And today we finally deliver the RUSHONROCK verdict on two of this year’s hottest releases – as Muse and The Darkness are reviewed and rated.
There’s new music from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Dommin and Ol’ Drake.
We check out the latest sounds from High On Fire, Palace Of The King and Freedom Hawk.
Plus we run the rule over Anzi, LOVE|LESS and Virgin Steele. We review Bluuurgh and Cromm Cruac.
And we check out The Fiend and Korsakov.
Every week we reveal the RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK. And we round up the very BEST OF THE REST.
RUSHONROCK RECORD OF THE WEEK
Palace Of The King – White Bird/Burn The Sky (Listenable)
Genre: Psych Rock/Blues Rock
Hamming up the Hammond is always a good thing where RUSHONROCK is concerned and Palace Of The King sure like their keys. The best tunes here are driven forward by some seriously tasty tinkling and a guitar sound that’s fuzzier than a Frank Zappa convention.
Another Thing Coming leans on a singalong chorus to give fans a glimpse of what POTK could be like given a desire to milk their band as a commercial cash cow. For now art for art’s sake is their mantra and Ain’t Got Nobody To Blame But Myself is a glorious mash-up of The Answer, Rival Sons and Blues Pills. There’s a country feel to Leave Me Behind – think Skynyrd on an acid trip with a sax solo – and it’s all good as far as the classic rock community is concerned.
POTK are seeking fame and fortune from within an increasingly congested genre but theirs is a sound as accessible as it is addictive. Ones to watch. Simon Rushworth
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 King Sized
BEST OF THE REST
The Darkness – Last Of Our Kind (Canary Dwarf)
Genre: Classic Rock
The ‘rock’ fan shuttling Download fans to and from an East Midlands airport hotel to the festival site expressed surprise when conversation turned towards The Darkness’s ‘secret gig’ on Sunday afternoon.
“Are they still going,” he asked, in all seriousness. “I thought they split up.”
Clearly Justin Hawkins and co. still have work to do in order to reclaim their crown as the kings of UK classic rock but Last Of Our Kind is another giant step towards redemption.
It’s cheeky, cheery and even chart-friendly (as if that counts for anything in 2015) and will appeal to everyone who splashed the cash to purchase Permission To Land – incredibly more than one million British record buyers did just that 12 years ago.
The title track, featuring hordes of fans on backing vocals, and Open Fire are typically bombastic Hawkins fare. Sarah O’Sarah is a ballad ready to rival Toto’s Rosanna, Richard Marx’s Angelia and the Kiss classic Beth as one of the all-time greatest odes to a lady.
If The Darkness really are the last of our kind then they should be revered and treasured not ridiculed and tossed off. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Justin Time
Muse – Drones (Warner Bros)
Genre: Progressive Rock
On reflection John ‘Mutt’ Lange and Muse were always a match made in heaven. The only surprise is that is that it’s taken the über producer and Britain’s hottest rock property this long to consummate their relationship.
Lange is writ large across Drones – the slickest, sharpest, most accessible Muse record to date. It’s mature without ever being mundane, cutting edge yet classic. In summary, then, this fifth successive UK number one album is exactly where Matt Bellamy and co. should be as they celebrate their 21st birthday in style.
The darkly affecting Dead Inside sets a surprisingly sombre mood from the off before ceding to the aggressive, in-your-face hard rock of [Drill Sergeant]. Muse haven’t lost the knack of keeping us guessing and this is a record that leans on a familiar emotional ebb and flow.
There’s the Queen-meets-QOTSA bombast of Defector, upbeat pop rock of Revolt (think The Feeling on steroids) and meaty epic The Globalist. It’s a record made for the Muse purist and the recent convert alike. And it’s a record Lange can set alongside Back In Black and Hysteria as a career-defining release. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Muse’s Mutt-ation
Freedom Hawk – Into Your Mind (Small Stone Records)
Genre: Heavy Rock/Stoner/Psychedelic Rock
There’s no escaping the Ozzy Osbourne likeness as vocalist T.R. Morton launches into opening track Blood Red Sky as if his very life depends upon it. And in another era this could have been a classic Black Sabbath album – bridging the gap between Ozzy and Dio better than Never Say Die! ever did.
The retro, scuzzy riffs will appeal to fans of Scando powerhouses Graveyard and Free Fall but the Virginians manage to craft a sound all of their own. Piercing solos, a relentlessly focused rhythm and cerebral lyrics should ensure Freedom Hawk are no flash in the pan – this is measured rock music built to last.
Lost In Space and The Line are the ideal entry point but Into Your Mind should be enjoyed in the old-fashioned way: listen from start to finish two times over and you’ll be hooked. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Mind Bending
Bluuurgh – Suffer Within (25 Years of Suffering) (Vic Records)
Genre: Death Metal
With song titles like Christian Herd Conformity and Composting Christ, it’s a fair bet that Bluuurgh weren’t regular church goers when they recorded this material… and a fair bet they were taking their cues from teutonic thrashers like Kreator and the nascent US death metal scene at that time too.
This release packages up their ’92 full length, In My Embrace, with the 1990 EP Suffer Within to produce 13 tracks of Dutch DM (and one techno tune!). Remastered by Bong Ra (aka former Bluuurgh frontman Jason Kohnen) the album is an intriguing listen, with the juxtaposition of caustic vocals and spoken word passages ramming the band’s message home very effectively – especially on tracks like In My Embrace – and there’s even a quasi-rap on Circus Of Filth. Combining violent death/thrash with bouncing, chopped up rhythms (as heard on Rancid Orchid) is also a neat trick, proving that in many ways, Bluuurgh were ahead of their time.
There are a few duds – and the EP material does little to enhance this collection – but for curious deathsters, this is well worth a look. Richard Holmes
RUSHONROCK RATED: 6.5/10 Bluuurghd Lines
The Fiend – Greed Power Religion War (Candlelight)
Genre: Hardcore Punk
Tynesiders The Fiend may have formed way back in ’82, but they’ve only clocked up two full length albums since diving into the punk scene. New release Greed Power Religion War is one of them – and it’s heartening to see Candlelight giving the quintet’s raging, political hardcore exposure to a wider audience.
The boys certainly give everything they’ve got in songs like The More You Look (a must for Discharge fans) and the frantic Death From Within. And the best of Greed Power Religion War packs a punch that the younger breed of d-beaters would do well to emulate.
Where The Fiend take a wrong turn, though, is on tracks like I’m Bought and Payback: taking a more metallic path doesn’t suit them and the band are at their finest when they’re unleashing rabid punk anthems like the phenomenal They Blame You. Thankfully though, most of this opus gets in your face and spits right in your eye… and sometimes that’s all you need. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 War Cry
Korsakov – Unique Remains (Vic Records)
Genre: Death Metal
Korsakov’s three demos – 1989’s Hangover Heroes, 1991’s Radiation Exposure and 1994’s Prolong The Agony – are brought together here to form a generous 17-track package… and a collection which charts the band’s emergence in the Dutch death metal underground.
It’s no surprise, though, to learn that the underground is exactly where Korsakov stayed, as their primitive, unimaginative DM doesn’t exactly set the world on fire. There’s a certain, early Sepultura-like charm to tracks like Hangover Heroes and Cryptic Sin, and Ripping Silence could have been a great tune with some more polish… but in the main, Unique Remains captures a band limited in both songwriting nous and technical prowess. The production quality is, as you would expect, a little low-tech too.
Dutch DM scene buffs might relish this compilation – the rest of us can happily give it a miss. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 3/10 Grisly
High On Fire – Luminiferous (Century Media)
High On Fire’s Matt Pike is spending a lot of time with his buddies in Sleep these days – and you can’t blame him, given the legendary doomsters never had the success they deserved first time around. Thankfully, though, the frontman hasn’t taken his foot off HoF’s gas and Luminiferous sees the US band putting the pedal to the metal and as usual, making other ‘heavy’ bands seem lightweight in comparison.
Their eighth album is a marked improvement on 2012’s slightly disappointing De Vermis Mysterijs, and while it doesn’t match their awe-inspiring third opus, Blessed Black Wings, it’s not too far behind. Why? Because of titanic, thrashing monsters like Slave The Hive – one of the trio’s fastest songs to date – and roaring, gutsy anthems such as The Black Plot. Of course, Pike’s gargantuan riffs have a life of their own, bursting from every song like flame-spitting hydras… but it’s Des Kensel’s phenomenal drumming which is also brought into the spotlight here. Check out the fills on The Dark Side of the Compass and you’ll hear for yourself.
Another triumph then, from one of metal’s mightiest trios. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8.5/10 Firestorm
Cromm Cruac – Senecio (Vic Records)
Genre: Death Metal
Cromm Cruac clearly had a taste for all things Florida in the 1990s, as this debut – first released in 1998 – is anything to go by. The influence of the Sunshine State acts like Atheist and Cynic is crystal clear on Senecio, an album which revels in complex tempos and spindly fretwork.
However, this opus didn’t go down as a technical DM classic for good reason: the playing isn’t quite slick enough and songs like Human Instinct are too convoluted for their own good, as if the Dutchmen were throwing so many ideas around their rehearsal room they were simply overwhelmed.
There are some fine moments on Senecio – The Pain Within, for instance, boasts crunching, deathly riffs before heading into prog territory – but not enough of them to hold your interest throughout. Even the addition of demo material doesn’t make this a worthwhile purchase – unless you’re a tech death historian. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 5/10 Cromplicated
Ol Drake – Old Rake (Earache)
The departure of Ol Drake – one of metal’s best axe slingers – from thrashers Evile came as a shock in 2013. The Yorkshireman, though, never said he’d be quitting music. And Old Rake sees Drake back in action… no doubt to the delight of guitar nerds everywhere.
His first solo effort is a purely instrumental affair, boasting nine tracks which range from speedy shred fests like Guitarists Playing Guitars (featuring Gary Holt of Exodus/Slayer fame) to folky acoustic pieces such as Karma, to the Malmsteen fret orgy of I’ll Be Bach (Get It). Thankfully, it’s thoroughly entertaining: there’s enough variety to prevent the album descending into one long, pretentious extended solo and crucially, it boasts a sense of fun too.
Drake is a huge miss to thrash metal – with BC Rich in hand, he arguably spearheaded its revival in the UK – but it’s great to hear him spread his wings on tracks like the majestic Emperor. And it’s great to have him back. RH
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7.5/10 Olé
Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus: Symphonia Ignis Divinus (Nuclear Blast)
Genre: Symphonic Metal
If monks made heavy metal then this is what it would sound like. Maybe they do. And maybe Luca Turilli has shamelessly ripped them off after spending far too long locked inside a remote Italian monastery. But even with a cup of mead in one hand and a copy of the Venerable Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum in the other it’s difficult to relate to a frankly ridiculous record.
Turilli’s penchant for adding an extra 17 notes where one will do makes Yngwie Malmsteen sound like Angus Young and there’s simply too much going on as Prometheus… rages towards its five-part 18-minute finale Of Michael The Archangel And Lucifer’s Fall Part II: Codex Nemesis.
There’s no denying the 43-year-old Italian is a supremely talented musician but this is just exhausting. If this is Turilli’s Rhapsody then it might be better to catch him in a bad mood. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 4/10 Luca The Other Way
Dommin – Rise (DNRecords)
Genre: Alt Rock/Gothic Rock
Dommin, Remember them? Back in 2010 they were touted as one of Roadrunner Records’ bright new hopes: pretty-boy gothic rockers with deep and meaningful rock and roll messages and the gothic appeal of classic Sisters Of Mercy.
That was five years ago. Any momentum gained was lost a long, long time ago and the aptly-named Rise is the record that will either kickstart Dommin’s career or consign this band to the history books.
An ugly split with Roadrunner lay at the heart of the quartet’s perceived inactivity but in their defence Dommin have never stopped working. This is a record underpinned by frustration and anger but it works as a statement of bullish intent with the darkly sarcastic The Quiet Man a killer fusion of hard rock and Manson-esque gothic groove.
Chart-friendly Falling Into Ashes is Dommin at their Depeche Mode-alike best and frontman Kristoffer Dommin has clearly retained the ability to pen a catchy tune. But will that be enough? SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Domminant
Virgin Steele – Nocturnes Of Hellfire And Damnation (SPV/Steamhammer)
Genre: Progressive Metal
David DeFeis is an acquired taste. His vocal histrionics combine the NWOBHM’s most flamboyant moments with hair metal squeals and screeches most teenage girls would struggle to replicate. But of his type he’s perfectly suited to fronting enduring New Yorkers Virgin Steele.
Increasingly progressive in their old age, the US metal survivors insist Nocturnes Of Hellfire And Damnation isn’t a classic concept album and yet familiar themes are revisited as this expansive record rumbles on.
DeFeis doesn’t seem bothered about peaking too early. Snarling and shrieking his way through opener Luzifers Hammer and the Queensryche-esque Queen Of The Dead, the band’s super enthusiastic founder member races through his impressive vocal range like a man possessed.
It’s fast, furious and incredibly good fun. But NOHAD isn’t doing anything different at a time when metal is calling out for reinvention. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Steele Determination
Anzi – Black Dog Bias (Chemistry Music Enterprises)
Given the right circumstances Black Dog Bias could be the breakthrough record Anzi deserves. The multi-talented Finn has a talent for fusing genres and the follow-up to 2011’s High Clash Motherfucker should appeal to industrial shoegazers, dance rock poseurs and hard rock kids alike. But this record’s diversity may yet be its downfall.
There are tunes aplenty but none are as instantly appealing as opener Revival and the brilliant I Let You Dive. Released as a double A-side single last month, Anzi laid his cards on the table early doors and if this double dose of dark rock medicine doesn’t liven you up then nothing will.
But Black Dog Bias requires an open mind and a degree of patience. If industrial metal is your bag then there are times when much of this material simply doesn’t grind hard enough. And if you’re a punk rocker at heart then Anzi doesn’t always do angst-fuelled attitude. What he does do is cerebral rock with a commercial edge. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 7/10 Dog Days
LOVE|LESS – Hollow Faith (Riverjuke)
Genre: Alt Rock
Londoners LOVE|LESS keep their options open on five-track EP Hollow Faith and it will be fascinating to see what the future holds for the quirky quintet.
There’s the latter-day electro-metal of Linkin Park juxtaposed with the flaky pop punk associated with Five Seconds Of Summer but somewhere beneath the surface there’s a potentially brilliant young band searching for its own identity.
It’s difficult to judge LOVE|LESS on five songs and yet there’s more than enough here to keep the grizzled cynics at RUSHONROCK interested. Opener Misery hits the mark and set closer Victim wraps things up in suitably vitriolic style. The song titles aside there’s a refreshing optimism about this promising band. SR
RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Less Is More