It should come as a surprise to no-one that Omega (Nuclear Blast), the eighth full-length studio release from Dutch symphonic metal act Epica, is another concept-driven album. Formed in 2002, the band are widely known for their ambitious ideas and themes, covering everything from the Mayan civilization to religion, nature, quantum physics and the possibility that the universe is actually digitally created hologram. You know, simple stuff.
Whenever the subject of influential Viking metal rears its head from beneath freezing, storm-ridden waves, Dragons of the North (Napalm Records) by Norwegian act Einherjer usually finds its way into the conversation fairly quickly. Released in 1996, the record still remains a favourite among fans of the excessively hairy subgenre, and twenty-five years later the band are still going strong.
Foregoing songs about masked serial killers, nightmares and mental asylums, Detroit Stories (earMUSIC), the twenty-first solo album from shock-rock legend Alice Cooper, has been written expressly as a tribute to his hometown of Detroit. Forget about guillotines, spiders, Vincent Price and Frankenstein. This is a more down-to-earth, less twisted and surreal version of Alice, even if the record does occasionally touch base with the likes of From the Inside.
From ‘War Pigs’ to the present day, metal and politics have gone hand in hand and Sacred Reich has never shied away from the subject. As far back as their Draining You of Life demo in 1986, the Arizona thrashers made it abundantly clear that fascism is bullshit, Nazis are the enemy, and that oppression in any form should not be tolerated. This steadfast opposition to dictatorship, corruption, and social injustice has served them well for over thirty years, but recently the band has found themselves in the unbelievable position of actually having to defend those views. Swamping their social media pages with insults and demands to “stop making everything political”, some of their so-called “fans” really seem to have missed the entire fucking point of Sacred Reich.
Originally released back in 2005 (although a DVD had come out a couple of years before), Evil or Divine – Live in New York City (BMG) was recorded on Dio‘s 2002 world tour and still holds up as a great live representation of the band at that point. Promoting the Killing the Dragon (Spitfire) album, the title track is joined by ‘Push’, ‘Rock & Roll’ and ‘Guilty’, with ‘Fever Dreams’ and ‘Lord of the Last Day’ from Magica (Spitfire) making up the rest of their more modern entries.
Translating roughly to “fallen angels”, the eponymously titled seventh album from Spanish thrashers Angelus Apatrida is another brutal barrage of sweat, riffs and fury. Once again, guitarist/vocalist Guillermo Izquierdo and his bass playing brother José J. Izquierdo are joined by second guitarist David G. Álvarez, and Victor Valera on drums, admirably retaining the same stable line-up now for close to twenty years.
Returning with their tenth full-length album, Norwegian symphonic Gothic act Sirenia continues both the good work and the alliteration of their last couple of studio outings with their latest release Riddles, Ruins & Revelations (Napalm Records). Operatic vocals, a robust rhythm section, pounding riffs and flighty keyboards dominate proceedings, punctuated by some expert lead guitar work and differing vocal styles. Adorned with thunderous breakdowns or quieter, slower sections each cut remains interesting rather than outstaying its welcome.
It was a drizzly, grey Saturday morning sometime in 1982 and I was being dragged around the shops by my parents. At some point, we ended up in a WH Smiths record shop. I wasn’t even into music then, of any description, but I flicked idly through the vinyl anyway just to pass the time. By chance, two tall, long-haired cavemen clad in denim and leather came and stood next to me. When one of them leaned over and picked up something called The Number of the Beast it grabbed my attention instantly, my ten-year-old face transfixed by the artwork on the front. As he lifted it out, I noticed more artwork, this time on the back of his jacket. Iron Maiden – Purgatory. It looked magnificent. I’d never even heard of Iron Maiden before then and I certainly didn’t know who or what a Purgatory was, but I knew I wanted to see more. Grabbing the next record in the section, my eyes didn’t leave the intricately painted sleeve until my parents came and literally pulled it out of my hands. Killers.
With only guitarist Wolf Hoffmann remaining from the original classic Accept line-up you could be forgiven for assuming this might eventually result in a decline in quality. And you may end up being proven right. Just not yet.
With only founding guitarist Prika Amaral remaining from their original 2010 line-up, Brazilian thrashers Nervosa return with a much more international look on their fourth full-length studio release, Perpetual Chaos (Napalm Records). Joining Amaral this time is Spanish vocalist Diva Satanica, Greek drummer Eleni Nota, and former Abbath bassist Mia Wallace.