Sunday, September 10, 2017

Axe Crazy

Bart Gabriel
Producer, Manager, Label Owner and NWOBHM Enthusiast

Photo Credit: Bart Gabriel


Muthas, I had the great fortune to ask Bart Gabriel - CEO of Skol Records and Gabriel Management - about my favorite genre of metal, NWOBHM! Bart is huge NWOBHM fan and has lots of interesting choices for his favorites and offers a massive NWOBHM playlist to get you started on your own NWOBHM journey. Cheers! 

MBOM: Bart, firstly, thanks for doing this interview! You just may be the busiest man in metal right now. What's going on with you and Skol Records?

BART: It's good to be busy, isn't it? There was not much going on in the Skol Records camp for the last few months, but it will change now. First of all we're about to release brand new mini LP from SAVAGE MASTER - it might be interesting for your readers as well, as except four brand new songs, there is a cover version of the HOLOCAUST classic, "Death Or Glory", on it as well. Except that we will be continuing our series of the CD replicas of the original NWOBHM singles, with a lot of Neat Records titles. First in line are the JAGUAR and CRUCIFIXION singles, then we will do BLITZKRIEG and WHITE SPIRIT singles, and so on. Actually, it might be good opportunity the announce my next project, no one (except involved bands) heard about yet... I'm working on a compilation album titled "Granbretan Invasion", which is a tribute album, where young Heavy Metal bands play cover versions of obscure and rare NWOBHM tracks. Some of the confirmed acts are: ENFORCER, CAULDRON, AMULET, TWISTED TOWER DIRE, CRYSTAL VIPER, HELVETETS PORT and SUBSTRATUM. And yes, the title of the compilation is a tribute to the best writer that ever walked the earth, Michael Moorcock. In other news I'm also quite busy with GABRIEL MANAGEMENT, as all our bands either just released new albums, or will release them in the nearest future.

MBOM: I know that you are a huge NWOBHM fan and you've reissued a ton of great NWOBHM singles/albums. What NWOBHM reissues does Skol have coming out in the future?

BART: As I mentioned, we will be continuing our series of the CD replicas of the original NWOBHM singles. I'm very happy that we will be reissuing singles from the Neat Records back catalog, I know that I wasn't the only one guy waiting for them. I also signed deals with few other NWOBHM bands, but hard to say when exactly we will release something from them, as they are looking for the master tapes, we are trying to figure out the legal situation and so on.



MBOM: Are you planning on producing or releasing any new albums from NWOBHM bands in the future?

BART: Currently not, but there are two albums of one of my favorite NWOBHM acts in my schedule, which I will be remastering. I think I'm not yet allowed to reveal the news (I'm doing this for another label, not for Skol Records). What I can tell you, is that both albums will be packed with some killer bonus tracks no one ever knew they exist.


MBOM: What song/comp/album started you on your journey of listening to and collecting NWOBHM?

BART: I won't be very original here, but I need to say it all started with IRON MAIDEN. I'm not exactly sure right now, but I think that the very first MAIDEN album I heard was the self-titled debut. I know it sounds weird, but while I think that Somewhere In Time is one of three best sounding and best produced albums in the history of Heavy Metal, my favorite MAIDEN album is the mentioned self-titled debut. The next ones were RAVEN and their All For One LP, and then a lot of more usual stuff, such as SAXON, ANGEL WITCH and DIAMOND HEAD. At the beginning I wasn't aware they are part of any wave or group of bands, but when I was reading about them, I was seeing that mysterious NWOBHM term from time to time. I became curious what that's all about, and then I discovered the goldmine known as New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I would lie if I would say I was only NWOBHM oriented, or that I became a collector of all things NWOBHM - I became a die hard fan of Heavy Metal in general, and I didn't care much about origin of the bands. I either liked something or not, but in fact, many of my favorite bands were British.

MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM single?

BART: I have no idea! There are so many absolutely great singles, that it's impossible to choose only one, especially when you like so many bands... If I could list few, then for sure I would list singles from: MYTHRA, TRIDENT, VIRTUE, LAUTREC, LEGEND (from Kent - this one from Jersey is awesome as well, but if we are talking about singles, then I vote for this one from Kent), QUARTZ, JJ'S POWERHOUSE, HELL, AVENGER, RAVEN, SPARTA, TRIARCHY, ANGEL WITCH, BLEAK HOUSE, JAGUAR, HOLOCAUST, BLITZKRIEG, BLACK AXE and WOLF, AXIS, NO QUARTER, A II Z... And of course IRON MAIDEN and their The Soundhouse Tapes.



MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM LP?

BART: Oh wow, that's probably even harder than with singles... I think there is no one LP which I could list as my favorite one when it comes to NWOBHM, as there were too many great albums being released. But I can list my favorite live album here, and that would be Live At The Inferno from RAVEN. I remember I was blown away by the rough energy that was captured on that double LP. Sorry MAIDEN, I love Live After Death, but I'm choosing Live At The Inferno (laugh).






MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM compilation released back in the 80s?

BART: Okay, this one will be easier, it's Metal For Muthas, as it was the first NWOBHM compilation I heard, when I already knew what NWOBHM actually means and what it's all about. Not only it had 2 great IRON MAIDEN tracks, and great songs from PRAYING MANTIS (maybe their best one?) and ANGEL WITCH, but also allowed me to discover bands I didn't know before: ETHEL THE FROG, SLEDGEHAMMER and E.F. BAND (yeah, the NWOBHM band from Sweden (laugh)). I remember I didn't like very much the SAMSON and TOAD THE WET SPROCKET songs that were included there... Need to listen to that LP again, let's see if I still don't like them!

MBOM: What's your favorite retrospective NWOBHM compilation released in 90s to today?

BART: Definitely New Wave Of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited, which Lars Ulrich and Geoff Barton did in 1990. I basically think this is the best NWOBHM compilation ever made. It's funny because when I started my Heavy Metal adventure, I wasn't big fan of METALLICA. But they were praising NWOBHM in the interviews, they were recording and playing live songs of bands such as DIAMOND HEAD and BLITZKRIEG, and then Lars did that compilation. So yeah, we can say I became METALLICA fan because of NWOBHM - they are a Thrash Metal band, but I hear a lot of British riffs in their music, and it's clear they are die hard fans of the genre. And let's be honest, they promoted the genre as probably no one else.


MBOM: Which band had the better debut album - Iron Maiden or Angel Witch?

BART: That's a difficult question. While both albums are absolutely perfect, and there is no bad or even average song on any of them, I think I would choose Iron Maiden. Don't ask me why, I don't know (laugh).


MBOM: Which Brian Ross band do you like more - Satan, Blitzkrieg or Avenger?

BART: AVENGER, because I recently became their manager! I'm kidding, I wouldn't list AVENGER here, as they never did an album with Brian, only the demo, split EP and single, so while I love and admire Mr. Ross, I would list Swifty as their "classic" vocalist. So, SATAN or BLITZKRIEG? I think I would choose SATAN - I love the early works of both bands equally, but when it comes to the more recent albums, then I think I prefer these ones by SATAN.


MBOM: Was Motorhead a NWOBHM band or are they a precursor like Judas Priest?

BART: MOTORHEAD and PRIEST are not NWOBHM bands to me, and here's why. First of all, both bands started and had first recordings before the world heard about NWOBHM. Second thing: it's hard to label first MOTORHEAD and JUDAS PRIEST recordings as Heavy Metal. And third thing - many NWOBHM bands used to either list these two acts as their influences, or even played their covers, so yeah, they are definitelly pre-NWOBHM acts in my opinion.


MBOM: Who's your greasiest favorite - Tank, Venom or Warfare?

BART: VENOM's At War With Satan was the first LP from these 3 bands which I heard, so I will probably go with them. Isn't it always like that, that the albums you heard first from particular bands, remain your personal favorites? I also love TANK and their Filth Hounds Of Hades - while they had few really cool albums back in the day (let me ignore the ridiculous current period, where 5 guys that didn't play on the classic first two albums keep on recording and releasing music as TANK), Filth Hounds is the absolute classic of the genre, perfect from the first to the last second. WARFARE were awesome as well, I was actually listening to their album earlier today.


MBOM: Please recommend a good playlist for a NWOBHM newcomer.

BART: How about this one: IRON MAIDEN "Prowler", MYTHRA "Killer", RAVEN "Fire Power", A II Z "No Fun After Midnight", AVENGER "Too Wild To Tame", JJ'S POWERHOUSE "Running For The Line", BLITZKRIEG "Blitzkrieg", INCUBUS "Life Beyond The Grave", LIMELIGHT "Metal Man", TYRANT "Hold Back The Lightning", JAGUAR "Prisoner", ELIXIR "Treachery (Ride Like The Wind)", ANGEL WITCH "Gorgon", SMOKIN' ROADIE "Midnight", DIAMOND HEAD "Lightning To The Nations", SARACEN "Meet Me At Midnight", WITCHFINDER GENERAL "Free Country", DEMON "Night Of The Demon", FIST "Name, Rank And Serial Number", TOKYO BLADE "Night Of The Blade", QUARTZ "Silver Wheels", SAXON "Princess Of The Night", SAVAGE "Let It Loose", PARALEX "Travelling Man", TANK "Shellshock", TYGERS OF PAN TANG "Slave To Freedom", WITCHFYNDER "Give 'Em Hell", TRESSPASS "Bright Lights", CLOVEN HOOF "Reach For The Sky", AFTER DARK "Evil Woman", HOLOCAUST "Heavy Metal Mania", OVERDRIVE "On The Run", BLEAK HOUSE "Rainbow Warrior", DRAGON FLY "Silent Nights", DRAGON SLAYER "Warrior", SATANIC RITES "Hit & Run", SWEET SAVAGE "Killing Time", BLACK AXE "Highway Rider", VENOM "Manitou", GRIM REAPER "Rock You To Hell"... Need few more? (laugh).


MBOM: Which of the classic "Black And White EPs" is your favorite - Paralex - White Lightning, Mythra - Death And Destiny, or Crucifixion - Green Eyes?

BART: I love all three releases you mentioned, but I would definitely choose MYTHRA over here. They always been one of my absolutely favorite NWOBHM bands. While over the years I became friends with the guys, and learned why they never "made it" back in the day, they always been one of the "big" NWOBHM bands in my book, along with RAVEN and AVENGER.






MBOM: Which NWOBHM band that never released an album do you wish had released a full length? (Five bonus points for picking Trespass.)

BART: Sorry, but A II Z, haha... They were absolutely amazing, both their singles and the live album they did, are pure gold. I know that they continued for a little while as AURORA after they split with Gary Owens, but it wasn't the same. So, if there would be justice in the world, A II Z would do a full album back in the day.





Photo Credit: Bart Gabriel Instagram
MBOM: Bart, judging from your social media posts you have an incredible music collection. What are some of the cool NWOBHM rarities in your collection?

BART: Well, my collection is not that big to be honest, at least I think so, as I know a lot of people that have collections few times bigger than my one. First of all, I'm not typical collector - I'm not trying to gather everything that is rare, out of print and so on, I only keep records that I really like and listen to. I'm not spending nights on Ebay, which is full of overpriced records. Of course when I find something I don't have in a good price, then I buy it and I take it home, but I'm an old school guy, so I prefer to visit small record stores (sadly not many of them left), or browse crates when there are Metal markets on the festivals that I visit - I'm not a big fan of online ordering or bidding. And to answer second part of your question: as I keep on gathering stuff for a Heavy Metal Museum, when it comes to NWOBHM, the crown jewel of my collection is the original RAVEN stage banner that I have. Thank you Mr. Gallagher!


MBOM: Do you have a particular NWOBHM rarity that you'd like to have in your collection?

BART: I would love to add many records to my personal collection, and I hope to have original TRIDENT, VIRTUE, WIKKYD VIKKER, LAUTREC or JJ'S POWERHOUSE singles one day, but as I mentioned, I'm not a big fan of either online ordering nor overpriced stuff, so I guess my chances are down to zero. I would also love to have the original MITHRANDIR single - its cover artwork is so bad, that it's actually good. I will probably get it tattooed one day (laugh).





MBOM: You produced Mythra's new album - Still Burning - and it's excellent. Are there other recent albums from NWOBHM bands that you can recommend?

BART: First of all I need to say it's been a huge honor and pleasure to do this album with MYTHRA. Music is one thing, but I was hanging out with the guys for almost 2 weeks, heard a lot of great stories from back in the day and so on, and this is something you can't buy with money. And I agree with you, I think this album is really excellent, as it sounds like NWOBHM or Classic Metal in general should sound: authentic and natural. Many bands go a bit too far, and they try to improve and change their sound and songs, to be "accepted" by younger fans. Very often when I work with bands, they tell me they want to sound like someone else, and I'm always like "and why don't you want to sound like YOU?". With MYTHRA it was different, they were very relaxed, and they really enjoyed playing these songs and recording them. We had a lot of fun in the studio, we sometimes laughed so hard we had to stop the recording and calm down. And you can hear that natural energy on "Still Burning" - the album sounds authentic and fresh at the same time, you hear that it's played by real human beings, and that nothing was replaced by the samples or alternated by computers or digital toys. When it comes to other recent albums from NWOBHM bands: yes, PAGAN ALTAR. Their new album is coming out these days, but I heard it some time ago, as I was doing its mastering. Usually when I receive the audio material to master, I load it into my gear and I work on the sound in the real time, already during first listening - similar to FOH guys, that try to fix and set right sound when the band is playing first song. When I got the PAGAN ALTAR tracks, I played them for the first time, and I was just staring at my speakers like a rabbit that sees headlights of a car. They are so good!

Photo Credit: Bart Gabriel

MBOM: Thanks for taking the time to talk about NWOBHM! Any last words or anything else to add?

BART: Hey, my pleasure and thank you for your time. Last words? Yeah, everyone, please support the bands you like, buy the official merchandise, buy the original albums instead of downloading them, and go out to see the bands when they play in your town, or move your ass and travel a little bit. It's not that expensive and the real experience is always a million times better. Your favorite bands won't survive without your support!

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I hope you enjoyed this interview with Bart Gabriel and it inspires you to check out some killer NWOBHM!

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ashes To Ashes

Brent Woodward
Guitarist and NWOBHM Enthusiast

Photo Credit: Brent Woodward

Muthas, way back in 2013 I reviewed Night Demon's spectacular debut EP which featured the excellent guitar work of Brent Woodward.  That EP blew my face off and has become one of my all time favorites, in no small part due to Brent's ripping style. Brent also crushed skulls on Night Demon's full length album - Curse Of The Damned which was another triumph.

I had the good fortune to meet Brent when Night Demon came to Pittsburgh a few years ago, and we spent some time conversing about NWOBHM, USPM and other great metal.  Brent has moved on from Night Demon and is currently working on a new project.  He graciously agreed to an interview to discuss the best genre of music ever created - NWOBHM. 


Photo Credit: Metal Archives
MBOM: Brent, firstly, thanks for doing this interview! What have you been up to since you departed Night Demon?

Brent: No problem! It's my pleasure doing an interview all about NWOBHM.   For the most part I've been laying low since I departed from Night Demon. I moved to LA from Ventura to pursue a new musical project that better suits me. I'm still in the process of writing and putting it together. It feels like it's taking a long time, but I'll get something awesome going no matter how long it takes. I feel like every new band I've been in in my life has been a step above the previous band. So I have a very hard task of continuing that pattern. Hopefully you'll be hearing from me soon.



MBOM: I know that you are a huge NWOBHM fan, and I need to know - is Nuhwobum an acceptable way to pronounce NWOBHM, or is this some weird hipster millennial pronunciation?

Brent: It's acceptable. People have been pronouncing it like that for years. You even hear Malcom Dome refer to it as that. So it's cool. I always say the long hand version though, "New Wave Of British Heavy Metal."


MBOM: What song/comp/album started you on your journey of listening to and collecting NWOBHM?

Brent: Diamond Head Lightning To The Nations started it all for me. My brother was a huge Metallica fan back in the early 90's. He would buy magazines and read every article about them. From doing that he found out about bands like the Misfits, Blitzkrieg and of course Diamond Head. I stole his Lightning To The Nations tape when I was in the 5th grade and I never gave it back.


MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM single?

Brent: This is a hard one. There are so many good ones and I get stuck on one for long periods of time. Right now my favorite is Limelight Ashes To Ashes. I can listen to that title track over and over. I know it's a "Doctor Doctor" rip but is still amazing. It inspired me to write the music to the song "Mastermind" off of Curse Of The Damned. The B side is great too. "A Knife In Your Back" is a great 70's hard rockin' Uriah Heep jam.



MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM LP?

Brent: The first Iron Maiden LP. I know that's not an obscure one but it probably one of my all time favorite records ever made. I love the recording quality on that album. The guitar tone is amazing. Hearing the beginning of Prowler gets my blood pumping.






MBOM: What's your favorite NWOBHM compilation released back in the 80s?

Brent: Metal For Muthas Vol.1, just because it has Maiden, Angel Witch, Samson and Praying Mantis. I love the different versions of the Maiden songs.






MBOM: What's your favorite retrospective NWOBHM compilation released in 90s to today?

Brent: I had NWOBHM '79 Revisited on 2xLP like 10 years ago. I ended up giving it to a friend for his birthday who eventually sold his whole record collection. I kinda wish I would of just bought him a 6 pack or something now. Haha. I think I paid $20 for it at the time. I didn't know that classic heavy metal would explode in the underground. That's probably my favorite "newer" comp.



MBOM: Which band had the better debut album - Iron Maiden or Angel Witch?

Brent: Iron Maiden. I mean I love Angel Witch, but that first Maiden record is untouchable to me.



MBOM: Was Motorhead a NWOBHM band or are they a precursor like Judas Priest?

Brent: I see them as a precursor band. They were kinda before the whole movement hit hard.





MBOM: Who's your greasiest favorite - Tank, Venom or Warfare?

Brent: Tank








MBOM: Why did so many NWOBHM bands crap the bed when it came time to release their sophomore album?

Brent: I think that the musical landscape was changing by the mid 80's stage and these bands were trying to "make it". So they adapted their sound to American glam/heavy metal instead of making a more rough around the edges gritty hard rock/heavy metal like they were doing before. Plus a lot of them got signed to bigger labels. They had their whole lives up until that point to write their first EP or album. I'm sure once they were signed they only had an allotted amount of time to make the second. Producers probably had a lot to do with watering down their sound too.

MBOM: Which NWOBHM band was the most underrated/overrated?

Brent: I don't know how to answer this one. I think most NWOBHM band are great. I do think that some of the super obscure bands are as good. I've trolled YouTube for hours checking out random bands. A lot aren't good. I think it's overrated liking a band just because they fit into the genre and nobody knows who they are.

Photo Credit: Brent Woodward


MBOM: Please recommend a good playlist for a NWOBHM newcomer.

Brent:

Iron Maiden - "Purgatory"
Diamond Head - "The Prince"
Holocaust - "HeavyMetal Mania"
Virtue - "Fools Gold"
Dark Star - "Lady Of Mars"
Def Leppard - "RocksOff"
Angel Witch - "Gorgon" 
Crucifixion - "Green Eyes" 
Blitzkrieg - "Blitzkrieg" 
Praying Mantis - "Captured City"
Le Griffe - "Fast Bikes
Witchfinder General - "Free Country" 
Iron Maiden - "Prowler"



MBOM: Do you think Def Leppard was a NWOBHM band? If so, what's their last NWOBHM album?

Brent: Of course. High and Dry is the last NWOBHM album. It's the last record with Pete Willis. He brought the rock. After that they lose my attention. They got more pop oriented on Pyromania. Not really my thing.






MBOM: Which of the classic "Black And White EPs" is your favorite - Paralax - White Lightning, Mythra - Death And Destiny, or Crucifixion - Green Eyes?

Brent: This is a hard one too! I think I'll go with Crucifixion. That such a great EP. The perfect balance of hard rock and heavy metal. Even though it came out in '84 it has more of a early NWOBHM sound. It could of came out in '81/'82.





MBOM: Which NWOBHM band that never released an album do you wish had released a full length? (Five bonus points for picking Trespass.)

Brent: Unfortunately it's not Tresspass. I'm going to say Virtue. That band kicks so much ass. I would of loved to hear a full length from them. That EP and the Fools Gold demo are so damn good and they were just kids when they made them. I am fortunate though that No Remorse put out that collection LP.



MBOM: Any cool NWOBHM rarities in your collection?

Brent: I stopped collecting records for a while when I was broke and playing music full time so I missed out on getting a lot of rarities. My MP3 collection is amazing. I do have a decent collection though. It's not that amazing but it's good. I have a bootleg of Iron Maiden Soundhouse Tapes and the Def Leppard EP. I have a bronze pressing of the first Angel Witch. I have Diamond Head Sweet & Innocent EP. I have a lot of reissues too which will probably be rare in like 10 years.




MBOM: Do you have a particular NWOBHM holy grail that you'd like to get?

Brent: I really want the Blitzkrieg 7". I just can't bring myself to pay $200 for it.








MBOM: Are there any recent albums from old NWOBHM bands that you like?

Brent: I haven't really explored the newer eras. I guess the one band I do like is Satan. Night Demon played a few show with them in Europe while I was in the band. They're great.





MBOM: Thanks for taking the time to talk about NWOBHM! Any last words or anything else to add?

Brent: Thanks for interviewing me. It was fun talking about my favorite style of music!

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I hope you enjoyed the interview with Brent and it inspires you to listen to some NWOBHM gems!

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Like Thunder Through The Skull


Night Demon - Darkness Remains


Century Media Records - 2017

Muthas, in my not so humble opinion, Night Demon is one of the best new wave of traditional heavy metal bands in the world right now.  Their debut EP was an unbelievably good slice of retro NWOBHM and their first LP – Curse Oh The Damned – was simply excellent.  That brings us to the present where the band is scheduled to drop their all-important second LP on April 21st.  So, will there be a sophomore slump or another solid album of traditional metal?  Well, I was lucky enough to secure of promo of their new album – Darkness Remains – and after spinning it about fifty times, I am ready to render a verdict. 

First things first though, there’s been a lineup change since we last heard from Night Demon. Guitarist Brent Woodward has departed and he’s been replaced by Armand John Anthony who was formerly with Gygax.  Also, main man Jarvis Leatherby has been busy fronting NWOBHM legends Jaguar, playing bass in Cirith Ungol and organizing the Frost And Fire Festivals for three years running.  Did the band lose focus with the new lineup and all their various outside activities and projects?  Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no! 

Darkness Remains is a tight collection of superbly executed traditional heavy metal and it’s crammed full of great riffs, catchy choruses, hooks galore, pounding drums and good vocals. There is a slight difference from their earlier material because Armand John Anthony’s playing style is heavily influenced by Thin Lizzy and his melodic riffing permeates the whole album.  However, it’s yet another cracking album from Night Demon that rivals the best efforts of the NWOBHM. 

The band rips right out of the gate with the lead track “Welcome To The Night.”  The song starts with a creepy intro and then blasts into a faster tempo.  It’s a quintessential Night Demon cut with varied tempos, a catchy chorus, a nice solo and occult lyrics.  Check out the excellent video for it:


“Hallowed Ground” is a speedy blaster featuring a pummeling riff that will definitely get your head banging with fury. ”Maiden Hell” is a very fun and peppy track that has lyrics which are all Iron Maiden references.  This song is very infectious and Jarvis even serves up a “Scream For Me!” Very cool!

“Stranger In The Room” is a mid-paced, epic spookster that reminds me of their song “The Howling Man” for their last album. The band is particularly adept at this kind of atmospheric track.  Well done lads! “Life On The Run” is one of my favorites on the album because it features some tasty and crunchy riffage and drops some really cool nods to other metal songs/albums in the lyrics – Thundersteel, Power Games, Hand Of Doom etc…  It also drops into a nice chugging riff at the midpoint and then transitions into a cool solo. 

“Dawn Rider” cruises along on the back of a “Heaven And Hell” style galloping riff and “Black Widow” is a classic “evil woman” song that has a regal/martial opening riff that dissolves into a killer up tempo pace that makes it another favorite of mine on the album.  “On Your Own” has a pure, classic 80s opening riff, “believe in yourself” lyrics and an earworm of a gang chorus that will lodge in your brain for days. 
  
“Flight Of The Manticore” is a sprawling, mid-tempo instrumental that definitely allows Armand to strut his stuff on the guitar.  I am a sucker for good instrumentals and this one is very good.  The final track on the CD and LP is the title cut and it’s quite the departure for Night Demon. The track reminds me of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” because Jarvis’s vocals sound like they are done through a Leslie speaker and the overall tone of the song is very melancholy. It’s quite the epic at 5:23 minutes in length and it fades out to some strings or synths at the end.
    
The digital download of the album also features two bonus tracks – a cover of Sabbath’s “Turn Up The Night” and a cover of Queen’sWe Will Rock You (Fast Version)” which is a very cool idea!

I also need to note that the album artwork is seemingly a homage of Iron Maiden's Somewhere In Time because it features loads of Night Demon references.  There's the band's mascot Rocky from the EP cover, the Curse Of The Damned cover, the band itself, and the building is the Ventura, California city hall. I'll have to pore over the LP cover when I get the vinyl, because there's a lot I can't see in the tiny digital picture I have.  I dig it! 

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The Bottom Line: Night Demon has released another great LP with Darkness Remains and it’s well worth your hard-earned coin. I am sure this will be in my best of 2017 and you should pre-order the album at the links below if you don't want to suck at life:




As always, MAKE MINE METAL!   


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Come Heavy Or Don't Come At All

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel


Nuclear Blast Records - 2017

Muthas, that unstoppable wrecking crew – Overkill – is back with their eighteenth (!) album and it’s an absolute skullcrusher. The Grinding Wheel was originally slated for a November 2016 release, but thankfully it was delayed due to some scheduling issues.  Why thankfully you ask? Well, because it had the potential to be lost in the shuffle during the old school thrash-o-rama of 2016. Overkill didn’t have to compete with Metallica and Testament for the limelight last November. The band has all eyes on them and they deliver the goods and then some.  Did anyone doubt they would?! 

The band possesses a signature sound much in the same way Motorhead did - you know what you are going to get - but they always manage to make it interesting.  Overkill never really succumbed to trends in any sustained way, and because of this tenacity they’ve enjoyed a long career while the vast majority of their peers packed it in decades ago.
 
The Grinding Wheel is a bit different from their last couple of albums in that the songs are longer and feature a good bit of variety.  I wouldn’t say the tracks are progressive, but rather they approach the epic with many tempo changes and vocal nuances.  The opening track “Mean, Green, Killing Machine” ably demonstrates what the album is all about. It sounds like classic Overkill with a couple of tempos and Blitz uses a couple of different vocal styles including some actual singing at the midpoint of the cut. All of this unfolds over seven and a half minutes of excellence.  Check out the lyric video:



“Goddamn Trouble” is one of the best songs on the album and it’s quintessential Overkill - loads of fun, a bit of punk, a bit of thrash and hooks for days. I’m not surprised that it’s already featured in their live set and I would imagine it’s going to stay there for a while. Check out the equally fun video:



“The Long Road” has a great intro that is begging to be played live because of its sing-along woah-oh vocals and blistering riffs.  The lyrics feel autobiographical because they are about never stopping and always moving forward.  Onward and upward indeed!

Another noteworthy cut is “Come Heavy” which is groovy and swaggering with loads of Black Sabbath influence that the band usually features on a couple of tracks per album.  This song will definitely get your head bobbing while you sing along.

The title track closes things out in epic fashion with a mid-paced groove and then finishes off with a another sing-along chant/chorus and then dissolves into a mournful string section.  It almost reminds one of something Iron Maiden would have come up with, believe it or not.

I should also note that the production by Andy Sneap is stellar and the album sounds amazing. If you were looking for some dirty thrash sounds you are out of luck, but if you like razor-sharp, clear production than you will be thrilled.  I hope he’ll be on board for future albums as he really captures the band’s sound well. 

Also the album is wrapped in nice artwork that features a stylized Chaly in between interlocked green gears with sparks flying.  It definitely evokes the sounds contained on the album and it a step up from the usual Overkill artwork which can be uninspired. Well done fellas.

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The Bottom Line: This is a great album and certainly equals their recent classic Ironbound if not some of their 80s albums.  If you are a fan of the band, a thrash fan, or a fan of heavy metal you should enjoy this immensely.  Go buy it and catch them on tour!


As Always, MAKE MINE METAL!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Stand In The Fire

           

We Want You: The Best of 2016

Muthas, 2016 has bit the dust and I’m back with a list of the best albums, live albums, reissues and album covers.  Enjoy!

The Best Albums of 2016



Bat – Wings Of Chains

Do you like greasy, dirty, raw thrash metal that sounds like Motorhead + Venom + Warfare?  If so, you will love this LP.  I previously reviewed their demo and this picks right up where that left off with a refreshing and fun blast of speedball metal.  Another great band from Ryan Waste.  Check out “Primitive Age.”  Raw future indeed!







Diamond Head – Diamond Head

Well what do you know? After releasing a couple of crappy albums that didn’t reflect their classic sound, Diamond Head comes roaring back with a cracking album that is replete with good songs.  Thankfully, the vocalist – Rasmus Bon Andersen – sounds a lot like Sean Harris, and Brian Tatler has penned some great songs. Check out “Bones.”






Grand Magus – Sword Songs

It seems that Grand Magus wanted to answer some of the complaints about their last album being too “epic” because Swords Songs is a return to more straight ahead, faster material.  It’s a very good album that features many anthemic cuts that will be sure to get your head banging.  Check out “Forged In Fire – Crowned In Iron.”





Gygax – Critical Hits

Arising from the ashes of the now sadly defunct Gypsyhawk is the excellent Gygax which play a tasty selection of heavy-70s metal that is heavily influenced by Thin Lizzy. Sinewy, twisting dual guitar leads are everywhere and the songs are catchy as all hell.  Oh, the splatter vinyl is quite simply the most stunning I have ever seen. Check out “Draw Breath.”






Metal Church – XI

The long awaited return of Mike Howe did not disappoint in the slightest!  XI is a phenomenal album that is one of the better comeback albums in the history Metaldom.  It’s great to hear Mike’s powerful voice ladled on top of choice power/thrash compositions once more.  The songs are excellent and Metal Church are back to reclaim their rightful throne!  Check out “Killing YourTime.”




Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake

If you’ve liked the previous two Testament albums you will love this one.  It’s in the same vein as Formation and Dark Roots – Chuck Billy roaring over a superb rhythm section and great guitars.  There’s lots of thrashing to be heard here and several of the songs form a sort of concept album about lizard people?(!) The songs are heavy and catchy with several memorable choruses that will worm their way into your brain. (It’s probably because of unholy influence of the lizard people.)  Check out “Stronghold.”




Striker – Stand In The Fire

Fun! Fun! Fun!  Striker once again unleash an album that is just damn fun and high energy!  These guys know how to craft great power metal in the vein of Vicious Rumors or Leatherwolf and the cuts are full of great hooks.  The songs are very upbeat and positive and are sure to lift your spirits.  More people should be talking about these Canadians, so get out there and buy this album.  Check out “Too Late.”




Metal Massacre 14

A compilation in a best of list?  You’re damn right!  Metal Blade has finally released a worthy follow up to their classic 80s series of compilations by focusing on lesser- known traditional metal bands on small or independent labels.  If you are a fan of the NWOTHM many of these names will be familiar to you, but there are several gems here by Stone Dagger, Savage Master, Crypt Sermon, Gatekeeper and others.  Check out “The Demented Force” by Assassin’s Blade.  Buy or die!




Megadeth – Dystopia

Maybe the album of the year.  Full review here.  It’s so much better than the other Big Four releases it’s not even close.  What about Metallica you say?  It was a big pile of meh.  Not list worthy. 







  
Eternal Champion – The Armor Of Ire

Sweet Odin’s Raven this is good!  I’ve had a hard time listening to anything else for the last three months.  Eternal Champion is from Austin, Texas but they may as well have been born in the Hyborian Age because their music is a virtual soundtrack for Conan and Kull.  This is the way epic metal should be done – songs with fantasy based lyrics and killer music.  Thick, pummeling rhythms abound and the songs are very catchy.  I have nothing to criticize here – the artwork is great and there’s even a map included!  Album of the year?  Sure, why the hell not?  Check out “I Am The Hammer” and buy this album you knaves!



The Best Live Album

DirkschneiderLive – Back To The Roots

Good old Udo is back with a live set of Accept classics and some not so classics to close the books on the Accept stage of his career.  Udo sounds great here and so does his backing band, and he even pulls out some tunes that haven’t been played in years - when was the last time you got to hear “Monsterman” or “T.V. War” live? Pick this up and you’ll be able to compare it to the soon-to-be-released Restless and Live from Accept. Check out "Breaker."





The Best Reissues

Banshee – Cry In The Night + Race Against Time

Divebomb Records thankfully released the debut EP and LP from Banshee with beautiful remastering and a nice, thick booklet.  This is top notch USPM that was mostly lost in the shuffle back in the day and deserves to be heard by the metal faithful.  Definitely pick up this absolute gem of a two CD set.  Check out “We Want You.”






Skol Records NWOBHM CD Replica Single Series

Great idea from Skol Records and Bart Gabriel to release these cd replicas of NWOBHM singles.  Each CD has the original cover art and tracks from the vinyl singles, and they haven’t picked totally obvious singles either - who thought Hellrazer would ever be reissued for instance?  I hope they continue with this series in the future!






The Biggest Disappointment


Anthrax – For All Kings

What a mess.  I had high hopes, but they crapped the bed.  Full review here.










The Best Album Cover


Megadeth – Dystopia

Robot Samurai Vic Rattlehead in a dystopian future? Yes please!  Stunning cover art for an excellent album.  Kudos!















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That’s it muthas! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you back here in 2017.


As always, MAKE MINE METAL!