SAIL – Flood

Although Sail are a predominantly heavy act, a quick dig through their back catalogue shows that the UK riff makers are anything but stuck in their ways. Their material often has a stoner and doom undercurrent, but there are various different avenues taken along the way: 2020’s ‘Mannequin’ single displayed a strong bluesy vibe; the title cut from 2017’s ‘Slumbersong’ took an unexpected detour into shimmering dreampop without losing the band’s generally ominous tone and 2019’s ‘Starve’ mixed desert rock grooves with a pleasingly crashy riff that straddled aggression and melody in the most perfect way. The point is, it sort of doesn’t matter where you drop into the band’s work; if you love a heavy riff, there’s almost something to suit, and you’re almost guaranteed to come away feeling very satisfied.

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Listen: Mantic Ritual return with ‘Crusader’; first new music for over a decade

The new single from Mantic Ritual sees the Pittsburgh thrash band tapping into everything you’ve ever loved about the seemingly unsinkable metal sub-genre. ‘Crusader’ mixes Testament-like riffs with the speed of old Exciter tunes, but for that full on authentic feel, it features a brattish vocal that recalls the carefree style of the young James Hetfield circa 1983, complete with the kind of reverb present on the early 80s thrash releases.

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JEFF SCOTT SOTO – The Duets Collection, Vol 1

Artists with long careers will inevitably find themselves with their best days behind them. With the passing of time and fading inspiration to contend with, this is only natural. It’s not something that seems to have affected Jeff Scott Soto. In 2020, thirty six years after his breakthrough with Yngwie Malmsteen, he released ‘Wide Awake (In My Dreamland’), one of his finest works to date. He could often be relied upon for a decent record – whether tackling pure melodic rock (2002’s ‘Prism’), unleashing his funky side and inner Prince (1995’s ‘Love Parade’) or fronting something heavier (some great metal albums with Sons of Apollo) – but ‘…Dreamland’ was a cut above.

Given how great that record was, it was a travesty that a global pandemic stopped Jeff taking the songs on the road, but despite the world slowing down, he didn’t stop working. He refocused his attentions and decided to bring the past into the present by re-recording selected tracks from his vast back catalogue with a clutch of the present’s other melodic rock talents. Sometimes reworking the past is a bad idea, especially if the artist isn’t particularly open about allowing other creative souls any real input (Kate Bush, we’re looking at you), but fans need not worry about Jeff tarnishing his already great legacy here. His choice of material is good; his roll-call of friends adds a variety of voices that are complimentary to his own and, regarding a couple of the older songs on the table, there might even be an improvement.

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