Category Archives: Reviews

KISS – Bang Bang You (Song Review)

“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.

 

Helloween – Why? (Song Review)

“In these lonely days I need your answer”

On 1994’s Master Of The Rings, Helloween got their power metal mojo back big time. With two new members on board, drummer Uli Kutsch and vocalist Andi Deris, the German band sounded fresh and vital. And it’s these new guys that particularly shine on Why? Kutsch excites with his hard-hitting, gear-shifting groove and, not only are his vocals breathtaking (especially on the soaring, emotional chorus) but Deris displayed considerable songwriting chops here too. The lyrics challenge a non-interventional God but Why? is so good I can’t help feeling like the big man had Helloween’s back.

Stratovarius – Hunting High And Low (Song Review)

“Through the clouds shines a ray of the Sun”

This is the furthest I have ventured into the realm of proper rainbow unicorn power metal. So far, anyway. I was provoked into buying Stratovarius’ Infinite after a short live clip of them playing Hunting High And Low on the Metal Evolution series planted the song’s chorus in my head forever. The band pump out a fairly typical Euro-metal backdrop that refrains from showboating enough to let the insanely catchy tune and Timo Kotipelto’s soaring voice take centre stage. It all evokes warm feelings of old Europe and Goran Edman era Yngwie. The kind of song that gives you a high, even when you’re feeling low.

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Review)

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (1971)

They’d go on to be one of the most definitive, life-affirming rock acts of the 70s but on their 1971 debut, Thin Lizzy seemed more nostalgic for the 60s. Lizzy mainstays Phil Lynott and Brian Downey together with original guitarist Eric Bell formed a power trio in the mould of Hendrix, Cream and The Jeff Beck Group and played an eclectic mix of folky, funky and soulful hippy rock. Honesty Is No Excuse is a sophisticated string-laden ballad, Look What The Wind Blew In has a carefree chorus and wonderful stuttering riff, Eire is a beautiful Celtic ode and Return Of The Farmer’s Son has hints of future glories in its jousting guitar and rolling drums. But many of the songs here, like the endless Diddy Levine, prove forgettable and even the album’s rockiest moments have a maudlin, nostalgic mood. All this makes Thin Lizzy a decent choice for hungover Sunday afternoons. But you know what Lizzy albums you were listening to on the Saturday and this wasn’t one of them.

Shrines – Ghost Notes (Review)

Shrines – Ghost Notes (2021)

Given that their frontman Sam Loynes also keeps busy with Akercocke, The Antichrist Imperium, and Voices I can’t blame Shrines for taking six years to follow up their 2015 debut album with a four-song EP. But it helps that the EP, 2021’s Ghost Notes, is good: angular, dissonant progressive metal with pristine guitar tones, killer riffs and Loynes’ unique, melancholic voice and harmonies. While I miss the eclectic creativity and plaintive atmosphere of the debut, its good to have Shrines back and they sound like they have found a strong direction and purpose with Ghost Notes. Hopefully they won’t take so long to make their next move this time. Of all the bands in Loynes’ impressive CV this is the one I’d most like to hear more of.

Fist – Throwing In The Towel (Song Review)

“Speed gone, reflex missing”

Neat Records’ 1981 release Lead Weight was one of the best NWOBHM compilations, featuring a whole bunch of songs you couldn’t hear anywhere else. My favourite of the bunch is Fist’s Throwing In The Towel. It tells the tale of an ageing boxer lured into the ring for a comeback bout… only to realise his thunder-crapping days are behind him. It’s got a wonderfully downtrodden chorus and there’s real tension in the verses as the staccato vocals punch and jab. It’s brilliant, inventive stuff that holds its own amongst the compilation’s heavy-hitters like Raven and Venom. Unfortunately, Throwing In The Towel was the last song this lineup of Fist released which is a shame… they could have been contenders.

Running Wild – Final Gates (Song Review)

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 (Song Review)

“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]

Whitesnake – All In The Name Of Love (Song Review)

“Some people tell me, the blues ain’t bad”

Any time I write about David Coverdale and Whitesnake I’m tempted to throw in a few knob gags. But I’m not going to because All In The Name Of Love is a heartfelt, serious Cov effort with The Gov feeling the post-Tawny blues and singing about it in soulful fashion. The woman troubles bring out the Free/Bad Company in his voice, which is where he’s at his best, especially when he lets loose on the wonderful bridge and closing choruses. Although it’s a bit smooth and MOR in production, I reckon this would have fit nicely on old beergut-era Whitesnake albums like Trouble and Lovehunter. It’s got a warm sound with a lovely bluesy guitar solo and a big throbbing organ underneath.

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.