Thursday, 29 October 2015

Castrator - No Victim EP

Genre: Brutal Death Metal
Label: Horror Pain Gore Death Productions

Track Listing:

1. Honor Killing
2. Brood
3. The Emasculator
4. No Victim

We all know how death metal generally goes with its themes and lyrics; gore, splatter, death, torture and a lot of vicious and unsavoury things happening to women and children. Well, meet New York's own Castrator! This death metal band comprised of lead guitarist Priscila Serrano, rhythm guitarist Mikaela Åkesson, vocalist Mallika Sundaramurthy, bassist Robin Mazen and drummer Carolina Perez has arrived with a four track EP and have turned the table on all those of a testicular persuasion with a very feminist approach.

It turns out this may be just what the death metal scene needs to spice it up a bit. The usual tongue-in-cheek patriarchal lyrical standpoints of extreme metal have long lost their edge, their shock value and their point due to tirades of similar bands with similar songs. This EP is opened with 'Honor Killing',  presents the following as its opening lyrical salvo:

"Silently she suffers, voiceless and unseen
Imprisoned in a home
She bears children, cooks and cleans
Wed at the tender age of seventeen
His object to rape and beat"

Needless to say, powerful stuff that stings so sharply because of the truth behind the horrifying image. 'Brood' then carries on by talking about women who cannot stop giving birth over and over, showing that the band is not out only to make demons of men, instead making valid points of world issues. The gross precision of the explanation of the process of childbirth is certainly something that may make many blokes curl their toes. Use of phrases like 'Obstetrical haemorrhaging', 'Tearing of the perineum' and 'Placental expulsion' may prove yet that even the most hardened beardy death metal fan may have a point where he says "Fuck sake...ugh!". In the best way possible of course.

It's no small help that the music behind these severe statements of intent is nothing short of crushing. The two guitarists know how to riff, from blistering aural obliteration right over to the side of grooving sledgehammer blows and do it in a way that makes the head bang. Carolina is as skilled as death metal drummers come. Blastbeats seem second nature here, the speed and precision of which are enough to make this EP stand out by themselves. Mallika is a superbly brutal vocalist who smashes apart all misconceptions that women can't perform this style of vocal. In fact, if those idiots who are so sexist about metal are to be believed, then Mallika has a lot more balls than a lot of male death metal vocalists. I've heard a lot of men who are not as good as Mallika (and are, in fact, quite mediocre). Robin's bass playing backs up the rest of the music brilliantly, with a fantastically audible tone which many bassists these days have sacrificed in favour of a smoother, less threatening sound.

Of the rapist!
Take his weapon!
Crush and cut the balls!

Those lyrics are taken from 'The Emasculator' and there is good reason why this song is the highlight of the record. The song tells of female vigilantes taking vengeance against rapists, I think we can all be behind that! It highlights the failure of the legal system to support female victims, and it is easily more sickening and brutal than a whole lot of death metal lyrics.

More-so than all that, in a manner not dissimilar to the eco-warrior lyrics of Cattle Decapitation and Gojira, these are lyrics born of a genuine passion for a genuine cause through which Castrator wish to raise awareness and fight for something that is easily relatable. They do not wish to pussy-foot around these issues, they are shoving them down your throat to a point that is as uncomfortable as it should be. There's no political posturing going on here, this is as real as it gets, and with that comes true brutality, true heaviness.
Give this a listen. Do it. Now. You will miss out if you do not. When you do, let your mates listen to it as well. Just wait, this is one band with the potential to change the game in the extreme metal underground.

Rating: 9/10


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Album Review; Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls

Released Via Parlophone Records
Genre: Heavy Metal/NWOBHM

Track Listing:

1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed Of Light
3. The Great Unknown
4. The Red And Black
5. When The River Runs Deep
6. The Book Of Souls
7. Death Or Glory
8. Shadows Of The Valley
9. Tears Of A Clown
10. The Man Of Sorrows
11. Empire Of The Clouds

Any time that a band of the highest tier of the Metal hierarchy releases a new album it's an event. A milestone of the year in question. An occasion that is heralded under the banners of expectation and nervous worry. Will the band release a dud? Can they still have the old magic after such a storied career? Bands such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, Judas Priest, Slayer, Megadeth and Slipknot have all come under the scrutiny of these questions. For the last while, I've been hearing all the same questions and getting all those same thoughts in regards to this year's big one. It's arguable that Iron Maiden are the biggest Metal band on the face of the Earth. Shout Metallica all you like, but Iron Maiden have never lost the faith of Metal fans, nor done anything to deserve such. This band has easily been the most constant force in this genre's arsenal.

It's no small point to add that 'The Book Of Souls' is, in fact, a double album. This only adds extra pressure onto the release. A band releasing a double-album so long into a career? One may think it to be madness, or note that a band like Maiden would have more to lose than other bands if they fucked it up. Risky business?

Not a damn chance. Constantly these days you hear the phrase "Don't believe the hype!". In the case of 'The Book Of Souls', you'd better believe it!

The record starts with 'If Eternity Should Fail', which sees a minute and a half of a lone woodwind instrument playing a haunting tune as Bruce Dickinson shows off his eternally impressive pipes. When the song starts properly, we get a treat of mid-paced Maiden in full swing. Complete with a catchy, sing-along chorus, constant hooks and a galloping riff. It's what Maiden fans love and it's done well within the structure of an epic and ominous song. Guitar solos fly from Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers and already you feel relief that Iron Maiden have returned with not a note to waste.

Next up is the first single, 'Speed Of Light'. Very much classic Maiden in structure, immediacy and tone. It screams "Live favourite" at the top of its voice and has the quality to substantiate its own boldness. 'The Great Unknown' sees the frontman deliver a narrative introduction that recalls the eeriness of 'Dance Of Death', and he does so with vigour. Rest assured, Bruce's voice has lost none of its power. However simple it may sound, Nicko McBrain's drumming seems to hold all the elements of Iron Maiden's efforts together at the seams. It's perhaps the simplicity that is most endearing about Nicko's drumming, considering the usual kind of competitiveness you find in the fields of technicality and speed these days.

'The Red And The Black' is one of three songs that comes in at over ten minutes in length. Whilst the band are no strangers to long songs, one could be forgiven for imagining that delivering such long songs yet again risks pushing their luck. However, the track is so immersive and enjoyable that any criticisms would be little more than nit-picking for the sake of it. Hearing the guitar and the singing utilizing the same melody in unison is a high point during which you cannot help but grin as you realise that Maiden still have the ability to make your fist go high. Even the lengthy instrumental section keeps you at attention due to the sheer skill of the musicians involved.

This is truly an album that carries itself onwards and upwards towards more and more climaxes. 'Tears Of A Clown', which was reportedly written about the late comedian and actor Robin Williams, is a moving number that carries all the Maiden hallmarks and proves yet again that the band can write great songs that are lower key, offering up a different kind of energy to what the classic Maiden fan may be used to.

That said, it is the mighty closer 'Empire Of The Clouds' that delivers what may well be the most expertly written and performed song of this band's illustrious career. It is also the longest (Yes, longer than 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'!). Entirely written by Bruce Dickinson; this epic, piano-led track tells of the tragedy of the R101 Airship crash in 1930. It does this with arguably some of the most inherently human lyrics that the band have published since 'Paschendale' from 'Dance Of Death'. There is no better way to describe the song than by mirroring Steve Harris' own comments; that it is a masterpiece. Remember the Nightwish track 'The Greatest Show On Earth' that ended their 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' album earlier this year? 'Empire Of The Clouds' seems like the result of Iron Maiden telling Nightwish to step back whilst they top it.

If one were to ask where this album sits in terms of the Iron Maiden discography, I would say that in sound and writing style it is a cross breed between 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' and the more recent 'Dance Of Death'. It is most certainly the best record that this band has released in the 21st Century, which is still saying something. Best Maiden album? That subject itself will be debated until the end of days.

Album of the year? Unless Zeus, Thor, Lucifer and Anubis form a supernatural metal band to crush all others, you can bet that it is.

Eddie would probably beat the shit out of those guys anyway!

Rating: 10/10


Monday, 7 September 2015

Interview; Fabio Lione (Angra. Rhapsody Of Fire, Vision Divine)

The progressive power metal subgenre may be something of a niche scene, but it’s a niche that has produced a lot of interesting and ambitious music. January 2015 sees the release of a long awaited new record by Brazil’s Angra. This is the band’s eighth album in their twenty-four year career, as well as the first record in five years, and their first without former vocalist Edu Falaschi. Long-time fans of the band know better than to expect a repeat of previous efforts; and so I chatted to new frontman Fabio Lione to see just how ‘Secret Garden’ came together.

Fabio Lione stepped into the position as vocalist in 2013, but even with experience in Rhapsody of Fire and Vision Divine, one could easily assume that assuming the role as the frontman of one of Latin America’s most successful metal bands would be a daunting proposition for any singer. However, as Fabio thinks back to his first involvement with Angra, you can tell in his tone of voice that it was, in fact, a much easier undertaking than some might expect. “I’ve known the guys in Angra for a long time, and have been good friends with them for fourteen years. I wanted to join the band after the first show, on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, which went really well, and I found that I got on with everyone, they had great people in management, in their crew, and the fans were great too.”

Those who are familiar with Angra’s history as a band will know that there have been a few line-up changes during their career, including a short time on hold between 2007 and 2009, but two long term members remain at the core of the band. Namely founding guitarist and vocalist Rafael Bittencourt and the band’s second guitarist and backing vocalist Kiko Loureiro, who has been with Angra since 1993. With this in mind, I asked the Italian singer just how much involvement he had with the recording process;

“It was definitely a full team work. Everyone was contributing ideas, which was very good. Most of the work was done in Illhabela, which is an Island in Brazil, where the band decided to stay for two weeks. So for two weeks we eat, sleep, compose, listen to songs and ideas. So we can say that seventy percent of the job was done in this Island. And then we finalized the work in Sweden with Jens Bogren, the producer, and I have to say that I liked this, I like the fact that that this new record was kind of a team effort, it’s not just one or two members of the band that compose, it was more teamwork, and this is something good. Of course Rafael Bittencourt was doing all the lyrics, so there are some members that give much more contribution than others, so in the end this was something nice.”

‘Secret Garden’ is an album with a very interesting concept behind it and is best consumed as a whole, as most records of this ilk are. As Fabio explains, the whole album ties together musically, with nothing stalling the flow from start to finish, but it is the emotive and very lifelike storyline that makes up the backbone of the record that I was most intrigued to hear the singer’s explanation of;

“It’s such a modern sound that fits in with the sound of Angra in 2015. While we were in Illhabela I was talking to Rafael, and he had this idea to do a concept through every song on the record. We talk about a man, a doctor that has a car accident. In this accident he loses his wife, so we talk about the man’s feelings and depression through the record. There’s such a storm of emotions. There’s a song where there’s an angel speaking to this doctor, telling him it was a kind of destiny and not his fault. Then we have the song ‘Secret Garden’ where we have Simone of Epica as a guest with the band, and she is singing, playing the part of the wife of this man. I like this idea to do a kind of modern concept with this album. It’s nice to release some songs that have a connection.”

If you find your interest furthered with this guest appearance from Epica’s angel-voiced singer in the new Angra record it is to be noted that the album’s title track does not feature Fabio’s vocals, which is rare indeed;

“In ‘Secret Garden’ it was originally an idea to do a duet, and I don’t know why in the end we didn’t do it. I was supposed to sing with Simone just in the chorus. I believe in the future we may release something regarding this song with a man singing also. Either way, I think it works with the story anyway, with the wife that is somehow talking with this guy. The only weird thing is that ‘Secret Garden’ is the title track, and maybe some people will think it’s a bit strange not to hear the vocalist of the band singing this track but as far as the story goes, I think it’s fine.”

Simone Simmons is not the only guest singer to appear on this album; also along for the journey was a certain German metal icon for the ballad ‘Crushing Room’.

“We also have Doro Pesch on the record and I am happy about this. I think Doro is very unique. I knew Simone very well because I was singing with her in Kamelot in 2011, for about 49 shows. I was really happy to hear she agreed to be part of this record, she’s a very good singer, and a nice girl. Regarding Doro, she was a friend of the band’s management. I think it was very good to hear Doro doing a duet with Rafael. I believe that maybe someday we can do the duet with Simone live, if possible. We have exactly what we wanted, some female singers for the story. What I like about this is that, in my opinion, the record kind of varies, you’ve got Rafael singing some songs as well. So in the end, listening to the record, the music and variety in the vocals lets you listen to the record easily. It’s interesting and not boring. Well, at least for me and the band! I don’t usually like to have too many guests on the one record, but a few cool people who are good friends is very nice, I think.”

It’s clear to any listener familiar with Angra’s recorded output that this record has a lot of elements that make it sound distinctly more modern than previously heard. Young blood may have had something to do with this, since new drummer Bruno Valverde is twenty-four years of age, but its 2015, and one has to wonder; was this step forward in time pre-meditated or did it come about naturally?

“We can say both. We want to have a progressive record, so then I can say, knowing the guys in the band very well, that everyone is really talented and open-minded. We didn’t want to release just a power metal record or just a heavy metal record. We like to explore, we like to play different styles of music, and we like progressive music. So we wanted to release a fresh and modern progressive record without losing the soul of the band. Bruno did a great job with the Brazillian percussion, and we had the power metal and classical influences that Angra had in the past. I am sure that people will hear that this is Angra, 2015. It’s something different from the previous records but you can still feel that it’s Angra, and that is important.”

The last four Angra albums featured Fabio’s predecessor Edu Falaschi’s on vocal duties. Four albums in eleven years accounts for a large part of the band’s career, and as such many fans may feel apprehensive about any new singer stepping in, even one as recognised and talented as Fabio. Did he feel the pressure when he took on the role?

“I dunno. The point is that I know Andre Matos, and I know Edu Falaschi, they are kind of different. Andre was more unique with a kind of feminine voice, and is more personal than Edu Falaschi, but Edu was more varied, able to use the voice in maybe a more versatile manner. In my opinion, I was doing the right thing. I never liked trying to copy or emulate somebody. Thinking about this, I tried to sing in my own way, in a way that I feel that the band and the music needs, without trying to think about the previous singer. I think this is the best way because if you always think about the previous singer or guitar player you’re probably thinking wrong. Just bring your soul, your style, and your contribution to the music and have a good result, that’s what’s important.”

The one track that is most likely to get all tongues wagging among fans and critics alike is the band’s cover of ‘Synchronicity II’ by The Police. The obvious question is – how did that idea come about? It’s something that will no doubt take some people aback. As it turns out; Fabio himself came up with that one;

“I remember I was with Felipe, the bass player, and we were talking about covers and I proposed this idea to play this song by The Police, but I never expected the guys would take it into consideration, I was surprised to hear everyone in the band say “Wow, this is a great idea! Nobody will expect a Police cover from Angra”. So I was happy because, in the end we were just putting forward some songs to play, and I was talking about this song, because it was the first song I ever heard by The Police. For me it was something important, something related to my teenage years. I am really happy that the band released this version. In my opinion it’s really good. It sounds a heavier and a bit more poppy. To me, it’s one of the best tracks on the record! If you don’t know The Police, you could actually think it’s an Angra song, because it sounds really heavy. It’s really cool. Some people told me “This song sounds really amazing” and they didn’t realise it was a Police cover. We found a way to do this song our way, an Angra way. Most of the people who listened to the song told me it’s very well done, sounds really powerful and heavier but still has a pop music touch, so I think we did a good job.”

With each consecutive tour and album, the band has increased success in Europe. They frequent the continent’s festival scene, and always draw a crowd of fans when they do. Not to be sniffed at for a band hailing all the way from Brazil, and especially for such a long career. In our chat, I wanted to hear his take on this, since he himself is a European, and no doubt knows the extent of Angra’s popularity there;

“At the moment I am the only European member in the band, which is good in a way, because I can give my help to the band, they can do the same for me in Latin America. Of course, Latin America is very important to the band, and I believe they are big over there. We are trying to do as much as we can regarding Europe. For example, we have Wacken in August next year, and in addition to this I’m trying to fix some festivals in Italy and some other European countries. It’s important for the band, we will do our best to play there. Of course, I’m Italian, so for me it’s important to have things to do in Europe. I believe that this band can achieve a lot and not just in Brazil or in Japan, where they are also very big. That’s why I am trying to fix more shows. We have Japan and Taiwan in May, we will try to build a small tour around the USA. I’m pretty sure we will do a big tour in South America and regarding Europe we have one or two shows in Italy, Wacken and around that we should have more shows in Europe. I believe next year we will have a lot of shows to do, and more ideas regarding possible acoustic work. I was talking to an orchestra director about the possibility to record something with a real orchestra in an acoustic venue. We have a lot of ideas, so I think that could be another project for the band. Not a new record, but something a bit different. Of course, we are talking about in a year, two years, I don’t know. The good sign is that the band want to tour a lot to support ‘Secret Garden’”

With one swift listen to any recorded material from Angra’s career that they are not strictly a power metal band. The progressive nature of their music rings out strong and true, with a distinct flavour that is entirely their own. Nonetheless, the power metal influence is clear in their compositions. This is a genre of metal music that is frequently associated with Europe, and as such, I needed to ask the Italian singer what his views are on the genre’s longevity and attraction in European metal scenes, as opposed to the likes of American scenes, where only a few power metal bands have ever gained any real following.

“If I think about Helloween, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica or whatever, all these kind of bands are especially successful in Europe. The people there like this kind of music, I like it too, it’s sometimes a little boring for me after many years of listening to this kind of music. I understand Europe is cool with power metal bands, and Angra is one of them. On this record we have at least two speed or power metal songs in the classic Angra style, but the rest of the record is a bit more progressive. I think it is right, because the band today doesn’t want to compose and play a complete power metal record like in the past. It would be fake if we released a record of ten or twelve speed metal songs. What we can hear is actually what the band wants; some power metal mixed with speed and progressive metal, the Brazilian percussion, some fusion. I like this because in the end, the record sounds fresh and modern. On the other side, I’m not sure if some of the fans will like to hear this kind of modern stuff. You always see that a lot of people criticize bands when they try to change something in their sound. This is sometimes stupid. You can’t pretend that a band will play for twenty, twenty-five years, repeating the same songs or record. So I’m really happy to be part of this band, it’s a band that want to evolve their music and their style and I feel every band should think this way. But you’re right, in Europe, power metal is very well accepted and a lot of people are really strict with this. It’s good, but sometimes not so good.

Lest it be forgotten, Fabio also has Rhapsody of Fire and Vision Divine to attend to in his musical career. So, one would think it would be safe to say that he will be a very busy man in the foreseeable future, especially since Rhapsody Of Fire released ‘Dark Wings Of Steel’, and the new release of ‘Secret Garden’. However, Fabio is a man who knows how to manage his time well as he juggles three bands.

“Actually I don’t know, because with Rhapsody of Fire, we should compose new material next year but I don’t think I will have a lot of shows with them. I will have a lot of shows with Angra. At the same time I can compose music with Rhapsody of Fire or Vision Divine. It’s not easy like it was for 2014 but on the other hand it’s what I like, and why not? I think you can manage your time and have a good result in whatever you do. It’s kind of lucky because one year you have to play a lot of shows with one band and it’s the same year that you have to compose with the other instead of playing live. So you can manage it.”

With all these different projects, it’s easy to imagine that Fabio would choose to approach them all in their own individual way as a frontman and a singer. Fabio explains, it all comes down to the soul and style of each band;

“When I sing for a band, I try to hear the music and realise the kind of vocal approach that is needed. So I try to sing with Rhapsody of Fire in a different way because it is more epic, while with Angra usually I have to sing higher and more cleanly in a way. I try to be a different Fabio in different band. With different bands you can’t really sound the same, it’s almost impossible.”

When all is said and done, with the few Angra fans who may be recoiling at the idea of the Brazilian band having a new face and a new voice, Fabio Lione is a man who has his sights fixed firmly upon the vision that Angra has maintained for twenty-four years. So there is no reason to fear the future. Embrace Angra now more than ever, and you will find yourself immersed in the luscious musical world of an ever-evolving band that is as forward thinking and unique as any other metal act going. What more could you want?


Interview; Schmier (Destruction, The German Panzer)

“They called me up and said ‘Hey, we wanna do a project and we need a singer’ and I said ‘Why did you call me?’” He laughs, “‘We need a singer and a bass player! We want to do something fun and we’ve got some time right now’ and I said yes because I’ve known the guys a long time, I’ve been a big Accept fan in the past. It was an interesting offer for something new. After that we met and we wrote songs really quick after we talked about the direction of the band. We wanted to go more with British heavy metal; Motorhead, Priest meets Accept, a little German here and there. It was exciting because we only had a time slot for four or five months before we all go back on tour, so we’ve been writing the whole time and recording right away. It was a fast process and we’re enthusiastic. There was a lot of great ideas, so the songwriting was very smooth. We love how it turned out in the end.”

Schmier, known worldwide to metal fans as the frontman for the thrash metal band Destruction is speaking about the new supergroup, The German Panzer and his enthusiasm for the band is audible in his voice. Germany is a country well known for producing some of the all-time great bands in metal’s long history, including Destruction, Kreator, Sodom, Accept, Helloween and Running Wild. So the news of this trio, completed by Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann of Accept, should have any metal fan foaming at the mouth. The band’s upcoming debut album ‘Send Them All To Hell’ is a speed metal beast, all riffs, good pacing and very easy to bang your head to. However, this is more than a simple throwback project, as the song ‘Panzer’ shows, standing out easily from the record. The frontman explains;

“Songwriting sometimes works out of the blue, out of the feel. We wanted to write one more song that was like a steamrolling panzer, with the beat and everything. Stefan started with the beat and we put some guitars and bass on top of it. The song has a different vibe because we wrote it together as a song for the name of the band. Some of the other stuff sounds more traditional but we have a good mix of everything.”

The last few years have seen the formation of many a supergroup, and it’s no exaggeration to say that most of these bands don’t turn out as good as the list of people involved. The music often sounds forced, and ultimately forgettable. We needn’t worry though, as Schmier has already taken this under consideration in his approach, wanting Panzer to sound organic and honest;

“We’re all experienced and we’re doing something that we like.” He says simply. “I have also been a little bit concerned about all those bands forming right now, supergroups as you say, with this and that guy, and their stuff is really nothing special. We were aware that we needed to do a record that is ass-kicking. We’re all professionals and we put a lot of effort into the process of writing, studio and everything. And I think it pays off if you know where you want to go, and we all had the same idea behind it, it turns out well. I think it’s a really good constellation of people, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked out that way. There’s a certain magic in the air as it works.”

As stated earlier; it’s an easy record to get along with, but will we be able to experience it in the live setting? After all, all three members have their commitments with their respective bands to keep.

“We will definitely tour in the future, but it’s just that right now we need to start off slowly because both bands are touring. So with Panzer it’s possibly next year, definitely festivals if possible and maybe some more. We don’t know yet because we don’t know the schedule for both bands. I mean; we definitely want to play live, that’s really why we formed the band, so there will be shows coming up sooner or later.”

Good news then for those who fall in love with this album. As we were sat on his tour bus outside the Glasgow venue that he’s playing with Destruction very shortly, and since I am one of many Destruction fans present, I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask the Teutonic thrash titan what the future holds for Destruction;

“Our plans are basically to go to the places we’ve never played before. Even if it’s just Bristol, like yesterday!” He jokes, “Of course it’s more interesting when you play more exotic places that you’re playing for the first time. It’s adventurous. So we want to find new places to play. We played in India for the first time, and it was cool; a lot of new, young metal fans. The scene is small and growing, but it was very interesting. We want to play one day in an Arabian country, there’s a lot of metal fans there. We’re going to do an album next year, August could be possible. We’re going to write and record demos at the end of this year, and record at the beginning of next year.”

Speaking of 2015; any die-hard Destruction fan is going to realise that next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Destruction’s debut album ‘Infernal Overkill’, which has long been hailed as a classic of the thrash metal genre. Even now in 2014, it still stands as such.

“It’s crazy, you know? Because the fans still demand those songs all the time, so we always pick them up and put them back in the setlist. We’ve been playing those songs back and forth all the time. Of course, next year with the anniversary we’re gonna do some shows with some extra ‘Infernal Overkill’ material. It feels fantastic of course, the album is so, so old and it still has such an impact on the audience. I never thought it would be that way.”

That debut showcased a hungry young band determined to make their mark on an extreme metal scene that in its infancy back then. However, fast forward to the band’s most recent albums; 2011’s ‘Day Of Reckoning’ and 2012’s ‘Spiritual Genocide’ and all the aggression is still as potent as ever. When asked what keeps the thrash metal fury burning within him 30 years after the initial album, Schmier had some choice words about the effects of the passing years on thrash metal bands;

“I think a lot of bands make the mistake when they grow older of settling down, getting slower, but we’re a thrash metal band, you know? We want to compete with the young and wild bands, we’re one of the godfathers of thrash, so you have to be a role model. We’re the living proof that a band, when it grows older can still go full speed ahead and write albums that sound fresh and sound young. We don’t wanna sound like an old band. What happens a lot of times is bands get a certain age, they slow down and they kind of get more melodic or whatever. Destruction; we have a quality name and our fans expect something wild from us and to keep on kicking your ass. The live shows keep us bound with the fans, and when you don’t play it’s more difficult to adjust for an album but we play a lot, so we’re all still in shape and we know what the fans like.”

As it happens, Destruction’s opening bands included two fresh faces on the thrash metal scene; Finland’s rebels Lost Society and the UK’s own Shrapnel. Schmier remains very optimistic about the state of the thrash scene in the present day;

“It’s great to see all these young bands playing thrash metal again because I remember when Destruction came back with me in 1999, there was no thrash bands, no young thrash bands, none! Name me one? There was none! Then the first albums came out and interviewers kept asking me ‘Where does thrash go?’ ‘What is its future?’ blah, blah. I said; ‘I don’t care, we’re here, we’re back with me and we’ll try to write good music, we’ll see what happens. Then somehow, all the other thrash bands also all came back around the same time with new albums, Kreator, Sodom, and somehow there was a new feeling for thrash in the young generation. All of a sudden, out of the death metal dust there was a lot of young bands forming at the beginning of the 2000s. It’s great to see them, they remind me of when we were young; we also didn’t clean up the tour bus!” He laughs heartily, “There’s a whole new young and wild generation and it’s great to see.”

Since the man himself mentioned Kreator and Sodom, two of the other three bands that join Destruction as The Big Teutonic Four of thrash metal (The fourth being Tankard), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask about the potential for the four bands to tour the same way that the American Big Four have done. Over the years it has been spoken about, and the rumours have flown around the internet time and time again, but is there any chance?

“Yeah, I hope so! We’re ready for it. The other bands just have to let us know when it’s gonna happen and we’re ready to go. Hopefully in the next years, we’ve already talked about it already back and forth last year but it’s not easy with time schedules and you know the fans put a lot of pressure on everybody, so we have to do it. Every interviewer asks me about it and all I can say is Destruction is sitting on the luggage and is waiting for the bus to pick us up for the tour! We’re ready to go!”

It goes without saying that thrash metal is a very physical genre as far as live performance is concerned, and at 47 years old, Schmier knows all too well the dangers of too much time on the road;

“We’re touring a lot but we also take little breaks in between. On the road for some weeks, at home for some days, we try to rest and get some energy. Touring is important to stay in shape, just don’t overdo it. You overdo it, it can break the band. You can lose interest and lose the fun. The way we do it; we play a lot but we still have our breaks and gaps where we can be at home and have some privacy. So it works well, you know? No rest for the wicked. We like to play, we like to see the world and it’s still a great opportunity after 30 years of doing this. It’s fantastic.”

To another 30 years, then?

“Ahh…If it’s possible, but it could be very tight! But you know, Motörhead are still playing, Black Sabbath are playing. So that means for us there’s at least twenty years. It sounds ridiculous when I think about it but it’s possible. Seeing how fast the last fifteen years have gone after I came back to the band, it is crazy fast but; so far so good. We’re all still in health to do this and one day. So hopefully for another fifteen or twenty years.”
Panzer’s debut album is out now on Nuclear Blast.


Album Review; Fallen Angels - World In Decay

Released Via Cyberdyne Records
Genre: Thrash Metal

Another band comes to thrash you back to 1986, and they do it in good fashion. This album is jam-packed with the fast and evil riffs of bands like Coroner, Dark Angel and Forbidden, and plenty of guitar leads tasty enough to make you bang your head harder than you already were. Fallen Angels are not afraid to switch up the tempos through their songs, even making room for more spacious moments that allow songs like ‘Nightmare Master’ to live and breathe. The level of musicianship here is top notch, reminiscent of early Megadeth in its intricacy and wildness. There are displays of a more traditional metal style of songwriting on the record, such as the opening moments of ‘Forsaken Existence’. Each instrument is played in a manner that amplifies the next, with the guitar and drum interplay alone being capable of holding the listener’s attention. Combine all of these elements with the added experience of award-winning producer Michael Rosen, who has managed to mix this album to the point of sheer sonic perfection for a band of this style and you have a thrash metal band that is making nods back to the metal icons of the 70s and 80s as they take no-nonsense metal forward with invigorating songs. There are some who might question the originality of the band, but there’s definitely a more mature feel to a band like Fallen Angels that suggests they’d deserve to break through the glass ceiling that holds down the plethora of thrash revivalists. This is too good to be called revivalism.
Rating: 8/10

Album Review; Éohum - Revelations, Aurora Of An Epoch

Released Via Mycelium Networks
Genre: Avant-Garde Black/Doom Metal

To call Eohum an avant-garde band is an understatement, but if you decide not to listen to this record purely on the basis that this is not orthodox music you will be missing out on an interesting and genuinely well-crafted record that twists in and out of the confines of musical convention in order to deliver something that so many black metal bands claim to offer and fail to do so: unique and strangely beautiful metal carved from pure chaos. Imagine if Morbus Chron were massive Neurosis fans that just could not decide what one genre to stick to before throwing caution to the wind and playing damn near every genre in one record. The instrumental track ‘Rooted Deep Within’ shows you all you need to know about this band; they know their instruments (instruments which include a French horn and a trumpet) and they’re completely unafraid to play about with compositional ideas, all the while managing to keep a good flow in the structure of the record. Considering the completely jarring nature of a song such as ‘Defined Sacredness’, it’s incredible that Eohum have managed to incorporate hooks into these tracks. Transitions from fast to slow tempos are completely out of the blue more often than not and the brass instruments should sound sickeningly out of place, but all of these eccentricities, coupled with Cryptopsy vocalist Matt McGachy’s combination of modern metal screams and admittedly rather marmite clean singing form an album that defines Eohum as easily the most original and inventive band out there. ‘Wiser Every Sunrise’ shifts from rhythmic groove metal to sections of spoken word nearly-rap vocals from Phillip Rieder, before the following track opens up with heavy doom metal! Don’t say you weren’t warned; Metal puritans may as well turn and run, but those out there who are out for a musical experience that simply couldn’t be replicated by any other band out there, dig your teeth into this and try to keep your head from exploding.

Rating: 9/10


Album Reviews; Ghost - Meliora

Released Via Loma Vista Recordings
Genre: Progressive Rock/Heavy Metal

Track Listing:

1. Spirit
2. From The Pinnacle To The Pit
3. Cirice
4. Spoksonat
5. He Is
6. Mummy Dust
7. Majesty
8. Devil Church
9. Absolution
10. Deus In Absentia

The Satanic shtick of Ghost has gotten them a lot of fans, as has their Occult Rock/Metal music that has long been described as a hybrid of Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult. Their second album 'Infestissumam' built upon the blueprint set down by the debut 'Opus Eponymous' by expanding their sound into something more immediate, with tinges of the psychedelic and the progressive to it. As it happens, this is something that the band has chosen to build upon further with 'Meliora'.

The opening seconds of 'Spirit' set us up for Ghost's creepy yet camp theatricality before the song has the kind of ring that would suggest the opening of a grand rock opera. Mysterious robed frontman Papa Emeritus III gives a great and enticing vocal performance from the start and already you can feel your allegiance being realigned towards Ghost once more as the song ends with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe. 'From The Pinnacle To The Pit' kicks in with the dirtiest and grooviest bass line I've heard this year before the simple and hypnotically repetitive song slices with sharp lyrics and a feel that is somewhat more in line with 'Infestissumam' at its more straightforward moments. Throw in some great bluesy soloing and you have another great Ghost song.

The flagship for the new record is clearly 'Cirice', which is easily the heaviest, most addictive and ultimately the best song that Ghost have written thus far. The riff, the lyrics, the flow and the structuring of the song are all damn-near perfect. After you've played that song on repeat a few hundred times, you'll go into 'Spoksonat', a short intermission track that leads you onwards to 'He Is', an acoustically led ballad that sounds almost like an ode of worship intended for the ears of Papa Emeritus III. Or Satan, of course. Either way, the song works surprisingly well even though it sounds as if it belongs just as much on a West End stage as it does a Metal Festival stage. It's huge, with great, uplifting harmonies that are a more-than-welcome surprise on this record.

If the song you just heard was Yang, then 'Mummy Dust' is Yin. Painting an eerie picture that would suggest the more sinister nature of Ghost as the purveyors of the darker side of the duality. A scathing beat and muted rhythm keep this song afloat while Papa tells us in more demonic tones of his true intentions for the world.

Musically, there is still much of the keyboard interplay that grants this album some of the psychedelic power that its predecessor had, though in more of a way that compliments the rest of the band's sound as opposed to overpowering it. There's still the campiness and there is also still the grandeur. The band are still larger than life, as has been shown in various interviews which have described 'Meliora' as being an exploration of a future where the band's frontman character rules a dystopian city or that the album is about our messed-up idea of happiness, and even about the darkness and evil in the modern idea/illusion of freedom. In this multi-layered manner combined with the aforementioned theatricality, this album can remind one of a cross between Rush's '2112' and 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'. As strange as that may seem, I guarantee you'll get lost in the bizarre world that is 'Meliora'.

It's the best thing Ghost have given us so far. Be sure to convert others to the cause.

Rating: 9/10