Reviews Round-Up October 2021Reviews Round-Up October 2021

• BEAST IN BLACK – ‘Dark Connection’
• JOHN 5 – ‘Sinner’
• TOLEDO STEEL – ‘Heading For The Fire’
• ARMORED SAINT – ‘Symbol Of Salvation Live’


I was fortunate enough to see BEAST IN BLACK when they supported Nightwish at Birmingham back in 2018 and was mightily impressed by the band, both in terms of their material and its high-energy delivery. But if their previous pair of albums (their 2017 debut ‘Berserker’ and 2019’s ‘From Hell With Love’) didn’t really encapsulate the band in all their glory then the stars have aligned on ‘Dark Connection’ (Nuclear Blast, 29 October). The band (Yannis Papadopoulos, Anton Kabanen, Kasperi Heikkinen, Mate Molnar and Atte Palokangas) have developed a superb blend of frenetic, high-octane and, dare I say it, poppy metal which ably captures their onstage energy, and have channelled it through eleven punchy, catchy and immersive songs. Melody and groove abound on an album which proudly screams Eurometal in all its glory while guitars and synths clash and burn. There’s no law that says metal can’t be fun and, to be fair, if you not tapping your feet or replicating Palokangas’s drum patterns on your knees as ‘One Night In Tokyo’ or ‘Hardcore’ blast out of the speakers you’re probably dead. Deadly serious in their intent, the Beast In Black boys have delivered a masterclass in melodic metal and, if that’s not enough, where else can you find covers of songs by Manowar (‘Battle Hymn’) and Michael Jackson (‘They Don’t Care About Us’) rubbing shoulders? Answers on a postcard...


Video clip – ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’:


Already well recognised for his work with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and David Lee Roth, and a celebrated solo artist in his own right with a dozen albums to his name, guitarist extraordinaire JOHN 5 should need little introduction. His latest solo album ‘Sinner’ (Big Machine Records, 29 October) is an incredibly exciting body of work and features ten largely instrumental work-outs which can broadly divided into three camps: skull-crushingly heavy, shreddingly heavy, and interesting, lighter, workouts. The heavier stuff takes all the honours in my opinion, and the pounding ‘For I Have Sinned’, the haunting ‘Land Of The Misfit Toys’ and the driving ‘Euphoria’ (featuring Carla ‘Butcher Babes’ Harvey) all bring something different – but substantial – to the table. Talking of guests, MegaDave Mustaine pops up in the single ‘Que Pasa’, and later in the album ‘This Is How I Do It’ bounces along and sounds suspiciously like a reworking of the kiddies’ song by The Laurie Berkner Band.

Elsewhere the lighter material is more interesting than essential, and includes Les Paul and Mary Ford’s 1953 hit ‘How High The Moon’, and ‘Georgia On My Mind’ with a guest appearance by Peter Criss. Meanwhile ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ adds a smile-on-your-face twist to proceedings and proves that 5 doesn’t need to be cranked up to eleven to deliver the goods. Across the board though John 5’s superb musicianship takes centre stage, and his ability to turn heads with jaw-drawing virtuosity makes ‘Sinner’ one of 2021’s most thrilling releases.

Video clip – ‘Que Pasa’:


TOLEDO STEEL are Britain’s best kept metal secret. Exuberant and exciting, the band (vocalist Rich Rutter, guitarist Tom Potter, bassist Felix Dock and drummer Matt Dobson) have, in their own words, been “conquering stages across the UK and Europe since 2011 with their own style of 80s’ influenced high energy heavy metal” – and that’s no idle boast. A Toledo Steel show is a frenetic metal work-out which draws distinct parallels between this high-spirited south coast quartet and the band’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal forefathers, and their latest album ‘Heading For The Fire’ (Dissonance, 22 October) is ample evidence of the quartet’s rabid enthusiasm and musical creativity.

Some of the album’s eight songs – the short ‘n’ punchy ‘No Time To Lose’, for example – could easily have been forged back in the fire and fury of the NWOBHM furnace forty years back. But that’s not to say that ‘Heading For The Fire’ is a nostalgia trip. This is the band’s second ‘real’ album (the demos collection ‘The First Strike Of Steel’ aside) and Toledo Steel know exactly where they’re going with things. It pretty much takes up where their 2018 debut ‘No Quarter’ left off, taking the traditional British metal sound and giving it a contemporary sheen so that although you can see where they’ve come from, they’re striking out for horizons new. ‘Heading For The Fire’ is a great album, interesting and heavy yet easily accessible and boasting both melody and muscle in equal quantity. Alongside the CD there’s a rather nice limited edition red vinyl LP available.


Video clip – ‘On The Loose’:


It’s probable that the Toledo lads weren’t even born when ARMORED SAINT released their fourth studio ‘Symbol Of Salvation’ back in 1991. Armored Saint, to my mind, were the best of the US bands that broke through from California in the early Eighties. Their debut album had the songs, although has hampered by dodgy production. Its follow-up ‘Delirious Nomad’ had the songs but was a bit out there. Their third LP had the songs, but by that time their record company Chrysalis no longer seemed to care. But it all came together on album number four, when they were back on an independent label and allowed to make the record that they wanted to make. It was born of sadness though, as guitarist Dave Pritchard contracted leukaemia and died shortly before recording began, but from tragedy came triumph and ‘Symbol Of Salvation’ truly showed what a great band Armored Saint were.

Faster forward thirty years and the album can be heard in an entirely new way through ‘Symbol Of Salvation Live’ (Metal Blade, 22 October). Originally recorded in July 2018, ‘Symbol...Live’ features the entire studio album in running order, meticulously delivered but raw and ragged enough around the edges to please those of us who weren’t there on the night. Over the years, the songs have lost none of their freshness nor bite, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a new set of material rather than a thirtieth anniversary celebration. The CD comes with a DVD of the gig, or you can splash out on the double LP which features five unreleased demos of songs that might have but didn’t make the album. What’s not to like?

Video clip – ‘Symbol Of Salvation’:


© John Tucker October 2021