Archive CD Reviews
It's been more than a decade since we last heard any new material by Hellion, the L.A. based Metal band discovered by the late Ronnie James Dio and fronted by the very talented Ms. Ann Boleyn. While the predominant vocal style of the day as it pertains women in Metal comes down to either those who sing opera or those who utilize their cookie monster abilities, Ann Boleyn has remained true to form by offering an actual voice worthy of praise in the grander scope of all that cries for the hard and heavy! Hellion have thus delivered a five song EP that showcases Ann's stellar singing capacity once again proving that a woman can sound ferocious and feminine at the same time without going to one extreme or the other. In the tradition of vocalists such as Doro Pesch, Lita Ford and newcomer Veronica Freeman (Benedictum), Ann Boleyn and Hellion are a force to be reckoned with. There are very few female voices out there representing the core values and artistic attributes of Metal and Hellion are most notably true warriors for the cause!
Karma's A Bitch is the slap in the face title of this short but extremely effective collection of songs and while it is sure to send the listener into a frantic convulsion of the mind and body, it's attempt to appease the Metal craving will no doubt leave you begging for scraps in the end. The first song, "Betrayer", dives head first in a most splendid and ear shattering way and instantly confirms that this new chapter in the Hellion legacy is their most accomplished yet. The title cut is without a doubt, the one that takes the crown here and gives credibility to the spirit of classic 80's Metal, take note of the awesome riff that drives this tune and you have to appreciate the line "Next time you mess with a witch... karma's a bitch". The second offering of profound intrigue comes with the track "Hell Has No Fury", this is a genuine anthem if there ever was one and you can definitely feel the passion of Boleyn's focus. "Watch the City Burn" is a moderately paced rocker that thoroughly exudes emotion and creates a sinister persona. The final offering is a fitting gem called "Till the End" which is a solid piece of writing that would fit right in with any Metal friendly radio program. My only criticisms of this E.P. are one, it is just too short and two, the production is lacking. This soundscape would no doubt be amazing for the 80's era of metal but it falls short in comparison to the norm of the day. In fact, I've heard demos that have a better production value that what is delivered here; perhaps a producer who is versed in the art of metal for the next one? Nevertheless, it is great to have Hellion back in the game and I'll take what I can get.
There is an amazing void in the Metal scene today and this level of talent is fleeting in our modern times. I wish Ann and her band all the best in their endeavors. Hellion 2014 is comprised of: Ann Boleyn on vocals, drummer Simon Wright (Dio, AC/DC), Scott Warren (Dio, Heaven & Hell) on keys, Greg Smith (Ted Nugent, Rainbow) on guitar, Georg Dolivo (Rhino Bucket) on bass and new shredder Maxwell Carlisle on lead guitar.
After Seattle's Nevermore split up, I was understandably disappointed with the reality that an era had come to an end. I realize that there is always the possibility of a reunion but since no one knows the future, I am not holding my breath for anything to come about in the foreseeable future. Now, imagine my complete astonishment at receiving the new Sanctuary album in my in-box, an album which features both vocalist Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard of Nevermore in its ranks. For those unaware, Sanctuary is the preceding band to Nevermore. I knew the guys were back together and preparing to release their first album in 25 years, but to actually have it and be able to hear it after going years with nothing and then the demise of Nevermore; I was overjoyed to say the least.
The new CD is a concept album that bridges sci-fi and fantasy with philosophy and gives glimpses into our own society as well. Mr. Dane is one of the premier lyricists of our modern times and although I may disagree with him on certain issues, he is a very intelligent and highly poetic individual nonetheless. Those who remember Sanctuary from the 80's and are hoping that Warrel can still hit those high notes, fear not they are definitely present although not dominant. Nevermore fans should be equally as thrilled as this CD probably sounds closer to that particular sound than the 80's version of Sanctuary. The album titled The Year the Sun Died is without another prolific release to emerge this year. The album hits hard and fast with tracks like "Let The Serpent Follow Me", "Exitium (Anthem Of The Living)", and, "Question Existence Fading". The writing is top notch and the stellar production gives solid credence to cuts such as "Frozen", the first single released for the album. Dane's ethereal vocal style is perfectly suited for this kind of music and fits and in hand with the amazing guitar riffing of Lenny Rutledge as is evidenced in songs like "One Final Day (Sworn To Believe)", and the album opener "Arise and Purify". Not surprising at all but much appreciated is the Metal'd up cover of The Doors "Waiting For The Sun".
Sanctuary have crafted the album of their career and it is so very cool to have them be able to pull things back together for a second coming of sorts. I missed them the first time around, so I am totally digging this return to the frontlines now!
Whether you call them Melodic Death Metal, Symphonic Black Metal, or just plain extreme, Cary, Illinois Metal mongers Starkill are definitely a band to keep watch on. Their second full-length CD comes out October 14th 2014 on Century Media Records and offers a healthy dose of metallic passion the likes of which is rarely found in an American Metal band. That is of course, because Starkill undeniably sound like they would hail from the Scandinavian territories rather than anywhere in the U.S.
Virus of the Mind is the title of this frantic new release, a relentless speed demon of critical significance. Highly melodic, brutally heavy and with enough blast beats to keep even the most intense connoisseurs of extreme Metal thoroughly satisfied. There's nothing like the feeling of having your flesh ripped away from your bones, but one can surely get a sense of what it might be like upon first listen of the album's opening cut "Be Dead or Die." Quite possibly the most musically aggressive statement I've heard this year, the album continues to implore the listener to indulge further into its bombastic cycle of obliterating fury. Surefire winning tracks also included are "Breaking the Madness" which, contrary to the title, actually achieves the opposite reaction in my book and the title track "Virus of the Mind" which, believe it or not, slows things down just a bit and presents a very solemn and disheartening, yet tormenting vibe in its composure. "Before Hope Fades" is, without a doubt, my favorite song on the CD, a beautifully arranged masterpiece. "God of this World", "My Catharsis", and "Convergence" give Virus of the Mind an exceptionally strong finish. One of the most powerful statements made for Metal this year.
Starkill are young, driven, and talented. Given the current state of the music industry I really do hope that the guys find a way to stay on top of things. It'll be nice to see how their career evolves. Here's to hoping for the longevity of Starkill and many new albums to come!