Category Archives: Classic Rock

Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (Review)

Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976)

The modern idea of “heavy metal” starts here. Judas Priest’s seminal sophomore album Sad Wings Of Destiny laid down the template for countless others to follow with its evil, slashing riffs, demonic guitar duels and the screaming, theatrical vocals of the one-and-only Rob Halford. This 1976 album contains four peerless classics in the humungous Victim Of Changes, the thrashing Genocide, Tyrant and the malevolent The Ripper. And, while less innovative, the deep cuts like the orchestral Prelude, psychedelic Dreamer Deceiver and the funereal Epitaph give the album a mournful, gothic construction that makes this the Priest to hear if you’re a crucifix-necklaced, flare-wearing, doom metal type. Supposedly the album’s A and B sides were accidentally reversed on initial release so we’ve all been listening to it in the wrong order. But it doesn’t matter. Listen to this any way you like: forwards, backwards, up, down, shuffle. Either way it’s a masterpiece. Actually… maybe avoid listening to it backwards. Just in case.

HMO Rating: 5 Out 5

[Judas Priest – Genocide]

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Yngwie Malmsteen – Eclipse (Review)

Yngwie Malmsteen – Eclipse (1990)

Yngwie M. F. Malmsteen goes for the commercial jugular on his fifth studio album, 1990’s Eclipse. Aided by his first all-Swedish lineup, the borking-mad maestro dishes out a superlative set of melodic Euro metal that expands on the AOR leanings of his previous record Odyssey. The album opens with its three singles. Making Love is smouldering of verse and colossal of riff; Bedroom Eyes is fun Europop with loose jamming guitar; and the smoochy ballad Save Your Love is a skippable bore. Luckily the next track Motherless Child is an exciting metal rager. It’s a stunner, charged with emotion, and from there on the album barely puts a foot wrong. From the explosive pomp of Devil In Disguise and Judas to the flawlessly layered Faultline this album is a blast. Might prove too cheesy for fans weaned on Marching Out but if you fancy a bit of pop and pomp with your power, the stars align on Eclipse.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

[Yngwie Malmsteen – Motherless Child]

Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (Review)

Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (Released 22nd Feb 2019)

Remember when bands used to “get it together in the country”? Demon Head do. In the winter of 2017-18 they headed out to a remote recording studio in the Danish countryside to record their third album. But this is no bucolic, hippy, communing with nature type affair. More a “getting lost in the woods, people with strange animal masks, ‘it’s time for your appointment with The Wicker Danzig’” situation. The creepy rural seclusion approach has worked: Demon Head have definitely got it together on Hellfire Ocean Void.

The Night Is Yours and In The Hour Of The Wolf are the standout tracks: occult, old-fashioned metal that will appeal to fans of Tribulation and In Solitude. There are also lots of rustic interludes and mystical ambience which, combined with the band’s Pentagram-style proto-doom, gives the album a folk horror allure. The guitar work is much improved, some exciting NWOBHM-esque workouts and solos here, and Ferriera Larsen is finding his own voice: shaking off the Bobby Leibling/Fonzig comparisons of old.

As with previous albums, there’s a tendency to meander which means it takes a few listens to grab you. But it’s their most thoughtful, consistent and well-crafted effort yet with depth and atmosphere in abundance. It builds on the promise of their earlier work and suggests exciting ways forward. Fan of pagan, old-school metal? It’s time for your appointment with Demon Head.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

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]

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]

New Releases – 5th October 2018

The release schedule is definitely hotting up now… lots of cool stuff out today.

Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest

Behemoth’s last album The Satanist is a modern classic so no pressure on them to follow it up. None whatsoever no siree. Reading quite mixed and underwhelming reports about this but I’ll want to hear it for myself anyway, and so will you. I’ve avoided all advance tracks so far cause I just want to hear the whole thing.

Anthrax – State Of Euphoria (Deluxe Edition)

I’ve been on a tremungous Anthrax kick lately so this deluxe edition of the underrated State Of Euphoria will do me nicely. Remastered with era B-Sides, booklet and a bonus disc called “Charlie’s Archive” which is work-in-progress recordings of the album’s songs. Puts you right in the room with the band apparently. Bet Scott Ian ignores you.

Steve Perry – Traces

Whoops, almost forgot this one! The Journey vocal legend returns with this surprise solo album. Been looking forward to this and the single No Erasin’ was great so… yes. Look out for editions with bonus tracks too.

High On Fire – Electric Messiah

Matt Pike’s a busy lad. Not content with the excellent new Sleep album he’s also got a new High On Fire one out too. I’ve got most of this band’s stuff but they’re not a big fave and I slept on their last album. Might give this a go though, cause I feel like Pike is just on form lately… and they’re not on Third Man Records so that’s a plus!

Deathhammer – Chained To Hell

Fun black thrash from Norway. New track Rabid Maniac Force is total Destruction worship which is absolutely fine by me. And tell me you don’t want a copy of this for that cover alone! And it’s not on Third Man Records because Jack White is a pure plum.

Riot – Archives Volume 1: 1976-1981

Amazing looking archival release from High Roller that covers the bands early years with vocalist Guy Speranza. Available as a CD/DVD set or a DLP/DVD set, this features 18 unreleased tracks including pre-Rock City stuff, early versions of Narita tracks and a live show from 1981 on the DVD. Want.

Cirith Ungol – Witch’s Game

The returned Cirith Ungol dropped this superb new song on Bandcamp a wee while back and now’s your chance to get their first new song in 27 years on vinyl. It will also feature a live version of Doomed Planet as the B-side, taken from their performance at Germany’s Hammer of Doom festival in 2017.

And that’s about it for another week. See you next week for more new release bunkum.