Starblind Album Review

Starblind

Black Bubbling Ooze

Pure Steel Records

8 out of 10

Written by Tim Duran

Four albums and five years is the count and I see no halt in the progression of the classic metal sound that Starblind brings. Four albums and five years is the length of time I have been following the mighty Starblind and their evolution.  I think that’s what the title projects. A title taken from the chorus of a song off their first record (we’ll get to that detail later). 

Two years or so ago, Marcus Olkerud took over vocals as Mike Stark went on to form Stormburner. Mike fronted during the Darkest Horrors and Dying Son days, and Marcus started for their third record Never Seen Again. An album that spoke volumes to me both musically and lyrically.  

Here in the Ooze, Marcus takes a stab at some early Starblind tunes, J.J.’s old band , and a few newly written songs.  

For those of you who are now just hearing of Starblind, their show of force is Marcus Olkerud on vocals, Daniel Yrell on bass, J.J. and Bjorn Rosenblad on rhythm and lead guitars, and ZakariusWikner who is the rumbling destruction in the flow of this Black Bubbling Ooze. 

The record starts with the very groove oriented “One Of Us”. Daniel really lets loose on the bass fills here. This is a song for each and every metal head out there. We’re all the same. Metal knows no colour, race , gender, background, back story, or status. This is a call to come together as one and be one with the music no matter what anyone says, thinks, or proclaims. 

Second song, first stab : “At The Mountain Of Madness” from the first album Darkest Horrors and first with Mike Stark on vocals. Here in these lyrics lye the title to this record.  Marcus expresses a bit of passion and relates well to the song. The band does a little rearranging as far as tempo. It has more of a live feel to it this time around. 

“Here I Am” kicks off speedily. Rhythmically, this one has an early Starblind feel to it. Maybe it’s because it’s from J.J.’s old band, “DANGER”. Tonally, it’s deep as the bass and drums overtake the mid range and beef it up. Vocally, it’s much more. Marcus has more power and more meaning in this performance. The tempo is a little faster and everyone seems to be having fun with this one. 

Fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh song, and last stabs ,starting with “Crystal Tears”. This song is also from the Darkest Horrors record. The arrangement sort of keeps the same time as the original take. Daniel adds a nice down slide in the intro that’s missing from the original. Marcus is a little more breathy in the verses which is soothing to the ears before the bridge comes in and the solo drives the song a bit faster. 

“The Man In The Crowd” and “Room 101” from Dying Son. The second record and last with Mike Stark. Both songs are more up-tempo from the original takes, the mix is better and Marcus takes advantage of both. As on “Mountain”, Marcus relates to these songs and doesn’t treat them as mere “covers”. These are Starblind songs, he’s the vocalist for Starblind, and so sings as though he was part of the writing procedure. I respect that. What I’m trying to say, is, he’s not just laying down vocal tracks just to get them over with. You can hear in his voice that he’s taking the time and effort to do the songs justice. So as for “Man In The Crowd”, it’s well done. As for “Room 101”, I really like the mix on this one over the original mix. Zakarius, thunders through this song a little more aggressively than the original and makes for a live feel as well. 

The last oldie but goodie is “The Reckoning” from the Darkest Horrors record. I really like how the band got together and laid down new tracks for these older tunes. They just didn’t have Marcus sing over old tracks. They really made these songs new.  

I think the only thing I don’t like is the choice of this particular song. I feel when the line, “Now awake the hero from his slumber”, isn’t in the right range. Marcus sings it in a lower tone. I liked the way Mike had a bit of a higher tone when he sang the word, “Slumber”. But everything else is righteous. The backing vocals in the chorus are spine chilling and I can’t get over the lyrics. It’s a powerful, meaningful song that I fell in love with the first time I heard it five years ago.  

The last tune that bookends this record, “The Young Man”, rumbles with a strong bass line as it progresses into the main part of the first verse. It really ends this record off on a good note.  

Downside is “The Reckoning”. Everything is perfect except for that line I spoke of earlier. I don’t know. It just didn’t sound right to me. Maybe I’m just used to Mike’s voice on that one.  

Upside is as I mentioned, new tracks to old songs, fun and purposeful in the performance and vocals; and the two new songs; “One Of Us” and “The Young Man” are intense! Everyone locked in just like on Never Seen Again.  

A few things I would have added would have been “The Land Of Seven Rivers Beyond The Sea” and “Blood Red Skies” from Dying Son, and “The Great Hunt” and “I Stand Alone” from Darkest Horrors. I really want to hear what Marcus can do with those tunes. Mainly because I’d put those puppies under a microscope! 

Overall, I really like Black Bubbling Ooze for what it is. Pure performance. I appreciate that the title is from an early song. That speaks volumes to my heart.  

I give this one a very loud 8. I would have liked one or two more originals to make for a longer record, but even with the older songs, they sounded new purely because they all made them with new tracks that were more lively and beefed up with tone and tempo.  

Well done, my friends! 

As for the readers, I challenge you to hear the evolution of Starblind, and hope that you just don’t hear this record all on its own. There’s Darkest Horrors, Dying Son, and Never Seen Again to be heard and enjoyed. 

Check them out and buy stuff at www.Starblind.se 

Hear them on Spotify …. But buy stuff at www.Starblind.se and Amazon. 

Eternal Champion Ravening Iron review

Eternal Champion

Ravening Iron

(No Remorse Records)

9 out 10 Skulls

Written by Kenneth Gallant

The highly anticipated sophomore release from Eternal Champion is finally on the horizon and boy does it ever pack a punch! More importantly they deliver above and beyond the original template that started with 2016’s The Armor of Ire; delivering 8 tracks of battle slogged anthems. If you enjoy the fantasy works of Michael Moorcock or even Robert E. Howard, then you will fancy the unabashed love affair this band provides with a dose of epic heavy metal. 

Hailing from Austin, Texas and taking their name from Moorcock’s Eternal Champion; the band brings the power and triumph of steel in a thunderous way. Often taking the listener back to the fictional universe of the Eternal Champion; a hero largely reincarnating over and over in a bid to defend and keep the balance of the forces between law and order. It doesn’t get any better than that and for those who love this literary type of fantasy and sword & sorcery your appetite will be satiated immensely. 

Ravening Iron starts off with a bang as the opening number “A Face in the Glare” begins with the sounds of the blacksmith forging the steel; then giving way to the blistering lead; kicking off the heaviness in a big way. The guitar work of John Powers/Arthur Rizk is superb and it’s a satisfying number to start out the proceedings. The title track “Ravening Iron” follows and the high-octane pace thuds along to a harmonic-filled sing-along chorus that brings to mind Iron Maiden. The song details the plight of a village torn apart from a sword battle and the after effects of an attack. I couldn’t help but think about the opening scene in Conan when as a child his village was raided and plundered by a renegade barbarian hoard.

My favorite track breaks out next with the start of Rizk’s war chime on the drums and the thunderous bass of Brad Raub kicking in for “Skullseeker”. Arguably, the strongest number in these set of songs – Skullseeker fires up the metallic engine and lets the heavy sounding guitars do their thing. I also loved the little nuances that singer Jason Tarpey brings in with the Tom Gabriel-like ‘ohs’ to give that added extra touch to the song. There’s also a wonderful solo that starts at around the 3rd minute mark capping off what I believe to be is the perfect song on this album.

” War at the Edge of the End” gallops along, approaching Iron Maiden like rhythms and guitar harmonies that were satisfying to my ears. “Coward’s Keep” starts out with a Thin Lizzy-soaked harmony then crashes into Arthur Rizk’s furious drumming to really drive the rhythm section and start us off on the right foot. The pace and energy (from the guitars) build up nicely into a song that describes the fears of going into battle and there’s definitely a nod to J.R.R. Tolkien here lyrically. The song also fades out into an acoustic guitar outro that closes off quite nicely. 

I love how kick-ass sounding “Worms of the Earth” starts out and roars for about 4 minutes. It’s the kind of song you can definitely utilize when working out, or when bike riding. The thunderous sounds in this little ditty will raise the thrash meter up to the highest point and it never lets the down the pace. Then we get a little interlude with the majestic sounding “The Godblade”; utilizing synths in a short instrumental arrangement. It’s atmospheric and it brings to mind those long forgotten 80’s B movies like Beastmaster and The Sword and the Sorcerer. Finally, we end off with the doomy laden “Banners of Arhai”. The pace here slows down quite a bit, so there’s some time to catch your breath and take in this powerful dirge. Jason’s vocals are superb and on point the moment the first note is struck.  I liked how the band gave this track the proper due it needed to breath; layering over ethereal sounds to cap off a great sophomore release.

The Ravening Iron is a strong second outing and forges ahead in a different way than what was established on The Armor of Ire. The production is beefy and the guitars will bludgeon the listener over the head with a bountiful selection of tasty riffs. I found the pace on this release much more to my liking, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the debut. Both records each have a charm all their own, but The Ravening Iron is a statement defining release and let me tell you – the band is ready to take the world by storm! There’s not a band song in the bunch and often I thought that it was like listening to Iron Maiden on crack. It’s all so wonderfully recorded and packaged into a set of galloping riffs and leads that left me wanting more as the last note fades out. 

Tarpey’s vocals felt like they got an upgrade here and his lyrics continue to dazzle these metalhead’s ears. The other neat fact about the Ravening Iron is the release of Tarpey’s new book The Godblade; coming out as a companion to the album. As soon as I heard about the fantasy novel, I ordered if off Amazon and I am eagerly excited to read about the further continuation of Tarpey’s “Vengeance of the Insane God” short story first published in Swords of Steel by DMR books. The Godblade is a novella, following the exploits of warrior Raenon in his journey to uncover the tomb of the god Farick. Many of the songs written on the Ravening Iron are direct inspiration from the fantasy world of Arginor and will be detailed in the book.

If you are into bands like Iron Maiden, Visgoth, Manilla Road and Steel Aggressor then give this record a try. It won’t disappoint; and if you enjoy Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery this band will do the trick and quench your thirst for forged steel. 

To purchase the album – buy here Music | Eternal Champion (bandcamp.com)
To purchase The Godblade – buy here The Godblade — DMR Books

The Godblade — DMR BooksThe warrior-smith Rænon, after witnessing the return of Brakur the Insane God, has returned to his homeland in Aelbrond. Now he must seek the tomb of the dead god Farick for the remains he needs to pyre-forge The Godblade, the only sword that can kill Brakur and stand against the nefarious cult of Arhai.dmrbooks.com

AC DC Power Up Album review

AC DC

Power UP

(Columbia Records)

8 out 10

Written by Kenneth Gallant

The first new AC DC song, since Rock or Bust was released in early October. The single “Shot in the Dark” came out on the heels of the horrible news of Eddie Van Halen’s untimely passing. I think most rock fans needed something to ease the pain of losing Eddie and to get past the shock of it. But this new song did the trick for me, assuaging my sorrows and hitting a sweet spot in the process.  The boys then announced they were back in business and the classic line-up of Angus Young, Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd (along with nephew Stevie Young) made it official with album number seventeen.

Cliff Williams came out of retirement and Brian Johnson seemed fit as a fiddle and was able to overcome his loss of hearing issues; even Phil Rudd was getting past his criminal charges. The time away from the spotlight energized both musicians, and the thought of picking up to continue the AC DC legacy was far too appealing not to be involved again. Maybe the troublesome times during the Rock or Bust tour are far behind them and with Axl Rose vacating the guest vocal spot, the time for Brian, Cliff and Phil to step back in made the most sense.

Power Up (due out on November 13th) is chalk full of meaty riffs and accompanied by that all so familiar rock swagger we have come to know and love about the band.  I totally understand the sentiment by some bemoaning that well-worn template bores the heck out of you, but not with me. We need this type of album right now, and the titans of rock deliver on all cylinders with a steady batch of rock tunes to perk up my ears. 

I’m still digesting the album on a whole, but upon first listen the steady as you go approach applies here. The opening track “Realize” is short, but packs a good fist-sized punch to the gut. Brian’s vocals are sharp as ever and he’s definitely on point straight out of the gate. The harmonizing back-up vocals help to fuel that 80’s vibe and I’m pleased first song in. The second track “Rejection” fits in nicely like a well-worn glove and there’s no mistaking that beautifully sounding Angus-riff. We’re two songs in and that swagger is in full-swing! Then when we get “A Shot in the Dark” and they let it rip like nobody’s business; I really dig this song!

The album does dip a bit with the melancholic “Through the Mists of Time”, but picks up with “Kick You When You Are Down”. I love the riff in the middle section and its vintage Angus Young. I started getting the ‘feels’ on “Witch’s Spell”; especially when there’s a nice sing-along chorus to get that ardent AC DC fan singing it for many days after; plus, Brian kicks into high gear on the vocals. “Demon’s Fire” is a real toe-tapper and arguably the stand-out track on this release. 

The remaining numbers like “Wild Reputation”, “No Man’s Land”, “Systems Down” and “Money Shot” don’t advance the formula in anyway, but plays it by the books and sticks to the classic sound. We do end the album off with the edgy “Code Red” and thanks to Brian’s extra vocal snarling and Young’s prolific riffing, the song brings it all into focus and perfectly encapsulates the swaggering rock anthems we come to expect from AC DC. Again, the band stick to their guns and that’s admirable in my books.

I know there are a lot of detractors out there who will say this is boring as hell, but it’s a comforting sound that I still love and appreciate. AC DC will never reinvent the wheel at this late stage, but they provide a musical template that makes me happy as a pig in shit. What is even more remarkable is how at their age they can remain as vital sounding as ever and you need to consider this: Brian is 73, Angus is 65, Cliff is 70, Phil is 66 and Stevie is 63. What more can I say about a group of musicians who still give it their best to deliver an album that can still rock. 

God bless you all boys!