HMO Digest – 25th September 2022

It’s been two whole months since the last digest so let’s not waste time with idle banter! Here’s what’s been happening on the blog.

Recent Posts

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Album Review)

Lynott and chums scatter their beans over different scenes on their eclectic, but sleepy, debut.

Stratovarius – Hunting High And Low (Song Review)
Helloween – Why? (Song Review)

Two power metal classics in a row. Why? Why the hell not.

KISS – Bang Bang You (Song Review)

Cause 80s KISS is the best! And you wanted the best.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge (Song Review)

This song rhymes seagull with eagle which is just one of the many reasons for its awesomeness.

Cream – Badge (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering as long as they sound the part.

Tankard – Mercenary (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering at all.

HMO Salutes

R.I.P Michael James Jackson, producer of my favourite two KISS albums (Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up… 80s KISS again!)

Steve Grimmett, best known as lead throat of NWOBHMers Grim Reaper, who has died aged 62.

The exalted Piledriver (aka Gord Kirchin) who has died from cancer aged 60. I wrote about a great Piledriver tune here if you want to familiarise yourself. And their albums Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly both got stellar reissues lately so get involved.

New Stuff

A good year for new releases continues with Megadeth’s The Sick, The Dead… And The Dying! and Behemoth’s Opvs Contra Natvram which are both enjoyable efforts. Not up with either band’s best work but better than I was expecting. Other notable purchases include Marillion’s Holidays In Eden box set (love!), KISS’s Des Moines set (wow!), a Steeleye Span box set (fol-de-rol!), Whiplash’s The Roadrunner Years (ermagerd! Thresh meddle)

Darkthrone

I also had a big blow out and bought all the Darkthrone albums I’m missing. Basically all the studio albums between Panzerfaust and F.O.A.D. I should really have bought all these long ago because Darkthrone, but the news of their upcoming Astral Fortress inspired me to finally bite the bullet. I can listen to the whole discography now before the new one comes out on the 28th October.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

Cathedral’s The Carnival Bizarre from 1995. Monstrously heavy stuff with classic tracks like Vampire Sun and Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) as well as wonderful deep cuts like Inertia’s Cave and guest guitar from one Frank “Tony” Iommi on Utopian Blaster. Let’s get it on!

Coming Up

We’re getting in to the heavy release schedule months now. There are new releases and reissues galore on the horizon. Coming up in Oct there’s new albums from The Antichrist Imperium, Avatarium and Queensryche and on the reissue front there’s Diamond Head (expanded Lightning To The Nations), Danzig (the long out-of-print 666: Satan’s Child) and album boxes from Deicide and Blitzkrieg.

On the review front I have some Deep Purple, Brian May and Whitesnake posts in the works. And probably some Darkthrone cause that’s all I’m going to be listening to for the next month or so, let’s face it. Until next time… eternal hails!

Tankard – Mercenary (Song Review)

“Fleeing. Fleeing fastly”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “careful” used this forcefully in a song before. Repeatedly. Here’s Tankard: generally renowned for songs about drinking beer and being a thrash metal ne’er-do-well. But on Mercenary (taken from 1986’s Zombie Attack) the Germans take on the subject of soldiers for hire in their endearing “English as a second language” way. It’s just great fun: a punky, speed metal mosh. And the chorus gang shout of “Mercenary! Be careful! Mercenary! Careful! Carefully, carefully! The mercenary, the mercenary” is unforgettably demented. You might enjoy it a little too much so… careful!

Cream – Badge (Song Review)

“Before they bring the curtain down”

I’ve listened to Badge a gazillion times now and it’s never lost an ounce of its power. It’s the track that got me into Cream, or to be more precise, its the bridge that got me into Cream. The main song is wonderfully summery but when it reaches the bridge and Eric Clapton’s Leslie-speaker guitar arpeggios chime in, it’s one of the most emotionally moreish sounds in rock history. It was co-written by Clapton and his Beatle pal George Harrison for Cream’s farewell album Goodbye and although the relationships in Cream had turned sour by that point, the band put in a great performance. Especially Jack Bruce, who excels with his bouncy, melodic bass line. Shame they couldn’t have held the band together as this is brilliant stuff and I find their catalogue, short though it is, increasingly revealing and rewarding over the years. But Badge still ranks as the cream of the crop.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge (Song Review)

“Loaded down with your talents”

If there was a Venn diagram of classical music, progressive rock and metal, you’d find Emerson, Lake And Palmer’s Knife-Edge bang in the centre. Taken from the band’s 1970 debut this is dark, heavy stuff with a huge, ominous riff. The formidable British trio rearrange pieces from Janáček and Bach into a stonking Hammond organ bludgeon that is surely what the composers had in mind all along. As a young metal fan this was one of the key gateway tracks that introduced me to the rich, crazy world of prog and it’s still one of my favourite songs of the genre.

KISS – Bang Bang You (Song Review)

“You know the rules and you’re gonna play”

If I was going to do an “all KISS songs ranked” type post, I reckon I’d have Bang Bang You higher on the list than most. There are a few reasons for this… One: It’s an endearingly dumb rock song about shagging. Two: I’m a sucker for 80s KISS (Paul Stanley’s voice is great and Bruce Kulick’s guitar work is always tasty). Three: It’s a song I love more since learning how to play it. I have a real thing about rock songs that use capos and Paul Stanley is a regular capo user. He uses one here, on the 2nd fret, and I love playing it. Four: it’s become my go-to song for testing out music gear down at the guitar shop. If I don’t enjoy playing Bang Bang You on a guitar or amp it doesn’t get bought. Simple as that. That’s the main reasons anyway, but I could probably reel off another… I dunno… five, six, seven, eight.

 

Helloween – Why? (Song Review)

“In these lonely days I need your answer”

On 1994’s Master Of The Rings, Helloween got their power metal mojo back big time. With two new members on board, drummer Uli Kutsch and vocalist Andi Deris, the German band sounded fresh and vital. And it’s these new guys that particularly shine on Why? Kutsch excites with his hard-hitting, gear-shifting groove and, not only are his vocals breathtaking (especially on the soaring, emotional chorus) but Deris displayed considerable songwriting chops here too. The lyrics challenge a non-interventional God but Why? is so good I can’t help feeling like the big man had Helloween’s back.

Stratovarius – Hunting High And Low (Song Review)

“Through the clouds shines a ray of the Sun”

This is the furthest I have ventured into the realm of proper rainbow unicorn power metal. So far, anyway. I was provoked into buying Stratovarius’ Infinite after a short live clip of them playing Hunting High And Low on the Metal Evolution series planted the song’s chorus in my head forever. The band pump out a fairly typical Euro-metal backdrop that refrains from showboating enough to let the insanely catchy tune and Timo Kotipelto’s soaring voice take centre stage. It all evokes warm feelings of old Europe and Goran Edman era Yngwie. The kind of song that gives you a high, even when you’re feeling low.

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Review)

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (1971)

They’d go on to be one of the most definitive, life-affirming rock acts of the 70s but on their 1971 debut, Thin Lizzy seemed more nostalgic for the 60s. Lizzy mainstays Phil Lynott and Brian Downey together with original guitarist Eric Bell formed a power trio in the mould of Hendrix, Cream and The Jeff Beck Group and played an eclectic mix of folky, funky and soulful hippy rock. Honesty Is No Excuse is a sophisticated string-laden ballad, Look What The Wind Blew In has a carefree chorus and wonderful stuttering riff, Eire is a beautiful Celtic ode and Return Of The Farmer’s Son has hints of future glories in its jousting guitar and rolling drums. But many of the songs here, like the endless Diddy Levine, prove forgettable and even the album’s rockiest moments have a maudlin, nostalgic mood. All this makes Thin Lizzy a decent choice for hungover Sunday afternoons. But you know what Lizzy albums you were listening to on the Saturday and this wasn’t one of them.

HMO Digest – 10th July 2022

I closed out the previous digest with a question: were KISS genuinely boring when they played Donington in 1996 or was I just too sunburned to enjoy them properly? Well, I’ve listened to the Off The Soundboard recording of the show now. It’s a bit sluggish and takes a few songs to get going but, in the comfort of my own darkened living room, it’s way more fun than I remember! I’m getting the classic KISS vibes. Verdict: too sunburned.

Recent Posts

Hell – Darkhangel (Song Review)

One of the best songs of the ’10s but sadly Hell haven’t released anything since. Last I saw of them was supporting Saxon at what can only be described as a very farty Glasgow gig. At least I got some fresh air at Donington.

Running Wild – Final Gates (Song Review)

Don’t walk the plank, spank it! It’s all about the bass on this insanely catchy instrumental.

Fist – Throwing In The Towel (Song Review)

Apollo Creed’s least favourite NWOBHM song.

Shrines – Ghost Notes (EP Review)

I never got a press release for this so I’m not sure what the pitch is. A wee music theory joke for you there.

HMO Salutes

Original Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton has died aged 80. Brilliant musician, songwriter and producer on some of my favourite albums. Listen here for a great interview with the man himself, where he discusses his classic Nazareth albums and his involvement with Guns N’ Roses. Warning: Fife accent.

Artist Ken Kelly, the creator of some of my favourite album covers, has passed away aged 76. A framed poster of Love Gun graced my living room wall for many years. And where would Manowar be without his muscular and boobular artwork?

My long-running campaign to “BRING BACK ALEC” has come to a sad end with the death of ex-Bon Jovi bassist Alec John Such, aged 70. The campaign did at least achieve some closure when he reunited with the band at their 2018 Hall Of Fame induction.

New Stuff

My most exciting purchases from the last month were the new Kreator album Hate Über Alles which is really good (definitely better than advance reviews led me to believe) and Porcupine Tree’s Closure/Continuation (album of the year so far). On the reissue front, I got the Thin Lizzy package that pairs up the expanded Sydney show with the doc Songs For While I’m Away, which is essential viewing for Lynott fans. And I finally got the anniversary box set of Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas which I’ve been looking forward to since pre-ordering it back in November 2021. It was worth the wait.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

Enuff Z’Nuff’s 1985. It’s a strange one… a 1994 release that was technically their fourth album but is actually their 1985 demo recordings. I don’t really know the full story here. It’s sounds way too good to be a demo and sounds incredible for 1985 even. Re-recorded or touched up old material? Whatever it is, it’s brill and infectious glam rock.

Coming Up

I’m looking forward to the reissue of UFO’s High Stakes & Dangerous Men paired with Lights Out In Tokyo. Supposedly not the best era for the band but I’ve not heard either album before so I’ll judge for myself. Also Whiplash’s The Roadrunner Years set is an exciting prospect, I’ve wanted that stuff for ages but it’s always been too pricey.

On the review side I’ve got quite a mix coming up soon on the blog: thrash, power metal, black metal and classic prog. Stay tuned and expect no mercy!

Shrines – Ghost Notes (Review)

Shrines – Ghost Notes (2021)

Given that their frontman Sam Loynes also keeps busy with Akercocke, The Antichrist Imperium, and Voices I can’t blame Shrines for taking six years to follow up their 2015 debut album with a four-song EP. But it helps that the EP, 2021’s Ghost Notes, is good: angular, dissonant progressive metal with pristine guitar tones, killer riffs and Loynes’ unique, melancholic voice and harmonies. While I miss the eclectic creativity and plaintive atmosphere of the debut, its good to have Shrines back and they sound like they have found a strong direction and purpose with Ghost Notes. Hopefully they won’t take so long to make their next move this time. Of all the bands in Loynes’ impressive CV this is the one I’d most like to hear more of.

… and classic rock too!