Tyrant’s long-awaited fourth album, Hereafter (ShadowKingdom Records), has come out under some rather interesting circumstances. In addition to serving as the Pasadena veterans’ first full-length since 1996’s King of Kings, Hereafter sees journeyman vocalist Robert Lowe at the helm in place of Glen May. The prospects of this collaboration are certainly intriguing, especially as a fan of Lowe’s work with Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass. I wouldn’t go so far as to think of it as Tyrant gone doom, but it approaches their established sound from a noticeably different angle.
As we celebrate fifty years of Black Sabbath, including the forty-ninth anniversary of their debut album, we are seeing a lot of outpouring of love and respect across music. One really interesting tribute is from mega fan Michael Suilleabhain. Hailing from West Cork, Ireland. By day he is Irish Nuclear Construction Safety Inspector, but by night Michael is a music producer and singer with big dreams. One dream he willed into reality was an all-star tribute to his favorite band, Ninth Star (PHD). Amassing ten former members across every lineup of the band, Emerald Sabbath features Adam Wakeman (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne), Bev Bevan (Black Sabbath/ELO), Neil Murray (Black Sabbath/Whitesnake), Terry Chimes (Black Sabbath/The Clash), Laurence Cottle (Black Sabbath/The Alan Parsons Project), Ron Keel (Black Sabbath/Ron Keel Band), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell), Dave Walker (Black Sabbath/Fleetwood Mac), Bobby Rondinelli (Black Sabbath/Rainbow), Tony Martin (Black Sabbath/Headless Cross), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne/Whitesnake) and The English Chamber Choir. Other Emerald Sabbath contributors include Will Malone and Mike Lewis (Sabotage/Technical Ecstasy) Mike Exeter (Black Sabbath/Judas Priest), Jeremy J. Lewis (Headless Cross), Mike Lewis (‘She’s Gone’) Skaila Kang (Royal Academy Of Music) as well as Sabbath album graphic designers Richard Manning and Colin Elgie (Technical Ecstasy) and Hugh Gilmour (Born Again). It’s an impressive feat to have united these forces for this album, but do they pass muster. Continue reading
Swedish doomsters Sorcerer has an interesting story. Formed in Stockholm in the late 80s, they’d already broken up by the time a compilation of their demos was released in 1995. And that was it. No more demos, no proper début albums. Cue twenty years of silence suddenly punctured by 2015’s In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross (Metal Blade); a massive record that was one of my favourite Doom records that year. Continue reading
The V is the solo project of Veronica Freeman, and Now or Never (Frontiers Music) is her debut album. Freeman has been storming her way through the music scene for ten years with Benedictum, and now brings forth a Hard-Rock album supported by a lot of big names in the scene. Not the least of these is Tony Martin, formerly of Black Sabbath, who appears in the duet ‘King for a Day’.
Unlike Benedictum, this album falls in the Hard Rock or Hair Metal categories, and as it turns out, these work very well with Freeman’s very strong vocals. The subjects vary from empowerment to love, and in the absence of love, sex. Musically, the album opens and closes with a very classic hard-rock sound, while everything in between has the same modern quality and feeling as Jorn Lande puts into his album. However, it has even more clichéd riffs and far more clichéd lyrics.
Of the more classical songs ‘Now or Never’ is probably the most exciting, with funky guitars and bass and that same unapologetic rock-vibe that Gotthard excels in. Of the more modern songs ‘Line in the Sand’ is the catchiest, although the modulation gives a certain cheesy quality to the thing. The real highlight of the album is ‘Kiss My Lips’, which has a lot of variation in vocals and music, but keeps it all together. The mysteriously soft pre-chorus contrasts nicely with the heavy and driving chorus.
Although the album is very enjoyable in places, the overuse of echo and somewhat unoriginal lyrics and music in some places is a bit of a let-down. It is certainly not a bad debut, but hopefully the focus on the next album will be a bit more on the writing of the songs and a bit less on the production value.
With one black leather thigh-high boot in the hard rock camp, and the other stomping down on the metal side of the fence, comes the confident swagger of Swedish quartet Sister Sin. Following hard on the heels of a successful second stage Bloodstock headline performance this year, it’s easy to see why the band are self-assured, as the headbanging ‘Food For Worms’ launches their fifth album Black Lotus (Victory).
Vocalist Liv Jagrell has bark, bite and edge in her voice, a metal snarl that stays around the mid-range, as the Scandinavians impart an album of no-surprises rock/metal that doesn’t just throwback, but whole-heartedly engages in the worship of the days of Accept and Dio. While comparisons with Doro may seem too obvious (and I tried my damnedest to avoid them), nonetheless ‘Desert Queen’ and ‘Ruled By None’ are smack bang in Pesch territory. Pleasingly, though, Sister Sin aren’t adverse to chucking the odd curveball in, as the more epic ‘Count Me Out’ inspires thoughts of Tony Martin era Sabbath jamming with Metal Church and the countrified ballad ‘The Jinx’ is a good tune which shows Sister Sin have chops, as it would have been easy to have car-crashed going down that particular alley.
At this stage in the game, while it’s too late to expect anything special from Sister Sin, it would be churlish to discount them completely as they are a whole-hearted and exceptionally competent act who deliver gratifying, committed hard rocking heavy metal like it’s going out fashion. I guess the problem is, we know it went out of fashion twenty years ago and came back stronger and more diverse than ever shortly after. We also know The Gods Made Heavy Metal, and that it’s never gonna die, so considering the tumults of great out there, it’s difficult to champion a release that is Top C grade in the grand scheme of things when there are so many A Grade acts out there doing something more interesting.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Black Lotus. It scratches an itch, but does so in the same non-permanent way that countless others do.
More bands should take the same “back to basics” approach that DragonForce are applying to the UK leg of the Maximum Overload world tour. Rather than taking in the usual 5 shows in the same 5 major cities, this time around the sextet are taking in 20 smaller venues in 20 towns that don’t get to see many non-local bands.
And the people of Colchester, saved the £30 fare and hour journey to London to take in a show, have responded enthusiastically. The Arts Centre, a converted church that is actually a rather fine venue, is absolutely rammed, and the opening band aren’t even on.
Neonfly, a badly named band who thus far have flown under the radar, take to the stage and are greeted enthusiastically and respond as if they’ve just strolled out as a festival headliner. And it’s lapped up as they run through a selection of AOR influenced widdly Power Metal that veers between Sonata Arctica and UFO. They have all the poses (including some classic Priest choreography), all the solos and in Willy Norton, all the voice with his excellent Michael Kiske meets Tony Martin delivery, and a stage patter that’s part children’s entertainer and part Danny Bowes on happy pills. It’s 1988 again, and no one is complaining as single ‘Gift To Remember’ is met by a healthy number of hands in the air to its rocking riff and massive chorus. While closer ‘Morning Star’ may be a slightly disappointing end to a very enjoyable set, no damage is done as Neonfly have made a lot of new friends tonight, as songs aired from their upcoming new album Strangers In Paradise (Inner Wound) touch on Avantasia. And they have a guitarist called Fred Thunder.
DragonForce have quite the mixed live reputation, but since the arrival of vocalist Marc Hudson they seem to be a different beast these days. Hudson’s first album with the band, The Power Within (Essential/Roadrunner) was their best since debut Valley Of The Damned (Noise/Sanctuary) and the strength and reputation of their live show has grown since his arrival. Heading out on the road with a new album, Maximum Overload (earMUSIC), that picks up where Power… left off, could they continue the upward live curve?
Absolutely. In spades. From the rapid fire power metal, to the guitar duelling of Sam Totman and Hermann Li, who both make the fastest and most complex of guitar techniques seem effortless, to bassist Frédéric Leclercq’s facial comedy show and underpinning rumble and Hudson’s near flawless vocal performance, the ‘Force are on it.
Everything about DragonForce on this tour elicits grins and a feeling of joy, and it’s clear this comes from the stage, aided by Totman’s understated self-deprecation and ongoing banter with Leclercq, the two of them mocking Li, each other, the lyrics (the sword motions in ‘Black Winter Night’ were childishly brilliant), the crowd and themselves throughout while still delivering. It’s great to see. Li, on the other hand, is pulling every Guitar-God shape, including pick-sliding with his tongue, while in between Hudson, the bastard love-child of Chris Jericho and Sebastian Bach, has learnt the master of ceremonies role, padding and filling well in the longer than usual gaps between songs caused by technical issues to Vadim Pruzhanov’s keytar.
Highlights are hard to choose, but a mid-set ‘Seasons’ goes down a storm, a thrashy ‘The Game’ opens up a pit, and ‘Three Hammers’ is a colossal slice of One Direction meets ManOweeN, before all too soon it’s time for the bands best song, ‘Cry Thunder’ which concludes the set proper to rapturous cheers.
Immediate a holler rises for an encore, and the band oblige, camping through their dreadful version of ‘Ring of Fire’, before a vibrant ‘Through The Fire And Flames’ (I’m sure some guy near me was actual air Guitar Hero-ing) and a triumphant ‘Valley Of The Damned’ wrap things up to send a happy crowd spilling out, talking nearly as quickly as the flurrying fingers of Totman and Li about how much they enjoyed the show.
This is what a Power Metal gig should be about, a packed crowd singing along to hymns of cheese and metal with a band turning in a great performance, all creating a symbiotic exuberance. Simply great fun.
And I was sober…
DragonForce Set list
Fury Of The Storm
Black Winter Night
Symphony Of The Night
Heroes Of Our Time
Ring Of Fire
Through The Fire And The Flames
Valley Of The Damned