Satan, Earth Infernal (Metal Blade 2022)

Satan’s follow-up to 2018’s Cruel Magic is a speeding vortex that raises the flag even higher: Earth Infernal.

Satan is a band from Newcastle that formed around 1979. They were part of the actual New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, they have laid down five full-length albums – six counting the new one – and a truckload of EPs, compilations, and live albums. The group has gone through many changes over the years, more than you might even expect even for such a long-lived band. Notably, they changed their name several times (Pariah, Blind Fury), disbanded and reformed. They re-solidified in 2011 and, starting in 2013, released three monstrous albums in a row, Life Sentence (2103), Atom By Atom (2015), and Cruel Magic (2018). Earth Infernal stretches the string winning albums to four in a row. The band is Brian Ross (vocals), Russ Tippins (guitar), Steve Ramsey (guitar), Graeme English (bass), and Sean Taylor (drum).

The metal is high-energy and clocks in at pace. “Ascendancy” pierces the veil with a rowdy, driving rhythm and eager guitar passages. “Burning Portrait” mixes the pace a little, and then “Twelve Infernal Lords” ratchets up the drama and mystery, recalling often returned-to themes. I could say that some of the music is reminiscent of this or that band but of course it is the other way around, isn’t it – Satan is an original.

There are some quiet passages, but they are mood-setting and don’t last long. For example, “Mercury’s Shadow” has a soft opening but in less than a minute the metal takes a swing on this reflective instrumental track. For that matter, “A Sorrow Unspent” has an airy casualness when it begins but soon turns toward a swirling attack of unhesitating, pulsing guitars.

Side Two has just as much innovation and transforming musicality as the first half. “Poison Elegy” is a good example, and one of my favorites from the entire set. It has drama, tempo changes, fantastic soaring vocals, and guitar work that comes at you from every angle. Throughout the album, the pairing of guitars is unique and compelling, sometimes tag-teaming individual passages and at other times playing in unison. “Earth We Bequeath” has the final say on the record, and it seals the deal. This is another great Satan album. Recommended.

Earth Infernal is out on Friday, April 1st through Metal Blade Records. Check out the links below for vinyl variants and other versions.

Link.

Bandcamp, https://satanuk.bandcamp.com/album/earth-infernal

Satan website, https://www.satanmusic.com/

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

Metal Blade Records, https://metalblade.com/satan/

© Wayne Edwards.

Satan, Earth Infernal (Metal Blade 2022)

Scorpions, Rock Believer (Spinefarm 2022)

Hard rock legends Scorpions have a new studio album out, Rock Believer.

I write a lot about the early days of my heavy music listening, but the hard rock avenue is one I have spoken less about. The three bands in this lane that meant the most to me back in the day where Judas Priest, Scorpions, and Thin Lizzy (they put out a couple of hard rock albums there in a row). Phil Lynott was lost first, and so Thin Lizzy. Judas Priest had a few rough years but they are still tearing up the stage today. Scorpions were more famous by far than the other two, and they had some killer albums I still listen to like Lovedrive (1979), Animal Magnetism (1980), and Blackout (1982). But really, it weas the earlier albums that made the biggest impression on me – Fly To The Rainbow (1974), In Trance (1975), Virgin Killer (1976), and especially Taken By Force (1977). I even have affection for the sometimes-maligned Lonesome Crow (1972). These first few albums were raw, drawn straight from the core of the musicians’ hard rock hive. The later albums are more polished and, as time went on, they became increasingly designed for a broader audience. To me, every album, all nineteen of them, sound like Scorpions music, and on that level I like them all.

After the mega-hits and mega-stardom, the world at large heard less and less about Scorpions music, but fans could tell you that the band continued to produce albums on a regular, but less frequent, cycle all the way through. It has been seven years since Return To Forever, so the universe is more than ready for Rock Believer.

The line-up is Rudolf Schenker (guitar, backing vocals), Klaus Meine (vocals), Matthias Jabs (guitar), Paweł Mąciwoda (bass), and Mikkey Dee (drums). Schenker and Meine, of course, go back to the earliest days, and Jabs has been there since the seventies. Mąciwoda seems almost like a newcomer, even though he has played with the band for nearly two decades. Legendary drummer Mikkey Dee joined a few years back after Lemmy’s passing saw the end of Motörhead. A formidable group of musicians if ever there was one.

As soon as the needle drops on “Gas In The Tank” you know you have stepped into Scorpions world. Layered guitars, catchy melodies, sharp leads, and the unmistakable voice of Klaus Meine, sounding fantastic. “Roots In My Boots” has the raw energy so much in evidence on the Blackout album, updated and refined, while “Knock ’em Dead” is a new creature altogether. There is a lot going on with the new album.

The singles released in advance of the album were the title track and “Peacemaker.” Fans have probably heard these already. The album overall leans a little more toward the “Peacemaker” kind of song with all its raucous energy. There are a few introspective, rock-ballad-type songs (and passages within songs) that serve to balance the music out – something that Scorpions have always been expert at achieving.

Nineteen is a lot of albums, but fans will always clamor for more. This one is a very good one. Recommended.

Rock Believer is out now through Spinefarm Records. You can get it everywhere. Check out the links below, and look for the deluxe edition with additional songs.

Links.

Scorpions website, https://www.the-scorpions.com/

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

Spinefarm Records, https://www.spinefarmrecords.com/usa/

Scorpions, Rock Believer (Spinefarm 2022)

The Neptune Power Federation, Le Demon De L’Amour (Cruz Del Sur Music 2022)

The fifth album from The Neptune Power Federation is the best one yet: Le Demon De L’Amour.

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album from The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen (2019). Indeed, that one was the first I had heard from the Australian heavy rock band and it turned me all the way around. I vowed at the time to see them live as soon as humanly possible and I still haven’t done it yet – any US dates coming up? The music is an energetic hard rock that has some retro components but lives firmly in the here and now. The stage names of the musicians in the band are Screaming Loz Sutch (vocals), Search and DesTroy (guitar), Inverted CruciFox (guitar), Jaytanic Ritual (bass), and River Sticks (drums).

The song you might have heard already is “My Precious One” as it is the advance single and there is a video of it floating around YouTube. If you haven’t heard it yet, drop everything and listen now – it’s a banger. If that song doesn’t make you want to listen to the rest of the album then I don’t know what. Fast, hooky, with a great guitar in the riff and lead, and the fiercely emotive vocals combine to make this a radio hit (if there was still radio). It is a great song, and I would recommend the album on the strength of it alone, but there is more.

Le Demon De L’Amour is a set of eight hard-edge, deep-cutting love songs. While on the surface that might not sound so great for a metalhead like me, the actual music is incredible. Filled with heavy psych, hooks and breaks, and deeply soulful vocals, The Neptune Power Federation is taking the love song back for the heavy music crowd.

The album begins with the eight-minute epic “Weeping On The Morn.” It is a massive rock and roll homage that dips into many corners. The single “My Precious One” cracks next and then the funky “Baby You’re Mine” struts out. There are so many great looks in just the first three songs it is hard to count them all. All the tracks are up-tempo, and each one has its own intrigue. “Stay With Thee” is one of my favorites, “Madly In Love” appeals to my contrarian side. My full list of favorites would be eight songs long so I’ll just leave it there.

If you don’t know about them yet then you need to get your life together and listen to The Neptune Power Federation. Highly recommended.

Le Demon De L’Amour is out on February 18th through Cruz Del Sur Music. Bandcamp is the easy way to get it in the US.

Links.

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

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

Cruz Del Sur Music, https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/blog/

The Neptune Power Federation, Le Demon De L’Amour (Cruz Del Sur Music 2022)

Dark Meditation, Polluted Temples (Satanik Royalty Records 2022)

Polluted Temples is the perfect title for the new Dark Meditation album as it takes no prisoners and preserves no icons.

Seattle metal mongers Dark Meditation started their band in 2019. They released a demo that year and a second the following year. Polluted Temples is their first full-length album. The band is J. W. Mullett (bass), Will Klintberg (drums), Rane (guitar), Ian (guitar, Synth), and A. D. Vick (vocals).

There is an intro piece and nine tracks on the new album. “Babalon.Money.Magick” gets the show going with a catchy rolling riff and medium-coarse vocals walking together on a city street that seems to be changing into something else as the song goes along. The twin guitar leads has superb punches and nice overlaps. This is a mid-tempo warm-up. “Haunt Of Fear” follows and it is more severe, more pressing.

“Strange Caress (Of The Night)” takes a different chop at heavy – the opening salvo reminded me a touch of Thin Lizzy but departed after that toward a pseudo-melodic Misfits-inspired pugilism. And then “Masters Coil” is off in a slightly different direction, more solemn and darkly yearning.

There are flat-out dashes like “The Howling Wild,” and more measured and reflective tracks such as “Nocturnal Forever.” It all comes to a close with the title track, a brooding tale of woe that casts doubt on our understanding of ourselves. Surprisingly sentimental, the final song unerringly delivers the needful metal. The expansive lead work is as credibly thoughtful as it is headbanging. I got the feeling listening to this album that the band has a lot more to say and other landscapes to explore. I am looking forward to the journey. Recommended.

Polluted Temples is out on Friday, January 28th from Satanik Royalty Records. Make your offerings and take your blessings.

Band photo by Sarah Hammel.

Links.

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

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

Satanik Royalty Records, https://www.satanikroyaltyrecords.com/

Dark Meditation, Polluted Temples (Satanik Royalty Records 2022)

Mantic Ritual, Crusader (M-Theory Audio 2022)

Mantic Ritual release a new 7-inch with hints of more music to come later this year.

The history of Mantic Ritual is incomplete. We know they formed under a different name around 2005 and that they released a full-length album through Nuclear Blast in 2009 called Executioner. They did a good deal of notable touring and then the original lineup split up around 2010.

Reforming in just last year or so, the new group includes originals Dan Wetmore (vocals, guitar), Jeff Potts (guitar), and Ben Mottsman (bass), with now Carlos Cruz (drums) joining the mix. It looks like they are planning to put out more music later this year, and right now we have a new song and a classic cover.

“Crusader” is the new one and it flat out rips. The charging primary riff is an elemental force of nature. Traditional heavy metal frameworks get a new hammering here, and the lead work is a treat. The vocals are clear and strong – this is everything a heavy metal song should be.

The other song is a cover of the Mercyful Fate classic “Black Funeral.” The music is faithful to the original (with some modern enhancements) and the vocals track King Diamond’s style. It is a welcome homage.

If this single is any indication of the future music to come from Mantic Ritual, then we are all in for a great ride. Recommended.

Crusader is out through M-Theory Audio on Friday, January 28th. Hit the links below for more info and for ordering options.

Links.

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

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

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/

Mantic Ritual, Crusader (M-Theory Audio 2022)

Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult (Ripple 2022)

The universe has needed a new a Blue Öyster Cult tribute album for a long time. It is finally here: Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult.

The idea for this recognition and tribute to BÖC was initiated by the late Steve Hanford (Thee Slayer Hippy), in conjunction with Ian Watts of Ape Machine. The album is being released by Ripple Music, and this is how they describe the evolution of the project.

As Poison Idea’s drummer and producer, Hanford, lived the hard road of the rock veteran. He played on two highly influential hardcore records, ‘War All The Time’ and ‘Feel The Darkness,’ and worked as a producer on indie rock projects such as Heatmiser (with Elliot Smith) and punk albums for notable names like The Hard-Ons. Following struggles with addiction and a seven-year prison sentence, he turned his life around, starting work in a music program and playing drums first in The Skull and then joining Ape Machine as drummer and producer. While on the road with Ape Machine, Steve decided to produce a tribute record to one of his favorite bands, Blue Öyster Cult.

Hanford was an accomplished and respected musician, able to round up a star-studded cast of bands for the tribute. Passing away in May of 2020, he didn’t see the project’s completion, but he completed most of the recordings, leaving Watts to gather the final pieces.

The album, then, honors and remembers a classic band and the proceeds of its sales are going toward a good cause.

For fans, knowing what’s in the box is a big deal, so here it is. “ME 262” – Mondo Machine; “Flaming Telepaths” – Great Electric Quest; “Dominance and Submission” – Cosmo-Daemonic Telegraph Company; “Godzilla” – Howling Giant; “Transmaniacon MC” – Tony Reed (Mos Generator) with Thee Slayer Hippy; “Wings Wetted Down” – IT; “Tattoo Vampire” – Mondo Generator with Thee Slayer Hippy; “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” – Ape Machine; “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” – Zeke; “Stairway to the Stars” – War Cloud; “Fireworks” – Year of the Cobra with Thee Slayer Hippy; “7 Screaming Diz-Busters” – Fetish; and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – Spindrift.

I am approaching super-fan level for Blue Öyster Cult so I have a lot of opinions about hypothetical tribute albums. Which songs should be included? I can tell you. Which bands should perform the songs? Hey, just ask. When I first saw this list for this new record I had an instantaneous rush of reactions. Some of the biggest hits from the band are included, as expected. I was shocked to see a couple of my favorites songs on the album that I didn’t think would ever be included, like “Transmaniacon MC,” “Tattoo Vampire,” and “Wings Wetted Down.” Respect.

The take the bands had on the songs was typically in line with the originals. It is always a choice, isn’t it, how closely to replicate the song you are covering. Different fans will have different opinions, naturally. I liked every track. While I will always prefer the originals, it is also great to hear the well done iterations.

Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult is out now through Ripple Music. Take a look at Bandcamp or on Ripple’s site.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/d-minance-and-submissi-n-a-tribute-to-blue-yster-cult

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult (Ripple 2022)

Buffalo Revisited, Volcanic Rock Live (Ripple Music 2022)

Australian metal pioneers Buffalo, performing as Buffalo Revisited, release their first live album, called Volcanic Rock Live, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the studio original.

Buffalo is a band a lot of fans today never came across but I am convinced they would be happy to hear them if they got a chance. The Australians released five full-length albums back in the 1970s, the most well-remembered being Volcanic Rock (1973). Founder and front man Dave Tice has been performing in recent years as Buffalo Revisited, playing songs from the early albums. Interestingly, Buffalo never released a live album. Until now.

Recorded on June 6, 2018 at The Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Sydney, Buffalo Revisited plays the entire Volcanic Rock album. Troy Scerri (guitar), Steve Lorkin (Bass), and Marcus Fraser (drums) joined Dave Tice to make it happen.

Some of my all-time favorite music was created in the 1970s, so I figured I was going to be on board with this one, too. I had heard Volcanic Rock before, and a couple other Buffalo albums, so I was ready.

What you realize immediately about this music is it’s a great stoner record. Laid back riffs and weathered lead guitar work seep easily into your readied head. By the second song, “Freedom,” I had settled in. I remember having a fleeting thought hoping the album was playing on a loop because I did not want to get up. Tice sounds great, and he and the other musicians celebrate the 45th anniversary of the classic album in style.

Whether you have heard of Buffalo before or not, you should listen to this album. If you are a fan of the Ripple Music catalogue, then this is for you. It fits right in. Highly recommended.

Volcanic Rock Live is out now from Ripple Music and available at Bandcamp or through the label’s on-line store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/volcanic-rock-live

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

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Buffalo Revisited, Volcanic Rock Live (Ripple Music 2022)

Axe, The Albums 1979 – 1983 (Cleopatra 2021)

The axe swings again with a new four-CD set of the first albums from iconic metal band AXE.

I remember buying those early Axe (often stylized as AXE) albums in the 1970s and early 1980s. It is entirely possible that I bought the first one on the strength of the cover art alone – I was young. What you heard when you listened to the music was something that was very different from other contemporary bands. Melodic vocals and keyboards, which might make you think of bands like Styx or even Kansas, but with surprisingly sharp guitars. That’s what I remember most about Axe, those big guitar riffs that were so prominent in the mix.

The original Axe line-up (emerging after the demise of the band Babyface) was Bobby Barth (guitar, vocals), Edgar Riley, Jr. (keys), Mike Turpin (bass), Teddy Mueller (drums), and Michael Osborne (guitar). At the beginning, many band members traded off on vocals, but eventually the singing focused on Barth. Axe was growing in popularity with each passing year, and sales of their albums were increasing. They were well known as an energetic touring band and it looked like the sky was the limit. Tragedy struck in 1983 when Michael Osbourne died in a car accident that also badly injured Bobby Barth, and the band broke up immediately after. Axe did reform in the 1990s and have released several albums since. It is those first four that are stuck in my head, though, and they are the ones in the new set.

The clamshell box the new CDs are issued in hold individual sleeves with the original album artwork for all four releases: Axe (1979), Living On The Edge (1980), Offering (1982), and Nemesis (1983). The Offering CD has six bonus live tracks, and there is a 16-page booklet with an essay about the band by Dave Thompson, and liner notes. Lots of photos as well.

The new set is out now on the Dead Line imprint of Cleopatra Records. I am a big Axe fan so it was an easy choice for me. Listen to a few tracks at Bandcamp or Spotify if you want to test the waters before taking the plunge, but it is a solid bet the physical products won’t be available for long. Get them while you can. Recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://therealrockaxe.bandcamp.com/album/the-albums-1979-1983

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/axeband1979

Cleopatra Records, https://cleorecs.com/store/shop/axe-the-albums-1979-1983-4cd/

Axe, The Albums 1979 – 1983 (Cleopatra 2021)

Age Of Wolves, Age Of Wolves (Pitch Black Records 2021)

Veteran metallers come together on a new band and release their debut album: Age Of Wolves.

Canadian musicians Michael Edwards (vocals), Al “Yeti” Bones (guitar), Ray Solomon (bass), and Dwayne LaFramboise (drums) established Age of Wolves two short years ago. Focusing on traditional metal starting points, their music expands and circulates to fold in contemporary insights into formidable established frameworks. The result is slamming rock and roll that will get your head banging.

There are eight cracking tracks on the self-titled record. “Lil’ Burner” starts the fire with a Thin Lizzy lick, a heavy bass line, and an engagingly gravely vocal. The lead break pushes the edge of tone and the rhythm holds firm the place in time. “Avernus” comes next and hits at a darting clip then soon down shifts into a relaxed bluesy posture. Whiskey drinking music. “Grease Monkey and the Monkey Wrench” has a Clutch feel to it in my ears, and that is always a good thing. It is a strange little story with a spritely vamp that pushes the narrative along. Side one ends on “Temple Bar,” a beautifully executed, soulful-sounding song that resonates with rich guitar renderings.

The back half almost sounds like a different album at first. “Overlord” presents an epic face while “We Rise” has a much more street-level approach to its maneuvering. The guitar is still there in each case, and it is clearly revealed as the through-line. “My Love Ends All” has a power-balladesque structure at the beginning and also has a ripping lead break that challenges your idea of what this song is all about. The closer is “Endless Tides,” and it is a delightfully heavy rambler with an esoteric outro. It is a great choice for the set closer. The album was not what I expected but, after hearing it all the way through, I’m definitely on board with Age of Wolves. Recommended.

Age Of Wolves is out now through Pitch Black Records on CD and digital.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://pitchblackrecords.bandcamp.com/album/age-of-wolves

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-7a39qy_Qw532NCP6DRgA

Pitch Black Records, https://www.pitchblackrecords.com/

Age Of Wolves, Age Of Wolves (Pitch Black Records 2021)

AC/DC Back In Black Redux ~ The Best Of AC/DC Redux (Magnetic Eye 2021)

Two new AC/DC tribute albums are out from the venerable Magnetic Eye Records.

Magnetic Eye Records continues its Redux series with a couple of tribute albums celebrating the iconic Australian band AC/DC. I grew up listening to AC/DC, and their albums were drinking music for me. I love them front to back, all the way through Back In Black, and I have continuing abiding affection for the ones after that, too. A tribute album (or two) makes sense because of the legions of fans.

We all know the songs from Back In Black, right? OK. So, with that as a baseline, how are things different on the tribute album? First up: Red Fang has a completely shifted take on “Hells Bells.” It is a sour twist and very different. It would take you a minute to recognize it if you just heard it playing the in the background. It shook me a little. Howling Giant is a bit more linear with “Shoot To Thrill,” rubbing a little stank on it while circling the goal posts. Supersuckers wag a bluesy rendition of “What Do You Do For Money Honey” and Smoking Lightning doom down “Giving The Dog A Bone.” AC/DC’s beautiful ballad “Let Me Put My Love Into You” is given a tender treatment by Heavy Temple.

Side 2. Besvärjelsen gets the title track. Their version made me want to listen to the original. Jakethehawk offers up a psilocybin take on “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Unexpected. “Have A Drink On Me” is slowed down to a crawl by Whores. My favorite track from the album is Early Man’s “Shake A Leg.” This one slaps. The closer was never my favorite song from the original Back In Black, but I do really like the Earthride version of “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.” With this tribute, well, you’ll like it more if you weren’t counting on faithful reproductions. All the bands infused a good deal of themselves into these classic metal tunes, and a tribute was offered by all.

The set list was fixed for Back In Black, but for The Best of AC/DC Redux, the producers could have picked anything from the catalogue. Most of the songs come from the Bon Scott era with just a couple later entries, and a few of them are real surprises. Here is the list. “Sin City,” Witchskull; “It’s A Long Way To The Top,” Kal-El; “What’s Next To The Moon,” Bob Balch & Tony Reed; “Bad Boy Boogie,” Kryptograf; “Walk All Over You,” Blue Heron; “Overdose,” Supersuckers; “For Those About To Rock,” Riff Lord; “Whole Lotta Rosie,” Solace; “If You Want Blood,” Red Mesa; “The Razor’s Edge,” Ghost Ship Ritual; “Dog Eat Dog,” Caustic Casanova; “High Voltage,” Electric Frankenstein; and “Night Prowler,” Domkraft.

I’ll just mention a couple of the new renditions of my favorite originals. Witchskull absolutely kills it on “Sin City.” I have always loved this song and the new version smokes. One of my all-time favorite AC/DC songs is “Whole Lotta Rosie.” I only saw AC/DC play this song live once, and I’ll never forget it. God damn. The new Solace version does right by the legend. Electric Frankenstein tears down the house with “High Voltage” and Domkraft walks “Night Prowler” into the doomlands, but it was right next door, anyway – an exceptional interpretation.

I am a big AC/DC fan and I like both these tribute albums. If I had to pick only one, The Best of AC/DC Redux has the edge. Recommended.

Links.

Magnetic Eye Records, https://us.merhq.spkr.media/

Bandcamp, https://reduxrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-best-of-ac-dc-redux

AC/DC Back In Black Redux ~ The Best Of AC/DC Redux (Magnetic Eye 2021)