AFM Records

Iron Savior – The Landing Review

Iron Savior – The Landing Review

In the “Barons of Bombast” wing of the Pantheon of Metal, no band has a pedestal quite as lofty as Manowar. Since their birth in the late 70s, they’ve pretty much cornered the market on over-the-top cliches, cheese-wizardry and shameless loincloth abuse. One of the few pretenders to that furry, mead-stained throne of excess (besides Rhapsody, Rhapsody of Fire, Rhapsody of Luca, etc. etc.) are these Germanic purveyors of silly sci-fi lyrics, steely anthems and lusty over-production. It’s true, Iron Savior has never shied away from painful cliches, absurdly goofy concepts or exaggerated paeans to things metallic. If their multi-album concept about the misadventures of a sentient spaceship called “Iron Savior” wasn’t proof enough for you, don’t pursue a career in investigative services. In case you missed the back story, Iron Savior is the creation of one Piet Sielck, a close friend and former band mate of Kai Hansen (Helloween, Gamma Ray). The early Savior albums were close collaborations between Piet and Kai, firmly rooted in Germanic power metal but injected a lot of traditional and NWOBHM influences into the mix. Their material was so damn catchy and fun, I didn’t mind the silly space-opera lyrics or their propensity to sound overdone (a friend dubbed them “the most overproduced band ever”). The Landing is the first new Savior release since 2007’s Megatropolis and long-time fans can breathe easy, because absolutely nothing has changed! The bombast, the cheese, the vintage sound and style, it’s all back, bigger than ever (if that’s even possible). This is big boy power/traditional metal with attitude, balls and delusions of grandeur. In other words, its stupid fun and really rocks!

Brainstorm – On the Spur of the Moment Review

Brainstorm – On the Spur of the Moment Review

Reliability. That’s an endearing quality in a band. Its great knowing you can buy an album by a beloved band without trepidation because they deliver something of quality time and again. Germany’s traditional metal icons Brainstorm have been generating just that type of trust with fans ever since 2000’s Ambiguity. Since then its been album after album full of classy, powerful meat and potatoes metal, falling somewhere between Judas Priest, Metal Church and Pantera. No small part of their success is the vocal talent and songwriting acumen of front man Andy B. Franke. Whether recording with these guys or his more experimental unit Symphorce, the man has established himself as one of the premier metal vocalists out there today and he’s long exhibited an uncanny knack for writing winning choruses. As with classic albums like Metus Mortis and Soul Temptation, On the Spur of the Moment stays close to their tried-and-true formula of crunching guitars, tough but soaring vocals and hooks galore. while there are few surprises, it’s yet another solid outing by these scene vets and it’s a can’t miss for lovers of traditional heavy metal with grit and attitude.

Byfrost – Of Death Review

Byfrost – Of Death Review

One of my favorite albums from 2010 was Black Earth by obscure Norwegian black thrashers Byfrost. Hailing from the very same town as the mighty Immortal, it was hardly surprising they borrowed heavily from their better known neighbors for the musical direction of their debut. Although it was shamelessly derivative of Abbath and Co., it was also highly enjoyable blackened thrash loaded with vicious, razor sharp riffing. Since I had such a good time with that debut, I was obviously expecting good things from their second crusade Of Death. I would even say it was one of the most anticipated releases on my list for this year. Now that I’ve had some time with Of Death, my first reaction is that of disappointment. Perhaps my expectations were too high and while the music here is good indeed, its not up to the standards set by Black Earth. There’s a strange sense of musical ambivalence that overcomes me during some of the material and it feels like they lost their magic touch at times during the writing sessions for this album. Now, before you get the idea this is a bad album, it isn’t at all. There’s a lot of solid, heavy, ugly thrash with a pronounced black metal vibe to be found on Of Death. It’s just not quite as good as I hoped it would be after such a rabble-rousing debut opus. That damn sophomore jinx strikes again!

Rev 16:8 – Ashlands Review

Rev 16:8 – Ashlands Review

For today’s selection, we have the up and coming Swedish black metal act Rev 16:8 (formely known as both Bloodshed and Scythe). Ashlands is their second release and up until I got the promo I’d never heard a thing about them under any of their numerous names (of all of them, the new one is the pits). They play what could be called modern black metal and Ashlands is loaded with rough, ugly black metal mostly played at blasting speeds. While they don’t exactly reinvent the wheel or bring anything very new to the genre, they execute well and some of the material shines with potential and talent. In a field that has grown increasingly overloaded with copycat acts and stagnation, do they have what it takes to rise above the black masses and stand out? Well, not yet but maybe soon.

Lake of Tears – Illwill Review

Lake of Tears – Illwill Review

In the Whack-A-Mole game that is genre pigeonholing, Lake of Tears pop up all over the board, defying you to anticipate their next move. These Swedes have been around a very long time and have always defied easy answers as to what style they actually play. Generally described as gothic metal, they’ve wandered between psychedelic doom, goth-rock, quasi-thrash and pseudo-death over the years. Each album had its own unique flavor and approach while always keeping the distinctive LoT sound. Here on Illwill, their eighth album, they keep the guessing game alive while delivering a strange mix of styles, but it all hangs together somehow and works well. With parallels to Paradise Lost, Cemetary, Charon and Type O Negative to name a few, they run all over the place but it’s always dark in tone and plenty melodic.

U.D.O – Rev-Raptor Review

U.D.O – Rev-Raptor Review

U.D.O. is back! The diminutive Teutonic terror who’s gravelly cackle defined the sound of Accept for decades has resurfaced with yet another solo album (his thirteenth!). This time out however, he does so in the very large shadow cast by his former unit’s 2010 release Blood of Nations. That opus was a classic metal monster and ended up near the top of my best of 2010 list. Since Rev-Raptor will inevitably be seen by many as Udo Dirkschneider’s return salvo, the obvious question becomes, how does it measure up? Well, in all fairness, Mr. Udo has released far more records under the U.D.O. moniker than he ever released with Accept. That said, he’s still famous as the “voice” of Accept so the comparison is to be expected. In short, no, this isn’t on par with Blood of Nations, but its still a solid traditional metal album with some entertaining numbers that will make you bang your head the old fashioned way. If you’ve heard any of the prior U.D.O. albums, you know what to expect here since there’s been scarce variation across his long and storied discography. Its raucous 80’s style classic metal, much like classic Accept, with few frills but plenty of balls (to the wall) and the man’s trademark screech. If that sounds good to you, read on (AMG has already left the building and set it on fire).

Suidakra – Book of Dowth Review

Suidakra – Book of Dowth Review

There will always be examples of bands that fate hasn’t been kind to despite their hard work and professional approach. Suidakra is unfortunately one of those bands, but regardless of the size of his fanbase, the name of Arkadius has been linked to fecundity, quality music and progress. Having started the band as a black metal project with folklore elements, he has continued to develop this sound further in order to forge out one of the most musically successful, yet not so widely-consumed folk melodeath bands out there. That being said, Suidakra is not an exception from the painful “quantity vs. quality” issue which resulted in the bittersweet aftertaste that Cragacht left us with. Now, however, they have a chance to compensate that downfall and strike back with a solid piece of work called Book of Dowth.

Things You May Have Missed 2010: Triosphere – The Road Less Travelled

Things You May Have Missed 2010: Triosphere – The Road Less Travelled

Triosphere is a Norwegian progressive/power metal band that has gotten a little bit of play among fans of the genre, but isn’t actually super well known or discussed widely. Released on AFM, the band’s second full length The Road Less Travelled is a surprisingly interesting and fresh sounding power metal record in a genre filled with tired, tired, tired bands playing tired, tired, tired music. Instead, the band seems to have carved out a fairly unique place, partially due to the androgynous vocals of Ida Haukland. This isn’t an insult to her by any means, it’s just that I couldn’t tell if this was a male vocalist or a female vocalist and she’s one of the few female vocalists in power metal that I’ve ever heard that really do metal voice convincingly, instead of donning a dress and pretending she’s a diva. To the contrary, with solid backing from a band that can go between Dream Theater-flavored solos and Dragonforce-flavored blasts, she nails the presence the album needs to be convincing and unique at the same time.

Ross the Boss – Hailstorm Review

Ross the Boss – Hailstorm Review

Is this new Manowar? No, that it ain’t. So it’s Rossowar? Closer, but still no. What we actually have before us is Hailstorm, the second album by Ross the Boss. Mr. The Boss was of course the original fret master for the legendary Manowar and he played on all their classic, seminal albums before riding off to seek glory on his own (yes AMG, there really are classic Manowar albums [I resent that statement. – AMG]). So what type of music would one of the founding fathers of sword and furry loincloth metal create in this day and age? Well, those hoping Ross assembled a merry band of Manowar imitators will be disappointed. While there are several unsubtle stylistic nods to his original band (the most unsubtle band of all time), this is way less Mano-thematic than 2008’s New Metal Leader and focuses more on early 80’s style metal and straight ahead power metal. In some ways this departure from his musical comfort zone works, in others it falls just a bit short.