We check out new music from Mounties, Bonafide and Hellions. Plus we review and rate Marilyn Manson’s latest offering.
There’s new music from Sky Valley Mistress and Finsterforst (pictured) unleash new music via Napalm Records. Plus there’s AOR aplenty from Care Of Night and Ammunition.
We deliver our verdict on Esme Patterson, Alright The Captain and Franz Nicolay. Plus we check out the latest Gov’t Mule reissue.
There’s metal from Visigoth, Periphery, Callisto and Ethereal. Plus we checkout two If These Trees Could Talk reissues.
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 And Roll
There’s a fine line between brazen imitation and the glorious reinvention of the rock and roll wheel.
Bonafide might tread precariously close to crass impersonation with their AC/DC-fuelled, bar bothering brand of Bourbon-soaked jukebox grooves but there’s much to be said for wearing your heart on your sleeve.
This band really, really mean it. They wear denim, they sport long hair and they love nothing more than a sweaty club gig. The bonus? The music’s bloody brilliant too.
Back-to-back RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 albums (2012’s Ultimate Rebel and 2013’s Bombo) confirm Bonafide are no flash in the pan and the Swedes sound sweeter than ever on Denim Devils.
As chief songwriter, frontman and all-round charismatic dude, Pontus Snibb could easily dominate the Malmo quartet but Anders Rosell is the star of this particular show. His axe work on Killer, Good Stuff and the superb Living The Rock N Roll Lifestyle (a song about working 9-5 in a suburban idyll – not) are all about Rosell’s riffs. Bonafide are like a fatter Thin Lizzy and all the better for it. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Bonafidelity
BEST OF THE REST
With songs called Mammoth Rider and Dungeon Master, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Visigoth deal in denim and leather clad, sword and sorcery-inspired traditional metal. The Salt Lake City quintet glow with the spirit of the genre’s 70s and 80s behemoths, and their rousing riff-fests and blazing solos will put a smile on plenty of faces.
Put The Revenant King against the likes of Grand Magus and it falls short in the songwriting stakes, lacking the awe-inspiring anthems which could have made it a classic. It’s not particularly original either, following a well-worn path to trad-dom.
That said, Visigoth, lead by gifted vocalist Jake Rogers, are undoubtedly a hell of a lot of fun – and you could do a lot worse than shake your locks to Creature Of Desire or the fast paced, NWOBHM-inspired Necropolis.
Plenty of work to do then, but plenty of potential…Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Game Of Thrones
Genre: Punk Rock
Having shared the stage with some of the biggest names in punk, Franz Nicolay has delivered one of the most unique punk albums to reach the ears of the masses. Already boasting a strong back catalogue, Nicolay continues to grow with each record, taking him to the next step of musical production, leaving you to question why is this rhythmic genius not a household name?
Over the years Nicolay has hit the road with Against Me on numerous occasions, and this record has an unmistakable tinge of Laura Jane Grace. However, there’s also an undoubted Meatloaf-style production without the pantomime feel. With punk being such a varying genre, the DIY thing has been done, and done well. We’re not in 1977 anymore and people like Nicolay are pushing the genre’s boundaries like never before, ensuring punk continues to grow and show its versatility.
This is an album you can listen to regardless of your mood due to the great variation of the tracks, with Shallow Water taking a lighter melodic approach, followed by hard hitting, guitar lead Bright White, for an Against Me/ Rise Against feel. With the exception of Frank Turner’s The Third Three Years, Xtra Mile has be incredibly consistent over the last few years and this album is making 2015 look like another great year for the label. Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Franztastic
Genre: Folk Rock
1960 what? Joplin may be long gone, but this powerful record from Esme Patterson shows her legacy lives on, intentionally or not. Having broken away from indie folk unit Paper Bird for the first time, Patterson has delivered a record with a beautiful balance of melody and lyrical genius, to give a much more folk punk tone than anything we’ve seen before from the Denver born star.
Producing an album full of gems, the undoubted standout has to be the single What Do You Call A Woman? Written in response to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Patterson delivers an unmistakable message, questioning Jackson’s pedophilia links to the point of accusation, in what call only be described as a dark and dangerous Me And Bobby McGee.
With 2014 disappearing quickly into the distance, this masterpiece will set the tone for Xtra Mile in 2015, meaning other acts have a mountainous task on their hands if they want to live up to this faultless piece of genius. AK
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Woman’s Own
Genre: Alt Rock
Instrumentals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and it’s easy to see why as the majority give the feeling that there’s something missing. Good vocals and catchy lyrics can cover up for poor musicianship but instrumental artists don’t have that luxury – meaning everything has to be nailed down perfectly to make a listenable piece of work.
Alright The Captain has come out with a tight piece of work, showing a great understanding between the rhythm section and hard hitting lead guitar that never threatens to take over. While 70% of this album is laid down fantastically, there is an undoubted over-reliance on synths, meaning tracks such as HBT lack direction and focus to give a frustrating feel.
Minus a couple of songs, this seven-track EP has real promise, and with a more sparing approach to synths, Alright The Captain has a strong base to build off for their next album. AK
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 First Contact
Genre: Alt Rock
Indian Summer is an album created out of the fires of a general dissatisfaction with the music business and, out of those flames, Hellions may have created the antidote.
This is a record for anyone who thinks too much of what we listen to today sounds the same. This is a record for those who want noise, yes, but something varied and more important than that – personal.
Indian Summer is angry. It’s angry at so many things, from life to love to growing up. There is so much aggression that it threatens to sweep away the music at time, but Hellions pull it back from the brink time and time again.
Songs like Creasy i) Styrofoam Lungs shout and scream at the world with a combination of post-hardcore, frenzied punk and raw vocals that summon shades of Frank Carter and Gallows to send a message that this should be the new normal, while final song 23 is fast, furious and will leave your ears ringing to the very end.
Indian Summer is the type of second album that doesn’t happen a lot, and it feel like it came so naturally to those making it. Keep an eye on Hellions and catch them live if you can, for they sound like they’d put on a hell of a show. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Indian Takeaway
Genre: Hard Rock/Dance Rock/Industrial
The Pale Emperor? More like the pale imitation. There was a time when Marilyn Manson would single-handedly inspire a new horror franchise so when did he become the bloke penning dreary soundtrack-lite background music?
Perhaps it was more than a decade ago when the shock gave way to the schlock and Mazza lost his mojo. The wonderfully weird Holy Wood has never been repeated and The Pale Emperor doesn’t come close to that classic amalgamation of hard rock, feisty pop and industrial swagger.
There is the odd tune. Get past the awkward title and Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge is up there with the best of Manson’s mega anthems and the The Devil Beneath My Feet is almost spooky. Almost sppoky! This is the bloke who could silence a room simply by fixing that hollow stare and it’s a crying shame the God Of F**k has gone AWOL. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Pale Complexion
Genre: Blues Rock/Rock N Roll
Kayley ‘Hell Kitten’ Davies has a name conceived to raise expectations. And this cool cat doesn’t disappoint. Remember when St Jude were the best new band on the planet. And that time you saw Blues Pills live for the first time?
Imagine both of those bands put through the mixer with the Quireboys and the Georgia Satellites and Sky Valley Mistress emerge like saviours of the new rock and roll generation.
There are only four songs here- two versions of Smoke Fairy plus Wishbone and She Is So – but that’s more than enough to realise this band means business. On tour throughout February and March you’d be a fool to miss this lot live. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Sky High Potential
Genre: Jazz Rock
Warren Haynes sure knows how to party in style with the second of four 20th anniversary re-releases a fitting celebration of the diverse and wonderful creative collective that is Gov’t Mule.
This two-disc set featuring the jazz-influenced guitar god John Schofield is an instrumental tour de force showcasing the Mule’s propensity for experimentation and ability to fuse rock’s many and varied genres.
It’s bluesy and bold, big and clever, bright and beautiful. At times Sc-Mule sounds like a Fishbone session without the vocals and there are moments when it could be a Kenny Wayne Shepherd masterclass.
There are no boundaries, no concessions and no signs of holding back. From meandering opener Hotentot to the earthy Birth Of The Mule there’s never a dull moment. But this is Gov’t Mule and they don’t do dull. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Scofield Of Dreams
Genre: Alt Rock/Dance Rock/Indie Rock
Almost a year after this indie rock supergroup unleashed their debut it gets a UK release but Thrash Rock Legacy is no tribute to the Big Four, Testament and Death Angel.
Get over the initially disappointing absence of breakneck riffs, soaring solos and blood curdling screams and there are plenty of pleasant enough soft rock tunes on offer.
It’s impossible to ignore the uplifting grooves underpinning opener Pretty Respectable and the RHCP-esque Headphones. Even fans of heavy music incandescent with rage that this is about as thrashy as the Pet Shop Boys will be tapping their feet to some of the most infectious melodies we’ve heard in a while.
The Canadian music scene is in rude health right now and Thrash Rock Legacy encapsulates its optimism, positivity and breadth of styles.
80s Indie Rock Legacy might have been a more accurate moniker but don’t let mere details spoil your enjoyment of a genuine aural treat. If This Dance Catches On is inspired and makes Arctic Monkeys sound like floundering amateurs. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Mountease
Genre: Pagan Metal/Folk Metal
Imagine getting dropped off during the dead of night in the middle of Germany’s Black Forest. The first thing you hear is Finsterforst’s foreboding grooves echoing in the distance – but far from inducing fear it makes the whole situation somehow make sense…
Ok, so it’s not going to happen. But if it did this is what you’d hear – military beats, snarling lyrics, earthy samples and mythical imagery. When the monk-like vocal kicks in midway through the epic Schicksals End’ it’s mysterious bordering on the bizarre but Finsterforst thrive on the unexpected.
It requires a rabid imagination, mastery of a whole bunch of underground instruments and a record label prepared to indulge the fantasies of a seriously unhinged band to bring a record like Mach Dich Frei to fruition. Credit to Finsterforst and Napalm for realising the dream (or the nightmare). SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Forst Class
Genre: Melodic Rock
More than a few tears were shed when WigWam suddenly decided to call it a day last March but a rather special record has risen out of the ashes of Norway’s melodic rock mainstay.
Frontman Age Sten Nilsen is going nowhere and with a little help from his friends – most notably Eclipse/W.E.T. songwriter Erik Martensson – the talented singer has delivered Ammunition’s bulletproof debut.
Give Me A Sign is the kind of bluesy hard rock Europe trade in these days while the title track evokes memories of Mr Big and Danger Danger at their dramatic best.
The GnR-styled intro (Welcome To The Jungle, anyone?) that kicks off Tie Me Down works a treat – this could be Scorpions’ Klaus Meine working alongside Slash – and Ammunition are firing on all cylinders from start to finish.
WigWam will be missed. But Ammuntion hit the target in 2015. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Armed And Ready
Genre: Melodic Rock
Toto meets Peter Cetera on AOR-tastic opener Cassandra and it’s clear Care Of Night know their onions when it comes to crafting classy melodic rock – even if they bombed out on the random band name generator.
There’s also more than a hint of vintage FM about Connected: singer Calle Schonberg is a genuine star with the vocal range (check out the expert warbling on Those Words) to go far. But Care Of Night don’t boast the consistency of label mates Ammunition or the experience of their AOR heroes. As a result this is a sketchy debut that screams potential rather than proven quality.
Echoes of classic Chicago underpin Dividing Lines – featuring another outstanding Schonberg vocal and soothing sax solo – and the Swedes can’t be faulted for their bold ambition.
But perhaps Care Of Night have reached too far too soon. This debut has been a long time coming and yet it still feels rushed. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6/10 Take More Care
Genre: Post Metal
New Metal Blade signings If These Trees Could Talk are set to unleash their first opus for the label this year, so to prepare the ground, their 2009 debut Above The Earth, Below The Sky and 2012 effort Red Forest have been re-released under the ‘blade banner.
Given that both albums were previously out of print, that can only be a good thing, as anyone with a penchant for the likes of Red Sparowes and Russian Circles – even Explosions In The Sky – will surely be enamoured with If These Trees Could Talk’s early work.
The Ohio instrumentalists’ debut does drift along aimlessly at times, and strays close to post-metal clichés, especially on the likes of Terra Incognita. Ultimately though, Above The Earth, Below The Sky should be seen in context – it’s the sound of a band still growing up and honing their craft. And it boasts enough quality – Deus Ex Machina, for instance, is absolutely beautiful – to make it worth further investigation. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Putting Down Roots
Genre: Post Metal
By the time If These Trees Could Talk had reached their sophomore album, the band were a substantially heavier, more focused outfit… and it’s no surprise that Metal Blade’s ears pricked up when they wandered into Red Forest.
OK, this album still falls short of Cult Of Luna or Mogwai masterpiece, but boy, is it exciting: the title track is almost worth the purchase price alone, with the talented quintet displaying a real mastery of quiet/heavy dynamics, while the soaring Aleutian Clouds is far catchier than anything on Above The Earth, Below The Sky. The guitarwork of Jeff Kalal, Cody Kelly and Michael Socrates is more direct and more imaginative too, which again, helps Red Forest to rise above its predecessor.
If this record is anything to go by, what comes our way this year could be a classic work of ‘thinking man’s metal’. Hopefully, If These Trees Could Talk won’t let us down… RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Forest Fire
Genre: Black Metal
To call Ethereal Cradle of Borgir would be slightly cruel – they do have a more aggressive edge than latter-day CoF or Dimmu – but their bombastic, synth-laced black metal is heavily reminiscent of both bands. This would be no bad thing if the Liverpool act could match the songcraft of either Dani Filth’s mob or Shagrath’s outfit. Unfortunately they can’t.
The quintet raise their game on the powerful Devouring The Forsaken – Opus Aethereum’s stand out track – and their symphonic blasting can be exhilarating at times (Waking Death a good example) – it’s just not enough though to push Ethereal into BM’s big league. Music like this should make you feel like heaven is being ripped apart: too often, Opus Aethereum makes you feel like putting Dimmu Borgir’s Death Cult Armageddon on instead.
It’s polished, it’s well-produced, it’s not a poor first effort by any means, but Ethereal’s debut shows the band have a long way to go. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5.5/10 Lost In The Ether
Genre: Post Rock
Finns Callisto have returned with their first album in five years and we’re glad to welcome them back.
The band’s dark, eerie songs manage to sound heavy without resorting to overdriven, guitar crunch, with Juho Niemelä’s bass providing a weighty anchor for guitarists Tero Holopainen and Markus Myllykangas’s eerie, Americana-influenced fretwork. Breasts of Mothers is particularly impressive, ramping up the intensity as it evolves, and Grey Light pulses with a deep groove which provides the perfect underscore for Jani Ala-Hukkala’s brooding vocals.
There’s an icy edge to Secret Youth, a sense of foreboding almost, but Callisto are powered by a rhythm section which ensures that nothing on this album sounds drab or descends into dreary melancholy.
Yes, Callisto’s fifth full length is a difficult listen – and their brand of Scandi-noir can drag at times, with Lost Prayer going nowhere in particular. However, you can’t deny the band’s originality and depth of talent, and Secret Youth proves they’ve lost none of their edge while they’ve been away. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Covert Operation
Genre: Tech Metal/Progressive Rock
Djent, tech-prog, however you want to label them – there’s no doubt Periphery are one of metal’s most forward-looking bands, and this dual album set could be their definitive statement.
Yes, it’s ambitious, but this 17-track collection keeps your attention throughout, with the US act clearly benefitting from a more collaborative approach to songwriting this time around. What’s more, this concept opus pulls together all of the aspects of Periphery’s sound and pushes each one to the max. Heavy Heart and Priestess glisten with sweet melodies and draw magnificently on Spencer Sotelo’s supreme vocal talents, Graveless and Hell Below are among the sextet’s most aggressive and heaviest tracks to date, and Rainbow Gravity is lurching, polyrhythmical, tech-metal heaven. And that’s just a small taste of what’s on offer.
Psychosphere, the climax to Juggernaut: Alpha perfectly distils Periphery’s visionary style – a modern epic which builds to a crushing conclusion, it’s a phenomenal track which shows that the band won’t let their astonishing triple guitar wizardry overwhelm their music. Indeed, Misha Mansoor and his comrades take a slightly more restrained approach on Juggernaut, and while that might disappoint djent-heads, it ensures Alpha and Omega are two stunning rock albums which should broaden the band’s fanbase even further. Who said concept albums were dull…RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Two’s Company