heavily electronic, feels a bit out of place.
The melancholic Gulls is the highlight. It hints of indie sound with the added backing singers, but still belongs elsewhere. Chris T-T has a clear talent for songwriting, with smart lyrics like ‘I’m tired as a beaten drum, replace my skin…don’t let me crumble from within’, but his voice needs far more melody. AL
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Grizzly Bear