Venom Inc. – Avé

The battle of the venoms might have a victor!

It’s almost a time honored for bands WAY passed their prime too have a couple of funding members, or members of the classic era, to squabble over the remains of the glory and what money remains that one might be able to squeeze out of the once proud brand. As I’m writing this, the hopeless embarrassing remains of the awful band RATT is a great example of one “has been” suing the other “has beens” for a right to a name that once generated a lot of money, but no longer does. The parallel I’m trying to draw is the battle  for the remains of the genre defining band Venom. One called Venom and fronted by original front Cronos, who returned to the band after an ill fated stint in the pop rock world. A second version is Venom Inc. featuring both Tony Dolan, who replaced Cronos on both vocal and bass in 1988, and original guitarist Mantas.

 

Both bands have done their share slamming in media, with Cronos calling Mantas “an old hack, has been who has lost what little sanity he had” and Mantas replying with stuff like “Cronos has lost all contact with reality”. About two years ago the Cronos lead band released From the Very Depths which, quite frankly, wasn’t very good… From earlier on I have kind of prefered the Tony Dolan material to the classics as I find the songwriting to be better, lyrics less cartoony and production less half assed. This album could get Dolan and Mantas back on top of the venom hill, and, boy, does it ever.

 

The album rules, it rocks, from start to finish. Mr. Dolan sound evil through and through. The vocals are slippery and creepy and then turns around barks and snarls. I totally love the voice, the lyrics are a bit on the silly side of things, but just like Doyle, the silliness is part of the attraction to the whole horror genre. Dein Fleisch is just the right amount humor and horror, the tune is totally creepy and snarly. Ave Satanas sound like a leftover from earlier Venom and in competition with Metal We Bleed, is the most classic sounding track on the record. War might be one of the coolest songs I’ve heard in awhile. It has this x-factor thing; when a simple, kind of monotones riff blends a rhythm section that drives the song ever forward, topped with some catchy vocals.

 

Time to Die has this Danzig-era Misfits / punk feeling to it. It’s rather fast and spitting, totally in your face as the word couplet chaos / anarchy is hurdled towards you. I Kneel to No God has a bluesy tone … kind of … not in a Black Sabbath way or a Gary Moore kind of way, but still bluesy. The final track of Avé is Black n’ Roll which delivers exactly that.

 

All in all a great album, with a nice thick sound, creative and fun tracks that fit nicely with older material. Venom Inc has the upper hand, the material is better and the live show is better. The only thing Venom has got going for the band is Cronos, but he seems rather out of these days and more about clinging to the past than going forward.

 

Pluss: Great rock n roll, fun lyrics, high air guitar factor

Minus: monotone sound

Recommended tracks: War, Dein Fleisch, Black n Roll

 

Rating: 4 / 5

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Motörhead – Under Cöver (Motörhead Records 2017)

And so it has arrived, the first “Archival/posthumous” release from the legendary Motörhead and it’s a compilation of cover songs, aptly named Under Cöver. Motorhead did covers throughout their long career  and now they’ve done you the favor of compiling them on one disc!

 

This might be the second most unnecessary release of the year, just after Masterplans Pump Kings. I’m not the biggest Motorhead fan in the world, but I’m still familiar with all of these covers, except Breaking the Law by Priest, Heroes by Bowie and Rockaway Beach by The Ramones. What the protectors of Lemmys legacy basically has done is to make a playlist and thus saved you 4 minutes of Spotify-time, thank you. I bow my head in appreciation. I will take a bit of self critique, I shouldn’t have bought the album. I should have had enough foresight to see what this was … a money grab. The people in charge of the estate of Lemmy, God of rock n roll, the coolest guy to ever play bass, loved by millions are cheaping in his name by releasing this sub par compilation. You can bet your ars this wont be the last archival release. They will pop up every couple years like clockwork.

 

I think it’s kind of odd to include Hellraiser as Lemmy wrote the lyrics for Ozzy, I guess he didn’t write the music. My favorite Motorhead cover is not on the cd and Louie Louie is sorely missed. I’m glad they included Starstruck with Biff Byford on vocals, it’s a truly a great cover. Shot Em Down is another highlight, and in my opinion far superior to the original Twisted Sister tune. Whiplash, the grammy winning Metallica cover, originally written as sort of tribute to Motorhead is fast and fun. Breaking the Law sounds a bit more criminal in Lemmys voice. Heroes is the most creative cover, where they actually experiment with sound and equipment and create something quite unique. Most songs follow the basic patterns of their originals, only faster and harder and topped with the signature gritty vocals of Lemmy.

 

I’m not really sure how to rate this album. I knew the music, I’ve heard it before, both originals and cover versions. They’ve excluded Motorheads finest cover and …. The music is Motorhead as I like to remember them. The existence of this “just for the revenue” release angers me, and yes, it angers me that I bought into it and bought the damn thing.

 

Recommended tracks: Heroes, Starstruck, Whiplash, Shoot Em down.

Doyle II – As We Die (EMP 2017)

Doyle II: As We Die

 

More of the same from the beast that is Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein. The thing about horror punk played in the style of Graves-era Misfits is just how much fun it is to listen to. It’s fast, it’s vulgar, it has a sing-along edge and the lyrics are cheesy and catchy.

 

Doyles heavily overdriven guitar has given up a little space in the mixe, which brings out the bass more than on the last record. New bassist Brandon Strate is totally unknown to me, the playing is good and plunky, you know that bass sound that thunders and clicks at the same time. I’m glad to hear a sound that’s not only about the guitar. The Abominator record sounded a bit boring, without the full bottom. This time around it’s a better mix, the drums might a bit too loud for my personal taste, but all in all the sound is more cohesive on this record.

 

Doyle opens the album in the same manner he’s done since the eighties with a slow, heavy build before bursting into Kiss Me as We Die. This might be the most Misfits-esque song on the record; theatrical, big vocals, fast and punky guitars and a rockabilly type bassline. There are quite a few tracks that show off the rockabilly/fifties-pop inspiration; Witchcraft and We Belong Dead are great examples. The choruses really shine on these tunes. Witchcraft has this Dean Martin / Frank Sinatra feel on the chorus, great stuff.

 

As always in the horror punk genre the lyrics are banalities built on top of each other, this is both a nuisance and a pleasure in that they get stupid real fast, but I enjoy the wordplay.

 

In his earlier work Doyle has been restrictive with his fills and melodies. This time around he sometimes sound like he’s auditioning to replace Tommy Victor in Danzig, with a heap of natural harmonics and squeals which leads the mind back to Circle of Snakes. Dark God Rises and Blood on the Axe are the prime examples. There are a few pure punk songs here as well; Night of Sin, Show No Mercy and Run for Your Life are fast, punishing tracks, with hard vocals and rough attitude.

 

Abominator I liked immediately, this one took me a few rounds to get into, but I think maybe I prefer this second record to the first one. It’s a little less cartoony and not as on the nose, maybe a little more complex and … creative I guess is the best word for it. But songs do sound a bit similar: the riffs are creative but the arrangement is not.

 

Positive: Fun horrorlyrics, short aggressive tracks, rockabilly vocals

Minus: stupid lyrics, too much guitar squealing,  

 

Recommended tracks: We Belong Dead, Whitchcraft, Run for Your Life

 

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Accept – Rise of Chaos (Nuclear Blast 2017)

When the new Accept album arrived I was so excited, and on first listening through the album I got even more excited. It’s no secret that I belong to the group of people who prefer the classics and don’t get why everyone seems to have gone bananas over the new material. It’s good, I’d agree to that, but nots Balls to the Wall good, you know?

 

This time around I felt a bit different, the teasers had spoken to me, they’d hit a nerve. When the new album finally dropped I listened to over and over again, to wifeys misery (she did NOT like the album). I immediately wrote a review (in norwegian) praising the band, the album, the music like golden calves. It couldn’t express how much I enjoyed the record. When day three or maybe four after the release come rolling, I sort of forgot the album.

 

A few weeks has now gone by, I find myself not really wanting to listen to it again. What happened? I was like: “this album will save heavy metal, it has the qualities of a timeless record” … and all of sudden couldn’t be bothered to listen to it again?

 

I think it might be that I got everything I wanted, all my anticipations were met. Everything that makes Accept a stand-out band was present on the record, what more could I hope for? Nothing. There was no excitement left for me, no discoveries left do and that makes it … boring? I don’t know. This IS a kick ass record, but not more so than most of Accepts records and so becomes part of the post-comeback pile of quality records. Why should you pick this one to play over any of the others? I couldn’t tell you.

 

The music is explosive and riffy. Highlights riffwise are Koolaid and Die by the Sword. Technical, kick ass and air guitar friendly riffs, in classic Hoffmanstyle. What’s Done is Done has that live quality and drive that post-comeback Accept do so well, The Rise of Chaos is a proper guide on how to write heavy metal. The band is just excellent throughout, but I got some major issues with Tornillos voice and lyrics. He sounds more and more like Udo sound-alike, without the x-factor.

 

Once upon a time Accept lyrics were dirty and edgy, sexy and violent, now they’re old, boring, predictable and cliché. Koolaid is a great idea for a song and should lend itself to any lyricist; “be careful who you listen to” / misuse of religion by its leaders  is the main themes of the song. Even if the idea is good, the actual lyrics are a heap of banalities, and oh so poorly executed. Analog Man is dreadful, just horrid. An entire song about the aging man’s difficulty of understanding his email? Come on, dude. I don’t know who writes the lyrics, but honestly … this is just bad. Worlds Collide is a good song, but the predictable piece of shit lyrics ruins it. The final song of the album saves the b-side lyrically. Race to Extinction is a great angsty song with kick ass shredding guitars and pounding bass lines.

 

To summarize: The music ranges from amazing to great, the lyrics suck and are predictable (on most songs) and not for the first time; I miss Udo in Accept.

 

Recommended tracks: Die by the Sword, The Rise of Chaos, Race to Extinction

+ Riffs and concepts

– Lyrics and vocals

 

Rating: 3 / 5

Overkill – From the Underground and Below (Steamhammer 1997)

This is perhaps Overkills grooviest record, released in the heyday of groove metal, perhaps on the tail end, but still. Overkill has really taken the groove of the metal scene at this time to heart. Just like on the two previous releases, W.F.O and Killing Kind, Overkills transition to the sound of nineties works out great.

They manage to combine the aggression from their earlier material with slower, thicker music of this decade. I wasn’t really around noticing Overkill at the time, I was to busy discovering Metallica. I found some magazines from the time cleaning out the house a while back, and found an interview with Kerry King where he kind of rips Overkill for selling out. I for one am glad they changed their sound and style, because this material is much stronger than the “classic” material.

The disc starts up with a fist to the face. It Lives is a crunchy song with a nice chorus and real hook for the middle section.  Long Time Dyin’, Half Past Dead, F.U.C.T. and The Rip and Tear  are all of the same ilk. They are mid-paced with a heavy bass line and groovy guitars. The lead work should be mentioned, especially on F.U.C.T., just a great melody and so incredibly fitting to the music.

Blitz plays to his strength, the melodic strength to his vocals are as usual top notch. Promises sees the band doing a ballad, full of clichés and totally lacking in quality, but it has that certain sing-along quality that a lot of ballads have. I’m glad they didn’t make a habit of the ballads.

I think The Rip ‘n Tear is my favorite track. It has a mixture of heaviness, melody, groovy rhythms and funny lyrics, not to mention the hooky melody. This is the kind of song that drew me to Overkill in the first place, and the sort of tracks that I pick out when I make playlists.

From the Underground and Below is a bit darker than the Killing Kind and W.F.O. both lyrically and musically. They are still kind of getting their groove metal wings still, it will still be a few years until they master it fully.

 

Recommended tracks: It Lives, The Rip and Tear and F.U.C.T.

Rating: 4/5

Vicious Rumors – Concussion Protocol (Steamhammer 2016)

Vicious Rumors has been around ever since 1979, but the mainstream hasn’t really paid much attention to them and the underground never embraced them either. Still, they’ve released a string of albums, one every few years at least.

I can kind of understand why they never broke through; the quality of music is up and down, with the 1988 release Digital Dictator as the highlight. Vicious Rumors exist in a cross section of power metal and thrash metal. Some riffs are very much in the thrash bag, as is the guitar sound. The arrangement and melodic elements have more in common with European power metal acts such as Rhapsody or Rage. The vocals is also a major reason why I’m thinking European, Nick Holleman sounds a lot like Peavy Wagner (Rage) in his melodic voice. I wish he would utilize his gruffer voice more, it’s really good.

This album has some great moments; I love the opening riff of the title track. It’s fast and powerful, and sets a tone for the rest of the record. Mid tempo and powerful riffs are the main components of this record. One of my main issues are the fact that they sort of keep to the rule of one good riff per song. A lot of the verses and choruses are pestered with boring guitars and subpar vocal melodies, broken up by some great riff and / or melodic guitar parts. Last of our Kind has an absolute killer riff, but the rest of the song doesn’t deliver.

Concussion Protocol mostly sits in a mid tempo chug, with some tempo shifts into a faster pace. In my personal opinion they sound best when they get really heavy, with the rather slow tempos, like in the song Bastards, which varies between an almost doomy atmosphere to mid tempo and then to a rather fast middle section, one of my favorite tracks.

There isn’t that much of a melodic edge to the album, but sometimes they let the guitars shine. The intro to Last of our Kind has a nice Thin Lizzy sounding melodic intro. There is some stellar lead work sprinkled out across the album, most impressive might be the soli on Every Blessings is a Curse, especially with the trading off between the guitarists.

The album is a great work soundtrack. It’s loud enough to drown out my coworkers and  unintrusive enough to allow me to concentrate on my work.

If you like the mid tempo chug, than this album is for you. I think the vocals kind of lack a little energy and are slick in a way. I wish he would do his lower register more, where he really shines, listen to the final track, Life for Life, and hear for yourselves.

Recommended tracks: Every Blessing is a Curse, Bastards

Rating: 3/5

Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner Records 2016)

This album is just beautiful, both visually and musically. Gojira has chosen the path of many of their contemporaries in sludge / death metal segment, and are headed towards are more progressive sound. This record is heading in the direction of Enslaved or, to some degree, Opeth.

They’ve kept a lot of their heaviness, but added much to the melodic side of their sound. The soundscape is still similar to the earlier material, with a heavy bottom and a lot of going on in the background. And overall the sound is as atmospheric as ever. The sound is layered with a heavy bass and drum sound in the bottom layer, crushing guitars in the middle section and lighter top from lead guitars and vocals. Even when the harsher vocals turn up, it still has a softer feel then earlier material.

Silvera has sneaky intro and continues into an almost Meshuggah-ish riffing. This style of riffing is prevalent on other songs as well, stranded for one.

The album is really cohesive in that songs end and slide into each other, which makes for a seamless listening experience. The record doesn’t have any real single-tracks; they all sort of belong together. If I had to pull out a couple of songs I guess I would choose the title track, Low Lands and Liberation.

Magma, the track, has that certain sound and feel which I like in Gojira: Big variety in intensity, creative arrangement and great lyrics. Low Lands  is a haven of heavy and melodic riffs and turns into a beautiful soft outro. Liberation is Gojira at their most melodic and experimental. Usually they have experienced with atmospheric sounds, but this is more of a melodic and rhythmic song. It’s a great ending to a great album.

I like that they keep the songs rather short, and don’t feel the need to push the ten minute mark on every song, and keep it around five minutes. I wish they would let even more rules behind, because they’re still quite bound by metals dogmas. Gojira deserve to be much bigger than they are. Even though this album is beautiful in almost every way, I don’t think this is the kind of album that brakes through to the kid crowds.

 

Recommended tracks: Magma, Low Lands

Rating: 4,5 / 5