And leading the charge are heavy metal royalty Judas Priest with their latest angry blast.
We check out the latest sounds from Grave Digger (pictured), The Mutants and newbies Night By Night.
There’s new music from Lazer/Wulf and latest signings to the Off Yer Rocka label – Massive Wagons.
Every week we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Genre: Heavy Metal
Had this album been called Redeemer Of Soul – without the ‘s’ – then the metal world might have sat up and taken notice.
The prospect of Rob Halford reinventing himself as a latter day Sam Cooke would surely have titillated the most grizzled of rock critics. But there’s no duet with Joss Stone. No Stevie Wonder cover. Nope. That this is yet another par for the course Priest release is both expected and exhausting.
The metal pioneers might have moved away from the concept album after the mishit that was 2008’s Nostradamus. Yet Redeemer Of Souls is a similarly overblown, cluttered and complicated affair: the album’s highlights (of which there are many) are often lost in a haze of misdirection. Quantity overshadows quality – and that’s without the bonus disc.
Down In Flames is classic, streamlined, clichéd Priest with Halford wailing ‘going down in flames/going down in a blaze of glory’ while set closer Beginning Of The End is almost ballad-esque with its signature sound reminiscent of Metallica’s lighter moments. And it could well be prophetic for a band in the autumn of its career.
This isn’t the best Priest album ever. But it’s better than Nostradamus. Enough said. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Souls Searching
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Heavy Metal
Grave Digger boast almost as many former members (15) as they do studio albums (17) and there’s no doubt that life’s never dull inside the Germans’ camp.
But if there’s little consistency in the band’s revolving doors line-up then their ability to belt out top notch trad metal year after year knows no bounds. Return Of The Reaper is another raging slab of molten riffology that’s so hot it’ll leave your ear lobes singed.
The foreboding title track is scarier than the front row at a Candlemass concert but 76 seconds of darlkly effective scene-setting gives way to the frankly terrifying Hell Funeral. Then comes War God. Followed by Tattooed Rider and… You get the gist.
Grave Digger have attitude and imagination in spades. And if Return Of The Reaper sounds like just about every other album the band’s released in the last decade it’s yet another lesson in metal perfection. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Digging It
Genre: Hard Rock/Rock N Roll
Signed on the strength of their hard gigging, liquor ligging, riff jigging live shows it’s easy to see why Massive Wagons appeal to the label that’s home to the Quireboys and Bonafide.
Boasting confidence, swagger and retro sensibility aplenty, Massive Wagons mix Airbourne’s (is Rising Tides an O’Keeffe brothers’ offering?) endearing bluster with Black Spiders’ spunk to create a raucous mix of amped-up rock n roll.
It’s raw, like fresh sunburn. And it’s occasionally predictable, like Luis Suarez biting his marker. But on lighters-aloft Southern Rock flavoured anthem Look Around, Massive Wagons demonstrate truck loads of talent.
Fight The Streets suggests there’s a lot more to come from a band oozing potential – their work ethic, ear for a terrific rock tune and those legendary live shows should see the Wagons roll on and on. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Massive Potential
Genre: Hard Rock
If imitation is, indeed, the greatest form of flattery then Heaven’s Basement should be incredibly flattered by the opening track to Night By Night’s sparkling debut. The two bands could be one and the same.
However, there’s far more to this polished quintet than the replication of the Basement’s best material. Mixed in with some solid British rock and roll are harmonised vocals more often associated with the US AOR scene while Can’t Walk Away has more than a hint of Mutt Lange-produced Leppard about it (and spot the Tesla-like vocal in the verses).
A typically astute Romesh Dodangoda production job brings out the best in a band for whom melody is the key. Chief songwriter Ben Christo has clearly studied at the school of slick 80s pop rock and his clean guitars could give Phil Collen a run for his money.
Frontman Henry Rundell has what it takes to carry hard rocker Siren, upbeat anthem It’s Not Faith and atmospheric set closer Never Die Again. Expect these boys to be snapping at Heaven’s Basement’s heels very, very soon. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Night Songs
Genre: Alt Metal
It was Fleetwood Mac who once insisted ‘you can go your own way’ and Lazer/Wulf have embraced that sense of freedom – and then some.
Whether this unique metal trio are big Lindsey Buckingham fans is anyone’s guess but their sense of adventure makes for a weirdly magnificent listening experience.
Apparently The Beast Of Left And Right is presented as a palindrome (the same stuff backwards and forwards) but you’ve got to be right on the money to keep pace.
Opener Choose Again (Right Path) and set closer Mutual End are a case in point with one presented in major chords and the other in minor – we’d like to say it all makes sense eventually but that would be the most blatant of lies.
Palindrome or not, take this bizarre record at face value and it’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of mind-bending music from another planet.
You can go your own way but Lazer/Wulf go further than the rest. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Wulf Blood
Genre: Punk/New Wave/Ska
The Mutants are new but sound very old. Or vintage, if you like.
Opener Rebel Radio, featuring Neville Staples, is the ska-rich, horn-infused sound of 21st century happiness but there are plenty of darker moments on Rhythm And Punk Review.
Walking Wounded, a wonderfully cynical track showcasing the combined talents of Wilko Johnson, Jake Burns, Wayne Kramer and Norman Watt-Roy is The Mutants at their meanest, if not necessarily leanest.
The brainchild of Chris Constantinou (The Wolfmen, Adam Ant) and Paul Frazer (Black Futures) this star-studded collaborative project is an absolute breath of fresh air at a time when the music industry is minded to play it far too safe.
The classy vibe, clear optimisim, blinding enthusiasm and sobering angst go hand in hand to underpin a record with rich credentials and cracking tunes.
Vomit Feat and the two-minute set closer Rock And Roll Education are pure genius. But with a roll call this good it’s hardly surprising. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Mutants And Punkles