Saxon

Primal Fear – Unbreakable Review

Primal Fear – Unbreakable Review

Anthems baby, fucking ANTHEMS!! That’s what Primal Fear has been churning out since ’98 and that’s probably what they’ll keep churning out ’til they die (old metalheads never really die, they just become classic rock). While they began life as Germanic Judas Priest clones (mostly due to the Halford-esque vocal stylings of mega-voice Ralf Scheepers [Sheeples? – AMG]), they slowly evolved into their own sound, merging classic Priest, Maiden and Saxon influences with europower metal like Iron Savior and Gamma Ray (Ralf’s former band). In the process, they’ve become one of the most dependable, consistent stars in the heavy metal galaxy, releasing mindlessly enjoyable, rockin albums with moments of sheer metallic brilliance (basically, they’re the AC/DC of quasi-Judas Priest clones). Their ninth studio album, Unbreakable may be their best yet and packs one old-school, fist-in-the-air anthem after another. They know what side their bread is buttered on and they know their craft inside and out. There aren’t any surprises here beyond how catchy and consistent the songs are and the high level of classic metal enthusiasm they bring to the party. It sure ain’t proggy or forward-thinking, but this is metal-as-hell and that’s enough for Steel Druhm the Elder.

Stormzone – Zero to Rage Review

Stormzone – Zero to Rage Review

Way back as a newbie first year reviewer for the world-renowned Angry Metal Guy, no release floored me quite like Stormzone’s Death Dealer. Although I’d never heard of these Belfast hooligans, their hardcore NWOBHM worship and excellent song writing really got my blood riled up. Accordingly, Death Dealer got Steel Druhm’s only perfect score for 2010 and ended up my album of the year as well. Fast forward to 2011 and it’s a grizzled, jaded, cynical Steel Druhm that greets their new release, Zero to Rage. So, do things look different now that my doe-eyed youth has been drained away by long hours, crappy releases, zero pay and spiteful hate mail? Not really! They still embody the very essence of the NWOBHM style that I love dearly and still traffic in the ways of Saxon, Grim Reaper, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. When they hit their stride, they’re as metal as metal gets and no school sounds older. They also prove once again they’re capable of writing metal anthems that rock my metalverse. While this is a little less immediate than Death Dealer, it’s yet another mammoth dose of old style metal with enough hooks for a month-long fishing trip and enough muscle for an amateur bodybuilding contest. These guys have an infectious swagger and charm all their own and it’s still coming through loud and proud. So, don your high tops, skin-tight jeans and bullet belts and climb aboard the Way Back Machine as I set the dial to 1983!

Pharaoh – Ten Years Review

Pharaoh – Ten Years Review

Pharaoh, for those not in the know, are one of the best of the new retro wave of traditional heavy metal (NRWOTHM™) bands out there. Over the course of three releases these Philly phenoms have consistently blended the 80’s style of Iron Maiden and Saxon with modern American metal like Jag Panzer, Iced Earth while adding a smattering of Slough Feg. The results have been catchy, classy, surprisingly heavy and far more modern sounding than what people normally expect from a “retro” act. Their last opus, 2008’s Be Gone was a great album loaded with excellent yet tasteful guitar wankery and memorable vocal hooks and it left me wanting more. While the interminable wait continues for their next full length, Pharaoh has graced the good people with a six song EP entitled Ten Years. Featuring four tracks left over from the Be Gone sessions and two covers, its clearly a stopgap release but its a solid and entertaining one that continues the Pharaoh quality streak.

Steel Druhm’s Best Heavy Metal Songs of All Time 40-31

Steel Druhm’s Best Heavy Metal Songs of All Time 40-31

You know, I’ve had some quiet, introspective time to think about this whole “best songs list” thing. Maybe we’re wasting our time preaching about our metal cred. Maybe Gibson’s list is just as valid as Angry Metal Guy’s (50-41, 40-31) list or my list (50-41). I’m sure many of you out there have your own lists and they’re great too. As I mulled this over and over, I more I was forced to finally accept that my list is the one true list and superior to all others (except mine, of course – AMG). Now that we cleared that up, here’s more of THE List (that is right below Angry Metal Guy’s list on the pecking order – AMG).

Zero Illusions – Oblivion Review

Zero Illusions – Oblivion Review

As the metal universe impatiently awaits releases by the biggies like Amon Amarth, Symphony X and the Godly Amorphis, we metal reviewers have to make due with what’s available and try to conceal our girlish glee over the impending major releases. Unfortunately for the Steel Druhm, today’s selection didn’t do much to distract my geekish anticipation for what lies ahead. For consideration is Oblivion, the second full-length release by Swedish heavy metal/hard rockers Zero Illusions. Formerly known (to very few) as Pain and Passion and billed as a progressive/power metal unit, there’s apparently a lot of buzz in the Swedish underground around these gents as the next “big thing” [Though it’s fair to point out that said buzz may be entirely fabricated by the band’s bio which hails them as the next big thing and describes how everyone is talking about it. – AMG]. After repeated listens to Oblivion, I’m at a loss to understand either the progressive metal tag or the overall buzz. I’m quite sure these guys won’t be the next big or medium size thing out of Sweden and while Zero illusions isn’t going to blow the lid of any metal scene, it’s a respectable though somewhat forgettable slice of straight forward, traditional metal with pronounced AOR hard rock influences.

Bullet – Highway Pirates Review

Bullet – Highway Pirates Review

Highway Pirates? Well, that album title blows more than the Last Airbender! If I didn’t already know the music of Sweden’s Bullet, I would likely skip over this release based on severe title failure alone. I mean, c’mon, Highway Pirates? Pair that with the painfully cheesy 80s style album cover and these guys are not doing themselves any favors from a strictly promotional standpoint. Thankfully though, I do know Bullet and what they deliver, which is 110% throwback retro metal/hard rock that sounds like a fusion of old AC/DC and old Accept. I was pretty taken with the goofy but infectiously rockin’ charm of their 2008 album Bite the Bullet and little has changed here as far as sound, style or intent. This is simple, neanderthal metal/rock without any attempts to be thoughtful or important in any way. Beer drinking music, drunken weekend music, call it what you will but this is fun and catchy stuff without pretense. Is it original? No. Is it modern? No. Is it good? Yes, yes it is.

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.

Enforcer – Diamonds Review

Enforcer – Diamonds Review

Another retro 80’s metal album being reviewed on Angry Metal Guy? This place must really be going to hell in a hand basket. Well, at least one angry metal reviewer is enjoying the ride and Enforcer’s new album Diamonds would be the perfect soundtrack for any such hell bound pleasure excursion. Following along with 80’s NWOBHM worshiping peers Steelwing and Stormzone, Sweden’s Enforcer roars back to life with the follow up to 2008’s Into the Night and the results are pretty impressive and more fun than barrel full of monkeys.

Stormzone – Death Dealer Review

Stormzone – Death Dealer Review

Neal Kay, for those who don’t know, is widely credited with discovering and championing Iron Maiden way back in the day. Well, if that wasn’t service enough to the metal world, now he has helped bring us Northern Ireland’s classic metal masters Stormzone and their new album Death Dealer. This is no small accomplishment because, quite simply, this album is an absolute masterpiece of classic metal and full to the brim with top quality metal anthems. Stormzone is a band deeply entrenched in the early NWOBHM style and composed of musicians like vocalist John “Harv” Harbinson, with ties to bands of that era (Sweet Savage, Fastway). All the trappings of the British metal invasion are here and fans of that sound and seminal masters like of Saxon and Grim Reaper will immediately hear it in the sound and attitude exhibited on Death Dealer.

Steelwing – Lord of the Wasteland Review

Steelwing – Lord of the Wasteland Review

Steelwing? Never heard of them. I toss in Lord of the Wasteland to see what I am dealing with and POW!! I get punched right in the face by an angry, metal spiked fist from 1982! This Stockholm, Sweden based band may be young and only formed in 2009, but man can they bring the pure, unadulterated NWOBHM power to the party. On this, their debut album, they shamelessly steal the best recipes from Iron Maiden, Saxon, Grim Reaper and Warlord and cook up a surprisingly fresh sounding, if utterly unoriginal metal meatloaf of riffs and attitude with enough cheese coating to choke a mastodon. Steelwing gives you eight fast and furious traditional metal anthems played by musicians who clearly worship at the altar of early 80’s metal and know exactly how that epoch of metal should sound.