Tag Archives: Stirrings

Thus Defiled – A Return To The Shadows (Review)

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.

Saxon – Dogs Of War (Review)

Saxon – Dogs Of War (1995)

Saxon tried to learn their lesson from the rushed and patchy Forever Free album. They took a bit more time over the follow-up and headed back to Germany’s Karo Studio and the production team that proved so successful with Solid Ball Of Rock back in 1991. That album was a return to hard rocking form for the band but still found them moving forward, albeit in a fan-friendly fashion. While Solid Ball Of Rock was mostly full of good time AC/DC-style stompers, 1995’s Dogs Of War was an edgier affair and much more redolent of the band’s older style. But, for one member of the band, this album would be the last.

Fans of Saxon’s warrior epics like Power And The Glory and Battle Cry will delight in the opening title-track. It’s a total belter with a chunky, ballsy sound and an explosively thrilling chorus. It’s the albums best track and the only enduring classic here but the rest of the album is far from disappointing. If you know anything about Saxon you’ll know that when they start singing about vehicles it’s game on! And Burning Wheels and Big Twin Rolling (Coming Home) are loud and dirty transport rockers that take you right back to classic albums like Wheels Of Steel. And as well as recalling the classic days, Saxon also keep things fresh with some tastefully incorporated contemporary elements too: The Great White Buffalo is a moody, swampy epic and Don’t Worry has a rootsy, almost-grungy feel but climaxes with mesmerising guitar work that is pure, classic Saxon.

It’s impressive stuff but the album isn’t without its wobbles. Walking Through Tokyo is a blundering low point and a couple of enjoyable but essentially forgettable closing tracks find the album running out of steam. But it’s a minor quibble when there are so many great tracks here. Even Hold On, a potential mis-step with it’s Jovi-esque feel and Tommy & Gina lyrics, ends up being feelgood fun with a killer arena-ready chorus.

In a challenging era when British metal bands were generally falling by the wayside or falling apart, Saxon had rediscovered their fighting form, releasing their strongest, grittiest, most traditionally metal album since their glory days. But, as well as taking on the world, they were also squabbling among themselves. The relationship between frontman Biff Byford and guitarist Graham Oliver was faltering and some of the guitarist’s work on Dogs Of War had reportedly been re-recorded by a session guitarist. And when an unauthorised release of the band’s first Donington set was traced back to the guitarist, he was dismissed from the band. The loss of this talented musician and charismatic performer in such acrimonious circumstances was a blow to fans but they could take heart in the fact that – with this enjoyable, overlooked metal banger – Saxon were finally sounding like their old selves again.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Dokken – When Heaven Comes Down (Song Review)

“I don’t know who to believe”

Been on a proper Dokken kick lately so here’s the ace moody rokker When Heaven Comes Down, taken from their classic second album Tooth And Nail. Don’t really need to say much about this one do I? It’s all there: epic Kashmir-esque drama, big riffs, classy and tasteful vocals from Don Dokken and a guitar solo from George Lynch that is equally classy and tasteful too (with a smidgen of widdly thrown in for good measure). Shokkenly good.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Omen – Be My Wench (Song Review)

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“Bearing the gifts of sex and wine”

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.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen: Live (Song Review)

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“And all you did was count the dead”

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.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

[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]

 

I – Warriors (Song Review)

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“Head to the battlefields”

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.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

Iron Maiden – Heaven Can Wait: Live (Song Review)

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“I’ll go when I’m good and ready”

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.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

Virgin Steele – Lion in Winter (Song Review)

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Virgin Steele – Age of Consent (1988)

“Never set the sun on me”

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.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

[Virgin Steele – Lion in Winter]

The HMO Top 5 Songs of 2016

No new releases to speak of today so here’s some bonus fun: the HMO Top 5 Songs of 2016. These are the five songs that stood out and stuck in my mind the most, and the ones that I think will most remind me of 2016 when I look back.

Abbath – To War! (from Abbath)

A classic black metal rampage that could have come straight off Immortal’s essential Sons of Northern Darkness album. And the opening riff! Total genius.

Akercocke – Inner Sanctum (from Speed Kills VII)

The return of the legendary Akercocke was proof that 2016 wasn’t all bad. Just classic Ak through and through, raising my excitement for their 2017 comeback album to fever pitch.

Gojira – Stranded (from Magma)

Magma wasn’t a totally consistent release but it made my Top 10 albums on the strength of some especially brilliant songs. And this audaciously simple instant-classic was the best of the lot.

Anaal Nathrakh – Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion (from The Whole of the Law)

The chorus of the year right here. Enjoy it cause the rest of the track is insanely violent. But with a title like that, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

But the HMO Song of the Year 2016 award goes to…

The King is Blind – Mesmeric Furnace (from Our Father)

This is a deep cut and we’re firmly in goosebump territory here. This track just oozes class. Epic, euphoric, monolithic, climatic. THIS is how you close an album.

And that rounds up 2016 for HMO. Thanks for reading and best wishes to you all for 2017!

Danzig – Skeletons (Review)

Glenn sees your "Dad-bod" and raises you a "Danz-bod"
Glenn sees your “Dad-bod” and raises you a “Danz-bod”

The covers albums is almost always a dodgy proposition but I couldn’t help but hold out some hope for Danzig’s Skeletons. Partly because… Glenn F. Danzig! But also cause I knew the Evil Elvis was going to choose some interesting material to put through the metal wringer. And it’s the choice of material that saves Skeletons from being a total stinker. The performances are pretty ropey: flat vocals, lifeless drums and relentless guitar squealies along with a flabby sound that’s devoid of dynamics. There are dicey renditions of Sabbath’s N.I.B, Aerosmith’s Lord of the Thighs and ZZ Top’s Rough Boy, while a surprising choice, sounds like your drunken Dad commandeering the microphone at a wedding. Dad, stop! But Danzig gets bonus points for doing all these tracks his own way and, when you’ve got Glenn M. F. Danzig doing The Everly Brothers’ Crying in the Rain, it’s hard not to get a kick out of that… however much it sounds like the karaoke of your darkest fears. It’s worth having Skeletons just for that and its opening trio of tunes: Dave Allan and the Arrows’ Devil’s Angels is bashed out in delightfully Misfits-y style; the obscure soundtrack curio Satan (Theme from Satan’s Sadists) is brilliant and tailor-made for Glenn – “I was born mean, by the time I was 12 I was killing, killing for Satan”; and his cover of Elvis’ Let Yourself Go is a stomping taster for his planned Elvis EP. It’s definitely for fans-only but, for them, it’s a flawed-but-loveable glimpse into the great Fonzig’s interesting and eclectic influences. And if you’re not singing “I was borrrrn mean…” in the shower every day after hearing this, you’re a better man than me.

HMO Rating: 2.5 out of 5