Anvil Concert Review

ANVIL : Pounding The Pavement North American Tour

Concert review by Tim Duran

 

anvil001

Over the years I have been graced to hear the noise of the Great White North by bands such as Triumph, Voi-Vod, RUSH, April Wine, and the almighty ANVIL ! These great groups have stood the tests of time as well as putting out timeless music. Anvil is still pounding the pavement and pounding our brains with their brand of Metal On Metal ! Tonight, Sunday March 31st the Anvil drops on the 172 Club inside the Rio Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada like a classic cartoon scene.

The warm up , Alex Cole and his band took the stage first. He looks like Neil Schon and plays like Ted Nugent . His mean sounding blues/rock trio let loose on his original sound and songs. Upon his playability like our Uncle Ted, his stage presence was all flash with the chops to pull it off.

Next up was the constant lashing from the Santa Cruz thrashing Archer Nation. What can I say that you haven’t already heard from me? Dylan Rose attacked his Epiphone Les Paul like a man out for vengeance and sang his heart out (literally) whilst Keyhan Moini destroyed the house kit (he’s now in debt with the club), and David DeSilva slapped, punched and plucked his bass to death! Their set was various selections from their new record, Beneath the Dream with an added bonus cover of “Tornado of Souls” by Megadeth. You’ve never seen so much hair flying since Stryper back in their hay-day.

After a brief comedy act by Don Jamieson of That Metal Show, the head banging hosers of Canada brought everyone to the stage, eh!

Starting off with killer licks, Lips stepped down to rip some riffs surrounded by the cheering crowd before breaking into the opening song, “666”. Bassist Chris Robertson was non-stop thumpin’ on his bass and Robb Reiner was a constant blur behind the kit. (I think Keyhan went to the same school of drumming).

The trio went on to hit the fans with favorites from years past to brand new bangers from their new record – Pounding the Pavement.  In the middle of the set, we were all treated to a most excellent drum solo during the instrumental, “Swing Ting”. This metalized swing jazz tune showcased not only the talent of the three, but the versatility of these heavy metal performers mixing two wonderful genres in one song.

Pound for pound, these badass rock n’ rollers from the early 80’s have not lost an inch of agility and stage stamina in the near 40 years of monumental metal and they’re still going strong!

Also – special thanks to Tony Sgro at the 172 for allowing us to photograph the show.

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Lords of Chaos – Review

Lords of Chaos

Directed by Jonas Akerlund

Review by Kenneth Gallant

Lords

Films that strive to bring the truth about a particular point in time often fail miserably. It’s so hard to bring an accurate portrayal to the big screen; let alone have it interesting enough to people flocking to the cinema to see it.

The Lords of Chaos intends to give you the straight dope, illuminating the uninitiated into the dark realm of Norwegian Black Metal; and thanks to the bleak story culled from the book “The Lords of Chaos” – we get a truncated version that unfortunately falls short. I think true black metal fans will be sorely disappointed. My wife for example, was upset that mostly American actors were used in vital roles, but this is an Americanized take on it after all.

The majority of the story darts from scene to scene and struggles to give you a very coherent point of view of the events that took place in Oslow during the late 80’s to early 90’s. What you end up getting is a bevy of violent outbursts; coupled with goofy-teenage angst moments for the most part, with some actual facts sprinkled in for good measure.

We learn that Dead (Per Ohlin) shows up seemingly out of the blue from Sweden to be the band’s lead singer. He’s obsessed with death and is bent on suicidal urgings. He ultimately commits suicide by the most gruesome way possible by cutting his wrists, throat and topping it off by blowing his head off with a shotgun. Yet we never really get to know anything about him.

Worse yet, his death scene are used to exploit Mayhem’s image courtesy of the band’s leader Euronymous (real name Oystein Aarseth). The much maligned leader of the outfit comes across like a carnival barker wannabe in many of the scenes, despite struggling to pawn himself off as practitioner of Theistic Satanism. Played by Rory Culkin, Euronymous is meant to be the lightning rod to inventing “Norwegian Black Metal” and gathering like-minded metalheads into the inner black circle.

Changing his name to Euronymous (derived from a Greek mythological spirit) and forming Mayhem in 1984 proved to be a stroke of genius. He gained instant notoriety, opened a record shop called Helvete (meaning hell in Norwegian) and started an underground record label (Deathlike Silence Productions). He was able to become the figurehead of the scene and helped bring black metal bands and friends together.

The trouble here is that it’s all just snippets in the film and Rory is adequate at best in the role. He doesn’t appear to be a confident individual with a disdain for individualism, much like the true Euronymous was known to be. You just waited for the veneer to drop and thanks to the other important piece to the puzzle: in walks Varg Vikernes to throw a monkey wrench into the plans.

Varg is washed-over mostly as a petty and jealous thug who schemes his way into the inner circle with plans to eventually overtake Euronymous’s position. Varg (whose real name is Kristian) desperately wants to be accepted into the inner circle, so he arranges a number of church burnings to impress everyone; including Euronymous. He also reinvents himself as Count Grishnackh, but it comes across as a pretentious move.

For me, the bulk of the film sags into an overly-angsty disposition between both Varg and Euronymous. You watch each musician trying to one-up each other constantly and bickering over band royalties (from Varg’s band Burzum), to fighting over a girl and going public about the church burnings. I found it took away from the creative process of recording the full length Mayhem album that we get bits and pieces of in the background.

It was also impossible to pinpoint the impact of black metal outside of Norway. It felt very isolated and relegated to being an underground movement; with many musicians like Necrobutcher, Hellhammer and Attila Csihar hardly getting a mention at all. For example, Faust was in other bands like Emperor and Thorns, but here all you know is that he stabbed a gay man to death in the park. The context of many of the players in the scene just feels like placeholders to give the film a dash of some life.

But I don’t think the film is a total lost cause. The ferocity of Euronymous’s death scene is filmed with such goriness; it’s just so hard to watch all the way through. You feel for him here as you watch how pathetic he becomes while pleading for his life. At this stage Varg is remorseless; allowing his murderous rage to carry out a pointless murder based on hearsay from others who overheard Euronymous boasting about killing him. It’s like a lifted plot from the black comedy Heathers, but director Akerlund deftly handles this with some uncompromising dark flair.

Lords of Chaos valiantly tries to get it right, but like most films based on true events the facts get fudged in favor of over-glorified story elements. The cheesy horror-satanic imagery and teen angst plotline take center stage here, often making the black metal genre appear silly. That’s one of the big drawbacks for me as I feel the genre is creatively significant for the time, upending thrash and death to bring something new to metal.

I just wish we got more of it here. The film is finishing up a limited theatrical run in North America and is heading to VOD on February 22nd.

 

 

Archer Nation Review

Archer Nation

Beneath The Dream

EMP Records: Released February 15, 2019

Written by Tim Duran

10 out of 10

Archer Natiob Beneath

It’s a special kind of feeling when a band like Archer Nation comes around.  I knew of them way back when they were just “Archer”. Three young lads playing insane thrash from their record “Culling the Weak”.

Fast forward to now, these same three lads are still playing their thrash metal music with songs from their new record, “Beneath the Dream” on EMP Records.  And oh, what sounds, what joyous noise, what healing power of heavy metal these three hold in the palms of their hands.  Here, Archer Nation gleans from their influences from, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Motörhead,  jazz, blues, angst, frustration, and sarcasm, and deal them out equally between eight lovely, heavy, aggressive tunes.  The theme I get from listening to this CD; is “nightmares”. It’s like a Freddy Krueger lullaby.

As I let the thrash bounce around in my grey matter, the music sets me free as that dude from “Shawshank Redemption. That is why it is my honor and my great pleasure to tell you about Archer Nation and the little CD they like to call, “Beneath the Dream”.

Fronted by the melodious blonde bomber, Dylan Rose (no relation) who also commandeth the six stringed beasts to do his bidding. Keyhan(the blur)  Moini bashes on the barrels, and the hair mask himself, David De Silva, beating the bass into submission. Together, this power trio from Santa Cruz, California will refresh your love for pure THRASH. For us old dudes, it’s a rebirth of the kings.

(Spoiler Alert……NO SLOW, SAPPY LOVE SONG BALLADS!!)

Kicking things in the teeth is the opening song, “I Am the Dawn”.  The riffs abound right out of the gate as the story unfolds to what I believe to be someone going out of their mind with self deceit. (A nightmare in its own rite). The main guitar riff sets the pace for the delivery of insanity, like being trapped in a straight jacket.

“Division” starts with a nifty triplet drum intro before the band slams into the main riff.  This is a heavy set of lyrics that talk about how messed up people are as we give into the propaganda force fed to us by main stream media. Hating each other for our own political opinions and focusing on either side’s bad points, becoming more and more divided as a country. The funny part is that there’s one thing we agree on. When our freedoms are taken away, we all of a sudden care about the outcome.  “No matter who you choose, the people always lose/ either side it’s all the same”.

Starting off with some floaty, clean arpeggio on guitar, “Beneath the Dream” comes descending like a creeping death. Musically, it has the atmosphere of a dream going bad, the vocals ebb and flow over the verses, and it has one of most intense guitar solos I’ve heard in a long time. The song is heavy without being hard and fast. The tempo is in the middle, but it’s driving and airy.

“Acedia” is another set of vocals that describe the nightmare of false religions. I can relate to this song in a lot of ways. The anger in this song parallels the feelings I used to have. The rhythms here are fierce, the axe work is as angry as the lyrics, Dylan sings through gritted teeth, and the arrangement is above perfect.

“Not My Own” is a song that is borderline depression and just continuing with how things are going. Being stuck in a dank place, dreaming of something better, some sort of escape, wondering if this is all there is to life. It’s all a bad dream that’s lived out, day by day. The tune is sullen like lyrics and the music revolves around the confusion.

When I first heard this next song, “Matricide”, I thought it meant “death by sleep in bed”. Then I looked it up. Boy was I shocked. I had no idea there was a word for a son or daughter to kill his/her mother.  To me, I think the lyrics are how we’re killing the earth. We have wars, divisions, the cutting down of rain forests, poison in the waters, and so on. We are the ones killing “mother earth” and we will continue to kill her because it’s what we do the best. And that also is living out a nightmare.

“Shackled” is about one who seems the only way to live is to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.  This is one the more hard core thrash songs on here. The music translates the feelings of exhaustion and self failure. Every beat seems to weigh down on your soul. The crushing rhythms are like giant hail stones. The vocals are sung contrary to the rhythm, adding a maddening intensity.

The last song almost had me fooled into believing it was an instrumental. The intro is jazzy until it breaks into a hard rock feel.  Although “Severed” would make an awesome instrumental as a whole, the song in its entirety is flawless. It defines the feeling of utter failure and dealing with destroying everything good in your life. The helplessness of enduring such a fate is translated ideally in the music as one who has seen firsthand the demise and aftermath of self destruction.

To sum up this record in a word would be “Aggressive”. Okay, second word, “Powerful”, “Relatable”, to mention a third. These three young men have grasped on to the true meaning of metal and put together another arrangement of pure Thrash.

Downside is that it took almost three years to get the second release out. That’s about it for the downside.

Upside is that there are eight wonderfully written woeful tunes to bang your head to. Its blues in thrash form. Meaning it’s not supposed to make you feel good, it’s supposed to make you feel.  Although the lyrics speak of nightmarish things, the music sees you through. Before writing anything down for this, I spent the last two weeks listening to the disc over and over. The first spin wasn’t enough. Every song spoke to me in some way. Songs from “Culling the Weak” were the same way for me. I encourage you to find both of these records and put them in heavy rotation to whatever you’re listening to.

In a great big nut shell, I give the new release, “Beneath the Dream” by Archer Nation, a big, fat 10!

 

 

 

 

Halloween Horror Anthologies

It’s that time of year again, friends; the time when black cats cross your path and an eerie chill has hit the air; a time of spooky stories and creative costumes.  I’m talking about All Hallows’ Eve.  I’m talking about Halloween.  Horror and Halloween are forever linked and fans of our favorite genre get especially going when the 31st of October is near.  Many people love to turn to scary movies when it comes to the holiday and really, there are few better ways to celebrate. There have been countless articles dealing with the ins and outs of Halloween themed films floating out there, so instead I thought I would do something a little different and talk about one of my personal favorite subjects to delve into this time of year. I’m talking about the anthology.  For reasons I’ll get to, I think of anthology films as the perfect choice for Halloween viewing.  It doesn’t even matter to me if a film relates specifically to the holiday itself.  As far as I’m concerned, all anthologies are perfect Halloween viewing. But first, let’s back up a little.

Horror in bite-sized form has been around for quite some time.  American cinema, for example, largely came from stage and radio. And old time radio was deeply steeped in short-form horror tales.  Witch’s Tale, Inner Sanctum, Lights Out; these classics terrified children and adults and like form the living room radio.  A lot of scares can be conjured up in twenty minutes with the right actors and many of these vintage episodes did just that.  These classic radio shows from the 30’s inspired a lot of people who wound up being pioneers in their own right.  This includes those behind EC comics such as William Gaines (well known as publisher of Mad Magazine) who set out to scare a new generation of children with the likes of Tales from The Crypt, Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear along with many others.  These comics were actually quite controversial in their times and pushed boundaries, shaking up society’s perceptions of important issues and topics.  These books not only told frightening tales in little bursts but also gave the illustrator’s freedom to do their thing rather than expect them to all be uniform and the comics have one set style.  This little detail may seem insignificant to my overall topic but really it all goes to the heart of it.  So many sub-genres and tones, styles and themes can be represented when you’re crafting multiple story, especially when rolled up in a bigger project.  I don’t need to tell anyone what was done with Tales from the Crypt but I will anyway.

Tales from the Crypt was adapted into a movie (along with Vault of Horror) in the 70’s and in the 90’s became an HBO series.  Along with reruns of the inspirational force that is The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside and the 90’s classic Are You Afraid of the Dark? Tales from the Crypt was a major part of my childhood.  Interestingly enough, what had started off as a way to give kids a thrill in comic form had come to represent something more adult-skewing on television decades later. But that didn’t mean that kids like me couldn’t love them.  These episodes were based on classics comics (not just the one actually titled Tales from the Crypt) but added to them and elongated them to fill out a half-hour time slot.  Admittedly at times this robbed the source material of a classic twist or punch but they were always such a blast to watch and put a smile on my face to this day.  I ate all of this up.  I adored every episode of every show, every little story.  There was something that instantly connected with me and still does to this day.

My personal introduction to anthology films was in the form of a few flicks in particular.  Notable examples were George Romero’s classic 1982 film Creepshow as well its 1987 sequel Creepshow 2. Both are awesome but the original in particular is still one of the most perfect anthologies there has ever been in my opinion.  The other seminal anthology that got me into them was the masterpiece that is Tales from the Hood.  I was too young at first to grasp the nuances and complex themes of race in the United States as well as injustice at the hands of those in power, along with many other very real topics.  But I still loved it right from my first viewing all those years ago and have only come to appreciate it more and more as my brain developed and matured.  It has a lot to say and at the same time is an absolute rollercoaster of a film. From there I went on a tear; From Campfire Tales to Campfire Stories; From Beyond the Grave to Body Bags.  I was obsessed with this style of film.  These movies kept moving and flowing, delving into new territory with each twist and turn.

So what does this all have to do with Halloween?  Sure, some fun flicks like (the fantastic) Trick ‘r Treat and All Hallows’ Eve center around the holiday itself.  But I’m clearly not just talking about those.  And sure, horror movies in general have a Halloween connection of sorts; but why the anthology especially?  It’s really simple, actually.  It’s all so much fun.  Yes, Halloween has quite serious origins that are to be respected from a historical standpoint -paying respects to lost relatives, the portal between our world and the next opening.  But I am a 90’s kid and we are a largely a very nostalgic bunch when it comes to certain things.  Old school Nickelodeon, discontinued snack foods, and the Halloween of our era are major aspects of what makes us what we are.  Do kids still love Halloween?  I’m sure they do.  And I’m the last person to pull the whole “Back in my day!!” crap.  But there was something special about the holiday for us, something stitched into every piece of media, every commercial, and every turn throughout the season.  I made the connection between anthology and Halloween early on.  They just fit so well with the heart of the holiday; the rushing around, the adrenaline; the experiencing all sorts of horrors in one night.  You see a whole variety demons and ghosts, slashers and creatures on All Hallows’ Eve.  And the same can be said for the anthology.  The mixture of beasts and killers, humor and darkness; the blends are as varied and delectable as the candy bags that are emptied out and devoured.

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Anthologies remind me of telling tales around a campfire; being teleported back to hearing a spooky experience from a friend who swears they seen a ghost once.  As a child, anything can happen on Halloween and that’s still how I feel about anthology films.  There’s a permission in the sub-genre to go wild; to try out different things and see what scares you and what you can conquer.  I have a pretty “all over the place” personality and so does the anthology, as does Halloween.  For me they will always be linked and one of the first things I conjure in my mind when I think of the time of year.

The anthology film is only growing in popularity as time goes by.  I’ve seen many phenomenal entries into the proud tradition being put forth with passion and that’s a wonderful thing to see.  I’ve recently reviewed the Volumes of Blood series as well as Torin Langen’s silent anthology film 3 Dead Trick or Treaters and both respective projects have kept my faith in the sub-genre alive and well.  It’s getting very close to Halloween at the time of this article being written.  I can feel the chill in the air; I see the decorations and sense the spirit of the season all around me.  And I’d like to celebrate this, my favorite of holidays. To relax, throw on an anthology and remind myself why they go so well together.  I hope you do too.  And may your frame story be an exciting one that you ultimately escape unscathed

Written by PJ Griffin

Site Announcement

As owner/main editor of Horror Metal Sounds, I am excited to bring everyone a major announcement. HMS is getting a face lift and will be completely redesigned to look bigger and better than before. We’ve been around since the fall 2012 and it has been our mission to bring you the best coverage in horror and metal.

When we debuted on Halloween, we unleashed the site’s mascot Dead Meat. He’s been a fixture since the beginning and now he will be joined by a few new cohorts going forward. I can’t wait to introduce everyone to the next generation of Avatars who will join Meat in our efforts to entertain and frighten the pants off you!

I am overly excited for the future of HMS, so keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked up for further announcements. At this juncture, the newly redesigned site will be unveiled late summer/early fall.

So in the meantime, keep your head banging to a frenzy and keep the fists pumping furiously in the air!

Editor-In-Chief Kenneth Gallant

 

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ALBUMS THAT MEAN SOMETHING

Albums that Mean Something

Iron Maiden

Live After Death

Released October 14, 1985 via EMI/Capitol Records

Live After Death

I must admit that I hate lists. The idea of culling a list together is so subjective and often the people who create them don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about. Besides, everyone has a particular taste; subjective or not.

So with that being said, HMS has decided to provide you with a series of albums that meant something. At least this is from my perspective, so if you agree or not; that’s totally left up to your own discretion.

I will begin with this beauty going back to 1985. I was a sophomore in High School when I stumbled across a used cassette of Iron Maiden’s Live After Death. Surely for most Maiden fans, this is the definitive live recording in their discography and it never fails to disappoint every time I give this a spin. It was recorded on the World Slavery tour in Long Beach, California and at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, England.

At the time, the tour was colossal in many ways: lasting 331 days and performing more than a 187 shows across the globe. The band tied the tour in with their latest album Power Slave, so the stage and theatrics had an Egyptian theme running through it. Bassist Steve Harris had said at the time, the band wanted no overdubbing on the tracks and he wanted this to be the best possible live sounding record ever. Boy; did he ever mean that!

Live After Death sounded so crisp, bristling with energy throughout every track. Vocalist Bruce Dickenson lived up to his nickaname – as the AIR RAID SIREN; while the band provided the powerful soundtrack behind him. This was musical theatre at its best!

What really sold it for me was the wonderful cover art from Derek Riggs. Eddie is seen rising from the Grave amidst a wild thunder and lightning storm behind him. That image never left me from the first day I saw it on the cassette cover. In fact the artwork of Derek Riggs became a catalyst in my teenage life, steering me towards a career as a visual artists.

So I dedicate Live After Death as an album that meant something to me.

 

 

Judas Priest Firepower review

Judas Priest

Firepower

(Columbia Records/Sony Music)

Written by: Kenneth Gallant

9 out of 10

 

Firepower has been out for a few weeks now and word has spread like wildfire over the net; best album since Painkiller most would argue. Those are some lofty words to repeat out loud, and I will admit to not being among those repeating this mantra. But once I gave this release a few spins I quickly changed my tune. I found the songs on a whole burn into your brain forcing obsessive returns to this album over and over.

The album feels like classic Priest – with blazing guitar leads and the continued roar from one of the greatest metal frontmen of all time: Mr. Rob Halford. Even the album title ‘Firepower’ is appropriately earned here, as the band forges ahead with 14 tracks of metallic bliss and I do mean bliss. The opening salvo begins with the title track and it unleashes an array of razor sharp riffs and a hard driving tempo. I can guarantee your fists will be waved high and pumping like mad. When “Lightning Strikes” erupts, the high energy continues as Rob tears it up right at the start of the song, and daring his band mates to keep pace. The riffs are tasty and the chorus is very infectious; I simply love this song!

“Evil Never Dies” is a catchy number that I keep coming back to again and again. Rob delivers a sinister edge to the vocals and Ritchie Faukner and Glenn Tipton provide the firepower. “Never the Heroes” slows down a bit, but it still sounds heavy as fuck. When “Necromancer” starts up, the relentless pace hits hard and I swear this could have been on Painkiller. Faulkner and Tipton work in harmony with the leads, reminding me of that classic 80’s era of Priest.

But not every song is a winner. “Children of the Sun” reminds me of modern Metallica and “Guardians/Rising from Ruins” slows down the proceedings. I will admit the chorus is catchy as hell, but for whatever reasons I couldn’t help but think this is sort of in the Metallica vein of current song writing. You shouldn’t worry though, because this dip in the album is short lived as “Flamethrower” grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go. I was bedazzled with a catchy chorus and some fast and furious licks from the boys, bringing back that classic metallic sound to the forefront. “Spectre” is a curious number providing tons of grooves, but adding on heaping amounts of meaty riffs to drive the song and chorus.

Songs like “Traitor’s Gate” fall into that familiar Priest pattern: harmonious guitars and driving bass and it won’t disappoint your ears. “No Surrender” is a prototypical sing-a-long Priest number and “Lone Wolf” explores the heavy groove to guide the song, but maybe not to the success I would like it to be. The riffs are bluesy at best and it’s probably not going to be one of my favorite numbers on this album. At least “Sea of Red” is a solid ballad to close out the album.

Overall, I have come to the conclusion of two things: Andy Sneap and co-producer Tom Allom has greatly helped to improve the metallic crunch on all fronts. The guitars are more pronounced here and there is a consistent beefy tone throughout. This was lacking a bit on the previous release “Redeemer of Souls”. The second big proponent here is Ritchie Faulkner’s emergence on guitar and becoming a fully integrated member of the core sound. He slots in nicely beside Glenn Tipton and has helped to rebuild that classic one-two punch we have all grown to love over the years. I’m not sure he found his footing on Redeemer, but here you can tell he’s brought some new life to this band with those incredible licks.

Firepower is not Painkiller, nor will it ever be for me. But you can bet this album will go down as a fan favorite next to Painkiller when this is all said and done. I can’t get enough of this album at the moment and I suspect the majority of Priest fans feel the same way. Check’em out on tour this summer as they bring the firepower along with Saxon; it’s going to go down as a tour for the ages.

 

Saxon Thunderbolt Review

Saxon

Thunderbolt

(Silver Lining Music)

Written by: Kenneth Gallant

8 Out of 10

The mighty Saxon return with their 22nd studio recording; proving they still have the staying power to be relevant and vital as ever. The album entitled “Thunderbolt” forges ahead with 12 epic tracks of molten metal goodness; embracing that continual conviction of becoming denim and leather demi-gods from the NWOBHM.

This time out, the band go for that big epic sound to get you fist pumping and ready for a series of tracks that would put Manowar to shame. The ominous sounding instrumental (Olympus Rising) at the beginning sets the tone for the glorious first track “Thunderbolt’. The lyrics touch upon the gods of ancient Greek mythology, but the razor sharp riffs are spot on in support of this rousing number. “Secret Flight” continues on in a similar vein covering the exploits of Icarus in support of the gift of flight. There is a great deal of melody here and the riffs soar throughout; proving this number is a great compliment piece to Thunderbolt. I really enjoyed the creepy and monstrous “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)”; as the sonic proceedings slow down, but the ominous textures really drive this number.

The thunderous attitude picks up again on “They Played Rock and Roll”. The track motors along at a great clip and at times feels like it could have appeared on 1981’s Denim and Leather album. I really got into “Predator” after the meaty riffs pounded holes in my eardrums. There’s an underlying death metal esthetic here, which might be a first for this band, so who says musicians mellow with age! “Sons of Odin” get back to that Manowar vibe and man do they let that rip loud and proud. This is also the track that Biff Byford shines best on vocally for my tastes, so move over Rob Halford – here’s another front man who can still belt out those tunes for his age. “Sniper” is a simple foot stomper that doesn’t let up for the duration of three and a half minutes. The riffs push the song to a satisfying finish; so if anyone is looking for a standard metal tune then this is it.

“A Wizard’s Tale” is a track that explores the boundless magic found in the tales of Camelot. The track strives to maintain the melody and it proves to be a descent number. Slotting “Speed Merchants” next is a stroke of genius as the prototypical thunder roars into life as a rancorous affair of riffs and a chorus that will surely get everyone in the moshpits going ape-shit over. “Roadies’ Song” pulls back on the reigns a bit; detailing the life of a roadie, but it’s a little on the dull side for my liking. The album ends on a return to “Nosferatu”, but entitled the raw version. I’m not sure this track is necessary, but it’s still a satisfying number. That riff that roars to life in the final two minutes of the song is still sweet music to my ears.

I was reading a few other reviews online and was a bit surprised that some find this album to be a serviceable heavy metal record at best. Personally for me there is a lot more going on here then what you would find in most young bands of today. Yes, Saxon is old boys still plying their trade to the heavy metal arena, but they are so prolific doing it that you can’t deny their contribution as a musical entity. I dig them still after all these years and Byford and the boys still know how to cut killer tunes to satisfy my heavy metal cravings.

Thunderbolt won’t disappoint and if you are digging the brand new Judas Priest record, then give this release a spin too. In fact Saxon and Priest are hooking up for a tour together this summer and it promises to be an epic affair. I’m giving this record eight thunderbolts out of ten and I can’t wait to hear these tunes live at some point this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starblind – Album Review

Starblind Never Seen Again

Review by Tim Duran

Starblind Never Seen again

First, they filled your ears with fear with Darkest Horrors, stole you away into dark fantasy with Dying Son, and now leave you stranded on a frozen tundra with no hope and only the icy wind to keep you warm with their new release, Never Seen Again.

Starblind’s music taps into the essence of the Iron Maiden sound with their own original feel. Bassist Daniel “Thor” Tillberg has a heavy hand that lets the tone cut through the thunderous sounds that drummer Zakarias Wikner creates. The terrible twosome, dual axe slinging mad men of Stockholm, Björn Rosenblad and J.J. shred with tasty leads, catchy rhythms, and beautiful harmonies. New vocalist, Marcus Sannefjord Olkerud, is outstanding. He has great depth and highs, like James LaBrie of Dream Theater.

The record opens with an airy keyboard intro, and you feel the tension build before the musical intro begins. “The Everlasting Dream of Flight”, I would say, is the anthem of the record. The changes in line up, the walls scaled, and endless hours of production did not keep the band down.  Instead, it made the music more aggressive, groovier, and more of a hard core rock sound than heavy metal.

“The Shadow out of Time”, a punchy little ditty, is a vision, a narration, and a journey in minstrel form.  A song that makes you envision what the storyteller is saying. The music fuses thought and imagination of the lyric.

Did someone say more cowbell? Well here you go! “Pride and Glory” not only gives you cowbell, but words of wisdom. Listen close to this one. Make up your own mind what this song says to you. What I feel is that pride and glory fade, so reach for what is eternal.

Speaking of eternal things, “Eternally Bound” has the storytelling of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song. The mid tempo vibe translates the pain of memory of lost loved ones into every note played, every beat, and every word sung. I relate this one to the memories I have of a good friend, a drummer in fact, and a high school bud whose life was cut too short. This one I’m sure you all can relate to in some way, shape or form. We all have someone we love that is no longer with us to share in our joys and sufferings, but wait for the day when we will be eternally together. Danny Sherman, I dedicate this one to you, man.

This homage to war Veterans, tells of their bravery and strength. “Tears of a Soldier” goes hand in hand with “Eternally Bound”. The powerful lyrics, the strong rhythms, and the way the words flow as they revolve around the music fill the void with honor to the fallen and the ones who live with their memory. This one you should play for the Veteran in your life.

In the year 1845, explorers traveled to the Arctic. My research on Gizmodo.com says this: “To say that the 129 sailors aboard the HMS Terror and Erebus died slow and miserable deaths would be a gross understatement. As they attempted to traverse the last un-navigated section of the Northwest Passage, the ships became hopelessly trapped in ice above the Arctic Circle off Canada’s King William Island. For the next two years, the crew members struggled to stay alive, eventually succumbing to a variety of ailments.”

As such is the story behind the lyric of the title track, Never Seen Again.  I advise you wear a very warm coat.

Time to shed the coat for t-shirt and shorts as Starblind takes you on a trip through Purgatory.

In Dante’s Inferno, there’s a place in hell for the greedy. Here, is a taste of warning.  “Avarice (The Fourth Circle)” explains what awaits you if you choose such a path.  It’s best to be content with what you have, rather than receive a gift and use it foolishly.

“Demon Rider” is a fantastic tale of a rogue biker bent on mayhem, like Ghost Rider on steroids. It’s every boy’s dream!

Throughout history, the genius has always been used to make weapons of mass destruction and keep tabs (or taps) on the little guy.  I think “Insanity and Genius” is what this song is about.  I think of Albert Einstein and his reasons for wanting to build the atomic bomb. It saved millions of lives while taking just as many.  The insanity is how his ideas became avaricious for the powers that be.

The last song on this crazy historical mind trip begins with some deep thumping bass. “The Last Stand” has the rhythm section pounding the chthonic tribal beat as the vocals and guitars wail, flail, and sail its way till the very end.

Start to finish, the new Starblind record is amazing. It’s more of a roller coaster ride through life, death, and pain. As my wife asked, “Is this a concept record?” Musically it all ties together and the concept of life and death run throughout, but each song’s story is different. Anyone can relate to the songs all while banging your head, air guitaring, and air drumming to your heart’s desire. The tones are much deeper than Horrors and Son, it’s as if they used alternate tunings or just turned up the mid range on the amps.

Darkest Horrors was outright METAL, Dying Son filled us with fantasy, and Never Seen Again is a history lesson given to us by five powerful professors, but alas I must give the downside.  I noticed one flaw in one of the songs where they “punched in” on a take, a few of the songs have that droning “whoa-ooh” chant, but it does work for the arrangement. I wish the mic on the cymbals was a bit louder, and they could have added at least nine more songs. Ten is not enough. But then this review would be much longer. Upside, it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. This longed for release was well worth the wait. It has the metal, the rock, strength, stamina, stigma, and style. I love the use of history that most are not aware of; as in the title track, the homage in “Tears”, and the memoir in “Eternally Bound”.

When the music fades and all is stripped away, there’s only one word that comes to mind, ten.

Check out Starblind:

http://www.starblind.se/

https://www.facebook.com/StarBlindtheBand/

Read about Albert Einstein here: https://www.nobelprize.org/educational/peace/nuclear_weapons/readmore.html

And the voyage of the HMS Terror and Erebus here: https://gizmodo.com/new-clues-emerge-about-doomed-expedition-through-the-no-1797855047

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film Review: All is Empty

Alfredo Abaunza’s All is Empty

Reviewed by P.J. Griffin

All is Empty

I’ve been fortunate enough to check out several of Alfredo Abaunza’s short films and written about a few of them.  I got hooked with his impressive cannibalism-centered project Family and then wrote about his film Nothing But Ants.  Both showed talent and skill but were quite different from one another.  Abaunza is a versatile filmmaker and I’m never sure what to expect when I start a new film of his.  His latest project, All is Emtpy, came under my radar and so I checked it out.  Did it stack up to the quality I’ve come to expect from this particular writer/director?  Absolutely.  Allow me to explain why.

All is Empty centers around Travis (Norbert Velez Jr.), a young man who is about to enter a world of confusion and terror.  When we meet Travis he is clearly in a bad way and trying to explain himself and the situation he has found himself in to unseen doctors.  What follows quickly gets going into the erratic and deeply affected state of mind Travis has to deal with.  After our protagonist meets up with a young woman from his life, things spiral out of control and the viewer discovers that things aren’t always what they seem.

Especially with a short film, it’s important for me not to go into too much detail and spoil anything.  This film deserves to be experienced with as little information possible to get the full effect so I’ll just vaguely go over what I feel works.  First off, I was impressed with how the film simultaneously grabs the viewer right away, but then allows itself to stew.  The project isn’t a bombardment of images nor is it a completely slow burn.  Both concepts can work quite well with specific works and for this one I feel the blending of the two was a good call.

It was all shot well, pairing the different tones that shift throughout.  The mixture of the visceral and more slow paced are complimented by the music and the sound.  Atmosphere is key and All is Empty realizes this while taking full advantage of the various settings and landscapes.  I appreciate when mood is conveyed honestly, no matter of the genre or realistic nature of the story itself.  I can say with certainty that the beats all hit their mark for me and I was with the project the whole way.  I guessed at the right times, I discovered at the right times, I was surprised at the right times.

It’s clear that everyone involved was on board for what the film entailed right from the start and it’s always nice to see such enthusiasm.  It keeps a dreary project fun while the material keeps it all genuine.  The film is just spontaneous enough to be entertaining without being confusing.  This is a tough thing to accomplish but at no point did I feel lost.  I felt the baffled nature of the main character but it always felt like part of the process.  I’ve loved many an artsy horror film but with such a story-driven project, it was smart how it was done.

All in all, I was completely satisfied with All is Empty.  I found it to be an absorbing project that is best to just delve into and just see what happens.  I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Alfredo Abaunza, as I’ve been given more than enough reason to trust in whatever he has in store.