Reviews Round-Up May 2024Reviews Round-Up May 2024

• RIOT V – ‘Mean Streets’
• ANETTE OLZON – ‘Rapture’
• KATI RÁN - Sálá


Few bands need as little introduction as Riot. Being at the right place at the right time they were one of the handful of overseas acts to be wholeheartedly embraced by NWOBHM fans as one of their own, and although it can be argued that the link to RIOT V is rather tenuous there’s no doubting that today’s incarnation are more than capable of writing songs that are in no way a disgrace to the band’s legacy. Bearing that in mind it should come as no surprise that ‘Mean Streets’ (Reigning Phoenix Music, 10 May) is a cracking album from start to finish. The Rioters – Todd Michael Hall (vocals), Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee (guitars), Don Van Stavern (bass) and Frank Gilchriest (drums) – are metal veterans through and through, and songs like ‘Feel The Fire’ with its ‘Grinder’-like staccato riff and the immensely catchy crossover cut ‘Open Road’ certainly boast DNA from the Riot of old. The cover art, naaturally, depicts the legendary harp seal and is terrible, but that’s also what you would expect from them. Don’t judge an album by its cover though: ‘Mean Streets’ will almost certainly feature in a few end-of-year Top Tens come December.


Video Clips:
‘Feel The Fire’ -
‘Mean Streets’ -
‘High Noon’ -
‘Love Beyond The Grave’ -


ANETTE OLZON is another musician who needs no introduction, thanks to her five years fronting Nightwish. After a disappointing start with her first solo release ‘Shine’ back in 2014 she quickly found her direction and ‘Rapture’ (Frontiers, 10 May), her third solo album, bears all the hallmarks of greatness. As with its predecessor, 2021’s ‘Strong’, ‘Rapture’ sees the Swedish frontwoman collaborating with Magnus Karlsson (who also plays guitars, bass and keyboards on the album) to craft a collection of songs which should delight all symphonic metal fans. The operatic opening as ‘Heed The Call’ kicks into life in itself should set hearts a-pounding and although Nightwish comparisons are inevitable (check out ‘Day Of Wrath’ with guest growls from Johan Husgafvel) Olzon, both in her solo career and in her work in The Dark Element and with Russell Allen, has proved again and again that she is an artist of no mean talent.


‘Rapture’ -
‘Heed The Call’ -
‘Day Of Wrath’ -
‘Hear My Song’ -


“HAUNTED PLASMA is a powerhouse of futuristic synth in symbiosis with the super violence of kosmische black metal,” runs the press release, and it’s hard to argue with that. The trio are purveyors of heavy electronica, the band uniting the talents of guitarist / vocalist Juho Vanhanen (Oranssi Pazuzu, Graave Pleasures) and electro wizards Timo Kaukolampi (K-X-P, Op:l Bastards) and Tomi Leppänen (Circle, Aavikko, K-X-P). The Finns’ debut album ‘I’ (Svart Records 31 May) is a pulsating blast of krautrock meets metal with Philip K Dick providing the landscape. It’s bleak and uncompromising yet heavy and expressive, with five tracks wrapped up in just over forty minutes: closer ‘Haunted Plasma’ itself stretches out over nearly thirteen minutes with an incessant backbeat and clever instrumentation, an express train on the rails to damnation, while debut single and album opener ‘Reverse Engineer’ – with guest vocalist Mat McNerney – is more of a mesmerising slow-burn with a hypnotic refrain and eerie atmospherics. Embrace technology and be scared of it.


Video clips:
‘Machines Like Us’ -
‘Reverse Engineer’ -


“Named after the Old Norse word for ‘soul’ and ‘sea’, ‘Sála’ is an act of ‘soul retrieval’, the shamanic art of trauma recovery, be it illness, death, heartbreak or loss, and the reintegration of a splintered self.” So runs yet another press release, this time accompanying KATI RÁN’s second album, indicating from the off that the album is a deep dive into the fantastical musical world of dark, Nordic folk. Rán herself is a Dutch singer and multi-instrumentalist and already has a track record of working with film and TV composers and gaming industry companies. Her debut album ‘Lys’ appeared in 2015 when she was still a member of L.E.A.F., but a handful of singles aside – ‘Blodbylgje’, ‘Unnr / Mindbeach’ and 'Hefring', all of which appear here – things have been pretty quiet musically since then. But the best things come to those who wait and ‘Sála’ (Svart Records, 17 May) serves up thirteen ethereal compositions over 78 minutes (the aforementioned ‘Blodbylgje’ is fifteen-plus minutes in itself). It’s an exceptionally interesting release – a truly magical body of work – and as the songs on offer are as changeable as the seasons it never outstays its welcome. To add to the otherworldliness of the album the lyrics are delivered in Norwegian, old Norse, Icelandic and English, with backing vocals by Gaahl (aka Kristian Eivind Espedal), Jaani Peuhu and Napalm Death’s Mitch Harris.


Video clips:
‘Stone Pillars’ -
‘Kólga 16’ -

© John Tucker May 2024