REVIEWS ROUND-UP: Oni – Petrol Girls – Profiler – We Struck Gold – Limbs


 

ONI – Loathing Light (Ironshore Records)

The development and progression from Jake Oni’s 2016 debut, the tech metal minded Ironshore to second offering Loathing Light is something quite notable. Always technically proficient, Oni has made the most of his exposure to a host of successful musical others (for one, he worked with Mark Morton on the latter’s solo record), and their class has rubbed off. That isn’t to say that ONI is reliant on the guest interventions and mentorship and guidance of others, more to say that the eponymous mastermind has become the proverbial sponge, moving on his ability to write engaging, memorable metal tunes, with the emphasis on energy, and setting a series of barbed aural traps to ensnare both the willing victims and the unwitting.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Shinedown – Planet Zero


The chatter in the buildup to Shinedown’s seventh album Planet Zero (Atlantic Records) has focused on the lyrics and subject matter and a new ground for a band who have stood up for unity, mental health support, and anti-bullying. Freedom of speech has long been a vanguard of rock lyrics, and it is interesting that Shinedown’s challenge of cancel culture has been seen as evidence of an underlying conservatism, though lines about people being “woke, but not awake” and sections of the society being “Clueless and Dramatic” will invite comment, even if the stated intention is to encourage exploration of nuance and individuality. Indeed, the band stated on the album launch “It’s not a record for the right, it’s not a record for the left… it’s a record for all of us.”

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ALBUM REVIEW: Vatican – Ultra


While Georgian five-piece Vatican may name-check Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan, their roots are firmly planted in (the original type of) metalcore, owing as much to Earth Crisis and Vision of Disorder (et al) as the latter-day spearheads of discordant “popular” heavy music. Ultra (UNFD) may be the band’s second full-length overall, however with a focus on the sound and style, and with the smooth integration of new vocalist Mike Sugars, it feels like a milestone moment in the definition of what Vatican is as a band, and who they are as an artist.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP: EP’s ft. Creature – Terminal Nation and Kruelty – Asylum City Zoo – Lydia’s Castle – orphantwin


 

Creature Haunt (self-released)

Like the slow walk around the empty, dark house at the start of A.N.Other horror film (it’ll be in Gary Alcock’s collection x666) the brooding, bruising opening minute of ‘All’ is an ominous introduction that lulls into a false sense of security, peeling things back before the swinging axe of a looping guitar-crush lands to decapitate.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP: ft. Dragged Under – Moodring – Hollow Front – Future Palace


 

Dragged Under – Upright Animals (Mascot Label Group)

Having turned heads with their opening salvo, 2020’s The World Is In Your Way, Seattle melodic punk troupe Dragged Under are snapping them the full 360 with the follow-up, the infectious, energetic Upright Animals, a vigorous mix of punk and rock, with hints of metalcore roughing up the edges.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Predatory Light – Death and the Twilight Hours


‘Death and the Twilight Hours’, our third cryptal offering here, crawls with a Blakkheim-esque ominous misty creep around the moonlit haunted castle ruins, before the candelabra bring themselves to light and a cascading guitar line that is part Dissection, part Andy LaRoque continues to layer scything atmospheres, hewn from the six-razor wires ripping flesh and liminal peals from the busy part-mortal fingers, encased skeletal conductors that dance upon the decaying fretboard, ushering us to the next section of L.S.’ raspy vocals… but our decomposing ring-leader isn’t master of ceremonies for long, as soon we are embraced by the cold winds of nowhere, and a wild tapping solo that leads a baroque segue into a minor key early-Katatonia descending guitar lead passage. It is breathlessly visual, musically telling a tale with an atmosphere Sheridan le Fanu would have been proud of.

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ALBUM REVIEW: James LaBrie – Beautiful Shade of Grey


Having amassed a discography of over twenty albums as the lead vocalist (of which this is the fifth solely under his own name), and nearly two dozen guest appearances across a thirty year professional recording career, you could have forgiven James LaBrie for taking some overdue and well-earned time off when the 2020 Dream Theater world tour was halted. Instead, he and Eden’s Curse (whose Trinity album was adorned by his distinctive a glorious pipes) guitarist Paul Logue began trading the musical ideas that would grow into Beautiful Shade of Gray (InsideOut Music).

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ALBUM REVIEW: Visions of Atlantis – Pirates


If you’re looking for a metal album about pirates this summer that you can listen to guilt free (what? I meant now that we’re all mature enough to not worry about calling things like this a guilty pleasure… honest guv!), you need look no further than Visions of Atlantis’ eighth full-length album, the rather bluntly and descriptively titled Pirates (Napalm Records).

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ALBUM REVIEW: Halestorm – Back From The Dead



While it’s damn near time to call a moratorium on the “bands affected by the pandemic” introduction to review pieces, it does seem particularly prevalent to do so in reference to Halestorm, for whom life on the road seems such an integral and core part of who and what they are. That isn’t to say that a fifth album wouldn’t have been coming around now, just that the circumstances and unplanned quiet time wouldn’t have dictated the methods of its creation.Continue reading


ALBUM REVIEW: Fozzy – Boombox


Whether it is due to the day-job of Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho, or their weird roots and route, stumbling into being a “proper band” by evolving from a high-profile covers act formed by former Stuck Mojo six-stringer Rich Ward, rightly or wrongly (and the answer is wrongly, by the way), it took 2017’s breakout anthem ‘Judas’ (from the album of the same name), a bona-fide fists-in-the-air voices-to-the-sky classic anthem, to put a stamp of credibility on the twenty-year labour of musical love of Ward and Jericho and push them headfirst through the glass ceiling and into the next level of mainstream consciousness.

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