It’s that time of the week when we round up the very best in new rock and metal.
And we welcome the return of retro rockers The Vintage Caravan, old stagers Whitesnake (pictured) and power metal heroes Cain’s Offering.
There’s new music from Attention Thieves and a throwback pop metal set courtesy of Nelson.
We review and rate new music from Arcturus, Abrahma and Entrails.
There’s our verdict on Secrets Of The Sky and Will Varney.
Plus we run the rule over Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, And So I Watch You From Afar and PJ Bond.
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: Soft Rock/Pop Metal
Shamelessly laying their cards firmly on the table, brothers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson go to town on the addictively retro Back In The Day. The Def Leppard meets The Darkness vibe of this throwback tune sets the tone for an album that doesn’t care one jot if it’s cool. When the Nelsons sing ‘back in the day when we were nothing short of incredible’ it’s not necessarily meant to be about them – but it could be.
Because they were. In their own, sugar-coated, made-for-MTV, ‘summer with the top down’ way. And Peace Out is Nelson doing what they know best.
The White Lion-esque (remember them) Let It Ride is a perfectly crafted piece of pop metal while Rockstar proves the pair can poke fun at their band’s very foundations.
Bad For You has Kiss at its heart and that’s no bad thing. Peace Out is a celebration of lip-smacking soft rock goodness that’s hard to beat. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Peace In Our Time
BEST OF THE REST
Genre: Hard Rock
Methinks David Coverdale doth protest too much. A thorough explanation of the reasoning behind this bizarre project is contained within The Purple Album’s extensive sleevenotes and it makes for uncomfortable and, at times, apologetic reading.
While Whitesnake’s leader articulates his argument in typically convincing fashion, the more discerning fan will focus on the following, pertinent comments: ‘Obviously some will consider this a controversial project…for instance why bother as the original works are still there and well worth a place in anyone’s hard rock collection’; ‘Doug Aldrich, my friend and guitarist of 10 years, was on board at the very start of the Purple project…pretty soon it was obvious it wasn’t working as positively for either of us as before’; ‘To be honest a Blackmore-Coverdale project was a far more interesting concept’.
In summary, then, DC accepts the originals are still worthy, hints that the much-missed Aldrich had a change of heart and reveals The Purple Album was borne out of Ritchie Blackmore’s hesitant response to an unlikely artistic reunion.
Rather predictably this lame record reflects all of the above. The originals cast a shadow over 2015’s dispassionate reboots, the absence of Aldrich’s blues-soaked touches of understated class leave a gaping hole in the creative process and only Blackmore could possibly have saved an album destined to fail.
Coverdale, of course, believes wholeheartedly in everything he does and, as a consequence, his vocals on Burn (a popular staple of Whitesnake’s live set), Sail Away and Soldier Of Fortune scream determination, respect and a desire to breathe new life into old favourites. It’s just not enough. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 White Out
Genre: Power Metal
It’s been six frustrating years since Finnish power metallers Cain’s Offering unleashed debut Gather The Faithful but Stormcrow is a spiky follow-up. Think Dragonforce for grown-ups.
Maturity is at the heart of Stormcrow’s finer moments – this may only be album number two but founder members Jani Liimatainen and Timo Kotipelto learnt their trade in Sacndinavian powerhouses Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius before Christening Cain’s Offering. It shows.
If Too Tired To Run veers dangerously into territory normally governed by Michael Ball within a West End musical then, thankfully, it’s a rare wrong turn. The Celtic-infused urgency of I Am Legion reinforces the impression that Cain’s Offering can operate on a different creative plane to their power metal peers and inject fresh life into an ailing genre. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Cain And The Gang
Genre: Classic Rock
From Voyage to Arrival, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for those jumping aboard The Vintage Caravan but much has changed in the 18 months since the über-cool Icelandic trio set out on their quest for classic rock domination.
They haven’t swapped the paper maps for the sat-nav just yet but there’s no doubt the Caravan is rapidly reaching its chosen destination: a sought after pitch somewhere in between Rival Sons and Blues Pills and just down the track from the spot Led Zeppelin once called their own.
Well aware of rock’s striking 70s landmarks, Óskar Logi Ágústsson and his buddies are, however, more than mere tourists on the popular retro trail. The brilliant Babylon and haunting Innerverse might pay homage to the genre’s greats but the Caravan are keen to reinvent the wheel and marry modern zeal to their vintage roots.
It all makes for a magnificent trip down memory lane – except these memories are yet to be experienced, gathered and treasured. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 First Class Arrival
Genre: Avant Garde/Progressive/Black Metal
With 1997’s La Masquerade Infernale, Arcturus conjured a classic work of avant garde extremism – and it’s fair to say that they’ve been one of Scandinavian metal’s most intriguing acts ever since.
However, it’s been ten long years since their last album, Sideshow Symphonies, hit the shelves… so the Norwegians had to come back strong with Arcturian.
Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint and from stunning opener The Arcturian Sign to the bewildering carnival-esque closer of Bane, you are plunged into the quintet’s psychedelic netherworld, where moments of symphonic black metal bliss run shoulders with dark, crackling electronica and mind-expanding prog rock.
It’s one of a hell of a ride over the astral plane, and a sonic feast executed by musicians of the highest calibre: Simen ‘ICS Vortex’ Hestnæs’ vocals are particularly impressive and of course any band powered by the drumming of Jan Axel Blomberg (aka Hellhammer, of Mayhem and Dimmu Borgir fame) is going to make its presence felt very quickly.
A few paragraphs simply don’t do Arcturian justice – it’s an album that begs to be explored and savoured. Welcome back guys. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Star Quality
Genre: Death Metal
Anyone left underwhelmed by Entombed A.D.’s last album may want to check out Obliteration for a raw, menacing Scandi-death fix.
Yes, it’s one dimensional and never strays too far from the Stockholm/Sunlight studio sound made famous by Entombed, Dismember et al, but Entrails’ fourth full length is a treat for anyone who likes good, honest death metal which gets straight to the point. It’s also the quartet’s best work yet, putting 2013’s Raging Death in the shade.
Epitome of Death, for instance, truly lives up to its name, with a supremely catchy lead guitar line cutting through the bottom heavy distortion, while No Cross Left Unturned drips with evil intent and Midnight Coffin creeps up on you before battering you around the bonce with a fistful of malevolent riffs.
Proudly rooted in Swedish DM’s finest traditions (no surprise when you consider founding member Jimmy Lundqvist started the band in 1990), Entrails are certainly needed in today’s scene – especially when they can unleash albums as good as Obliteration. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Guts And Glory
Genre: Folk Punk
It’s 2005, Million Dead have just split up and Frank Turner has started writing folk songs.
After making post hardcore for the best part of five years, Xtra Mile found were unconvinced, not sure whether this was worth taking the punt on.
Fast forward 10 years and they’re knocking out folk punk for fun, with acts like Varney and Beans On Toast delivering a witty, wordy take on the state of current affairs.
Live At The Lighthouse encapsulates some of Varney’s finest song writing in a five song snapshot, that gives key emphasis to his gravelly, folk vocals that sound like a man weighed down.
Opening with Weddings And Wars, he takes a Biblical focus where he questions religious warfare, and the reasons behind why any “God” would appoint monarchy.
Despite the heavy hearted opening four tracks, Varney finishes off with some comedy as he discusses Nick Clegg’s Gameboy Advance, and David Cameron’s mother’s knickers, in I Got This Email. Adam Keys
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Wild And Willing
Genre: Pop Punk/Hardcore
Opening with Playing Dead, Get Lost, Find Yourself starts like any pop punk album, with racing chord progressions and a squeaky American style accent (despite their French descent).
Stereotypical start aside, this isn’t your average pop punk album, as the five piece quickly reveal their hardcore alter ego, with growling vocals and heavy strumming.
Having teamed up with New Found Glory, All Time Low and Forever Came Calling producer Kyle Black, there is a distinct similarity his previous work, meaning the hardcore alter ego is the key factor setting this album apart.
The album’s standout comes in the form of Pull You Under, a hardcore track full of energy, anger and hard hitting drum patterns, with a chorus of pop punk vocals shouting out “We have a right to be here, don’t let them pull you under!’
With so much energy and aggression, this album will bounce of the walls of music venues far and wide, and shows that modern day pop punk isn’t just recycling it’s glory days. AK
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Chunky
Genre: Alt Rock/Folk Punk
Opening with Everglades and Broad Street, it’s instantly clear Bond has spent a great deal of time listening to Springsteen’s Nebraska and countless Dylan records.
With the opening tracks taking on a slightly more radio friendly feel, it’s not until the introduction Calm The Corner, Seer and Hellfire, where the heavyhearted element of classic rock is introduced.
Much like many of the great storytellers before him, Bond has the ability to combine melody with a whimsical tale, as his mumbling vocals and bluesy acoustics combine to lead his audience on a journey that discusses broken hearts and deals with the devil.
The real beauty of this album comes in Bond’s commercial awareness, as he provides a beautiful balance of tracks that will please rock fans, along with pop heavy, chorus driven tracks like ‘87 Broadcast which will surely hit airwaves all over.
With five albums already under his belt, this could well be his best yet, and is a real easy listening number for rock fans all over. AK
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Special Bond
Genre: Post Rock
In 2008 ASIWYFA were part of a promising group of hard rock acts coming out of Northern Ireland that included The Answer, Fighting With Wire and Axis Of.
While everything appeared to be moving at pace for the other acts, it didn’t quite move as quickly for the Belfast four piece, as their technical, instrumental style took time to win over audiences.
Six years on and the post hardcore sensations have delivered an album that pays homage to their self titled 2009 release, with the dynamics more in tune with what they were originally going for.
The album’s fourth track Redesigned A Million Times sums up the perfectly as the frenzy of guitars, filled with mini solos, captures the essence of a band famed for their live performances.
Originally starting out as an instrumental unit, before cautiously introducing vocals, ASIWYFA have stuck to their guns with vocals appearing infrequently, but effectively to provide a well-rounded approach in tracks like These Secret Things I Know. AK
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Heirs On End
So many times you hear about bands who started strong but fell off the radar for one reason or another. Attention Thieves threatened to be one of those bands.
But their story is one of redemption and a never say die attitude – while Year of the Jackal is the debut album that dreams are made of.
Their backstory is quite astonishing. While recording their debut album, the band’s label went bust and they were dropped by their management. Next, singer Alex Green developed an addiction to painkillers used to treat a slipped disk, which culminated in him suffering a heart attack at the age of 27.
For anyone to come back from that is impressive, but for a band to do so and record such a strong sounding, varied and emotionally honest debut album is remarkable.
Attention Thieves are clearly disciples of many different forms of rock – from pop/rock on Hangnail to the harder Culture of Fear and Crooked Teeth, and this is just a stunning record. Russell Hughes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 10/10 Thieves Steal The Show
Genre: Doom Metal/Progressive Rock
It’s rare to find a band willing to create an album that’s more than just a collection of tracks, a record written as a musical journey, with each piece taking its place to form a cohesive whole… Secrets of the Sky, though achieve this Pathway. What’s more, they do it with aplomb.
The Californians’ second full length is a titanic effort: as the sounds of crashing waves and a far away storm drifts into the majestic doom odyssey of Three Swords, you know you’re in for a treat – and an opus which requires patience and contemplation.
The Oakland quintet will appeal to fans of acts as diverse as Opeth, Neurosis and Pelican, with Pathway segueing from gentle introspection to towering, all-enveloping doom metal on songs like the incredible Angel in Vines and the cathartic Garden of Prayers.
It needs – rather, deserves – repeated listens and it’s about as far away as you can get from instant gratification, but Pathway is a route worth following. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Skyward Trajectory
Genre: Grunge/Stoner Rock
Listen to this album’s opening tracks, Fountains Of Vengeance and An Offspring To The Wolves, and it’s so far, so Seattle: a heavier amalgamation of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden… and a dull one at that.
Delve deeper into Reflections… though and you’ll encounter some far more entertaining, psyched up stoner rock. Omens Part 1, for instance, drifts from acid fried melodies to gargantuan doom riffs and back again while Square The Circle is a balls-out slab of groovy desert rock and the weighty Weary Statues even has whiff of Mastodon about it.
The French outfit are at their best when they’re treading their own path, rather than following that laid down by Cantrell, Thayil and co., and although Reflections stutters at times, there’s enough quality on here to suggest Abrahma could be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Taking Flight