Reviews Round-Up September 2020
• DEAD LORD – ‘Surrender’
• PAIN OF SALVATION – ‘Panther’
• BLUES PILLS – ‘Holy Moly!’
• GRIFFIN – ‘Flight Of The Griffin’ / ‘Protectors Of The Lair’
“The name doesn’t really fit the music,” suggested my partner-in-crime, three or four tracks into DEAD LORD’s new album ‘Surrender’ (Century Media, 4 September). Not unless, that is, the deceased aristocrat in question is a nod towards Phil Lynott. There’s certainly much more to the Dead Lord songbook than emulating one of the all-time greatest rock bands, but there’s no denying that the Swedish quartet (guitarist/vocalist Hakim Krim, guitarist Olle Hedenström, bassist Martin Nordin and drummer Adam Lindmark) channel that Thin Lizzy groove with a degree of panache and a heart full of soul, and four albums in they’re not likely to switch horses now. Had the lads been born some fifty years earlier they would have found themselves assimilated into a musical utopia and loved every minute of it, but having come together in 2012 rather than 1972 they are in the luxurious position of being that little different to everyone else, and at a time when originality is a relatively rare commodity that’s a wonderful place to be. Songs like ‘Letter From Allen St.’, ‘Bridges’ and ‘Evil Always Wins’ highlight just how good the band’s technique and execution are, with memorable melodies, virtuoso soloing and lyrics that tell a tale. What’s not to like?
PAIN OF SALVATION have been consistently flying the flag for progressive metal since their debut album ‘Entropia’ appeared back in 1997, although long-term fans will know to expect the unexpected and their eleventh studio album is no exception. ‘Panther’, (InsideOut Music, 28 August) like a great deal of the band’s material, is not a straightforward album to listen to, and is one of those outings that demands your full attention. And that’s before you start to lose yourself in the lyrical concept, a story about those that don’t fit comfortably within societal norms – the panthers of the album’s title. I think. It’s not an album to pick the odd track from though because you can only do it justice by listening to it – really listening to it – in one sitting. If you do want a point of entry the seven-minute ‘Wait’ is melodious and beautifully crafted, but you really need to hear it in context to really appreciate both its full beauty and the overall majesty of the full album.
There’s been a bit of upheaval in the BLUES PILLS camp. With founder member Dorian Sorriaux hanging up his guitar, their third studio album ‘Holy Moly!’ (Nuclear Blast, 21 August) was recorded as a three-piece with Zack Anderson handling both bass and guitar duties, and then moving onto guitar full-time (with Kristoffer Schander being recruited to fill the four-string vacancy). Like its predecessors, ‘Holy Moly!’ is a really good album in its own right and the loss of Sorriaux certainly hasn’t dented their creativity, although if there’s a downside it’s that there’s nothing particularly new on offer here. Vocalist Elin Larsson sings her heart out (and has penned some extremely relevant lyrics), and the playing is flawless throughout, but there’s not a lot of progression from previous outings. That said, this is a band who are exceptionally good at what they do – and onstage they are almost unparalleled – so why change a winning formula? Pick up the digipack version of the album which comes with a copy of their 2012 ‘Bliss’ EP.
High on the VFM stakes comes the complete works of American band GRIFFIN. The early Eighties were a great time for the US metal scene and Griffin were just one of many unsung classic/trad metal (power metal, it was called back then) bands of the time. Featuring vocalist William McKay and guitarist Rick Wagner, two early members of Metal Church, originally called Sinister Savage, and sitting not a million miles from the Virgin Steele or Warlord camp, the Californian outfit had two albums under their bullet belts and were working on their third when they hit the buffers. 1984’s ‘Flight Of The Griffin’ and ‘Protectors Of The Lair’ which followed two years later (and by which time Michael ‘Yaz’ Jastremski and Thomas ‘Hawk’ Sprayberry had both taken flight) have been lovingly spruced up by Golden Core/ZYX Music (21 August) and issued as a 3CD set which contains both albums in full, a stonking twenty-plus bonus tracks and a second, completely remixed, version of ‘Protectors...’. What’s also interesting is that although the music is of its era, it does boast an almost timeless quality and is as exciting now as it was back then, with high-octane vocals and heads-down solos conjuring up images of spandex and Sunset Strip. Enjoy!
© John Tucker September 2020