Category Archives: Heavy Metal

Running Wild – Final Gates

I can’t think of many metal instrumentals I would pick out as album highlights but here’s one: Final Gates, from Running Wild’s 1988 pirate metal classic Port Royal. Written by, and showcasing, Running Wild’s new bassist Jens Becker, Final Gates is a cut above: avoiding the usual pitfalls of skippable atmospheric scene-setting or virtuoso showboating. Instead, it’s a track that stands on its own: creative and restrained with wonderful guitar solos and Becker going all Geddy Lee on some infuriatingly catchy bass lines. It’s a wonderful, funky odd-man-out amidst a bounty of power metal swashbuckling.

Hell – Darkhangel

“Read the rites, cast the spell, call the chaos lords of Hell”

I loved Hell’s 2013 album Curse & Chapter but Darkhangel cast a particularly strong spell over me. It reminds me of two of my favourite British bands, combining Sabbat’s medieval thrash with Cradle Of Filth’s theatrical horror. And it shifts from goosebumps catchy (“from thy kingdom will come”) to esoteric tongue-twisting (“whose might unmarred the maker’s mind unmade”) with intense flair. Best of all, when vocalist David Bower performed Darkhangel live he did it dressed as a 12ft-tall horned Pan on stilts while twirling a firework-spouting trident like a catherine wheel. He knew that a song this good deserves mad props.

[And the live version]

Abbath – Dread Reaver (Review)

Abbath – Dread Reaver (2022)

Abbath’s third outing Dread Reaver is the most uniquely frustrating album I have heard in many, many moons. Not because it’s completely absymal. I’d take a disaster like Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus over this any day. That was a hoot! The problem with Dread Reaver is that it’s stuck at this infuriating point of being solid but never exciting me or blowing me away. A noisy, thrashy, black metal album from one of the genre’s greats that takes in all sorts of brilliant influences (Manowar, Motörhead, Mayhem, lots of Bathory) should make me feel something. Either Abbath’s considerable craft and experience has taken over in lieu of genuine inspiration or passion or he’s overworked the thing to the point where any human factor has been ground out. Whatever’s happened, it leaves me cold. And not in a cool, “grim permafrost” way.

Midnight – Lust Filth And Sleaze

“I’m gonna bust when you’re down on your knees”

You’d think devil worship and debauchery went hand in hand but Satanic metallers rarely sing about shagging. Midnight are one of those rare bands that dare to put their log in the fiery place. Taken from their essential 2011 debut album Satanic Royalty, Midnight’s Lust, Filth And Sleaze is a prime NWOBHM-inspired rager with a savage speed metal attack and venomously delivered single-entendre lyrics. Total satisfaction guaranteed.

Paradise Lost – Sweetness

“Hatred coming on from greater heights”

Written and recorded specially for Paradise Lost’s 1994 EP Seals The Sense, Sweetness has become a much-loved gem in the band’s discography. Over time its status has been enhanced by its position as a B-Side underdog, to the extent that the band amused themselves by calling it “the greatest song ever written” in a recent interview. Northern piss-taking aside, it is an excellent track that hits the sweet spot between the heavy doom of Icon and the goth of Draconian Times. The combo of lead guitar and grinding riff in the chorus section is especially killer. Apart from Sweetness, the EP isn’t much to write home about, but the inclusion of “the greatest song ever written” makes it essential.

Raven – Rock Until You Drop (Review)

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Raven – Rock Until You Drop (1981)

Despite being dubbed “athletic rock”, Newcastle’s Raven were slow off the starting blocks. Their 1980 single Don’t Need Your Money was well-received but there was a big wait for their debut album to finally appear in October 1981. Not sure what took so long because Rock Until You Drop sounds like the power trio just rocked up to the studio and banged out their live set in one go. This is just one corker after another, crackling with raw energy and infectious enthusiasm (just check out John Gallagher’s crazed yelp at the end of Hell Patrol). And it’s loaded with classics too: from gonzo hard rockers Hard Ride, Over The Top and Don’t Need Your Money to superb Priest slashers like For The Future. I could do without the pair of Sweet covers though. They’re fun and add to the live gig vibe but I’d rather have had another Raven original or two. But it’s a minor gripe as Raven then proceed to wreck the place with the proto-thrash Lambs To The Slaughter and the mighty epic Tyrant Of The Airways. Raven might not need your money but you should fling some their way because you need this over-the-top NWOBHM madness in your life.

Scorpions – We’ll Burn The Sky

“Through you I was so inspired”

One of the coolest Scorpions tracks ever. We’ll Burn The Sky‘s lyrics were penned by Jimi Hendrix’s last girlfriend Monika Dannemann, who was dating the Scorpions’ guitarist Uli Jon Roth. But weirdly, it wasn’t the Hendrix acolyte Roth that co-wrote the song with her. Move over Roth… and let Rudy take over! The Scorps’ other guitarist Rudolf Schenker put the lyrics to great use as an icy, eerie metal ballad with nice dreamy bits but also lots of electric and angular metal chonk. Not to be outdone, Roth makes his presence felt with plenty of stellar shred. Classic, state-of-the-art stuff for 1977. But ‘scuse me while I… burn this guy? Did they learn nothing from Hendrix?!

Black Sabbath – Sins Of The Father

“How much longer are you gonna pay, for yesterday”

Today I was listening to The Sab’s Dehumanizer for the first time in ages. Sins Of The Father stood out, which caught me by surprise cause it’s usually my least favourite track on the whole thing. It’s a bit meh of riff and the Beatlesque opening bit doesn’t do much for me. But as it picks up pace and intensity it creeps up on you and Dio sounds so committed: giving it full majestic welly on the awesome chorus and delivering the typically cryptic lyrics like they’re the most important words, ever. A dark horse track on an album that still improves with every listen.

Manowar – The Final Battle I (Review)

Manowar – The Final Battle I (2019)

Manowar once pledged “if you don’t strap your nuts to your leg, they’re going to get blown off.” On their latest release, 2019’s The Final Battle I, it seems like the straps are now optional. The EP is inspired by the “legions of loyal Manowarriors” and they, like me, will find it enjoyable enough. It sounds great, the orchestral intro is quite stirring, Blood And Steel is the heroic pumper and Sword Of The Highlands is the elegiac (if overly Hobbit-y) ballad. Closing track You Shall Die Before I Die even turns the clock back to the band’s doomier early days. But there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before, better. I’ll tap my feet and hum along but where’s the guts? Where’s the glory? Why are my unstrapped nuts still safely intact? This is supposedly the first EP of a trilogy. But two years on, there hasn’t been a follow-up and I’d hate this to be the last thing the Kings Of Metal put out. Come on Manowar! Stop preaching to the converted. Defy the naysayers, kill all the unbelievers. Give us part two and, this time, fucking go down fighting and take all the false metal with you. Blood! BLOOOOD!!

Black Sabbath – Zero The Hero

“With a magic in their music as they eat raw liver”

I’m reliably informed that, while I was listening to Black Sabbath’s Zero The Hero in the office today, I gurned. Like Phil Anselmo feeling the money riff. Specifically about a minute in, when Ian Gillan’s vocals kick in for the first verse. It’s a sure fire sign a song is a winner. And Zero The Hero is a winner. Creepy crawly riff, spooky FX and pure attitude from Gillan as he vents his ire on some mediocre unfortunate. I usually prefer Sabbath songs to have a bit more of a riff journey going on. This song is more of a vibe. But what a vibe, capped off with a great atmospheric guitar solo from Tony Iommi. It’s popular nowadays to point out the riff similarity with GnR’s Paradise City but that song never makes me gurn like Zero The Hero does. I guess the Gunners just didn’t eat enough raw liver.