Category Archives: Thrash Metal

Skyclad – A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol (Review)

Skyclad – A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol (1992)

A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol is a grand medieval banquet full of succulent folk, juicy classic metal and meaty thrash. Skyclad’s 1992 album was a truly original and pioneering work that built on their debut album’s idiosyncratic promise. The addition of a full-time violinist Fritha Jenkins adds class and colour to a rich and varied set of pagan metal all graced by the gifted lyrics and charismatic vocals of Martin Walkyier. The lusty jig Spinning Jenny and the fist-pumping The Declaration Of Indifference are the enduring set-list faves but every track here is special. The mix of traditional metal mastery à la Maiden and Manowar coupled with the rage and darkness of the underground made this the album to beat in a year when proper epic metal seemed to be in short-supply. From the dystopian anger of Broken Promised Land to the historical tragedy of R’Vannith and the mellow moon-lit ley lines of Ring Stone Round, A Burnt Offering… is a treasure from start to finish.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Anthrax – For All Kings (Review)

Some albums are so OK you have to buy them twice.

Funnily enough, after reading an article about Anthrax’s Scott Ian (reportedly) behaving like an arsehole, I ended up going on a big Anthrax kick and buying another copy of their last album For All Kings. Goes to show all publicity is good publicity!

I wasn’t all that impressed by For All Kings when it was released back in 2016 but after hearing some of the songs live on the recent Kings Among Scotland release, I felt like revisiting it.  And ended up not only listening to it again but enjoying it enough to add the ‘Tour Edition’ to my collection (for its extra disc of demo versions). Some great tracks here like You Gotta Believe, Suzerain, Evil Twin and the title track. I’d prefer the sound to have more attack and I find songs like Breathing Lightning and This Battle Chose Us a bit too slick for comfort but, judged on its own merits as a We’ve Come For You All kinda album, it’s a solid and memorable release. Just don’t ask Scott Ian to sign it for you.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

Mercyful Fate – Mercyful Fate EP (Review)

Released in 1982, Mercyful Fate’s self-titled debut is often referred to as the “Nuns Have No Fun” EP but I reckon even Mother Theresa would be hard-pressed to not get a kick out of this. The Danish band battered out a high-energy update on the pace-shifting, riff-laden approach of bands like Diamond Head and Priest but earned recognition as one of the “first wave” black metal bands by virtue of being extremely, extremely evil. While their style is fairly traditional, Hank Shermann’s riffs and solos are pure malevolence and the unique range of corpse-painted vocalist King Diamond is alternately threatening and ghostly, hitting high notes only Rob Halford can hear on Devil Eyes. A Corpse Without Soul and Doomed By The Living Dead are thrashing, twisting workouts with wonderful vocal hooks. Try not singing along with “I’m a corpse, I’m a corpse, I’m a corpse without soul”. The band’s seminal albums would be more cerebral and progressive occult offerings, but the four songs here have a more boisterous and naïve sense of blasphemy. The graveyard scares, pentagram pants, “fucking angels” and a C-word laden ode to religious sisters make Mercyful Fate a uniquely diabolical, gleeful and headbanging entry in their impressive career. None more fun.

HMO Rating: 5 out of 5

*Buying Note: This EP is also available in its entirety as part of the compilation The Beginning, which is a must-buy too.

Pestilence – Malleus Maleficarum (Review)

Pestilence are now known as death metal masters but on their 1988 debut album the Dutchmen were still in the process of pushing the Kreator-style thrash of their demos to increasingly aggressive extremes. The crunchy riffs, violent tempos, moshing breakdowns and vocal phrasing are pure thrash but the sickening bludgeon of the delivery and the Schuldiner-esque bark of Martin Van Drunen put the band on a collision course with the emergent death metal of the era. The lyrics aren’t much of a read but obsessions with science, atrocity and surgery also push things deathward (“bifurcation of the tumour”) and provide great vocal hooks for Van Drunen’s authoritative vocals in tracks like Parricide and Chemotherapy. Although they had yet to mature stylistically, Pestilence’s formidable songwriting and precision brutality makes this a must for fans of death and thrash. It’s named after the infamous “Hammer Of The Witches” treatise, yet Malleus Maleficarum is so magical from front to back that you could well suspect this band of sorcery.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

Darkthrone – Dark Thrones And Black Flags (Review)

Superb artwork from Dennis Dread!

The Norwegian legends keep pumping out one amazing album after another but this 2008 release is my pick of their modern output. Black metal of the proto variety (my favourite kind): evil primitivism from the nurseries of real metal sound. Both Nocturno Culto and Fenriz are on top form throughout. Culto’s sideways, frosty riffing is at genius level on tracks like Death Of All Oaths (Oath Minus) and Fenriz blasts out crusty, howling Mercyful Fate-style traditional metal. His tracks Hanging Out In Haiger and The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker stand out as favourites but this whole album is top drawer fist-clenching fun with a dark intimidating atmosphere.

HMO Rating: 5 out of 5

[Darkthrone – The Winds They Called The Dungeon Shaker]

Skyclad – The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth (Review)

Skyclad – The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth (1991)

The departure of Martin Walkyier from superb UK thrashers Sabbat was a major disappointment but the talented frontman wasted no time, forming a new band Skyclad with members of Satan and Pariah. Their 1991 debut album The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth had plenty of the Ye Olde thrash Martin was known for but innovated with its incorporation of folk elements. And lo, a new genre – folk metal – started right here.

Martin delivers his caustic rants on social justice and ecological doom with raging charisma, backed by Steve Ramsey’s powerful and deft guitar work. There are huge thrash hooks in songs like The Cradle Will Fall (I am human!) and gothic closer Terminus but the band’s dark, dense Euro thrash does get fatiguing at times and the album is at its creative best during its folkier moments. The Widdershins Jig is a jaunty highlight (with a riff surely inspired by children’s TV show The Riddlers), Moongleam and Meadowsweet is beautifully lush (with gorgeous guest guitar from Sting’s Dominic Miller) and dramatic bursts of violin liven up thrashers like Sky Beneath My Feet and Our Dying Island.

The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth’s combination of labyrinthine thrash and pagan textures has proved remarkably durable over the years. More notable and eclectic offerings were to come, as Skyclad followed their prolific, fiddle-mad muse to become one of the most unique and influential British metal bands of the 90s. But the debut has a uniquely apocalyptic appeal that still makes it a go-to in the band’s impressive discography. Not a perfect debut but an attention-grabbing and adventurous one.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

The King Is Blind – We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer (Review)

The King Is Blind’s previous album Our Father was a high-point of 2016 and it’s very pleasing to have them back with a follow-up so soon. And their second album We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer doesn’t just follow up their last release, it also follows on the imaginative and thorough God/Satan concept that has ran through all of the band’s music. This time the story brings us up to modern day: the pesky Satan pledging the destruction of mankind and, drawing power from our abuse of sin, sending seven plague princes to generally stir things up and give us all a hard time. Serves us right.

Like its predecessor, WATPWATC blends a bunch of extreme metal approaches – death, black, doom, grind – into a crushing, grooving whole. But this is a more threatening and foreboding outing: the rage and intensity is ramped up and the superb production adds layers of nightmarish, urban ambience. The highlights are many: Patriarch is a furious and discordant opener, Bolt Thrower/Memoriam frontman Karl Willetts lends his wonderful vocal thuggery to the filthily-anthemic Mantra XIII (Plague Avaritia) and Godfrost (Plague Invidia) is just pure carnage. And any album with a hidden Mano-quote is fine by me!

The band is on burly form throughout. Guitars and drums are hit thick and hard and Steve Tovey sells each song with intense and committed vocals. But the album is not without its flaws. I find the Gojira-esque harmonies on Like Gods Departed (Plague Acedia) a bit dull but the track’s awesome Candlemass riffing and its building excitement render that a minor complaint. And, although the increased brutality means that the album doesn’t quite sink its hooks in like Our Father did, the cathartic impact and the almost Floydian atmosphere of tracks like As Vermin Swarm (Plague Ira) and the acoustic-laden The Burden Of Their Scars leave a considerable impression.

With WATPWATC, The King Is Blind continue to impress: honing, intensifying and adding depth to their own brand of monolithic metal. It’s a bold statement of intent and I reckon this promising band still has more to offer. In the meantime, the latest chapter of The King Is Blind’s story will please old fans and attract new ones. And I guarantee a growing legion of devotees will be waiting to see what these British bruisers, and that Satan, get up to next.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

**We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer will be released on Oct 13th and can be purchased here**

Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay (Review)

Cradle Of Filth are a British institution, one of the most recognisable and successful extreme acts to come from these shores. But, while they are loved and loathed by many, they’ve never made a huge impression on me either way. I’ve bought and enjoyed a fair few albums of theirs over the years but I’ve never had that phase where I’ve obsessed over them, where they were my band. Until now.

Although I was late getting to it, I was thoroughly impressed with 2015’s Hammer Of The Witches, and the band’s latest album continues in that vein. Themed around the Victorian obsession with death, Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay is a darkly fabulous romp of hard-hitting gothic metal, delivered with expertise and passion. The overall approach is still the band’s patented blackened Hammer Horror style but there’s a whole wealth of approaches employed. Heartbreak And Seance’s romantic melodrama, thrash fury on Wester Vespertine, You Will Know The Lion By Its Claw’s pitch-black savagery and there are wonderful trad metal gallops and harmonies throughout (most thrillingly in The Seductiveness Of Decay). Best of all, vocalist Dani Filth puts each song over and then some: a spirited and veteran performance of considerable taste, breadth and character.

Hammer Of The Witches reached some peaks of excitement that aren’t quite reached here but its a nano-gripe about a near-flawless album. And, on the flip-side, the latest album has none of the excess that detracted from its predecessor. For all its expansive grandeur, Cryptoriana… is tight and direct. The pedal is to the metal at all times and the band’s cinematic flourishes are weaved and layered skilfully throughout the songs with no boring intros or interludes to be found. The style is familiar but the album is fresh and stakes its own unique place in their canon. An utterly wonderful release from a veteran band at the top of their game. My band.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Akercocke – Renaissance In Extremis (Review)

It’s been ten long years since Akercocke’s reign of progressive death metal terror reached a thrilling and diabolical climax with Antichrist. Although the band has lain dormant for much of the intervening decade, a vibrant scene has grown in their wake: superb “ex-Akercocke” bands like Voices, The Antichrist Imperium and Shrines forming a growing family tree that has been the source of much of my favourite music of recent years. But despite my huge love of the related bands, I’ve had a growing longing for an Ak comeback and here they are with their new album Renaissance In Extremis, the most highly-anticipated and exciting release of 2017.

Given that they reached peak Satan-worship on Antichrist, it is unsurprising that the ever-evolving British band has taken up new themes. This is a more personal and emotional Akercocke that combines topics of depression, grief and suicide with rampaging positivity and self-improvement. Complex structures and varied moods evoke the subject matter. The shimmering and colourful guitar textures would make Queensrÿche and Rush proud and it’s all given an energetic kick up the arse with an array of wonderful tech thrash riffing in tracks like Disappear and Insentience. And tracks like Unbound By Sin and First To Leave The Funeral find the band’s black/death malevolence of old is still intact.

Band photos by Tina Korhonen © 2017, all rights reserved.

The whole band performs with distinction, sounding sophisticated and polished but also raw and live. The riffs and guitar solos are sublime throughout: the guitar duo of Jason Mendonça and Paul Scanlan combine old and new metal styles with wonderful flair. It’s also especially good to hear Mendonça’s uniquely charismatic and varied vocals again. A couple of wobbly-pitched moments only add to the crazed, natural feel and Jason leads from the front like few extreme metal frontmen can.

There’s very little to quibble about here and this is a superb comeback album overflowing with originality and creativity. Progressive in the proper sense of the word, Akercocke have created another unique album to add to their discography. And one that has enough variety and maturity that many fans of classic metal fare may find it a gateway into a more extreme musical world. For those of us that already reside in that world, Akercocke’s Renaissance In Extremis is a joyous and welcome return, wholly deserving of the most diabolical and infernal praise.

HMO Rating – 4.5 out of 5

Venom Inc. – Avé (Review)

While the actual Venom continue under the leadership of infamous bassist/vocalist Conrad ‘Cronos’ Lant, the return of the band’s classic guitarist Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn and drummer Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray as Venom Inc. has caused quite a stir. Surely two thirds of the band’s massively influential and legendary formation is better than one? And to cap it all off, the band has been rounded out appropriately and authentically with Prime Evil-era bassist/vocalist Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan. It’s an exciting unit and the band has been going down a storm touring a classic Venom set. But playing live oldies is a no-brainer. Now the real test comes as the band offer up their first new material with their debut album Avé.

Venom Inc. perform like heroic metal veterans throughout. Mantas in particularly impressive form, peeling out genuinely thrilling guitar solos like it’s a piece of piss. They’re too seasoned to play with the filthy, bulldozer energy of old but as gutsy, trad metal goes much of this is hard to beat. It’s also hard to stick with. Songs like Avé Satanas and Preacher Man are average songs stretched way beyond their breaking point and, while it works better as an album track than as a single, Dein Fleisch causes a hefty lull at a crucial point.

With those three totally removed Avé could have been easily and massively improved, while coming in at the golden running time of 40min too. Ace biker metal tracks like Forged In Hell and The Evil Dead would get old heads banging again and raging thrashers like Metal We Bleed and Time To Die would give young Venom-worshipping upstarts like Midnight a run for their money too. But, as a complete listening experience, Avé is overlong, uneven and frustrating: the two thirds of Venom Inc. proving that it is possible to ‘ave too much of a good thing.

HMO Rating: 3 out of 5