Prolific rock n rollers The Quireboys are back with a third studio album in three years and melodic metallers Nightwish return.
We cast a critical eye over fast-rising singer songwriter Dan Patlansky and deliver our verdict on buzz band We Are Harlot.
There’s new music from Skinny Lister, Scott Weiland and Windsor Drive.
Plus we review Dan Reed’s new solo record and catch up with Pig Iron (pictured).
We check out the latest sounds from Ichor, Headless Kross and Morgoth.
And there’s new music from Oceano and Barren Earth.
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: Acoustic Rock N Roll
The story behind this eclectic album – part of a four-CD set – is hardly borne out by the end product. The plan was to add an acoustic slant to some back catalogue classics, throw in the odd cover and perhaps pen a new tune or two for good measure. In other words, The Quireboys’ third album in three years was hatched as the natural follow-up to Halfpenny Dancer.
Something changed during a week in the wilds of Sweden and St Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul cast these British treasures in an entirely different light. It’s still stripped back, Spike’s vocals ensure it’s quintessentially Quireboys and yet the decision to experiment with a range of atypical sounds is a revelation…
…as is Guy Griffin’s sparkling lead vocal on Can’t Hide It Anymore – an evocative cross between Tom Petty and a chart-busting Def Leppard ballad. Just brilliant.
By rights piano-led set closer Why Did It Take So Long should be the band’s biggest hit for years (Radio Two playlisters take note) with Spike’s vocal showcasing a voice that’s matured spectacularly during the last decade.
Paul Guerin breaks out the dobro, lap steel, barotone and mandolin to add subtle touches of class throughout and Keith Weir’s keyboards lay the foundation for so much of the best work here.
Add a copy of the re-released Halfpenny Dancer and a two-disc live set from that album’s complementary acoustic tour and this is a dream come true for true fans of rootsy rock and roll. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Soul Searching
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Melodic Rock/Symphonic Metal
Floor Jansen always had huge shoes to fill. Nightwish fans still hark back to the glory days of Tarja Turunen and her replacement, Anette Olzon, knows that better than most.
Olzon never fully emerged from the shadow of her successor and now it’s Jansen’s turn to take Nightwish forward. The Dutch singer doesn’t lack confidence on a predictably ambitious album and if her intonation is occasionally awkward on Endless Forms Most Beautiful’s quieter moments then her debut for the unrelenting Finns is accomplished enough.
It’s no surprise that the Celtic-flavoured Elan was chosen as the album’s lead single towards the end of last year – it’s made to measure for Jansen’s distinctive tone and provides an early opportunity for the 34-year-old to stamp her mark on a career-defining record.
Our Decades In The Sun fuses haunting melodic rock with bluesy rock and roll – a combination Nightwish need to explore further. But the dire Alpenglow is pure filler, only partially saved by a gutsy solo and some atmospheric pipe play.
Within Temptation have stolen a march on their symphonic metal buddies and EFMB doesn’t always sound like the record to put Nightwish back in the race. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Endless Possibilities
Genre: Hard Rock/Glam Rock
Dumped by Velvet Revolver and ditched by his old buddies in Stone Temple Pilots, there was only one place for Scott Weiland to go – out on his own.
Eventually hooking up with the Wildabouts, the remarkable thing is that a singer who long since looked dead and buried has made the album of his career.
Fuzzed up glam rock glitz is the order of the day as Weiland indulges his love for all things 70s: on Way She Moves, an oddly affecting ode to his wife, the Mott/T-Rex influences are loud and unashamedly clear.
Hotel Rio’s Clash-esque groove works ridiculously well on a truly uplifting feelgood tune and Amethyst’s glittering riff and foot-stomping rhythm is a revelation. Even a predictable cover of 20th Century Boy is sensational.
Think you’d seen and heard it all where Weiland is concerned? Think again. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 It’s Been A Weil
Genre: Classic Rock/Alt Rock
On the road across the UK with Danny Vaughn on the Snake Oil And Harmony Tour this month, the inimitable Dan Reed continues to evolve into one of the foremost singer songwriters of the 21st century. Transmission isn’t the most obvious follow-up to 2013’s Signal Fire but that’s what makes this classic rock-inspired record all the more intriguing.
There’s an element of the Phil Collins-era Genesis underpinning Roll The Dice before Reed deepens the tone and switches the mood on Drive. For the most part evidence of his Network’s fabled funk rock isn’t immediately obvious on Transmission but the Portland native has always seen his solo work as an opportunity to embrace the future, rather than reference the past.
The production benefits from a raw, live feel and the vocal is deliberately prominent in the mix. It’s a risk but Reed has the tools to ensure it’s a gamble that pays off. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Reed And Weep
Genre: Hard Rock
Heaven’s Basement better watch their backs. Modern rock’s new kids on the block, led by Danny Worsnop, are gaining ground fast and if We Are Harlot’s debut isn’t always the outlandish 80s throwback it promised to be then it’s still a pumped-up party-starter primed for Download this summer.
One More Night mixes Motorhead with The Wildhearts while Never Turn Back channels the punk rock attitude of The Gaslight Anthem. Worsnop can’t resist the odd growl from time to time but this is less hardcore and more hard rock with I Tried a nod to Aerosmith’s big-charting ballads.
If We Are Harlot suffer from the perception that this album favours style over substance there’s no denying its power, precision and pin-sharp production values. Love For The Night’s honky tonk piano and the bluesy Hammond-inspired groove of The One might be too much for Worsnop’s one time AA devotees but one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen has finally found his true voice. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Harlot More To Come
Genre: Indie Rock/Melodic Rock
Sneaking into the Rushonrock reviews section by virtue of the fact that AOR Heaven have sanctioned a European release for their self-titled album, US indie band Windsor Drive simply don’t belong here.
By the time the dreary Sleepwalking invades the speakers it’s clear the Train-lite, boy band wannabes just can’t hack it in the company of truly talented melodic rock peers.
There’s no hint of emotion in the dreadfully lame vocals and clichéd tripe like Under The Weather and In My Dreams is about as memorable as a grey day in Grimsby.
On reflection Windsor Drive must be the dullest street in America and fans of proper rock and roll should avoid visiting at all costs: a wrong turn for the normally astute AOR Heaven and a dead end for lovers of kick ass melody. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 3/10 Drive By
Genre: Death Metal
First play? Standard 21st century death metal fare, albeit flawlessly executed. Second play? Depths start seeping into your bloodstream – and you feel that Ichor could be onto something here. Third play? Tracks like The Heretic King reveal themselves in all of their punishing glory.
When they hit their stride (While Giants Sleep, Leviathan) this German quintet are a formidable, extreme metal killing machine – and an intelligent, highly evolved one at that.
Why not top marks then? Because Depths can still be a little generic at times and could have done with some fat-trimming: Deny Your God, for instance, brings nothing special to the party.
However, for the most part, Ichor’s lethal take on American DM is more than a match for many of their contemporaries… let’s hope that Depths marks their global breakthrough. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Deep Wounds
Genre: Doom Metal
Another band to emerge from the UK’s burgeoning doom underground, Headless Kross play weighty, slow-mo metal which could make a big impression on fans of Electric Wizard, Conan et al.
Derek Sexton’s anguished vocals give Volumes a more aggressive feel than the music served up by some of the trio’s contemporaries – and delivered over the gargantuan, psych-fried guitars of Rural Juror, they turn what could be a generic doomathon into a tortured, dark hymn.
Closing track Even The Destroyed Things Have Been Destroyed is the pick of the three songs on offer, letting the space between the riffs do plenty of talking and bringing to mind US legends Yob, in its absorbing rhythmic flow and deft changes of pace.
Yes there are some lumbering, plodding passages on Volumes, but they’re eclipsed by the quality of material on offer: and it’s this material which should cement Headless Kross’s position as a force to be reckoned with. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Kross-fire
Genre: Death Metal/Prog
If you’ve never heard Barren Earth before, you might be disorientated by the Finns’ third full length. Death metal is at the band’s core and On Lonely Towers boasts plenty pummelling double bass, lacerating riffs, growled vocals etc etc. But this act also bring 70s prog and folk to the table too, which makes for an intriguing mix.
This opus is their most bold yet, with two 11 minute-plus epics in the shape of the majestic title track and The Vault, which unfortunately closes proceedings in boring, self-indulgent fashion. A Shapeless Derelict, meanwhile, suffers a similar fate… until it shifts into death gear.
For all Barren Earth’s sonic tinkering, it’s actually the simpler, more direct material that works most effectively: Howl gives us rousing melodies to pump our fists to, while Frozen Processions supplies bountiful riffs – and is a reminder that metal can be heroic and all-conquering when you let it.
Mixed results, then, for the sextet. But they’ve still crafted an album which, for its spirit of adventure, deserves attention. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Lone Wolves
Genre: Death Metal/Deathcore
They may have a relatively new line-up (bar vocalist Adam Warren) but Oceano are still dealing in the ultra-brutal, depth charge deathcore with which they made their name. There’s no respite on their fourth album, no time to catch your breath – just a relentless assault so fierce that listening to it is an almost cathartic experience.
However, for all their down-tuned bludgeon, the US outfit aren’t averse to adding some additional texture to their work – the subtle synths, for instance, which drift across tracks like Dead Planet give Ascendants a futuristic, off-world gleam. Guitarists Scott Smith and Michael Kasper also excel, displaying their tech death chops to devastating effect on The Dulce Incident and Arc of Creation in particular.
Here we have a revitalised version of Oceano and a band who, quite simply, grind many of their deathcore contemporaries into the dust. Few acts play this style of music with as much conviction, as much violent intensity as this Chicago quartet: Ascendants should probably carry a health warning. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Sea Serpents
Genre: Death Metal
Carcass and At The Gates have made storming comebacks; now it’s time for Morgoth, with new material under their belts, to join the reformed death metal acts cutting a bloody swathe across the globe.
And with Ungod, they’ve given both long-time fans and new DM heads a real treat, an album which is vicious and malevolent, yet hugely catchy and superbly arranged. It may be nearly 20 years since the release of their last album, but the Germans’ songwriting is still razor-sharp: Voice of Slumber and Snakestate are a case in point.
So what’s changed? Original vocalist Marc Grewe departed last year and only guitarist Harald Busse and bassist Sebastian Swart remain from the line-up which recorded Cursed and Odium. However, new frontman Karsten Jäger puts in one hell of a performance behind the mic – and his hugely talented bandmates more than do justice to the Morgoth name.
Simply put, Ungod is one of 2015’s best death metal releases so far… and one which will be very difficult to top. Welcome back. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 God-like
Genre: Folk Punk
Folk punk has appeared in many shapes and sizes over the years, but not since Shane McGowan’s heyday, have we seen such a beautifully crafted, pirate fuelled, drinking album.
While The Pogues will no doubt have played a major influence with tracks like George’s Class and Six Whiskies, which displays a distinct likeness to The Body Of An American, there are undoubted elements of The Jam, Imelda May and The Clash employed throughout.
Like many punk acts before them, Skinny Lister have gone with a light hearted approach, but with careful listening to tracks such as the album’s standout This Is War, it’s clear this album has a deep lying anger that’s been wrapped in bubblegum.
From start to finish, the album has a polished approach. However the six-piece have managed to keep a raw, live feeling throughout, making for an almost faultless piece of folk punk. Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Lister Mania
Genre: Blues Rock
On commercially driven opener Backbite the comparisons with Lenny Kravitz are unavoidable as Dan Patlansky crafts the perfect piece of funky blues pop – it’s a canny move at a time when the South African is seeking to expand his fan base and take on the world.
Elsewhere, though, Dear Silence Thieves offers up a rich tapestry of vivid musical colours from dark blues to light shades of Americana. At his heaviest – check out Fetch Your Spade – Patlansky even introduces a post-grunge sound. It works when it really shouldn’t.
The trad blues of Taking Chances and Only An Ocean (Reprise) will appeal to fans of Bonamassa and Shepherd but this album’s strength is that it refuses to be constrained by genre or expectation.
Patlansky has just bagged a support slot opening up for Joe Satriani across the UK later this year and if 2015 doesn’t prove to be the singer songwriter’s breakout year then it will never happen.
Dear Silence Thieves wasn’t named Blues Rock Review’s album of 2014 by fluke. This is stirring, soul-searching stuff. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Pat On The Back
Genre: Blues Rock/Southern Metal
It’s more than a decade since Londoners Pig Iron pooled their talents to breathe new life into groove-laden, blues-based metal. Their sound may be more deep south than south of England but there’s an authenticity to this band’s intoxicating music that laughs in the face of geography.
Sermons From The Church Of Blues Restitution is best enjoyed under a cloud of smoke, with a bourbon in one hand and a barbecue rib in the other – shake both in time to the brilliant One Million Mega Hurts. Boasting a killer riff and a Bon Scott-esque vocal it’s the sleaziest, bluesiest tune we’ve heard all year.
Southern rock and heavy blues are at the heart of a ridiculously catchy record but Pig Iron frequently reference the rhythm and cool of Cream, Zeppelin and Free. These boys know their history but this is an album that belongs at the forefront of 2015’s modern rock scene. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Iron Will