Tag Archives: 2018

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

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Ghost – Prequelle (Review)

Ghost – Prequelle Ltd. Edition with bonus tracks and 3D cover thing

Hard to believe it’s already eight years since Ghost’s debut album Opus Eponymous. Time flies when you’re having satanic fun. And on the plague, death and apocalypse themed Prequelle, Ghost are still all about fun. Like on its excellent predecessor 2015’s Meliora, Ghost’s fourth album is full of blissfully catchy theatrical rock that laces its spiritually uplifting hooks with diabolical twists. But it doesn’t do much that Meliora didn’t already do better. Two flat instrumentals pad out the running time, Pro Memoria is beyond Muppety and the fiendish lyrical slants aren’t as keen or effective (replacing “be with” with “bewitch” isn’t enough to add depth to the ABBA-tastic Danse Macabre). But all gripes are rendered churlish when faced with the excellence of tracks like the glam metal Rats, the passionately defiant See The Light and majestically melodic Witch Image. Prequelle might be a weak facsimile of its predecessor but there’s still enough devilish fun in its diminishing returns to make it worthy of devotion.

HMO Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5

Judas Priest – Firepower (Review)

Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)

With Black Sabbath calling it a day in 2017, Judas Priest are now one of the oldest metal bands still on the go. They’re one of the genre’s most definitive, influential and original acts. But they’ve also been dogged by consistency problems for decades, making any new release equal parts exciting and fraught. While dodgy production and some weak songwriting hampered 2014’s Redeemer Of Souls it was promising enough to leave me hopeful that better was yet to come. And so it has proved, these old dudes are sounding pretty potent on their latest album Firepower.

The most obvious improvement is the album’s crisp, classic production, but the band’s performance is more assured too: the solos build excitement and Rob Halford is on commanding vocal form. The excellent opening title track and Lightning Strike immediately give this album the edge over its predecessor.

But the songwriting is still not totally consistent. Being more of a fan of melodic Priest like Desert Plains, I prefer the more anthemic tracks like Rising From Ruins and Never The Heroes and find the more hammering Painkiller-type tracks like Necromancer and Flamethrower too clunky. But all the songs have their moments and the varied tempo and style keeps the album engaging. And the band aren’t too long in the tooth to progress either: the doom-laden Children Of The Sun, malevolent Spectre and the raunchy Lone Wolf adding new flavours to the band’s style.

Firepower doesn’t quite have the audacity or vitality to put it in the top tier of the band’s discography but it is their best and most cohesive release in aeons. At a time when many older acts are bowing out or resting on their laurels, Priest’s impressive dedication to forging ahead keeps them at the forefront of the genre. Still metal gods, still defenders of the faith, still delivering the goods.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

[Judas Priest – Traitors Gate]

Tribulation – Down Below (Review)

When Sweden’s Tribulation premiered their new single Lady Death in late 2017, it left me expecting a bland, streamlined follow-up album to 2015’s excellent The Children Of The Night. I shouldn’t have worried. Their follow-up Down Below is definitely streamlined but, far from being bland, it hones their horror metal to perfection: simplifying their music and making it more accessible without sacrificing depth. No mean feat.

There are a lot of comparisons to be drawn with other Swedish bands. The melodic horror and direct, memorable riffing is akin to Ghost but tracks like Nightbound and Cities From The Underworld use layers of sinister instrumentation and harmony to add a thick, nocturnal atmosphere of gothic horror. Johannes Andersson maintains his ghoulish, gargled vocals style too. A crucial move that stops things getting too slick, giving the album a gritty, filth that brings to mind In Solitude’s superb Sister. And on the centrepiece track Subterranea the band conjure the kind of evil magick that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Watain album.

The Ltd. Edition version features excellent bonus track Come, Become, To Be

I can’t blame anyone for trying to pick out a single but this is best experienced in its entirety. Tribulation juggles variety and consistency, accessibility and obscurity with accomplished ease. It’s a major statement from a band that has come a staggeringly long way in just four albums and Down Below will cast a long, haunting shadow over the metal scene of 2018.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

It’s 2018 and the Priest is back!

Happy New Year everyone! What better way to get the 2018 HMO ball rolling than with some brand spanking new music? So here’s the new Judas Priest single Lightning Strike from their upcoming album Firepower.

You’ll no doubt have heard this already, so what do you think? I’ve listened to it a few times now and I’m pretty impressed. The co-production from Andy Sneap and the returning Tom Allom is a tremendous improvement over the previous album, the disappointing Redeemer Of Souls. Boaby Halford sounds totally rejuvenated too and signs with grit and power. It’s just got that classic Screaming For Vengeance era classic Priest vibe to it.

Whether the rest of the album lives up to the promise is another thing entirely but, based on the quality of this Lightning Strike, I’m way more excited about the release of Firepower than I expected to be.

Firepower is due out on 9th March 2018 and can be pre-ordered here.

New Songs From Watain, Saxon, Portal and Tribulation

There have been a few new tracks premiered online recently and a few are from upcoming albums that I’ve reported on but didn’t have any music available to share at the time. So I thought I’d share them here now! Let me know what you think and, if you’ve heard any good new tracks yourself, please share in the comments.

Watain – Nuclear Alchemy

As statements of intent go, Watain’s new song and video takes some beating. They’ll never admit it but this comes across like they’re trying very hard to make up for their disappointing previous album The Wild Hunt with bile, chaos, blood, fire, explosions and a liberal sprinkling of evil. Their new album Trident Wolf Eclipse (due Jan 2018) will reveal if they’re overcompensating or not but this track is undeniably exciting.

Saxon – Thunderbolt

The HMO-faves introduce their upcoming album with the title track and it’s the kind of heavy and hooky Euro-metal that they’re known for now. The Accept-esque backing vocals are the only mildly surprising feature. I’m not so sure about those. But Saxon always pick safe, solid singles to promote their new albums and this is no exception. Choose from a bewilderingly-expensive selection of PledgeMusic offers here.

Portal – Phreqs

I’ve only got a couple of Portal albums and I have mixed feelings about them, veering from indifferent to enthralled. Sometimes in a single sitting. Sometimes in the course of a single song! I’m sure these weirdos wouldn’t want it any other way. Their new song Phreqs from upcoming album Ion (due Jan 2018) continues this tradition. A smothering swarm of buzzy bee riffs that’s fascinating and sickening all at once. I’m surprised they’re not aiming for the Xmas No. 1 with this, to be honest.

Tribulation – The Lament

I really enjoyed Tribulation’s last album and have been looking forward to more from them but new track The Lament is a bit underwhelming. The production is fantastic but there’s no real song in there and the riffs and melodies all sound a bit stock to my ears. Hopefully the album will have more substance.

Thunderbolt – Saxon Announce New Album For 2018

Saxon studio album No. 22 is on its way. The HMO favourites have announced that their new release will be called Thunderbolt and is due out on February 2nd 2018 via their Militia Guard label. The follow-up to 2015’s excellent Battering Ram has been produced once more by Andy Sneap and features original artwork by long time Saxon artist Paul Raymond Gregory.

Some tour dates have also been announced in the UK and Europe but don’t fret if your nearest venue isn’t listed as the band promise a lot more dates to follow in 2018.

The album will be available in the usual variety of versions including a digipack CD with a bonus track “raw” version of the track Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz). And there will also be the now-obligatory deluxe box set version but I don’t know what’s in that as yet. I do know that the vinyl edition will not include the bonus track. Pre-orders will be available from 1st Dec 2017.

Thunderbolt Tracklisting:

Olympus Rising/Thunderbolt/The Secret Of Flight/Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)/They Played Rock And Roll/Predator/Sons Of Odin/Sniper/A Wizard’s Tale/Speed Merchants/Roadie’s Song