Monday, March 27, 2017

Free Metal Monday-On Tap 2016

Witches Brew
2016


"On Tap 2016" is a a free compilation from Germany's Witches Brew. It has 13 tracks from some very sick metal bands and you can download it by clicking here

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Absinthe From Society-The Angels Ignored US




Independent/Self-Release
2017

 Absinthe From Society is a (post-progressive) hard and heavy rock/alternative metal band from Edmonton that lists it's influences as N.I.N, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana*, Marilyn Manson, The Tea Party, and The Foo Fighters. Active since 2006, Absinthe From Society is lead by founder, guitarist, keyboardist, and ultra-edgy front-man Ian "Saint Absinthe" Harper. This 16-minute jam is the band's second EP and it serves as the follow-up to 2012's "Project Infection". Opening up with the utterly-sick "A Man Possessed", "The Angels Ignored US" finds Ian backed-up by skilled players Lexi "Shitkicker 9000" Graham (bass and vocals) and Adam "The Caveman" Roberts (drums and percussion). With the other three songs ("Hellbent", "Worth It", and "Never") just as righteous as the first one, Absinthe From Society's new release has turned me into an overnight fan of this trio! There are several reasons for this instant connection. First of all, "The Angels Ignored US" is heavy and crunchy enough to pass for a post-metal release. The jagged guitar playing of lead singer Ian helps make this possible. Next up we have the aggressive rhythm section to talk about. With Adam "The Caveman" Roberts keeping everything in check, Lex's bass lines offer the perfect amount of resistance to Ian's guitar performances. Thanks to the tight interplay between the bass and the guitar this EP has a nu metal/modern metal vibe going for it (think somewhere along the lines of Helmet mixed with System of a Down and the better parts of Korn). And yes, it does work better on tape than it does on paper! From there we have progressive rock additives and a splash or two of post-grunge. Add it some simply great textures and the band's keen understanding on the ins and outs of (late 80's and early 90's) alternative metal and you have the surefire makings of one awesome EP! Admittedly it took me two listens to get to that point, but that had more to do with the track arrangement on the promo version as opposed to this bandcamp one. Ultimately that bandcamp version was the one I preferred as it has a different flow about it. And all it took was moving two tracks around! It's strange how that works sometimes...




*While I hear a little bit of the other influences (as well as band's such as Helmet, System of a Down, Filter (1st album only), King's X, and strangely even Modest Mouse!) "The Angels Ignored US" really works for me because it takes a major cue from ("In Utero"-era) Nirvana! I adore that album and I just love how this talented trio works it's influence into this EP.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Steelballs-Steelballs

Witches Brew
2016

"Steelballs" is a self-titled EP from the Argentinian heavy/speed metal band of the same name. It was originally released in August of 2016. Initially there were only three tracks on the recording, "Steelballs ", "Farewell", and "Inquisitor Of Faith" are original compositions and damn good ones at that! This particular version was released in late December of 2016 and it adds a choice cover of Helloween's "Starlight" to what was already a killer EP. Influences include not only the aforementioned Helloween (early years mostly), but Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, (early) Running Wild, Blind Guardian, Riot, Grave Digger, and Manowar. Available as a digital download, "Steelballs" is most definitely worthy of  the silver CD treatment from Witches Brew! Their CD version comes with a six panel booklet and that is the way that I will be going with this highly-recommend EP as soon as I get the extra funds! Why all the fuss? Well, I hate to use this tired old cliche, but you really need to hear this one for yourself (if you are to truly understand the pure heavy metal essence that this five-piece band packs). Steelballs' debut is a real treat for anyone that cannot get enough of old school metal or the European power/speed metal scene of the eighties! Hell, the original composition, "Inquisitor Of Faith", is worth the price of admission alone! That track is pure gold for anyone that loves (legit) speed metal, but when you add in that cover of "Starlight"...well, "Steelballs" because essential! Don't just take my word for it though. Head over to the group's bandcamp page and blast it! You won't be sorry....

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mystery Blue-Mystery Blue (2016 Version)

Eat Metal Records
2016

Mystery Blue is a long-running heavy metal band from France. They were formed in 1978 and this self-titled album was originally released in 1984. It was preceded in life by a 1983 demo and along with the band's second album, "Circle of Shame", it has been re-released by Eat Metal Records. Both CDs were sent to me by a friend/fellow lover of all things French hard & heavy. Chances are good that no one else will remember this, but I originally talked about this group in one of my French Metal Friday features from 2011. If you are interested in checking that out then be sure to click on this link. Otherwise here we go with CD number one.
Formed in 1982 by guitarist and sole surviving original member, "Frenzy" Philippon, Mystery Blue was initially active up until 1989. After a six year break in the action, Mystery Blue reformed in 1995. Since then the band has been active in one form or another. Their last album was released in late December of 2012, but by all accounts they are still playing live gigs. If you want more information about all of that then be sure to check out the group's Facebook page. There you will see new singer Nathalie Geyer (well, she's been new to the group since 1995, but you get the drift!) and the rest of the gang. It's worth a visit if you have the time. Getting back to the topic at hand, "Mystery Blue" was originally released on the cult French label Axe Killer. Much like their fellow countrymen Trust, Mystery Blue's first album was primary influenced by AC/DC. That doesn't mean the whole album is like that, but a sizeable chunk certainty is. It's a hard & heavy take on the Aussie lads that adds in some love for Trust and a few touches of British metal, but there is no mistaking the intention. Seeing as I totally dig the sound of AC/DC gone heavy metal (see: Accept, Krokus, and to a lesser extent Trust), 1984's "Mystery Blue" has always been a jam for me as is. For those people who might be looking for more original hard rock and heavy metal, "Mystery Blue" has that covered as well. Towards the end of Mystery Blue's first album things get switched up big time and you can hear these French rockers reaching for more. With lead singer Michel Torres taking a step or two towards straight-up heavy metal, side B of this 1984 LP helps pave for the way towards Mystery Blue's own sound and it's a solid one! Two years later the band would follow this one with "Circle of Shame" (Dream Records), but this overlooked gem started it all. As noted in my French Metal Friday feature on the group, "Mystery Blue" was (at the time) one of the few hard rock/heavy albums to make an impact outside of France. There is a good reason why it happened. The music on this 1984 album speaks volumes about that subject, but it is best that you hear it for yourself.  This 2016 version tacks on a unreleased demo of the song "Never Surrender". I would take that to mean that it isn't the version that appeared on the band's 1983 demo, but I could be wrong. Whatever the case, "Never Surrender" is a good addition to this updated version. Eat Metal Record's version also comes with a live version of  "Paralysed" (sic). It is a live recording from 1984. As the second song on Mystery Blue's self-titled debut, "Paralysed" sounds better in a live setting, but that might only mean that they couldn't capture the full essence of this band's urgent sound in the studio! If there are any labels that are sitting on live Mystery Blue shows from this same time period then PLEASE release them! I would love to see if this French band had this much raw talent in a live setting or if this was just a random song choice that was captured on tape at the just the right moment. I'm leaning towards the former, but there isn't a lot to go on! Anyway, "Mystery Blue" circa 2016 needs a grade. Normally I don't go that route. I'm not big on grades or numbers, but for some reason I'm down for it today. After hearing this album again for the first time in years it has reminded me about French heavy metal bands and their unsung impact on the scene as a whole. With that "Oh yeah" reflection swirling about in this old brain of mine, "Mystery Blue" gets an admirable B+ and it is well earned! Be sure to keep an eye out for my piece on "Circle Of Shame". And if you're reading this my friend (and you know who you are!), French metal is always welcomed and always appreciated. I cannot thank you enough for this round...

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Accept-Accept (Platinum Edition)

AFM Records
2017


Originally released in 1979 to little fanfare, Accept's self-titled debut is just one of the four albums by this classic German heavy metal band that will be getting a Platinum Edition upgrade courtesy of AFM Records. Along with the (much better) albums, "Breaker", "I'm A Rebel", and "Restless and Wild", "Accept" will be reissued as a Digipak edition with bonus material. This album features an audio interview with former lead vocalist and founder, Udo Dirkschneider. The other three reissues with come with previously unreleased live tracks that were recorded on the latest "Dirkschneider" tour. Ultimately I hope to cover all four of these reissues, but we will just have to wait and see how much free time I can muster. Even as we speak I have at least five CDS that I need to listen to and review, but with Accept being one of my all time favorite (true) heavy metal bands...well, I feel obligated to trek forward. With that brief introduction out of the way, "Accept" is an album that not even the band is crazy about. From what I've previously read on the topic (and from what Udo says in the bonus interview that comes with this reissue), "Accept" was a collection of older materiel that had no real direction or focus. It was all the songs that the band had worked on during it's formative years and they were just happy to be able to get into a studio and record a album. As can be heard on "Breaker", Accept's material got a whole lot better as they went along and settle on a more permanent sound. Or at least that was the case up until the release of "Balls To The Wall"*, but that is a different topic that is better saved for another time!  Anyway, "Accept" opens with the album's first single and arguable the best track of the lot, "Lady Lou". In another band's hands (oh, let's say a seventies British hard rock band) this 3 minute rocker could have been a long lost single from the early days of the N.W.O.B.H.M. scene. It is catchy number that will get stuck in your head and it is pretty easy to see why it appears on future Accept compilation releases. From there we have more misses than hits. Please don't mistake me. By "hits" I really mean passable numbers. "Tired of Me" is a decent stab at heavy metal and so is "Helldriver". Then you have the shortest track of the bunch in "Street Fighter". Strange as it is, "Street Fighter" is like a punk rock take on Bon Scott's AC/DC. It is raw, ugly, and noisy. It's a weird way to end this under-produced album, but I kind of like it. God knows why. If you were to give extra points for just going there, "Seawinds" is this odd ballad that is sung by bassist Peter Baltes. It has a progressive rock vibe and it sticks out like a sore thumb, but all the same I guess you could make an argument for it's existence. For those of you who are keeping count that is five tracks out of ten. And to be brutally honest folks, "Lady Lou" is the only song that I would ever hit replay on. As much as it kills me to say this, "Accept" is only for purists who absolutely & positively must have everything that has the German band's name on it.  

 
 
 
 
*I'm getting on in my years so you will have to forgive the nostalgia some here, but "Balls To The Wall" is the very definition of (pure/unfitted) heavy metal! Yes, it is Accept going on a  AC/DC bender and all but forgetting about their (previous) stint as early pioneers of German speed metal. And sure enough everyone that is a causal fan of Accept says it is their best album. I get all of that. Maybe it is because it was my first taste of the group or maybe it's those rich lyrics by Gaby Hoffmann. It could even be the whole AC/DC vibe ("Who Made Who" being the first ever cassette tape that I bought). Whatever it is, "Balls To The Walls" redefined "true heavy metal" to me. From that first Accept tape I went went backwards and filled in the gaps by way of LPs. Even so I didn't hear "Accept" until years later. This 2017 reissue brings back a wave of emotions while simultaneously showcasing the band's eventual growth. It is a humble recording that shows you just how far Udo and company were able to go.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chevalier-A Call to Arms




Self-Release/Independent
2017

It's well known that I am a huge fan of female-fronted rock and heavy metal bands. If you are a loyal follower of Heavy Metal Time Machine then you can attest to this fact. For our new readers and/or fans of this up-and-coming band from Finland there is one word that I should probably add to the proclamation. The word in question is "good".  In a overcrowded scene where even female-fronted heavy metal bands are a dime a dozen, Chevalier sticks out from the rest because of it's high-level of talent and skill. Obviously it is not enough to simply have a beautiful woman standing in front of a microphone. You need someone who can actually sing. Extra points are awarded if you can find a lead vocalist with class, style, and substance. When it comes to this (epic metal-inspired!) heavy/speed metal band from Helsinki that would be Emma Grönqvist. Emma has a great voice that is full of power and when she hits some of those high notes then it is lights out and game over! She leads a talented group of musicians that just so happens to include bassist Sebastian Bergman from the band Steel Machine. In addition to Emma Grönqvist, Sebastian Berman, and drummer Joel, Finland's Chevalier features two members with ties to the blackened thrash metal band Demon's Gate. Those two gentlemen are Mikko Ylijoki (lead guitar) and Tommi (lead guitar and backing vocals).

Even though Chevalier is a fairly new name to cross paths with, having just formed last year and all of that jazz, "A Call to Arms" is a great deal more mature than one might expect from such a young outfit! Chevalier self-describes themselves as "Medieval speed metal from Finland" and their influences include Judas Priest, Brocas Helm, Omen, Mercyful Fate, ADX, Running Wild, and Legionnaire. That little bit of information comes in handy when we are talking about Chevalier's studio debut. With the exception of it's rough production job, "A Call to Arms" is a bold new look at epic heavy metal and traditional speed. This six-track EP is the end result of young and hungry band that grew up on a steady diet of traditional heavy metal, vintage speed metal, N.W.O.B.H.M., eighties power metal, and epic metal. Even though I usually fail badly at them, Chevalier's diet is something I can stand behind and fully support! At the end of the day there is some much to appreciate about this new band and a EP like "A Call to Arms". As righteous as this six-pack of true metal is, one can only imagine what would happen if you were to give Emma Grönqvist and crew a proper budget and top-notch producer...

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sinatras-Drowned

Logic(il)logic Records
2017

Formed in 2014 and named after Ol' Blue Eyes himself, Italy's Sinatras made their first appearance on these pages with the EP, "Six-Sexy-Songs". That was back in early August of 2015. Here it is all of these years later and we are just now getting a full-length disc from this extreme five-piece band.  Ladies and gentlemen let's talk about a long-overdue album! Especially when we are touching on the sensitive topic of every one's favorite Death 'n' Roll band. All thrashed up and as groove-heavy as they come(!), "Drowned" might have taken a longtime to get from the drawing board to the studio, but damn it man, it is something fierce! These (thrash) metal-minded Sinatra boys sure as hell know how to throw a party!! All of which reminds me of something we need to address. Like the Ramones before them, F.L.A. (lead vox) and company use pseudonyms in place of their last names. Guitar duties fall on the stone cold killer pair of Lele & Minkio Sinatra and the band's rhythm section (bassist Lispio Sinatra and drummer Jenny Sinatra) truly is second to none! With the same last name game firmly in place, guitarist Lele Sinatra promised a "multi-faced album featuring a solid thrash metal base enriched with death metal influences, metalcore and some melodic atmospheres". To that end I'd say he succeeded! Inspired by the likes of Carcass, Entombed, Pantera, and Hatebreed (to name just a few!), Italy's Sinatras slay everything and everyone that gets in it's way. That's all fine and dandy on its own, but when you tack on groove metal of the highest caliber? All I can say is "Wow!". Sure, there is a weird cover of "You Spin Me Round". What's one so-so track out the lot? Not too shabby is the answer you're looking for. With high marks for song-writing, performances, and all of the unreal variety, "Drowned" is nothing but a fun run through the jungles of metal paradise! You can and really should pick this one up on  bandcamp or Amazon. Afterwords be sure to check out the band's Facebook page.



PS: I've got my friend Stefano to thank for this beast. It's everything that one could ever hope for when it comes to loose and lethal Death 'n' Roll...only it's way cooler because of the slight nods of appreciation to hard rock, hard metal, hardcore, and hard-hitting THRASH! This album sure does make for a good time!! 

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Interview with Simon Straumann, drummer of FreaKings



FreaKings is a thrash metal band that I just covered earlier in the month. Now it is my extreme pleasure to offer up this interview that I recently did with the band's drummer, Simon Straumann. Enjoy!


Andy-Welcome! Please come in and introduce yourselves for our readers. I apologize, but your rhythm section is a band of brothers correct?

Simin-We’re FREAKINGS, an old school thrash metal band from Switzerland. Yes, that’s right, Toby (bass) and me, Simon (drums), are brothers.

Andy-The Metal Archives suggests that you are all were in Lion Of Juda. Rock? Metal? 

Simon-Yes but that was about 20 years ago. The three of us were part of that band and our sound was something between rock, metal and punk.

Andy- I'm guessing it was the same message, but was it more obvious or less?

Simon-It was rather obvious back then, more than nowadays. It’s no secret we are Christians and that’s why our songs often contain Christian topics. On our latest album ("TOXIC END") we address the current situation of our world, war, terrorism or ecological calamities.

Andy-I understand where the message is coming from. You cite a lot of Christian influences, but (sound-wise) it's just Grade A thrash to these ears! Other than what's in the Dixie cups that you drink from on stage, FreaKings might as well be the next big thrash band on the block!! So, why is that you've (independently/sans record label) released three stone cold slamming LPs by yourself?

Simon-We just love making music! Our texts are only a part and as mentioned above, there’s not a lot of Christian influence on our latest album. We stick to our own schedule and with a small budget it’s very challenging to find a label. So that’s why we released the albums by ourselves.

Andy-I've heard the same thing from a lot of metal bands. For a lot of groups it is just easier to release their music by themselves. But anyways,  "Toxic End" reminds me of the eighties as much as it does the retro-scene that is everywhere these days! Did you (vibe-wise) have a goal in mind or was it more along the lines of "No Life Til Leather"? (


Simon-We never had an exact goal in mind. With "TOXIC END" we just created exactly what we wanted: simple but solid old school thrash!

Andy-That it is! You've got a couple of great guests on your new disc. How did that come about?

Simon-We’ve been knowing Damir (Gonoreas) for a long time and originally met him at a gig where we both played. He’s a great guy and and superb guitar player. We’ve been to several Dust Bolt concerts so I knew who Lenny was when I saw him in the audience at one of our concerts. We started talking and a bit later we asked him if he’d play on our album.

Andy-Cool. From what I've gathered, "Toxic End" is nothing but golden reviews (and well-deserved ones at that!). That's got to be a good feeling after all the years and wear and tear on your body! After all, it's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll...or is that "bang your head"? LOL

Simon-Thanks a lot, that indeed is a great feeling! It’s pretty cool that people we have never met write so many good things about our songs. There’s still a long way ahead of us but you never know what might come. It’s not up to us how far FREAKINGS can go, it’s mainly our fans who decide this.

Andy-Yeah, fans are so important to a metal band's ultimately success. Not just financially, but as a driving force and key source of support. I always like to say that being a metalhead is like being in a huge family where there is so much love and support. We all need that. Moving on, I have no doubt that you've played with some idols and some real up and comers. What's the best one (band or artist) of both as you see it?

Simon-Difficult question… We’ve seen so many awesome bands, it’s actually impossible to name a certain band !

Andy-Yes, that was a tough one. Where does the next leg of your journey take you?

Simon-We hope for a lot of gigs with our new album, a little tour would be cool! We definitely will do anything we can to spread the name of our band and our latest album!

Andy-Hopefully our site can help with that. Digitally at least, "Toxic End" can be picked up at the usual places. How about CDs?

Simon-At the moment, the easiest way is buying it at our concerts or in our online shop. We’re also in talks with a few potential distribution partners.

Andy-I'll try to provide some links for our readers. Thank you for your time and insights. I like to leave things off by having the band's have the last say. Is there anything we didn't touch on that needs addressed? Do you have words of advice for new bands, metal or not? Want to thank your loyal fans? Whatever "it" is, here's the mic and the stage is all yours!

Simon-We thank you, we really appreciate every kind of support. All you metalheads out there: try our new album and if you like it, buy it. Thanks to everyone who backs us. THRASH WILL NEVER DIE!

Andy-Amen to that! Thrash it up friends!!

For more information on this insane thrash act be sure to head over to the group's official site . Also, be sure to leave a like on their Facebook page. You can download "Toxic End" on iTunes and for the band's physical merchandise click here.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Iron Driver-Crack of the Whip

Self-Release/Independent
2017

Iron Driver is a five-piece heavy metal band that hails from Saint Petersburg, Russia. The four-song EP, "Crack Of The Whip" is the latest studio output from this three-year old band and it follows a 2015 split that the group did with Sunisgone. Having made their debut in mid-September of 2014 with a self-titled demo, Iron Driver offers up a raw take on vintage heavy metal that they themselves have dubbed "New Wave Of Russian Heavy Metal". With influences that split the difference between the (early) eighties metal scene and the rougher edges of the  N.W.O.B.H.M. movement, Iron Driver's sound comes straight from the underbelly of the underground metal scene and it is every-bit as down & dirty as the above art-work suggests! Depending on your personal point of view that can be a good thing or that can be a bad deal. Either way, don't say I didn't warn you.....

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Witchers Creed-Witchers Creed EP 17

Self-Release/Independent
2017

 Witchers Creed is a hard & heavy/doom metal band that is made up of guitarist/vocalist Filip Andersson, bassist/vocalist Emil Bjällerhag, and drummer Charlie Rangstedt. This two-track recording looks as if it is the first release from this occult Swedish trio and it clocks in at over 14 minutes! The group's influences include Black Sabbath, Leaf Hound, Pentagram, & Orchid and I have the always reliable Paul Rote to thank for introducing me to this killer the release! I completely agree with Paul's statement that this is "Mountain meets Sabbath meets your favorite underground seventies hard acid rock band". I might add in a little piece about the early days of stoner rock (and how it influenced the back end of these riff-rock warriors from the underworld!), but otherwise this one sure as hell sounds as if it has been ripped straight out of the seventies and time warped to the here and now! With this fuzzed-over release likely serving as the group's first time in the studio, Witchers Creed is bound to get all kinds of notice from fans, critics, and labels alike! Glory awaits these Swedish merchants of doom and, frankly-speaking my friends and fellow rockers, I cannot wait to see what else this band is capable of!!  

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Free Metal Monday: Nightmare-Demo

Self-Release/Independent
2016

California metal band Nightmare released this three-track demo on November 28, 2016. There is no information to go with it, but seeing as it is vintage heavy metal with a N.W.O.B.H.M. tint it is all good! With a slightly raw production job that recalls some of those late seventies/early eighties underground gems, I hear traces of Witchfinder General, Cloven Hoof, Angel Witch, and Blitzkrieg. I'm sure there are more influences lurking about, but honestly it's a name-your-price release that is so good that I just don't care! This one easily stands up tall next to some of the more recent retro offerings and the N.W.O.T.H.M.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Steel Machine-Burning Valves

Self-Release/Independent
2016

Formed in 2006 and currently lurking about in the Jyväskylä/Helsinki area, Steel Machine is a f**king sweet ass name for this heavy/speed metal band. The three-piece group, which is lead by guitarist/vocalist Timo Takala (Septure) and sports influences like Motörhead, Tank, and Carnivore, has seven releases to it's name. Six of them are demos and "Burning Valves" is the band's first EP. Available to download by heading here, Steel Machine's latest studio output reminds me of the Belgium band Killer. In no way, shape, of form is that a bad thing, "Burning Valves" is also the product of the three listed bands from above (Motörhead, Tank, and Carnivore) and the eighties metal scene & sound. If anything, Timo Takala and his cohorts in crime (bassist Sebastian Bergman and drummer Juha Forsström ) cram all of those sources of inspiration into one hell of a speed metal band that is as hard as it is heavy! With this release serving as my first introduction to Steel Machine, Finland has yet again won me over with it's epic metal scene!! 

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