Category Archives: Hard Rock

Samhain – Initium

Samhain – Initium (1984)

Stylistically caught between the fun-filled horror punk of The Misfits and the seductive darkness of Danzig, Glenn Danzig’s second band Samhain are easy to overlook. While I regularly find myself in the mood for the more-renowned acts on either side, I often have to remind myself to forego their obvious joys and spend some time with his “other” band. So this week I’ve been listening to Samhain’s debut Initium.

It’s an album that I’ve liked in the past but not loved. I appreciated the Misfits-style catchiness in tracks like All Murder, All Guts, All Fun and He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named but didn’t regard the tracks as top-tier classics. And I found the rest of the album to be leaden, lo-fi and lacking in cohesion. But recently, I’ve warmed to the occult darkness of tracks like Initium/Samhain and Macabre and I’m finding hitherto overlooked gems here. The “cause I want it, and I need it” chorus of Black Dream is a classic Danzig hook, Archangel closes the album with some catchy 50s swoon and the raging and bloodthirsty The Howl has become a new Danzig favourite.

There’s no doubt that this is a transitional album but its underground horror, dank atmosphere and murderous intent has a charm and (for me) a growing fascination of its own. In the future, I won’t need to remind myself to listen to Initium. Cause now I want it, and I need it.

[Samhain – The Howl]

 

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Land Of Hope And Glory/I Surrender

Ritchie Blackmore’s return to rock action was one of the most welcome surprises of recent years. I’ve got tickets to see him in June. I’m massively excited about it and nothing’s going to change that. Which is probably just as well because Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow have now released their first new studio recordings in 20 years and the results are far from thrilling.

Land Of Hope And Glory is a band version of the classical piece that they’ve been using as the intro tape to their shows. It’s got a nice pastoral, laid-back Hank Marvin vibe going on and some tasteful playing from Ritchie. It’s… nice?

Next up is a new version of I Surrender with Ronnie Romero at the mic. The Joe Lynn Turner-era classic was notable by its absence in the Memories Of Rock: Live In Germany set so it’s interesting to finally hear what Romero does with it. The whole band delivers the song capably enough to imagine it going down well live but it’s not particularly exciting as a listening experience. And Romero is not at his best with the sexier end of Blackmore’s output. His performance here has little of JLT’s seductive bombast.

It’s tentative and disposable stuff from The World’s Greatest Guitarist®. I’m still looking forward to finally seeing The Man In Black live but if Ritchie and Rainbow are planning to put out more new music, it’ll need to be more exciting than this.

CD Haul: Danzig, Avatarium, Sólstafir and more!

Friday was a big new release day with a few new albums I’ve been looking forward to… so I had a bit of a buying extravaganza!

First up was the new Danzig album Black Laden Crown. I’ve been reading quite a lot of people talking about how “surprisingly good” this one is. Well, given that Deth Red Sabaoth was excellent, I’m one of the few people that thought Skeletons was good fun and… it’s GLENN F. DANZIG(!) I can’t say I’m all that surprised that this is good. The only thing that was causing me any doubt was the rather shite artwork. And even then, I’ve grown mysteriously fond of the fiery John Travolta on the back. Anyway, this is dark, moody and doomy with some killer grooves and riffs. Surprisingly good!

Next up, the new Avatarium album Hurricanes And Halos. This band has become a modern favourite of mine and, although it’s not fully sunk in yet, this album sounds like an interesting progression of their style. They’ve now dropped pretty much all of the Dehumanizer heft of the debut and gone full Uriah Heep, with tons of driving Hammond, heavy psychedelia and eeeasy livin’. Loads of stellar playing topped off with Jennie-Ann Smith’s wonderful voice.

I headed back from the record store happy and then remembered that the new Sólstafir album Berdreyminn was out too. So, I immediately rushed back out to Fopp to pick that up! It’s a lovely box set with umm… trinkets… and (more importantly) bonus tracks. It sounds like it’s going to be another winner from them, although it’ll take a few listens to fully reveal itself. Seems a bit more rocking than Ótta but still sweeping and lush. Not totally grabbing me yet though, more listens required.

While we’re on the subject of new arrivals I had a couple of cool releases delivered just a couple of days ago too. Hear No Evil have put out this new expanded remaster of the last (for now anyway) Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album Stranger In Us All. This has always been a big gap in the collection so it’s great to finally have a copy.

And I also got this very exciting new Tygers Of Pan Tang box set The MCA Years which features the band’s NWOBHM-era albums (two of which star Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake axe legend John Sykes) and a bonus disc/booklet too. I’ve got a few albums on vinyl already but it’s nice to get the rest of the bands old albums. And there’s plenty of extra tracks and BBC stuff here to sweeten the deal. Caroline and Cherry Red both seem to have had the same idea to box up old NWOBHM albums lately. I heartily approve. Here are all the ones I’ve bought so far (I think this is all of them so far but let me know if I’ve missed any. They seem to be coming thick and fast!)

NWOBHM Galore! All the box sets I’ve picked up so far.

Well, that’s the lot. This was a great week of buying for me with three albums here that could all realistically appear on my AOTY list. I’m off to do some listening!

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]

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!

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]