Monday, March 31, 2014

Pet The Preacher-The Cave & The Sunlight

Napalm Records

Pet The Preacher? There's a novel idea. Not that I actually recommend that anyone go up to and pet a preacher today. Or any day for that matter. No, that might be considered harassment and there might actually be laws against that sort of behavior. Still, I totally dig the name of this Danish act. And yes, I totally dig what this Danish power trio lays down on their second full-length album. Especially given the huge stoner rock riffs and fuzzed over layers of feedback that these three wizards of groove land surf like a wave! The three in question being guitarist/vocalist Christian Hede Madsen, bassist/backing vocalist Torben Wæver Pedersen and drummer Christian Von Larsen and, seeing as "The Cave & The Sunlight" has a homegrown flavor to it (a groovy delicious flavor if that's possible?), these fine gentlemen make you feel right at home thanks to the warm and cozy vibe that their sophomore recording gives off! And here's the thing, if stoner rock riffs and fuzzed out feedback are not enough to wet you're appetite then how about a number like "Remains" where, in grand, garage rock-like fashion, Pet The Preachers rolls out bastardized blues? Tasty doesn't even begin to describe a track like "Remains"! And that's just one of eleven tracks on "The Cave & The Sunlight"! Just one! Just one out of the eleven (all killer and no filler!!!!) "Groovy does it lads!" tracks from Pet The Preacher! Nice....

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Interview with Norman Skinner

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of talking with Norman Skinner. As the lead vocalist of both Skinner and Hellscream (two exceptional metal acts!) he brings a powerful set of lungs and a clear and demanding presence to the stage. If you have yet to read my reviews of both band's latest releases I've provided links at the bottom of this article. And finally I just want to thank Norman for taking the time out of his crazy busy schedule to chat about Skinner and life in general!

Andy-Could you briefly tell us about Skinner? Who's who these days as far as the line-up is concerned?

Norman-Definitely! This is easily the best combination of talent I have worked with to date. Also I need to add the most cohesive unit as everyone works well together and seamlessly. The band started with 3 of us founding SKINNER. Myself… Norman Skinner (Vocals), Robert Kolowitz (Guitars), & Jim Pegram (Bass). Jim took a short hiatus from the band during the time of our debut EP but has since returned to the line-up. We were the 3 former Imagika members that decided to move forward with a new band. The next addition was Robert’s son Grant Kolowitz (Guitars). Alfred San Miguel (Guitars) was next to join the ranks 1st as a guest lead player on our EP “The Enemy Within” but soon after permanently as our third guitarist. The newest member is Noe Luna (Drums). He was the missing and final piece to the puzzle. I now believe we have a killer and hopefully long-term line-up.

Andy-You're a man of many hats Norman, Just how do you find the time for everything?

Norman-Honestly there are times when I feel I do not have time for everything. Ultimately it all comes down to prioritizing. I have a job & family. 2 full-time bands Skinner & Dire Peril and a couple projects Hellscream & Tramontane. I also do various guest vocals on albums and live performances which really keeps my plate full. I run a yearly Metal Show called “Screams of Metal” Festival and have just this month launched my own record label “Dead Inside Records”. Let’s just say I am passionate about Metal and must be a bit crazy!!

Andy-Your debut EP is straight-up METAL!!! Can we expect more of the same out of the new album?

Norman-Thank you so much!! This new album “Sleepwalkers” due out May 6th is everything “The Enemy Within” was just taken up a notch. “The Enemy Within” in reality is simply a demo that we self-released to hold everyone over until the entire album was completed. All 4 songs were re-recorded along with a ton of new material so if you liked the EP you will love the full-length.

Andy-Any fave moments on the new album?

Norman- I love how the songs we originally recorded for the EP sound so much more epic on the new CD. Added tunes like Guilt-Ridden, Orphans of Liberty, & The Breathing Room are personal favorites off the CD. I can’t wait for everyone to hear them.

Andy-What does the rest of 2014 hold in store for you personally and for the band?

Norman-For Skinner we just released our 1st music video for the song “Sleepwalkers” off our upcoming CD. We will be releasing a lyric video for “Orphans of Liberty” and most likely a full video for “The Breathing Room”. We have only 2-3 more songs to finish writing before we head back into the studio to begin recording our next untitled full-length release. Besides all the exciting things happening with Skinner I will be releasing 2 EP’s with Dire Peril titled “Queen of The Galaxy” & “Through Time And Space”. Dire Peril already has another full-length album written titled “Final Scenes For Forgotten Worlds” and we will most likely start tracking that at the end of the year. No news just yet but I be involved in a couple other projects this year… I’m always putting my fingers in something. Finally this year I plan to begin signing acts to my new label and growing it as much as I can.

Andy-Any parting shots? The mic is all yours Norman!

Norman- I just want to really thank anyone and everyone that has supported any of my musical endeavors. It’s no secret I love what I do and I love collaborating and sharing the adventure with as many fans\friends as possible am excited to see what the rest of this year holds. If you are a new band looking to sign with a startup label please send your submissions to My team is currently accepting and reviewing all press kits.

Review of Skinner's "The Enemy Within":

Review of Hellscream's "Made Immortal":

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ranger-Shock Skull 7"


Having graced these pages before, last summer with their "Knights of Darkness" EP serving up some real headbanging heavy metal (, I was stoked to find out about this 7". This time around Finland's Ranger cranks up the RIFFS, gets more then a bit LOUD, WILD and CRAZY and, in a way that brought a real sparkle to my eyes(!), unloads two metallic tracks that are for all the world like a sexy party between Venom, Iron Maiden and Megadeth!!! My only qualm remains the usual. When will we get a full-length album from this bunch and why do all the good ones always tease us with EPs and 7" singles?


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Curimus-Artificial Revolution

Freezing Penguin / Svart Records

Finnish thrash metal from a band active since 2004. That makes 10 years in the business and, to paraphrase Megadeth, this group's motto could very easily be "Thrashing Is My Business...and Business Is Good!". With four demos and one other full-length album (2012's "Realization") to their name it doesn't look as if this group plays on slowing down anytime soon. And there's no reason to think that they should. Seeing as the world can always use more quality thrash outfits. Right? Right! Especially when it's technical enough that it never dissolves into runny raw thrash  and it has an ear for melody like this band seems to have. Featuring Adramelech member Marko Silvennoinen (ex-Emissary) on the mic and guys who have played in The Wake, G.O.R.E. and The Moment of Collapse, Curimus possesses all the right skills needed to get the party started! That begs the question then, what are you waiting for?


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Skogen-I Döden


Just one of several bands black metal bands to go by the moniker (because hey, that's not at all confusing or anything right?), the trio Skogen (which, in their native Swedish language means "the forest") will be dropping this (album number four since their formation in 2009) at the start of next month. On "I Döden" (In Death) the band does their utmost best though to prove that they alone deserve the title and that they alone should be heirs to the legacy that such a worthy moniker deserves! And I'll tell you what. If they don't manage to convince anyone else they've at least convinced me! This should be required listening for those who still insist upon viewing back metal as a blanket assumption (and I should know as I used to be in that exact crowd before having my frame of mind blown wide open thanks to adventurous black metal outfits like this trio!). We're talking about adventures in sound and texture, from dark and brooding passages to melodic, often-subtle interludes, as channeled from band that crawled forth from primordial slime and, upon staring upwards toward the night sky, realized their long road towards evolutionary perfection had to start with basic black metal but that it would end with a magically enchanted LP like "I Döden"! Whisper it with me, "This is perfection".    

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Friday, March 28, 2014

French Metal Friday:Factor Hate - The Watcher


French (hard and heavy) five-piece Factor Hate features a pair of brothers in Olivier (aka: "Silver") and  Pascal Landais (guitars and drums respectively). The former plays in industrial goth band Xianosys while the latter (dubbed "Sharky") is a former Xianosys member. They also sport a lead singer with the name Thierry "The Watcher" Grumiaux (Heavintage), a bass guitarist nicknamed "Kev" (Kevin Obron) and a second guitarist called "Hubb" (Hubert Treynel). There's all of that and then they (chiefly) carry a torch for all things eighties. Think everyone from Judas Priest to Kiss, Ratt to Accept and Picture to Alice Cooper. Pounded into the shape of a (home-brewed) four-track EP it's all a sporting good time! And to their benefit Factor Hate, who actually formed in 2011 and is also made up of four former members of Mankind (everyone but Thierry "The Watcher" Grumiaux who, might I just add, is one fine looking individual who looks like a cross between Sir Ian Murray McKellen and Christopher Lee!) have recently signed on with Germany's Rock N’ Growl Promotion. That's a nice group to be handling this traditional heavy metal which (rumor has it) has a full-length album in store for sometime later this year. There's nothing sexy about this bunch and (again, to their benefit!) this EP is a tad "scruffy" (kind of like their wicked cool looking and sounding lead vocalist!). But, it still gives off it's own kind of sparkle and is well worth it's weight in gold if only for the title track alone! Find out more at their Facebook page below!

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The Mongoloids/Broken Teeth Split

6131 Records

The Mongoloids are a straight edge band from New Jersey while Manchester, UK-based Broken Teeth are (As far as I know) just Broken Teeth. Still, they share one glorious thing in common. They both play smash-mouth hardcore and they both do it damn well! On this Split (100 Black, 300 Seafoam Green
and 600 Grey Marble-see link below) they each get two stabs at it with the Jersey lads up first and the UK bunch following their lead.
Oh, and each set features new songs! And did I mention that it's also a digital release? No? Well, it is and man alive but do these tracks ever rage! The Mongoloids have the better overall sound (In my most humble opinion of course!) while Broken Teeth hands down wins the prize for most brutal delivery (Especially when it comes to "Path of Conviction"! Wowzers!). Not that you can go wrong either way as this is top of the line hardcore from two remarkable bands!

Buy it here in vinyl form:

Buy it here in digital form:

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Skinner-The Enemy Within


Named after it's lead singer Norman Skinner, San Jose, California act Skinner was formed in 2010. Having seen power/thrash act Imagika call it a day, Norman scooped up some local talent and picked up where Imagika left off! With Skinner it's all about the metal. Heavy power metal that is! Heavy power metal that borders on thrash more often then not, but power metal all the same! On this 5-track EP, which was written and recorded during 2011 and (technically speaking) released in 2012 (with a wider release taking place in 2013 most likely (hence the date above) so that's why we'll roll with that date!), Norman Skinner and his band-mates* jump right into the pit from opener "Sleepwalkers" onwards! There's never a dull moment on "The Enemy Within" and with tracks like "Hell in My Hands" and "Breath the Lie" literately plunging right at you it's one fun ride! Speaking of "Breath the Lie", Alfred Luis San Miguel does a guest solo on the track with the results being nothing short of awesome! Actually, all three of the guitarists that appear on this 5-track EP do a stellar job and you can tell that Norman Skinner filled out this band's line-up with the best local musicians that he could find! With a full-length album due to be released sometime in the next few months (which I'll hopefully land my hands on!) "The Enemy Within" is a nice slab of U.S. power metal from one of heavy metal's hardest working front men!

*Robert and Grant Kolowitz-guitars 
  Elena Repetto-bass
  Noe Luna on drums

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Solstice (UK)-Death's Crown is Victory

Into the Void Records (a division of Invictus Productions)

Initially this was a digital-only release, but with Into the Void Records stepping in to offer it on CD (and, if I'm not mistaken, a limited run cassette tape while the band's own label, White Horse, pressed it on vinyl) it stands to reason that it should be greeted with welcoming arms from those that love epic doom metal! Tracing their roots back to 1990 (with a small break in the action having taken place between 2002 and 2007) and with founding member/well-traveled musician/exceptional guitarist Rich Walker (ex-Sludgelord, ex-Isen Torr, Solomon Kane, ex-Pagan Altar, ex-Napalm Death (live), ex-Bio-Hazard, ex-Discontrol, ex-Harmony As One, ex-Nailbomb, ex-Sore Throat, ex-Warfear, ex-Wartorn) having recruited some excellent players for "Death's Crown is Victory" such as vocalist Paul Kearns (ex-Arcane Sun, ex-Fifth Dominion, ex-Eden Obscured) and drummer James Ashbey (Cravel Idol and Deceptor) this EP ends up being well-worth the wait (this is after all the band's first new recording in 13 or so years!). It's also leading the race as far as comeback albums are concerned (even if, technically-speaking, this is only an EP with a run-time of 26 minutes or so it is still a strong contender for "Comeback Album" of the year for 2014!) and is another great new release that I hope to add to my physical collection before it's all said and done! Even if this recording is short and sweet (hey, just like this review will prove to be!) it still echos with excellence and comes across a grand exercise in all things doom-laded! With two short instrumental numbers serving as bookends for the nine minute "I Am the Hunter" and the almost ten minute title track (both of which are wicked in their own epic ways!) this four-track release makes one long for more new material from this UK behemoth so let us prayer that it isn't another ten year or so years before we hear more from Rich Walker and his new companions!

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Illustrations-In Vain


Having formed in 2010, San Antonio, Texas act Illustrations first released this one back in the summer of 2013. Featuring 12 tracks of hardcore metal spanning a length of 36:53, with the shortest one, "Die Young", clocking in at just under 2 minutes(!), it is just now seeing a proper launch and for fans of all things hardcore (ie: straight-up hardcore, grindcore and metallic hardcore) this sounds appealing. While not the best piece of (metal leaded) hardcore to come my way this year (whether reviewed or not) it still offers enough gritty moments to band your head to! 

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Transcend Music

"Reflections" is the full-length debut release from Ferium. Having formed in 2006, Ferium has an additional EP and demo to their name and the band, which incidentally hails from Israel, features a rhythm section made of former members of the melodic death metal band Kna'an (bassist Yoni Biton  and drummer Ron Amar) and has a beast of a front-man/growler on the mic by way of Tiran Ezra, offers a streamlined (if not more then a little lethal) take on extreme (modern) metal. With (thrash) guitars dutifully handled by the pair of Guy Goldenberg & Elram Boxer and that previously mentioned rhythm section anchoring Ferium's back end in death metal territory the band works their mojo on these twelve tracks all while offering the listener a 52 minutes sampling of all things extreme. A but more variety on their end might help Ferium take the next logical step needed if they are to make it to the next stage (more moments like "The Black Keys" would have been nice), but it is hard to argue the fact that "Reflections" is anything but explosive! By combining hardcore, metalcore, death metal and thrash into one new element this Israel five-piece does do what the album art of "Reflections" merely teases. These five do slay the beast and they do it with more reflective lyrics then one might expect by looking at the cover. For tackling more personally issues Farium get's an extra nod of approval from my end and even if I cannot say how inventive or completely original "Reflections" is it's still a damn fine collection of drop-dead serious extreme metal and one that I would most certainly recommend to fans of said genre!

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Face Off- "Lush" Single

Maple Metal Records
Hailing from Belgrade, Serbia, Face Off is a female-fronted alternative metal act which previously released their full-length debut, "The Colour of Rain" at the start of 2013. With a sophomore release planned for later on in 2014 (or possibly even 2015!) the band, which is bolstered by the haunting voice of Marija Kovacevic, recently released the single "Lush" to tide over fans while they wait for the next step in this creative band's existence. After taking a look at their influences (Deftones, Portishead, Massive Attack, Lacuna Coil, Katatonia, Isis, Gojira, Placebo, Tool, Mogwai, Oceansize, The Gathering, Bjork, etc.) and then having explored their back-catalog* it's clear to see that Face Off (Marija Kovacevic, guitarists Stefan Vitasovic and Aleksandar Djordjic, bassist Stanislav Stanojevic and drummer Zoltan Simon) has gracefully evolved between releases. Whereas "The Colour of Rain"** relied a little too heavily on it's influences (and came across as a hair more gothic then this excellent new single) "Lush", which can be checked out in full at either of the two links that follow this piece, shows a band fully capable of expressing themselves without wearing their influences on their respective sleeves. It's not that hard to envision this Serbian act taking the next step up towards more world-wide exposure as front-woman Marija Kovacevic has an amazing voice (not sure why but she reminds me of a more metal-minded Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries) although quite honestly she has (aptly) been compared to ex-The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and that seems more then a little fitting as well!) and her band-mates expertly encircle with smooth playing that really eases the senses. Most certainly this soothing piece won't be for everyone, but for those who truly love all the different flavors that rock and heavy metal come in (and live by the motto that variety is the spice of life and death!) an atmospheric release such as this one is also a welcoming site to beyond!

You can download "Lush" here:

The official video for Video of "Lush":

*You can actually hear their full-length debut album, "The Colour of Rain", in it's entirety on Youtube! 

**Regardless of whether or not one can hear this band's various influences on their debut album (as well as, oddly enough, Evanescence) it's still a creative (and downright atmospheric!) alternative metal album that was a real pleasure to stream! 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pale Divine-Cemetery Earth

Shadow Kingdom Records

Pennsylvania's Pale Divine originally released "Cemetery Earth" back in 2007. Now, seven years after the fact, Shadow Kingdom Records has done the band (and frankly all of their fans as this sounds downright dynamite!) right with this remastered, jam-packed double-CD reissue. Active since 1995 (and sporting a cool sound that is equal parts proto-doom and 70's psychedelic rock/hard rock!) the band first hit the scene two years later with their demo, "Crimson Tears". From there came the group's debut full-length album, "Thunder Perfect Mind" (2001), with "Eternity Revealed" following in 2004 and then finally "Cemetery Earth" landed in 2007. The group's latest release (2012's "Painted Windows Black") is their forth full-length album overall with a 2011 split with Spiritus Mortis having appeared in-between album number three and album number four. For a more thorough history of the band though be sure to head on over to the group's Facebook page linked below. Meanwhile let's turn our attention back to the subject at hand. With regards to "Cemetery Earth" (which was recorded between June and September of 2006 interestingly enough) the band members themselves consider it to be their "best sounding and most metallic effort to date". As I haven't heard the rest of Pale Divine's catalog for myself I can't exactly vouch for that, but it would be hard to imagine that any of it could have surged with the kind of power that this one did! I would also be rather amazed if any of the group's previous (or even later day) material hit the kind of highs that this 2007 album did as "Cemetery Earth", all ten original tracks of it, is masterful psych-doom! With bass guitarist John Gaffney (now in Sinister Realm) joining in for this one sole album the band (guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey who are both founding members) hit all the right moves with their sound (drawn from influences such as Black Sabbath, Trouble, Pentagram, Candlemass, Witchfinder General, Angel Witch, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden) perfectly reflecting everything there is to love about proto-doom to begin with! Having snagged engineer Chris Kozlowski for the album (a decision that proved to be more then a little bit beneficial for the group I must say!) and with bass guitarist John Gaffney (at the time of course) bringing his own ability (incl. songwriting!) to the party "Cemetery Earth" proved to be quite the success with more then a few (highly applicable) rave reviews! Now, I could cut my own path through this album, even track by track. But really there are LOADS in of great reviews already out there of the original release. Other then saying that the re-mastered sound is fantastic on this re-release (and man alive but is it ever!) I'll just leave that part (incidentally disc one of this two CD set) as homework should you really need to know. I way say that it is killer doom metal/psychedelic rock along the lines of bands like Black Sabbath, Pentagram and (to a lesser extent) Trouble. Only with  Pale Divine there are heaping handfuls of traditional heavy metal riffs and some tasty N.W.O.B.H.M. tidbits to beyond! Now, as for the second disc? Well, seeing as it's made up the group's "Demo 2006", rehearsal and live tracks and I do realize that might none of that really sounds all that exciting on paper right? But, there is a bright spot my friends! I'd say it's worth it just for the band's live cover of  "I’ve Been Around Too Long"! Originally written and performed by the Scottish band Marmalade (a rather diverse band in their own right as their music ranged from pop rock to psychedelic/blues such as the surprisingly heavy "I’ve Been Around Too Long"!) it works SO WELL for Pale Divine that one has to wonder why they haven't attempted a studio rendition of it? It's not as if the group is immune to cover songs (seeing as they have covered Pentagram, Candelmass and Deep Purple in the past and all that jazz!) so I do have to wonder why not cover this rocker for real? Otherwise disc two, which features the track list posted below, is fine in it's own right. It's true that having the demo versions of a couple of these tracks is rather sweet as they are different enough to prove interesting, but I'll be honest here here and just state for the record that I would buy this set just for that choice cover (and of course disc one's much improved sound!). That's just me though. Anyway, disc two features the following tracks and yes, I'm marking this set down as sure-fire winner!
Disc two track list:

1. Eyes of Destiny
2. Broken Wings
3. Cemetery Earth
4. (I Alone) The Traveller
5. Fire and Ice
Live from Howlers Coyote Café; Pittsburgh, PA 6-21-2011:
6. (I Alone) The Traveller
7. Soul Searching
8. I’ve Been Around Too Long (Marmalade cover)

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Hounds-Begin Transmission Part 2

Metal Hammer

Included free with the latest issue of Metal Hammer* and serving as the follow-up to 2013's "Begin Transmission"** (which was actually included in the January 2013 issue of Metal Hammer!) the EP "Begin Transmission Part 2" was a pleasant surprise I must say. Whether I actually (still) have the other EP from this Essex-based (UK) band or not in my collection (as I've had a subscription to the magazine now for a l-o-n-g time and most certainly had to have seen it at one point or another) remains a mystery, but there is nothing at all mysterious about what this four-piece band rips out on their new four-track EP! For you see, when it comes to Hounds we're talking about explosive electronic punk from a band that can count The Prodigy among their fans! As a matter of fact this EP, which was recorded and produced by the band members themselves in the Air Raid Shelter(!), is not unlike something you might expect to hear coming from The Prodigy. Only when it comes to Hounds there's a difference in punk rock mentality. You could look at Hounds as being more like a garage rock version of The Prodigy, one with an everyman punk outlook and more of an approachable and accessible to all vibe. Of the three original compositions on this EP it's t toss up between "In Your Eyes" and "Watch And Learn". Opening number "The Wicked Witch" is just a tad cheesy (lyric-wise) for my tastes, but the other two cuts offer real range as Hounds goes from real punk on "In Your Eyes" to a number like "Watch And Learn" which is alternative rock disguised as electronic rock! As for the forth track on this EP? Well, just like on last year's "Begin Transmission" (where the band paid homage to Ministry with their version of "Stigmata"***) the group has tacked on a choice cover. In this case it's "Whiteout" by Killing Joke. The original version of this one can be found on Killing Joke's tenth studio album, "Pandemonium" (a beast of a release by the way!) and in the hands of Hounds it's real treat! In fact this whole EP is a real treat. Whether you can still find this issue or not isn't much to be worried about as you can download the EP off of iTunes. And, better yet, you can actually listen to both EPs by clicking on the YouTube link below o you know what you're in for before slapping down your hard-earned money! Coolness right? 

*April 2014 (the one with Kirk "What happened to my dignity?" Hammett on the cover)

**By some accounts the EP was previously release (Summer of 2012 it sounds like) with Metal Hammer then scooping the group up then and actually re-releasing it in their magazine. Of course it's not a real big issue either way as it's every bit as good as part 2 has proven to be! And I know this as I went on YouTube ( and checked it out!

***Ministry's 1988 album, "The Land of Rape and Honey", was the first album I ever heard from the group and I'm almost positive that I still have it on CD somewhere in this mess of mine that i like to call an office! It has remained a favorite moment of mine from Ministry with "Stigmata" serving as a stand-out track!

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Hellscream-Made Immortal


This 11-track debut album from Hellscream answers the age old question of what would happen if you paired up David "Conan" Garcia (Cage) & Norman Skinner (Skinner, Dire Peril, Tramontane, ex-Machine Called Man,The Consequence of Chaos, ex-Katagory V (live), ex-Imagika). Wait, what? You've never asked that question before? Well now that is weird. Very weird indeed. I honestly thought that every "true believer" had pondered that question at one point or another in life, but here I find out that I'm the only one. Still, do you want to know the answer anyway? I mean since I brought it up and all? Well then, here's the score. Take one fine guitarist in David "I could crush all of you puny earthlings with my god-like humongous arms" Garcia, add in the epicness that is vocalist Norman "Rob Halford has got nothing on me!" Skinner and have then have Stu "The Hammer" Marshall, (Death Dealer / Empires of Edén guitarist/producer) master the 50+ minute slab of power/thrash/speed metal fury and the result is near sonic annihilation of EVERYTHING! Or at least that's what happens after the creepy intro that is  "I scream, you scream, we all scream for Hellscream!" opens things up in eerie fashion! After that evil little moment of an opening it's all or nothing as in (to quote Hudson from the movie Aliens) "That's it! Game over, man! Game over!". Just stand back and await delivery as the pairing of Skinner and Garcia results in track after groovy track of "Speed Kills..." power thrash! Both modern and retro (in a good way friends!) Hellscream are like taking your metal collection of old (you know, from A bands like Anthrax & Annihilator up to and including Z groups such as Zoetrope & Znowhite) and adding modern touches (from song-construction to production values) all while forging boldly ahead into (maybe not new per say, but original nonetheless) exciting territory where one man's voice perfectly suites another man's guitar playing! Hellscream are all that and more as funneled through a supergroup project (only difference is here you don't get any of the big egos that would usually be involved in such an effort, but instead you get all the big riffs and even bigger metal moments!). The only downside would seem to be that, seeing as this is a side-project and all, we could be looking at a one and done deal as both Garcia and Skinner have fully stacked plates in front of them with their day jobs! One can't imagine then that Hellscream, even as good as they might be together here, would take priority over their other projects. For the time being though it's easy enough to enjoy "Made Immortal" for what it is (heavy power metal that borders on thrash metal only with all the added excitement of speed metal!) while appreciating the skill level of both men involved!

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Gunpowder Grey-Gunpowder Grey

Boris Records

You've heard it all before and so have I. After all it's the same song and dance. Members from this band and then that band come together and, unlike their day jobs, make music that's more rock n' roll then anything you would expect to hear from said people in their normal bands. In this case you're looking at a (self-dubbed) "Rock n' Roll sleaze"* act from Atlanta, Ga. (we'll get to that part in a second!) that is made up of two Disfigurement members in vocalist Nate Godbee and guitarist Adam Besserer (ex-Morionor, ex-Hellgoat, ex-Jenovah, ex-Malefic) and "three local punk veterans" in Chris Heffernan (guitar and vocals), Sam Vaughan (bass) and Joey O'Brien (drummer who also performs with Biters). And true to form the various members come together to try their hand at something different. Or at least on the Disfigurement end as A) This is anything but death metal! and B) I really have no idea who these other three gentlemen are! 
Looking the part....
When you think about it though the days jobs of these gents don't add up to a stack of beans (or is it hill of beans?). Right? Even if these sort of side-projects are quickly becoming the norm Gunpowder Grey should be judged on their own merits. So, I'll park my cynicism at the door as we check out "Gunpowder Grey" together. I mean hey, I'm just as new to these Atlanta act as you are! Or I was. Having listened to this one through I know feel as if I have a pretty fair idea of what these guys are on about and, truth be told, it ain't all that bad kids! Starting up front you've got lead singer Nate Godbee and, while this guy might normally be doing the whole death metal thing, here he comes across as a more rough and ready (and not to mention lean and mean fighting machine) Axl Rose! And he works well in this capacity. As a front-man he excels on the mic and even if there are moments when his vocals make the whole affair sound like blues-punk version of Guns N' Roses the album still passes the smell test. And his band-mates? Well, there might not be a Slash anchoring this outfit, but these guys do more then a fine job of keeping up with lead singer Nate Godbee and giving his voice a nice sound to fall back on. And that sound is fairly cool in it's own right! While the group might be wearing their best "easy & sleazy" outfits they also take a stab at a more "mean" metal sound here and there. Now, the promo says that they draw their sound from Black Sabbath and Pentagram as well as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. I've just got to say that maybe you could stake a claim at the latter, but the former? Truthfully Pentagram might work (as they were not strictly doom), but I scratch my head at the idea that a band like this draws their sound from Black Sabbath. And that is exactly why you can't always trust everything you read in promos boys and girls. Sill, the other part of the equation is fine as, at the heart of this group mind you, one could likely find some N.W.O.B.H.M. influences. They would be the more hard rock side of the N.W.O.B.H.M. scene, but it would be there and reasonable enough to see that as being the case. As a compromise though let's call this act a bluesy & sleazy hard rock act with some metal hooks at their disposal. Sound fair? Don't take my word for it though. You can hear a couple of tracks that made it onto the seven-song album (albeit it slightly different forms) like "Cummin' My Way" (ha ha!) and the title cut right here: After that you can even download the album track "Cut Me Out" right here: Then you could judge for yourself what this band brings to the table. Now, as I wrap this one up it should be pointed out that on Record State Day (April 19th) Boris Records will release the group's self-titled EP on 12" purple translucent vinyl format! And yes Virgina, it looks mighty wicked if the pick below is to be believed!

One could argue that albums like this one would sound better on vinyl (being that it's eighties-tinged hard rock and all!), but we'll leave that discussion for another day! When it comes right down to it these guys do what they do and they do it right so I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't like this EP. Maybe it's not brilliant (none of the tracks really screamed out to be unfortunately), but there really isn't a clunker to be found out of the seven tracks. Instead "Gunpowder Grey" is a rock-steady release from musicians who likely have much more to offer down the road! Let's just hope they get that chance...!/pages/Boris-Records/186507934792104

*Or so says their bandcamp page! In reality though Gunpowder Grey takes a more blues-based approach to their sleazy rock and roll along with the already mentioned N.W.O.B.H.M. additions.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Iron Savior-Rise Of The Hero

AFM Records

After a three-year break in the action Germany's Iron Savior are back for the attack with album number eight, "Rise Of The Hero". The last time we checked in with the band was on "The Landing" (reviewed here on our site by founder Metal Mark) and at that point in time the band was still riding high thanks to their patented take on the power metal genre. With "Rise Of The Hero" (produced by band founder Piet Sielck) it's (again) more of the same, but when it works this well can that really be a bad thing? The answer should be a resounding "No!", but one does have to take into account that some people like something new and exciting (style-wise) out of their bands with each new disc. For Iron Savior it has never really been about branching out into bold new territory especially when you can just let rip crunchy power metal with cool solos and even cooler choruses. Still, there is a bit of evolution at play here. Or at least you could look at it that way. With "Rise Of The Hero" the band has most certainly gone out of the way to be heavier. Although, to be fair and all, it's much more likely that the group just remembered their time-honored roots and said "Let's tear it up for old time sake!!!". And that they do! They tear things up BIG TIME! As per usual Piet Sielck's voice screams POWER (not that bass guitarist Jan-Sören Eckert, who handles lead vocals on a few of these tracks, is anything to sneeze at!) as the band takes what would otherwise be (troubling & formulaic) power metal and drop kicks it into the sun! Not many other bands can pull it all of like this lot and even if you know it's been done before it's all so wicked cool when it comes roaring out from this German four-piece! The leads are epic no doubt with Joachim Küstner's playing combining with Piet Sielcks for a nice metallic (one-two) delivery and with drummer Thomas Nack doing more then just keeping time this band returns triumphantly! Is it all golden? Well, the choice to cover Mando Diao's "Dance With Somebody" does leaves the listener with more questions then anything. But, other then this head-scratching moment (I mean yes, it was meant to be the bonus cut on special editions, but still...) there's not much one could possibly (or reasonably unless you were really going to nitpick everything to death!) find wrong with "Rise Of The Hero". I suppose it should be noted that there are several different versions of this one available as the CD I hold in my hand differs from the online promo in that it does not include a re-recorded version of "I've Been to Hell" from the band's 2001 album "Dark Assault". I totally dig the re-recorded version though (it adds a little extra bit of nostalgia to the mix) and would recommend going that route. Meanwhile, there also appears to be another expanded edition that tacks on another re-recorded song in "Mind Over Matter" (the original version appears on the group's 1999 album, "Unification"). From what I've read online it also sounds rather epic, but really let's face it folks. No matter which version you choose to pick up it's all good as the band's new material is cool and just rolling with that bit would be killer! So, even if it did take a couple of years to crank this one out it sounds as if it's been worth the wait! 

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Defyance-Time Lost (2014 Re-Release)

Minotauror Records

Following in the footsteps of the previously covered 1996 album "Amaranthine", "Time Lost", which was recorded at SR Audio in Des Monies, IA and Northlake Studio in Otley, IA (with Sean McMahon serving as producer alongside keyboardist Matt Bell and the band members themselves) and initially self-released in 1999, was the second full-length album from Knoxville, Iowa-based Defyance. In addition it is the third (again, self-released mind you) Defyance recording to see a proper CD re-release from the wonderful folks over at Minotauror Records and, if this shaky memory of mine serves me correct, it was my first introduction to this highly-underrated U.S. metal band. As was the case for "Amaranthine" (a recommended release in it's own right folks!) the humble heavy metal beginnings of Defyance were soon paved over by (somewhat) harder power metal and as the band further explored this new found territory they would also begin to further embrace the mindset that progressive rock and metal can and does add that special little something to the mix (especially when done right). And frankly it's that exact one-two combination (power metal of the U.S. variety plus some excellent progressive rock/metal moments) that made "Time Lost" the true winner that it was (even if it was an underground winner that far too few got to experience first hand back in the day!) and still is! Even though "Turn To Yesterday" might tow the line between power and prog (with bands like Fates Warning, Dream Theater and even Queensrÿche coming to mind) on numbers such as "Between The Lies", "My Nightmares" and "Break The Silence" it's a whole different ballgame. Here on "Time Lost" those sort of moments truly benefit from the twin guitar solos of Brent Scott & Marcus Peterson and, even if the power metal on display here never reaches truly epic levels, there's still enough of a punch to these sort of cuts that it should easily serve to bring a smile to the faces of many a true headbanger! With the progressive rock elements present and accounted for but still kept in check the band made good on their promise to deliver a worthy follow-up to "Amaranthine". Even if so it was not exactly smooth snailing for this underrated act. Line-up changes between album number one and album number two meant that it was rough going for this U.S. metal band and by the time Defyance had finally laid down bulk of the tracks for "Time Lost" they were looking at two new additions in Scott Andreas and Rob Mcgrath. As the band was desperately trying to find all the rights pieces to make a real run at things adding a new bass player probably wasn't much of a big deal. To that end Rob Mcgrath was recruited into the fold and his playing on "Time Lost" is solid and it actually provides a nice balance/compliment to drummer Doug Beary. The real change though was in the vocal department. Looking around locally the group ended up acquiring ex-Sinister Minster member Scott Andreas (also ex-Atomic Opera) who, having replaced the departed Brian Harrington, brought with him a voice that has been compared to the likes of Bruce Dickinson and D.C. Cooper! All told these new additions proved quite beneficial for the band and Defyance, perhaps reborn and even rejuvenated by these changes, emerged from the studio with the near-perfect "Time Lost" in hand! Defyance proved that even in the face of adversary they could emerge stronger. With all of the turbulence that was going on around them it would stand to reason that the nearly 50 minutes long "Time Lost" would have hiccups right? And yet here it is, a shining example of the lasting impact of progressive power metal! Given their hard work and dedication to their craft, everything fell smoothly into place with the group's sophomore recording and whether you are a fan of bands like Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Crimson Glory and Queensrÿche or you are more into Iron Maiden-like power metal this one offers something for everyone!To say that this one is highly recommended is putting it mildly!

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Jupiter Zeus-On Earth

Magnetic Eye Records

First known as Nebula (under which they released one 1994 demo, "Born Deformed", and the full-length, 1995 album, "Sadness Vs Madness") and originally wowing audiences with their own take on groove-infused death metal before transferring their collective consciousness (guitarist/vocalists Simon Staltari, bass guitarist Jeremy Graham, guitarist Michael Lawson and drummer Aidrian Vudrug) into the art-form that stands before us now, Perth, Western Australia-based Jupiter Zeus are something refreshingly different and yet oddly familiar. Short and sweet this is prime and proper (hypnotic) psychedelic rock. Only here we find a album like "On Earth" awash with heavy grooves (no doubt the one carry-over aspect from Nebula), flashes of melodic sensibility ("Cosmic Rays", "Waiting In Line"), some space rock weirdness (ala Hawkwind), splinters of garage rock and mighty mighty riffs that (on occasion mind you) bear resemblance to something that you'd expect to find from your local (college-age no doubt) stoner rock (hipster) collective and not a potential (radio rock) hit-making crew like this. And that's the real clincher here. As HEAVY as this band is on the rock front (listen to opener "Waves" and then simply follow the flame to "Over" and go from there!) and (even more so with) the psychedelic/groove tendencies there's more then meets the eye with this bunch seeing as Jupiter Zeus are strong contenders on the "pop" side of things. Sure, it's more akin to the craftiness of college rock/alternative rock of old ("Talkback Caller", "Waiting In Line"), but the fact remains that this four-piece (punctuated by the hypnotic performance of Simon Staltari) know how to write music that is catchy and sticks with you for a long time afterwards! No fears though as "On Earth" is still a sick enough slab of stone-cold riffs (see "Psychotic Seeds") so as to offer more then enough material to appeal to followers of all things stoner rock! That's especially true as the HEAVY groove-lines offer a nice little one-two to your eardrums (dig the fat riffs of "Co-Creators"!). Now, as to how this Western Australia bunch has managed to elude stardom so far remains any one's guess? The band's previous release (the well-received EP "Green Mosquito") did set the stage, but now it's time for Jupiter Zeus to actually take to the stage and just let it rip. But they can't do it alone. People need to perk up and listen as well! "On Earth" offers itself as a (sublime) alternative to the daily grind that is (repetitive) rock and/or metal so all you need to do is reach out and take hold of the flame. Easy enough right? 

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Friday, March 21, 2014

French Metal Friday: E-Force-The Curse...

Mausoleum Records

Due for release next month, "The Curse...", which is E-Force's follow-up to 2008's "Modified Poison", will mark album number three for the French thrash metal act. First formed in 2001, and originally hailing from Montreal, Quebec, E-Force features within it's line-up ex-Voivod member Eric Forrest (Project: Failing Flesh, ex-Liquid Indian, ex-Lust, ex-Thunder Circus) and, much like Eric's previous band, the boundaries of thrash metal are often stretched well beyond their expected boundaries into interesting forms. Along with guitarist XAV (Jérôme Point) and the returning Krof (drums) Eric, handling bass duties and vocal duties with equal effectiveness, makes this concept album* sound interesting and inventive by allowing the material to take on a life of it's own. With guest appearances from the likes of Glen Drover (Megadeth, King Diamond and Eidolon), Kristian Niemann (Therion) and Vincent Agar (Yotangor) as well as (all-around excellent) performances from his actual band-mates, Eric, who really deserves a band of his own like E-Force, crafts a formidable concept album that is fairly strong as far as technical thrash goes and more than a little captivating thanks in no small part to the intellectual essence that it is empowered with. Is it fair to paint comparisons to Eric's former band though? That might actually be a tougher call to make as their are certainly similarities between E-Force and Voivod up to and including the lyrical nature of "The Curse..." and it's technical delivery. Still, E-Force offers it's own take on the genre and from someone who had previously never heard this talented act before I will say (or even admit honestly to the fact) that if Eric's name wasn't prominently attached to this project then I'm not so sure the Voivod tag would apply as much. Either way though "The Curse..." is a strong album through and through and anytime a band comes along and (creatively) expands upon the notion of what we think we know about technical thrash it should be a moment of celebration. 

*Per the promo "The Curse..." is a concept album that is "based on a powerful collection of songs describing the power and temptation of, and obsession with the female race."

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Insain-Enlightening the Unknown


Reportedly recorded back in early 2013, with production taking place at the 16th Cellar studio (Hour Of Penance, Fleshgod Apocalypse...), the 25 minute "Enlightening the Unknown" will end up serving as the swan song for the French act (aptly-titled) Insain. As the follow-up to 2010's self-released "Spiritual Rebirth" (Mixed and mastered at the Hertz studio in Poland, "Spiritual Rebirth" was picked up and re-released by Kaotoxin Records in early 2012) "Enlightening the Unknown", which saw the addition of new bassist Benoit Jean (Sentence, ex-Inquinatus, ex-Sinister Faith) and features a guest in the form of Daniel Neagoe (Eye Of Solitude and Unfathomable Ruination), not only picks up where this French act last left off, but it builds upon the viciousness that was "Spiritual Rebirth" and takes things into even more of a frightening direction! As technical as this lot was on this EP (Insain's two guitarists, David Schonbackler and Nicolas Becuwe respectively, work well together with some of the solos here proving to be quite exceptional!)  the band still manages to be all the more relentless with the voice of Louis Lafitte (cookie monster-infused growls to the max!) sounding utterly inhuman! With Jonathan Juré's spastic drumming keeping Insain on edge at all times (he's paired up nicely with Benoit Jean as the two really compliment each other) the band's sonic (BRUTAL) death metal assault is nothing if not constant as it's played-up in EXTREME fashion! If this truly is to be the last song and dance from this gruesome death metal outfit then at last they are doing it right. Insain are going down with all guns blazing as they leave a lasting testament to just how insane they were!!!

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Cemetery Fog-Shadows From The Cemetery (Tape)

Iron Bonehead

As they say there's no school like the old school. And when it comes to "From The Cemetery", which is the third demo to come Finland's own Cemetery Gates since they first assembled back in 2012, that saying couldn't be anymore true if you wanted it to be! Initially self-released in 2013, with xeroxed covers appearing on home-dubbed cassette tapes according to the Metal Archives, the five track "From The Cemetery" will be seeing a second release on tape thanks to the fine folks over at Iron Bonehead Productions. Be sure to mark down the date on your calender (March 31st, 2014) as this atmospheric doom-death release is delightfully haunting and a bit edgy just like they used to make them way back in the day (say late eighties to mid nineties). To their advantage Cemetery Fog chooses to forgo the usual small gaps that would normally appear between each individual track. All of which makes the 23 minute plus "Shadows From The Cemetery" that much more cold, unearthly and unflinching (by which I mean spectacular!). Every track here just seems to fold in and out of, over and under the previous track and, seeing as I listened to this one none-stop a few times over on loop, it takes on a life of it's own. From their sound, which is strengthened by the otherworldly essence of J. Filppu (vocals and guitars), to the way in which this demo was actually recorded (it really comes across as if it was recorded in another time period and just stored away in some tape collectors closet waiting to be unearthed again!) everything about this Finnish trio known as Cemetery Fog feels old world and somewhat classic. Or could it just be that they ghosts that haunt recordings such as this one are actually more comforting then scary? Either way the result is the same. Add it all up (from the magical, near-sludgy riffs of days long thought passed that seem as if they were assembled as if to pay tribute to the gods of old to the eerie, ghoulish vocal delivery of  J. Filppu) and it results in a (undoubtedly recommended!) demo like this one that is unlike any other that you are likely to hear anytime soon my friends. It's a demo that seems to call out for, make that cry out for(!), fans and collectors alike who still hold out hope that they might, even if it is just for one last time, experience musty, creaky, cold and crumbling (and even mysterious) doom-death like our forefathers used to craft!

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