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Friday, 13 February 2015

Reviews: U.D.O, Lord Dying, Mechina (Reviews By Paul)

U.D.O: Decadent (AFM)

Udo Dirkschneider will be forever known as the voice of Accept. His unique growling delivery on the German thrashers early catalogue quite rightly sit in the category of metal classics. Restless And Wild and Balls To The Wall are top quality and created the blueprint for a million other bands. Since Udo left Accept in 1987, he has carved out a career with his own band, U.D.O and has delivered an impressive 14 albums, as well as fitting in a brief reunion with Accept in the mid-90s. Decadent is album number 15, and contains very few surprises. Opener Speeder is a no-nonsense head down thrasher, with Dirkschneider’s vocals instantly recognisable. The title track is also a decent tune, with chugging riffs and a catchy chorus which you can’t help but bang your head to. The album features some fine drumming from Sven Dirkschneider, yes, son of the main man and recently seen helping out the mighty Saxon at the tail end of their Warriors of the Road tour. However, after the opening salvo, the quality tails off dramatically with some tepid tracks which do little to get the blood pumping. House Of Fake is average at best, Mystery tries it’s best to build some atmosphere but falls flat with some ridiculously rubbish vocals in the middle section. The worst is still to come though and after the tired and flat Pain with a quite horrible spoken section, an absolutely dreadful ballad Secrets In Paradise had me reaching for the off button. With his original band having released two stunningly good albums in Blood Of The Nations and Stalingrad and a very respectable 2014 release in Blind Rage, the quality of the song writing between the two bands is noticeable. Unfortunately for U.D.O, Accept win by a country mile. Oh, and the cover is dog shit too. 4/10

Lord Dying: Poisoned Altars (Relapse)

Portland outfit Lord Dying’s sophomore release is a gritty, sludgy slab which will have you banging your head within minutes. A blend of Crowbar, COC and their ilk, Poisoned Altars comes at you from the opening bars and refuses to let go. Huge riffs crash out of the sky, combining with a real pummelling from the rhythm section of Rob Schaffer and bassist D. Capuano. Vocalist E. Olsen has a powerful delivery and combines his guitar work with C. Evans to hit the listener with a real riff heavy assault. The Clearing At The End Of The Path combines some of New Orleans finest with a massive dose of Sabbathesque doom. There is little original here but if you like your metal down tuned and as heavy as a 747 carrying a blue whale then this will get you interested in seconds. Tracks like A Wound Outside Of Time and An Open Sore leave little to the imagination; they just grab you by the head and kick away until you beg for mercy. It is a merciless onslaught of heaviness which many try but few succeed with. Lord Dying are one of the latter bands and whilst they are unlikely to suffer from a high profile in the UK any time soon, they certainly catch the attention with their ball breaking in your face approach. Good stuff 7/10

Mechina: Acheron (Self Released)

I admit I knew very little about this band. A quick search on the interweb advised me that Mechina is a four piece outfit established in Illinois in 2004, who comprise Joe Tiberi (guitars, programming), David Holch  (vocals) David Garvin (drums) and Steve Amaranos (bass) and who have managed to create a real kaleidoscope of sound. The music is a real mix of styles, with blast beat drumming combining with electronica, thrash type guitars and several symphonic elements. Earth Born Axoim is an early example of this heady mix, with deep choral  vocals supporting an operatic female lead; on top of all of this there is the narrative of the album which establishes the album in a futuristic setting. Vanquisher opens with a female character wailing whilst another vocal adds an Eastern element to the already crowded pot of sound. String sections fight with power riffs from the guitar work of Tiberi and the death metal vocals of Holch. Some of the drumming in this track is off the chart (although much of it sounds pretty well programmed to me) before it fades with some delicate keyboard and synth work that segues into On The Wings Of Nefeli. This track has a real Eastern feel to it, taking the best of bands like Khalas and Orphaned Land and combining it with the brutality of Behemoth. This is Mechina’s fifth full length release and as you work your way through it you realise that they have managed to create a reasonably unique style which is going to divide opinion. If you like a bit of symphonic metal combined with death vocals and elements of thrash then you might dig this hard. However, if you don’t like multi-layered elements to your music this may do little for you, as there are textures and layers galore. The Halcyon Purge changes direction again with a sci-fi Devin Townsend style opening before the sound of Garvin’s double bass drum take up the charge; Holch’s vocals gradually warm on you, although this track also contains a vocal sampling which reminds me massively of Linkin Park with clean vocals duelling with Holch. It is an acquired taste as the clean vocals sound totally programmed and add little to the track. Lethean Waves introduces some monastic chanting into the equation, with haunting synths and melody creating an atmospheric piece which swirls and builds with additional choral elements. It’s a quite beautiful piece but it doesn't actually go anywhere. A lengthy seven minute track, Ode To The Forgotten Few begins with some delicious piano work, and a female vocal which provides contrast to the death metal vocals of Holch; it is symphonic ala Nightwish and Evanescence, cascading ivories backed by chopping strings. And it is rather decent, albeit a little ponderous at times. Back to full speed for the final couple of tracks with The Hyperion Theory commencing at full pace, briefly drawing breath with more dramatic strings before some bombastic machine gun drumming and Holch’s brutal vocals combine with powerful guitar work from Tiberi and Amaranos. This is all out power metal for a time, before taking some short pauses; not that anyone told Garvin as he continues to batter the shit out of his kit as if his life depended on it. Album closer The Future Must Be Met has a sombre feel to it, closing this grandiose album in a death scene Sci-Fi style; all pensive synth and strings. So, is it any good? Well, this is my overall problem. It is excellently produced, it has a wide range of styles and elements to it and after a couple of listens it demands further listens. Having said that, I'm not convinced that this isn't a bit of a mixed bag with large swathes of programming leaving you unconvinced. Maybe it really is the marmite album of 2015. 7/10

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