Album Review – KK’s Priest / Sermons of the Sinner (2021)

Are you ready to listen to the sermons of this classic Heavy Metal band of sinners?

Back in January 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just about to hit us all really hard, Mr. Kenneth Downing, Jr., better known as Judas Priest’s former guitarist KK Downing, announced he would work on brand new music alongside former Judas Priest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, guitarist A.J. Mills, bassist Tony Newton and drummer Les Binks (who also played with Judas Priest from 1977 to 1979), later replaced by Sean Elg due to a wrist injury, forming a classic metal band that goes by the name of KK’s Priest. Most probably due to the pandemic, the band’s debut effort Sermons of the Sinner, which was produced and mixed by KK himself together with Tony, and mastered by Ade Emsley (Iron Maiden, Blaze Bayley, Absolva) at Table of Tone Mastering, had to be delayed up until this month, but the wait was totally worth it despite the band’s cheesy name and the album’s even cheesier lyrics, as KK and his henchmen brought forth a solid, old school Heavy Metal album that will certainly please most admirers of KK’s undisputed career.

In the intro Incarnation, a heavy storm, the sound of thunder and an ominous background narration set the stage for the band to kick some serious ass in Hellfire Thunderbolt, where the metallic riffs by KK and A.J. provide Ripper all he needs to stun us all with his infernal roars while Sean dictates the song’s old school pace. This is what I call an pulverizing welcome card by KK’s Priest, whereas in Sermons of the Sinner, even more epic and demonic than its predecessor, Ripper steals the spotlight with a flawless vocal performance supported by the rumbling bass by Tony and the crushing drums by Sean, while KK delivers his trademark fiery solos in a newborn metal classic. Then it’s time for another pure Heavy Metal extravaganza titled Sacerdote y Diablo, with Ripper sounding awesome as usual on vocals while we’re also treated to some epic background elements as a complement to the band’s incendiary sound. And Raise Your Fists is a straightforward Heavy Metal hymn perfect for their upcoming live concerts, presenting a great sync between KK and A.J. supported by the spot-on bass by Tony.

In Brothers of the Road, albeit the lyrics are cheesy as hell they do what they’re supposed to anyway, walking hand in hand with its direct sound that’s not as awesome as the rest of the album, but still very enjoyable. Then a melancholic start is gradually accompanied by the pounding beats by Sean in Metal Through and Through, bringing forward elements from the darkest creations by Black Sabbath with Dio on vocals (when they were called Heaven & Hell), or in other words, it showcases a beautiful Doom Metal vibe; and let’s put the pedal to the metal as KK is on absolute fire in Wild and Free, an in-your-face onrush of heavy and piercing sounds that will put you to bang your head nonstop, led by the visceral, soaring vocals by Ripper. In Hail for the Priest I’m not sure if KK’s trying to send a message to the guys from Judas Priest or simply saying he’s the real Judas Priest; either way, simply forget about their beef and enjoy another solid metal tune where KK once again slashes his axe in great fashion, followed by Return of the Sentinel, another direct mention to Judas Priest (more specifically to their classic song “The Sentinel”) showcasing a great job done on the guitars and bass while Ripper declaims the song’s words with tons of power, resulting in what’s by far the album’s most epic creation.

If you haven’t given Sermons of the Sinner a try yet, you can enjoy it in full on Spotify, and also get to know more about KK’s plans for the future with his new band on Facebook and on Instagram, enjoy all of their videos on YouTube, and grab your copy of the album by clicking HERE. When speaking to KNAC in June this year about Sermons of the Sinner, KK said that he was already working on material for the next album by KK’s Priest, which would be more of a collaboration effort than the first album, and if it’s half as good as Sermons of the Sinner we can rest assured there will be a lot of high-end metal music for us in the near future. I just wish he could change the name of the band to something more creative and unique, but let’s face it, in the end that doesn’t really matter as it’s always about the music, and the music found in Sermons of the Sinner is beyond awesome.

Best moments of the album: Hellfire Thunderbolt, Sermons of the Sinner, Metal Through and Through and Wild and Free.

Worst moments of the album: Brothers of the Road.

Released in 2021 EX1 Records

Track listing
1. Incarnation 0:58
2. Hellfire Thunderbolt 3:49
3. Sermons of the Sinner 5:25
4. Sacerdote y Diablo 5:35
5. Raise Your Fists 4:10
6. Brothers of the Road 3:22
7. Metal Through and Through 8:13
8. Wild and Free 4:15
9. Hail for the Priest 5:44
10. Return of the Sentinel 8:59

Band members
Tim “Ripper” Owens – vocals
KK Downing – guitars
A.J. Mills – guitars
Tony Newton – bass
Sean Elg – drums

Album Review – Blaze Bayley / War Within Me (2021)

The man who will live for a thousand years returns with the 11th studio album in his undisputed career, inspiring us all to fight the war within us and to take our future in our own hands.

In celebration of our 1000th review here at The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing more appropriate than reviewing the brand new opus by the man who will live for a thousand years, the indomitable Heavy Metal fighter Blaze Bayley. Moving forward from the success of his Infinite Entanglement trilogy released in three consecutive years (Infinite Entanglement in 2016, Endure And Survive in 2017, and The Redemption of William Black  in 2018), Blaze and his loyal Absolva henchmen Chris Appleton on the guitars, Karl Schramm on bass and Martin McNee on drums are unleashing upon humanity the awesome War Within Me, the 11th studio album in his extensive solo career which started with his legendary Silicon Messiah album in the year 2000. Mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd., and featuring another striking artwork by Spanish artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration, War Within Me is not a concept album but does include a positive thread throughout. In Blaze’s own words, “This is an album that I want to put on and feel very positive about. Whatever song you choose there’s some good feeling about it. As fans of metal music we tend to be damaged, strange and different in some way and this album is (as I say in my live intro to the song ‘Futureal’) about taking your future in your own hand. It’s one of the things that really connects with people at my live shows.”

The slashing riffage by Chris ignites the high-octane, pure Heavy Metal anthem War Within Me, with Blaze powerfully declaiming the song’s meaningful and inspirational words as usual, resulting in a sensational option for singing it along with Blaze & Co. while hitting the highway. Following such powerful tune, we have the also breathtaking 303, inspired by the No. 303 Squadron RAF, one of two Polish squadrons to fight during the Battle of Britain along with squadron 302, of 16 total Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Musically speaking, it’s another metallic feast where Karl and Martin kick some serious ass with their rumbling kitchen, not to mention the trademark guitar lines by Chris. And more of Blaze’s incendiary and energetic metal music comes in the form of Warrior, where Chris and Karl make a dynamic duo with their stringed weapons in a straightforward Heavy Metal extravaganza with some welcome Power Metal elements; followed by Pull Yourself Up, a rhythmic and stunning metal hymn from the bottom of Blaze’s heart to all metalheads out there, inviting everyone to walk and sing with him, accompanied by the sharp riffs by Chris and the marching beats by Martin. Then the entire band is on fire in another classic display of old school NWOBHM entitled Witches Night, where it’s impossible not to raise our fists together with Blaze during the song’s chorus, also showcasing a slashing performance by Chris on the guitars.

18 flights, 15 shows, 6 countries, 1 earthquake. That’s the story Blaze masterfully tells us in 18 Flights, narrating his adventures in January 2019 when there was an earthquake while the band was on stage at a very special gig organized by fans in Coquimbo, Chile called Blaze Fest. What a fun and thrilling way to tell that story through his undisputed Heavy Metal, I might say, whereas in The Dream of Alan Turing the unstoppable Blaze pays homage to the famous English scientist highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science and, of course, the music couldn’t have sounded more exciting, with Chris piercing our ears with his sick solos. Then it’s time to pay another tribute, this time to Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, with The Power of Nikola Tesla, a kick-ass tune where Blaze and his bandmates generate an electrifying ambience that matches perfectly with the song’s theme. And how about one more tribute to a great personality the likes of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking? That’s what Blaze has to offer in The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking, investing in a more epic, galloping rhythm, with the pounding drums by Martin dictating the pace while Blaze delivers his trademark vocals in great fashion. And last but not least, a final message of hope and positivity from the band is provided to us all in the closing tune Every Storm Ends, starting in a melancholic, acoustic way before evolving into a dark and metallic feast that flows smoothly until its delicate finale.

There’s no excuse not to follow the man who would not die Blaze Bayley and his talented bandmates on Facebook and on Instagram, and of course to stream all of his vast catalogue on Spotify (like I enjoy doing a lot on my free time). However, War Within Me is such a great album of classic Heavy Metal that it truly deserves to be part of the collection of anyone who considers him or herself a true headbanging bastard, and you can add it to your personal pile of ass-kicking albums by purchasing it from Blaze’s own webstore, as well as from an array of locations including Napalm Records, Season of Mist, HHV, Record Shop X, EMP, Apple Music and Amazon. Having said that, what are you waiting for to fight the never-ending war within you alongside Mr. Blaze Bayley? The time is now to fight for what’s yours and to take your future in your own hands, as Blaze himself likes to say, always to the sound of our beloved Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: War Within Me, 303, Pull Yourself Up and 18 Flights.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2021 Blaze Bayley Recordings

Track listing
1. War Within Me 4:12
2. 303 3:19
3. Warrior 3:45
4. Pull Yourself Up 4:45
5. Witches Night 4:57
6. 18 Flights 3:45
7. The Dream of Alan Turing 2:47
8. The Power of Nikola Tesla 3:11
9. The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking 6:00
10. Every Storm Ends 5:08

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Album Review – Absolva / Side By Side (2020)

Celebrating the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks, this young and restless Manchester, UK-based unity returns with their breathtaking fifth full-length album.

If you’re a fan of the most recent solo albums by the indomitable Blaze Bayley, more specifically with his  Infinite Entanglement Trilogy, you’ve probably heard the names of vocalist and guitarist Christopher Appleton, bassist Karl Schramm and drummer Martin Mcnee, who together with Chris’ brother, guitarist Luke Appleton (of Iced Earth), have been making a lot of noise since 2012 with their Manchester, England-based Melodic/Heavy Metal band Absolva. Each member has a wealth of experience with an impressive pedigree recording and touring with their other above-mentioned associations with Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley, and have also toured as support artists with the likes of Saxon, Michael Schenker and Y&T. Now in 2020 it’s time for Absolva to strike again with Side By Side, their fifth studio album following on from Flames of Justice (2012), Anthems to the Dead (2014), Never a Good Day to Die (2015) and Defiance (2017).

Recorded at Rocksector Records headquarters in Manchester, produced by Chris Appleton himself, mastered by Ade Emsley at Table of Tone Mastering Ltd. in London, and featuring a classic artwork by Brazilian artist Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration (Blaze Bayley, Iron Maiden, Star Wars), Side By Side undoubtedly celebrates the great tradition of British Heavy Metal with huge riffs and massive hooks. However, Absolva have never been scared to mix things up, and fans will discover light and shade across the ten original songs (plus two very special bonus tracks) found in such entertaining album that transpires metal music, showcasing an exceptional performance by all band members and, therefore, being highly recommended for fans of the music by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Helloween and several other metal giants.

The strident guitars by Chris and Luke bring thunder to the opening track Advocate Your Fate, accompanied by the band’s heavy kitchen of Martin and Karl in a pure traditional Heavy Metal feast, with their guitar solos being absolutely incendiary; and blasting a Judas Priest-inspired mega-riff the band embellishes the airwaves with the high-octane Burning Star, where Chris’ soaring screams are beautifully supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals, sounding perfect for headbanging nonstop in the name of Heavy Metal. Then keep banging your heads and raising your horns to the sound of The Sky’s Your Limit, where the bass punches by Karl will reverberate inside your brain, feeling very melodic from start to finish and being obviously recommended for enjoying it while on a road trip, whereas the title-track Side by Side brings forward an inspiring, upbeat atmosphere showcasing the union among the band members, with both Chris and Luke taking the lead with their refined riffs and solos and, of course, living up to the legacy of the biggest exponents of the genre.

After such amazing first batch of songs, it’s time to speed things up and slam into the pit together with the boys in Living a Lie, another lesson in traditional Heavy Metal where Martin is unstoppable on drums while its guitars will pierce your ears and Chris powerfully declaims the song’s austere lyrics, followed by Legion, presenting a “Stranger in a Stranger Land” vibe generated by Karl and his menacing bass, alternating between heavier moments spiced up by Chris and Luke’s shredding and more serene, melodic passages. And more metallic sounds permeate the airwaves in Eternal Soul, a galloping tune led by Karl and Martin armed with their thunderous instruments, feeling like a metal classic from the 80’s with a catchy chorus that will put you to sing along with the band, not to mention their trademark electrifying solos.

Chris leads his metal army in the rebellious anthem End of Days, a more epic and imposing tune where Martin’s beats dictate the pace and the band’s stringed trio doesn’t stop firing sheer electricity from their axes, and setting fire to the world the band brings forth the frantic, melodic and absolutely awesome Heart Let’s Go, where Chris keeps blasting his sharp vocals accompanied by the razor-edged sound of the guitars and the groovy bass by Karl. Finally, a serene Hard Rock-inspired intro ignites the melodic From This World, the last original song of the album where the quartet showcases a lot of passion and feeling, led by the pounding beats by Martin (albeit going on for a little too long, though), before we’re treated to two metallic and vibrant bonus tracks by Absolva showing their respect and admiration for the undisputed metal titans Iron Maiden, with 2 Minutes to Midnight, and Black Sabbath, with Heaven and Hell, with their Iron Maiden version sounding and feeling beyond stunning.

The guys form Absolva are waiting for you on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Spotify, ready to invade your senses with their refined old school Heavy Metal, and with Side By Side being the perfect representation of everything they stand for and what we can except from such talented band in a not-so-distant future. Hence, don’t forget to purchase your copy of the album from their Big Cartel page, from Apple Music or from Amazon, standing side by side with one of the youngest and most promising bands of the UK scene and, as a consequence, living and breathing metal music together with a band that proudly carries the flag of NWOBHM wherever they go.

Best moments of the album: Burning Star, Eternal Soul, Heart Let’s Go and 2 Minutes to Midnight.

Worst moments of the album: From This World.

Released in 2020 Rocksector Records

Track listing
1. Advocate Your Fate 4:39
2. Burning Star 4:02
3. The Sky’s Your Limit 5:22
4. Side by Side 4:39
5. Living a Lie 3:07
6. Legion 3:42
7. Eternal Soul 5:37
8. End of Days 6:07
9. Heart Let’s Go 4:21
10. From This World 5:51

Bonus tracks
11. 2 Minutes to Midnight (Iron Maiden cover) 5:49
12. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover) 7:01

Band members
Christopher Appleton – lead vocals, lead guitar
Luke Appleton – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass
Martin Mcnee – drums