DRONE: Self-titled: CD

This thrash metal band from Celle, Germany formed in 2004. The band released their debut Head-on Collision in the year 2007, and now have released their fourth album in ten years.

Starting off with an acoustic guitar interlude then turns into a chugging riff that gives opening track, “Guilt” a powerful beginning to the album. Heavy and unexpected, Drone have now got your attention, that is for sure.  “The Reason” which has manic double bass drums, keeps the heavy destruction moving along. “Buried In Blue” has killer riffs and power just exploding from the band. The vocals are raspy with the obligatory growls and shouting on the album, and there is a lot melody to the choruses that really make you get into this album. The overall production of the record is clear, and tight, which just adds to the heaviness of the music laid down.

A very heavy album that will make fans take notice and should get new fans to check them out. The power and intensity are at an all time high, jump in and let the band grab you and fill your ears with their energy.

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THRESHOLD: For The Journey: CD

Threshold began in London, England’s suburbs back in 1989, and this is the sextet’s third studio release for Nuclear Blast Records, following Dead Reckoning (2007), and March Of Progress (2012). The latter album saw the return of Damian Wilson, the band’s vocalist from 1992-1993, and 1996-1998, after the departure (and subsequent tragic demise) of Andrew ‘Mac’ McDermott.

“Watchtower on the Moon” is upbeat, with a strong, groovy riff that carries the track, stellar vocals, catchy hooks, and power. “Turned to Dust” is a heavy track, with riffs that punch through with, and a great chorus. “Autumn Red” is a smooth track with heavy riffs, and great lyrics. “Siren Sky” is one of the more heavy metal tracks on the album with tons of riffage surging forth. “The Box,” is the centerpiece of the album with its twelve minutes of textures and moods. “The Mystery Show” has one of the smoothest chorus lines backed by keyboards, and a smoldering riff. Other notable tracks are “Unforgiven,” and “Autumn Red.”

This is a great album of intelligent, well-written progressive music that keeps you riveted from start to finish. Try not to like this one, you just can’t help replaying it.

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WHILE HEAVEN WEPT: Suspended At Aphelion: CD

While Heaven Wept has existed in various forms since 1989 (though the actual moniker wasn’t settled upon until 1991), and co-founding guitarist / composer Tom Phillips has been the one constant for the past 25 years. Despite countless line-up changes in the early years, the core of the band, featuring bassist Jim Hunter, guitarist Scott Loose, and his sister Michelle on keyboards essentially came together in 1998 and has remained intact ever since, though her husband and Brave band mate Trevor came on board in 2004 after a series of drummers came and went.

Starting out playing doom metal, they have expanded into progressive, and symphonic metal on this far-reaching release. With a prologue “Introspectus,” and epilogue “Retrospectus,” both instrumentals at each end of the disc, they really show off the technical skills that are present in this band. “Icarus And I,” features a huge chorus, a catchy melody, and includes harsh, growled vocals. “Heartburst” is slow and soulful, and features a fantastic guitar solo from founder Tom Phillips. “Indifference Turned Paralysis,” is another instrumental, but it’s faster and brings a progressive feel to the track. “The Memory of Bleeding” and “Souls in Permafrost,” are powerful songs with the latter featuring an amazing chorus. “Reminiscence of Strangers,” has blinding guitar work from Phillips and guest guitarist Victor Arduini. You need to listen to the album as a whole, because it is a dynamic and richly textured experience.

Grab the headphones, turn the lights down, and drink in the sweet sounds that are on display here. Not everyone can pull off such a feat, but this is one experience that is worth having over and over again.

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FM: Direct To Disc: CD

On this album, Nash The Slash has been replaced by Ben Mink (electric violin, mandolin) and the band recorded this as a one track per side, direct to disc. This meant that it was recorded directly to a master disc that records were pressed from it, not on a master tape like most other albums were.
Opening track “Headroom” has five connected movements of spacey soloing, while second track “Border Crossing” has four connected movements and is a bit closer to the classic FM sound. Electric violinist/mandolinist makes major contributions throughout, Cameron Hawkins adds incredible synthesizers, fantastic bass-playing, and even some scattered background vocals, and Martin Deller does a great job with the drumming. Both tracks are mostly, but not entirely instrumental, and it really doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the songs not to be able to sing along, instead you just let the sounds flow over you.
Direct to Disc is admittedly short on length and different from the band’s other albums, but this has to be one of the most interesting albums of their career. They became far more accessible and commercial not long after this was released, so take a listen to how the band sounded doing a very unique and risky move.

FM: Black Noise: CD

This is a remastered edition of the 1977 debut album by the Canadian progressive rock group FM. The band began life in 1976 with Cameron Hawkins (synthesisers, bass, vocals) and Nash The Slash (Jeff Plewman) (electric violin, mandolin, vocals) coming together as a duo, making an appearance on national TV in Canada in the Summer of 1976. By March 1977, FM became a trio with the addition of Martin Deller on drums. The Canadian Broadcasting Company offered to release the band’s debut album, “Black Noise” on their own label later that year, and was only made available via mail order. The following year the album was given a wider release on the VISA label in the USA. This release is the first time the album has been issued in Europe and has been newly remastered and includes an illustrated booklet and a new essay.

Right from the beginning of “Phasors On Stun” you just know you’re listening to something special. With the clear vocals by Hawkins, the song goes straight to the point and is so catchy and full of energy that you never want it to end. “One O’Clock Tomorrow” has a quiet synth sound, as well as Nash on violin providing a fairly light melody until the drums come in. The short instrumental “Hours” has great violin playing. “Journey” gets back to a heavier uptempo song with drums and synths leading the way. The instrumental “Dialing For Dharma,” has a nice violin solo by Nash The Slash. “Slaughter In Robot Village” is another great instrumental track. “Aldebaran” is a ballad, and here Nash’s mandolin is the star. Black Noise” is a nine minute track where the group explodes and shines in its utmost brilliance, the drumming builds on itself, and has some of the most haunting vocals.

It’s great to hear the remastered sound giving us the ability to hear all of the nuances clearly and feel the emotion and power that they put forth on this album. The liner notes were really interesting and this is an all around winner…get it!

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GOOD VIBRATIONS: The Punk Singles Collection: CD

Good Vibrations: The Punk Singles Collection

Twenty-five tracks showcasing the very best of the legendary late 70s Northern Ireland label. This release features contributions from bands such as Rudi, The Undertones, The Outcasts, Protex, The Moondogs, and The Bankrobbers (featuring Joby Fox who went on to join Energy Orchard), plus this release also includes previously unreleased songs from Shock Treatment, and the Androids. This CD ends with the debut 45 from label owner / founder Terri Hooley, backed up by Rudi and they were Terri and The Terrors.
A great collection of bands that mostly didn’t get a lot of looks in from people outside of Northern Ireland, but now get the respect and hearing that they deserve. Every song is ace, and the pure energy that is on display here, is something that bands nowadays could really learn from. Of course The Undertones are great, but it’s the other songs by lesser known bands that really make this a great compilation to hear music that might have gone lost forever, but now you can put this on, turn it up and truly enjoy the youthful power that is on this CD. As soon as you put this CD on, you realize that these bands had the chops to create music that still sounds fresh and thrilling after all these years and is a CD that you will pull out and play over and over again. I wasn’t aware of a lot of the bands on here except for their names, but now I have to go searching for more music from the bands.
Grab this album, turn it up, pogo around the house, try not to spit and drive your neighbors mad with the great songs on here. Read the information about the bands included and maybe you will find a new favorite.

BAD MANNERS: Return Of The Ugly: CD

Fronted by Buster Bloodvessel (born Douglas Trendle), this ska band was formed in 1976 while the members were together at Woodberry Down Comprehensive School near Manor House, North London. This deluxe edition of this classic 1989 album is packaged as a digipak with picture disc CD and booklet. This was their sixth album originally released on Bluebeat Records in 1989. The album features the indie hit singles “Sally Brown,” “Skaville UK,” and the UK Top chart hit “This Is Ska.” Added as bonus tracks are the B-sides to the singles that were taken from this album including their respective 12” single mixes, plus live favourites like the title track, “Bonanza Ska,” and “Rosemary.”

On this album, Buster has assembled an energetic and highly entertaining collection of ska music that will have you (and maybe your neighbors) skanking from start to finish. “Skaville U.K.” is a rousing opening number which will get you up on your feet, and dancing all over your living room. As soon as you hear it, you’ll be singing along with “Sally Brown,” one of the best songs they’ve ever done. “Bonanza Ska” is a hilarious song, incorporating ska renditions of several well-known Western TV / movie themes.”Buffalo Ska” has a bit slower tempo, with an amazing trumpet solo. “Rocksteady Breakfast” has a nice reggae sound to it. Originally a compilation song, “Baby Elephant Walk” is an infectious instrumental which sounds gets your feet tapping. Add to this the great remixes, especially “Sally Brown,” which is even better in the remix, plus the great remastered sound, the interesting, and informative liner notes, what a great release.

Bad Manners was never the thinking person’s ska band, they just wanted to have fun, and have their listeners join and smile. This is one band that never falters, they just kick you in the ass and make you dance, so do yourself a favor and put this in your CD player, and try NOT to skank – I DARE YOU!

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