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.

Tour of the Doomed: The Riff Strikes Back

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After multiple successful Days of the Doomed fests, promoter “Mercyful” Mike Smith finally put the show on the road this year with the Tour of The Doomed featuring Apostle of Solitude, Beelzefuzz, Spillage and legendary 90’s Heavy Rock act Sheavy on their first ever outing in the United States. I was lucky enough to catch the tour at Reggies in Chicago on August 13th and overall, it was a very solid show.

 

Apostle of Solitude

First up for the evening was Apostle of Solitude. Their set consisted of heavy slower brooding Sabbath inspired riffing with more melodic vocal deliveries. The band was very tight in their performance but their set I felt lacked a bit of variety. In particularly their last few songs I felt just went a bit too long until their very last song which went for more speed with the band ending on a very explosive note. Overall, not bad but could’ve used a bit more variety in songs.

 

Beelzefuzz

Prog/Doom act Beelzefuzz were up next on the bill and definitely were one of the most unique bands of the night. With a very proto metal sound with proggy elements, these guys were very entertaining. Again, they definitely had their songwriting chops down very well and even brought Spillage vocalist Elvin Rodriguez on stage to duet with one of their earlier songs. Overall, I felt their set was very well paced and definitely earned them some new fans as well.

 

Spillage

Ahh, Spillage what can I say about this band? Ever since hearing some of their material back on MHXradio almost three years ago, I fell in love with their sound. I was able to see them a few years back but seeing them with their new frontman(who had a leather vest sporting a Born Again patch which is badass) and showing off some new tracks was a real treat. The new songs blended very well keeping the hard rock feeling their first album held dear but with a bit more of a progression to it. They were definitely my favorite of the night as being a big fan and supporter it is almost to be expected.

 

Sheavy

Finally, we have the elusive and grooving rockers Sheavy hailing from Canada. This was history in the making as they had never toured the US before so it was a real treat. They played I would say a good balance of classic and newer songs from “Electric Sleep” to “Shadows” and everything in between. I do wish they could have played “Born In A Daze” which is a favorite of mine but oh well. The set I felt was well balanced with slower and faster songs peppered throughout and their sound was impeccable besides the vocals being a bit buried at times. Overall, a very solid closing for the show as a whole.

 

Overall, like I said besides a few nit picks with how sets were paced, it was a very solid show. You got hat you paid for, hard rocking, chugging and grooving doom metal from some of the best of the best. I am hoping this tour does well and we get another like it either next year or in coming years, I know a lot of acts that would be clamoring to do a show as heavy as this. The tour runs until the 19th of august ending in new york so if you can catch any shows between now and then, do it, you won’t be disappointed.

Album Review- Venom Inc: Ave

“Ave” is the debut album from Heavy/Black Metallers Venom Inc. and was released August 11th, 2017. Now Venom Inc. aren’t quite new as they are mostly the “Prime Evil” lineup of Venom featuring Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, Jeff “Mantas” Dunn and Tony “Abaddon” Bray. With two out of three original Venom members rejoining forces with the Dolan and returning to the Venom name(sorta), it is quite exciting. Personally, this album has been long enough of a wait so lets dig in and see if they can dish out a heavy record after all these years.

 

Track Rundown

 

1.Ave Satanas- Opening with almost an ominous but epic fitting church choir sound, the song goes right into full heavy mid paced chugging. Mantas has some classic really grooving riffs here with Dolan spitting some really heavy lyrics  throughout. I know a lot of people had a lot of mixed feelings about this opening song. Personally I think it is a great catchy sludgy metal tune with some old school feeling and definitely one that would be a great crowd pleaser. I also have to admit every time I hear Mantas go into his solo I get chills. He has always been one of my favorite solo guitarists for how how much feeling he puts in his solo’s. It isn’t always one that is super intricate but it has a lot of feeling and is heavy as hell. Overall, this is a great opener to the album with a fresh sound with the formula still being familiar.

2.Forged In Hell-The main riff for this song is almost a throwback in a way to “Welcome To Hell” but still has an original feel to it with almost a jam kinda pace with Mantas doing some cool fills. Abaddon I have to say has become one hell of a solid drummer performing drum rolls with ease. The chorus has a very NWOBHM-ish feel to it. This song is definitely a throwback in way to the early Venom albums but works very well.

3.Metal We Bleed-This song goes more into Blackened Speed Metal territory and feels like it easily could have came out in 1988 with a pace that is oh so infectious. It is also a tune you could sing to as well with Dolan spitting lyrics fast and furiously.  This is easily one of the best tunes on the album simply for how ferocious and neck breaking it is.

4.Dein Fleisch-The first single on the album and probably the most polarizing song on the album.  It has some simple but effective riffing however it has more of an industrial metal structure not uncommon to bands from the 90s and even has this Rammstein-ish feel in the chorus. The band definitely make it work in their favor keeping it dark and having a quick but very melodic solo included as well. It definitely is a very original song and still keeps the heavy feel that Venom always carried but in  a different way. It shows that Venom Inc is about more than playing fast, they write catchy songs that have their own identity such as this one.

5.Blood Stained-This song has a heavy chugging pace going through it with a more melodic chorus that is one of my favorite on the album. The song is quite simple but works effectively creating a heavy atmosphere with the drums especially having that old school heaviness about them. I especially love the very dark bell tolls over a chugging open riff, it is just one of those moments that you can just hear over and over again.

6.Time To Die-Thus is easily one of the most neck breaking songs on the album with the band not letting up one bit and playing literally as fast as they possibly can. It is quite catchy as well and has a very punk atmosphere to it with the chorus being a simple shout of “TIME TO DIE”. There are some great grooving mid paced sections here to which keep the pace fresh. Easily one of the best on the album bar none.

7.The Evil Dead-This song sounds as if it were a bonus track off “Welcome To Hell” but with a bit more of a modern production and the Demolition Man giving some of his best vocal performances on the album. Mantas gives us another great solo as well and another favorite of mine on the album.

8.Preacher Man-Thus song has more e of a bluesy hard rock feel but still has a hard intense feeling about it. There are some smooth slow hazy moments that give the song character notably in the beginning and mid section of the song. Another very solid grooving tune on the album.

9.War- This song hits back with more of a straight thrash attack again done very solid. There are a lot of bouncing riffs which are always welcome, they always make the song very memorable for having an infectious beat. The solo is definitely the highlight of the track with Mantas doing one of the most intricate solo’s on the album and definitely has that classic Venom feel with it but in a more modern sense. This is another track that you cannot pass u[ when you put this album on.

10.I Kneel To No God-This song sticks to a more mid pace again giving the album variety but still keeping things interesting with infectious almost hard rock tinged riffing. The song does have a more laid back feel at least on first listen which makes it one track that takes a few listens to get really into. The chorus is very similar to the verses so it doesn’t hit as hard as most of the other songs but it still is good with some pounding backup vocals. Mantas’ grooving riffing is definitely the stand out of the whole song for me easily.

11.Black N Roll-The final song on the album shows the band going out guns ablaze. Lyrically, it is one of those homage songs mentioning motorhead songs, acdc songs and so on. It has a very Motorhead feel overall even up to the bass intro. It is a very simple song but its so damn infectious with a chorus that is straight out of an old school punk song. It does come full circle in a sense for Abaddon and Mantas as they are back to playing what they started with. Good old Blackened Speed Metal and they brought it back in spades.

Overall, I give the album a defining 9.5 out of 10. While the album is nothing genre defining(I mean there aren’t many bands that can innovate anymore), this album is history made with two thirds of the original Venom line up reuniting with Dolan since the early 90’s creating an album that has a modern take on an old formula. The spirit that they carried and the magic that bounces off between all three members is still very present creating eleven songs that flow very well with their own style. This album makes me hope that there is more for the band in the future and I can’t wait to catch them in Chicago next month. Ave Venom Inc!

Headbanging Highlight of The Week: Nazareth- Loud ‘n’ Proud

 

For this weeks highlight we are going way back to the year 1973 with the fourth album from Scottish hard rock band Nazareth entitled “Loud n Proud”. Nazareth have been one of those 70s bands that always eluded me until about three months ago when I decided to pick up a copy of their “Anthology” CD at a discount store. After listening to both discs multiple times, I had become almost obsessed with the band. The thing that makes their music so interesting is the fact that they have a heavy edge to them but they have a lot of more melodic up beat pop songs that are just as good and how every album had something to enjoy.  But enough rambling, let us taker a look at one of my favorite albums they released in the 70s.

 

The album opens very bombastically with the bumping rocker “Go Down Fighting” featuring some awesome slide guitar work from Manny Charlton and some of Dan MCcafferty’s best vocals on any Nazareth album. Out of all their albums, this one is definitely one of the most consistent at least in terms of harder rocking songs with another being the infectious cover of “Teenage Nervous Breakdown” and “Not Faking It” being one of my all time favorites from the band. “Turn On Your Receiver” is another great one with a very boogie rock feel to it and Dan’s vocals balancing the raspy and melodic feeling perfectly. The song “Child in the Sun” is the ballad of the album but is still a great melodic 70’s rock song that Nazareth delivers perfectly. The heaviest moment of this album is the epic closer “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” which was originally written by Bob Dylan. Thus is definitely the most interesting song on the album in that compared to Dylans version, it is miles different with the song being dominated by some of the heaviest fuzzed out droning bass that anyone at the time had ever been doing. The song overall has a very proto-doom feel to it and in a way is heavier than anything Sabbath did up until this point. Combining the bass with MCcafferty’s wailing and dread filled sounding vocals really makes for a chilling atmospheric song. Overall, if you want a Heavy and melodic solidly written 70’s Hard Rock album, this one is one you need to check out. The band have a lot of great albums similar to this one such as “Razamanaz”, “Expect No Mercy” and others but I feel they peaked with the heavy rock sound on this album.

 

Album Review- Hexx: Wrath of The Reaper

 

“Wrath of The Reaper” is the fourth album by San Francisco based Heavy Metal group Hexx and is to be released September 15th, 2017. Hexx are one of those bands like Riot where they sort of have a different sound with each of their records. For example, their debut entitled “No Escape” had more of a power/thrash metal feel where by their third album “Morbid Reality” they had adapted more of a death metal-esque sound. Either way I always thought that it made them more of an interesting band with more substance to them. Now in 2017 we have their first album in 27 years. This album is sort of a combination of all their styles and even adds the legendary Bob Wright of Brocas Helm infamy. But lets see how the album really stacks up.

Track Rundown

1.Macabre Procession of Specters- Opening up with some marching drums we get a very raw heavy riff that has a lot of groove to it as the song goes on. I really like the production on the album as it has a very raw sound especially in the drums in how well the bass drum clicks, it just sounds very live and I really like when drums have that sound captured on a record. The sound has sort of a traditional? speed metal feel to it especially with the thrashing chorus that is quite catchy as well. Eddy Vega’s vocals I have to say hold up amazingly with that heavy grit but with the ferocious high screeches that make him such a powerhouse. Overall, this is a great old school sounding tune that would fit in well with their older material.

2.Screaming Sacrifice- This song goes right for the jugular with no holds barred speed metal with a very Priest feel to it but the band put their stamp on it well with a lot of frantic heavy riffing all throughout. it almost has a progressive metal feel to it and is done very well and very tight. The verses I find very catchy here it definitely warrants for multiple listens with some melodic solos sprinkled out as well making it a varied and very original speed metal tune.

3.Slave In Hell-This song has a very old school progressive metal feel to it with a lot of bouncy time changes throughout but still having a heavy traditional metal feel as well especially with the scratchy yet epic sounding vocals. This is one of my favorites on the album with a hard galloping pace and memorable chorus. A must listen for sure.

4.Swimming The Witch- Opening with this pulsating fuzzed out guitar that is epic as hell, the song has this really infectious almost Egyptian sounding main riff and another infectious set of verses as well. The band definitely utilize a lot of early US power metal feeling on this record especially in its pacing. They also are very good at writing original songs as so far no song has sounded the same or even that much similar which is very good. I love the solo in this song as it almost sounds like something from Mercyful Fate. Another absolutely winner of a song.

5.Dark Void Of Evil-This song has a more slower epic pace to it opening with cleaner guitars but still having that raw atmosphere the rest of the records has as well. This is one of the best on the album with some very intriguing riffing that have a sort of ominous melody to them and a lot of soaring vocals that are always a treat and show the band in top form. One of the most original tunes offered here.

6.Unraveled- This song has more of that Power/Speed metal style that we heard earlier in the record and is so damn energetic. It is definitely one of the more simple songs on the album but it is also one of the most fun with a classic as can be solo that just sends the song as a whole over the top.

7.Voices- This song has a bit of a modern feel to it with the vocals singing along with the bass and it works very well. Hexx today sounds like what modern popular Heavy Metal groups should sound like. This is another track that shows the very tight playing between all members as well.

8.Exhumed For The Reaping- I get a very Iron Maiden feeling from this song just for the sheer power and epic notions it carries however with a bit of a heavier kick to it. I love how heavy and grooving the solo is for this song making it my probably my favorite moment of the album with both legendary guitarists trading off and getting seemingly more intense. Definitely one of the most fun tracks on the album.

9.Circle The Drain- The opening of this song does drag a bit but it is a good build to the main beat with a straight almost Exciter sounding tune. The punk roots here cannot be denied as it keeps to a very simple chugging riff at least most of the time. This is an absolute barn burner of a song and for being this far into the album, it definitely holds your attention all the way through.

10.Wrath of The Reaper- This tune sounds like it is straight out of 1985 with the band sounding just like they did on their first few records. The production like I said before really helps this album sound vintage but the bands performance is just as amazing as it was beforehand as they don’t let up to the very second. Definitely one of the best closing tracks I have heard all year!

Overall, this album gets a very well deserved 9 out of 10. With Hexx added to the growing scene of underground acts being revived, they have managed to be one of the best in having the ability to create a record that is not only continuing a very faithful old school sound but also showing a lot of creative writing and progression within a lot of the songs presented here. However, there are some more simple moments that are just as fun if not more sometimes. This is an album you positively don’t want to miss out on this year.

 

Headbanging Highlight of the Week: Stereo Nasty- Twisting The Blade

Welcome to another addition of headbanging highlights of the week where I show you guys what I currently have had on the turntable, cd player or tape deck. This week I have been constantly playing the new album by traditional heavy metal group entitled “Twisting The Blade”. This is the groups second album and expands on the sounds of their first with production values remaining mostly the same with a very even production how their songwriting skills have gotten a bit sharper.

I listened to both albums back to back and while both are great, I like this album a bit more. With grooving tunes like “Near Dark” with a solid mid paced guitar riff and the gritty 80’s like vocals are very infectious. The title track is one of my favorites as it sounds like its playing on a radio in the beginning but turning into a full fledge metal tune that would sound right at home on an early Dokken record but the vocals make it its own thing with more grit not uncommon among more thrash like vocalists. There are some great softer and more melodic ridden songs such as “Vengeance” with a great atmosphere with some great synthesizers throughout. There honestly isn’t a bad song in the bunch. The band know how to keep the same sound however they know how to utilize it to keep making fresh music that has hooks aplenty. The band sounds very tight and don’t try to phone it in and that makes this is another true to form Heavy Metal release you need to own this year. The album currently is up for digital download in the link below but I really hope their is a cd or vinyl release for this album somewhere in the future.

Stereo Nasty Bandcamp

https://stereonasty.bandcamp.com/

 

Album Review: Jack Starr’s Burning Starr- Stand Your Ground

 

“Stand Your Ground” is the seventh studio album from Power Metal group Jack Starr’s Burning Starr and is to be released August 25th, 2017 via High Roller Records. If I am being honest I am sorta new to the band as up to this point I had heard only four albums from them. However, from what i have heard this band is a powerhouse and a must if you are a fan of Power Metal in general. Jack Starr himself has a reputation also being in Virgin Steele prior to forming Burning Starr in the mid 80’s and is a hugely underrated guitarist as well. So here we are with a release six years after their last album, does it stack up against their solid discography or does it fall flat?

Track Rundown

1.Secrets We Hide- Opening with some great solid drum rolls by Kenny “Rhino” Earl, this song hits hard right out of the gate with a solid upbeat power metal riff and one of my all time vocalists today Todd Michael Hall really belting it out. His voice is just as strong as some of the greats in Heavy Metal history. The chorus is a big stand out and is definitely made for a live crowd with how catchy it is. The solo works very well being equally heavy and melodic showing off Starrs capabilities and that he really still has a solid lead tone. Overall, this is a grad A power metal opener for the album.

2.The Enemy-The beginning of this song almost sounds like an old school slayer riff but goes into a straight melodic galloping rampage. This is one of my favorites on the album really for the sheer power it packs and I feel that has something partially to do with how well the production is on the album. It feels very live and natural with a lot of bass mixed with the drums it just sounds so organic. The chorus is full of so much melody it soars and is very infectious. Another total barn burner of a song that packs a lot of punch.

3.Stand Your Ground- Damn this is quite an epic song being over ten minutes long. It definitely never lets up with a lot of cool melodic riffs that adds a lot of character to the song. The chorus goes for more of a melodic fist pumping mid tempo that i cant help but sing to even three listens through. The solo is probably my favorite on the album with Starr going all out for this song. Overall, this is definitely one of the best on the album with band showing a bit of a progressive side that definitely feels very original.

4.Hero-The main riff for this song is very interesting. It definitely has a progressive metal feel to it until the verses start with a traditional galloping to it. The song definitely has character and works very well for what its going for. As for the chorus, this song has one of the best on the album it just screams classic to me. This is another great song that deserves multiple spins.

5.Destiny- I almost get a more modern feeling when this song began and almost a bit of a hard rock edge as well. This song sticks to a more mid tempo and up beat chord progression and it works and is one of those songs you just play as loud as you can. This is another track that would work very well live. The hooks are just all over this song. One of the most melodic and infectious songs on the album.

6.The Sky Is Falling-This is another very epic tune that sticks to a similar tempo as the last but has a bit more chugging guitar in it. The bridge to the chorus feels a bit disjointed here or lacking a bit of power but once it gets to the actually chorus it works very well. The solo or the song is actually very well done as well. Compared to the last five songs this one falls a bit flat in parts but overall it isn’t an overly badly written track.

7.Worlds Apart- This song is definitely more ballad like than any of the last but those leads are great and have a lot of feeling in them. I really like this song because it gives off a great melodic and soft yet heavy atmosphere. The guitar soloing is definitely the biggest highlight overall for how much feeling they have any deserve a lot of repeat listens and show how well of a player Jack Starr is.

8.Escape From The Night-This track has a great build at the beginning and goes into a more maiden-esque kind of gallop but still retains a more power metal feel with Hall’s vocals still holding up well and fresh this far into the album. I really enjoy the epic chorus here as well. This is definitely one of the best mid tempo songs on the album.

9.We Are One- This is another softer song on the album which shows more variety throughout the record….well it opens that way. This song caught me off guard as it goes into of this almost Gothic sounding power metal kind of song with some almost ominous riffing that takes repeat listens to really get a grip on. I wasn’t sure why but it helped me understand the chord progression more. This is definitely one of the most unique songs on the album just for the interesting sound it has with almost these subtle little note changes that catch you off guard at least on the first listen. It definitely isn’t bad though as it still packs a lot of power and melody throughout.

10.Stronger Than Steel- This song goes for more of that traditional faster power metal feel and is my favorite track on the album overall. the pacing is solid and the chorus is definitely the highlight on the album. It is just pure old school fist pumping heavy metal. Another reason it is one of my favorites on the album is that it includes a very interesting guest vocalist(sorta). Rhett Forresters old demo vocals are included on the track which is one of the coolest inclusions on any record ive ever seen. Rhett Forrester was always my favorite vocalist for Riot and to hear a tribute to him here is amazing and just makes the song even more worth it. Even if it is very rough and is included at the very end its very cool.

11.False Gods- This is one of the heaviest tunes on the album with a lot chugging guitars through the verses leading into a monumental chorus. This song is very well done especially this far into the album, it doesn’t feel forced or generic. A very solid headbanging track.

12.To The Ends- The final song on the album and it ends in true power metal fashion with a very infectious mid tempo riff and soaring song a long vocals. This is a very solid closer that I would hope the band plays live because this song is another that is meant for crowd participation. It does sort of go by the books but the band really put their heart into it with Starr adding some nice melodic guitar solo’s in to make it feel more original. Overall a pretty solid closer to the album.

Overall, I give the album a solid 8 out of 10. While the middle of the album does fall a bit slow, the original that the band put into writing these songs cannot be denied. They definitely put their all into the playing on this album. Every member sounds like they are really giving it their all and have created a very modern power metal album that will satisfy the old school and new school crowds alike. I definitely recommend this album as it will definitely make my top 10 for the year and once i get my hands on the vinyl edition, it’l definitely be on the turntable quite a bit.