Hidden Masters’ Debut LP Takes Psych-pop To A Whole New World

Courtesy: Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

The 1960s and 70s were two of the most important decades in the history of modern music.  Those twenty years saw some of the music world’s most influential and prolific artists and bands rise to fame.  Among those artists and bands were the likes of The Doors, Crosby Stills and Nash, Country Joe McDonald, and so many others.  Decades later, those artists and their music remain some of the most important and influential around.  One of the most recent examples of that influence lies in Glasgow, Scotland’s three piece known as Hidden Masters.  The band’s new album, Of This and Other Worlds is one of those albums that any true fan of rocks’ golden era will appreciate.  The songs on this new release openly exhibit the influence of the likes of The Doors, CSN, and others.  One of the most interesting of the album’s offerings is the song, ‘Last Days of the Sun.’ This song stands out among the album’s other tracks because of its two completely contrasting sounds.   At first it comes across as another of the band’s classic psychadelic style pieces.  But the song’s final moments sound more modern, with a sort of garage punk rock vibe.  Audiences will especially appreciate the almost Blue Oyster Cult style use of the cowbell (we need. More. Cowbell.) in this song.  That set against the song’s rather interesting lyrics, and audiences get a song that must be heard to be believed.  Lyrically speaking, ‘Last Days of the Sun’ is just as interesting as it is musically.  Front man David Addison sings as the song opens, “Tell me do you think it’s gonna rain/I sense something/But I just can’t name/The birds complaining too…”  Simply put, the combination of the lyrics and music together make this one of the album’s most intriguing tracks that must be heard.  It will grow on listeners more with each listen.

‘Last Days of the Sun’ is certain to make listeners pay very close attention to the song.  There is so much going on to take away from the song.  If that song isn’t enough for listeners, drummer John Nichol’s work behind the kit will impress on ‘There Are More Things.’  Nichols’ drives the song with his drumming right from the song’s outset.  The trio’s harmonies in the song’s chorus and its almost rockabilly meets hippy music feel only serve to make it even more interesting.  Its seemingly contemplative lyrics about all the things that man doesn’t know weirdly work with the music.  The two elements together give the song a certain mysterious vibe.  They are a good fit together.  And they make this one of those infectious songs that will get stuck in any listener’s head with ease, given the chance.

The energy exuded by the band in ‘There Are More Things’ is maintained even after that song ends and the band launches into the album’s next song.  The song in question is ‘Nobody Knows That We’re Here.’  What makes this song such an interesting addition to the album is that Addison’s part here is reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Painted Black.’  Some might argue here that that’s a little bit of a stretch.  But those that know the song will agree that the Rolling Stones influence is there even if it is purely coincidental.  The addition of Alasdair Mitchell’s keyboard part helps to set the song apart from that influence and turn the song into its own creation.  Together with the once again somewhat cryptic  lyrics sung by Addison, it makes for one more song that listeners will grow to enjoy more with each listen.

The songs noted in this article are just a small sampling of what Hidden Masters has to offer on its new album.  There are seven more songs from which to choose.  Each listener will find his or her favorite song(s) throughout the album’s ten tracks.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from the Rise Above Records online store at http://www.riseaboverecords.com/store/hidden-masters-of-this-and-other-worlds/.  More information on Hidden masters is available online at http://www.facebook.com/hiddenmastersmusic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

South Of The Earth A Welcome Return From Iron Man

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

The Baltimore, Maryland based four-piece known as Iron Man has been making music for a number of years, flying just below the mainstream radar all along.  The band has been classified as a “doom rock” band for most of its career. However, its new album, South of the Earth is more akin to the sludge rock sound of Black Label Society, Brand New Sin, and the band’s label mates in Horisont.  The only real link to the “doom” genre would be the lyrical side of the band’s new album.  That being the case, this new nine-track release is one that any purist metal head will enjoy no less with each listen.

South of the Earth opens solidly with the album’s title track.  Whether one is familiar with the band’s sound or not, it is a powerful first impression from the band on this record.  Front man Screaming Mad Dee’s vocals sound like a cross between King’s X vocalist/bassist dUg Pinnick and legendary Black Label Society front man/guitarist Zakk Wylde.  That is quite the statement for anyone that is familiar with either singer.  For those that aren’t so familiar with either vocalist, suffice it to say that Dee is a powerhouse vocalist.  That his voice can go from almost guttural depths to ear-piercing screams in the blink of an eye without sounding like so many cookie monster growling figures makes an even bolder statement.  Bassist Louis Strachan and guitarist Alfred Morris III add even more punch to this song with their full-on one-two attack.  Morris’ solos in this song are the stuff that young guitarists dream of doing one day.  And drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann’s performance behind the kit shows such control in this slower song.  That show of control also shows just how much talent he boasts.  And along with his band mates, the whole unit makes the album’s opener one that will have listeners’ horns high instantly.

The energy doesn’t let up once the album’s opener ends.  The band picks right back up and keep things moving in the album’s second track, ‘Hail to The Haze.’  When Dee sings in the song’s chorus, “How much longer/How much longer/How much longer inside/Can this monstrosity hide/How much longer/How much longer/How much longer/Must I wait/To release my hate” the power in his voice does quite the job of exhibiting his subject’s personal inner struggle.  Again, add in the musicianship of his band mates, and listeners get what is one more shining gem off of South of the Earth.

South of the Earth is loaded with songs from start to finish that any true metal head will appreciate.  It boasts, as noted, both slower, heavier songs and pieces that are more up-tempo.  For all of its hard-hitting songs, there is one song that stands out among them all.  That song is the instrumental break that is ‘Ariel Changed The Sky.’  This roughly two-minute plus acoustic piece is a total contrast to everything else on this record.  It is a gentle, airy opus that gives listeners just enough time to catch their collective breath before the band launches into its full-on musical assault again on the record’s second half.  It is a perfectly placed break.  And it is equally beautiful.  It’s one more show of talent from the band, and one more example of what makes South of the Earth a record that any purist metal head will appreciate no matter how old.

South of the Earth is available now in stores and online on Metal Blade Records and Rise Above Records.  The band will be playing a hometown show next Sunday, October 13th in support of its new album.  It will be performing at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore alongside St. Vitus, Pallbearer, and Hookers.  The band has more dates to follow.  Fans can check them out on the band’s official website, http://www.ironmanband.com.  Fans can also get more information from the band on its official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Man-Band/146118265408361.

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Horisont’s New Album Takes Listeners On Another Musical Trip Through Time

Courtesy:  Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

2013 has seen the music scene become increasingly crowded as each month has passed by.  This has made choosing the year’s best records in each category increasingly difficult.  Now with the impending release of its third full length album, Time Warriors, Swedish rock band Horisont has made making that choice even more difficult.  The band’s new album, released via Rise Records and Metal Blade Records, is an excellent follow-up to its 2012 album, Second Assault.  It is an excellent follow for the band’s fans as the band picks right up on Time Warriors where it left off with Second Assault.  That is to say that the band’s new album bears much the same sound and feel as Second Assault.   It takes listeners back in *ahem* time once again (pun fully intended) with this record, offering that full on stoner rock sound once again.  For those that appreciate this sound, Time Warriors becomes a solid listen from start to finish.  Whether for a party or for an upcoming holiday road trip, it is a solid record all the way through for any stoner rock fan.

Time Warriors opens with a solid classic stoner rock style piece in ‘Writing on The Wall.’  This song was a good choice to open the album as singer Axel proves that his vocals are as strong as ever.  And drummer Pontus nails the song’s polyrhythmic patterns throughout without missing a beat.  Guitarists Charles and Kristofer take listeners back to rock and roll’s golden era once again with their solos and general musicianship.  Lyrically speaking, ‘Writing on the Wall’ is just as interesting as it is musically.  Axel sings in the song’s chorus, “You know the writing was on the wall/When you decided to take us all/Give us your soul.”  It’s a little bit cryptic.  Though a closer look and listen reveals it’s something of a motivating piece.  This is revealed as Axel sings, “There’s a time when there’s nothing/Nothing that’s holding you back/You give it all you’ve got/But nothing comes close/So there’s still time to set things straight”  If this interpretation is correct, then it makes this song an even better way to start the band’s new album.

The classic rock vibe established on the album’s opener doesn’t end with that song.  From one song to the next, the members of Horisont offer audiences a nonstop musical trip back in time right through to the album’s end.  From ‘Diamonds in Orbit’ to the up-tempo rocker that is ‘She Cried Wolf’ to the album’s two-part closer, ‘All Must Come To An End’, this album will impress the band’s fans new and old.  The driving drum part on ‘She Cried Wolf’ is one of the album’s highlights.  As soon as it kicks in, it’s sure to have listeners on their feet.  By contrast, ‘All Must Come To An End’ is just as impressive in its musical variance.  It goes from an up-tempo rocker in its opening segment to a second movement that could almost be argued to be a Pink Floyd influenced work.  The song’s third and final movement kicks the song right back into high gear.  By the time that final movement ends, listeners will find that it leaves them breathless.  It’s a fitting closer and excellent exclamation mark to the band’s third full length studio release.

Fans will get a chance to hear the band’s new material live when it takes Time Warriors on the road beginning September 27th.  That is the same day that the album is expected to be released overseas.  It’s currently set to be released stateside on Tuesday, October 8th.  More information on the album’s upcoming release and the band’s tour dates is available online at http://www.facebook.com/horisontmusic and http://www.horisontmusic.com.

Metal Blade Strikes Gold Again With Brit Rockers’ New Album

COurtesy: Metal blade Records/Rise Above Records

We are currently living in the twenty-first century.  But don’t tell that to the British hard rock band Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell.  This British three-piece takes listeners back to the days of Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, and so many others from rock’s Golden Era.  From the opening moments of Mark of The beast, audiences know that there is something special about this band. 

What’s really intriguing about “Don’t Hear It, Fear It” is that while the songs on this album do have some lyrical content, it’s obvious that much more emphasis was placed on the music.  There is nothing wrong at all with this.  The emphasis on the album’s musical side is what makes the music that enjoyable for listeners.  The album’s opener, ‘Mark of The Beast’ is solid proof of that.  Drummer Bill Darlington’s playing on this song is right up there with Bonzo himself, the great John Bonham.  He echoes Bonham’s playing both stylistically and sound-wise thanks to the work of producer and mixer Drew Mudd and Chris Fielding along with Ed Turner.  Even vocalist/guitarist Johnny Gorilla seems to channel Tommy Iommi and Jimmy Page all at the same time.  The two together, along with vocalist Louis Wiggett’s vocals make this a solid opener for this album.

The band channels other classic rock stylings on ‘iDeath.’  This is another excellently rounded hard rock song that any true purist metal head will love.  Again, vocalist/guitarist Johnny Gorilla and drummer Bill Darlington take center stage with their talents on this semi-Motorhead style song.  The slower, sludge rock vibe from the song is a drastic change from so many of today’s hard rock acts with their down tuned crunching guitars and cookie monster style growls.  It’s only one more highlight that’s offered throughout the course of this almost hour long record.  Yes, it’s a short record.  But it’s a good record.  In a time when so much modern metal is dominating playlists everywhere, this is a record that has turned out to be another surprise success and another hit from Metal Blade Records in 2012 along with the likes of Horisont and Gypsyhawk.

“Don’t Hear It, Fear It” is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Metal Blade’s website at http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/admiral-sir-cloudesley-shovell.

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Metal Blade hits a bulls eye with Gentleman’s Pistols debut re-issue

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

Metal Blade records has been known in the music community as the leader in metal for three decades.  But in recent years, the label has started to branch out, including more mainstream acts the likes of King’s X, Horisont, and others.  Now, Metal Blade has hit the bull’s eye yet again with the re-issue of Brit rockers Gentleman’s Pistols debut self-titled record.

The inclusion of Gentleman’s Pistols to the label’s roster is yet more proof of what makes Metal Blade still the leader in the hard rock and metal community.  GP’s debut record is one of those no nonsense, straight forward, balls-to-the-walls hard rock records that will leave listeners breathless by the time it ends.  Of the album’s ten tracks, only a few break the three minute mark.  One of those few songs is the bluesy ‘Heavy Petting.’  Singer/guitarist James Atkinson sings on this song, “Heavy Petting in the park/Heavy petting in the zoo/Heavy petting in the dark/Heavy petting with you/Cause you’re my woman/yes you are.”  It’s pretty obvious what he’s singing about here.  The Black Sabbath-esque bass in this song makes it something really amazing to hear.

‘Heavy Petting’ is one of very few slower songs on the band’s self-titled debut.  Fans of the band’s more up-tempo, adrenaline drenched songs get plenty of that in the Clutch-esque opener ‘Just a Fraction’, ‘Widow Maker’, and ‘Lying & Fooling.’  There’s even a touch of old school punk rock in ‘Vivid Wonder’ and ‘Out of The Eye.’  ‘Mistress Mistrust’ stands out on its own merits, too with its neo-classic rock (contradiction in terms there, huh?) vibe. 

Gentleman’s Pistols now have two records on the market.  The band’s second album bears some similarity to its self-titled debut.  And while it’s just as good as the band’s debut, fans can only say thank you to Metal Blade Records for re-issuing this record.  Very rarely does a band have such a positive impact on its debut, and follow that up with an equally impressive sophomore effort.  The short and simple of this re-issue is that for fans who have never heard the work of Gentleman’s Pistols, this record is a flat ten on a scale of one to ten.  In an era when so much rock is either dark, moody stuff laced with cookie monster growls, a band such as this is a welcome change of pace.  It goes back to the golden days of rock and roll.  What’s more, it proves even more why Metal Blade Records is the leader in hard rock and metal today.

The band’s album is available now.  It can be bought in stores and online at http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/gentlemans-pistols.  Fans can get the latest news and more from Gentleman’s Pistols online at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gentlemans-Pistols/340601796105, http://www.myspace.com/gentlemanspistols, http://twitter.com/#!/gentspistols and http://gentlemanspistols.com.

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Horisont’s sophomore album a shoe in for one of 2012′s best rock records

Courtesy: Rise Above Records/Metal Blade Records

The members of Swedish based rock band Horisont could not have chosen a better name for their band.  For those who don’t know, Horisont is Swedish for horizon.  So what does that have to do with anything?  Everything.  For every band and act that wants to hit it big, fame is just over the horizon.  It’s in the distance.  But for Horisont, the band has reached the horizon (horisont) line and crossed over to major fame in the rock community. 

The band’s new album, “Second Assault” is arguably one of the year’s best rock records.  There are lots of acts that try to emulate the old school rock/metal sound.  But what Horisont does is more than just emulate that classic rock sound.  Horisont sounds like it came direct from rock’s golden era. The album itself makes the band’s name fitting, as it starts off very quiet as if the band is off on the horizon before launching into ‘Time Warrior.’  This is one that fans of Deep Purple will love.  The band gives listeners just enough time to catch their breaths at the end of ‘Time Warrior’ before going headfirst right back into things with ‘Road to Cairo.’  The softest that the band gets on “Second Assault” is on the seemingly Pink Floyd-esque, ‘Crusaders of Death.’ 

‘On The Run’ is yet another perfectly fitting piece to this band’s musical puzzle.  It’s a straight forward, hard driving piece that will get any true rocker moving.  The band’s dual guitar attack, mixed with the Rob Halford/Ozzy style vocals of frontman Axel make this one of the album’s highest of points.  And who would ever have imagined Fleetwood Mac being mentioned in the same thought as Ozzy and Rob Halford.  But it’s true.  ‘Watch Them Die’ shows a pretty obvious Fleetwood Mac influence throughout.  And the guitar solos in this piece will even conjure thoughts of Jimi Hendrix, with their styling.

The title track from “Second Assault” kicks off the second half of the album just as strongly as ‘Time Warrior’ kicked off the first half.  There’s no denying the Judas Priest influence on on this one, from the vocals to the music as a whole.  Axel even gets the high notes with an ease that would make Rob Halford proud.  He doesn’t lose his vocal footing even once anywhere in the song.  The band barely lets off from there as it segues into ‘Spirit.’  The bluesy/rock fuzz feel of ‘Spirit’ brings to mind so many different influences.

‘Hard Bargain’ especially is an impressive track. It boasts a touch of Jimi Hendrix on the guitars mixed in with the thundering John Bonham-esque drumming from Magnus.  Add it together, and audiences get yet another great musical experience.  Once the band pounds through ‘Hard Bargain’, there’s jsut one more song on the album.  That song is the hard rocking, guitar driven, ‘Thunderflight.’  It’s just as relentless as the rest of the pieces on “Second Assault.”  Once it’s all said and done, and ‘Thunderflight’ ends, audiences are left breathless.  But it’s a good breathless.  From start to finish, this record leaves real rock fans feeling like they haven’t just listened to another album.  Rather, it leaves them feeling like they actually just experienced something special.  It leaves them wanting more, in a good way, like a really good book.  They don’t want it to end, even though they know it has to.  And thankfully, just like a book, audiences can listen to it again and again and relive that experience each and every time.

Rise Above Records made a great choice signing Horisont.  “Second Assault” is proof of that.  Of the ten total songs on the album, there is not one bad song.  All combined, “Second Assault” makes for an album that stands on its own two feet among the masses of bands whose albums try to emulate perhaps one classic rock band or another.  Horisont has taken the road less traveled, instead, making its own path.  Because of that, the band has put itself in place to be a candidate for the best rock record of 2012.

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Metal Blade to re-issue classic albums from Rise Above Records

Metal Blade Records is pleased to announce that this Summer, it will re-issue a handful of records from Rise Above Records.  The first of the new re-issues is Witchcraft’s “Witchcraft”, “Firewood” and “The Alchemist.”  All three albums are currently expected to hit stores July 17th.

Gentleman’s Pistols will see its self-titled debut record re-issued on July 31st.  It will be joined by Firebird’s “Hot Wings.”  In addition to this current slate of re-issues, Metal Blade also recently released two classic albums from Grand Magus on June 5th.  Those records are “Wolf’s Return” and “Iron Will.”

Current Rise Above band Electric Wizard has released a four-track demo titled, “Satyr IX.”  It has been made available exclusively for the Decibel Magazine Flexi Series.  the demo wil be avaialble in the special “Queens of Noise Women in Metal” issue.  It can be ordered online at http://www.decibelmagazine.com.  Fans can also hear ‘Satyr IX’ online by streaming it at http://www.metalsucks.net

Fans can get their copies of the upcoming re-isses online at http://www.metalblade.com/witchcraft, http://www.metalblade.com/gentlemanspistols, and http://www.metalblade.com/firebird.  Audiences can check out all the latest from Metal Blade and Rise Above Records online at http://www.metalblade.com and http://www.rideaboverecords.com

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