Kicking things off is the latest solo offering from the multi-talented James Rotondi – last seen in the UK with US alt rockers the Cringe.
There’s new music from Edguy, Down and Xandria.
Plus we review and rate the latest offerings from Amaryllis, Vallenfyre, Anti-Mortem (pictured) and Cursed Sails.
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: Rock N Roll/Americana/Glam Rock
Into The Unknown is exactly where RUSHONROCK was headed as we pressed play on this previously undiscovered gem. Yet Roto’s Magic Act swiftly cast a spell over a wrapt office as some of the most ‘original’ retro rock of the year proved gripping and gratifying in equal measure.
The man behind the Magic mask – James Rotondi – is one of those impossibly annoying, yet instantly likeable, characters who can turn their hand to just about anything. A talented musician, actor, journalist and raconteur, Into The Unknown may well be his biggest artistic triumph yet.
Rotondi has mixed the raw charm of rock n roll’s most basic premise – passion – with a keen ear for detail and an incredible level of technical prowess. Neat touches like the typwriter intro/outro on Hot News and the pedal steel on Chronically are fused with a particularly charming brand of catchy songwriting with the glorious simplicity of Happier Than Ever this summer classic’s greatest asset.
Recently seen tearing up the UK with The Cringe – Steel Panther’s ill-fitting yet musically adept post-grunge support act – former Mr Bungle and Air muso Rotondi would be welcomed back to these shores with open arms were he to tour as the Magic Act.
This heady mix of Beatles-meets-Free-meets-Stones is made for the British market: savvy promoters act now!
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Could It Be Magic?
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Xandria’s sixth album of hard edged symphonic metal explains a lot. Its lack of creativity is the reason genre rivals Within Temptation and Delain are streets ahead commercially. And its lack of imagination is everything that’s wrong with the explosion in frankly average female fronted metal.
The cream has already risen to the top and after 20 years knocking about the lower reaches of the German album charts it’s about time Xandria accepted their fate. Or maybe they already have.
Perhaps founder Marco Heubaum is content to plod along without pushing the boundaries. Perhaps he’s happy to have Dianne van Giersbergen imitating fellow Dutch singers Sharon den Adel and Charlotte Wessels rather than out-singing them. And perhaps Xandria are prepared to pander to their loyal fan base for as long as it takes.
But whatever the reason for Sacrificium’s unoriginal fare it feels like this is a band treading water. Xandria need to up their game – or at least go down fighting. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Xandriaverage
Genre: Modern Metal
Like a breath of fresh air blowing over the barren wastelands of ultra-serious 21st century metal, the engaging Edguy return with their unique brand of happy-go-lucky heavy rock. Blasting into the German album charts at number two – one place higher than 2011’s equally entertaining Age Of The Joker – it’s a riot from start to finish.
And it even includes a fantastic cover of Falco’s 80s standard Rock Me Amadeus. What’s not to like?
Tobias Sammet has emerged as one of the most affable frontmen of the modern era and if only he didn’t spread himself so thin this could be the band that breaks him as a bona fide international superstar.
The singer’s appreciation of NWOBHM passion and Germany’s 80s power metal fury is mixed with a genuine pop sensibility – even if Love Tyger and Do Me Like A Caveman would make Steel Panther wince.
Edguy is the band every heavy metal fan dreams of – they just don’t know it yet. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Ed Fuck
Genre: Stoner Metal/Heavy Metal
The follow-up to 2012’s furious Purple EP – and the second instalment of Down IV – this typically punishing set of pure metal angst is about as good as it gets in the modern rock arena.
Core trio Phil Anselmo, Pepper Keenan and Jimmy Bower are fast approaching their 25th anniversary and have long since graduated from the school of Sabbath pretenders. Heroes to a whole generation of younger bands, Down continue to deliver a peerless blend of volume, vitality and valiantly unfashionable riffage.
Steeple and Sufferer’s Years scream doom-laden intent – the intense and atmospheric intro. to the former as foreboding a sound as Down have crafted in their stellar career. It’s not for the feint-hearted but then that was never Anselmo’s intention where this brutal band is concerned.
Conjure – clocking in at a pulsating eight-and-a-half minutes – will leave the Down faithful in raptures but there’s not a bad song here. Or a radio-friendly song, for that matter. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Down Tuned
Genre: Alt Rock
London rockers Amaryllis are the latest band to enjoy success through giving away their music for free. Last year they freely distributed their self-titled EP, which has since clocked up over 10,000 downloads and 25,000 plays.
This year they return with an EP that should make them some money. The Revolt, out on the 12th May, is full of the sort of rock riffs that helped Twin Atlantic filter into the national conscience, and while it may be more toned down than the Scottish band’s first offerings, it’s no less promising.
Opening song Kings is a big, statement-of-intent track that makes the listener sit up and take notice. It’s got a great chorus and guitar sound that keeps the rhythm going and the tempo up.
Stand Up, Prophecies and Goodbye offer more of the same, although to finish on Strangers in August takes some of the punch out of the EP. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Revolting
Genre: Extreme Metal/Crust
They may be Paradise Lost guitarist Greg Mackintosh’s ‘other’ band, but Vallenfyre are a powerful, raging force in their own right, and no mere side project.
Featuring extreme scene luminaries including My Dying Bride’s Hamish Glencross and At The Gates/PL sticksman Adrian Erlandsson, Vallenfyre’s pedigree was never in doubt when they launched their debut full length, A Fragile King, in 2011. But Splinters takes that album’s doom/crust/death blueprint much further… and aided by a mighty production job by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, it simply slays all before it.
Of course, there are tinges of Paradise Lost here and there – with Bereft (featuring Mackintosh’s trademark leadwork), reminiscent of the Yorkshiremen’s Gothic period. But the likes of Instinct Slaughter and Cattle hurtle along at a frenetic pace, and see Vallenfyre wearing their love of grindcore and d-beat on their tattooed sleeves, while opener Scabs is a furious blast of old-school death metal.
Pulling together a swathe of influences and moulding them into such a cohesive and direct piece of work should be no mean feat, but Vallenfyre have unleashed their masterpiece in Splinters. Difficult second album? Doesn’t sound like it. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Fyrestorm
Cursed Sails are the new project from former Woe Is Me band members Ben and Corey Farris who, along with bandmates Omar Magana and Brent Guistwite, have produced a fast, loud and heavy debut album.
Cursed Sails prove that social commentary doesn’t just belong to environmentally conscience bands like Enter Shikari or to the individual like Bono. Throughout Rotten Society that band criticise the base elements of human nature.
“You think that you’re free/your mind is a slave” they shriek on Amazing Grace. “We fight until we feel something”, they hammer out in Chernobyl.
But that doesn’t mean that Rotten Society isn’t an album filled with raw anger and passion. Gasoline is an aggressive song that unfortunately gets the gong for least thought-out lyrics. While singing “drown your face in gasoline,” ticks the box of freedom of expression, it doesn’t necessarily do a lot for creative thought.
Criticisms of the record are few and far between and it might even be nit-picking to call out Gasoline for those failings.
Rotten Society is a hard, powerful album with a surprisingly thoughtful side. Move over, Bono. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Summer Sails
Genre: Heavy Southern Rock
Whisper it quietly but US upstarts Anti-Mortem might just have made the album Black Stone Cherry fans were waiting for – a week after the latter’s latest record received a lukewarm reception within the four walls of RUSHONROCK Towers.
Bristling with the kind of raw emotion, passionate refrain and pounding rhythms that made BSC’s first two albums such essential listening, New Southern is an absolute revelation. Four kids with an average age of 20 shouldn’t have the talent or the chops to make a record this compelling.
A fantastic Bob Marlette (BSC, Shinedown) mix makes the most of Anti-Mortem’s obvious strengths with vocalist Larado Romo given ample opportunity to showcase his gravel-toned range. Opener Words Of Wisdom and the brief but brilliant I Get Along With The Devil will strike a chord with any lover of Souther-tinged heavy rock but there’s barely a weak tune here.
Don’t miss them at this summer’s Download Festival – it’s the ‘set by that new band’ everyone will be talking about. You heard it here first. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Southern Comfort