Vulture Industries – Stranger Times (Season of Mist 2017)

The weirdest band in Scandinavia is back with a new studio album, Stranger Times. Their last record was excellent. The band masterly combined crazy and brilliant, this time they’ve turned down the crazy and up’ed the brilliant. If you look at their back catalogue. They’ve turned the black metal influences and up the progressive sides of their music. Stranger Times is more atmospheric and slightly softer.

 

Tales of Woe sets the tone from the get go. From about the fourth or maybe fifth second it’s blatantly obvious that this is no run of the mill metal album. Tales of Woe is at once a hard piece of music and soft, woeful tune. The characteristic vocals is distinct and full of emotion, and ever present. If you want to enjoy this band, you’ve got to be onboard with vocals. It’s kind of like with King Diamond, you’ve got to like the unique vocals, to enjoy the band.

 

The vultures haven’t forgotten their metal, even though this might be their most mellow record yet, there are plenty of hard and heavy music. The Beacon, Gentle Touch of a Killer and Screaming Reflections are heavy, riffladen songs.The Beacon is the strongest of the bunch, while Screaming Reflections might be the closest thing the vultures ever get to a straight rock tune.

 

As the World Burns is a slow, creepy, circus tune. It’s this weird kind of song that always remind me of Tim Burton movies. Just like The Dead Won’t Mind from the last record, this one quickly became my favorite track. It’s just easy and fun to curl my face up in it’s most evil folds and snarl out the outrageous, vulgar lyrics and creep around like a serial killer from the horror movies of the fifties.

 

The album is not as shockingly good as The Tower was/is. It’s however a quality album filled with great, unusual twists and turns, in addition to the progressive elements. The black metal sides of the band is turned down, but still present. The music brings out certain moods and atmospheres of creepy, circusy horror..

 

Recommended: As the World Burns, The Beacon, Tales of Woe

 

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

Secret Sphere – The Nature of Time (Frontiers Records – 2017)

I was incredibly sceptical going into this album. I’ve had some previous experience with the band, but left them for dead a while back. I was totally oblivious to the fact they had gotten a new singer and changed musical direction something fierce, this happened like five years ago. And all for the better.

 

The reason I wrote these Italiens off years ago was the style of power metal they played, I heaped them in with Rhapsody and all their sound-alike bands from Italy, justified in my opinion. They’ve changed in a more progressive direction, and I can hear a lot of Dream Theater inspiration on this record, and even a few bits of pure rip off.

 

The album is beautiful, artwork and all, just gorgeous. The same could be said about the music. Beautiful is the best word to describe it. Songs like Kindness, Love and Honesty are amazingly melodic, with a heavy tint. The songs flows and raps around your ears like a wonderful …. something or other.

 

The Dream Theater references are obvious, down to the guitar sound. Remember that twangy / chorusy guitar from Pull Me Under? It gets more than its fair share on this record. The lyrics are the heaviest part of the album, although some riffs are as heavy as one can expect from Italian progers, the main feel of the album is a soft, melodic type, with rough edges. The metaly metalriffs are spread out through the record and you get a taste on almost every song. The intro to otherwise ballady Faith, for instance, is surprisingly heavy. The Awakening is the heaviest  number on here. It’s built around a classical epic skeleton: A classical intro, with orchestra, that bursts into an amazingly technical guitar solo, befor the proggy rhythm parts steps in and you go to a fast verse, and then slow it down to a more melodic middle section, before going up tempo again for the chorus, and so forth and so on.

 

The melodies, riffs, lyrics and progressive elements mix together in really cool way. I’m totally digging this album, however there is one thing I really really don’t care for: I understand that as proggers they feel obliged to have one long story through the album, a concept. I’ve tried a few times to pick up on the story, but it’s not really speaking to me. I just don’t get it. The last 30 seconds of every track is dedicated to bringing the story forward, the story is poorly told. The soundbites thus become a nuisance and annoying, I wished they would have put them on separate tracks so could escape them easier.

+ Melodies, riffs, songwriting

– Lack of originality, unfulfilling concept / story, too much blatant Dream Theater ripping

 

Recommended tracks: Faith, Love, The Awakening, The Calling

Danzig – Black Laden Crown (Evilive Records 2017)

After the weak sounding covers record Skeletons I didn’t get my hopes up for this release. The sound is in the same sort of low fi Glenn has been doing ever since 7:77 I Luciferi. The songs are doomy and gloomy, mostly slow to mid tempo pieces.

 

Let’s pause a minute to consider the cover art, wow how awful is this cover? Danzig cover art has been a huge part of what has drawn me to the music, especially the Giger drawing of How the Gods Kill, not to mention the classic skull logo or the medieval look of Circle of Snakes. This time around he has chosen to go for the esthetics of his Verotic comic books. I get that he is big into the comic book world, but this cover is too much on the cartoony side for me personally, bit of a disappointment.

 

The sound is very similar to the Deth Red Saboath album. Lyrically this album is better crafted, maybe not as accessible as earlier, but with better quality… quality might not be the right word…shit… they seem less childish and more of a comprehensive body of work.

 

The guitar is heavily overdriven, I’m thinking a thick fuzz sound, Victor likes himself some natural harmonics, so much so that it sort of gets annoying. The riffs themselves are dark, and heavy, reminiscent of Circle of Snakes and 4p. The high, squeaky fills gets a bit much, for my taste. The drums are once again handled by Joey Castillo, who was the from about 95 up through the touring cycle for I, Luciferi in 03. I can’t really say he makes much of an impact on the album. Drums are hollow-sounding and bass-laden, like they’ve been on every danzig-record since the turn of the century. I guess Glenn played the bass and keyboards himself.

 

The opener, which also happens to be the title track, is a sort of half breed between his past half instrumental openers, like Unendlich or Wotans Procession and earlier heavy numbers; like Thirteen or Angel Blake. It’s a slow, but heavy number. Best of all, it has this classic, easy-to-follow Danzig vocal melody. A truly wicked start to the new disc. Eyes Ripping Fire is not a great song, it’s lacking in power and gets dull and seems to drag out, even though it’s only like four minutes long.

 

Devil on Hwy 9, the teaser and the single, isn’t a very good either. The chorus is nice and infectious, but the main riff is just boring and Victor is slightly too active with his fills. I’m sure this will be killer live though, it just falls flat in a studio version.

 

I’ve listened to this album a bunch of times now, and it doesn’t really stick. It kind of falls flat. I get what he’s trying to do with production but when you know that with today’s technology untrained kids can make great sounding stuff in their bedrooms, this low-fi shit doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t sound retro, it doesn’t sound evil, it just sounds half assed.

 

Being a Danzig-fan is hard around the release of new music, because of Danzigs press rounds, he’s now getting to sound like more of a nutcase than Mustaine and that says a bit. Jeebuz man, Glenn says some crazy shit.

 

Let’s end this with: Established Danzig fan? Yes: Get the record, it’s what you expect and want, but with crap production. No: Go to the first four records for some bluesy stuff, record 5 and 6 for some industrial darkness, 7 and 8 for some truly dark, yet somehow popy, music, wait with Black Laden Crown and Deth Red Sabaoth.

 

Recommended tracks: Devil on Hwy 9, Skulls & Daisies

 

Rating: 3 / 5

Overkill – Necroshine (Steamhammer 1999)

Necroshine was the album that got me into Overkill, and it’s the record I measure all other Overkill releases up against. I was aware of the band for many years, never listening to them. I don’t remember exactly how I got a hold of this record, but I loved it from the first snarling of the opening title track: Groovy and heavy, with thoroughly heavy bottom and screeching vocals on top. I still love the track.

My December introduced me to the sing-along chorus side of Overkill. A simple little vocal line, followed by some ooo-ing, that sticks in your brain, and a midtempo, sludgy riff that grooves, builds and pushes ever onwards. Let Us Pray is another groovy, midtempo, heavy tune, with all the greatness of the first two tracks, plus some Sabbath-esque riffing. Stone Cold Jesus is as infectious as the plague and when I hear it, it stays with me for quite some time; great riff, great melodies and amazing arrangement.

There are a few songs that don’t quite measure up; Forked Tongue Kiss, Revelation and I am Fear are somewhat lesser compositions. They all lack that little extra tinge that makes remarkable. Revelation  might be the weakest song Overkill released since the forgettable I Hear Black in ’93.

Black Line is more of an upbeat song then the rest of the record. Lyrically the record is kind of dark and, at times, kind of creepy. Black Line has a bit humor to the lyrics, combine that with a moody but up beat riff and you get a good listening experience.

Dead Man has a massive groove and together with 80 Cycles, are the two strongest tracks on the entire record. The blend of groove, Sabbath-eque riffing pressed together in a thrash soundscape and a sing-along sensibility, you get some great metal. The shifting tempos seem natural and spices up the songs. Absolutely amazing tracks!

The record has a definitive 90s feel to it. The sound and focus on groove, and the fact that most of the songs from this thrash band is midtempo, are all clear evidence of the 90s. If you like(d) this sound and the grooves of Machine Hear or Pantera, give Overkill 90s releases a spin.

Recommended tracks: 80 Cycles, Dead Man, Stone Cold Jesus, Necroshine, My December

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Deep Purple – Infinite (Ear 2017)

Deep Purple, still going and still sounding like Deep Purple. There’s nothing new to either the songwriting or sound of the band. If you like Deep Purple, you will probably like this album too. If you’re a hitpicking Purple listener you might as well just skip this record all together. Just a little side note; is this actually the most stable “mark” of Deep Purple? Is there any constellation of the band that’s been together as long as this particular line up?

Don Airey has kept the sound and feel of Jon Lord, the horrible organ sound of the seventies is still alive and well on Infinite, I really do detest this sound, it screeches in my ears and, just as I do with the older purple songs, I skip these tracks more often than not. Ironically, the first song to stay with me is the organ heavy Hip Boots. Steve Morse is a great blues guitarist, he wrangles that thing and makes it howl and scream when he wants it. Get Me Outta Here has some major licks and so does Roadhouse Blues. The latter being an old fashioned dirty blues tune, borrowing heavy from the yearly decades of last century, complete with harmonica and everything.

Ian Gillan sounds a bit whiney. His voice pretty much sounds the same, but with a tinge whineyness to it. When he brings on the energy, he is magnificent, truly. Ian Paice is steady, groovy, heavy and same old same old. All I Got Is You has that recognizable Piace groove.

This record is for the people who have a past with the band, lets be honest, who else is interested in Deep Purple anymore? This is not a creative masterpiece, it’s rather predictable in its greatness. The musicianship is rock solid and the songwriting is heavy inspired by their back catalogue and true blues rock. I will give them props for playing to their strength rather than experimenting with all kinds of craziness which plagues a lot of aging rockers.

The question is: does the world really need more original material from Deep Purple? Off course it does! Infinite is worth a good spot in any hard rock rotation.

Recommended tracks: Hip Boots, Roudhouse Blues

Rating: 3/5