Pharaoh, The Powers That Be (Cruz Del Sur Music 2021)

The Powers That Be is the first Pharaoh album in nine years and it is one of the best the band has ever produced.

One of the early purveyors of melodic metal in the power metal scene, Pharaoh began back in the 1990s and has released a string of memorable albums through years, the newest being their fifth, The Powers That Be. The line-up has consistently been Chris Black (drums), Matt Johnsen (guitar), Tim Aymar (vocals), and Chris Kerns (bass).

When the band got together to work on the new record, they faced the same issues every other band ran up against: the global pandemic. They worked around these challenges by recording some parts separately and had to wait until the situation changed enough that the finishing touches could be put on. These external shocks did not deter Pharaoh from creating an album of blazing originality that breaks new ground while holding the line on the band’s founding principles.

There are nine songs on The Powers That Be starting with the high-energy title track. The vocals are melodic with a rasping touch that catches your attention and holds it. The guitar leads are precise and intricate, and the composition itself is stacked with engaging turns and leaps. There are even prog moments sprinkled in to enrich the musical environment.

Most of the music is up-tempo, except for the short, reflective “Waiting To Drown” and a few movements here and there, so you can expect fast-moving metal to keep you rolling from beginning to end. My favorite songs include “Ride Us To Hell” with its raging lead guitar work, and the closer, “I Can Hear Them,” which I see as a showcase for what the band is about. This new Pharaoh album delivers exactly what their fans are looking for. Recommended.

The Powers That Be is out now. Get the digital at Bandcamp and the physicals at the Cruz Del Sur Music store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://pharaohmetal.bandcamp.com/album/the-powers-that-be

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

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

Pharaoh, The Powers That Be (Cruz Del Sur Music 2021)

Red Fang, Arrows (Relapse Records 2021)

The fourth studio album from Portland, Oregon irregulars Red Fang is a grungy cavalcade of heavy music idiosyncrasies and discoveries.

I started listening to Red Fang closely with their self-titled compilation (c. 2009) that put the earlier two tour EPs together and added a new song. The spirited swagger comes through in the multiplicity of influences and outputs you hear. Murder The Mountains (2011) was like that, too, and so is the new one. You never know what the next song will be like. The last studio album from Red Fang was in 2016: Only Ghosts. Fans have been on the edge for this one and they are going to be pumped when they hear it.

There are thirteen tracks on the album including an on-ramp and two shorter bits. Want to know what the album is like? Here is a summary. From “Two High” we get: “Whatever you think I am / think again / whatever you thought I’d be / ain’t me.” That is the guiding principle at work on Arrows.

There are noisy transitions and peculiar wobbles here and there mixed in with the more linear compositions. The music pushes hard on tracks like “Anodyne” and on songs like “Fonzi Scheme” the construction is more laid back – still heavy, of course, but told at more of a stoner pace. “Why” is solemn and creepy while “Funeral Coach” is unexpectedly light hearted and “Dr. Owl” is more gruff than wise. I think you see what I mean. Be ready for anything and that is what you’ll get. They’re not coasting on this album. Recommended.

Arrows is out now and available everywhere. Red Fang has a big tour coming up including a stop at Psycho Las Vegas in August.

Links.

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

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

Relapse Records, http://relapse.com/red-fang-arrows/

Red Fang, Arrows (Relapse Records 2021)

Dirty Honey, The Dirty Honey Album (2021)

The long-awaited debut album from Los Angeles blues-rock band Dirty Honey is out this week.

Marc LaBelle (vocals), John Notto (guitars), Justin Smolian (bass), and Corey Coverstone (drums) are Dirty Honey, a 1970s-influenced hard rock band that blends blues stylings seamlessly into their music. I saw them live several times in 2019 and the show they put on was always a highlight of any music festival.

The band has previously released an EP in 2019, and two of the singles from it were big hits, “Rolling 7s” and “When I’m Gone.” They find a way in every song to get your attention, sometimes with a big front and sometimes with a subtle insinuation. Every track’s a keeper and they all make you feel like being outside and living life whether the story the song tells is raucous or sad.

The first single off the new album is “California Dreamin’” and it is a goodtime rocker with catchy hooks and a great lead break. Opening the album as it does, it’s your first pass at LaBelle’s voice and it is at once lyrical and forceful, insistent and understanding. All the pieces of the band match up in rare ways that create consistent appeal to rock fans across a wide range of inclinations.

Other favorites of mine include “Tied Up” and “No Warning” because of the rhythm and the way elements land – all the separate parts can be heard on their own and when your brain puts them all together there is synergy. Of the eight songs on the album, seven of are up-tempo, straight-ahead rock songs. The closer is “Another Last Time” and while it is a little more on the somber side than the others, it has a big lead break and it is a powerful send-off for the set. I’d be glad to hear all of these songs live and I hope we get the chance to do that later this year. Recommended.

The Dirty Honey Album is out on Friday, April 23rd. Get your summer started early – music and merch can be found at the link below.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, 2019 Sonic Temple Festival.

Links.

Dirty Honey Website, https://www.dirtyhoney.com/

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

Dirty Honey, The Dirty Honey Album (2021)

Bewitcher, Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (Century Media 2021)

The third album from Bewitcher is filled with sinister metal mayhem and headbanging kicks.

After releasing a handful of demos in the mid-twenty-teens, Bewitcher put out their first long-player in 2016, Bewitcher. Three years later there was Under The Witching Cross and the new one is a big step up in distribution and availability. This is a good thing for the metal listening public because the band has a style that will definitely appeal to a broad base of fans.

After a brief acoustic intro piece that transitions into the electric, the first song is “Death Returns…” It is a peppy metal positioning, upbeat in the rhythm and hoisting a roughened vocal presentation to tell a cautionary dark fantasy tale. It is goodtime music for bad times.

“Satanic Magic Attack” is another banger in a similar vein and we are getting the feeling that this is going to be a high-energy roll – and that is what you get, one song after another. Highlights include the title track with its short smash and grab attack and “Metal Burner” for a similar reason but at an even higher burn rate. “Valley of the Ravens” sticks in my head as well because it diverges and is more ponderous and has a weightier kind of power.

The out-song is “Sign Of The Wolf” and I think this one will get a lot of play on tour. I sure hope so. It is a great way to wrap up a good metal set, with catchy hooks and a short whirling lead break. I will be playing this album on the long summer road trips ahead. Recommended.

Cursed Be Thy Kingdom is out on Friday, April 16th in all the places you would expect.

Links.

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

Website, https://www.bewitcher.us/

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

Label, https://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=2019

Bewitcher, Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (Century Media 2021)

The Limit, Caveman Logic (Svart Records 2021)

The Limit hands us catchy fast-paced hard rock and roll where guitars and rhythm rule.

Check out this band roster: vocals by Bobby Liebling (Pentagram), Sonny Vincent (Testors) and Hugo Conim (Dawnrider) on guitars, Jimmy Recca (The Stooges) on bass, and the drummer is João Pedro Ventura (Dawnrider). Supergroup territory, and no mistake. And then we cannot escape the fascinating mix of experience in The Limit. The confluence of these musical histories produces music that is punk-influenced hard and heavy rock, along with a number of captivating variations. The songs have catchy hooks and eclectic subjects. The whole set radiates a compulsive listenability.

The album starts out with four bangers in a row, “Kitty Gone,” “Black Sea,” “Human vs. Nature,” and “These Days.” Pulsing riffs in the rhythm and a guitar pacing the vocal is the norm, with snappy lead breaks memorable choruses. The punk sensibility comes through and the sound is bright.

“Over Rover” takes a bit of a turn, with an alternating slowed down moments and hyped up bursts. “Enough’s Enough” is bluesy and soulful, while “Caveman Logic” snarls and barks right in your face. “Death of My Soul” is a short piece with a dark tone, and “Life’s Last Night,” which is even shorter, is a sort of companion rager that resurrects the energy.

“When Life Gets Scorched” wraps things up, and it effectively conveys the idea of the end of the show. Putting it that way makes me think that I’d really like to see this album played straight through live. That would be a great night. Recommended.

Caveman Logic is out on Friday, April 9th from Svart Records. The quick get in the US is Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://the-limit.bandcamp.com/album/caveman-logic

Label, https://svartrecords.com/

The Limit, Caveman Logic (Svart Records 2021)

Obscure Fate, Raven’s Call (Inverse Records 2021)

Finland’s Obscure Fate raise the flag on their brand of heavy metal with Raven’s Call.

The band began as a solo project of guitarist Kaleva Kovalainen in 2008. Over time, the band as it is today began to take form. The other musicians are Tapio Härkönen (vocals), Jari Keränen, (drums), Joni Moisanen (guitar), and Antti Möttönen (bass).

The music is a broad-based heavy metal approach, setting up the song structure around catchy riffs, with punctuating elements stemming frequently from syncopation. There is often a guitar line in harmony with the lead vocal. Speaking of the vocals, Härkönen presents mostly clear singing with a gruff edge and an epic lilt. The compositions have a highly-produced fullness to them, and therefore have a radio feel, targeting wide appeal.

The EP has four songs, all in the digestible three-to-four minute range. They are all up-tempo with solid bases and dark fantasy / mythical themes. The straight-forward hard rock approach is enhanced by crisp lead breaks and singable lyrics – these elements are on brightest display with the title song. I imagine hearing this music on a summer night outside at a festival. That would be the way to go. Recommended.

Raven’s Call is out now. Bandcamp is an easy place to get it in the US, and it is available on a variety of other services as well.

Links.

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

Website, https://obscurefate.net/

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

Obscure Fate, Raven’s Call (Inverse Records 2021)

Suzi Quatro, The Devil In Me (SPV Steamhammer 2021)

The unstoppable Suzi Quatro returns with a new studio album that pops and cracks with multifaceted looks at rock and roll.

The first album I ever heard from Suzi Quatro was Rock Hard (1980). There she stood on the cover wearing black leather and holding the fire engine red bass. At the time I assumed she played only hard rock, but as I started going through the earlier albums I quickly understood that she had already had an impressive career with big pop hits and a variety of albums in different styles. Whenever a new record came out from her it was a good day for me. Her music is not what I usually listen to if we go by the numbers, but I am a huge Suzi Quatro fan.

The album opens with a couple of bangers. “The Devil In Me” is a raucous rock and roll rambler with a Bob Seger spirit while “Hey Queenie” is more of a rock-sprouting lounge tune. The album takes a walk through a wide variety of styles and looks on differently seasoned rock hooks and structures. Every one of them has a familiar feel and a fresh take. The music is mostly upbeat and fast-paced, with a couple of reflective tracks and one straight-up ballad.

There are a several stand-outs for me on the record. “You Can’t Dream It” is one with its urgent pace and prominent bass work. “Do Ya Dance” hit me at an Alice Cooper angle in the 1970s sense. “Isolation Blues” is a soulful, meandering tune with a great saxophone part. And the closer, “Motor City Riders,” is the perfect guitar and piano rock and roll flashback to close the show. This album is a big win for every Suzi Quatro fan.

The Devil In Me is out now – hit the links below. Recommended.

Links.

Website, http://www.suziquatro.com/

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

Label, https://shop.steamhammer.de/products/691043-suzi-quatro-the-devil-in-me

Suzi Quatro, The Devil In Me (SPV Steamhammer 2021)

Melvins, Working With God (Ipecac Recordings 2021)

The new album from the Melvins features the lineup from the early days and thirteen tracks of rarified rock weirdness/goodness.

When you speak aloud the name Melvins the response you get is either instant radical awareness or confusion. There isn’t a lot of middle ground. I saw them at the Louder Than Life festival a couple years ago. They got slotted on the far-flung stage (you know the one I am talking about if you’ve ever been to that festival) fairly early in the day and they tore it up on a short sharp set. Their performance was a highlight for me, clearly surpassing bands that came later in the bill. They play an indie, fuzzy grunge that comes at you from peculiar angles and hits you in unexpected places. There is no other band like them.

The line-up for Working With God is Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Mike Dillard, taking the band back to its event horizon. The creative energy in the music is the whirlwind we have come to expect on Melvins releases, which now number in the uncountable range. The opening song is “I Fuck Around,” a Beach Boys parody. Nice. “Negative No No” comes next, and it is a fuzzy grunge fest. “Bouncing Rick” picks up the pace and franticness, handing the baton off to “Caddy Daddy” for a little drone. The first dose of absolute weirdness is “Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon.” And that is weird as in Mothers of Invention weird. Time for a smoke.

The themes are can be pretty accurately assessed from the song titles, and the sensibility is blowing off steam and not a lot of deep thought. It is pulsing hard-edged rock whipped up in endless variety and with boundless creativity. The back half doesn’t slow down at all, kicking off with “Boy Mike” and clipping into the delightful sentiment of “Fuck You.” There is the spacey “The Great Good Place” and “Hot Fish,” the longest song of the set that can be understood as a litany of frustration or as something else entirely. “Hund” is a B-12 shot to get you ready for the send-off, “Goodnight Sweet Heart,” which is either really funny or a total mindfuck, depending on where you are in your evening. Working With God is another raucous affair, and no mistake. Highly recommended.

The album is out now, so go scoop it up. Limited edition vinyl has sold out (at Bandcamp) but the regular is still available, and so are CDs and downloads.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com/album/working-with-god

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

Website, https://melvins.veeps.com/

Label, http://ipecac.com/

Melvins, Working With God (Ipecac Recordings 2021)

Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories (earMUSIC 2021)

Rock and Roll icon Alice Cooper takes a nostalgic strut through the historic musical verity of Detroit.

I don’t have to tell you who Alice Cooper is, right? I have written many times about how his music, together with Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, and Nazareth, were the first sounds I heard that turned me toward the heavy. He did have a period of metal music, but that is not the way he started out and most of his work is in the hard rock lane with plenty of pop rock/metal orientation. Oh, and Shock Rock. Yeah. He did that first.

Cooper was born in 1943 and so he is now 73 years old. How is that affecting his musical composition and performance? Not in any apparent negative way, I can tell you that. I saw him at the Greek Theater in LA a couple summers ago and the show was amazing. The performance was just as energetic and exciting as it was decades ago. I don’t know how he still does it, but he definitely still does.

If you look at his recent studio albums, they are up to a high standard as well. The most recent one was Paranormal in 2017, and it is filled to the brim with rockers and bangers, crisp and cracking. He continues to cover a lot of the same subjects as he has in the past, and if anything he his music has become less gimmicky, leaning more towards a straight-forward rock approach.

There are fifteen tracks on the new album. Cooper’s voice is strong and familiar. And unique. The music is guitar driven hard rock, running radio length. There are a couple songs that are a little longer, but they are all designed to be digestible. There are a couple of stylistic homages in there, but mainly these songs are bangers that cook and move in all the right ways to get you on your feet and going. Songs that have a slower pace tend toward blues or mysteriousness. No ballads at all. The album is exactly what I was hoping for, and it is the perfect follow-up to Paranormal, showing that the quality of that album was no fluke.

When big live shows come back the first thing I am going to do is buy a ticket for wherever Alice Cooper is playing and go see him live again. I didn’t really need any additional motivation to make this oath, but Detroit Stories is nevertheless an extra push. Highly recommended.

You can get Detroit Stories starting now. There are many bundles and versions. The one I liked best is a basic one – the CD and DVD combo that includes A Paranormal Evening At The Olympia Paris. That was a great concert and if you didn’t pick it up already when it came out then here is a great chance to get the add-on.

Links.

Website, https://alicecooper.com/

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

Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories (earMUSIC 2021)

Diamond Head, Lightning To The Nations 2020 review (Silver Lining Music 2020)

For the 40th anniversary of the seminal album Lightning To The Nations, Diamond Head has re-recorded it in its entirety.

It is hard to overstate the impact of Diamond Head on heavy music. The album in question came out in 1980 on the vanguard of the New Wave OF British Heavy Metal, inspiring many bands, including, famously, Metallica. They released three full length albums in the 1980s, had a short resurrection in the 1990s, and since 2005 have been producing new music regularly, including last year’s The Coffin Train. Founding member Brian Tatler (guitar) is joined by Rasmus Bom Andersen (vocals), Karl Wilcox (drums), Andrew “Abbz” Abberley (guitar), and Dean Ashton (bass, organ) for the new recording.

Lightning To The Nations 2020 sounds amazing, and comparing it to the original is challenging unless you grabbed and held onto one of those early LPs. There was a remastered version of this album released in 2011 and it is on Spotify, so you can track-by-track those two, if you like. There are noticeable differences, but all my money is on this year’s release as it is crisp and deep, and it is the newest incarnation of the music presented the way Brian Tatler wants it to be. The two songs that get most of the attention are “Am I Evil” and “It’s Electric” – deservedly so because they are outstanding. Still, there are big riffs and fantastic lead work throughout the entirety of the recording, so don’t skip the others.

Besides revitalizing the seven original songs, there are also four covers: “No Remorse” (Metallica), “Immigrant Song” (Led Zepplin), “Sinner” (Judas Priest), and “Rat Bat Blue” (Deep Purple). My favorite is the Deep Purple cover. If I had been asked which Deep Purple song Diamond Head would cover having such a rich catalog to choose from, “Rat Bat Blue” would not have been very high on my list, but it is absolutely fantastic. Guitars stand in for the crazy keyboards of the original, and this new one cracks.

Additional info and links below. If you are a fan of this classic music, it is time to start debating which version you like best. If you are hearing it all for the first time, just sit back and enjoy. Recommended.

Band photo by Nic Gaunt.

Links.

Wesbite, http://www.diamondheadofficial.com

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/DiamondHeadOfficial/

Silver Lining Music, http://sl-music.net

SLM Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/Silver.Lining.Music.Ltd

Diamond Head, Lightning To The Nations 2020 review (Silver Lining Music 2020)