Time for another merciless whittling-down of the day’s new releases and reissues.
Winterfylleth – The Hallowing Of Heirdom
Now on a new label, Spinefarm, the UK black metal faves have decided to go completely acoustic for their latest album. After the slightly-disappointing The Dark Hereafter it’s a welcome change of tack. And if you know the band’s catalogue you’ll know that if any band can pull this off, they can. I’ve only listened to a brief snippet and it sounded great, reminding me of Ulver’s brilliant Kveldssanger. Get the 2CD version if you want maximum tuneage.
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Memories In Rock II
The World’s Greatest Guitarist continues milking his recent return to rock with this third, yes third, live release. There is a (fairly average) new song here at least, and the Jap version also includes the two “new” songs that they released digitally last year. The DVD seems to be just interviews and docs rather than the live set. I kinda want it as a memento for seeing them last year but it seems pretty surplus to requirements at the moment.
And that’s the lot for me today. There is also the hotly-tipped Feast Of Water from Messa but that’s not really up my street. But I mention it for all the doom-botherers out there because I am a benevolent HMOverlord. Give us some chat in the comments about what you’re buying or not buying today.
I finally made the sacred pilgrimage to see The World’s Greatest Guitarist®. My expectations had been lowered after seeing the enjoyable but sluggish Memories In Rock footage and then hearing the banal single released a few weeks back but… Ritchie F. Blackmore! It was incredibly exciting to know I was finally going to, not just see him play live, but see him play rock.
The band’s recent recording of Land Of Hope And Glory played over the PA before the “we must be over the rainbow” sample heralded the band’s arrival on stage. Opening with HMO fave Spotlight Kid rather than Highway Star was a good move. Blackmore played tentatively and awkwardly but come the closing outro of the next song I Surrender he was warming up. He was taking some shortcuts in his lead and rhythm playing throughout the night but given his age (and arthritis?) it’s unfair to expect the intensity of his youth. He still played well and had that mercurial, unique quality. It was great to hear his instantly recognisable guitar voice in person.
The band was good too. A definite improvement on the 2016 footage/recordings with a much more convincing performance from the rhythm section in particular. Ronnie Romero was in superb voice and an entertaining, personable frontman. He suits some songs more than others but he was impressive all night. He’s a huge talent and a great find.
My only quibbles were an interminably long keyboard solo and some overly shrill shrieking in Child In Time, a song I can’t be arsed with at the best of times anyway. And, although it’s good to hear Blackmore playing them, I wasn’t too fussed about hearing other Purple stuff like Black Night and Smoke On The Water either. That said, some of the sets best moments came from the Purple albums: a stunning version of Burn and a very moving Soldier Of Fortune. The Rainbow selections were similar to previous shows with the welcome addition of I Surrender,All Night Long and a hugely unexpected and wonderful Temple Of The King. But the mighty Stargazer remains the absolute standout track of the set: epic metal bliss delivered with deadly conviction by Romero. Goosebumps.
Ultimately, I went to see a guitarist whose music and playing I have obsessed over for years. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I was often thrilled and excited. That’s pretty good going. Age and arthritis be damned, Blackmore is still the man.
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.
Friday was a big new release day with a few new albums I’ve been looking forward to… so I had a bit of a buying extravaganza!
First up was the new Danzig album Black Laden Crown. I’ve been reading quite a lot of people talking about how “surprisingly good” this one is. Well, given that Deth Red Sabaoth was excellent, I’m one of the few people that thought Skeletons was good fun and… it’s GLENN F. DANZIG(!) I can’t say I’m all that surprised that this is good. The only thing that was causing me any doubt was the rather shite artwork. And even then, I’ve grown mysteriously fond of the fiery John Travolta on the back. Anyway, this is dark, moody and doomy with some killer grooves and riffs. Surprisingly good!
Next up, the new Avatarium album Hurricanes And Halos. This band has become a modern favourite of mine and, although it’s not fully sunk in yet, this album sounds like an interesting progression of their style. They’ve now dropped pretty much all of the Dehumanizer heft of the debut and gone full Uriah Heep, with tons of driving Hammond, heavy psychedelia and eeeasy livin’. Loads of stellar playing topped off with Jennie-Ann Smith’s wonderful voice.
I headed back from the record store happy and then remembered that the new Sólstafir album Berdreyminn was out too. So, I immediately rushed back out to Fopp to pick that up! It’s a lovely box set with umm… trinkets… and (more importantly) bonus tracks. It sounds like it’s going to be another winner from them, although it’ll take a few listens to fully reveal itself. Seems a bit more rocking than Ótta but still sweeping and lush. Not totally grabbing me yet though, more listens required.
While we’re on the subject of new arrivals I had a couple of cool releases delivered just a couple of days ago too. Hear No Evil have put out this new expanded remaster of the last (for now anyway) Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album Stranger In Us All. This has always been a big gap in the collection so it’s great to finally have a copy.
And I also got this very exciting new Tygers Of Pan Tang box set The MCA Years which features the band’s NWOBHM-era albums (two of which star Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake axe legend John Sykes) and a bonus disc/booklet too. I’ve got a few albums on vinyl already but it’s nice to get the rest of the bands old albums. And there’s plenty of extra tracks and BBC stuff here to sweeten the deal. Caroline and Cherry Red both seem to have had the same idea to box up old NWOBHM albums lately. I heartily approve. Here are all the ones I’ve bought so far (I think this is all of them so far but let me know if I’ve missed any. They seem to be coming thick and fast!)
Well, that’s the lot. This was a great week of buying for me with three albums here that could all realistically appear on my AOTY list. I’m off to do some listening!
I know most metal fans prefer the Dio-fronted Rainbow but round these parts Joe Lynn Turner rules. So here’s a superb version of the classic Rainbow track I Surrender. It’s taken from the Live in Japan 1984 double live album that was made available recently as bonus discs with the Ritchie Blackmore Story box set. It’s a bonus extra that outstrips the main feature easily. Listening to Ritchie Blackmore reminiscing about his career is one thing: listening to him play is another entirely. And if you’ve never listened to The Man in Black’s live playing, you’ve never really heard him at all. No criticism of his studio output – it’s adorned with legendary guitar work – but this is a man that likens studio recording to “being at the dentists”. Unshackled from the studio, his playing reaches a transcendent level of inspiration and excitement. The whole band is on great form here, especially Joe Lynn Turner who sings with passion and commitment. But Blackmore grabs this great AOR track by the balls, lifting it to another level with one of his ingeniously messy, improvisational and thrilling solos. There’s a tag I use on this site: The World’s Greatest Guitarist. It’s reserved for The Man in Black and performances like this are why.
Greg Lake’s passing has cast a right pall over the HMO Mission Control this week. There’s only one thing for it… some retail therapy. Get some music down ye!
Terra – Mors Secunda
UK black metallers Terra release the follow-up to their debut Untitled. Two dark and atmostpheric epics with some uplifting crescendos but mostly dank, raw, dirty and rhythmic. I singled their drummer Luke Braddick out for praise last year and he excels himself again here with a dynamic and intense performance. Worth checking out if you’re a fan of bands like Wolves in the Throne Room.
Deep Purple – California Jam 1974
The film of Purple’s legendary headliner restored for a new release on Blu Ray and DVD. If you don’t have it, this is a totally essential performance. Blackmore’s climatic solo is the stuff of rock legend, both in terms of music and antics. As well as the restorative spit and polish this version has supposedly been re-edited with different camera angles and stuff like that. Not sure that’s enough for me to buy it again but this is worth getting if you’ve never seen it, or if there’s a big Deep Purple fan in your life that you need to buy a Xmas gift for (cough).
Isengard – Traditional Doom Cult
A new Darkthrone album, then an archive release from them and now this! Fenriz fans (and that’s everyone surely?) really are getting spoiled rotten these days. Here are two unheard recordings from his old Bathory-esque side project on a sexy 7” single. Might be a bit of a barrel-scraper but I’ll bite. I’ve got this pre-ordered and if all this Fenriz-related activity keeps up I might have to just arrange a direct debit straight into his bloody bank account.
Root – Hell Symphony
Root’s new album came out recently and I said that, because I only have their debut, I’d rather get more of their older stuff first. Well, the Eternal Death label, were apparently paying attention because here’s a reissue of their second album (on CD and vinyl) with extra live tracks. Bugger. They went to all this bother so I’m going to have to buy this now aren’t I?
The Doors – London Fog 1966
Fog! This week’s over-egged and over-priced award goes to the new release from The Doors. Fog fog! It’s a recording of a very early show called London Fog 1966 and the set has both the CD and LP in it FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER and all sorts of trinkets and tat just to pop the price up. Fog Fog Fog! It’s also got a track on it called Tuning. I’m sure that’ll be exciting.
And on top of all this there’s also the new Gnaw Their Tongues album Hymns for the Broken, Swollen and Silent. I didn’t really “get” their last album so I’ll probably pass but I do feel like I’m maybe missing out on something. Shape of Despair’s album Monotony Fields had a buzz about it last year. Seems like it might be up my street but I still haven’t got round to checking it out. And now here’s Alone in the Mist, an album of their old demos from when they were called Raven. I’m sure I’ll catch up with all this stuff eventually… when Fenriz gives me some time off.
And that’s the lot for this week. Let me know if there’s anything cool I’ve missed and if there’s anything you’re rushing out to buy today. Happy hunting!
Here’s an upcoming release that manages to bring together a lot of my favourite things: music documentary DVDs, live albums, concert DVDs and… the world’s greatest ever guitarist (accept no substitutes) Ritchie Blackmore!
On November 6th 2015, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release The Ritchie Blackmore Story on various formats. The one that interests me most is the 2DVD/2CD edition that, in addition to the documentary on the great man, will also include a live Rainbow concert on DVD and the CDs: the first official release of the 1984 concert recording Live in Tokyo.
Exciting stuff. I’ve not paid much attention to Ritchie’s musical output since he formed Blackmore’s Night but I will always remain a huge fan of his guitar playing and his work with Rainbow and Deep Purple. There was an excellent documentary on Purple frontman/legend Ian Gillan a few years back called Highway Star. Unsurprisingly, Blackmore was mentioned a lot in that but was not interviewed for it. This documentary will be an interesting counterpoint to the Gillan doc I’m sure.
And to add to all the Ritchie excitement he has also announced a return to the world of Heavy Rock with some concerts. Details are a bit sketchy but supposedly these shows will be a best of Rainbow and Purple but the where, when and who all remains a mystery so far. Not like The Man in Black to be so mysterious!
A lot to look forward to for Blackmore fans but, in the meantime, here’s one of my favourite Rainbow tunes for ya. (And one of my favourite keyboard solos while we’re at it too!) Enjoy.