Category Archives: Genre

Saxon – Dogs Of War

Saxon – Dogs Of War (1995)

Saxon tried to learn their lesson from the rushed and patchy Forever Free album. They took a bit more time over the follow-up and headed back to Germany’s Karo Studio and the production team that proved so successful with Solid Ball Of Rock back in 1991. That album was a return to hard rocking form for the band but still found them moving forward, albeit in a fan-friendly fashion. While Solid Ball Of Rock was mostly full of good time AC/DC-style stompers, 1995’s Dogs Of War was an edgier affair and much more redolent of the band’s older style. But, for one member of the band, this album would be the last.

Fans of Saxon’s warrior epics like Power And The Glory and Battle Cry will delight in the opening title-track. It’s a total belter with a chunky, ballsy sound and an explosively thrilling chorus. It’s the albums best track and the only enduring classic here but the rest of the album is far from disappointing. If you know anything about Saxon you’ll know that when they start singing about vehicles it’s game on! And Burning Wheels and Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home) are loud and dirty transport rockers that take you right back to classic albums like Wheels Of Steel. And as well as recalling the classic days, Saxon also keep things fresh with some tastefully incorporated contemporary elements too: The Great White Buffalo is a moody, swampy epic and Don’t Worry has a rootsy, almost-grungy feel but climaxes with mesmerising guitar work that is pure, classic Saxon.

It’s impressive stuff but the album isn’t without its wobbles. Walking Through Tokyo is a blundering low point and a couple of enjoyable but essentially forgettable closing tracks find the album running out of steam. But it’s a minor quibble when there are so many great tracks here. Even Hold On, a potential mis-step with it’s Jovi-esque feel and Tommy & Gina lyrics, ends up being feelgood fun with a killer arena-ready chorus.

In a challenging era when British metal bands were generally falling by the wayside or falling apart, Saxon had rediscovered their fighting form, releasing their strongest, grittiest, most traditionally metal album since their glory days. But, as well as taking on the world, they were also squabbling among themselves. The relationship between frontman Biff Byford and guitarist Graham Oliver was faltering and some of the guitarist’s work on Dogs Of War had reportedly been re-recorded by a session guitarist. And when an unauthorised release of the band’s first Donington set was traced back to the guitarist, he was dismissed from the band. The loss of this talented musician and charismatic performer in such acrimonious circumstances was a blow to fans but they could take heart in the fact that – with this excellent, overlooked metal banger – Saxon were finally sounding like their old selves again.

[Saxon – Dogs Of War]

Craven Idol – The Shackles Of Mammon

With its stunning artwork and a concept covering themes of power, avarice and corruption, Craven Idol’s The Shackles Of Mammon promises to be a scathing, angry and cohesive statement. And for the first four tracks Craven Idol certainly sound spitting mad. Pyromancer and A Ripping Strike are absolutely raging black thrash of the old Kreator/Destruction variety, Black Flame Divination is awesome Venom-style hooliganism and The Trudge is epic Bathory-worship. But cohesion proves to be a problem as the rumbling Dashed To Death and Mammon Est prove largely forgettable and, although they are decent enough tracks, Hunger and the doomy album-closer Tottering Cities Of Men struggle to regain the listeners attention. Fans of crusty venomous metal will find lots to like here but the album frustratingly fails to capitalise on the in-your-face intensity of its first half. Overall, The Shackles Of Mammon scrapes above average but there’s a shitload of promise here if the band can deliver with more consistency.

New Releases – 12th May 2017

It’s time, once again, for my weekly perusal of the new release schedules. I’m trying to streamline these posts a bit so, just to clarify, this is just my own personal picks from the day’s release schedules. I try to stick to albums that I genuinely think I might buy or at least listen to at some point. When I can be bothered I’ll throw in some albums that I think are notable even if they’re not my cup of tea.

Candlemass – Dark Are The Veils Of Death

Two rare and previously unreleased tracks from a 1987 rehearsal for their essential album Nightfall? OK that’ll be must-buy of the week then. This limited 7″ vinyl, is part of the ongoing Peaceville 30th anniversary celebrations and ties in with the 30th anniversary of Nightfall too. I’ll basically buy most anything that has Candlemass written on it so this is a no-brainer.

Wormwitch – Strike Mortal Soil

Every week needs some CanCon (it’s a legal requirement) so here’s the debut album from Wormwitch. If I’m being totally honest, the only reason this stood out to me is cause the cover is so thoroughly metal but then I checked out some songs and this is a very intriguing debut: black metal with a big filthy dose of rock n’ roll thrown in and some tasty riffs.

Ensnared – Dysangelium

Here’s another debut album, this time of the Swedish death metal variety. Hard to say based on one listen but this is promising stuff. Ensnared has a way with a riff. There’s some really sharp and inventive writing on this and it has an authentically murky and old-school death metal vibe. Fans of bands like Dead Congregation should give this a go.

Harem Scarem – United

I was just gonna include this as another CanCon joke but then I went and checked out the track Here Today, Gone Tomorrow and… hey! This is pretty good! I’ve been finding a lot of the older classic rock bands getting increasingly dicey so it’s nice to hear some slick melodic rock that actually delivers the goods. So, come on Canucks, what have I been missing out on and where should I start?

Elsewhere Sabbath Assembly’s Rites Of Passage should appeal to fans of female-fronted, psychedelic occult rock. I’m maybe just being too impatient but I don’t really get the appeal. It makes me all bored and twitchy. Fans of beery blues rock ala old Whitesnake or Bad Company might enjoy Second Skin, the second album (see what they did there?) from Snakecharmer. Warrant are back with Louder Harder Faster which, going by the title-track, sounds like it might be decent, anthemic 80s raunch. And while we’re in the 80s there are also Rock Candy remasters of two Lillian Axe albums, their S/T debut and Love & War. Not very familiar with them at all but both these albums seem well-liked and hard-to-find so these look like worthwhile reissues.

And that’s about it. Chip in if there’s anything I’ve missed and I’ll tell you whether a) I’ve made a terrible error b) couldn’t be arsed including it or c) I genuinely don’t have a scooby who/what you’re talking about.

Until next week, happy hunting!

Vampire – With Primeval Force

This has become a surprise favourite in recent weeks. I had suspected it would be a middling retro genre effort but Vampire have totally surpassed my expectations with their second album With Primeval Force. It’s not original and doesn’t linger in the mind after listening so it doesn’t quite have the makings of a classic… but it’s still one of most enjoyable albums I’ve heard so far this year. And if the band continues in this promising vein, hellish greatness awaits. The ghoulish vocals and melodic riffs bring to mind Tribulation’s album from last year, the myth and magic vibe recalls Dissection and the savage thrash and bash reminds me of Teutonic terrors like Kreator. In fact, if you thought Kreator’s Gods Of Violence album from earlier in the year was a shade too polished then this will be right up your street.

New Releases – 5th May 2017

Another batch of new releases is with us. Not a lot out today but there’s some good stuff for death metal fans.

Full Of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy

I keep hearing great things about this band but the title track from this album is the only song of theirs that I’ve heard so far. It’s a nightmarish grindy noise but with arty vocals and electronic ambience too. It sounds worthy of the rave reviews. Definitely want to hear more.

Hate – Tremendum

This is the tenth album from these Polish veterans. I enjoyed the steady confidence of new track Numinosum a lot so I’m looking forward to hearing more of this. Sounds like good solid stuff from reliable purveyors of satanic death metal.

God Dethroned – The World Ablaze

It’s been seven years since these Dutch death metallers last released an album but now they’re back with this, the third part in their trilogy of WWI-themed albums. I’m not familiar with this band at all… one for fans of Bolt Thrower I’d imagine?

Oranssi Pazuzu – Farmokologinen, Kosmonument, Muukalainen Puhuu (Reissues)

I was introduced to this band by Annie at Blackhaus Art recently. It’s very original, unique stuff. And now here’s some sexy vinyl reissues (from Svart Records and 20 Buck Spin) of some older releases. I think I’ll press on with their newer stuff right now but it’s good to know these are out there! I hate it when you get into a new band just to find out half of their stuff is out-of-print.

And to round things up we’ve also got Swans continuing their run of reissues with a remaster of their 1995 album The Great Annihilator. The 2CD version also comes with Michael Gira’s solo album Drainland, from the same year. And I thought I was actually going to go a whole week without a live   album but here’s The Sword with Greetings From… Not that up on this band but I liked the live version of Maiden, Mother and Crone that I heard. Reminded me of Pentagram!

And that’s the lot. Not the kind of stuff I’ll be running out to buy but I’ll certainly be checking out a few of these online. Anything you’ve got your sights on today? Let me know. Until next week… happy hunting!

Holocaust – The Nightcomers

Holocaust – The Nightcomers + 9 Reissue (Metal Nation)

It’s immediately evident from the Chuck Berry double-stops that kick off Holocaust’s 1981 debut album that this isn’t going to be as totally dark and metallic as the spooky cover and jagged band logo suggests. Only four songs on The Nightcomers fully live up to the nefarious promise of the front sleeve. Second track Death Or Glory has a chunky, stomping riff of evil, gurning magnificence. The title-track and Mavrock are excellent sludgy, doomy affairs with creepy, reverb-laden vocals and guitar lines. And the fourth is the album’s standout track, the metal-worshipping anthem Heavy Metal Mania. If you like metal at all then this song is simply impossible to resist.

Excluding those songs and the lively Nuge/UFO-style heavy boogie of opener Smokin’ Valves, what you’re left with isn’t quite as good… but it doesn’t matter. The riffs and solos are excellent throughout and the Edinburgh band has a knack with a catchy chorus so potentially uneventful tracks like Cryin’ Shame and Push It Around just manage to avoid being total filler (even if they are strangely feel-good next to the album’s heavier tracks). Even the often wobbly vocals of Gary Lettice have a naive charm and intriguingly pre-Hetfield tone and phrasing.

If you’re new to these guys you’re in luck as Metal Nation have just reissued the album on CD with the songs from three 12″ singles as bonus tracks. It’s a great package and superb example of the promising talent, youthful energy and total lack of contrivance that keeps people going back to the NWOBHM bands. Even if it’s not quite a top-tier entry from the genre, it’s not far off. An enjoyable and memorable hard rocker with a batch of tracks that are nothing less than stone-cold metal classics.

[Holocaust – Heavy Metal Mania]

New Releases – 28th April 2017

I’d like to calm the jets on the spending after my Record Store Day extravaganza but let’s take a look at today’s new releases and see if that’s likely to happen. The answer is: probably not.

Voivod – Rrröööaaarrr, Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross (Reissues)

Wouldn’t normally kick off with reissues but I’m pretty excited about these. And no need to worry about splashing the cash here because I’ve paid for them already via the Pledge campaign (now closed). Don’t worry if you missed out though, because these are now on general sale. Vinyl versions or hugely-expanded deluxe 2CD/DVD sets with bonus tracks and live footage aplenty. Prices look very reasonable for the deluxe versions and all of these have been out-of-print for donkeys so reissues are overdue and welcome.

(And Noise Records have just announced another pledge campaign too. This time for Kreator with reissues of their first four albums Endless Pain, Pleasure To Kill, Extreme Aggression and Terrible Certainty. They aren’t as extras-laden as the Voivod reissues and none of the albums are especially hard to find either but Extreme Aggression and Terrible Certainty come with bonus discs and there’s the obligatory liner notes, vinyl editions and signed copies etc…)

Skyclad – Forward Into The Past

These innovative folk metallers have been a huge, essential part of my musical upbringing but since the split with frontman Martin Walkyier I’ve not really paid much attention to their movements. I did check out their last album In The… All Together and found it was a bit mixed so I’m not hugely excited about this. But they’re still enough of a name for me to at least check it out online. And the return of classic-era guitarist Dave Pugh is appealing too.

Witchfynde – Divine Victims (Box Set)

The reissues keep on coming… There’s been a lot of welcome NWOBHM reissues lately (Samson, Holocaust, Savage all spring to mind) and here’s another. This time Witchfynde get the same box set treatment that Samson enjoyed from Hear No Evil Recordings. I don’t think any of these albums are as difficult to find as the Samson ones were but it’s still a great value set: three albums with bonus tracks and a booklet from NWOBHM expert John Tucker. I’ll be buying this at some point.

Cirith Ungol – King of the Dead (Ultimate Edition)

The guys at Metal Blade follow up last year’s tasty reissue of Paradise Lost with another Cirith Ungol deluxe. This time it’s the band’s second album King Of The Dead, here expanded with live tracks and a live DVD or you can get a vinyl edition if you prefer (although it was reissued on vinyl a while back already). The CD/DVD edition looks like a very cool set though. I approve.

Fates Warning – Awaken the Guardian Live

Prog-metallers Fates Warning release this weeks obligatory live set. Their performances celebrating the 30th anniversary of the classic album getting a release in various formats. The jewel in the crown being the 4CD/DVD/BR set that has their two festival appearances included.

Elsewhere, the River Runs Red line-up of Life Of Agony return with A Place Where There’s No More Pain. Sounds like decent, heavy alternative rock for people that like that kind of thing. There’s more NWOBHM from Cloven Hoof with Who Mourns For The Morning Star. They’re a band I don’t know anything about but the new songs I heard sounded fun! And last, but not least, we have American hardcore terrors Terror with their intriguing new EP The Walls Will Fall.

And that’s about the lot for me. This week is more about the reissues for me but there’s definitely some intrigue among the new albums too. Nothing I’d run out and buy but definitely stuff that I’ll check out online. Let me know what you think about this week’s offerings. Anything you’re excited about that isn’t here? Any startling omissions? Let me know and, until next time… happy hunting.