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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sarcofagus' new album Back From The Valley Of The Kings available as digital copy, CD for pre-order

Finnish veteran heavy metal band Sarcofagus has announced their release and selling plan for their just released, self-published album "Back From The Valley Of The Kings", which has re-recordings of 12 of their original songs plus one new track, plus four "extra tracks" - seventeen songs altogether. Quite definite collection and presentation of the band's current state. The album is Sarcofagus' second album in the new millennium, a follow-up for Core Values (2007), and is available from their own website. As for now, digital download copy is out for price of £8. Physical copies are coming out on September/October, according to band's main man Kimmo Kuusniemi, and are now available for pre-order, along with direct access to the digital copy. Limited edition CD record is priced at £15 and CD+DVD set for £20, along with some higher tiers with some additional prizes (see the website). DVD will feature audiovisual presentation of the album by artistically talented Kuusniemi & co.




"I prefer to have total creative freedom to do these CD and CD/DVD my way rather than having to negotiate with a record label. [...] Working on this Sarcofagus "Back From The Valley Of The Kings" project has been a a chance for me to create something unconventional. This is why I want to do this directly with you, the people who like Sarcofagus and have been telling me how our songs have influenced you"  (Kimmo Kuusniemi, Sarcofagus official website. http://www.sarcofagus.com/Sarcofagus/ValleyOfTheKings.html)

Sarcofagus is, perhaps, the first Finnish pure heavy metal band, along with some other early groups such as OZ, Iron Cross, Zero Nine. Sarcofagus was formed in 1977, taking influences of early heavy metal and, in my opinion, from progressive seventies rock too. Where many of Sarcofagus' Finnish country-mates played more straight-forward style of music, and more rock-oriented, the band developed their own unique, rather doom-laden but crisp sound with rather acid-tastic keyboards and weird surreal illustration in their music. The band surely wasn't one of the most straight-forward and least creative units around! Yet they had seemingly made better impact outside Finland, than in their home country, weirdly enough, remaining quite unknown in Finland. While they may have drawn influences from heavier, darker, seventies bands such as Black Sabbath, Sarcofagus certainly put their own twist into things, and were one of the most unique sounding bands around, releasing three full-length albums between the early and mid-eighties, Cycle Of Life, Envoy of Death and Moottorilinnut (although, one single dates as far as 1978 or 1979, if I don't remember all wrong), of which the last one was released under another band name due legal issues (as Kimmo Kuusniemi Band).

Back From The Valley Of The Kings physical copies (CD and CD/DVD) will be only available as pre-order through the band's website and will not be sold anywhere else later on. The band, according to Kimmo Kuusniemi, aimed to achieve a eighties rooted sound and "live" feeling in this album. Judge by yourselves!

The special DVD includes "a full film" that features the thirteen songs form the album, being some sort of a musical and visual presentation of the album. Kuusniemi describes the film included in DVD version such as this:

"The Film, as you would expect from Sarcofagus, will be something different and surreal! In the video we also return to the original occult, magical and Egyptian world where the Sarcofagus started! I am making the 13 music films (assumption: each music film is about one song) to depict what I had in mind while making the songs in the 80s"  (Kimmo Kuusniemi, Sarcofagus official website. http://www.sarcofagus.com/Sarcofagus/ValleyOfTheKings.html)

In glory of Back From The Valley Of The Kings and it's upcoming DVD addon, the band has released a following taster-movie, consisting of an intro spoken by Kuusniemi (philosophy behind the album), as well as of five tracks with filmed illustration. See this mystic film below!



Back From The Valley Of The Kings consist of following line-up:
  • Kimmo Kuusniemi (Guitar) (1978- Present Day) 
  • Jukka Ritari (Vocals) (Moottorilinnut album 1982)
  • Tanja Katinka Karttunen (Vocals) (1996- Present ) 
  • Esa Kotilainen (Keyboards) (1980- Present Day) 
  • Juha Kiminki (Bass) (1978- Present Day) 
  • Anssi Nyk√§nen (Drums) (2010- Present Day)

With a following track-list of re-recorded songs (along with the mention of which album they were originally played on):

1st Single A Side
  • Go To Hell

From “Envoy of Death”
  • Stolen Salvation
  • Insane Rebels 
  • Wheels of Destruction 

From “Cycle of Life”
  • Subconscious Penetrating 
  • Astral Flyer 
  • Here I Am
  • Eternal Silence
  • Back To Black

From “Moottorilinnut”
  • Talo  
  • Metallinen Sateenkaari  
  • 1000 Megawatin Totuus 

 From “Core Values”
  • 2nd Coming 

EXTRA BONUS TRACKS
  • Envoy Of Death (Envoy...)
  • Die To Win  (Envoy...)
  • Deadly Game  (Envoy...)
  • Return From The Valley Of The Kings (New Song)

For more information about the release, visit Sarcofagus website.


-www.kultmetal.com |  dungeoncrawler







Saturday, August 24, 2013

REVIEW: Vampyr (GER) - Cry Out For Metal (1985)



Introduction

It's been quite a while since the last written review. Lately, I've been fleshing out some of the years old reviews, as my English has got slightly better during the years (tolerable, I hope!), trying my best to make reviews understandable, even though I know that my English as my second, no, actually third language isn't close to perfect. Still many old reviews to go. However, here's also a totally new one, so lets go!

I dug up this Vampyr CD from under a rather large pile of records. This full length album which was released back in 1985, called 'Cry Out For Metal', is the band's only official release up to date. The album was later on re-released by Stormspell Records in CD format, which is the version I'm holding in my hands right now. The band has quite close ties to German band 'Tyrant', as guitarist Ralf Hollmer departured from Tyrant around 1983-1984 and joined forces with Tyrant's local support band in city of Ulm, Germany, where two Stertzik brothers played. The support act's name, now also featuring Hollmer, was then changed to 'Alcent' and within a year or so to 'Vampyr'.

Vampyr played quite standard sounding German heavy / speed metal and were known of their outrageously lengthy spiked leather outfits, which the guys built up and created in their garage by themselves. The evil illustration and image wasn't meant to be taken seriously, though:

"we didn't see this image too serious. The whole thing was intended to be seen as let's say 'happy metal'" (Ralf Hollmer interview. Vampyr 'Cry Out For Metal' booklet by Stormspell Records.)

This was rather common approach by several German bands in the eighties who wanted to play for fun, rather than being seriously into satanism. Evil and rebellious image was most likely brought up in favor of flashy stage-shows and for entertaining lyrics.

The review

"If you ain't enslaved to the will of the Vampyr,
You are condemned to live your unreal cruelty life,
As a subject in a kingdom, which is ruled by the prince of the night


Follow me..."


A cheesy spoken prologue called Oath leads us into the album... on that minute you know that this album isn't to be taken seriously by it's lyrics. Loosen up your ties and enjoy the German cheesiness! That's not to be said negatively, either. Cheesy evil lyrics are often fun to listen to, if they're meant to be less serious and cheesy, like in the case with 'Cry Out For Metal'.

'Cry Out For Metal' does feature very pleasant sound mix and production. It's almost the best feature of the album, while the music itself is very standard German eighties heavy metal combined with some speed metal and rather brutal guitar tone. Hollmer described the music to be meant as 'happy metal' in the interview, but I don't think he quite meant it as such per se. Sure, evil image and satanic parts of the lyrics are seen in cheesy and just-for-fun light, but the sound of the album isn't actually quite close to "happy" in terms of Helloween's Walls of Jericho for example.

Guitar sound is actually quite brutal, featuring quite much treble and distortion, being almost thrashy (but not played in such way). That combined with the great sound production makes rhythm guitars sound really powerful and ripping! This is one of the better guitar sound productions from eighties. Rhythm guitars playing speedy chainsaw riffs on fast songs and chugging power chord riffs on more slow songs are the trademark on 'Cry Out For Metal'. Guitar tone and sound really bites through your bones. Lead guitars melodies and shredding are quite minimal, however, and from standpoint of instrumental playing skills, Vampyr plays rhythm section nicely, but their lead section and solos aren't anything special really. They still get the minimum job done without sounding awkward but not really shining either. Lets just say that guitar duo Hollmer and Lubosch Sterzik can stand their ground.

Vocals of Wolfgang Schwarz are very average. He sings with very hoarse and rough voice, with occasional cleaner soaring vocals that feel bit unstable and out of place. Schwarz is like less snotty version of Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl, or less over-the-top version of Tyrant's Kerrmit, and his German accent is very present. He's bit out of key at times, but not enough to actually ruin it. Schwarz is rather unmemorable singer, just enough to fill his spot, though, his rough style generally fits into the overall heavy sound of the band.

Drumming by Roman Sterzik is generally quite good and powerful, partly due the good production, but he also uses fills (hi-hats and cymbals) well enough to keep the drumming interesting. Also, hollow kettel-like drum-sound, along with powerful bass-drum fits generally well to the heavy sound. Bass playing is also very good, again, partly because of the fine production. Markus Maier's bottom-heavy bass lines can be well heard in the mix and they add thickness to the band's sound.

'Cry Out For Metal' is enjoyable, though not very memorable mixture of heavy metal and speed metal with strong German flavor, reminding of several bands such as their "almost-cousins" Tyrant, Heavy Metal Breakdown and Witch Hunter era Grave Digger, or perhaps Execution Guaranteed era Rage. The sound is more raw, rebellious, and rough than with your average heavy metal band from the era, but thrash metal this is not, although not partially very far from it. The album is generally broken into two different kinds of songs: for one the speedier songs such as Sinner, Indianapolis, Mercy Killing, Warrior, and Vampyr, which are mainly speed metal. Second and slightly smaller part of the album features pure heavy metal songs such as Hell Bent Angels, Metal Hymn '86 and Breaking Metal.

The album is dominated by faster material, which you would think is a good thing, but surprisingly enough the slower material is perhaps the best part of Cry Out For Metal. Vampyr sounds most solid and stable with two of the slower songs Hell Bent Angels and Breaking Metal, which are my favorites of the album. Breaking Metal is some quite brutally heavy and bone-breaking kickass stuff! It features ripping power-chord riffing by rhythm guitars, so simple yet so effective. Storming bass playing by Maier adds finishing touch. Thanks for the great heavy production this track actually shines, being simple as it is. The same applies to Hell Bent Angels, and Metal Hymn '86 continues in similar fashion, though being least memorable of the three.

Best of the faster speed metal songs are in my opinion Sinner, Indianapolis, and Mercy Killing. Sinner opens up with hammering drum-intro along with chugging guitars, that soon turns into speedy ride of good German speed metal. Lack of Schwarz's vocal skills holds the track's quality back a bit. Feel the chainsaw-riff attack on Indianapolis, another good chapter on speed metal department. Rallying Mercy Killing is also decently good speedy track, rushing on like out of control locomotive train, though not as memorable song. Speed metal number called Vampyr closes up the album, and ends it rather awkwardly. The song is far from the best material in the album, with utterly stupid lyrics:

"She a vampyr of a rock'n'roll band, she's bad as a bat, bad as a bat,
Come on, bite me, suck my blood! Come on vampyr, bite me tonight"


...of which I wouldn't even mind about, but Schwarz's lyrics are badly out of key and rhythm in this song, and he mutters out the chorus so awkwardly it's hard not to laugh. Especially, when the song features cheesy "evil laughter" interlude after this. Luckily, it's the only song where vocals totally fail. However, last song, Vampyr, leaves slightly bitter and unprofessional taste behind of the album. The band should had chosen better song for the last or perhaps cut this one out, as it's not up to par with the rest of material.


Conclusion

Vampyr's 'Cry Out For Metal' isnt' really reinventing the wheel, and is in danger to disappear in masses of other records of similar style. Running Wild already topped Cry Out For Metal in 1984 with their debut Gates To Purgatory on heavy/speed metal fields by far. But that's not the say Vampyr are one of the worse bands out there. The band does decent job blasting out heavy power chords and pacey chainsaw-riffs, with some not-bad-but-not-impressive-either guitar solos and lead melodies that are, rather scarce. The guitarists know their rhythm guitar section well and play solid, but lack either some playing or composing skill on lead guitar and solo department, and creativity on rhythm side to make things bit more interesting. Very average rough-edged vocalist doesn't help to raise the band above other "b-tier" bands either, while drumming and bass playing deserve a slight praise. However, Cry Out For Metal does have some standout areas. One is aforementioned fine and quite tight rhythm guitar section, but biggest of all is production and overall heavy tone of the sound ("happy metal" this is not!). The tone is almost thrashy, and this is reasonably heavy record for it's time. From technical standpoint the album is great, as the production is quite top notch for it's time and this really embraces it's the heaviness and thickness. Guitars do actually sound so fine, that it raises a few songs to another level, such as Hell Bent Angels and Breaking Metal.

Cry Out For Metal is quite average German heavy / speed metal record, that has it's high points worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of the genre and German raw sound. Fans of bands such as Tyrant, MP (Metal Priests), High Tension, and Noisehunter should enjoy this one. However, it lacks memorable lead guitars and some complexity on riff department, as well as more professional vocalist, which could had risen the band closer to a-tier bands. It isn't a bad record by any means, but not exceptionally memorable either. But it is quite fun ride if you give it a chance, and the band did have some potential, too. It's one of those records you want to give spin or few sometimes, if you end up randomly browsing the right pile of records. It has couple of bit more memorable songs too, which may pop to your head years later. Bands like Vampyr are always welcomed and interesting discoveries, so thanks for Stormspell Records bringing this out.

Stormspell CD version does also contain a full live gig a video from the same era than release of the album with nine songs, and a booklet with interview featuring guitarist Ralf Hollmer. Both are great bonuses.

Aftermath

After the release of 'Cry Out For Metal', Vampyr had plans for a second album. However, they fell into internal band problems between the members. Gama Records (their label) was pushing them similarly into direction they didn't want to head to. Gama demanded that most of their metal bands, including Vampyr, had to head towards heavier and faster thrash sound of Slayer, whose fame was growing rapidly. Members of Vampyr didn't want to head into thrashier direction at the time. Internal and label problems led the band to disband few years after the release of Cry Out For Metal in 1988:

"we had some material recorded on a 4-track recording, but the tape got lost somewhere, I wish I had a copy for myself. [...] I believe that we gave up with VAMPYR too early. we had achieved quite much within a short time without much effort. it's a shame that we somehow lost the drive to carry on. the second album would have been way better than the debut"  (Ralf Hollmer interview. Vampyr 'Cry Out For Metal' booklet by Stormspell Records.).

...I guess we'll never know.



72

(An average German heavy/speed metal record that has some high points such as great production and tight rhythm guitars, reasonably heavy for it's time)
Buy Cry Out For Metal at Amazon.
-www.kultmetal.com | reviewer: dungeoncrawler



(Vampyr - Sinner)


lineup:

  • Markus "Nil Conan" Maier - Bass
  • Roman Sterzik - Drums
  • Ralf Hollmer - Guitars
    • ex-Tyrant
  • Lubosch "Ironhead" Sterzik - Guitars
  • Wolfgang Schwarz - Vocals
tracklist:

  • 1. Oath (Intro) 00:43  
  • 2. Sinner 04:53  
  • 3. Indianapolis 03:42
  • 4. Hell Bent Angels 03:42  
  • 5. Scytherman 02:58
  • 6. Mercy Killing 03:40  
  • 7. Metal Hymn '86 04:49  
  • 8. Warrior 03:48  
  • 9. Breaking Metal 03:33   
  • 10. Vampyr 03:00
    • Total running time:  34:48

For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction, my bet is that you can double them up, but be sure to also check prices from services such as Ebay, Amazon, and popsike.com)
Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

Label – Hot Blood/941385
Type – LP/G/86
Near Mint – $18
Very Good+ - $10

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Running Wild (GER) releasing new album "Resilient" in October

German veteran heavy metal band Running Wild are going to release their a new album out of the blue in this year's October 31th 2013. The announcement came as a surprise, for me at least, this close to the release date. The album will be called "Resilient" and does consist a quite standard and lengthy amount of ten tracks (which you can view below), along with two additional exclusive tracks featured in Limited Edition of the album only. Other than the track titles, information about the album has been so far very scarce. There (to my knowledge) hasn't been announcement or confirmation about the line-up contributing to the album, or sound samples this far. Yet Resilient is only two and half months away from final release date. The album is already available for pre-ordering in Amazon.com and Amazon.de in standard and ltd. edition, though, those who were upset (me included) with Running Wild's prior, rather poorly received album "Shadowmaker", are well advised to wait for sound samples before placing an order.


(Running Wild: Resilient, album cover)


Most likely, line-up will be the same than on running-wild.net website, unless it's ouf-of-date or everyone won't contribute to the recording and writing sessions. The website states following: Rolf Kaspared (guitar, vocals, writing), Peter "PJ" Jordan (guitar), Peter Pich (bass), Matthias Liebetruth (drums). Personally, I do hope less triggered, more traditional real drum sound, which would be huge improvement to the sound in my opinion!

Tracklist for "Resilient":
01. Soldiers Of Fortune
02. Resilient
03. Adventure Highway
04. The Drift
05. Desert Rose
06. Fireheart
07. Run Riot
08. Down To The Wire
09. Crystal Gold
10. Bloody Island
11. Payola & Shenanigans (Limited Edition Bonus Track)
12. Premonition (Limited Edition Bonus Track)


(A snippet of 'Bloody Island song from the album)

An actual concept of a real band with all members contributing to the records has been a bit questionable, perhaps, ever since "Rivalry" album was released in... 1998 (right?). Many fans seem to think that Running Wild as a band died after "Masquerade", or at the latest, Rivalry lineup in the late nineties, when band seemed to turn more into Rolf Kasparek's (guitarist/singer) personal project. The sound then lost some hooks and turned into rather more repetitious and monotonous. Yet records like "Victory", "The Brotherhood", and "Rogues En Vogue" in my opinion did consist some enjoyable songs, despite that I consider them being lower-tier releases by the band.

Running Wild, known formerly as Granite Heart, will be perhaps best remembered of their heavy-for-it's-time debut release "Gates To Purgatory" with speed metal influences and rather evil image, melodic heavy metal perfection of "Death Or Glory", and more of the same but more heavy and bombastic affair with "Black Hand Inn" in the mid nineties...  with dozen of fine albums ranging from the early eighties to late nineties.

Running Wild discography (only full length releases, no compilations or live recordings):
*click to see if available in Amazon.com
Gates to Purgatory (1984) 
Branded and Exiled (1985) 
Under Jolly Roger (1987) 
Port Royal (1988) 
Death or Glory (1989) 
Blazon Stone (1991) 
Pile of Skulls (1992) 
Black Hand Inn (1994) 
Masquerade (1995) 
The Rivalry (1998) 
Victory (2000)
The Brotherhood (2002) 
Rogues en Vogue (2005) 
Shadowmaker (2012) 
Resilient (2013)



-www.kultmetal.com | posted: dungeoncrawler