Burning Witches – Hexenhammer – (Review)

Burning Witches - HexenhammerHexenhammer are a heavy metal band from Switzerland and this is their second album.

Featuring a member of Ursinne, here we have 48 minutes of old-school heavy metal spiced up with elements of speed/thrash and power metal here and there. Continue reading

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Skeletonwitch – Devouring Radiant Light (Review)

SkeletonwitchThis is the sixth album from Skeletonwitch, a blackened metal band from the US.

Well, this is not what I was expecting to hear from Skeletonwitch. I confess that I’ve only ever really heard a small amount of the band’s prior material, and what I did hear was kind of a thrash/melodic metal affair, from what I recall. I approached this Continue reading

Burning Shadows – Truth in Legend (Review)

Burning Shadows are a power metal band from the US and this is their third album.

Burning Shadows made a lasting impression on me with their 2012 release Gather, Darkness!, which demonstrated a band that had a strong sound, good tunes, and a very capable singer; all essential components for power metal success. Continue reading

Ram – Svbversvm (Review)

RamRam are a Swedish Heavy Metal band and this is their fourth album.

This is Classic/Traditional Heavy Metal with a solid sound and songs aplenty.

The style of the music and the singer’s commanding voice takes me back to the days when I was first discovering Heavy Metal. This is straight-ahead Metal with enough influences from the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden to keep any Metal fan happy, although it should be stated that Ram have enough personality of their own to avoid Svbversvm coming across as pure hero-worship.

The songs are catchy and do have hooks, but it’s not quite as obvious an affair as you might imagine. Although these elements are here, Ram seem to take more pride in creating songs that work holistically and create a good Metal atmosphere, rather than concentrating on the specifics of individual song parts. This is not to say they don’t have decent riffs and choruses, (they do), but it’s the song as a whole that’s important rather than just parts of it. For me, this approach works and increases the longevity and depth of the songs.

Having said all that though, songs like Holy Death are just pure wonderous aural-sugar and catchy as fuck, so there you go.

The singer’s style and his performance is resolutely Old-School, with his projected attitude and confidence being almost as important as his vocal skills. He knows how to sing that’s for sure, but like the music the emphasis is on feeling and delivery, rather than shiny harmonies and sing-along choruses; after all, this is resolutely Heavy Metal, not Power Metal.

Thankfully they have chosen to present all of this in a solid production that doesn’t over-emphasise the Old-School nature of their style. It’s a thoroughly modern recording that has enough grit and dust to ensure they don’t come across as too polished, while still giving the songs the respect and power they deserve. It’s well-judged, as too much one way or the other would have been to the album’s detriment, I feel.

I like this kind of Heavy Metal; yes there’s a nostalgia factor to it, but ultimately this is a contemporary Metal band existing in 2015 and producing quality music for fans of the classic style. The fact that they do it very well is a bonus.

At 50 minutes in length, this album is a very enjoyable listen and Ram are a most welcome addition to my music collection.

Hail!

Osmium Guillotine – Osmium Guillotine (Review)

Osmium GuillotineOsmium Guillotine are from the UK and this is their début album. They play Heavy Metal.

This is 80’s style Heavy Metal with a sexy guitar sound and plenty of attitude. The production is largely apt for this kind of band, although in a feat of differentiation Osmium Guillotine have a guitar tone that’s both thicker and heavier than most bands playing this genre and it works very well for them.

The music is played with passion and obvious zeal and everyone seems to know their job well. Nice solos too.

This is Old-School Heavy Metal that manages to encapsulate quite a few different feelings from early Metal and distil them into this release. Classic Metal is a given, but Doom Metal, Proto-Thrash and NWOBHM all get a look in. There’s even a touch of Punk to things now and again.

The vocals are great, and there’s not a hint of Power Metal to be seen. I love Power Metal as much as anyone, but it’s nice to hear a band like Osmium Guillotine who are just pure Heavy Metal without the more extravagant ostentation inherent in Power Metal. The singer here has a great set of lungs and possesses the charisma to do the tunes justice.

These are a strong set of songs with plenty of hooks and choruses to keep you coming back for more. Memorable melodies and good riffs flow freely and everything feels just as it should.

Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Anthrax…if these bands float your boat then Osmium Guillotine are a logical band to check out. Along with the recent stellar release from Johnny Touch this proves once again what any real music fan already knew – True Metal isn’t dead.

Great stuff.

Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead (Review)

Gamma RayGermany’s Gamma Ray are somewhat of a Power Metal institution. This is the band’s 11th album and I must confess I’ve been looking forward to it.

As soon as I noticed that the first track Avalon was the rather epic length of 9:22 I was excited, and the song is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Epic, stirring and memorable in all of the right ways.

After more than two decades of creating quality Metal, it’s great to see that Gamma Ray are not wanting for ideas or passion. They still have the hunger and devotion to Metal that is not commonly present in bands who have been around for half this amount of time.

So what do we get then? State-of-the-art sound? Yes. Rousing anthems? Yes. Guitar wizardry and fretmanship? Yes. Catchy and memorable hooks and melodies? Yes. Sing-along choruses? Yes. Riffs to pound chests to? Yes. Keyboards that enhance but don’t overpower? Yes.

The band spend time emphasising their Speed Metal aspect on some of the tracks, with Hellbent in particular showing a Judas Priest influence. The next song Pale Rider has an almost AC/DC feel to it, albeit heavier and with a distinctly non-AC/DC chorus. Time for Deliverance is more in the power ballad territory, with even somewhat of a revival feeling to it in places.

These are good demonstrations of the fact that Gamma Ray may have a distinct style but within this they vary things and keep things interesting so that they’re not simply playing what is effectively the same song over and over again.

The best songs are the bookends of the album – Avalon and I Will Return. This doesn’t invalidate anything in the middle of course, as taken holistically this is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of Heavy Metal.

How many other bands are on their 11th album and still capable of shredding with the best of them? Not many.

Gamma Ray still have a lot to offer the world. Empire of the Undead is the latest, and a top listen at that.

Lucifer’s Hammer – Night Sacrifice (Demo MMXII) (Review)

Lucifer's HammerChilean band Lucifer’s Hammer have released this EP/Demo full of Traditional/Classic Heavy Metal.

First thing I want to note is the excellent cover – simple and effective. Love it.

As for the music? One could almost apply the same terms to it. This is resolutely Old-School Classic Heavy Metal, taking cues from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

For a demo the sound is not that bad, although they could certainly benefit from a slightly better recording. The songs work however, regardless of this.

Each track is straightforward and has enough catch and hook to be enjoyable. The vocalist sings with gusto and appears to have gotten the Old-School Metal attitude and harmonies exactly right. He lives up to the images of his idols well, as do the band as a whole.

It will be interesting to see how they develop when they eventually put out a full length album. Time to keep an eye on this band I feel.

Thalion – Dawn of Chaos (Review)

ThalionCanadian Power Metal with a liberal sprinkling of Speed Metal for good measure.

This won’t win any awards for innovation but it is highly melodic and highly infectious; the band can play, write songs and have a singer who can actually sing. What more is there to say?

Also; solos. Always important to note.

I enjoyed this album, especially as the band throw in a few more modern touches and riffs, (in To Hell and Back for example), thus showing they’re not completely bound to the rule book laid down by the likes of Helloween and Judas Priest.

With the double bass flying, the guitar licks licking (?) and the vocalist singing his heart out it’s hard not to smile and get carried away by their enthusiasm.

A very good début album, and with some small refinements to their songwriting the next one could be great. If you like Speed-influenced Power Metal this is recommended.