This week’s reviews include releases from Author, Black Star Riders, Gene Hoglan, Judas Priest and Seven Kingdoms. The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Author – Lopun Alku (Naturmacht)
After an EP last year, the Finnish black metal project Author return with the full-length debut Lopun Aiku, which translates to “The Beginning Of The End.” J.V. handles everything but the drums, which are done by J.W.
Both songs from the EP are on this album, along with four new compositions. It’s traditional black metal, cold and stately, with a ’90s musical influence. The songs are well-constructed, with catchy riffs underlying the extremity and atmosphere. While not groundbreaking or stretching any musical boundaries, it is an enjoyable slab of old school black metal.
Black Star Riders – Heavy Fire (Nuclear Blast)
With their third album Heavy Fire, Black Star Riders continue to build their own legacy. The band, formed about four years ago by the current lineup of Thin Lizzy, once again worked with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Mastodon, Korn).
Heavy Fire is jam-packed with anthemic hard rock songs with memorable melodies and catchy choruses. Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson provide excellent guitar work, and Ricky Warwick is a versatile vocalist, whose delivery reminds me of a bluesier Elvis Costello. Whether it’s the arena ready “Dancing With The Wrong Girl” or the more emotional “Cold War Love,” he handles it with ease. The addition of female backing vocals on a couple of tracks such as “Ticket To Rise” adds even more variety.
Dreaming Dead – Funeral Twilight (Hammerheart)
It has been nearly five years since the last album from the L.A. melodic death metal band Dreaming Dead. They have a new record label and there are a couple of band members that have joined since their last record was released.
Funeral Twilight is an intense album with heavy riffs and pummeling drums, with the feral vocals from Elizabeth Schall adding even more bite. There are ample melodies as well along with some shredding guitar solos and a creepy instrumental halfway through the album that gives the listener a short respite before the bludgeoning resumes. It’s an effective element, unlike the closing nearly five minute instrumental that’s basically filler.
Gene Hoglan – The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two DVD (Reversed/Hoglan)
The legendary Gene Hoglan has been in a ton of great bands over the years, ranging from Death to Testament to Strapping Young Lad. His drumming prowess is on display on his latest DVD The Atomic Clock: The Clock Strikes Two.
While much of the nearly two hour DVD is targeted at drummers, with play-throughs of numerous songs, there’s also plenty for non-drummers to enjoy. Hoglan tells some stories from his illustrious career, and special guests such as his Testament bandmates Chuck Billy, Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Frank Bello and Shadows Fall’s Jason Bittner weigh in with stories about Hoglan. It’s a DVD that’s both entertaining and educational.
Judas Priest – Turbo 30 (Sony)
1986’s Turbo was one of Judas Priest‘s most polarizing albums, embracing guitar synthesizers and a slick, commercial sound, reflecting the musical environment of the mid-’80s.
The latest edition has been remastered. It includes the original album (but not the 2001 reissue’s bonus tracks) along with a two bonus discs of a 1986 Kansas City concert recorded on the Fuel For Life tour. Turbo has some classic songs such as “Turbo Lover” and “Locked In” and the concert showcases tracks from throughout their career including “Living After Midnight,” “Breaking The Law” and “Hell Bent For Leather.” If you have the original album this version isn’t essential, but the concert is a good one.
Seven Kingdoms – Decennium (Self)
To commemorate a decade as a band, The Florida power metal quintet Seven Kingdoms have titled their latest album Decennium. It includes two tracks from last year’s In The Walls EP along with eight new tracks.
It’s twin guitar driven power metal with soaring melodies and plenty of blazing solos. Most songs are in the five minute range, plenty of time to display varied arrangements and flawless musicianship, but not enough time to devolve into self-indulgence. Sabrina Valentine delivers a powerful performance, and an all-star production team including Jim Morris and Jacob Hansen give the songs a larger than life sound.