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.
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.
We had the honor of chatting with heavy metal legend Joey Vera of Armored Saint all about their new album Punching the sky (read our review here) out now on Metal Blade Records. Joey talked about the future of the music industry and what it might look like post-COVID19, how the band writes together, his personal preferences in production and recording styles, his take on livestreams, the progress he is making on his other projects such as Fates Warning and Motor Sister, and more! Buy the album here and check out our chat!Continue reading
Showing no visible signs of wear and tear, classic Los Angeles metallers Armored Saint return with eighth studio album Punching the Sky (Metal Blade). Noted for their consistency in both output and personnel, you have to go all the way back to 1987’s Raising Fear (Chrysalis) to find a studio album with a different line-up. A surprising level of stability considering two lengthy hiatuses and the untimely death of original guitarist Dave Prichard.
Whenever the subject of UK thrash metal arises, Bristolian act Onslaught are always one of the first names mentioned. From their 1985 debut to their split in 1991 and eventual reformation in 2005, the band have been one of the leading lights of the genre. Often heralded as the “English Slayer”, like their now defunct US counterparts, Onslaught draw from a history of both punk and classic metal to make their point.
Great Heavy Metal titans Grand Magus has announced a brand new album, Wolf God, due out on April 19th via their longtime label Nuclear Blast. Wolf God will be the follow up to 2017’s Sword Songs which saw the band tour extensively behind. This cover artwork was created by acclaimed artist and frequent Grand Magus collaborator, Anthony Roberts. The album was recorded at Sweetspot Studio in Sweden, together with producer Staffan Karlsson (Arch Enemy, Firewind, Spiritual Beggars). New music and pre-orders to follow soon.Continue reading
Sometimes there are things that together simply make the perfect combination; fish and chips, The Chuckle Brothers, and metal music and horror movies. The relationship between these two art forms has been deep-rooted ever since Iommi and company first unleashed those infamous single notes on the world, taking their band name and that song title famously from Spanish 60’s flick Black Sabbath. It’s a relationship that Acid Witch have firmly embraced throughout their existence, and paid homage too on Midnight Movies (Hells Headbangers).
Acid Witch have always shown a little bit of a tongue in cheek side to them but this collection of covers taken from cult horror b-movie soundtracks is still surprisingly cartoonlike. Most of this is down to their shedding of their own doom/death roots, instead choosing to perform true and familiar renditions of the likes of Sorcery and Fastway, with some additional eerie growls. Production wise this has quite a sheen but doesn’t detract from the old-school vibe and keeps its atmosphere; all the while sounding like they are having the time of their lives.
Far from the year’s most important release of course; this is a complete nostalgia trip to some of metal and horror’s campest and animated moments with four covers that stick to the original formula and prove just as grin inducing.
After subjecting us to a pointless intro that neither builds tension nor sets up the rest of the album (why do bands do this?) Death Curse (Dark Descent) hurtles into the title track with a feral blackened thrash riff that sets the tone for what is to follow over the remaining 35 minutes, a Repulsion inspired rager with a driving D-beat.
With deathly intent, the guitars of Hell Messiah and the wonderfully named C.C. DeKill rage and bluster through the rest of the album in the vein of Sodom, Venom and Kreator, with the odd nod to more Black Metal Bathory, particularly the middle section of ‘Unending Lust For Evil’.
It’s easy to feel this is nothing new, but the band would undoubtedly feel that “something new” is not the point, the point is worshipping at the altar of the old-school. Interestingly, though it is when Gravehill change things up that they reap the benefits, launching into a punky, bass-led ‘Fear The Reaper’, or slowing things down to an Autopsy slab-heavy stab for ‘Open Their Throats’ that they really distinguish themselves.
The problem for Gravehill is that there are too many bands around doing this. Some have been doing it for 30 years and are well established and worshipped, others are just better (Skeletonwitch, Aura Noir). There’s plenty of endeavour and spirit evident on Death Curse but with Mike Abomination’s vocals missing the mark and being unintentionally funny as his delivery turns into a weak throaty gargle more often than he hits the beastly roars, Gravehill have some work to do still.
For such a raw and energetic album Death Curse is well produced, which, while giving the riffs added “neck” and beef, further highlights Abomination’s short-comings, as he’s well and truly shown up by Kam Lee (Massacre) on ‘Unending Lust…’.
Yet, you feel Gravehill don’t care. The core of their ethos is middle-finger up and tongue in cheek. They’re happy churning out 30 year old riffs in homage to their heroes, wearing their leather, bullets and spikes.
And who can begrudge them that.
6.5 / 10
Gravehill on Facebook
The last few years have been huge for Portland rockers Red Fang. Easily one of the fastest rising riff rock bands on the music scene today, they made their impact felt immediately and fans were attracted in droves. Whales and Leeches is Red Fang’s latest opus and fans were eagerly awaiting its release. While they toured extensively behind 2011’s Murder the Mountains, they somehow found time to work on newer material and record their latest record.
Drummer John Sherman explained how they managed to work on new material while very few fans noticed they were away from the scene: “We toured the last record for so long. We toured for about two years on Murder the Mountains. Somewhere into the second year of touring, we’re like ‘we need to get a new record. We can’t tour on this record forever.’ So far we haven’t been able to write on the road because we’re not a big enough band where we have a bus and a back lounge so we can break out guitars and chill out. When we tour the States, we’re in a little fucking van driving ourselves. Most of the time is spent either on the road or in a club. So we decided if we’re ever gonna write another record, we should stop touring and just hunker down. So we stopped accepting tours and for three months, just stayed home, go to the rehearsal studio almost every single day, and pound out all the old and new ideas and make a record out of it. It’s the only time I thought being in a band was a hard job. It took a while after we finished the record for me to be able to listen to it, and not be super close to it. I am close to it, but can’t judge it. I’m pretty happy with what we came up with.”
Despite the success of Murder the Mountains, Sherman felt the band neglected pressuring themselves into writing a record that topped their predecessor. Instead, they took the natural approach and just let it happen naturally.
“We’re pretty evident as to lofty expectations because we don’t want to be super disappointed. We just have a good time doing what we’re doing. Right now we’re at a point where we never thought we’d be at or anywhere close to. Whatever happens to this record we’re gonna still be writing music. If people dig it and they buy it, awesome. But if they don’t, of course I’ll be like ah man…well…what’s wrong with it? I don’t have any expectations. I don’t want to expect everything is awesome and then everything sucks. I just assume everything’s gonna suck and then be stoked if everything’s awesome!”
While the album title comes from a previously unreleased song, Red Fang found that this formula worked in their favor. While this method may not be the most exciting way for a band to title their records, the band found it to work well for the time being:
“There’s not much of a tie really between the title and the record. Titles of songs are hard to come up with, and titles of records almost as hard to come up with, for us as band names.”
“I don’t know if you ever started a band before. When you try to come up with a name for your band that’s the hardest part – that’s how it is for us with album titles. We had a list of titles that we all liked. ‘Whales and Leeches’ was a title of a song off our first record (2009’s Red Fang) and the last record we did (Murder The Mountains), that was the title of a song that we have had since before our first record but never recorded. So we’re like fuck it. If we’re going to be that stupid and name our last record Murder the Mountains after a song that wasn’t even on the record, let’s name the album Whales and Leeches after a song on the first record, especially because we like the name. It’s a heavy sounding name I think. Then someone asks ‘what does this name mean?’ and hopefully nobody listens to my last answer! They can make up their own minds…some kind of weird, crazy cosmic heavy thing. Maybe I should have made up a better answer for that. “
They found a wide array of fans from all of the different audiences they played in front of. From touring with Helmet and Crowbar to The Dillinger Escape Plan to taking part on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival Tour, they found new fans everywhere they hit, and did it without sticking to the typical rock audiences they were used to:
“That’s a good question and a tough question to answer, especially when we did Mayhem Festival, we all looked at each other and went ‘what the fuck man! We’re so out of place.’ We’re also in the biggest crowds we’ve ever played in front of, so why not,” Sherman said.
“We’re gonna try to win them over even if they’re used to listening to screamo bands or whatever, but see what kind of reaction we could get out of our shit. We had a blast. Sometimes it’s tough and scary playing in front of an audience who you think is going to hate you. It’s also a challenge. We think we can win them over, and often we do. I’d like to think that our band is versatile enough. I have a hard time classifying ourselves so we can play with bands like Mastodon and we could also play with bands like Clutch. It doesn’t have to be super heavy but it can be. It’s whoever we’re playing with.”
Much like the audiences they play with, Red Fang’s songwriting process isn’t as disciplined as one may think. Being part jam session and part structured, they found it to work well for them and creating some rather heavy rocking tunes.
“It’s a total meshing of both. Some songs we labor over for months. Some of the riffs that ended up on the last record we’ve been working on for years. Some of the riffs that ended up on this record we were working on for years. Then other songs are just those spontaneous moments of just everyone hanging out at the practice space being happy and playing something and someone goes ‘what was that? Do that again.’ Within ten minutes you have a whole song. There’s the super over thought out ones and the spontaneous ones. We tend to do both.”
While Red Fang is known to rock hard, they still managed to keep fans humored with their animated videos. Comedian Fred Armisen (of Saturday Night Live and Live Night With Seth Meyers fame) made a cameo in their ‘Blood Like Cream’ video. But somehow fans find ways of discovering Red Fang and the videos did play a part in that.
“I don’t know. I certainly think our videos helped spread the word a lot. It’s the normal heavy metal videos. Not that we compare ourselves to a heavy metal band. We’re a heavy rock band. The videos are funny and even if you’re not super into the music at first, you like the videos and then “oh the music’s pretty good too” hopefully. Also I think the videos helped us come across as normal, approachable guys. I think people like that.”
Red Fang has ventured across the globe and has seen many audiences, they do have their favorites. “Moscow in St. Petersburg, Russia were some of the best crowds. Athens, Greece is a fantastic crowd every time. We just played Iceland for the first time. That was completely insane. That was up there with the Moscow crowd. There are good crowds everywhere. There are good crowds in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We’ve always had good crowds in Chicago. It really doesn’t matter the size of the crowd. It matters if the crowd’s into it. It’s way easier to be into it if the crowd’s into it.”
Houston’s Omotai is a sludge metal mammoth, which on paper sounds fan-freakin’-tastic. That is, if you enjoy your sludge metal at mammoth pace for an entire album. With overtones of a simplified Harvey Milk, a rudimentary Doomriders, and even waxing Mercyful Fate at times —check ‘Throats Of Snakes’ for the best example of some King Diamond-esque piping—, you’d think it’d be an engaging listen at least. Despite these influences from promising sources. It is with heavy heart, however, that I must say that Fresh Hell turns out to be anything but.
Blame it on The Sword, Red Fang, Baroness and similar bands, but I’m just not into that whole sludge-meets-hard rock style that seems to be invading your local bar venue on a bi-weekly basis. It certainly has the heaviness to warrant the genre tag and potentially the ability to open for EyeHateGod as local support, but the appeal ends with repetition. Fresh Hell begins rotting as early as halfway through the first track ‘Get Your Dead Straight’, with its riffs scarcely stirring more than an inch further than what would make it truly interesting. The hardcore influence of the tracks ‘Laser Addict’ and ‘Back Office’ make my ears perk up, if only because they’re not inane lumbering workouts that test patience rather than inspire listening.
I feel as though the phrase ‘heard it all before’ applies woefully well to all seven songs here; from the Cave In piracy to the country fried grooves of Mastodon, it’s all sounding like the product of their influences rather than the promised Fresh Hell. There is some promise, yes, but overall it’s too easy to ignore amid a sea of similar sounding bands who have done the same better.
Omotai on Facebook