Friday, February 28, 2014

The Approach and the Execution-Kings Among Runaways


This Saturday, March 1st, 2014 to be exact (tomorrow friends!), Cleveland epic metal band The Approach and the Execution will have their album release party for "Kings Among Runaways" at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. It will also serve as their last Cleveland show (at least for awhile!) as the band has recently packed their bags and headed out west for the warm California sun. Opening acts scheduled for the event include Deadiron, Ruins of Tekoah, Purveyors of Fiction, Dynamite Thunderpunch, Between Hell And High Water and Caves. I mention all of this up-front so that fans and friends of the band can come and say their proper fair-wells and send off  what has been one of Ohio's most friendly and down to Earth metal bands in style! So, if you're in the area and want to experience what promises to be a spectacular night of metal then by all means head on down to the Agora Ballroom! Doors open at 7pm! With all of that said let's take a sneak peek at "Kings Among Runaways", the second over-all full-length release from The Approach and the Execution that was funded by fans thanks to Kickstarter. As we all know sophomore releases can be hit or miss. Especially when a band has undertaken line-up changes and there has been a four-year gap between albums! Last time we checked in with this lot (2010's "The Blood March") they were fronted by guitarist Jeremy Richard and had wonderful female backing vocals courtesy of keyboardist Julie Peterson. Both musicians are now gone (along with then drummer Riley Kovac) although (ragging metal maniac turned second grade teacher) Jeremy Richard does stop by on "Kings Among Runaways" to say "Hey". Up-front on the mic we now have founding member Mike Notte (who also handles guitars) and with two other holdovers (lead guitarist Andy Fischer and bass guitarist/vocalist Nick Kozono) being joined by two new members (guitarist/vocalist Sam Wilson and drummer Gabe Dickey) everything is firmly in place. Or at least it was for the recording of this album*. Opening strong with "The Warrior's Psalm" we find The Approach and the Execution once again taking the best parts of classic metal bands like Iron Maiden, Armored Saint, Black Sabbath, Manowar and Judas Priest and, after adding elements from the likes of Trivium, Protest The Hero, Slayer, Coheed and Cambria, Megadeth and Killswitch Engage, unleashing epic and unrelenting heavy metal that is remarkably all their own! Long ago guitarist Andy Fisher established his own key-style of playing and his trademark lead solos explode over the course of this 9-track epic metal release! Besides new cuts like "The Warrior's Psalm", "A Graveyard Marked For Two" (an early fave cut!) and the title cut (which can be heard at the bandcamp link below) album number two comes packed with a re-recorded version of "The Plague Knows No Prejudice" and the previously released single "Hymn Of Victory" (from May of 2013). Minus the female backing vocals of the lovely Julie Peterson, whose presence is sometimes missed on "Kings Among Runaways", "The Plague Knows No Prejudice" comes across as way more brutal. And speaking of brutal, "Ghost Pilot" closes "Kings Among Runaways" in proper style, heavy & crushing(!), making one appreciate just how effective it is when you book-end exception tracks as openers and closes! Of course in-between those two numbers there's plenty of meat and potato metal numbers like the title cut (feat. guest vocals from Deadiron's Alexander Van Ness) and previously-released single "Hymn Of Victory". What helps an album like "Kings Among Runaways" work so well is how everyone shines in their collective moment in the spot-light. Mike's voice is clean and clear and everything, whether we are talking about Fisher's leads or the tight rhythm section of Kozono and Dickey, just gels. The excellent "Faith Aligned" is a prime example of this. Here Mike's singing is cushioned by the smooth combination of progressive and epic metal and, even at 7 minutes in length, it moves along at such a nice brisk pace that there is never a fear that it might end up losing the listeners' attention! All in all "Kings Among Runaways" is everything a sophomore release should be. It shows necessary growth while remembering where it is that it's roots are planted at. Where this band will go next only time will tell. But, based upon the strength of "Kings Among Runaways" I'd say that the west coast better be ready for what's heading their way!

* With the move out west there will naturally be more line-up changes, but that's another story for another time!

Flyer for tomorrow night's show!

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kayser-Read Your Enemy

Listenable Records

Now three albums into a career that began in 2004, Kayser, who hail from Helsingborg, Sweden, find themselves signed to Listenable Records for what must be most certainly their strongest release to date! Having only heard Kayser on a few occasions in the past I can say in all honesty that I don't ever remember the band being this tight and finely tuned into one single goal. Then again, and mind you I'm pulling fragments of musical knowledge out of a memory that has been severely rattled by well over twenty five years of rock, metal and thrash(!), I also don't recall this lot being so "catchy". Headed up by co-founder/lead vocalist Christian "Spice" Sjöstrand (Band of Spice, ex-Aeon, ex-Spice and the RJ Band, ex-Spiritual Beggars, ex-The Mushroom River Band), and with guitarist Mattias "Swanny" Svensson (The Defaced) and drummer Bob Ruben ( Band of Spice, Inferno (XII), ex-Claustrophobia, ex-Spice and the RJ Band, ex-The Defaced (live), ex-The Mushroom River Band) left over from the band's early days, Kayser plays from the heart on "Read Your Enemy". Style-wise it comes across as somewhat traditional heavy metal in nature (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest) as interpreted by a "supergoup" made up of members of Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica. Heaven help me if there isn't a bit of groove* to be found within these 12-tracks as well and, thanks to the skills of  guitarists Mattias "Swanny" Svensson and Jokke Pettersson (ex-Poseidon), we're also treated to the kind of technical thrash that Metallica used to be well-known for! All told this is one fine as wine release and proof that real, in the flesh, thrash metal is still out there waiting for an audience to embrace it!

*Unlike Metallica, who are so far removed from being relevant they might as well not even exist anymore, Sweden's Kayser actually acknowledges the fact that they have a bassist, in this case it's Emil "Ewil" Sandin (ex-Poseidon, ex-Chaeostribe), and allow him to contribute to the overall picture!

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Endless Chaos-Rejected Arocity


"Abrasive, energetic and chaotic" are the three words that Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Endless Chaos choose to describe their uncompromising sound. And on their upcoming EP, "Rejected Arocity" (Which is inspired by the horror movie "Re-Animator" of all things! Sweet!), those three words are more than a little appropriate! Three other words that could be used to describe this five-piece band would have to be thrash, death and black! That's what these five fine gentlemen (Vocalist Jordan Dorge, Guitarists Mike Menza & Mike Toews, Bass Guitarist Jeff Humarang and Drummer James Burton) bring to the party! So far there doesn't seem to be any artwork for this 3-track EP (hence the band photo above), but that's neither here nor there in regards to what this Winnipeg band coughs up thanks to a tantalizing blend of (influences) Kreator, Testament, Sepultura, Dissection, Carnage, Skeletonwitch and Black Sabbath! Mixed and mastered by Ryan Forsyth Recorded at Grimfrykt Media Productions, which gives this one a pure joy of an underground vibe, this EP (the band's debut release!) also stretches the boundaries of death and thrash by  incorporating other (subtle) influences along the lines of Impaled, Death, Slayer, Havok, Dark Angel, Carcass and Dismembered! Having (so far) shared the stage with not only one of their influences (Skeletonwitch), but bands such as Wretched, 3 Inches of Blood, Aborted and Kataklysm, Endless Chaos has seemingly come a long way in a very short time! Fans of aggressive thrash/death would due well to check out this EP. For now you can hear two of three tracks from "Rejected Arocity" at the bandcamp like below. 

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Darkyra Black-Dragon Tears


Prior to clicking on this promo I had no idea what to expect. Who or what is Darkyra Black? If I was to simply go by the artwork then I'd probably be guessing something akin to a gothic Duran Duran! As it turns out the gothic part is correct, but the Duran Duran part for like a thousand miles off! For it seems that Darkyra Black, an absolutely stunning beauty(!), is an Australian symphonic metal singer and "Dragon Tears" is the debut offering of Darkyra Black. Make sense so far? Besides the lovely Darkyra Black, whose voice is every bit as sultry and seductive as it is powerful and engaging, the band features drummer Garry King (Jeff Beck, Joe Lynn Turner, Ian Parry) of power metal outfit Achillea, guitarists Betovani Denelli and Paul Jupe (Achillea), bassist Colin Haynes (Achillea) and keyboardest Fab Jablonski (Achillea). As Darkyra Black has provided backing vocals for Achillea it makes sense that all of these members of said symphonic metal/power metal act lend a helping hand on her debut album. Oh, and not only is it a debut album, but It's also a concept album based on a "Gothic interpretation of a geisha like tale that ends in tragedy. Love, loss, lust, betrayal and revenge." Naturally anytime a young act attempts to tackle a concept album there are numerous risks involved. But for a new act to tackle one on their debut recording? That's pretty bold right? To Darkyra Black's credit "Dragon Tears" is a pretty solid undertaking. I've never heard Achillea myself, but I would imagine that some of that band's same symphonic metal and power metal elements show up on this debut album along with generous helpings of  gothic rock, traditional heavy metal, melodic hard rock, epic metal and even progressive rock! In their words the music is "dark, passionate and edgy" and I'd say that that about covers "Dragon Tears"! No, but really this music is dark and a bit mysterious and thanks to some solid guest musicians (George Boussounis-additional keyboards/samples/arrangement, Michael Porfyris -cello, Ilias Sdoukos -viola, Laertis Kokolanis - violin) "Dragon Tears" is a good way! Along with Achillea influences are listed on her Facebook as being Tarja, Edenbridge, Dio, Kate Bush and Nightwish although I'd add in Amy Lee of Evanescence fame as well when it comes to Darkyra Black. If goth-tinged symphonic/melodic power metal with strong female vocals and heavy rock guitars sounds promising to you then "Dragon Tears" is worth checking out. I'll admit I wasn't expecting to like this one as much as I did, but between the skilled musicians involved and Darkyra's enticing vocals this one was easy enough to get caught up in! Solid as a rock for a debut recording, and a concept album to boot(!), "Dragon Tears" is a good start for this Australian vocalist who, with time and some luck, should evolve into a more recognizable name.

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Ogre-The Last Neanderthal

Minotauro Records

Portland, Maine's Ogre are no strangers to all of us here at Heavy Metal Time Time Machine. We've covered their classic debut album, 2003's "Dawn of the Proto-Man" (a real must-buy folks!), and even have an interview with these talented doom rock and rollers buried in our archives! Still, every new release from Ogre is like stepping out into the unknown and "The Last Neanderthal" is no exception! With Ed Cunningham on bass and vocals, Ross Markonishon guitars and synthesizers and Will Broadbent on drums and percussion Ogre waist no time in getting down to busy with instrumental opener "Shadow Earth". When Ed's vocals do kick in on "Nine Princes in Amber" I couldn't help but envision a truly warped (and yet less stoned and much-clearer headed) Ozzy Osbourne, but the track is more indebted to classic rock and seventies heavy metal then Black Sabbath could have ever imagined and even when confronted by the eight minute plus "Bad Trip" (in which Ed really sounds like Ozzy and the HEAVY doom really gets turned up to 11!) it's like Ogre are on an entirely different planet/realm of existence then any mortal power trio out there, past or present! And speaking of HEAVY (and for that matter FAR OUT!) it certainly seems as if a track like "Son of Sisyphus" is Ogre's way of saying "We can be just as HEAVY as FUCK as the next act out!". With Markonishon's guitar solos being among some of the best he's ever laid to tape and Will Broadbent keeping this power trio on task we get excellent numbers like "Warpath" and "The Hermit". Along the way this trio takes a stab at funk with a cover of  "Soulless Woman" by a different Ogre (this one a 70's bar band from the Pacific Northwest!) and even tips their collective hats at country with "White Plume Mountain"! Sporting an almost Neil Young meets Crosby Steels Nash and Young "White Plume Mountain" is the album's second instrumental number and it perfectly ushers in the epic closing number "The Hermit". At ELEVEN minutes in length "The Hermit" is just awesome and Ogre prove once again why they are such a well-respected doom metal/stoner rock band! With the album's many different elements (doom metal, stoner rock, seventies hard rock, classic rock, funk and even country!) "The Last Neanderthal" pushes the envelope as far as what a band like this is capable of achieving and yet it all sounds so remarkably normal and coherent (even on the obscure cover track) that it gels perfectly! So far this is one of the BEST doom release of 2014 and by the end of this year I can't imagine any albums beating it in that regard! This one is a must-own!

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Chapel-Satan's Rock N Roll LP

Invictus Productions

Originally released in August of 2012, with a Japanese CD re-release by Spiritual Beast appearing on February 13th, 2013  (expanding this 10-track release to a 12-track release thanks to the inclusion of  2 bonus tracks in "Gates of Hell" and a cover of Inepsy's "See You in Hell"), Chapel's full-length debut album has just recently been  re-released on vinyl by Invictus Productions. It is the vinyl version of "Satan's Rock N Roll" that I'm covering (or rather the album's MP3s) and, since it's hump day and I'd just like to cut to the chase and try to get more then a few reviews done today, we'll keep things brief. This Canadian act is not treading any new water with this 10-track album of blackened speed/thrash. As long as you realize that and/or expecting that then there's no reason one can't enjoy this album for what it is. Imagine Motörhead as a black metal-inspired outfit and that is more or less what you get with Canada's Chapel. With a few flashes of group's like Tank, Sodom and (of course) Venom sprinkled through-out these 10-tracks this one is what it is-songs about beer drinking, Satan, raising hell and rocking out play out over-top of biker metal and, if one doesn't get all tripped over the fact that it isn't groundbreaking, then an album like this one is at least easy to lift a tall cold one to! If you can look past this one's "influences" then "Satan's Rock N Roll" is a pretty wicked little way to kill a half an hour or so! 

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Addictive-Kick 'Em Hard (Rebooted Edition)

Tribunal Records/Divebomb Records

Due for release on the eleventh of next month, "Kick 'Em Hard (Rebooted Edition)" is a 2CD set that compiles EVERYTHING that eighties thrash metal band Addictive released in their career. Featuring members of Mortal Sin (among others) this Australia-based metal band first hit the scene with the 1988 demo, "Ward 74". Before long they were back in the studio for 1989's "Pity Of Man", a somewhat rough affair that comes across as a three-way fight between Germany's "Big Three" (Destruction, Sodom and Kreator), Bay Area thrash (Metallica and Megadeth primarily with some Testament, Death Angel and Exodus kicked in for good measure!) and (early) Slayer, and then, in a moment that must have seemed to be divine intervention, the band were somehow able to enlist the one and only Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow and countless others!) to produce their sophomore output, "Kick Em' Hard"! It's actually "Kick Em' Hard" that opens up this 2CD set and with someone like bassist Bob Daisley twisting the knobs the results were (needless to say) phenomenon! Originally released in 1993, "Kick Em' Hard" is a fantastic example of (prime-time) thrash wrapped up neatly in cult packaging! With bass guitarist Greg Smith's somewhat raw (James Hetfield-like) voice up front leading the charge and kick ass guitar solos from the pair of Joe Buttigieg (ex-Mortal Sin, ex-My Therapy) and Mick Sultana (ex-Mortal Sin) the band (which, at the time of said album, also featured well-traveled drummer Steven "Stevo" Moore) treats the listener to superb thrash that is explosive and filled to overflowing with energy and sincerity! that's not to say that the rest of the material which makes up this expanded edition isn't stellar. From the group's original material to their unique take on "Crazy Train" (Ozzy Osbourne) there's very little not to appreciate about this unheralded thrash act. With a re-mastered sound courtesy of Jamie King this whole collection showcases a band that, had the scene not changed so dramatically thanks to the arrival of grunge, could have made a real splash in the thrash metal/speed metal scene. Whether they would have been as big as some of the other big names of the era (or even as well-known/appreciated as their brethren Mortal Sin) is probably open to debate, but one can't help but think that a band like Addictive could have at least given the scene a much-needed shot in the arm! With what promises to be a smashing 20 page booklet (pics, interview, etc.) this one should easily appeal to thrash metal fans of old (Megadeth, Metallica, Sodom, Testament, Mortal Sin, Slayer) while it could also serve as a fine point of reference for young, up-and-coming bands looking for fresh inspiration!

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Midnite Hellion-"Hour of the Wolf" Single

Witches Brew

Fronted by Pamela "P.J." Berlinghof (Twilight Odyssey, ex-Wind Wraith), who replaced original vocalist Sonny Zackeo from the looks of it,  Midnight Hellion are a traditional heavy metal act from New Jersey that was formed back in 2011. This 7-inch, limited-edition vinyl (100 copies on translucent blue and 400 classic black) features two tracks (the title cut and "The Morrigan") (400 copies) and, along with a soon to be released live (cassette) entitled "Bitchin' at Champs! 11-15-2013", serves as an appetizer while the group works on their first full-length LP. With not only a new vocalist in place (and a powerful one at that!), but a guitarist as well (Nick DiGiovacchino), Midnight Hellion, which also features guitarist/backing voclaist Dan Sclavi, bass guitarist/backing vocalist Bill Dripps and drummer/backing vocalist Drew Rizzo (ex-Capitalist Death Machine, ex-Horrifier) draws their sound from a variety of sources while (effectively I might add) cramming them into it's (compact) original identity. Musically it's some U.S. power metal (Helstar, early Satan's Host and Virgin Steel), some traditional heavy metal/eighties heavy metal (Metal Church, Jag Panzer/Titan Force, Malice, Shok Paris, Warlord and Tarot), some N.W.O.B.H.M. (Judas Priest, Desolation Angels, Satanic Rites, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Fast Kutz and Rock Goddess), N.W.O.T.H.M. (Skull Fist, Enforcer and Cauldron) and, naturally given P.J.'s presence on the mic, some female-fronted acts like Warlock/Dio, Acid and Hellion (P.J. sounds quite a bit like Ann Boleyn!). On paper that sounds like a jumbled mess I'm sure, but in actuality it's some fair solid, heavy rocking, straight-up metal that should (given time to develop and gel with a consistent line-up) make for a nice addition to the field of traditional heavy metal. This is one band to keep an eye and ear out for as all of the pieces seem to be in place for something special!

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Interview with ForChristSake

Having first heard Northern Ireland-based ForChristSake back in July of 2012 (thanks to Roxx Records' "Summer Sampler 2012" compilation) it was only last month that I was able to experience their full-length debut album, "Apocalyptic Visions of Divine Terror", and then their debut EP, "Death Is But A Breath Away". Both releases an excellent example of extreme metal, but from a Christian view-point. You can read all about these two recordings at this link ( Meanwhile I had the opportunity to talk a little with this young act and I just want to thank them for taking the time to do that. Enjoy!
Andy-First off I just have to ask. Is there a Christian metal scene at all in your part of Ireland?
ForChrsitSake-More secular and we are sometimes derided for what we are trying to do we are more accepted outside of our own country but we do not let that stop our vision of the band and its ministry
Andy-Drummer/vocalist Ignatios formed ForChristSake out of a previous band correct? Could you give us a time-frame as well?
ForChristSake-ForChristSake formed as a proper unit in 2008 when Ignatios asked Mark to join the band along with another guitarist - we subsequently picked up Simon on lead and Guy soon after we rehearsed solidly for a year before gigging or recording, Ignatios had the original idea for the band but the right people didn't materialise until 2008.
A-How was the name decided on?
FCS-We were tired of the Lords name be used as a blaspheme or curse word we wanted to take it back and use it for the right reasons in that we do this ForChristSake -

Andy- What are some of your influences? Either as a band or as individuals?
FCS-Mixed influences mostly metal such as Christian metal bands Mortification Zao, and other non Christian such as Gojira, Sepultura and Emperor to name a few but other non metal influences too
A-Was "Death Is But A Breath Away" the first recording from ForChristSake?
FCS-Yes an EP of 4 songs there are other songs from those sessions still in the FCS riff fridge it was our first recording we are happy with the response it got but we feel we have progressed from this original foray what with the release of our debut album AVODT
A-Is there a story behind the departure of former lead vocalist/keyboardist Guy Taylor or was it a amicable split?
FCS-Generally amicable and at that time Guy wanted to play guitar in another band we have always been on good terms with Guy he brings an energy to FCS and has stood in for us on some gigs and continues to be a good friend to the band.

 A-And finally, how did the deal with Roxx Records come about?
FCS-I sent Bill Roxx a video link of our video for "O" from our EP he liked what he heard and saw and over a number of discussions online and over the phone he offered us a deal - we are very happy to be with Roxx and Bill has been ultra supportive of us.
As I've now had the chance to listen to both recordings quite a bit, with the new album being absolutely dynamite(!), I've just got to say that this is one band that manages to pull off extreme metal (elements of hardcore, death metal, modern metal and even some black metal roar through their debut album!) while being theologically sound lyric-wise! Their debut album comes with a 12-page booklet which, besides featuring nifty artwork, includes all of the lyrics to their songs! There's no doubt that Christin metal has come a LONG WAY from it's humble beginnings, but even in that regard ForChristSake are undeniably HEAVY and EXTREME! I've just got to say how impressive it is that these guys are doing their thing for God while also unleashing some of 2014's most (unreal) BRUTAL riffs and INSANE drumming! Talk about making a joyful NOISE unto the Lord! 

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Kill Ritual-The Eyes Of Medusa

GoldenCore Records/ZYX Music

Having formed in October of 2010, with a full-length debut album entitled "The Serpentine Ritual" dropping two years later, California's thrash n' rollers (more on that in a second!) Kill Ritual have a Spring date in mind for album number two. Mixed and mastered by Steven Rice & Andy LaRocque (King Diamond), "Eyes Of Medusa", a fifty one minute or so affair with ten jam-packed crunchers(!), was produced by the band's own guitarist (that Steve Rice fellow again!) and showcases exactly want can be accomplished when you bring together veteran musicians with one singular goal in mind! Besides lead guitarist Steve Rice (ex-Imagika) Kill Ritual features ex-Dark Angel bassist Danyael "Laughing" Bear and drummer Gee Anzalone (Brain Damage). As for the lead vocalist spot? That's taken care of by one Josh "Crimson" Gibson. With no other bands listed to his credit (at least going by what's listed on the Metal Archives) maybe this guy just appeared out of time and space when Kill Ritual was in need of just the right front-man. Seems legit right? But, what about his voice? Vocals, in regards to heavy metal/thrash outfits like this act (mostly) is, are usually gruff and/or rough around the edges. Here though Kill Ritual is lead by a vocalist who sounds like he should have/could have been fronting some hard-edged sleaze act of does long past (maybe Guns N' Roses?) or even one of the thousands of 80's metal/U.S. metal bands that made the late eighties/early nineties such a cool time to be a metal fanatic! While opening number "The Eyes Of Medusa" only hints at what this Bay Area-native is capable of all bets are off once "Hair Trigger" kicks in! Hard rock thrash? Is that a new thing? The way Kill Ritual pulls it off it sure as hell seems like it! Almost sleazy, like the aforementioned Guns N' Roses or even Ratt/Skid Row, the cut takes pristine thrash and makes it over by way of eighties hard rock. No worries though. Said track, along with track number three ("Never Get Me") and track number four "Ride Into The Night", draws from some serious metal sources (Metallica, Exodus, Dark Angel, Heathen and Death Angel) even if the songs retain rock-like structures! What works on album number two for Kill Ritual is the band's ability to craft catchy and hard-driving material (some of which borders on spend metal!) full of melody that falls into this wonderful grey area where hard rock, heavy metal, thrash and speed metal all exist in peaceful coexistence. From the guitars of Steve Rice (seemingly drawing his style from Slash as much as Dave Mustaine-check out "Hair Trigger", "Weight Of The World" and "Writing On The Wall"!) to Crimson's Axl Rose-infused voice this band just clicks! New drummer Gee Anzalone (who replaced co- founder and ex-Imagika member Wayne de Vecchi) provides just the right touch and together with bassist Danyael "Laughing" Bear they keep everything in check from "The Eyes Of Medusa" all the way to (doom power metal by way of Pantera and Megadeth) "Agenda 21". Any band that can conjure up images of everyone from Megadeth to Pantera and even acts as (weirdly) diverse as King Diamond and Ugly Kid Joe are more then OK in my book! So, that begs the question then as to what doesn't work about Kill Ritual's sophomore recording. The only red flag would have to be that a few of the rock riffs come across as recycled, but it's not blatantly obvious and besides, Kill Ritual are only recycling riffs from themselves and nobody else! So it's more like "Hey, didn't I hear something similar to that bit on track x, y or z" then "Hey, didn't I hear something similar to that bit from band x, y or z"! And even then it's hard to get all worked up about it considering how much fun an album like this is to listen to! Definitely different then most of the new heavy metal and thrash acts coming down the pipeline theses days, Kill Ritual offer up new tricks for listeners searching for new sounds. If that sounds like something that you've been looking for then be sure to keep an ear out for "The Eyes Of Medusa"!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Mighty Wraith-The Awakening


Calling Birmingham, England their home, The Mighty Wraith, a traditional heavy metal/power metal band that has seemingly come out of nowhere to conquer all with their Manowar-themed metal(!), offer up one of the best debut-albums that I have heard in a L-O-N-G time! Despite the unassuming nature of this ten-track album's artwork (yes, admittedly it leaves a lot to be desired and it sure as hell doesn't even begin to convey what awaits the listener once you dare to hit play on album opener "Fury of the Norsemen"!) "The Awakening", which was dutifully-produced by Danny Nardone* (Aceldama), is chock full off N.W.O.B.H.M.-inspired leads (courtesy of Azza Potter and Jonathan Miller), furious drumming (Andrew Kirby) and top-on-the-world lead vocals (Matt Gore)! And speaking of lead vocals, Matt Gore is most certainly a highlight here as he's the perfect front-man that a band like The Might Wraith needs when it comes right down to making their personal take on traditional heavy metal work! Musically, besides the Manowar reference point mentioned previously, some of the more obvious influences spring to mind. Names like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio seem to be a more then fair starting point (as would be less-known acts like Heavy Load, Manilla Road, Sleepy Hollow, Dragonslayer and Dark Wizard), but The Mighty Wraith adds their own take to the genre and, thanks to some great lyrically-content, creates an instant heavy metal gem! From time to time new bands like The Might Wraith do actually pop up, ones that seem to have it all from the word go! With a fine debut-album like this already under their belts this UK-based heavy/power metal act looks poised to take that next step out into the battlefield of life. In the meantime why not take up arms and join them? As offered by not only "Fury of the Norsemen" (one spectacular opening number!), but "Nightmare World", "Dragonheart", "Awakening" and "Thunder Of The Gods", The Mighty Wraith take hold of the fire and head the battle cry! One can only hope that countless others (including record labels!) take notice of The Mighty Wraith as this young act comes across as hungry and driven. "The Awakening", which can be streamed here:, is already on my list of best releases for 2014 and, unless some other epic release comes around and blows my socks off (highly doubtful!), it will be my number one top debut-release of 2014! Don't take my word for it though! Hear for yourself why The Mighty Wraith has me heading the battle-cry at their bandcmap page above!

*Besides being responsible for the awesome sound on the 43 minute plus "The Almighty" Danny Nardone handles bass duites on t

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hëssler-"Never Lost My Way" Single w/ new lead vocalist Jessikill!

Back in mid-January Chicago's Hëssler announced that they had parted ways with lead vocalist Lariyah Daniels. While everyone parted on good terms, with Lariyah Daniels apparently leaving Chicago for Atlanta (and planning to eventually return to music), the split couldn't have come at a worse time for the heavy rock/heavy metal outfit. Many, including yours truly, wondered how exactly this band planned to carry on? How could you even hope to replace someone like Lariyah Daniels? Well, as it turns out Hëssler had an ace up their sleeves in the shape and form of Jessikill. A classically trained vocalist and former X-Factor contestent, Jessikill fills the void left by Daniels' departure and proves the old adage correct that "good things come in small packages"! A powerhouse of a vocalist, Jessikill's name is more then fitting and with a three-track Maxi-single to be released in late March (to be followed by March Metal Madness) Hëssler looks as if they have come out of this whole ordeal smelling likes roses! You can check out the lovely Jessikill in action thanks to the official video for "Never Lost My Way" (a killer little rock and roll number if I do say so!) and be sure to check out the group's webpage which is jam-packed with all sorts of goodies! Ob behalf of all Hëssler fans and Heavy Metal Time Machine I just want to say welcome Jessiskill and say good job to her new band-mates on what is a fantastic pick-up!

Primeval Realm-Primordial Light

Pure Steel Records

Pure Steel Records is not a label that one would usually associate with doom metal. So seeing them sign a band like Trenton, New Jersey's Primeval Realm does seem a tad bit odd. Still, it is what it is and with Primeval Realm we're talking about (essentially) a one man project with, prior to this seven-track debut album of course, three demos having been unleashed. Joe Potash (also of Horrifier) seems to be the main-man here and besides writing all of the music and lyrics he plays guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. Oh, and he sings quite divinely as well! Hmmmm, is "divinely" the right word for what Joe Potash lays down (vocal-wise) over top of straight-up old-school doom metal? Maybe "melodic" is a better choice? It's really a moot point as it's just one piece of the puzzle of Primeval Realm. The promo let's us know right off the bat that they are "full of homage to bands like Trouble, Candlemass, Saint Vitus/The Obsessed and Solitude Aeturnus" and man if that isn't about the straight up truth of the matter! Toss in some Black Sabbath and you've got a band that's doom-riffic (LOL) while, as Bruce Campbell would say, "Groovy!". You can check out the band's rather rock-filled "Heavy Is This Mind" video right below and kudos to Pure Steel Records on broadening their horizon with this pick up!

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Taker-It Is Finished

Roxx Records

When this promo landed in my mailbox it took me awhile before I remembered where I had heard the name Taker before. Searching through my old memory banks (which are overdrawn by the way!) didn't help so I hit the web to find out more about this Virginia-based act. Lo and behold here I find out that the band appeared on Regency Records' 1988 compilation "East Coast Metal" alongside acts like Believer, Rage Of Angels and The Lead. Taker contributed the songs "Yesterday, Today and Forever" and "Living By Faith" to said compilation which were recorded at Morningstar Studio with Doug Mann (Attitude Adjustment, Believer, Living Sacrifice, Vio-Lence, Sacrament, Rage Of Angels, etc.) sitting in the producer's chair. It had been a very l-o-n-g time since I last heard that compilation so hearing those two cuts again was actually more like hearing them for the first time (and for the record "Living By Faith" is I.M.O. the better cut of the two) and, in the context of this anthology, it's really rather fascinating how wide-ranging this Christian band's sound was. Oh, I didn't mention that this U.S. metal band was Christian? I would have thought that the art-work and then the album's title (the last words that Christ said before he died on the cross) would have been enough of a hint, but if not then yes, Taker was a band that wasn't afraid to wear their faith on their sleeve. Lead at the time by Kevin Potter the band, which was first formed in 1987 and ended up stepping into the studio in May and June of the same year with engineer Mark Miley to record their first demo (presented here as the first four tracks with tracks like "He Is The Light" having a kind of Dio meets Judas Priest vibe), was never shy about their faith and now (some 27 years after they first started cranking out their tuneful take on hard and heavy traditional metal) pretty much everything that this band had laid to tape has been collected here for the enjoyment of fans and newcomers alike! Re-mastered by Sid ‘Ysidro’ Garcia (Deliverance, Ultimatum, Crossforce) this ultimate collection starts at the band's humble beginnings (the 1987 demo which, incidentally, is also known as "Matthew 11:12") and closes with the group's "Blood" demo from 1989. You can see the complete track-listing for this well-assembled compilation below, but needless to say Taker covered a lot of ground from start to finish. By the time the band appeared on White Throne Magazine's "White Metal Invasion" compilation (a recording which really should be re-mastered and re-released if anyone at Roxx Records is reading this!) with "Look Into His Eyes" they were firing on all cylinders. Falling into the grey area known as "hard & heavy metal" Taker (seemingly) combined the likes of Judas Priest, Dio, Ratt, (early) Accept, Dokken, Kiss and U.F.O. and in much the same way as fellow Christian acts like Bloodgood and Saint they provided proof that white metal could be loud and proud while still serving Jesus! With smoking guitar solos courtesy of Robert "PJ" Bussy (Attic Symphony, ex-Armageddon, ex-Crown of Thorns) the band had a hot sound that should have propelled them all the way to the top. For whatever reason though other projects called and the band ended their all-too-brief run with 1989's "Blood". By that point Rob Kreiner had stepped in as vocalist and while the rest of the band remained the same (besides Bussy there was bassist Dan Wilkinson of Attic Symphony and Armageddon fame and drummer Charlie Osterhoudt) the slight change seemed to push Taker towards more of a (all things from Rainbow and Black Sabbath to solo, self-named band) Ronnie James Dio direction with the end results speaking for themselves! Even if "The Message" doesn't quite hold up (execution-wise) with some of Taker's earlier material it's still a bit of (dark) rocker and sure does seem as if it's nodding it's head in appreciation towards the likes of Metallica! Along with the heavy hitter (lyrically and musically) "Blood" it's a reflection of how creative this is act was and it makes this collection quite the recommended product! All told "It Is Finished" is another home-run for the folks over at Roxx Records and for collectors of Christian heavy metal this one seems like a no-brainer!  Now, as I promised earlier, here is the complete track-by-track listing for Taker's anthology and I just have to say that I really enjoyed this collection and that the intricate nature of "Into The Throneroom/A New Song" is the perfect way to end things!

TRACK LISTING FOUR SONG DEMO [MATTHEW 11:12] (May/June 1987) Recorded at Glass Hand Studio. Falls Church, VA, engineered by Mark Miley
1 - Open Your Heart
2 - He Is The Light
3 - Yesterday Today and Forever
4 - 11 O’ Clock News

Rehearsal Song (Recorded Live) in between the release of the ‘Matthew 11:12’ EP and before the Image Records Recording Sessions in preparation for the opening slot on the very first White Cross East Coast tour. Note: Mark Miley filled in on drums for Charlie Osterhoudt (FALL 1987)
5 – Living by Faith

IMAGE RECORDS RECORDING SESSIONS (NOVEMBER 1987) Recorded at Alive Studios, Harrisonburg, VA, Produced by Dorn Repport

6 - Look Into His Eyes (Released on ‘White Metal Invasion’ compilation)
7 - He is the Light (Re-Recorded)
8 - Open Your Heart (Re-Recorded)

EAST COAST METAL (1989) Recorded at Morningstar Studio, Produced by Doug Mann
9 - Living by Faith
10 - Yesterday, Today and Forever

BLOOD EP [FIVE SONG EP - FEATURING ROB KREINER ON VOCALS] (SUMMER 1989) Recorded at Bias Studios, Springfield, VA
11 - The Measure
12 - Blood
13 - Overcomer's Anthem
14-Into The Throneroom/A New Song

14 - Into The Throneroom / A New Song

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Reaper's Riddle-Game Over

Firestarter Distribution

Formed back in 2009, during which time this Perth, Western Australia-based heavy rock band released their self-titled debut album, Reaper's Riddle offer up their latest recording, the six-track/six-pack "Game Over". Serving as he follow up to "Drop"*, a single which was released in August of 2013, "Game Over" is a tale of two cities. Opening up (promisingly enough) with a brief instrumental intro (sounding for all the world like something Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne might have used back in the early eighties) things take a turn for the worse with "If You Died Tomorrow"**, a tune that (for lack of a better reference point) comes across as a heavier version of Nickleback! To say that this was disheartening doesn't even begin to properly convey my disappointment. Especially as we're talking about a band that looks like this:

On "The Clock Part 1" lead vocalist Clayton Mitchell and company (guitarists Michael Willis & Dan Bishop, bassist Jason Edwards and drummer Wayne Frodyma) do make an attempt to right the wrongs and thanks to (slightly) ghoulish vocals and some heavy, post-grunge leads I found myself hopeful for better things to come. Once the title cut kicked in I found myself agreeing more with their (Facebook- posted) list of influences (everything from Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath to the likes of Disturbed, Rob Zombie and Megadeth/Metallica) as the band packaged classic rock riffs with the twisted mash-up of White Zombie and The Misfits! Moving on to "Fade The Grey" the band, which is highlighted by lead vocalist Clayton Mitchell's versatile vocal delivery (he seems to move between the kind of vocals you would expect to hear coming from bands like Staind, Puddle Of Mudd and Nickleback to this ghastly/ghoulish demonic front-man with little to no struggle!) again turns it's attention to classic guitar riffs although this time it's more in line with late 70's/early 80's hard rock and heavy metal. Pieced together with equal pieces/parts of Rob Zombie's spookiness and Pantera's groovy as hell nature it works so well that one can't help but wonder just what the heck was going through Reaper's Riddle's mind when they decided on "If You Died Tomorrow"? Dear God please tell me that some suit and tie rep didn't tell them that they needed a "single"! For this is one act that has the whole heavy rock/heavy metal sound down pat so there's no need to write some stupid radio rock crap when you're talking about how freakin' effective cuts like "Game Over" and "Fade To Grey" are! Either way we close out this promo version of "Game Over" just right with "Labyrinth". Here the Disturbed influences come rushing in and with a heightened sense of emergency the band rolls out the headbanging riffs of bands like Metallica and Megadeth while vocalist Clayton Mitchell acts like a wild & chained animal just waiting for his first chance to escape his enclosure and attack his prey! Hot damn! With a new album schedule for sometime later this year Reaper's Riddle are one band that needs a wider, more worldly-based audience so (hopefully) their next full-length affair leans closer to (style-wise) wicked cuts such as "Game Over",  "Labyrinth"and "Fade To Grey" while pushing the envelope into even more adventurous (heavy metal) territory!

*As I was halfway done with this review it dawned on me that the band's name seemed awfully familiar. After going through my past posts I found that I had actually covered this ingle back in late August of last year! You can read that review right here:

**The tracklist for this (digital) promo was different then what you would find if you were to pick up this EP through Amazon or some other source. For whatever reason if went like this:

1. Intro
2. If You Died Tomorrow
3.The Clock Part 1
4. Game Over
5. Fade To Grey

Meanwhile, at least on Amazon, it goes like this:

1. Intro
2. Game Over
3. Fade To Grey
4. The Clock Part 1
5. Labyrinth
6. If You Died Tomorrow

The "official" version (with "Game Over" as the second track) makes a HUGE difference so I suspect that somewhere along the way someone wised-up and change the running order of these tracks.

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Conan-Blood Eagle

Napalm Records

Scheduled for release at the tail end of this month "Blood Eagle" is only the second full-length for Liverpool's Conan. Having formed in 2006, before self-releasing the EP "Battle in the Swamps" at the very start of 2007, the band has a back-catalog that includes a lone demo, some splits, another EP (the well-received "Horseback Battle Hammer") and even a live album! And then of course there is the band's debut album from 2012, "Monnos". With "Blood Eagle" it's more of the same, but that's all good when you're talking about Conan and their patented brand of sludge/drone/doom metal. Slow and low, without ever giving the listener any excuse or desire to move on between tracks (as each and every one here brings about feelings of utter bliss-in a doomed and downright damned kind of way!), Conan are the very definition of the word HEAVY. As with any good power trio this lot (guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O'Neill) makes use of the "less is more" motto while proving that they are worth their weight in gold thanks to epic (length-wise) numbers like "Crown of Talons", "Gravity Chasm" and "Altar of Grief". You can check out the sick track "Foehammer" via it's (cool) official video below and if you call yourself any sort of sludge/doom fanatic then be sure to snag "Blood Eagle" when it drops!

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Devil You Know-"Shut It Down" (Official Demo)

More or less formed by the pair of Francesco Artusato (guitarist of All Shall Perish and The Francesco Artusato Project) and John Sankey (drummer who has played with Devolved, Fear Factory and Divine Heresy) Los Angeles-based Devil You know is a new extreme metal/modern metal outfit featuring ex-Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones (also of Blood Has Been Shed fame). Signed to Nuclear Blast Entertainment, and also featuring bassist Ryan Wombacher (Bleeding Through) and guitarist Roy Lev-Ari, the band, who (at least judging by the rough sound of this demo version of "Shut It Down") posses some of Killswitch Engage's sick, post-metalcore, audio anarchy, has a new album in store for sometime in 2014. On "Shut It Down", which can be heard via the YouTube link below, Howard sounds as fierce as ever and while I won't be pulled into the whole Howard verses Jessie debate that seems to be at the center of every conversation when it comes to this stellar front-man I will hedge my bet on Howard's new project! Other then the noticeable absence of bassist Ryan Wombacher (let's hope the band's full-length release doesn't bury him in the mix or for that matter completely restrict his playing as these kind of hard-hitting metal albums are much more effective when the bass guitar is given room to roam!) I'd say that Devil You Know are on to something here so be sure to "like" the band on their Facebook page so that you can keep up to date on the various happenings of what just might be one of heavy metal's newest wonders!

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hounds of Annwn-Stirling

Contorted Records

Released on October 24th "Stirling", which can be witnessed in it's entirety at the bandcamp link below (where it's also a name-your-own-price download friends!), is a 2-track EP from Syracuse, New York-based Hounds of Annwn. If the band name (or for that matter the artwork posted above!) isn't enough of a hint at what this particular outfit brings to the table then I'll spell it out for you. We're talking about folk metal here and yes, just like their promo material rightly points out, Syracuse, New York is "maybe not the first place you would go to find a new and exciting folk metal band." For that matter I'm not sure I would even think it possible that an area like that could end up producing an outfit like this! And yet here it is and, despite maybe wearing their Blind Guardian and Alestorm influences a bit too close for comfort (an issue that should be addressed with the passage of time and further experience one would imagine), the band (Daniel Barbour - vocals and rhythm guitar,  Connor Hoffman - lead guitar, programming and backing vocals and Joe Sopchak - keyboards and backing vocals) does a fine job with the material at hand. Of the two tracks here it's the eight minute plus title cut that did it for me as it rightly balances the powerful rock side of this folk metal band with catchy melody to spare! Hounds of Annwn are in a good place right now as folk metal continues to climb in popularity and (one would think at least) should they produce a solid full-length release in the near future their fan base should explode!

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Ministers of Anger-Renaissance

Divebomb Records

Serving as another entry in Divebomb Records' first (so far so good) Bootcamp Series (number 5 of 5 to be exact!) "Renaissance" is a compilation of previously-released material from  L.A.'s (sadly defunct) Ministers of Anger. Along with "Renaissance", which was originally released back in 1990 (on cassette tape no less!) this collection includes the band's 1988 demo as well as a demo from 1991. Now, as to the who and what of this cult band (as we've already discussed the where and when) the line-up includes none other than guitarist/vocalist Dave Clemmons of Damn the Machine fame! Along with (well-traveled) drummer Dave McClain (Machine Head, ex-Catalepsy, ex-Murdercar, ex-Narita, ex-S.A. Slayer, ex-Sacred Reich, ex-Juggernaut, ex-Mark Reale Project, ex-Turbin, ex-Tyrant) and engineer Joe Floyd (Warrior) Clemmons (who not only handled lead vocals and guitars for Ministers of Anger, but also took care of bass duties!) first released a demo in 1988. Although those three tracks, "Guns of War", "Sticks & Stones" and "The Governor" (no, not about The walking Dead character!) do border on thrash they are more in line with what was happening around that time as far as the U.S. power metal scene is concerned. Offering up a slightly-raw take on heavy power metal not unlike bands like Metal Church and Armored Saint the demo, while not that well-received at the time, did in fact point out what was to be in store for the 1990 release of "Renaissance". Even though both demos were recorded around the same time with Joe Floyd's help the (originally) eight-track "Renaissance" showcases a much more technical-inclined/progressive thrash metal band. Falling somewhere between (Kentucky-based) Lethal, Anacrusis and Watchtower (with some early Flotsam and Jetsam thrown in for good measure!) "Renaissance" showcased a band that was probably a little ahead of the times, but most certainly destined for greater things! So, what happened? Well, we do know that the group released another demo in 1991. With the tracks from said demo ("We The People", "Wake To The Flames" and "Man Vs. Man") closing out this collection (which is really a must if you are into technical thrash!) the band seemed poised to make it. For whatever reason though it just didn't happen and as David Clemmons would go on to hook up with Mark and Chris Poland that ended any chance of Ministers of Anger achieving (well-deserved) recognition for their highly skilled technical thrash. That is until now! Thanks to Divebomb Records and this limited-edition collection Ministers of Anger gets another shoot at glory. While we'll never known just how far this group could have gone (my guess would be that had Damn The Machine not come along Ministers of Anger could have easily made a dent in the technical thrash scene even if their timing was off*) at least we have this collection available as a reminder that there is no shortage of great releases from the eighties and even nineties still waiting to be rediscovered by a whole new generation of heavy metal fans!

*Remember that in 1991 "Nevermind" had changed the face of music for better (it killed off a lot of the horrible glam and hair metal bands of the day) or worse (sadly it also killed off far too many good heavy metal acts as well).

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Iron Spell-Heavy Metal Witchcraft

Dying Victims Productions

Another true heavy metal band from Santiago? Didn't I just cover the same thing in Lucifer's Hammer not that long ago? Not that there is anything wrong with adding more fuel to the ever-burning fire that is heavy metal! If anything it shows that we might just be looking at one of the newest hotbeds for the scene. And judging by the sheer numbers of classic and traditional heavy metal bands that come from Chile's capital city this trend shows no sign of letting up (at least anytime soon). Not that we would want it to let up or anything right? But, I'm getting ahead of myself which is something I'm far too prone to do (especially this early in the morning when my second cup of coffee hasn't quite kicked in and I'm not firing on all cylinders!) so let's make a (illegal of course!) u-turn and start at the beginning. Technically-speaking "Heavy Metal Witchcraft", which is Iron Spell's first (and so far only) release, is a demo from 2013. As the band first came about in 2013 it sure seems as if they are moving rather fast when talking about going from concept to delivery! Drawing their influences from more then a few of the greats (Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Exciter, Alice Cooper, Saxon, Judas Priest, Running Wild, W.A.S.P., Black Sabbath, Mötley Crüe, Doro & Warlock, Manowar, Thin Lizzy, Grave Digger, Tank, Diamond Head, KISS, Venom, Dio and Accept are all listed on the group's Facebook page!) and using pseudonyms in place of their real names* the band easily makes the case that "Heavy Metal Witchcraft" sound just be the first of many steps as this group matches onward and upward towards true heavy metal glory! For fans of tried and true heavy metal there is much to love about "Heavy Metal Witchcraft" from the Iron Maiden meets Merciful Fate-vibe of "Revelations" to the epic metal that lies at the heart of "Evil Gypsy" (a track that is nearly twelve minutes long!). Along with the above-mentioned reference points (specifically Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar, Black Sabbath and King Diamond) one can pick up on the sound of group's like Armored Saint, Ritual, Legend, Angel Witch, Cloven Hoof, Cutty Sark, Satan and Jaguar. Whether that is all intentional or not is really a moot point as everything from the music (which, besides combining the better parts of classic and traditional/N.W.O.B.H.M.-infused heavy metal ends up featuring great speed metal solos to boot from the pair of Raven and Fire Jack!) to the album's production (somewhat raw it gives "Heavy Metal Witchcraft" a wicked eighties feel!) screams "HEAVY METAL!" and this demo turned (limited edition) cassette-tape perfectly wets the appetite for a forthcoming full-length release. Much like Lucifer's Hammer self-titled EP, which was also recently released on cassette tape by Shadow Kingdom Records, this demo comes with my highest recommendation! You can hear the whole release for yourself right here: while (should you so desire) you can pick up a cassette copy of this straight-ahead heavy metal rocker right here:

*For example we have vocalist Merciless, bassist Rocko Van Roman and drummer FC Steelhammer!

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Near Ruin-Smoke & Mirrors (Single)


Metalcore with synthesizers? Not exactly a novel concept. Still, some do it better then others. And in the case of Maidstone, Kent's Near Ruin it's far from a bad combination. Too be fair it might just be this single which, besides being nearly drenched in heavy, guitar-driven metal, does feature the more traditional sound of pianos. All of which does give this band a somewhat different vibe then a lot of what passes for metalcore these days, whether melodic-in nature like this four-piece act or not. Serving as both a follow-up to Near Ruin's "Rebirth" EP and the first single from the group's upcoming album "No End" (due to be released sometime this year) "Smoke & Mirrors", which can be heard in the YouTube video posted below, finds Near Ruin (lead vocalist/guitarist Marcus Kidner, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Simon Beck, bassist/vocalist Luke Knight and Tim Morgan) utilizing their influences (As I Lay Dying, Bullet For My Valentine, Attack Attack, Korn, Slipknot) while simultaneously exploring all of the possibilities that can be achieved by blending such unique (read: varying contrasts) elements as "synth, piano, melodic and hardcore" (their words not mine!). While that might all seem like a mouthful (as it does to me as I read it back over in my head!) what it boils down to is something much more simple in it's delivery, but nonetheless effective! As hardcore and heavy metal influences crush the listener's eardrums, highlighted by the rough vocal-styling of  Marcus Kidner and real ROCK guitar playing, Near Ruin utilizes Simon Beck advanced ability on all things keys-related to balance the (perhaps overused description on my part, but extremely applicable in this instance so we'll just roll with it folks!) madness and the melody! For a band which has already released (at least) one EP and has shared the stage with artists like Blaze Bailey and Silent Descent a single as strong as this one is points towards bigger and better things while also showing off the (charming) underground appeal of Near Ruin. Hopefully their upcoming album will prove to further showcase how metalcore can be made-over into something truly fierce and wicked, but for now I'll just be enjoying the head-rush that is "Smoke & Mirrors"!

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kill Matilda-#Punk#Zombie#RocknRoll


Now in it's seventh year of existence, Kill Matilda are a zombie-themed punk rock and roll/heavy metal outfit from Vancouver, British Columbia featuring the collaboration of  husband and wife members Mykel (bass) & Dusty (vocals/guitars) Exner. Along with drummer Marcus Luk, and armed with a sound that draws equal inspiration from bands as diverse as Hole and Garbage (along with the likes of  Paramore, Kittie, The Misfits, Blake Babies, The Heart Throbs, The Distillers, L7, Babes In Toyland, Ramones and 7 Year Bitch), the band has a new, as yet untitled EP set for release sometime later this year. While fans wait for said (Garth Richardson produced) EP the group plans to release this six-song EP early next month. Under the "interesting" title of "#Punk#Zombie#RocknRoll" we have a collection of material that original appeared on Kill Matilda's 2011 full-length debut album, "I Want Revenge". For those new to the band and their quirky punk metal this would be as good off a place as any to start right? But what about fans? Logic would seem to dictate that a EP like this one would have limited appeal to hardcore Kill Matilda followers. So then what would be the draw of  "#Punk#Zombie#RocknRoll"? How about an acoustic version of the band's "Geisha With A Switchblade"? Highlighting the vocal range of the lovely Dusty Exner, "Geisha With A Switchblade" is just one side of the coin when it comes to the overall appeal of this impressive three-piece act. With the tracks "Pomegranate", "I Want Revenge", "Zombie Apocalypse", "Law Abiding Citizen" and "PBJ" rounding out this excellent EP we find the husband and wife duo of Mykel & Dusty tearing through track after track of angry, pissed-off, loud and snotty rock that would make bands like the Sex Pistols and Green Day proud! With the ability to sound caustic and catchy, Kill Matilda won me over early with opener "Pomegranate" thanks to it's punch-to-the-gut take on heavy punk rock and roll and post-grunge/Hole-like delivery. With numbers like "I Want Revenge" and "PBJ" serving up a serious dose of attitude and "Law Abiding Citizen" proving that's there's more then spunk to go around when it comes to pop/punk scene Kill Matilda go a long way towards making me rethink my position that there's nothing new to be found under the sun when it comes female-fronted alternative acts. Heaviness-wise things peak with "Zombie Apocalypse" and the EP's closing number "PBJ". My only gripe would be that just when this Canadian trio seems like their getting really pent-up and ready to blow their tops completely off things "cool down" by reverting back to (snarly) punk rock. As one of the better up-and-coming female-fronted punk metal bands out there Kill Matilda has the power to really tear shit up thanks to versatile lead singer Dusty Exner and it would be so cool to see them go that route. It's been far too long since we've seen or heard from a legitimate female-fronted skate rock act, one capable of braking down walls and providing huge waves within the scene. I'd love to see a band like this do it so (hopefully) Kill Matilda will up the anti and, in the words of the MC5, "Kick out the jams...."! If this Canadian outfit can entertain the notion that they have the power to get really serious and possibly right some wrongs that have been done in the name of (modern day) punk rock then I could see Kill Matilda pushing their way to the front of the pack! Let's hope so as the world needs more strong and empowering female voices that can help bridge the gap between punk and heavy metal!

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Set To Rise-Set To Rise

Relium X Records

As someone whose adult life has been spent in the company of local bands, spanning from co-workers in rock and roll cover acts to friends playing original material of the heavy thrash/death metal variety,  I try my best to give "preferential" treatment to underground and unsigned acts (as far as coverage goes!). So, when Set To Rise bassist/vocalist Jack Carter contacted Heavy Metal Time Machine about the possibility of covering his band's new self-titled EP I took them up on their request. After all it's either I cover new and up-in-coming bands who actually posses integrity and ingenuity or I review the gawd-awful likes of Metallica whose "One (Awards Show Rehearsal Version)" does to the thrash metal scene what Carrot Top does to stand-up comedy! I know what your thinking and yes, it is a damn good call that we go with England's Set To Rise! And speaking of which, on one hand Set To Rise is (self) described as nu metal while on the other hand we find them simply taking ownership of the (less-descriptive, but equally justifiable) term "metal". With the truth falling somewhere in-between (or at least one could argue as much), Kent-based Set To Rise, who started out in 2012 as (briefly) a cover's band before making the jump over to original compositions, list their influences as being Rage Against the Machine, Trivium, Faith No More, Disturbed, Papa Roach and System of a Down. The Rage Against The Machine reference point shows up in opener "Because Of You" and carries on over to one of the EP's two live cuts, a cover of Rage Against The Machine’s "Sleep Now In The Fire". The other live cut, "Taken", is an original composition and shows what this band is capable of in a live setting (hint: BIG THINGS!), but we're getting ahead of ourselves so let's turn back towards this EP's three studio tracks and Set To Rise's varies strengths (well, beside Jack Carter who lays down some drop-dead serious bass riffs on tracks like "Lost" and "Forgetting Me"). Starting with vocalist Adam Fisher (A British Zack De la Rocha?) and ending with drummer Steve Fisher, with skilled guitarist Jonathan Rennick probably the other real highlight here, Set To Rise prove worth on the three original compositions that are included on this 5-track self-titled EP. Of the three original studio cuts picking a favorite proved to be a hard chore as they each bring something different to the party. Then again so did the live track "Taken". Cover to cover what I liked about the band was their ability to mix things up (fantastic guitar solos abound!) while maintaining the one aspect of nu metal I did/still do like-the heavy ass bass backdrops! Even with the nu metal tag and the Rage Against The Machine reference point though there is plenty about a band like Set To Rise to appease traditional metal fans. First of all unlike 99.9% of nu metal bands this Kent-based act employees actual guitar solos ranging from punk ("Forgetting Me") to almost metallic hardcore ("Lost"). In-between Jonathan Rennick throws in (what could almost be described as) garage rock riffs disguised as street metal ("Taken"). And while Rage Against The Machine were more about mad rhymes then mad rhythms we find Set To Rise force-feeding HUGE metal moments to listeners all while lead vocalist Adam Fisher takes the mic so that he can maneuver his army his army into post-hardcore territory. So yes, regular metalheads could enjoy an EP like this one if they give it a chance. If there was any advice to be given on my end to the band though it would be to concentrate on original material first and foremost. Their own compositions stand up just fine and from Adam Fisher down each and every one of these four musicians has serious skill-sets to make Set To Rise a real legit force to be reckoned with. Also, if it were me leading this band (from a management stand-point) I'd advise the band to lean more on traditional metal then nu metal. Given the extreme talent of guitarist Jonathan Rennick and bassist Jack Carter the foundation is in place should Set To Rise ever decide to take up the banner of lean and mean heavy metal. One could only imagine what kind of post-Black Sabbath wonderment could be achieved if  Jack Carter suddenly decided to lay down some SOUL-CRUSHING, Geezer Butler-infused moments over-top of this band's punk and hardcore attitude! That would be insane! Still, I give this band props for who they are now and for how far they have come from covering other artists to writing their own material. This band warrants future listens and is worth following from this point on!

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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Deafening-Central Booking


Allow me to introduce The Deafening. First heard by yours truly on the "Shoot To Thrill"* compilation that came with the December 2013 issue of Classic Rock Magazine (dedicated to the one and only AC/DC!), on which they opened things up rather nicely with the insanely catchy "Shake Down Chinatown", this female-fronted, New York-based four-piece act offers plenty of passion to go along with heaping handfuls of (AC/DC meets Guns N' Roses) blues-infused rock and roll punch! Lead by Lena Hall, and with at least two other releases to their name from the looks of it (two EPs it seems**), the Deafening list their interests as "Sex, Drugs and Rock N' Roll". Nothing wrong with that right? With Burt Rock on guitar providing razor sharp rock riffs and a sweet and nasty rhythm section made up of bassist Dylan Doyle and drummer Mick Harrison the band easily rolls through opening numbers like "Destroyer", "Evil Kiss" and "I'm So Bad" all while keeping their various and undeniable influences (Guns N’ Roses, MC5, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, Motörhead, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Queen, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Cheap Trick, Skid Row and The Misfits) firmly in check. While this one is primary a bad to the bone, rock and roll circus of an album ("Destroyer", "Evil Kiss", "You Will Remember The Dead", "Shake Down Chinatown", "Central Booking" and "Death Rattle N' Roll") the band does opt to slow it down on the heartfelt "Jessie" and even takes a turn at eighties hair metal with the easy and sleazy "Sexy Like A Suicide". In the end one can't help but appreciate how The Deafening serves up honest-to-goodness, barroom rock and roll without a hint of the cheesiness that has found it's way into today's scene. This New York-based group writes music that is catchy ("Evil Kiss", "Shake Down Chinatown", "Destroyer" and "I’m So Bad") and overflowing with attitude all while possessing more then enough raw sexual appeal on cuts like "Sexy Like A Suicide" and "Twist" (which is like The Donnas meeting Lita Ford for beers and then cruising around hunting down prey!) to take them all the way to the top! Why not get in then on the ground-level while this band is still (relatively) unknown?

*Also featuring Youngstown, Ohio's own Turbo Lovers this 18-track compilation was worth the price of admission alone!

** A self-titled one from 2010 and the interestingly-named "Rattlesnake Sex Show" from 2011.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fallen Order-The Age Of Kings


Active since 2005, with the current line-up having been completed with the arrival of guitarist Kieran Gallagher some four years later in 2009 (a move that likely served to benefit second guitarist Ben Jays given the epic duo guitar solos that reverberate throughout "The Age Of Kings"!), Fallen Order are a Lower Hutt, New Zealand-based five-piece band which plays "Metal of the heavy kind"! Need a translation of that last part? Yes? Sure thing then. Translated that means that New Zealand's Fallen Order, which simply rules on the mic thanks to the powerful vocals of one Hamish Murray (think along the lines of Queensrÿche's Geoff Tate, but with Demon's Dave Hill thrown in for good measure!), play eighties metal (Iron Maiden/Judas Priest) with a modern twist. Now, I can already hear what you are all saying out there. I gather it's something like "But Andy, how is that any different then say the hundreds, no, let's make that thousands(!), of other nostalgia-lovin' modern day metal bands trolling about out there looking to part me from my hard-earned money?". Well, first of all let me just say that your question, which was rather insightful(!), is a legitimate concern. Every day it seems as if new bands like Fallen Order are coming down the pipeline. Ones that seem as if they are content to come onto the scene with one foot firmly planted in the past and one foot settled in the present. So, how do you separate the legitimate contenders from all of the lousy pretenders? As a (seemingly) life-long metal fan you could just take my word for it when I say that Fallen Order, which lists it's influences as being Iced Earth, Manowar, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray, Dio, Grim Reaper, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and Helloween, is the real deal. On this 5-track EP* we find ourselves staring into the eyes of a band that merges some old familiar names (to my ears it's mostly Iron Maiden and Manowar although even bands as far-ranging as Omen and (early) Metallica seem to stop by to say hello!) with more "modern" day acts (Iced Earth, Gamma Ray, DragonForce and, execution-wise, Amon Amarth) and, in much the same way as a band like Death Dealer has manged to skillfully combine the past and present, do it all while sounding as if that is just the natural order of things! With the talented duo of Tooley and Nikki Terror rounding things out for Fallen Order (on bass and drums respectively**) this band and their self-recorded and self-produced debut release begs to be heard by a larger audience. Still, should you want a sneak-peak for yourself (something that I would understand all too well) then you can hear the track "The Age of Kings" right here: Afterwards, as I'm sure you'll want to know more about this killer heavy metal collective and how to get a copy of this five-track EP for yourself, be sure to head over to the band's Facebook page and "like" them so that you can be kept up to date on what will likely be one of your (newest) favorite epic metal bands! Here's hoping that "The Age Of Kings" is just the first of MANY fine moments for Fallen Order!

Fallen Order's Facebook page:

*Even though it has "only" five-tracks (length-wise) "The Age Of Kings" is more like a full-length release as it runs slightly over thirty minutes! I mean look at the (epic) title cut. "The Age Of Kings" alone is over nine minutes long so there is more then enough BANG for your buck!

**Hamish Murray, who has the perfect name to be fronting a kick-ass traditional heavy metal outfit like this(!), was kind enough to send me a bio to go along with the MP3's to "The Age Of Kings". In it it mentions how Fallen Order benefits from "Bulgarian-tinged drum fills" and "fast fingered bass lines". I couldn't agree more especially when it comes to the bass playing of Tooley! Why it is that more traditional heavy metal bands don't employ this kind of bass playing I'll never understand, but a mere two tracks into "The Age Of Kings" and I was thanking the metal gods above that not only was this style of bass playing present, but it was mixed in such a fashion that you could actually make out said skilled-performance! 

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