Category Archives: Reviews

Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (Review)

Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (2013)

Twilight Of The Gods were formed as an all-star Bathory tribute act featuring the likes of Mayhem’s Blasphemer, Primordial’s Alan Averill and blast legend Nick Barker. In 2013 they took the plunge and released their own album of irony-free epic metal Fire On The Mountain.

It’s a treat to hear a black metal veteran take on the chest-beating, anthemic style of Manowar, Manilla Road, Omen and the like but it’s all a bit too sincere. There’s a pervading doom-laden vibe that works well on the moodier tracks like the Primordial-like Children Of Cain and the apocalyptic Sword Of Damocles, but the more anthemic efforts like Preacher Man and Destiny Forged In Blood prove a bit too stiff for comfort.

Alan Averill’s unique voice adds much-needed charisma, his lyrics are a lot of fun (“Van Stahrenberg stands with the Holy See of the Roman Empire”) and the band does a sterling job of launching into Maiden-style instrumental jousts, most notably on the rousing title track.

Fire On The Mountain places pretty low in the pantheon when stacked up against the classic bands that inspired it but there are enough great moments here to make it disappointing that they haven’t followed it up with a second album. It’s a solid effort for fans of the main players and for anyone that likes their metal with a bit of hair on its chest.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

[Twilight Of The Gods – Children Of Cain]

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Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (Review)

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (2018)

The return of Swedish orthodox black metallers Funeral Mist has been one of 2018’s most welcome surprises. And Hekatomb, their first album in nearly ten years, is a raging reminder that the Devil still has all the best tunes. Tracks like Shedding Skin and Hosanna are absolutely flaying, a purist’s delight, and the rest of the album has imaginative depth and rich layers: In Nomine Domini’s addictive sliding riff; Naught But Death’s wicked mix of groove and gospel; Cockatrice’s ambient keys and the monk-y magic of Metamorphosis. It’s a stunning accomplishment from Arioch who, ably assisted by drummer Lars B, is the mastermind behind all the music, imagery and charismatically demented vocals here. Easily the album of the year so far. It’s so good I had to buy their entire back catalogue on vinyl.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

The very cool booklet that comes with the vinyl edition
Gotta get ’em all!

Virgin Steele – Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation (Review)

Virgin Steele – Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation (2015)

I’m not a big fan of the most recent Virgin Steele album Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation but I still occasionally hanker for it. The opener Lucifer’s Hammer is classic chest-beating metal and Persephone is a grand retelling of the Greek myth that ranks up with the band’s best material. And do any of you remember the mysteriously anonymous 80s speed metal band Exorcist? Well, it turns out they were Virgin Steele all along and on this album they finally own up to it, reworking two Exorcist songs Queen Of The Dead and Black Mass in power metal fashion. It’s great stuff and a lot more rifftastic than the preceding VS album The Black Light Bacchanalia. But that album had a romantic, overblown grandiosity that proved fascinating and rewarding and Nocturnes Of Hellfire & Damnation has none of that richness or consistency. The shifts from the Exorcist tracks to piano balladry like Hymns To Damnation to bizarre raunch metal like Demolition Queen and Glamour make for a disjointed listen and the overlong arrangements and dark, moody atmosphere means promising tracks like Delirium and Devilhead come across as dreary. If you’re a Virgin Steele acolyte like me there are just enough bright spots here to make it worth your time but everyone else will find Nocturnes a long, colourless night that will most likely send them to sleep.

HMO Rating: 2 out of 5

[Virgin Steele – Devilhead]

Deluxe Edition with bonus CD

Blue Öyster Cult – Mirrors (Review)

Blue Öyster Cult – Mirrors (1979)

Blue Öyster Cult had hit it big with 1976’s Agents Of Fortune but they were starting to sound like they were going through the motions by the time of 1979’s Mirrors. The slick Tom Werman production and generic songwriting displays little of the band’s usual esoteric adventurousness. The pastiche Moon Crazy should never have seen the light of day and the title-track has some woeful lyrics: “Pretty girls have a love affair/with their eyes and their shining hair”. The AOR approach mostly results in decent but forgettable tracks like Lonely Teardrops but does at least manage to offer up one Cult classic in the wistfully pretty single In Thee. The album is on stronger footing when the band finally starts to sound like the BÖC of old on The Vigil and I Am The Storm, a great cosmic pairing that livens up the second half. Definitely a lesser effort compared to its predecessors but Mirrors has just enough going for it to be worth a look.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

[Blue Öyster Cult – The Vigil]

Pretty boys have a love affair, with their eyes and their shining… hands?

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

[Mercyful Fate – A Corpse Without Soul]

*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

[Pestilence – Chemotherapy]

Riot V – Armor Of Light (Review)

Riot V – Armor Of Light (2018)

Riot’s history as a band is the stuff of metal legend, thanks to decades of perseverance through bad breaks and tragedy. But musically I’ve been largely unfamiliar with the band’s career beyond the early Guy Speranza-fronted albums of the late 70s/early 80s. With the passing of founding guitarist Mark Reale in 2012 there is now no-one left from those early days. But the US band, respectfully renamed Riot V due to Reale’s passing, have vowed to carry on his good work.

And on their latest album Armor Of Light they do a pretty good job of it. Like a more polished version of 1988’s Thundersteel, it’s upbeat melodic power metal akin to Gamma Ray or Dragonforce. Todd Michael Hall’s soaring Kiske-esque vocals deliver some instantly memorable choruses with high-flying aplomb. Songs like Victory, End Of The World, Heart Of A Lion and Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign sound like the sort of warring, singalong stuff that will go over a storm at festivals. The guitar soloing is superb too: jousting, harmonized Helloween-type stuff.

But there isn’t quite enough killer riffing here, and it all starts to go through the motions in the second half. The band is too content to chug along with the double-kicks, and many potentially interesting parts are drowned out by the relentless drums. But there’s good pure metal fun to be had here. The first side is a blast, I guarantee you a good two or three songs that will instantly embed in your brain and warrant further listens. A solid effort rather than a great one; but if the goal is to uphold the legacy of Reale and Riot then it achieves its aim. I definitely want to catch up and hear more.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5