NEW RELEASES FROM TESTAMENT, SONATA ARCTICA, DRESCHER, THE ANSWER AND MANY MORE
30th October 2016
Edition Three of You Spin Me Round and before we start, a moment of silence please for the man whose work we named this column after. OK, so Pete Burns was about as far away from Metal as six pounds of kybella but some of our rock'n'roll associates knew him personaly and speak very highly of him.
"Are you going to rename this column in light of Pete's passing?" we were asked this week. Definitely not and we'll bet our bottom dollor he never dreamed he'd end up being immortalised on a Heavy Metal site. Rest In Pop Pete and in the meantime...
Let's do this...
TESTAMENT: 'BROTHERHOOD OF THE SNAKE'
Released: 28th October 2016 (Nuclear Blast)
'Brotherhood Of The Snake' is studio number eleven for Californian thrashers Testament, and the first to feature bass player Steve DiGiorgio since 2001s 'First Strike Still Deadly' release. Produced and mixed by long-time Testament collaborator Andy Sneap, this new album has all the hallmarks of being a future classic album for the quintet.
Frontman Chuck Billy explained before the release that the Brotherhood of the Snake was actually a society from around 6,000 years ago that had debarred all religions and a lot of the tracks here touch upon the subject of religion... oh, and some tracks deal with aliens too!
The ten tracks span a forty-five minute running time, and show that Testament have nothing left to prove but still have a lot to give. The singles you will already have heard, the title track and 'Stronghold', both give a clear indication of the new album's direction while 'Centuries Of Suffering' is the heaviest track here with nothing held back. It's a classic Testament track, make no mistake about that.
The longest track here is 'Seven Seals', a slower paced number clocking in at nearly five-and-three-quarter minutes so there's no huge epic numbers and there's and no ballads to trudge through either, showing once again that the band are calling the shots. It might have a slower pace but it's still incredibly heavy as the guitar punctuates the lyrics and as the song reaches the midway point, Hoglan's drums quicken as the guitar riff is fired out.
'Black Jack' could well turn out be a favourite, even though it's the slowest tempo number here. It references card games, in a change of lyrical content away from religion, and the track features a really great guitar solo. Billy puts in his most laid back performance here and even though it's the slowest tempo it is, just like the rest of the album, pretty awesome stuff from start to finish.
THE ANSWER: 'SOLAS'
Released 28th October 2016 (Napalm Records)
For ten years The Answer have given us solid, high quality blues rock albums, and now they have taken a completely different turn and released a career defining album that has all the hallmarks of a masterpiece.
The catalyst for 'Solas' was personal trauma, leading to eleven soul searching, profound tracks that contain a massively broad sonic palette, inviting the listener along on an emotional journey to the dark night of the soul. Heavily influenced by Celtic sounds, there's also hints of Jethro Tull, Radiohead and even a touch of Crowded House in places, yet the personality of The Answer we have known for the past decade is still just about recognisable, especially in 'Demon Driven Man'.
With haunting title track 'Solas' garnering lots of airplay, the rest of this opus is no filler, with many standout tracks such as the dramatic 'Battle Cry', a multi-layered piece that utilises the Gaelic language in its packed production. There's also lighter tracks musically, however the soul-searching remains. Maybe The Answer have evolved into The Question...
It's mature, deep stuff. There's no resolution at the end either, with closer 'Tunnel' having a stunning melody but leaving the album hanging on a heart wrenching note. For all the bleakness it is authentic, brave and brilliant, and it is hoped that this creativity remains a core part of The Answer's future, even as circumstances improve. Essential listening.
ALLEGAEON: ‘PROPONENT FOR SENTIENCE'
Released: 23rd September 2016 (Metal Blade Records)
Have you ever been kicked in the balls and enjoyed it? No? Well, ladies and gentlemen, brace your (possibly hypothetical) man-parts for an overwhelmingly savage experience, as Allegaeon (pronounced ah-lee-juhn) bring you their latest thundering release, 'Proponent For Sentience'.
In the eight years since they formed, these five Americans have managed to consistently stand out from the herd, bringing us a flavour of death Metal that you just can't find anywhere else. Intricate, masterful, and packed with enough scientific song content to help a fifteen-year-old pass their A-Levels, Allegaeon's music is a true gift to Metal.
And this record is no different. In my opinion, it's not only their best yet, but some of the most intricate, brain-melting stuff to emerge from the scene in years. And yet despite this intricacy, at no point does the music feel mechanical. It's real. You open your ears, and the complex riffery seduces your mind in a way that only a product of human creation could.
Many have dreamed of the 'perfect Metal album', myself included, and while such a thing may never exist, I can say with confidence that this record is the next best thing. The Allegaeon boys may take a light-hearted approach to their image, but when it comes to the music, they take no prisoners. A buffet of brutal grooves, demonic growls and mind-expanding riffs awaits. 'Proponent For Sentience' will blow your mortal minds.
DEVILSKIN: 'BE LIKE THE RIVER'
Released 11th November 2016 (Independent)
Hard rockers Devilskin set out in 2010 to show their home country of New Zealand that there is life left in rock music done the old way, with the accent on combining melody with power. One studio album and one live album later and it seems their countrymen agree as when internationally successful rockers Halestorm arrive in New Zealand in December this year they will be touring as co-headliners with the local girl and boys. Judging by 'Be Like The River' that will be fantastic double bill with Devilskin easily able to stand toe to toe with Lzzy Hale and the rest.
This may only be their second full length album but this is a very mature sounding piece of work. The song writing is top notch with every song exuding quality and being thought through and lovingly crafted into a complete whole. The production is nicely done to allow the band to have all the heavy crunch but lightness of touch that this style of music needs. Guitarist Niall is fully capable of unleashing strident riffs which go right for the jugular but never overpowers the song and can add deft and subtle little licks when required.
All this seems to be have been arranged around supporting what is their ace in the hole in singer Jennie Skulander. She is one of those female singers with a huge voice but one full of melody as well as strength. Able to to reign things in to sound restrained and vulnerable if the song needs it, she always has the capacity to show what a firebrand of a singer she is at a drop of a hat(or a riff). It's a commanding performance throughout and I would have been happier if they'd stuck to using Jennie's superb vocals throughout and not felt the need to add in some grunting as they do in the otherwise excellent 'FYI'and 'Grave' for example.
There are many other more perfectly formed songs to enjoy though like the gradual build of 'Voices', the chugging riff and soaring chorus of 'Mountains' or the calculated atmospherics of 'Animal'. There is such strong material here that 'We Rise' is listed as a bonus track on my copy but may well have the best riff on the whole album.
This is great stuff and I'm happy to see that after doing that mouth watering double bill tour with Halestorm at home they plan to get out on tour in the rest of the world through 2017. I'm looking forward to checking them out live and this album will make you feel the same way.
DIE NO MORE: 'DESTRUCTION COMPLETE'
Released: 21st October 2016 (Independent)
Carlisle based quartet Die No More are becoming one of the leading lights in British thrash and their debut album which was released in 2014 was a solid step forward for them. 'Destruction Complete' is a stop gap for the band and showcases four solid sounding tunes which show the band haven't lost any of their early promise.
Opening track 'Save Yourself' was a track I heard them play live last year so it's nice to have the studio version of it here. Frontman Marc Farquhar has a James Hetfield-esque sound to his vocal performance but don't worry if that's not your thing as there's much more to this band than that.
'Mirage' is another fast number with a long instrumental section that really shows the musical ability of the band. Again Farquhar equips himself well in the vocals and guitar playing departments and it's another polished performance overall. The track may be in excess of six minutes but it never feels dull or laborious and hopefully it'll make it's way into their live show as it's bound to be a firm fan favourite.
'The Enemy Within' and title track, 'Destruction Complete', close off the EP with the latter giving bass player Martyn Simpson a chance in the spotlight before the heavy guitar riff kicks in. The only complaint here is that this is only four tracks but it's great fun to listen too, so if you like old fashioned Heavy Metal then this EP is definitely for you.
ROTH BROCK PROJECT: 'ROTH BROCK PROJECT'
Released 4th November 2016 (Frontiers Music)
They may not be AOR royalty, but Terry Brock and John Roth have more than earned their stripes in the genre. With associations with bands like Kansas, Winger, Starship and of course Giant, they have decided to merge their respective talents and let loose a record that has been burning a hole in their pockets.
To the majority, it may not be a collaboration that stirs the blood compared to, say, a Coverdale/Page union, but that aside, there is no doubting these two have a bona fide song writing understanding. Searing opener 'Young Gun' and the cock rock Warrant-esque 'What's It To Ya' kick start proceedings in swashbuckling fashion while 'Young Again' and 'If That's What It Takes' sees them delivering easy on the ear hook laden beauties that gain muscle with each spin.
Not without it's low points, ballads 'Distant Voices' and 'Never Givin' Up' are fairly low on a pulse and could have done with a bit of fattening up but that's not a slight on John Roth's production. On the whole the former Black Oak Arkansas guitarist pulled out all the stops and injected some serious slickness into the tracks. As well as his own guitar heroics, Terry Brock's vocal strutting is a majestic tour de force and reaches boiling point on the full throttle 'Fighter'.
Whatever happens in their respective careers in the future, this project has without question got legs. A mutual respect and obvious chemistry between the pair exudes throughout the record and has brought about an extra large dollop of sweet tasting melodic rock. So grab a big spoon and get stuck in.
NIGHTMARE: 'DEAD SUN'
Released 25th Novermber 2016 (AFM Records)
You can trust the French to provide some great Heavy Metal these days and Nightmare's brand new line-up have done just that with 'Dead Sun', their new offering which was arranged in France by producer Patrick Liotard together with Joost Van Den Broek (The Gentle Storm, Epica), who mixed it at Sandlane Studios in The Netherlands after recording at Noise Factory Studio in Belgium with Gerald Jans behind the desk.
So it's a truly international affair and new singer Maggy Luyten and new drummer Olivier Casula have set this band alight, as you will hear from the very opening bars of 'Infected'. It will make you sit up immediately and the pace does not relent as 'Of Sleepless Mind' and 'Tangled In The Roots' seal the deal.
It's hard, driving and brutal and there are great tunes in there as well as great storytelling, 'Ikarus' for example, superb chugging and shredding and it all fits together to make 'Dead Sun' compulsive listening. Check out the intro to 'Serpentine' - I defy you not to bang that head, stamp that foot and punch that air.
The album ends on a very serious high note with the epically tinged 'Starry Skies Gone Black' but it's not ending here as it's on loop and rolling again. A brilliant album from our Gallic cousins with special mention to guitarists Franck Milleliri and Matt Asselberghs who back up, along with a mesmerising rhythym section of Casula and Yves Campion, Maggy Luyten's superb and captivating voice. Buy it - now!
BAD TOUCH: 'TRUTH BE TOLD'
Released 2nd December 2016 (Bad Touch Records, distribution via Cadiz)
The follow up to 2015s debut 'Half Way Home' sees Norfolk's Bad Touch deliver an accomplished set which falls equally between classic rock and Southern rock, invoking summer road trips and a vintage feel.
The album has a lot of heart, and a lot of groove. First single, '99%', is absurdly radio friendly, thanks to a remix by Rolling Stones engineer Chris Kimsey, who also gives this treatment to 'Made To Break'.
'Outlaw' manages to reflect the swagger of Clint Eastwood and the heft of 'Heartbreaker Soulshaker' is a good blend with the more reflective pieces such as 'The Mountain'.
'Truth Be Told', while not innovative or unique, is still an album worthy of repeated plays and these songs are also going to sound great live.
ROCK WOLVES: 'ROCK WOLVES'
Released: 28th October 2016 (SPV/Steamhammer)
If I asked you to name anyone from Rock Wolves, would you be able to tell me? If I mentioned the words Rarebell and Voss then you'd no doubt think of Herman Rarebell and Michael Voss who currently play drums and guitar in Michael Schnker's Temple Of Rock which is where Rock Wolves were founded from.
Originally conceived in the autumn of 2015, Rarebell and Voss recruited bass player Stephan 'Gudze' Hinz and the band's debut line-up was settled.
Decribed as Rock, this album is a master class from three people who know exactly what they're doing. If you're looking for solid guitar driven tracks with no keyboards to get in the way, then this album should absolutely be on your shopping list.
Album highlights? There are loads of them here, from the straight ahead rock tunes of 'Rock For The Nations' with it's catchy chorus, past the guitar driven 'Out Of Time' to the more relaxed 'What About Love' which gifts Voss a great vocal and the acoustic greatness of 'Lay With Me', but the whole album is a real joy from start to finish.
Let's hope that the planning for album #2 has started as there's far too much talent here for just one album.
SONATA ARCTICA: 'THE NINTH HOUR'
Released: October 7th 2016 (Nuclear Blast)
'The Ninth Hour' finds Sonata Arctica in a brooding, contemplative mind-set as they explore the environmental impact humanity is having on the planet and the implications for the future of us all.
Taking inspiration from the mythological 'ninth hour' relating to Jesus' death on the cross, the band explore the balance between a utopian/dystopian future set out in the detailed album artwork. It's not all doom and gloom though as the band adeptly balance melody and power aligned to intelligent lyrics to remain one of the leaders of the melodic power Metal pack.
Stand out tracks include 'Life' and 'Rise A Night', while the excellent 'Candle Lawns' delivers on subtlety and restraint, before 'White Pearl, Black Ocean Pt II' delivers a powerful shot in the arm, bringing the album to a great finale.
If you enjoyed Avantasia's 'Ghostlights', this may well be worth a listen.
WOVENWAR: 'HONOR IS DEAD'
Released: October 21st 2016 (Metal Blade Records)
Wovenwar rose from the ashes of As I Lay Dying and released their 2014 self-titled debut too much critical acclaim. The sophomore effort, 'Honor Is Dead', is about to catapult into the musical arena. Driven by darker lyrical themes the album packs a more aggressive punch than its predecessor.
Shane Blay delivers a dynamic vocal performance while mixing clean vocals along with some screaming. Providing bass/vocals is Josh Gilbert and Jordan Mancino is on drums. Guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso provide monster riffing throughout the eleven tracks. Within the sonic thunder they are able to cater the guitars to embrace the emotional approach of the song and not over power it.
Wovenwar are brilliant at providing bombastic aggressive moments while incorporating anthemic choruses that soar like an arena rock sing-along. There is no better example of this balance than 'Lines In The Sand'. The hook is laced with harmonies while the constructed chaos rips around it. If you're looking for straightforward Metalcore, songs like 'Stones Thrown' and 'Bloodletter' should fill the bill. The diversity of the record shows with the ballad 'Compass' and the spacey 'Silhouette'. The closing track, '130', blisters at a frantic pace with an AILD vibe.
'Honor Is Dead' is a polished outpouring of sonic aggression blended with honest emotion. This time around, Blay was able to contribute from the start of the creative process instead of being handed the finished music like on the debut album. Wovenwar has expanded its sound and refused to follow the Metalcore formula. It's a strong effort by a band that is starting to find itself as a unit. This new album takes them another step forward with a future that is soaked in potential.
PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER: 'BOOTLEG'
Released: October 28th 2016 (PHR Records)
Back in the day, bootleg recordings used to generate a real buzz of excitement, the chance to hear the live performances talked about by the lucky few who were there, and the crappy quality of the recordings came second to the wonder of hearing the content. It's the opposite now of course, with so much appearing instantly on social media from footage captured from smartphones that not only removes the mystery, but the crappy quality almost ruins the memory too.
Fortunately, Pearl Handled Revolver have come to the rescue here with an official bootleg which combines high quality recording while leaving the rawness and atmosphere of the live performance intact – it's a great mix with no airbrushing.
If you haven't seen Pearl Handled Revolver live (and if not, go and rectify this the first chance you have – you owe it to yourself) then this album shows you what to expect. All the signature elements from the quartet are here - raw, gritty vocals, dirty blues, authentic psychedelia, huge riffs and layers that are a joy to experience.
There are nine blistering tracks including opener 'Help Me Down From The Trees', with its breathtaking diatribe on the horrors of modern day social media, the unrelenting boogie of 'Rattle Your Bones', the astounding dynamics of 'Peace By Piece' but 'If The Devil Cast His Net', the title track of the album released this year, gets my vote for the standout of this set, coming to life in stunning fashion.
Available directly from www.pearlhandledrevolver.co.uk
FOREVER STILL: 'TIED DOWN'
Released: 21st October 2016 (Nuclear Blast Records)
Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Forever Still are a band with no excuses. Their use of brooding beats, atmospheric electronic textures and stocky guitar riffs, not to mention the powerhouse vocals of Maja Shining, brought them moderate success but since signing to Nuclear Blast Records earlier this year, the whole band has seen a resurgence in popularity unheard of when they released their debut EP, 'Breaking Free' back in 2013.
Originally made up of three parts, the 'Tied Down' album deals with the struggle from depression, anxiety, and worthlessness through to perseverance and finally recovery, making theirs a very personal journey for the band and a captivating listen at the same time.
'Once Upon A Nightmare' is a showcase for Shining's voice whilst the music takes a slow and steady approach but it's never plodding. Sure, the guitar solo (which is excellent, by the way) may be too far back in the mix for my liking but that's a minor gripe on my part.
'Save Me', on the other hand, shows the band's more sensitive side. Sure, there are still some heavy guitars and Shining's powerful vocals but the song is at a much slower tempo, and about the closest you get to a balled, albeit a power ballad here. It really shines the spotlight on the Shining's voice and despite the downbeat lyrics it's never morose or gloomy.
A support tour next month around the UK with Lacuna Coil as part of a larger European tour shows that this band are very much ready to go out and spread the Forever Still word far and wide and with a sizeable UK following already thanks to a successful UK/European jaunt earlier this year, the future looks very bright.
Released 18th November 2016 (Napalm Records)
Drescher say they create folk music in its most original and honest form, but there's no green woolly cardigans here as you'll realise when you are hit with a brutal, in your face, ripping... accordion. They're not the only ones using accordion in a Metal scenario (Finsterforst, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani and more) but they've put a unique slant on it and it sounds serious.
And if you thought you'd never hear a folk band playing a Slayer cover, Drescher have done it with 'Es Reignt Bluat' which I don't think I need to translate for you.
They Austrian traditionalists are re-releasing their debut album, 'Erntezeit', along with new offering 'Steinfeld' and the former features three bonus tracks including Falco's all-time classic 'Rock Me Amadeus' and it's got a very smart twenty four page booklet with it.
'Steinfeld' translates to 'field of stones' and it's apt as the album is as heavy as that sounds and it's very, very different, authentic and it transcends genres with a punch to the guts that would have the 'hey, nonny, nonny' brigade up in arms and crying 'blasphemy' at every beat but they never got calloused finger ends from playing 'Scarborough Fair', unlike Filip Rado, the Ritchie Blackmore of accordionists.
Apart from the covers, there are a whole wealth of originals on the album, all delivered with vocailst Bernd Wograndl's gutsy voice which is equivalent to a smack round the head with a pair of rusy Thalampatas while drummer Sigi Meier could well be the Philthy Animal of folk'n'roll.
This album is only available in the EU, probably because there would be mass suicide in Fairport if it was heard over here. It is now our mission to get Drescher over to the UK to play Cropredy and Whitby Folk Week. What a sight 5,000 folkistas throwing horns and headbanging would be.
CROBOT: 'WELCOME TO FAT CITY'
Released: 28th October 2016 (Wind Up)
US Hard Rockers Crobot are back with their third album, 'Welcome To Fat City'. Third albums are notoriously difficult as artists try and channel their inner demons and pay homage to their idols whilst usually bringing out an album less successful that its predecessors. Not Crobot, however, who are firing on all cylinders in this forty minute, eleven track opus.
I discovered the band last year at hard Rock Hell in Wales and have been an avid fan ever since, desperate for this new record to surface. Nothing is rushed here and everything is the very best that it can be from the production to the performances and it tallies up to be one of my favourite records of the year so far.
For me, though, the stand out track has to be 'Blood On The Snow' which typifies the band's heavy but melodic sound. If you mix up a bit of Black Sabbath, Down and Soundgarden, then you the basis for the Crobot sound – heavy, groovy and very rocky.
Released 28th October 2016 (Scarlet Records)
Italian prog Metallers Noveria have come a long way since releasing their debut album, 'Risen', in 2014. Worthy record though that was, follow up 'Forsaken' is a whole level up the progressive Metal ladder in ambition, style and content.
They have gone for the full on progressive rock concept this time, a story about loss and the five stages of grief inspired by the death of someone close to the band to cancer. This gives the whole thing emotion and fire, something which isn't always obvious in their chosen genre.
Probably because of the dark nature of the subject matter the music here is dominated by dark and heavy sounds and drummer Omar Campitelli gets a good work out on those double bass drum beats throughout. The heaviness is nicely balanced out though, mainly against Francisco Corigliano's empassioned, melodic vocals.
Add in some frankly out standing guitar and keyboard interplay throughout from Francesco Mattei and Julien Spreutels and you have a formula that anyone into the complex world of progressive Metal should find of interest. I would push anyone towards 'Shock' or 'When Everyone Falls' and if those impressive outings grab you, checking out the rest is a no brainer.
Excellent sophomore release from these guys. I hope they find an inspiration with a happy ending for album number three though!
MOTHERLODE: 'ENDLESS HIGHWAY'
Released: 28th October 2016 (Independent)
If you're looking for some bluesy rock then you can't go wrong with some Motherlode. The album is the follow up to the successful self-titled EP released in 2013 and if Free or Led Zeppelin are on your playlist, then the 'Endless Highway' album should fit snugly amongst those tracks.
The title track epitomises what this band do - a good heavy dose of blues rock with great guitar hooks, soulful vocals and straight ahead percussion all thrown into the mix to produce some expertly crafted tracks.
There's a really good guitar solo here which takes its time which in turn gives you the chance to revel in the skills of guitarist Simon Alexander before the pace suddenly picks up and it's like it's been taken over by another band!
'Holy Water' is a real foot stomper whereas 'Let Her Go' is led by the rumbling bass guitar of frontman Graham Fieldhouse during the intro which ramps this number up with a long instrumental section before his vocals kick in. This track sounds like it's more of an unrehearsed improvised jam more than anything else.
Having said that, it's thoroughly enjoyable, however, and it's remained in my playlist ever since the first listen.
Edition Four of You Spin Me Round here in a fortnight...
ALL EDITIONS OF YOU SPIN ME ROUND
15th January 2017: Pain Of Salvation, Stephen Pearcy, Jack Russell, Powerwolf and many more...
31st December 2016: Damaj, Mercy Isle, Krampus, Wretched Soul...
18th December 2016: Alice Cooper, Beyond The Black, Rush, Magnum and many more...
28th November 2016: Graham Bonnet, Civil War, The Doomsday Kingdon, Departed and many more...
15th November 2016: deVience, AC Angry, Solitude, Pretty Maids and many more...
30th October 2016: Testament, Sonata Arctica, Drescher, The Answer and many more...
16th October 2016: Kix, Tyketto, Joan Ov Arc, Kingbreaker and many more...
2nd October 2016: Twisted Sister, Extreme, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Pain, Raveneye and many more...
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