The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Airstream – ‘Kingdom of Isolation’ (Metalville)
Genre: Hard Rock
Break out your frayed denim vest and mousse that hair, because Sweden’sAirstream are in full-flouncing-effect with their debut release Kingdom of Isolation. Studded with prog, heavy metal, and good ole AOR, it’s a melodic hard rock record with oodles of ‘80s charm
Helmed by former Sky of Rage frontman Staffan ‘Stiff’ Karlsson, Airstream perform with gusto, rolling out harmless fist-pumpers and contagious choruses with ease. Opener “The Power of Music” is an instant good time, and a track like “Addicted” further proves the band’s knack for emotionally charged hard rock. It’s exceptionally cheesy, but if you adore bands like Europe, TNT, Van Halen, or even Uriah Heap, chances are you need a haircut, and that you’d probably dig these guys.
Bell Witch – ‘Four Phantoms’ (Profound Lore)
Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
Ghosts are trapped for eternity by particular elemental forces, and it’s onBell Witch’s shoulders to get their final horrifying thoughts out. Reflection degrades into merciless retribution, where hollow screams long for release. There is no hope for any of the spirits, left to suffer on their own.
In the midst of the torment lies glimpses of contemplation, as bass-led melodies reach out for help. The cries ring out in vain, but what isn’t futile is the evolved dimensions to the group’s sound that builds upon the excellent Longing. The raw, emotional outbursts that define Four Phantoms makes for a remarkable album.
Blackwelder – ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ (GoldenCore)
Genre: Power Metal
Survival Of The Fittest is the debut album from the power metal supergroup Blackwelder, which includes vocalist Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear, ex-Gamma Ray), Bjorn Engelin (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), Andrew Szus (Seven Seraphim) and Aquiles Prister (Primal Fear, ex-Angra).
Their power metal pedigrees meld effectively on the album, which has plenty of aggression along with great melodies and outstanding guitar work. There are some progressive influences alongside the power metal. Scheepers is one of the best power metal vocalists in the business, and he gives his usual top-notch performance. Fans of Scheepers work and power metal in general will want to check out Survival Of The Fittest.
Danko Jones – ‘Fire Music’ (Bad Taste/MRI)
Genre: Hard Rock
After the Canadian release a couple months back, Fire Music is now being unleashed in the U.S. It’s Danko Jones’ seventh studio album, and the first with drummer Rich Knox.
The album finds the band firing on all cylinders. The 11 songs fly by in under 40 minutes, with zero filler. They are full of swagger and attitude backed by great hooks and riffs. Their brand of straightforward hard rock is influenced by punk and garage rock, but is perfectly suited for big arenas. They have been getting more love the past few years, but Danko Jones remain a band that are extremely underrated.
DSG – ‘Still A Warrior’ (Pure Steel)
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
David Shankle was a guitarist in Manowar in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He later former DSG (David Shankle Group). Still A Warrior is their third album, and first since 2007. It’s the first DSG record for vocalist Warren Halvarson (Damien Thorne).
The songs are power metal with a lot of intensity and heavy riffs. There are plenty of neoclassical elements as well and of course a lot of shredding solos from Shankle. Halvarson has a soaring power metal style voice with the requisite vibrato and vocal gymnastics. The musicianship is stellar throughout, but the production gets a bit muddy in places.
Freedom Call – ‘666 Weeks Beyond Eternity’ (Steamhammer/SPV)
Genre: Power Metal
Originally released in 2002, Eternitystands as one of Germany’s Freedom Call’s revered releases. The album has been remastered and re-released with a new bonus disc. As with most modern day releases, there isn’t a need for a remaster, but the change in track order and the added bonus disc are essential for die-hard fans.
Eternity contains some of Freedom Call’s most iconic songs with “Metal Invasion,” “Flying High” and “Land of Light” still shining as brilliant today as when first released. The brand new title track is a throwback to their earlier days with its ridiculously catchy melody. The bonus disc is rounded out with live versions and covers of Eternity era material.
Godsized – ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ (Metalville)
Genre: Hard Rock
Solid, heavy, and just the right amount of dirty, the new offering from British bandGodsized, Heavy Lies The Crown, pushes the right buttons with those looking for an offering of melody grooving hard rock. However, the record is a bit formulaic.
Back and forth tussles with redundancy weaken this record, which is shame considering the strength of quite a few songs. Great songs line this record, but there is fatigue underlying a lot of the album as well as a lack of cohesion that prevents it from rising to the level of being a great record.
Hardcore Superstar – ‘HCSS’ (MRI)
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
One of the more popular bands in Sweden for nearly 20 years has been the sleaze rock/heavy metal band Hardcore Superstar. Thanks to Joakim ‘Jocke’ Berg’s trademark vocals and the band’s penchant for addictive hooks, the quartet have kept the sex and beer-fueled spirit of the 1980s alive and well. And like their other nine albums, HCSS is a blast to listen to.
Rife with strong choruses—“Don’t Mean S—t to Me” and “Touch the Sky” emerge as immediate crowd-pleasers—HCSS’s various styles conjure names like The Clash, The Police, Guns N’ Roses, Boy Hits Car, and Pantera. Cited as a return to their demo days, the band’s attitude might be less hostile, but the enthusiasm remains loud and proud.
JPT Scare Band – ‘Acid Acetate Excursion/Rape of the Titan’s Sirens’ (Ripple)
Genre: Proto Metal
Originally formed in ’73, JPT Scare Banddidn’t release Acid Acetate Excursion andRape of the Titan’s Sirens until the ’90s, making the band one of those obscure/cult proto metal gems. It’s really a shame their heavy blues jams aren’t more widely known.
Half of the eight tracks on hand breach the 12-minute mark as the result of extended jam sessions. Drummer Jeff Littrell lays down the groove as guitarist extraordinaire Terry Swope lets it all out with extended solos and the gnarly bass of Paul Grisby occasionally takes centre stage. The vocals, however sparse, aren’t great but JPT’s mix of Hendrix, Cream and Sabbath is well worth diving into.
Kommandant – ‘The Architects Of Extermination’ (ATMF)
Genre: Black Metal
Kommandant have always garnered suspicion about their overt imagery, but they always manage to somehow toe the line without the suspicions becoming outright accusations. Regardless, Kommandant, musically, have always been pretty solid black metal with a mechanized vibe and with warped vocals, so much so that the band’s last album,The Draconian Archetype, narrowly missed my best of the year list back in 2012.
The Architects Of Extermination sees Komandant employing a much more atmospheric, dissonant approach to their craft, de-emphasizing the mechanizations of the past. The mixing of the drums lends to this change, being given less prominence. The vocals of Markus Kolar, delivered from the bully pulpit, rise and fall in time to the music, adding to the atmosphere.