Category Archives: Heavy Metal

New Releases – 24th February 2017

They’re new and they’ve been released. It’s the Friday new releases!

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Immolation – Atonement

New York’s purveyors of consistently excellent and uncompromising death metal are back with their new album… and their old logo! The tracks I’ve heard so far sound phenomenal: instantly engaging, monolithic bludgeon with expert pacing and some blackened strums just to top things off. The limited edition digipak CD looks like the way to go for bonus tracks as it features the re-recorded version of Immolation that appeared on one of Decibel Mag’s flexi-discs a while back. Yes please.

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Sanctuary – Inception

This release is being touted as the prequel to Sanctuary’s 1988 debut album Refuge Denied but it’s basically old demos from 1986. But, either way, we’re lucky to have them as the “lost” tape was recently discovered in a barn(!) It’s excellent thrashy power prog with high-flying vocals that’ll hit fans of Queensryche right where they live. Looks like this’ll be a cool package with all the compulsory memorabilia, liner notes and stuff too.

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Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Never heard of this band so it was strange to see them pop up in the Guardian this week… how’d they pull that off? Good on them though. Any band that gets Bolt Thrower and Sacrilege into a mainstream paper is fine by me so they deserve a listen just for doing that! Sounds like this’ll be some good retro-thrash fun, although the harsh vocals might take a bit of getting used to for some listeners.

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Sunless – Urraca

This is an intriguing debut release. Might have passed it by but I spotted their guitarist playing a Strat. You hardly ever see extreme metal players playing Strats! So I gave a track a go just on that basis alone and it was very impressive indeed. A dissonant, creative maze of riffs but grounded in solid death metal. Definitely one to check out on Bandcamp.

Elsewhere, we have more death metal veterans, Sinister, back with their new album Syncretism. I’m not all that familiar with this band so it’s overshadowed by the Immolation release. The cover for this is much better though! Amorphis pull an Anthrax with a “Tour Edition” of their last album Under the Red Cloud. Quite a few live tracks so maybe worth another purchase for the diehards but I don’t think these kind of releases should be encouraged. (**UPDATE** If you don’t want to buy the Amorphis album all over again you can download the extra disc An Evening With Friends at Huvila on its own, as MP3/M4A/FLAC here.) And last, but not least, there’s Siberian with Through Ages of Sleep, which sounds like an Isis/Neurosis kind of effort. I love sleeping for ages but I’m not so keen on this vocal style so I’ll pass. Fans of post-metal should give this a bash though.

And that’s the lot for another week. Some good underground releases this week. Immolation is the main must-buy for sure but plenty of other stuff here that warrants further investigation. I’m especially intrigued by Sunless. Let me know what I’ve missed and let me know if there’s anything that is particularly tickling your fancy/getting your goat. Happy hunting!

Song of the Week: Omen – Be My Wench

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Tired of crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and all that? Why not let off some steam with Omen’s Be My Wench? This is top metal cobblers, it’s got a chorus that you’ll never get out of your head and it’s also got the kind of raunchy lyrics that most po-faced modern bands wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. But if you’re going to do Conan metal there needs to be some shagging in there. It’s the barbarian way.

[Omen – Be My Wench]

New Releases – 17th February 2017

There’s not a huge amount of stuff out today so this’ll be short. Some good classic metal reissues out today though.

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Virgin Steele – Visions of Eden

David DeFeis and Co. continue their excellent series of reissues with this deluxe edition of their “Barbaric-Romantic Movie of the Mind”. The 2006 album gets a remix on the first disc and the original album is remastered on disc two. Visions of Eden is a rich, complex album but it never quite reaches the heights of the band’s classic work (apart from the bit where he tells Adam and Eve to eff off). But there’s strong potential for improvement with the remix so I’m intrigued to see how this one works out. And you’ve got to love the pure phallic power of that cover.

Omen – Reissues

Some more classic trad-metal reissues here. Omen’s first three albums on Metal Blade, Battle Cry, Warning of Danger and The Curse, getting newly remastered and repackaged editions on digipak CD and vinyl. The CDs will have some bonus tracks, most notably the Nightmares EP which will be added to The Curse CD, but if you’re buying the vinyl versions you’ll just get the album tracks. The only thing I’m missing here (inc. bonus tracks) is The Curse so I reckon I’ll pick that up cause their other stuff is jolly good. If you like your metal NWOBHM-y and don’t know Omen, now’s your chance… be their wench tonight!

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Benighted – Necrobreed

**UPDATE** Thanks to Nick for the heads-up about this one. Big brutal deathgrind release from France that’s been getting plenty of review praise lately. Not strictly my cup of tea style-wise but I’m intrigued enough to want to hear more, given the praise. And the awesome packaging from Season of Mist doesn’t hurt either. Fans should note that the deluxe box CD version has two bonus cover versions (of Sepultura and Marduk).

Elsewhere we have The Forty Five by black metal combo Cnoc An Tursa. Scenic, folky stuff with tons of Scottishness. Less Trve Kvlt, more Trve Kilt. And if I’m the first person to make that joke surely I deserve some sort of reward. Death metal veterans Morta Skuld return with Wounds Deeper Than Time (one of those bands where I’d rather go back and check them out from the beginning though). And last, and definitely least, Anthrax release the umpteenth version of their “new” album For All Kings. This time it’s the “Tour Edition” with a bonus EP of demos. Don’t encourage them.

Not a particularly stellar week but I’ve been looking forward to the Virgin Steele reissue and I’m up for adding Omen’s The Curse to the collection too so those are my personal picks. Fans of brutal death will want to make a beeline for Benighted though. Until next week, happy hunting!

Song of the Week: Rainbow – I Surrender (Live)

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I know most metal fans prefer the Dio-fronted Rainbow but round these parts Joe Lynn Turner rules. So here’s a superb version of the classic Rainbow track I Surrender. It’s taken from the Live in Japan 1984 double live album that was made available recently as bonus discs with the Ritchie Blackmore Story box set. It’s a bonus extra that outstrips the main feature easily. Listening to Ritchie Blackmore reminiscing about his career is one thing: listening to him play is another entirely. And if you’ve never listened to The Man in Black’s live playing, you’ve never really heard him at all. No criticism of his studio output – it’s adorned with legendary guitar work – but this is a man that likens studio recording to “being at the dentists”. Unshackled from the studio, his playing reaches a transcendent level of inspiration and excitement. The whole band is on great form here, especially Joe Lynn Turner who sings with passion and commitment. But Blackmore grabs this great AOR track by the balls, lifting it to another level with one of his ingeniously messy, improvisational and thrilling solos. There’s a tag I use on this site: The World’s Greatest Guitarist. It’s reserved for The Man in Black and performances like this are why.

[Rainbow – I Surrender (Live)]

New Releases – 10th February 2017

Another Friday is upon us and that means… new stuff!

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Cynic – Uroboric Forms: The Complete Demo Collection

Cynic’s 1993 debut album Focus is the stuff of giddy prog tech wonderfulness. But there has always been grumblings of discontent among death metal fans who feel that the debut album was a disappointment compared to the band’s earlier demos. I’ll be able to make my own mind up now, as the pre-Focus demos get this official release. The CD version looks great but the vinyl edition is particularly snazzy, and has the CD and a 7″ with it too, so that’s the one I’ve pre-ordered.

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Overkill – The Grinding Wheel

Following the return of Kreator last week, the thrash good-times continue with the return of New Jersey veterans Overkill. Actually, of the classic thrash acts, Overkill are one of the few that just never caught on with me. So I’ll probably pass on this myself… I’d rather try some older albums again than hop on here. But if you’re up for buying this, the limited edition CD and vinyl versions have a bonus track, Emerald… I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that’s a Lizzy cover?

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Nidingr – The High Heat Licks Against Heaven

I’ve never heard these Norwegian black metallers but I know the name through (their guitarist) Teloch’s involvement with Mayhem and their last album Estoteric Warfare. He was the main writer for that impressive album so if you enjoyed his work with Mayhem, this should be worth looking into. And I love that title.

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Mayhem – Live in Zeitz

Speaking of Mayhem! This old live recording was recently featured as a bonus disc with the Live in Leipzig reissue. But then a version taken from a better source was released very soon afterwards as a standalone vinyl edition with new liner notes and packaging. I was more than a little annoyed at this so I didn’t buy the vinyl. But now this cheaper CD version is hitting the shops so I think I might finally upgrade. No doubt, they’ll find an even better version down the back of the couch next week.

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Sleep – The Clarity

Not strictly a “new” Sleep song as it was available as a free download a couple of years ago on the Adult Swim site. But here it is on 12″ vinyl. I’ve never been a big Sleep fan but this is a great track and it’s well worth getting if you don’t have the song already and/or love vinyl. Just the one side of music here but the B-Side will have a, no doubt suitably cosmic, etching.

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Def Leppard – And There Will Be a Next Time: Live from Detroit

And finally, we’ve got Def Leppard’s new live DVD/BR/CD combo And There Will Be a Next Time: Live from Detroit. I’d normally be a sucker for some live Lep but after Mirrorball and Viva! Hysteria made little impact, not to mention their dicey self-titled album, I can’t work up any enthusiasm for this. Arm no geddon it.

And that’s quite enough for one week, thank you very much! Happy hunting.

New Releases – 3rd February 2017

February already, eh? Soon be Christmas! Let’s have a gawp at the latest releases…

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Judas Priest – Turbo 30

First off, we’ve got the 30th anniversary reissue of the controversial Priest album. Available as a remastered album-only 180g vinyl or you can buy the 3CD edition that adds a double-CD live set from 1986. It’s hardly the full selection of Turbo-era rarities that you would have been hoping for, and the live disc is very similar to Priest Live!, but this still looks like a decent reissue. Live Priest is always worth a punt, though.

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Deep Purple – Time for Bedlam EP

The veteran rockers drop an EP to tide you over while you wait on the new album inFinite, which is due out on April. Collectors will mainly want this for the non-album track Paradise Bar and there’s also an instrumental version of Uncommon Man and a rehearsal version a new track Hip Boots too. I’m sure Purps fans will dig all this stuff but… I’m bowing out. I just can’t be arsed with their modern style anymore.

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Master – Master

Hammerheart Records are releasing various editions of this proto-death classic. Choose from the single CD, a frankly beautiful vinyl edition, and a 2CD deluxe with a bunch of bonus stuff: including a different “triggered” mix of the album (wat?), some unreleased rehearsals and the “unreleased” 1985 album (which has been “released” a few times now!) Looks like this could be the definitive version of a cracking album.

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The Mist – Phantasmagoria

Greyhaze Records reissues another Brazilian gem from the Cogumelo roster on CD/Vinyl/Tape. This time it’s The Mist’s Phantasmagoria from 1989. This one will suit fans of old Coroner, Kreator and Destruction. It’s quite slick and accomplished by Cogumelo standards but still rough enough to keep the falses out! I don’t think this album is quite the “lost classic” it’s being pumped up to be but it’s an enjoyable genre entry. If you’re a thrash addict that “mist” out on it when it was released, this is well worth investigating.

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Soen – Lykaia

Third album of prog-metal from ex-Opeth drummer Martin Lopez and friends. I’ve always gave them a bye cause of the Opeth/Tool comparison but their new track Lucidity sounded pretty decent. Decent enough for me to want to hear more.

In a less HMO-friendly vein, there’s also Iron Reagan with Crossover Ministry and Black Star Riders with Heavy Fire. I’m not enough of a crossover fan to bother with Iron Reagan (do like that name though). And I just can’t get into Black Star Riders at all. Kudos to them for doing their own thing and throwing off the Lizzy tag but I’ve not heard anything from them that makes me want to care.

Of today’s lot, I’ll definitely be wanting the Master, Priest and The Mist releases. In that order of preference. And I’ll give the Soen album a listen online too and see if it floats my boat. And that’s it for another week. As usual, let me know what I’ve missed and if there’s anything here that you just gotta have. Happy hunting!

Saxon – Forever Free

Saxon - Forever Free (1992)
Saxon – Forever Free (1992)

Saxon had enjoyed a return-to-form with 1991’s Solid Ball of Rock and moved fast to keep the momentum going, releasing the follow-up Forever Free just over one year later. As well as hurrying, the band also skimped on costs, recording in Vienna with unknown, cut-price producer Urwin Hersig. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that Forever Free sounded rushed and cheap.

For the most part, Forever Free comes across like a collection of leftovers from Solid Ball of Rock. It continues that album’s mix of Euro-metal and AC/DC raunch but many of the tracks stray too far into forgettable territory. Songs like Cloud Nine, Get Down and Dirty, Grind and the cyber-metal cover of I Just Want to Make Love to You sound like the band are jamming out ideas: working versions rather than the finished product. This isn’t helped by the sound: much of Forever Free sounds like a demo, a decent demo but a demo all the same.

The alternative UK Games Workshop cover... released on Warhammer Records!
The alternative UK Games Workshop cover… released on Warhammer Records!

On the positive side, these weaknesses give the album a sense of charm. The under-cooked tracks have a playfulness about them and the loose, jamming approach throws up some truly inspired playing from the Quinn/Oliver guitar duo (check out the hot solo on Night Hunter). And, while the bungled production wasn’t going to cut it for casual listeners and airplay, it results in the rawest, most metallic album the band had put out in years.

There are only a couple of real keepers though. The title track is the album’s enduring classic, a “wind in your hair” biker anthem that turns the clock right back to the band’s classic NWOBHM days. Iron Wheels is an enchanting folky strum and, if the lyrics sound familiar, it’s because you already heard them on Destiny’s Calm Before the Storm. The blue-collar imagery works much better here in this rustic setting and makes for one of the albums more affecting and creative tracks. The albums best, and most overlooked, deep cut is the stunning Hole in the Sky, with its spellbinding chorus and Ozzy-ish riffing.

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Back cover of 2013 reissue

Forever Free is a mixed bag that only committed Saxon fans will enjoy. It’s not a disaster and, unlike previous Saxon missteps, at least it sticks to the band’s core style. But it is still a misstep and did real damage to the band’s regeneration. Coming off the back of its well-received predecessor, Forever Free sold well but this rough and patchy effort ensured that many of those customers wouldn’t be back for more. Saxon had lost a crucial battle in the war to re-establish themselves but, as their next album would prove, these old dogs weren’t about to surrender any time soon.

[Saxon – Forever Free]