Film Review: Scarecrows(1988)

 

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The 1980’s spawned literally hundreds and hundreds of Horror films. Year by year companies spat them out and with the advent and convenience of VHS, these films flooded the market. While I have tons to choose from and many I will be getting to from time to time, one I really want to talk about today is the direct to video supernatural slasher from 1988 known simply as “Scarecrows”.

Released in 1988 by Manson International Pictures and directed by William Wesley, “Scarecrows” follows five mercenaries who robbed Camp Pendleton and hijacked a plane with the pilot and his daughter in tow. As they head for the border, one of them decides to double cross the team by parachuting to an abandoned farm with all the cash. As the team lands the plane in the isolated area, the farm becomes alive and the surrounding Scarecrows begin to cause havoc to the trespassers. I have to say that this film while having a lot of similar tropes to supernatural haunted house films of the time still has a unique plot to it. The atmosphere presented is very well done as well with a lot of shadow play throughout to add to the isolated feeling. The best thing I can say about this film also is the Scarecrow effects are very well done mainly due to Norman Cabrera known for working on Gremlins 2, From Dusk Til Dawn and others later on. However, in terms of character development, there isn’t a ton save for the team becoming more paranoid as we see them picked off one by one. The plot for the first half hour seems to drag on with the team slowly discovering that the house may have been a ground for satanic worship however it is never fully explained and is always kept mostly vague. The film really picks up toward the end with the scarecrows being fully realized as nearly indestructible killers and they even bring back those they kill as straw filled zombies which is a nice touch.

Save for a few recycled shots of scarecrows, the film does its best with its low budget in making an effective and fun horror film. The characters are really nothing to write home about with not really any big names but they aren’t portrayed terribly. This is definitely a good flick to add to an October playlist for the atmosphere alone. A fun little horror flick that didn’t create a whole new subgenre but gained a cult following for its simplicity and well done practical effects. Recommended!

 

Double Feature Friday: The Exterminator(1980) and The Exterminator 2(1984)

I am a sucker for 80s action/exploitation flicks. While the seventies had some terrific action films, the eighties really delved into going straight for the throat with its forced masculinity and gun toting one men army flicks left and right. From “Death Wish” becoming more outlandish (we’ll get to those) to films like “First Blood” kick starting the Rambo franchise along with so many others, it was easy for a lot of solid action flicks to get swept under the rug like the two we are talking about today. Vigilante films “The Exterminator” and its sequel are the subject of the very first double feature Friday.

The Exterminator (1980)

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The Exterminator released in 1980 and directed by James Glickenhaus and is one of the prime examples of early 80’s action/trash cinema. The plot pretty much follows Vietnam War Veteran John Eastland on his battle against New York crime including low life gangsters, Mobsters and human traffickers. The way we see him become a vigilante is pretty much based from a revenge story of his best friend being horribly paralyzed for life. Essentially this how most vigilante movies are started, however Eastland begins to go after any and all crime in New York city and makes for a very entertaining and gritty film. Robert Ginty plays Eastland with pretty much only two emotions: Calm and collected or pissed off and mad as hell. The moments I like the most are when Eastland is raging, when he has criminals at his mercy. I don’t want to spoil too much but there are some great scenes including a car chase with Eastland pursuing on a motorcycle and a  mobster strung above a meat grinder which you can tell how that’s gonna go. We also see Christopher George playing the detective who is hot on discovering who the exterminator really is. This culminates in the two meeting up at the end of the film with a quick tense finale that I won’t spoil. I really like his character as he plays the part straight with a few soft comedic moments that work.  The film definitely relishes in the down and dirty feel New York seemed to have at the time and added to the exploitative nature the film had. Definitely recommended for fans of early gritty action films with solid pacing and a good cast.

The Exterminator 2 (1984)

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By 1984, the action genre was in full effect and Cannon Films had acquired the rights for the film and released its sequel entitled “The Exterminator 2”. This film is very much a retread of the first but has almost more of a comic book feel to it. It comes from the beginning with Eastland listening to police scanners before heading out on the town with his flame thrower, bulletproof vest and welding mask. Eastland definitely has more of an antihero kind of style and look in this movie which comes from that Cannon charm. Now in terms of a sequel it really doesn’t feel so much like one. John was pretty much found out at the end of the first film but here he is walking free not a care in the world. A bit of a plot hole yes but it’s an 80’s action movie, we aren’t here for Shakespearean art we are here to see shit get blown up. And blown up it does. We see a gang led by their crazed leader X played brilliantly by Mario Van Peebles, ravaging New York looking to be the top of the top. Eastland who has secretly been taking out parts of X’s gang gets caught in the middle when his girlfriend and other friend from ‘Nam are killed by said gang. This basically sends the movie into overdrive toward the end with Eastland armoring up his friends garbage truck essentially into a tank with turrets and a huge plow on the front for an epic finale. The end action sequence definitely the tops first film however it feels like it lost some of the charm the original film had. But in the end I feel it is a fun enough film and definitely a product of its time. Recommended for fans of the first however it is not as grounded asis but is definitely still a good popcorn flick and has good entertaining value. Plus Ginty is still pretty badass in it.

Movie Review: Dead End Drive-In(1986)

 

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Post-apocalyptic films are personally one of my favorite genres of film that has ever hit the silver screen all the way to vhs tapes to blu ray and beyond. Australia in particular, seem to have a cornered market on these types of films with creating perhaps the most iconic and my favorite action franchise of all time, “Mad Max”. However there are some interesting less talked about Ozploitation action films that came from this time such as “Road Games” and the subject of today’s review, the neon splattered new wave drenched “Dead End Drive-In”.

Released in 1986 by New World Pictures and directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, “Dead End Drive-In” is definitely one of the most unique post-apocalyptic films I have seen. Set in the “not so distant future” like many of these kinds of movies, we see that society is breaking down (of course) and has adopted mainly a free for all kind of lifestyle. Cars have become a hot ticket as anyone is looking for car wrecks that happen on the roads so they are able to claim the wrecked parts for salvaging. Right away this film feels very colorful with the world we have been put into. With the gangs that ride the highways to the locations and colors used in the film, it definitely bleeds that 80’s style. Our main character Jimmy “Crabs” played by a very charismatic Ned Manning is looking to take his girlfriend Carmen played by Natalie McCurry(R.I.P) to the local Star drive in for your run of the mill teenage date night. While getting hot in Crabs’ brothers 57 Chevy (which doesn’t get nearly enough screen time), the tires are stolen and as Crabs goes to the office to file a report, he finds out the real truth behind the drive in: there is no leaving. Essentially drive ins have been converted into concentration style camps for the undesirables of society and Crabs inadvertently got caught in the trap. The rest of the running time shows Crabs will to survive and escape as everyone else pretty much sees it as an easy way of life for them. Even his girlfriend has adapted to the life and is even brainwashed to feel as though the Asian immigrants that have also been transported here are the cause of the world’s problems. When this element was introduced in the plot, I realized how much social commentary was really laid on in this film and done with a lot of thought in mind. The racist gangs present and the theme of bigotry throughout the camp slowly comes out toward the last half hour or so in the film and is when Crabs realizes he cannot be blinded by everyone here. What results is a fantastic action sequence with some tense moments and one bombastic ending that had me grinning like an idiot. The action sequences in this film are fantastically done with some good explosions and one hell of a jump at the end. Another thing to note is the exceptional acting by just about everyone in the film. While Crabs seems the most level headed, everyone else plays very outlandish and cartoony distorted wackos that fit perfectly in this film but never come off as cheesy and annoying.

Overall, with some very exceptional and charismatic acting, style and charm that can be rarely matched by even the time period it was conceived in and the interesting take it has on the Post-Apocalyptic sub-genre, “Dead End Drive In” definitely is a gem that needs to be rediscovered and the newer Arrow Video blu ray is definitely the way to go with a bunch of loaded extras and a very sharp picture and exceptional sound quality. Very highly recommended.

Black Sabbath: Every album ranked

 

 

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Black Sabbath will always be known for being the “first ever Heavy Metal band”. Now whether that is true or not, it is certain that Sabbath are incredibly influential and their status cannot be ignored. For having a staggering 19 albums, I was always interested to see what differed between all of them and see if there was any that perhaps didn’t receive the respect I feel they deserved. This is pretty much when I decided to rank every Sabbath release based on my thoughts. Not popularity, sales charts or any of that. This is based on how I have felt about these albums when I listen to them and whether the content on each really hits me. So without further ado, here is every Black Sabbath album ranked in my opinion from last to first!

19.Never Say Die!

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Never Say Die! is the final Sabbath album of the 70’s and the last featuring the original lineup for a long long time. After listening to it again after awhile I see why I never really came back to this album. It feels like a very cloudy album that has a few good riffs and a good title track but the majority of the album is filler material that never really hits home.

18.13

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We fast forward to 2013 for (mostly) an original lineup reunion for the extremely anticipated 13. At first when I heard this album, I loved it and thought it was a terrific return to form but after a long period of not listening to this album, those thoughts have steered very much so. This album is pretty much as paint by numbers as possible especially with tracks like “End Of The Beginning” and “Loner”. The track “Damaged Soul” was pretty much the only song I felt was worth going back to mainly for the solo.

17.Technical Ecstasy

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Technical Ecstasy is definitely when Sabbath showed their more classic rock sound and spawned a few good tracks like “Rock N Roll Doctor” and “Dirty Women” but is bogged down by the potentially good but weak “Back Street Kids” and the Beatles sounding “It’s Alright”.

16.Cross Purposes

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Cross Purposes is one of the Darkest slabs of material in their whole discography. One of the last albums featuring Tony Martin, this album opens with a real ripper “I Witness” and other highlights include “Virtual Death” as well as others. Unfortunately the production is a bit stale compared to a few albums before.

15.Forbidden

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Ahh Forbidden, the album Sabbath fans love to hate. Honestly this album I could never understand why people hated it so much. While the material isn’t exactly as powerful sounding mostly throughout, there are some great cuts here like “Guilty as Hell”, “Get A Trip” and the insanely epic “Kiss Of Death”.

14.Paranoid

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Honestly who doesn’t know Paranoid? The album and the title track are so undeniably recognizable they have become etched in rock and metal history. However, this album for me is a classic case of being burned out. While I get a kick out of hearing live versions of “War Pigs” and “Fairies Wear Boots”, I am just utterly tired of the studio versions of these songs. I know some may call it utterly blasphemous to have this album lower than some others but after going through the next thirteen albums, I found things in those that I found really enjoyable more than “Paranoid” has become to me.

13.Seventh Star

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Even though this album is suppose to be Iommi’s solo output, it has the Sabbath name on it thus it is etched in the bands history. While the sound of this album steers way harder toward melodic 80’s Hard Rock, it has a lot of really catchy tunes and features none other than the man Glenn Hughes! Opening with the high energy “In For The Kill”, this album goes right for the throat and is a great time all around. From killer tunes like “Turn To Stone” and “Danger Zone”, this album is one of the definitions of misunderstood!

 

12.Black Sabbath

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The album that started it all truly. It was really a triumph in the small amount of the time the band had to record this album in how well it turned out for them. However, while songs “N.I.B” the title track and “The Wizard” are terrific songs, this album always felt a bit disjointed to me for some reason. Compared to other records at the time it also doesn’t hit me as hard considering I heard most of this album via greatest hits albums so when I first heard the full release when I was younger, I never got that wow feeling I feel a lot of others got.

11.TYR

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TYR was the third album to feature Tony Martin on vocals and was a great addition to the more epic style the band had achieved on Eternal Idol and Headless Cross. The album definitely has more of a concept record feel to it which I believe Iommi was going for at the time as well. The opening track “Anno Mundi” is an epic six minute opener with keyboard riffs and vocal harmonies galore. “The Law Maker” is a glorious ripper of a song as well.. Other key tracks include “The Sabbath Stones” and “Valhalla” but unfortunately some tracks feel very filler as well.

10.Eternal Idol

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This album marked a new era for the band with Martin taking over vocal duties after lineup changes shifted once again. This was a perfect introduction to his inclusion with terrific cuts such as “The Shining”, “Born To Lose” and the epic “Glory Ride” which is one of my top Sabbath tunes of all time. The only songs that feel filler are “Ancient Warrior” and the title track.

9.VOL.4

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Sabbath go from weed induced to cocaine induced for Vol. 4. One of their most popular records, Vol. 4 takes the heaviness of Master of Reality and adds a bit more of a prog feel to it. The result is partially mixed with classics like “SnowBlind” “Tomorrows Dreams” and the crushing “Under The Sun”, there are still certainly a lot of fillers such as the needless “FX” and “St. Vitus Dance” which always felt undeveloped as well. This album certainly has always been a tad mixed personally but the good songs are REALLY good when they want to be.

8.Sabotage

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Ozzy has never sounded so damn angry than this album. The band really go for an aggressive approach here and for what I felt was the last terrific Ozzy era album. From the terrific opener “Hole In The Sky” to the proto speed metal feel of “Symptom Of The Universe” to the epic “Megalomaniac”, this album is terrifically written. The only song that felt totally out of place for me was “Am I Going Insane?” which kind of derails the album near the end before “The Writ” picks things back up.

7.Headless Cross

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Easily the Martin era’s crowning achievement, Headless Cross I feel has always deserved so much more credit than it has ever received. From the title track that could rival the epicness of “Heaven and Hell” to songs like “When Death Calls” which features Brian May of Queen, to the epic fist pumping “Devil And Daughter” to the really catchy “Kill In The Spirit World” and pretty much every song on. The band truly were on a fantastic streak with this undiscovered classic.

6.Dehumanizer

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Dehumanizer is one of the more interesting Black Sabbath albums as it reunited the “Mob Rules” lineup with Dio back at the helm and pretty much revitalized Sabbaths popularity overnight. It didn’t last long as after this album we received more Martin sung material but holy hell the album we received here was magnificent. While definitely more doom oriented than the first two more NWOBHM inspired Dio albums, this album still has the riffs and magic in spades. With crushing opener “Computer God” to “After All/ The Dead” to my favorite “TV Crimes” and even tracks later in the album such as “I” and “Buried Alive, this was a terrific reunion album.

5.Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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This is where 70’s Sabbath really came into the more creative songwriting and what a monolith of an album this is. Some of my favorites include the eternal ground shaking title track to the heavy and dark “National Acrobat” to the swaggering “Sabra Cadabra” and the almost hypnotizing “Who Are You”. However, the whole album is a great listening experience.

4.Heaven And Hell

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The first album Dio recorded with Black Sabbath and showed a shift in sound to straight forward Heavy Metal. This is the part in this list where every album here is pretty much flawless so I will keep it short by saying this album is one of the greatest comebacks for any band period.

3.Mob Rules

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Sabbath go for round two in the early eighties and come out with an album arguably heavier than the last. The style is similar to the first album but the production feels a bit more crisp and the bass oh the bass on this album is devilishly good. Top notch!

2.Master Of Reality

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This is the essential Ozzy era album as it pretty much defined the sound for what would become “Stoner Metal”. This was the most solid collection of songs the band had and was in my opinion miles ahead from the first two albums in terms of what the band was capable of in such a short amount of time. Plus we got “Into The Void” one of the heaviest songs to ever grace the earth and for that alone this album deserves to be this high.

1.Born Again

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And number one goes to Born Again! A controversial pick for sure but for me this is the heaviest yet catchiest Sabbath ever got. Featuring the one time gig for my all time favorite vocalist Ian Gillan, he lets out some of his most ear shattering and impressive vocal performances here more than anywhere else. Opening with the classic “Trashed” going into the very dark “Disturbing The Priest” paired with the epic “Zero The Hero” and into the last half of the album featuring some prime cuts like “Digital Bitch” and “Hot Line”, this album hits you in the face and never lets go. The production also never really bothered me in fact it always enhanced it for me for how just different it sounds I suppose. Especially when the solo’s hit it feels like such an assault with the guitars being super distorted it sounds like Iommi going straight for the throat. All this combined has made this my favorite Sabbath release in recent times to go back to over and over and I always have a good time doing it!

Album Review- Spillage: Blood Of Angels

 

 

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Spillage, Chicago’s hottest Doom Metal group at least in my eyes are finally back! Oh how I have been looking forward to this release ever since I heard the first album a few years ago. With their self titled debut filled with endless grooves, heavy as molasses riffs and memorable songs, their sophomore output had a lot to live up to for me. While I wanted the group to keep their core sound in tact, they needed to add to it in both production and musicianship. Now with a very stable lineup finally intact, Spillage have returned with “Blood Of Angels”!

Opening the album similarly as the first, is the title track with the Organs adding a more almost theatrical feel here with intense layering and atmosphere that really engulfs the listener. This track overall is a very mid-paced groove heavy track that pretty much just shows Spillage have returned and are slicker and heavier than ever. I know before I have stated how present a very almost Alice In Chains sound the band has and new vocalist Elvin Rodriguez has brought that sound even more with the grit and soul that adds more emotion to these songs and it really works. While the opener is a nice slab of Doom, the major highlight comes with the next one two punch of the tracks “Living In Hell” and “Free Man” barreling in one after another. Both tracks feature insanely infections riffs especially through the verses and speed up towards the end adding a real solid aggression with the band going into full jam mode. Especially with “Free Man”, their is definitely a progression in the songwriting here with the band going into more straight forward Heavy Metal territory and it works terrifically. Now the next song “Rough Grooved Surface” is the only song that is a bit of a let down for me. The lyrics basically an ode to vinyl are a bit cheesy and don’t fit a lot of the album and is a track that feels more I suppose gimmicky than the others. The album does pick back up with “Disappear” with a nice solid bass groove throughout and a killer intense mid section again. I also like the vocals on here they almost have a psychedelic feel. Evil Doers continues with the bands self proclaimed “Power Doom” sound with the vocals having some Gothic undertones to them and is another home run track. Eyes Of A Snake has a nice bluesy groove to it as well and sticks with the bands familiar formula and has some nice dueling riffs from Nick and Tony with synths backing them up. It shows how much more solid the band has become. Voice Of Reason is a nice dark ballad to round out the album with a solid brooding yet beautiful atmosphere and definitely shows of some seventies Scorpion influence as well. The other thing to note is there is a bonus track of the bands rendition of Black Sabbaths “Dirty Women” that while being a straight forward cover and not over-shining their rendition of “Devil Woman”, it is still a ripper and a nice little surprise at the end.

Overall, besides the minor grip I have with one track, the band are back in full force. You can really tell how Bruce Franklin of Trouble really cared for the production on this album with every instrument given room to breath on every track, showing the real rock solid chemistry behind this fine slab of “Power Doom”.

 

8.5/10

Top 20 releases of 2018

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Welcome back! Well after months on a hiatus I am finally bringing back Glistening Metal and I figured I’d come back with my favorite twenty albums of this year. As with the past few years we have had some terrific releases and I have gone over this list over and over in my head mainly because every release presented is great in their own right, it was just the matter of which ones connected with me more. So without further ado, lets get into my top twenty releases of 2018.

20. Lizzy Borden- My Midnight Things

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19.Tank- Sturmpanzer

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18.Red Dragon Cartel- Patina

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17.Salems Lott-Mask Of Mortality

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16.Nazareth- Tattooed On My Brain

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15.Substratum-Permission To Rock

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14.Sacred Leather- Ultimate Force

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13.Ashbury- Eye of The Stygian Witches

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12.Satan-Cruel Magic

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11.Riot V- Armor Of Light

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10.Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats- Wasteland

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9.Visigoth- Conquerors Oath

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8.Uriah Heep-Living The Dream

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7.Haunt- Burst Into Flame

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6.LeathurBitch- S/T

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5.Saxon- Thunderbolt

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4.The Night Flight Orchestra- Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough

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3.Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons- The Age Of Absurdity

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2. Judas Priest- Firepower

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1.Carriage- Visions

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Anyone who has been following my site for awhile knows that when Carriage played at Legions of Metal 2017, that I knew there was something very special about this band. Lo and behold as soon as their debut album entitled “Visions” was released, I knew this was the album to top the year. From the chemistry of the band to the rock solid songwriting, these guys have arrived with a bang and are out for blood.

 

Album Review- Ross The Boss: By Blood Sworn

 

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Ross Friedman is a guitarist who needs no introduction. Being a member of the highly influential Power Metal group Manowar through their golden era in the 80’s and eventually his own solo career, Ross The Boss always dominated a high macho guitar sound that most others would kill for. After touring relentlessly with a solid backing band performing some of the best Manowar songs, Ross comes back in 2018 with another solo album featuring a lot of original material to dig into as well as a couple bonus Manowar covers.

Opening with the title track, the band go right for the epic mid paced sound of Manowars classic days. It is quite refreshing to hear as it has a good catch to it. The production definitely reminds me on this album overall of the first Manowar release. It has that Power Metal feel definitely but the sound is a lot more raw and unfortunately in some aspects the guitars feel a bit buried at points. However, besides a few nit picks most of the songs presented here are catchy, true gritty classic Heavy Metal! The next song “Among The Bones” has one of the most infectious main riffs to any song I have heard this year so far. The chorus comes in very strong as well it is definitely one of the highlights among many others. “This Is Vengeance” is the obvious epic speed metal piece presented and is just as glorious as ever. This track really showcases the raw power of Marc Lopes vocal style from his high screams to his low almost extreme growls from time to time. Even the bonus Manowar tracks he handles perfectly just as he does live with them. Even a track like “We Are The Night” he is able to perfectly balance melody and intensity throughout. But overall, the album presents a lot of fantastic riffs that don’t feel stale. The softer and more acoustic/piano driven “Faith Of The Fallen” is a nice change of pace as well and is definitely a song that I feel would work terrifically live. Another favorite is the almost Ted Nugent-like “Devils Pay” that is a really simplistic catchy rocking tune. The more simplistic songs are the best I feel because they really show off the chemistry of the band and the solid groove they have. Most of the later tracks such as “Lilith”, “Play Among The Godz” and the really upbeat “Circle Of Damnation” which is just a pure dirty hard rock song, all have something different to offer and in a fresh yet familiar way.

This album is really one that gives and keeps on giving, showing the Boss has not lost his step at all. If you are an old school Manowar fan, you will not be disappointing with this album. From the dirty Hard Rocking tunes to the epic Power Metal moments, this album will surely satisfy any classic Heavy Metal fan or anyone who is a fan of Ross The Boss. Now hopefully he brings some of these songs on tour soon enough.

9/10