Thursday, March 26, 2015

Duke Garwood-Heavy Love

Heavenly Recordings
2015


Just released this past February, "Heavy Love" is the fifth full-length solo album from impassioned singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood. Largely unknown outside of his native country, South Londoner Duke Garwood is a graceful old folk singer trapped in the body contemporary bluesman and even though "Heavy Love" holds the distinction of being my first sampling from this stirring man there was an instant connection and it felt as if I finally found a long-lost kindred spirit! That might sound fanciful or come across as a leap of faith to some of our more cynical readers, but scratch just under the surface of this mournful LP and you too might just discover how those ghosts of yesterday are alive and well and speaking directly to you through Duke's imaginative voice! Though it often looks as if it has been stripped nearly naked the unassuming "Heavy Love" is remarkable deep and lovingly thoughtful as it's words and music slowly break down any and all barriers. As haunting as it might be Duke Garwood's latest release is also memorizing in it's own right and it stands out as a fully-completed work of art. There are no bumps along the path and there are no side-distractions to keep you from enjoying the breath and scope of compelling LP like this. "Heavy Love" could just as easily have been entitled Love Heavy as the heart of this recording seems eerily tied to Duke's own ghosts and the haunting way in which they still seem to want to strangle his soul. All told "Heavy Love" is a masterful work from an artist that London seems to have been previously hoarding. Now's the time for the U.S. market to stand up and take notice of Duke Garwood as this has all the makings of a mutually-beneficial relationship!

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Wicked Inquisition-Wicked Inquisition

Tridroid Records
2015

Formed in 2008 by Nate Towle (guitars and vocals), Wicked Inquisition is a doom metal band that lists it's influences as Black Sabbath, Budgie, Blue Öyster Cult, Trouble, Witchfinder General, Pentagram, Bang, Saint Vitus, Judas Priest, Spirit Caravan, Blood Farmers, Blue Cheer, Buffalo, The Obsessed, Uriah Heep, Captain Beyond and Lucifers Friend. With one demo, two EPs and now this self-titled album to it's name, Wicked Inquisition was at first a one man band as seen and heard on the demo "A Turn to False Hope" and the group's first EP, "Self Made Tomb". Main man Nate Towle (ex-The Rare Breed, Enter The Worms (live), ex-Burning Cedar, ex-Reshetar and the Pitch Blacks, ex-The House Wives) not only sang, but he handled all of the instrumentation on these 3-track recordings. From the very beginning Nate was driven by a love of bands like Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Blue Öyster Cult, Trouble and Budgie and given the boss cover of "Livin' in a Ram's Head" (Pentagram) on "A Turn to False Hope"* this righteous front-man/guitarist was not one to shy away from such choice influences! But then again why should he? If you really think about it pretty much every new band is influenced by some older band and usually those older bands were influenced by even older bands. And on and on we could go. On "Wicked Inquisition" we're looking at a sincere love and deep appreciation for the likes of Black Sabbath, Trouble, The Obsessed, Blue Öyster Cult and Saint Vitus, but we are getting way ahead of ourselves as it was the band's excellent "Silence Thereafter" that really paved the way for the band's upcoming self-release. Released in 2013 to high praise and justifiable positive reviews (and graciously enough available as a name-your-own-price digital download at the above link!), "Silence Thereafter" found Wicked Inquisition transitioning over to full-band status thanks to the addition of guitarist Ben Stevens (ex-Burning Cedar), bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack Mckoskey (A Moment in Time, ex-Burning Cedar). With that same line-up in place for two years now we can finally turn our attention to this, the group's first full-length album which will arrive on May 8th, 2015. 
For guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle and his crew of doom metal disciples you just couldn't ask for a better opener than the pulsating "Black Magik Nacht"! The album's obvious choice for first single, "Black Magik Nacht" is groovy as fuck and with it's sweet mixture of 70's hard and heavy rock riffs and (light) psychedelic doom this six minute jam is absolutely epic! You can here it for yourself by clicking on the YouTube link below. "Black Magik Nacht" is effortlessly followed by easy riders like "Crimson Odyssey" and "Sun Flight", but for those who have come to this party in dire need of true blue slow and torturous doom there's the track "M.A.D.". On "M.A.D." these doom rockers from the Twin Cities of Minnesota dig out some tasty sweet leaf before smoking it all up in a haze of heavy riffs! Heavy riffs also come into play on the soul crushing "In Shackles" and the Black Sabbath-leaning cut, "Death of Man". Lyrically and sound-wise it is arguably the closest Wicked Inquisition gets at full-fledged Black Sabbath homage, but regardless of such thin transparency the song "Death of Man" is still all kinds of fun thanks to the passion of Nate Towle. Meanwhile there is a hint of Sleep Hollow in the ever-pleasant "Tomorrow Always Knows" and with the band's signature song/title track finishing things off nicely it's hard to find fault in an album like this. If there is any criticism to be had with "Wicked Inquisition" then it would have to be the familiarity that exists in this band's solos. Or if you will the distinct playing style of Wicked Inquisition's lead guitarist. Much like Tony Iommi before them or even Dave Mustaine** the lead guitarist in Wicked Inquisition leaves his trademark sound wherever he goes. There really isn't anything wrong with that as there are hundreds of guitarists both past and present that has their own style going on. It is just an interesting observation that in no way whatsoever would keep me from sharing this band with doom metal fans. In fact I would still strongly recommend this album and suggest that if you get a chance to catch this Minnesota four-piece in a live setting then by all means jump to it! For more information Wicked Inquisition be sure to head over to Facebook and you can pre-order a copy of the group's self-titled album here. Between the doom influences (Black Sabbath, Trouble, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, etc.) and the misc. rock, hard rock and heavy metal that has found it's way into this band's spookadelic style (Budgie, Blue Öyster Cult, Manilla Road, Bang, Uriah Heap, etc.) there is a lot to like about this young act. This is definitely a band that I'll be keeping an eye on!



"Black Magik Nacht" can be heard here and might I suggest you crank this bad boy up LOUD? You're welcome in advance!



*Per the Metal Archives. While I couldn't find an actually link to the 2010 demo in question it should nonetheless be noted that on the group's myspace (remember those?) there seems to be a cover of Pentagram's "Dying World"!

** Don't ask me why, but some of the lead work on "Wicked Inquisition" reminded me of Megadeth's front-man/founder. Not necessarily in the sense that Wicked Inquisition's lead guitarist sounds like Dave, but from the stand point that both have a very distinct style going on.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Altitudes & Attitude-Altitudes & Attitude

Megaforce Records
2014

Here's a bit of an odd release and chances are it slipped by most of our readers just as it (almost) slipped right past me. You see Altitudes & Attitude is a side-project of bassists Dave Ellefson and Frank Bello. Now, you should be familiar with those two names but if for some reason you're not then that's David Ellefson of Megadeth and Frank Bello of Anthrax. Long-story short ladies and gentlemen, these two musicians/longtime friends were out traveling the world and doing these clinics (which I guess are now known as "Metal Masters"?) when they struck upon the idea of making a mini-album together. Most of the material was reportedly written while the pair was out on the road and here on their first studio recording Dave and Frank are joined by Jeff Friedl who is also the current drummer of A Perfect Circle. Naturally all the bass parts fall on both Dave and Frank and the pair even shares guitar duties*. But when it comes to the main man behind the mic? Well, then we're talking about one Mr. Bello and he actually do a bang up job singing on "Altitudes & Attitude"! Do you find that hard to believe? Go try on "Booze & Cigarettes" for size and then come back and talk to me about whose taking care of business night and day! With only three songs this could be dubbed either a EP or a single and I believe that it was filed under the latter when I initially  downloaded it off of iTunes. For some reason though this self-titled release from the oddly-named Altitudes & Attitude looks as it has now disappeared from the U.S. version of iTunes, but for future reference you can either download it or purchase a physical copy of it on Amazon. As to whether or not you should take that step really depends upon how you feel about rock and hard rock as that is pretty much what Altitudes & Attitude is all about. Anyone expecting thrash from Dave and Frank should keep on walking. "Altitudes & Attitude" opens strong with the gritty sleaze rocker "Booze & Cigarettes" and then ends the same way with the eighties metal anthem, "Here Again". And no, we are not talking about something akin to early Anthrax on the oh-so-right "Here Again", but rather a fine rocker that pays homage to the American metal movement of the early eighties. Back in the day when U.S. hard rock bands were just starting to light it up as they looked towards their British brothers for inspiration (with stars in their eyes and a gnawing hunger that could only be satisfied by even louder and faster guitar solos!) a nifty little number like "Here Again" would have made a real splash in the pond as they say. It's hard rock plus with the "plus" taking the form of imported British metal LPs and it's as good as (if not better than?) the down and dirty "Booze & Cigarettes". If you're counting though that is only two cuts out of three so what exactly is the missing puzzle piece of this 3-track recording? That would be "Tell the World" and while it isn't exactly a dud it in no way, shape or form holds a candle to the two previously-mentioned numbers that it sandwiches. It simply exists in it's own right, but there is no way whatsoever that it would be enough to discourage me from recommending this short and sweet release! I'd love to hear more from Dave and Frank, but with everything else going on for these two bassists I highly doubt that we'll see anything new from Altitudes & Attitude anytime soon. For more information on this rock/metal side project be sure to check out the group's official website here.


*The stone cold slayer that is "Here Again" features wicked lead guitar work from Gus G. (Firewind, Gus G., Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Arch Enemy (live), ex-Dream Evil, ex-Mystic Prophecy, ex-Nightrage)

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Magic Kingdom-Savage Requiem

AFM Records
2015

Alright kids are you in need of fantasy and enchantment? Well then forget about that overpriced and overrated theme park of the same name. You know the one with that non-metallic mouse as it's mascot? Yeah? Give it the old drop-kick to hell and back as it is utterly weak and pathetic when compared to this neo-classical/symphonic power metal band! Truth be told there is only one true Magic Kingdom and that  one was founded in 1998 by Iron Mask/Arms of War guitarist Dushan Petrossi. Due for release on April 14th, "Savage Requiem" is Magic Kingdom's fourth-full length album overall and the first to feature new vocalist Christian Palin (Epicrenel, Random Eyes, ex-Adagio, ex-Essence of Sorrow). Having come a long way since the release of their underwhelming debut offering, "The Arrival", in 1999, Magic Kingdom is electric on the hour long "Savage Requiem" and that has everything to do with the strong songwriting of Dushan Petrossi and the once in a lifetime performance of new lead singer Christian Palin! Of course Christian Palin isn't the only new addition to this power metal band as "Savage Requiem" finds Magic Kingdom welcoming in drummer Michael Brush (Celestial Wish, ex-Hellbastard, ex-Merciless Terror). And to be fair both Brush and Magic Kingdom's other original member, bass guitarist Vasiliy Molchanov (Iron Mask, ex-Cryme, ex-Shah, ex-Kings of Spades), did more than just show up for the recording sessions of "Savage Requiem". The slick rhythm section that showed up for album number four is way bigger and bolder than usually for these sort of melodic metal recordings and their presence is greatly appreciated! But if we are going to be completely honest about this album's energy source (and why wouldn't we be?) then it all boils down to the combination of lead guitarist Dushan Petrossi and new lead singer Christian Palin. It isn't so much a matter of chemistry between the two members (especially as any argument about band chemistry should start and end with this high-functioning band as a whole!) as it is the way in which Palin's passionate voice gracefully moves inside and out of the stunning arrangements and performances that Petrossi has provided. Enlisting this former Adagio vocalist into the fold proved to be a brilliant move on the part of Petrossi as "Savage Requiem" greatly benefits from having someone as emotionally triumphant as Palin at the helm. And speaking of the brilliance that is this Belgian guitarist, Dushan Petrossi not only wrote all the music and lyrics for Magic Kingdom's newest album, but he also co-produced & mixed it alongside of Angelo Buccolieri! With Dushan Petrossi calling the shots a band like Magic Kingdom just keeps getting better with each new album and thanks to this album's sick delivery I have gained all new appreciation for this savvy guitarist who is now (justifiably) being likened to both Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Romeo! I gleefully confess that "Savage Requiem" caught me completely off guard as I am far from what you would call a fan of  neo-classical metal! Normally this kind of symphonic power metal is wasted on someone like me, but thanks to the masterful way in which Magic Kingdom strikes a balance between the slick (neo-classical metal, orchestra arrangements, smooth vocals, melodic power metal, etc.) and the sick (fast-rocking solos that are footloose and fancy free(!), snazzy speed metal, hard and heavy power metal that actually kicks it and kicks it wicked fierce!) this album was just too much fun to walk away from! Fans and newcomers alike should find plenty to love about Magic Kingdom's latest, but unlike dear old Walt's Florida getaway this groovy entertainment activity won't leave you dead bloke with maxed out credit cards and a careful of crabby kids!



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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ghost Season- Ghosts Like Her

Self-Release/Independent
2014

You will have to forgive me as I'm showing up late to the party that is Athens, Greece-based band Ghost Season. With a full-length album planned for sometime later this year it was just this month (March 4th to be precise) that I was first introduced to the band's debut offering, "Ghosts Like Her". Unfortunately I promptly went and tucked this EP away in a "To Do" folder and then (seeing as it is Mr. Flaky here that we're talking about!) I forgot all about checking that folder until today! Compounding the issue is the fact that I have far too many similarly-titled and themed folders which I desperately need to clean out. So, let me then be the first to apologize to Ghost Season and the nice folks over at Metal Revelation Promotion who first sent this EP to Metal Mark for consideration. My bad. Hopefully I'll be able to make it up to everyone once Ghost Season's new album comes out as I'd really love to review it! With all of that out of the way let us now move back to this Greek band that was formed during the summer of 2013 by bassist Dorian Gates of Clairvoyant, Night Guest and Madleaf fame. Those first two names are of the metal variety whereas Madleaf is a stoner rock/grunge-like band.  That is worth mentioning seeing as Ghost Season's sound comes at you from many different angles and it represents many different styles. With a total running time of 20 minutes and forty two seconds this highly recommend EP finds Dorian and his crew combining older hard rock and heavy metal ideas with newer alternative and modern rock influences for a sound that is all at once charmingly retro yet current and (you better believe it friends) majestically hip! Further credit most go to the surrounding cast of characters which includes highly-versatile lead singer Nick Lountos, guitarists Nash Sinner (ex-Station 11) and Nick Christolis (ex-Potergeist) and drummer Chris Grekas as (collectively) the five members of Ghost Season serve up a EP that is all at once rock-radio worthy while still loud enough for the hard and heavy crowd! And as referenced by the "alternative and modern rock" line the music of Ghost Season seems as if it would be just as capable of wining over fans of the nineties modern rock scene as it would those who still have an ongoing subscription to Alternative Press Magazine! Yes, a lot of that has to do with skilled voice of lead singer Nick Lountos, but the band's occasional foray into melancholy rock territory doesn't hurt either. Really, there is something for everyone going on here (if you are a rock fan that is) so hopefully the upcoming full-length from Ghost Season will not only capture that magic but expand upon it! Available to download on iTunes, Ghost Season's "Ghosts Like Her" is a praise-worthy debut and it's one EP that I hope to add to my personal CD collection as soon as humanly possible!

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Cognitive-Cognitive

Self-Release/Independent
2014

Hailing from South Jersey (no jokes please) and now fronted by former Due For Extinction member Jorel Hart, Cognitive is a up-and-coming death metal band that has already shared the stage with the likes of Between the Buried and Me, Cattle Decapitation, Suffocation, Broken Hope, Wretched, Misery Index and Origin (among countless others!). Formed in 2011, with rhythm guitarist Rob Wharton (ex-The Adept, ex-Doomsday Machine Schematic, ex-Waking the Cadaver) and lead guitarist Jake Iannaco (ex-Amorphic Form, ex-Putrid Abscess) now the sole original members, Cognitive's first release came out one year later in the form of  the EP, "The Horrid Swarm". Remixed and partly re-recorded last year in order to include the band's new and improved front-man, Jorel Hart (I'm absolutely loving his near guttural, cookie monster-like vocals!), 2012's "The Horrid Swarm" originally featured the services of (now former) lead singer Scheenier Ramirez, but for these heavy hometown favorites (who are rounded out by bassist Art Sikora and drummer Mike Castro) it's all about moving progressively forward with each new recording. On the band's self-titled debut that much is clear as this 10-track, 30 minute plus release is as technical as is destructive with well thought out and constructed passages highlighted by razor sharp guitar solos that cut clean, but still leave plenty of blood behind! Featuring two instrumentals in "Oceanic Erosion" and "Affliction Humanity", "Cognitive" is the right kind of recording to get these New Jersey metalheads noticed as it shines a bright light on all aspects of this band. Cognitive has all sorts of deadly skills at it's disposal and the band has just the right kind of brutal death approach to appeal to a wide range of death metal purists. With the right kind of marketing and push a band like this could make a decent run for it, but ultimately only time will tell.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Free Metal Monday: Unholy Anarchy Records-2015 Compilation

Unholy Anarchy Records
2015

Here's a pretty nice name-your-own-price compilation from Unholy Anarchy Records. In addition to previously-release material from band's on the label's roster this jacked-up sampler also contains a few tracks from upcoming 2015 releases. With 21 tracks in this compilation is simply too good to pass up! It features punk, hardcore, sludge, grindcore, crust, death metal and more and it is available for free right here.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ostrogoth-Last Tribe Standing

(
Empire Records
2015

It has been twenty eight years since Belgium's Ostrogoth last released a full-length album in the form of 1987's "Feelings of Fury". And it has been thirty two years since this old-school heavy metal/power metal band released their classic 1983 EP, "Full Moon's Eyes". Keeping both of those dates in mind, "Last Tribe Standing" could easily pass for a mid-late eighties recording and fool both younger and older metal fans alike! More specifically we are talking about those who have never had the fortune to hear this phenomenal band for themselves, but even then this half-studio/half-live (extended) EP could just as easily sneak into the collections of casual Ostrogoth fans and it would have a hard time being discovered. And that's even with drummer Mario "Grizzly" Pauwels (ex-Hermetic Brotherhood, ex-Shell Shock, ex-Stonehenge, ex-Trash) now serving time as the sole original member! This is one act that has been fortunate enough to not only survive the obligatory line-up changes that come with playing in a band, but emerge from such storms standing just as tall and just just as strong! Of course for Ostrogoth and their fans nothing can ease the pain of losing long-time guitarist Rudy "WhiteShark" Vercruysse to cancer earlier this year. His lose will be felt for a long time to come, but thankfully we have this EP to further remind us of his exceptional skills as a guitarist. Consisting of four new studio recordings ("No Risk Taken", "Clouds", "Return To The Heroes Museum" and "Last Tribe Standing") and a 2014 live performance of the "Full Moon's Eye" EP, "Last Tribe Standing" finds this passionate guitarist joined by not only fellow old-timer Mario Pauwels, but the fresh blood of Dario Frodo (guitars and backing vocals), Stripe (bass and backing vocals) and Josey Hindrix (lead and backing vocals). All three musicians slip right into the fold and without missing a singe beat the modern day version of  Ostrogoth keeps on rocking and rolling! This classic metal band plows right through the crowd with the four studio tracks and four live tracks showing just how little this lot has actually aged! Recorded during the summer of 2014 (and fitting in perfectly with the classic feel of  this recommend recording) the live versions of "Heroes' Museum", "Full Moon’s Eyes", "Paris By Night" and "Rock Fever" make me wish that I could travel to Europe to see this band on stage and in living color! Reportedly this live recording of the "Full Moon's Eyes" EP  featured the same line-up that had been active since Ostrogoth made it's return at Germany’s 2012 "Keep It True Festival". That would make sense as these live recordings ended up showcasing a tight-knit five-piece that knew what it was doing and one that knew how to keep a (hungry for true metal!) crowd happy! Still it's the new studio material that most Ostrogoth will want to know about and rightly so. Quite honestly once "No Risk Taken" kicked in all I could think about again was how classic this band still sounded and how easily this "new" material could have fit with Ostrogoth's "old" material! If you at all familiar with music of 1987's "Feelings of Fury" then that is you're starting reference point as "Last Tribe Standing" comes across as that album's logical follow-up. If you are a new listener though then we are talking about a (rugged) power/traditional metal band whose (heavy rocking and yet otherwise melodic) vintage sound has been carefully sculpted out of only the best  that N.W.O.B.H.M. has to offer (we're talking about pre-1980 bands and albums or if you will the earlier the better!), choice cuts of classic metal and/or eighties metal and (post-Black Sabbath) riff-rocking leads that shoot to thrill/play to kill! Combine all of that loveliness with the heartfelt (and just rough enough to work without sounding scratchy or anything) voice of Josey Hindrix and you have the only and only Ostrogoth. And there really is only one Ostrogoth my friends. For only a band like Ostrogoth could release it's first (official) since 1987 and have the new material on this 40 minute EP sound just as slick as the Ostrogoth of old. This half studio/half live album is as good as it gets for fans of this classic Belgium act as the new material does a remarkable job of tying Ostrogoth's past together with it's present and potential future. If there is a downside at all to be found then it would have to be with it's length as one can't help but wish that there was more cool new studio work to go along with the killer live stuff. It's a small complaint if you really think about it because chances are good that if this EP sells well then this will not be the last that we'll being hearing (studio-wise) from this classic band. Out now on Empire Records (the cult Belgium label and not the 1995 American coming-of-age film that features a memorable {pot-induced} GWAR hallucination scene!), "Last Tribe Standing" is available as a limited-edition 12 inch and on CD. For fans of Ostrogoth this one is a given. But, even if you are new to this classic heavy metal/power metal band and this would be the first release from Ostrogoth that you ever bought I'd still argue that it is worth acquiring. There are few half-studio/half-live EPs out there that are as consistent as "Last Tribe Standing" is and even more so there are few that rock this hard and are this much fun! Simply put this one is a winner and it comes highly rated!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Trauma-Rapture And Wrath

Pure Steel Records
2015

Best known for being Cliff Burton's band before he went off and joined Metallica in 1983, Trauma is a U.S. power/speed metal band that was originally active from 1981 to 1985 before reforming in 2013. Not to be confused with the dozen plus other bands who have laid claim to the same moniker (or for that matter the other Trauma from California!), San Francisco's Trauma issued it's first recording in 1982 in the form of a three-track demo. While it was really nothing special it is nonetheless worth mentioning that on that particular demo bass duties were undertaken by the late, great Cliff Burton. In addition to releasing the 1982 demo Trauma ended up appearing on the Metal Blade Record's "Metal Massacre II" compilation with the decent enough song "Such a Shame". Two years later this Bay Area band released the full-length debut album, "Scratch and Scream", and while it was a decent enough LP the group's (N.W.O.B.H.M.-infused)  power/speed metal style didn't exactly set the world on fire. Overshadowed by their more successful neighbors the band eventually called it a day in 1985. While another demo cassette did appear in 1984 (one which I have honestly not heard) for Trauma it was all too short of a ride and that might have been the last we heard from the band if not for the folks at Shrapnel Records. In 2013 the band was asked if they would be willing to play out live once more in support of the reissue of their debut album. Quite obviously one thing lead to another as here is 2015 and we are just now getting a good look at the band's proper follow-up to "Scratch and Scream". Seeing as it's been thirty years since this band last released a full-length album you might just be asking if there is a place for Trauma these days. After all a lot has changed since the band first released "Scratch and Scream" and the landscape of heavy metal has undergone far too many transformations.Can a band like Trauma simply walk into a party and shakes things up? Thankfully the answer is a firm yes as "Rapture And Wrath" is not only the proper follow-up to "Scratch and Scream", but a better album through and through! For those of us who were left mostly unimpressed by Trauma's debut album (as I know I'm not alone in feeling that "Scratch and Scream" was merely "OK"*) this new disc almost sounds like a completely different/way more appealing band! While "Rapture And Wrath" sees the return of sole original member Donny Hillier (a high pitched vocalist who was also in Black Sunday Dream) and "Scratch and Scream" contributor Kris Gustofson (a skilled drummer who not only played on "Scratch and Scream", but also plays with the underrated melodic heavy metal band, St. Elmo's Fire) this is really the sound of a completely new band! This is most definitely a band that grew more mature and consistent with time and it is also one that blossomed into a spectacularly fresh unit in the end! It's taken Trauma some thirty years to do it, but they did it all the same! Whether that has anything to do with the stylish playing of guitarist Kurt Fry (guitars) or the contributions of new (as of 2014) and improved bass guitarist Steve Robello** (Dublin Death Patrol, ex-Heist, ex-Rock the Nation (Montrose/Hagar tribute) and ex-Out of Control) isn't so much the question as is where was this band back in the mid-eighties when we really could have used and appreciated them all the more! Maybe it simply is the natural progression of musicians as they age, but lead singer Donny Hillier sounds so much better here as does drummer Kris Gustofson. First off Donny has gone from screeching like a possessed version of Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) to having a voice that is similar to that of Bruce Dickenson! Considering Trauma's long-standing appreciation for band's like Iron Maiden it is a perfect fit here on "Rapture And Wrath". And as for the drumming of Kris Gustofson? One can't help but think that all that time he spent playing in a melodic hard rock band has really paid off. There is a marked improvement in his timing and no matter what type of metal is thrown at him on this 50+ minute recording he is always spot on! Whether it's N.W.O.B.H.M. dressed up as classic heavy metal ("Heart Of Stone" and "Kingdom Come") or a cut that looks to blend the likes of (solo) Dio, Black Sabbath and Pantera together ("The Walking Dead") Trauma's faithful drummer does his duty the best that he can. As this album does flirts with the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio it's only natural that a good guitarist is needed to move things along. Here's where Kurt Fry proves his worth. While Trauma's last full-length release required the services of two guitarists the group's latest release shows everyone how less can be more. The solos on "Pain", "The Walking Dead", "Egypt" and "Don’t Tread On Me" are each splendid in their own way as is the nice Metal Church-like guitar work of "Kingdom Come". Fry does well when teamed up with bass guitarist Steve Robello as the pair make for a formidable tag team. While the mix job of "Rapture And Wrath" doesn't always leave the guitarist of Trauma standing in the right light his playing compliments the four-string rocker standing next to him. With these two one side and the vocalist and drummer on the other side you are left with the sensation that here stands a classic heavy metal four-piece band. As it combines a lot of eighties elements the reference to classic heavy metal foursomes seems about right and if you take anything away from this review at all then take that to heart. The new Trauma disc is most-likely to appeal to eighties purists seeing as it wears those influences rather proudly. From the N.W.O.B.H.M. to eighties metal it's all here and when you take into account it's little winks towards older power and speed metal this new Trauma album actually picks right up where their debut left off! It's not without it's faults of course (see the mix job comment) and it's far ways off from being 2015's top heavy metal release (there's other issues with the production and there sure seems to be a lot of re-used riffs between the ten cuts here), but it's definitely a step up from the band's 1984 debut album and it's a real step in the right direction for these San Fran metalheads! I'm actually looking forward to seeing what's next for Trauma because I have this peculiar feeling that should there be a full-length album number three for Donny Hillier and company (and I truly hope there is one) it will be the one to really set Trauma s name in stone!

* See here and the second review here 

**No, we are are not talking about Cliff Burton. The group's current bass player is a marked improvement over "Scratch and Scream" contributor Lucas Advicula and not necessarily Cliff Burton!Just so that we are all clear on that point!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Inculter-Persisting Devolution

Edged Circle Productions
2015

Having just covered this Norwegian band yesterday, as promised we now return to the scene of the crime with "Persisting Devolution", Inculter's highly-anticipated debut album. For those of you who were absent on Monday here are three keen observations about this trio that are worth jotting down. Number 1) The three key players that are in charge of this recording are all in their teens. Number 2) This is nut-cracking death thrash of the blackened variety. And finally Number 3)  Inculter are bad ass! OK, number two and number three are really cut from the same clothe, but this power trio is damn good as delivering Brutal music for Brutal people! To be more precious the music of Inculter looks a little like this. Take early Sodom and Destruction and thrash it about with the likes of At War, Venom, (early) Death, Autopsy, Possessed and Morbid Angel. Now finish it off with a double shot of black metal and a line or two of underground thrash and there you have it! Music for madmen and maniacs alike! And here's the real kicker kids! Not only is this destructive slab of brutal death thrash going to see a CD release, but it will see a vinyl one as well! Sadly it does look as if the LP will not be released until sometime in May, but the CD is due to drop on March 27th so there is always that option to tide everyone over! As a fan of all things power trios this young act is on to something promising with their debut album and seeing as these musicians are all still teenagers the growth potential is insane! This is a great first offering from a nice up-and-coming death metal/blackened thrash band and one that I will be hyping for all fans of said genres!

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El Hijo de la Aurora-The Enigma of Evil

Minotauro Records
2015

El Hijo de la Aurora (Son of the Dawn) is an experimental doom metal/psychedelic rock band that was formed in Lima, Peru in may of 2008 by Joaquín Cuadra (ex-Don Juan Matus) and Manolo Garfias (Don Juan Matus, Throne of the Fallen). By December of 2008 the band had issued it's first full-length in the form of "Lemuria" before following it up some two years later with the LP "Wicca: Spells, Magic and Witchcraft Through the Ages". Here it is 2015 and after five years of silence the band has returned with it's third full-length album in the form of "The Enigma of Evil". These days Joaquín Cuadra (drums/FX) is the only original member left and here on the self-produced "The Enigma of Evil" he is not only blessed by the presence of other talented writers and musicians, but several captivating vocalists. Together these wonderful guest players surround Cuadra in a magical circle where the known and unknown universe collide into one explosive fireball! And that's just the musical side of this Lima-based project! Concept-wise, this new album "explores the origin of the cosmos, and how we establish our relationship with the spiritual world", but if you really want to break down even further then try this one on for size. On "The Enigma of Evil" the band (lyrically-speaking) explores "elements of philosophy, occultism, witchcraft, esotericism and spirituality" and that ends up making album number three as heavy vibe-wise as it is sound wise! All of which brings up a really good point when it comes to this Peruvian doom metal band. Not only does El Hijo de la Aurora excel on the sound-stage*, but also in atmospheric sense. I don't mind saying that this one gave me the creeps! Whether that had anything to do with the fact that I listened to this album in the dark while wearing headphones is debatable. What is not open to debate though is the Heavy and Oppressive nature of this LP and how spooky it's vibe is! Even when you take into consideration the experimental nature of this release (see below) we're still staring into the cold dark eyes of one honest to goodness doom metal band so it's bound to be a downward spiral one way or the other! So, what's the ultimate verdict on this one? Frankly-speaking "The Enigma of Evil" works on every level. From it's overall production at the hands of founding member Joaquín Cuadra to it's otherworldly vibe you just can't go wrong with this one my friends. The music is ultimately a heavy take on the early doom scene, but it is also dyed in the vibrant colors of the psychedelic rock and then it is filtered through the horror-cinema soundtracks of yesterday. It's all of this and more while it runs about at night tiptoeing through fields overflowing with death rock, acid rock and stoner rock. This was my very first taste of El Hijo de la Aurora and I'm truly hoping that any and all of our readers who have not yet experienced this Peruvian project first hand will be inspired to try this band out so that you too indulge in the same luxury! This is a great album from a largely unknown band, but here's hoping that we will be haunted by this band for years to come!

*Here on the recommend "The Enigma of Evil" (an album which {incidentally enough my friends}you can get directly from Minotauro Records) Joaquín Cuadra and his fellow conspirators not only tap deep into the vein of classic 70's doom (Black Sabbath, Pentagram, the American band Bang, etc.), but then they try to balance it out with experimental sounds and unconventional instrumentation. Well, the word "try" is not the right word to use at all seeing as El Hijo de la Aurora ended up recording this beautifully haunting mix of all thing seventies doom (see the three bands above for a brief sampling of this occult rock outfits influences) and seventies hard rock/psychedelic rock (Lucifer's Friend, Budgie, Sir Lord Baltimore, B.O.C., etc.) before topping the who magical affair off with the likes of Goblin, Christian Death and Death SS! It's all rather terribly terrific and given the band's use of unusual instruments (at least for a doom metal-type release) such as Tibetan bowls and gongs (which really does point towards the brilliance of Goblin!) it's also an album that is downright spooky and spine-tingling! "The Enigma of Evil" comes across as a refreshingly brilliant listening experience while it simultaneously leaves you with this utterly terrifying sense of dread! This one is not to be missed if you are a fan of experimental/psychedelic doom metal! You can find out more about this band on their Facebook Page.

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