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UFO - A CONSPIRACY OF STARS

(SPV/STEAMHAMMER)

Review by Stefan

 

Along with Mick Bolton (guitar), Pete Way (bass) and drummer Andy Parker, Phil Mogg formed the British legendary Hard Rock formation UFO, that happened in 1969. One of the greatest bands in the history of Rock music, they stood always guarantee for high quality song structures and a whole lot of musical versatility. Uncountable world-class songs they’ve made during the more than 4 decades of existence, especially UFO’s first albums are invaluable to me. One of my all time favourite UFO cuts still remains the unbeatable double-live masterpiece called “Strangers In The Night”, released in 1979. Made of the same calibre as other legendary live albums such as Scorpions’ “Tokyo Tapes”, MSG’s “One Night At Budokan” or even Ted Nugent’s “Double Live Gonzo” and Thin Lizzy’s “Live And Dangerous”… one by one killer efforts albums that should receive a lifelong admiration of all those longing for Classic Hard Rock music !

 

During the entire career of UFO, they were facing several line-up changes, the most discussed came from Michael Schenker who left the ranks a few times to rejoin again after a while. I suppose that all had to do with the fact that Michael formed his own band MSG in 1979. The existence of UFO has all the time been marked by a coming and going of talented musicians without compromising their high quality standards. There are, up to now, 22 studio albums on the counter. A fact that supports the ongoing success of this world renowned band, may I present you to UFO’s newest album entitled “A Conspiracy Of Stars”! 45 years after the emergence of this British, UFO is back in full glory, produced and mixed by the equally famous Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Y & T among others), recorded in their native country for the first time in 20 years.

 

The current line up consists of, the only remaining originals, Phil Mogg (vocals), Guitar/keyboardist and backing vocalist Paul Raymond who participates on the song ‘The Real Deal’ only… Andy Parker is the current mastermind behind the splendid drum works. Vinnie Moore became a full member since 2003 by which a band like UFO can only be satisfied with it, this electric wizard is still able to take my breath away with his over-the-top way of delivering shred tactics! Bassist Rob De Luca (Spread Eagle, Of Earth) teamed up with UFO in 2012. Besides his outstanding bass works, Rob is also known as a fully fledged songwriter, the lyrics for both songs ‘The Killing Kind’ and ‘One And Only’ were written by himself and may be described as real good Hard Rock pieces starring the widely appreciated vocal delivery of Phil Mogg and fiery hot scorching guitar tricks of V. Moore, who composed the majority of the songs.

 

UFO’s new effort “A Conspiracy Of The Stars” proves the musical maturity of a world-class Rock band. The mutual musical confidence is strongly present which makes it impossible to accuse the band of errors, take it from me that all the moves these guys deliver are from a very high level. As they have always done in the past, UFO still maintains his musical versatility with much devotion. The masterly produced 10 new songs reflect their rich career of 45 years, each composition has its own character and regardless of your preference for their older or more recent album, UFO’s new cut “A Conspiracy Of Stars” is loaded with all ingredients which relate to their entire musical career.

 

As mentioned before, Phil Mogg apparently relives a second youth, his throat still sounds amazing ! Actually, the nowadays line-up can be described as an All-Star formation bringing a highly-rated mixture of Classic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal and Melodic Rock, sometimes even with a small touch of Blues Rock. A very successful new album offered by one of the biggest bands in the history of Britisch Rock and Metal, UFO ! There’s a special edition of this release available as a blue vinyl (incl. bonus track) in a gatefold sleeve plus CD, check it out and make your order via THIS link. More info can be found back via their label at: https://www.facebook.com/steamhammerofficial

 

My rating: 89/100 (Between 80 and 89: Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it)

 

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ULYSSES SIREN - JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE

(Malevolence Records)

Review by Stefan

 

Early September 2013, we had to say goodbye to the one and only Jon Torres. Back in 1985 he joined forces as guitarist with Bay Area Metal acts Warning S.F. with whom he recorded the “Not A Chance In Hell” demo. Shortly after he teamed up with the great Ulysses Siren formation, one of the greatest bands in the history of Bay Area Thrash Metal to me ! Damn right I will never forget all the precious guitar works Jon has offered for this superb band, while checking out Ulysses Siren’s both demo’s called “Terrorist Attack” (1985) and Demo’87, I still have nostalgic feelings for those beautiful days of US Thrash Metal. Mighty Jon Torres could not live without his favorite pastime, Metal music - make notice of the fact that he also played bass guitar in numerous bands like Angel Witch, Heathen, Laaz Rockit, I4NI, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Repulsa and Pleasure And Pain.

 

Both unapproachable, devastating, legendary Ulysses Siren demo’s were released on CD in 2004 through Relentless Records by the title of “Above The Ashes”, a highly recommended masterpiece for all those possessed by the unlimited forces of underground Bay Area Thrash Metal. Through 32 years of existence, they swam through both clear and turbid water. Like many other bands, also U.S. had to cope with several line-up changes but if there is someone who always continue to believe in the future of the band, it certainly must have been Jon Torres. Afterwards the release of “Above The Ashes”, plans were made to release a long awaited sophomore cut who had to bear the title of “Justifiable Homicide”.

 

Jon’s good friend and CEO of US based Malevolence Records named Nathan McLeod was determined to bring out some new songs through his label, first release date of “Justifiable Homicide” was October 2013. Due to the sudden death of his dear friend, Nathan postponed the release for indefinite period of time. After much deliberation and hard work, the CD saw the crack of dawn in February 2015.

 

“Justifiable Homicide” was recorded & engineered at Annex Studios-Hayward California between 2011 and 2012 by KAOS guitarist Stacey Murray, mixed & mastered by Justin Weis…finally the layout and artwork has been delivered by freelance designer Mark DeVito (Metal Babies). Additional layout and design by Nathan McLeod of Malevolence Records - San Bruno, CA 2013-2015.

 

With a lot of reverence we welcome Manuel ‘Manny’ Lopez (ex-Bacchus/Killingsworth) on vocals, he also contributed on Ulysses Siren’s ’85/’86 & 2012 demo recordings, Jon Torres as master in the supply of authentic, all mighty guitar works that live up to let down chills run down my spine. On bass we have Joe Jimenez (Mad At Sam, Warning S.F., ex-Apathy), he delivered an outstanding job on US’s first demo. Original member Steve Heuser (ex-Extermination) is also present to beat the drumheads real hard, second axeman is Stone Clement who’s a merciless talent in delivering first class, technical guitar work.

 

Besides three new studio recordings, it’s a pleasure to hear 3 live tracks as well, recorded at Annies Social Club in San Francisco, California on April 21th. 2006. These live songs starring guitarist Kevin Albert Gorski (KAOS, Defiance) and Death Angel/Machine Head drummer Will Carroll. Additional layout and design by Nathan McLeod of Malevolence Records - San Bruno, CA 2013-2015.

 

The first three songs of “Justifiable Homicide” are taken from Ulysses Siren’s 4 track demo 2012. You can listen to the missing track entitled ‘Christ BC’ via THIS link. The title track, ‘Bludgeoned Mass’ and ‘Lethal Inception’ bring me fully into temptation. No doubt about, this is what outstanding Bay Area Thrash Metal is all about ! Aggressive and brutally type of voice delivery which make me think back to the glorious days of Paul Baloff during the early Exodus existence while the band offered their best album ever, “Bonded By Blood” ! Musically focussed, I’d like to compare with Exodus’ debut and “Pleasures Of The Flesh” albums. Also early Heathen influences and slices of Metallica’s riffage on “Kill ‘em All” welcome my memory.

 

The tempo changes are ingeniously developed which indicates the perfect musical mentality with regard to all of the players. But still, and with all of my deepest respect to each one of the players, it’s big Jon Torres who mostly knows to demand my full attention because of his crazy technical ways of riff/solo service. Since the emergence of Bay Area Thrash Metal scene back in the early 80s, I came in touch with many awesome guitarists who announced me heaven on earth with their superior guitar techniques… among them Jon Torres and that’s actually the reason why “Justifiable Homicide” means so much to me, an homage to a great musician who died way too early reads the verdict. Jon could have deliver us many more enjoyable times while letting his guitar roar like thunder… unfortunately, fate has decided the opposite.

 

The studio tracks on “Justifiable Homicide” make me widely enthusiast, as for the three live recordings I have to admit the sound quality is rather moderate but still worth enough to hear the band furiously thrashing the way it should be, Bay Area styled ! Ulysses Siren blew me out of control with their ’85 & ’87 demo efforts and more than two decades later on, they still can count on my sincere appreciation and support, I truly hope that one day a new, full length album may see the light of day. It will never be the same without Jon Torres but my confidence in the rest of the band remains untouched.

 

Dedicated to, and in memory of JT, order “Justifiable Homicide” (limited edition-only 500 copies pressed!) as a fan of mighty strong US Thrash and out of respect for one of the greatest guitar players in the history of Bay Area Thrash Metal, JON TORRES (1963 – 2013). In September 2013, I had an interview with Jon’s good friend & CEO of Malevolence Records named Nathan McCleod, read all about it right HERE. More info on Malevolence Records can be found through the following homepages: www.malevolence-records.us www.soundcloud.com/Malevolence-records / www.reverbnation.com/label/malevolencerecords

 

My rating: 88/100 (Between 80 and 89: Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it)

 

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UNCERTAIN FUTURE - SHOCK THE SYSTEM

(Arkeyn Steel Records)

Review by Stefan

 

Kansas City Missouri based Uncertain Future was born in 1989 by Gregory Tucker, back in the days he worked as a guitar technician of 19 years old for another US Metal highlight named Banshee. Gregory’s good friend, ex Mooncalf member Marshall Strong joined forces and became the bass player in Uncertain Future. Deric Spear was bassist in a band called Hemisphere, he also took place behind the microphone those days… he teamed up with both Gregory and Marshall, finally he became the singer in Uncertain Future. Thus to form a full team they still had to be sought for a drummer which was found in the name Troy Roberts. This guy completed the UF ranks and contributed on the first demo entitled “Peace By Piece”, released in 1991. Head of the pack Gregory designed a unique double fold J card that folded out into a mini poster, there were 250 copies made of. Those who have been able to obtain a copy of this demo may call themselves proud owners of something unique in terms of superb underground US Metal !

 

Afterwards the release of the demo, drummer Troy Roberts was replaced by Brad Shepard who joined the band in days the full album “Shock The System” has been recorded. Brad and Gregory knew each other from school days and were bonded by the forces of US Metal. Along with the new line-up came the new album which was officially released in 1993 by Certain Musical Vision. Being a US Metal maniac for decades it’s a cold hard fact that I never had the opportunity to own my own copy of this debut Uncertain Future cut, shame on me ! Those days, people told me that they were fantastic in the field of US Progressive Metal so I kept my eyes wide open to buy a copy but the effort was in vain. With the rise of the vexing genre called Grunge, the band came to face a difficult period. I blame Nirvana and stuff the amazing US Metal scene went down for quite a while… ain’t that a real goddamn shame ! Uncertain Future tried the best they could to keep their heads above the water but unfortunately the market changed. The only achievement of UF were the recordings of a demo in 1999 which was actually never been released.

 

But, dear brothers and sisters of US Metal, Greek label Arkeyn Steel Records will bring out every single song from these almighty good US Metal act Uncertain Future on February, 9th. 2015. For the first time on CD, be ready for both unreleased demo’s and the official debut effort “Shock The System”, remastered by the band themselves. Package comes with retouched cover of the original artwork and complete new layout by Kostas Athanasoglou plus never before seen photos, lyrics and bio. It never succeeded me to add something of this band to my own US Metal collection so damn sure I’d like to say THANK YOU to this great record label where good old US Metal jewels come back to life as irresistible reborn classics !

 

First of all, full-length debut album “Shock The System” is presented with its nine songs of pure US Metal featuring clean vocals in the vein of Tom Edward Mallicoat (Lethal), Joel DuBay (Powermad), John Johnson (Rival), Jerry Keyzer (Apocalypse)… I’m sure you’ll get the picture right now, right? Fact is that Deric Spear is all about a great, perfectly fitting singer for this kind of Metal music. The mutual understanding between the stunning bass and technical melodic guitar lines runs smoothly and approaches the limit of total perfection without effort. Drums highly variable/enjoyable… Above all and in my own opinion, each one of the tracks are offered in a state of absolute enjoyability, that’s why I’m having a great time listening to this retrieved pearl of progressive inspired US Heavy/Power Metal !

 

Next all of the songs from their 1991 demo coming up and my interest in the band remains untouched, the vocals are less strong than what I heard during the entire “Shock The System” cut but we all learn from our mistakes, don’t we? This first UF unreleased demo is a very rare and really good one for all those hooked on Cult US Metal. As bonus, Arkeyn Steel Records spoiled us with even more rare songs from their 1999 demo piece. In my opinion, these numbers are still valuable and worth to check out. Maybe I’m a little less contended about these last few compositions but again, if I can give a fair rating in terms of all the presented songs, the score will climb a high rung !

 

I feel honoured that I got to know a band like Uncertain Future, it’s all about early 90s US Metal, an era where this kind of Metal was so beautiful and irresistible. To all who have witness the scene to the flesh, here’s a band that brings back the good old days while listening to “Shock The System”, actually an anthology masterfully offered by Arkeyn Steel Records. Pre-orders for limited edition 50 copies combo pack can be carried right HERE. Fans of Lethal, Apocalypse, Queensryche, Heir Apparent, early Born Of Fire… don’t waste your time, purchase on the double. I maintain my own motto that US Metal Still Reigns Supreme ! More US Metal jewels can be ordered via www.arkeynsteel.com

 

My rating: 89/100 (Between 80 and 89: Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it)

 

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UNFAITHFUL - STREETFIGHTER

(Target/Mighty Music Records)

Review by Sloof

 

When the young teenage guitarist Sammy Kela heard Marcus Kärregard sing at the Högtryck Festival in Sweden, they decided to form a band. We speak year 2000, and after 14 years, the friendship of both musicians seems to be everlasting. They teamed up with bass player Robin Ingemansson and drummer Jimi Lexe and the first studio product is finally available! The quartet worked hard and took Sweden piece by piece. It resulted in concerts all over the country and they were able to play the Sweden Rock Festival three times in a row. Not bad at all!

 

The band entered the Top Floor Studios in Gothenburg and the Sound Palace Studios in Karlshamn to work with Jakob Herrman (Europe, Mustasch) and Martin Forslund while mixing and mastering was done by Johan Blomström (worked with Wulfgar, Nymf and Portrait before). Nine tracks were written and performed by the band and they all have the typical Unfaithful ingredients: passion, aggression versus melody and a sound layer that has Volbeat/Metallica influences. The opener of the album is called ‘Vegas Baby’ and is the single release with an associated video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shmHKSE5C8Q

 

Titletrack ‘Streetfighter’ covers the title completely as it’s a track with a threatening and dangerous riff. Not suitable for people with neck problems! There is also a very interesting break in this song and vocalist Marcus is capable to control his voice is many highs and lows. Sometimes the aggression increases with grunt vocals, while the melody and chorus lines are often sung with a clean voice. It’s a good interaction between both characters that add an extra atmosphere to the songs. ‘Childhood Friend’ has a Metallica meets Volbeat approach while ‘Trendkiller’ is built upon a very interesting guitar riff. The most aggressive part is kept for last, as ‘Unrestrained’ will accomplish the neck-shot!

 

The music of Unfaithful is heavy and entertaining, but the band still has work to do to get to the next level. I guess that their live shows will be vivid and pleasing, but the songs need a little more attitude and maturity. Their hostility is already present, but I guess that they aim for a higher goal, and that’s not insight yet. Unfaithful is a band to keep an eye on as I’m sure that their next album will contain songs that ban mediocrity and focus on auditory eradication!

 

My rating: 79/100 (Between 70 and 79: Decent but best previewing)

 

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UNSAFE - ENTER DARK PLACES

(Target/Mighty Music Records)

Review by Sloof

 

The French female fronted metal band Unsafe succeeded in revising my original vision on their band. The first time that I took time for this record ended as a positive point of view, but with an average conclusion. For some reason, the album kept spinning in my car stereo, and after a few weeks (!), I caught myself as becoming a fan of Unsafe.

 

This album has so many hidden details that only perseverance will guide you into their gems. The songs build a wall of heaviness and reverence, an earworm from time to time, that results in a top notch product from France. Most of the efforts have been put into the compositions of the tracks, mixing the more complex songs with the simpler ones, in search of the right melody and the groove in most of the riffs.

 

Stéphanie Nolf is the female vocalist but you have to have well cleaned ears to hear that we’re talking about a woman. What a throat, what an unbelievable hoarse approach, but totally different to e.g. Arch Enemy. It’s more the female version of Lemmy, just to give you an idea. She sings understandable, but with a very rough edge. Quite original is the least I can say!

 

‘Enter Dark Places’ is an intro that is negligible, but when ‘Watch Out’ is bursting out, you better take the message literally! This is a brutal piece of metal where all members have only one aim: be aggressive, be violent, be melodic but make sure that no neck will survive! Full speed ahead, blasting riffs and vocals from hell! The show goes on with the riffing guitars in ‘The Final Stage’ and a rock twist in ‘Negativity’.

 

There are only killer tracks on this album and you simply have to take the necessary time to get into the material. Some parts are really easy, but there are also fragments to need a few spins to get into the song, as it was all meant to be. Unsafe creates a perfect condition, a perfect guideline of nowadays lives. Adding lyrics about social and financial excesses in the modern world, the destruction of our planet, overconsumption, the mindlessness of people, the loss of values, the rise of individualism and selfishness create a perfect atmosphere to deliver 13 tracks that need your attention.

 

This album is only suitable for die-hards that are longer for blunt force with a very well dosed melody. They created an unique atmosphere that is so typical for bands like Carcass; only the good will reach this level, Unsafe did! http://unsafe.metal.pagesperso-orange.fr/

 

My rating: 85/100 (Between 80 and 89: Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it)

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UNSEEN FAITH - YOKEBREAKER

(Prime Collective Records)

Review by Sloof

 

“It’s different for Denmark, and God knows we need something different”. That’s the message that I receive from Mirza Radonjica, A&R and owner of Prime Collective Records. Well, I do know that Denmark isn’t known for Metalcore bands, and I do agree that Christian Metal isn’t that obvious when you play in the extreme genre, but we are used to a lot of things, so let’s give them a try and see how they manage to convince total strangers.

 

Betraying The Martyrs’ Phantom and Colossus their album ‘Lobotocracy’ pops up while I’m listening to this album, as the vocals have some things in common. The band also adds unusual melody lines in their songs (‘The Revenant’) like Bring Me The Horizon does. Youth goes wild on this musical style, but being objective, I must say that Unseen Faith is making an interesting approach but inclines to boredom. The songs don’t vary enough mutually and that’s a knockdown argument. My personal highlight is ‘Route 3’ as this song begins very interesting and can be considered as the track that is worked out best.

 

25 minutes and 6 songs later, the album finishes. I have heard really interesting moments and fragments, but the band still needs to discover their own style and ideas. The base is correct, the musicians dominate their instruments and the vocals fit in this musical direction, but the band still needs some leverage to get to the next level. ‘Yokebreaker’ is a fine product with passionate moments, but needs a polish in the future. This doesn’t mean that the band has to go on a commercial approach, but the songs need an extra layer to get among the greats. https://www.facebook.com/UnseenFaith/

 

My rating: 79/100 (Between 70 and 79: Decent but best previewing)