Saturday, March 28, 2009

ANIME FIRE: On the Wings of Hope

Released: February 28

In a time when bands sound increasingly alike, it’s nice to discover something that’s a bit different even if it isn’t exactly your thing. “On the Wings of Hope” certainly isn’t going to be for everyone because frankly the mixture of styles is perhaps just a bit too disparate.

Anime Fire takes an otherwise standard metalcore attack and gives it a twist by adding drum-and-bass breaks and hints of orchestral keys. The effect is most apparent on the middle pair of tracks, “Apophis (Destroyer of Worlds)” and the stand-out “Sea of Serpents” where the band blend something that is almost trip hop with Gothenburg-style melodic metal and a Gregorian chant.

Though undoubtedly contrived, it sounds much better than it looks on paper and while a combination of metalcore and electronica is going to be difficult for many to stomach, Anime Fire has certainly developed a sound that’s out of the ordinary.

  1. On the Wings of Hope
  2. Apophis (Destroyer of Worlds)
  3. Sea of Serpents
  4. Mother of Storms

Rating: 70%

Friday, March 27, 2009

STUCK MOJO: The Great Revival

Produced by Rich Ward

Released: 2009

Stuck Mojo was probably the only band that did the rap-metal thing properly, a left-wing, politically-charged rage machine of spitfire rapping and crushing metal riffage. Snappin' Necks and Pigwalk were genre-defining albums that made all other groups trying the style look like tryhard losers. In spite of this, Stuck Mojo has always been rather inconsistent and twenty years since they began churning out the grooves The Great Revival shows a band that seems to be at the crossroads. Fact is, this doesn't seem much like a Mojo album at all but a Rich Ward solo issue with his old band's name stuck on it. As the only original member left, this is no doubt his right but Stuck Mojo was always a band people either loved or hated, and those who loved them for being rap-metal may not really care for this. Those who hated them for the same reason may hate them even more now.

The Great Revival begins pretty strongly with "15 Minutes of Fame", classic Mojo built on one of Ward's typically catchy groove riffs that sets the album up as something at least on par with Rising. After that however it becomes a strange hodgepodge of styles that much of the time isn't metal and sometimes is hardly even rock, and while it is bookended with tracks that attack the American fame machine there's almost no politics about this at all. "Friends" is a funk-laced radio rock song with a catchy chorus and some sweet female backing vocals that if given a chance would have "hit" written all over it, but it flies in the face of everything this group once stood for.

"The Flood" is an unusually brooding track with a really heavy, sludgy feel that makes it one of the more interesting cuts and on "Now That You're All Alone" they offer up a nice line in melodic rock with a neat guitar hook. It's not Stuck Mojo, though, and you'll find stuff like this all over Ward's My Kung Fu is Good.

"The Fear" is the fastest and heaviest thing this band has done in a decade but at less than two minutes doesn't really satisfy. Then there's the rewrite of "Country Road" (actually "Take Me Home, Country Roads") that almost verges on a copyright infringement as only the hook is left -- even West Virginia has been dumped for North Carolina! This is so far removed from Stuck Mojo that it's difficult to reconcile it with the name of the band on the cover, like Martin Scorsese suddenly deciding to make a chick flick.

The Great Revival is undoubtedly the most diverse album Stuck Mojo has ever made and probably one of the most varied things from a single artist to have been released this year; however, it doesn't really do them any favours because it is quite simply too different for most tastes. They certainly can't be accused of not trying out a few new things, though.

  1. Worshipping a False God
  2. 15 Minutes of Fame
  3. Friends
  4. The Flood
  5. Now That You're All Alone
  6. There's a Doctor in Town
  7. The Fear
  8. There's a Miracle Comin'
  9. Country Road
  10. Invincible
  11. Superstar Pt 1 (The Journey Begins)
  12. Superstar Pt 2 (The World of Ego and Thieves)

Rating: 45%

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


It was definitely a night for the old school as two true veterans of the American metal scene hit Sydney for the first time in their careers.

Paindivision opened the night with a short set of high-energy rocking metal, the debut for their new young vocalist who had only three days to prepare for the job. Even with what is now almost a completely new line-up, the Sydney quintet was solid as always, a strong warm-up for what was to come with “Flames of the Reaper” getting an appreciable cheer from the growing crowd.
With barely enough time for anyone to grab a beer or take a piss, Armored Saint walked out and ripped straight into "Reign of Fire" to a mighty roar and the pace barely dropped from that moment. Finding something to follow up one of their best songs wasn't hard. "March of the Saint" rolled out next, then came "Tribal Dance". Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval scooped out generous helpings of Armored Saint's rock-flavoured metal riffing with favourites like “Long Before I Die” and even "Lesson Well Learned" from the first EP getting an airing. John Bush has long been esteemed around these parts as one of the best true singers in metal and he certainly didn't tarnish that reputation tonight. After watching him climb onto the bass bin a couple of times I was almost expecting him to repeat the somersault he took into the crowd when he was out here with Anthrax in '96.

Armored Saint's 40-minute set seemed to fly by in less than half that as they fired off their constant stream of classic metal belters. As I waited for the encore, somebody yelled in my ear that they'd been told Death Angel had blown the Saint off stage the night before. That meant that either Armored Saint had not been on their game or Death Angel was something incredible. Armored Saint then capped off their night with "Can U Deliver", showing us again that they certainly could. They were going to be a hard act to follow.

It turned out that Death Angel was something incredible. In the interview I'd done with him a month or so before, Mark Osegueda had emphasised that his group was very much a live band, and tonight was the proof. This was up there with the best live performances I've ever seen. "Lord of Hate" began and the place just went nuts, the band pumped to be Down Under after so many years and the crowd pumped that they were here. Death Angel’s set was just one long assault of thrash-infused metal goodness. Osegueda proved himself a perfect front man, exhorting the crowd into action and telling us again and again how important it was for he and the band to be in the country. He was almost a blur for most of the night, and the rest of Death Angel were also barely still.

“Voracious Souls” tore some new orifices and a few songs later the guys unloaded an unholy triumvirate that dominated the evening. “Seemingly Endless Time” was simply amazing, far better in the live situation than on Act III and then came the two best songs from The Art of Dying, “Thrown to the Wolves” and “Devil Incarnate”, back to back. “Sonic Beatdown” lived up to its name and yet Death Angel still had more to deliver. They never faltered. Ted Aguilar and Rob Cavestany tore out tasty leads on top of riff after infectious riff and Andy Galeon kept everything tight in the engine room. After waiting for the room to virtually beg them to return, Death Angel closed the night with “Kill as One”, thus ending one of the best nights of classic metal this city has seen in many a long day.

This was a show that should not have been missed from two bands that helped to write the book and still have what it takes.

Death Angel setlist:

  • Lord of Hate
  • Evil Priest
  • Buried Alive
  • Voracious Souls
  • Dethroned
  • Carnival Justice
  • Seemingly Endless Time
  • Thrown to the Wolves
  • Devil Incarnate
  • Sonic Beatdown
  • Soulless
  • Bored
  • 3rd Floor
  • Kill as One

Monday, March 23, 2009

ARGUMENT SOUL: Conflict of Crisis

Released: 2008

Before this I was only aware of Argument Soul through seeing them live at a single show they played in Sydney supporting Dungeon a few years back. Not even the language barrier stopped these Japanese lads from entertaining the crowd with some solid, energetic heavy metal.

If song titles like "To Shine Your Life" and "Belief Will Never Betray You" are anything to go by, Argument Soul's grasp of English has not changed much, but neither has their knowledge of fuel-injected power/thrash. Argument Soul take the heavy, overdriven American style of power metal like Iced Earth or Jag Panzer and mix it with the screaming high-pitched vocals of the European kind. Some of the notes Toshinori Kamiya hits in "Destiny" in particular are ridiculously high in fact and he's guilty of over-singing on quite a few occasions. This tends to let the album down a little because really high singers need to be excellent to not become annoying after a few minutes and Kamiya simply isn't that good. Fortunately the rest of Argument Soul save Conflict of Crisis from that drawer in my CD cabinet reserved for things I never want to hear again. To be fair, when Kamiya isn't trying to sing his tonsils through the roof, he's a fairly good mid-range tenor.

Conflict of Crisis is a mixture of scorching thrash-tinged songs and slower, more epic power metal. The opening two tracks are fantastic speed metal, catchy and heavy and bristling with guitar violence. Kamiya goes a bit off the rails in the choruses of the second, but otherwise this is a killer way to kick off an album. The next couple of songs are more in the traditional power metal vein and after the fury of the opening barrage sound a bit lifeless. "Overcome All" however has more of an epic feel and is better and the album really stays on track throughout. Argument Soul mix up savage thrash riffing and more melodic aspects very well, leading up to the dramatic "Live in the Feeling of Love" that stands as a real highlight with a nice range of vocal styles on display, an extended, progressive arrangement and even a short acoustic section amongst Yoshiyasu Maruyama and Kenichi Teraoka's blazing guitar mayhem.

Argument Soul don't break any conventions but they take a wealth of influences and mould them into a solid individual style that has resulted into a pretty staunch second album that is remarkably free of fluff and typical generic cliches. Turn it up.

  1. Conflict of Crisis

  2. Destiny

  3. Come Across Our Souls

  4. Memory

  5. Overcome All

  6. Belief Never Betrays You

  7. Samsara

  8. To Shine Your Life

  9. Live in the Feeling of Love

  10. October 14

  11. Memoirs of Life

Rating: 72%

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Standing on the Outside: The Songs of Cold Chisel

Released: 2007

Cold Chisel is one of the most important bands in the history of Australian rock music, a group that was so popular they actually sold more records after they split up than they did when they were together. During the 1980s, Cold Chisel probably got heard on more radio stations, more jukeboxes and at more karoake bars around the country by more people than any other Aussie artist, including AC/DC. This level of over-exposure probably led to a dilution their true importance as one of nation's defining rock acts. Indeed, as the 90s really got going, admitting to being a fan of Cold Chisel or that doyen of rock party animals, Jimmy Barnes, was akin to admitting to being a flanno-wearing, VB-slurping, Collingwood-supporting redneck bogan.

Almost another decade later however, and Cold Chisel fandom has enjoyed another resurgence with their songs being exposed to a new generation of listeners through the auspices of shows like Australian Idol and people like Tim Rogers teaming up with Barnesy. This long overdue tribute album was the culmination of this resurgence, and the results could hardly have been better. Standing on the Outside was one of the best albums of 2007, and had me singing along to several artists whom I would normally never even listen to. While quite a few are relatively faithful to the originals -- You Am I's "Houndog" for example, and "Rising Sun" by The Living End -- those that have been adapted to a particular artist's style are the real highlights. Troy Cassar-Daley turns "Bow River" into an upbeat country rocker and Paul Kelly offers a stripped-down, rootsy reading of "Khe Sahn", giving it back much of the meaning that so much over-playing had sapped from it. "Choir Girl's" careful treatment of abortion was always going to be given a paricular poignancy when sung by a female, and Katie Noonan does precisely this. The fact that virtually all of these tracks convert so well only emphasises how great these songs were in the first place.

Only occasionally does the album take a wrong step, and when it does it almost spoils everything. Alex Lloyd's strange acoustic reading of "You Got Nothing I Want" completely misfires. It just doesn't come across as the venomous pouring of spite that was the original and Something For Kate's rendering of "When the War is Over" in their typical gloomy style completely sucks all the hope out of it. If the other songs here weren't as good as they are, these two (particularly Lloyd) could well have killed the entire project. On every other level, however, Standing on the Outside is a masterpiece, one of the best tribute albums ever.

  1. "Rising Sun" - The Living End
  2. "Standing on the Outside" - Dallas Crane
  3. "Forever Now" - Pete Murray
  4. "No Sense" - Ben Lee
  5. "My Baby" - Thirsty Merc
  6. "Water Into Wine" - Evermore
  7. "Khe Sahn" - Paul Kelly
  8. "Bow River" - Troy Cassar-Daley
  9. "Saturday Night" - Grinspoon
  10. "Houndog" - You Am I
  11. "Choir Girl" - Katie Noonan
  12. "When the War is Over" - Something for Kate
  13. "You Got Nothing I Want" - Alex Lloyd
  14. "Cheap Wine" - Shane Nicholson
  15. "Four Walls" - The Waifs
  16. "Flame Tress" - Sarah Blasko
  17. "Janelle" - Augie March
  18. "Shipping Steel" - The Flairz feat. Dave Larkin of Dallas Crane

Rating: 92%

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Produced by Red Bee and Clayton Segelov

Released: 2009

I had the president of the radio station I work at tell me about Red Bee some years ago now during a band competition he was judging. At the time I didn't take much notice because, to be honest, they were called Red Bee. How good could they be with a name like that? As it turns out, this Blue Mountains trio isn't too bad at all. Having spent a few years conquering their local live scene, Red Bee now has their sights further afield. The guys have just unleashed this six track EP, which I picked up during a well-attended launch at Gearins in Katoomba.

These guys are in a similar vein to Mammal, playing heavy rock that isn't quite metal but would appeal to sectors of the metal audience. Red Bee are heavier and less funky than Mammal, with more of a Helmet-like groove going on instead. Certainly Daniel Silk can lay down a mosh riff to rival Page Hamilton when the mood takes him. They also play around with progressive influences like Primus and TOOL, creating an all-rounded alternametal style. Silk's vocals have a Helmet-like quality too. Imagine Hamilton snarling with an Aussie accent, and that's close to what the singing on this is like.

Strangely-titled opener "Hot Titty" comes in on a bouncy staccato riff that establishes the inherent catchiness of the entire EP. They're a tight unit and the riffs and grooves are intersperced with some nice space and noodling passages that they never let get out of hand. "Loaded" has a seriously mean groove and hook, and is easily the highlight of the CD. If there is a criticism it's that there seems to be a bit of an over-dependence on the same similar riff pattern, making several of the tracks sound rather similar to each other. With only a timely nuance of melody or a secondary motif separating one song from the next, this tends to make it drag a little toward the end. Regardless, this is quite an auspicious debut that should find listeners from a rather broad cross-section of the heavy music crowd.

  1. Hot Titty
  2. On Top of the World
  3. Skippy
  4. Loaded
  5. Light of My Life
  6. Team 88

Rating: 72%

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

NAPALM DEATH: Time Waits for No Slave

Produced by Russ Russell and Napalm Death

Released: 2009

It's not for nothing that Napalm Death are still the masters of grind after so long. Time Waits For No Slave is another example of why these guys are one of the greatest and most important metal bands of all. This is almost an hour's worth of relentless ferocity, a trademark never-ending assault of sonic obliteration.

Since returning to their grindcore roots following their departure from Earache, Napalm Death has released consistently strong and powerful volumes of unadulterated chaos. Time Waits for No Slave is no exception, opening with the punk-flavoured attack that is "Strong-Arm". After that, Mitch Harris throws down some catchy technical death metal riffing for "Diktat", without doubt this album's stand out track. Then come "Work to Rule" and "On the Brink of Extinction", two more all-out grind assaults that make the opening third of Time Waits for No Slave a memorable one. After this, Napalm Death gets both a little experimental and downright gloomy, reeling in the pace almost to a drone in the title track, with Barney emitting a refrain that's almost partly sung. The dalliance is only brief and actually a little odd. "Limb From Limb" follows in the same dark vein before the surprisingly technical "Downbeat Clique", a strangely rigidly-structured track from Napalm Death.

The second half of Time Waits for No Slave isn't quite as engrossing as the first. The contrast between Harris' death-metal flavoured tracks and Shane Embury's hardcore-styled ones keeps things from getting boring but there tends to be a feeling of sameness about it as it crashes to an end. At 14 tracks and 50 minutes in length, this does start to wear out its welcome a little. Both Napalm Death's previous studio albums were shorter and had more songs, making this release something of a real endurance test, especially the digipak version with two bonus tracks that takes the playing time up to a minute shy of an hour.

When all is said, however, this is still Napalm Death. It pummels and pounds from the moment it begins with a ceaseless noise terror and is easily as good as anything they've done in the last ten years.

  1. Strong-Arm
  2. Diktat
  3. Work to Rule
  4. On the Brink of Extinction
  5. Time Waits for No Slave
  6. Life and Limb
  7. Downbeat Clique
  8. Fallacy Dominion
  9. Passive Tense
  10. Larceny of the Heart
  11. Procrastination on the Empty Vessel
  12. Feeling Redundant
  13. A No-sided Argument
  14. De-evolution Ad Nauseum

Rating: 82%