Michael Schenker Group, Universal (Atomic Fire 2022)

Michael Schenker Group follows up last year’s album Immortal with the new studio record, Universal.

If Michael Schenker doesn’t have legendary status in rock and roll then nobody does. He was one of the earliest members of the Scorpions and, past-group-wise, he is probably most frequently remembered for his work with U.F.O. But really, after all this time, he is best known for being Michael Schenker and for the group that bears his name. A tireless purveyor of riff and hook and melody, Schenker is on the short list of iconic rock guitarists. Along with Michael Schenker on guitar, of course, the band for the new album is Ronnie Romero (vocals), Bodo Schopf (drums), Steve Mann (keys, guitar), and Barend Courbois (bass).

The set starts out dramatically with “Emergency,” offering a tense riff and a warning structure. The vocals are melodic and urging, and the guitar lead is an excellent probing, exploring ranger that emerges from a classical underpinning. “Under Attack” keeps the tone but slows a touch. Sporting a memorable chorus, it is the guitar again that seals the deal.

“Calling Baal” is an intro piece for “A King Has Gone,” a song that pays tribute to Ronnie James Dio. In particular, you can hear Rainbow in these pieces, and to show even more respect, Tony Carey, Bobby Rondinelli, and Bob Daisley – like Dio, all Rainbow alum – play on the sequence. It is worth getting the album just to hear this.

Other stand-out tracks for me include “Wrecking Ball,” a growling road tune, and “Sad Is The Song” because it has such a great build and wondrous guitar work. This album is another exceptional effort by the Michael Schenker Group. They are on tour right now so make sure you go out and see them. I know I will. Recommended.

Universal is out today, Friday, May 27th through Atomic Fire Records on digital, CD, vinyl, and earbook. You can get it just about anywhere.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://michaelschenkergroup.bandcamp.com/

Website, https://michaelschenkerhimself.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MichaelSchenkerRocks

Atomic Fire Records, https://label.atomicfire-records.com/project/michael-schenker/

© Wayne Edwards

Michael Schenker Group, Universal (Atomic Fire 2022)

Incite, Wake Up Dead (Atomic Fire 2022)

Arizona thrash makers Incite break fresh ground with Wake Up Dead.

Leading up to the new one, Incite had released five previous full-length albums: The Slaughter (2009), All Out War (2012), Up In Hell (2014), Oppression (2016), and Built To Destroy (2019). Each and every one is a ripper. Traveling back to the band’s beginning you will find the same in the early EPs. It is metal fierce enough to rattle your molars out of their sockets. Incite is Richie Cavalera (vocals), Eli Santana (guitars), Christopher “EL” Elsten (bass), and Lennon Lopez (drums).

They come out swinging with “Fuck With Me,” a full force battering with whirling shreds and shattering rhythm. The narrative theme is violence, and it recurs in every song. Some of the songs, like “Sucker Punched,” sport a noticeable groove sliding right in with the thrash. Make no mistake: every song is a detonation. The compositions, while compact, all are designed for maximum impact. They fill the space around your ears and your brain with sparking, electrical energy.

I love “Mental Destruction” for the way it shakes up lines with syncopation and bends your expectations with crooked looks. Other big tracks for me are “Fallen,” with its dramatic intro that blossoms into ravaging melody and chorus, and the anchor piece, “The Slaughter.” That last one is a short, choppy piece that cracks open your windpipe then squeezes it shut.

Oh, and don’t overlook “War Soup,” featuring vocals by Max Cavalera. It is two generations of musicians working together to make metal we all want to hear. This new Incite album is my favorite of theirs so far, and that is saying something because the back catalogue has serious metal in it. Recommended.

Atomic Fire Records is set to release Wake Up Dead on Friday, April 8th through all the usual outlets. Look for it on CD, digital, and vinyl.

Band photo by Oleg Bogdan.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://incite.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/INCITEband/

Atomic Fire Records, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/

© Wayne Edwards.

Incite, Wake Up Dead (Atomic Fire 2022)

Meshuggah, Immutable (Atomic Fire 2022)

Meshuggah sets the heavy music world on fire again with Immutable.

Meshuggah came together in Sweden in the late 1980s. Flashing talent and affection for technical metal with an unmistakable groove, the band took a prominent place instantly in the heavy music scene. Their full-length albums now number nine, and there has been a large helping of splits and EPs produced along the way as well. It is incredible how each album presents music that is very new and also undeniably Meshuggah – nothing ever feels worn or re-hashed, and that goes doubly for Immutable. The band is Jens Kidman (vocals), Mårten Hagström (guitars), Dick Lövgren (bass), Fredrik Thordendal (guitars), and Tomas Haake (drums).

The first three tracks set you up for the long haul. “Broken Cog” is filled with whispering creepiness and urgent pushes. “The Abysmal Eye” chokes off dissent with its heightening technicality and its consistent employment of mysteriousness. “Light The Shortening Fuse” drops in with a savage chop that separates the gristle from the bone. There is a middle breather but that gives you just enough stamina to press on to the end.

If somehow you have never heard Meshuggah before, this is a good album to step in on because it shows you so many sides to the band’s music. It is creative, robust, and variegated. Songs like “Ligature Marks” juxtapose a savage narrative theme with a compelling and emotional exit after a four minute battering. The very next track, “God He Sees In Mirrors,” is positively relentless, offering no respite. And then, exactly in the middle of the album, is “They Mover Below,” a nine-and-a-half-minute instrumental odyssey that is absolutely breathtaking.

Other stand-out tracks for me are “Black Cathedral” and “The Faultless” – and I could say the same about “I Am That Thirst” and “Armies Of The Preposterous.” There is not a single weak moment in the entire set. It is too early in the year to declare a top ten list, but I have no doubt that this album is going to be on a lot of them at the end of 2022. Highly recommended.

The irrepressible Immutable is out through Atomic Fire Records now on CD, vinyl (with variants), cassette, and, of course, digital.

Band photo by Edvard Hansson and Brendan Baldwin.

Link.

Meshuggah website, https://www.meshuggah.net/home

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/meshuggah

Atomic Fire Records, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/meshuggah/

© Wayne Edwards.

Meshuggah, Immutable (Atomic Fire 2022)

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

In their fourth decade, Finland’s Amorphis continue to flex with Halo.

Formed in the earliest part of the nineteen nineties, Amorphis began making progressive doom and death metal music with notable creativity. Over the years, they moved into a more melodic – or perhaps melancholy – range of expression. The depth of the music did not change, and neither did the ingenuity in composition. Halo is the band’s fourteenth full-length studio album, and along the way they have released multiple splits, EPs, compilations, and live albums. The sheer volume of production is enough to give you pause. In every instance, attention to detail and quality was never overlooked. The band is Tomi Joutsen (vocals), Esa Holopainen (guitar), Tomi Koivusaari (guitar), Santeri Kallio (keys), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass), and Jan Rechberger (drums).

The new album is big, with eleven songs landing in the four-to-five-minute range. Across tracks, the musicians take the opportunity to explore divergent tonal and stylistic approaches to composition. Alternating medium-coarse and clean vocals is common, and the use of keyboards to expand the sound is typical. Esa Holopainen describes the album this way: “It is thoroughly recognizable Amorphis from beginning to end but the general atmosphere is a little bit heavier and more progressive and also organic compared to its predecessor.” Extra heaviness is always welcome, as far as I am concerned.

“Windmane” stands out to me especially for the lead guitar and keys work. It is also a good example overall of the album with its many movements and changes. “War” is a great track as well, with persistent heaviness recurring throughout, and “The Wolf” is a wonderful opportunity to escape to another state of being. The album will surely please fans of Amorphis and it will have broad appeal to aficionados of many heavy music subgenres. Recommended.

Halo is out on Friday, February 11th through Atomic Fire Records in a plethora of formats, bundles, and versions, along with tie-in merch.

Band photo by Sam Jansen.

Links.

Amorphis website, https://amorphis.net/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/amorphis

Atomic Fire website, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/

Amorphis, Halo (Atomic Fire 2022)

Out Of This World, Out Of This World (Atomic Fire 2022)

The new music from Out Of this World will spark memories and regenerate a blazing fire.

The band is comprised of certified music veterans Kee Marcello (Europe), Tommy Heart (Fair Warning), Ken Sandin (Alien), and Darby Todd (Devin Townsend). They came together to create new music in the way that works best for them, and the result is an explosion of energetic melodic hard rock which has not been given this complete a treatment for years.

The opening track does have a decided Europe feel to it, with big keys and tall guitar riffs. Catchy hooks wind in to set up the clear hard rock vocals and carry the song on. That’s “Twilight,” and the glimpse it offers signals the rest of the album accurately. The tone throughout is melodic, but there are enough edges in there to satisfy your need for creative guitar work. Certainly, the lead guitar performances are very impressive. The compositions are designed to have broad appeal and they score high marks on that account.

Over the course of the ten tracks there is enough hair metal nostalgia to raise the dead. I listened to so much of this kind of music back at its beginning that I didn’t think I would ever hear something that sounded new, but here it is. The familiarity is there, and yet these songs have a sparkling born-on date. There is a dip into the power ballad arena from time to time, and there are stadium anthems, too. This set roves the planes of 80s heavy rock with wide-ranging aplomb. If you are a fan of this kind of music, you are going to like the new Out Of This World efforts. They take the music seriously and put on a great show. Recommended.

Out Of This World invades your airspace on Friday, January 14th through Atomic Fire Records. Check out the label store at the link below.

Links.

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/OOTWtheband

Atomic Fire Records, https://visionmerch.com/atomicfire/

Out Of This World, Out Of This World (Atomic Fire 2022)