If you asked me to think of many French heavy metal bands I’d struggle. Take Nightmare, I’ll be honest, I don’t recall coming across them before, yet they have a history going back to the 1970s and opened for Def Leppard in the 1980s.

Since regrouping in the early 2000s they have been far heavier and the Power Metal stylings of opener “Nexus Inferis” give half a clue to that.

“The Blossom of my Hate” which sees their two vocals – the harsh male vocals and the mellifluous from Barbara Mogore – is much more like what you’ll find.

It is never less than interesting, though, and appreciably heavier than the obvious peers. “Saviours Of The Damned” proves that, so does the expertly played “Incandescent” and the 2023 version of Eternal Winter rather suggests that this is a band that has evolved over time and is perhaps more comfortable in their own skin than they’ve ever been before.

Rating 7/10

AOR sensation Issa, AKA Isabell Øversveen knows how to do this. She begins what she terms her “next chapter” with “Armed And Dangerous” and it’s the sort of soaring, brilliantly played, brilliantly sung thing that her label, Frontiers, are famous for.

“All Those Wild Nights” sounds exactly like it should and it’s the 1980s all over again. “Only In The Dark” gets its pianos out for a spot of Richard Marx, but it basically wants to party. “Never Sleep Alone” won’t struggle for the company, and neither will the thunderous arena rock of “Got A Hold Of Me”.

Think anthems, think bombast, and think about listening to “The Hardest Fight”. “Lost And Lonely” might be the title of the last one, yet this really does sound sure of itself.

You’ve heard “Another World” before if you’ve ever listened to AOR, but the point of this was never to be groundbreaking. Rather, to make the music they wanted to. And as Heart have cancelled their UK shows, then you could do worse than fill the Wilson-shaped void with this.

Rating 7.5/10

It wasn’t until Monster Magnet covered “Mr Destroyer” pretty recently that MV came across Poobah, so it is good timing that this anthology has appeared.

In these hands, “…Destroyer” underlines who Dave Wyndorf stole from, and this anthology rather shows the class of the band. “Burning In The Rain” is riff-heavy class, “C’Mon Let It Go” is quite a trip, and when they lock into a groove, as they do on the likes of “Maximum Pleasure” – on which the solo soars – they are a special proposition.

Jim Gustafson (who holds the record of playing in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame more than anyone else) is clearly superb. The likes of “Rain” show that, and “2 Faced Liar”  is the sort of thing that makes you think they must be a wonderful live band.

The last one “Destination Or Debris” leaves the latter  – in a trail of destruction – in its wake, but this isn’t, to these ears anyway “proto-metal” it’s not “proto” anything. Instead “Burning In The Rain” is a glimpse into a band that has evidently got a body of work to get stuck into.

If that world has hitherto passed you by, then wade in here.

Rating 8.5/10

It’s just over nine years since I saw Gurt play. That night I said they were: “playing warts and all and a shitload of pounding riffs through the skull like a boot to the face”.

Now five years after their last one – and after some huge personal upheaval – they return. And they are still all I said they were back then.

“The Most Dying Way To Die” isn’t so much a welcome mat as pissing through your letterbox, while “Knife Fever” out Dopethrone’s Dopethrone by sounding filthy.

But they’ve never taken it too seriously, as “In For A Penny, In For A Pounding” rather points out – like being beaten slowly and excruciatingly with a concrete block (or watching a Michael McIntyre stand up gig) this is not fun.

They call what they do “Party Doom”, and as much as I hate parties, I am scared, but intrigued, what the pass the parcel is like as “Exit As You Enter” rolls on.

“Electric Brown” passes for almost melody and if you can’t call what Gareth Kelly does “singing” then they are as unapologetic as ever.

A messed up world needs nasty music. And easy listening doesn’t get any more uneasy than this.

Even Satan is scared.

Rating 7/10

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