ALBUM REVIEW: Temptation’s Wings – Marauders of the Killing Moon


If Black Label Society was influenced by Classic Metal and Doom instead of Southern Rock, they would probably sound a lot like Temptation’s Wings. The Asheville, North Carolina-based group features delightfully Ozzy-esque vocals with extra Zakk Wylde gruffness, guitars rooted in beefy bottom-heavy tones with playing that consists of steady gallops and melodic leads, and rhythms with a certain Southern Metal swing. All presented with a barbarian attitude that lends itself well to tales of drinking and mythological conquest.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Wolftooth – Blood And Iron


 

It would be a stretch to call Wolftooth’s third full-length a Doom Metal album, but Blood And Iron (Napalm Records) is a rather methodical listen by their standards. The songs run noticeably longer than their first two efforts, especially when compared to the compact anthems on Valhalla, with the seven-minute runtimes on the opening ‘Ahab’ and the title track being their lengthiest to date. The pacing also seems slightly more lumbering as the faster sequences have a sort of hesitation behind them and the hooks are decidedly more subtle.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Seven Sisters – Shadow of a Fallen Star, Pt. 1


In contrast to the mythical themes that defined their first two albums, Seven Sisters’ third full-length presents itself with a more otherworldly sci-fi aesthetic. However, the music on Shadow Of A Fallen Star, Pt. 1 (Cherry Red Records) ultimately sustains the classy approach to Heavy Metal seen on its predecessors. Comparisons could be made to groups like Iron Maiden, Aria, and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath with some helpings of Power Metal in the vein of Hammerfall and old school Kamelot.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Scarecrow – Scarecrow II


As with their 2019 full-length debut, Scarecrow’s second full-length album sees the Russian quartet deepen their commitment to a distinctly off-the-cuff, kitchen sink Occult Metal. Scarecrow II (Wise Blood Records) sits on the arcane line between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal best demonstrated by groups like Seventies-era Scorpions and Judas Priest. There are menacing riffs and banshee vocals galore indicative of Classic Metal but also experimental eccentricities that play like holdovers from the Psych Rock era.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Sabotage Super Deluxe Edition


The last of a groundbreaking run of undisputed classics, Sabotage (Vertigo/BMG), often gets overlooked during debates about the studio legacy of legendary metal pioneers Black Sabbath. Considering the seismic impact of the band’s previous five releases, this isn’t entirely surprising but Sabotage has always deserved more time in those conversations.

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REVIEWS ROUNDUP: Haunt, Witchseeker, and Significant Point


HauntBeautiful Distraction

Having released six full-lengths and other assorted releases in just five years, it’s only inevitable for Haunt’s output to start getting samey. Their first (and probably not last) album in 2021, Beautiful Distraction carries on the polished, synth-laden variant of Heavy Metal last seen on 2020’s Mind Freeze and Flashback. Fortunately, the formula is still enjoyable with tracks like ‘In Our Dreams’ and ‘Face Of Danger’ offering uplifting hooks while ‘Imaginary Borders’ hits. It’s rather strange to see new versions of ‘Hearts On Fire’ and ‘It’s In My Hands’ considering their appearances on prior albums, but their later placements in the track order ultimately amount to inoffensive inclusions. As interchangeable as these albums have become lately, fans will still find their favorite pleasantries on full display.

7 / 10


Witchseeker Scene Of The Wild

Like 2017’s When The Clock Strikes before it, the second album from Singapore’s Witchseeker offers high octane Speed Metal with a certain Hard Rock sensibility. That latter element is especially pronounced on Scene Of The Wild (Dying Victims Productions) as songs like ‘Rock This Night Away,’ ‘Sin City’ (Not an AC/DC cover), and ‘Tokyo Nights’ among others are packed with catchy singalongs and frolicking beats. Fortunately, there’s still enough rawness to go around with the tempos often opting for total intensity, the vocals having an endearingly untrained quality and a filthy as hell bass tone. It may not be a serious gamechanger but another fun listen for fans of Enforcer and White Wizzard.

8 / 10

Significant PointInto The Storm

Significant Point’s debut album follows in the footsteps of their countrymen in groups like Loudness and Anthem, but their approach to Speed Metal ends up feeling more German than Japanese. Songs like the opening ‘Attacker’ and ‘Riders Under The Sun’ show strong influence from Running Wild and Walls Of Jericho-era Helloween with their blazing guitar runs, flamboyant harmonies, relentless drumming, and unhinged yet melodic wails.

There’s also room for more Classic Metal leaning fun with ‘You’ve Got The Power’ and ‘Night Of The Axe’ offering some in your face optimism. The more epic touches on ‘Running Alone’ also make for another highlight of a closer. Into The Storm (Dying Victims Productions) may be rather rough and tumble for some fans, especially when it comes to the vocals, but comes strongly recommended to those who like their Power Metal with extra grit.

8 / 10

CHRIS LATTA


ALBUM REVIEW: Blaze Bayley – War Within Me



With a solo career that is now going over two decades strong, Blaze Bayley shows no signs of slowing down with his tenth full-length album. While War Within Me (Blaze Bayley Records) is an inevitable step back from the Infinite Entanglement trilogy that he released through the late 2010s, this has more to do with the sense of scale than any sort of quality concerns. If anything, the album is essentially a fun look back on everything that Blaze has accomplished thus far.

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ALBUM REVIEW: James Durbin – The Beast Awakens


James Durbin may have been the “metal guy” during his season on American Idol, but it’s been an uphill battle for him to get any sort of street cred in the actual scene. His subsequent solo albums seemed noncommittal in terms of style and his brief stint singing for Quiet Riot felt more like an odd novelty than a real step forward. It’s hard to tell how the reception towards The Beast Awakens (Frontiers Records srl) will compare but at the very least, it’s a notable turning point on his path to Heavy Metal legitimacy.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Crystal Viper – The Cult



 

For a band whose schtick has been carrying the torch for old school Heavy Metal, it’s interesting how Crystal Viper’s eighth album feels like a trip to their own early roots. The band didn’t venture too far from that core sound over the years, but The Cult (Listenable Records) comes with the “Running Wild as fronted by Doro Pesch” spirit that defined early staples like The Curse of Crystal Viper or Metal Nation. I like to think that recruiting Ced Forsberg of Rocka Rollas/Blazon Stone fame for drum duties was the spark for this shift in style.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP: Heavy Metal Roundup: Saber, Konquest, and Midnight Spell


 

SaberWithout Warning (1/1)

It’s pretty easy to compare Saber to their fellow Californians in Haunt. In addition to playing a similarly polished Heavy Metal style, the band has released their debut album through Trevor William Church’s record label with Church himself even playing the drums on a sessional basis. Fortunately, Saber is able to set themselves apart by means of over-the-top vocals and faster tempos on songs like ‘Strike Of The Witch’ and the appropriately titled ‘Speed Racer.’ There’s certainly room for further development, especially given that Without Warning is less than a half-hour long, but it’s a fun listen for fans of groups like Cauldron and Riot City.

Buy the album here: https://saberheavymetal.bandcamp.com/album/without-warning

7 / 10

Konquest The Night Goes On (1/8)

Konquest is a one-man project from Tuscany whose first full-length album makes no bones about their Iron Maiden worship. The vocals have a more workman quality in comparison, but the guitar harmonies are on point and the bass gets plenty of chances to let out some Steve Harris-style flourishes. The songwriting is also well-executed as songs like the title track and ‘Helding Back The Tears’ (Not a typo?) are packed with catchy Eighties-friendly hooks while ‘Heavy Heart’ and ‘The Vision’ hint at more Epic Metal aspirations. The latter’s musical lifts from ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ are a bit much, but it’s in good fun. I also keep wanting to write their name as Kong Quest, which just makes me want to play through Donkey Kong Country 2 again. Fun stuff.

 

Buy the album here https://konquestband.bandcamp.com/

8 / 10

Midnight SpellSky Destroyer (1/8)

In a way similar to recent efforts from groups like RAM and Ambush, Midnight Spell’s first album is a grab-bag of Classic Metal tropes. Tracks like ‘Lady Of The Moonlight’ and ‘To The Stars’ seem inspired by the likes of Dokken with their borderline Glam hooks and anthemic pacing while ‘Cemetery Queen’ is the token occult number taking influence from Mercyful Fate and the title track goes for all-out Speed Metal. The rather meat and potatoes presentation risks coming off as too plain, but the musicianship is tight and the fantastic earworms on songs like ‘Midnight Ride’ just can’t be ignored. It’s a bit more polished than your typical Traditional Metal debut, but it manages to be endearing in its own right.

Buy the album here: https://midnightspell.bandcamp.com/album/sky-destroyer

8 / 10

CHRIS LATTA