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: Orden Ogan – Final Days


 

It’s been all change in the Orden Ogan camp recently, and while obviously playing it’s part, not all of it due to the current Coronavirus situation. Firstly, because of a hand injury sustained in 2018, frontman Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann was forced to perform a series of summer dates minus his guitar, fronting the band as vocalist only. Realising he actually prefers performing this way, Levermann has chosen to step back from six-string duties, recruiting guitarist Patrick Sperling to take over in his stead.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn


 

Back with their third full-length release, Californian act Witherfall return with prog guns blazing on Curse of Autumn (Century Media). Formed in 2013 by former White Wizzard frontman Joseph Michael, former White Wizzard and former Iced Earth guitarist Jake Dreyer, and the incredibly talented, but former, er… Justin Timberlake bassist Anthony Crawford, the band has produced another seriously heavy record that delivers riffs, hooks, and dazzling technicality. Continue reading


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


Although the brand of epic European power metal that Crystal Viper performs is most definitely up my street, I must preclude this review by admitting that aside from hearing the odd song here and there, I have had no real exposure to them on a studio album level. The Cult, is the Polish act’s eighth full-length release in a legacy that has thus far lasted eighteen years. At face value, a band that maintains that level of consistency would have me assume they have nailed down a singular style and were comfortable releasing records in said style without a whole lot of variation. It is therefore with a great sense of irony that my first review of their noise is of a disc which caught me completely off guard by occupying a different scene entirely. The sweetly epic elements the band is known for are certainly present in The Cult, but the power metal is largely downplayed in favour of a more classic but simultaneously epic style of heavy metal, one that calls back to the days of bands like Accept and Saxon without ever sounding derivative of either.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Todd La Torre – Rejoice In The Suffering


Despite being initially judged as a Xerox frontman when he joined Queensrÿche nearly a decade ago, Todd La Torre has proven to be so much more than a great Geoff Tate impression. Far from being a hired gun, La Torre has been a heavy player in the band’s creative process and even put his talents as a drummer to use on 2018’s The Verdict while also contributing guest vocals to other projects. Considering the recent pandemic-induced schedule opening, it was only inevitable for him to finish up his long-awaited debut as a solo artist.

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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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ALBUM REVIEW: Pounder – Breaking The World


When listening to Pounder’s second album, Breaking The World, one immediately notices an improvement in lead singer/guitarist Matt Harvey’s (Exhumed/Gruesome) vocal performance. His voice still has the husky, untrained timbre that was an unfortunate liability on 2019’s Uncivilized, but also has more conviction and grit behind it this time around. It may still be a dealbreaker for some listeners, but at least they didn’t attempt to put a power ballad on here…

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