SAXON – Wheels Of Steel

Released in November 1979, Saxon’s self titled debut LP was not the commercial success everyone had hoped for. Perhaps part of the blame could be levelled at Carrere Records – primarily a French disco label – not having the greatest experience of promoting a rock band. Maybe the problem lay with the album itself: while a hugely entertaining listen – especially from an historical viewpoint – it’s somewhat mixed in style. Tracks like ‘Stallions of the Highway’ and ‘Backs To The Wall’ point the way towards the brand of no nonsense metal Saxon would make their trademark, but others like ‘Frozen Rainbow’ have a footing much closer to a1970s almost past, a place where atmosphere and pomp outweighed sheer bluster.

In those days, of course, bands weren’t dumped on the scrap heap by their record labels after a flop, and in Saxon’s case – and ultimately Carrere’s too, since the likes of Ottawan weren’t going to be around forever – it’s a good job. Decamping to Wales, the band set about writing their second album; the record that would change their fortunes and the face of 80s metal forever… ‘Wheels of Steel’.

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RAM-PAGE – The Grave Of Seven Billion

Formed in 2010, it was less than a year before Russian metallers Ram-Page found themselves in the studio with enough money and support to record their debut album. The resultant LP, ‘The Keeper of Time’ gained enough attention for the band to actually shoot a couple of promotional videos before heading back into the studio to record a second album, eventually released in April 2012. With a similar whirlwind approach, a third release appeared the following year. In metal terms, it seemed these guys were following a similar breakneck approach to working as their 80s thrash and NWOBHM heroes.

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MORAG TONG – Last Knell Of Om

At the beginning of 2016, London based doom/sludge quartet Morag Tong released their debut EP ‘Through Clouded Time’. It received some very enthusiastic responses online and in it’s wake, the band were able to increase their profile through extensive live work. A follow up wasn’t especially quick in coming, but just one listen to 2018’s ‘Last Knell of Om’ reveals why. The band seemingly weren’t intent on just hacking out more of the same when it came to making a full length release. The album really delivers on previous musical ideas, but also takes the longer playing time to experiment with a few more progressive and space rock tendencies than before.

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Tape Loading Error: Watch the new video clip for ’48K’ by The Fierce And The Dead

It’s been a great year for The Fierce And The Dead.  They’ve played their biggest ever London headliner; they’re about to play an even bigger one; their new album ‘The Euphoric’ – released on May 18th 2018 – has gained the band more press than ever before.  [Real Gone’s review of the album and a full stream can be found here.]

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Metal oriented split releases are great, especially when they feature a couple of cult bands that share a similar musical root. The 2015 split between Cult of Luna and the lesser known Old Wind was interesting, and especially so considering Old Wind absolutely trounced the band most people would have bought the release to hear. Better yet, the 2018 split between Slomatics and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard achieved the same fate: after years of championing sludge and doom riffs, Ireland’s finest were outshone at almost every turn by the amusingly named Welsh upstarts. It was a release that no doom lovers should be without and one that proved that Mammoth Weed’s moment of glory had truly come.

A split between Into The Storm and Smooth Sailing is a natural phenomenon. Both bands have a similar approach to heaviness yet have their own style, so it’s easy to favour one over the other. Also – and perhaps this is the deal clincher here – Like Melvins and Fantomas, there’s some crossover with regard to band members. This EP is also a good way to get some previously unheard material out to both long standing fans and new listeners alike.

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