US power metal veterans Vicious Rumors return with another album for German imprint SPV and… well, what?

You have to give some props to VR leading light Geoff Thorpe, and not only for his superior riff arsenal; The man quite simply lives and breathes our kind of music, as evidenced by the fact that here he is, thirty seven years after forming the band, still churning out above average power/trad metal in the face of a largely complacent and never-broadening audience, still coming up with excellent headbangers like Bastards and Chasing the Priest despite the fact that his day is probably now never going to come. That sort of stickability deserves respect, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising the man, or indeed the band, for in fact Concussion Protocol is easily the best of the three studio albums Vicious Rumors have delivered to SPV; Indeed history might well end up judging this to be the best VR product since 1988’s Digital Dictator gouged ears worldwide on its release. And much of the credit for this must go to new vocalist Nick Holleman, whose versatile voice owns everything Thorpe throws at it over the course of the album. You want Halfordesque banshee wailing? Have a listen to the man’s performance on Chasing the Priest (no pun intended, I hope). Or what about that low, Anselmoesque drawl? Life for a Life’s got that particular base covered too. But throughout the man proves himself to be a top draw performer, and certainly a name to keep tabs on for the future.

Like most Vicious Rumors albums some of the material gets a bit samey here and there, although the quality of the riffage barely dips below excellent; The more melodic Chemical Slaves is a real highlight, as is the gang vocal-driven Take it or Leave it, but really anywhere you drop the needle you are going to find something to admire. New bassist Tilen Hudrap is given plenty of space to impress – something of a rarity in my experience of modern metal productions – and co-producer Juan Urteaga plays his part in making sure this is so, and the overall impression you get from the material here is of a band possible edging back towards peak performance. So when you shrug when I tell you that Vicious Rumors have a new album out and say ‘so what’, think again – a band of this vintage and loyalty to the cause certainly deserves better than that – and you might just like what’s on offer.