Following an intro that’s very horror-esque with its use of haunting keyboards, marching drums and synth strings, Reading based metallers Her Dying Regret launch into ‘Ashes’ – the first full track from their second release – …and the gloves are off. With thrashing twin lead guitars and a guttural roar, the band tears into an undeniably great slice of metalcore. The drums pound relentlessly against a downtuned guitar, topped by a duel vocal of Trivium inspired throatiness and Dani Filth-esque screech. At the point where it feels as if something will burst, the chorus crashes through with a clean vocal and a very strong melody. At this point, there’s no doubt that these guys are good players. Although in a very similar style, the EP’s lead track – and title cut – ‘Legacy’ pulls all of HDR’s best features together, making the best choice for promoting the release. The melodic chorus – delivered by “clean vocalist” Tom Melville – is among the EP’s best, while the gruff voices – courtesy of Scott London – just teeter on the good side of threatening. With riffs strongly inspired by classic Killswitch Engage and early Shadows Fall, this is solid stuff indeed. The twin guitars of Craig Meyer and Dan Osbourne are stellar throughout in their downtuned approach, but it’s Osbourne’s melodic edge that really catches the ear midway. Following a brief interlude of sweeping notes, as he launches into a brief, yet sharp and clean solo, his playing is reminiscent of something more in keeping with progressive metal.
UK thrashers Cry Havoc mean business on their debut release. This EP, recorded with Martyn ‘Ginge’ Ford and Matthew Bond (known for work with Slipknot, Trivium and Skindred) recalls many great elements from the late 80s/early 90s thrash metal scene, delivering those now old-school riffs as expertly as possible for a twenty-first century audience. If thrash metal hit the spot for you back then and fancy something nostalgic – or else have always loved metal with a strong thrash influence – then look no further!
The opening number ‘Losing Everything’ almost tells you all you need to know with regards to whether you’ll love this band or not. Within seconds, Cry Havoc launch headlong into a well-played approximation of 80s thrash/speed with a hint of slightly more modern metal. With great riffs throughout, Cry Havoc sound strongest when leaning more towards the old-school thrash, but they’re certainly none the worse for that. Vocally, Gav sounds a tad harsh in places, but often retains a relative clarity, making the lyrics very easy to digest. Their metallic force is balanced out by a surprisingly melodic chorus, and by the time this number comes crashing to a halt via an unsubtle cry of “shut the fuck up”, you know Cry Havoc mean to leave a lasting impression. ‘Ignition’ allows a slower mood to come to the fore in places, with a main riff evocative of ‘Master of Puppets’ era Metallica or post ‘Crusade’ Trivium – either influence a very welcome one indeed. Despite the chuggier moments allowing more accessible elements to cut through – and a chorus which leans even more towards the melodic (relatively speaking, of course) – drummer John still attacks his kit with the full force expected of classic sounding thrash/speed metal, with plenty of hefty pedal work.
Kicking off with some bottom end bass and a solid drum groove, ‘Alone’ at first hints at a slower, meatier workout and then – boom – it’s then straight back into a world of excellently played metal riffs. The full-on chug and growlier vocal line evokes the best elements of ‘Seasons In The Abyss’ era Slayer – particularly once the twin guitars get the opportunity to chime in before an all-too-brief guitar solo. The title cut begins gently with some clean toned riffing and a whispered vocal teasing at something epic waiting in the wings and then, as before, Tris and James settle into staccato riffing worthy of Metallica, Testament or any of the thrash greats, before finding time for a well-executed solo. It doesn’t really offer the listener any more of a broad musical spectrum than heard previously, but frankly, what these guys do, they do exceptionally well.
If you like your metal with a full-on sound with no obvious alternative influences creeping in, this is almost guaranteed to please. By the end of the fourth number, it starts to feel as if this should have been a full length release. It may be short, but in classic metal terms, Cry Havoc’s ‘New Life’ serves up four slices of near perfection.
Within the first year of their existence, UK rockers Rough Cut have shared stages with cult rock bands Crashdiet and Jettblack. They’ve supported the excellent Black Spiders. They’ve even toured with American melodic rock legends Mr. Big – an impressive addition to the CV of any band, but especially so considering Rough Cut were without a release behind them at that time.
On ‘Run Home’ – arguably the best track from this debut EP – Rough Cut attacks the listener with a hugely cocky guitar riff, its weightiness bolstered by a superb drum line from Jes Hartley. Almost immediately, there’s a strong sense of Rough Cut’s love of classic rock and metal at the heart of their sound, although this is a band who never obviously set out to emulate any of their heroes or influences. The speed – if not necessarily the overall tone – evokes a mood of the early 80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal. This is something, perhaps, enforced a little farther by Jack Simkin’s vocal style; it’s not flat as such, but he favours a very natural tone which allows the Englishness of his vocal to cut through. That said, his style is very complimentary the rest of the band as they power through this opening number – and, indeed, a couple of the others – at something nearing full-pelt. If you don’t mind things adopting such a distinctly British slant, this is definitely enjoyable, especially as that great riff is coupled with a simple and relatively memorable chorus.
Another similarly full on hard rocker, ‘Romeo’s Dead’ doesn’t show much more of Rough Cuts talent, but, as before, the four musicians approach the material with a great power; a power evident even in the studio environment. No nonsense riffing and another hooky chorus pass three minutes enjoyably, but the real high point is the guitar solo played by Simon J Court, whose blues edged, hard rock chops are terrific, filling a few bars with heavily wah-wahed notes like a true pro.
‘Midnight Rider’ starts excellently with some all-too-brief twin lead in the intro before the band career headlong into another punchy riff that’s not too far removed from those heard during the first two numbers. While it may be tried-and-tested, the playing is spot on, with a great tightness in the rhythm section once again. As before, Rough Cut ensure they take their meaty riffs and couple them with a decent chorus and the feeling of the band’s sweaty energy throughout really comes across on the recording.
In a slight change of pace, ‘Guardian Angel’ shows off a (slightly) more melodic side to Rough Cut. After an acoustic intro (almost sounding like a quasi folk jig), the arrangement offers some terrific pumping bass, before settling into a more mid-paced rocker, again showcasing plenty of old-school chops. At the slower pace, Simkin’s rough ‘n’ ready vocal approach seems more obvious than ever before, but he more than holds his own…and, obviously, a natural voice is often far more preferable to a voice subjected to studio shine. As with the other tracks, the highlight comes with the guitar solo; while a tad more restrained than before, it’s soon clear that although Rough Cut are a solidly talented quartet, it’s Court who is often in the driving seat.
Overall, ‘Rollin’ Thunder’ will certainly appeal to those who like a bit of trashy hard rock in the “classic” mould, even though three of the songs each have a very similar approach. With a lot of potential and an obvious love of all things in the classic rock/old-school metal field, it’s just a pity they couldn’t have chosen a more distinctive name: for rock fans over a certain age, any band named Rough Cut are destined to be confused with Amir Derakh’s 80s hard rock band…
Metal may have evolved into various subgenres since the early 80s, but there’s always time for something “traditional”. If you want classic metal delivered the way it used to be, look no further. Bands like Three Inches of Blood may be incorporating huge amounts of squealing, all guns blazing 80s metal into their sound, but few have nailed New Wave of British Heavy Metal / classic 80s metal sounds as well as Monument. On this self-released debut EP, this British band pick up the mantle take some very obvious cues from classic metal bands (Iron Maiden, especially) and offer five full-on rockers which are drenched in a glorious sense of nostalgia.
Looking at the EPs sleeve – a British Bulldog, almost drawn in a Derek Riggs style – their love for Iron Maiden should be reasonably obvious to all. On most of ‘Rock The Night!’, Monument borrow so much from their heroes, on one hand they could be accused of plagiarism, but on the other, these tunes are so well played, it’s hard not to get swept along with their energy and enthusiasm [provided, of course, you can cope with something wholly unoriginal; if not, stop reading NOW.]
The title track comes full pelt with hammering drums and squealing vocals filling its intro, before the band settles firmly into a metal attack which resembles very early Iron Maiden, albeit played a tad faster. By the time the band warm up to full speed, Monument sound like an old-school metal juggernaut, and from this point, there’s no slowing down. Extra interest comes from a shred filled lead guitar break courtesy of Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner, whose playing – unsurprisingly – compliments both Monument guitarists (Lewis Stevens and David del Cid) excellently. Frontman Peter Ellis is far from being as gifted as Bruce Dickinson, but on this track (and, indeed, the subsequent four) his slightly harsh vocal isn’t too much at odds with the band’s overall style.
A stronger Iron Maiden influence pervades the rest of the EP, to the point where it’s not just the overall style that’s been influential – you can pick out bits of actual Maiden songs! With Matt C’s drums thundering at top speed, ‘Carry On’ delivers an even more powerful old-school metal assault. The twin lead guitars in the intro are absolutely marvellous, but within about thirty seconds, the tune shows its true colours as it begins to resemble the Iron Maiden classic ‘The Trooper’ – something hammered further home by a very similar “whooo—ooo-ah!” during the chorus. If you were feeling kind, this could chalked up as “strong influence”, but, in reality, it’s more than that – Steve Harris ought to be claiming songwriting royalties… Similarly, ‘Midnight Queen’ comes with some amazing twin lead work, underpinned by so much of galloping bassline, you’d be forgiven for briefly believing this was a leftover from Maiden’s ‘Piece of Mind’. It’s really only the slightly shinier production value that belies the tunes post-eighties origins. The ‘Trooper’-eque whoas make a timely return, Ellis’s slightly gruff lead voice is balanced well by a few choice harmonies and Jim Ramses rattles his bass strings with intent.
It would have been good if one of the remaining tunes had been slow and epic – in a Maiden ‘Revelations’ style, or maybe even some kind of homage to Saxon’s ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ – but the band choose to hammer through the two remaining cuts with the same kind of speed and metallic intensity they’ve already demonstrated previously. Whether they can actually play anything slowly is open to question. ‘Fatal Attack’ is a fast paced romp with a riff that’s blatantly stolen from ‘Prowler’; if you can make it past the unashamed borrowing, del Cid and Stevens sound superb playing their twin lead guitars in harmony a la Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. The closest Monument get to taking a breather, ‘Blood Red Sky’ is a decent just-faster-than-mid-pace stomper, full of classic metal motifs. No, you won’t escape the almost obligatory tip of the hat to Maiden here, either: there’s a brief moment in the instrumental break that’s a dead ringer for part of the mid-section from ‘Where Eagles Dare’ – so close, in fact, it’s scary. […Cue Steve Harris calling his lawyers…]
When referencing the past, there’s a very fine line between genuine influence and blatant plagiarism. In more than a few places, Monument cross that line rather too obviously, to the point where they’re positively taking the piss. Somehow, though, ‘Rock The Night!’s over-familiarity is what ultimately makes it so enjoyable, at least in the short term. Looking at the bigger picture, since there’s a lot of musical talent within Monument’s ranks, it’s a shame they didn’t use those talents a little more creatively.
Redline’s 2012 album ‘Vice’ is rooted firmly in the old school. On this release, the Brummie five piece band have not just settled for a little retro – they’ve chosen all out, old fashioned 80s metal as their core sound. The first song rips from the speakers with attitude, powered by the kind of riffs that would make their fore fathers very proud.
Within ‘Battle Cry’s opening two lines, vocalist Kez Taylor delivers lyrics which mention both “Running with the devil” and “the reaper” as if no time has passed since the days of Sounds Magazine and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal; its chorus (“Time to do or die / Shout the battle cry!”) fits the mood well with its brazen cheesiness. The heavy staccato riffs show no sign of abating over the course of three minutes and taking in a fierce lead guitar break en route, Redline sets their musical manifesto out for all to see. By the track’s end, you’ll either find yourself going with Redline for the (leather clad, motorbikes and demons obsessed) ride, or you be moving swiftly along…
‘King of the Mountain’ follows suit with a similar twin guitar attack. No surprises from a band called Redline, this tune is celebration of heavy horse-powered two-wheeled greatness and comes with hi-octane riffs to suit the subject matter. A number adopted as the official theme for the Isle of Man TT Races in 2009, on this particular track, Kez offers huge vocal (with some equally huge screaming notes on occasion) and the rest of the band sounds nice and tight. The only weak point here is the one line chorus; considering the band loves motorcycles so much, it’s a pity that repeating “King of the mountain” ad nauseum was the best they could manage. A second ode to the motorbike and open road, ‘No Limits’ is far better: a pumping bass lays the foundations for a fist-clenched slab of metal which recalls classic tunes by Saxon and their ilk. Unlike some early Saxon tunes, bassist Redvers manages more here than a pounding open E, but all the same, ‘No Limits’ doesn’t pretend to be flashy. With squealing guitars, full throttle riffing and a much better chorus, this pure and simple approach typifies the kind of tunes that would have placed Redline at the forefront of the studs-and-leather dominated scene had they been doing this three decades earlier.
‘The Edge of Falling’ and ‘Some Kinda Mean’ are numbers on which the band branches out a little farther, opting for a slightly more melodic edge. ‘On The Edge’ is particularly enjoyable with its mix of acoustic and electric guitars; the punchy mid paced rock is slightly reminiscent of early Dokken and shiny backing vocals lend more of an American feel. At the heart of it all, though, the guitars reign supreme and an old-school lead guitar break tops things off nicely. ‘Some Kinda Mean’ has a riff which isn’t too far removed from something Glenn Tipton would have penned for Judas Priest circa ’84 and as such has a hugely classic sound. Taylor, meanwhile, takes each line in his stride – his big voice an equal match for the riffs. As with ‘King of the Mountain’, a one line chorus lets the side down a little, but everything else here is more than solid.
Interestingly, ‘Vice’s weakest track is ‘Cold Silence’ – and it is possibly no coincidence that the potential missteps happen during Redline’s only attempt at lightening up. This particular track is an overwrought power ballad, at first led by piano and strings (arranged by Slade’s Jim Lea). It’s wonderfully orchestrated, but that doesn’t stop its first half sounding like a poor man’s equivalent to a Queensryche ballad. During the second half, things rock up somewhat. The combination of strings and a well played lead guitar improves things considerably, while drummer Mark Biddiscombe also puts in a rock-hard performance.
Let’s not beat about the bush here: ‘Vice’ is uncool. Not uncool in such a way that could be considered cool, just uncool. However, it cannot be denied that Redline are great musicians and in Kez Taylor the band possesses a powerful vocalist with some serious old-school chops. If you don’t care about fashion and want a metal album that hits you in the kind of way those old vinyl LPs did back in ’81, then this record is definitely for you.