Formed in 2011 with a desire to delve into the sounds of “classic heavy metal”, Philadelphia’s Corners of Sanctuary very much stick to tradition when it comes to their brand of rock. Like Aussie metallers LORD, CoS occupy a space where the big hair and the leather trouser reigns; a musical spectrum where solos are closer to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest than any more “modern” acts you’d care to name. For all of that, though, their sound is often impressive; a riff-heavy machine that’s not just a celebration of the past, but proof that classic metal lives on. By sticking to their guns in championing a very traditional approach, they’ve shared stages with Saxon, Blaze Bayley, and Anvil. And, somehow, they’ve also shared bills with Enuff Z’Nuff and – bizarrely – Green Jelly. Their strong held belief that metal will never die obviously works for them.

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ZARRAZA – Kreated In Blood EP

On their 2018 release ‘Necroshiva’, Kazakhstan’s Zarraza really tightened up their blend of thrash and groove metal. The album, although centring around a couple of tried and tested styles and obvious influences, was incredibly well produced and came loaded with impeccably played riffs. On the best tracks, elements of Lamb of God jostled against bits of Slayer, which resulted in something incredibly powerful, especially when dressed with a dirty hardcore-tinged bottom end. In terms of their abilities with a riff, this underground act were now on a par with French metallers Backdawn, and Atlanta’s Bless The Dead. This tight and mean approach carried the following year’s ‘Rotten Remains’ where the arguably more professional band set about revisiting and re-recording some of their earlier DIY recordings, again with brilliant results.

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EMBR – Idolatry EP

Alabaman riff merchants Embr have been cranking out heavy grooves since 2015, but the release of their ‘1823’ full length on the New Heavy Sounds label really helped to elevate their profile. The album’s selection of intense riffs combined with a clean-ish female vocal presented a brilliant contrast between pure doom and great melodies, suggesting talents that could not only rival the UK’s own Witch Charmer, but possibly even help fill the massive void left by the much missed Black Moth. A filler free forty minutes, ‘1823’ is the kind of metal album that deserves to be heard by everyone.

The close of 2020 brought something of a surprise when, completely out of the blue, Embr shared a covers EP via Bandcamp. ‘Idolatry’ brings together four classic tracks from four classic 90s bands – a couple of which can be heard with new ears once redressed in Embr’s heavier clothes.

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In the hands of inspiring musicians looking to have a little fun, a covers album can be a wonderful thing. From Sandie Shaw’s ‘Reviewing The Situation’ in 1969 (an LP that was happy to boast the world’s first Led Zeppelin cover), to Bryan Ferry’s 1973 release ‘These Foolish Things’ and Powerman 5000’s ‘Copies, Clones & Replicants’, some of the best covers albums are ones that show artists unafraid to remake songs in their own image.

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THE VAPIDS – Teenage Heads

The idea of a punk band covering an entire album is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 90s, Screeching Weasel, The Queers, The Vindictives and Mr. T Experience recorded their own fairly faithful versions of the first four Ramones albums. Thinking a little more broadly, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes thrilled the masses with their themed albums and pop punk heroes MxPx punked up material as diverse as Bryan Adams, Dave Alvin and The Proclaimers on their ‘Cover To Cover’ releases. Yes, indeed… The “punk cover” has become a staple of the scene.

The ubiquity of the punk cover doesn’t stop this album by Ontario punks The Vapids being hugely entertaining. With half the punk world wanting to pay tribute (either directly or indirectly) to Joey and Johnny’s groundbreaking blueprint, it is somewhat refreshing that these Canadian punks would want to pay homage to their own home grown heroes, and so, ‘Teenage Heads’ – originally released in 2002 – finds the band hammering through the ten numbers from Teenage Head’s self titled debut LP from ’79.

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