Classic Rock’s New Release Round-Up
This week we open the hatch on Overkill, Savatage, Saxon, Mutiny Within, Journey, Pig Iron, Scorpions… oh, and some actor bloke who’s nearly 90!
Words: Malcolm Dome
Overkill have come roaring back with perhaps their best album yet. Ironbound (Nuclear Blast) possesses all the thrash focus you’d expect from a band with this much experience (nearly 30 years on the job, and still not flushing away their integrity), but there’s also a drive and power that is reminiscent of early Accept. Clearly this lot have been energised by all the young bands who’ve revitalised the thrash genre.
Savatage have been underrated throughout their career. But there’s little doubt that they pioneered the whole concept of prog metal. The double CD compilation Still The Orchestra Plays (Edel) shows how they became increasingly progressive. Some of the music here is just stunning, with the songs from Hall Of The Mountain King, Gutter Ballet and Streets: A Rock Opera proving that, in the late 80s, few metal bands had a more intelligent and creative use of their talents. This was symphonic without resorting to orchestras.
Journey are enjoying something of a renaissance, thanks to that song (you know, Don’t Stop Believin’). But as Greatest Hits (Sony) shows, this is one band with the depth of catalogue to deliver on the promise of the title, thanks to 15 supreme examples of AOR heaven. And is there a better vocalist than Steve Perry to deliver such grandeur, grace and glory?
Much loved in Classic Rock Towers, Pig Iron return with a right stormer in Blues + Power = Destiny (Sounds Of Caligula). It’s the same mix as before of blues, southern rock and epic yet dusty spaghetti western themes. But there’s a freshness here, thanks to new(ish) guitarist Ben Ash. I’ve had my doubts about his flashy style in the past, but he excels himself here, especially on closer Death Rattle. The album’s not out for a little while yet, but is so good that mention must be made, so you can save up the readies. Check out the band’s website for further updates.
Saxon‘s output in the late 1980s is usually derided as derisory. But the reissues of Innocence Is No Excuse, Rock The Nations and Destiny (EMI) prove that they were still capable of stirring sounds. No longer the Big Teasers of earlier in the decade, nonetheless these are far from being the terrifyingly terrible trilogy some would have you believe.
Mutiny Within are an Anglo-American prog metal band, who combine Opeth with Children Of Bodom, and also nod at Coheed & Cambria. Their self-titled debut (Roadrunner) has a real sense of individuality and purpose, yet also hints that these songs will truly come alive onstage. This is a band who’ll be heroes in the next year.
Christopher Lee, the metal god? About as likely as David Ellefson returning to Megadeth… Er, hang on, the latter has happened. Now, so has the former on Charlemagne – By The Sword And The Cross (Cadiz Music)! The iconic actor – you might have spotted him briefly in the 1952 film The Crimson Pirate – has done a metal album that’s so overblown that it makes Rick Wakeman’s epic 70s records seem like punk singles. The 87-year-old combines legend, opera, full on symphonic and progressive metal as he relates the life and times of the eighth/ninth century King Of The Franks. As concept records go, this has gone gloriously OTT. It puts the ‘extra’ in ‘extravagance’.
Watch out for the new – and last – Scorpions album. Sting In The Tail (Sony) is not only a return to the style of the early 80s, it’s easily the band’s best record since 1984′s Love At First Sting. We’re gonna miss them when they’re gone.
Finally, a quick mention for a hot, high action five-track demo from all girl Londoners Joan Ov Arc. It’s got the straightforward, no nonsense approach of a young Girlschool. The sort of band who’ll metaphorically slap you around the face if you mess with ‘em. There again, you might like that! Check ‘em out at www.myspace.com/joanovarc