And this week we cast a critical eye over Wolf, Neal Morse, Danny Bryant and Lonely Kamel (pictured).
There’s new music from Lock And Key, Miss Behaviour and Niva.
Plus we review and rate hotly tipped albums from Striker, Black Tongue and Pay No Respect.
And there’s a look at the latest albums from Dark Fortress and Black Tongue.
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: Alt Rock/Prog Rock/AOR
This joyous, uplifting, intensely melodic album is the perfect showcase of Neal Morse’s ‘softer’ side.
Those familiar with the Californian’s penchant for polished pop rock will find much to love within Songs Of November and those unaware that the Spock’s Beard/Transatlantic progger is capable of making music in this mould will be blown away (or utterly bemused).
The inspired use of a horn section on the wonderful Whatever Days works a treat while the Tom Petty-esque ballad Heaven Smiled is beautifully arranged. Flowers In A Vase (or ‘vays’, as Morse insists upon calling it) evokes memories of classic CSNY and Tell Me Annabelle is plain, simple, powerful AOR. Despite its name, Songs From November is a late summer treat. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Morse The Merrier
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Post Hardcore/Metalcore
So many post-hardcore/metalcore and hard hitting bands are about giving salvation through music that it’s almost become an unwanted cliché that surrounds the genre.
It can almost distract from the music in a way that isn’t fitting or fair, especially not for a band like Pay No Respect or a record like Hope For The Hopeless.
It’s only four songs long but it feels like it should be so much more. Hope For The Hopeless, One Chance, Face Defiance and The World is Ours ooze class, musicianship and have a beautiful pace that keeps you hanging on to every chord.
Growling out his dark lyrics, Joe Kenney brings a gritty, almost feral feel to the EP, and when he screams ‘you can take my life, but you can never take my pride away from me’, you really, really believe him.
Hope For The Hopeless is PNR’s first release since 2012 and it’s the sound of a band truly comfortable in what they are doing – cliché or not. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Respect Due
Lock And Key is an intently personal affair for frontman Rich Lardner, and to some extent they was conceived during his stays in hospital during which he missed four tours in a row and battled a life-threatening illness.
As such, the five songs within The Divide deal largely with the blacker aspects of life. But there is also hope and a call-to-arms nestled within the breathtaking hardcore riffs and animalistic vocals.
The opening song, Down But Not Out, is exactly the type of song that you’d expect to be in an EP about hope, desperation and everything in between – while Burning Rope is more instantly recognisable as an emotionally charged track. Lardner growls ‘I prayed to a god that I didn’t believe, because desperation was all I knew’. Despite the aggressiveness in the song, it sends shivers down your spine if you stop to think about the words.
It was difficult to imagine The Divide leaveing the listener with so much to think about. But this EP is cerebral stuff. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Lockdown
Genre: Black Metal
Bringing a sense of gothic grandeur to black metal, Dark Fortress have been plugging away for 20 years now, and Venereal Dawn is the sound of a band at ease with the melodic (and rather gloomy) path they’ve taken. It will not set the world alight, and lacks the otherworldliness that typifies the very best BM, but the Germans’ seventh full length is finely crafted and flawlessly executed.
The excellent Luciform is Dark Fortress at their best, combining crunching riffs with a chorus that will get the Wacken crowd pumping their fists. However, the blast beat driven assault of Odem is as close Dark Fortress get to going for the jugular, and much of Venereal Dawn is mid-paced and dare we say it, progressive: when this approach works (on Lloigor, for example) it provides the platform for V. Santura and Asvargr’s guitar work to truly soar. When it doesn’t (on Fever’s Wings) it feels over-elaborate and grandiose.
Fans have had to wait five years for a new Dark Fortress album, and they won’t be disappointed by Venereal Dawn. It’s unlikely, however, to win them many new acolytes. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Holding The Fort
Genre: Extreme Metal
There’s heavy, really heavy… and then there’s Black Tongue, who’s bleak, hate-filled music will pound you into a pulp, then drive a steamroller over your corpse. Combining the quintet’s Born Hanged and Falsifier EPs (the latter in remixed and remastered form), this package boasts 14 tracks of pure rage, with the band fusing elements of death metal, hardcore, sludge and doom to create an unholy, monstrous racket.
And while the Hull mob’s downtuned, monolithic riffs form the core of their sound, they’re not afraid to employ some eerie textures to keep things interesting, with the likes of Waste and Ire Upon The Earth providing the perfect soundtrack to urban Britain’s decaying underbelly.
Ok, some of the material here can be a little samey, but with a full debut set for next year, these are exciting times for Black Tongue. On this evidence, there may be no stopping them. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Blackened
Genre: Heavy Metal
Niklas Stalvind might sound more and more like Huntress’ Jill Janus (check out Skeleton Woman) with every passing Wolf album but there’s little doubt Sweden’s heavy metal heroes are honing a uniquely aggressive tone with each fresh album.
Fast approaching their 20th anniversary (the band first started belting out their manic brand of molten power chords in 1995), Devil Seed is a deafening statement of insatiable intent.
I Am Pain and Killing Floor are classic metal cuts dripping with passion: Wolf are never in danger of crossing over into the tired territory of the rehashed NWOBHM copy but fans of vintage Maiden, Saxon and Tygers Of Pan Tang will treasure this terrific throwback. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Seed Of Success
Genre: Blues Rock
Walter Trout doesn’t mentor just anyone. But Danny Bryant has never been ‘just anyone’.
Long touted as the saviour of British blues rock, the road-hardened guitar hero has used every ounce of his natural talent to craft a career-defining blues rock record that will ultimately find its place alongside the genre’s classics.
Hot on the heels of Philip Sayce’s RUSHONROCK Record Of The Week comes another ridiculously impressive example of heartfelt musicianship realised by a brilliant production job and underpinned by that vital ingredient: raw emotion.
Listen to Temperature Rising and it’s easy to believe this album was nailed in two weeks. Not for Bryant along drawn out recording process where the spontaneity is lost and the spark extinguished – packing his work into a fortnight makes for a magical journey on the road towards blues rock nirvana. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Danny Boy Oh Boy
Genre: Stoner/Doom Metal/Blues Rock
Oslo has spawned its fair share of major players on the metal scene and the bizarrely named Lonely Kamel appear more than capable of adding to the Norwegian city’s reputation for delivering deep, heavy, often troubling grooves.
If Shit City’s shit title hints at a band that’s a little less serious than the genres they pay homage to then don’t be fooled. There is meat on the bones on of an album that fuses early Sabbath with Motorhead and fellow Scandinavians Graveyard.
White Lines is a furious riff fest as guitarists Thomas Brenna and Lukas Paulsen pummel their axes with admirable enthusiasm. And if the jazzy Is It Over is just a little too much like a lazy Doors/Zeppelin jam then at least it adds authenticity to a 70s-obsessed set.
Freezing is Lonely Kamel at their most enthralling but this is an album that will warm the heart of feedback-loving fuzzballs everywhere. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Shit Hot
Genre: Trad Metal/Thrash Metal
If label mates Lonely Kamel’s city is shit (see above) then Canadians Striker are more a glass-half-full kinda band as they celebrate their City Of Gold.
Opener Underground has more than a hint of Death Angel about it – and that, of course, is no bad thing.
But Striker aren’t a thrash metal band, leaning more towards the faster-paced end of the NWOBHM spectrum whenever possible. The terrific title track makes full use of a throbbing intro before the Priest-like riff kicks in and all hell breaks loose. Cue Maiden-esque vocals, Accept-style aggression and the odd nod to fellow countrymen Three Inches Of Blood.
This is a record that doesn’t care much for innovation, ambition or boundary breaking progressive posturing. It’s simply fast, furious and in your face – just the way metal should be. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Gold Standard
Genre: Pop Rock/Melodic Rock
‘I’ve heard it all before…’ croons Miss Behaviour’s Sebastian Roos on cliché-crammed opener On With The Show. But that doesn’t stop the cute singer shamelessly rifling through a record that apes the very best of 80s soft rock at every opportunity.
The keyboard-led title track is smoother than Robin Beck’s cheeks and the Norkopping quintet have no qualms slipping in a power ballad two songs in. It’s where Miss Behaviour’s strength clearly lies and laying their cards on the table early doors is a canny move.
Erik Heikne is talented guitarist ready to step in just as soon as h.e.a.t or Reckless Love require last-minute reinforcements and his solos across Double Agent are a genuine delight.
Magical Feeling and Love Reflector will stretch the patience of even the most passionate of pop rock apologists but close your eyes and it could be 1987 all over again. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Good Behaviour
Genre: Melodic Rock
Last year’s deeply disappointing RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Magnitude just didn’t cut it as far as this website’s AOR collective was concerned but Incremental IV is a completely different proposition.
Still capable of crafting the perfect ballad (check out Travel Back In Time), where Tony Niva has upped his game 12 months down the line is on the faster-paced pop rock numbers. The up-tempo Crush is cracking stuff while Magnitude would have been a welcome addition to Niva’s 2013 lightweight mishit of the same name.
The AOR pomp of The Reason Why dazzles and proves to be the pick of an impressive bunch. If Niva’s previous long player was a blip then this is proof that the Swedes still possess the magic touch. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Niva Better