Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ostrogoth-Last Tribe Standing

Empire Records

It has been twenty eight years since Belgium's Ostrogoth last released a full-length album in the form of 1987's "Feelings of Fury". And it has been thirty two years since this old-school heavy metal/power metal band released their classic 1983 EP, "Full Moon's Eyes". Keeping both of those dates in mind, "Last Tribe Standing" could easily pass for a mid-late eighties recording and fool both younger and older metal fans alike! More specifically we are talking about those who have never had the fortune to hear this phenomenal band for themselves, but even then this half-studio/half-live (extended) EP could just as easily sneak into the collections of casual Ostrogoth fans and it would have a hard time being discovered. And that's even with drummer Mario "Grizzly" Pauwels (ex-Hermetic Brotherhood, ex-Shell Shock, ex-Stonehenge, ex-Trash) now serving time as the sole original member! This is one act that has been fortunate enough to not only survive the obligatory line-up changes that come with playing in a band, but emerge from such storms standing just as tall and just just as strong! Of course for Ostrogoth and their fans nothing can ease the pain of losing long-time guitarist Rudy "WhiteShark" Vercruysse to cancer earlier this year. His lose will be felt for a long time to come, but thankfully we have this EP to further remind us of his exceptional skills as a guitarist. Consisting of four new studio recordings ("No Risk Taken", "Clouds", "Return To The Heroes Museum" and "Last Tribe Standing") and a 2014 live performance of the "Full Moon's Eye" EP, "Last Tribe Standing" finds this passionate guitarist joined by not only fellow old-timer Mario Pauwels, but the fresh blood of Dario Frodo (guitars and backing vocals), Stripe (bass and backing vocals) and Josey Hindrix (lead and backing vocals). All three musicians slip right into the fold and without missing a singe beat the modern day version of  Ostrogoth keeps on rocking and rolling! This classic metal band plows right through the crowd with the four studio tracks and four live tracks showing just how little this lot has actually aged! Recorded during the summer of 2014 (and fitting in perfectly with the classic feel of  this recommend recording) the live versions of "Heroes' Museum", "Full Moon’s Eyes", "Paris By Night" and "Rock Fever" make me wish that I could travel to Europe to see this band on stage and in living color! Reportedly this live recording of the "Full Moon's Eyes" EP  featured the same line-up that had been active since Ostrogoth made it's return at Germany’s 2012 "Keep It True Festival". That would make sense as these live recordings ended up showcasing a tight-knit five-piece that knew what it was doing and one that knew how to keep a (hungry for true metal!) crowd happy! Still it's the new studio material that most Ostrogoth will want to know about and rightly so. Quite honestly once "No Risk Taken" kicked in all I could think about again was how classic this band still sounded and how easily this "new" material could have fit with Ostrogoth's "old" material! If you at all familiar with music of 1987's "Feelings of Fury" then that is you're starting reference point as "Last Tribe Standing" comes across as that album's logical follow-up. If you are a new listener though then we are talking about a (rugged) power/traditional metal band whose (heavy rocking and yet otherwise melodic) vintage sound has been carefully sculpted out of only the best  that N.W.O.B.H.M. has to offer (we're talking about pre-1980 bands and albums or if you will the earlier the better!), choice cuts of classic metal and/or eighties metal and (post-Black Sabbath) riff-rocking leads that shoot to thrill/play to kill! Combine all of that loveliness with the heartfelt (and just rough enough to work without sounding scratchy or anything) voice of Josey Hindrix and you have the only and only Ostrogoth. And there really is only one Ostrogoth my friends. For only a band like Ostrogoth could release it's first (official) since 1987 and have the new material on this 40 minute EP sound just as slick as the Ostrogoth of old. This half studio/half live album is as good as it gets for fans of this classic Belgium act as the new material does a remarkable job of tying Ostrogoth's past together with it's present and potential future. If there is a downside at all to be found then it would have to be with it's length as one can't help but wish that there was more cool new studio work to go along with the killer live stuff. It's a small complaint if you really think about it because chances are good that if this EP sells well then this will not be the last that we'll being hearing (studio-wise) from this classic band. Out now on Empire Records (the cult Belgium label and not the 1995 American coming-of-age film that features a memorable {pot-induced} GWAR hallucination scene!), "Last Tribe Standing" is available as a limited-edition 12 inch and on CD. For fans of Ostrogoth this one is a given. But, even if you are new to this classic heavy metal/power metal band and this would be the first release from Ostrogoth that you ever bought I'd still argue that it is worth acquiring. There are few half-studio/half-live EPs out there that are as consistent as "Last Tribe Standing" is and even more so there are few that rock this hard and are this much fun! Simply put this one is a winner and it comes highly rated!

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