Review: Ensiferum – One Man Army

My review of One Man Army, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

OneManArmy

A lot of metal’s appeal has always been the sense of escapism it provides. It’s the fantasy, encouraged by musicians through their dramatic and elaborate concepts, that sometimes has as much to do with alluring listeners as the music itself.

Perhaps that’s why so many enjoy folk metal. Because even if the music is sub-par, hordes of fans lap it up for the mythical references, the dramatics, advocacy for alcohol and tongue-in-cheek approach.

Finland’s Ensiferum are a shining example to rise from the genre, with a fourteen year run proving their talent. Album six, One Man Army, is the epitome of how heavy metal and folk instrumentals can be unified to great effect.

Guitarist and primary songwriter Markus Toivonen and his bandmates have done a great job on this one. The versatility and colour within the music speaks for itself; every track possessing its own memorable melodies, story and emotional delivery.

The more obviously inspired folk, multi-instrumental songs are dispersed throughout the album and performed as usual by keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen. Intro ‘March of War’ is the first example, before the listener is hurled into ‘Axe of Judgement’, a stark, speedy contrast to enter battle with.

Later tracks like ‘Heathen Horde’, ‘Cry for the Earth Bounds’ and ‘Two of Spades’ are worth picking out for the their uniqueness and startling contrast in comparison to each other. There’s definitely a lot to experience throughout the album. Who knows, maybe even the cynics will allow themselves to be taken in by it.

Personal Score: 4/5

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Review: Iron Reagan – Tyranny Of Will

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

TyrannyofWill

It was only last year that punk-thrashers Iron Reagan impressed everyone with their début full length Worse Than Dead. Now they’re back with a second album that’s bursting with energy and just as ballsy. Tyranny Of Will continues exactly where the Richmond ragers left off and may well be more abrasive than their first export.

Like the first, it has a youthful feel; like a band making awesome, aggressive music because they damn well want to. The twenty-four tracks encourage you to let off steam through the rhythmic aggression and catharsis of hardcore punk, while frontman Tony Foresta, clearly indulging in his love of the genre, injects his humorous personality into the band’s sound and approach. Fans of Municipal Waste are bound to adore the ferocity of this record and their beloved vocalist and bassist’s (Landphil Hall is on guitar) more rough’n’ready project.

If anything, the thrash component has been amplified slightly on this one. Songs like ‘Eyeball Gore’ and ‘Nameless’ pack the speed and tenacity of old-school icons. ‘I Won’t Go’ has a particularly Slayer feel to it. As electrifying as these full velocity moments feel though, it makes for a fuller, more interesting listen when broken up with punchy beats and basic, satisfying riffs. Songs like ‘Close To Toast’ and ‘In Greed We Trust’ possess infectious, fist-pumping grooves.

The fivesome’s follow-up effort is fast, frenzied and a hell of a lot of fun. Dive in head first to this one.

Personal Score: 4/5

Review: Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

SuicideSilence

Deathcore, as a sub-genre, has somewhat of a bad reputation within the broader metal community. And whilst there are many bands within the scene where criticism is justified due to brutish simplicity, uninspired song-writing and a lot of style over substance, there are shining anomalies.

As major players in establishing deathcore’s popularity circa 2007, the name Suicide Silence is unfortunately met with casual dismissal or even unabashed, unjustified hate. Yet as the band’s third full-length proves, this is wholly undeserved.

You Can’t Stop Me is a powerful output from a five-piece who show us exactly how meaty, metalcore fused rhythms can be sliced and diced with the blasting speed, down-tuning and the vital injection of nastiness that death metal offers. The title track captures this recipe perfectly and has one belter of a chorus. What’s more is that apparently previous vocalist, the late Mitch Lucker, apparently had been working on the lyrics to this song before his tragic death. If you only listen to one track from the album, make it this one.

New vocalist Eddie Hermida has laid down some impressive work here. Switching between gutsy, death metal growls and harrowing shrieks, the duo vocal effect makes for a deeper impact, as opposed to a harsh wall of sound and I actually prefer Hermida’s emotive style. George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher of Cannibal Corpse and Greg Puciato of Dillinger also lend their talent and aggression to this record, so be sure to listen out on ‘Control’ and ‘Monster Within’.

As my first proper exposure to the band, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Clearly Suicide Silence can’t be stopped. The album is full of strong songs and it’s impressive to see the band moving forward.

Personal Score: 4/5

Review: Space Chaser – Watch The Skies

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Space Chaser have boldly gone where many men have gone before, by tackling the ever-popular thrash scene. Heralded as being a staple of their tight-knit metal community in Berlin, one can assume that they’re hoping to make as good an impression on the rest of the world.

Their début Watch The Skies is another contemporary attempt at re-creating the noise and mayhem of a decade once past. In that respect alone it does a great job at capturing that beer-drenched energy. If you’re imagining a harsh sounding, Teutonic metal throwback however, think again. This is definitely American influenced and the quintet celebrates alien invasions, hazardous waste themed, cartoon-like thrash. They sound like they’re having a great time too. The tracks are fast, frantic and shred-tastic, led by an old-school, wailing vocal style. Fans of Municipal Waste and Gama Bomb should back this.

It’s no innovation (an almost impossible task these days) but holding out through these ten snappy tracks is a definite joy-ride. The band should be as welcome into the modern circuit as their international peers.

Personal Score: 3/5

One year with Rock’n’Reel Reviews

Whilst reviewing Lost Society’s new album, it occurred to me that my review of their début was the first thing I wrote for Rock’n’Reel Reviews exactly a year ago.

Time really does move quickly. Especially when assessing so much awesome music!

Here are my metal review highlights from the past year:

Children Of Bodom – Halo Of Blood 4/5

They’re my favourite band, so of course this was excellent. The Finnish heavyweights’ most exciting work in ten years. I’m massively biased and would have loved to award it five stars. It is an excellent album though.

Havok – Unnatural Selection 3.5/5

Along with a select few, Colorado thrash pack Havok are dominating the scene and are one of my personal modern favs. Unnatural Selection may not be as frantic as its predecessor, but is packed with great tunes nonetheless.

Morgue Orgy – The Last Man On Earth 4/5

This album was an amusing surprise. Not only did it break up the colossal amount of thrash I listen to, but this groovy death metal and its spooky vibe was an entertaining and impressive début album from an unsigned, homegrown band!

Behemoth – The Satanist 4.5/5

The Satanist is an evil masterpiece and already a firm contender for album of the year. Basically everybody needs to hear it.

Savage Messiah – The Fateful Dark 4/5

Definitely another thrash recommendation, this time from London. The Fateful Dark is the most recent album that was an absolute pleasure to review. I officially label Savage Messiah under Excellent!

Review: Noble Beast – Noble Beast

Another review written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews. This time of Noble Beast’s début album.

Storming into the picture with this truly epic, self-titled debut, Minnesota’s Noble Beast are the latest addition to the power metal scene. This triumphant culmination of melodic European and American power metal warrants attention from confirmed fans of the genre as well as new listeners. As a power metal novice, this is what I imagine the decent stuff to sound like: fast, enthralling and valiant!

‘Iron-clad Angels’ kicks things off brilliantly, with its charging pace and memorable chorus boomed out by Sir Robert’s deep and powerful voice. The thrash component is instantly prominent too. The listener is sent tearing forward through a relentless sequence of hooks, soaring harmonies and choruses that evoke visions of heroic battles and mythical gods.

A little clichéd? Yes. This is an acquired taste and whilst we can all enjoy the drama on occasion, for many I believe it will soon become tedious. Unless you love this kind of thing, of course! Just a handful of songs would suffice (and go down especially well at a summer festival.) ‘Behold the Face of Your Enemy’ and ‘On Wings of Steel’ are my suggestions. Noble Beast requires some versatility in style or subject if they’re to reach a wider audience long-term.

Personal Score: 3/5

Review: Savage Messiah – The Fateful Dark

My four-star review, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

savagemessiahfatefuldark

Could this be the album that launches Savage Messiah into stardom? The Fateful Dark certainly has the great songs, awesome shredding and irresistible hooks to do so. It’s an exciting release – one these London metallers must be very proud of.

There’s a quality across this creation that’s so alluring and professional sounding, one could easily envision the band absolutely dominating large venues in the near future. The ten songs are packed with memorable riffs, (I’ve had ‘Iconocaust’ and ‘Hellblazer’ earworms for days now,) captivating melodies and topped by a souring vocal style from frontman Dave Silver. His abilities add a rather epic dimension to a fierce musical backdrop that’s full of passion.

The title-track is one of the slower paced, sing-songs on this thrashy opus; another opportunity for Silver’s vocals to shine, especially at the song’s climatic chorus… Not to everyone’s taste, but so what? ‘The Fateful Dark’ is a soulful and instantly likeable listen.

With this offering, Savage Messiah will win the hearts of curious listeners who are yet to be converted into fans.

Personal Score: 4/5

Review: Behemoth – The Satanist

Behemoth’s new album is my favourite release of 2014, so far. Below is the introduction to my review of The Satanist for Rock’n’Reel Reviews…

TheSatanist

The Satanist has been one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Fans of the mighty Behemoth have been waiting for the triumphant return of Nergal and his band since the frontman’s battle with Leukaemia began in 2010. After his incredible recovery, their tenth release has been a long time coming. Yet, remarkably, The Satanist has finally reached us and, what’s more, may be the band’s most impressive work.

Personal Score: 4/5

Film Review: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Below is my review of Bad Grandpa, written for Rock’n’Reel Reviews.

Director: Jeff Tremaine

The arrival of another Dickhouse production was a welcome one I’m sure for thousands of Jackass fans. After all, with the movies seemingly wrapped up with Jackass 3D and 3.5 and the tragic passing of Ryan Dunn just over two years ago, where could the gang really go from here?

Well, Bad Grandpa is essentially an expansion of the Irving Zisman character from the Jackass movies. Usual ringleader Johnny Knoxville takes charge, fully made-up as the senior citizen and quite remarkably fools members of the American public into believing he is a dirty-minded and reckless 86-year-old.

Irving’s wife has just passed away and he now has the added responsibility of taking his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to live with his irresponsible father, due to the mother landing herself in jail… So, given these circumstances, expect a sequence of cringe-worthy and at times daringly outrageous public stunts and mishaps involving the public.

So far, so Jackass. Whilst certain antics are more controversial and wince-inducing than some of the tamer ones, the grandpa-grandson duo get plenty of huge laughs for their downright ridiculous behaviour throughout. Both Knoxville and Nicoll act well. Nicoll especially does himself proud as young Billy who, admirably, is just as fearless as he is convincing.

What’s refreshing is that unlike other reality-based, hidden camera features such as Borat or Bruno that blatantly attempt to make a fool out of the ‘real’ people involved, the creators of Bad Grandpa (like the other Jackass movies) never appear to have a malicious goal in their interaction with the American public.

The decision to include scenes with just the pair behaving in character was an interesting one but works well in warming the audience to Irving and Billy and their predicament. If you already dislike Jackass then this troublesome twosome and their crude humour isn’t going to win you over. But by embracing the silliness and inviting you into the perspectives of these two characters, Bad Grandpa is a harmless and surprisingly uplifting watch.

Personal Score: 2.5/5

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