Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week, there’s the return of two German metal giants, the debut of a new Anglo-American supergroup, the reunion of Swedish stoners, a multi-national band’s first live album, plus some Yank and Brit prog and alt. metal.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Accept burst back, proving that there’s considerable life left in those Aryan limbs during this post-Udo era. New man Mark Tornillo has enough of the Dirkscheneider approach to fit right in on Blood Of The Nations (Nuclear Blast). But he’s also very much his own man. And the band are primed and primal, spitting out a succession of full-on metal anthems. Result? One of the best old school metal albums of the year, right up alongside Armored Saint’s La Raza. As some would say, this is very Accept-like.
Joe Satriani seems to have taken some of the discipline he’s learnt from the Chickenfoot project and translated it into Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards (Epic). The musicianship is, inevitably, of the highest calibre. But what really comes across is the rich sense of melody. A consummate release.
Talking of supergroups a la Chickenfoot, much is expected from Black Country Communion. And they mostly live up to expectations on Black Country (Mascot), a fine debut from Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham. Perhaps not quite the devastatingly classic album that Hughes claims, nonetheless it’s got enough strong moments to hold up, in a style that seems to owe more to Glenn’s time in Deep Purple than anything else.
Dragonforce have always been a better live band than a studio one. And Twilight Dementia (Spinefarm) proves the point. It’s a powerhouse live double CD, with some scorching guitar-driven metal. This might convince a few sceptics of the band’s pedigree, as they search for a new frontman.
Herman Rarebell has always had a very English sense of humour. Which is why he calls his solo project Herman Ze German. The former Scorpions drummer is back with Take It As It Comes (Dark Star), which includes a somewhat odd rap-style version of Rock You Like A Hurricane. But much of the album goes for a decent 80s-style American hard rock approach. Nothing amazing here, but diverting enough.
By his own admission, Robert Plant feels almost divorced from heavy rock these days. So, don’t expect Band Of Joy (Decca) to be rifftastic. In actuality, it carries on from where Percy left off on Raising Sand. Pleasant enough, and Plant has every right to go his own way, but this somehow doesn’t really inspire in the way that his early solo albums did. At times, the man himself actually sounds bored. Maybe the great vocalist needs the sort of kick that’s provided by an equal partner?
Spiritual Beggars were one of those bands who gave a real edge to Euro stoner rock in the 1990s. The Swedes were a class act, abandoned when guitarist Michael Amott decided to concentrate on Arch Enemy. Now, he – and they – are back. With a different line-up and, to be honest, a very disappointing album. Return To Zero (InsideOut) is not a reaffirmation of Beggars basics, but is a confused glob of retro goo. They badly miss vocalist JB, and the whole thing comes across as a misguided attempt to recreate the past.
Oceansize are one of this country’s most enthralling progressive-style bands. Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up (Superball Music/EMI) is a wonderful mix of brutal rhythms, ambient messages and sedate antagonism. It really is a creative force, and more proof of the vast pool of talent out there.
Helmet rarely let anyone down. And Seeing Eye Dog (Work Song) is a prime example of their alt. rock credentials. It simply doesn’t sound like anyone else. You can identify elements of nu metal, grunge, punk and thrash. But it all adds up to…well, Helmet. It even includes a sparkling cover of the Beatles’ And Your Bird Can Sing, wherein mainman Page Hamilton actually captures the John Lennon vocal twinge remarkably well.
Finally, to the reissue of an all-time great album. Queensryche’s Empire (EMI) is now 20 years old, but it still sounds majestic. Progressive metal at its best, from a band who set standards even they found hard to match in subsequent years. There are three bonus songs added to the original album, plus an extra live CD, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1990.
Tags: Accept, Arch Enemy, Armored Saint, Beatles, Black Country Communion, Chickenfoot, Deep Purple, Derek Sherinian, Dragonforce, Glenn Hughes, Helmet, Herman Rarebell, Herman Ze German, Jason Bonham, JB, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, John Lennon, Mark Tornillo, Michael Amott, Oceansize, Page Hamilton, Queensryche, Robert Plant, Scorpions, Spiritual Beggars, Udo Dirkschneider