Blues Pills – Blues Pills

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Nuclear Blast

Buy the CD HERE

Review by Rick Ossian

Anyone who is into psychedelic music should pay attention here.  This is by far some of the best you will hear this year.  The music harkens back to the halcyon days of yore for the genre, and you will hear many artists that you may have heard before having an influence upon our heroes.  I myself was reminded of a veritable cornucopia of 60′s/70′s heavy metal icons, including Uriah Heep and Pink Floyd amongst others.

In order for us to continue, we should probably say a little something about the band.  According to their bio, Blues Pills are an ‘American/Swedish/French quartet’ whose home base is Planet Earth, specifically Orebro.  They are Elin Larsson on vocals, Dorian Sorriaux on guitar, Zack Anderson on bass and Cory Berry on drums. Collectively, they are one of the best bands I’ve heard in ages.  After checking out this, their eponymous debut studio LP, one would do well to check out their live EP from Rockpalast.  A fine ribald effort, indeed. Definitely worth checking into!
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The folks in Blues Pills come charging smack out of the gate right in our faces with the opener, High Class Woman. It is a bass-rumbling, ass-kicking exploder of a tune.  It is exciting, and, as mentioned before, Uriah Heep-esque at certain moments.  It is absolutely loaded with the 60′s/70′s vibe mentioned above as well.  It dares us, challenges us, in a good way, to LISTEN UP and pay attention!  Ain’t No Change fools us a bit at first, sucking us into what appears to be an instrumental.  However, at the 1:15 mark, we hear Elin’s vocals cutting through the mix.  Slicing would probably be a more apt description of her voice’s ability to hack and slash through the positively wicked boogie of her cohorts’ assault!  Elin is truly a marvel to behold (behear?), and you will hear her voice do all sort of vocal acrobatics, if you will, throughout the rest of the excellent tunes on offer here.  By the way, there is a tasty guitar solo at the 3:15 mark!

Jupiter features a heavy duty psych intro straight out of the hippy rock era, thick with wah/crybaby squealings.  “I wanna show you my love“, hollers Elin, and we WANT her to show us!  There is a guitar solo here at the 1:40 mark, again thick with wah.  A brief breakdown follows at the 2-minute mark, then a jam at 3 minutes in, followed by another guitar solo, thick with wah and shredding till the end!

Black Smoke is a longer number, almost a torch blues in a way.  Elin has the ability to transport us back to the day when women sang as passionately as ANY man.  She is a righteous and powerful vocalist and we would all do well to listen up!  At 1:07 there is a guitar wig-out, for lack of a better word.  Some very serious blues going on here, talk of sinners and God in the lyrics, a guitar solo at the the three-and-a-half minute mark that is more feedback freakout than anything.  A boogie section, reminiscent of Status Quo in a strange way, follows, then another guitar solo at 4:30.

River sucks us in again, leading us to believe that this is going to be a mellow, Floyd-like number.  Indeed, the intro is distinctly that way.  More torchlight vocals via Elin.  At 1:20, things get kicked up a notch for some REAL blues, and at the 2:30 mark there is a positively incendiary guitar solo!

No Hope Left For Me is a stellar space blues.  This is obviously another vehicle for Elin’s vocal work.  Some incredible guitar work here as well.  Devil Man, by contrast, is a hard charger.  It is another vocal tour-de-force (surprise!), and features a very busy drummer on board.  “Truth will haunt you until your death“, Elin warns us.  This tune also includes a very 60′s-style rave-up at the 2:30 mark.

Astralplane is another bluesy, Floyd-y thing, and at some moments is redolent of a slightly harder-rock, almost heavy metal Joe Bonamassa/Beth Hart pairing.  It is a sweet, cool scary blues with some wicked licks!  At the 3-minute mark there is yet another wailing guitar solo.  This is, again, an almost combative blues, challenging the listener to be brave and LISTEN UP some more!  I only wish it were longer…

Gypsy is an old-style boogie number.  Status Quo again came to mind as I was listening.  There is some Hendrix mixed in there as well.  Lots of thick wah/crybaby soloing/riffing going on, and Elin wailing again.  At the 1:45 mark there is another guitar solo! Surprise!

Little Sun is the closer, and it is a mellow, slower number, at least at the intro, featuring some tribal drumming.  This one is almost lullaby-esque, and features two guitar solos, one at 2:10 and one at 3:10.  All things being equal in the rock world, then, this is a release to definitely take note of.  In particular, if psych/blues is your thing – especially if you like those proceedings a bit on the HEAVIER side! Top marks!

*****/5

The Spiral Sequence – Through Shadow Into Light

Spiral Sequence

Buy MP3 HERE

Spiral Sequence

Review by Dave Smiles

The Spiral Sequence is a solo project from multi-instrumentalist James O’Toole, who hails from Melbourne in Australia. All the song-writing, performances, recording, mixing and artwork were done by O’Toole, the only thing he didn’t do was the final mastering of the album, which might be a good thing. There’s always the danger of being too close to your work.

It’s impressive that one man has created an album that could be considered the soundtrack to the apocalypse, but when you add to it an astute social commentary, anthems for the working class and some mysticism as well you have an album the ‘thinking man’ can sink his teeth into.

The name The Spiral Sequence comes from the Fibonacci sequence and along with his lyrics show O’Toole is educated and motivated to use his music to inspire people to seek out answers.

The ten tracks that make up Through Shadow Into Light fuse alternative, metal and experimental music and provides a unique sound within the metal genre. At times taking the brutality of Slayer, at others the haunting moods of Mercyful Fate or the doom laden Type O Negative, but it always comes together as a fully realised piece of work that would not be out of place next to Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet or even Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. This is an ‘album’ not just a collection of songs.

There are universal themes throughout the songs, raising questions about the value of human life, governments, personal decisions, struggles, conflict, love, loss and social awareness. If you like your metal with thought provoking lyrics, then this will get some heavy questions raised.

Nibiru takes us on a journey of a cosmic wrecking ball, based on a supposed disastrous encounter between Earth and a large planet – planet X or Nibiru. While this event holds no scientific proof of its apparent occurrence O’Toole manages to paint a picture of impending doom. After this song of cosmic doom we’re quickly grounded with If, a song about self-reflection and personal decisions.

Dehumanisation, followed by Sacrifice take us into the war for profit territories, the latter paying respect to those who have died on battlefields. It’s a common theme to metal songs, but few bring as many visuals to the listeners mind than what O’Toole manages to do. The Rage takes us to the war we face every day in the repetitions of the working class. The relentless performances on all the instruments within these songs fit the subject matter perfectly.

Surface is a reflective tale about loss and giving up which lures the listener along as we sink into the acceptance of helplessness before the mood changes subtly, forcing us back up to face another day. It’s rare that the music, lyrics and singing fit together so well to create an overall feel. This is art.

Killer guitar riffs, awesome drum work and thought provoking song writing. This could be any metal fans favourite ‘unknown’ band. For me, at least, it’s gotten under my skin and insists upon repeated listens and it’s been a while since any album has had that effect on me.

Rating: ****/5

Lost Society – Terror Hungry

lostsocietyalbumcover

Buy CD HERE and MP3 HERE

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

To begin with, I just want everyone to know that the mere fact that I am doing another thrash metal review is NOT lost on me!  I am well aware that I probably do not do nearly as many thrash as I would, say, straight classic rock, heavy metal or even progressive metal reviews.  So, what’s the story, then, you might say?  Slow day at the office? Meager selection?  Not even close.  In fact, being a listener of and writer for WWRS is the main reason.  Since I’ve become a reporter of metal news, for lack of a better word, I appreciate the tunes much more, it seems.  So, enough of my prattling, on with the show!

Lost Society are four blokes from Jyvaskyla, Finland, and were formed in 2010.  They are, collectively, Sammy Elbana (guitar and vocalist extraordinaire), Arttu Lesonen (also on guitar), Mirko Lehtinen (bass) and Ossi Paananen (drums).   Now let me tell you something about these four: Firstly, they can really jam!  There are some excellent passages here, a giant bag of riffs to pull from throughout.  Secondly, our friendly vocalist Sammy is a screamer AND a singer, and is more than passable at both.  Thirdly, and finally, they curse a LOT.  This is something that I have found particularly entices and excites me.  I do not know why.

The boys start things off with an intro proper, simply titled Spurgatory.  It features a demonic laugh at the outset, heavy duty riffage, as if to call us to attention.  Game Over has double-time bass and drums for its onset, and the main riff and screaming as mentioned aboe come into play, but not for the last time.  Wow, what a riff!  I keep seeing a heavy metal restaurant called Bag O’ Riffs (Open All Nite) when I imagine where these cats might play for a venue…again, not sure why.  Just try to keep up please!

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Attaxic features much cursing and some MORE serious riffing, especially the heavier-than-thou main riff.   Lethal Pleasure is a no-holds-barred, in your face kind of number, with more cool and screaming and holy crap dig that main riff! Again!

The title track is a real piece of work, careening along at what could only be described as triple-time!  Of course, there is more cursing, perhaps because expletives are just really cool — maybe just because they can if they want to.  The screams and the musicianship are par excellence once again.

Snowroad Blowout finds the Bag O’ Riffs opening in the morning with their breakfast special.  They’ve just sliced out another big portion of riff pie, if you will.  This number will make you want to stand up, tap your toes and fingers, bang your heads, play your air guitar/drums, or even perhaps pick up actual instruments.  It is one of those tunes that is sort of a call to arms for metal heads (ANTHEM!), and it will inspire you if you are anything like yours truly.  Sammy screams “We’re all gonna die!” and you almost believe him.  Some seriously heavy-duty, free-wheeling thrash on board here.

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Tyrant Takeover is a bit more sedate, but still ass-kicking, skull-impinging, mind-infringing metal.  And again the Bag O’ Riffs is open all night tonight, serving a fish-and-chips special for all my friends across the pond.  Double and/or triple-time frenetic beats and shredding seem to be the nom du fare here.  At one point Sammy belts out “KISS MY ASS!!” and you almost kind of want to.  Well, not ME, but I know folks who would…  This is heavy duty and very fast, and features a guitar solo about 2 minutes in, then again at 2:40 and 3:45.  This might be the best number on the recording thus far.  Total shredding at the close, but not surprising at this point.  Like I said, these boys can REALLY jam!

Overdosed Brain includes a drum -heavy intro and a wicked-as-hell cool main riff again.  There is some excellent lead work accompanying the proceedings here as well.  I am fast becoming a fan of these fellows.  Thrashed Reality (indeed it is!) has me wondering just HOW these guys just keep getting better and better as they go along.  It is heavy duty stuff, and just try to keep up on your air drums, I DARE YOU! I did and I did NOT succeed!

F.F.E. (Fucked For Eternity) is another heads-down and bar-the-door number.  More cursing is involved as well.  I’m sounding a bit broken record again, but the main riff kicks ass!  Simply and completely, I might add.  Brewtal Awakening is another killing heavy riff-racked tune, with a really cool wicked lead at the outset, then total shred again as we burrow our way in.  At 1:20 they shift gears into a headlong thrash again.  “OH SHIT!”, yells Sammy, then at about the four-minute mark, it goes back to a classic rock riff breakdown.  One more guitar solo is thrown in at the 4:10 mark for good measure.

Mosh It Up is just as the title would suggest to you, an open opportunity to get your mosh one, as it were.  The opening riff and scream will get you excited again, as it did me.  There is a heavy main riff (surprise!) and Sammy bellows “SHIT OUT OF LUCK” at one point, amongst other expletives.  It is evident that Sammy likes to swear!  At 2:45 there is a lovely guitar solo, switching to total shred again at the close.

Wasted After Midnight is another killer, totally heavy and totally fast.  After all, why let up now?  It also includes a pretty cool main riff.  And why not?  All of the other tracks do too!  Top marks!

*****/5

Kaine – The Waystone

kainewaystonecover

MGR Records

Pre-order the MP3 version HERE

Review by Rick Ossian

Call them what you will – revivalists of the ‘second wave’ of British Heavy Metal, carriers of the Maiden torch, Britain’s ‘new hope for metal’ – it all sounds like promotional shite when you really get down to it.  I will call them as I hear them; Kaine are a good hard rock/heavy metal band, sometimes even very good.  They DO emulate Maiden, and it’s refreshing to hear a band who are proud to wear their influences on their collective sleeves.  However, when a band is as derivative as Kaine can be, there will doubtless be comparisons drawn – most likely negative as well as positive.  For my part, I’ve enjoyed listening to their latest (their second) recording immensely.  There are refreshing bits here as well as the obvious tributaries, even a couple of surprises!

For example, opener and latest single, The Iron Lady, features a bass solo of sorts at 3:15!   Now just how often, I ask you, have I reported on a bass solo?   This is the first one I can remember in quite some time.  In fact, no others come to mind at the moment (Anesthesia – Pulling Teeth by Metallica, Sting Of The Bumblebee by Manowar, Big Bottom by Spinal Tap, NIB by Black Sabbath… – Smart-Arse Ed!).  Obviously, every bass player relishes the chance to do a little fill here and there, to show off or shine alongside their guitarist counterparts.  Here bassist Dan Mailer gets his chance to be proud and then some.  By the by, Dan is accompanied by Rage Sadler (guitar, vocals), Anthony Murch (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chris MacKinnon (drums).  They were formed in 2009 and hail from East Anglia.  In their bio, they list their influences.  You know who are at the top of that list.  There are others as well, just so you know.

The New Wave (‘can’t you see the enemy?’) is another slice of NWOBHM with a tasty guitar solo at the five-and-a-half minute mark.  It is a long one, coming in at just under 7 minutes.  Dreams to Nightmares features a cool uptempo riff and some blasting drums.  Plenty of guitars grace the air here as well.  Solidarity features lots of double-bass drumming and some very nice melodic lead guitar work.  Also some vocal chanting here.

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Resistance, the other ‘single’, if you will, has a very cool guitar intro and more Maiden influence, should we be wondering.  Entropy (Unrelenting Chaos) is an instrumental jam, and a good one, at that!  The Soul Exchange is another long number, just shy of 8 minutes, and features a mellow guitar intro that turns into an even softer solo.  At 1:40, Rage reminds us that this is a hard rock song (‘Lucifer’s wicked game’).  To emulate the Irons is one thing, but one wonders are they reaching too hard, or too far?  Is this TOO much like Maiden?  I shall leave that to you, dear reader(s), to decide.  One thing is for sure, these blokes can definitely jam!  Of course, as they say, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Wanderer is another good jam.  Rage could definitely do the honours at a, oh, let’s say Revolver Golden Gods Awards show if they needed somebody to pay tribute to Bruce and company.  But enough of that.  The closer, the epic title track, is damn near 11-and-a-half minutes in length, and takes us through some really cool sections – movements, if you will.  It starts with a very cool guitar intro, and features a different sort of piano/drum sequence that is another surprise.  At the 3-minute mark, we are reminded once again that this is a song proper.  There is another killer guitar solo at 8 minutes in, and a very melodic, piano-fueled musical interlude that borders on classical.  All in all, I’d say that it is a good thing that Kaine wears their influences as close to their chest(s) as they do, but it may have the effect of putting off a few folks…unless of course they are Maiden fans!

***/5

Anvil – Hope In Hell

Anvil Hope In Hell

Steamhammer Records

Buy CD HERE and MP3 HERE

Review by Carl “ThunderGod” Pickles

Hope in Hell is the fifteenth studio album by Canadian Heavy Metal band, and perennial underdogs, Anvil.  To say that these guys have had some bad luck in their career is akin to saying Hurricane Katrina caused a few problems in New Orleans.  The fact that the band are here at all is testament to the belief and staying power of Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner, who make up the core of this triumverate, rounded out by Sal Italiano.

The album was produced by Bob Marlette, who, according to Lips, contributed a lot to songwriting skills and arrangements.  Perhaps it was really just that extra layer of polish Anvil needed.  This album keeps things very much in the same vein as previous release, Juggernaut Of Justice, which got itself rather a lot of play here at Wyrd Ways Towers.

So what’s it like, then?  Well, it’s recognizably Anvil, even when you get beyond their trademark alliterative album title.  They are one of those bands the listener can identify immediately as soon as Lips’ trademark snarling delivery comes barrelling out of the speakers.  For anyone uninitiated, Lemmy himself once asked Lips to join Motörhead, and was not best pleased when the Canadian turned him down.  From the guitar work on this album alone, it is possible to see why Lemmy was so interested.  The guy can play.  He’s not fancy, he’s not elaborate, he’s just perfect for the job at hand, and there’s not really much higher praise than that.  Exactly the same can be said of drummer, Robb Reiner.  He knows exactly what he’s doing and does it with confidence and skill born of heading for forty years in the trenches.

This is a band who are not afraid to vary the pace.  That’s a pretty rare thing, but Anvil have no problems following the slow chugging riff of the title track, Hope In Hell, with the much quicker Eat Your Words, then bringing the tempo back down again for Through With You.  These tempo variations carry on from the opening notes of the aforementioned Hope In Hell to the final notes of Shut The Fuck Up.  That’s a good thing, by the way.  It makes listening to this album a lot more interesting, and is something these veterans can teach some younger bands.

In Eat Your WordsBadass Rock ‘N’ Roll and the aforementioned Shut The Fuck Up, they’ve even managed to write themselves a handful of true anthems.  It would appear that the vein of good form they hit on Juggernaut… wasn’t just a flash in the pan.  Even on their fifteenth album, they’re still able to exhibit the kind of hunger and enthusiasm you’d expect to hear from a band that had done less than half that number of albums.

If you manage to get hold of the limited edition version, you’ll be treated (and I do mean that) to a couple more tracks, namely Hard Wired and Fire At Will.  Usually, let’s face it, the bonus tracks on most albums can be of variable quality to say the least.  At worst, they’re a total rip-off, such as the “remixes” which sound exactly the same as the original.  These two are birds of a very different feather.  These two tracks deserved to be in the full running order.  It shows the strength of the material on this album that these songs are relegated to the “bonus” category.

So in short, Anvil’s comeback in the wake of the This Is Anvil film continues, showing, on this evidence, that there is plenty more in the tank.

****/5

Devil You Know – The Beauty of Destruction

Devil-You-Know-The-Beauty-of-Destruction

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the CD HERE or the MP3 HERE

I am a bit ambivalent as I begin this particular missive.  See, I thought DYK would just be pure thrash all the time; you know, 100 % of the time.  Well, it is and it isn’t.  Sometimes it’s more like prog metal, or just plain out heavy rock – well orchestrated, mind you, but still just heavier than any heavy thing!  I was astounded at the vocal purity of some passages, especially on hearing the first track, A New Beginning.  The reason being  …Beginning is just that – definite hard core thrash.  I can actually visualize a mosh pit forming during the playing of this number. It’s not just that, though — the eclectic nature of this disc actually took me by surprise.  I was fully ready to completely dismiss DYK sight unseen, or, erm, unheard, if you will.  Instead, I changed my mind and decided to listen to it today.

By the way, before I get too far, I should probably mention that DYK are from Los Angeles, California, and their personnel is listed as follows: Howard Jones on vocals, Francesco Artusato and Roy Lev-Ari on guitars, John Sankey on drums and Ryan Wombacher on bass.  As I mentioned before, it’s NOT just out-and- out thrash.  Sure, there’s plenty of that, but there’s lots of other stuff, too!  By other stuff, do I mean run-of-the-mill thrash?  No, no, dearies; remember I’m talking about eclectic here.  I know it’s cool when your favourite singer growls and you can scream along with him and bang your head simultaneously. Of course that’s cool, right?  Imagine that very same singer being able to swap vocals to do both the growling AND straight singing, sometimes even in the same set of lyrics (erm, verse), and particularly in the chorus(es).  It’s enough to get even ME excited, and with thrash that’s not always a certainty.  I’m working on that part of my tolerance issue, though, trust me!

The second track (right, it’s about time Rick!) is My Own, another heavy, thrashing slice of a tune.  This number features the growl-styled vocals, and guitars-a-plenty, with some regular/straight vocals thrown in during the choruses again.  ‘I stand alone’ seems to be the moniker of this tune.  Very triumphant chords at the end.  Embracing the Torture is a double-time, busy-as-hell drummer sort of a song, with both growly and shiny vocals at the fore.  It’s still dark (‘it’s never enough’ is a repeated phrase here), but there are some moments where you can feel the clouds give way a bit.

For the Dead and Broken features a cool psych guitar opening, and regular vocals without the growl.  Looking back at that particular sentence, it comes to my attention that I always mention this, and probably make too big of a deal out if it, but there you have it!  Some people prefer to hear their singers sing the straight stuff.  If your singer can do both (which Howard can!), then you’re golden!  Win win for everyone, right?  This remains to be seen.  As I’ve mentioned before, there are moments here when even the growly stuff found me banging my head.  You know how I feel about the growly stuff, dear reader; therefore, you are welcomed, invited, even subpoenaed, if you will, to listen to these cats when they growl and even when they don’t!

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Seven Years Alone is yet another heavy duty slammer of a track.  This is what I would deem choice, Grade-A thrash here – not only that, there is a guitar solo(??) at the 2:10 mark (surprise!), and some excellent overall vocal and musical (instrumental work going on here.  I find myself at this time wondering why I even considered passing these blokes by…BAD Rick!  It’s Over was another surprise, with guitars STRUMMING on the intro, and I really dug the vocals – some EXTREME vocals happening here, people – LISTEN UP! (‘You won’t see me again‘)

A Mind Insane features a cool retro guitar opening again, then a scream all of a sudden and some WICKED good drumming, then more growl – but not JUST growling this time; intense, powerful, MOVING growling, and double-time drums to boot!  The drummer is VERY busy on this track, and there is a tasty guitar solo at 2:20.  They pause only for a millisecond, then double-time again, pounding out some seriously shredding thrash.  There are some harmony vocals at about 3:15, then, lo and behold, Wyrdness Abounds at the 3:30 mark!  Even up until the fadeout!  Surprises galore, then!

Crawl From the Dark is another very powerful number, with a cool rhythm beat as well.  I was reminded of Slayer for, if nothing else, sheer ferocity.  Lyrically, as well (‘as I watch them burn down’) (‘from the ashes resurrected‘).  This track even mixes in some tall, proggy-style production at several points.  All this within the space of 4 minutes or so!  There is a guitar solo at the 3:30 mark that continues to the fadeout.

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The Killer begins with ‘rainbow’ riffing, if you will, and a guitar-plucking intro of sorts.  Think Uli Jon Roth or Yngwie Malmsteen, and you’d not be far off the mark.  Then, all of a sudden, POW – back to the headfirst thrash brigade!  ‘I will watch you die‘, they moan. ‘STAY AWAY FROM ME’, they cry, and I’m pretty sure a repeated warning like that would deliver the message pretty strongly.  ‘You will walk with black skies/I will be your killer/ I’ll be the one/I’ll kill you every day/If you drink from the poison/ I swear I will watch you die‘.  Man, that’s some seriously hateful stuff!

I Am the Nothing is extremely cool.  There are straight vocals again this time, and Howard shows he can hit the sky if he needs to!  How does he DO that when his vocal cords are surely shredded to fine dusty bits?  I don’t understand.  There is even a vocal solo of sorts here at the 3-minute mark!  They should do that a cappella stuff more often in my opinion.  There is also a light dose of violin at the closer here…yes, I said violin!  Dig that, if you will!

Shut It Down is pure thrash, shredding vocal chords again.  There is an element of the storyteller vibe seeping in from the side, then some slamming drums and a ‘riff solo’ at about 2:20.  At 2:55, the vocals shine briefly,then they slam back into things hard and heavy.  There is also an ass-kicking fadeout on this track.

The closer, As Bright As the Darkness, includes a cool guitar intro, and a definitely demonic, almost Sabbath-esque chord/riffing sequence.  I got a distinct Planet Caravan vibe for a moment or two, then straight into a serious Type O Negative tribute, if you will.  I had to listen to this track an extra time or two just to believe my ears.  This brought back wonderful memories of having worked production with Peter Steele and co. (what was that clanging sound?  Was it a name being dropped? – Ed) just a few short years ago (well, okay, more than just a few) on their first two tours through our capital city.  I helped load/unload their gear and got autographed swag in addition to my meagre pay envelope, which made it all worthwhile.  So, to politely wrap up, I’d like to thank DYK for the memories, if nothing else!  If you like your thrash a bit on the heavy, eclectic, proggy side, then this is for you! If not, then seek elsewhere, my friends!

Top marks!

*****/5

Arch Enemy – War Eternal

Arch_Enemy_-_War_Eternal

Century Media

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3 HERE

Review by Carl “ThunderGod” Pickles

In the interests of full disclosure, I will state that I had got somewhat bored of Arch Enemy.  I loved Wages Of Sin.  I enjoyed Anthems Of Rebellion as well as much of the stuff they’d put out pre-Angela.  I’d even been to see them play The Cockpit in Leeds, and really rather enjoyed that.  They were actually that good, I can’t remember who the support band were… but Doomsday Machine and the stuff I heard coming from the following albums… well… meh! pretty much summed up my feelings on what I was hearing.

So the next couple of albums passed me by.  OK, I still read press releases and magazines about them, since I was still a fan of Spiritual Beggars and the articles were always interesting reading, but the music was… as I said above… meh!

Then, earlier on this year, the news broke that Angela was taking a move sideways into managing the band and they’d chosen a replacement in Alissa White-Gluz of Canadian Melodic Deathcore band, The Agonist.  I can’t say I’d paid much attention to them, since I’m only a fairly recent convert to the whole -core scene, but I checked out The Agonist’s last album and was definitely interested.  The videos Arch Enemy released over the next few weeks piqued my interest even more.

Anyway.  This very morning, the awaited album arrived in my Inbox…

After an ominous orchestral introduction, Never Forgive, Never Forget kicks in and we’re away.  Arch Enemy haven’t sounded this hungry or angry in years.  It certainly looks like other newbie, Nick Cordle (formerly of Arsis) has energized Michael Amott.  The snarling riff of the title track, War Eternal as well as some blistering soloing right the way across the album confirms this impression.  From the early evidence of a first listen, it would seem that the addition of the two new members has given the band exactly the creative kick in the pants they needed to get out of the rut they’d ended up in as Angela and Chris lost interest in performing and writing.  One of the most obvious points to note is that Alissa White-Gluz has a wider range, even when it comes to Death Metal growls, than Angela had.  There’s more musicality to the vocals, which is something Arch Enemy lacked more recently.

One of the most pleasant surprises with this album is that there is real variety.  Probably due to the sepulchral keyboards, Stolen Life reminds me of Midian-era Cradle Of Filth… not a bad thing to my mind.  Time Is Black strides confidently into Arch Enemy’s traditional territory, but with stabs of orchestration and a closing almost mournful riff, it moves things on.  The new confidence is evidenced, right at the end of the album by Not Long For This World.  It’s a BIG instrumental.  Mournful and… with the final fadeout being the beeps of a heart monitor, somewhat sad.  The track that follows that showstopper is Shadow On The Wall.  The Arch Enemy “purists” will HATE it.  It’s far too different for them, which is why I love it.  It’s definitely Arch Enemy, but pushes in a completely different direction – PROPER Heavy Metal, with a riff that Tipton and Downing in their heyday would have been proud of.

This is a band that, thanks to the infusion of new blood, have become more adventurous, when many bands, faced with the same situation, would have gone out to produce a “classic-style” album to show that nothing had really changed.

Arch Enemy have most assuredly not done that.  They’ve taken their sound forward, incorporating some of the melody that could be found in Alissa’s work with The Agonist, and with a re-energized guitar partnership and the rock-solid rhythm section of quiet man Daniel Erlandsson on drums and man-mountain Sharlee D’Angelo on bass, the stage is confidently set for the future.

Rating: ***** (Awesome!  Welcome back!)

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