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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reviews: Enslaved, Melechesh, Dead Shed Jokers

Enslaved: In Times (Nuclear Blast)

Norway has always been a breeding ground for the most extreme forms of metal and one of their shining lights are Enslaved who have managed to release 12 albums of extreme but accessible music. Never a band to stick to one ideal they dramatically changed their sound on 2001's Monumension moving away from the straight up Viking black metal and incorporating a much more expansive and progressive sound to blend with the heaviness and extremity. This sonic experimentation reached it's nadir with 2012's RIITIIR which was a master class in progressive black metal, many believed this would be Enslaved's masterpiece and wondered what they could do next, well In Times is the bands 13th album and yet again they have crafted a record that once again takes the bar set by it's predecessor and throws it to the moon. The album is made up of just six tracks all of which are over 8 minutes in length and in that time they move, shift and change time and style so many times you lose count and if you let your concentration slip you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to another band. Thurisaz Dreaming is a violent statement of intent with Ivar Bjørnson and Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal's guitar work driving with ferocity as Cato Bekkevold's drums play at inhuman speed while Grutle Kjellson screams like a demonic presence for the first part of the song then in an instant the song slows down becomes more melodic and the keys and clean vocal of Herbrand Larsen take over from the aggression, which then returns for the dramatic end of the song. So from the initial track you are blown away by the musicianship and scope of these songs, each one is crafted to perfection, Building With Fire starts with the clean vocals, with Kjellson's screams coming in on the chorus, this song has very Amon-like feel with the cleaner sections sounding like Opeth. This album rarely dips in quality at all with the 10 minute title track an obvious highlight I can safely say that not a single track on this album is a duff one, the are aggressive, progressive and most importantly played with intensity, passion and technical excellence, roll on their tour with Grand Magus!! 9/10

Melechesh: Enki (Nuclear Blast)

Melechesh are a black metal band that draw heavily on their Middle Eastern heritage incorporating sitars, saz, bindir and bouzoukis into their sound. "It's been done" I hear you cry well yes it has but Melechesh are one of the originators of the genre having been around since 1993, Enki is their fifth album and their fourth since their relocation to The Netherlands leaving their native Jerusalem. The band is the brainchild of Ashmedi who contributes the lead guitar, vocals and keys to the proceedings on songs fuelled by blasbeats and lightning fast riffs, think Behemoth and you wouldn't be far off, vocally Ashmedi sounds a lot like Nergal having more of a death metal voice than many of his peers, with his snarl mixed with the odd roar and even clean passage hear and there. Tempest Temper Enil Enraged opens proceedings brilliantly with its supersonic drumming and sharp changes of pace during the six minute runtime, Lost Tribes moves into early Mastodon territory with some groove thrown into the blackened pot, happily unlike a lot of extreme metal there is a lot of melody on this album much of this comes from Ashmedi's audible and understandable vocals, as well as the slightly progressive nature of the songs (most are more than six minutes) and the folk instruments used throughout but not relied upon too much meaning they blend into the bands sound rather than overpower it, they are at their most effective on the title track Enki- Divine Nature Awoken which moves from the depths of Israel to the pits of hell in one song and also on The Palm The Eye And Lapis Lazuli which is the most accessible track on the record. If you love your extreme metal with an oriental folk edge then Melechesh will be right up your street, heavy as hell but with enough variation for everyone. 8/10   

Dead Shed Jokers: S/T (Pity My Brain)

A trip to the strange side now with Welsh weirdos Dead Shed Jokers who seamlessly blend classic rock riffs, modern garage riffs and the occasional nod to jazz all wrapped up in a stoner haze. This is heads down stare at the floor trippy riff rock that acquires influences as quickly as it discards them making for an interesting and unique listen. Dafydd's Song is a jazz inflected slice of psych with some funky guitar licks giving them a sound akin to London weirdsters The Earls Of Mars. After the ending guitar freakout the band move straight into 60's California groove of Delay The Morning that is part Hendrix, part Wolfmother especially in the vocals, A Cautionary Tale works brings in a heap of Zappa and some Diablo Swing Orchestra. Dead Shed Jokers are an odd but refreshing mix of new and old with songs that are varied in style but all wrapped together in a psychedelic, groove laden rock vibe performed brilliantly by a band with a tonnes of bravado and talent, having seen them in the live arena several times these tracks are going to be very well received in the dirty clubs of the UK, it will certainly get heads nodding and minds puzzling. Pick up the album, see them live and experience the Jokers in full flight. 8/10  

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