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 Guitarist Brent Woodward has departed and he’s been replaced by Armand John Anthony who was formerly with Gygax.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!