It’s time for my intensely selective look at the day’s new releases. I’m all about the reissues today but, before we get to those…
Solstice – White Horse Hill (Download)
Not technically one of today’s “new releases” but it did only just appear on Bandcamp a couple of days ago. And, as this is an extremely exciting and long-awaited release, I thought I might just include it anyway! Anyone desperate for a shot of epic doom folklore (and that’s really everyone, right?) should definitely check this out. The UK band have put out some splendid releases in the past and it’s been twenty(!) years since their last full length*. CDs and vinyl will be released soon but I have no exact release date at the moment.
Kreator – Coma Of Souls (2CD), Renewal, Cause For Conflict and Outcast (2CD)
Noise Records continue their busy, and excellent, reissue program with this second batch of Kreator albums. I thoroughly enjoyed the last batch so I’m well up for these. There’s a good bunch of bonus tracks to be had here and a couple of albums I haven’t heard before too. Might not buy them all in one swoop but I’ll definitely buy them all eventually.
Venom Prison – Animus (Deluxe Edition)
This British death metal band made big waves with this debut album back in 2016. Now it gets an expanded reissue with bonus live tracks. I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy it first time round. Almost did a couple of times but, even when it was only £8 in HMV, I couldn’t quite commit. Dunno why. Glad I didn’t now.
And that’s the lot. Anything you’re interested in today? Let me know in the comments.
*I originally wrote 5 years but I forgot their last release was an EP, not an album.
I don’t normally get all that excited about covers EPs (Danzig excepted) but Thus Defiled’s A Return To The Shadows is a total riot. The release marks the UK black metallers’ 25th year in action and sadly, also their last. The quality-over-quantity band hasn’t exactly been prolific during that quarter century so the chance to hear some new recordings is hugely welcome.
The main attraction is the new track Armagedda In Rapture and it’s a scorcher. The impressive production is simultaneously clinical and savage. It’s pure riff destruction with fantastic demonic vocals and it’s easily the best black metal track I’ve heard this year so far. The kind of song that’s so awesome it just makes you laugh the first time you hear it.
The rest of A Return To The Shadows is taken up by cover versions and, interestingly, the band opted to only cover non-black metal material. It turns out to be a great call as the band are able to put their own spin on a batch of songs that less daring souls would consider unfuckwithable.
They scythe and scream their way through Death’s Evil Dead and Metallica’s Creeping Death. Impossible to top such classic tracks but they inject so much energy and spark into them that the effect is like hearing the songs for the first time. You can’t ask for more than that.
Next up is a bewitching version of Morbid Angel’s Demon Seed and as an extra bonus they’ve got Morbid Angel/Nocturnus legend Mike Browning adding superb ominous and cultish vocals to another belter of a track. The cover of W.A.S.P’s Hellion that closes is the weakest here, a shade lost under the windy howls of vocalist Paul C, but with repeat listens it starts to make more and more sense. The riffs are undeniable and a black metal band that covers W.A.S.P. deserves instant HMO bonus points.
It’s a brilliant EP. Tons of fun and if it wasn’t digital I’d have probably worn it out by now. Fans of extreme metal should not miss out on this download-only release (available here). All the band ask is that you donate anything you can spare to the Chuck Schuldiner-approved musician’s charity Sweet Relief. It’s a great gesture and, with the band deciding to call it day and slink off into the shadows, a great way for them to close out an impressive career of evil.
Ritchie Blackmore’s return to rock action was one of the most welcome surprises of recent years. I’ve got tickets to see him in June. I’m massively excited about it and nothing’s going to change that. Which is probably just as well because Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow have now released their first new studio recordings in 20 years and the results are far from thrilling.
Land Of Hope And Glory is a band version of the classical piece that they’ve been using as the intro tape to their shows. It’s got a nice pastoral, laid-back Hank Marvin vibe going on and some tasteful playing from Ritchie. It’s… nice?
Next up is a new version of I Surrender with Ronnie Romero at the mic. The Joe Lynn Turner-era classic was notable by its absence in the Memories Of Rock: Live In Germany set so it’s interesting to finally hear what Romero does with it. The whole band delivers the song capably enough to imagine it going down well live but it’s not particularly exciting as a listening experience. And Romero is not at his best with the sexier end of Blackmore’s output. His performance here has little of JLT’s seductive bombast.
It’s tentative and disposable stuff from The World’s Greatest Guitarist®. I’m still looking forward to finally seeing The Man In Black live but if Ritchie and Rainbow are planning to put out more new music, it’ll need to be more exciting than this.
In addition to yesterday’s New Release round-up here’s one more thing you should spend some money on this weekend. The upcoming Bernie Tormé album Dublin Cowboy is available as a PledgeMusic offer and, with the offer ending on Mon 20th Feb 2017, this weekend is your last chance to get involved.
Bernie is the incredible axe wizard that played on the classic Gillan albums of the early 80s, Mr. Universe, Glory Road and Future Shock, and his playing on the Reading Festival live recordings is some of my very favourite guitar playing ever. It’s incendiary! And, if that wasn’t enough, he also played with Ozzy Osbourne and formed Desperado with Dee Snider and Clive Burr. Not to mention his excellent solo career.
And now he’s back with his latest solo album Dublin Cowboy, which is going to be a triple studio/live/acoustic release. Go to his PledgeMusic page to get your pledge in. There are a ton of options and, even if you only punt for the £12 digital version, you get access to a ton of great stuff. There are brilliant guitar playthrough videos of some awesome Gillan songs and solos. There are rare song downloads, gear breakdowns, and all sorts of memorabilia like tour itineraries and photos of him drinking Guinness and stuff like that. I’m sure the album will still be available later but it’s well worth getting involved at this Pledge stage as Bernie has really gone to town with the extras here.
Veteris is a one-man thrash metal project hailing from Glasgow. I say thrash but it’s thrash of the blackest sort: shades of Venom, early Slayer and Bathory. Right up my street, in other words. 2015’s Wolf Dawn is Veteris’ only release and the two tracks here are very impressive. It’s proper old-school primitivism and if you’ve ever wondered if the worlds of surf rock and black metal would collide… check out these guitar solos! Veteris is currently working on a full-length album to be released some time this year so I’ll be looking out for that. Lots of potential here. In the meantime, you can check out Wolf Dawn as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.
News! Links! Listening notes! That is why you are here. So without further ado…
Saxon Saxon Saxon
Well, it’s been a big fortnight for this Saxon fan. Not only did I pen a review of their BBC in Concert album there has also been the small matter of a NEW SAXON ALBUM. It just arrived on Friday there, the Battering Ram deluxe box set (see picture) with the CD, vinyl, T-Shirt (too wee) and an awesome bonus live CD Saxon over Sweden 2011! The live CD has them playing all the tracks from the Denim and Leather album so there are a good number of rarely-heard tracks on it. It’s early yet but the new album is sounding very good indeed. Maybe their strongest for many years and that’s saying something because their latter-day albums have not been weaklings. In a year when many veteran bands have started to sound distinctly doddery, the classic metal crown is Saxon’s for the taking.
Bobby Rock Goes West
Check this out, it’s a great read from former Vinnie Vincent Invasion drummer (and ripped dude) Bobby Rock about his audition for the band. I love stories from behind-the-scenes like this and this is very entertaining indeed. And any inside info on the eternal enigma that is Vinnie Vincent is always welcome. I hope Bobby does more of these.
Calling Carcass the C-Word
Here’s another article written by a musician. It’s an old post but it’s new to me and made me chuckle a lot while I was eating my bacon roll this morning. The Antichrist Imperium singer Sam Bean recollects a hilarious journalistic misadventure involving Carcass’ Jeff Walker and a particularly naughty word.
The HMO-approved doom outfit The Wounded Kings have completed their new album. It’s due for release early in 2016 and is an exciting prospect indeed. And they have a new Bandcamp page up now too where you can buy cheap downloads of their first two albums and there will be merch relating to the upcoming album available there soon too.
Actually, I’ve been listening to things I intend to review fairly soon so I don’t want to spoil the surprise here. Plenty of Saxon naturally! Apart from those, I’ve been listening to Primordial’s debut album Imrama and enjoying that. Quite a big My Dying Bride influence back then, in the vocals especially. And staying in the “miserable” spectrum of things there was some early Anathema getting played: Serenades and The Silent Enigma. Both are weighty and doleful gothic metal classics. The new Queensrÿche album Condition Hüman has been getting quite a few plays. It’s fairly good, a grower, but not really grabbing me like their last one did. But I’ve fallen hook-line-and-sinker for the Gamma Ray debut album Heading for Tomorrow though. I’ve spent a lot of my Free Time (it’s one of the things that I like) listening to it. I can guarantee it’s especially effective as a pick-me-up after a few too many Anathema albums. Or on a Monday morning. Try it!
Only a year had passed since Saxon’s 1985 Hammersmith show was broadcast on BBC Radio but Saxon invaded the UK’s airwaves yet again as their headlining slot at 1986’s Reading Festival was recorded for broadcast on the BBC Friday Rock Show. The band were touring to promote the imminent release of the Rock the Nationsalbum and, while that patchy album found them losing their Midas touch in the studio, on BBC in Concert (23rd August 1986) it sounds like they were losing none of their knack as a live act.
Sadly, the BBC didn’t air the whole set and cherry-picked just 9 songs for broadcast. Much of the broadcast has since been available on Saxon’s BBC Sessions album but this album download (available on Amazon/iTunes etc…) now presents the complete 9 song, 51 min broadcast as it was originally aired. It’s fairly heavy on the classic material and if you didn’t know what year it was from you could be forgiven for thinking this was the band in their NWOBHM pomp. Only two new songs give the game away: an excellent version of Rock the Nations that fits right in with the older material and a performance of Waiting for the Night which… doesn’t. It’s actually a pretty good version of the track but its pop rock breaks the spell cast by glorious versions of metal powerhouses like 747 (Strangers in the Night) and Wheels of Steel. On the bonus side it’s the song here that gets played least often so it’s good to hear and own a live version of it.
That one hiccup aside, the rest of the performance is impressive. The band is on winning form and the crowd sound like they’re lapping it all right up. While new bassist Paul Johnson didn’t command the stage like Steve Dawson he acquits himself well musically. Never Surrender and 20,000ft give the classic TheEagle Has Landed live album versions a run for their money and an excellent Strong Arm of the Law climaxes with a wailing Graham Oliver solo (with some Sabs and Hendrix thrown in for good measure). The real highlight, though, is a captivating The Eagle Has Landed which puts its studio counterpart firmly in the shade.
The vintage quality of this performance must have been heartening stuff for fans troubled by the recent studio albums but any hopes for a return to form would soon be dashed. The Rock the Nations album proved disappointing and, frustrated by the way the band was being managed, Nigel Glockler would leave the band at the end of the tour to join GTR. And Saxon’s next, and last, studio album for EMI would be a desparate gamble that would test the patience and loyalty of their fans more than any other yet.