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.

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!