Category Archives: Heavy Metal

Bruce Dickinson – The Breeding House (Song Review)

“His spawn lay in the freezer, the killers that bore his name”

The Breeding House is one of a number of recorded and abandoned tracks that Bruce Dickinson worked on in the years preceding his 1994 album Balls To Picasso: his first solo album since leaving Iron Maiden. The pressure of making his first post-Maiden statement resulted in a number of rethinks and reshuffles and a right mixed bag of music. Ranging from tried-and-trusted Tattooed Millionaire style rock to totally daft experimentation.

The Breeding House was one of the earliest of these unused tracks to get a release when it appeared as a B-Side on the Tears Of The Dragon single. Of his output at the time, this was the closest in style to his previous band: with chord progressions and harmony guitars straight out of the Maiden playbook. Jagged Edge/Skin guitarist Myke Gray zips around the fretboard in style and the Air Raid Siren soars throughout, especially in the thrilling bridge, and contributes a layer of intrigue with some dark and cryptic lyrics.

I had lost interest in Maiden and Bruce in the early 90s but The Breeding House had a sense of freshness and commitment that got me excited to hear what Dickinson had to offer as a solo artist.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Venom – Bloodlust (Song Review)

“Sparing no one, the meek and the mild”

I was thumbing through the booklet that came with Venom’s MMV box set today and a quote from their frontman Cronos jumped out. “In Venom we wanted to be the devil, we wanted to be the vampires!” Well, it doesn’t get more vampiric than their essential non-album single Bloodlust. In fact, the singer refers to himself in the song as “Count Cronos, vampire supreme”. Guitarist Mantas gets a shout out too (this time simply as “Mantas”). That leaves poor drummer Abaddon as the only Venom bloodsucker to not get a mention which is probably why he tries to get everyone’s attention by playing as many of his drums as he possibly can. As often as he can. It’s a chaotic, slightly-out-of-tune mess but it is glorious! Pure punk metal battery, deranged and in your face. Come on, turn it up!

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

(And because one Venom box set simply isn’t enough here’s the Bloodlust picture disc that came with their 2019 box set In Nomine Satanas)

Legend – Frontline (Review)

Legend – Frontline (1982)

Try as they might, Jersey’s Legend just couldn’t rise above the myriads of NWOBHM bands all competing for attention during the early 80s. It didn’t help that they were stuck out in the Channel Islands, removed from the scene’s industry hotspots and gigging circuit. But their proggy brand of metal was also intropspective, dark and dour. Great stuff for fans of gloomier fare; not the kind of music that was going to stand out alongside anthems like Angel Witch, Let It Loose, and Blitzkrieg.

Legend eventually gave up the ghost but on their final release, 1982’s Frontline EP, they went out in style: taking a more direct and melodic approach. The title track and Open Up The Skies are on the slight side in terms of song structure but are packed with catchy melodies and Peter Howarth’s masterful guitar work. The latter song in particular features the kind of axe heroics that would have gone down a storm if the band had been based in LA rather than Jersey. The ballad Sabra & Chatila gets back to the darkness of their previous work but its dreamy quality and lush Bill Nelson-esque textures make it a highlight.

But best of all is the awesome Stormers Of Heaven. It’s the kind of anthemic, hook-laden rock song that would have graced any compilation of the genre. If it had appeared on any. But sadly, it remains criminally overlooked. Legend might just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time all along.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

 

UFO – Rock Bottom: BBC Live ‘In Concert’ 1974 (Song Review)

HMO salutes Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman who recently passed away aged 66. The Welsh guitarist had played with the Irish Skid Row, Lone Star, Waysted and others but he was most famous as the guitarist that replaced Michael Schenker in UFO. An unforgivable task that Tonka proved more than equal to: recording albums like The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent that remain fan favourites.

I was tempted to pick one of that album’s songs as a tribute but I decided to go for an older, and geekier, recording. After Schenker debuted with UFO on 1974’s Phenomenon the band decided to draft in a second guitarist for live duties and, for a brief period that year, the band featured both Schenker and Tonka on lead guitar! This fascinating and short-lived lineup can be heard on this BBC live recording from London. Rock Bottom was always a live centrepiece due to its extended soloing and here you get to hear both Schenker and Tonka trading wonderful solos. Chapman kicks his off at the 4:25min mark. It’s a cool, wah-tinged solo that makes jazzy use of the passage’s Dorian tonality and there’s a real chemistry between the two guitarists. Chapman was nicknamed ‘Tonka’ because, like the steel toys, he was thought to be indestructible, and he certainly sounded it here.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

KISS – Nowhere To Run (Song Review)

“I was there with a shoulder to lean on”

HMO salutes Bob Kulick who recently passed away, aged 70. He was a veteran session musician who played with tons of great artists and was also known as a producer of star-studded tribute albums. But my main knowledge of him comes from his stint in the short-lived Blackthorne (with vocalist Graham Bonnet) and his involvement with KISS.

Bob was almost recruited to be the original KISS guitarist in 1973 before a certain Ace Frehley staggered in and snatched the job from him. But due to Ace’s rock n’ roll unreliability and wavering levels of commitment to the band, KISS occasionally invited Bob into the studio to replace Ace. Kulick was talented enough to not just mimic Frehley’s playing but also make it sound like Ace was at the top of his game!

Nowhere To Run is my favourite KISS song Bob appeared on. And one of my favourite KISS songs full stop. One of four new songs recorded for the 1982 compilation album Killers, it’s a classic example of Paul Stanley at his rocking and romantic best. The main riff and chorus is totally anthemic, the verses are heroic and impassioned and Stanley sings at the top of his range, giving his voice a cracked sound and vibrato that is just one of my favourite sounds ever. And Bob Kulick helps put the song right over the edge into absolute bliss with his lead playing. By now he was being given more freedom to play his own way but he still attacks this song like Ace would: with tasty, cool, exciting and unforgettable guitar playing.

KISS always said “you wanted the best, and you got the best”. Well, Bob was one of the best.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Bathory – Sacrifice: 1st Version (Song Review)

“I spread eternal dark on Earth”

Taken from the 1984 compilation album Scandinavian Metal Attack, Sacrifice is the first recorded release from one of metal’s most revered and influential acts: Bathory.

It’s the first of two songs the Swedish band (led by mythic mastermind Quorthon) recorded for the compilation. And compared to the enjoyable trad metal performed by the other four Swedish and Finnish acts on the album, Sacrifice sounds like the next level in extremity. It’s a ballsy and chaotic rager in the style of Motorhead, Venom etc… with cavernous, noisy vocals and a catchy, evil ascending chorus riff. The label were inundated with letters demanding more from Bathory. And rightly so. This is great stuff for fans of the more punky, violent end of the NWOBHM and fans of early, primitive thrash.

But the song would go on to have a second, and even more important moment in history. The early version sounds positively conventional compared to the version that appeared later that same year when Sacrifice was re-recorded for Bathory’s seminal self-titled debut album. By that point the band were delivering all their music with grim, frostbitten harshness that was like nothing before it. The black metal sound was born.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Sepultura – Necromancer (Song Review)

“Can feel the presence of death”

It’s almost unrecognisable as the band that became a major force in metal years later but the early Sepultura stuff is still pretty remarkable. Brazil wasn’t a corner of the globe where anyone was expecting a metal scene to pop up and when the band recorded their 1985 debut EP Bestial Devastation (a split release with fellow countrymen Overdose) it was just emerging from decades as a military dictatorship. Musically it’s not the most amazing stuff you’ll hear from the era but the band were pretty impressive considering they were all still in their mid-teens. And they got in early enough and extreme enough that their raw, filthy undergound thrash was also a primordial stew of nascent black and death metal.

My favourite track from the EP is Necromancer, with its naive evil lyrics, grinding Celtic Frost riffs, blasts of Discharge-like speed and a wild “all notes matter” guitar solo right out of Slayer. Fun stuff. Unfortunately, my favourite part of the song is a bit that I always mishear and misremember. One of the great metal mondegreens. After the chaotic solo the song returns to a slow sludge as vocalist Max “Possessed” Cavalera sings “necromancer, dead’s invoker”. But in my world this line has always been “necromancer, dirty fucker”. And it always will be! And until they ‘fess up and admit that’s what the lyrics really were all along, I’m deducting a point.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

Piledriver – The Fire God (Song Review)

“Burn all the sinners in my way”

In the mid-80s Canada’s Cobra Records reckoned that, as long as you put a wild cover on it, any old metal shite could sell 20,000 copies easily. So they set out to create a bunch of pretend metal acts and whack out some albums. One of these was Piledriver.

Although Piledriver boasted various fictional members (including “Knuckles” Akimbo on guitar and “Former” Lee on drums!) all the backing tracks were written, performed and produced by Leslie Howe with vocals handled by Piledriver himself (real name: Gordon). But by second album Stay Ugly, Leslie was gone and Piledriver was assisted by none other than Virgin Steele’s David DeFeis (writing and producing as “The Lion”) and Edward Pursino (writing and playing guitar as umm… “Bruizer” Bernette).

The Fire God is one of the album’s standout tracks. Leathery speed metal with a blasphemous flavour of Venom. It’s crude enough that it sounds a bit bashed out but it’s not just any old metal shite either. It’s got heart, hooks, harmonies and ripping guitar. It was good enough that Virgin Steele did their own version years later and it’s proof that good music can come out of the the most crass and contrived circumstances.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Behemoth – God=Dog (Song Review)

“I shall cast the pearls before the swine”

God=Dog asks the burning question that’s been on all our lips for so long: “is a god to live in a dog?” But in addition to settling that issue once and for all, it’s also a pretty good metal song. It’s definitely one of the most memorable tracks from 2018s I Loved You At Your Darkest. Solid evil blasting paced out with dramatic and melodic black metal riffs. And don’t let the daft title put you off. There is thoughtful and arcane imagery in the lyrics and it’s the sort of layered, cryptic stuff that obsessives can er… obsess over endlessly. The use of children’s voices is a bit too cheesy for my liking and I think the songs finale would have been climatic enough without them. Probably more so. But overall, an enjoyable and catchy burst of blasphemy from Nergal and crew. Oh yeah, and the answer is “no”.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Black Sabbath – God Is Dead? (Song Review)

“Give me more wine, I don’t need bread”

If you’re going to trudge through a slow doomfest you need quality riffs and lyrics, depth of feeling and strong atmosphere and Black Sabbath’s God Is Dead? falls flat on all fronts. It goes on way too long, the brickwalled production has zero atmosphere, the vocals are flat and the lyrics are either boring or clumsy light/night, doom/tomb stuff. The chorus is pretty good, especially the second time round where it is extended out in a moment of rousing emotion. But the band don’t capitalise on this flash of brilliance and the song continues with a series of unremarkable riffs and an unusually uninspired solo from Tony Iommi. Not sure if God has snuffed it or not but this song is disappointingly bereft of life.

HMO Rating: 2 Out Of 5