Category Archives: Hard Rock

Avatarium – Death, Where Is Your Sting

“But I know I’m in your calendar”

I don’t know what the UK Christmas Number One was last year but mine was Avatarium’s Death, Where Is Your Sting. Taken from the album of the same name, Death, Where Is Your Sting is one of the Swedish band’s most affecting and memorable songs: dark, sumptuous pop with a doomy bottom end and a stirring vocal performance from Jennie-Ann Smith. I treated myself to the album in December and listened to it tons over the holidays. Mostly because it’s tremendous but also because its lush Scandi-mood made it the perfect soundtrack for 2022’s other festive obsession: playing the Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries boardgame! Crisps, dips, Appletiser, losing because I forgot to finish my train line to Lieksa, and Avatarium. Now that’s what I call Christmas!

Journey – Wheel In The Sky

“The mornin’ sun is risin'”

You never know what the new day will bring. I’ve been listening pretty solidly to death metal this week (Akercocke, Bloodbath, Gorguts) then I woke up this morning and my brain was playing Wheel In The Sky by Journey. Bit of a change of pace, but a fine suggestion, brain! Taken from my favourite Journey album Infinity, Wheel In The Sky is a standout song from the album and from the band’s whole career. It’s in D-minor, the saddest of all keys, but its bouncy rhythm, suvvern twang and Steve Perry’s blissful singing give it a strident, hopeful quality. Throw in an iconic guitar intro and a rich, warm production and you’ve got an absolute rock classic that never fails to put a spring in my step. Now let’s see what my brain’s got lined up for tomorrow… back to the good old zombie infernos I’ll bet.

Tyrant – Hold Back The Lightning

“Ride out in midnight”

Tyrant were like lightning: they only struck once. Like so many other New Wave Of British Heavy Metal hopefuls, the Gloucestershire band only released a solitary 7″ single in 1983 before riding off into obscurity. It’s a shame the band never did more because the A-Side track Hold Back The Lightning is totally righteous: galloping power metal with anthemic, folky vocals that are a larynx-shredding mix of High ‘N’ Dry Joe Elliott and Trouble’s Eric Wagner. This was the first song I listened to in 2023 because I wanted to start my year off in suitably heroic and chest-beating fashion. Mission accomplished.

Albert Bouchard – Girl That Love Made Blind

“At the party of astrologers, the Christmas tide was due.”

Albert Bouchard’s Re-Imaginos is not a Christmas album but I listened to it obsessively in the run up to Christmas of 2020 (when it was released) so it’s become a festive fave. It does have a Christmas song on it though… kind of. I say “kind of” because I have no idea what Girl That Love Made Blind is really about. It’s a reworked track from Bouchard’s days in Blue Öyster Cult and it’s the kind of mysterious, cryptic stuff that fans have been picking over for decades. What does “the Christmas of my life” mean? Is it a beginning, an ending, or is it a reference to Cliff House (the San Francisco building featured on the cover and once burned down on Christmas Day of 1894)? Who knows. But it is a lovely and memorable track that has all the quirks, charm and cosy warmth that has made Re-Imaginos my favourite album of the decade so far.

Brian May – Resurrection

“Got a whole new direction”

Brian may have been through a tough time with the breakup of his marriage and the deaths of both his father and Freddie Mercury but in 1993 he was back. And sounding rejuvenated on the soaring Resurrection, raising an erection with awesome guitar and the pounding drums of Cozy F. Powell – who was also back after being crushed by a horse in the early 90s! They both sound like they’re having the best time, May playing heavy and flashy but with a loose exuberance, driven on by an absolute arse-kicking from Powell that sends Resurrection into Sabbath Tyr territory. Fuck yes. Two rock legends, back with a bang.

Deep Purple – Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic

“The banjo player took a hike”

Purple frontman Ian Gillan was always fond of calling guitarists “banjo players”. So anyone hearing the above lyric in Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic would have understood it was a sly poke at the band’s ex-guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Ted The Mechanic opened 1996’s Purpendicular, Deep Purple’s first album since Blackmore’s departure, and it introduced fans to their new guitarist Steve Morse. It’s instantly clear from the opening riff that this lineup of Purple means business. There’s a palpable musical chemistry with Morse and Gillan is in classic dirty form on a playful rocker that will have you wiggling in your chair. And best of all, the tricky opening riff where Morse makes electric use of a picking technique called… the banjo roll. See what he did there? Top man.

HMO Digest – 25th September 2022

It’s been two whole months since the last digest so let’s not waste time with idle banter! Here’s what’s been happening on the blog.

Recent Posts

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Album Review)

Lynott and chums scatter their beans over different scenes on their eclectic, but sleepy, debut.

Stratovarius – Hunting High And Low (Song Review)
Helloween – Why? (Song Review)

Two power metal classics in a row. Why? Why the hell not.

KISS – Bang Bang You (Song Review)

Cause 80s KISS is the best! And you wanted the best.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge (Song Review)

This song rhymes seagull with eagle which is just one of the many reasons for its awesomeness.

Cream – Badge (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering as long as they sound the part.

Tankard – Mercenary (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering at all.

HMO Salutes

R.I.P Michael James Jackson, producer of my favourite two KISS albums (Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up… 80s KISS again!)

Steve Grimmett, best known as lead throat of NWOBHMers Grim Reaper, who has died aged 62.

The exalted Piledriver (aka Gord Kirchin) who has died from cancer aged 60. I wrote about a great Piledriver tune here if you want to familiarise yourself. And their albums Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly both got stellar reissues lately so get involved.

New Stuff

A good year for new releases continues with Megadeth’s The Sick, The Dead… And The Dying! and Behemoth’s Opvs Contra Natvram which are both enjoyable efforts. Not up with either band’s best work but better than I was expecting. Other notable purchases include Marillion’s Holidays In Eden box set (love!), KISS’s Des Moines set (wow!), a Steeleye Span box set (fol-de-rol!), Whiplash’s The Roadrunner Years (ermagerd! Thresh meddle)

Darkthrone

I also had a big blow out and bought all the Darkthrone albums I’m missing. Basically all the studio albums between Panzerfaust and F.O.A.D. I should really have bought all these long ago because Darkthrone, but the news of their upcoming Astral Fortress inspired me to finally bite the bullet. I can listen to the whole discography now before the new one comes out on the 28th October.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

Cathedral’s The Carnival Bizarre from 1995. Monstrously heavy stuff with classic tracks like Vampire Sun and Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) as well as wonderful deep cuts like Inertia’s Cave and guest guitar from one Frank “Tony” Iommi on Utopian Blaster. Let’s get it on!

Coming Up

We’re getting in to the heavy release schedule months now. There are new releases and reissues galore on the horizon. Coming up in Oct there’s new albums from The Antichrist Imperium, Avatarium and Queensryche and on the reissue front there’s Diamond Head (expanded Lightning To The Nations), Danzig (the long out-of-print 666: Satan’s Child) and album boxes from Deicide and Blitzkrieg.

On the review front I have some Deep Purple, Brian May and Whitesnake posts in the works. And probably some Darkthrone cause that’s all I’m going to be listening to for the next month or so, let’s face it. Until next time… eternal hails!

Cream – Badge

“Before they bring the curtain down”

I’ve listened to Badge a gazillion times now and it’s never lost an ounce of its power. It’s the track that got me into Cream, or to be more precise, its the bridge that got me into Cream. The main song is wonderfully summery but when it reaches the bridge and Eric Clapton’s Leslie-speaker guitar arpeggios chime in, it’s one of the most emotionally moreish sounds in rock history. It was co-written by Clapton and his Beatle pal George Harrison for Cream’s farewell album Goodbye and although the relationships in Cream had turned sour by that point, the band put in a great performance. Especially Jack Bruce, who excels with his bouncy, melodic bass line. Shame they couldn’t have held the band together as this is brilliant stuff and I find their catalogue, short though it is, increasingly revealing and rewarding over the years. But Badge still ranks as the cream of the crop.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge

“Loaded down with your talents”

If there was a Venn diagram of classical music, progressive rock and metal, you’d find Emerson, Lake And Palmer’s Knife-Edge bang in the centre. Taken from the band’s 1970 debut this is dark, heavy stuff with a huge, ominous riff. The formidable British trio rearrange pieces from Janáček and Bach into a stonking Hammond organ bludgeon that is surely what the composers had in mind all along. As a young metal fan this was one of the key gateway tracks that introduced me to the rich, crazy world of prog and it’s still one of my favourite songs of the genre.

KISS – Bang Bang You

“You know the rules and you’re gonna play”

If I was going to do an “all KISS songs ranked” type post, I reckon I’d have Bang Bang You higher on the list than most. There are a few reasons for this… One: It’s an endearingly dumb rock song about shagging. Two: I’m a sucker for 80s KISS (Paul Stanley’s voice is great and Bruce Kulick’s guitar work is always tasty). Three: It’s a song I love more since learning how to play it. I have a real thing about rock songs that use capos and Paul Stanley is a regular capo user. He uses one here, on the 2nd fret, and I love playing it. Four: it’s become my go-to song for testing out music gear down at the guitar shop. If I don’t enjoy playing Bang Bang You on a guitar or amp it doesn’t get bought. Simple as that. That’s the main reasons anyway, but I could probably reel off another… I dunno… five, six, seven, eight.