Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Album Review: OVERKILL - The Grinding Wheel

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel

1. Mean, Green, Killing Machine
2. Goddamn Trouble
3. Our Finest Hour
4. Shine On
5. The Long Road
6. Let's All Go To Hades
7. Come Heavy
8. Red White And Blue
9. The Wheel
10. The Grinding Wheel
11. Emerald (Thin Lizzy Cover / Bonus Track)

With every legendary Thrash band releasing killer albums over the last few months, I wanted to see if Overkill had pulled some magic out of the bag with their new release. I've been following the band since 1996's The Killing Kind album. Overkill have often been referred to as the Motorhead of Thrash Metal. Like Motorhead, Overkill have always been consistent. You always know what you're going to get from one of their albums, and you know that they're not going to disappoint you with some ill-advised change of musical direction or a 'piss-poor' release. With Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth's unique vocals (imagine Bon Scott with a pitbull hanging off his balls), Overkill has always been instantly identifiable, and their reputation as a trusty Metal underdog has earned them a loyal worldwide following.

The album kicks off with Mean, Green, Killing Machine which is a ripping piece of Thrash Metal. Part way through the song, it surprised me with a melodic mid section with some epic backing vocals, which then breaks down into something a little more Rock n' Roll before returning to Thrash to the finish. It's probably my favourite track off the whole album, even though it's very consistent throughout. I can't really pick out any other tracks as highlights as they all deliver the goods. There's a slightly more NWOBHM (I'd be amazed if anyone out there who is reading an Overkill review doesn't know that that stands for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, but you never know) influence running through the album than usual. It's always been there, but is marginally more prominent, especially on Let's All Go To Hades which has some dark riffs at the start that Diamond Head would have been proud of, and the title track which has some very traditional Metal style riffing before unleashing some bursts of the ear splitting Thrash Metal that Overkill are known for.

If you're already an Overkill fan, I can hear no reason as to why you won't love this album. It does what it says on the tin. If you weren't into them before, I can't imagine that The Grinding Wheel will offer you anything to change your mind. Overkill is still Overkill and in a world where Metal is constantly evolving, sometimes it's cool to have those bands that don't change and give their fan-base precisely what they want every time.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Movie Review: DON'T BREATHE

Don't Breathe (Movie Poster)

Don't Breathe was released theatrically last year and has recently come out on Blu-Ray / DVD. I wasn't aware of it when it came out at the cinema, but after seeing the trailer, I've been really looking forward to this one.

The film is about a trio of young thieves who have broken into a number of homes, and are planning to embark on one last job together. They have a potential victim who has received a large cash payout and lives alone. They soon find out that he's also blind, but decide to go ahead with the plan anyway. Unfortunately for them, the robbery goes wrong and they find themselves trapped in a house with an ex-military blind man who's armed, skilled and looking to kill them. Will they get the cash? Will they all escape alive? I don't want to give you any further information as no-one likes spoilers. All of the above is in the trailer, so I'll leave it there.

Don't Breathe is as utterly brilliant as it is relentless. It's one of those movies that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout and keeps you engaged with its terrifying combination of violence and suspense. The characters are developed just enough to understand them, and to even empathise with what's effectively a group of remorseless burglars. The real key to the success of this movie is that it is a very good story. It could have quite easily been a sequence of cheap jump scares and gratuitous violence, but Don't Breathe has a depth that sets it way apart from such movies. There are some unexpected turns in the story, and this unpredictability makes for an original rollercoaster of a Thriller/Horror film. It's beautifully shot throughout, and the acting is superb giving it a realism that makes the movie work so well.

It's difficult for me to write too much about this film, as I'm conscious of spoilers. What I will say is that I loved it, and its originality was refreshing. If you enjoy the trailer, you will not be disappointed by the full movie. 

If only all Horror films were this good!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Album Review: BLACK STAR RIDERS - Heavy Fire

Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire

1. Heavy Fire
2. When The Night Comes In
3. Dancing With The Wrong Girl
4. Who Rides The Tiger
5. Cold War Love
6. Testify Or Say Goodbye
7. Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed
8. True Blue Kid
9. Ticket To Rise
10. Letting Go Of Me
11. Fade (Bonus Track)

This is the third studio album from the band formally known as Thin Lizzy. I still think they made the right decision in changing the name of the band when they decided to write and record original music. A new Thin Lizzy album without Phil Lynott would have been like a new Queen album without Freddy Mercury. The "This isn't Thin Lizzy" comments would have relentlessly overshadowed their creative output, whereas now they can move forward with the respect that they deserve. 

I picked up their debut album All Hell Breaks Loose as I'm not only a Thin Lizzy fan, but a huge fan of front-man Ricky Warwick's old band The Almighty. All Hell Breaks Loose was a very good album. My only criticism is that it felt a little contrived. It was clearly written at a time when it was due to be released under the Thin Lizzy name and consequently, had to not only earn that title, but had to win the support of the old school fan-base. It was as though each track was similar to a classic Thin Lizzy song. "Oh, this one is clearly the new Emerald" etc. Whilst I enjoyed it, I didn't feel a burning desire to check out anything further from them. I heard one or two tracks from their second album The Killer Instinct, but didn't pick up a copy. Now the third album has landed, I decided to give it a whirl to see what I thought.

Opener and title track Heavy Fire is awesome. It's heavier and has a more aggressive feel than previous material. In fact, it reminds me more of The Almighty than Thin Lizzy, which for me is a good thing as I genuinely miss that fantastic band. The second track and first single When The Night Comes In is a great heavy Rock n' Roll song and is a shining example of 'Vintage Modern'. The same applies to most of the album. The production is crisp and modern giving it a contemporary sheen, yet the songs are written with a Seventies flavour and wears the classic Thin Lizzy influences without sounding like clones. With this album, they've got it just right.

Heavy Fire is a really impressive album. I believe this release is key to them breaking the shackles of being the band that was touring as Thin Lizzy, and putting Black Star Riders on the map as a key Rock band who are fantastic in their own right. It's certainly rekindled my interest in the band. I'll check out that second album too, and try to catch them on their upcoming tour with Gun and Backyard Babies.

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