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Thursday, 27 April 2017

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

Eclipse & One Desire Thekla, Bristol

Whilst the dying embers of Eradication Festival continued to glow in Fuel in Cardiff, a slightly less intense and cranium crushing evening took place at the always quite bizarre boat that is the retired cargo ship Thekla on the Bristol waterfront.

A small but enthusiastic crowd had gathered for openers Franklin Zoo (7), a five piece from Copenhagen, Denmark. Showing a few signs of tension which is totally expected at the end of their stint on the tour, and struggling with some of the worst sound I’ve heard at a gig for a long time, the Danes battled bravely with their music a fine blend of Soundgarden, Alter Bridge, Alice in Chains and Mastodon. Heavier than the rest of the bill and led by the intimidatingly tall Rasmus Revsbeck, Franklin Zoo gave it their all in a short set with tracks from debut release Untamed and 2016’s follow up Red Skies. Just a shame the sound was so poor.

It didn’t improve much for main support One Desire (7). The Finns energetic and humorous approach almost disguised the fact that they were unable to hear anything apart from the keyboards on stage. With a single self-titled album released within the last month, lead singer Andre Linmann’s repeated introduction of songs from “our only album” was delivered with great humour.

Jimmy Westerlund showed some fine guitar work as the band delivered a set of competent melodic rock including the obligatory ballad. Interestingly, many of the crowd were word perfect to Hurt, This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins and Apologize, hinting at a hidden fan base. Appearing genuinely pleased that there was a reasonable gathering, the band battled gamely to the end of their set, bottling the frustration of a dog shit sound.

With their own stack of Marshall amps and their own sound man at the helm, things certainly improved for headliners Eclipse (9). The Swedes have been around for a long time, having formed in 1999. Their set was perfectly pitched, with a storming first 40 minutes full of harder rock than you might imagine. Frontman Erik Martesson, as fresh faced as he was almost 20 years ago a ball of energy, charging around the small stage as the band charged through a mix of older classics and a healthy serving from the most recent Monumentum release.

Guitarist and co-founder Magnus Henriksson, complete with smooth hat was totally at ease as he delivered solo after solo. Newer band members Magnus Ulfstedt on bass, a dead ringer for Nikki Sixx and drummer Philip Crusner were superbly connected, ensuring plenty of drive and secure platform as the show wore on. Crusner’s kit, ringed with lights was eye catching and as the impressive drum solo in harmony with O Fortuna split the set it came alive, a sinister glow cast over the front few rows.

Pacing a set is never easy but Eclipse made it look straightforward, with the breakdown for Black Rain, from the new release allowing Henriksson, Ulfstedt and Crusner to let rip with an instrumental blast that allowed Henriksson to let fly. An acoustic bridge paused the intensity, Martensson and Henriksson combining to deliver a stunning Live Like I’m Dying from Armageddonize and Battlegrounds from Bleed & Scream before the run in which concluded with the Eurovision challenger Runaways from 2016’s Melodifestivalen.

The band were in superb form, demonstrating a slickness that comes from those who’ve served their time. Once again, the melodic rock crowd showed why there is such a demand for this type of band. A double encore ending with Bleed & Scream and an enormous ovation. Whilst this type of music rarely floats my boat, the sheer energy, enthusiasm and effort that Eclipse put into the show was impressive

Another Point Of View: Eradication Festival (Live Review By Rich)

Eradication Festival 2017

Eradication Festival returned to Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff bringing a line up of extreme metal madness to the Welsh capital. Despite being a Cardiff resident this was the first time I had managed to make it to Eradication Festival and my anticipation levels were very high with some phenomenal bands on the line up.

Thursday

Things kicked off on the Thursday night with a handful of bands playing. Getting to the venue straight from work the first band of the evening were Sublime Eyes (7). Lumbered with the early slot these Norwegians still played to a half full room and brought an enthusiastic reception with their modern melodic death metal sound. It took them a couple of songs to really get going but once they did, heads were banging and voices were cheering.

Next up were Organ Dealer (7) who completely upped the pace and intensity with their set of grindcore madness. Some of the crowd were lapping it up and others were a bit intimidated especially with frontman Scott Moriarty's very in your face approach but it was a very fine set of grinding ferocity. Following them were the UK's own Wretched Soul (8) who very much surprised and entertained me with their mix of thrash, death and traditional heavy metal. The songs were savage, melodic and anthemic all in one. Due to overrunning and time constraints the band were forced to cut their set a bit short but they won me over as well as many in the audience.

It was back to insanity for Department Of Correction (8) who were easily the most off the wall and psychotic band of the evening. Hailing from France this three piece played an absolutely schizo brand of grindcore. Razor sharp guitar riffs combined with some absolutely inhuman drumming and the demented screams and gurning of frontman Grégoire Duclos. This was exactly how I like my grind, completely and utterly mental.

Finally were the headliners and most anticipated band of the evening for me the mighty Norweigian death metal masters Blood Red Throne (10). The venue was absolutely packed out and buzzing with excitement as the band took to the stage and unleashed one of the most devastatingly heavy and brutal death metal sets I have witnessed. The band were on absolute top form and wasted no time in obliterating the crowd with a set that mixed material from their latest album Union Of Flesh And Machine with selected cuts from their back catalogue such as Homicidal Ecstasy, Primitive Killing Machine and Unleashing Hell. A broken string meant one of the guitarists disappearing to fix it for five minutes so the audience were treated to a Pantera jam with Arvid Tjelta from Sublime Eyes temporarily jumping on vocals. With a fixed string it was back to business with a a finishing trio of The Light, The Hate, Smite and Mephitication. A mighty fine start to the festival.

Friday

Unfortunately due to work I had to miss most of the bands playing in the daytime on Friday but I headed straight from work in time to catch Forgotten Remains (7) whose savage mix of death and thrash metal helped clear the cobwebs from a day at work. The songs were a little repetitive with most of them being at the same pace with little to distinguish between them but it was still an enjoyable set and a cover of The Haunted's D.O.A. got heads a banging.

Matt - This was the day I also managed to attend, having missed Forgotten Remains, I walked in just as Animator (7) was starting their set, the Irish band play classic thrash metal that leaves little to the imagination, with the crowd at the front of the stage going mad, I'd say it was job done for the band who managed to whip the room into a frenzy with their music.

Next band I managed to grab were Solothus (9). This band was a complete surprise for me having never heard of them before this festival and these guys from Finland played a devastatingly heavy set of death/doom metal. A variety of tempos and styles were employed throughout the songs from crushingly slow doom to mid paced head banging riffage to blasting death metal. The ultra guttural growls of Kari Kankaanpää complimented the dark doomy evil atmosphere of the music and special mention must go to lead guitarist Veli-Matti Karjalainen whose lead guitar solos were absolutely jaw dropping.

Matt - After the very impressive showing from Solothus, Sworn Amongst (7) had a lot to do to match the band that proceeded them, their style of metal moves into the groove-laden groove scene and saw the crowd swap, such is the nature of this festival, if one style of extremity doesn't suit then another will. Big grooves riffs filled the room and got people moving but with many of the hardcore struggling to get their breath back after Solothus, Sworn Amongst didn't quite hit the spot for many although being good at what they do and giving a good account of themselves.

The final band I of the Friday were UK thrashers Bull-Riff Stampede (8). These guys played an amazingly tight set combining old school thrash metal with elements of modern metal and melodic death metal. The songs ranged from mid paced stompers to ripping thrash anthems all played with intensity and passion. A great way to see out the second day of the festival.

Saturday

With work requiring my good behaviour for the previous two days of the festival Saturday was party time and the day provided a fine soundtrack for some partying - plenty of death metal! After a bit of lunch and a few pre-drinks I got to the venue in time for one of my most anticipated bands of the day the mighty Blasphemer (9). Blasphemer played a blinding set of no frills old school death metal. Having formed back in 1990 Blasphemer knew their craft and had heads banging relentlessly to killer riffs full of that violent old school groove which is so lacking in much modern death metal. A fantastic start to the day and one of the best bands of the weekend.

Next up were Anoxide (7) who have a modern take on death metal but with plenty of old school influence. Savage riffage, blasting drums and the ferocious vocals of frontman Omar Swaby. Nothing to write home about but played with passion and conviction and to a crowd who went nuts for every second of their set. They were followed by Chainsaw Castration (7) who played an ultra brutal slam variant of death metal. This style leaves me a bit cold on record but when seen live is great fun with absolutely monstrous riffs and silly amounts of brutal breakdowns. There are plenty of bands doing this sort of style and many better but Chainsaw Castration were bags of fun.

A brief rest-bite and the next act on were my most anticipated of the day avart garde death metallers The Monolith Deathcult (7). The Monolith Deathcult are a strange entity mixing the brutality of death metal with industrial, electronica and symphonic influences. Unfortunately the band were a victim of poor sound with everything seemingly turned up to maximum the multiple layers of sound the band has becoming lost in a wall of noise at points. The band played phenomenally though with their experimental sound either winning over or completely alienating members of the audience. Had thier been a better sound mix The Monolith Deathcult would have been one of the stand out bands of the day for me.

The finally it was time for slam's finest Crepitation (8). Having caught these at Ritual Festival in Leeds a few weeks back I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for - high levels of silliness, absolute brutality and totally insane vocals. The band played to an absolutely packed out room with the crowd down the front going absolutely bananas. The band fed off the levels of chaos and insanity in the room and played a glorious set which entertained and laid waste to the audience.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the Sunday of Eradication Festival but the experience I had was certainly memorable. Hats off to Gavin Davies for organising this festival as there's nothing else like it in South Wales at the moment and he managed to bring some incredible bands to Cardiff. With next years festival already confirmed and the first wave of bands announced I highly recommend any extreme metal fan in the South Wales area and beyond makes an effort to attend this fantastic weekend.

Reviews: Need, Paladine, Strikelight, Project Renegade

Need: Hegaiamas - A Song For Freedom (Self Released)

I've always had a bit of a penchant for progressive metal, it takes my love of prog and makes it heavier, bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Seventh Wonder are the records I go back too again and again. I realise this is not the case for a lot of people as they are put of the by long track times, inflated egos and wankery of the highest order, however the bands that do prog metal well know when to not play a note, it's the judged nuanced approach that normally wins out over out and out technicality and showing off. Need's third record Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom
is most definitely in this second category, their music is as you'd expect intricate, scientific and complicated but it's also wringing with emotion, incite and they judge when they need to impress and when to show restraint.

The Greek band are about to embark on a North American tour with Evergrey, Seven Kingdoms and Ascendia and it's the sound of Tom S Englund's Evergrey that looms large over Needs style of progressive metal, Jon V has a strong timbre to his vocals similar to Englund, Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and even Apollo Papathanasio, he never hits too high but it suits the darker sound the band convey. At just over an hour the record is well paced most of the songs clock in at around seven minutes but hold your attention the interplay between Ravaya's guitars and Anthony's keys are practically perfect weaving in and out of each other almost competitively in the solo sections but locking in with Victor and Stelios' bottom end for a tough metal delivery. The record opens with the beautiful vocals of Mina Giannopoulou starting Rememory a song that is the ideal first track powerful, full of riffage and immediately establishes the bands style, as the album progresses the songs all keep the interest, this is classic sounding progressive metal that sounds like the bands I mentioned at the beginning of this review.

It builds throughout adding layers and layers to their sound however it's towards the end of this record that things really shoot into the progsphere, Iota is a spoken word discourse on dreams and the universe with a classical piano backing, it sets the scene perfectly for the title track, this 22 minute finale takes everything heard previously and stuff it into one elongated epic full of changes in pace and tone, yes some parts are little repetitive in the instrumental sections but what do you expect of a 22 minute song? Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom is a record of bold, brave and brilliantly presented progressive metal, personally I'm going to seek out the bands other albums asap. 9/10    

Paladine: Finding Solace (No Remorse Records)

Athens band Paladine play epic power metal based around Dragonlance series of books created by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The album opens with mini epic Dragonrider which starts with dextrous acoustics before turning into a tough power metal song with a great hook before the middle eight brings the acoustic flourishes back. the band was founded by Chris “Crazy” Stergianidis (bass), Thanos Kollintzogiannakis (guitar also of Desert Near The End) and Stamatis Katsafados (drums also of The Silent Rage) all former members of the band Mythraal, they came together again to create Paladine as a band with it's roots in the American power metal sound of Iced Earth, Manilla Road, Jag Panzer, Savatage and even Manowar (they are scheduled to support Manilla Road on their 40th anniversary show in Athens 1st May 2017).

Finding Solace
is their debut album and you can hear the Savatage influence strongly on Master Of Present And Past much of this is due to frontman Nick "The Metalizer" Protonotarios who is an amalgamation of both Oliva brothers handling the throaty, powerful vocals and searing lead guitars easily, this album has an epic sound to it as you'd hope from their influences, instrumental The Inn Of The Last Home is a good break piece layered with Marilena Plitsi's synths and keys and it leads into the moody Knight Of The Black Rose which builds into a galloping metal track with punishing percussion the Iced Earth similarities are uncanny.

The record has concept from the Dragonlance series running through it based around fantasy elements, knights, dragons, good vs evil, all that jazz. The one thing that lets this album down for me is that the mix is a little bit flat, with a deeper sound the song would be more effective, but that's personal taste. Finding Solace is a confident debut from some established musicians, it just misses the mark sonically. 7/10

Strikelight: Beyond The Afterglow (Eat Metal Records)

Whereas Paladine suffered from the production of their record being a little flat, fellow Athenians Strikelight have a case of too much bass, the four strings and the drums are overly high in the mix meaning they overpower everything else. Not that you would really be missing that much, Strikelight play 80's trad metal that seems to be in vogue at the moment, unfortunately they are just generic by the numbers 80's metal even by the NWOBHM standards. In this genre you have to do something a bit different and Strikelight don't the songs are a boring, the vocals get on your nerves after a bit and it's all just a bit meh. Nothing here really stands out, but then equally nothing is terrible the band play well especially the very audible bass and drums but they are let down by rigidly sticking to the formula without fail. 5/10

Project Renegade: Cerebra (Self Released)

Project Renegade are a four piece from Athen Greece, their alternative metal will be familiar to fans of Lacuna Coil, driven by Ody's drumming the band blur the lines between goth, nu, industrial metal with the three songs on this record. Released to promote the band and create anticipation for both their live shows and their debut record (still in progress) the EP starts with the industrial flavoured Pressure which has chunky rhythms, haunting vocals and pulsing electronics and breaks down at the final part displaying all the facets of Project Renegade's sound. Natural Born Killer is very bass and drum heavy with ghostly ambient synths floating over the top, while One Of The Crowd is the heaviest of the three songs with downtuned riffs pummeling things as the siren-like electronics chime in and frontwoman Marianna adds some feistiness to her vocals. Cerebra does exactly what it needs to do it makes you prick up your ears and want to hear more from Project Renegade, a three track Ep full of thumping alt-metal. 7/10

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Reviews: Novembers Doom, Blackbird Hill, Maat (Reviews By Paul & Rich)

Novembers Doom: Hamartia (The End Records) [Review By Paul]

22 years since their first album, Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, Chicago's death Doom outfit Novembers Doom's tenth album, Hamartia has arrived and it's a beauty. Full of the trademark death growls of original vocalist Paul Kuhr, this release is the first one to feature the same line up as a previous release, in this case 2014's Bled White. Opener Devil's Light is pure death metal, whilst Plague Bird features foreboding clean vocals reminiscent of early Katatonia, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. The melancholy is evident along with powerful riffs from guitarists Lawrence Roberts and Vito Marchesse whose work is haunting throughout. Gary Naples drumming is powerful and prescise, working well with bassist Mike Feldman to give the huge crashing sound.

Ghost
has a similar feel to the early work of Anathema, moody, despairing and bathed in gloom. It's not all hand wringing though and the monstrous riffs which cascade throughout are quite immense at times. Ever After ebbs and flows beautifully whilst the title track dips into the gothic style of The Mission with its acoustic feel. The electronica underbelly of Apostay with the Johan Hegg style growls fitting perfectly may we'll be my favourite track, it's pacey, brooding, simple and yet stunningly complex and just ticks every box. This is another album which supports the fact that metal is alive and kicking in 2017. Essential listening for fans of death doom and gothic metal. 8/10

Blackbird Hill: Midday Moonlight (Self Released) [Review By Paul]

Formed in 2012, French duo Blackbird Hill comprise Alexis Dartiguelongue on vocals and guitar and Maxine Conan on vocals and drums. The band sit close to the sound of similar duos such as The White Stripes, along with influences such as Queens Of Stone Age, Robert Johnson and Seasick Steve. They are in parts almost grungy, but in the main stick with dirty delta blues sound. Atmospheric and angst driven, this is a decent foot tapper which is pleasing to the ear. A support with a band like Vintage Trouble or Blackberry Smoke would be ideal for these guys. Keep an eye and ear out for them. 7/10

Maat: Monuments Will Enslave (Aural Attack Records) [Review By Rich]

Monuments Will Enslave is the second album by Egyptian mythology themed death metal band Maat.  It's impossible to ignore the comparisons to Nile but despite an unoriginal theme this German band do have a different sound to Nile.

The music on Monuments Will Enslave is very fast and very furious death metal which mixes a perfect blend of brutality and melody. The riffs are razor sharp, the bass provides plenty of low end and the drums blast away. The melodies interspersed throughout the carnage have a very Middle Eastern and Oriental style to them but they are mixed throughout the music that they manage to compliment the brutality and aggression. The vocals by frontman Thot are a guttural roar though with enough clarity that you can decipher the lyrics.

Maat won't win any awards for originality with Monuments Will Enslave but what they have achieved is a brilliant death metal album that although copies Nile in lyrical content and theme musically stands on its own two feet and shows that there is room for more than one band in the camp of Egyptian themed death metal. 7/10

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Reviews: Fractal Universe, Mindmaze, Maverick

Fractal Universe: Engram Of Decline (Kolony Records)

France probably leads the way with forward thinking metal with Gojira, Alcest, Klone and Trepalium all bringing something fresh to the world of metal. Fractal Universe definitely fall into this category, immediately the Nancy, Lorraine based band hook you with their intensely technical, down tuned riffs that will see many class them in the djent category however much like the theory they are named after the djent sound is fragmented into numerous different styles that mean every song has  hook, a new element that holds the attention, whether it's the underlying synths of the addition of Jorgen Munkeby of Shining giving a sax solo to Backworldsmen. 

There is a freshness and sense of adventure from Fractal Universe they aren't afraid to shake up what is a relatively new but already slightly stagnant genre. Their style death metal ramps up the technicality but these are no flights of fancy the songs are contrite and rarely stray further than 6 minutes with the final epic title track which clocks in at over nine minutes and sees the sax unleashed this time from Jean-Marc Florimond. The essence of Gojira imbues tracks such as Scared Legacy Of Hatred fret slides and all, Vince growls well its both nasty and happily audible, the vocals are usually make or break for me with this type of music. With dual guitar harmonies, sizzling solo spots and a bludgeoning heaviness Engram Of Decline is a superior debut effort from this French four-piece, Fractal Universe are progressive extremity par excellence. 8/10

MindMaze: Resolve (Inner Wound Recordings)

A female fronted band from Pennsylvania? Surely this must be Halestorm? I hear you cry but no far from the Highlander credo of their can be only one, MindMaze are a power metal band from Allentown and have returned with their first album since 2014. Resolve is their third full length and it's probably their most experimental, a concept album with themes dealing with human emotions rather than the normal myths and legends. As it is a concept album the band can be little more loose with their soundscapes, they play a bit of power metal Fight The Future, some electronic modern metal on Drown Me, bring doomy themes on Sanity's Collapse and of course there's an obligatory ballad with One More Moment.

At their core Mindmaze are female fronted symphonic metal band and they when you are in this most overcrowded of genres as a band you've really got to do something a little different to stand out. MindMaze do take risks there is a strong melodic metal vein running throughout records and the vocal and guitar interplay of siblings Sarah and Jeff Teets are great but some of the compositions are little too safe, it all fits together yes but at thirteen tracks with three instrumentals some could lose interest, however if you love progressively tinged symphonic metal then MindMaze's third release sees them peek above the waves of copyists and do something a little different. 7/10    

Maverick: Firebrand (Self Released)

Maverick are not a band dedicated to the James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore TV show of the same name but he music on this disc would suit the shows Western Theme. Maverick though are not from the USA as you'd expect with music like this, no their Old West is Perth, Australia, Maverick are part of the explosion of Aussie bands moving away from the pub rocking of their most well known acts into more expansive territory, much like fellow countrymen My Dynamite and Electric Mary. Firebrand contains eight swaggering, groovy, blues drenched southern rockers that sit between The Allman Brothers and The Black Crowes with Zep-alike rocking, fusing with countrified rhythms.

It's an album born in the dirt and played after a few fingers of whiskey the band are a four-piece made up of the guitar and bourbon-hued vocals of Craig Jovanovic, along with guitarist Mark De Vattimo, Simon Hallett on bass and drummer Nick Dudman the songs on this record rock and roll along well, getting heads nodding and feet tapping (and if no one is watching asses shaking), the songs are driven by breezy dual guitar harmonies, crunchy rhythms and a rebellious attitude. Free opens the record with Skynyrd Southern guts and the record continues at a high level throughout, Break Me is hard rocking sing along that sees both guitarists showing off their chops, Obsession throws a bit of curve as track three, ominous, bluesy and dark it's built around shuffling drums and proper bass work and runs at the longest time on the record but is a welcome side shift.

From then on though it's bluesy heads down rocking and that's just perfect Silent Scream is deep in the delta, while Great Northern Highway comes from the Rival Sons songbook and the record ends with the acoustic Tonight We Die which is a soulful, riverside lament to finish the album. Firebrand is a superb record for anyone that secretly wears a Stetson and dreams of lazy days on the Bayou. 8/10

Monday, 24 April 2017

Reviews: Suffocation, Artificial Brain, Azarath, Foreseen (Reviews By Paul)

Suffocation: ...Of The Dark Light (Nuclear Blast)

It's been four long years since one of the most consistent and brutal death metal bands, Long Island's Suffocation provided us with Pinnacle Of Bedlam. Their eighth album has been worth the wait, 35 minutes of absolute filthy death metal which stands alongside their contemporaries Immolation and Cannibal Corpse as exemplars of the genre.

The album is the first to feature rhythm guitarist Charlie Errigo and drummer Eric Morotti who acquit themselves well, with Morotti's pounding blast beats particularly intense. Vocalist and founder member Frank Mullen's vocals remain as guttural and growling as ever, whilst the rapid fire technical approach complete with multiple complex time changes and welcome break downs which have long symbolised the band's approach remain in situ. Veteran guitarist Terrence Hobbs continues to deliver most astonishing work with scalar runs and palm muting a plenty.

Mullen's roars, for example on the volcanic Return to the Abyss are quite horrifying. It's been a long time since Effigy Of The Forgotten helped set the blueprint for the grind core fused death metal. Suffocation remain a vital part of a burgeoning scene. Their assault on the Bierkeller in Bristol in August is going to be unmissable. 9/10

Artificial Brain: Infared Horizon (Profound Lore)

This is technical death metal at its most intense. Artificial Brain, coming at you from Long Island, New York was formed in 2011 by Revocation guitarist Dan Gargiulo and vocalist Will Smith of Biolich. Infrared Horizon is the band's second release following the intensity of 2014 debut Labyrinth Constellation. Crammed full of astonishingly intricate and technical death metal with some of the most astounding guitar work heard for many years, tracks such as Synthesised Instinct and Floating In Orbit pulse and snake around you, pulverising yet at times so detailed you have to stop and listen again.

Technical death metal is as extreme as I can take and Artificial Brain push to the limits. Their cosmic sci-if themes mesh fantastically with the relentless pace and Smith's brutal growl which is so sinister at times you think about hiding out of aural range. With some brilliant artwork to match the sheer velocity of the band, this is an album that is well worth getting hold of. Blisteringly good. 8/10

Azarath: In Extremis (Agoina Records)

2017 has been flooded with top quality death metal releases. Storming output from legends such as Immolation, Memoriam, Obituary, Hour of Penance and Suffocation. All rightly revered as leaders of the genre. Alongside the bigger names come a slew of lesser known outfits who can deliver just as intensely and heavily. Formed in 1998, Polish death metal outfit Azarath's sixth release, In Extremis sits comfortably next to those bigger guns. Unsurprisingly the themes focus on satanic and anti religious topics, with The Slain God, The Triumph Of Ascending Majesty leaving little to guesswork.

Azarath are as brutal as any on the scene with machine gun level intensity drumming from founder member Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski and the technical excellence of guitarists Bartlomiej "Bart" Szudek and Marek "Necrosodom" Lechowski repeatedly slicing your face off. Lechowski's vocals are immense, guttural and intimidating. With no let up from start to finish, the band throw everything into a quite blistering album which demonstrates influences such as Nile, Behemoth, Vale and Marduk whilst still forging a unique sound.

For absolute nut crushing death metal commit to the five minutes of Into The Nameless Night with its high pace, huge groove in the final section and overall battery which will leave you broken. This is good stuff. 8/10

Foreseen: Grave Danger (20 Buck Spin)

Helsinki outfit Foreseen have released a mighty slab of thrash which gets better on repeated plays. All out blasters which on occasion veer closely to death metal sit comfortably alongside thrash stomp grooves and a hardcore approach combining old school with the current fresh thrash style. This is their second full release following 2014's Helsinki Savagery.

With the twin guitars of Lauri Martiskainen and Erika Korpi duelling like crazy, it's down to Marten Gustafsson on drums and bassist Tatu Kuisma to bring the noise which they do with aplomb. My only negative thoughts about this album is the slightly ragged vocals of  Mirko Nummelin which sit comfortably within the assault but do detract slightly from the overall songs. Still, the all out thrash of Downward Spiral and political observations of Government Cuts and Suicide Bomber along with monstrous Fearmonger more than compensate in an album well worth bouncing around the room to. 7/10

Reviews: Warrior, Lich King, Blood Divisions

Warrior: Invasion Imminent (Self Released)

Neat Records...I'll let that sink in a bit, there will be a warm glow going through some of our readership right now. For those that don't know Neat records was one of the seminal NWOBHM labels the label was set up in Newcastle by the owner of Impulse studios David Wood who along with producer Steve Thompson brought Neat to prominence launching the international careers of Venom, Raven, Blitzkrieg and Jaguar all of whom have been cited as influences on the burgeoning Bay Area Thrash scene, Neat was the home too of Persian Risk (Phil Campbell Of Motorhead's original band), White Spirit (Janick Gers band before joining Maiden), Satan, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Avenger and even Wishbone Ash for one album!

Neat was also the home of Warrior a Geordie band (there is also a Warrior from Chesterfield) that became a casualty of NWOBHM, it's been well noted that there were literally hundreds of bands that slipped through the cracks during this time, the bands that survived are known to everyone but there are so many bands that just didn't get out alive. Warrior are in this latter category, after releasing a couple of EP's and a live album they split in 1984 never to be heard from again. That is until 2014 when original guitarist Dave Dawson reformed the band with original singer Eddy Smith Halliday, older and wiser they have capitalised on the revitalised D.I.Y style of releasing records that is much more successful than it was back in the 1980's this reformation has resulted two more EP's a compilation and this their 'debut' album.

Halliday and Dawson have swelled their ranks with Gwaether Bloom on guitar, Elliot Sneddon on drums, and Duncan Emmerson on bass (replaced by William Baxter since the records release) and you can tell that Warrior possibly had a tough break back in the day as Invasion Imminent is a strong record once the piano intro of Metal Fatigue subsides the record opens properly with Trojan Horse which has a immediate riff hooking you in an polishes it off with killer soloing, the tracks on this record are all celebrations of metal, mainly the excellent title track and the bands phoenix-like rebirth see Second Chance and Rise Of The Warriors. The record has great duality with songs that sprint but ones that also stomp like a T-Rex through tar, Black Middens is the album's big stoner riff.

From Halliday's Biff Byford like vocals, through the tough bottom end of Emmerson and Sneddon and the excellent guitar prowess of Dawson and Bloom, Invasion Imminent is similar in style to the most recent Saxon albums digging the old school vein with modern flourishes. I'm digging this record, proper British metal, not big, not clever just heads down rocking, just like it used to be. 7/10

Lich King: The Omniclasm (Self Released)

Lich King really should just be called Thrashy McThrashface, from the opening chords it's full on aggression from the first beat, the Massachusetts mob are sort of Overkill playing with Sacred Reich approach to thrash metal sitting in the crossover/classic metal Venn Diagram. The album follows their coverstar and namesake on his continuing adventures with the scum of humans, from the hardcore love-in of Preschool Cesspool, through the anti-authoritarian Our Time To Riot and the creeping Civilization all show Lich King's talent for perfectly acceptable thrash metal, while their humorous use of lyrics similar to but not as zany as our own Lawnmower Deth. If you love a bit of thrash metal with some comical lyrics but built on solid thrash metal backing the Lich King could be for you. 7/10

Blood Divisions: Cardinal One (Metal Blade)

Blood Divisions features David Austin (Nasty Savage) and Ed Aborn (Intersonic Cyber Symphony), with a roster of supporting musicians who are current or former members of bands such as Obituary, Death, Nasty Savage, Six Feet Under, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Deicide, Massacre, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, including Terry Butler and Ken Andrews (Obituary), Ralph Santolla (ex-Deicide, ex-Obituary), Jerry Mortellaro (Diabolic) and Bill Owen (ex-Purgatory).

From those involved you are probably expecting brain smackingly heavy metal but you'd be wrong this album is a bit of horrible mish mash of styles with funeral doom on The Morgue, some dreadful orchestral backed crap that is trying a bit too hard to be Trans Siberian Orchestra as well as three covers, guitarist David Austin is also in Nasty Savage whose track No Sympathy is covered at the end of the record and is actually the best song on the record, the other covers on the album are Hot N Ready by UFO and Top Of The Bill by The Scorpions both of which do little for the original mainly because they are being sung by Chris Jericho (Fozzy) he is no Klaus Meine nor is he Phil Mogg, I'm not saying he's a bad singer he just doesn't cut it when compared to these two.

Why the hell he has chosen to be apart of this project is beyond me but then I think he could do so much more with Fozzy. Cardinal One is a misconceived idea with poor songwriting and badly chosen covers that jar with the rest of the record, it's saved by the professional performances and the final track is strong, if Blood Divisions transformed into a thrash fuelled band they would be excellent however as it stands Cardinal One is just terrible. 2/10

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Reviews: Necrowretch, Ex People, The Evil Dead, Cocyte (Reviews By Rich)

Necrowretch: Satanic Slavery (Seasons Of Mist)

French blackened metal masters Necrowretch return with their third album Satanic Slavery which is a very appropriate title for a very bloodthirsty and evil album. Also it's a bit fucking good! Necrowretch continue with the style they have laid out on their previous two records which is a hybrid of black metal, death metal and thrash metal. The sound is very old school with a suitably raw yet clear production. This album is absolutely relentless with a barrage of savage tremolo riffs, blastbeats and the raspy evil vocals of frontman Vlad.

They also use a echo effect on the vocal for added evil effect which I absolutely adore. There isn't much different on this album from what Necrowretch have previously done but the songwriting is definitely improved with such savage gems as Sprawl Of Sin, Hellspawn Pyre, Trediciman Blackfire and the absolutely sublime title track. There isn't much variation between the songs but it doesn't matter at all when they all sound as wonderful as they do. Being a lover of all things gnarly and evil in metal this album appealed to me in every sense and is definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. 9/10

Ex People: Bird (New Heavy Sounds)

I have found that the doom/sludge/stoner scene in the UK has become very oversaturated and that currently there are few bands who make a lasting impression on me but Ex People have immediately grabbed my attention with their stunning debut album Bird. This London four piece have managed to combine catchy hooks with absolute sonic destruction. The band sound like a mix of Electric Wizard, Melvins and Kylesa with influences from grunge all wrapped up in a blaze of punk rock attitude.

This is truly a heavy heavy album with thick distorted fuzzy riffs, bass denser than molten lead and an absolute percussive beatdown. The vocals by frontwoman Laura are soaring and melodic but with a punk rock bite to them. The songs on the album range from catchier numbers such as Without and Surekill to bludgeoning monolithic bruisers such as The Host and Crested. Ex People have managed to craft a fantastic debut album that proves to me that there are still bands within the doom/sludge/stoner scene that can surprise and impress me. 8/10

The Evil Dead: Earth Inferno (Witches Brew)

The Evil Dead are a band from Argentina (the first metal band from Argentina I have heard) and 'Earth Inferno' is their second album released on Massacre Records. The Evil Dead are an interesting band with a very wide array of sounds and influences. The band play a melodic black metal style reminiscent of Dissection mixed with 70's rock and 80's metal influences. The songs themselves are all lengthy pieces containing masses of riffs mixed with some odd time signatures and interesting twists and turns.

Highlights for me included the epic Maragnon which sounded like black metal meets Blue Oyster Cult, the blackened thrash of the title track and my personal favourite the speed metal meets rollicking hard rock Of Electric Evil Revisited. With so many styles and influences present the album can feel a bit uneven and disjointed but where it does hold it together it works very well indeed. A solid effort. 7/10

Cocyte: The Human Disease (Self Release)

The Human Disease is the debut fulll length album by Belgian band Cocyte who have previously released a string of self-released EP's. Cocyte play a modern style of death metal which leans towards technical death metal and deathcore with bruising chunky riffs, brutal breakdowns, technical flourishes and the odd off kilter jazzy break. The harsh vocals are atypical for this style with them sitting somewhere between a guttural growl and harsh scream. Unfortunately this album is so generic with absolutely no stand out moments or moments or originality. It's all been done before by a multitude of sound alike bands.

It's all played to perfection by the band but trying to remember a moment of interest or significance from the album is virtually impossible as it is so by the numbers modern death metal. The production is very clean and clinical which detracts what death metal is meant to be (in my opinion) and that is repulsive and evil sounding as well as brutal and heavy. I'll hold my hands up and fully admit that I can't abide this style of death metal and despite really trying I can only find one song of worth which is Mechanical Refuge and that's only because it sounds exactly like and completely rips off Necrophagist.

If you are a fan of bands such as Whitechapel and Suicide Silence you will probably think this album is phenomenal but if you like your death metal dirty and gnarly avoid this like the plague. I give one point for musicianship skills and one for Necrophagist worship. 2/10

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Reviews: Nightbringer, Corroded, Death Of Kings (Reviews By Paul)

Nightbringer: Terra Damnata (Seasons Of Mist)

With Scandinavian Black Metal firmly cementing their foundations, the fifth album from Colorado black metallers Nightbringer is very likely to raise the band’s profile amongst fans of the genre. The influences are clear with elements of Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Dark Funeral and Behemoth evident throughout. Yet the band maintain a clear identity, with their orchestral and symphonic elements adventurous and fresh. Band members VJS, Ophis, Naas Alcameth, ar Ra'd al-Iblis, Menthor, Norgaath have followed up from 2014’s Ego Dominus Tuus with an opus that is haunting, intimidating and yet also compelling.

Tracks such as Misrule and Midnight’s Crown burst with atmosphere and crushingly heavy black metal guitar work. The usual battering ram of blast beats maintains the intensity throughout with the level of technical performance quite astonishing at times. You won’t win prizes for guessing the themes that course through the album but it fits together quite superbly. If you only listen to one black metal track this year make it Let Silence Be His Sacred Name, which is just incredible. If you don’t like your metal invoking spirits and demons as well as ripping the flesh of your frame then this may not be for you. That’s your problem though as this album quite simply crushes all. Amazing, breath taking, inspiring. 9/10

Corroded: Defcon Zero (Despotz Records)

Swedes Corroded return with album number 3, five years after the release of sophomore release Exit To Transfer. Whilst the band is not well known over here, their profile in their home country was raised substantially by the TV show Survivors, which used their track Time And Again as its theme. The band comprise biker, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jens Westin, lead guitarist Tomas Andersson, bassist Bjarne Elvsgård and drummer Per Soläng. Defcon Zero is crammed full of heavy riffs, scintillating guitar work and an overriding melody which gives all their songs more appeal than might otherwise be expected.

Think Godsmack, Shinedown and Disturbed and you’ve just about got the sound to a tee. Whilst at times it’s a little generic but the crushingly heavy power of tracks like Retract and Disconnect combined with its Alter Bridge style harmonies, the thumping battery of Vessels Of Hate and the Soil stomp of Burn It Down are all absolute anthems. Album closer Rust And Nail has a Baroness feel about the opening before it morphs into a fitting closing track. If you like your metal clean and honest then this album is a must. 8/10

Death Of Kings: Kneel Before None (Boris Records)

Thrashing their way out of Atlanta, Georgia, Death Of Kings’ debut album (which follows a couple of EPs) Kneel Before None is a primitive, full on punch in the face which takes no prisoners. Their influences range from Priest to Death and everything in between and you know what, it’s fucking A. Opener Shadow Of The Reaper begins the proceedings nicely with maximum thrash bastard before the more measured stomp of Sojurn follows up with a low blow. The pain continues with the Slayer like Regicidal, which oozes malevolence and evil.

The band are tight and extremely loyal to thrash blueprint which I say is correct. No pissing about, just blast at the speed of sound. Amos Rifkin’s pounding drumming and the slicing cut of Matt Kilpatrick’s axe work are the undoubted highlights and if I had one minor complaint it’s the underproduction of Matt Matson’s devilish vocals which are so guttural that at times they are hidden by the onslaught. My moan apart, this is storming stuff with 38 minutes of hell’s fire. Play outside at your peril. The outbuildings may not withstand it. 7/10

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Reviews: Ulver, Mammoth Mammoth, Trial (Reviews By Paul)

Ulver: The Assassination Of Julius Caesar (House Of Mythology)

The 13th album by the Norwegian collective known as Ulver is a pretty fantastic release. For the uninitiated, Ulver formed in 1993 and although their early work had essence of the Norwegian Black metal sound Ulver has transformed into a much more ethereal and progressive outfit in recent times. Ulver's line up has remained solid for many years with the utilisation of numerous guest musicians to enhance their complexity.

On this album Kristofer Rygg is joined once more by Tore Ylwizaker (programming), Jorn H Svaeren and Ole Alexander Halstengard and assisted by a whole cast of additional musicians. Stian Westerhus adds some lovely guitars of Nemoralia and So Falls The World, which also sees the involvement of Hawkwind's errant son Nik Turner. So Falls The World is a beautiful composition which mixes Gothic and new wave synth pop quite magnificently. Southern Gothic has a massive Depeche Mode feel, haunting and atmospheric.

Produced and recorded in Oslo mainly in 2016, the album is mixed by Martin Glover (Youth from Killing Joke) and Michael Randall. The sound at times is similar to the more progressive parts of Anaethema's recent work whilst maintaining its own uniqueness. Transverberstion and the beautiful 1969 both drip with synth pop and whilst the band are far removed from their beginnings, this is still an album very much worth taking the time to listen to. 8/10

Mammoth Mammoth: Mount The Mountain (Napalm Records)

Australia seems to be able to throw out an endless amount of bands who play one of two types of music. It's either thrash or hard rock with a stoner edge. The latter sound belongs to Melbourne crew Mammoth Mammoth, whose dirty, fuzzy rock ticks all the right boxes. Now in their tenth year, Mount The Mountain is release number six, hard on the heels of 2016's EP Mammoth Bloody Mammoth.

Tracks such as Hole In The Head, Kicking The Dog (don't do this at home kids) and Cold Liquor leave little to the imagination and smack you in the face with their power, gritty drive and balls out good time vibe. Mikey Tucker's vocals are superb, reminiscent of the great Ben Ward of the mighty Orange Goblin at times, the driving rhythm of Pete Bell and drummer Frank Trebbiani keep the engine running whilst Ben Couzens guitar work is gutsy, gritty and down right filthy at times. Another band that you'd happily get absolutely spannered whilst watching. The irony is that these guys would be hammered first. Check out Mammoth Mammoth, big name, huge sound. 8/10

Trial: Motherless (Metal Blade)
Yet another Swedish metal outfit cross our paths, this time its Trial, from Trollhatten who have been around for a good few years. Motherless is album number 3, following 2015's Vessel. The band comprise guitar duo Alexander Ellstrom and Andreas Johnsson, vocalist Linus Johansson and the engine room of drummer Linus Johansson and bassist Andreas Olsson. Trial's music can be described as a mix of traditional metal with helpings of power and thrash metal. Unfortunately, Motherless is just not that good, with a confusing mix of styles creating a schizophrenic sound. Add on to this the rather 'finger nails down a blackboard' vocals of Linus Johansson, some quite dreadful harmonies and you have a relatively uninspiring release. One to think long and hard before investing in. 5/10