I’m not sure I could have picked a less Easter-y album to listen to tonight. Then again, I’m fairly sure that vast swathes of my music collection aren’t exactly appropriate for most religious holidays. There’s never a bad time to listen to Thy Mighty Contract though. It’s brilliant early black metal with remarkably restrained and melodic riffs, impassioned warrior shouts and dark force. It’s often pleasingly dreary and gothic in a Paradise Lost/My Dying Bride vein and it has that influential and unique sun-baked atmosphere that Greek black metal has become known for. It’s atmospheric, accessible and totally classic: a great entry point for anyone new to the genre and an eternal favourite for long-time devotees.
[Rotting Christ – The Fourth Knight Of Revelation]
The Swiss power trio Coroner has often been called the “Rush of Thrash” for their progressive bent and formidable performances. And their albums don’t get much more progressive and formidable than their fourth, 1991’s Mental Vortex. Here’s one of my favourite tracks from it, Son of Lilith. It’s still got enough crunch and neck-snapping intensity to please thrashers but this song is more about precision and groove. It’s got an earworm of a chorus and a guitar solo to die for. Total class.
There’s not a huge amount of stuff out today so this’ll be short. Some good classic metal reissues out today though.
Virgin Steele – Visions of Eden
David DeFeis and Co. continue their excellent series of reissues with this deluxe edition of their “Barbaric-Romantic Movie of the Mind”. The 2006 album gets a remix on the first disc and the original album is remastered on disc two. Visions of Eden is a rich, complex album but it never quite reaches the heights of the band’s classic work (apart from the bit where he tells Adam and Eve to eff off). But there’s strong potential for improvement with the remix so I’m intrigued to see how this one works out. And you’ve got to love the pure phallic power of that cover.
Omen – Reissues
Some more classic trad-metal reissues here. Omen’s first three albums on Metal Blade, Battle Cry, Warning of Danger and The Curse, getting newly remastered and repackaged editions on digipak CD and vinyl. The CDs will have some bonus tracks, most notably the Nightmares EP which will be added to The Curse CD, but if you’re buying the vinyl versions you’ll just get the album tracks. The only thing I’m missing here (inc. bonus tracks) is The Curse so I reckon I’ll pick that up cause their other stuff is jolly good. If you like your metal NWOBHM-y and don’t know Omen, now’s your chance… be their wench tonight!
Benighted – Necrobreed
**UPDATE** Thanks to Nick for the heads-up about this one. Big brutal deathgrind release from France that’s been getting plenty of review praise lately. Not strictly my cup of tea style-wise but I’m intrigued enough to want to hear more, given the praise. And the awesome packaging from Season of Mist doesn’t hurt either. Fans should note that the deluxe box CD version has two bonus cover versions (of Sepultura and Marduk).
Elsewhere we have The Forty Five by black metal combo Cnoc An Tursa. Scenic, folky stuff with tons of Scottishness. Less Trve Kvlt, more Trve Kilt. And if I’m the first person to make that joke surely I deserve some sort of reward. Death metal veterans Morta Skuld return with Wounds Deeper Than Time (one of those bands where I’d rather go back and check them out from the beginning though). And last, and definitely least, Anthrax release the umpteenth version of their “new” album For All Kings. This time it’s the “Tour Edition” with a bonus EP of demos. Don’t encourage them.
Not a particularly stellar week but I’ve been looking forward to the Virgin Steele reissue and I’m up for adding Omen’s The Curse to the collection too so those are my personal picks. Fans of brutal death will want to make a beeline for Benighted though. Until next week, happy hunting!
February already, eh? Soon be Christmas! Let’s have a gawp at the latest releases…
Judas Priest – Turbo 30
First off, we’ve got the 30th anniversary reissue of the controversial Priest album. Available as a remastered album-only 180g vinyl or you can buy the 3CD edition that adds a double-CD live set from 1986. It’s hardly the full selection of Turbo-era rarities that you would have been hoping for, and the live disc is very similar to Priest Live!, but this still looks like a decent reissue. Live Priest is always worth a punt, though.
Deep Purple – Time for Bedlam EP
The veteran rockers drop an EP to tide you over while you wait on the new album inFinite, which is due out on April. Collectors will mainly want this for the non-album track Paradise Bar and there’s also an instrumental version of Uncommon Man and a rehearsal version a new track Hip Boots too. I’m sure Purps fans will dig all this stuff but… I’m bowing out. I just can’t be arsed with their modern style anymore.
Master – Master
Hammerheart Records are releasing various editions of this proto-death classic. Choose from the single CD, a frankly beautiful vinyl edition, and a 2CD deluxe with a bunch of bonus stuff: including a different “triggered” mix of the album (wat?), some unreleased rehearsals and the “unreleased” 1985 album (which has been “released” a few times now!) Looks like this could be the definitive version of a cracking album.
The Mist – Phantasmagoria
Greyhaze Records reissues another Brazilian gem from the Cogumelo roster on CD/Vinyl/Tape. This time it’s The Mist’s Phantasmagoria from 1989. This one will suit fans of old Coroner, Kreator and Destruction. It’s quite slick and accomplished by Cogumelo standards but still rough enough to keep the falses out! I don’t think this album is quite the “lost classic” it’s being pumped up to be but it’s an enjoyable genre entry. If you’re a thrash addict that “mist” out on it when it was released, this is well worth investigating.
Soen – Lykaia
Third album of prog-metal from ex-Opeth drummer Martin Lopez and friends. I’ve always gave them a bye cause of the Opeth/Tool comparison but their new track Lucidity sounded pretty decent. Decent enough for me to want to hear more.
In a less HMO-friendly vein, there’s also Iron Reagan with Crossover Ministry and Black Star Riders with Heavy Fire. I’m not enough of a crossover fan to bother with Iron Reagan (do like that name though). And I just can’t get into Black Star Riders at all. Kudos to them for doing their own thing and throwing off the Lizzy tag but I’ve not heard anything from them that makes me want to care.
Of today’s lot, I’ll definitely be wanting the Master, Priest and The Mist releases. In that order of preference. And I’ll give the Soen album a listen online too and see if it floats my boat. And that’s it for another week. As usual, let me know what I’ve missed and if there’s anything here that you just gotta have. Happy hunting!
I thought this week would be a bit light on new releases with everyone trying to stay clear of Metallica’s mutant-boogie (?) juggernaut. But I hadn’t really taken the time of year into account… there’s shitloads of stuff coming out today! And from some big bands too. So, take that Metallica! Anyway, there’s tons to get through today so enough of my yakkin’! Let’s mutant-boogie!
Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct
Did I mention Metallica have an album out today? I dare say you know about this already, you’ve listened to some (or all) of it and you’ve made up your mind whether you’re going to buy this or not. Based on the tracks I’ve heard, I’m not overly fussed. Some good moments but not totally convincing. I’ll check more tracks out online before making any decisions. If you’re going to buy this, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t go for a version with the bonus disc: plenty of covers, live tracks and Lords of Summer too.
Lamb of God – The Duke EP
Randy Blythe and co. return with new EP featuring two new tracks and three live ditties. The EP is dedicated to a big fan of theirs that died of cancer and I believe there’s going to be bunch of special items being sold (check their website for info) to raise money for charity. Never been a fan of the band but this is all pretty cool. Kudos.
Rush – Time Stand Still
Doesn’t seem that long since the last Rush doc Beyond the Lighted Stage and now here’s another. This one does have the added emotional impact of covering the band’s (presumably) final days but I dunno if I really feel the need for this, I’ll probably just wait and see if it shows up on Netflix. Decent extras might maybe provoke a purchase though.
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Memories in Rock: Live in Germany
The world’s greatest guitarist put down his crumhorn and returned to heavy rock duties earlier this year, performing a batch of live shows under the Rainbow banner. And here’s the inevitable live release documenting one of the shows. Loads of options here: DVD, Blu Ray, Vinyl, CD or combos of those. Not been all that impressed by what I’ve seen so far but I love Blackmore enough that I might buy this by accident.
Sammy Hagar’s post VH work gets compiled in This is Sammy Hagar Volume 1 – When the Party Started. His stuff with The Waboritas was often magnificent but I’ve got those albums already so I can do without this. His live album All Night Long also gets a reissue today from Rock Candy, who have now launched in the US. And they are also reissuing Salty Dog’s Every Dog Has Its Day, Nymphs‘ self-titled album and Tyketto’s Don’t Come Easy today too. Rock Candy does good work with well-chosen albums so this launch should prove to be good news for Stateside classic rockers.
Also on the reissue front we’ve got the latest in Jethro Tull’s ongoing reissue program, Stand Up: The Elevated Edition. Their excellent second album as a 2CD/DVD with remixes, 5.1, live tracks etc…HMO-favourites The Who are up to the Super Deluxe shenanigans with their debut album My Generation. Can’t remember what extra stuff was included but it didn’t look all that exciting. And Soundgarden celebrate the 25th anniversary of Badmotorfinger with a variety of reissue editions. Super Deluxe, not so Super Deluxe, Kinda Deluxe, Not Very Deluxe and… uh… vinyl? I’ve not done my research here, sorry.
Elsewhere, Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell carries on rocking with a new band and new EP Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. Scottish sludgy, psych doom troupe Headless Kross kick off a trilogy of albums with the first part, Projections I, available from At War With False Noise. Anyone that likes their death metal primitive and thrashy (think Sodom or Possessed) should check out the self-titled, self-released debut from Dead Conspiracy. Primitive and thrashy death metal is the best kind I reckon. Fans of trad and power metal might want to check out (former Accept guitarist) Herman Frank’s new solo album The Devil Rides Out and Freedom Call’s ridiculously happy Master of Light. Almost tooo happy.
And if I was going to be extra thorough I’d mention the new albums from Disturbed, Devilment and Sixx A.M. but let’s not bother eh?
Tons of stuff out this week after all then! But there isn’t a single release here that I’m in a rush to buy. I’ll listen to the new Metallica and see what happens. And I might panic-buy the Rainbow set.
It’s Black Friday next week so, in addition to painting the devil on the wall, it’ll probably be a bit vinyltastic. Lots of coloured-this, limited-that and overpriced-the-other. Until then, happy hunting!
It’s a good day for black metal fans. A cacophonous shitstorm of evil for everyone else. Read on if you dare.
Enslaved – The Sleeping Gods/Thorn
This might be an “old rope” release but it’s an interesting one from an ever-reliable band. Enslaved’s two EPs The Sleeping Gods and Thorn, both from 2011, packaged together here as part of the band’s ongoing 25th Anniversary festivities. Both were rare as physical releases so collectors will enjoy this chance to own both on CD or vinyl.
Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones
The mysterious and revered avant-garde black metallers return with a new EP, their first release in four years. It’s definitely one of the most anticipated and talked-about releases of the last few weeks. It’s been streaming for a while so you’ve probably heard it by now if you’re a fan. I feel like I should like this but it’s not doing much for me.
Ravencult – Force of Profanation
I had a listen to some tracks from this already. I was tempted to write it off as unremarkable: heard it before. But the power of the riff is pretty compelling here. Some really nifty writing that keeps your attention. So I’ve got a right notion this could be a keeper. Given more listens, this might be one of this year’s sleeper hits.
Saor – Guardians
I’d always say that GWAR’s Horror of Yig is still the ultimate instance of bagpipes in metal. But here comes Andy Marshall’s Saor with their third album of folky, atmospheric black metal. It’s scenic stuff, layered with all sorts of pipes, fiddles, bodhráns and the like. Like a diablolical tourist centre. Fans of Panopticon, Winterfylleth and Agalloch should check this out.
Black Sabbath – Paranoid (Super Deluxe Edition)
The must-have metal classic with added quad mix (bumped down to a stereo CD for surround-sound luddites) and live discs and book and all that stuff. Looks like a nice set and not as stupidly expensive as these things tend to be. Wish they just released the live stuff on its own rather than tacking it on to an album everyone has already.
Elsewhere we have In Flames’ new album Battles. I was never a fan but the hype is that this is their best for a while so, enjoy! At just under £400 Pink Floyd’s The Early Years 1965-1972 is surely the impulse buy of the week. And there’s a more affordable two disc CRE/ATION version for people that don’t mind feeling like they’re missing out. CanCon regulations force me to mention Rik Emmett and RESolution9’s RES9. Beauty, eh? And to round things off Phil Anslemo is back with Superjoint and Caught Up in the Gears of Application.
Some good stuff. I’ve already got my copy of Enslaved. And I’ll spend more time with the Ravencult and Saor and see if they stick.
So that’s it for another week, join me next Friday for Metallica and a bunch of other bands daft/brave enough to release an album on the same day as Metallica. Until then, happy hunting!
The 90s were a challenging time for classic metal acts but, for Saxon, the decade got off to a promising start. The “10 Years of Denim & Leather” back-to-basics tour rejuvenated the band. Aiming to carry the momentum into the studio, the band signed with Virgin Records and headed to Germany to record their comeback album Solid Ball of Rock.
Released in 1991, Solid Ball of Rock finds Saxon returning to a heavier, err… ballsier style. It opens with its title-track and most enduring classic: the band taking Bram Tchaikovsky’s Jerry-Lee Lewis inspired rock n’ roller and giving it an AC/DC-grade kick up the arse (with a cool nod to The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in its Faith Healer-esque intro). It’s followed by the equally thrilling Altar of the Gods. Bolstered by the writing contribution* and forceful playing of new bassist Nibbs Carter, it’s a belter of a track with an aggressive, metallic approach that recalls the classic days of Power & the Glory while also pointing the way forward to the band’s future power metal leanings.
It’s an encouraging opening but doubt sets in with Requiem (We Will Remember). The album’s only single, it maintains the feel-good vibe but its sentimentality, U2 jangle and “whoa-ohs” don’t sit well with me. But it proves to be the album’s only real wobble: the remaining tracks alternating between straightforward, open-chord rock n’ roll like I Just Can’t Get Enough and I’m On Fire and top-notch galloping Priest-y metal like Lights in the Sky and Baptism of Fire. The rock n’ roll tracks are a bit disposable by Saxon standards but have an enjoyably bouncy vitality while the metal tracks add crucial depth and grit with the epic, enigmatic Refugee adding class to the album’s late stages. It’s a strong combination of styles and a cohesive collection.
The overall sense with Solid Ball of Rock is of a band rediscovering their spark and spirit. Sticking to the basics but simultaneously mapping out new directions. The album did great business for the band and, although there were still challenging times ahead, Solid Ball of Rock is a pivotal Saxon album: a joyous, rocking reboot. The story of modern Saxon starts here.
*Nibbs’ remarkable dominance of the writing credits here turns out to be an exaggeration. With litigious former managers breathing down Saxon’s neck they protected their royalties by crediting most of the songs to Nibbs: the only member of the band with no links to their past contracts. Crafty buggers.