Tag Archives: HMO Hall of Fame

Scorpions – In Trance (Review)

Original cover image – with boob!

In Trance was the Scorpions’ third album, their first of many with producer Dieter Dierks and their first proper hard rocker. But we’re still back in the Uli Roth years here so there’s a strange mix of styles and moods. There are real driving, hard-hitters like Dark Lady and Top Of The Bill but there are also many songs like Life’s Like A River and Living And Dying that are mystical, almost-psychedelic and loaded with melancholy. Two different kinds of heavy, basically. Scorpions’ circa 1975 show off a complex mix of styles and influences: Uli Roth’s post-Hendrix, pre-Malmsteen guitar mastery; the mellow wistfulness of UFO’s Phenomenon; the epic scope, bludgeon and layered vocal harmonies of Uriah Heep and Queen and a distinctly European/power metal vibe. The combination of Rudolf Schenker’s granite riffs and Uli Roth’s scorching leads create real sparks and edge that never appeared in other incarnations of the band. There’s so just so much to love here and tracks like the bombastic pomp-rocker In Trance and the bonkers cyber-metaller Robot Man just never get old. The Scorpions would score big later with a simpler, streamlined metal style so this strange and formative early effort isn’t in the hallmark Scorps style but it is one of their best and the album, and era, I return to the most. By a long way. And that’s why it’s the first of the Germans’ albums to make it into the HMO Hall Of Fame.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[Scorpions – Robot Man]

My copy – paired with the also-incredible Virgin Killer
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Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract

Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract (1993)

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 Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Impossible Dream (Review)

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A superb album cover too!

Alex Harvey was not only one of Scotland’s most legendary rockers, he was also steeped in showbiz. This album, his third with SAHB, came out in ’74 but Alex had been around in music and theatre since the late 50s. He formed his “Sensational” band, with members of prog rockers Tear Gas, in the early 70s and often referred to them in terms of movies and the stage: he was their director. And The Impossible Dream is their most theatrical and cinematic album, the culmination of Harvey’s decades of experience.  It’s comparable to Alice Cooper’s School’s Out: an adventurous extravaganza. From the tribal, comic book stomp of Vambo and Man in the Jar‘s gonzo noir to the dancehall Sergeant Fury, the skittery blues of Weights Made of Lead and the riffing pirate yarn Tomahawk Kid this album is a total romp. Yo ho ho! And as Anthem closes the album out, it’s extremely moving too. It’ll make ye greet.

HMO Rating: 5 out of 5

[The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Tomahawk Kid]

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… unless you were in the US, in which case you got this shiter.

Magnum – Wings of Heaven

Magnum - Wings of Heaven (1988)
Magnum – Wings of Heaven (1988)

Chase the Dragon and On a Storyteller’s Night are the sturdier, rockier picks of the Magnum back catalogue but they reached their peak of life-affirming, pop rock joy with Wings of Heaven: one of the most feelgood albums ever created. Tony Clarkin writing simple, catchy AOR rockers par excellence delivered with winning passion and panache by the ever-lovable Bob Cately. Boaby sings like he would take bullets for Magnum. “It’s a flame that keeps burning… everLASTing torrrchhhh!”, “Too old to die young, too big to cry… MAMA!” The guy’s a total hero. As soon as he chimes in on genius opener Days of No Trust (“Pray to the future…”) you are on your feet. The album continues with the vista of Wild Swan and the sublime power pop of Start Talking Love. Classics all. Different Worlds is a mid-album lull but Pray for the Day and the WWI epic Don’t Wake the Lion (Too Old to Die Young) end the album with weight and compassion: breathtaking, heartrending but still triumphant, mighty and melodic. It’s a colossal climax to an excellent album. File this in your collection alongside your Jovi, Lep and Whitesnake and it won’t be long before it steals your heart. A heavenly magnum opus.

[Magnum – Days of No Trust]

Celtic Frost – Monotheist

Two Monotheists... a Duotheist?
Two Monotheists… a Duotheist?

One day a theatre critic had been invited for dinner. He hinted that, having watched a play in which [Klaus] Kinski had a small role, he would mention him as outstanding and extraordinary. At once, Kinski threw two hot potatoes and the cutlery into his face. He jumped up and screamed: I was not outstanding! I was not extraordinary! I was monumental! I was epochal!

– Werner Herzog, My Best Fiend

Every time I think about Monotheist I think about Herzog’s story about the actor Klaus Kinski. Celtic Frost’s 2006 comeback album is not simply outstanding. Or excellent. It is monumental! It is epochal!

It’s also pulverising, esoteric, gothic, grand, terrifying, seductive and totally dark. Monotheist doesn’t let up until its Nuremberg Rally climax in Synagoga Satanae gives way to the beautiful strings of Winter: Requiem.

I’ve been listening to it again as I just bought the new reissue on vinyl. It sounds great and, as an added bonus, it features a different bonus track to my old CD version. The CD had a track called Temple of Depression and this edition replaces that with Incantation Against You. The vinyl version has a better, more varied, flow. Temple of Depression was always a touch samey to me, creating a mid-album lull. But, even then, Monotheist is so monumental etc… that I want every track I can get my hands on from it. It’s the best album released this millennium. You don’t get much more epochal than that.

[Celtic Frost – Ain Elohim]

Ulver – Bergtatt [Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler]

Warning: Trolls
Warning: Trolls

Bergtatt, the title of Ulver’s 1995 debut, doesn’t seem to have an exact translation to English. In the album’s liner notes it’s translated as both “Spellbound” and “Mountain-taken” which is the literal translation*. It’s a Norwegian term for people (usually maidens I imagine) that have been lured into the hills by particularly alluring trolls and other assorted faerie folk, never to return! The music is appropriately seductive, alluring and magical: the album is laden with dreamy acoustic guitars, flutes and soothing Gregorian chant singing. There’s excellent, raw black metal throughout as well but, even then, the orchestrated layers of guitar don’t shatter the dreamy allure: Ulver aiming for a panoramic, classical vibe rather than the usual evil aggression. It’s a debut so fully realised that the band immediately moved on from the style but Bergtatt has proven to be inescapably influential. In 1995 this was a unique album but so many bands have followed in its dreamy, progressive footsteps since that, if it was released today, it would be more relevant than ever. It’s ageless rock n troll.

*In English the full album title is Mountain-taken: A Fairy Tale in 5 Chapters

[Ulver – Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild or Chapter I : Lost in a Forest of Trolls]

A Troll: Alluring and Seductive
A Troll: Alluring and Seductive

Alice Cooper – Killer

Big Killer and Baby Killer (Rhino LP and CD from the Studio Albums box set)
Big Killer and Baby Killer (Rhino LP and CD from the Studio Albums box set)

Trying to catch up with some old favourites so I gave this a spin tonight. One of my all-time favourites and an album that always hits the spot. The original Alice Cooper band released a bunch of brilliant albums but this is the cream of the crop. If I wanted to show someone how incredible and unique this band was, this would be Exhibit A. No slight on the albums that followed but on School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies you start to get into the whole Boaby Ezrin theatrical production numbers whereas, even at its most far-out, Killer is straight-up garage rock n’ roll all the way. And it’s just awesome: cars, telephones, come-ons, spies, teenagers, a cowboy that’s really Jim Morrison, bad parenting, murder and a watch that turns into a lifeboat. Killer, right enough.

[Alice Cooper – You Drive Me Nervous]