And today it’s all about revisiting the glorious past with Extreme and The Almighty both receiving the reissue treatment for landmark releases.
There’s new music from Southern-flavoured rockers Blackberry Smoke (pictured) and singer-songwriter Rebecca Downes.
At the heavier end of the scale we turn the spotlight on Exhumed and Solefald.
And we review and rate new music from Gehenna and Call Of The Void.
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: Hair Metal/Funk Rock
Nuno Bettencourt might have been paying the bills as Rihanna’s go-to guitarist of late but revisit Pornograffitti and it’s clear that – a quarter of a century ago – the new kid on the block was one of the most brilliant musicians on the planet.
Pornograffitti was Extreme’s second album and the record when the biggest rock band out of Boston since Aerosmith found their creative feet. Funky, poppy, sassy and sleazy it ticked all of the made-for-MTV boxes but it was Bettencourt’s ability to fuse genres that made it a must-have for any axe aficionado.
Ultimately dominated by the chart-topping More Than Words (there are no fewer than five versions of the brilliant ballad spread across the two discs here) it’s the heavier stuff that stands the test of time on this eclectic masterpiece.
Get The Funk Out, It (‘s A Monster) and the title track (replete with its mid-song jazzy interlude) kick up quite a storm in all of their remastered and retro-fuelled glory and frontman Gary Cherone does his best Steven Tyler impression on all three. And the sublime intro. to He-Man Woman Hater? Just incredible.
If it didn’t go horribly wrong for Extreme after this career-high album (2008’s Saudades de Rock hinted there’s still some creativity left in the tank) then it could have gone so, so right. Blame grunge, blame Bettencourt’s ego or blame the record-buying public…then again why not just sit back and enjoy the moment when it all came together for a quite brilliant band? Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Extreme Quality
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Death Metal
The twisted, blood spattered offspring of Carcass and Autopsy, Exhumed burst all over the underground with 1998’s Gore Metal – a debut they’ve now seen fit to re-record.
Yes, the musicianship is more refined here – and the production has unsurprisingly improved – but Gore Metal has not been neutered by its makeover. Far from it, in fact. Tracks like Casket Crusher and the crunching.
Carcass-worshiping Deadest Of The Dead can still flay flesh at 20 paces, and stay true their original spirit.
What’s more, Gore Metal’s revamp brings the quality of songs like Open The Abscess to the fore: this may be a filthy, unrelenting death metal album, but it’s chock full of catchy little gems which put much of modern DM’s whippersnappers to shame.
Already have Gore Metal lurking in your collection? This version is still worth your attention. Newcomer to Exhumed? Make this your first starting point. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Gory Days
Genre: Experimental/Progressive Metal
Solefald’s latest opus – the companion to 2014’s Norrønasongen. Kosmopolis Nord – should be played to anyone who think metal is a musical backwater, unable to spread its wings or absorb other cultures. Of course, we all know that metal is a global phenomenon, and is an ever evolving movement – this album, though, gives that idea further credence.
Just take the incredible Le Soleil – one of World Metal’s stand out moments – for instance. African rhythms and sparkling melodies collide with icy blackened riffs, uplifting choruses and sprinklings of synths. Somehow, it just works and the song is testimony to the Norwegian duo’s incredible abilities.
2011, A Knight Of Yhe Fail is more ‘standard’ prog rock fair (apart from the stomping industrial beat which kicks in towards the end), while The Germanic Entity is metal written, it appears, by night-dwelling Berlin clubbers.
World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud will bewilder some, entrance others, but one thing is for sure, it’s another wild ride from Solefald – and one that you should try at least once. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Kosmic
Originally a four-track EP, this release has been extended into a compilation of sorts, with extra tracks from 2014’s Metal Police sessions plus re-recorded songs from the Swedes’ 90s repertoire. Marking their first release under the Metal Blade banner, it’s a snotty, cider-spitting, speed snorting collection of tunes best summed up by the beautifully entitled Carve Off Your Face (And Shove It Right Up Your Ass).
Gehennah owe a lot to Lemmy and the boys – both in attitude and musical style (check out the grizzly bass solo on Four Knuckle Facelift) – and their Motörhead worship is wonderfully realised on adrenalin-fuelled rockers like Decibel Rebel (first released in 1997) and Black Jack Loser, from the Metal Police sessions. Elsewhere, things get a little nastier, with Hellstorm in particular taking no prisoners with its punked up assault.
It’s not ground breaking, it’s far from clever, but this album is perfect party music. Crank it up to 11. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Cop show
Genre: Extreme Metal/Hardcore
Recent years have seen the US produce a slew of ferocious acts who fuse the most savage elements of grind, sludge, crusty hardcore and death metal into hate-filled, ultra-violent music which transcends traditional scenes. Nails, All Pigs Must Die and Mortals have all made their mark: now it’s Call Of The Void’s turn.
The Denver quintet’s sophomore album is a grower, and its subtleties take time to reveal themselves. But once they do, you can’t help being impressed by the depth and intensity of Ageless – Truth In Bone, for instance, launches headlong into pulverising grind, melts into punk rock and finishes with a dark, punishing doom-out. The blend is seamless and there’s so much more to Call Of The Void than going berserk with a couple of Boss distortion pedals. Guitarists Patrick Alberts and Gabe Morales especially deserve credit for their multi-textured work and technical ability (the Converge meets Napalm Death R.I.S. a prime example of their talents).
Taught, tight and single-minded in their hellish musical vision, Call Of The Void have truly arrived – and Ageless could be their defining moment. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Call To Arms
Genre: Classic Rock/Southern Rock
As far as the British market is concerned Blackberry Smoke have been playing catch-up – and that’s great news for recent converts on this side of the Pond.
It’s less than a year since The Whippoorwill bagged the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK award on its UK release and only six months since we were treated to the live Leave A Scar album.
But Holding All The Roses puts the band’s releases in sync on both sides of the Pond and as a third puff of ‘Smoke inside 12 months it offers further evidence of something very special indeed.
Produced by Brendan O’Brien it shouldn’t come as any surprise that opener Let Me Help You (Find The Door) plays on an AC/DC riff to kick things off but by the time the title track is in full swing it’s country rock all the way.
Rock And Roll Again relies on tried and tested Skynyrd-style cool with a casually effective chorus subconsciously stealing the show. Wish In One Hand’s biting cynicism – ‘wish in one hand, shit in the other/see which one fills up first for you brother’ – proves the Blackberry boys aren’t always in it to win it.
But with neat touches like the instrumental Randolph County Farewell, the occasionally jazzy No Way Back To Eden and fabulous set closer Fire In The Hole this is more memorable stuff from classic rock’s best ‘new’ band. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Holding All The Aces
Genre: Hard Rock
There was a time when Ricky Warwick – one of Britain’s best singer songwriters – looked destined to be remembered solely as the frontman for angsty rockers The Almighty and as the architect of that band’s outstanding albums Blood, Fire And Love and Soul Destruction.
Thankfully the talented frontman has found a worthy home as the face of Thin Lizzy revivalists Black Star Riders (after bossing the final incarnation of Scott Gorham’s Lizzy).
But to a generation of early 90s rockers Warwick will always be the voice behind Wild & Wonderful, Destroyed and Full Force Lovin’ Machine (he never looked entirely comfortable singing that one).
Those three standouts define this gutsy debut and laid the foundations for its polished top 25 successor Soul Destruction. Three discs ensure this deluxe edition really does justice to The Almighty’s legacy – a re-release of Blood, Fire & Live sandwiched in between the original album and a disc of bonus cuts and rarities.
Four BBC Friday Rock Show session tracks will bring a tear to the eye of Tommy Vance fans and remind those who lived through the era just why Warwick and co. were seen as serious contenders for half a decade. It’s just a shame these national treasures faded so soon. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Almighty Racket
Genre: Hard Rock
Riding high on the critical acclaim for gutsy debut Blood, Fire And Love (see above), The Almighty enlisted the help of Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor to transform Soul Destruction into a chart-busting behemoth of a record – and the partnership paid rich dividends.
Taylor had proved his potential as a producer of top notch British rock on Thunder’s Back Street Symphony and the Geordie boy didn’t disappoint his new charges as the technical wizard behind 12 classic hard rock cuts.
Lead single Free ‘N’ Easy fired The Almighty into the top 40 for the first time and secured the band support slots with Motorhead, Megadeth and Alice Cooper. Devil’s Toy repeated the trick and if third single Little Lost Sometimes never realised its commercial potential then it confirmed Ricky Warwick and co. as seriously affecting songwriters.
A bonus disc of edits, acoustic work and live cuts simply reaffirm The Almighty’s reputation as the very best of the Brit rock bunch at the outset of the 1990s. Alongside the Quireboys, Little Angels, Thunder and Gun they gave America’s West Coast pretty boys a spirited run for their money for a while.
That The Almighty – like their peers – never hit the next level is a cause of constant frustration for those who witnessed the band in its prime but their legacy is finally in safe hands. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Soul Music
Genre: Blues Rock
If, as she insists on Back To The Start’s sassy opener, Rebecca Downes really is Messed Up then she does a great job hiding it on this dazzling debut. Using her emotive tones to complement a plethora of bluesy, soulful and jazzed up tunes, the West Midlands’ answer to Melissa Etheridge has gone back to the future.
Evoking memories of classic Tina Turner and – during her more introspective moments – the late, great Janis Joplin, Downes rarely holds back as she lays her creative cards on the table.
Boasting a voice capable of melting the hardest of hearts and able to deliver the cheeky chorus underpinning When I’m Bad without flinching, middle-aged men everywhere will be at her mercy.
At a time when women are doing it for themselves in the big, bad world of blues rock, Downes has the pipes and the attitude to make a major move on her male counterparts. Watch your back, look over your shoulder and check the rear view mirror – this lady is ready to make the genre her own. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Downes Time