Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we’ve got a whole batch of ELP reissues, the Scorpions go all acoustic on us with a reissue, the return of a couple of NWOBH heroes and Skindred’s black album.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Emerson, Lake & Palmer are currently having their back catalogue overhauled by Sony. Just released are Works, Works Volume 2, Love Beach, Black Moon, In The Hot Seat, Works Live and a box set with three live CDs (recorded at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970, at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993 and in Poland during 1997). The best of these is the original Works, which is still quite brilliant, as each member showcases his solo abilities, before the trio combine on Fanfare For The Common Man and Pirates. Works Volume 2 has enough strong tracks to offset its weaker spots, and both Black Moon and In The Hot Seat now sound better than was the case when released in 1992 and 94, respectively. Sadly, though, Love Beach is still something of catastrophe. Of the live CDs, the triple box set is impressive, especially the Isle Of Wight CD, although bunching these together has no rhyme or reason. Works Live, recorded in 1977, has some breathtaking highs, but also the occasional nadir.
For those of you who can remember back to the days of NWOBHM, the name Hell might mean something. The Nottingham band had a cult following, but split up without ever releasing an album. So, better late than never, it’s excellent to hear Human Remains (Nuclear Blast), the long overdue debut from the now reunited band. Under the production guidance of Andy Sneap (a huge fan, who’s also become a member of Hell on guitar), they’ve delivered a true metal classic. Everything a metalhead would want is here: power, aggression, melody, brilliant vocals and playing and a real sense of epic destiny. One of the year’s best metal moments.
Mind you, the same applies to While Heaven Wept and their new album Fear Of Infinity (Nuclear Blast). These Americans have long been among the best at combining a slight doom notation with some purely epic, almost orchestral musicianship. Those qualities run rampant here on what’s probably the finest release yet from the Weepers. Quite brilliant.
Army Of The Universe are Italians who profess an interest in the industrial side of rock. Mother Ignorance (Metropolis) is decent enough, and has moments that will appeal to fans of Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson. But overall, it’s not exactly a distinguished album, with too many flat moments.
Skindred have been threatening to make a breakthough album for a while. Union Black (BMG) could be the one to take them up a level or two. It has the same mix of ragga, punk and metal as before. But the songs are better and the band sound a lot more confident. Finally frontman Benj Webbe is fulfilling his vast potential.
Sweet Savage are back – yes the Irish band who gave Dio (and the world) guitarist Vivian Campbell have a new album. It’s titled Regeneration (Rock Candy/Grind That Axe), and does justice to their legend. It harks back to their original era at the start of the 1980s, but also has an ebullience and passion that’s very much of the modern age. A heritage name reaching out into 2011, and succeeding.
Stray leader Del Bromham has had his 2004 solo album Devil’s Highway (Angel Air) reissued. It’s an effective blues-rock album, with flashes of brilliance. Inevitably, it’s reminiscent of Stray, but has enough individuality to stand apart. The new version also has five extra tracks.
Scorpions go all acoustic on us for Acoustica (Sony). Recorded a decade ago in Portugal, some of this works and some of doesn’t. But it never begins to compare to the majesty of the band in full flight. Quite why they feel the need to do this sort of gimmicky thing is a mystery. Rather like putting a prize rampant bull in a tutu.
Tags: Andy Sneap, Army Of The Universe, Benji Webbe, Del Bromham, Dio, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Hell, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Scorpions, Skindred, Stray, Sweet Savage, Vivian Campbell, While Heaven Wept