Sunday, September 28, 2014

Heart Clad In Iron, Soul Clad In Steel

Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

Nuclear Blast Records – 2014

Muthas, Grand Magus has returned with their seventh album just a scant 20 months after the release of their last LP.  However, the band has decided to head down the path that leads to the mead hall of heroic epicness, rather than the more hard-rockin’ barroom of their previous album The HuntTriumph and Power is packed with loads of mid-paced, epic tunes that will get your head banging without becoming boring.  Main man JB wasn’t kidding in interviews when he said that this album would have been a huge seller in 1983.  This is 100% pure Scandinavian glory metal from the days of yore! If you were hoping that they’d return to their earlier Doom Metal sound, you will be sorely disappointed.   

The album does have several longer songs and it does take a bit of listening to get into some of them.  Unfortunately this is certainly true of the lead cut, “On Hooves of Gold.” This track seems a bit plodding upon the first listen, and a couple of speedier cuts up front would certainly help with the flow of the album.  However, there are several great mid-paced songs such as the amazing “The Hammer Will Bite” and the superb title track.  Check out the lyric video for “Triumph and Power” for a bit of Viking epicness:

The speedier cuts really shine on this album - “Dominator,” “The Naked and the Dead” and “Holmgang” in particular are good - but the absolute highlight of the album is “Steel vs. Steel.” Of course Grand Magus has no trouble cranking out a crushing song about Elric of Melnibone and his sword Stormbringer!  This song kicks ass with a memorable chorus and is sure to be a concert staple for Grand Magus in the years to come.  

 The lyrical theme of the rest of the tracks deal with tales of Vikings, battles, warriors, Valhalla, Frost Giants and Thor.  These are all worthy topics that certainly match the epic tone of the LP, and would impress even the mighty Heavy Load.  The cover art reflects these themes and is, quite simply, exceptional. It’s easily the best they’ve ever had on one of their albums.  It would make a great subject for a shirt, poster and backpatch.  In fact, the vinyl comes with just such a poster!


The Bottom Line:  Triumph and Power is an excellent album that is loaded with rock-solid traditional Metal.  It might take a bit to get in to the album, but it’s worth your time and effort.  Pick it up and get the vinyl for that kick-ass artwork!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Down To The Bone

Overkill – White Devil Armory

EOne – 2014

Muthas, guess who’s back with another excellent thrash album?  Megadeth? Metallica? Anthrax?  Of course not. It’s Overkill!  At this point, one begins to wonder where the Overkill tribute albums and documentaries are because this band is so damn reliable.  They never falter and are consistently excellent while their peers wallow is various failed experiments with “mature song writing” or some other bullshit.  How the hell do they keep doing this and why aren't they lauded?  I have no idea but this album will only further burnish their sterling reputation.

White Devil Armory is another disc packed with stone cold classic songs.  Is it better than The Electric Age or Ironbound?  Maybe, but it’s at the very least as good as those modern classics.  You headbangers will delight in smashing tracks like “Down To the Bone,” “Bitter Pill,” “Where There’s Smoke,” and “Freedom Rings.” The pit will really get moving to the crushing “Pig.” Check out the video for "Bitter Pill" below:

There’s a limited edition digipak that contains two bonus tracks – “The Fight Song” and “Miss Misery.”  The first track recalls the song “Old School” from Relixiv and would be a great sing-along cut for live shows.  “Miss Misery” is a Nazereth cover and it features a vocal duet with Mark Tornillo of Accept!  It’s another great song by a band that always delivers the goods when it comes to cover tunes.

The Bottom Line:

Frankly, reviewing Overkill albums is a bit boring because it’s difficult to keep coming up with reviews that don’t all sound the same.  The album is great, just like the rest of their catalog.  Go out and get the limited edition and go see them live.  This is definitely a band that we should all be supporting.  They are Metal down to the bone!

As always, MAKE MINE METAL! 

Welcome To My World Of Steel

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls

Epic Records – 2014

Muthas, the Priest is back! It’s been six long years since the disappointing, turgid mess that was Nostradamus.  In the interim founding member K.K. Downing retired and was replaced by Richie Faulkner. With the loss of one third of the Halford/Tipton/Downing triumvirate would it be possible for Redeemer of Souls to live up to the rest of the Judas Priest catalog?  Believe it or not, it actually does.  This is a damn fine return to form for the band that personifies Heavy Metal. 

Sadly, it takes several listens to get into Redeemer of Souls because of a couple of a few odd choices that the band has made.  Firstly, the mix on this album is garbage.  The guitars are buried in the mix and Halford’s vocals are pushed way up front.  This robs many of the cuts of power and makes them a bit inaccessible upon the first few listens.  Secondly, the sequencing of the album is poor because the first several tracks are nowhere near the best and lack the immediate hooky-ness that can really kick-start an album.  A remix and a re-sequencing would do wonders for Redeemer of Souls. Finally, this is a very long album with the standard version having 13 tracks and the deluxe edition featuring a bonus disc with an additional five songs.  Eighteen tracks is essentially two albums worth of material and is a huge amount of music to digest in a single sitting.

Those criticisms aside, this is probably the best album Priest has released since Painkiller.  Once you get past the okay “Dragonaught” and the ho-hum title track, the album really kicks into gear with “Halls of Valhalla” which should have been the album opener and first single.  “Sword of Damocles,” ”Battle Cry,” and “Metalizer,” are all excellent, speedy cuts. “March of the Damned” is the second single while having a modern sound is a total earworm.  I defy anyone not to get into the amazing riff that is all over this track. “Hell & Back” sounds like it could have been from 1978 and “Cold Blooded” could have been on Screaming For VengeanceThis album is packed with quality songs throughout. Unfortunately, the album ends with the “Beginning of the End” which is a crap ballad and it should have been left off the album.

The bonus disc features five tracks, four of which are equal to, or better than, the material on the standard album. “Snakebite” is a catchy, sassy, commercial track that recalls the British Steel era.  “Tears of Blood” is a fantastic, emotional song that builds to a great ending, and is the best track of all of the eighteen cuts!  This should have been the centerpiece of the standard album.  “Creatures” is a classic Priest “monster” song like “Nightcrawler” and is damn good.  “Bring It On” is decent and sounds like it was written in the late 70s/early 80s.  Unfortunately, “Never Forget” ends the bonus disc - it’s a horrid, treacly ballad.  Vomitous.

The Bottom Line:

The mighty Judas Priest has cranked out an excellent album that is overstuffed with metallic goodness.  The Deluxe Edition is worth the coin, and will provide you with hours of quality listens.  So get out there and get it if you haven’t already.