And as usual there’s a bumper crop of 2014 contenders crossing genres.
At the heavier end of the scale we focus on Caliban, Hammercult, Kampfar and the Warfare compilation.
We check out hot new music from You Me At Six (pictured), Skindred and Supersuckers.
There’s a special edition of pop rocker Daughtry‘s latest US smash hit album and Jake E Lee returns with Red Dragon Cartel.
We review and rate the latest releases from Ring Of Fire, Primal Fear and Berggren Kerslake. And we deliver our verdict on The Manic Shine.
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
It’s a genre that’s enjoying an Indian summer but the first great blues rock record of 2014 has already arrived. Swedish singer songwriter Stefan Berggren has teamed up with Ozzy/Uriah Heep stixman Lee Kerslake to craft a truly remarkable album oozing authenticity and emotion.
Sumptuous opener Walk Tall is a revelation – think classic blues-infused Southern Rock with the commercial appeal of vintage Richard Marx. It’s a winning combination that sets the scene for the joyous set that follows.
There are flavours of Cream and shades of Coverdale-era Deep Purple all over Super Sonic Dream and the deliciously versatile Berggren (most recently seen with Company Of Snakes) doesn’t stop there. This is vintage rock with a meticulous, modern sheen. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Hazy Shade Of Winter
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Thrash/Death Metal
Brazil’s extreme metal scene is best known for spawning Sepultura, but take a closer look and you’ll discover a slew of 80s born acts whose influence has spread far and wide.
Bands like Sarcofago and Mutilator – both found here along with countrymen Holocausto and Chakal – made a huge impact on the nascent Scandinavian black metal scene… and listening to their primitive, bestial death/thrash, it’s easy to see why.
Originally released in 1986, Warfare Noise is an historic document, more than a simple compilation, and all credit to Greyhaze for reissuing it, and restoring the eight tracks on show.
Sarcofago’s Satanas is probably the pick of the bunch, bursting with ferocious, youthful energy and a real punk spirit, but there are plenty of explosive, crust-coated gems to be enjoyed on this album.
Think Brazilian metal begins and ends with the Cavalera brothers? Think again. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Brazilian Wax
German quintet Caliban seem like they’ve been around for aeons, but while they’ve made their mark on the metalcore scene, they’ve never quite reached the top of the tree.
Ghost Empire is unlikely to change that – especially as the genre is past its peak years. However, that doesn’t mean that the Essen outfit’s tenth full length isn’t a quality offering. The album is chock full of soaring choruses and hard-as-nails, downtuned riffery, as well as some highly impressive songwriting. Closing track My Vertigo for instance, with its commercial sheen, is a sing-along anthem, while yOUR Song, dedicated to Caliban’s fans, is surely destined to be a live favourite.
OK, it’s a little bit cheesy in places, and doesn’t re-write metalcore’s rulebook, but you can’t help be carried along by the band’s passion and commitment to their craft. And that’s something to be celebrated. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Spirited
Genre: Black Metal
Two decades in, Kampfar have a solid reputation for delivering folk influenced black metal which draws heavily on their Norse heritage; Djevelmakt, their sixth full length, will surely see that reputation enhanced even further.
For this is a well-written, superbly executed album which blends its more extreme moments with rousing melodies and a firey, pagan spirit: for the most part sung in Norwegian, it’s atmospheric music, and you’ll feel the chill of the Scandinavian forests, and the dread of the underworld, on tracks like Blod, Eder og Galle and Kujon. The slower-paced, Swarm Norvegicus, meanwhile, boasts a sense of dark grandeur which few contemporary black metal bands can conjure.
A real force to be reckoned with, Kampfar have successfully carved out their own niche within a crowded genre: Djevelmakt could be their crowning glory. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Djevel Music
Death pop? Eurovision core? Whatever you want to call it, The Unguided’s synth-heavy second opus is smeared in so much cheese it should carry a health warning.
The band, featuring former members of Sonic Syndicate, are accomplished enough, and Roland Johansson’s leadwork is at times, electrifying. And it’s not that the band don’t have a hard edge, with Johansson’s co-singer, Richard Sjunnesson supplying the ‘harsh’ vocals, and tracks like Inception boasting plenty of chugging riffs.
But Fragile Immortality simply lacks the songwriting spine to go with all the bluster, technical wizardry and silky smooth production job – which is a shame.
Will these songs sound good pumped through a PA at a huge, mainland Europe metalfest? Probably. Will they make a lasting impression? Probably not. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Un-inspiring
Genre: Progressive Metal
With this intriguing, brave and mind-boggling debut, Barishi seem hell-bent on making their mark on the burgeoning prog-metal scene. Acid rock, Mastodonic riffs, trad metal, sax squeals… the Vermont outfit’s musical palette is a rich and colourful one.
Opener Sky Burial gets things off to a rather trippy start, but three tracks in, you’re hit with The Rider, a track bulging with clanking metal grooves and staccato rhythms, while Through Mountains, Through Plains soars high into the stratosphere.
A tidier production job might have improved this opus, as would a better vocal performance from Sascha Simms, but the ambition – and sheer love of music – evident on Barishi is heartening. In football parlance, ‘Someone sign them up!’ RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Psyched-out
Genre: Pop Rock
As the polished, sanitary pop rock of Baptized floats inoffensively into the ether it’s increasingly difficult to picture Chris Daughtry and his comrades as the boisterous rockers handpicked to open up for Nickelback on their October 2012 UK tour.
Ok, so the former reality TV star is no Ozzy Osbourne and never will be. But he proved a more than gusty performer in front of his British fans 18 months ago – mixing throaty vocals with some seriously powerful riffs.
In 2014 it seems he’s happier taking on Train and Maroon 5 at their own game. Baptized is a commercial masterpiece: made for radio and about as edgy as a spiral staircase.
Waiting For Superman and Wild Heart are wonderful songs – just not rock songs. And when Daughtry launch into Long Live Rock & Roll you really wonder why. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Daugh Ajar
Genre: Pop Rock
Perhaps You Me At Six have been studying their Linkin Park DVDs just a little too closely. Room To Breathe, nestled right in the middle of this classy set, is an arena-ready anthem blatantly borrowing from the Chester Bennington book of enormodome successes. It might not be such a bad move.
Win Some, Lose Some follows hot on its heels and after a strangely subdued start this is where Cavalier Youth really kicks in – and lives up to its bold and provocative name.
You Me At Six always had a talent for writing punchy pop rock tunes but four albums in and it’s clear they really get it. Mixed to perfection, Josh Franceschi’s melodic tones are given room to breathe and the chance to flourish: the frontman’s career-defining performance is this ambitious record’s crowning glory. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Youth Gone Wild
Genre: Ragga Metal
Let’s get one ting straight at the outset: Skindred are one of the best live bands on the British rock scene right now. Period. And in an era of dwindling record sales that ability to perform has served them well.
Problem is the frenzied Welsh crew would really love some critical acclaim for their studio work. Well, Kill The Power could be the music they’ve been looking for.
Comfortably capturing Benji Webbe’s frantic approach to fronting a band and, at the same time, revealing his band mates to be rather adept musicians this landmark releases fuses raw energy with focused expertise.
Power ballad We Live is weirdly life-affirming and Ninja is Skindred at their barmy best. Turn it up and lose yourself in a haze of mental ragga metal. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 ‘Dred In The Zone
Genre: Thrash Metal
Israeli metal might still be searching for its go-to band with the scene developing at a rapid pace. It’s blindingly obvious that Hammercult is not that band.
This is derivative, often desperate and largely dull melodic thrash. Bury The Road attempts to melt your brain but plain fury is not enough: Steelcrusher lacks a USP and a standout track mired, as it is, in meaningless noise.
Founder and frontman Yakir Shochat tries incredibly hard to prove Hammercult’s worth only to fail in spectacular fashion. ‘Flesh can overcome steel and mind can overcome matter,’ according to the ardent singer. Sadly, enthusiasm cannot overcome a shortfall in creativity and talent. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 3/10 Hammer Blow
Genre: Modern Metal
Described as ‘genre-hopping metal-edged progressive rock’, The Manic Shine are simply a band without identity. So much is shoehorned into this mash-up of rock styles that classification is pointless: it’s a help as much as a hindrance.
More nu-metal than most, there are moments when this North London four-piece seem rooted in the early 2000s with nowhere else to go. But The Manic Shine are all about surprises – some of them nasty – and there’s more to Let Go Or Be Dragged than meets the eye.
Technically they know a few tricks. But four degrees in music might be too much for one band to handle as LGOBD drifts aimlessly as often as it moves forward with focus. (S)WORDS? What’s that all about then? For now, The Manic Shine remain an incomprehensible mystery. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Some Shine
Genre: Hard Rock
Jake E Lee’s wilderness years are over. It’s official. With Red Dragon Cartel’s blistering debut album in the bag and a Download festival slot confirmed this could be the year Ozzy’s ex-guitar hero is finally recognised as a giant of the hard rock genre.
Regular vocalist DJ Smith does a more than decent impression of Bark At The Moon-era Osbourne on Deceived and evokes teary-eyed memories of what was, let’s face it, one of the musical partnerships of the 80s.
Guests Robin Zander and Paul Di’Anno allow Lee to celebrate the full range of his fret-melting dexterity while In This Moment’s Maria Brink brings a modern metal balance to the retro focus. Lee’s been away for too long: it’s time to welcome him back from the Badlands – or wherever he’s been. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Red Alert
Genre: Hard Rock
Eddie Spaghetti boasts a name surely bound for rock n roll glory but so far Supersuckers’ hard rock grooves have remained largely underground. This is the record that could change all of that.
As a rock n roll party album Get The Hell has it all. Something About You, Bein’ Bad and Rock On are simple yet effective, infectious yet throwaway, club-focused yet arena ready.
Every tune here is neatly packaged, written to hit the target and delivered with a joyous enthusiasm. In fact it will be a crying shame if Get The Hell doesn’t do for Supersuckers what Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies did for Volbeat last year. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Supercharged
Genre: Power Metal
Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner are a metal match made in heaven. Sharing the same vision for balls-to-the-wall trad metal punctuated by showy power metal flourishes, theirs is a philosophy guaranteed to curry favour with legions of contonental Europe’s hairiest men (and even hairier women).
Delivering The Black is a metal-by-numbers masterpiece – if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Underpinned by the undeniable class of crack duo Scheepers and Sinner, it throws down the gauntlet with the Priest-inspired Rebel Faction and never loosens its grip.
Giving relative newbies Dragonforce a run for their money, Primal Fear genuinely pack a punch. When Death Comes Knocking is resonant of early Queensryche and there’s no avoiding the frequent nods to classic Helloween. Scheepers and Sinner know their stuff. And this stuff’s worth getting to know. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 The Fear Factor
Genre: Melodic Metal
Like Scheepers and Sinner (see above), label mates Mark Boals and Tony MacAlpine boast more than enough experience and nous to make a truly rousing Ring Of Fire record.
Quite why Battle Of Leningrad never quite hits the mark is, therefore, a nagging mystery. Mother Russia bodes well with its military beat and piano-led intro – as atmospheric openers go it’s a winner.
But sooner, rather than later, the music gets lost in the concept and a rather awkward storytelling style just doesn’t sit well with MacAlpine’s obvious strengths as a world class guitarist.
This is a record that must have sounded great on paper, only to lose a little in the recording process and almost fail spectacularly in the final mix. Note to Boals and MacAlpine: could do better. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Battle For Recognition