This week’s reviews include releases from Bonehunter, Dead Cross, Def Leppard, Exit Eden, Kavrila, Marty Friedman, Masterplan, Quiet Riot, Russkaja, Seven Spires, Shade Empire, Toxik, Venomous Maximus and Warbeast.
The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Bonehunter – Sexual Panic Human Machine (Hells Headbangers)
This is fun. Slashing guitars, relentless drums all fronted with a vocal reminiscent of a young Quorthon. However, the whole thing leaves me a little cold. The home recording style of presentation offered here does them no favors, I’m certain that Bonehunter would be great in a live situation while the album comes over as messy and indistinct.
Bonehunter do have some furious jams though, but, I’m missing the great songs that make me want to return to an album. The title track, “Substance Creator” and “Digital Evil” stand out as the best they have to offer for now. Not an essential record unless you need upgrade your mall metal to something the your mother may still be shocked by.
Dead Cross – Dead Cross (Ipecac)
More a collaboration than a supergroup, Dead Cross features Mike Patton (Faith No More) on vocals, Dave Lombardo (Slayer) on drums, and Retox’s Justin Pearson and Michael Cain. Being a huge fan of many of Patton’s projects, I was anxious to see where this one goes.
Lombardo and Patton previously collaborated in Fantomas, so it’s natural to keep that in mind here, but Dead Cross is more of a hardcore album. The music is heavy, alternating between frantically spastic and infectiously groovy, all backing Patton as he spits and screams his half-nonsensical lyrics through the acerbic numbers. There’s definitely a certain allure to the album, although it will appeal primarily to fans of Patton, Mr. Bungle and hardcore in general.
Def Leppard – Hysteria Remastered 2017 (Mercury)
30 years after its release, Def Leppard‘s Hysteria remains one of the most iconic and best selling albums of the ’80s. It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. The newly released Super Deluxe Edition is a massive collection for hardcore fans of the band and the album. It includes 5 CDs, 2 DVDs and four books.
In addition to the original album packed with massive hits like “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Love Bites” and “Hysteria,” there are two additional discs of b-sides, remixes, radio edits and a BBC Radio documentary on the album. The final two CDs are the audio version of the In The Round In Your Face DVD. The two DVDs in the collection consist of live performances, music videos and other goodies. It’s not cheap, but there’s a ton of material. There are other editions available as well, including 3CD and single CD versions and vinyl.
Exit Eden – Rhapsodies In Black (Napalm)
Exit Eden is a new all-star symphonic metal project featuring vocalists Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Avantasia), Anna Brunner, Clementine Delauney (Visions Of Atlantis) and Marina La Torraca (Phantom Elite, Avantasia). Their debut release is the covers album Rhapsodies In Black.
The song selection is very diverse, ranging from Rihanna’s “Unfaithful” to the movie staple “Frozen” to Adele’s “Skyfall” to Bryan Adams’ ’80s hit “Heaven.” Each singer has a different sound and approach, ranging from pop to operatic, and the arrangements are atmospheric and symphonic, giving them a different vibe than the original. They mostly trade off parts, but there are some nice harmonies as well.
Kavrila – Blight (Medusa Crush/Backbite/Breathe Plastic)
A delightful concoction of rock and metal strains can be discerned on Blight, the very enjoyable full-length debut from German quartet Kavrila. While the overarching sound likely falls into some blackened hardcore camp, the unusual and diverse paths taken by Kavrila range across much of the rock-metal spectrum.
Doom and despair may serve as major themes on Blight, but the album also wields a good deal of melody, which teams nicely with the band’s knack for doling out catchy riffs and hard-hitting refrains. The raspy vocal attack adds much to the rawness, and the modest running time demands extra listens. Things might be bleak, but Kavrila seem to be having a good time regardless.
Marty Friedman – Wall of Sound (Prosthetic)
Former Megadeth axeman Marty Friedman has been consistent in brilliance during his solo years, putting out album after album of shredding guitar-driven metal, and 13th solo album Wall of Sound is no different, which shows virtuoso Friedman at his best.
Opener “Self Pollution” leads with crazed riffage and face-pummeling drums only to fade into Floydian beauty, pulling out all the feels with emotive accentuated string work. Standout tracks include the beautifully titled “Pussy Ghost” and its melodic death metal tone and forboding atmosphere and then there’s the only track with vocals “Something To Fight,” which has an aggressive feel to it with its stabs of blast beating and enticing hooks plus the added playful quirkiness of a saxophone.
Masterplan – PumpKings (AFM)
PumpKings is the second covers album featured in this week’s reviews, but takes a different approach than the Exit Eden record, which covers songs by numerous different artists. The German power metal band Masterplan, which includes guitarist Roland Grapow, tackles songs from Grapow’s former band Helloween that he wrote or co-wrote during his time with the group.
The tracks were originally done on 1990-2000 era Helloween albums such as Pink Bubbles Go Ape, Chameleon, Master Of The Rings, The Time Of The Oath and The Dark Ride. Masterplan vocalist Rick Altzi has a different approach than Helloween singers Michael Kiske and Andi Deris, plus the new versions are a bit heavier than the originals. That gives this a fresh sound, and while certainly not essential, it’s an interesting reimagining of some classic Helloween tunes.
Quiet Riot – Road Rage (Frontiers)
Earlier this year Quiet Riot had an album recorded and ready to go featuring vocalist Seann Nicols (Adler’s Appetite). But he left the band and was replaced by American Idol singer James Durbin, who redid all the vocals for Road Rage. The rest of the lineup includes longtime members Frankie Banali (drums) and Chuck Wright (bass) along with guitarist Alex Grossi.
Durbin has better pipes than Jizzy Pearl, who sang on their last album, 2014’s Quiet Riot 10, but his voice is more in the vein of Michael Sweet than the late Kevin Dubrow. It’s a smoother, less edgy sound with a wide range that adds a bluesy feel from time to time. The songs are hit and miss. Some are memorable and catchy and are close to the caliber of their glory days, but there’s plenty of filler as well, diluting the overall quality of the record.
Russkaja – Kosmopoliturbo (Napalm)
Russkaja are certainly the most unique sounding band in this week’s reviews. The Russian band’s latest effort is Kosmopoliturbo, their fifth full-length. While their sound may be polarizing, the cult classic appeal is there.
The 7 piece band includes trumpet and violin, playing what they call “Russian Turbo Polka Metal” that blends everything from folk to ska to reggae to polka and feature lyrics in several different languages. Many songs don’t have a bit of metal in their DNA, while a few (like “Chef De Cuisine”) have some harder edged sections. The songs are undeniably catchy and great for a party, but more suited for dancing than headbanging.
Seven Spires – Solveig (SAOL)
When you hear Seven Spires are a symphonic metal band, you may assume they are from Europe, but the band hails from Boston. After an EP a few years back, Solveig is their full-length debut.
The musicianship is top-notch (they trained at the prestigious Berklee College Of Music) and the arrangements are interesting with a lot of depth and cinematic qualities, but the performance of vocalist Adrienne Cowan is what really stands out. Classically trained, she sings with a smooth, expressive alto on many of the songs. However, she displays a lot of versatility, using a Lzzy Hale-esque rock style from time to time, and periodically breaking out extreme yells, growls and screams. While a little long at more than an hour, it’s a compelling debut from a band with a lot of talent and promise.
Shade Empire – Poetry of the Ill-Minded (Candlelight/Spinefarm)
The symphonic elements added by Shade Empire make a huge difference to their music. This is much like Septic Flesh, who also seamlessly blend symphonic portions into their death metal sound. The sound here is grand and atmospheric, making for a nice melding of styles. The music does have a black metal aspect, but it is more driven by death metal.
The music is bombastic and sharp making it have the maximum impact upon the listener. The tunes here are immediate enough to be powerful, but have enough complexity for that added depth. This truly is a very well-rounded release. It is ethereal and majestic and makes for great background music. Poetry of the Ill-Minded is highly recommended to symphonic metal fans.
Toxik’s brand of technical thrash metal is well represented in their two long players World Circus and Think This, but the band has only put out three other songs since 1989. They are long overdue for some new tunes. Pairing well with other thrash metal oddities like Realm, Heathen, and Artillery, their brand of thrash had a bit of virtuosity to the guitar playing.
Technical aplomb is all present on the too brief three track EP Breaking Class. It’s a fine return to recorded material with a clean and crisp modern production that doesn’t rob Toxik of their unique sound. All three are bangers for sure, but the first two tracks are exactly what fans of yore pine for. Here is hoping that a new full length is on the way!
Venomous Maximus – No Warning (Shadow Kingdom)
Venomous Maximus return with No Warning, a gothic tinged take on doom and hard rock with varied results. The title track and “Spellbound” are special pieces of music that help them to stand out from the pack. Vocalist Gregg Higgins sounds like David Byrne singing for Sisters of Mercy and is a powerful and unique frontman.
However, that is where the positives end. There are too many interludes, an acoustic song in “All of My Dreams” that goes nowhere and a middle of the road album closer. Venomous Maximus are a force to be reckoned with when they stick with their strengths, but the end product is a little all over the place.
Warbeast – Enter The Arena (Housecore)
Warbeast frontman Bruce Corbitt has announced he’s retiring from performing as he battles esophageal cancer. (A fund has been set up to help defray Corbitt’s medical expenses. If you’d like to donate, go here.) The band’s third album is Enter The Arena. Like their first two releases, it was produced by Philip Anselmo.
The lineup for this record features two new members, including bassist Lyric Ferchaud, who is Corbitt’s stepson. Even with the lineup changes, their brand of dark, intense thrash remains intact. Some tracks feature blazing, galloping riffs while others are more moderately paced but no less ominous or intense. There’s an old school vibe infused with youthful energy with excellent guitar work and potent vocals.