Crowbar – Symmetry in Black (Century Media) [Review By Paul]
Symmetry In Black is the 10th Album from New Orleans Sludge Metallers Crowbar, led by the formidable Kirk Windstein. This is the follow up to 2011’s Sever The Wicked Hand, which was a stomping piece of down tuned sludge. However, Windstein and his crew have pushed the bar up a couple of notches, and Symmetry in Black really smacks the previous release around the chops and tells it to sit back down.
Opener Walk with Knowledge Wisely kicks hard, with a huge drum sound and massive riffs. It also moves with surprising pace, Windstein’s trademark vocals straining along with the big guitar sound. Symmetry in White follows, delivered at a more expected pace, crushing guitars and pounding drums combining to pin you to the flow with a wall of power. Variety is not a word you'd usually associate with the sludge genre, but The Taste of Dying challenges that assumption with a number of time changes; true sludge at one point followed by some galloping and driving riffs from Matthew Brunson and Windstein’s guitars. This is a crushing album, full of robust and driving riffs with massive hooks raising up and catching you across the back of the head. Reflection of Deceit is almost doom metal with a mammoth imposing sound. Tommy Buckley’s drumming is intense with a constant pounding whilst Jeff Golden’s bass work combines to create a colossal backline.
However it’s not all slow stuff and Ageless Decay would sit alongside the best that the thrash department can offer, powerhouse drumming and speed-driven guitar wicked all support the guttural drive that only Windstein can provide. Amaranthine provides a brief respite from the intensive crushing, with delicate guitar work and some heartfelt vocals. Indeed this is as soft and delicate as Crowbar get, but it also sits well within the overall album. The band return to more familiar ground with The Foreboding, which is very accurately titled. Mountainous and intimidating, this is a beast of a track which lumbers along stegosaurus like but with much more aggression. This album is also a bit of a grower, improving with repeated listening. However, if you don't like sludge then this won't change your mind. This is New Orleans driven metal and in Windstein and the rest of Crowbar you get a band who deliver their particular brand of music without giving a rat’s arse about what anyone else thinks. Shaman of Belief combines elements of sludge and punk with a weighty breakdown that kicks you hard. By the time you get to Teach the Blind to See the heaviness of the album should start to create cracks in your cranium. This is tied to an anvil heavy and once again the pounding driving assault combines to blow a hole in your abdomen. Album closer The Piety of Self-Loathing finishes the job, a monumental instrumental laced with the classic New Orleans sludge sound, heavier than a blue whale dropping from 60,000 feet. Having seen these guys earlier in the year I am looking forward to seeing some of these new tunes in the live arena at BOA. Intense and enormous. 8/10
Anathema - Distant Satellites (Kscope) [Review By Paul]
The development of one of the UK’s most underrated bands continues in stunning style with the arrival of their tenth album, Distant Satellites. Oozing with delicate layers and uplifting passages throughout, this is a work of sheer beauty and class. When Anathema released Weather Systems in 2012, it was difficult to believe that it was possible to actually improve; such was the quality of the compositions and musicianship. However, the band has progressed once more, with the introduction of electronica to their sound whilst retaining the undercurrent of heaviness which has long surged through their music. The album opens with The Lost Song Part I, a mixture of dreamy synths and swirling drums, galloping along apace. Full of introspective review, the track builds intricately to a crescendo, with Lee Douglas backing vocals beautifully complementing Vincent Cavanagh’s lead. The Lost Song Part II follows, slightly slower in the build-up, heavy on the keyboards and synth with additional string sections and the first opportunity to hear Lee Douglas’s gorgeous voice take centre stage. This is a quite breath taking track, full of sentiment and reflection. The Cavanagh brothers take a step back but provide harmonies in the chorus. "Come back to me" sings Douglas, "I can't believe it was just an illusion" as the track draws to a delicious close. This is going to be stunning stuff live. Dusk (Dark is Descending) begins in a moodier and darker style that has been trademark Anathema and as with every track on the album, builds and climbs. Although the guitars are tuned down on this album, they are in evidence throughout, with both Vincent and Daniel‘s playing prominent in parts. However, the change of tempo through the track allows Daniel Cardoso’s brilliant keyboards to take the lead. This combined with the sensitive and balanced rhythm from John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh’s bass riffs provide a multi-layered delivery. Possibly the stand out track on an outstanding album follows. Ariel may be the most beautiful track the band have ever written, with Lee Douglas once again providing an incredible vocal performance, backed by keyboards and strings. The Lost Song Part III concludes The Lost Song trilogy with the combination of keyboards, drums, bass and Vincent’s vocals perfect.
As I keep stating, each of the tracks build with Cavanagh and Douglas’s duet simply spellbinding. “Now that I've Found You” they sing. We then arrive at Anathema, a self-titled piece that features more melancholic musings and again combines strings and the piano to hugely impressive effect. This is intelligent music, powerful in its simplicity. Repeated chords, drum beats and Cavanagh’s uplifting vocals telling the story. Nothing else is needed in parts as the song develops with a drifting sentiment to a driving middle section, full of sweeping and descending waves of sound, guitars soloing whilst the keyboards and strings propel the track to its climax. You’re Not Alone makes a departure from the usual direction of the band with a driving electronic beat supporting the Cavanagh brothers rapid vocal delivery. A huge riff and hook in this track propel it along, allowing a brief respite before blasting forward at breakneck speed, massive drum sound and waves of keyboards washing over the listener. Firelight would sit comfortably with some of their earlier works, in particular Judgement and A Natural Disaster whilst still being totally fresh; this is a sombre instrumental piece of solely keyboards which segues perfectly into the album’s title track. Take Shelter draws the album to a balanced and fitting conclusion, allowing the Cavanagh brothers to once again provide a vocal performance of absolute quality. Once again the electronica influence is evident; a direction that the band is keen to explore and use more in future works. This whole album is delicately crafted and constructed with thought and skill. It is the defining moment of a band who has consistently striven to better themselves and who has matured from their early doom and death metal days into a tour de force in the rock world. I am so excited to be able to see these guys at Download and again at Gloucester Cathedral two days later. It is very possible that I might shed a tear or two; such is the emotion that wells up when listening to this most excellent band. This could possibly be my album of the year. 10/10
The Algorithm: Octopus4 (Basick Records)
Rémi Gallego aka The Algorithm is now on his second album of EBM (electronic dance music for the oldies) which may make people say "Thatz not metulz" well you are dead wrong sir! Gallego mixes djent/mathcore polyrhythmic riffage with drum & bass and dubstep drops to combine a very unique style of music. His first album The Polymorphic Code took the metal press by storm and his live shows caused excitement bringing a rave-like feel to the metal concerts and festivals he appeared at, so can his second album be as successful? Well from the pumping intro to Autorun which also has a repetitive synth riff running through it which has a Kavinsky (A man who is obsessed with OutRun) or indeed Deadmau5 electronic thump but still a lot of melody to it, perfect late night crusing music for the most part with a reducing final part before it wipes out into the funky Discovery on which Gallego uses his synths to go all 80's Axel F style at the beginning before things go drum and bass and the riffage kicks in and the bass drops for a passage in this twisting turning progressive song which is a myriad of styles, the almost 8-bit _MOS follows and it is then ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS that brings the heaviness with it's first dose of metal riffgae for an entire song and it blends seamlessly. There are very few times in music where something truly unique comes along and yes drum and bass, dubstep and electronic music has been merged with metal before with all the industrial bands dabbling in the EBM genre and Korn notably brought dubstep into metal, however none of these bands have successfully merged all the genres of electronic music and heavy metal so succinctly. Yes if you hate electronic music then you will hate this but for anyone with a wide musical palette this will appeal to them massively, personally I love Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Kavinsky and bands of their ilk, but also my love of metal knows no bounds (maybe not BVB) so I think this album is excellent, listen to it at night with headphones and it will take you on a journey!! 8/10