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Sunday, 1 June 2014

Reviews: Sabaton, Gazpacho, Blatant Dissary

Sabaton: Heroes (Nuclear Blast) [Nick Hewitt]

For many years I have been an avid fan of the gents from Falun, Sweden. So needless to say the release of their 7th studio album was very much on my radar. Sabaton are unquestionably a band that appeal to a wide range of fans across many genres. For me this is due to two simple reasons; firstly they sing about fact with no deviation to the otherwise and the second… they're just plain fun! From the outset of Night Witches Sabaton inject the album with power and pace that comes so naturally to them. Filling our speakers with bouncing bass, drums and those ever so slightly repetitive lyrics we come to expect, this song is a brief but solid opener. No Bullets Fly and Smoking Snakes are up next and represent a little more of what Sabaton used to be about in the Primo Victoria days, only with a little less “oomph” if you will? Both tracks are carried with constant fast paced rhythmic backings with the ever-flawless vocals of the mighty Joakim Broden that is always a highlight of any Sabaton album. He is able to emit such a powerful and pure voice that rolls into your ears like treacle off a spoon… Inmate 4859 steps down the pace as it tells us the story of an inmate cast into darkness inside Auschwitz concentration camp. Plodding along at a slow pace the power is still ever present but it’s the lyrics and the story that really save this track from a potential black hole. Next is To Hell and Back and I can see why Sabaton chose this as their first single. This is the strongest track on the album that throws the tried and tested Sabaton formula at you with its usual success; it’s hard to stay still as you let this one into your head. The Ballad of Bull is a bit of a curve ball from Joakim and his men. Slowing down the album to a shuddering halt Sabaton present us with their first ever true ballad. Despite its heartfelt and almost thought provoking message this really isn't Sabaton. Individually this is a great song, but wrap it up in the Sabaton package and it just doesn't feel right, more so it really kills the album in its tracks. Joakim proves here that he can do more with his voice than we are accustom too, but for me they took a risk including this song and it didn’t pay off. For the remainder of the album Resist and Bite till Hearts of Iron Heroes picks up in pace again and offers us more fast paced and free flowing music delivered with care, all easing into each other nicely. Here however lies my problem with this album. Sabaton for me stand out above many bands as they hold up their middle finger to many more. The outright passion, fun and excitement they deliver these somewhat cheesy and at times repetitive songs in the past are what make us love them. Yet Heroes seems to lack all of this. To Hell and Back aside there is no stand out anthem where there used to be four or five. Excluding the ballad the album flows easily, but too easily; yes they are well produced and well delivered but there is nothing unique about these songs, which again, for me is Sabaton 101. It all seems to be a little lazy. Despite these glaring problems the album still has one saving grace… the voice of Joakim Broden. Lets face it, after all there three things in life that are certain; Death, Taxes and a beaming smile forming across your face the second you hear the voice of Joakim Broden. So, do I still love Sabaton? Yes. And will I catch them as many times as possible on their Heroes tour? Hell yes! I'll just be sticking to their first six albums for a while longer. 6/10

Gazpacho: Demon (Kscope)

Norwegian art-rockers Gazpacho are now on their eighth album and they say that Demon is the ‘most complicated and strange album [they have] ever made’. Recorded over the course of two years the album focuses on a manuscript found in an apartment in Prague, written by the mysterious previous owner, the manuscript tells of a Demon that plagued the tenant causing bad things to happen to him, the manuscript was written from several historical points of view, almost as if this man had been chasing the demon throughout history. As with any story like this it seemed too good to be ignored so the band set about deciphering the manuscript and telling the story. The album is split into 4 parts with only one track less than 8 minutes (not including the bonus track The Cage). The things start off slowly and quietly with the deliberate chords on the piano of I've Been Walking (Part 1), before an orchestral swell of Mikael Krømer's violin works the song into its guitar driven beginning before it descends again into melancholic acoustic before the final third of the track rocks things up again imbued by Thomas Andersen's mellotron and Krømer's violin ends the song with the sadness only a violin can. The Wizard Of Altai Mountains is another slow burning Muse-like song that morphs into a folk knees up at the end with lots of accordion. This album shifts through the emotional spectrum, it is dark, eerie and downright emotional, this album is the sound of a man haunted by Demons and the songs reflect that. Jan-Henrik Ohme's voice is soulful and carries a lot of weight in his restrained delivery, but as a whole the band work in superb unison, Jon-Arne Vilbo's guitar playing is staggering, mixing acoustics and electrics seamlessly, the star though are Andersens keys, they drive every song and are a key part of the atmosphere of this album. With bands like Marillion, Porcupine Tree, Anathema and even Katatonia doing this kind of neo-progressive music it's a genre where amazing musicianship is a given and Gazpacho have been doing it for a long time and they have constructed a complex, musically varied album on their eighth release. 8/10

Blatant Disarray: The Harbinger (Dirt Records)

Hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina Blatant Disarray play thrash metal with some speed metal licks that Jeff Waters would be pleased with. Fast, aggressive and full of finger shredding riffs and head banging groove. The band have the hallmarks of the early thrash legends like Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer with some angry vocal delivery from Mike Schaefer and Ryan Johnson whose voices work well together on the choruses, with Mike being the lead vocals and having more than a hint of early Arya or Megadave. These two also provide the riffage and they are firing on all cylinders with solo's galore on everyone of these 10 tracks and they ably backed by the rampaging drums of Trey McLamb. So on to the songs and well everything does sound a bit familiar (although this is the nature of Thrash) If Only could be on South Of Heaven, There Will Be Pain on Rust In Peace and Quench which is Metallica and Trivium in equal parts. Is this album good? Yes. Does it break any new ground? No. None at all, but if you want to disengage your brain and thrash till death, then The Harbinger will give you your fill. 6/10

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