Friday, August 19, 2011

Black Veil Brides - Set The World On Fire

Black Veil Brides
Set The World On Fire
Lava Records/Universal Republic Records/Universal Music Australia

After two fairly low key independent E.P. releases (2007’s ‘Sex & Hollywood’ and 2008’s ‘Never Give In’), Hollywood (California, U.S.) based outfit Black Veil Brides signed up with StandBy Records and released their debut full-length effort ‘We Stitch These Wounds’ in 2010 - which despite getting a mixed reception from the press, went on to become an overwhelming success in terms of sales and attracting a devoted following.
Twelve months on, and Black Veil Brides (Who comprise of vocalist/keyboardist Andy ‘Six’ Biersack, lead guitarist Jake Pitts, rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist Jeremy ‘Jinxx’ Ferguson, bassist/backing vocalist Ashley Purdy and new drummer Christian ‘CC’ Coma) are back with their sophomore effort ‘Set The World On Fire’ - their first effort for their new major label partners Lava Records.
In the lead up to the album’s release, Biersack claimed that the band’s latest release would reflect the growth they have made as song writers and musicians over the last twelve months. And in that respect, he wasn’t wrong. The metallic metalcore elements of their debut are all but stripped away on ‘Set The World On Fire’, with a greater emphasis placed on a melodic hard rock direction and greater use of clean vocals. But while the shift in direction sounds like a step in the right direction, ‘Set The World On Fire’ is an album that doesn’t quite live up to their larger than life image.
The opening track ‘New Religion’ is a fist pumping anthem that is full of energy, and showcases the guitarists in delivering some tight metallic riffs, and Coma’s powerful double-kick work on the kit. Sound wise, ‘New Religion’ has a fairly slick production, with the use of gang vocals and Biersack clean vocal approach adding a whole new melodic touch to the band’s former metalcore direction.
The title track ‘Set The World On Fire’ is a solid number that is easy on the ears with its polished choruses, shredding solos and punchy/driving drums, while the keyboard/gang vocal enhanced ‘Love Isn’t Always Fair’, the heavier and grittier ‘God Bless You’, ‘Legacy’ (Which is the second single/promotional video clip lifted from the album) and the huge anthem ‘Ritual’ (Which is sure to become a fan favourite) are the definitive highlights on the album.
Unfortunately, for all of the strong tracks the album boasts, the band have also managed to produce just as many fillers - some of which come across as predictable and cliché (The album’s first single ‘Fallen Angels’ is a prime example), lacking the required range needed from Biersack’s vocals to really lift the song above the ordinary (The ballad ‘Saviour’ comes to mind) and others just plain sound forgettable (‘Rebel Love Song’, ‘Die For You’ and ‘Youth And Whisky’).
If you look past the image, and judge Black Veil Brides purely on their music, ‘Set The World On Fire’ is a fairly mixed effort that has its fair share of hits balanced with as many misses.
In the end, ‘Set The World On Fire’ isn’t too demanding, and is a fun listen. The only downside is that it’s also forgettable in patches. Overall it’s a solid, but unremarkable effort from the modern day post-hardcore hard rockers.

For more information on Black Veil Brides, check out - http://www.bvbarmy.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gorguts - From Wisdom To Hate

Gorguts
From Wisdom To Hate
Deepsend Records

For a decade, Canadian based death metal act Gorguts managed to release four full-length albums, all of which drew considerably high acclaim from both critics and fans alike. But despite their overwhelming praise for the band’s output, success seemed to elude the Quebec band, which eventually led to the band’s split in 2005.
But after a lengthy absence from the scene, Gorguts (Vocalist/guitarist/founder Luc Lemay (Who for a while was a member of Negativa) is now joined by Dysrhythmia guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia/Behold... The Arctopus bassist Colin Marston and Dim Mak/Origin/The Red Chord/Skinless/Angelcorpse drummer John Longstreth), have returned with plans for the band to release their long awaited new album before the end of the year.
In the meantime, Deepsend Records have decided to re-release the band’s fourth full-length album ‘From Wisdom To Hate’, which has for many years commanded high prices as the album has long been out of print.
Released in 2001 through Olympic Recordings, ‘From Wisdom To Hate’ was the eagerly anticipated follow-up to 1998’s ‘Obscura’. Given the technical/avant-garde direction Gorguts took on ‘Obscura’, many were expecting the band to take the same path direction wise on ‘From Wisdom To Hate’. But to many fans’ surprise, Gorguts took a completely different tact on ‘From Wisdom To Hate’, with the album dividing listeners. Some hailed the album as one of the band’s finest works to date, with the technical aspects of ‘Obscura’ balanced perfectly with the aggressive sounds heard on their first couple of albums (1991’s ‘Considered Dead’ and 1993’s ‘The Erosion Of Sanity’). Some however were disappointed with the lack of extremity and progression on the album compared to former release.
In a lot of ways, I can appreciate the opinions expressed from both camps. The lack of progressive/technical elements within the album, and the tempo on the majority of the album’s eight tracks are slower and more grooved based. But that’s not to say that the sounds heard throughout ‘Obscura’ have completely disappeared, with songs such as the opening blast of the experimental ‘Inverted’, ‘Behave Through Mythos’ and ‘Testimonial Ruins’ retaining much of the technically inclined influences from the band’s more recent past.
Elsewhere, the band aim for a more calculated and subtle technical edge through strong and heavier groove based pieces, with the title track ‘From Wisdom To Hate’, ‘The Quest For Equilibrium’ (Which is preceded by a cool instrumental piece from Lemay), the ever shifting duality of ‘Elusive Treasures’ and the instrumental ‘Das Martyrium Des...’ examples of Gorgut’s new direction, as well as representing the strongest cuts on the album overall.
Having languished for years out of print, Deepsend Records’ re-release of Gorguts last studio release is a welcome one. And with the band due to make a return towards the tail end of the year with something new, the timing is perfect for fans to once again rediscover this long lost death metal gem.

For more information on Gorguts, check out - http://www.gorguts.com/

© Justin Donnelly

R.U.S.T - Forged In The Fire Of Metal

R.U.S.T
Forged In The Fire Of Metal
Independent Release/Pitch Black Records

With a band name like R.U.S.T, and an album titled ‘Forged In The Fire Of Metal’, it would be impossible to mistake this for anything but an old school sounding heavy metal album from a band that are clearly influenced by act’s that existed primarily in the ‘80’s.
Hailing from Cyprus (Agioi Trimithias, Nicosia), this five piece act (Consisting of vocalist Tasos Karonias, guitarists Panagiotis Xanthou and Adamos Adamou, bassist George Xanthou and drummer Giannis Xanthou) have been active members of Cyprus’ growing metal scene for the better part of the last seven years (And nine years if you include the two years the band were called Flames In Ice) - with their debut four track self titled E.P. released back in 2007.
Although unsigned, Cyprus based metal label Pitch Black Records has decided to give R.U.S.T a helping hand by providing distribution for their debut full-length effort ‘Forged In The Fire Of Metal’, which will finally allow the band to get exposure on a world wide scale. And no doubt they’ll find plenty out there who will embrace their brand of old school heavy metal, in no time at all.
The opening track ‘The Thunder Rolls’ is fairly indicative of what R.U.S.T has to offer up listeners. The duel lead guitar work easily brings to mind acts such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, while the band’s overall approach to song writing echoes early Saxon, Accept, Savatage and Omen. Lyrically, ‘The Thunder Rolls’ is full of every heavy metal cliché you could possibly summon up. The production is a little on the thin side of things and the song does tend to drag a little at close to seven minutes - but small niggling issues aside, it’s hard not to enjoy what R.U.S.T have to offer up purely based on what it is - and that’s fairly straight forward old school heavy metal.
Elsewhere, the guitarists provide some great shredding lead work on the follow-up track ‘Metal Child’ (Which was released as a single late last year), while on ‘We Are Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘Streets Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’ (Which originally appeared on their debut E.P., and has been re-recorded here), the band take on a bit more of a hard rock sound, with vocalist Karonias putting on his best Paul Stanley (Kiss) meets Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) impression.
On ‘Lady Of The Lake’ and ‘Queen Of The Amazons’, the band stretch out a little more to give their songs a bit more of an epic and atmospheric feel, which they manage to pull off fairly convincingly, while on ‘Phoenix In The Night’, ‘Straight To The Top’ and the lengthy title track ‘Forged In The Fire Of Metal’ (Which is preceded by the short sound effects piece ‘The Beginning...’), the band revert back to delivering straight ahead metal anthem styled numbers.
The production is thin, and the songs are full of every heavy metal cliché you could possibly think of. But despite this, R.U.S.T have still managed to put together an album that combines all the great elements of ‘80’s heavy metal, without sounding like they’re trying too hard to blend both old and modern influences into their sound, or coming across as a tribute act. ‘Forged In The Fire Of Metal’ is a rather enjoyable release for what it is, and nothing more.

For more information on R.U.S.T, check out - http://www.rust-official.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Monday, August 8, 2011

All Shall Perish - This Is Where It Ends

All Shall Perish
This Is Where It Ends
Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment/Warner Music Australia

With the release of their first two albums (2003’s ‘Hate.Malice.Revenge’ and 2006’s ‘The Price Of Existence’), Oakland (California, U.S.) outfit All Shall Perish firmly established themselves as one brutal deathcore act to be reckoned with. But with the release of their third album ‘Awaken The Dreamers’ (2008), All Shall Perish showed that they weren’t interested in simply leading the deathcore scene, but rather pushing their established sound into areas previously unheard of before; going beyond the genres rigid and pre-determined sounds. While some fans were a little disappointed with the melodic slant and decidedly more experimental route the band took, many hailed their willingness to branch out and distance themselves from the endless clones attempting to mimic the band’s proven formula for success.
In the three years since the release of their last album, All Shall Perish have continually revamped their line-up, with vocalist Hernan Hermida, guitarist Beniko Orum and bassist Mike Tiner the only remaining members to survive from the line-up. Joining the trio is guitarist Francesco Artusato (Who is also a member of Hiss Of Atrocities, and who released an instrumental solo album under the name of The Francesco Artusato Project earlier this year) and Sea Of Treachery drummer Adam Pierce, who make their recording debut with All Shall Perish on their fourth full-length effort ‘This Is Where It Ends’.
Given the change of guard within the band, I was interested to see which path All Shall Perish would take with their new release, and see just how much the band’s sound would change with the addition of new members. And after giving the album a thorough listen, it’s clear that with ‘This Is Where It Ends’, All Shall Perish have managed to produce a release that caters to both older and newer fans, without losing any of their trademark sound in the process.
The opening track ‘Divine Illusion’ (Which is also the first single lifted from the album) provides a crushing start to the album, and sees the band returning to their earlier savage and urgent/speedier sound, but with the technical precision that can only come from years in the game. Artusato certainly contributes to the band’s sound with some impressive progressive tinged lead work, while the diverse efforts from Hermida only adds to the overall aggression of the band in full attack mode.
The melodic edge on ‘There Is Nothing Left’ brings to mind the more accessible direction the band headed with their former release, while the slower tempo, clean lead work and brief appearance of clean vocals on ‘Procession Of Ashes’ showcases the band’s willingness to experiment a little, without compromising on the sound that was established on their first two releases.
From here, the band alternate between sounds of the past (‘A Pure Evil’, ‘Embrace The Curse’, ‘My Retaliation’, ‘Rebirth’ and ‘The Death Plague’ – which features a guest vocal appearance from ex-Despised Icon vocalist Alexandre Erian), and their more experimental and melodic recent past (The lengthy and magnificent ‘The Past Will Haunt Us Both’, ‘Royalty Into Exile’ and the piano introduced closer ‘In This Life Of Pain’), which provides plenty of differing elements to please fans of All Shall Perish’s various eras.
Despite coming across as a little bloated by the tail end (At fifty-four minutes, the album is a tad on the long side of things), ‘This Is Where It Ends’ is another stellar effort from the deathcore outfit, and the kind of release that will once again place them well ahead of the imitators.

For more information on All Shall Perish, check out - http://www.allshallperish.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Chained And Desperate - Divine Authority Abolishment

Chained And Desperate
Divine Authority Abolishment
Pitch Black Records

Having established themselves as a label that brought to the masses the best underground power metal Greece has to offer, Pitch Black Records have decided to diversify their roster and delve into darker and heavier territory under their newly crowned Blackest Pitch Series. And their first offering under their newly launched subsidiary label is the sophomore effort from Athens (Attica based) blackened/doom metal outfit Chained And Desperate.
Despite their long history, little has been heard from Chained And Desperate since the release of their debut effort ‘Eleven Angles In A Circle’ way back in 2000 (Which was released through the small independent label Hieroglyph Records). But after a period of inactivity (Which was taken up by two members’ military service), Chained And Desperate once again regrouped (Comprising of vocalists C.M. Ain and Kostas Makris, guitarist Panos ‘Chained’ Makris, new bassist Jim Havok and drummer George Pavlantis), and have delivered their long overdue new effort ‘Divine Authority Abolishment’.
The opening track ‘Nine Deaths In August’ firmly establishes the band’s take on the black metal/doom metal sound, and while its not entirely ground breaking or incredibly innovative, it’s a solid mix of aggression (Especially with the blackened rasp of the vocal attack) and the melodic (The riff are quite catchy as they are well executed). Production wise, some of the atmosphere and rawness has been sacrificed for what sounds like a clean, digitalised sound, which doesn’t exactly work. But despite the sterile production, there are enough strong moments within the song to work in the band’s favour, rather than against.
‘Rely On Fears’ doesn’t stray too far from what was already established on the opener, apart from the inclusion of some rather weak clean vocals, which don’t exactly enhance the song enough to really give it that something special.
The faster paced ‘Bridge For Theism’, ‘Irrational’ and the title track ‘Divine Authority Abolishment’ are definite stand out tracks with the band producing a strong melodic groove within the songs overtly blacked metal framework, while the follow up track ‘Chained’ manages to stand out for its greater power metal influences, and the stronger clean vocals that feature throughout its duration.
A bit more experimentation is evident in ‘Ariadne’s Thread’, ‘Curtains Of Cold’ and ‘Iconographies’ where the band try to mix elements of power metal and black metal together, and while it doesn’t work all that well in the former two, the mix of styles does work quite well in the latter track.
Although hindered by some weak clean vocals in patches, and a production that stifles the overall mood and feel of the songs, Chained And Desperate’s sophomore release ‘Divine Authority Abolishment’ is a solid and likeable release that will at least allow the band to re-establish themselves on the scene, and something to build upon with their next release.

For more information on Chained And Desperate, check out - http://www.chainedanddesperate.com/

© Justin Donnelly

Deep Purple - Phoenix Rising

Deep Purple
Phoenix Rising
Thompson Music Pty. Ltd./Shock Entertainment

If there’s an era that bitterly divides Deep Purple fans, it would have to be the MK IV era (existing between 1975 and 1976), which would be the final line-up prior to the band deciding to call it a day before reforming some nine years later with the classic MK II formation (Producing 1984’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ album).
For many years, fans of MK IV (Who comprise of vocalist David Coverdale, guitarist/backing vocalist Tommy Bolin, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice) have been anxiously waiting for something that documented the short lived line-up of the group on the live front. And after years of talk and speculation (Spurred on with rumours of more MK III material to emerge from the vaults around the remastered/deluxe reissue of their 1975 album ‘Come Taste The Band’ last year), fans can finally get their hands on ‘Phoenix Rising’.
Given the hype surrounding the release of ‘Phoenix Rising’, and my own general fanaticism of the MK III/IV era of Deep Purple, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on ‘Phoenix Rising’. With this C.D./D.V.D. package boasting never before seen footage of the band playing live, and a documentary, how could you not want this?
The desire was certainly there, and I was well and truly pleased to get hold of a copy as soon as I could. But if the truth be told, as pleased as I am with ‘Phoenix Rising’, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with what’s offered on this package as a whole.
The main feature on this D.V.D. is ‘Deep Purple Rises Over Japan’, a thirty minute performance from the band at Japan’s infamous Budokan Arena on 15th December 1975. Despite the fact that the band’s entire performance was shot, only five tracks from the concert have been successfully found, and is presented here for the first time ever. Performance wise, the band aren’t really at their best. But given what members of Deep Purple had just gone through while on tour in Indonesia, Bolin’s problems with his hand prior to taking the stage and the tension within the band itself (All of which are talked about in detail on the D.V.D.’s documentary), it’s understandable why the band struggle to hit their form. Despite the flaws, both ‘Love Child’ and ‘You Keep On Moving’ are exceptionally strong efforts, and definitely qualify as the real highlights from this somewhat abbreviated live show.
The overall quality and rarity of the footage itself will definitely interest diehard fans of MKIV Deep Purple. It’s just a shame that the remainder of the film hasn’t been able to be unearthed.
While some fans may find the live footage a little underwhelming, most will agree that what really stands out about ‘Phoenix Rising’ is the documentary ‘Gettin’ Tighter’.
Running for eighty-two minutes, and featuring extensive interviews with Lord and Hughes, ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ is a warts and all recount of all things Purple related from the demise of MK II (In 1973), the formation of MK III, the departure of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, the rise of MK IV and the inevitable demise of Deep Purple.
Both Lord and Hughes go into great detail demystifying the troubled years that made up the MK III/IV line-up’s of the band, lifting the lid on the music (Lord is quite forthright in his views on the three albums the band produced between 1974 and 1975), the drug addictions (Hughes and Bolin were both battling addition at the time), the world tours (The ‘Indonesian Nightmare’ chapter is quite simply unbelievable), life on the road and the eventual demise of the band.
While the documentary is a fascinating watch (The spliced in live footage really adds to the feature), it’s a shame that there’s no contributions from Coverdale and Paice. It’s a real shame, because while Lord and Hughes do an admirable job and demystifying the last days of Deep Purple, the opinions of all the members involved would have given the story a little more balance, as well as fleshing out the Deep Purple story in general.
In terms of extras, the band’s disastrous and tragic tour of Indonesia is explored in greater detail on the seven minute ‘Jakarta, December 1975 - Interview With Jon Lord & Glenn Hughes’. There’s also a nineteen minute ‘Come Taste The Band Electronic Press Kit’, where Lord and Hughes focus solely on MK IV’s only studio release. The pair breakdown each one of the album’s nine tracks, and with archival interview audio and visual footage of Bolin, shed light on the part Coverdale, Hughes and Bolin played in giving ‘Come Taste The Band’ its sound. In terms of personal highlights, this particular feature is by far the best the D.V.D. has to offer.
Overall, ‘Phoenix Rising’ is a good release, but somewhat lacking overall. The absence of both Coverdale and Paice in the documentary is quite disappointing, and the way the interview footage is shot is also a little amateurish in parts. I can’t help but feel that as a whole, ‘Phoenix Rising’ has almost everything it needs to be great, but could have been put together better.
MK II Deep Purple fans aren’t likely to find that much of interest within ‘Phoenix Rising’. But for MK III/IV diehards, this is a must have – provided that your expectations aren’t set too high.

For more information on Deep Purple, check out - http://www.deep-purple.com/

© Justin Donnelly