I’m gonna try to pump more of these out, so keep watching. Kind of went over the five sentence mark, but the reviews are still short and show a description for each record. In the end, it’s not so much about the score as the experience. Basically, I’m just telling you what you should expect and my personal thoughts. You are always free to make up your own. My favorites this time are definitely Rude, Saxon, Rog & Pip and Fathomhell. We’ll have another one of these up shortly.
Rude – Soul Recall (2014 SPOTLIGHT) – The first full length from California’s Rude sounds like a definite throwback to the days of good old classic death metal, like Possessed, Pestilence, Autopsy, Deceased, Entombed and Death before they went the technical route. The sound is a little low in the mix so you’ll have to turn the record up a little bit, but you should have no problem with that. Basically, this thing is going to sound like it should have been on your shelf two decades ago and you’re going to appreciate that. It’s going to sound like a long lost album from a bygone era in all of its warmness, bringing back the sound and style of those classic death metal albums that you just don’t hear anymore. There’s something about this kind of death metal that you kind of miss jumbled up in all of the core and technicality. And even though you might hear some “technicality” on this record, to me it doesn’t really sound any different than when Deceased and Death did it and it wasn’t called “technicality” back then either. It was called a song. Because musicians were concerned with playing music and not trying to make everything as simplistic to grasp as is humanly possible. I definitely recommend Soul Recall and you’ll like it even more if you’re a true death metal aficionado. It doesn’t get any more barebones than this, but it’s also just as finely crafted as the masters of the age. It takes something like this to drill in the fact that true death metal is not dead yet.
(8 Tracks, 43:00)
Saliva – Rise Up (2014) – To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything new or different from this new Saliva record. I remember when the band debuted and I was a fan back in those Nu-Metal to hard rock days, but there’s not much here to chew on that I haven’t already heard before. It’s very much a verse/chorus format with down-tuned riffs and some harsh screams in addition to a clean vocal approach that quickly jumps into the chorus. I mean, the object of Rise Up is to Rise Up right into the chorus in less than a minute. There are all sorts of different rock songs on the record, like that of party rock “Redneck Freakshow 3:17” acoustic rock “Lost 3:52” and Nu-Metal infused rap/rock. If you’re looking for an album that delivers strictly the hits and doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking, than Rise Up will definitely be the kind of album you’ll want in your stocking this year. But as for me, I’ve heard all of this before.
(12 Tracks, 43:00)
Saxon – St. George’s Day Sacrifice (Live) (2014) – Saxon is absolutely awesome. There’s no doubt about it. These English legends never seem to get as much respect as they deserve, being just as memorable as Judas Priest, Manowar and other classic heavy metal acts that we’re revered throughout the whole of time. While some of my absolute favorite Saxon songs (“Ministry Of Fools”, “Valley Of The Kings”, “Avalon”) are not featured on the disc, they did manage to play “Guardians Of The Tomb 5:04” which is definitely right up there with the aforementioned. Saxon sound just as mighty on the stage as they ever have, with Biff Byford not missing a single damn note. Rob Halford might not be able to hit those highs like he used to, but it’s wonderful to hear Biff Byford really hammering down on both new songs and old classics. The majority of the record actually does feature much older material, so I’m sure that old school Saxon fans are going to love that. And if you haven’t heard the band’s last two releases Unplugged And Strung Up and Sacrifice, you really need to get on that. There should not be a man without Saxon in his life!
(2 Discs, 21 Tracks, 2.1 Hours)
Tim Tolkki’s Avalon – Angels Of The Apocalypse (2014) – This is the first record I’ve heard from the heavy metal act and I have to say that it’s quite decent. “Jerusalem 5:33” definitely carries the spirit of classic heavy metal (albeit with slight symphonics here and there) while “Design Of The Century 4:36” seems a more electronic/operatic piece with primarily female vocals. It’s not something I expected to hear so early on, but there’s a Nightwish influence here that is impossible to deny. But no matter if the act utilizes male or female vocal touches, the record seems to convey the same “melodic metal with electronic and synths” atmosphere, which is only buffed up a little by Timo’s great guitar skills, which amount to a few powerful leads and some memorable solos. It’s a solid enough disc with a decent enough performance, but nothing compared to Timo’s work in Jorn – Lande. For fans of operatic and slightly electronic heavy metal, I think that you’ll find something here to sink your teeth into… for a while, anyway.
(11 Tracks, 52:00)
Castle – Under Siege (2014) – The new Castle release sounds just as you might expect. It’s occult rock with a slight hint of doom and some obvious stoner vibes. While taking a stroll through album opener “Distant Attack 3:53” I’m especially hearing a slew of guitar solos, almost to the point of one after another and it sounds quite refreshing. It’s a record where melody plays just as much a part on the guitar as it does in the vocal element, with the crunch of doom not lagging far behind. There are even some reminiscent Ozzy vocal staples coming from the frontwoman, like the “Alright now!” that she says at the beginning of “Pyramid Lake 4:24.” But Sabbath Worship is definitely a good thing, especially when done with the approach offered up here. The band certainly did a fantastic job with this one and I’m sure that Castle sound even better live. Be sure to give this one a listen if you haven’t already. It’s short, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
(8 Tracks, 34:00)
Art Far Away – Verisimilitude & The Second Estate (2014) – This incredibly young Swedish act has had their fair share of troubles up until the release of this album, which is technically their debut. They first opened up for Swedish legends Dismember and were known for playing great melodic death, but have switched up into the new school with this release. The band recorded one prior to it, but it never saw the light of day because the label that was going to release it went under. They decided to scrap it and create this rather muscular mix of metalcore and melodic death metal, which sounds like the banner of melodic death metal retooled for today’s generation. While we’ll never know what they had to offer us at first, this record will surely elicit several hits and misses due to its decidedly new school approach. Adam Dahlman proves that he still has the throat for traditional Swedish melodic death, but fused into this new school sound the whole thing comes off rather differently. I’m sure Dismember might wonder what the heck happened, but fans of the current scene will find something very interesting here. If you can get around some of the core, technical precisions and djent riffs, you’ll find some semblances of the old band’s nature intact. The band said that they wanted to create something a little different, but it sounds like to me that they’re tugging on the coat tails of several other popular acts in the scene right now. But that will be sure to give them exposure as I’m sure these guys know what’s hip in the scene right now. If you’re an old head, you’re going to want to avoid this shit like the plague; but I’ve definitely heard this style done worse and with less structure. The experience is really hit or miss for me, but I’d definitely recommend it to the current generation of metalheads. There’s far worse shit out there than these guys that you could be listening to.
(12 Tracks, 49:00)
Fathomhell – KvrX (and Non Pietatem Erit bonus tracks) (2014) – Fathomhell is a rather promising melodic black metal act, which here displays their first EP Kvrx and the Non Pietatem Est demo material. While I found this year’s Kvrx a solid EP release due to its excessively dark feel which feels true to the spirit of black metal (not to mention the frontman’s demonic vocal approach) I feel that the material on the included demo is a bit stronger. The production is a bit better on the EP, but the rawer sound featured in the demo seems to really convey that sense of black metal a bit more. Both releases are incredibly strong however and offer up a cavalcade of fiery tremolos amongst the nearly endless blasts and vocal stylings that make it sound as if the frontman has been possessed by the great old ones. It’s definitely a memorable performance and one of the better raw black metal records that I’ve heard this year. Fathomhell have a lot of potential and I definitely can’t wait to hear what other evils they are cooking up in that large iron pot right now. Let me know when the brew’s ready.
(9 Tracks, 40:00)
Hashed Out – Hashed Out EP (2014) – This powerviolence, crust or punk-metal act (whatever the hell you want to call it) proves a rather punchy performance on this small, yet devastating album. There’s definitely as much thrash influence here as punk and even some core – it’s definitely the kind of balls out, in your face kind of music that would sound great live on the stage. And the kicker is that these guys also don’t mind adding in a little bit of blues and doom to the mix, which is somewhat backed by a growl (which kind of accentuates the animosity a little) and ultimately ends up as a rather solid showcase of the act’s skills. This is a band that should do great things in the scene. It’s apparent who their influences are from the first couple tracks and they’re doing a great job retooling those influences into something that’s just as brackish, but in their own way. They’re not quite punk, not quite thrash, not quite doom and not quite powerviolence, crust or whatever other title you want to throw at them. If you’re looking to let loose a little steam, then definitely give this little EP a purchase. It should be a little cheaper now that it’s the holiday season. But even so, it’s an EP and they’re usually not all that expensive. And if you can, go see them live because I think this could be a memorable little set.
(6 Tracks, 15:00)
Horrid – Sacrilegious Fornication (2014) – Italy’s Horrid are back with another slab of classic death metal in Sacrilegious Fornication, which doesn’t really add anything new to the pot, but sounds like traditional Swedish death metal in the vein of Entombed, Grave and others in that gamut. It’s a no-brainer as to how this record will sound when you put it in your CD player and I’m sure that you don’t even need this short review to tell you whether or not you should purchase it. Basically we’ve got your standard mouthful of gravel, ravenous guitars full of chunk and slaughter, as well as drumming performance that ultimately says to the listener, “We play classic death metal.” If you’re the kind of person who needs something new to add to his slabs of graveyard hymns, then I’m sure this exercise in demonism funneled through the brutality of death metal will be just what you’re asking for. I’ve heard much better, but these guys have been doing it for many a year now and it’s just good to hear them going back out there and bringing the classic sound back again. Definitely recommended for the old heads. You already know who you are and what this will sound like.
(8 Tracks, 34:00)
Rog & Pip – Our Revolution (2014) – Finally, I’ve got Rog & Pip, a real blast from the past that actually consists of several tracks recorded during the seventies. As you might expect, it sounds a little classic; but the production quality certainly has survived the nearly four decade jump to the modern age, and it reminds me of those days where you could turn on the radio and actually hear music that was worth listening to. While giving this thing a second listen, I find it really odd that these guys never caught on, especially with such great tracks like the opener “Why Won’t You Do What I Want?” and the awesome “Gold.” That one might actually have to go on my personal playlist and I feel no guilt towards that decision. Why, with a deep emotion and powerful chorus as that one, you don’t even expect it to go along with some of the more rocking tunes on the disc. The bottom line is that these guys had so much potential and if you’re an old school rocker, this is the one you want. Just face it, rock music doesn’t sound like this anymore and this is going to bring back a flood of emotions for you if you were alive when it did. Definitely get your hands on this one if you love classic rock from the seventies and especially for “Gold” which hit me hard the first time I heard it too.
(12 Tracks, 40:00)