John Jackson

Apr 172017

Everyone’s favorite multi-continent hardcore punk band The Old-Timers are back with a retrospective greatest hits album covering their six year career that includes selections from full lengths, ep’s, and various compilations.

Since this is a greatest hits album, I’ve decided the best way to deal with the review is to pull from past reviews I’ve done of the Old-Timers releases as I’ve covered a few of them, so this review will also be a “greatest hits”.

In many ways, The Old-Timers are a product of the technology age since none of the band members are close to each other.  Guitarist and bass player Donovan and singer Dave used to both be located in South Africa but not even close in country and Dave has now returned back to Scotland, and the drums have come from the US with most of the drums on this provided by Phil Harris of False Idle.  Mixing and mastering have often been handled by Sef Idle at Simpul Studios in Idaho.  There’s some irony in there somewhere about hardcore music, which if we’re honest is not the most complex, requiring the most modern technology.

As to what you’ll hear on the album…. Driving rhythms, fast guitars, great bass lines and drums and vocals shouted over the top characterize the sound here.  Think the pace for some good old-school circle pits and some slower sections for pile-ons and sing-alongs, just good fun music.  While the Old Timers are an openly Christian band in focus and themes  and that may not appeal to everyone, the intensity of the vocals and the music really shows the conviction of the members and that combined with the overall speed and style and quality of the songs will have a broad appeal. Continue reading »

Askara – “Horizon of Hope”

 Posted by on April 15, 2017 at 19:02  No Responses »
Apr 152017

Heavy guitars, driving melodies combined with an interplay between growled male and clean, ethereal female vocals fill the debut album from Swiss progressive goth metal band Askara .

Askara traces their roots back to 2012 in Basel, Switzerland when Myriam Schmidt (Vocals/Piano), Benjamin Wiesli (Guitar/Vocals), Elia Schmidt (Bass/Vocals) and Raphael Gruenig (Drums) formed the band.  The band first gained notoriety in 2013 when one of their earlier songs was released on the compilation Heavy Metal Nation IX on Quam Libet Records.  Since that time, the band has been working on the tracks for Horizon of Hope, which was recorded and mixed by Markus Hospenthal at KHE Recording Studio and mastered by Dan Suter at Echochamber for an October 2016 release.

As with any band playing this style of music, comparisons to bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Evanescence are inevitable, so I’ll just get those mentions out of the way.  My ears do actually pick up a good bit of similarity in vocals between Amy Lee of Evanescence and Myriam Schmidt of Askara, not only in overall tone but also in more subtle areas like approach and phrasing and transitions between quiet and forceful.  Musically, Askara is solid and in keeping with the goth metal style, piano and keyboards to play a prominent role in the overall sound, adding to the atmosphere, ever present and discernible, but not dominant in the mix, which gets me to the production which is very clean and works well with this style.  Guitars and drums are dominant in the mix when they need to be but in the quieter moments, the keyboards and piano come to the forefront and the vocals are never lost in either setting.  As for the vocals, there are the clean female vocals which are really work incredibly well as Myriam Schmidt has not only great talent but also a great sense of how to use that talent.  The male vocals, which are sometimes clean, sometimes growled, really seem out of place at times and are not up to par with the female vocals. Continue reading »

Your Chance to Die – “Ex Nihilo”

 Posted by on April 14, 2017 at 23:51  No Responses »
Apr 142017

Your Chance to Die is back with a retooled lineup and a new label, and have taken their “face melting” melodic, technical death metal sound to a new level with Ex Nihilo.

Your Chance to Die was formed nearly 10 years ago now, back in 2007 by current band members Missi and Coca Avila.  As often happens over time, lineups change, people come and go and the current lineup has likely the biggest change any band could have in the addition of a second vocalist.  Joining Missi on vocals now is Som Pluijmers (ex-Cerebral Bore) who, until now, had not recorded with the band but had toured with them, even becoming the lone vocalist for some shows when Missi couldn’t tour.  Ron Dalton on guitars and Thomas White on drums are the other newcomers for Ex Nihilo.  Looking back, one can find evidence of more than two previous full-length albums, but we’ll defer to the band’s official bio that lists Suscitacio Somnus (2011) and The American Dream (2013) as their previous albums, both of which were met with critical acclaim for the intensity behind the music as well as the complex arrangements and outstanding musicianship.  From the start on vocals, Missi, has initially attracted attention for being a female in the genre, but after hearing their releases and seeing them live, the skeptical are quickly won over as she is simply great in the role.  For me seeing them in their early days at Cornerstone Festival, the fact that she was sporting an Antestor shirt put my mind a bit at ease before they even took the stage.  For Ex Nihilo, the band began talking with Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Thom Hazaert and signed to EMP Underground the extreme metal imprint for the EMP Label Group and again employed Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me) for recording and used Zack Ohren (Machine Head) for mixing. Continue reading »

Vandroya – “Beyond the Human Mind”

 Posted by on March 27, 2017 at 15:22  No Responses »
Mar 272017

Beyond the Human Mind is one of those albums that if you don’t know of Vandroya, makes you wonder how they have escaped your notice for so long.  The Brazilian band pulls out all the stops in crafting tracks filled with blistering guitars and powerful vocals…everything a metal album should have.

Dating back to 2001, Vandroya started out as many metal bands do, with a passion for the music and an initial focus on playing covers of bands that inspired them.  In 2005, the band recorded their first demo Within Shadows and word began to spread in Brazil about the band.  Eventually the band signed to Inner Wound Recordings and the debut album One was released in 2013.  Using the critical acclaim for the album, the band toured Brazil as word about them began to spread across the globe.  In 2015, the band recorded the song “March of Time” for a Brazilian Helloween tribute album and other members of the band contributed to a variety of other projects.  2016 saw the ban release an ep with a cover of the Bryan Adams’ song “Heaven” and an acoustic version of “No Oblivion for Eternity” from their debut album.  Beyond the Human Mind revolves around the concept of the journey we all go through searching for fullness and peace and an understanding of who we really are. Continue reading »

Rainforce – “Lion’s Den”

 Posted by on March 25, 2017 at 22:58  No Responses »
Mar 252017

Straight from Switzerland comes Rainforce, bringing back a straight ahead hard rock sound from the late 70’s and 80’s.

Rainforce is the brainchild of Andy La Morte and Matt Brand, both from the Swiss doom metal band Pÿlon.  They picked up Benjamin Mann (Power of God) from Germany and Maltese singer Jordan Cutajar, who also spent some time in Pÿlon.

Some albums transport the listener to another era and Rainforce seem to be aiming at that on their debut album Lion’s Den.  Given the number of ex- and current Pÿlon members in the band, one might think this will be another doom metal project, but that is not even close to what is going on in these songs.  Think late 70’s and 80’s hard rock like Nazareth, Sabbath, and AC/DC with a heavy dose of bands like Petra and Whitecross, and you have a pretty good idea of what Rainforce sounds like.  Starting out with a group shout of “We are living in lion’s den” in full 80’s hair metal style and then the band comes in.  Unfortunately, the production and some of the guitar overlays do not sound very good at all and even the lion roar to kick off this track seems like it was added from several rooms away.  Lyrically, the band’s Christian beliefs come through loud and clear but to the point it seems a bit forced, but in that respect as well, this album reminds me of those older bands and the early days of “Christian Rock”. Continue reading »