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Music Reviews: Leviticus, Ranger, Trouble, and Witch Cross

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This week I offer you a variety of quality metal.

Leviticus are set to re-release The Strongest Power. Lame CD cover notwithstanding, this is quite a good heavy rock album. Trust the Swedes to make it sound so catchy and intriguing. That said, most people wouldn’t have a clue, as this lot are anything but Stryper. No throwing Bibles into the crowd or yellow/black outfits for this bunch of Christian metallers. No cheesy lyrics and silly high-pitched choruses, this is old school metal done right. In fact, the music here has a similar to sound to New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Diamond Head. This is especially the case with songs like “On the Rock” and “I Got Power”. Kerrang!, the British heavy rock magazine, called this album in 1985 when it was originally released “one of the best records of this year”. This band prove that religious-themed metal doesn’t have to be rubbish.

Ranger have released Knights of Darkness, an EP of six songs. Considering the throwback metal this band produce, six songs is appropriate. This reminds me of the early Iron Maiden EPs with Paul Di’Anno – the pure pleasure of the form of heavy metal influenced by punk that would later become known as thrash. Surprisingly this is not an ’80s era NWOBHM band making a comeback but one that formed in 2009. This is their first proper release and it is quite good, if derivative. Whether it is the title track or “Steel Dawn”, this album is just steeped in early Maiden and their contemporaries. Quite the release for fans of (really) old school thrash and NWOBHM.

distortion-jewelTrouble are back with quite the album in the form of The Distortion Field. This is the first album without vocalist Eric Wagner. Fans need not have worried that they might lose their way. Truth be told this is a far better release than the last effort with Wagner on vocals. One thing that is quite cool is the album has quite the groove/Southern metal vibe to it. Not quite Pantera, but it has a similar sort of swamp metal doom. Kyle Thomas has quite the set of pipes on him and he seems to have revitalized the band’s drive and sound. “Paranoia Conspiracy” is quite the catchy track that will have your toes tapping in no time. Fans troubled by the departure of Wagner (and extended wait for a new album) will be pleased to know this band is back doing what they do best.

Witch Cross are back from a very long time away with an album called Axe to Grind. Unlike Ranger mentioned above, this is very much an ’80s metal band back to have another crack at the brass ring. Their last release was in 1984 and it was their only full-length release before this one. Despite being from Denmark this band very much have a NWOBHM vibe to their sound. However, this is the more melodic variety of that ilk found in bands like Diamond Head and Tokyo Blade. Songs like the anthem-like “Metal Nation” might sound a bit dated to modern audiences – well, except at a metal festival – but will put a broad smile on the face of metal fans of a certain vintage. It must be that vintage because this latest release puts a great big smirk on my face. Have a listen and welcome them back to the music land of the living.

Stay safe and rocking out there this week.

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