Category Archives: Song Reviews

Deep Purple – Throw My Bones (Song Review)

“You do your thing, you do your best”

Deep Purple have been a huge part of my musical life. For years I would have said they were my favourite band. But I’ve not been a big fan of their current MkVIII lineup and I’ve been fairly certain that I wasn’t going to even bother with their upcoming album Whoosh! But now I’ve heard their new song Throw My Bones and… just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. On one hand it’s still MkVIII doing what they do: mild funky rock, smug vamping and Steve Morse’s interchangeable guitar solos. But on the other hand, its joyful, playful feel and catchy chorus has got me wanting to hear more. I’ve been listening to their last album inFinite again and whoosh! I’m looking forward to the new Deep Purple album.

HMO Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5

(Throw My Bones is available on the free CD that comes with the latest issue of Classic Rock Magazine along with two live bonus tracks from 2017)

Fleetwood Mac – The Green Manalishi: Live 1970 (Song Review)

“Come sneaking around, trying to drive me mad”

HMO salutes Peter Green, who has died aged 73. There are many superb tunes I could pick as a tribute to the gifted guitarist, vocalist and founder of Fleetwood Mac. I toyed with Sandy Mary, Oh Well, Jumping At Shadows, Man Of The World and I Loved Another Woman: all personal faves. But given this is a metal site I’m going to go with The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown). Even if you’re not familiar with Fleetwood Mac, I’m sure you all know this song from Judas Priest’s cover versions on Hell Bent For Leather and Unleashed In The East. They turned it into a great souped-up rocker and their interpretation is very enjoyable. But I don’t think this song was really intended to be enjoyable. It was written during a period of LSD-induced mental health struggles and was inspired by a particularly vivid nightmare which Green interpreted as being about the evil of money and success. The Mac version is as dark, ominous and anguished as its subject matter. Doubly so on this extended live take recorded in Boston in 1970. It’s a musical dark night of the soul. Enjoy!

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

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)

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

My Dying Bride – The Long Black Land (Song Review)

“Long have I waited for this”

Congratulations to My Dying Bride as they celebrate 30 years of innovative, influential and thoroughly miserable metal. It’s an especially pleasing achievement given that the last five years have been particularly trying for the British band. When vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s young daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, he was forced to take leave from the band. And when a further two band members decided to quit during this hiatus, the band’s future looked extremely doubtful.

Thankfully Aaron’s daughter was given the all clear and the band not only survives, but thrives. On their latest album The Ghost Of Orion they sound as vital, relevant and glum as ever. With its glacial pace, less obvious song structure and Andrew Craighan’s mournful riffs, The Long Black Land is definitely one of the album’s less instant and accessible tracks. But its also one of its most powerful: a black void right at the heart of the record. Like all the best doom, it’s laden with feeling and at the 6:25min mark, when a mellow breather bursts into a lumbering, seismic riff, it’s exquisitely powerful.

You wouldn’t know it from the music but, three decades in and at the top of their game, My Dying Bride and their fans have many reasons to be cheerful.

HMO Rating: 4 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

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (Song Review)

“Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom”

HMO salutes the pioneer and architect of rock n’ roll Little Richard. I found it almost impossible to decide which song to select for a tribute, since to pick one is to imply that it’s the greatest. But in the mid-to-late 50s Speciality Records era, he released so many classic songs it’s ridiculous. Even narrowing down the selection to songs from his debut album Here’s Little Richard, I’d still have to choose between Ready Teddy, Rip It Up, Slippin’ And Slidin’, Long Tall Sally, Jenny Jenny, and She’s Got It.

What if I narrowed it down to songs with a link with hard rock and metal? There’s the lyrics from Rip It Up and Good Golly Miss Molly winding up in Deep Purple’s seminal Speed King; the drum intro from Keep A Knockin’ that kicks off Led Zep’s Rock N’ Roll; and the cover of Get Down And Get With It that launched Slade’s run of UK hits. “Little Richard,” Lemmy said in a 1994 interview. “That was the first guy I saw where I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

So let’s just start at the beginning of everything: Tutti Frutti. As AC/DC’s Brian Johnson said “there was nothing, and then there was this”. The big bang of rock n’ roll. Souped-up twelve bar boogie woogie, energy, hollering, sex, excitement, outrageousness. It’s timeless. But I could say that about any of the other songs I’ve mentioned in this post.

HMO Rating: 10 Out Of 5