Wednesday 29 December 2021

REVIEW: Death Dealer, "Fueled Injected Suicide Machine" [EP]

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: EP
Date Released: 10/12/2021
Label: Steel Cartel Records

“Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” CD track listing:
1. The Dead Never Listen
2. Fuel Injected Suicide Machine
3. Freedom Is Not A Crime
4. Blood For Gasoline
5. Invasion
The Review:
Death Dealer are as prolific as they are metal- that is to say very prolific and VERY metal. The band is a supergroup of sorts, being as it features the imperious Sean Peck on screaming vocals and no less a legend than ROSS THE BOSS on lead guitar. Stu Marshall is the musical mastermind behind the band and is ably assisted by new recruit Mike LePond on bass and the excellent Steve Bolognese on drums.
The band have been busy over the lockdown periods; they put this shredding EP together and main man Marshall is quoted as having album four finished and ready to go... and the bulk of album number five finished as well!
For those uninitiated, the band put out debut “War Master” a few years back, followed it up with the massive “Hallowed Ground” and then went one better in 2020 with the excellent “Conquered Lands” album- which was a heavy metal tour de force. This is US style power metal; so a mix of trad, power and thrash. It's adrenaline inducing and anthemic in equal measure and it rocks very hard.
This EP has a Mad Max vibe/theme running throughout the artwork and songs. Fans of the first film will recognise the title from the Night Rider's rant. It's a perfect theme for Aussie Marshall to riff on, and riff he does. The title track is a rager; you'll break the speed limit to this one- as you will to “Blood For Gasoline”. “Freedom Is Not A Crime” is a heavy metal anthem and sounds MASSIVE, while “Invasion” rounds out the EP with a mid paced headbanging assault by way of Mongol historical epic.
There are order options aplenty from the Steel Cartel label, with a couple of vinyl variants, cover variants, t-shirts etc. etc. This is Judas Priest meets Accept in the outback, ready to shoot some guns and make some noise. It's excellent and is heavy metal to the core. If the next Death Dealer full length album lives up to this, then all true metal fans are in for a treat.
“Fuel Injected Suicide Machine” is available HERE 

Band info: Official

Tuesday 28 December 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Wolftooth, "Blood & Fire"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/12/2021
Label: Napalm Records

“Blood & Iron” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). Ahab
2). Hellespont
3). Blood & Iron
4). A King’s Land
5). Broken Sword
6). The Voyage
7). Winter White
8). Garden of Hesperides
9). The Mare
The Review:
Indiana's Wolfooth are back with their third album. Now signed to the mighty Napalm Records, it appears that the band may follow the oft-referenced metal lore of 'making it' with the third release. Of course, that knowledge refers to commercial as well as creative success, and seems to be based around Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Slayer, Anthrax, Sepultura and so on... but not around bands from recent history.
Regardless of what may or may not happen to the band from here on out, they have international dates booked (Desertfest, London et. al.) plus real label support behind them so, they might just be the next big thing- with a small 'b' as this is traditonal metal mixed with stoner doom in the vein of The Sword's early work. This isn't a radio friendly unit shifter. This is for real metalheads.
Having reviewed, loved and bought both previous Wolftooth albums, I had high hopes for this record- I see Wolftooth as modern-day renegades fighting alongside the likes of Visigoth for real metal- yes, I know, I know; I'm a metal loser. Opener “Ahab” quickly nestles into the groove that the band have made their own for the previous records; this time referencing Moby Dick for epic story telling, referencing The Sword for riffs and marking a continuation of the sound that has brought them this far.
The material here is stellar; “Hellespont” is all glorious harmonies, glorious subject matter and glorious playing. Great track. Musically, we are in classic Wolftooth territory; epic, majestic: metal. That could also accurately describe the title track. “Blood & Iron” is Irish legend done right- judging by the band members surnames, a couple may have some interest in the history and folklore of the Emerald Isle. Even if they don't, this is a great homage to a great hero.
As the record progresses, there are flashes of Thin Lizzy/Celtic riff stylings, lots of chugging riffs and some really magical music. Whether it is the shuffling rhythms of “A King's Land” or the more speedy and aggressive attack of “Broken Sword” there is just so much to enjoy here. The latter is particularly strong and it's no surprise that this was chosen as an advance track. It picks up where “Sword of My Father” left off and just evokes images of Conan, Elric and any other number of mythical pulp heroes.
Wolftooth do escapism very well; this is pure enjoyment, delivering pure entertainment and the band chooses to dwell in the realms of myth, legend and fantasy. It's a wise choice and the bread and butter of many metal bands- but done exceedingly well here. The heavy hits keep coming; “Garden of Hesperides” is mighty, “Winter White” is weighty as hell. There are no bad tracks and if you aren't too keen on one riff, well, another one you will like will be along in a second!
The riffs are massive, the vocals crystal clear, the sound is warm, the mix is... unusual. The drums are too quiet. Play the record on headphones, they're quiet. Play it on a streaming device while other things are going on (you're cooking or typing or doing pretty much anything other than listening intently to the music) and the drums are just too low in the mix. Is this a minor gripe? Not exactly. It is important, but not a deal breaker. The drums sound great. The guitars sound great. It's just that the drums should be the loudly beating heart and instead they are like a backing track (in a bad way) to the guitars. The record is also quite quiet- but this is better than it being clipped and brickwalled, for sure. These are minor criticisms but I find them a little frustrating, as both prior albums sounded unique to the band and quirky in a good way- they also fairly leapt out of the speakers (I bought the vinyl and CD of each- as I have of this album)
The album does sound better when it is turned up loud; I bet it sounded superb on the studio speakers. I warmed to the mix after a  few listens, so give it some time. There is no way I'm going to let a mix or production gripe let me judge an album too harshly (to illustrate this point, Manilla Road are one of my favourite bands, ...And Justice For All is one of my most listened to records etc.). The most important thing here is not the production or mix or artwork or anything other than the music itself. And the music is uniformly excellent.
By the time of “The Mare”, Wolftooth have made a pretty powerful statement- it closes the album out with a solid slab of metallic mythology. The final stretch is particularly good. There we have it; “Blood & Iron” is not as immediate as the previous two Wolftooth records, but it is a grower with hidden depths and full of all the best of the band's musical traits. It has great riffs, songs and playing while the vocals work perfectly with clear storytelling throughout.
If this is the album that does see the band get much wider recognition, then it will be well deserved. They've now made three excellent metal albums and absolutely deserve the credit coming their way. From the moment I listened to their first album, I knew I'd love this band. This album only makes me love them more.
“Blood & Iron” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Wednesday 15 December 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: The Three Tremors, "“Guardians of the Void”

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 05/11/2021
Label: Steel Cartel Records


“Guardians of the Void” CD track listing:
1. Bone Breaker
2. Guardians of The Void
3. Kryptonian Steel
4. Crucifier
5. I Can’t Be Stopped
6. Frailty
7. Operation: Neptune Spear
8. Chained to The Oar
9. Catastrophe 
10. Wickedness and Sin
11. Fall of Rome
12. War of Nations
The Review:
The Three Tremors return with this, an adrenaline infused joy ride through the wastelands of true metal! The Three Tremors is an over-the-top concept for an over the top HEAVY METAL band. You get three vocalists; Sean Peck (Cage/Death Dealer/Denner-Sherman), Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer, Tyrant) and Tim 'Ripper' Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, KK's Priest, Beyond Fear et. al.). All three vocalists sing on every track. The singers are ably assisted by the members of Cage, Peck's first band. Sean Elg (Cage/KK's Priest) turns in a crushing drum performance which belies his wiry and be-spectacled image, the mighty-thewed Dave 'Conan' Garcia and the shredding Casey 'The Sentinel' Trask rip it up on duel/dual guitars and the bass slot is filled by Rapheal 'Gamma Ray' Nogueria, who lays it down with precision and weight.
The first 'Tremors album was good; I enjoyed it hugely and was I lucky enough to catch the band live in Bradford, England, where they turned in a powerhouse set of METAL, including a couple of Cage and Priest classics. Here, the band have upped their game again and made a storming record. The name of the game here is, of course, HEAVY METAL. It's worthy of the capitals, because how much more METAL could this be?! The answer is... none.
Shredding guitars, thrashing drums, screaming vocals- it literally screams METAL at you through the speakers. We are firmly in Judas Priest/US Power Metal territory here; think the heaviness of the “Painkiller” album with thrash pacing on some tracks and you've got it. Opener “Bonebreaker” should convert you, if it doesn's, you probably just won't get this. At all.
The title track is a nitrous injected burst of speed and vengeance, while the rest of the album does have some surprises in store. They can do mid-paced (“Crucifier”), sinister (“Frailty”), comic book (“Kryptonian Steel) and lots more besides. “Operation: Neptune Spear” tells the story of the hunt and elimination of Bin Laden and is just about the most American and METAL track I've ever heard: furious pacing, jingoistic chest beating, unashamedly pro-gun, pro-revenge, pro-military, glorying-in-the-death-of-a-terrorist, screaming-for-vengeance METAL.
These songs will make you drive faster, that's for sure- whether or not that will be straight to a safe space or straight to a shooting range will be up to the listener's disposition and sensibilities! As the album continues, it's heavy hit after heavy hit; “Chained To The Oar” is the obligatory viking themed track, picking up where “The Wrath of Asgard” left off on the debut. It's a cracker. “Catastrophe”, “Wickedness and Sin” and the excellent “The Fall of Rome” continue to batter the listener into submission with body and head shot combinations. It's relentless and gloriously over the top.
By the time the record closes with “War of Nations”, you may feel drained by the nature of the aural assault. This, after all, is what METAL should be: it's supposed to be OTT, it's supposed to be turbo charged, it's supposed to be divisive and universal in equal measure. Overall, I'd heartily recommend this to fans of USPM, Judas Priest, Manowar, any of the associated bands of the players here. Indeed, most thrash fans would get something out of this, such is its ferocity and commitment to the riff, the solo and the scream. If you are of a sensitive disposition, prefer nuanced political and social stances and don't like METAL... this is not for you. If I could award this album a score, I would award it multiple battle-axes, thousands of rounds of ammunition and huge doses of steroids- and I would wrap those awards in a stars and stripes flag. Superlative HEAVY METAL.
“Guardians of the Void” is ONLY available as a physical product and is not streaming; I bought the digipack CD direct from the label, Steel Cartel. It's available on Amazon and elsewhere but it really does beg to be purchased- the artwork is great; the music is too. Support bands and music, please.

“Guardians of the Void” is available HERE


Band info: Official

Monday 6 December 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Hypocrisy, "Worship"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/11/2021
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Worship” CD//DD//LP track listing:
2.Chemical Whore
3.Greedy Bastards
4.Dead World
5.We’re The Walking Dead
6.Brotherhood Of The Serpent
7.Children Of The Gray
8.Another Day
9.They Will Arrive
10.Bug In The Net
11.Gods Of The Underground
The Review:
Hypocrisy return, quite a few years after the very good “End of Disclosure” album. This deathly group of Swedes are still ploughing their extra-terrestrial-themed furrow and have managed to carve out and keep their own identity over thirty years of hard work. The early days of “Penetralia” may be several decades ago, but it is clear that the band are still pushing forward and are as enthusiastic about death metal as they have ever been.
Other bands may have come and gone, but it really does seem to be the death metal bands that hit on a theme that have managed to survive. Countrymen Entombed and Dismember may be the first names in Swedeath for most fans, but Hypocrisy have a sound, longevity and theme all their own. The same could also be said of the American bands Deicide and Cannibal Corpse too? There are two bands who picked a topic and stayed with it.

Therefore, with Hypocrisy, you know what you are getting in terms of theme and delivery. It's a ready made recipe for success with fans, essentially. So, has “Worship” deviated from the expected? Thankfully: no.
The artwork tells you what the band are going to give the expectant hordes. As soon as the title track kicks in proper, you know what you are in for. Yes; death metal. Fast, well produced but also not without that important raw factor that makes the best bands stand out. This is a weightier proposition than “End of Disclosure” to my ears but it still maintains the somewhat dreamy edge to some of the music.
Pleasingly, the band have not drifted down an endlessly blasting rabbit hole and have delivered a varied set of songs; “Greedy Bastards” is a mid paced and riffy proposition that is anthemic as well as being hallmarked with death metal tropes in terms of the vocals and riffing. Of course, there are speedier tracks and sections but the band use dynamics better than most in the genre and thus are strangely accessible with their stop/start riffs and song writing nous.
The band deliver deathly doom on “We're The Walking Dead” and play a similar trick with “Brotherhood of the Serpent”- just upping the tempo and guitar work enough to ensure that the mid part of the album doesn't stagnate under slower tempos. I would have liked a few more tracks like “Another Day”- a thrashy rager- but overall the album is heavy; without ever really being 'extreme' in the way that a lot of the US bands are.
Across eleven tracks, the vast majority clock in between four and five minutes and if this suggests that the band have a formula for writing, this is not really accurate. There is a lot of variation here and for every track about alien invasion or government corruption/conspiracy (“They Will Arrive”, “Bug In The Net”) there are differing tempos and styles to compensate for the familiar and homogenous subject matter.
For me, the strongest tracks are perhaps the opening title track and the closing “Gods of The Underground”. The latter is a kind of summation of what the band do well; themes, style and approach all coalesce into a convincing closing statement.
Whether this will convert any new fans to the band, I have no idea. They've been around for so long that most death metal fans must have heard them at some point, but as they have their own niche, I suppose they must pick up new converts. There's every reason for that to happen with this album as it is rock solid and another worthy entry into Hypocrisy's extensive and consistent discography.
“Worship” is available HERE

Band info: Official

Wednesday 1 December 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Green Lung, "Black Harvest"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/10/2021
Label: Svart Records

“Black Harvest” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. The Harrowing
2. Old Gods
3. Leaders of the Blind
4. Reaper's Scythe
5. Graveyard Sun
6. Black Harvest
7. Upon the Altar
8. You Bear the Mark
9. Doomsayer
10. Born to a Dying World
The Review:
What do have here?! Well, it appears that we have a band to pin our hopes on. Green Lung have been super active with two albums in as many years. They bring doom, folk, 70s rock and paganism together in a rather heady brew. If the debut “Woodland Rites” was the prototype, this is the finished article. It does everything that the 2019 release did, but more powerfully and with greater clarity.
I've been slow off the mark to review this one; I should have been quicker as the band have created a real buzz. They are THE new band on the block and one listen to this LP will let you know why. Lots of references to the old religion, the stones, Woden and fire- and that is just the first two tracks.  “The Harrowing” sets the tone- mystical and magical, ethereal... “Old Gods” is a grooving beast. Equal parts Sabbath and Uriah Heep; mighty riffs, mighty organ work.
This record is most definitely for fans of: Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and onwards into the modern era of Rise Above Records roster (Orange Goblin, Witchcraft, Electric Wizard) and the other current great English rock band, Wytch Hazel.
This album is nothing less than a rejuvenation of the underground heavy rock scene. It's sorely needed, as the halcyon years of 2004 to 2010 when Witchcraft and Orange Goblin were riding high at packed out gigs in London are now a long time ago. After that opening one-two punch combination, it's very much what you'd expect; weighty heavy rock with all the right influences in place.
Green Lung are gaining some serious traction with all the cool festival slots booked and the crowds waiting for them- even if they had to cancel their appearance at Damnation Festival recently. It's clear that they are going somewhere with their esoteric atmospheres and swirling organ work coupled with varied tempos and a noteworthy weighty production.
There are ten tracks here, but the atmosphere is intact throughout and the overall vibe will certainly invoke Stone Henge (in a good way) stone circles (in a general way) and the folklore of the British Isles when the listener plays the album. I note that the band have taken inspiration from the same book that Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull utilised for the seminal “Songs From The Wood” album and it shows here with much drama about graveyard suns, altars, bearing marks and so forth.
It's hard to pick stand out tracks as this is all so uniformly good. The lead work throughout is excellent and each of the songs manages to be part of a cohesive whole while maintaining its own identity. 
If you wanted a flavour of the band, you could just play “Reaper's Scythe” or “Graveyard Sun”, but really you could pick any track and get a decent idea. Yep, this London band are going places- climb on board now before it's too late and you arrive only in time for the destination. I can't really recommend this record highly enough. Join them. Join me. Welcome to the coven.
“Black Harvest” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday 30 November 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Exodus, “Persona Non Grata"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/11/2021
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Persona Non Grata” CD//DD//LP track listing:
 1. Persona Non Grata
 2. R.E.M.F.
 3. Slipping Into Madness
 4. Elitist
 5. Prescribing Horror
 6. The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
 7. The Years Of Death And Dying
 8. Clickbait
09. Cosa Del Pantano
10. Lunatic-Liar-Lord
11. The Fires Of Division
12. Antiseed
The Review
Exodus are back. Gary Holt is back in the fold full time and the rest of the band are present- with Steve “Zetro” Souza still at the mic. Tom Hunting laid down his drum parts before his battle with cancer (get well soon) while Lee Altus and Jack Gibson round out the line-up.
I've never made a secret of the fat that I favour Rob Dukes as THE Exodus front man, but no one (including me) can deny that “Zetro” has a fine voice for thrash and is viewed by most as the definitive Exodus vocalist. “Blood in Blood Out” was a fine reunion record, but a little front loaded and missing some of the spite of the Dukes years. 
“Persona Non Grata” comes after several years of Holt moonlighting with Slayer and a global pandemic. You'd expect, then, that the creative juices would be well and truly flowing as the band members focus on Exodus (and Heathen) full time.
The title track is up first and is a speedy thrasher- but it is too long. Much like some of the Dukes era material, it needed editing. It's vicious and speedy but it does, well, go on... “R.E.M.F” and “Slipping Into Madness” are more concise and thus more effective, with the latter being a convincing addiction tale that you can't help feel might be hitting close to home for a few or all of those playing it.
Exodus slow things down occasionally, too. “Prescribing Horror” is an example- and an effective one.  The advance track “The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)” is simply vintage Exodus; a short, sharp cut that is made for the pit. It's magnificent, prescient in theme and has everything great about the band in three minutes.
As the album progresses, it takes shape. This is similar in approach to “Blood In, Blood Out”. It's occasionally speedy, always aggressive but its bark is a little stronger than its bite on some tracks. There is a lot of fairly mid-paced material over the course of the hour long playing time which is not something that the band necessarily excel at. Much like Iron Maiden, Metallica and some of the other classic thrash acts (even my beloved Overkill): editing is needed. Some tracks could say what they have to say in less playing time and also there is nothing wrong with delivering the best ten tracks rather than stretching material a little thin over twelve tracks.
It's churlish, but sometimes less music really is better than more. Exodus are better on razor sharp songs like “Clickbait” than they are on the blunt force of “The Years of Death and Dying”. It makes the album a little frustrating as my attention wandered a little from track to track- even if the production, lead work and performances are all great. There is a cool instrumental in the form of “Cosa Del Pantano” and it is a welcome detour into a different sonic sphere prior to the lengthy but effective “Lunatic Liar Lord”- which is as heavy as lead  and benefits from the thrashy pacing- and classic Exodus time changes. It's an example of the band doing an epic thrash track well but it loses momentum through the middle and outro sections.
“Persona Non Grata” is available HERE

Band info: facebook

Wednesday 24 November 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Overkill, "The Atlantic Years 1986 - 1994"

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Boxset
Date Released: 03/12/2021
Label: BMG

The Review:
There are no less than six albums by Overkill collected in this lavish package. Vinyl, download or CD; the choice is yours... I've actually forked out for the vinyl release, but as it is not due for delivery until December these MP3 files serve as a nice taster of what I'm getting. These six albums represent the start of Overkill's career- and cover what many would assume to be the band's golden years through the peak of thrash metal and beyond. However, it does NOT include the Megaforce classic debut, “Feel The Fire”. That album is readily available in multiple re-issue vinyl versions, but it does feel like an opportunity missed... even if the title does specify their major label days only.
For fans and collectors, this box set is still a must. It has several vinyl re-presses which are very hard to get hold of; “Years of Decay”, “Horrorscope”, “I Hear Black” and “W.F.O.” The fact that many fans may own one or more of these and probably have some kind of copy of “Taking Over” andUnder The Influence” is neither here nor there, really. If you want the rest of the albums you are missing, then you buy the lot. It is also interesting to note that CD issues of Taking Over” are like hens teeth- and expensive. So... there are pros for both the vinyl and CD sets.
I cannot comment on the presentation here; I only have the MP3s, but I HOPE that the vinyl reissues come with original sleeves in a box set; only time will tell. Of the music, well, it's no secret to regular readers of my reviews that I rate Overkill highly. Very highly. As in, I think they are the best thrash band EVER. At the least, they are certainly the most consistent and have had the most longevity. Their extensive and impressive catalogue knocks all other band's efforts into a neatly cocked hat. Yes, yes, Overkill may not have a “Reign In Blood” or a “Master of Puppets” to their name, but both those bands had less than a decade at the top of their game. Overkill have been consistently good (and even great) since 1985.
Of the albums, there is a great deal that can be said. “Taking Over” is a firm fan favourite, features ludicrous cover art (guns aimed at the camera, biceps bulging, lurid colours jumping out at you...) and a solid collection of songs; including a few Overkill classics. Strangely it is not one of my favourite albums of theirs. Yes, it has “Deny The Cross”, “Wrecking Crew”, “Fatal If Swallowed”, “Power Surge” and “In Union We Stand” but it doesn't quite reach the heights of the debut for me. It's a powerful thrash album from the genre's golden era, but it is not their best. The remastering here is good- it sounds a little clearer, a little sharper but it still, of course, sounds like an 80s thrash album done on not much of a budget.
“Under The Influence” has “Hell From The Gutter” and a consistent set of songs but for me is the weakest of their early albums. The production is a little weak, the drums a little too large and indistinct, the band a little subdued. It's like Overkill with the teeth and fangs filed down. From there, though, things REALLY take off.
“The Years of Decay”. “THE YEARS OF DECAY”. It's immense!! It had the production and the songs- the remaster makes it sound even more powerful. Terry Date produced and the sound is a dead ringer for his work, a year later, with Pantera. It's tight, muscular and clinical and it simply rips. The songs are superb. The first three tracks are simply metal perfection; “Time To Kill”, “Elimination”, “I Hate”. It's a hell of an opening. The record also contains a really doomy track- “Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher”- that is immensely heavy and dark. You get
Evil Never Dies” at the end as well... and the title track and so on. It's a metal classic and is widely regarded as one of the band's best. Its way underrated by those who don't know the band and it remains a high point of the golden thrash era.
Evil Never Dies” at the end as well... and the title track and so on. It's a metal classic and is widely regarded as one of the band's best. Its way underrated by those who don't know the band and it remains a high point of the golden thrash era.
Incredibly, the band kept things going with 1990's “Horrorscope”. It's another classic and even if the original guitar player, Bobby Gustafson, parted ways with the band (fans still talk about this) Bobby Blitz Ellsworth and DD Verni simply recruited two guitar players to replace him and wrote a superb set of songs. Sid Falck plays his best drumming on this one. The whole album is great; clinical production (probably a little influenced by … “And Justice For All”, but with the bass left in) and a strong set of songs and overriding evil vibe make a winning combination. “Coma”, “Blood Money”, “Thanx For Nothing”, “Infectious...” all killers. Even the Edgar Winter cover (Frankenstein) rules. It's such a strong record and my favourite (even above, gasp, “Years of Decay”) of their earlier work.
The band thus entered the 1990s on a high and seemed to be on an unstoppable roll. However... grunge happened, the bottom fell out of the thrash market and Overkill found themselves frozen out of the Big Four and playing second fiddle to (kind of) new upstarts like Pantera. Metallica and then Megadeth simply went commercial. Testament pretty much went MIA after “Souls of Black”. Exodus were nowhere, Anthrax got buried under record company indifference. Overkill, incredibly, didn't go grunge but they did make their most leftfield album: “I Hear Black”.
It's the one oddity in their catalogue, but rest assured it is still metal to the core.... just with a little more Sabbath flavour. The band slowed down and introduced new drummer Tim Mallare to the fray. For me, it's one of their best albums. I've listened to it probably as much as any of their others. Some of the writing is a little undercooked- that's even admitted by the band- while the production and mix probably sounded INCREDIBLE on the studio speakers... it sounds tinny and underpowered on a regular stereo. The separation of instruments is great, the individual sounds are good, but the bass (on all instruments; guitars, drums and bass) weight is just not there. Even the remaster- which has improved it a little- can't save it. What it really needs is a full re-mix.
Strangely, this makes me love the album a little more; it's imperfect and the sound of a band trying to survive. “Dreaming In Colombian” is ace. The title track is heavy. “Spiritual Void” is a Sabbath style groove machine, “Weight of the World” is speedy and good quality and the album finishes strongly as well. I'm prepared to forgive misfires like “Shades of Grey” and “Undying” because the overall vibe of the albums is great. For me, “TYOD”, “Horrorscope” and “I Hear Black” represent three different aspects of the band's sound- with a common theme of dark and unsettling compositions at their core.
After that, only “W.F.O.” remains of their major label tenure. Again, it's quirkily produced; tinny and overly bassy (!) but it brings back the speed that “IHB” lacked. The opener “Where It Hurts” proves that thrash is back, “Fast Junkie” rams that point down your throat and from there the albums is absolutely solid. The songs are good and often really catchy. Inevitably, it sounds a little too influenced by what was big in metal at the time- in terms of production and the backing vocals- but it stands as a strong exclamation point to the band's years in the music biz big leagues.
I'd score all of these albums four stars or above (with the possible exception of “Under The Influence” which is a strong three for me) and a couple of them reach the full marks score level. With that being the case, why did Overkill not get much bigger?! Well, Blitz's voice is an acquired taste- shrieky and gravelly is an odd combination and it seems to me that they never got the press support that some other band's were gifted (or paid for). On the plus side, it meant that the band kept going as a relatively underground proposition with their integrity intact.
From here, the band weathered the turbulent mid 90s by simply going independent; indie labels, booking their own tours and keeping going. It's that blue collar work ethic that endears them to so many of their fans- me included. They'd go on to make even better albums (“IRONBOUND”!!!) and worse ones (“ReliXIV”, “Necroshine”) but they have never slipped below that three star standard. As an average, the band are running at four stars and these six albums represent a rock-solid chunk of their discography. I implore you, if you've never bothered, to check out all six records or at the very least “Years of Decay” and “Horrorscope”. This is superlative metal and utterly essential.

Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Black Label Society, "Doom Crew Inc."

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/11/2021
Label: eOne


“Doom Crew Inc.” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing:
1. Set You Free
2. Destroy & Conquer
3. You Made Me Want to Live
4. Forever and a Day
5. End of Days
6. Ruins
7. Forsaken
8. Love Reign Down
9. Gospel of Lies
10. Shelter Me
11. Gather all my Sins
12. Farewell Ballad
The Review:
BLS return after the unexpected career high point of “Grimmest Hits” a few years back. Zakk has kept personnel familiar and when pressing play on this latest offering, the question is: “will this rock or will it be a more laid back affair?!”
BLS have had a habit of making some fairly mediocre records in the past. Frustratingly, they can go from killer on one release to filler on the next (“Sonic Brew” to “Stronger Than  Death”, “1919 Eternal” to “Hangover Music Vol. 4”... the mid-period slump of “Mafia” and “Shot to Hell”...). It seemed that Zakk and sidemen were poised for really big things in the mid 2000s but it never quite happened. The quality just wasn't there and the image became cartoonishly macho.
With this in mind, I would say that the last decade has seen some excellent BLS albums. “Order Of The Black” would be one of my favourites- it rips from start to finish and slugs it out impressively with “Sonic Brew” as the definitive BLS album. “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” had its moments; it was a restrained and dark listen which only improved over time and really wormed its way into my affections. “Grimmest Hits” was superb- from start to finish it blended the best aspects of BLS; riffs, hooks, Sabbath feel, ballads and song writing.
“Doom Crew Inc” is apparently a kind of paen or tribute to the band's road crew, but anyone expecting a wholly raucous affair on that basis would be off the mark. Instead we get... a very good and solid album with no shortage of riffs and solos. As eOne have only furnished the mighty SLUDGELORD with a stream, it's been hard to listen to this repeatedly. However, over the course of several listens, the quality has shown through.
On that basis, this is closer to “Catacombs...” than it is to “Order...” so is thus perhaps a cousin to “Grimmest Hits”. The sound is thick and convincing, recorded at Zakk's Black Vatican studio you would expect nothing less. Opener and advance track “Set You Free” is fairly indicative of the record- not adrenaline inducing, but instead weighty and insistent. “Destroy & Conquer” is a quality follow up- nice feel and rhythms. From there, “You Made Me Want To Live” is the band in sombre but rocking mode.
Of course, this being BLS there are ballads. “Forever and a Day” is the first of these and is of course a completely competent hard rock ballad with a good vocal performance and a rather lush production.  How good is it? Well, it's a ballad- I don't think it is up there with “Blind Man” or “January Day”, but it is... fine. You know that with twelve tracks there will be more of this kind of thing, but... I sometimes wish there would be a bit less. Just cut to ten tracks of solid steel, you know?
That said, BLS has always made pretty varied records and it would also be true to say that each record has its own discernible identity- for better or worse. “Doom Crew Inc.” certainly has its own niche and it is to be praised for that.
“End of Days” is another laid back rocker- echoing much of the “Catacombs...” material. It's finely crafted but is still pretty restrained- a little too much so for my liking. At the halfway mark, it would appear what kind of album that “Doom Crew Inc.” is going to be- restrained, but well put together. “Ruins” has that Sabbath groove and is well put together with a fair bit going on. It should be noted that the overall production has more to it than the previous couple of releases by the band- vocal layering, lots of twin guitar work and a fair few changeS in each track.
The riff in “Forsaken” is a cracker and it uses dynamics convincingly; switching from heavy as lead to breezy and back again with ease. It's the latter half of the record which has the longest run times- BLS are no strangers to tracks of 5-6mins plus as “Sonic Brew” proved- but there is no sense of wasted time here. The solos are great throughout and each track, again, has its own identity. There are two more ballads to go through, of which “Farewell Ballad” is the better of the two. “Love Reign Down” is simply too overwrought for my tastes. Zakk at the piano and emoting is not my thing, so we move on.
Fortunately, we move on to “Gospel of Lies” and its beastly Sabbath-esque doom opening. It's great and a wonderful antidote to what went before. It picks up the pace, of course, but doesn't break any speed limits. It's a slow burning head nodder with, yes, a superb riff at the mid point. Those bouncy kind of shuffle guitar riffs are something that Zakk excels at (“World of Trouble” springs to mind) and it elevates the track by bringing in a  great idea and fully realising it.
The album enters the home straight with “Shelter Me” which again brings dynamics, mid paced tempos and some sizeable riffage. It does what other tracks on the record have done, but with not quite the same impact on the first few listens. Jeff Fab's drums sound excellent when brought forward in the mix and that is another plus point.
Of the remaining two tracks, “Gather All My Sins” is my pick- in fact it's one of the picks of the whole album: it rocks hard, is a straight up headbanger and pulls no punches. We are into old school BLS territory here. It's killer. The trading solos section is also an absolute winner. The aforementioned “Farwell Ballad” closes things out. It's the best ballad on the record and once again has a kitchen sink production but is nicely put together with a good intro solo section and benefits from being guitar led with some good vocals once again.
Overall, this is undeniably a strong BLS record and it is also one that will undoubtedly reveal hidden depths. I think this requires multiple listens to really get into and understand. I also think it is a bit of a mood piece. It's dark and a little restrained like “Catacombs...” but it has more immediate hooks and a better production than that one- which has only grown on me over time.
So, this is most likely a good-great BLS album; not quite top tier, but not too far off as things stand. That Zakk and co. are still around and putting out quality records is to be celebrated in itself. That the records are this good is an even bigger bonus. It's one to look forward to, get into and enjoy. I'd say it would fit in the top half of the catalogue, or thereabouts.
BLS have enough of a history and catalogue to warrant a favourite to least favourite list, Here's mine:
1.     Sonic Brew
2.     Grimmest Hits
3.     Order of the Black
4.     1919 Eternal
5.     Catacombs of the Black Vatican
6.     Doom Crew Inc.*
7.     The Blessed Hellride
8.     Stronger Than Death
9.     Mafia
10.   Hangover Music Vol IV
11.   Shot to Hell
*Subject to change. This might go up a place or so. It is, without doubt, better than the albums below it on the list.

“Doom Crew Inc.” is available HERE

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