There couldn’t be any other choice today. Chuck Berry was one of the original rock n’ rollers and an essential innovator in the story of rock. A phenomenally talented writer, performer and guitarist.
But which song to pick? I was thinking Reelin’ and Rockin’ or Guitar Boogie from the One Dozen Berrys album but then I remembered this amazing footage from the Heppest of the Hep Facebook page and decided to go with this. It’s an awesome performance of one of his most legendary tunes: Chuck lets rip with plenty of guitar licks and works through all his iconic stage moves too. The audience are justifiably appreciative at the end. And we should be too… a big round of applause, please, for Chuck Berry.
This week has been all about Immolation’s superb new album Atonement. This is the first song I heard from the CD and it’s my current favourite. Destructive Currents is seismic enough to deliver on the promise of its title but it’s also delivered with confident restraint so that the twisting, blackened death metal riffs have maximum impact. There have been fun releases so far this year, like Kreator’s Gods of Violence but this stuff is serious: imposing, controlled and impressive. With Atonement, Immolation has set the bar for extreme metal in 2017.
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.
Here’s a rousing track from Primordial’s new live album Gods to the Godless (Live at Bang Your Head Festival Germany 2015). I always feel like live shows are defined by the inclusion of new tracks. My memories of live performances usually revolve around the new songs that were played. For better or worse, bands seem to put extra welly into the new stuff: meaning that brilliant new songs make for an unforgettable show but weak ones will likely mar my recollections, no matter how classics-laden the show might have been. The former is definitely the case with Primordial. Four of the eleven songs here are taken from their last album Where Greater Men Have Fallen and here’s an amazing version of the title track: a burly and martial take that surpasses the studio version. Alan Nemtheanga proves himself, once again, the consummate metal frontman, and the band’s chemistry and the skill of their arrangements are even more evident in the live setting: every instrument occupying a unique space to create a massive wall of sound. Primordial, over twenty years into their career, sound like they’re determined to remain impassioned and vital until the bitter end.
[To hear the Song of the Week, click track three on the YouTube screen below. And then listen to the whole thing, you won’t regret it]
You’d expect a black metal supergroup featuring members of Immortal, Enslaved and Gorgoroth to be an all-out blaster. But, instead, their 2006 album Between Two Worlds was a more traditional affair: the band using the new project to celebrate their pre-2nd Wave influences and indulge in a bit of hero worship. Pre-2nd Wave heroes don’t get much bigger than Bathory and their mastermind Quorthon had died just two years earlier so many of the tracks here have a Bathory influence all over them. Of those, this is my favourite. It’s an epic lament which finds the world-weary Vikings riding their tired horses out “from the mountainous regions” to “where great warriors sleep”. Pillaging can be such a grind. But Warriors’ mix of bold defiance (“It’s a great day for fire”) and raging sadness is always stirring.
It’s been a dark and frosty week here in Glasgow. Perfect conditions for enjoying some black metal but I decided I needed some sunshine in my listening. Time for some synth-era 80s Maiden then! I opted for the excellent live album Maiden England ’88 and this song always stands out for me. The real magic happens 3mins in though, as the “take my hand…” bridge ratchets up the tension and the song’s tone shifts from jaunty to totally epic. Then the song cruises into the famous, roadie-enhanced “woah-oh-oh”s. This singalong section always seemed like it was devised for live performance so it’s no surprise that it works so much better here than on the Somewhere in Time studio version. The building urgency, shimmery guitar fills and Bruce’s added exhortations to the audience make it breathlessly exciting. It’s brilliant stuff that turns one of the potentially weaker songs of the set into an outright showstopper.
Welcome to a new feature: The HMO Song of the Week! Each Sunday I’ll be posting up the song that’s been lighting up my life the most in the past week: could be a new song or an old classic.
So let’s get this series off to the best possible start with one of the best possible songs: Virgin Steele’s Lion in Winter from their terrific album Age of Consent. It’s a fine example of their patented and thrilling barbaric romanticism. The Manowarring and galloping guitars provide the barbarism while the instrumental flourishes, melodic pomp and David DeFies’ impassioned vocals provide the romanticism. Here’s a man that can sing a line like “And I’ll rage against this wind” and sound like he really means it. Wonderful.