Not a lot going on this week but the release schedule is not totally devoid of intrigue. There is a new album The Banished Heart from gothic doom types Oceans Of Slumber and the new album Resurrection from Michael Schenker Fest. Neither are must-buy slam dunks for me but definitely worth checking out.
And, not a new release as such, but HMO-faves Voices have unveiled a new track entitled Dead Feelings. During the week the band FINALLY announced the details of the follow-up to their colossal 2014 album London. It’ll be out on April 27th and will be called Frightened. You will be.
That’s all the excitements for this week, let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’re all hyped about today. Some big releases next week. See you then.
Finding their label Music For Nations wanting, presumably puny, Manowar used the budget they were given to record their third album, 1984’s Hail to England, but used it sparingly: covertly working up an additional batch of tracks which they then used to win a record deal with Virgin/Ten Records. Sneakiness aside, Manowar achieved a heroic feat. They had recorded two of the very greatest albums in the history of heavy metal… at the same time.
So here’s the second of those peerless works, Sign Of The Hammer. It’s pure heavy metal, but Manowar’s explosive and idiosyncratic idea of what that might be. Joey DeMaio leads from the front with his humungous bass riffs and leads but the whole band is on stellar form. Eric Adams sings with absolute authority and commitment, Ross The Boss’ wild, off-the-cuff guitar solos are impossibly exciting and Scott Columbus pounds out the drum equivalent of shouting “FRESH HORSES” at the top of your voice. The songwriting is also godly, with opening lines like “black clouds on the horizon” and “burning embers of the second death will come in the night” 100% guaranteed to give all but the false true metal stirrings.
The album is near flawless. All Men Play On Ten and Animals kick the album off like KISS-on-steroids. Thor (The Power Head) is as thunderous and warring as its title suggests. Mountains is elemental in its epic scope and the black wind conjured up in The Oath and the Sign Of The Hammer tips the album into sheer aural chaos. There’s only one chink in the armour here and that’s the bass noodling of Thunderpick. It’s extremely skippable but, as always with Manowar, there’s mad genius at work as the workout proves to be an effective overture to the sublime album closer Guyana (Cult Of The Damned). Eric Adams excels here, delivering an account of mass suicide with chilling and heartbreaking sincerity.
This album has hopped around the top spot of my favourite albums of all time for decades now, vying with that other work of genius Hail To England. There are times when I seriously wonder if I’ve wasted my time listening to other music when I could have been listening to this and, listening to it again now, I reckon I probably was.
I relaunched these New Releases posts with the intention of being ruthlessly selfish in my coverage, only highlighting the new stuff that I’m genuinely interested in. I told myself that I would know I was doing this right if there were weeks where there was absolutely nothing worth covering. So, just a few weeks into the relaunch, it seems I’m doing it right. Cause there’s hee haw bugger aw* out today!
The quandary then is, what do I do when this happens? I reckon I’ll just post a tune or two. So here’s a fantastic song from In Solitude’s Sister album. I mentioned this album in my recent review of Tribulation’sDown Below and it occurred to me that some folk might not know about it. Sister was my top album of 2013 (before I started posting about such things). I reckon it’s an overlooked masterpiece that not enough people know about. Although, in fairness, the band didn’t exactly help matters by splitting up not long after it was released.
[In Solitude – Pallid Hands]
Any new stuff you’re interested in today? Let me know in the comments. Hope you all have a great weekend.
There’s a metric shit-ton of stuff out today. Probably. I wouldn’t really know, because all I care about is Saxon! Are there any Saxon albums out today? YOU BET THERE ARE.
Saxon – Thunderbolt
Saxon continue to pump out consistently good to great metal albums these days, with just enough curveballs thrown to keep things from getting stale. Here’s the latest. I listened to the title track precisely once and I’ve avoided any other previews so this will all be exciting and new to me. Various versions as always… the big super cashectomy box has the same songs repeated over and over on different formats along with a bunch of knick-knacks. The main bonus seems to be a live bootleg disc that you can get in the aforementioned box, or via a few of the options on their PledgeMusic page.
And that’s it! The only release that matters today. I’ve got to say, 2018 has got off to a pretty amazing start. Three albums out already (Watain, Tribulation and hopefully Saxon) that are all likely AOTY contenders. Not too shabby.
Let me know what you’re buying today in the comments. Up for some Saxon or is there something else you’ve got yer eye on?
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 my top pick from this band’s impressive discography.
The last time I encountered the UK’s Formicarius was back in December when they contributed a track Lake of the Dead to the excellent compilation Speed Kills VII. Back then I called them “very promising” and I’m glad to report that, with Black Mass Ritual, they have delivered on that promise and then some.
Formicarius go medievil on your ass with their debut album, dishing out Cradle of Filth-style symphonic metal with power metal exuberance. The whirling atmosphere, rib-cracking riffs and exotic solos sound like Mustaine and Friedman jamming with Emperor, the potent speed metal velocity, galloping bass and catchy choruses bring to mind early Helloween and there’s a folky bent to the riffs and instrumentation that reminds me of the classic Skyclad albums.
All the performances are outstanding, from Lord Saunders’ articulate Abbath-esque croak to Morath’s grand and eloquent keyboard embellishments and solos (check out the excellent outro piano on Overlord, a standout moment). The songwriting is also uniformly excellent. An overly jaunty riff in Abhorrent Feast of Minds is the only thing close to a mis-step and it’s soon forgiven as Master of Past and Present closes the album on a dark, dramatic high.
It’s a fantastic debut: rampaging, grand black metal with a healthy dose of epic tradition and fearless creativity. In a year where I’ve been mainly knocked out by death metal albums, Formicarius have struck a decisive blow for black metal. And they’ve done it with an album that is all kinds of metal fun for all kinds of metal fans. The Black Mass Ritual begins on July 21st, don’t miss out.
Tired of crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and all that? Why not let off some steam with Omen’s Be My Wench? This is top metal cobblers, it’s got a chorus that you’ll never get out of your head and it’s also got the kind of raunchy lyrics that most po-faced modern bands wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. But if you’re going to do Conan metal there needs to be some shagging in there. It’s the barbarian way.