Witchfynde-"The Witching Hour"-2002

Another NWOBHM legend returns! The current Witchfynde line-up features long time members Montalo (guitar), Gra Scoresby (drums) and Pete "Thud" Surgey (bass), along with new vocalist Harry Harrison. I know what you`re probably thinking; "another bunch of old has-beens trying to cash in on the current Metal nostalgia wave! How WRONG you are! And though their latest release, "The Witching Hour" is mostly newly recorded versions of Witchfynde classics ["Leaving Nadir", "Give `Em Hell", "Wake Up Screaming"], it also has new tunes, as well. AND what tunes! The hard rockin` opening track "The Other Side" sets the tone for the rest of the album. "Stabbed In The Back" is next, featuring a killer guitar riff that is at once dark, moody and blusey, and is easily one of my favorites! The first 2 or so minutes of "You`ll Never See It Coming" is a veritable feast of guitar experimentation; slide, alternate tunings, wang bar and various effects the eventually lead into a tune which brings to my mind that classic Mountain, particularly in the vocal department. The same goes for "In Your Dreams", another slow,`70s`-ish track. The band chose their new vocalist well; no squealing Metal castrati or Nu Metal tantrum thrower, Harry`s voice lends a bluesy quality to the new AND old tunes, again recalling Mountain`s Leslie West or even Paul Rodgers during his tenure in Free. Yes, he`s THAT good! Hell, the whole band is at the top of their form here! They sound fresh, lean and hungry, not at all like some creaky oldsters on their last gasp. "The Witching Hour" displays a band with their eyes firmly on the future. And the future is where Witchfynde is most definitely headed! The Conspiracy continues....



This one is gonna be shorter than usual because, for once, words fail me! The name of this album is "Sabbatum", and what we have here is without a doubt THE most unique Black Sabbath tribute album [or the most unique tribute album PERIOD!]. Why? What makes this so different from the countless other albums of that ilk? Well, how about an album featuring 12 Sabbath classics [War Pigs", "Symptom Of The Universe", etc] played EXCLUSIVELY on ancient Medieval instruments and sung ENTIRELY in Latin?! That`s exactly what "Sabbatum" is! The group is called Rondellus; they hail from Estonia, and for the past 10 years they have played and recorded Medieval and Renaissance music. Produced by Mihkel Raud, this represents Rondellus` first foray in playing music by a "Modern" artist. The result? A totally fresh approach to a dozen Heavy Metal classics! Here is a track listing [in both Latin AND English]; "Verres Militares" (War Pigs), "Oculi Filioli" (Junior's Eyes), "Funambulus Domesticus" (A National Acrobat), "Symptoma Mundi" (Symptom Of The Universe), "Post Murum Somnii" (Behind The Wall Of Sleep), "Post Aeternitatem" (After Forever) "Magus" (The Wizard), Solitudo (Solitude), "Rotae Confusionis" (Wheels Of Confusion), "Planetarum Vagatio" (Planet Caravan), "Via Gravis" (Hard Road) and "Architectus Urbis Caelestis" (Spiral Arcitect). Check out the website below for more details. You have GOT to give this a listen! Believe me, you won`t regret it.... [HUGE thanks to Phil McKenna for sending me the Sabbatum link!!]


Immortal-"Sons Of Northern Darkness"-2002

Well, I guess there IS new hope for the wretched, after all! Who would ever believe that Immortal would actually develop a sound; I mean an actual SOUND? [One that wasn`t little more than high pitched shrieks that resembled the sound of a cat stuck in a washing machine.] But this veteran Norwegian Black Metal trio [Abbath, guitars and vocals, Iscariah on drums and Horgh bass] have done exactly that, and making a believer out of yours truly in the process! "Sons Of Northern Darkness" is the band`s 7th studio album in 10 years, and is miles away from their earlier efforts, in terms of songwriting, musicianship and production. From what I gather, stylistically this album is a continuation of the previous releases, 1999`s "At The Heart Of Winter" and 2000`s "Damned In Black" [Two CDs` I`m now going to have to go out & buy!]. To my immense surprise, Immortal aren`t Satanists, unlike much of their countrymen playing this style; rather, their lyrical concepts are based on a fictional realm of their own creation called Blashyrkh. Everything they do is based upon this. And if you think the concept is heavy, check out the music! Top quality production allows each instrument to be heard clearly; well executed blast beats, impossibly heavy guitar riffs, ominous bass lines, and demonic vocals reminiscent of Sodom`s Tom Angelripper all bring the lyrical concepts brilliantly to life. You can almost feel the freezing wind biting your face during "Antarctica", or envision the longships being tossed about the sea while listening to the crushing "Beyond the North Waves". The album covers all aspects of Immortal inherit musical traits, from the slower pace of the above mentioned tracks to the speedier tunes like "In My Kingdom Cold", "One by One", "Tyrants", "Demonium" and the title track. Most of the songs vary tempos` and dynamics within themselves, shifting effortlessly from blinding speed to a dirge, remaining heavy through out, which is difficult to do well! But Immortal knows how to do this, as they should, since they are one of the progenitors of this genre. "Sons Of Northern Darkness" is sure to please most of their old fans, while at the same time making new ones [like ME!], as well. Highly, HIGHLY recommended!!!!!


Blastmat-"Theme For A Dying World"-2002

By their own admission, Hartford, Connecticut`s Blastmat are a "politically motivated, metallic hardcore punk band". Sure, you say, but aren`t there about a zillion bands like that cluttering up the airwaves these days? [not to mention that dreadful video channel whose name I refuse to speak!] No, this is REAL Hardcore Punk, not that goofy kids stuff currently being foisted on the public. Discharge, GBH, Misfits, Agnostic Front, DRI, Motorhead; THAT`S` where Blastmat is at! Featuring ex-members of Sanity Assassins [Keith Grave on Bass, Ed Lagraize on Drums, Andy Reitano on Guitars, and Philip Swanson on Vocals], the band takes their cue from these and other seminal early `80s Metal/Punk/Hardcore outfits. Despite the Old School overtones, this is a thoroughly modern sounding band. For an album that was recorded & mixed in 2 days [DEFINITE old school mentality at work here!], the 11 tracks cut through loud and clear. This is due to the obvious professionalism of the band; they tear through the album like a well disciplined machine. Yes, they can actually PLAY their instruments, unlike many groups mining the same territory! Swanson`s vocals are easily understood, and there are points on "Theme For A Dying World" where he actually SINGS, in addition to the more Hardcore vocal aggression. Such versatility allows the band to stand out in the crowd, as do the memorable and hook-laden tunes; "Desensitized", "Taliban Fight Song", "Fire In The City" all blaze with a fire and energy that most groups of this genre can only occasionally muster up! A surprise cover of AC/DC`s "Dog Eat Dog" is played with obvious reverence, and fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. I predict BIG things ahead for Blastmat, so Punk posers beware!! [Special thanks to Phillip for sending me the disc!!]


Candlemass [Re-issues]-"Nightfall", "Ancient Dreams", "Tales Of Creation"-2002

It`s pretty much agreed on that Candlemass helped kick off the whole "Doom Metal" movement of the mid `eighties. Yet while Trouble [an early influence on the Swedish doomsters] stuck to the sludgey, Sabbathy end of the pool, Candlemass infused the genre with a pronounced Euro-Metal feel, which helped to separate them from, say, St. Vitus and others of that ilk. To coincide with the recent mini reunion of the "classic" Candlemass line-up [Bassist/founder Leif Edling, guitarist Mats Bjorkman, vocalist Messiah Marcolin, lead guitarist Lars Johansson and drummer Jan Lindh], these 3 albums have been re-released. re-mastered, re-package, re-whatevered! [apparently, their first album, "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" has also been re-released in this same packaging; I`ll have to pick that one up, too!] Each is a 2-disc set containing a video, unreleased demo & live tracks, as well as interviews with Leif Lars and Messiah , as well as extensive, brutally honest [and often humorous] liner notes about each track from Leif. "Nightfall" is the first to feature Marcolin, Johansson and Lindh. This contained the classic,"The Well Of Souls" [derived from a scene occuring towards the end of the film "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"; see what you can learn here?] as well as "Dark Are The Veils Of Death", "At The Gallows End". This release took the Metal world by storm! The band quickly followed this with "Ancient Dreams", and from there things started to slip. As Leif says in the liner notes; "We did a lot of things wrong on Ancient Dreams!". Stiff as a board production, a hopelessly compressed guitar sound, among other things, slowed the momentum the band attained with "Nightfall". [and great though it is, Messiah`s voice wears on you after a while!] Some songs on "....Dreams" simply should NOT have been recorded, like the title track [A plodding 8 minute affair of Brontosaurian proportions that sorely tests the patience of even the most devoted Candlemass disciple!], as well as "Black Sabbath Medely" [Why, fellas? WHY?]. Still, there ARE some diamonds in the rough; "Mirror, Mirror",[ featuring that killer intro!] "Darkness In Paradise", and the AWESOME "Bearer Of Pain" [my favorite!] nearly make up for the albums shortcomings, and "Ancient Dreams" is actually my favorite `mass disc! "Tales Of Creation" was a bit more ambitious; better sounding and a bit more focused, "Tales...", despite having several great tracks ["Dark Reflections", "The Edge Of Heaven", and an updated version of "Under The Oak", originally from "Epicus....."], failed to help the band regain their footing, and this line-up called it quits a couple of years later. I couldn`t find an official Candlemass website, so I`ve included the address for Sentinel Steel, where I purchased these discs; tell Denis I sent you!

Sentinel Steel
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