Seamount “Sacrifice” (2010) The Church Within Records
Seamount play catchy rock infused with the power of Doom. The “Sacrifice” album was the first I heard of them. I liked what I heard: thick riffs and memorable melodies paired with a dusky and familiar voice. The voice I recognized belongs to Phil Swanson, who’s sung for more bands than I can shake a stick at… Briton Rites, Hour of 13, Upwards of Endtime, Vestal Claret… the list goes on. Now be it known— Seamount operates in Germany… so you could say Sir Swanson (of the USA) really gets around!
It would seem that the world suffers from a shortage of metal vocalists who can do the old style justice. This would explain why Swanson is so sought-after. Speaking specifically of Seamount, it’s good ol’ rock music— heavy enough to be metal, dark enough to be Doom, not so traditional, but fairly original. Between songs the tempo and atmosphere are prone to change, slow to fast, dark to light. My track of choice could be ‘Gettin Through.’
Seamount might not be plain enough for professors of traditional Doom. And it might be too ‘doomy’ to attract them who seek that trendy retro-rock. While I’m a big fan of traditional Doom, I’m also a big fan of rock n roll. Now listen up… Doom IS rock n roll. Let Seamount serve to remind you what it’s about!
Mob Rules – Cannibal Nation (2012) AFM Records
Mob Rules are a traditional metal band wearing a power metal jacket, like Tad Morose and Nocturnal Rites to name a few. Offspring of Dio and Maiden, Mob Rules initially set the bar very high for themselves with their first two albums: Savage Land and Temple of Two Suns. Though perhaps they haven’t topped these two, Cannibal Nation reveals them moving forward while looking back. I sense improvement over their previous release Radical Peace (2009).
My favourite thing on Cannibal Nation is the mighty “Lost.” With a touch of organ and a whisper of Arabic scale it’s… if you’ve ever wondered what Candlemass would sound like with Dio on vocals, this song is as close to that unholy fantasy as anything I’ve yet encountered. Though the harmonious, catchy chorus will remind you that it’s power metal.
The other songs are reliable. On certain songs I hear Mob Rules conveying more Dio-spirit than ever before while the single, “Ice and Fire,” has a celtic tinge. The title-track, I do declare, is a tad generic: Iron Maiden riffs with added power-metal tropes. I demand that every song command my attention!
Acoustic guitars herald the beginning of the album’s final song, “Sunrise.” With its shifting dynamics, soaring vocals and acoustic guitar, it echoes a sound found on their first two albums, albeit in ballad form. I enjoy it, and I respect Mob Rules for moving forward while looking back. Despite a touch of filler, this is a solid album. It ultimately shows they’re hard at work mining for gold. I hope they unearth even more of it in the future.
Asteroid – II (2010) Fuzzorama Records
Their first song I heard was ‘Time,’ the last song on this album. As soon as it passed through my ear canals I was mesmerized. I had known Witchcraft and Graveyard- I had my eye on retro-rock movements in Sweden- but Asteroid just blew me away.
This album “Asteroid II” comes three years after their 2007 debut. These three guys spill a unified sound involving thick bluesy riffs (think Kyuss) complimented by slower spacey grooves. The vocals stand out, remind me of Jim Morrison- if not quite Morrison they make up for it with strong vocal harmonies.
This album is potent, like their debut but with a bit more refinement. You owe it to yourself to listen to all the songs all the way through. The song ‘Lady’ for example, begins with a simple rumbling riff a la ZZ Top but halfway through it sinks into a relaxed star-filled-sky-atmosphere. It blends perfectly into the next track ‘Towers,’ which begins smoothly and rises into heavy riffage halfway through. This gives you a sense of this album’s flow and the thoughtful songwriting you will find here.
Asteroid breathe fire with relaxed ease. They take a classic blues-rock sound and push it in their own direction. From high perches of rock they plunge into the heavy deep of metal. Up from the dark shade of metal they float in the friendly reaches of rock n roll… Blast off. Rock on.
Grand Magus – The Hunt (2012) Nuclear Blast Records
Early this century… in the year 2001… Grand Magus served up a debut album so thick and frothy that gods licked their lips upon hearing it. Ten years after it was released… I heard it. And my EARS licked their lips! As I was listening to the the clear deep voice punch its way through meaty riffs and blazing solos, one of my ears shouted to the other: THIS IS ROCK N ROLL! To which the other replied: Yeah man.
The Hunt is their sixth LP. Gradually, throughout the course of those 11 years, Grand Magus seem to have shifted away from rockn bluesy licks to favour a more “epic” sound. Of all their albums, I hold their first in the highest regard. That being said, I put forward that “The Hunt” is an improvement over their previous album, “Hammer of the North” (2010).
Compared to Hammer of the North, the songs on The Hunt have more of a presence (to my ears at least). ‘Valhalla Rising’ is as catchy as colds are. Both ‘Silver Moon’ and the title track are solid as stone. The last track ‘Draksådd’ is a good example of bluesy and epic sounds coming together. And let’s not forget the epic two-part ‘Son of the Last Breath’ with its acoustic guitar/cello build-up to a climax featuring guest death metal vox from J. Hedlund (Unleashed). Epic ambience, varying dynamics, powerful melodies. Great stuff. Grand Magus always do well with the less-is-more approach: simple, memorable songs with a huge sound executed by a modest three-man unit. But Son of the Last Breath is not a product of less-is-more. It’s all in. And I like it. It leads nicely into the next song, Iron Hand, which is a more straightforward affair.
Overall the album holds together nicely. The Hunt has some grand-sounding songs, perhaps less bluesy than some of their past works, but still dancing between bluesy riffs and epic melodies. My mind keeps looking for criticisms but my ears offer only approval (and it’s them I have to listen to). Rock on Grand Magus!