The title of this column might seem a little speculative, but let’s be honest – I need more readers and most heavy metal-fans are single, so… Anyway, welcome to what I guess will be a pretty irregular feature. You’ll probably see it updated a couple of times a year, depending on if and when I have some stuff to write about.
I am really fond of the single-format, and even though it’s a pain in the ass to play them on my turntable, especially inbetween albums at 33 and 1/3 rpm, I sometimes sit down with a stack of seven inches and always find myself enjoying it. I wanted to separate the reviews (I am not sure if I would use that word) of the seven inches from the regular album reviews, as they are really two very different formats. While the album not seldom has an atmosphere and flow that connects the individual tracks, the single more often than not, consists of two very different tracks, showing divergent sides of the band. Lean back and face a bunch of Metal Squadron-compatible seven inches. Enjoy, and please leave constructive feedback!
Third edition (August 2015):
Even though I try my very best to check out everything that I believe could appeal to my taste, I have to admit that Seven Sisters’ demo “The Warden” went under my radar. I read about it yeah, but never got around to listen to it. Fortunately, Kyle McNeill, guitarist and singer in Seven Sisters approached me with both the demo and this single. The band had what you could call a small breakthrough with the demo, as they have since been booked to perform at a few important festivals, “No Sleep ‘Till Dublin” and “Up The Hammers”. “Lost In Time”, sports som pretty clear NWOBHM-influences, has some nice guitar work (riffs, leads and solos) but also includes keyboards as well as a mellow, epic midpart that has a bit in common with the more melodic bands from the era, you know, the likes of Praying Mantis or Trespass . At first I thought the B-side “Wicked Steel” was the stronger of the two, as it adds some extra heaviness in additon to catchy vocal melodies . After more than 10 listens, things have changed, as I find “Lost In Time” a little more interesting and original. These two songs are the very first to feature the full lineup of the band, and even if there are already lots of positives, things should only impove from here. The sound is not perfect, especially the drums could have sounded more powerful, but overall, things are more than good enough to get a very good taste of the potential in this band. Also, the vocals strike me as a little limited and on the safe side, and is something that should be worked on. Apparently there is an EP planned for sometime later this year, and I have to say I look forward to it.
While I enjoyed their 2012 album “Throat Attack”, I felt something were missing to make it a real outstanding effort. When I found the new single from the Swiss band at Keep It True this year, it certainly didn’t stop me from buying it. Now I am pretty happy I did. Side A has “Digital Overload” which will also be the title track of the band’s next album due out later this year, while the flip side has the song “Electric Expander”. The sound on this recording is compact and powerful, bringing forward the best in the band’s Judas Priest/Saxon-inspired music. Both songs have riffs that are very basic throughout, but at the same time really effective. “Digital Overload” also sports a cool chorus and some inspired vocals from Elias Felber. He has a voice and a style somewhere between Rob Halford and Biff Byford, which can be heard best in “Electric Expander”. This song starts slower, with an intro that builds and builds. The song is once again constructed around traditional rifforama, and offers few surprises, still it is a very enjoyable uptempo metal track. Pure metal, nothing else! The songs were described to me as straight and unfussy by guitarist Reno, and yeah they might be, but still (or maybe because) this is some of the best material the band has written. Hopefully the full length shows a bit more diversity than what is possible on a single containing only two songs. By the way, this release is limited to 333 copies, and you can read the interview I recently did with the band here:Sin Starlett, June 2015
My relationship to, and knowledge of this Greek band, isn’t the strongest. I think I own their first EP “The Namless One”, and I’ve also heard their other releases, but can’t say they made a big impression on me. “The Crown And The King” consists of two songs, side A carries an own composition in form of “The Crown Of Evermore”, while the band uses the space on the B-side for a rendition of Accepts “The King” from the 1980 album “I’m A Rebel”. “The Crown Of Evermore” which will also feature on the upcoming album, is rather pompous, streamlined and slick with plenty of Virgin Steele-like pathos. The vocals sound very nice and pleasant, but could’ve had a lot more edge to them. Also the different vocal tracks overlapping each other are a bit too much. “The King”, while quite stripped down and naked in Accept’s version, is pompous with keyboards instead of acoustic guitars and a symphonic feel. Valor have also upped the tempo a lot, so the song is not a ballad anymore. There’s not much of the original song left, but on the other hand, the band has made an own interpretation that fits with their sound, as it sounds like one of their own compositions. To be honest I am not too fond of these two tracks, as I struggle with the symphonic and pompous approach. The lack of power might be due to the production which is a bit stale, and doesn’t help either. The A-side will feature on the upcoming album by the way, and the vinyl single is limited to 250 copies.
Will it ever stop? Night Viper is yet another new Swedish band. This Gothenburg-based outfit features amongst other guitarist Tom Sutton, who is also in The Order Of Israfel and Horisont. Bass player Ruben is also involved in a few other acts, the death metal band Miasmal for instance. As you understand by now, these guys (and two gals) have a broad musical background. There is nothing fancy about Night Viper though, as this is pretty straight, eighties sounding heavy metal. Out of the two songs, the self titled one is the heaviest, while “Chainbreaker” is a bit faster with some cool riffing. I have to say I am not very impressed with the vocals of Sofie-Lee Johansson. Her approach is a little different, especially during the verse of “Chainbreaker”, and I am struggling a bit to come to terms with it. Also the vocal lines are anonymous and her voice a bit too monotone and flat. Don’t misunderstand me, this is decent on most fronts, but I am afraid the band needs a bit more,. The songwriting has to improve and the band should work on creating a stronger identity. The sound is pretty much okay though, quite raw and certainly not overprodced. The single comes limited to 400 on black vinyl and 200 on white, and is a taster of the upcoming album, also out on Svart.
This is the second single (it’s also released on tape – sold out of course) from Terminal, the project from Enforcer’s Tobias Lindqvist where he pays tribute to obscure eighties metal made in the Eastern communist block. As the first effort was sung in Slovenian, I assume that is the language used this time around as well. The two songs are quite different this time as well. “Satanski Narocila” (“Satanic Orders”) is up tempo and attacking, with cool and obscure vocals from Tobias. To add to the already twisted atmosphere, there are also some spooky voices in the background. The song has strong guitar melodies and a catchy solo section, and although it’s a cool track, it doesn’t grab me as much as “Heavy Metal Lokomotiva” or “Slovo” from the first single. The second track, “Crna Smrt” (“Black Death”) is rather mellow in comparison, atmospheric, considerably slower and more melodic with some pretty weird sounding piano towards the end. The strength of Terminal, is that this project sounds completely different from pretty much everything you hear today. The music is mysterious, weird and twisted in parts. Some of it is due to the eccentric touch added by the lyrics, but the overall atmosphere also helps communicating Lindqvists ideas that seems to stem from times long gone by.
After the success of their last album “Powerdose”, released more or less exactly two years ago, Finland’s Speedtrap follows up with a brand new single, which in turn will be followed by a full length release. The A-side is “Straight Shooter”, which is the title track from the forthcoming album. This particular track carries a huge amount of AC/DC-inspiration, and vocalist Jori Sara-aho sounds quite like Bon Scott here. The Riff, the chorus, the voice, well you should love it if you like AC/DC. The B-side is a different story though, as it is an intense and fast version of Bad Religion’s short and sweet “I Want To Conquer The World”, a song that suits the band quite well as they already have a bit of punk in their sound. The song comes complete with screaming guitars and furious vocals, and sounds quite spontaneous. It’s not as melodic as the original of course, and the guitars are way louder, but I think the band has done a decent job of making this song “their own”. Overall I have to say I like Speedtrap better when they do their speed metal thing ala early Exciter compared to when they’re on this AC-DC-trip, but fortunately there are stronger songs on the upcoming album.
Second edition (April 2014):
Midnite Hellion’s first release, the mini-CD ”Enter The Unknown” is one of countless releases that I have in my collection, but haven’t come around listening to. Hopefully this problem sounds familiar for those of you who both purchase a lot of music and at the same time receive stuff for reviews. A shame really, but I guess it’s one of the realities of modern day. Well, the two songs on offer here, “Hour Of The Wolf” and “The Morrigan” are new compositions that didn’t feature on “Enter The Unknown”. However, both of them are featured on the newly released cassette only concert document “Bitchin’ At Champs! 11-15-2013”. After my initial confession, I’ll have to say that I am not sure if it would have made this review more credible if I had listened to the mini-CD 100 times and already knew it inside out. Not only is the singer brand new since the first attempt, the voice now belongs to a woman, as Scott Alpert is replaced by Pamela P.J. Berlinghof. I won’t claim to know a lot about her, but I recognize Pamela from the band Twilight Odyssey, of which I reviewed their demo about ten years ago. To start with side A of the single, “Hour of The Wolf” starts out as a mid tempo song, with the voice of Berlinghof pretty much upfront, supported by steady, but a bit unimaginative drumming, a bass that adds some bottom to the music as well as some decent, but not very exciting riffs. Berlinghof does a fairly good job, I like her best when she adds some extra aggression to her performance, but a bit more power overall would have added to her expression. The song picks up some pace and soon reveals some chanted gang vocals that have been done countless times before over a riff that has been done…you know what I mean, right?. It’s a decent song with some okay vocal lines, but in my opinion not interesting or special enough to be released as a single. “The Morrigan” fills the flip side, and this one is a bit better, with more dynamics, a more intense vocal performance and better riffs. The band also shows a bit more identity in this tune, which doesn’t sound exactly like 80 percent of the “new old” metal out there. The sound is good, maybe a bit dry, especially when it comes to the bass, yet powerful and crisp, but the songwriting needs to be improved before the band has me waiting for a full length.
Even though we have experienced the breakthrough of acts like Ranger and Speedtrap more recently and a band like Solitaire has released a couple of really good albums, the Finnish metal scene is not one of my faves. Mausoleum Gate, newly signed to the excellent Cruz Del Sur Records, is a more than welcome addition, as this band focuses on a more tempo moderate form of metal compared to the bands I just mentioned. The songs on offer here are quite different, as the A-side “Obsessed By Metal” is an up tempo one, while the B-side “Infernal” is considerably slower. Some nice and different ideas, like for instance the Hammond organ towards the end of “Obsessed By Metal” spice up things a bit. Together with the over the top-approach of the vocalist, the instrument adds a nice touch and some excitement to the ending of this tune. I guess this the kind of metal that will divide the crowds. Some will love it to death because of the obscure nature of the music and the unusual approach. Others will probably have a hard time getting into the band, mainly because of the same factors, but also because the voice fo singer V-P. Varpula is an acquired taste. Even though he sounds quite charming in a song or two, and I love the darkness contained within his vocals, I am a bit unsure myself how I will deal with him through the length of an album. . Some might mention Mercyful Fate or other masters of the dark and heavy when listening to Mausoleum Gate, but the main strength of the band is that they sound quite different. As I mentioned, it’s not the easiest stuff to get into, and some parts sounded quite peculiar at first, but give the tunes ten spins, and you’ll have two songs that both show how diverse the band can sound, and also works as a nice taster for the forthcoming full length.
I was in contact with Sweden’s Ambush some time ago with a view to check out their self released demo tape from last year. I took forever to get an answer from the guys, so when I finally received the email, I was too occupied with all the average stuff on Pure Steel to pursue my interest. Well, now the band is ready with a single which includes two tracks that will also feature on the band’s debut album for High Roller. It’s titled “Firestorm”, and is set to be unleashed towards the end of May. The songs certainly help to raise the expectations for the album, as they are both quite good. The A-side, consists of the song “Natural Born Killers”, which is a mid tempo, quite catchy, not particularly heavy song, leaning more towards hard rock than metal. Pretty enjoyable stuff, though very harmless and overall quite lightweight. The other side has “Head East”, which is also a very melodic tune, especially in the vocal department, but overall this carries a bit more aggression and bite compared to the first song. The two songs presented here are nice (maybe too nice, if you know what I mean?) but nowhere near spectacular. The sounds reminds me of some other Swedish bands, the vocals makes me thing a little of early Hammerfall, while the songwriting borrows heavily both from the seventies and early eighties (think Black Trip) as well as the mid-eighties (think RAM). I hope the band has even better stuff on their upcoming full length.
Aktor, making their debut with this 7” seems like a bit peculiar constellation as it was formed by Jussi Lehtisalo and Chris Black. The guys are helped out by drummer Tomi Leppänen. Even though I am well informed of Professor Black ‘s versatility, I didn’t see Aktor, and the musical concept behind the band, coming. The funny thing about this, is that how busy Black might seem (High Spirits, Dawnbringer, Pharaoh..), he is not involved nearly the same amount of bands and projects as Lehtisalo. With Black’s vocals quite prominent in the overall picture, it’s difficult not to think High Spirits, though Aktor has a quite different approach. There is influences from commercial rock, maybe even pop music to be found in both acts, but Aktor leans more towards the psychedelic side of things, and incorporates some pretty eccentric ideas at times. Another thing that sets them apart, hell even miles away (as Winger would’ve put it), is the extensive use of keyboards in Aktor. Even though Aktor and Ghost doesn’t sound alike, I guess they share some influences, as Blue Öyster Cult is a reference that pops up several times during the two songs. The music certainly sounds fresh and different from most new stuff out there. Also, the quality of the song writing is pretty good. I have no problem enjoying these two short tunes, but I need to be in the right mood to manage all the keyboard sounds. There are some decent, quite original melodies in “I Am The Psychic Wars”, the song in itself is quite diverse and the part towards the end where they speed things up is simply great and unexpected. “Buried By The Sea” starts out at a slower pace, and seems more laidback, but introduces keyboards that seem to have more in common with the progressive scene than anything . Overall this songs, with its lalalala-part is a bit weirder, has parts that are more hectic, and is not as immediate as the A-side, but certainly fits more or less in the same style. Also the vocal melodies are very pleasant and enjoyable. The single is released on Lehtisalo’s own Ektro records, on black and clear red vinyl.
How on earth does Chris Black find the time for everything? Here he is again, this time in Metalusafer, where he drums, plays the bass, and does some guitar solos. He is helped out only by guitarist Ron Rokken, which Black has previously teamed up with in Superchrist. With a name like this, Metalusafer that is, I guess most of you know what to expect musically. The name, the art work, the music and of course both song titles simply yell Metalucifer. The back side of the cover says: “Special thanks to Gezolucifer for inspiration shock and satanic blessing”. Together with the fact that the band recently performed at Ragnarokkr with the tunes on this single as well as some original Metalucifer-material, indicates that this is some kind of tribute, more than anything else. The A-side is named “Heavy Metal Hammer” while the B-side carries “Heavy Metal Saviour”. These two tracks are for sure nothing that will enter into the heavy metal hall of fame, but this is fun, rocking and energetic stuff that should leave most metal heads with a huge smile on their faces. “Heavy Metal Hammer” is a fast banger, that should sound even better when performed live, as it has one of those simple sing along choruses even the most wasted in the attendance should get right. Cool and very instant stuff even though I feel like I have heard this particular tune several times before. Although not at instant, “Heavy Metal Saviour” has grown more on me. It is more midtempo based with heavy pounding drums and a more original chorus that brings a big grin to my face. The lyrics are wonderful, deep and full of interesting contrasts: “Heavy metal woman/heavy metal man/Heavy metal savior/Heavy metal devils/heavy metal gods/heavy metal savior”. To be honest, it’s probably a little predictable, but still funny stuff, and Black certainly pays respect to Gezolucifer with this pair of tunes.
The first meeting between yours truly and October 31 was overshadowed by another band, the mighty Skullview. When I ordered the first October 31-album, “The Fire Awaits You” from Germany, I also bought “Legends Of Valor”, the immense debut by Skullview and was completely blown away by the latter. This was back in 1998, but soon my relationship to King Fowley and the other guys started growing, and I learnt t appreciate all of the bands full length releases, the dark debut, the more melodic “Meet Thy Maker” as well as the aggressive and almost thrashy “No Survivors”. I also had the chance to witness the band live last year, but have to say I was a bit disappointed by the performance at Keep It True last. Sure, it was loud, raw and aggressive, but the melodic aspect of the band’s music got drowned, and I found King Fowley’s vocals a bit too rough. Sadly, this single, containing one self penned tune “Gone To The Devil” as well as a cover of Uriah Heep’s “Too Scared To Run” from the album “Abominog”, follows more or less in the same pattern. “Gone To The Devil” is a short one (3:30) and definitely one of the weaker tunes I have heard from the band, its aggressive and noisy, but what else? Fowley’s vocals along with the guitars give the song a dark edge, but it could certainly have used more interesting riffs or melodies. Also the chorus is way too anonymous. I am not very familiar with the original version of the Heep-song, other than the fact that it reminds me a bit of Saxon from around the time, but October 31’s take is of course darker and rowdier, mainly due to Fowleys vocals but also due to the rather sparse production.
Split singles seem more common today than ever before, but most of these releases are quite unspectacular, mostly due to the fact that it’s hard to couple two bands of more or less the same quality and style. This release, put out by Helle Mueller and his Underground Power Records is one of those scarce split releases that you need to have. At least if you are a fan of epic power metal. First of all, the black and white artwork done by Pedro Rebelo is excellent and captures the essence of what both bands are about, at least lyrically. Portugal’s Ravensire contributes “Drawing The Sword”, a track that also appeared on last year’s magnificent “We March Forward”. Here the song comes in a different mix. Of course, I would rather have wanted an exclusive track, but with “Drawing The Sword” being one of my absolute favorite tracks of 2013, I really can’t complain too loud. I guess this quote from last year’s review of the album tells a lot of what I feel about the song: “When Thor sings “I draw the sword” with power and conviction, I am reminded once again why raw, epic heavy metal is probably my favorite genre within metal. This tune should be played to everyone yet to learn what this kind of metal is about. If they don’t get it then, they will never do!” Belfast’s Terminus supplies a song that wasn’t a part of their very good “Into Exile”-demo. “Centaurean” is a seven minute monster, not the most diverse maybe, but still interesting all the way through, due to those classic, galloping guitars. The tune is lead along by the characteristic, calm and commanding vocals of James Beattie. A fist pounding anthem, and a powerful and catchy song that should work really well live. I don’t know if the band has been approached by labels already, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if class acts like Cruz Del Sur or even Metal Blade showed an interest in these guys. Whoever releases the next output from the band – I’ll be first in line to get a copy!
Next up is a 10”, but it still has only two songs, so I’ll include it in this column. I didn’t hear the self titled EP Second Grave released back in 2012, but “Antithesis” is surely interesting enough to justify going back and have a taste of the previous one. The two songs on offer here are quite different. While the members have a background from bands in styles I normally don’t spend a lot of time on, “Mourning Light” is more or less a pure metal tune, with the impressive vocals of Krista Van Guilder (ex-Warhorse) leading a melodic and galloping, yet heavy tune that screams both Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, and wouldn’t sound completely out of place on an album by for instance Slough. The chorus is very catchy and the guitar work is timeless and classy. There are also some great riffs to be found in the slower passages, and the mellow mid part is also different and well worked out. In fact, his is a track diverse enough to stay interesting for all six minutes and 38 seconds. The other side of the EP has the track “Drink The Water”. This one leans toward the doomier side of things, but the voice of Van Guilder provides some light in the darkness, especially during the chorus. The song is almost 12 minutes long, and it crawls along with a really heavy and fuzzy bass sound at a rather slow pace. Honestly I am not a fan of the slower, atmospheric instrumental parts that are partly accompanied by more extreme vocals from Van Guilder, but the rest works well for me, and I am left kind of surprised at how good this band, consisting of members from bands I am not familiar with at all (except for Warhorse and Black Pyramid), sound. Well done to the band, and well done to Pariah Child for a nice looking vinyl release.
First edition (August 2013):
Talking about (feed)back, back in March we featured NIGHT, a Linköping-based quartet. The short interview can be found here: https://metalsquadron.com/2013/03/28/short-as-hell-ix-night/ The band had just released their debut single “Stand Your Ground”, which was a decent, but rather unspectacular affair of straight, rocking heavy metal. Funnily enough, the new single, featuring lead track “Gunpowder Treason” backed with “Into The Night”, sports exactly the same cover motive, an angry owl, only the background color is different. A cool concept, if you ask me. Like its predecessor, this new single is also recorded live by Niels Nielsen in Studio Hufvudstaden. Nielsen has previously worked with Maim, Ghost and Night’s label mates Nocturnal, to name a few. The recording fits the music very well, with a crisp and natural sound. “Gunpowder Treason” is a mid paced banger and an unusual choice for a single, as it’s quite long (more than five and a half minutes) and doesn’t have a particularly strong chorus. The recipe is very traditional, and classic bands like AC/DC, Saxon and Krokus spring to mind along with fellow Swede newcomers Screamer. The song has a simple, yet effective main riff, but overall it lacks a bit of identity. I still find the singer’s voice a bit too strained as well. The other tune, “Into The Night” is faster and catchier, and is probably the best song I’ve heard from the Swedes so far. The vocals are a better fit with the music here and the song comes with a nice solo. Again I feel the guys need to work on their identity, as this tune reminds me of several other songs I’ve heard during more than 25 years listening to heavy metal. A bit of gang vocals spices up the chorus of this solid, but not outstanding song. Still I am anticipating their debut full length, out through Gaphals (who also released this single) in the autumn.
From one Swedish act to another. ANTICHRIST was on pretty much every old school thrasher’s lips (or radar, if you find “lips” a bit gay) when they put out their debut album “Forbidden World”, packed with dirty, raging thrash back in the autumn of 2011. This release features a brand new self-composed track occupying the A-side of the vinyl, while a cover of Evil Blood’s “Kill With Napalm” is pressed onto the opposite side. If you are unfamiliar with the Croatian act (that later relocated to Great Britain), check out Buried By Time And Dust’s killer LP-rerelease of the “Midnight In Sodom”-demo, where this particular song is featured as a bonus-track. Let’s start with the cover then, and yes, I am talking about the song, not the sleeve of the record. ANTICHRIST has maintained the sharp guitars from the original, but the vocals are not as upfront as in Evil Blood’s version. In fact, the original song has a bit of melody and I feel it would have benefited the end result with the vocals being a bit clearer. “Kill With Napalm” is a cool tune nevertheless, and ANTICHRIST’s version comes with a super intense ending. “Burned Beyond Recognition” is the title of the self penned tune. ANTICHRIST still deals in filthy and aggressive old school thrash, but this particular track sounds a bit different compared to the majority of the songs on “Forbidden World”. It’s a very fast one, with angry, buzzing guitars, but at the same time, a bit more complex and ambitious perhaps than in the past. Even though there are some parts that sticks out, like the awesome instrumental piece in the middle, the overall impression is that this tune is not as easy on the ear as some from the debut. It clocks in at almost six minutes and has fair share of diversity due to the mix of passages with vocals and long instrumental parts. The vocals are totally desperate and hoarse, but not as defined as on the album. “Limited” to a thousand copies, it should be no problem getting hold of a copy of this single, out on Electric Assault Records.
Why don’t we stay in Sweden for a while longer? After all, the beer is cheap, and so is the bacon! I have to admit that TRAP is a rather catchy name for a heavy metal band, but their logo reminds me of someone elses. Who on earth (or should I say in Sweden?) can it be? Of course, it’s the Portrait-logo, and guess what – TRAP features former Portrait-singer Philip Svennefeldt, who is also involved in Helvetets Port. (What about Helvetets Portrait? Any takers?) Alongside him you’ll find some other names that you might recognize. The guitarist, David Stranderud also played in Portrait on the demo and the single, while the rhythm section, consisting of Thomas Hedlund and Peter Svensson has Cult Of The Fox in common, and still play together in Void Moon, who released their first full length through Cruz Del Sur last year. With Svennefeldt behind the microphone, parallels will automatically be drawn to the older Portrait-stuff. Svennefeldt does his King Diamond-improvisasion here as well, both the falsetto as well as the deeper, “sulkier” voice. “Assassins” has uptempo verses combined with a slower chorus , and during the latter, when he sings “Sworn as he fell/Assassins of Hell”, Svennefeldt also reminds me a bit of Sean Peck from Cage. Some cool harmonyparts towards the end of the solo add a nice melodic touch to what I would call an average tune. The other song “Wreckage Of Nations” has Svennefeldts voice slicing through the verse in a way that makes me wish for a singer with a more controlled approach. The guy definitely has some character, but he is simply not the best singer around. This song has a rather weak chorus but a cool middle part. Overall, I am not trapped yet, and if the guys don’t step up their songwriting a notch or two, I fear that Trap will soon be forgotten. After all, their competing with the likes of Portrait, Attic and In Solitude. The single is released through High Roller on red and black vinyl and comes with an insert with the lyrics to both songs.
Let’s put it straight right from the start – SLOUGH FEG is one of my favorite bands. They have never recorded a weak album, and they are one of the most intense and enjoyable live bands out there. I had the pleasure to catch the band at a packed and sweaty John Dee in Oslo at the second and ufortunately last edition of the Metal Merchants-festival a freezing cold night back in January 2010, and it’s one of the best gigs I have ever witnessed. As the band prepares for their next full length release, “Digital Resistance”, their debut for Metal Blade, here is a taster of what’s to come. If I am correct, the song “Laser Enforcer” is a demo of a track that will feature on the album, while the B-side, “Blending In” is a cover of a tune originally done by the American eighties band Government Issue. I am not familiar with the original, but Slough Feg’s version is a one minute plus short and very intense punk tune where the guys sound more aggressive than usual. What about the teaser from the album then? Well, the sound is a bit lo-fi compared to what we’re used to, but it’s easy to spot the potential in this song, and I really look forward to hearing how it turns out on “Digital Resistance”. The song has Mike Scalzi’s characteristic voice and his catchy vocal melodies, but there are also some unusual guitar parts as well as some cool laser beam sound effects, making this song sounding fresh without exactly breaking new ground for the band.
So, does anybody remember Dagger and their 1985-release “Not Afraid Of The Dark”? Not a very good release by any means, but the band photo on the cover is still stuck in my head, almost twenty years after I saw it in an advert for “Svenska Skivklubben” (run it through Google translate) at the last page of Swedens pop- and rock magazine, “Okej”. This is another DAGGER of course, and yet again we’re dealing with a Swedish act. This DAGGER features some well known names of the Swedish scene, but names that are normally associated with other genres than DAGGER’s brand of heavy rock. In fact the band includes three former members of Dismember: Fred Estby behind the drums, David Blomqvist (guitars), and bass player Tobias Cristiansson. The last piece in the puzzle, is Jani Kataja, who handles the vocals. He usually sings with Sideburn, and his voice adds a slight touch of stoner to the general expression. This release is a bit unusual as it has a cover song on the A-side, in the form of Quartz’ “Mainline Riders” from the band’s self titled debut, released in 1977. With “unusual” I mean that the cover songs are usually pressed on to side B of a single. If you haven’ t heard the Quartz-song, it’s a rather slow and moody tune, which picks up some pace towards the end. It also has some heavy riffs and a good chorus. The self penned track suggest that DAGGER deals in heavy rock, as it isn’t exactly metal. “Dark Cloud” is shorter, more aggressive piece than the Quartz-track. The song is quite dark, heavy and old school and is something different than what the other new Swedish bands offer. The song in itself isn’t what I would call a gem, but hopefully the band steps up their song writing before the first album.
Since we started in Sweden, and pretty much stayed in Sweden, what is more natural than to end this column in Sweden as well? I guess it says a bit about how dominant the country is when it comes to metal these days. TRIAL has certainly come in leaps and bounds since I reviewed their first demo for Scream magazine late 2010. The new single “Malicious Arts” is a follow up to last years well received full length “The Primordial Temple”. Released on Nuclear Winter Records and containing two songs in the form of “To Dust…” and “Of Sinister Seed (The Madness Within)”, there are no revolutionary changes since the debut. Even though the band is easy to compare to the likes of Portrait and In Solitude, I enjoy the fact that there is just as much eighties US metal in the sound as there might be influences from Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Singer Linus Johansson never sets out to sound like a blueprint of King, but instead puts in some small hints to he master here and there in a style that has more in common with the many high pitched US metal-vocalist. His clear, powerful and commanding voice certainly brings out the best in these two tracks, and the fact that he reaches the high notes without sounding as strained as many of his colleagues, is one of his main strenghts. The guitar work is very enjoyable, and the short leads among the uptempo galloping in “To Dust…” are like small injections of energy. The B-side is a longer track, clocking in at nearly seven and a half minutes with several changes in tempo and mood. I guess it would be pretty safe to call “Of Sinister Seed (The Madness Within)” a more epic tune, and if you listen closely, you’ll hear that Andreas Olsson is coming up with some interesting bass lines, not that far away from master of everything epic, Steve Harris. In fact, the references to Iron Maiden are pretty clear in this tune. Like “To Dust…” this is a diverse song that needs a few listen to really sink in. The material of Trial isn’t the catchiest around, but if you invest some time in it, you are likely to be rewarded. Recommended!