Gather and give praise at the Holy Parish of True Doom. Here’s Reverend Bizarre and Burn In Hell!, the opening track from their 2002 debut In The Rectory Of The Bizarre Reverend. This is doom at its most pious and humongous: pushing the style to its saturnine and elephantine limits while staying true to the traditional form and vibe of genre pioneers like Saint Vitus and Pentagram. The eight-minute song only has about three riffs but a shift in mood from minor to phrygian keeps things evil and interesting and Albert Witchfinder’s operatic, admonishing croon and the grim Conan-esque atmosphere imbue the song with all the atmosphere and emotion necessary in a timeless doom classic. Which Burn In Hell! absolutely is.
Chaotic, train wreck live shows are a big part of Venom’s notoriety and their live album Eine Kleine Nachtmusik lives up to that legend. That said, the Geordie trio do a pretty good job of holding it together on this live version of Seven Gates Of Hell. It’s one of my favourite Venom tracks and one of their more controlled, brooding efforts. And while this live outing adds a wallop of cavernous excitement and brute force, the song’s charm remains. The moody mid-section is especially captivating as Cronos’ bass bulldozes over Mantas’ enigmatic chords. Sadly, by the time Eine Kleine Nachtmusik hit the shelves in 1986, the band’s classic lineup was no more. But the Venom legions could console themselves by listening to their beloved black metallers knocking seven shades of shite out of Seven Gates Of Hell.
This kind of stately Euro metal should be right up my street but In The Future To Come, the track that kicked off Europe’s career in 1983, doesn’t quite cut it for me. The regal riffing and ripping solo are impressive and it’s very melodic and listenable. But for all its proficiency, it’s just a bit too naïve and mild-mannered for my liking. When I listen to this kind of stuff I want blood and thunder. FIRE! Yowww. In The Future To Come doesn’t rouse enough of that manly passion for me to rate it as anything other than mildly pleasing.
Not that I need a reason, but with the 30th anniversary and an imminent remixed, remastered reissue, it seems like a good time to give Cynic’s incredible 1993 debut Focus a spin. Here’s The Eagle Nature, one of my favourite tracks from the album. Knotty thrash riffing and growling vocals keep this in familiar brutal territory but King Crimson-esque interlocking guitars, weirdo vocoder effects, moody synthscapes and a general sense of wellbeing make this a bit of a space oddity in the death metal realm. Back in 1993 (just six years on from barbaric early death metal classics like Scream Bloody Gore) Focus must have sounded like it was from another planet. And 30 years later, tracks like The Eagle Nature still sound like they’re at the cosmic cutting edge.
Tribulation’s third album The Children Of The Night was a breath of fresh air when it was released in 2015, injecting some much-needed excitement into a fairly dull year for metal. Every song on the album is absolutely killer but Winds was an immediate favourite of mine. Like the rest of the album, it’s a veritable “Best of Sweden” with the anthemic horror of Ghost, Dissection’s cold kvltness, In Solitude’s gothic darkness and Watain’s blackened, gurgly vocal attack. But the main thing I want to single is out the song’s chorus riff. It’s one of those brilliant “why wasn’t this written before?” moments. It’s an absolute show-stopper and the main reason that Winds instantly blew me away.
It’s Easter so I thought I’d listen to something a bit more Jesus-y for a change. Here’s Virgin Steele’s Last Supper from their superb album The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell – Part One. Virgin Steele most often concern themselves with outsider/rebel figures in religion and mythology so it’s great fun to hear frontman/songwriter David DeFeis portraying the big J.C. with his characteristic defiance and passion. And it’s an excellently crafted and mature metal song too with dark Phrygian riffs adding an appropriately middle-eastern feel and an intense, rousing performance from DeFeis. As the song comes to an end his Zep-esque oohs and woos will have you picturing Jesus as some kind of windswept, chest-beating Robert Plant type figure. Which is how I like to imagine him anyway. Praise the Lord.
Over the years, Judas Priest have had a growing penchant for lyrics that basically just describe some sort of apocalyptic cartoon character. A lot of their album covers depict similar creations too – check out the Metalli-Tarkus or whatever it is on the cover of their 1984 album Defenders Of The Faith. And that same album also has one of the best songs of this particular type: The Sentinel. Just that title alone is metal as fuck. And so is the song. The guitar intro is imposing and dramatic, the pacey riffing builds to a typically phenomenal display of guitar jousting from the Tipton/Downing dream team and Boaby Halford totally delivers the goods: singing phrases like “sworn to avenge” with utter conviction. Recorded following the band’s big US breakthrough, The Sentinel brims with confidence while also retaining the cutting edge of their earlier material, closing a faultless side of vinyl on an epic sci-fi high.
“If you don’t stop what you’re doing to me, I’m gonna to do it to you”
Poor Cov the Guv. He’s normally the cock of the walk but on 1979’s You ‘N’ Me the ‘snake frontman is left holding his own, wondering where his lover has been all night… and who she’s been with. This short and sweet rock ‘n’ roller is slathered with rootsy slide guitar and injects some welcome energy into the Lovehunter album. It reminds me of Deep Purple’s Lady Double Dealer: lively and direct with cheating woman lyrics and a feelgood bridge that lifts the whole song. There’s no twist or suggestion that the narrator is just a big jealous pants (a nuance that would have worked well on that catchy bridge). No, this lady is just a double dealer. But given that Cov compares her to “page three girls in the Playboy books” I can’t blame her for looking elsewhere.
In Blue Öyster Cult’s Monsters, one woman and three men form a crew to steal a spaceship and head out into the cosmos in order to escape a laughter-free Earth. Unfortunately they don’t reckon on the monsters of their minds and the trip ends in sex, jealousy and murder. On BÖC’s 1980 album Cultösaurus Erectus, the band were keen to focus on their enigmatic, heavier side and Monsters‘ dark sci-fi yarn definitely delivers on that front. It’s also a ton of fun: a demented mix of sex and sax where huge stadium rock mixes with schizoid King Crimson riffs and swinging jazz interludes. And while the story ends badly for the crew, Monsters takes off in a climax that is Blue Öyster Cult at their euphoric best.
I ended up moving house at the end of February. It’s been an exciting time in terms of getting a nice new place and loads of extra space, but it’s been a complete pain in the arse in terms of having to actually move. But it’s done now. Only one CD bit the dust during the move, the inlay torn in half by a tumbling shelf: the 2CD Ear Music reissue of Pride & Glory’s self-titled album. Luckily it was still available and easily replaced.
My music collection is now unpacked, organised and looking sexier than ever so it’s time to get back to the old blogging shenanigans. Fresh horses!
I only managed two posts in February before real life got in the way. Opeth’s twisty, turny The Twilight Is My Robe, which may well leave you wondering “where am I now?” and Love/Hate’s She’s An Angel, which features an extremely rare instance of strings being taken off a bass guitar! Surely not.
I mentioned three upcoming releases in February’s digest and those have all been bought. The excellent IX from Paradise Lost side-project Host, a reissue of Danzig’s Circle Of Snakes and a reissue (that I totally don’t need but bought anyway) of Darkthrone’s Goatlord. I also got a few box sets: Porcupine Tree’s deluxe reissue of their underrated Deadwing album; a set of Scottish NWOBHMers Holocaust; and the BBC Broadcasts set from Genesis. Oh yeah, and that copy of Pride & Glory… to replace the one damaged in the move.
What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post
T-Rex’s The Slider from 1972. For my money the best T-Rex album. It’s got some of his darkest, weightiest rockers (Buick Mackane is class), his best singles (Telegram Sam) and choice deep cuts like Spaceball Ricochet and Baby Strange. It’s a magical album of rock ‘n’ roll at its simple, inspired best.
March has some tantalising new stuff coming out: Hanoi Rocks are bringing out a re(al)mix of their Oriental Beat album to celebrate its 40th anniversary; Saxon are bringing out another covers album (still haven’t listened to the last one); Behemoth continue their plush reissues of their early albums with a deluxe edition of Grom and there is even more Danzig! The imminent reissue of the out-of-print 777: I Luciferi will give me the opportunity to finally own all the Danzig studio albums.
Other than that, normal blog service will be resumed shortly. Watch this space. And hopefully I won’t have to move house again for a very long time.