Category Archives: Albums

Rainbow – Down To Earth (Review)

Rainbow – Down To Earth (1979)

If you’re a fan of Ritchie Blackmore you get used to band members coming and going. But for fans of Rainbow, the departure of Ronnie James Dio in 1978 was a tough pill to swallow. The mighty castle metal of the Dio years was replaced with the AOR hit Since You’ve Been Gone and the proto-Miami Vice vision of new vocalist Graham Bonnet.

But don’t pull your drawbridge up just yet. 1979’s Down To Earth is one of Rainbow’s best albums. Since You’ve Been Gone might be too slick for some, but it’s a classic rock track: deceptively sophisticated and impeccably delivered with a Blackmore guitar solo made out of sheer joy. And if the new frontman was more James Dean than James Dio, his powerful and versatile lungs allow the band to get raunchier and bluesier, bringing to mind revered Deep Purple albums like Machine Head and Burn. The driving All Night Long has brilliant Smoke On The Water style riffs and Love’s No Friend is a superbly moody sequel to Mistreated. Better still, the grandiose proto-power metal of the previous Rainbow remains in the thumping Eyes Of The World and the medieval tinges of Makin’ Love. The closest the album comes to filler is the generic No Time To Lose but even that adds some welcome up-tempo energy, as does the lively closing track Lost In Hollywood.

Inevitably, the coming and going continued with the departure of both Bonnet and drummer Cozy Powell. Which means Down To Earth becomes a transitional album in the Rainbow catalogue: steering the band from Ye Olde Rainbow to the slicker Joe Lynn Turner era. But with shades of both styles and a timeless hue of Deep Purple too, it’s a stone-cold classic in its own right. Could I be wrong? No.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

[Rainbow – Eyes Of The World]

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Solstice – White Horse Hill (Review)

Solstice – White Horse Hill (2018)

Unless your veins run with the blood of a coward you would do well to check out White Horse Hill, the 2018 comeback album from the UK’s Solstice. And fans of early Manowar and Candlemass should consider it essential. It’s confident, bracing stuff with riffs that power like mighty oars, harmonies that sound like they’re heading out on a quest and declamatory vocals that get the pecs swelling with pride. The folky strum of For All Days & For None is a mid-album lull and a penchant for rustic interludes hampers the pacing a touch but To Sol A Thane, Under The Waves Lie Our Dead and the title-track are glorious, bearing the weight of the album like mighty pillars.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Extra points for a beautiful digipak!

The Antichrist Imperium – Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan (Review)

The Antichrist Imperium – Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan (2018 – CD Version)

The Devil rides out once more as The Antichrist Imperium follow up their 2015 debut with this second volume of unrelenting Satan worship. Of all the members of the sprawling Akercocke family tree, The Antichrist Imperium’s death metal sticks closest to the parent band’s legacy of progressive, debauched, blast-furnace goat homage.

And for the first three tracks of Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan, blast-furnace goat homage is exactly what you get. A bit of diminishing returns starts to creep in here but once the album settles into a more adventurous mode with the sumptous Liturgy Of The Iconoclast/Blood Sacrifice it never looks back. Golgothan Heiros Gamos is occult ecstasy and Sermon Of Small Faith is an epic, joyous closer. Top marks to guitarist Matt Wilcock and drummer David Gray for whirling like dervishes throughout and the twin vocalists Sam Bean and Sam Loynes conjure up an increasingly captivating vocal chemistry.

It’s great stuff so fans of blasphemous and seductive evil metal should pee on a pentagram, leave it for three days, and pray for a third outing. Everyone else? Salt and mercury… effective against the dark forces.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

The Antichrist Imperium – Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan (2018 – Vinyl Version)

 

Saigon Kick – Saigon Kick (Review)

Saigon Kick – Saigon Kick (1991)

Florida’s Saigon Kick arrived too late for the 80s glam metal party but their 1991 debut album had an eclectic and alternative edge that seemed custom-built for the new decade. The flashy chops and harmonies cast back to the glory days of Ratt, Dokken and the like but colourful shades of Alice In Chains, psychedelia and thrash pointed to the future.

Easy to see why there was a buzz about this band but the eclecticism is a double-edged sword. The variety is impressive and keeps things interesting but also means that for every infectious pop rocker like Colors or moody metaller like New World there’s a cheesy U2-esque Love Of God or the silly cod-angst of What Do You Do. Add banal lyrics to all the style-hopping and the album starts to seem like it’s got little to say.

The hard edge and druggy melody brings to mind contemporaries like Warrior Soul and Enuff Z’nuff but Saigon Kick are inferior to both, with neither Warrior Soul’s incendiary intelligence or Enuff Z’nuff’s depth and taste. There definitely some great stuff here but in an era with a bewildering array of musical flavours on offer, Saigon Kick taste too vanilla.

HMO Rating: 2 out of 5

[Saigon Kick – What Do You Do]

Recent Rock Candy reissue with bonus tracks

Thor – Unchained (Review)

Unchained (EP – 1983, Reissue – 2015)

I want to get HMO circa 2019 off to a mighty start and it doesn’t get much mightier than everyone’s favourite brick-breaking, steel-bending and hot water bottle-exploding Canuck Jon Mikl Thor!

The former bodybuilding champ (and naked waiter) plugged away with various bands like Body Rock and Thor And The Imps before finally settling on Thor, releasing their debut album Keep The Dogs Away in the late 70s. The debut’s ropey (but infuriatingly catchy) glam made for a bit of a false start and it wasn’t until 1983’s Unchained EP that Thor finally hit his musical stride, with a nifty new band and a hard metal backing that was much better suited to his voice, persona and Herculean physique.

That physique and viking imagery often gets Thor lumped in with HMO-heroes Manowar but the music on Unchained is much more along the lines of the party-hearty block riffing of Twisted Sister. Traces of the debut’s glam approach remain, especially in the EP’s weakest track Lazer Eyes. But Unchained is even catchier than the debut and tracks like Anger, Lightning Strikes Again and When Gods Collide are instant favourites and mandatory listening for any true metal party!

Better still, the recent reissue from Cleopatra bolsters the already mighty EP with tons of quality bonus tracks like War Hammer and Rebirth Of The Hero as well as the ultra-rare Lightning Strikes Again EP from 1982 which features raw earlier versions of the Unchained tracks. When you’re fucking and fighting in Valhalla, Unchained will be playing in the background. Essential listening for anyone that needs some devastation with their musculation.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

[Thor – Anger]

Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (Review)

Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (2013)

Twilight Of The Gods were formed as an all-star Bathory tribute act featuring the likes of Mayhem’s Blasphemer, Primordial’s Alan Averill and blast legend Nick Barker. In 2013 they took the plunge and released their own album of irony-free epic metal Fire On The Mountain.

It’s a treat to hear a black metal veteran take on the chest-beating, anthemic style of Manowar, Manilla Road, Omen and the like but it’s all a bit too sincere. There’s a pervading doom-laden vibe that works well on the moodier tracks like the Primordial-like Children Of Cain and the apocalyptic Sword Of Damocles, but the more anthemic efforts like Preacher Man and Destiny Forged In Blood prove a bit too stiff for comfort.

Alan Averill’s unique voice adds much-needed charisma, his lyrics are a lot of fun (“Van Stahrenberg stands with the Holy See of the Roman Empire”) and the band does a sterling job of launching into Maiden-style instrumental jousts, most notably on the rousing title track.

Fire On The Mountain places pretty low in the pantheon when stacked up against the classic bands that inspired it but there are enough great moments here to make it disappointing that they haven’t followed it up with a second album. It’s a solid effort for fans of the main players and for anyone that likes their metal with a bit of hair on its chest.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

[Twilight Of The Gods – Children Of Cain]

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (Review)

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (2018)

The return of Swedish orthodox black metallers Funeral Mist has been one of 2018’s most welcome surprises. And Hekatomb, their first album in nearly ten years, is a raging reminder that the Devil still has all the best tunes. Tracks like Shedding Skin and Hosanna are absolutely flaying, a purist’s delight, and the rest of the album has imaginative depth and rich layers: In Nomine Domini’s addictive sliding riff; Naught But Death’s wicked mix of groove and gospel; Cockatrice’s ambient keys and the monk-y magic of Metamorphosis. It’s a stunning accomplishment from Arioch who, ably assisted by drummer Lars B, is the mastermind behind all the music, imagery and charismatically demented vocals here. Easily the album of the year so far. It’s so good I had to buy their entire back catalogue on vinyl.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

The very cool booklet that comes with the vinyl edition
Gotta get ’em all!