Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kosta Vreto - Pictures Of A Broken Heart

Steel Gallery Records

"Pictures Of A Broken Heart" is the second solo album from Kosta Vreto (Wardrum, Horizon's End, Vavel, Jade Star). Hailing from Thessaloniki, Greece (and well known for his nail-picking style of playing) this metal guitarists has also played for the likes of Paul DiAnno and Uli Jon Roth. Along with fellow Wardum and Horizon End's band-mate/drummer Stergios Kourou (also ex-Death From Above and ex-Escape) and a few guests (Just to name a few we have Uli Roth's Corvin Bahn, Muris Varajic, Horizon's End's Sakis Bandis, and Psycho Choke's George Motesnitsas) guitarist Kostra Vreto, who also handles bass and keyboard duties here, gives fans of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai someone new to idolize! Serving as the follow-up to 2008's "Skin on Strings", "Pictures Of A Broken Heart", which is much better then the owner of a broken heart (Sorry, but couldn't help myself with the Yes reference given the album's title and all!), finds this Greek guitar hero showing off his natural, "God of Rock"-given talent and doing it in such a way that I can't help but find myself being drawn deeper into the rabbit hole that is instrumental metal. For fans of said genre this is one release worth investing in as I'd like to think that this is one new name that we'll all be hearing more of in the near future!

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Silent Force-Rising From The Ashes

AFM Records

So it's been almost seven years since fans last heard heard from Silent Force? That's what the promo material for "Rising From The Ashes" let's us know. That doesn't surprise me all that much seeing as founding member/guitarist Alex Beyrodt (Missa Mercuria, Primal Fear, Sinner, Voodoo Circle, Mat Sinner, ex-The Sygnet, ex-Wild Axes) is involved in so many different outfits/projects all at once. Still, this is only my second time covering one of his acts. About the closest I've come to covering Beyrodt in the past has been with his part-time project Voodoo Circle (Where he showcases his love for the likes of Whitsnake, Rainbow and Deep Purple!), but I do know his name as it routinely pops up in heavy metal discussions. With Silent Force's last album, 2007's "Walk The Earth", having been recommended to me on more then one occasion in the past (See the earlier reference point to heavy metal discussions especially the sort involving good melodic metal bands to check out) I was a bit curious to hear what "Rising From The Ashes" would have in store for me. Now led by Michael Bormann (PowerWorld, Redrum, ex-TAX, ex-The Sygnet, ex-Biss, ex-Bloodbound, ex-Letter X, ex-Bonfire) the band also currently features Alex Beyrodt's Voodoo Circle band-mate Mat Sinner (also of Primal Fear and Sinner) on bass, keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge of Forever, Gianluca Ferro, Brunorock, Hardline, Moonstone Project, ex-Eden's Curse, ex-Fury N Grace, ex-Strings 24) and additional original member/drummer André Hilgers ( Lingua Mortis Orchestra, Rage, Sinner, ex-Ninja, ex-Nuclear Blast Allstars, ex-The Sygnet, ex-Universe, ex-Axxis, ex-Empire, ex-Razorback, ex-Vanize, ex-Mendacious Messiah, ex-Noisehunter (live), ex-Regicide (live), ex-Bourbon $treet). Replacing the well-traveled DC Cooper with someone like Michael Bormann sure sounds good on paper right? Well, it sounds even better in practice! And together with the exceptional guitar playing of Alex Beyrodt its a win-win combo. Although I'd hesitate to call this strictly melodic metal, which is how it was sold to me in the past, there is more then enough melodic merriment going on to appease fans of said genre. Given the call I would probably opt for "melodic power metal" instead, but even then there's more going on here then one mere title description could fully relay. But, that's neither here nor there so I'll just state the obvious. This is good, well-played and well-crafted, power metal that features enough melody to keep it grounded, but with its heavy "Let it rip fellas!" mentality you couldn’t reasonably expect to keep it grounded forever!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Crucified Mortals/Exorcism-Split 7" EP

Hells Headbangers

This 7" split EP, which features" ultra-clear vinyl with a heavy black splatter"(see cool pic below!), actually came out back in October but I'm just now getting a chance to hear it. Having covered Cleveland, Ohio's Crucified Mortals (their 2011 self-titled debut album, which I reviewed way back in the day, was also released on Hells Headbangers) I was pleased to see that the same kind of 80's Slayer/At War/Dark Angel/Rigor Mortis worship that made that album so much fun is present on their two tracks, "Crippling the Will of Faith" and "You'll Wish You Were Dead". Both cuts are exclusive to this release and keep with the band's attitude that eighties death and thrash metal was the real deal. Meanwhile Germany's Exorcism also offer two exclusive cuts to this split in the form of "Through the Eyes of the Dead" and "Failed Exhumation". And, just like Cleveland's Crucified Mortals, the past is alive and well with this German band's take on death metal. Sounding like they could have been made on cassette tape in someone's garage, "Through the Eyes of the Dead" and "Failed Exhumation" are two down and dirty, rotten to the core slabs of death metal that sound as if they could have easily slipped through the time-stream from 1980 something to 2013! In other words they are simply fantastic! And really all four numbers on this split 7" are just great. Especially if you're a fan of eighties thrash and death metal! You can pick up a copy of this one right here: http://shop-hellsheadbangers.com/crucified-mortals-exorcism-split-vinyl.asp

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Julian Angel's Beautiful Beast-Kick Down The Barricades

Platinum Blonde

For Germany's Beautiful Beast it's always 1989. More specifically it's the late eighties hair metal scene. If you check out the band's Facebook page you'll find that Julian Angel's Beautiful Beast describes itself as "Hair Metal, AOR, Glam, Sleaze - all in one" and that their mission literally is to sound like it is still 1989! To that end Julian Angel (lead vocals, lead guitars) and his band-mates (bassist/backing vocalist Frank McDouglas and drummer/percussionist/backing vocalist Ramy Ali) have succeeded on their third album "Kick Down The Barricades". Influences are said to be Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Dokken, Giuffria Autograph, Bon Jovi (old stuff) and Guns n' Roses, but for my money this one mostly sounds like a young Stephen Percy fronting "Dr. Feelgood"-era Mötley Crüe. Or at least that's until the ballad "The Night Cries For You" kicks in. Then the album turns briefly into a mushy AOR version of a Poison/Nelson "supergroup". Meanwhile we have "Unsexy" where Julian Angel and company try their hand at a Aerosmith/Enuff Z'Nuff collaboration before and the title cut kicks in where the band finally settles into their own distinct sound. As much as I'm not a huge fan/supporter of the renewed hair metal scene (I live it once already and that was more then enough thank you very much!) I'll be the first to admit that Julian Angel is skilled as both a front-man and lead guitarist. He manages to take a number like opener "Bad Boys Never Dance", which would in any other light be utterly cheesy and nauseating glam metal, and make it really sizzle. While the first part of this release (to these ears at least) is prime Mötley Crüe-worship the second part actually expands into other musical territories like Cinderella ("Shake Me Back Home") and (the much better then it has any reasonable right to be!) AOR/power pop rocker "High On Love". By the time "Kick Down The Barricades" slammed the door short with album closer "Six In The Red" I found myself in a particular and truly unexpected position. I had to admit that Julian Angel's Beautiful Beast actually won me over with "Kick Down The Barricades"! That doesn't mean that I'm ready to fully embrace the hair metal revival or anything, but if more retro glam worship bands were to approach their sound and style with as much class and talent as this German three-piece then maybe I'd be willing to give it all a chance. It's not all brilliant in my mind (see "The Night Cries For You"), but it's a hell of a lot better and much more fun then a lot of the junk that passes for modern day hair metal/glam metal these days! For fans of this German band one think should be noted. According to the promo material this upcoming album, which was recorded at Julian Angel's studio The Vegas Room and mastered by Rolf Munkes (Tony Martin Band, Empire, Razorback) at Empire Studios in Germany, "sounds rawer and edgier than the band’s previous records". Take that as you will, but judging by the sounds of this 10-track album I can't imagine that this release would shock any fans of old with it's new "raw and edgier" approach!

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Blaze-The Rock Dinosaur

High Roller Records

Having enjoyed the heck out of Blaze's 2007 self-titled debut album, which was reissued in 2012 by High Roller Records with an additional bonus track in the form of "Night Walker" (see link below for my coverage of said album), I had high expectations for this 6-track EP. Thankfully I was not let down! Japan's Blaze, who should not be confused with the other Blaze who also hail from Japan (confusing I realize), are a Osaka-based hard rock/heavy metal band who have been going at it since 1998. Other then the 2007 full-length album and a 2001 single called "See the Light" (from which the above mentioned track "Night Wolf" was taken) this is as far as this four-piece act has gotten. Speaking of which, the band is lead by Wataru Shiota and, other then drummer Takashi "Bikky" Funabiki, the same line-up has been in place since the band's formation. Besides lead singer Wataru Shiota, whose vocals really suite the band's fun take on all things eighties* (even if they can be a bit uneven at times), you've also got original members Hisashi "Q" Suzuki** (guitars) and Kenichi Kuwahara. (bass). Together with the band's (third overall) drummer Takashi "Bikky" Funabiki these three musicians take a stab at relighting a (much-needed) fire under the butt of today's stale hard rock/heavy metal scene. So what if it takes a band like Blaze looking backwards (as far as their influences) to forge forward? The second opener "One Way Flight" kicks in you're likely to find yourself fondly remembering why eighties hard and heavy metal kicked so much ass in the first place while also realizing that Blaze has all the right tools as their disposal to easily blend right in with today's scene. The band's sound is tight while retaining enough of a carefree attitude to make tracks like "Shed Light on Dark", "Right In White Light", "Underground Heroes" and "The Going Gets Rough" really rock! This one should feel right at home in the collections of those who like honest-to-goodness, no-frills, hard rock/heavy metal with a homegrown vibe. Then again, I would especially recommend this 6-track EP to those people who, like me, still reminisce about the days of old when most good hard rock and heavy releases were still found on LP and cassette!

*The first name that comes to mind when listening to Blaze is the Scorpions. The band almost comes across as a Japanese version of the the Scorpions as (perhaps) envisioned by a younger version of Loudness.

**When talking about the band's first (and so far only) full-length release guitarist Hisashi Suzuki had this to say (as far as the band's influences and what drives Blaze): "I do love the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, that sound is in my blood. Bands like Urchin, High Treason, J.J.'s Powerhouse, Marquis De Sade. Besides, I like almost all British rock of the 1960's and 1970's, also some beat and traditional folk. And I like many early 1980's European bands. Of course, I like the Scorpions. My favorite guitarist is Michael Schenker. I like all UFO albums with Michael and the first two albums from M.S.G. I also like Brian Robertson, Andy Powell, Rory Gallagher and more. Though I respect Uli Roth, I can not play like him. As for the Scorpions, my favorite albums are "In Trance" and "Virgin Killer"."


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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Demona-Speaking With The Devil

Infernö Records

Chilean speed metal from Quebec, Canada? Yep, that's the case with the female-fronted Demona. Formed in 2007, with the sophomore "Speaking With The Devil" serving as the follow-up album to 2012's "Metal Through the Time", the band's early days were spent in Valparaíso until front-woman/lead singer extraordinar
Tanza (who started the band which, at least in it's humble beginnings, was a one-woman show after her previous band, Poisoned, disbanded) moved to Quebec in June of 2011. At that point Tanza recruited fellow-minded musicians in order to play live shows and (hopefully) give Demona a complete line-up. After the obligatory line-up changes (including adding Hugo "Witchhammer" Uribe from the Colombian band Witchtrap to the line-up mere weeks before the recording of their 2012, full-length debut album!) the band now features not only Tanza on lead vocals and guitars, but ex-Riotor member Gabriel Dufour (lead guitarist who is also apparently Tanza's ex-husband), bass player Jeff (ex-No Pity) and drummer Antoine Pellerin. Now, normally I don't include band photos with reviews when we are talking about line-up information and all, but in this case I just couldn't help myself. I'm sure most people will understand why!
All of which brings us to Demona's latest offering/album number two, "Speaking With The Devil". With "Speaking With The Devil" we get 11 songs with a total run-time of 41 minutes. Of course we should cross off both the "Intro" and "Outro" so really it's 9-tracks. Since they range in length from 2:42 ("Malvenidos") to 5:53 ("The Sorceror's Escapade") it's all good and besides, Demona does a lot to pack in as much punch as possible into each track so you'll get your metal's worth with this "Bad Boy"*! Interestingly enough the band's one track, "Dirty Speed Metal", offers a fairly good description of what's in store for the listener when it comes right down to the meat and potatoes of this four-piece. The music is somewhat rough around the edges, but those ragged ridges only help to heighten the awareness that what your listening to is every bit raw/real underground speed metal. Tanza's (thrash metal) voice can be a bit "intense" at times, but it still falls well within the range of "easily-accessible and somewhat-understandable vocal delivery" so it's never really an issue. Meanwhile her metal brothers give her plenty of room to do her own thing while still exercising their own skills. For a band that is still finding it's footing as a full-fledged outfit "Speaking With The Devil" is a good "starting point". One would like to think that with a few more albums under their belt and with a stable line-up in place a band like Demona could really go places. Let's hope so. For now though "Speaking With The Devil" comes recommended to those of you who female-fronted thrash acts as well as those of you like their speed metal a bit more ugly and mean.

* "Bad Boy", which is a real range the f**k track on this album, is finger-bleeding speed metal from hell and one of those numbers where you wonder how it is a band can play that fast and insane without causing a fire from all of the likely friction caused!

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Scout Paré-Phillips Fields of Ash 7"

Pesanta Urfolk

This was actually released back in August, but for whatever reason I kept passing it over. That proved to be nothing short of a mistake as this 7' EP from singer-songwriter Scout Paré-Phillips (The Sterling Sisters) is a compelling take on folk music! Well, it's sort of folk music and then again it's also like dark Americana I suppose. Or is it graceful goth? Counter-culture music? Maybe it's early gospel country? Whatever you choose to call these two numbers it's a wonderful, graceful (yes, I know I already mentioned graceful once already but this really is!) and frankly charming solo release from one extremely talented individual! Backing up Scout Paré-Phillips (vocals, autoharp, guitar) are Emil Bognar-Nasdor (drums, percussion) and Jonathan Elliott (electronics) and if this 2-track release (available as both a limited-edition, white 7" and a digital download) is any indication of  the talent of Scout Paré-Phillips then by all means fiends, release a full-length album of hers already! With a simply stunning and devilishly charming voice she breaths life into both "Fields of Ash" and "In The End" and while the music can be viewed as earthy and enchanting it's also haunting and gives off a slight feeling of dread. As an alternative to the usually heavy, thrash and death metal that's been clogging up my veins it's a beautiful thing but it also stands just fine on it's own. With "Fields of Ash" singer-songwriter Scout Paré-Phillips proves that there is always some new and exciting to be unearthed if you just allow yourself to take a chance on the unknown!


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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blitzkrieg-Back From Hell

Metal Nation Records

In preparation for this review of "Back From Hell" I decided to dig through my old notes on New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legends Blitzkrieg. After looking back over our archives I realized that the last time Blitzkrieg was covered here was back in 2011! Both Metal Mark and I did a write-up on this British metal band and what's interesting is that even that far back there were rumblings of a new Blitzkrieg studio-album! So it's been six years that fans have had to wait. That's six (l-o-n-g) years since Blitzkrieg's last recording (the so-so "Theatre of the Damned") and, in typical fashion for this band that was formed in Leicester way back in 1980( for a more thorough history on the band be sure to check out our N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday feature on Blitzkrieg at the link below)!), more line-up changes have taken place between studio-albums. Joining the always-dependable Brian Ross (lead vocals and keyboards) on "Back From Hell", which is (full-length) album number eight for the band if my counting is correct, we have Brian's son Alan (ex-Earthrod, ex-Cardinal Synne) on guitar along with guitarist Ken Johnson, bassist Bill Baxter and drummer Mick Kerrigan. Other then Johnson (who at least played live for the band in the past if nothing else) this looks to be a whole new cast of characters. Now, prior to downloading this album for myself off of iTunes (I have the expanded CD edition heading my way from Japan as we speak, but who knows when that will get here!) I did read a copy of reviews of Blitzkrieg's latest and I know that at least one review mentioned how Satan (Brian's other N.W.O.B.H.M. band which released the excellent "Life Sentence" earlier this year-link to review also available below this article) had better musicians backing up Brian then Blitzkrieg did. No arguments there. Especially as the guys in Satan (if memory serves me correct) were all season veterans. Here we do seem to have a younger bunch of metalheads backing up Brian Ross. But, while they might not be as technically sufficient as the key players in Satan, in regards to Blitzkrieg I'd offer the counter-point that less is more. Since Blitzkrieg always seemed to be more of a blue collar metal act anyway I think in this instance the other key personnel do just fine. Besides, this album comes off as being more of an 80's metal album/N.W.O.B.H.M. release then Satan's latest so they both have a lot offer fans. Alright, now that I've addressed that issue let's take a peak at the actual music inside of "Back From Hell". The album starts off with a spoken-word intro in which we find Jake the Ripper returning to modern-day London. Having (presumably) escaped from hell he converses with a "charming" prostitute while lamenting how everything has changed so dramatically. Soon enough he shows his "true" face and the album takes off running with the title-track, "Back From Hell". Having always been fascinated by the story of Jake the Ripper I actual like the theme of Blitzkrieg's latest offering and, pound for pound and note for note, the metal on display here does seem to live up to the album's creepy send-off! After setting the stage with the near speed-metal assault of "Back From Hell" we're "treated" to a modern-take of the band's early classic "Buried Alive". While such a number could be deemed totally unnecessary it does at least show off the strength of modern-day Brian Ross. Having listened to both cuts back to back (as I was curious after hearing the new remake) it doesn't stack-up to the original number, but then again how could anyone reasonably expect it to? We're talking about one of N.W.O.B.H.M.'s better singles here, but for what it is (a modern-day interpretation and all) it's not all that bad. It's not the only choice of covers on "Back From Hell" as the band does a decent enough job on a re-worked "Seek and Destroy" (dubbed "S&D (Seek and Destroy)" on "Back From Hell"). As Metallica covered Blitzkrieg at the very start of their career it seems fitting enough that Brian Ross and company repay the favor. It's not  a choice cover by any stretch of the imagination, but it does reaffirm my belief that Brian Ross should have been called in to front Metallica. I know they were trying for John Bush and (maybe?) Glenn Danzig, but had Metallica somehow convinced Brian Ross to come sing for them can you even begin to imagine how cool that would have been? Anyway, speaking of other artists and what not on "Call for the Priest" the band name-checks all things Judas Priest. With it's lyrics (seemingly at least as I don't have them in front of me to verify) made up entirely of Judas Priest song and album titles it's an interesting tribute of sorts. Sure it came as a bit of a surprise, but both are supreme British metal acts so one can see (or in this case hear!) the connection between both acts easy enough! Elsewhere we have numbers like the HEAVY and yet MELODIC "Complicated Issue" which, besides being different just in the fact that it ends up dealing with the issue of substance abuse, features excellent female vocals and well-placed keyboard passes! Yes, Brian Ross duets with a female vocalist and plays some snazzy keyboard parts the result is (surprisingly enough) pure heavy metal excellence! Who knew such a set-up could work so well? Meanwhile the number "V" is inspired by Alan Moore's graphic novel "V for Vendetta" although for my money it's hard to listen to it and not think of the 2006 film "V for Vendetta" instead! It's another surprisingly effective metal number as is speed-tinged "Sleepy Hollow" and (original version) album closer', "We Have Assumed Control". Thanks to the Metal Archives I now know that "Return to the Village" is lyrically inspired by the British TV series "The Prisoner". That does not however make up for it's ho-hum assembly and bland delivery. Still it's probably the only cut here I didn't really go for as "Sahara" is a solid slab of (slow build-up, but huge pay-off!) heavy metal while "One Last Time" sees Blitzkrieg pull of a power ballad in grand fashion! As shocking as it is to hear Brian Ross sing with a (talented) female vocalist on "Complicated Issue" it's just as shocking to see the band tackle a power ballad and make it stand out! Other then the instrumental "4 U" that's it for the standard version of this disc. When I do (hopefully soon?) get the extended version of "Back From Hell" I'll do an edit and comment on the bonus material. But for now all of that is what you get out of "Back From Hell" and this is one release that gives as good as it gets! Brian Ross still sings with the fire of a younger man and Blitzkrieg does their best to remind folks that they are every bit as important to the the N.W.O.B.H.M.movement and heavy metal history as bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. With their new album, "Back From Hell", Blitzkrieg have given fans of old plenty to rejoice about while still releasing one album that should appeal to today's younger generation of metal fanatics. It's definitively not a strictly N.W.O.B.H.M release as the band's celebrated return sees them trying out everything from 80's metal to near modern speed/power metal, but for those of whose of us who are old enough to know the real score it's as good as it gets! Welcome back Blitzkrieg. I hope you realize just how much you've been missed...

N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday feature on Blitzkrieg:http://metalmark.blogspot.com/2011/03/nwobhm-wednesday-blitzkrieg.html

Review of Satan's "Life Sentence":

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Weekly Round-Up

Greetings friends and fellow metal maniacs! I trust you all had a pleasant Christmas (I know I did!) and are looking as forward to 2014 as I am! What a week it's been and what a year eh? While I managed to pull off more reviews this past week then I thought I would have the time for there were still a couple of albums that slipped me by. My review of Blitzkrieg's newest release is still "in the works". That said it might not be posted until (at the latest) Sunday. Between spending extra time with my kids, volunteering to babysit a family friend's grandson and (hopefully) crafting some home-brew with my Dad tomorrow morning the upcoming weekend is already filling up fast! So I'll try to wrap that review up, but no promises friends! Along with that (next-week) I hope to (at the least) cover Stargate's "Reborn" and review a double feature from the Katarina's Nightmare Theater series. Also (thanks to some generous bands and record labels) I plan to have some giveaways! I've got a DVD looking for a new home as well as plenty of CDs and possibly more goodies! It's all being put aside as we speak so be sure to check back here for further updates on these treasures! And of course I need to get cracking on my "Best of 2013" list don't I? I've got a crap-load of good albums that I'll have to sort through and narrow down so that should be fun! When we meet again it will be on the other side of the hill with 2013 in the rear-view mirror and the hopeful promise that 2014 will be even better for each and every one of us! Until next time/next year though my friends (when we meet at the same bat place and same bat channel!) keep it "Loud and Proud" and live life to the fullest! Be good to your family and friends of course, but be just as good as you possibly can be to those random people in your life as you never know what battles they might be fighting. It's up to us (the brotherhood and sisterhood of heavy metal) to make a change so let's say goodbye to 2013 and all of the anger, hostility and misery and welcome in 2014 with open arms and the mindset that we can all make a difference in our own way!

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Metal Mirror-III

High Roller Records

For someone who claims to eat, breathe and sleep the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement I sure drop the ball a lot! I've said it before and I'll say it again (and likely again and again and again and so on and so forth!), but I really do need to pay better attention to press releases! It looks as if I missed the announcement about this collection of Metal Mirror studio tracks as the news about this release, along with the bit involving fellow N.W.O.B.H.M. act Sparta having a new album out soon(!), hit me like a sucker punch! Well, maybe sucker punch is a bad choice of words as I was really excited (OK, more like giddy as a schoolgirl!) to find out about "III"! The thing is I knew that High Roller Records had previously released two collections of live Metal Mirror material (2006's "I" and "II") so the working relationship between the band and label was already established so in hindsight this release, which incidentally contains every studio recording the band ever made between 1979 and 1982, isn't all that shocking. Anyway, I've babbled on enough about how clueless I can be so let's talk about Metal Mirror instead. Prior to downloading this upcoming collection I was already a tiny bit familiar with the band thanks to their track "Hard Life" appearing on the 1981 compilation "Heavy Metal Heroes, Vol. 1". Well, that and then there's the fact that somewhere around my house I have a N.W.O.B.H. sampler that a friend made me years ago that included Metal Mirror's 1980 single, "Rock'n'Roll Ain't Never Gonna Leave Us". So, between those few numbers I was already quite familiar with Metal Mirror's straight-forward, no-frills hard rock/heavy metal approach. This was a band that was more AC/DC (lead vocalist Cameron Vegas being a fan and all) then Angel Witch and more barroom/biker "muscle metal" then one that would go all wild and crazy with Iron Maiden/Judas Priest guitar solos. Or so I thought. While this 15-track collection does reaffirm the idea that this was working man's rock judging by numbers like the 7:45 (!) "Knives And Dives", the 7:20(!) "Getting Higher" and the 7:08(!) "Commit No Nuisance" there was more to the picture then meets the eye! On "III" there are a few numbers here that push the envelope into more of an "epic" metal territory, but that has more to do with the length of these numbers and the style of playing of guitarists Paul Butterworth (who, come to find out, was into the likes of Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin) and the late great Chris Haggerty (who worshiped the one and only Michael Schenker!) then the actual style of said music. But really, length issues aside, the music of Metal Mirror (which was formed in Middlesex in 1979) the style here is plain, old-fashioned heavy metal. And (judging by some of the comments made by vocalist Cameron Vegas that happen to appear in the promo material) that was what the band was all about. They wanted nothing more then to just play heavy metal and, while short-lived (the band only played about 30 live shows and had sadly broken up by 1982), they did achieve that feat! For N.W.O.B.H.M. collectors this one seems like another no-brainer, but it does have to be said that not every track here is a winner. Will that keep me from trying to buy a copy for myself? Likely not. Even if not every track of this 15-cut collection is drop-dead killer there is enough strong material here to give the overall impression that Metal Mirror could have made a better run at it had they been able to. With the news that the band (or at least lead vocalist Cameron Vegas and original Metal Mirror drummer Gary Hitchens) are once again active and preparing new music for later on in 2014 it will be interesting to see what unfolds next for this bunch. For now though I do suggest snagging a copy of "III" and for those who may be interested here is the official track listing:
2Wild Cat Strike
3Knives and Dives
4Tiger of the Street
5Midnight Eyes
7Mean Liar
8Montana Violation
9Hard Life
10Getting Higher
11Crazy (alternate version)
12One Night
13Commit No Nuisance
14Rock'n'Roll Ain't Never Gonna Leave Us
15English Booze

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Circle's Line-Circle's Line

Steel Gallery Records

From the sounds of things it sure doesn't look as if the Greek heavy metal scene will dry up any time soon. At least that's the impression one gets when you listen to this self-titled release from Circle's Line. Formed at the end of 2011, which makes them a fairly new face in the Greek heavy metal crowd, the band is lead up front by Tasos Karapapazoglou (Elwing, Nemesis, ex-Windfall) who, besides delivering lead vocals of the epic metal sort (Think Ronnie James Dio meets Rob Halford, but with a bit of a Greek twist!), produced this album. And what an album it is! That is if you like heavy metal with a high level of technical flare and with a wide berth of influences/styles. After two numbers (opener "Shoot To Kill" and "A Circle's Line") that seem to suggest a gathering of some of heavy metal's true heavyweights like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Dio the album pulls in a bit of (Dio-era) Black Sabbath with "Desperado" before turning towards Blind Guardian and Iced Earth with "Jame's Story"! And, that's just the album's first four tracks! Needless to say this is one album that doesn't suffer from a lack of diversity! Of course such variety requires a talented individual handling the six-string and that task falls to Kaidis Panos. While his lead work is never in question (see "Shoot To Kill", "A Circle's Line", "A Heroic Tune" and "Legions Of The Damned") his true ability really starts to shine on "Dark River".  Recalling some of Ritchie Blackmore's better moments, "Dark City" has an opening which is absolutely to die for before it gradually moves towards a more European-style of power metal. Speaking of which, Circle's Line are likely the exact kind of band that will appeal to fans of European-style power metal as much as it will to fans of traditional, U.S.-based power metal. And that right there is what made "Circle's Line" such a pleasant listening experience. The group, which also includes bass guitarist Taxiarhes Apostolakopoulos and drummer Nick Tsilicoudis, constantly strives to keep things fresh and interesting while also making sure that they maintain their true heavy metal nature. When I first read over the promo material for this album it claimed that it would appeal to fans of Iron Maiden, Crimson Glory, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Firewind, Joe Satriani, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Dio and Queensrÿche! Sure enough it would! There's nothing here to suggest otherwise. I'd personally toss in a few other names like Rainbow, Dream Evil, Helloween and maybe even Memento Mori, but that's just me being me! Overall "Circle's Line" was pure joy from the standpoint of a fan first and foremost (as that is what I am and will always be at the end of the day folks!) and comes recommended. Regardless of the fact that Circle’s Line is a fairly new name in the field of heavy metal, even if lead vocalist Tasos Karapapazoglou himself isn't, if this release is an indication at all of this band's potential then this this Greek act has a very promising future in front of them!

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dollar Bin Discoveries: Spit Can-Spit Can

Knuckle Down Productions

I'm not exactly sure if this is the sole release from Pennsylvania's Spit Can or what. Formerly known as Cyphilis, which, let's face it folks, isn't much better or worse of a name then Spit Can, this band was billed to me as a cross between Pantera, Clutch and Prong. That's about the extent of the (online) information that I was able to dig up when I first stumbled across this CD in a dollar bin. It's a fair enough assessment. Further online snooping  revealed that all of this material on this nine-track CD was previously available on earlier Cyphilis albums. Well, eight of them at least as the last track on this self-titled release, "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck", is a cover of Prong cover. You can usually tell a lot about a band by any/all particular tracks that they might choose to cover and with Spit Can we're talking prime-time Prong worship on about half of these numbers. Is that a bad thing? Well, if you love Prong (and I do!) then the answer is probably no. And this band, which has a guitarist who goes by the name of Germ(!), does Prong proud and then some! While the band's previous incarnation (Cyphilis) also reportedly dabbled with influences like Hatebreed and System Of A Down (in addition to the Prong, Clutch and Pantera elements!) here Germs (along with lead vocalist Nick D., bassist Deuce and drummer Feist) relies on a much more stream-lined and more defined sound. With that being the case and all the heavy riffs that come from Germ are of the post-Clutch variety. That means while there is some fierce hardcore/thrash converging in the background up-front it does bear a slight resemblance to the (thankfully just about dead and buried) nu metal movement. It's not enough to ruin your appetite or anything, but a few more well-rounded guitar solos would have gone a long way with this Penn.-based four-piece. All in all it was most certainly worth the dollar I spent and other then the fact that a few number's do tend to blur together this ended up being one of the better bargain bin CDs that I've acquired in some time!  

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

REO Speedwagon-Live at Moondance Jam

Frontiers Records

When it comes to acknowledging my wide-range of tastes I've never been one to to simply shy away. Whether it's with movies (musicals to horror flicks) or in this case music (ABBA to Napalm Death) I have always tried to keep an open mind and not hide the fact that I'm just not the sort of fella that you can fit perfectly into some square box! So, if I admit that I have REO Speedwagon in my personal CD collection just roll with it accept it for what it is! With that cat out of the bag let's turn our attention to this CD/DVD combo. Recorded at Minnesota's largest rock festival, "Live at Moondance Jam" comes 30 years after the release of the group's ninth studio-album, "Hi Infidelity". Given that revelation it should come as little to no surprise that the group, which is lead as always by the ageless Kevin Cronin (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards), chooses to open this live disc with "Don't Let Go" before rolling out fellow "High Infidelity" tracks "Keep On Loving You", "In Your Letter" (reportedly this is first ever live version of the song!) and "Take It On the Run". Despite the fact that these cuts are now 30 years old they still come across as timeless, but then again shouldn't that always be the case with great rock and roll? If there's one thing to take away from this live recording it's how amazing Kevin Cronin still sounds! As the band runs through classic tracks like "Keep on Loving You," "Take It on the Run," "Can’t Fight This Feeling," "Time for Me to Fly", "Roll with the Changes" and "Ridin' the Storm Out" Kevin proves his worth as one of classic rocks' better front-men and gives REO Speedwagon plenty to cheer about! For a band that (roughly) formed back in the late sixties(!) you would be hard-pressed to realize that given how much youthful energy they pump into a number like "Roll with the Changes"! And then there's the coolness that comes from cuts like "157 Riverside Avenue" (with it's multiple-instrumental solos this is one cut that is awesome when played live!), "Keep Pushin'" and, all the way back from REO Speedwagon's 1972 album, "R.E.O./T.W.O.", "Golden Country". That last number, "Golden Country", is another highlight as it shows off the band's early progressive rock roots and proves that you can change the musical direction of your band and still make respectable music. That's something that the current version of Boston could take a cue from! With Dave Amato on lead guitar, Bruce Hall on bass, Neal Doughty on keyboards and Bryan Hitt on drums this live recording from REO Speedwagon makes for a splendid addition to any fan's collection! As an added bonus both the CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray editions of "Live at Moondance Jam" feature an interview with REO Speedwagon's lead vocalist Kevin Cronin. For fans that should serve as even more incentive although it's doubtful they would need it!  While this release came as a surprise for me as I didn't actually request it by name (the physical CD/DVD version that is as I had the digital promo already) I'm still glad that I received it in the mail. I'm usually skittish about reviewing only one aspect of releases like this so I'm glad that I was able to preview the whole package together as it helps to be able to both hear and see a band like this perform some of their classic hits. While this one would make for a nice holiday gift I wager that it's a bit late for that idea. Still, this CD/DVD combo is one that I'm recommending for fans both old and young and, even if it would be a tad late for a Christmas present,  it would still be a wonderful gift for that classic rock fan in your life!

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Madder Than A Full Moon Dog

Starjack Entertainment

Forget Bloodstock Open Air, the Download Festival or even the Sonisphere Festival. For my money there's only one festival in the whole of the U.K. that I now have on my bucket-list and that's the Full Moon Dog Festival! This 2013 film, which carries the fitting tag-line "A film more nasty than a dose of pox -- a 'moment in time' in British rock history", serves as a remarkable documentary of the 2012 Full Moon Dog Festival that took place at at The Cockpit venue in Leeds. This annual festival helps keep the memory of Asomvel founder/front-man Jay-Jay Winter (tragically killed in a road accident in 2010) alive while simultaneously highlighting some of the true heavy weights of the British hard rock and heavy scene and giving new, up-and-coming bands a chance to showcase their skills in a live setting. Directed and co-produced by the amazing Deborah Robinson (Winter's sister and the wife of Asomvel' guitarist Lenny Robinson) and featuring  live footage of not only Asomvel, but the one and only Orange Goblin, this documentary is filled with so much heavy metal goodness it's hard to know where to even start! As I just mentioned the live footage let's start there. Besides Asomvel (whose song "Full Moon Dog" was not only used as the title of this UK festival, but also opens up the live footage on this disc!) and the almighty Orange Goblin (who prove once more why they are true legends!) we're treated to live cuts from Mercenary, Dark Forrest, Eliminator and Stiletto Farm (just to name a few). Now, while the official trailer to this cool documentary calls this a "film that your parents will hate" I actually watched a good chunk of this film with my own teenagers and we all found something different to enjoy about it. When you stop and consider the fact that these are two teenagers who (these days at least) are more into Top 40 then rock music (I know, where did I go wrong?) then that says a lot about how well-constructed this documentary is! And with my 15 year old daughter now showing interest in the music of both Stiletto Farm (which incidentally feature's Deborah's oldest son Steven (aka: Stel) on guitars and lead vocals!) and Dark Forrest I consider it time well spent together as a family! Speaking of which, "Madder Than A Full Moon Dog" comes across as a real family affair not only in the sense of all of the various family members involved, but also in the way in which all of the other bands and the fans themselves come together to honor the memory of the late Jay-Jay Winter. There is an abundance lot of love and respect shown towards both Jay-Jay Winter and his band Asomvel and this documentary does a wonderful job of showing how much of an impact this sorely-missed musician had on everyone he came into contact with. That of course brings up another cool aspect of this film and that is the various back-stage interviews. It's a bit of a toss up as to which I enjoyed more, Orange Goblin's numerous backstage chats or the various cuts with Asomvel's own Conan. They both present different perspectives of Jay-Jay Winter's impact on the scene, but I'm actually going to give the nod of approval towards Conan as this (appropriately-nicknamed) big man/vocalist/bassist offers up great insight as to how Jay-Jay influenced him. This ex-Deathwing bassist turned formidable front-man is (more or less) the host of this whole event and if you thought he inspired fear and respect on Asomvel's latest release "Knuckle Duster" then you should hear him take full-command of Asomvel classic cuts like "Full Moon Dog" and "Stone Cold Stare" in a live-setting! Hot damn this guy is a mad beast on the mic! I've got no doubt that somewhere Jay-Jay Winter is smiling on in approval and content in the knowledge that his heavy metal brothers are carrying on the mission that he started so many years ago! Without giving too much more away (as there are more then a few neat surprises to be found within this documentary!) here is the track-listing for this DVD:

 ·"Full Moon Dog"- Asomvel
· "Stone Cold Stare" - Asomvel
· "Death before Dishonour" - Stiletto Farm
· "Black Shadow" - Mercenary
· "The Wizard of Alderley Edge" - Dark Forest
· "Stand for Something" - Orange Goblin
· "We Rule the Night" - Eliminator
· "Drudgery" - Asomvel
· "Black Trinity" - Triaxis
· "Round Up the Horses" - Orange Goblin
· "Tales of the Ost" - Stuka Squadron
· "Blow Me" - Screaming Eagles
· "They Come Back" - Orange Goblin
· "Womb to the Tomb" – Asomvel

As I'm relatively new to the party that is Asomvel (I just discovered them this past year, but now have an overwhelming desire to acquire their whole back-catalog so any help from fellow fans/collectors in that regard would be greatly appreciated!) I can't really say they sound better then ever. Still, they absolutely killed it on their few live cuts as did Orange Goblin! Stiletto Farm are another band that just recently crossed my path (you can check out my review of their latest single at the link below), but their live cut, "Death before Dishonour", showed exactly why I find them to be one of the more new and exciting heavy rock bands out there! Mercenary, Eliminator and Dark Forest all prove more then capable of keeping the metal spirit alive and well and left me with quite the dilemma. How do I possibly go about adding all of these group's to my personal music collection without breaking the bank? And that definitely goes for Triaxis as well. Winning the "Where have you been all my life" award for best new female-fronted heavy metal band this UK-based act is lead by the stunning Krissie Kirby and provides further proof that "Madder Than A Full Moon Dog" is one hell of a cool DVD to add to your personal collection! Off-hand I can't think of anyway in which this documentary could have been made better although I do wish that the DVD set would have come with an optional digital download of the various live performances. That's a minor gripe though and takes nothing away from this fitting tribute to the remarkable Jay-Jay Winter. After watching this DVD I find myself more determined then ever to travel overseas. With the 2013 Full Moon Dog festival having just wrapped-up I now have a year to try to plan a trip over for the enviable 2014 event. Like I really needed another reason to visit the U.K.other then Dr. Who, but I digress! How I'll pull if off though is the real question, but with Asomvel and their extended "family" (Stiletto Farm and Stone Cold Kill) headlining the scene over there it's one journey that I'd move heaven and earth to accomplish! In the meantime I'll be doing my best to uncover new British hard rock and heavy metal bands to share with all of you our faithful readers and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone who loves British metal to check out this well-crafted documentary! You can find out more about it here:

Read my review of Stiletto Farm's latest release here:

Check out my review of Asomvel's "Knuckle Duster":

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Masada-Hideous Rot 12" MLP

Blood Harvest

Masada, who are a (currently) two-piece Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based act, was formed back in 2008 with their first demo, the well-received "Suffer Mental Decay", having been released in 2011. This five-track release combines the two tracks from said demo along with three new numbers. The band, which features in it's ranks Cazz "The Black Lourde of Crucifixion" Grant (Crucifier, ex-Grand Belial's Key), plays old-school death metal and, other then the oddity that is "Fluteotherapy" (featuring Clive Jones from 70's occult-rockers Black Widow and Agony Bag), this release is fairly standard in that regard. But standard can be good. Along with vocalist Cazz Grant (who also handles drums on the newer material) the "group" currently features guitarist/bassist Chris Milewski who first conceived of this band with "the intention of not only creating aggressive music, but also something that involved uniqueness and thought." To that end he did succeed...or at least to a point. While his take on classic death metal is cool and all having "Fluteotherapy" as the second track on this release really mucks with the flow. After you have already started off right with the newer track "Hideous Cerebral Pulp" (which, even at it's oddest, still crackles with the sincerest of older death metal's charm), you throw in this number that is just the sound of someone (seemingly) attempting to play flute with one hand while using the other hand for more, well, "personal" matters! Huh? You go from grizzly death metal to, uh-hum, flute porn! Why? It's one thing to be "experimental" and then it's another thing entirely to take a WIDE turn left out into the middle of nowhere! If you skipped that track then the rest of this EP would have a simple-enough flow to it to make this one really compelling for classic death metal fanatics. The thing is Chris' version of death metal is not just "old-school" (as seems to be the case with a ton of newer bands these days-look backwards for your future inspirations) in the sense of the music's actual construction. Rather from the way it's played to the way in which it was recorded this one sounds, smells and tastes like an OLD death metal recording. So why the weird throwaway track then? I have no idea. Back to this release though and I will have to say that while I personally like that it has a raw, unpolished, demo-like quality going for it (as it reminds me of my high-school tape trading days) a release like this (which shows it's wear and tear in the way in which it was produced) might end up turning more death metal fanatics off then turning them on. No pun intended. Somewhere down the road there is probably more of a balanced approach to be found as far as production goes so I wouldn't let that be too much of a turn off. I'd instead save the turn-off for weird flute porn, but that's just me. Anyway, it will be worth checking back in with this band in the future to see (or rather hear) what they might be able to make off a full-length recording. For now Masada has my attention, but maybe not for all the right reasons you would expect!

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Heikki Hautala-Pyövelin Vaatteet

Ektro/Future Lunch

You'll have to forgive me when it comes to this one folks as there's very little information to be found within the confines of this promo's (brief) notes or, for that matter, online. That said here is what I do know. Besdies being celebrate for his outstanding artwork (of which samples which can be found online) Heikki Hautala is a member of the noisy punk-rock outfit Sokea Piste and "Pyövelin Vaatteet" (roughly translated as "Executioners Clothes") is his first (?) solo release. Despite the album's ghastly album art this is actually more in tune with natural, almost-organic, folk music. Recorded on a 4-track recorder (remember those?) in the woods of Kuru, Finland this release is surprisingly down to earth and very easy to become transfixed with. On a side-note everything is sung in Finnish I believe so, from the stand-point of an English-speaking gentlemen such as myself, it's more a matter of simply embracing the peaceful and enchanting tones of  "Pyövelin Vaatteet" then breaking-apart the lyrical nature of this recording. Even so, as peaceful and relaxing as this release was for me on a personal level, there is still an undeniable sense of sadness woven within these tracks. It's as if the narration speaks of some unseen horror that lies just beyond this world's comprehension. Whether it's a situation where we simply cannot see such misery or we choose to turn a blind eye toward it is a matter of interpretation. Either way this is a refreshing change from what usually finds it's way into my "To Review" pile and a release that warrants further listens.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013


Arkeyn Steel Records

Move past this album's unassuming and (frankly speaking) uninspiring cover art (and forgive the fact that this band hails from the musical wasteland that is known as Hollywood, California) and you're likely to discover that sometimes, yes sometimes, the best heavy metal can be found in the most unlikely of places. And in this case it can be packaged with such simplicity (as far as this ones presentation is concerned) that, unless you somehow knew the real treat hidden under it's wraps, that you'd be excused for walking past it. Of course you should know where I'm going with this recently-released, limited-edition compilation (1,000 hand-numbered CD copies) from California's August. Arkeyn Steel Records is another one of those record labels that always seems to have their hands on some real gems of the 80's underground metal scene and August, which was formed in 1988 by two former students of Musicians Institute of Hollywood, California (guitarist Mike Moore and bassist Houston Thad Cranford), is no different in that regard. As was the case with the prior 2013 releases from Xcel and Alloy Czar (both of which come highly recommend and have ended up in my private collection) this collection of August material has been painstakingly re-mastered and the result speaks for itself. The nine tracks here are clean and clear and the ever feature of this band, which also featured lead vocalist Tony Russo (R.I.P.) and drummer Andy Shea, sounds damn near perfect! Now, despite hailing from the land of big hair and even bigger egos the heavy metal on display is of the progressive/U.S.power metal variety. If that (somehow) has you thinking about early Queensrÿche then you my friend win the golden prize! Thankfully this four-piece decided early on to push themselves and what resulted was a sound that (besides the early, 1983-1984 or so, Queensrÿche reference point) should appeal to fans of Crimson Glory, Heir Apparent and Lethal! Throw in a little mid-eighties Judas Priest to even it all out and there you have August. And yes kids, it is a beautiful thing. Wait, what is it exactly that is "a beautiful thing" I hear you asking? Well, being able to discover new gems from heavy metal's glory days like August You'll have to excuse me while I wax nostalgic a bit, but those (the eighties/early nineties) really were the days. Other then maybe the early eighties (when I would have been only 9-10 and had not yet discovered what would eventually become one of the great loves of my life) the mid to late eighties was an exciting time to be a heavy metal fan. New bands were cropping up pretty much overnight and it seemed as if every area of the U.S. had it's own set of (hometown pride) heavy metal heroes! When bands like August made the scene you could feel the love and passion these acts had for their music and (even more so) their fans! It was a time when the floodgates came open and, despite never making it past the demo stage for a lot of these young acts, they still gave 100% and the scene was on fire! Of course there are still local bands doing the same thing and playing music for themselves and for their fans. But in a way it's all so different. The Internet has made it so a lot of bands don't need to build up a local and loyal fan base and these kind of well-love demo recordings have been replaced with digital downloads. Between that and the fact that this kind of U.S. power metal doesn't really exist anymore it's a different world entirely. Still, with recordings like this you can relive those moments while also supporting traditional heavy metal/power metal acts who, while quite deserving, just didn't make it to the next level for whatever reason. While I can't comment on the booklet that comes with this one (as it's a "digital download" promo kind of world anymore kids) from the sounds of it this one should be just as sweet as both the  Xcel and Alloy Czar ones were. Along with a bio and unpublished photos the CD will include lyrics so that with each track you can read along while you rock out! That's always a good thing! Obviously this one is recommend for collectors of all things eighties heavy metal as well as fans of Queensrÿche, Crimson Glory, Heir Apparent and Lethal!

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Distant Past-Utopian Void

Pure Steel Records

"Utopia Void", which is due out in the later part of next month, is the latest release from Swiss heavy metal band Distant Past. Formed back in 2002 by Emerald's Adriano Troiano (bass and keyboards), originally under the name Evil Eyes and with two of Adriano's high-school friends in tow (guitarist Alain Curty and drummer Kaspar Zwirner), the band's first album was issued in 2003. Since then (the group's release of their debut album, "Science Reality") the band has seen it's fair share of line-up shake-ups with only Troiano and Curty remaining from the early days. With "Utopia Void", which has some oddly sinister album art adorning it, this Swiss band now features the services of former Emerald lead singer/guitarist Jo Julmy (lead vocals) as well as guitarist Christof Schafer (ex-Orpheus) and drummer Jan "The Onion" Zwiebel. While the group is primarily looked at as a progressive/melodic heavy metal band this album finds a group more then willing to stretch past any such preconceived notions.Opening number "A Day of Darkness" carries a serious torch for all things 80's metal (as do the numbers "Kingdom of Shadows", "Helpless" and "The Illusion") while the band tackles Black Sabbath on the (Ronnie James Dio-tribute number) track "Touched by the Gods" and even Megadeth-like thrash with "On The Edge". At almost sixty minutes in length this one is a sure-fire winner and a good sign that 2014 will indeed be a good year for heavy metal! 

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C.O.A.G., which stands for Coalition Of Abnormal Grinders, is a one man band/solo project from We All Die (Laughing)' member Déhà (also of Maladie, Yhdarl and Imber Luminis). In short, since the songs are short and to the point on "Sociopath", this is (early) Napalm Death-inspired grindcore with one odd choice of a cover ("Defeatist" by Hatebreed) tossed in for good measure. All of the album's original fourteen songs are numerical in name ("I", "II", "III", etc.) and short in nature. In fact this whole "full-length" release is over and done with in a little over thirteen minutes making it every bit the definition of "grindcore". Déhà, whose vocals are on the low-end, gritty as hell, end of the spectrum (or rather it comes from chewing on gravel and broken glass before gargling with gasoline!), plays everything here and while the short blasts of grind tend to be nothing more then a blur (which is really how good grindcore should be I'd argue!) it's not hard to pick up on the fact that he handles it all rather effectively! With a full-fledged band in place one would have to imagine that C.O.A.G. would slay everything in it's path on the live stage, but for now this solo studio-album is a good starting point for Déhà.

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