Headbanging Highlight of the week: Thunderstick- Something Wicked This Way Comes

Characters or persona’s in bands have been around for nearly forever. From Alice Cooper to Lizzy Borden and everyone in between, musicians creating a sort of different character on stage has always been present. One of the most recognizable ones (in the underground at least) however comes from cult Hard Rock/Heavy Metal group Samson. Thunderstick was that musician. Replacing drummer Clive Burr to play on all of the classic Samson albums such as “Head On”, “Shock Tactics” etc., he developed this character who wore a mask playing his kit in a cage which became an image that really helped Samson stand out live. He also was an early drummer for Iron Maiden and has a lot of connections with them but that’s for another time…Recently, he has reappeared on the scene with his solo band after years of being dormant. Entitled “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, we see his style almost come full circle with an extreme throwback to the Samson sound of old. But is it listenable or is it just a cheap throwback of tired ideas?

The album right from the start gives off a strong bouncy classic rock vibe more or less what Samson in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Opening track “Dark Night Black Light” is such a fun and very bumping song that has that catchy 70s hard rock vibe with a production that I really like. It definitely has a stripped down production with every instrument being mixed fairly well. Tunes like “Don’t Touch I’ll Scream” and “Fly N’ Mighty” have a very mid 70’s melodic rock feel which work well and are catchy fun rock tunes that get stuck in my head whenever I hear them. Vocalist Lucie V. handles herself great with a very dirty and bluesy rock voice that is one of the biggest highlights on the album. But what about Thunderstick himself? Well he definitely carries the drums wonderfully across the album with that unmistakable very tight style he has always had. My personal favorite on the album is “Thunder, Thunder” as it is probably the most fist pumping song on the album and the most reminiscent of that NWOBHM style. However, the album definitely isn’t perfect as there are a few songs that I tend to just pass over such as “The Shining” which feels just repetitive or even closer “I Close My Eyes” which just feels like a boring ballad and sort of a weaker way to end the album. However, there are enough tracks that redeem the album for the few boring moments it can have.

Overall, The album is a simple fun nod of the old Hard Rock style of the late 70’s with a great musician making a return to making music. It isn’t game changing or anything like that but it has some fun charm to it. It is a good driving album and one that any fan of classic rock and old school heavy metal will enjoy. There’s the great songs, the good songs and a few songs that could have been reworked or left off.¬† However, if you are expecting straight up heavy metal you will be disappointing. While the album has some harder edge in sections, it is still a rock album but an enjoyable one that is nice to see pop up on the radar that you’ll enjoy from time to time.

Cirith Ungol retrospective part 2: King Of The Dead

After the release of their debut album, Cirith Ungol sort of fell by the wayside. The band took two years slowly crafting their second album mainly because of it being self produced by the band and unfortunately their first didn’t make so much of a bang. However, by 1984 the landscape was changing with American Metal becoming more popular, but not in the way everyone had initially thought. Glam metal was on the rise and Thrash was becoming the hottest underground sensation. However, the band still forged on and released “King Of The Dead”. The album is definitely a lot different compared to “Frost”, but is it better?

Well, spoilers, it is a hell of a lot more of an exciting album.

 

Track Rundown

1.Atom Smasher- Opening with a very bouncy and heavy mid paced riff, this song definitely shows that the band has evolved. From Bakers hard shrieking that really drew me in the first time I had heard the song to the band production-wise sounding much better and focused than the first album. The drumming especially is very hard and heavy hitting with a very doom metal vibe to them. The chorus really catches you and has a very mid paced power metal feel as well. We also see Jerry Fogle taking over full guitar duties on this album as well and his soloing is very distinct with a crisp distortion that is a staple of his guitar tone. Overall, this is a fantastic opener simple as that.

2.Black Machine-This song has become a fan favorite as it really is a live kind of song. It is quite a simple song but the main riff which plays through the whole song is very infectious. It has a doom vibe as it trudges along but with the epic vocal style, it retains a very unique heavy dingy power metal feeling that is reverberated throughout the whole album and something I was able to pick up on on my first listen as it really is pronounced in the songwriting. Another great mid paced simple yet effective song.

3.Master of the Pit-This song retains some of that 70’s progressive edge mainly throughout the soloing aspects of the first album. Their is definitely a lot going on in this track which rides mainly on the rhythm and groove of the bass and drumming. It really picks up towards the end making this perhaps one of the most intense song Cirith Ungol had recorded up to this point.

4.King of the Dead- Much like “Master of the Pit”, there is a slow build to this song before it gets to the more brooding verses and short but epic chorus lines. The beginning reminds me a bit of Black Sabbaths “War Pigs” (perhaps where the doom-esque influence comes from) but with a bit more going on within it. The title track has perhaps become one of the bands most recognizable songs for the simple but almost mid tempo power metal feel blended with brooding doom metal riffing. I also have to note that this is one of Bakers best vocal performances on any of their albums just from how he can sustain notes with so much grit and grain in his voice not being lost. Simply put, if you ever have to listen to one Cirith Ungol song, this is very high on the list.

5.Death of the Sun-This song takes a more simple hard rocking route with some frantic riffing that is a bit reminiscent of the first album as well, however it feels like a much more focused song. I do like how around the mid mark, the main riff takes on a weird time signature with solo’s plastered all over. It really shows the musicianship the band really holds on the album. Straight forward underground heavy metal at some its best and creative.

6.Finger of Scorn-The acoustic guitars are a nice change of pace but when the main guitars kick in I feel they are set way too far back into the mix but they do get up front again for the main bulk of the song which im sure was the intention but it just feels a bit awkward in execution. The song still carries the notion of “epic metal” very high with a more melodic hard beating chorus that is one of my favorites on the album.

7.Toccata in Dm-A cover of the classical piece by Sebastian Bach done through guitar and bass which is not a bad cover. It still conveys a sense of dreading emotion to it and is played with precision. Not much to say about it but an interesting inclusion.

8.Cirith Ungol- This song is definitely one of the most “out there” ones on the album with a lot of very unique riffs thrown into the mix and very odd time signatures tossed around. The verses are even a bit strange but work. While it isn’t my favorite on the album, it is a good ending showcasing the band really putting a lot of creativity in their music.

 

Overall, the album solidifies itself with an 8.5 out of 10. Looking between the first two albums, it is easy to see why “King of the Dead” production and musicianship-wise is such an improvement. The songwriting has become much more focused into creating a steady sound that the band has since been identified with. From becoming a strange proto metal/prog hard rock band to a more straightforward progressive epic doom act, Cirith Ungol really shaped their sound with this album. While the production isn’t quite perfect and is still kind of spotty in some areas, it doesn’t quite hinder the experience the album gives. The band would stick to this harder sound with their next album entitled “One Foot In Hell” two years later.

Cirith Ungol retrospective part 1: Frost And Fire

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Heavy Metal music was becoming one of the biggest exports of rock music mainly thanks to the explosion of of British heavy metal groups making their mark on the world. However, the U.S scene was still brewing hard and fast with band after band sprouting up almost daily across the states. However, one band in Ventura, California would stand out in terms of sound and style from them all. That band was the now cult favorite Cirith Ungol. Forming in 1972, the band spent nine years crafting their style before finally releasing their debut entitled “Frost And Fire” in 1981. Featuring the screeching demon voiced Tim Baker, Robert Garven on drums, guitarists Greg Lindstrom(who also played bass) and Jerry Fogle, the band took a combination of prog and elements that existed as heavy metal and created a sound that would be a staple for them for years.

Track Rundown

1.Frost and Fire-Opening with a very proggy riff with a very hard rock edge to it, the song overall has a very hard late 70’s groove to it especially in the verses with a very galloping pace to it with Tim Baker’s shrieking and actually quite catchy vocals on top. I have always said his vocals are akin to Brian Johnsons of ACDC if you literally strangled his vocal chords. It makes for a very unique sound for the band. The guitar soling I must say is done very nicely and smooth against some hard rocking and grooving riffing that lets the bass shine through a bit. However, the only problem I have always had with this record in particular is that the production feels a bit iffy. Some parts of the song feel more quiet than they should and doesn’t allow some of the instrumentation to pop out quite as nicely. Overall, a fairly good grooving opener.

2.I’m Alive-The proggier side of the band definitely come out more with tracks like this song with the slow slightly brooding opening leading into some very 70’s inspired bluesy soloing. The song quickly turns into a quiet melodic number with Tim Baker preaching over some very and I mean very up front bass, which unfortunately overshadows the guitars at some points as well. However, the band keep together very well with a bouncy catchy chorus included as well. This kind of song would eventually have more of a doom vibe to it with future albums.

3.A Little Fire- This song goes straight for a hard rock groove and is one of the more straight forward tunes in their catalog. However, the production irks me a but here too with some parts sounding louder than they should. However, the song has one of the most grooving solo’s on the album and is definitely a highlight as well.

4.What Does It Take-This song is one I tend to kind of skip over sometimes mainly because of the keyboards within the main riff that feel a bit redundant and feels like their inclusion partially breaks some of the pacing of the album as it gives off a way different vibe. The song although giving more of that “out there” vibe manages to come off feeling a bit stale and more of a sleeper track on the album. I definitely thing the vocals are the overall highlight with a more raspy bluesy groove to them.

5.Edge of a Knife-The main riff to this song has a very bouncy start and stop groove that I dig with some tasty soloing filling the background as well. This is one of my favorites on the album mainly for the guitar work and the simple yet very effective Ramones-esque chorus with Tim Baker doing more of that Doo Wop-ish vocal style that I think weirdly works here. Overall, a more simple yet effective song on the album that is an easy one to get stuck in your head.

6.Better Off Dead-This song has a more Thin Lizzy-ish groove but with some weird time signatures throughout. This song just doesn’t really hit me as it comes off a bit unfocused and not very memorable. Perhaps its the production which is honestly way too bass heavy but either way it just feels a bit bored. When the song picks up it does have a nice solo but again it feels sort of lost in the mix.

7.Maybe That’s Why-I can appreciate this instrumental for being handled as well as the band could do. It does come off repetitive at some points but I really do admire the solo’s throughout. Overall, it is a very laid back instrumental which is decent at best and repetitive at worst.

Overall, I give the bands first outing a shocking 5.5 out of 10. There are some classic songs presented on this album such as the title track and “I’m Alive” as well as some good ideas sprinkled throughout. However, the two biggest problems I have with the first album are the production which you can say is a nitpick considering the time and I assume the money was tight but also the songwriting just feels very unfocused in a lot of spots. You get so many different sounds which can be a good thing but here it just doesn’t flow as well as some of the more solid songwriting on their second album and beyond. Later this week(hopefully if I can stick to a schedule for once) we will be looking at the bands next outing entitled “King Of The Dead”

 

 

 

Cult Heavy Metal act OZ to release new album

 

 

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2017 just got a lot more interesting(if that’s even possible). As we see some of our favorite classic metal bands returning to the scene with brand new albums, we always wonder what band is gonna be next to rekindle the flame. Well it seems that classic Finnish Heavy Metal act OZ are that band. Returning more than five years after their comeback, the well written “Burning Leather”, we see their next album coming out October 27th! I’m excited because OZ have had for the most part a solid discography up to this point and we can only hope for another home run for the band. The album is coming out via AFM records and contains thirteen tracks.

Tracklist:

1. Bone Crusher
2. Restless
3. Heart Of A Beast
4. Drag You To Hell
5. Whore Of Babylon (Bonus Track)
6. The Witch
7. In A Shadow Of A Shotgun
8. Never Close Your Eyes
9. The Mountain
10. Demonized
11. We’ll Never Die
12. Sister Red (Bonus Track)
13. Midnight Screams (Bonus Track)

Pre order the new OZ album here

https://shop.afm-records.de/oz/

Headbanging Hilghlight of the Week: Vulture- The Guillotine

 

 

Heavy Metal is definitely a genre that has never taken itself too seriously. Hell how could you? It has always been a crazy, beer drinking, throw someone in the air kind of music, well for the most part. Now don’t get me wrong, there are bands that play with more of a serious tone, but that’s not what we are here for today! We are here to talk about the new album from German band Vulture entitled “The Guillotine” which is one of the craziest traditional heavy metal records you’ll hear all year.

Right away, I’ll tell you this album isn’t anything amazing but it definitely has appeal for fans of early speed metal and even early elements of death metal are present. The biggest draw are the vocals with a hard growl to them that in a seconds notice can go to batshit insane falsettos. Honestly it is almost absurd but it works damn well. If anything, the band draws from early Kreator with slight NWOBHM influences especially in songs such as “Clashing Iron” and “Electric Ecstasy” where you can find some fairly catchy riffs sprinkled out. However, yes the album has some problems. The biggest one I find is a lot of it seems to blend together without a clear sense of progression. Don’t get me wrong, there is some good song writing here and the band is tight but I feel it would work better as an e.p or in short increments(couple songs here, couple songs there etc.) which is how I found to enjoy it more as a whole.

If you want another record in your collection that is reminiscent of early Kreator, Nasty Savage or even Exciter, Give this album a listen. Like I said, the album is more of just an absurd and over the top fun time than any kind of a musical masterpiece but sometimes that’s exactly what we need to let loose a bit.

Album Review: Hell Fire- Free Again

“Free Again” is the second album California Heavy Metal act Hell fire and was released on August 18th, 2017. Hell Fire are one of my personal favorite bands in the recent years to come out of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal scene with the release of their first album “Metal Masses” released last year. Their sound is inspired much by the NWOBHM and very clear evidence of early Metallica influences all the way down to the wah and fuzz powered bass soloing throughout. However they managed to keep a consistent and varied pace throughout the album to keep it original enough.Now with their second album we see them become a four piece with vocalist Jake Nunn taking over second guitar, so I was curious if they would keep a pace like their first album or if it would be more simplified songwriting. But with the release of their first single, the title track, the album definitely has a similar vibe. So lets dig in and see if the band can keep the flame burning.

Track Rundown

1.Free Again- Right off the bat this song gives more of a vintage metal feeling akin to early NWOBHM bands. The pace has that bumpy early Iron Maiden vibe to it but the vocals still have that sound on the brink of speed metal with a real ferociousness. The production actually has a 70’s vibe with the bass being very punchy against some nice playing melodic guitar dueling. Overall it definitely is a catchy mid paced opener that shows the band branching into a bit of a different sound but keeping their roots close enough for the song to fit in their overall style.

2.City Ablaze- I love the opening of this song and how it builds. It again has an early speed metal vibe to it and is quite catchy as well with some really fluent guitar soling which I feel sound a lot more pronounced than the first album. They just feel more in your face and raw. This track overall is pure oldschool fist pumping metal and Hell Fire make it still feel fresh and fun.

3.Live Forever- This song is one of the most infectious on the album for having very simple galloping pacing and a really catchy chorus as well. The bass work in the background is really fun to listen to as well and shows just how tight this band really is. The break in pacing in the middle is always a great segment too it keeps the flow of the song varied as well.

4.Wheels Of Fate- As the song opens very softly, the song rolls right into classic speed metal territory again. It has a similar pace especially in the verses to the last track but with some nice dueling guitar solos sprinkled throughout that keep the energy running high with the melodic chorus as well. Overall, this songs very energetic and fun and the guitar solo is one of my favorites on the album as well but I also feel in parts sounds too similar to the last track.

5.Beyond Nightmares-The beginning of this song is awesome with the fuzzed out bass really taking hold building up to probably the best song on the album. I just feel the band really go all out for this one with everyone pushing all they have and one I hope they add to their live set. The frantic riffing coupled with the vocals is the biggest take away for me and really make the song at least in the main part as everyone plays an important role. This is just a great thrashing song and shows Hell Fire really at their peak of heaviness on the album.

6.The Dealer- This song goes back for more of those classic British heavy metal riffs through out with a more galloping mid pace to it. It definitely adds more variety to the album instead of nothing but speed which I like. This is definitely one of the catchiest songs on the album that a lot of old school fans can get behind.

7.Destroyers- Every time I replay this song I get like an early Overkill or early Anthrax vibe to it with it on the brink of classic and thrash metal. As it has a faster pace, it still manages to be a good sing along song during the verses. I do like how it ramps up during the chorus as well. There is also a great bass solo right before the main guitar soloing as well which is always welcome.

8.End Of Days- I suppose this song is the epic song of the album with an opening featuring cleaner guitars and some nice shimmery soloing as well that I appreciate. I almost get some Thin Lizzy vibes here mainly with the more fuzzy late seventies like production as well. I really love when the song reaches its climax with a very powerful mid paced chorus that would work well live as well. However, it then starts to get into a more frantic riffing territory that shows this being the most varied song on the album and the longest clocking in just over seven minutes. This is a very well done closer by the band and shows them still giving all they’ve got this far in.

Overall, I give the album a 7.5 out of 10. This album isn’t mind blowing or game changing in anyway, however I don’t think that was what Hell Fire was going for here. The band managed to create a fun and entertaining old school metal album that does borrow some of the sound from their first record but with a more loose and heavy production, the album manages to give you something a bit different in return. While every song is good, I did feel some parts were too similar to other songs but didn’t hinder my experience as much. If you want to a hear a really tight talented new group keeping the early eighties style of metal alive, then check out Hell Fire you won’t be disappointed!

 

Buy the album here:

https://hellfiremetal.bandcamp.com/album/free-again

 

 

Headbanging Highlight of The Week: Jaguar- Power Games

 

Welcome back for another Headbanging Highlight of the Week! Well Frost and Fire in Ventura California is only a month and a half away and i’m gearing up big time to see some of the best of the best from today and yesterday. One band in particular is Jaguar from England. This will be their first outing in the US making for a very rare and special performance. Their 1983 ferocious debut “Power Games” has been on repeat a lot this week for me and definitely should be on your playlist too!

One of my favorite albums of the early 80’s, the reason is mainly the bands no nonsense break neck speed and fluid songwriting. With almost punk like songwriting, the band manage to take it into more heavy metal territory with frenzied soloing that is structured just enough to fit the songs melody and catchy lyrics belted from Paul Merrell. There are some softer more ballad-like moments from songs like “Master Game” which still keep the raw heavy metal feel in tact all the way through. The band you can tell have a lot charisma from their performance especially from how tight their playing is. The band also excel at creating memorable hooks through their songs having the vocals simple and ferocious yet adding a touch of melody to keep them being memorable like songs such as “No Lies” and my all time favorite “Prisoner”. This album carries that early 80’s traditional/speed metal tradition which is one of the main reasons they have such a cult following today. I also highly recommend their early singles leading up to this album such as possibly their most famous “Axe Crazy” and “Back Street Woman”

Overall, this album is simply an early ¬†masterpiece showing the future of heavy metal becoming faster and more aggressive but still being true to that NWOBHM sound. This album has so many highlights like “Dutch Connection”, “Prisoner”, “Raw Deal” and just about every other track. It keeps a very consistent pace and is one you need to hear or own if you haven’t heard it before. For lovers of NWOBHM and pure unabashed heavy metal, check this one out. Also, if you have a chance, check them out at Frost and Fire this year along a lot of great other acts, it surely won’t be a performance to forget.