Can you name five good things to come out of Newcastle Upon Tyne? AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson, Black Metal band Venom, Trillians Rock Club and the ubiquitous Newcastle Brown Ale are all I could think of until recently. Then when I heard the album from Geordie Metal band Def Con One they were added to my list too.
Following on from their five track EP released last year (titled simply 'Def Con One'), comes their debut full length album – twelve solid slabs of Metal, for those who like it hard and heavy. First up here is the relentless tones of 'Never Look Back', which contains some furious drumming courtesy of Antton Lant (yes, the very same Antton from Heavy Metal legends, Venom) as well as a killer riff from guitarist Johnny Hunter.
This track really doesn't let up for a second and is a great opener for the album. Vocalist Davey Meikles rallying call to the 'March Of The Dead' repeated over and over again announces the next track. 'March Of The Dead' is actually one of three presented here which also appeared on the band's 2011 EP – thankfully for those who didn't manage to get hold of the EP, as this is a truly excellent track.
It does have a similar sound to that of Pantera with its heavy riff and solid drumbeat, but at times Meikle's voice sounds more like (the late) Layne Staley from Alice In Chains. Certainly this track is a firm favourite of mine already – so good, in fact, that I was caught singing along to it in the office!
Title track 'Warface' is, put simply, a full-on Metal extravaganza. Lant provides a solid beat whilst once again Hunter's guitar riff reigns supreme. You can almost imagine Meikle spitting the lyrics into the microphone during the recording, whilst bass player Steve Miller keeps the band in check with his solid bass line.
Listening to it, it's easy to see why this was chosen as the title track of the album – fantastic stuff. 'Hold On' is another furiously fast track that really wouldn't look out of place on an album by Metallica or Testament whilst the track 'Blood' has a slightly slower tempo but is still an incredibly heavy track – just think of later era-Pantera and you get the picture. There's also a great guitar solo here from Hunter, which shows that he's not just simply a riff-merchant.
With a song like 'Steeped In Pain', you know this isn't going to be a ballad, but what it is though is a frantic blast with Lant again giving his drums a real punishing whilst Meikle continues his relentless vocal performance. '10 Bullets' slows the tempo of the album down slightly with a real soulful tinge to the vocals before it unexpectedly speeds up towards the song's climax.
As far as accessibility to the mainstream, then 'Feeling Cold' is probably the most obvious choice. The tolling bell and the sound of rainfall announces the track quietly but there's a nice sideways step here when the first guitar sound is that of an acoustic, whilst also giving Meikle a chance to sing – something which he hasn't had much of a chance to do on the album up to that point. Hunter also displays a more lyrical side with an uncluttered electric guitar solo, making this track another to make it onto my current playlist.
'My Halo' turns the Metal back on, with a nice mid-tempo riff that any other Metal band worth their salt would be proud to call their own, with Meikle again giving himself a vocal workout. 'Hit List' slows the tempo ever further (to practically walking pace) but again, it's the main riff and the drums that make this a heavy plodding track which is very much in the vein of early Black Sabbath. Miller's bass is especially prominent on this track, giving the whole things an added heavy-ness and the song is clearly better for it.
The penultimate track, 'In Death' sees the band hotting up for the sprint to the finish with another riff laden track over which Lant's relentless pummelling of the drums re-appears. In the midst of all this, Meikle manages to add a nice wee chorus before Hunter's excellent, if short, effects-laden guitar solo.
The final track is 'Give Me Strength' – one final heavy blast with its chunky riff leading up towards the end of the album. This is another outstanding song, with its light verses quickly turning into a heavy chorus, making a solid finish to a fantastic debut album.
Upcoming Def Con One Tour Dates:
Trillians Rock Bar, Newcastle Upon Tyne – Thursday 24th May
Snooty Fox (Wakefield), Leeds – Friday 25th May
The Intake Club, Mansfield – Saturday 26th May
Blyth and Tyne, Blyth – Friday 17th August
The Tache, Blackpool – Friday 24th August
Never Look Back
March Of The Dead
Stepped In Pain
Give Me Strength
Davey Meikle –Vocals
Antton Lant – Drums
Johnny Hunter – Guitars
Steve Miller – Bass