Witchery – I Am Legion

Formed in Linköping, Sweden twenty years ago, Witchery were born from the ashes of cult metal act Satanic Slaughter and have spent the last two decades writing joyful little (de)compositions about all things evil and dead. Or both… After a change in personnel for previous release, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, the Blackened Thrash act are back with the same line-up to unleash their seventh full-length album, I Am Legion (both Century Media), and to absolutely no-one’s surprise, evil and death remain high on the list of subjects covered. Continue reading

Season Of Arrows – Give It To The Mountain

Nashville, Tennessee is more traditionally known as the home of country music. But it’s also home to Season of Arrows, a Female-fronted doom outfit with a real knack for mixing swampy grooves with classic Heavy Metal Doom sensibilities. Continue reading

Mirror – Mirror

Mirror - Mirror

Latest of the new wave of stoner/revival/heavy metal bands, Mirror have an impressive and diverse collective CV of work behind them. A Face on the Doom scene, bassist Tas Danazoglou (erstwhile of Electric Wizard and Great Coven) is the main driver behind this band, along with drummer Jaime Gomez Arellano (Blutvial and Septic Tank). The band is very upfront with what to expect from Mirror (Metal Blade), their debut album: “The recording boasts strong melodic ideas with classic, heavy riffs inspired by the sounds of ScorpionsUFOIron MaidenDeep Purple and the like.”

The album’s opener – ‘Mirror’ – is so ridiculously Maiden that it’s almost a surprise as the vocals start that it’s not Ol’ Foghorn himself making a guest appearance. Instead, Jimmy Mavromatis turns in a performance far more reminiscent of Blind Guardian‘s Hansi Kürsch. The song doesn’t suffer from it though – it’s the best of the bunch. ‘Curse of the Gypsy’ is a grandiose affair which reminds strongly of Ghost. The foot comes off the throttle for the stargazing ‘Year of the Red Moon’, where the inevitable Hammond organ makes its appearance and settles in for the remainder of the ride and ‘Heavy King’ is a fine track in the Deep Purple vein with a strong backbone and some lovely breaks from each band member. ‘Madness and Magic’ brings the (classic rock flavoured) doom and ‘Galleon’ brings us back to Killers-era Maiden, while ‘Cloak of a Thousand Secrets’ turns up the heat again for a boisterous hybrid of Blind Guardian and UFO. ‘Orion’s Sword’ servers an extended acoustic(y) intro to the closing track – ‘Elysian’ – which pretty much shoehorns everything from the rest of the album into one song.

As I’ve said before, revival bands often struggle to find their own sense of identity, but I don’t think this is true of Mirror. They’re honest about what they’re aiming for, they’ve delivered as promised and the end result does stand on its own whilst paying authentic homage to the giants of 70s metal. What lets Mirror down is the killer/filler track list (‘Mirror’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Heavy King’ and ‘Secrets’ being the killers), and the dry production. Now, I fully appreciate that this sound is a central part of the feel the band are going for with this album, but it detracts from almost all the tracks, robbing them of the punch and depth that a richer sound would yield.

Nevertheless, a decent debut, and if you’re into the likes of PursonGhost or The Sword, you’ll probably get on with Mirror.

 

6.5/10

 

PHILIP PAGE

Evil Invaders – Pulses of Pleasure

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The first track of Pulses of Pleasure (Napalm) is called ‘Fast, Loud and Rude’ and that tells you everything you need to know. Once it kicks off with a riff that buzzes around like a pissed off wasp you’ve just failed to swat, high on the spillage of your fizzy drink, you know exactly what type of journey Evil Invaders are going to take you on.

With a more melodic (and slightly restrained) take on Exodus, and lashings and thrashings of Exciter worship, Evil Invaders don’t do subtle. Or diverse. They do, however, pedal a line in nostalgic old school thrash and speed metal and everything, from the retro production to the squealing solos (nice harmony lead in the title track, by the way guys) and the pacy chromatic riffs is lovingly recreated. Existing in a bubble where metal ended when Udo quit Accept and Kai Hansen stopped fronting Helloween, Evil Invaders’ sound and influences begin in 1979 and end in 1986.

While the production and performance values and the base level of pretty much every band releasing music out there these days has increased a thousand-fold in the last thirty years, Speed Metal still allows, nay, welcomes with studded wrist band adorned arms, the amateurish “rough and ready” approach which did alright by Raven and Razor (one assumes the band name is taken from the Razor album of the same name?). Deliberately Shit Metal only exists in the hearts and minds of those with both (white hi-top clad) feet in yesteryear, and Gehennah, who do this retro thing with more balls, menace and conviction, shit Evil Invaders for breakfast.

Some might argue naïve charm and a love of a bygone age, when denim and chains (and rivets) ruled the roost, but the fun factor soon wears off as Pulses of Pleasure reveals itself to be big on style and short on substance. The classic speed metal albums were great because, above all, they lived and died on standout riffs and excellent songwriting. Evil Invaders fall short on both counts.

 

5.5/10

Evil Invaders on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY

Struck A (Christmas) Nerve (Part II) – Toschie Rod of Audrey Horne

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Early in 2013 Scandinavian rockers Audrey Horne put the cat well and truly among the rock pigeons, with a stand-out third album Youngblood. Eighteen months further on and follow-up Pure Heavy is cooling in the racks and the band are back doing what they do best, bringing their brand of rock n’fuckin’ roll to the live stage… In the second part of our feature, Ghost Cult was delighted to catch up with live wire front man Toschie Rod and take the chance to reflect on 2014, shoot the breeze over the music scene and discuss Christmas shopping for the kids.

 

Moving on to other things now; apart from your own album, what’s been the best record you’ve heard this year?

Right now 24 Carat Gold (Reprise) by Stevie Nicks is utterly amazing; she is such a great singer and a great songwriter; it’s just a mind-blowingly great record. When I hear it I was (*makes jaw dropping expression*): just wow. I love the last Mastodon album (Once More Round the Sun – Reprise) – they always manage to be interesting. I love Against Me! and their last album (Transgender Dysphoria Blues –Total Treble/Xtra Mile) had great songs and she sings tremendously well; the way they are so honest about everything makes it, for me, a better record; I know that people say that it’s just the music that should do the talking and I appreciate that point of view but, here, the honesty about their journey as a band makes the record even more compelling. The other record I have been listening to a lot is Phosphorescent Harvest (Silver Arrow) by the Chris Robinson Brotherhood; he is a singer that I really admire and it’s a record that stuck in my head. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with the YOB (album- that is a brilliant record too. Jesus, there have been so many amazing records this year….

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Once this tour is over, will you be heading back to Norway for Christmas?

Yes, absolutely. We will all be going back to our families. It will be nice to spend time at home just having a nice quite time with the family, the kids and some nice food and fine wine.

What do you want for Christmas?

You know, it’s funny. People often ask me what I want for Christmas and I don’t need a lot so I don’t ask for a lot. Some new vinyls would be nice and if you’re offering I can give you a list! Seriously, though, this is all about spending time with the family and having a nice time.

 

Have you decided what you’re getting the kids?

Oh, that’s done already. They are at the age when they want their own mobile phones so…I’m being a good dad and getting them mobile phones

Once the holiday season is out of the way, what are your plans for 2015?

We will definitely be doing some more touring. We are hoping to be announcing a big tour with a huge band for next year plus some headline tours of our own. Although we have made a lot of progress over the past few years, the best way to grow our band is to get out to as many people as possible so mixing it up by doing a big support slot as well as our own shows is probably the best way to grow our band. We have some new ideas for songs so we will spend some time writing as well. We haven’t decided whether to go into the studio or not at the moment but we probably will have enough stuff to put out an EP that can support one of the tours but its early days at the moment – you’ll have to be patient.

 

Audrey Horne on Facebook

Words by MAT DAVIES

 

Struck A Nerve (Part I) – Toschie Rod of Audrey Horne

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Early in 2013 Scandinavian rockers Audrey Horne put the cat well and truly among the rock pigeons, with a stand-out third album Youngblood. Eighteen months further on and follow-up Pure Heavy is cooling in the racks and the band are back doing what they do best, bringing their brand of rock n’fuckin’ roll to the live stage… In the first of a two part feature, Ghost Cult was delighted to catch up with live wire front man Toschie Rod.

 

The last time I met Audrey Horne’s affable and effortlessly charming lead singer Toschie Rod, he was wearing only a pair of black underpants. Before your imagination starts running away with you, he was backstage at the band’s triumphant appearance at the London Garage back at the start of last year and was dutifully signing vinyl copies of his band’s latest and earlier works for yours truly.

Upon reminding him of this encounter, Rod is politeness personified; he genuinely doesn’t remember, which I suspect is the best thing for all of us. This latest meeting – fully clothed, I hasten to add – midway through the band’s latest UK tour in support of the group’s latest album, the hard rockin’ Pure Heavy (Napalm) gives us a chance to reflect on where the band are in 2014…

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“2014’s been good…it’s been… interesting.  Busy. We’ve been busy. I’m just thinking back to even before the start of this year, you know. We have just been so exceptionally busy. After Youngblood (also Napalm) came out we did 3 tours in Europe; one with Long Distance Calling and Solstafir, one with Karma to Burn and Ghold and one with Grand Magus. Oh yes, we also did that a short British tour with The Mercy House. In the first half of 2014 we spent a lot of we spent a lot of time writing music and recording stuff until we went into the studio to put down Pure Heavy; so, yeah, 2014 has been a busy, busy time….”

Have you been surprised by the reaction to Pure Heavy? Has it been a good surprise?

“Yeah, it’s been good. I mean, let’s be clear about this, Youngblood was a turning point for us as a band and also musically. We had reached a point, I think, where a lot of things became “just business” and not pleasing ourselves. We decided that we needed to get back those good feelings about why we had put the band together in the first place. Think about it this way – there is a big difference between writing and recording stuff on your own in a bedroom when you are coming up with small bits, recording it, then doing some more, recording that, and on and on. Whilst you might get some really good stuff from that process, it is stop start and not very… organic. When we released Youngblood it was a completely natural organic process for us. We have tried to do the same with Pure Heavy.”

The self-titled record is a beautifully constructed record; you can hear the influences, see what you are trying to achieve as a band. Youngblood and Pure Heavy feel like you want to be the last gang in town where you don’t care what anyone thinks or what you sound like – albums where you just want to let the music do the talking, if you’ll forgive the cliché…

“Oh, there is no doubt that Youngblood hit a nerve. When Youngblood came out we were like “Holy Shit!!” People were really praising the album, really getting it; we were suddenly a really “cool” band. As good as that is, we did know that when we released Pure Heavy we knew that everyone was going to be looking in every corner and under every cover to decide whether it was as good as Youngblood. You know, I have read plenty of reviews where there have been plenty of “it’s not as good as Youngblood” type comments but, you know, I can understand that as well….”

 

Do you think part of the more muted response to Pure Heavy was because everyone has been expecting another massive leap forward?

“Oh yes, there’s definitely something in that. We approached Pure Heavy in the same way that we did with Youngblood. It was all done together in a rehearsal and then we went in and recorded it live. That way you can focus on the playing until you get the atmosphere.”

 

There’s definitely a sound of wanting to capture a band in the moment, as live. Are you happy that you have achieved that?

“Look, we are a good band on album but we are a waaay better as a live band. What you get with Audrey Horne is the same band, the same songs but on steroids. We always consider ourselves a live band first and foremost. We are good in the studio, but live I really do think we are something else. Also, one of the other reasons that I think we are received well is that we haven’t second guessed what might be “cool”- we have just gone in and done it so it’s hardly going to be a surprise that some people like what we do and some don’t.”

 

Audrey Horne on Facebook

Words by MAT DAVIES

RAM / Portrait – Under Command

 

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Friends, allies and countrymen lending each other not just their ears, but their riffs too, and sharing black wax time and what we have here is a pretty cool, if gratuitous, way for two bands to promote themselves and each other. The premise for Under Command, a split EP (Metal Blade), is that each band contributes a new original, a re-imagining of the other band and a cover.

First up is RAM’s original, a spiky Judas Priest inspired 80’s rocket called ‘Savage Machine’. It goes without saying originality is at a premium, but it’s delivered in the right spirit. However, the best of RAM’s trio of unholiness is their take on Portrait’s ‘Welcome To My Funeral’, outdoing the original with graveyard tones and atmospheres working well. All the good work done in the first two, RAM chuck it away with a piss-weak and stock cover of KISS’ ‘Creatures Of The Night’ that seems to go on for double its four minute length.

Portrait have been (unfairly? the jury is still out…) tagged as wannabe Mercyful Fate merchants, with people comparing Per Lengstedt to the King, in an evaluation that the Portrait man can only come out second best in. ‘Martial Lead’ does little to dispel the Fate association, with Lengstedt’s voice and falsetto too rough and no Diamond. Their version of Exciter’s ‘Aggressor’ is decent, raw and aggressive enough, and they run through RAM’s ‘Blessed To Be Cursed’, a more underground and Satanic British Steel era Priest tune, with enough intent to do it justice.

All six tracks suffer from a retro production, and it’s interesting that by the end the differences between the two bands are negligible and this could be one release by the same act. It’s also of note that the more high profile of the two, Portrait, come out second best, but, then, RAM have more to benefit from this, and it shows in the power they put into their track.

All said and done, this is a decent enough curio, but no more than that.

 

6.0/10

RAM on Facebook

Portrait on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY