Reviews Round-Up April 2022
• EMOTIONAL SUICIDE – ‘Emotional Suicide’
• AXEL RUDI PELL – ‘Lost XXIII’
• SKULL FIST – ‘Paid In Full’
• SANHEDRIN – ‘Lights On’
• GGGOLDDD – ‘This Shame Should Not Be Mine’
• WOLF – ‘Shadowland’
Formed in 1992 by Mark Whitlock, Bud Rogers, Jase Manning and Mark Thorman, friends and veterans of Eighties’ bands, EMOTIONAL SUICIDE are something a musical best-kept-secret. Early demos gave way to an EP entitled ‘The Word’ and to this, their sole, self-titled, album, which they released independently in 1993. It didn’t set the world on fire and the band would soon dissolve, which is a great shame because it’s a really good slice of metal, released at a time when being grungy and miserable seemed to be all the rage. As a point of reference, they call to mind Canada’s Moist or Scotland’s Stiltskin, the band that topped the UK singles chart with ‘Inside’ in 1994 and would later cede Ray Wilson to
Genesis. Loving rescued from the MIA file by Neudi at Golden Core, ‘Emotional Suicide’ (14 April) showcases a number of extremely exciting and well-executed compositions. Songs like ‘The Joker Cries Now’, ‘Back For More’ (which is a guitarist’s dream) and ‘Sacred Time’ with its midsection Maiden-esque gallop are worth the price of the album alone. Four bonus demo tracks round out the package.
It’s a mystery why AXEL RUDI PELL isn’t better known – in fact, revered – in the UK, as his style of classic rock has probably never been more highly lauded in this green and pleasant land as it is now. ‘Lost XXIII’ (Steamhammer/SPV, 15 April) is the twenty-first studio album to the guitarist’s name, and he and his ever-reliable band (vocalist Johnny Gioeli, keyboard player Ferdy Doernberg, bassist Volker Krawczak and drummer Bobby Rondinelli) once again serve up ten tracks of driving, Seventies/Eighties metal with a contemporary tinge and fretwork to die for. The album contains the usual feast of mid-length material interspersed with a couple of much longer compositions (both ‘Gone With the Wind’ and the title track break the eight-minute mark), although the standout track has to be the hacking riff of the antagonistic ‘Down On the Streets’, as fine a slice of metal as you’re likely to hear this year.
Video clip – ‘Survive’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EXiGNhZVSo
It might only be thirty-four minutes long, but ‘Paid In Full’, the fourth album from SKULL FIST (Atomic Fire, 14 April), says all it has to say in that time and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Founded in 2006 by guitarist/frontman Zach Slaughter, the Toronto three-piece are equally both muscular and melodic, and, as the title track and album opener ably demonstrates, as a band they aren’t afraid to play with the format. Treading the same kind of path as Cauldron and Enforcer, Slaughter and his compadres Casey Guest (bass) and JJ Tartaglia (drums) don’t throw all their efforts into the bucket marked ‘heavy’, choosing instead to focus on melody and musicianship, and songs like ‘Long Live The Fist’ exemplify a desire to impress with dexterity and harmony rather than – as you might expect – coming at things from the bludgeon riffola side of things.
Video clip – ‘For The Last Time’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odtjm8-XYvM
Another three-piece are Brooklyn’s SANHEDRIN, whose ‘Lights On’ (Metal Blade, 4 March) is a terrific slice of unashamedly heavy metal. The band (vocalist/bassist Erica Stoltz, guitarist Jeremy Sosville and drummer Nathan Honor) came together in 2015, and ‘Lights On’ is their third album. Confident and brash, Sanhedrin at times call Hellion to mind, largely because bassist Erica Stoltz’s voice and delivery sounds not unlike Anne Boleyn’s, and also because the band have come up with some cleverly constructed and quite inventive material: check out ‘Lost At Sea’ or the lengthy ‘Code Blue’, for example. Across the board the musicianship is flawless, and the power trio format appears to suit the musicians, allowing them all space in which to flex their muscles. In their biography, they proudly admit to flying the flag for heavy metal – as opener ‘Correction’ or the neck-breaking ‘Scythian Woman’ – testify, and they’ve pretty much nailed the spirit of the early Eighties.
Video – ‘Lost At Sea’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPyZamk0Z_w
Once known more simply as Gold, Dutch band GGGOLDDD were commissioned to produce something new for their appearance at 2021’s virtual Roadburn Festival. At the same time, vocalist Milena Eva was struggling in lockdown with long-repressed memories of sexual assault as a teenager. From these events come ‘This Shame Should Not Be Mine’ (Artoffact Records, 1 April), a hugely personal, emotive and cathartic body of work in which Eva has confronted her past, set to what can be at times a harsh and unforgiving musical backdrop swamped with electronica and pulsing with anger and hurt. It’s not easy listening – hearing someone else’s pain is, naturally, not a joyous experience; and, besides, it’s not meant to be – but ‘This Shame Should Not Be Mine’ is both brave and hugely ambitious for so many reasons. The centrepiece of the album, the sprawling ‘I Won’t Let You Down’, and the discordant ‘Notes On How To Trust’, possibly best encapsulate where GGGOLDDD are musically, and the more buoyant closer ‘Beat By Beat’ does offer some degree of light at the end of a very bleak tunnel. But this is an album which has to be heard in one sitting; and it’s an album which should be learned from, too.
Video clip – ‘Spring’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0IKHa9hu6A
Formed back in 1995, Sweden’s WOLF have lost none of their bite over the ensuing twenty-seven years. ‘Shadowland’ (Century Media, 1 April) is only their ninth album – the period between 2014’s ‘Devil Seed’ and 2020’s ‘Feeding The Machine’ were fallow years in terms of releases – but their latest offering is a forceful offering, laden with hooks and beautifully crafted, traditional metal workouts. Cuts like opener ‘Dust’ and ‘Seek The Silence’ are pretty much masterclasses in how to write and deliver accessible and melodic songs without compromising on heaviness or aggression. And ‘The Ill-Fated Mr Mordrake’ gets a special mention for not only being a cracking song but also for being the best song title of the year so far. Bonus track ‘Trial By Fire’ is worth hunting down too, although it looks as though it’s included on all formats anyway.
Video clip – ‘Shadowland’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlkOou7y80Y
© John Tucker April 2022