Protokult – No Beer In Heaven

protokultcover

Self-release/Asher Media

Review by Rick Ossian

At this point I think it would be safe to say that I’m going to give these players top marks for form and content alone. If you’ve never heard Folk Metal, this would be a grand place to start.

On with the show!

Protokult are on their second full length album, their first being 2010’s Ancestral Anthems.  The meat between the bread slices, as it were, was the Marzena EP in 2011.  Now, here we have No Beer In Heaven, their third recording overall, which it seems began life as an EP as well.  Protokult are a Folk/Power Metal aggregation from Toronto in Canada.  Their illustrious members include Martin D. on vocals and guitars, Misha M on drums, Ekaterina on vocals and woodwinds, David Slowlak on bass and Vodrik on guitars.  They have self-released this work through Asher Media and are ‘seeking global distribution’, according to their bio.   Their apparent myriad of influences have netted them at least a few fans over the last few years.  I am now proud to say that I include myself amongst them!

The title track appears to be a declaration of sorts.  Or is it a joke?  Once again, dear reader, I will leave it to you to decide.  This is an uptempo number with accordian, flute, guitar, BIG drums and belching to boot!  It may divide some of you, and the mere title may disappoint one or two of us, but let’s not dwell on that just yet.

Heaven Cast Me Out (mayhap for imbibing in the forbidden brew?) is amongst the several tracks here that feature both male and female vocals (angels and demons indeed).  It is a heavy rock track, and mocks said genre at the same time, unless I’m completely insane… There is a cool main guitar riff that is echoed at times by the keys and the trippy, vampire-esque vocals.

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My Father’s Word features more heavy riffage and the angel/devil juxtaposition vocally mentioned above.  The male vocal counterparts are almost guttural at times.  There is also a heavy-duty viking vocal vibe between 2:30 and 3 minutes in.  The spoken word section at the end is nothing if not chilling: ‘No one in this world you can trust/Not man/Not woman/Not beast’.

Flight of the Winged Hassar wins cool points for its title alone.  The female vocals are prominent here again, as is the cool Power Metal intro/vibe throughout.  This is more of the same, Operatic Heavy Metal with the vocal accompaniment.  Not slagging it, though – far from it – I am enjoying myself and the tunes!

Sol Intention features another cool guitar intro.  A melodic exercise of sorts, then they put the hammer down at about 0:45.  I was distinctly reminded of Type O Negative vocally (RIP Peter Steele).  Some nice keyboard work here as well, then a guitar solo at about 2 minutes in.  More of the vampire vocal work.  There is an interesting musical metal mesh at about 3 minutes in.  At 3:45 there is a tasty guitar solo.  Some exceptional riffing here, and the instrumental work at the end of the track is nothing if not intriguing.

Edge of Time has a very cool lead guitar intro.  It is again a heavy number with both vocal ranges interplaying with each other.  The keyboard and bass interlude at 1:25 features some nice touches.  More of the angel/demon counterparts vocally, until about 2:45.  It is at this point that we hear a brief psych passage, then a guitar solo á la Uli Jon Roth or even Yngwie Malmsteen.  The close features a snippet of choir and violin.  Everything barring the kitchen sink, then!

Sanctuaries is among the shorter tracks here.  It features, again, a very cool little guitar intro, with some psych/wah FX thrown in.  The echo took me back a ways, I’ll admit.  I was searching for a good word to describe the female vocals that appear at about 0:30, and ethereal, divine and celestial came to mind… anybody?  Then, at the 1-minute mark, SLAM! You are at the back of your seat now, so enjoy the instrumental passage that ensues.  Well, sort of instrumental – vocally.  Some bizarre stuff at about 1:30.

Desert Scourge features a Power Metal intro, and screaming vocals again.  More of the angel and devil juxtaposing mentioned earlier.  Growling vocals, guitars blazing, etc.  At 2:20 there is another weirdo bizarro section, then at 2:45 we are slammed into the back of our seats again!

Gorale is more of a folky number, featuring a spooky, creepy intro, then some guitar strumming and some whistles.  Not necessarily a throwaway, but close.  Summer’s Ode, on the other hand, is a sprawling epic of a track with the Type O- style vocals, an excellent keyboard/drum intro, guitar slamming again, and a growl-fest, to say the least!  It seems mellow at first, but don’t let that ballad vibe sucker you in to much, or you will get slammed again!  There is the female vocal presence again (1:45).  It is almost domineering at times, but not necessarily in a bad way.  There is another guitar solo at the 2-minute mark.  Not your typical solo, though.  You will know what I mean when you hear it.  At 4 minutes in, there is more instrumental weirdness, and at 4:30 an exalted guitar solo.  Lots of guitar work, then, and not for the last time, either!

Razbival Okovi Perun is a vocal interlude of sorts.  Not much more to say on that one, really.  Moving right along, then!  The track immediately following more than makes up for it in terms of sheer time; at 8:46, the enormous Water of Life features an excellent main riff, a WEIRD guitar intro (but very cool nonetheless), and some heaviness, musically.  There is also some whistling and some bizarre, WTF? moments, if you will.  The bass at 1 minute in is noteworthy.  The vocals that appear at 1:30 (growly) and 2:00 (female sublimeness) are also worthy of mention.  The flute definitely adds to the weirdness factor.  Is this Pirate Folk Metal?  From about 2:45 – 3:00, it surely is!  The guitar at 3:20 will make you want to stand up.  There is double time tempo and more growl, then more vocals at 6:00. You will know why I deem it vocal weirdness when you listen for yourself!  At 7 minutes in, the group double-time it again plus we get some drum shredding of sorts.  At 8 minutes in there is another guitar solo, and we get more growlies and vampire vocals.

It is at this point that we evidently leave the ‘out in the open’ tracks, and move to the ‘hidden track’ section of the recording.  Tracks 13 (Brotokult) and 14 (We Smoke the Ganja) are at the end and hidden for a reason.  If you are a completist, you will listen, but if you aren’t, then I would advise against it.  The former is a weird, trance -like blurb that is for raves only, and reminded me briefly of The Human League, but other than that, I’ve got nothing.  The latter is a ridiculously sloppy reggae piece with a seagulls and bongos intro.  This is perhaps a poke of fun, or a stab at wisdom, nothing more, nothing less.  Musically, it is, as I said, at the end and hidden for a reason!  I, for one, am slightly disappointed that there will be ‘no beer in Heaven tonight‘, but I suspect Valhalla will have ale for us! Some mead, perhaps?

***/5

(HED) p.e. – Evolution

hedpealbumcover

Pavement Entertainment

Buy the CD here or the MP3 here

Review by Rick Ossian

For those of you who have been obviously hiding under a big giant ROCK (including myself, oddly enough), (HED) p.e. (the p.e stands for Planet Earth, as it says on the cover of this CD) is a rapcore band from Huntington Beach, California. They were apparently founded by frontman/vocalist extraordinaire Jahred (Jared Gomes) in 1994.  ROCK/PUNK/RASTA/SOUL is what they list as genre, and I found plenty of that plus more in this particular offering.  Jahred‘s cohorts in musical crime are Wesley Geer, D.J. Product @1969, Sonny Mayo, Mawk, Jaxon Benge, Tanseer, Alfunction and Trauma.  Quite a list of contributors there.  When first researching via my normal routes (FB, Wikipedia – why I rely on either of them I’ll NEVER know), I found about half of that list as personnel, or members for you punters!  Evidently Jahred‘s goal was “to fuse the region’s long-standing punk rock heritage  with G-funk-inflected hip-hop” (whatever that means!).  He has apparently succeeded – or, rather, his band have.  They have also triumphed with their overall mix, as you will see if you read on!

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No Turning Back is a 5½ minute manifesto of very cool rap rock/metal.  I was reminded of the way Zakk de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine) would lay down his raps to the world.  Zakk was a bit more menacing than Jahred, but it’s easy to see/hear why after a few tracks.  The revered is definitely preaching to the choir here. ‘Soul behind Babylon‘s Wall‘ struck me as a rather clever lyric.  Some really good stuff here, and even a jam at the closing.  Jahred also lays on ‘f-bomb’ on us!  There is the obligatory guitar solo at the 1:50 mark.

Lost in Babylon, on the other hand, is more psych mixed with rap.  There is a wicked cool bass line herein, and the apparent go-to tag line lyrically here is ‘it’s that fire!’.  There is a fade-out at the end that is nice also.  There is more bite here than, say, Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park, but still kinda rap/rock-y and less lethal then RATM.

Jump the Fence is another 5-minute jam with a very cool intro.  This is almost proggy at certain points, but very mixed in with that rap lock, again mining the RATM vibe.  Rhetorical lyrics almost bog things down (‘Let’s get together/come on/we’re takin’ over/come on’), but there are some bizarre vocal atmospherics (2:30) that redeem things a bit.  There is a breakdown (3:15) and a guitar solo (sort of) from about 4 minutes in to 4½ minutes in.  More rhetorical lyrics abound, as if to proclaim wyrdness; ‘Who got that fire?/We got that fire!/Let’s watch it burn!’

Many Games is more like regular rock or metal – what is normal, you may ask?  I would say if I had a stick, normal would be somewhere near FM radio, but then it’s never really been a serious consideration for me.  I always liked the tunes that DIDN’T get airplay!  The vocals are questionable at best – but then Jahred strikes me as the type of vocalist who lends his talents/skills more to some tunes than he does to others.  Does that even make sense?  Anyway, there IS some metal riffage going on here.  The lyrics are a bit more substantial, if you will; ‘Feels like another dead hand/at the end of the day only the strong remain‘.  There IS a guitar solo (hooray!) at the 2:50 mark that is more psych than anything, and just doused in wah – it comes back into blay at about 3:40, then there is an instrumental break with more wyrdness!

No Tomorrow, by turns, is shorter and punchier, with a very heavy-cool intro.  On vocals, it’s an even heavier rap/rock vibe, sort of a growly Zakk de la Rocha.  Lyrically, again, there’s a bit more substance here; ‘The front line/holdin up the front line/on the right side/it’s not about the destination/it’s the journey we ride’.  My fave lyric is ‘Stop fuckin’ with me/I won’t rest till my enemies rest in peace‘.  Then, of course, the part about ‘all you bitches can suck my dick HA HA’ is pretty cool.  Misogynist as HELL, but still kinda cool!

Let it Rain features a dirge-y opener riff that’s very Sabbath-esque.  It is doom – well, sort of doom.  Hippie doom, maybe?  Hell, at this point even I don’t know.  But it IS good. Lyrically the only thing that really stood out was ‘I don’t wanna get high alone’.  Well, WHO does, after all?  There is another wah-infused guitar solo (2:40) and a vocal breakdown (3:30) that don’t seem entirely out of place.  The wah and feedback mixed together sounded cool.

One More Body finds us rocking again, with a very heavy kick-off intro.  This is a sinister, menacing rap again.  I found myself banging my head to the groove, though.  The groove is pretty good beat-wise.  (I give it a 69, Dick!)  Vocally/lyrically, the refrain seems to be NO WAY OUT.  Another coupling I noticed was ‘How can you sleep/when your bed is on fire?’ Indeed.  There is the by now obligatory vocal breakdown at 2:50, then again at 3:20.  At least they’re not shy about it!

Never Alone features a sweet little guitar/drum intro, a mean rap, and some guitar soloing (2:15) with wah and whammy bar, if I’m not mistaken.  Also another vocal breakdown (2 minutes in), and some lovely riffing at the close.

The Higher Crown has a psych intro of sorts, at which point straight wyrdness ensures.  Not quite sure what to say about this one – we’ll call it an interlude, shall we?  There are some vocal FX, but that’s about all…

It is at this point that we enter into what I shall deem ‘the reggae portion’ of the program.  Nowhere2Go features a really strange polka-esque intro (with a squeeze box of all things) mixed with psych.  It then turns into an attempt at reggae or ska (not sure which – this must be the RASTA stuff Jahred was on about).  Not a bad attempt, mind you – just a bit misplaced, perhaps.  The only thing that concerns me here is that the next two tunes are also reggae-inflected, to say the least.  Let It Burn and Hold On are also good tunes, but to throw three reggae numbers in at the end seems a bit strange to me. Perhaps I’m just being picky…They DO stand of their own accord, however.  Let It Burn has a really neat little intro, as does Hold On.  Both also have some neat little guitar fills in them.

Now we must ask ourselves – what exactly are (HED) p.e.?  It is my contention that they are a pretty good band who are celebrating their 20th anniversary, and I don’t know why I hadn’t really noticed them before…maybe it’s time to have a peek at their back catalogue!

****/5

Hammerfall – (r)Evolution


Hammerfall Revolution

Nuclear Blast

Buy the CD here or the MP3 here

Review by Rick Ossian

On first listen to Hammerfalls latest, I must confess I have trodden this ground before. However, I’ve not heard the like of this type of Power Metal for quite some time.  Guess I need to get out more!  Hammerfall hail from Göteborg in Sweden, and are comprised of Joacim Cans (lead vocals), Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren (lead and rhythm guitars both), Fredrik Larsson (bass guitar) and Anders Johansson (drums).  They first formed in 1993, and according to their bio, early line-ups included members of In Flames and Dark Tranquility.

The opening number, Hector’s Hymn, is a real stomper, and by far the longest track of the batch at just shy of 6 minutes.   This is real Viking warrior stuff , including the choral background vocals, chugging metal riffs, busy-as-hell rhythm section and lyrics including ‘follow the warrior‘, ‘hammer high‘, ‘legacy reborn‘, etc. No real surprises here, just plenty of speed, volume and colour by way of melody.  Most of the stuff on offer here is just shorter versions of this song – but that’s not a bad thing!

The title track is a good slab of melodic metal. At 4:25 it is probably within radio time-limit range, but only just (luckily for listeners to The Wyrd Ways Rock Show, I laugh in the face of time limits! – Ed) Bushido is obviously warrior battle metal at it’s finest – the lyrics speak of our hero ‘screaming and twisting/pounding his sword to the ground’ and ‘live(ing) by the code‘.  He also dies by the sword, which is one of Bushido’s main tenets.  There is a vocal breakdown and a bit of shred towards the end.

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Live Life Loud has an overall good guitar tone/sound.   Dig the ethereal opening, then a nice chugging riff.  Again, this is almost FM fodder.  Programmers, listen up!  The disc jockeys are already listening.  Ex Inferis is about a demon from hell.  This is another one of those numbers that is bright/dark at the same time.  “The price to cleanse thy soul” is entered herein as lyrical legend.  Okay, so maybe these waters have been tread before.  We shall just tread a bit more lightly, that’s all!

We Won’t Back Down is a heavier, more uptempo number with a very cool riff.  Again, we are dealing with potential FM fodder here.  Lyrics include more warrior stuff such as “standing with our mighty swords drawn”Winter is Coming features a menacing intro with busy guitar and drums.  There is a guitar solo at about the 2:30 mark.  This particular track should be a much longer song in my opinion.  It is almost a slow dirge, and those are normally twice this length!

Origins, at just under 5 minutes, includes a nice, heavy chugging riff with a twist.  This is true warrior/battle metal, with a nice guitar solo at 3:35 with lots of shred.  Feedback closes this one out, which is a welcome element in this writer’s opinion.  Tainted Metal is one of those titles that one wonders if it’s too good to be true, you know?  The boys do not disappoint; this features a sweet guitar intro, a very cool main riff, and plenty of hero lyrics: “born out of wedlock/the future came fast/iconoclast”.  There is yet another guitar solo at 2:15, and an extra one at the 4-minute mark in case you missed the first one!  I found myself wondering yet again if this was a possible contender for radio running; maybe on Eddie Trunk‘s New York radio channel…?

Evil Incarnate is just like it says in the title.  Plenty of malevolent bombast both musically and lyrically.  Must be about the Dark Lord (not Voldemort, guys! This one is clearly about Satan, right?  Just checking!)  I noticed a couple of lyrical moments that clearly stood out for me, including “a thousand souls will fall from grace” and “The son of man/lost to the Great Deceiver/ Evil incarnate/I failed the plan/the new inception reigns”.

The closing tune, Wildfire, is probably among the better tracks here.  It features a very cool guitar intro, and is heavy and fast again.  There is some almost blazing shred work going on here, even with the rhythm riffs!  At 2:20 there is a guitar breakdown, followed in short order (2:40) by a really tasty lead guitar, then twin leads.  A very energetic closing, also, by the way; vocally, just pure excellence.  This must be heard to be believed!

****/5  (Some points lost for repetitive nature of vocals and some instrumental passages…)

Tankard – Rest in Beer

tankard rib

Nuclear Blast

Buy the CD here or the MP3 here.

Review by Rick Ossian

For those of you who get about half way through this review and realize something different is going on, it is!  I decided to shake things up a bit on my birthday by using a temporarily different rating system, if you will.  Oh, I will still give the overall recording a number (out of a possible 5), but for each song on this particular recording I intend to rate it with a beer (which is highly appropriate, given that you’re reviewing a Tankard album, Rick.  Excellent idea, old lad! – Ed) !   That’s right, you’ve guessed it – and the quality of the beer is directly proportional to the quality of the tune.  Read on, my friends! Of course, you do so at your own risk…

We start things out with a Heineken of sorts; for those of you who DO enjoy the occasional brew, you know then that this is a fairly kick-ass number.  I refer to as apt of an opener (at least title-wise) as the track War Cry.   This lovely number features a sinister opening with a lead guitar solo (of course), and then chugging fast riffage.   There are references to Afghanistan, Somalia (2 targets!) and Pakistan.   There is also a cool jam at the 2:40 mark, then another guitar solo at the 3-minute mark.

Fooled By Your Guts is more of a Michelob-level tune, but nonetheless a tasty little jam.  It will remind those of us of that time wherein we learned this particular lesson.  Frank (bass) and Olaf (drums) get a good workout on this one.  It may only be in way of preparation for the next number, however.

Next up we get the title track, and it is most likely about a Moosehead or so.  Maybe even TWO Mooseheads!  It is some pretty heavy stuff, even dinosaur, plodding stuff at one point.  However, at about :50 they kick things in, and it becomes sort of a thrashy melee.  There is also some super doomy, Sabbath-y sludge at about 3 minutes in, and of course the requisite guitar solo at about the 4-minute mark!  Very nice!

Riders of the Doom is most likely a George Killian’s Red, if you will.  It is by turns thrashy (again) and menacing, almost as if to say we are treading Sabbath waters again.  My wife looked up for a minute during the first listen/run on this one, and said ‘Honey, is this something you’re going to review?’  To which, of course, I replied, ‘yes’.  She responds, ‘sounds like cookie-cutter metal to me!’  I would have to disagree with her to a certain extent.  Yes, these roads have been traveled before, but they still sound pretty good to me!

Hope Can’t Die finds us at the recording’s half-way point, and I’d say it is about a medium-heavy Budweiser ( or any Anheiser-Busch product, for that matter).  Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to say that it is REALLY bad, or that Budweiser is really bad!  I’m just saying that this is more of a workman-like style beater.  It is drinkable, or listenable, if you like!  There is a heavy breakdown at 1:50, then a jam at 3:20, then a guitar solo at 3:35.  The bass player (Frank) teases you as if he is going to close, but then he just blends in to the jam at the end.  Singer Gerre does himself proud on this one.  So does Andy the guitar player!

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No One Hit Wonder is probably about the level of a Bass Ale.  I really like Bass Ale.  This is great stuff here.  Drink up, me hearties! Yo ho ho and all that.  Heavy, riffing, ripping thrash right up there with the best of the brew contained herein.  Breakfast For Champions, which I sense is actually ABOUT beer (about time, right?), is most likely a Leinenkuegel; you pick the flavor you prefer.  The main riff is extremely cool, and the tune kicks in at about :30.  There is a double-time section, then a jam at 2:50, then a guitar solo (surprise!) at 3 minutes in.

Enemy of Order is a heavy, quick-riffing piece.  I would dub this one a Samuel Adams.  That is my dad’s favorite beer, by the way.  Mine, not so much, no – but it IS good.  Good enough to drink!  Sort of a cool, thrashy jam, reminded me of Anthrax at certain junctures.  I caught myself singing along to the chorus towards the end, which is a very good sign…

Clockwise to Deadline is probably about a Foster’s Lager.  It is more of the heavy, fast stuff, and towards the end there is some ragged coughing.  Kind of makes you wonder if maybe Gerre has had a bit too much to imbibe, perhaps?  The closer is, thankfully, at the end.  I would have initially dubbed this one a Molson’s Golden Ale.  Good, but repetitive – get the drift?  I knew that you could..  It’s called The Party Ain’t Over (‘Til We Say So).   It DOES feature a pretty cool main riff, but the lyrics get sorta old towards the end.

All in all, R.I.B. is a fine tribute to the drink of the day.  I believe I will give it top marks! Have a good drink/listen!

*****/5

Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-1280

Sony Music Entertainment

Buy the CD here and the MP3 here

Review by Carl “DJ ThunderGod” Pickles

Let’s have it right: although it had good moments, Nostradamus wasn’t a good album. Not one memorable song, or even much in the way of riffs. For Priest, that wasn’t a welcome departure. Not exactly the blaze of glory you’d want KK Downing to bow out on.

The rest of the band, though, were not ready to get on their Harleys and ride off into the sunset. After recruiting Ritchie Faulkner, the band that arguably set the template for the likes of Thrash, Speed and Power Metal set about recording a new album.

To say I was looking forward to hearing this one was something of an understatement.  The two pre-release tracks I’d heard, Dragonaut and the title track, Redeemer Of Souls were something of a return to form after the previous album.  But it was with a little trepidation I clicked this one into place on the CD player and pressed the “Play” button on the remote once I’d got back to my seat.

The question those of you who haven’t heard it yet are asking is: “Is it any good?”

The answer is a solid, but not quite resounding “Yes“.

Redeemer Of Souls sits comfortably amongst Priest’s classic early 80’s albums such as Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith.  It’s definitely better than Point Of Entry and Ram It Down, but doesn’t reach the heights of British Steel.  But then again, what does?

Right from the start, it’s obvious there’s something new going on here.  There’s a definite urgency to every track.  Dragonaut being a prime example of that.  The driving riff, the sneered vocals delivered in a way only The Metal God himself can and proper use of stereo!  Solos coming through different speakers!

The title track feels like a comfortable pair of (leather, studded!) slippers.  Familiar.  When the Halford Scream™ makes it’s first appearance, you know you’re home.  That’s where new boy Richie Faulkner‘s influence on the writing really does show.  This album moves like a PROPER Judas Priest album.  It also has room for a little experimentation.  Sword Of Damocles, for example.

March Of The Damned is another muscular, lyrically defiant statement of intent.  Hell & Back and Crossfire are a couple of mid-paced monsters with grooves you could powerslide a bus down and rather tasty solos.  Battle Cry is the sort of song Priest are rightly famous for.  No-one does this sort of thing better than them.

It’s somewhat unfortunate, then, that they end the album with Beginning Of The End.  Bit of a downer, this one, especially after Battle Cry.

What about the bonus tracks on the Deluxe version, then?  Well, Snakebite is a proper throwback.  As are the rest, really.  Many of these songs feel like outtakes and leftovers from various 80’s albums.

The final closer, Never Forget, is… somewhat hokey.  It’s a real lighters-in-the-air song, complete with heartfelt solos (played under a spotlight on a darkened stage with a wind machine ruffling Glenn or Richie’s hair).

I hesitate to call this one a “return to form”… no, actually I WILL call it a return to form, because that’s exactly what it is.  OK, it’s not Painkiller, but no other Slayer albums are Reign In Blood, either.  What Priest have managed to do with Redeemer Of Souls is take us and them back to what they do best: make good, solid, classy Heavy Metal albums.  I read a comment somewhere on the internet that sneeringly called this album “generic”… well, if you’re Judas Priest, you’re allowed to be “generic”, since YOU INVENTED THE GENRE, and as I said, nobody does it better than Priest.

****/5

Accept – Blind Rage

acceptblindragelpcover

Nuclear Blast

Buy the CD here and the MP3 here.

Review by Rick Ossian

As with many bands who did their thing in the early days of Metal and consequently ripped many of our collective heads off, Accept is a band that has had two lives.  Their second act, if you will, features the vocals of one Mark Tornilla (T.T.Quick).  Many of you will say that the first act was better, and that Udo Dirkschneider was the better vocalist.  In my opinion, when something such as this happens, the fans are many times the ones to benefit.  Not only do they have the band with the new music AND the capability to render the old tunes well; we also have Udo’s solo projects/band.   Best of both worlds, two for the price of one, etc.

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Since regrouping with Mark in 2010 for the Blood of the Nations LP, these lads have produced one other record, Stalingrad, and have gone quite a ways in reclaiming their rights as Metal brothers known worldwide for their tenacity and fierce strength.  Today, in addition to Tornilla, Accept are Wolf Hoffman and Herman Frank on guitars, Peter Baltes on bass and Stefan Schwarzmann on drums.  This latest work of theirs is nothing short of brilliant, and I think listeners will find that they are still very much worthy of a listen or two.

Stampede, the opener, is a clarion call to metal heads everywhere.  The lightning fast riffs will have even the skeptical playing air guitar trying to keep up while simultaneously banging their collective noggins.  I know I did!  Last of a Dying Breed is a medium-steam chugger of a riff.  Mark Tornilla does himself proud here.  “Here’s to the rockin warriors/here’s to the heroes“, he bellows, as if to announce that he is still here carrying on the vocal warrior bit.  There is a tasty guitar solo at 3:45.

Dark Side of My Heart, on the other hand, is almost FM friendly – makes me wonder if this track will get any airplay. “Just a slave to the shadows/Just a pawn in this game/Drawn to the slaughter like a moth to the flame“.  Not exactly your run-of-the-mill love story!  There is the requisite guitar solo at the 3-minute mark.  There are also some more conventional lyrics: “You know it’s tearing me apart/knew it from the start/here in the dark side of my heart“.

Fall of the Empire, a longer number (5:44) is a bit proggy, almost battle metal at times.  It will have you recalling other bands from the genre, particularly Manowar.  Trail of Tears is a heavy duty tune, very neat riffs – uptempo stuff, very cool.  Wanna Be Free is another mid-tempo number, cool but sort of predictable at this stage of the game.  200 Years is a great, riffy tune with menacing vocals.

Bloodbath Mastermind features wickedly cool double-time riffage, and an awesome, shredding guitar solo at the 4-minute mark.  From the Ashes We Rise is another excellent tune.  The Curse features a cool guitar intro, with a mid-tempo run-up featuring guitar heralding the beginning of a monster.  It is a longer number, as is the closer, The Final Journey.  Most of these tunes feature good or great guitar solos, and very heavy duty drumming, of course.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mark Tornilla is a very good vocalist in his own right, whether you are a Udo fan or not.

There you have it, then.  Eleven good ones, some not as powerful or as manic as the others, but all well worth a listen

****/5

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party

Warner Brothers

Released June 2014

Right. Let’s get this over with shall we? Regular readers will remember what happened the last time I reviewed a Linkin Park album. Despite my longstanding love of the band their 5th studio album evoked a sense of such utter hatred in me that it took me three weeks to listen to The Hunting Party, because, quite honestly, I couldn’t bear the thought of them having released something that godawful again and every bit of promo I saw was Chester talking about how this time they’d “done something different“. Given last time they did that I had to break out the brain bleach, I was not optimistic.

Anyway, the album kicks off with The Keys to The Kingdom and ……. it’s alright. You’ve got Chester screaming, some heavy guitars, fantastic drum beats  and then Mike does his rapping thing and loads of synthy synthy stuff going on and yeah, it’s an interesting track that made me think ‘ok, maybe this won’t be so bad after all‘.  Then the album moves (via some weird little soundclip things) to All for Nothing and again, it’s an alright track.  It’s quite catchy and elicits a head sway, and by the time I was on my 3rd listen I was sort of singing along.  It’s not a fantastically strong track – there’s a very clear delineation on the album between tracks that are Singles and everything else, but it’s definitely listenable.

Then we have the first big single from the album Guilty All The Same.  It’s a catchy track with riffs a plenty, rapping from someone called Rakim and it’s  track that is worthy of a goth/nu-metal club night.  It’s again an alright track.

But hold on a minute.  I’m three tracks into an album and so far the best description I can come up with is ‘yeah it’s alright’? Where’s my ANGRY Linkin Park?  Where’s the perfect coalescence of agony and rage that made Hybrid Theory and Meteora such epically brilliant albums?

10 seconds later my question is sort of answered by War.  Which has a bit of old school Chester screaming, but it seems a bit forced really.  As if  he’s not really angry any more and is just trying to remember what it felt like.  The guitars however are excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  It’s another track that would be alright for a club night.  From War we move onto Wastelands which is rather mundane and repetitive, and then it’s time for Until It’s Gone, the second single on the album

Until It’s Gone is again, a fairly alright, track.  There’s nothing WRONG with it, there’s just nothing special about it.  There’s some interesting synth going on and some generically heavy guitar and it’s…… JUST SO BORING.

I’m bored.  Halfway through this album – the exact half point in fact and I am SO BORED I could chew my own foot off for the entertainment factor.  This is not an album to put on for a reason, this is an album to put on because silence is unbearable and you want to fill it with something that isn’t too engaging or oppressive.   Because of this very quality however, it’s going to be wildly successful and annoying people who don’t like rock or metal will listen to it and be all ‘oh yah, Linkin Park, love them‘ and then stare at you blankly when you play Crawling. 

Forgive me my Nu-Metal Hipsterism, but my point is proven by the boring pop-ishness of Rebellion and then Mark The Graves , which is just pure self indulgent creative wankery.  There are lengthy instrumental; sections that are well,  guitar wankery, and then it’s followed up by Drawbar  which is like listening to James Blunt with a more exciting drum line and no vocals and then there’s Final Masquerade which is all poppy upbeats and heartfelt lyrics and emphatic guitars and just………. *vom*

Finally, the album draws to a close with six and a half minutes of A Line In The Sand and with that Linkin Park’s opus to mundanity ends.

In summary – there are four listenable tracks on this album, three of which I wouldn’t object to hearing at a club night as a bit of filler between sets and the rest of it is a perfectly mundane and boring pop-rock album.   I’ll be honest, if this is the first Linkin Park album you’ve ever heard and you don’t mind poppy rock with synths then you’ll probably like it.  If you liked Linkin Park in 1999 you probably won’t.  I’m going to give it 2 stars because there’s nothing actually wrong with it and I wasn’t mentally scarred by listening to it, but it won’t be going in my personal music collection.

**/5