Category Archives: Classic Rock

UPCOMING ALBUMS: Cradle Of Filth, Enslaved, Samael and more

It’s time for another nosey through the release schedule. Here’s a selection of some upcoming albums that are taking my fancy.

Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay

I’m properly out of touch with Cradle Of Filth’s career but their newer material has been getting a lot of praise and I’m in a Filth-y mood lately so it’s about time I got bally well caught up. Good timing too as their latest album is due on September 22nd 2017 and their new track Heartbreak And Séance is an insanely likeable taster. I wasn’t expecting to be looking forward to this one so much.

Enslaved – E

New Enslaved albums are always noteable but I’ve not been totally diverted by any of their albums since Vertebrae (which I totally love). I’ve bought all the subsequent releases but I tend not to get much more out of them than a couple of good tracks. I hope that Es are indeed good and this album bucks that trend but, on the basis of new track Storm Son, I’m not expecting much.

Samael – Hegemony

I’m new to this band and I’ve only heard their (superb) earlier material. I gather their style has come a long way since then so wasn’t sure what to expect from their current stuff. The new track Angel Of Wrath has got me right onboard though. A bit like modern Satyricon, it seems uninteresting initially and then BAM. I’m hooked. And the more I hear it the more I like it.

Fleurety – The White Death

The avant-garde Norweirdos return with their first album in an age. Fleurety feature former members of Mayhem and Dødheimsgard while Czral-Michael Eide of Virus/Aura Noir is now in the band too. If that’s not enough to get your attention, check out new song Lament Of The Optimist. Compelling, eccentric, addictive stuff. Release date: 27th October.

Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing

Unfamiliar with this band’s music but know their name from their connection with Blood Incantation, whose album Starspawn made my Top 10 last year. And it seems like Spectral Voice’s debut album (released on 13th October) might be this year’s equivalent: filthy, guttural, otherworldy death metal. My kind of thing.

Europe – Walk The Earth

The Swedes are one of a dwindling number of classic rock acts that I still give a fuck about. The last album War Of Kings was a pretty sterling effort with a few monster tunes. And the new single has the epic feel of that album’s best stuff so I’m up for this. It’s out on 20th October and the digibook features a bonus documentary on DVD.

And that’s quite enough for one post. There are other exciting albums due but I’ll hold off on those until there are songs available to sample.

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Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos (Review)

Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos (2017)

Avatarium were originally devised as a combination of crushing doom and 70s prog. But on their third album Hurricanes and Halos there’s very little doom left at all; the focus is now firmly on retro rock stylings of swirling Hammond organ and sultry psychedelia.

Into The Fire/Into The Storm is a bold opener that makes full use of Jennie-Ann Smith’s forceful, dramatic lung power and The Starless Sleep is a wonderful mix of dark fable and summery 60s pop. But there’s a sense of diminishing returns on album number three. Although it’s one of the doomier tracks, Medusa Child is overlong with cheesy child vocals. And the breezy, bluesy When Breath Turns To Air and the closing instrumental parp of the title track barely register. The album’s uneven second half is saved by the stomping Uriah Heep worship of The Sky At The Bottom Of The Sea and the ominous beauty of A Kiss (From The End Of The World), one of the band’s best tunes to date.

It’s another strong effort from the Swedes but it finds them veering away from my own taste. As the band dial down the doom I find myself less engaged. But the band’s charismatic and summery take on classic 70s rock will win them more fans and appreciation than they lose. And those listeners may well find this the band’s most accessible and enjoyable album so far.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Venom Inc. – Avé (Review)

While the actual Venom continue under the leadership of infamous bassist/vocalist Conrad ‘Cronos’ Lant, the return of the band’s classic guitarist Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn and drummer Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray as Venom Inc. has caused quite a stir. Surely two thirds of the band’s massively influential and legendary formation is better than one? And to cap it all off, the band has been rounded out appropriately and authentically with Prime Evil-era bassist/vocalist Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan. It’s an exciting unit and the band has been going down a storm touring a classic Venom set. But playing live oldies is a no-brainer. Now the real test comes as the band offer up their first new material with their debut album Avé.

Venom Inc. perform like heroic metal veterans throughout. Mantas in particularly impressive form, peeling out genuinely thrilling guitar solos like it’s a piece of piss. They’re too seasoned to play with the filthy, bulldozer energy of old but as gutsy, trad metal goes much of this is hard to beat. It’s also hard to stick with. Songs like Avé Satanas and Preacher Man are average songs stretched way beyond their breaking point and, while it works better as an album track than as a single, Dein Fleisch causes a hefty lull at a crucial point.

With those three totally removed Avé could have been easily and massively improved, while coming in at the golden running time of 40min too. Ace biker metal tracks like Forged In Hell and The Evil Dead would get old heads banging again and raging thrashers like Metal We Bleed and Time To Die would give young Venom-worshipping upstarts like Midnight a run for their money too. But, as a complete listening experience, Avé is overlong, uneven and frustrating: the two thirds of Venom Inc. proving that it is possible to ‘ave too much of a good thing.

HMO Rating: 3 out of 5

Scorpions – In Trance (Review)

Original cover image – with boob!

In Trance was the Scorpions’ third album, their first of many with producer Dieter Dierks and their first proper hard rocker. But we’re still back in the Uli Roth years here so there’s a strange mix of styles and moods. There are real driving, hard-hitters like Dark Lady and Top Of The Bill but there are also many songs like Life’s Like A River and Living And Dying that are mystical, almost-psychedelic and loaded with melancholy. Two different kinds of heavy, basically. Scorpions’ circa 1975 show off a complex mix of styles and influences: Uli Roth’s post-Hendrix, pre-Malmsteen guitar mastery; the mellow wistfulness of UFO’s Phenomenon; the epic scope, bludgeon and layered vocal harmonies of Uriah Heep and Queen and a distinctly European/power metal vibe. The combination of Rudolf Schenker’s granite riffs and Uli Roth’s scorching leads create real sparks and edge that never appeared in other incarnations of the band. There’s so just so much to love here and tracks like the bombastic pomp-rocker In Trance and the bonkers cyber-metaller Robot Man just never get old. The Scorpions would score big later with a simpler, streamlined metal style so this strange and formative early effort isn’t in the hallmark Scorps style but it is one of their best and the album, and era, I return to the most. By a long way. And that’s why it’s the first of the Germans’ albums to make it into the HMO Hall Of Fame.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[Scorpions – Robot Man]

My copy – paired with the also-incredible Virgin Killer

Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Part II (Review)

Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Part 2 (1996)

With original member Graham Oliver ousted from the band, Saxon had to quickly recruit a new guitarist in time for their tour to support the excellent Dogs Of War album. In stepped Doug Scarratt, ex-David Hasselhoff guitarist(!) and a friend of Saxon drummer Nigel Glockler. Coincidentally, Glockler had made his Saxon album debut on the 1982 live release The Eagle Has Landed and now his pal Doug made his on the sequel The Eagle Has Landed – Part 2. The use of the title evoked the band’s NWOBHM glory days, presumably in an attempt to signify to lapsed fans that the band had returned to metal. But it also bravely invited comparison between the 1996 lineup and the classic Saxon of yore.

But The Eagle Has Landed – Part 2 ducks the comparison by weighing heavily towards the band’s more recent material. In fact, with the exception of five songs, all of the material here is drawn from the band’s early-90s output. It sounds great and the band performs well. Doug Scarratt fits in seamlessly (showing off his chops on a tastefully shredded solo spot) and Biff Byford puts in a powerful, committed vocal performance despite sounding like he’s got a frog in his throat. In fact, he makes it work for him. The sound of him straining and pushing to hit the notes adds a real edge of excitement to tracks like Forever Free.

Although the new lineup acquits itself well, the focus on new tracks drags the album down, especially in the middle section. Ain’t Gonna Take It, Crash Dive and Can’t Stop Rockin’ are decent enough on their respective studio albums but they don’t cut it in a Saxon live set. But the second disc recovers well with Solid Ball Of Rock and Great White Buffalo proving effective live before some oldies-but-goodies see the album out on a high. The only blip in the older tracks is a version of Denim & Leather that’s marred by an overbearing guest spot from Yngwie J. Malmsteen who solos over everything that can possibly be soloed over.

Diehard fans/collectors will find the rare performances and historical value of The Eagle Has Landed – Part 2 make for a worthwhile release. But collectability aside, most listeners will find it a bit uninspiring and, while it certainly has its moments, it’s the least exciting of the Saxon live albums to this point: a solid but unspectacular start to the band’s post-Oliver career. The new lineup would have to impress mightily when they unleashed their next album.

HMO Rating: 2.5 out of 5

[Saxon – Solid Ball Of Rock]

Rainbow – Live at Glasgow Hydro 2017

I finally made the sacred pilgrimage to see The World’s Greatest Guitarist®. My expectations had been lowered after seeing the enjoyable but sluggish Memories In Rock footage and then hearing the banal single released a few weeks back but… Ritchie F. Blackmore! It was incredibly exciting to know I was finally going to, not just see him play live, but see him play rock.

The band’s recent recording of Land Of Hope And Glory played over the PA before the “we must be over the rainbow” sample heralded the band’s arrival on stage. Opening with HMO fave Spotlight Kid rather than Highway Star was a good move. Blackmore played tentatively and awkwardly but come the closing outro of the next song I Surrender he was warming up. He was taking some shortcuts in his lead and rhythm playing throughout the night but given his age (and arthritis?) it’s unfair to expect the intensity of his youth. He still played well and had that mercurial, unique quality. It was great to hear his instantly recognisable guitar voice in person.

Sorry, didn’t take any photos but this YouTube still from the O2 show is similar to the view I had.

The band was good too. A definite improvement on the 2016 footage/recordings with a much more convincing performance from the rhythm section in particular. Ronnie Romero was in superb voice and an entertaining, personable frontman. He suits some songs more than others but he was impressive all night. He’s a huge talent and a great find.

My only quibbles were an interminably long keyboard solo and some overly shrill shrieking in Child In Time, a song I can’t be arsed with at the best of times anyway. And, although it’s good to hear Blackmore playing them, I wasn’t too fussed about hearing other Purple stuff like Black Night and Smoke On The Water either. That said, some of the sets best moments came from the Purple albums: a stunning version of Burn and a very moving Soldier Of Fortune. The Rainbow selections were similar to previous shows with the welcome addition of I Surrender, All Night Long and a hugely unexpected and wonderful Temple Of The King. But the mighty Stargazer remains the absolute standout track of the set: epic metal bliss delivered with deadly conviction by Romero. Goosebumps.

Ultimately, I went to see a guitarist whose music and playing I have obsessed over for years. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I was often thrilled and excited. That’s pretty good going. Age and arthritis be damned, Blackmore is still the man.

Luckily, my friend Jo is better at taking photos than I am

Paradise Lost – New Releases For 2017

There has been lots of exciting news coming out of the Paradise Lost camp lately with not just one new release on the horizon but two! So I thought I’d be super-efficient and just deal with both in one handy post.

First up is the main event, the band’s new album Medusa. It’ll be out on September 1st and promises to continue the band’s increasingly heavy direction. The cover has a very cool folk-horror vibe and the vinyl single Blood And Chaos (coming out on August 3rd) has great artwork too. Their last album made my yearly Top 10 and I’ll be surprised if Medusa doesn’t end up in this year’s list. It’s an exciting release from a veteran band that’s still in vital form.

And if all that wasn’t awesome enough Music For Nations have lined up a 20th Anniversary reissue of their 1997 album One Second. It was the album that followed the massively successful Draconian Times and, in the words of frontman Nick Holmes, marked “for better or worse the beginning of a very experimental stage for the band.” It’s maybe not what some people think of as classic PL but it was an interesting progression from the band at a point where they could easily have stagnated: a great album with some classic songs.

The new edition will come with the live audio of the 1998 Shepherd’s Bush gig that has previously only been available on the DVD Evolve. This means there are a few B-Sides from the era that are not represented here but the live disc is a value-for-money bonus that makes it worth another punt (not to mention the usual liner notes and all that stuff). You can finally just listen to it without the band’s haircuts putting you off.

It’s all good news for Paradise Lost fans. These two releases, not to mention the blistering Vallenfyre album Fear Those Who Fear Him, should keep all you miserable buggers happy for a while.