Steppenwolf – The Epic Years 1974-1976

The Epic Years 1974-1976 Box Set Cover Art

Steppenwolf – The Epic Years 1974-1976
Cherry Red Records
Release Date: 27/01/23
Running Time: 02:05:04
Review by Simon Black
Slow Flux – 6/10
Hour Of The Wolf – 9/10
Skullduggery – 7/10
Overall – 7.5/10

I don’t think many people realise quite how huge Steppenwolf were as the twilight of the 1960’s dribbled into the 1970’s. Their two globally renowned tracks ‘Born To Be Wild’ and their version of ‘The Pusher’ are the essence of Biker Rock – both hailing from their 1969 self-titled debut, and blown into the global limelight thanks to their inclusion on the soundtrack for the movie ‘Easy Rider’. And let’s not forget that the former would also prove to be the first coining of the phrase “Heavy Metal” in a music context three years before Black Sabbath hit the airwaves, even if they were actually singing about Harley Davidsons…

That cinematic and mainstream exposure so early on meant that they didn’t spend very long playing the toilet venues around the USA and Canada for long, rapidly finding themselves on headline arena tours and under huge pressure to keep delivering the hits. Seven studio albums later over a brisk four years, a revolving door of band members plus the slog of touring all proved too much, and a very burnt-out Steppenwolf called it a day at the start of 1972. 

Frontman John Kay switched into a solo mode for a while, before Steppenwolf reformed in 1974, which is where the story of this box set kicks off. They were actually signed to Mums Records (as a “screw you” to the label that Kay endured during his solo stint, but this was absorbed by Epic Records. The line-up was a hybrid of Steppenwolf’s original backbone of Kay, Edmonton, and McJohn along with some members of Kay’s solo band, which meant with both bands going out as a package for the first tour meant for a somewhat gruelling tour if you were pulling double duty. 

That first record, “Slow Flux” is a little odd, and aptly named. Apart from Kay’s distinctive vocals, it doesn’t really sound like Steppenwolf, and that’s probably because a significant chunk of it was originally destined for one of Kay’s solo disks. OK, ‘Straight Shooting Woman’ charted well, but it really doesn’t feel like it’s firing on all cylinders, and behind the scenes the wheels were falling off of Goldy McJohn’s bus, and his erratic behaviour saw him replaced for the next outing. It’s not actually a bad record, just a bit of a mixed and inconsistent bag. Slow and in flux indeed…

“Hour of the Wolf” however is a triumphant return to form, mostly. 

Not only does it actually sound like Steppenwolf for the most part with the addition of Andy Chapin on keyboards bringing back some much-needed Psychedelic noodling to the arrangements, but the song-writing in general has also upped the ante noticeably. Where it fails at the time was in its bizarre choice of lead single – the Mars Bonfire penned ‘Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World)’. Now on paper Bonfire seemed a sensible choice, given he actually wrote ‘Born To Be Wild’, but this sounds manufactured and trying too hard to be a hit single, at which it failed spectacularly. It’s actually when the writing starts to get a bit more experimental that things get more interesting, with the almost Progressive ‘Mr. Penny Pincher’ showing Chapin’s virtuosity on the keyboards, as well as pumping up the mood. Fortunately, the belters outweigh the bland, so it stands up well after nearly fifty years.

Sadly, when we get to disk three, Chapin has moved on. In fact, in many ways so has the whole band, who had run out of steam once again, but were forced into releasing this as a contractual obligation to Epic,  but which never got toured. Whilst still having a few good moments such as the title track, it feels rudderless overall as an album. These good moments are generally stronger than anything on “Slow Flux”, but it’s clear that the band are a spent force by this point, with tracks seemingly padded with Disco-esque instrumental breaks just to shoot everyone involved in the foot out of sheer spite. 

As always when Cherry Red re-issue these sets, it’s done with love and care, and the huge 30-page booklet makes for a fascinating read, not to mention a grand job being done of polishing up the sound for the modern age. Kay would revive the brand in the next decade, but from here on in as a creative force Steppenwolf were done and forced into becoming their own tribute act. As a slice of history though, this is some way out from their heyday, but when they are firing on all cylinders it works well, with “Hour of the Wolf” standing out from the pack by many yards. 

TRACKLISTING:

Disc One – Slow Flux
01. Gang War Blues
02. Children of Night
03. Justice Don’t Be Slow
04. Get into the Wind
05. Jeraboah
06. Straight Shootin’ Woman
07. Smokey Factory Blues
08. Morning Blue
09. A Fool’s Fantasy
10. Fishin’ in the Dark

Disc Two – Hour Of The Wolf
01. Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World)
02. Annie, Annie Over
03. Two for the Love of One
04. Just for Tonight
05. Hard Rock Road
06. Someone Told a Lie
07. Another’s Lifetime
08. Mr. Penny Pincher Bonus tracks
09. Angeldrawers (B-side of single)
10. Caroline (Are You Ready for the Outlaw World) (Mono promotional single mix)

Disc Three – Skullduggery
01. Skullduggery
02. (I’m a) Road Runner
03. Rock n’ Roll Song
04. Train of Thought
05. Life is a Gamble
06. Pass it On
07. Sleep
08. Lip Service

LINE-UP:
John Kay – Guitar, Vocals
Bobby Cochran – Guitar
George Biondo – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jerry Edmonton – Drums
Goldy McJohn – Keyboards (Slow Flux)
Andy Chapin – Keyboards (Hour of the Wolf)
Wayne Cook – Keyboards (Skullduggery)

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Chovu – What Sorcery Is This? EP

What Sorcery Is This? Album Cover Art

Chovu – What Sorcery Is This? EP
Obsydian Media
Release Date: 10/12/22
Running Time: 16:53
Review by Laura Barnes
8/10

Ahhh, January. A truly underrated month. Routines are settled back into, pints are miraculously cheaper, and most importantly, there is significantly less pressure to go out and socialise. What can I say? I’m a big fan of normality, and the end of the Yuletide festivities gives me some much-needed time to catch up on all of last month’s music that I missed, for example Chovu’s first EP, “What Sorcery Is This?”

Chovu were the first band in residence to record an EP at Obsydian Media and A4’s Kivulini Studios in Ngong, Kenya. A big responsibility, but one that Chovu have pulled off with style. Inspired by Kenyan folklore and African mysticism, Chovu have forged themselves a unique and eclectic sound that draws from all the shades of the extreme metal spectrum, with a slight tilt towards Black Metal and Doom Metal. The raw production style of “What Sorcery Is This?” gives the EP a distinct underground feel – this is the sound of five people making the sort of music that they want to hear, the sound of pure self-expression. Needless to say: I had a fucking blast. 

After a drum and vocals focused intro that really paints a vivid scene, Chovu kick off the EP in earnest with ‘Into Dust’. The slow, funeral march-like guitars and bass give the track a doom-and-dread laden feel and the snare provides the song with its ever-shifting heartbeat, but it’s the vocals that really grab my attention. There’s a raspy cadence to Lord Rot’s vocals which really tap into the despair at the heart of the song. It is also common for bands at this stage in their life to focus so much on the harshness of the vocals that the lyrics get lost along the way, but Chovu manage to avoid this completely; the story of the song is just as important as its presentation. This is especially clear on ‘Mwikali’, which is built around spoken word elements and Alice In Chains style riffage. After this, it’s onto ‘Vermillion Diner’, slow, scorching track with a killer snare and a combination of harsh and clean vocals that gives the song a strong sense of push and pull. The version of the album that I was sent also included a bonus track entitled ‘Empire Of Graves’ from “Uchawi”, a split album that Chovu have released with The Witch. I’m might glad this song was included as a bonus, because I fucking love it. The vocals reach a new level of demonic, and when I say demonic, I’m talking old school devils with tall horns and sharp teeth. And the drums! The unholy crash of the cymbals! Beautifully messy and magnificent, ‘Empire Of Graves’ was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, and believe me, I’ve heard some crazy shit during my time working at a music venue.

With “What Sorcery Is This?” Chovu have proven that the extreme metal underground is alive and kicking. This is a daring first EP, and I enjoyed it immensely. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

TRACKLISTING

01. Into Dust
02. Kithitu Walk
03. Mwikali
04. Vermillion Diner
05.  Empire of Graves

LINE-UP
Lord Rot – Vocals
Lord Trieste – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Lord Cyberlock – Rhythm Guitar
Lord Komora – Bass
Lord Griplodocus – Drums

LINKS

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Daevar – Delirious Rites

Daevar – Delirious Rites
The Lasting Dose Records
Release Date: 27/01/23
Running Time: 32:55
Review by Rick Eaglestone
9/10

Do you ever seen an album cover and then are immediately drawn to it? Well, this is the case with this German heavy doom debut album “Delirious Rites” by Daevar. 

Album opener ‘Slowshine’ laden with hypnotic waves perfectly sets the tone for the record, and already I know this going to score big and when this feeling continues into follow up track ‘Bloody Fingers’ I am already looking at the pre order options! The guitars and bass are punchy with songs inspired by the work of political philosopher Thomas Hobbes and quotations from Iranian psychedelic rock anthems from the 70’s and as Pardis Latifi’s vocals entrance me once more for my highlight track ‘Leila’ I am already looking at the track listing and wanting more, especially with “Draconian Times” era guitar tones.

Fortunately, the album contains two more tracks. The longest of the album ‘Leviathan’ has some wonderful exalting melodies and also feature guest vocals from Jan Oberg (Grin / Earth Ship) and the final one ‘Yellow Queen’, which also has a great accompanying video which is well worth checking out as it fits the albums aesthetic album perfectly.

I have been completely swept off my feet. This album is Deliriously Delectable 

‘Yellow Queen’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Slowshine
02. Bloody Fingers
03. Leila
04. Leviathan
05. Yellow Queen

LINE-UP:
Pardis Latifi – Bass Guitar & Vocals
Moritz Ermen Bausch – Drums
Caspar Orfgen – Guitars
Guest Vocals on Leviathan by Jan Oberg (Grin / Earth Ship)

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Uburen – Usurp The Throne

Usurp The Throne Album Cover Art

Uburen – Usurp The Throne
Dusktone
Release Date: 20/01/23
Running Time: 34:11
Review by Rick Eaglestone
6/10

Norwegian Black / Viking metal band follow up 2019’s “And The Mountains Weep” with eight brand new tracks united by a vision of God as a being who deceives through false prophecies, collectively entitled “Usurp The Throne”. Album opener ‘En Dod Manns Drom’ Serves a great slow building introduction to the album leading into the fury of “Harken Now” Wonderfully.

Highlight track ‘When The River Breaks’ still maintains a level of aggression, but many other styles are introduced, which gives this almost a storytelling feel to it. Whereas the album’s title track ‘Usurp The Throne’ is very much deep rooted in Black Metal with its frostbitten guitar tones and nature which makes for a formidable pairing. 

As the record moves on into ‘Defiance Towards Futility’, the album seems to continue into the raw black metal which personally is never a bad thing although I did think ‘Bring Forth Ragnarök’ might have had a bit more of a Viking Metal sound to it but as previously mentioned the album has firmly grasped its claw into the aforementioned Black Metal style. ‘None Is Forgotten’ is again another confirmation of this but the final track does serve as a reprieve, and I get my wish because ‘As Sorrow Turns To Hate” has more of the soundscapes I had envisioned. Overall enjoyable but I would’ve like to seen a bit more balance in styles.

‘Usurp The Throne’ Official Audio

TRACKLISTING:
01. En Dod Manns Drom
02. Harken Now
03. When The River Breaks
04. Usurp The Throne
05. Defiance Towards Futility
06. Bring Forth Ragnarök
07. None Is Forgotten
08. As Sorrow Turns To Hate

LINE-UP:
Ask Kjetilson – Vocals, Guitars
Bior Kjetilson – Vocals, Bass, Vocals 
Wrage Steinarson – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Small Town Saviours – Small Town Saviours

Small Town Saviours Album Cover Art

Small Town Saviours – Small Town Saviours
Self-Released
Release Date: 27/01/23
Running Time: 46:44
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Rock ‘n’ Roll never quite goes away, does it? 

Every few years though, this genre delivers up the goods with a rising new star that would have worked out a dream at pretty much any point in the last fifty years. Berkshire doesn’t jump out as the sort of place that would rock the joint, but them’s the licks. On the subject of licks, Small Town Saviours have a fucking bucket load of those ready to roll…

The band have been garnering stonking results live for a while, grinding the graveyard support slots for the likes of Warrior Soul (because some poor bastard has to), but their debut is only with us now, although definitely worth the wait. A rich, fat production job from Wildhearts knob twiddler Dave Draper keeps the energy turned up and allows the attitude to smack you in the face whilst still sounding raw and fresh. This is a refreshing beast of an album indeed. 

The tracks are the kind of high-octane stuff that don’t outstay their welcome in terms of run time, but the band somehow manage to cram in a full thirteen tracks into forty-six minutes without this feeling padded or overwrought. This sort of stuff is normally struggling to fill half an hour without feeling padded, but by bouncing around the styles a little whilst nodding to all their influences (The Ramones, The Wildhearts, The Clash and with a bit of fifties Rockabilly thrown in for good measure) this simply doesn’t have a chance to get dull. Even when things go all Kiss crossed with Avenged Sevenfold with ‘Translation Invariant’ (the bastard great grandson of ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ caught shagging ‘Hail To The King’) it still somehow works, because there’s a subtle vein of humour and tongue in someone else’s cheek to help carry it all off with aplomb.

This four piece manage that well rounded art of guitar weaving perfectly,  making it impossible to tell which of the two players is leading, but with a rhythm section behind that as tight as a gnat’s arse keeping things lively, varied and fun. More please chaps…

‘Moving On’ Official Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. No Rats, No Snakes, No Second Takes, 
02. E.N.E.M.Y
03. The Drinking Song
04. Cry
05. London Ain’t Calling
06. Home Town Hero
07. Translation Invariant
08. It’s All Going To Hell
09. Ride It Out
10. Drama Queens
11. Boy Who Cried Wolf
12. Wild West (Berkshire)
13. Moving On

LINE-UP:
Lance Skybaby – Guitar / Lead Vocals
T. Bone – Bass / Backing Vocals
Skinny Pete – Guitar / Backing Vocals
Carl D – Drums / Backing Vocals.

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Deicide – Once Upon The Cross / Serpents Of The Light

Once Upon The Cross _ Serpents Of The Light Album Cover Art

Deicide – Once Upon The Cross / Serpents Of The Light
Cherry Red Records
Release Date: 20/01/23
Running Time: 58:48
Review by Rick Eaglestone
8/10

Deicide unleash another unholy alliance with “Once Upon The Cross” and “Serpents Of Light. Where to even begin, title track to CD1 1995’s ‘Once Upon The Cross’ even now with a lot more in their discography, still remains my all-time favourite Deicide track – which considering it contains the bass heavy ‘When Satan Rules His World’, which again is still one of my go-to tracks.

Admittedly it has been while since I had revisited the album in its full form, put everything that drew me in initially still manages to hold my attention and I had forgotten just how good the combination of ‘They Are the Children of Underworld’ and ‘Behind the Light Thou Shall Rise’ truly are. I used to be intimidated by Mr Benton in the early days and as the album closes, I almost get that feeling once again.

Following on from this CD2 is 1997’s “Serpents of the Light” which not only contains artistically a more upfront blasphemous approach, but a more urgent and angrier output, take for instance title track ‘Serpents of the Light’ which feels like the previous album speed up and the solos on this particular track are great.

This was an album for some reason I neglected at the time of its release so tracks like ‘Slave to the Cross’ and ‘Creatures of Habit’ feel like brand new tracks and it’s almost like I’m discovering the band for the first time. By the time I get to the final offering ‘Father Baker’s’, with its unrelenting fury and hypnotic solos I am firmly positioned to hit repent – sorry repeat on this album.

Another baptism of blasphemy.

‘Once Upon The Cross’ Official Audio

TRACKLISTING:

CD1 – Once Upon The Cross
01. Once Upon The Cross
02. Christ Denied
03. When Satan Rules His World
04. Kill The Christian
05. Trick Or Betrayed
06. They Are The Children Of The Underworld
07. Behind The Light Thou Shall Rise
08. To Be Dead
09. Confessional Rape

CD2 – Serpents Of The Light
01. Serpents Of The Light
02. Bastard of Christ
03. Blame It On God
04. This Is Hell We’re In
05. I Am No One
06. Slave To The Cross
07. Creatures Of Habit
08. Believe The Lie
09. The Truth Above
10. Father Baker’s

LINE-UP:
Glen Benton – Bass, Vocals
Eric Hoffman – Guitar
Brian Hoffman – Guitar
Steve Asheim – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rick Eaglestone and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

RuinThrone – The Unconscious Mind of Arda

The Unconscious Mind of Arda Album Cover Art

RuinThrone – The Unconscious Mind of Arda
Rockshots Records
Release Date: 13/01/2023
Running Time: 53:00
Review by Rory Bentley
7/10

Despite my now infamous disdain for the vast majority of Power Metal, I am a well-known lover of bombastic German lads Blind Guardian. Their last album strolled into my 2022 top 20, and I regularly delve into their immaculate back catalogue in a way that I would never do for the Helloweens and Hammerfalls of this world. They just have more bollocks on them and a level of aggression that I need to make the more florid moments palatable. Someone else that clearly loves The Bards at least as much as I do is Italian Tolkien-inspired Power Metal mob RuinThrone. They love them so much they’ve essentially wrote “Nightfall In Middle Earth” again. Is it as good as that cast-iron classic? No, of course not! However, the results are actually a lot stronger than one might expect.  

I must confess this album was originally floated as an option when Simon Black decided to punish Dark Juan for never following the review template, the idea being that we’ll give him something that sucks to review every time he goes rogue, which speaking as someone that helps out with the proofing on the website is A LOT! Seriously you should see the stuff we have to take out. In fact, no – you really shouldn’t. In the end it fell to another band to incur the wrath of one of his terrifying rants, because dear reader, I checked out two tracks from this album and I thought they were GREAT!

Although the whole album does not quite match these sonic levels, there’s loads of stuff to enjoy here and the band shows genuine potential of growing into a formidable force in the world of ‘Power Metal that I can tolerate’. The first big plus is the almost unheard-of use to big nasty seven string guitars. The genre is not known for its low-end grooves and crushing riffs but that’s exactly what we get here. “The Dreamweaver” (Full marks for unintentionally reminding me of Garth Marenghi) is so heavy and chunky you could fashion a Yorkie bar out of it, as theatrical, layered vocals collide with pure muscular audio beef. In addition, it could well be the only Power Metal song to feature a beatdown stinky enough to crowdkill a goblin.

I am also a big fan of the use of harsh vocals employed throughout, particularly when late album rager ‘The Eldest’ kicks into gear. They’re certainly not the first band in the genre to add guttural snarls to the florid sheen of fantastical Metal, but it’s definitely one of the more successful examples and gives and extra punch to the more intense sections thanks to the proficiency of the performance (there’s nothing more cringy than weak harsh vocals) and the fact that band don’t go to the well to often

Production-wise things are highly impressive as well, with each composition sounding suitably cinematic, particularly the chunky late album epic ‘For Those Who Remain’ which feels like a whole orchestra getting chucked at you by an angry cave troll. This is all the more impressive as you’ve got to think this band have nowhere near the budget of your big Symphonic Nuclear Blast type bands. The only aspect that makes things sound a little less grandiose in places is the choice of keyboard tones here and there, which sound a little too dated for my tastes, but again this is a sonic choice rather than a budgetary constraint. ‘In Penumbria’ in particular goes far too early Dream Theater to my ears during the solo section, but hey, different strokes different… I don’t know, orcs or something. I can’t just pull these fantasy references out my arse forever guys, I should be reviewing some French band that sounds like Madball instead of this.

Vocally Haedus puts a real shift in, moving between raspy storyteller and mournful minstrel all the way to growling beast. Despite an admirable attempt to diversify his approach though, the Hansi influence is plain as day in the layered vocals and dramatic growls. This can only ever draw unfavourable comparisons, and sometimes he really doesn’t stick the landing and ends up sounding like Louis  Armstrong. Which is hilarious but probably not what the band were shooting for.

To be fair if we hadn’t had a frankly spectacular Blind Guardian album within the last 4 months, I’d probably be a lot higher on this one. As it stands though, this is great craic for the majority of the run time and I’d definitely be up for checking out the next one.

‘Earendil’ Official Music video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Prologue
02. The Dreamweaver
03. I Am The Night
04. Earendil
05. The Past Is Yet To Come
06. Where The Wise Men Stop
07. In Penumbra
08. The Eldest
09. Blessed By Loneliness
10. For Those Who Remain
11. Where You Belong

LINE-UP:
Vocals – Haedus
Drums – Francesco Comerci
Guitar – Nicolò de Maria
Guitar – Luca Grossi
Bass – Alessandro Finocchiaro
Keyboard – Giorgio Mannucci

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Nargathrond – Killing Season

Killing Season Album Cover Art

Nargathrond – Killing Season
Self-Released
Release Date: 27/01/23
Running Time: 40:21
Review by Dark Juan
9/10

Hello, chums of all known ages, sexes and genders. It is I, your kindly custodian of all things extreme, Dark Juan, and I have finally found time to listen to some new music and share my ramblings with you after moving from Dark Juan Terrace to the somewhat cosier environs of Crow Cottage. To my right, there is yet another of the disturbing creations of Mrs Dark Juan, being a four-headed bird that is also some fly agaric mushrooms. Thankfully, Julie at The Blind Pig has already bought it and it will be gone from my presence very soon, because it is creepy as fuck and I want nothing to do with it. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Mrs Dark Juan finds it cute.

Yes, so here we are. I have the earphones on and I am listening to music after a bit of a break, which means you all get to read frothing madness and tortured metaphors all over again, you lucky things. Bear in mind I have been watching a lot of the Kenny Everett Show recently and Cupid Stunt was one of my favourite characters and this might or might not have an influence on the way this review might come across. It’s all done in the best POSSIBLE taste.

Today’s offering on the platter of splatter is a horror Metalwave release. You are all no doubt aware of Dark Juan’s rabidly enthusiastic embrace of the whole Synthwave genre, being as it melds 80’s Electronica and Metal themes together, not infrequently cut with some chewy Metal guitar work – see the likes of MASTER BOOT RECORD, The Algorithm, Carpenter Brut, Gunship, Epoch Of Chirality and Pertubator and then get back to me. However, today’s victim is Nargathrond, a one-man band from deep within the Thuringian forest in Germany (making him the perfect candidate for being the subject of ‘The Ancient Misanthropic Spirit Of The Forest’ by Lord Belial) who appears to enjoy the likes of Miami Vice-esque neon dripping nights, dismembering people with chainsaws and a bit of Black Metal into the bargain. This is most ably expressed on the title track of the album, ‘Killing Season’ featuring an acid-belching vocal from someone called Shepardo and a high velocity trip through some Black Metal with electronic overtones and being rather splendid for it as it represents a change from the more… Floaty Synthwave of the rest of the record. Also worthy of your note, dear reader, is the cover version of Nocturnal Depression’s ‘Nostalgia’ that rewrites the Depressive Black Metal “classic” for synth and guitar. Although Depressive Black Metal as a genre though. I fucking hate that name. If you want to top yourself in short order, go and listen to the current state of the pop charts for more than three minutes. It should take you less than that to end everything because it is shocking.

IMPORTANT: Dark Juan does not condone suicide whether you listen to Depressive Black Metal or not. Life is rarely bad enough to end it, despite the pain you may be suffering at the time, and there is plenty of help out there to enable you to rationalise and deal with the pain. My inboxes on Facebook and Instagram are always open for anyone who might need them. Only by obtaining help can you help yourself.

 Let us drag ourselves back to the narrative. ‘Nostalgia’ is very reminiscent of MASTER BOOT RECORD, and we all know that that is indeed a Very Good Thing, because MASTER BOOT RECORD is one of Dark Juan’s favourite modern bands. The album ends with three tracks of instrumental versions of songs that have been previously played, and I have to say that I prefer the instrumental re-workings, but that’s just because I love instrumental records as vocals can sometimes get in the way of the groove. Especially the sepulchral ‘Killing Season’ which is considerably enhanced by NOT having anyone vomiting their own organs all over it.

I have to say that a prospective melting pot of Black Metal and Synthwave didn’t initially bring any particular frisson of excitement to this Hellpriest, despite them being two of my favourite styles of music, as it sounded like it would be a complete and total monkey’s breakfast of a sound. However upon experiencing it, one is a bit of a convert, because it welds the naturally dark tendencies of Synthwave with sheer Satanic fury. It creates a vision in the twisted grey matter that passes for my mind of a laid back Gothic serial killer cruising the night time strip in Miami in a big black 50’s Chevy Impala, smiling because there’s a victim in his boot he’s going to murder later by SLICES. Any music that can create images like that in my head has to be good. ‘Bloody Playground’ is a damned fine tune – mid-paced and swaggering, gorgeously apparelled, through a poorly-lit graveyard carrying a still dripping severed head as it greets passers-by with a blood-soaked smile from a gore-splattered face. 

Also worthy of note is the VERY Gunship-sounding ‘Rivers Of Blood’ featuring The Runaway Wild. All expertly coiffed hair, oiled muscular torso, tight trousers and hammer-like, inexorable percussion, it makes merry with a chorus of such magnitude it blocks out the sun. ‘Deep In The Forest’ offers a surprisingly seductive trip into the trees with the soft vocal of Iyes Keen beckoning the unwary into the green. Where they will inevitably be torn apart limb from limb by the nasty clawed bastard waiting in there.

Production-wise the album is spot on. Everything can be clearly heard and there is little of the amateurishness that is normally evident on self-released one-man records and everything is smooth and has its place in the mix. The guitar is forward in the mix, but not excessively so and it forms a steel backbone to the thuds and squelches of the synths, which are surprisingly organic sounding for electronics, being as they are fluid and fuse easily with the guitar and percussion. It appears to be a little light on bass, but that could be because I am on backup earplugs because I haven’t found where I have put my headphones yet, so I am not going to instruct the Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System to deduct any marks for that this time.

All in all, this is an album of dreams for your faithful defender of the faith – Savage, primaeval Black Metal meets the retro-futurism of Synthwave in a rubbish-strewn back alley, and creates a claret-splattered psychotic lovechild of a sound that manages to hit several pleasure centres in the brain of Dark Juan at the same time and reduces him to a gibbering, almost orgasmic mess in short order.

We’re going to need more sex wee storage tanks at Crow Cottage, I feel.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is grinning maniacally and frightening passers-by when they look in the window, as it cogitates the score for Nargathrond. Eventually, after terrifying the child that has just come out of the library, it awards 9/10 for an album that delights and rewards the intrepid listener.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Midnight Haunt
02. Bloody Playground (featuring The Runaway Wild)
03. Rivers Of Blood (featuring Iyes Keen)
04. Deep In The Forest
05. In The Fog She Hides
06. With Her Pain She Kills
07. Kill Yourself Or Die Trying
08. Killing Season (featuring Shepardo)
09. Nostalgia (Nocturnal Depression cover)
10. Rivers Of Blood (Instrumental version)
11. Deep In The Forest (Instrumental version)
12. Killing Season (Instrumental version)

LINE-UP:
Nargathrond – Another one of those annoyingly talented bastards who do everything by themselves and make me look like a right Charlie, frankly.

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Marco Garau’s Magic Opera – Battle of Ice

Battle of Ice Album Cover Art

Marco Garau’s Magic Opera – Battle of Ice
Self-Produced
Release Date: 27/01/23
Running Time: 01:04:07
Review by Simon Black
8.5/10

I had come across the first part of this epic saga of bombastic Symphonic Metal from Derdian’s Marco Garau a couple of years ago. To be honest, despite being the Ever Metal guy who normally dives straight for this sort of stuff from the slush pile like the little Power / Symphonic junkie that I am, I struggled with that first record somewhat. It wasn’t a bad album at all, but it didn’t grab me in the way that I expected it to given the pedigree of its contributors. But then you have to start somewhere, lockdown probably didn’t help and the difference between this second part of the story and 2021’s “The Golden Pentacle” is positive and tangible. It also feels like a whole bunch of the niggles I personally had with that record have been addressed, which is a little spooky… because we don’t really believe anyone actually reads all this drivel that we write…

Now any act where the keyboard player has his name on the cover is always going to dominate the melody lines, but this time this feels like a full and cohesive band working together rather than (admittedly top drawer) hired hands just playing their pre-written parts. “Pentacle” felt like that the writing had happened long before the rest of the gang arrived; “Battle of Ice” does not. OK, there’s plenty of moments of the kind of operatic flourish that the Italian Symphonic segment has more than a few examples of, but stylistically this is also a lot more varied. Vocally Anton Darusso’s moved against the flow of the keyboard melody lines this time out and it makes for a much richer feel, with guitarist Enrico Pistolese adding some Extreme vocal touches this feels much more like a piece of music crafted collaboratively by some pretty talented guys, with Garau no longer dominating as he did first time out. 

Garau gives us plenty of instrumental pizazz for sure and the sparring with guitarist Luca Sellitto works well, with the right balance between Neo-Classical, some good old fashioned Metal shred and some highly unusual time switches that shouldn’t work but do (‘The Legend of the Demon’s Cry’ being a great example of this). More importantly the whole album flows so well that I found myself on my third full spin before remembering that I had a review to write, which is a sign that this one is going to stay within easy reach for a while. A huge improvement indeed and it really feels like a band effort, not a solo side project, and one I am now quite keen to hear the next segment of…

‘Ride Into The Sun’ Official Lyric Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Black Sorcery
02. The Cursed Crown
03. The Legend of the Demon’s Cry
04. Assault on the Castle
05. Ride into the Sun
06. White Dragon
07. The Shadow Man
08. The Book of Evil
09. Under Siege
10. Battle of Ice

LINE-UP:
Marco Garau – Keyboards
Anton Darusso – Vocals
Enrico Pistolese – Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Luca Sellitto – Lead Guitars
Salvatore Giordano – Drums
Ollie Bernstein – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Girlschool – The School Report 1978-2008

The School Report 1978-2008 Box Set Cover Art

Girlschool – The School Report 1978-2008
Cherry Red
Release Date: 27/01/22
Running Time: 06:04:04
Review by Simon Black
9.5/10

This is a monster of a package. 

Now, I’ve become quite a fan of what the folks over at Cherry Red do recently. Whilst still championing plenty of new material from established acts (they are the new home of Lawnmower Deth for example), this label seems to have acquired the rights to an awful lot of material going back many decades across the Rock, Metal, UK 80’s Punk and Pop and almost anything you care to mention. They have been lavishly reissuing material that has been pretty hard to come by for some time – with highly polished clean up’s of the recordings and some real top-quality packaging and supporting booklets. We love them here at Ever Metal, because they spoil us rotten in an age where certain labels arrogantly think a last minute stream-only private link released mere hours before public release date and gone hours later on the same date is sufficient notice to review, and for which we should be very bloody grateful. Yeah right – you know we don’t get paid for this, right? Well Cherry Red are old school, so we actually get the high-quality MP3’s well in advance (which we generally need given the size of some of them) and occasionally some nice physical copies as well. That’s because their market is collectors and they absolutely get that a collector is happy to pay real money for something a little bit special. The effort they put into the product deserves that outcome and this is no exception.

Girlschool rode the back of the NWOBHM movement and their close working relationship with Motörhead is well documented, but the reality is they had cut their chops way before then. Formed in 1975 as Painted Lady, the band started as everybody had to in those days as a pub rock band playing covers. And that’s why I am actually starting this review with the 5th CD in this box set, which is a rare as rocking horse shit live recording of a gig from that period. Now obviously a recording from a London pub circa 1978 on an old reel to reel two track miked to the unmixed playback in a sweaty pub is far from the best source material. Even the best of desk and software geeks is going to struggle to get anything vaguely representing a quality audio recording out of this, so don’t expect miracles in this department on this recording, but what you do get is a very clear direction of travel of what was to come. With a set of covers this is a band whose musical chops and tightness jump out of the decades and surprise you. At the end of the first track, a long-lost punter can be heard proclaiming with cockney deadpan surprise that “Actually they’re alright”. When you get past the obvious late 60’s or early 70’s middle of the road Hard Rock shit that bands of that era have to play in the Hope & Wanker in the East End (or whatever), you can hear the building blocks of what would become that distinctive sound, and it’s the tracks in the set that allow more of an instrumental break and some vocal harmonies that stand above the naffness of a slaughtered version of ‘Smoke On The Water’. 

After that it’s back to the start of the set which cherry picks its way through the recording history of the now rebranded Girlschool, starting with the original 7” releases that broke them out of the pub circuit. Right from the rough and ready first version of ‘Take It All Away’, the difference is tangible, and added to the harmonics and sheer playing ability is that magic rawness and song-writing edge that adds to the mix and starts to sound like the band we know and love. That edge is very much fuelled by the background trend of the day – Punk. No doubt a part of the still pub-focused act needed to incorporate at least some aspects of the energy of the still unfolding, but starting to wind down Punk movement (as at this point we’re still a little way off of NWOBHM’s big breakout), but the natural step from one to the other unfolds across that first disk spectacularly. The arrangements have more complexity and melody, the playing outshines Punk’s bare bones approach whilst retaining the attitude and the rough edges that need to in the song-writing and performances slowly peel away to reveal the tight knit early Metal act they would become, and indeed still are to this day. The first three disks take a tour through their back catalogue (excluding the last decade) with more weighting given to the earlier material from their prolific early 1980’s period.

Disk 2 feels like a completely different band though, and not in a good way. This includes material from “Play Dirty” through to “Nightmare At Maple Cross” and the contrast to the pure Punk-infused NWOBHM of their first three albums is stark and jarring. By this time, Metal in the 1980’s has transmogrified into big hair, overtight spandex, unroadworthy heels and insane amounts of hairspray – and that was just the boys. Recordings in this period were similarly adopting a more fat, lavish and overproduced sound in a desperate attempt to break American radio. To be fair, this is exactly what the band no doubt at the behest of the label were trying to achieve with the more AOR / Glam friendly sound, and with the addition of a keys player and the change of vocals and guitars (as Kelly Johnson quit early after the gruelling punishment that a full USA toilet tour entails took its toll) then yes, it really does sound different. 

Sadly, it accomplished nothing in terms of penetrating that fickle market and alienated the core fanbase back home. Although some of the material is well done for the period compared to some of what the decade thrust upon us (and Girlschool as always do give it their all), it’s just not what I want to hear from them and it’s no surprise that even though they continued to be prolific for the remainder of that decade, their appeal and upward trajectory lost some of its thunder at this point. What you gained in terms of production, was lost in song-writing for me plus the energy and that edgy rawness that their early years had in buckets, and I am quite grateful when this disk is over. 

Come Disk 3 and clearly Girlschool think so too, as their last album of their original run in 1992 the eponymous “Girlschool” keeps some of the production polish but brings the raw edginess and back-to-basics of heavy NWOBHM just in time for Grunge to completely screw all things Metal up for a while. And that’s sadly the point, they recovered their Hard Rock / Metal roots just as they were about to go out of fashion. But lesson learned and they’ve stuck to those guns ever since. It took them ten full years to release another studio album, although they reconstituted their line up and toured their butts off in this period and by then both the band and the market are sure about what they want to see and hear. From here on in really the mix between the ages is generally spot on, with the added advantage of all that more modern production values can bring. For me this is one of the more interesting parts of this set, as to be honest apart from catching them live occasionally, my awareness of their studio albums post-1989 was non-existent, and it’s nice to see them distil all of the best of their roots with all that modern metal demands. 

Disk 4 is again where the collectors are going to be happy, peppered with B sides, alternate and demo versions and all that you would expect and with twenty-three of them on the disk, you get your value for money. Well, you do that anyway, given that there’s a whopping 103 songs in this set and an insane six plus hours of run time plus a really nicely produced booklet with interviews to go with it. I can’t really fault the set – it’s been beautifully assembled with care, love and attention, and the only thing stopping me giving it top marks is that it had to include the dreaded AOR-school era material in order to be complete.

Female Motörhead clones? Fuck off! Girlschool are one of the strongest and most influential bands of that period, and like contemporaries Saxon still delivering the goods all these years later. So, buy the fucking set and go and see a show!

‘Please Don’t Touch’ Video 

TRACKLISTING:

(OK, here goes)

Disc 1 – Demolition Girls (1979-1983)
01. Take It All Away (A-side)
02. It Could Be Better (B-side)
03. Emergency
04. Nothing To Lose
05. Demolition Boys
06. Not For Sale
07. Take It All Away
08. Breakdown
09. Race With The Devil
10. Yeah Right
11. Please Don’t Touch (with Motörhead)
12. Hit And Run
13. The Hunter
14. (I’m Your) Victim
15. Watch Your Step
16. C’mon Let’s Go
17. Tush
18. Don’t Call It Love (Wildlife EP)
19. Screaming Blue Murder
20. It Turns Your Head Around
21. You Got Me
22. Take It From Me
23. 1-2-3-4 Rock And Roll

Disk 2 – Playing Dirty (1983-1988)
01. 20th Century Boy
02. Play Dirty
03. Running For Cover
04. High & Dry
05. Going Under
06. Burning In The Heat
07. Nowhere To Run
08. Are You Ready?
09. Let Me Go
10. Running Wild
11. Love Is A Lie
12. Nasty Nasty
13. Back For More
14. All Day All Night
15. You’ve Got Me (Under Your Spell)
16. Let’s Go Crazy
17. Play With Fire
18. Head Over Heels
19. Action
20. Love At First Bite
21. Too Hot To Handle

Disc 3 – Still Not That Innocent (1992-2015)
01. My Ambition
02. Can’t Say No
03. Can’t Do That
04. Take Me I’m Yours
05. Innocent
06. Knife
07. Coming Your Way
08. Mad Mad Sister
09. Let’s Get Hard
10. Secret
11. You Say
12. Passion
13. Other Side
14. I Spy (Dio/Iommi Mix)
15. Legend
16. Metropolis

Disc 4 – I Told You So – Singles, B-Sides (1980-1983)
01. Furniture Fire (B-side)
02. Nothing To Lose (7″ edit)
03. Bomber (St Valentine’s Day)
04. Emergency (St Valentine’s Day)
05. Tonight (B-side)
06. Demolition Boys (Live B-side)
07. Tonight (Live B-side)
08. Wildlife
09. Don’t Stop
10. Tush
11. Don’t Call It Love
12. 1-2-3-4 Rock And Roll (ext ver)
13. Like It Like That (B-side)

Demos (1978-2002)
14. Let’s Spend The Night Together
15. Just Don’t Care
16. Nothing To Lose
17. Baby Doll
18. Not For Sale
19. Running Wild
20. Love Is A Lie
21. I Told You So
22. Have A Nice Day
23. London

Disc 5 – The Pre-School Years – Painted Lady Live (1978)
01. I Wanted To Boogie
02. Be My Lover
03. Smoke On The Water
04. King of The Blues
05. Sometime World
06. Rub It In
07. I Saw You Standing There
08. All Along The Watchtower
09. Paper Plane
10. Johnny B. Goode
11. Shoot Shoot
12. How Can I Tell You
13. Can’t Get Enough
14. All Right Now
15. Knocking On Heaven’s Door
16. Gimme Some Loving
17. Honky Tonk Women
18. Change’s Coming
19. Hey Joe
20. You Keep Me Hanging On

LINE-UP:
Denise Dufort – Drums
Kim McAuliffe – Vocals, Guitars
Jackie Chambers – Guitars (2000-present)
Tracey Lamb – Bass (1987-1991, 1992-2000, 2019-present)
Kelly Johnson – Guitars (1978-1983, 1993-2000)
Enid Williams – Bass, Vocals (1978-1982, 2000-2019)
Gil Weston – Bass (1982-1987)
Cris Bonacci – Guitars (1983-1992)
Jackie Bodimead – Vocals, Keyboards (1983-1986)
Jackie Carrera – Bass (1992)

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.