Metal, for all its anti-establishment credentials, can often be quite conservative. Many of the same old tropes have been rolled out again and again for the past four decades or so. Whilst that’s not a major problem for many metal fans, it is arguable that the same recycled ideas just don’t have the same impact that they once did. What once seemed impossibly heavy, deafeningly loud, even shocking or transgressive, can now be played on mainstream radio without anyone raising an eyebrow.
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.
Saber – Without 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 Spell – Sky 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
The first word that comes to mind when listening to Gravehuffer’s new album NecroEcolosion (Black Doomba Records) is “fun”. Gravehuffer takes us on a journey through many different styles. Their versatility and ability not to be genre bound is on full display with this entry.
Having successfully navigated their way around the many obstacles and challenges thrust into their path by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Christofer Johnsson and his Swedish symphonic act Therion return with their seventeenth studio album Leviathan (Nuclear Blast).
A new album and a new singer. The Dead Daisies’ latest album Holy Ground (SPV Steamhammer) is their first with the “voice of rock” Glenn Hughes, and his powerful pipes are a perfect match for the band’s well-honed classic rock. Having been in Deep Purple and more recently Black Country Communion Glenn is no stranger to famous bandmates and supergroups. The lead single ‘Unspoken’ shows that despite the ever-revolving door of bandmates, the music is as thunderous, hooky and rocking as ever.
No better way than to start the year than with some new Death Metal is what I say. I’ve quit coffee and don’t touch Red Bull, so I need something to kick start the day. It’s a particularly cold winter here in New England and every time I check Twitter there is a freshly developed shitshow going on so the more extreme music the merrier. Long story short, thank you Frozen Soul for kicking in the 2021 door with Crypt of Ice (Century Media).
There was a time where Metal had an ageism problem; the perception prevalent that once heavier bands passed certain milestone birthdays or anniversaries, or wracked a certain number of albums, or miles on the road, they became jaded, watered-down parodies of themselves. The late nineties, and, to be fair, a good chunk of the first decade of this millennium, were not kind to our grizzled veterans, some of whom fed into the prophecy, with stock output outweighing those who could still hold their own.
There’s no talking about Blind Golem’s first full-length album without mentioning Uriah Heep. The Italians initially began as a Heep tribute band and desired to write their own music in a similar Seventies Rock style, going so far as to give the artwork that Demons and Wizards aesthetic and even getting Ken Hensley himself to record keyboards and slide guitar just months before his tragic passing. A Dream Of Fantasy (MaRaCash Records) makes for an inevitably derivative listen with that established, but it is also an undeniably infectious labor of love.
Hallows Eve was quite an anomaly back in the halcyon days of Eighties Heavy Metal. Even going by the standards of a time when subgenres were still nebulous and ill-defined, the Atlantans’ approach was difficult to pin down. Utilizing familiar tropes in unfamiliar ways, their Alice Cooper-inspired horror theatrics set them apart from their Speed Metal peers while their Punk attitude was a far cry from King Diamond. Their 1985 debut album, Tales Of Terror (Metal Blade Records), is easily the rawest and arguably the most endearing iteration of their Horror Metal formula.