REVIEWS ROUND-UP: FOUR MORE FROM THE CORE (Golden Core Records)
Doing their utmost to be the most prolific metal label around, Golden Core have four more notable releases to their name, all of which are worth checking out. Kicking things off are SCROLLKEEPER, with their ‘Wetico’ six-song EP. Based in Houston, Texas, the band came together around 2016 and after the usual comings-and-goings have a settled line-up of Justin McKittrick (vocals), Alexander Kamburov (guitars and keyboards), Andrew Sutton (bass and cello) and Krystal Salinas (drums) – although drummer and Golden Core head honcho Neudi fills in on three cuts. It’s only 31 minutes long, and the cover is horrendous, but the music is prime-time US metal: the fact that a cover of Hallows Eve’s ‘Metal Merchants’ slips in so unobtrusively gives you an idea of where they’re coming from musically, although the bombast of opener ‘Your Blood First’ sets out their store. A really interesting band that are worth investigating, not least because the songs are heavy yet accessible and Kamburov certainly knows his way around a fretboard.
RADUX came up a while ago, when Golden Core re-issued their 2018 ‘Disaster Imminent’ offering with bonus material. The Finnish lads are now back with a new album ‘It’s Going To Be A Great Day’, which keeps to their principal values of ploughing an Eighties’ thrash furrow with a contemporary punch. It’s solid and uncompromising, with frenetic drumming and faster-than-a-bullet riffing, although bassist / vocalist Juho Vaarala’s hyper-intense and hyperactive vocals, sung at a pitch which only a handful of dogs can hear, take a couple of tracks to get used to. But eight tracks zip by in 30 minutes, and ‘War Of The Few’ is a great example of the genre.
Going back in time, Germany’s DEATH WARRANT released their ‘Ecstasy’ EP in 1985, although the roots of the band date back to a young outfit called Supergalaxis, formed in 1976. The four-tracker appeared on the minor Antoni label and has been twinned here on ‘Death Warrant’ with a six-track studio demo from 1981 to make a full-on album release. It’s a glorious album for musicquarians, and with some interesting riffing and a lo-fi self-produced sound isn’t at all dissimilar to what was happening in the UK a couple of years earlier. In fact, the sleeve refers to ‘NWOBHM made in Germany’, which is a very apt way of putting it: ‘Love Is In My Heart’ or ‘Mr Heroin’ wouldn’t really sound out of place on the 1980 Logo ‘New Electric Warriors’ compilation. Just bear in mind that, like the Scrollkeeper and Radux releases, ‘Death Warrant’ is available on vinyl, although loses one track (an alternative version of ‘Stramp’) because of the reduced running time.
Finally, returning to the States (and saving the best till last), the songs on POWER CASTLE’s self-titled album date from 2001, although weren’t actually recorded until 2017 and have now finally seen the light of day six years later. The fact that bassist Brian Wilson is quoted in the booklet as saying “it’s an understatement to express how obsessed we were with Iron Maiden” gives you a pretty good idea of where the US trad metal five-piece stand, musically. Songs gallop, vocals soar, guitars burn, tempos change, and it’s a bad piece of programming that the opening track ‘Seven Days’ is perhaps the weakest on offer. Like a good wine, if you give the album time to breath you’ll be rewarded with a very pleasant experience, and their album-closing title track is a serious metal ‘Powerslave’ era soundalike SOB. As with the rest of these releases, ‘Power Castle’ is available on both CD and vinyl, although note that the CD is bulked out by a six-track rehearsal tape from 2001 – not essential, but very interesting all the same.
© John Tucker October 2023