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Monday, 16 July 2018

Reviews: Traitor's Gate, Chandrian Kill, Motorowl, Seven Hells

Traitors Gate: Fallen (No Remorse Records)

Yet another ‘cult’ NWOBHM returning nearly 30 years after their original break up, the ‘classic’ line up of Traitors Gate was active from 1985 to 1989, but split up only to reactivate in 2016. Since then vocalist Dave McLean departed with ex-Mayhem Messiah vocalist Sy Davies taking the mic. His power metal pipes are perfect for the battle infused traditional British metal Traitors Gate, so with all the pieces in place we get Fallen, the bands first full length album, (although their Devil Takes The High Road EP is considered a ‘classic’) which has been released through Greek record label No Remorse Records. So how is it will it reach the heady heights of reactivated NWOBHM act Hell? Or fall by the wayside like so many?

Well it sits firmly in the middle of both, it’s strictly meat and potatoes British metal, galloping bass, chugging riffs and fists aloft choruses. I’d continue to plug the NWOBHM tag but Traitors Gate have more of the barrel chested machismo of Manowar due to Sy’s vocals however just as you’re settling into the Manowar influences they bring Halford squawks on Edge Of Destruction. Fallen serves as a compilation album for everything you love about traditional metal, it’s not going to change the world and the ‘cult’ status of Traitors Gate is a little suspect but in 2018 they’ve released a fine album. 7/10

Chandrian Kill: Bring Out Your Dead Bar3 Records

Bring Out Your Dead is the first part of a sequence of EP’s based on a loose concept of “life, being self aware, our experiences, relationships, knowing who we are and how we feel about our existence and place in the world." It’s the debut release Chandrian Kill a band made up of only two members, behind the mic is Nic Whitmore previously of Number One Son and joining him is songwriter/guitarist and former member of Moesaboa and My Life In The Making, Ted Clark. The two set about creating a new vehicle for both of them and on the back of those sessions we have this initial three track record which is a far cry from their previous projects having a post-grunge style to it the passionate vocals of Whitmore acting as foil for the emotive compositions of Clark.

Out of the three tracks on this record check out Remain Alive which gives the best overview of this project nailing down exactly what Chandrian Kill are trying to do. Painfully modern in their sound it’s writ large and name checked by the band, as having the influence of Deftones and Stone Sour but with three tracks this is just an embryo, I’ll be paying close attention to the next instalments to see where the band can go. 7/10

Motorowl: Atlas (Century Media)

Atlas is the second release from German band Motorowl and frontman Max puts it like so: “The new album is definitely a step forward. I don't know which direction it is but it feels great.” Well I’d say that the direction is towards Krautrock as along with the normal psych rock tropes of doom laden Sabbath worship and the hard rock posturing, they use of sweeping organs and swirling synths means that Atlas is treat for those who love a good keyboard. A track such as To Take is a key example of the synthesis of styles Motorowl deal with, it’s got a big lumbering guitar riff that is augmented with the organs for a Gothic sounding doom track where Max rings out the emotion in his voice before it breaks into a sparse almost Muse-like middle section.

If this doesn’t give you an indication of what Motorowl sound like then I’d liken their sound to Baroness or the most recent releases of Opeth. Although a Maiden influence creeps in on Infinite Logbook as max admits the whole band “loves Iron Maiden”. It’s modern retro recorded on analogue equipment and harking back to the days of real music, recording the album live in 10 days you really hear the symbiosis of the group come through as they all head toward one common goal. It’s trippy, heavy hard rock raised by its influences but firmly in the now like Atlas had the world on his shoulders Motorowl have the it as their oyster! 8/10

Seven Hells: Prologue (Self Released)

Leicestershire is a hot bed for metal in the UK so here’s another up and coming set of metallers from the region. Seven Hells formed in late 2016 and they are the winners of the 2018 Leicester Metal 2 The Masses competition meaning they will be playing Bloodstock this year. In anticipation of that they have also released a four track EP (coming out August 3rd) to whet the appetite on what to expect in the New Blood Stage, well folks I’d expect some pits as Prologue is a lesson in brutality, at just four tracks it doesn’t stick around but from the outset it grabs you by the scruffs and gets your head banging with modern groove metal taking a bite out of the Machine Head pie on The Prophet and defiant opener Resist. Prologue has blistering thrash solo sections, massive beatdowns and harsh vocals making for an aggressive listen, another band added to the ‘must watch’ list. 7/10

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Reviews: Resin, Manes, Exocrine, Torqued

Resin: Cycle Of Need (Self Released)

Have you ever listened to Alice In Chains or Soundgarden and thought? “What this needs is more violin” well now you’re in luck as Leicestershire band Resin have gone where no grunge band have gone before. On the back of their acclaimed 2015 EP the band have added Emma Bennett to their line up and it means that they have a sound that is the same but different, take Monster which has percussive power of Seether but the violin just adds a new edge, while on Shitstorm it brings some country to the Southern grooves of a song that has an echo of Them Bones (it’s those backing chants).
What you hear on this record are a band that have been honed on stage Bloodstock Festival, Uprising Festival, SOS Festival, Dementia Aware Festival, Amplified Festival plus countless others they have really laser focussed their grunge metal sound, playing on a trio of guitars from Dave Gandon, Mark 'Chez' Rosebys and Simon Yarwood, a sturdy rhythm section from Drask George (bass) and Ryan 'Sticks' Hextall (drums)and Gandon’s deep Eddie Vedder vocals Resin are a group with dense challenging music that can be anthemic and heartbreaking at the same with the heaviness counterpointed by the delicate violin. 

The album is a mixture of new songs and revisiting old tracks from their first album to show the evolution of their ever changing sound. Produced by Krysthla’s Neil Hudson Cycle Of Need is complex piece of work that belies its rigid grunge trappings, in a genre that it is all to easy to fall into the same old same old Resin try something different and succeed. 8/10

Manes: Slow Motion Death Sequence (Debemur Morti Productions)

This is something we don’t usually review here, but I’m always open to something a little different. Manes are a Norwegian act who clearly languish in misery, this album is about as depressive as it comes echoing the processed electronic nihilism of NIN, VNV Nation or latter day Depeche Mode, with Therapism having the throbbing pulse and the industrial discord. Manes describe the album like so "Slow Death Music Sequence shouldn't be seen as a glass-half-empty, but more like a pile of dry, broken glass on a hardwood floor." The overall theme is one of darkness and unwavering pretension, the band quite happy to lead you down the garden path before totally changing their musical landscape, case in point being the almost whimsical start to Last Hope which builds into a cinematic Katatonia styled epic and features some raw emotion in both sets of vocals. Taking rock, jazz, electronica and trip hop Manes don’t have any borders to their music like an audio chameleon much like Bowie at his most experimental (Poison Enough For Everyone) this is a band who thrive off oppressive darkness and their audience never truly being at ease with the music. Less a band more a collective Manes new album will hopefully let them reach a wider audience as in a world full of paranoia and disquiet they have managed to bottle it and express it over these 9 tracks. 7/10

Exocrine: Molten Giant (Unique Leader Records)

Like the lumbering, fire breathing, Kaiju of their album title Exocrine are born from the bowels of the Earth and look set to destroy it! Building on the monstrous template of countrymen Gojira and German technical masters Obscura, the music on this record has grooves deep enough to contain a lava flow but also astounding feats of virtuosity wrapped up in a progressive extreme metal mantle. With the opening salvo of Scorched Human Society you realise that there is no way this record is going to be an easy listen, the track rapidly switches time and pace, one minute breaking down the next led by furious blastbeats as the guitars provide intense lead harmonies and solos. 

It’s short shock to kick things off as things settle down a little with Hayato which although still schizophrenically changes throughout but manages to integrate them into longer more traditional structures. It’s also the first song that adds more electronic loops/synths that burble at the bottom of Backdraft, the first song to where its melodic middle section that slows as the synths bring the tempo back up into a battery, it shifts into the chunky opening of the title track which features some insane drumming and blistering guitar work (can you sense a theme?). The final track The Shape Of A New World is probably the prog on the record but don’t think of ethereal Floydisms, Exocrine just get more cinematic and bring this conceptual piece to an end. Who knew that the idea of a lava monster and remaining humans could be told so vividly with breathtaking musicianship and the harshest roars I’ve heard in a while. Molten Giant towers over the competition it’s a gargantuan record capable of levelling cities! 8/10

Torqued: Resurgence EP (Self Released)

You’ve probably seen Torqued’s name on a poster somewhere, the groove metal monsters from the South West of the UK have done more rounds than your local milkman, bludgeoning stages around the country with aggressive LOG-esque battery and nu-metal groove. There live shows have included The Mosh Against Cancer, Ashesfest, Wildfire, and Bloodstock. The deep basslines of Hollow Core remind me so much of Korn as does the vocals but elsewhere on Follow Me it’s straight up rage guaranteed to get a pit going. What’s remarkable about Torqued is that they are a three piece so they benefit from the layered production on this record which was recorded, mixed and mastered Elliott Alderman- Broom of Mortis Music. This EP has four studio tracks and two live tracks from the Firebug in Leicester where they performed at Uprising Aftermath and gives you a feel for their live power. I suggest you pick up this EP, bang your head and then find out where they’re playing live to really give yourself a neck ache! 7/10

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Reviews: Decayed, Gluttony, Tornado, Ageless Summoning (Reviews By Paul S & Paul H)

Decayed: Of Fire And Evil (Lusitanian Music) [Paul H]

One of the oldest Portuguese extreme metal outfits, Decayed has followed their own path since their formation in 1990. This is their 12th album and follows a live release in 2017 and The Burning Of Heaven which arrived in 2016. Of Fire And Evil is a ferocious 40 minutes of rampant black metal which ticks all the right boxes. Plenty of atmosphere, haunting melodies and thunderous visceral riffs which tear at the flesh, claws scraping uncomfortably down the spine. Guitarist J.A does a fine job, massive guitars combining with the brutal bass of lead vocalist Vulturis, whilst GR’s drumming is typically impressive of the genre. If you fancy some true Lusitanian black metal, then tracks such as the marauding Black Moon, the thrashy Firestorm or the rampant Across The Sea with its real old school feel then get your listening holes around Of Fire And Evil. It’s a pure black metal experience. 7/10

Gluttony: Cult Of The Unborn (Gravework Media) [Paul S]

This is the second album from Gluttony. The band featuring Anders Harem, John Henriksson and Max Bergman from the band My Own Grave, and Magnus Odling from Sorghegard on vocals. This album does not mess about, 9 tracks coming in at 31 minutes of fast, slightly grindy death metal. The style is definitely old school, there's a late eighties feel to all the songs. Tight riffs, when there are solos they’re in a screaming, atonal form and don’t hang around for long. The vocals are harsh and growly and fit perfectly with the music.

Although the songs are fast, there isn’t much in the way of blast beats, this adds to the old school feel of the album. The production is also old school, this isn’t a huge, overproduced ‘Nile’ style production, you can hear the individual instruments, it sounds like there was very little messing with the bands basic sound. Cult Of The Unborn is an enjoyable death metal album, it isn’t groundbreaking, it’s style is fairly simple. But, thats one of the things that make it work, the nine songs don’t outstay their welcome, so they never feel boring. Definitely worth a listen. 7/10

Tornado: Commitment To Excellence (Extreme Metal Music) [Paul S]

Finnish thrash band Tornado, formed in 2010, are on their 3rd album with Commitment To Excellence. What have they got for us, other than an album title that sounds like a corporate mission statement? Well, we get 11 tracks (10 of them original) of fairly standard thrash metal. The feel is more American than European. This feels like it’s been influenced by Exodus and Overkill rather than Kreator or Sabbat (although a couple of tracks remind me of early nineties, British band D.A.M.). Unfortunately, it sounds like the less impressive output of American thrash. A lot of this album is a little lacklustre and generic. The band have a nasty habit of starting songs with nice, tight, fast riffs, but as soon soon as the vocals come in the songs slow down and plod. The vocals from Superstar Joey Severance (I didn’t add the ‘Superstar’), quite reminiscent of Bobby Ellsworth mixed in with a little bit of Mike Muir, are quite often a little grating, not the best thrash vocals I’ve heard. The lyrics are also a problem.

They’ve tried to write about social issues (just like late eighties/early nineties thrash bands did), but haven’t done it very well. The band have just had a video removed from YouTube for Hate Speech. The track Global Pandemic features the ’N’ word and the phrase ‘fuck you Jew’. I’ve had a look at the lyrics, and the song is clearly about hatred and intolerance, and they are giving examples of hatred. So the lyrics are well meaning, they just aren’t very well written. The album isn’t a complete disaster the track Endless Forms Of Torment is a pretty great piece of thrash, where the pace is kept at full speed, throughout the track, without descending into mid-paced plodding. But, the good moments are outweighed by the bad. The album features a cover of S.O.D’s United Forces, which is ok, but mainly made me want to go and listen to the original. Although there are the occasional good moments, Commitment To Excellence is mediocre at best. 6/10

Ageless Summoning: Demo (Self Released) [Paul S]

As the title suggests this is a demo, and a first one at that. Ageless Summoning’s members are culled from the ranks of several established UK extreme metal acts; Abyssal, Inculator, Of Spire and Throne, Haar, Uir, Scardatura, Laceration and several others. What we have here is 2 tracks of fairly old school style death metal. The style is fairly reminiscent of early Morbid Angel, second track Salvation In Ash is slower, more like Morbid Angel playing Hooded Menace or Asphyx. I also find it reminds me a little of Ageless Oblivion, but that might just be down to the similarity in the names. But Ageless Summoning definitely have their own sound and identity. The 2 tracks are really good, great riffs, enjoyable solos fantastic guttural vocals. This is also a very well produced demo, it’s not overblown, the instruments sound real and organic. In the last few weeks I’ve listened to several death metal albums that aren’t nearly as good as this. For a demo this is superb. For gods sake, someone give them a record deal! 8/10

Friday, 13 July 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Motörheadache (Live Review By Paul)

Motörheadache & Holy Diver UK, The Globe, Cardiff

I’m not big on tribute bands. I struggle with the concept to a large degree although I admit I did see Kiss last year, a tribute band if ever there is one. Seeing a tribute band usually means that an original hard-working outfit loses out, with humans typically opting for comfort and familiarity over originality and change. In all my years watching hard rock and metal, I can list the tribute outfits I’ve seen on two fingers. So why Motörheadache? Well, you’ll never get the chance to hear a full set of Motörhead classics ever again, and apparently this lot are highly regarded. So, on yet another hot and steamy night in South Wales I trotted along to The Globe along with my oldest mate Brett, to see what all the fuss was about.

The first thing you noticed when arriving in Roath was the number of Motörhead shirts dotted around the place. One thing Motörhead fans like is their shirts and I was no exception, clad in my Motörhead Cymru shirt, which as usual drew many admiring enquiries. One of only 10, thanks at this point to Brett for getting me one and to long time MHB Gareth Richards who organised the print run. Brett incidentally, was clad in his freshly purchased Motorhead Rainbow Bar & Grill shirt, courtesy of his recent US road trip. Looked brilliant too! The audience were held on the pavement until much later than advertised, and as the cool of the night rolled in it was possibly the most pleasant time I’ve had stood outside a dubious pizza joint surrounded by Motörhead England shirts. A curious cross over of fans, with the usual Motörhead Bangers next to younger fans, maybe curious about the Motörhead sound and crusty old timers, anxious to keep the Lemmy name alive.

Opening proceedings was local outfit Holy Diver UK (5). As the name suggests, these guys are a Dio tribute act and whilst they did a reasonable job it’s fair to say that they were less than inspiring. With the lead singer doing his very best to hit the notes but failing far short, it’s difficult to be too critical. However, the point of being a tribute to one of the voices in hard rock is surely to be able to replicate their sound to a certain standard. Guitarist John Clark, who also manages the band and plays in Journey UK, was able to hit the riffs to staples such as Holy Diver, Rainbow In The Dark, Evil Eyes and of course opener Stand Up And Shout but there isn’t the visceral edge that was so essential when Viv Campbell first sliced the air with the opening track on Holy Diver. Focusing very much on early Dio, by the time the band has reached Heaven & Hell it was time for a breath of fresh air. Dio needs to be aggressive, fast paced and most of all have the soaring vocals. It wasn’t happening here. Still, the audience proved once again that old school metal is king in South Wales with a huge reception and plenty of horns raised.

Rob Campbell leads Motörheadache, his own tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister’s music. From Yorkshire, Motörheadache (8) has been doing the rounds for over 15 years and have earned a solid reputation. Looking every inch the main man, Campbell was joined by John “The Beast” on drums and stand-in guitarist Ian “Fast Hilly” Hill (Not the Judas Priest bass player - Ed). The set up was simple, but the attention to detail is impressive, with a Marshall stack and Murder One bass head incorporated. Of course, it’s no good having all the gear and no idea and it’s what the band delivers that forms the impression. Kicking off a strong 90-minute set with the rip-roaring Iron Fist, the band moved at pace with an opening salvo that included Stay Clean, Stone Dead Forever and (We Are) The Road Crew. If you were fortunate enough to see Motörhead live, one of the joys was that there were always a few mistakes littered throughout the set; hell, this is live music. And so Motörheadache proved, with a couple of ragged endings and some misappropriated lyrics (especially during Bomber) but this only gave an even more authentic flavour.

The crowd, around 120 or so, reacted in different ways, with some early moshing giving way to head banging and general shape throwing. Full marks to the lady who joined the band on Jailbait and gave a serious show of hard core head banging for the entire track, whilst the shapes thrown during Going To Brazil by a couple next to me was hilarious and admirable in equal measure. Few surprises in the set, with nothing included later than 1991’s 1916. Highlights included Campbell’s eerie Kilmister (or Lemmy Kidderminster as he is also known as) presence and vocal delivery; closing your eye transported you back to every Motörhead gig I’d ever been too, whilst the rendition of Killed By Death, Louie Louie and the thunderous Motörhead all earned massive cheers. 

Ace Of Spades inevitably drew the highest vocal participation from the crowd, whilst the closing Overkill was, in my opinion, well ropey. Overall though, Motörheadache is a band that is well worth a watch. It doesn’t change my opinion about tribute artists one bit, but if you want to wallow in nostalgia for a night, then these guys do the business.

Reviews: Lucifer, The Paradox Twin, We Are Sentinels, Haunt

Lucifer: Lucifer II (Century Media Records)

Lucifer is Swedish/German occult rock band that were formed out of the breakup of The Oath with singer Johanna Sadonis hooking up with Gaz Jennings if Cathedral (now Death Penalty) and a couple of others. After their debut there was a spell of line up shuffling with Sadonis the only remaining member of that debut line up. This follow up has been a few years in digestion but now the bewitching Johanna has returned to the retro styled rocking of Lucifer, backed by Entombed's Nicke Andersson (drums/guitar) and Alexander Mayr (bass) and three revolving guitarists.

Lucifer II expands on the sound laid down on the first album but brings in a bit more psych and folk giving them a wider range of styles to play with. It all kicks off with California Man a snorting hog riding pastiche of Easy Rider, it's the kind of music that will get you into the mindset of Henry Fonda riding that hog in the desolate desert, from there though the psych is ramped up for Dreamer while Phoenix has the occult rocking of BOC. Johanna's vocals are what give Lucifer their magic on their fuzzed up cover of Dancing With Mr D she's go impetus and passion, Reaper On Your Heels and Before The Sun is where she can rub a bit of soul on it for the better. As I said it maintains what Lucifer set out to do on their debut but it adds new expression which will see the band comfortably into their second incarnation. 8/10 

The Paradox Twin: The Importance Of Mr Bedlam (White Star Records)

White Star Records once again reiterate their place as the best up and coming prog label in the UK, encouraging all of their acts to integrate and play on each other's records both label co-founder John Mitchell (producing) and artist Kim Seviour (vocals on Moonblood and Planeta) appear on this new record from Berkshire band The Paradox Twin. The Paradox Twin is the creation of Danny Sorell who has more than hint of one Messer Wilson albut him, the band are cinematic, prog act with alternative soul who effortlessly blend rock, metal, electronica, ambient and all other manner of genres for these soundscapes.

Sorell explains the concept behind the record "(it's) influenced and inspired by conspiracy theories and the idea that humans on Earth are being controlled by extra-terrestrial beings" so the album is built around long sprawling instrumental passages, with emotive vocals added as another instrument rather than a focal point. As I've mentioned there's a Steven Wilson influence that runs rife throughout the record especially when they're transcending genres on the  galactic sized Earthbound, but there's also some Opeth darkness that permeates strongly. Ranging from 6 to 10 minutes the 7 (yes 7) songs on this record are lushly arranged with the soaring guitars and keys an obvious highlight on the beautiful Moonblood.

The current line up of The Paradox Twin is Danny Sorrell (vocals/guitar/keys) supported by Leland Freeman (guitar), Diane Fox (bass), Rob McGregor (drums) and The Importance Of Mr Bedlam is a fine album of expressive progressive music, another spectacular release from White Star Records! 9/10

We Are Sentinels: S/T (Saol)

Ummm what the heck is this? I found myself asking this question a few times while listening to this record, it's not metal, lets make that clear. We Are Sentinels is the project created by composer/producer Jonah Weingarten who provides keyboards, piano, percussion, orchestration, notice the lack of guitars, bass etc? That's because there aren't any, the entire album is classical music but played with the epicness of heavy metal, contributing to that epic feel is We Are Sentinels other half, the amazing vocals of Matt Barlow, who probably has one of best voices ever to contribute to an album. Life, Death, Rebirth is a beautiful example of this with Barlow at his most mournful and that's where this record loses it's way Barlow is best when he's using his harder edged metal vocals in conjunction with his crooning, here he's not utilized as much as he could be, with Battle In Winter the obvious exception. Unfortunately it means that much of this album sounds a little like a budget "rock" musical or when a band does those "with orchestra" shows. We Are Sentinels is ok if you're looking for something a little different or if you're a Barlow fanatic then try it, I'm not convinced. 5/10

Haunt: Burst Into Flames (Shadow Kingdom Records)

Haunt are a band that have a bit of a challenge ahead of them, the Fresno California based band is the work of one man Beastmaker's Trevor William Church who sings, plays guitar and bass, but with White Wizzard now on permanent hiatus it might be time for Haunt to take over the mantle of the USA's premier exponent of NWOTHM stylized by those glory days of British metal. Haunt certainly have all of the requite hooks, the galloping basslines, dual leads and analogue production it's Maiden, Priest, Lizzy and anything else from that era, with one man who clearly loves this style of music and is using it as another avenue away from his stoner/doom day job, tracks such as My Mirage and Wanderlust really hark back to those days and give you the confidence that Haunt could easily step into the void left by White Wizzard. Burst Into Flame has the rawness of the High Speed GTO record and while it's not perfect or anything new, but it's NWOTHM just crank it up! 7/10

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Steve Jenkins Of Democratus (Interview By Paul H)

Democratus Interview: Interview With Steve Jenkins By Paul Hutchings

With a month to go until we return to Catton Hall and the most exciting four days of the metal calendar, it’s time to start the build up with some interviews from the bands who will be melting our faces. First up, Paul caught up with Metal To The Masses South Wales winners Democratus and their frontman Steve Jenkins.

Many of you reading this will be aware of Democratus. They gig hard around South Wales and are fronted by the tireless energetic promoter of not only the band but metal in South Wales, Steve Jenkins. Steve has been around the local scene for the past ten years and with Democratus we think he’s finally got the line-up to a tee. A thrilling M2TM final in Cardiff in early June saw the band earn their spot on the New Blood Stage and the opportunity to gain musical exposure to the entire metal world. I began by asking Steve for a quick history of the band and to introduce us to the current line-up.

“We formed at the back end of 2014 and started gigging in Feb 2015. Line-up changes and dramas didn't stop the band powering on, but we basically cemented what I personally consider “the one” at the start of 2017. We are now: Steve - Vocals, Joey - Guitar, Kerrin - Guitar, Spoon - Bass and Zak - Drums. After getting Zak in, the game just naturally changed. We became tighter, more focused, more positive. Spoon, Kerrin and Zak are multi instrumentalists so song writing immediately became free flowing. Inspiring me to work on lyrical content I felt had to match the new material on offer. Joey now is much more confident in his abilities (when he auditioned he hadn't played guitar for several years) and is also beginning to contribute to writing processes too.

With a sound that cannot be easily pigeon holed but which is often labelled melodic death metal, how does Steve describe the Democratus sound? “It's a tough one that” he says. “We don't box ourselves in. There are songs that we think are straight up earworm type anthems like Damnation and Life For A Life. There are also the heavier hitting beasts like BTK and Deity. We write what we like to hear. If others enjoy our noise it's a total bonus!”

So, given that the band do indeed play a range of styles, who are the main influences for the band? Steve acknowledged a wide range and if you know their music you wouldn’t be surprised to hear his response: “They include but aren't limited to, Soilwork, Insomnium, Amon Amarth, Iron Maiden, Opeth, Devin Townsend. The list could go on for days!” So what about a surprise? I asked Steve to surprise us with something he also likes. The guilty pleasure? “Haha, I can only speak for me, but I went through school playing clarinet in orchestras and big bands. I'm also a fiend for pre-2000 dance n trance!” Personally, I think there is a deficiency of clarinet in metal so maybe the next EP will reveal Steve’s hidden talent!

The obvious place to go next was the South Wales M2TM shows. Although the band worked damn Having worked hard to get through to the final of the M2TM South Wales this year, some of you may not know that Democratus also got to the final last year, missing out to Malum Sky. How did that disappointment get channelled into this year’s assault? “I'm not gonna lie” says Steve, “I'm competitive. So, losing last year was a blow, but, we didn't mope or moan. We knuckled down, worked on new songs and improving the show. We did toy with the idea of not entering this year's competition. But, as well as sending our EP to Simon Hall, we covered all bases and entered again. Thankfully our perseverance paid off and we’re eternally grateful to all who supported us!” Indeed it did and as we’ve covered elsewhere, the atmosphere for this year’s semi-final and final was intense and better than I’d seen for a long time.

Did Democratus feel confident that you could get to the final? “We’ve always got confidence in our show. We knew we were good enough to do it. But at the same time, we never took it for granted. No one had to show up for us. No one had to vote for us, no one had to judge us good enough. But they did. We couldn't have done this without the amazing support, love and help from our fans, friends and family”. And that’s one of the great things about Democratus; they are a humble outfit who are genuinely pleased when they get support and praise. No egos here. Well, maybe a small one or two! But back to the final, which was an evening full of magical moments with four bands giving it all. I asked Steve to tell us about the build-up, and how the band managed to balance gaining support whilst avoiding saturating everyone?

“Ah, that final is gonna be a lifetime memory. Four bands of friends who’ve worked their asses off to be at the top of their game. I was gonna be happy whoever went through. But I also do not do well in these processes! I was anxious as hell. Not to mention I'd come down with a blood infection that gave me serious hot and cold flushes! But we did what we could. I felt the extra additions to the show added a little more to make us stand out. The thought process was basically giving whoever judged us, no reason to not put us through. In terms of gaining support, it was simply saying to our fans, without you we get nowhere. Ten years I've been a Bloodstock punter, and this is the dream to play it. It was honest, but hopefully not nagging!”

The culmination of the evening was of course, that winning moment and when Rob Bannister announced you were through it was something special. I’m sure there were a range of emotions going through but how did it feel? Steve explains “the biggest feeling was one of accomplishment. Like we finally completed the task of getting to a bigger stage. Then came relief that I never have to enter another band battle! We all agreed this M2TMs was the last time we do it! Then all in the split second came the happy, joy, excitement and thankfulness that our nearest and dearest helped us get there! Also, a fair bit of sympathy for our friends that didn't make it this year. Their time will come!” We can but hope, as Blind Divide and Incursion showed enough steel to make a real assault on the title next year, should they choose.

Away from M2TM, Democratus have played with a number of decent bands in the past. What are the highlights so far? Steve has no doubt about which one lives in the memory. “Suffocation in Bristol was definitely the biggest … until this August. It was also the gig we debuted BTK live! The Eradication Festival slots have always been killer. Skiltron, Bloodshot Dawn, Chaos Fest. We’re in a great time for metal bands right now. The quality for all genres is huge and attitudes between the bands seem genuine and positive. I hope it continues!” Having been at many of those gigs, I can vouch for the ferocity of the Suffocation gig, where the death metal legends delivered a masterclass.

Inevitably, it was then back to Bloodstock 2018. Democratus has a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage. I’d say that is a score but are you happy with that? Steve laughs. “Easiest question of the lot, we’re on the same day as Judas freakin’ Priest! Playing a stage less than 200 yards away from them to the biggest potential crowd I've ever pestered to see us. Yes, we’re more than a little bit happy!” And of course, BOA is a bit of a Welsh invasion this year with the guys from Sodomised Cadaver and Cranial Separation also there. It should be a good vibe. I think Steve is looking forward to it. “Indeed, it shall! We’re already arranging a Welsh Death Crew Party while we’re there! Add in our Bristolian neighbours of Bloodshot Dawn, Onslaught and Body Harvest … it's gonna get messy!”

So for that 30 minutes of pure joy on the New Blood Stage, the main question is what can we expect from you guys? Why should those who are undecided come and watch? I think Steve is giving the whole weekend 110% “You can expect Thursday afternoon acoustic renditions of The End Of Heartache around the camps as I hope it'll jog memories of last year's karaoke fun! Then on the Friday Bloodstock will be well and truly DEMOCRATIZED”. If you don’t know what that means, you’ll have to get to the New Blood Stage on the Friday to see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed though.

As a veteran of the Bloodstock Festival, I thought it was useful to get Steve’s take on the event. For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go? “It’s hands down the most friendly, accommodating and accessible festival in the country. Everyone from the top down are approachable and helpful. Then there's the small point of the music! It's diverse, it's heavy and it's a celebration of the best music in the world!” There you are. If you haven’t got your ticket, then you know what to do.

Finally, time to find out a bit more about life after BOA. The band have plenty of UK gigs lined-up in the next few months. What does the future for Democratus look like? Steve is ruthless on this. “EP number 2 is being mixed by our Kerrin, and capitalising on our new title of M2TMs winners to continue our Democratization of the planet!”

So, there you have it. Friday 10th August 2018. The New Blood Stage. 30 minutes of solid heavy metal from the winners from South Wales. You’ll have to work hard to find a more enjoyable and honest band over the entire weekend. Make sure you get Democratised. It’ll be better than finding a tenner in a pair of jeans you haven’t worn for weeks. Yeah, that damn good. See you in the pit!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Reviews: God Is And Astronaut, Materdea, The Walking Dead Orchestra (Reviews By Rich)

God Is An Astronaut: Epitaph (Napalm Records)

are a band I've seen mentioned many times and one I know is very highly regarding within post-rock circles but until now are not a band I have checked out myself. Trinity is the ninth album by the Irish instrumental three piece and is an interesting and compelling album with a range of influences present throughout. Post-rock generally is either crushingly heavy or light and ethereal and God Is An Astronaut are generally on the light and ethereal side of the scale with atmosphere being the name of the game here.

 There's a very melancholic feel about this album which is very evident on opening title track plus the closing duo of Medea and Oisin. Instrumental post-rock is something that has to be done especially right in order to maintain my interest and whilst my mind did wander once or twice on the whole the album maintained my interest and didn't overstay its welcome. I can't say how this album compares to their previous works but Trinity whilst nothing mind blowing is an enjoyable piece of atmospheric and melancholic music. 7/10

MaterDea: Pyaneta (Rockshots Records)

Pyaneta is the fifth album from Italian symphonic metallers MaterDea. MaterDea are not a band I have previously heard of so this is my first exposure to their sound. Symphonic metal is a very bloated genre with a lot of lookalike and soundalike bands and it's difficult to stand out. MaterDea try and stand out to the crowd with the incorporation of folk music into their symphonic metal sound. There is plenty going on in each song with keyboards, cello, fiddle and even a children's choir at one point. 

 Unfortunately all these elements don't help elevate the songs as the writing is generally pretty mediocre, There's nothing especially wrong with the songs but hardly any of them stand out and the album ends up being background music. It also doesn't help that the album has a hefty running time of 63 minutes. When this album does shine it is enjoyable with songs such as opener Back To Earth and Neverland standing out above the rest but unfortunately these moments are few and far between. An unfortunately unimpressive release. 5/10

The Walking Dead Orchestra: Resurrect (Unique Leader Records)

This is a reissue of Resurrect the second album by French brutal death metallers The Walking Dead Orchestra. This reissue was released to coincide with the bands appearance at Hellfest. The reissue does not come with any bonus material. The Walking Dead Orchestra play a brutal form of death metal which also incorporates some influences from deathcore and also a few flourishes of technical death metal here and there throughout the album. Despite having some traits of deathcore this is far more a riffy brutal death metal album reminiscent of bands such as Aborted and fellow countrymen Benighted. 

The album follows a set formula and sticks to it during its 12 song duration which does render a lot of the songs as unforgettable and a lot of it does tend to blend into one. There are a few exceptions such as proper opener Resurrect The Scourge and single Vengeful Flavors. There are moments of interest throughout such as the odd technical flourish on the guitars and the impressively relentless drumming but overall this is simply a rather forgettable album. With only a 40 minute running length the album doesn't descend into tedium and those who are looking for a lesson in brutality will enjoy but more variety would have vastly improved this album. 6/10

Reviews: Wolvennest, Wolfblood, Weed Demon, Message in A Cloud (Reviews By Paul Scoble)

Wolvennest: Void (Van Records)

Void is second album from Belgian six piece Wolvennest. This is a big album, big length wise, as it comes in at 69 minutes. It’s also big sound wise, this album sounds huge. What we have here is a combination of doom, black metal, drone and heavy psych. The songs are long, and take their time, this is a band that will not be rushed. The basic structure of most of the material on offer here is very simple, but the way the songs are played bring complexity into the mix. The riffs are mainly of a doom style, but are played with a bit of a black metal feel. The track L’Heure Noire has the most obvious black metal tremolo picking, but even where there is no obvious BM techniques, this album has the spirit of ominous darkness that is synonymous with black metal.

The rhythm section bring a drone feel to the album, the bass and drums pulse and throb in a meditative way that borders on being trance inducing. There is also a lot of electronics used on this album, and these help to back up the droning / pulsing quality of the album. The vocals are very distinctive, both male and female vocals are used, both in English and in French. The track Ritual Lovers is a stunning piece of work, a male and female voice combine to make this sound like a dark, smokey, clandestine version of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s Je t’aime.

The track is fantastic, and effortlessly sexy. There is a dramatic, gothic feel to a lot of the material, I get the feeling that Type O Negative fans would love this album. Most of the material on this album has a darkly religious feel to it, live this must feel like a ritual; pensive, reflective and thoughtful, but also theatrical and emotionally charged. The final track La Mort is a great example of how incredibly clever this band is. La Mort is 17 minutes long and it features one four note riff repeated for the entire track. The band constantly change how they play the riff, it starts quietly and slowly builds to be a huge, brooding monster of a song. The track doesn’t have any vocals other than a spoken word part in the second part of the song. At no point does this feel boring or repetitive, each member of the band subtly modifies how they play the riff, so the song has a sense of constantly changing and morphing its form.

This is a beautifully original album. Although I’ve tried to describe the album as well as I can, this sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. In many ways it’s a little like the Thy Catafalque album I reviewed a few weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t sound like that album, but it has the same level of originality and innovativeness that that album has. If you love heavy music, and have an open mind, I urge you to check this out. It’s a meditative, thoughtful, achingly sexy, pulsing, droning, heavy, beautiful, bewitching and exquisite masterpiece. 9/10

Wolfblood: Nightriders EP (Reaper Metal Productions)

This is the first Ep from Copenhagen based band Wolfblood. So, what has the first release from this four piece got in store for us? The EP features 5 tracks, 4 original tracks and 1 cover. All the original tracks come in at just over 2 minutes, and the cover is just over 3. The main sound on offer here, is perfectly described by the title of the second track Rot N Roll. Punky, sleazy rock and roll, and that should tell you who this bands main influence is. Motorhead are all over this EP. The tempo, the style of riffs, the lead guitar style have all been borrowed from Lemmy and his pals. There are other influences to be heard here, there’s a little of Aura Noir, I can also hear a bit of faster Orange Goblin in there.

But as all the bands that Wolfblood sound a little like were also massively influenced by Motorhead, that is the main sound on offer. The songs here, are breakneck rockers, fun, exiting, and everything that Rock (Rot) and Roll should be. The final track, a cover of Tank’s song Turn Your Head Around, brings the EP to a satisfying ending. Nightriders is not original or groundbreaking in any way. But, I think Wolfblood are far to busy snorting cheap speed and shotgunning cans of Special Brew to give a flying fuck about breaking ground! Great fun! 7/10

Weed Demon - Astrological Passages (Electric Valley Records)

Weed Demon are a 4 piece from Columbia, Ohio, Astrological Passages is the band's first full length, and comes 3 years after an EP called Stoned Yo Death. Astrological Passages features 4 long tracks, with the album coming in at 42 minutes. What we have here is hugely sludgy stoner doom. Everything about this album is massive; giant, towering riffs that have a groove the size of a planet. I genuinely don’t think it’s possible to listen to this album without banging your head, I get the feeling this is a band who excel live, this material must work so well in a live environment. The guitar solos are beautifully bluesy and fit perfectly with the songs.

The vocals are great as well, Jordan Holland (bass and vocals) has a gargantuan bellow, that works so well with these songs. Although there are similarities with other sludge / stoner bands like Nomad, Eyehategod and on the quieter moments a little of Sleep. Weed Demon have their own sound, there is a slight psychedelic quality to this album that suggests that there was a lot of jamming in the writing of this album. The album is brought to a close by the 12 minute instrumental Jettisoned. This track has the interesting addition of a harmonica. This works so well that it makes me wonder why we don’t hear more harmonica in sludge / stoner / doom. Its a great way to end what is a very satisfying and enjoyable album. Highly recommended. 8/10

Message In A Cloud - Anassa (Ikaros Records)

Anassa is the first album from Greek 5 piece Message In A Cloud. Message In a Cloud started out as a 1 man project from the bands main man Kikos Loukopoulos, before he decided to make Message In a Cloud a full band. The album features 6 instrumental tracks that come in at just over 40 minutes. The music on offer fits loosely into a post rock / post black metal / black gaze format. There are elements of Alcest and Violet Cold and maybe a little of Deafheaven’s softer output.

The overall sound is probably closest to Alcest, as far as how extreme and intense the album is. There is also an electronic feel to some of the tracks. You Used To Die In My Arms has a beautiful opening part that has a definite glitch techno sound to it that works really well, and fits with the overall sound of the album. The main feel of this album is beautiful and, although there is a melancholic edge to most of the album, cathartic. It soothes the listener, it feels like a cool hand on on fevered brow.

I recently did a (standup) gig in London during the current (horrific) heat wave. I had to endure a 4 and a half hour bus journey home on a bus where the air conditioning was not working, and I’d had to run from the tube to get to the bus in time. I was stressed, uncomfortably hot and in a very bad mood. Once we were moving I put this album on and in 40 minutes, this album soothed and calmed me enough to handle the journey home. If you’re planning on having a crazy time at Bloodstock this year, get this album for the journey home. Anassa is a beautiful, cathartic piece of work, I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. 8/10

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Reviews: Paul Rodgers, June 1974, Mindreaper, Dead Man's Boogie (Reviews By Paul H)

Paul Rodgers: Free Spirit [Live] (Quatro Valley Records)

One of the foremost and influential bands in the hard rock movement, Free were active for barely five years, 1968 – 1973. During that time the band carved out numerous classic tracks that continue to receive airplay to this day. Fifty years on from the band’s formation, vocalist Paul Rodgers took to the road with a backing band of top quality musicians to relive and celebrate the band’s music. Rodgers of course is something of a legend; his voice remains as impressive at 68 years of age as it did in those halcyon days, hence his nickname ‘The Voice’.

This release was recorded at a sold out Royal Albert Hall in London in 2017 and is 76 minutes of Free classics, from All Right Now, The Hunter and My Brother Jake through to rarer tracks such as Love You So, Catch A Train and Magic Ship. Whilst I have never really enjoyed Free’s music, much of it is uncomfortably misogynistic, there is no debate about the quality of Rodgers voice on this album. With an audience that probably in the main matched or exceeded Rodgers age, this is an exercise in nostalgia, delivered with quality. The sing-a-longs are frequent, with All Right Now and Wishing Well two of many that are very well-supported. If you enjoy the sound of the early 1970s, then Free Spirit will be a worthy purchase. If you don’t know who Free were, then I suggest you rectify it with this album. 8/10

June 1974: Nemesi (Visionaire Records)

Italian writer and composer Frederico Romano was new to me. His June 1974 solo project has been around since 2009 and as the press release says, is a challenge to label. Nemesi is the latest release and comprises 49 minutes of instrumental tracks, which unlike his previous releases which feature a range from electro-pop to heavy metal with all stations in-between, focuses very much on the metal, in various shapes and styles.

Plenty of heavy synth and powerful drums provide an interesting progressive feel to the release, which contains a range of guest musicians from bands as diverse as Sadist, Shining, Ishan and Obituary. The heaviest chunk is without a doubt Creed, which is a powerful thrash-infused romp with background strings and features James Murphy (Obituary, Testament, Death amongst others). The whole album is strangely soothing, with the orchestral additions providing a layer and texture which enhances each song. If you fancy something a bit different then June 1974 may be worth a punt. 7/10

Mindreaper: Mirror Construction - A Disordered World (Black Sunset)

Hailing from Wetzlar, Hessen in Germany, Mindreaper formed in 2001 and play a combination of thrash and death metal. This is their first release since 2012’s Human Edge ( … to the Abyss) it’s certainly big and in your face thrash alright, with pounding smashing riffs and drums, aided by some decent guitar work. It’s the vocal delivery of Sebastian Rehbein that I struggled with; his Johan Hegg growl just doesn’t do it for me. It’s a decent enough record but nothing that is going to get the world talking about them. 5/10

Dead Man’s Boogie: Devil Nation (Housemaser Records)

Quite a curiosity this one. Dead Man’s Boogie are German and play a range of hard rock styles that is ferociously resistant to pigeon holing. With more than a nod to the grunge soaked rock of Alice In Chains, check out The Devil’s Rejects and Jekyll & Hyde for evidence. The band comprises Michael Dietrich on vocals and guitar, Volker Zaucker on guitar, bassist Phillip Trenkle and drummer Timo Hilzendegen and was formed in 2010. Whilst there are moments when Dietrich’s vocals wobble and struggle to stay in tune, the rampaging energy of the band drives them through. There’s something different and yet familiar about this band and Devil Nation is well worth a listen. 7/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Vega (Live Review By Rich)

Vega, Midnite City, & Devilfire, Fuel Rock Club

There's a reason that the outdoors summer festival was created and it was probably to avoid sweltering to death in indoor live venues during a heatwave. Unfortunately not all shows can make it outdoors and so it was to an exceedingly sweaty Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff for an evening of hot rocking by a trio of British melodic rock bands.

Kicking off the proceedings were Birmingham's own Devilfire (7). Due to some logistical problems courtesy of Ryanair the band were down a guitarist but not wanting to cancel the show and let people down the band opted to do a stripped down acoustic set instead. The Cardiff crowd tend to be awful with support acts and tonight was no exception with a very sparse audience watching Devilfire but the band took it in their stride and performed a number of acoustic renditions of songs off of their debut album Dark Manoeuvres. Instead of pumping up the audience the acoustic set created a more relaxed atmosphere which was unusual but no less enjoyable. It wasn't a flawless performance with a few bum notes here and there but massive respect to Devilfire for pulling this out of the bag instead of taking the easy option and cancelling their appearance. Due to earlier technical problems delaying the start of the show Devilfire only managed to perform four songs but they were enjoyable enough that I would like to see the full Devilfire live experience one day.

In the main support slot were Nottingham's sleazy rockers Midnite City (8). Thankfully Fuel had filled up a fair bit by the time Midnite City hit the stage but the excess amount of bodies meant the temperature in the venue began to rise. The sweltering conditions did not affect Midnite City in any way who performed a tight and energetic set of sleaze influenced melodic hard rock. The sound was a bit off for the first few songs with the drums dominating everything and the guitars and vocals low in the mix but thankfully this was rectified as the set progressed. The band performed a good number of tunes from the self titled debut album to an enthusiastic audience with tight performances all round. Frontman Rob Wylde may not have the strongest of voices but he more than makes up with energy and enthusiasm in his performance.

The headliners of the evening were the mighty Vega (8). The temperature in Fuel had now reached thermometer breaking levels but band and audience forged on regardless. Vega are absolute pros and performed an absolutely flawless set of melodic hard rock. Touring in support of their fantastic fifth album Only Human a good chunk of the set was taken from said album with songs such as Let's Have Some Fun Tonight, Worth Dying For, Mess You Made and Come Back Again sitting comfortably alongside older songs such as Every Little Monster, Stereo Messiah and What The Hell. Older fans were treated to a performance of Wonderland off the first album which has been resurrected into the setlist for this tour.

 The band are an especially tight unit with not a note out of place and despite the sweltering conditions performed impeccably. Frontman Nick Workman seriously impressed with his fantastic vocal range and some incredible falsettos. The band opted not to do in their own words 'that encore bullshit' and just kept on playing until the end. By the time the band had reached the end of their set I think they were just as desperate as the audience to get outside and cool down a bit. All in all it was a very enjoyable evening showing that the British hard rock scene is definitely in safe hands right now.