First thought when Got Your Six blasted out of the stereo was "that's more like it!" after their previous double album showed that maybe they had stretched themselves a bit, FFDP have come back with an album full of the aggressive, head kicking groove metal that they first showed off on their debut The Way Of The Fist. The band have recalled their brutality from their early works while retaining the more melodic elements from their latter records and their live popularity; Jekyll And Hyde is a testament to this with it's "o-we-o" chant along refain, while Wash It All Away is the kind of muscular ballad the band have always done brilliantly, with lyrics that exclaim the odium of modern life and Ain't My Last Dance merges the two parts of their sound perfectly with it's emotive radio baiting chorus and it's growled verses. Once again Ivan Moody shows off his great vocals he has a chiming clean vocal phrasing that works very well with his more guttural growls, he is the perfect fit for this band, however he is backed by the consummate musicianship of Jeremy Spencer's drumming and Chris Kael's bass.
These two men together provide the groove laden rhythms on tracks like My Nemesis and lay down a rock solid foundation for Zoltan Bathory's barrage of riffage (No Sudden Movements) and Jason Hooks searing lead breaks and solos that flesh out the songs with a lightness that is direct opposition to Bathory's furious rhythm playing and the battering ram bottom end. As is usual the lyrical content moves between a few topics, relationships Question Everything which even sees the band employ the use of acoustic guitars and orchestrations for what is one of the best songs on the album and shows the bands softer side perfectly while maintaining the guts they've always shown. Along with relationships there is a strong element of government distrust on Hell To Pay and military themes on the opening title track and closing Boots & Blood being the two most prominent examples of their camouflage loving battle scarred symbolism. No this album isn't complex, it's not refined and progressive but it is a good romp through chest beating American mainstream metal, but what is most evident is that FFDP have written this album with the live arena in mind and because of that they have made an album here that harks back to their glory days while fixing them in the present. 8/10
Act of Defiance: Birth And The Burial (Metal Blade) [Paul]
More than a touch of irony in the name of the band and the title; the debut album from the thrash outfit which comprises ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover, who are joined by the brutal vocals of Scar The Martyr frontman Henry Derek and Shadows Fall guitarist Matt Bachand on bass duties. Described as extreme metal, Birth And The Burial is certainly extreme in places and it is most definitely metal. Far heavier than most of the Megadeth catalogue, Broderick and Drover have really gone for it and come up with a very tasty thrasher. Derek’s vocals are well suited to the galloping pace; a cross between Ivan Moody and Randy Blythe in delivery, most of the guttural delivery coming from deep in the back of the throat. The pace and tempo is ferocious from the start, with all the elements that you would expect of a quality piece of thrash metal. The first three numbers, Throwback, Legion Of Lies and Thy Lord Belial leave you breathless, such is the speed at which they hit you. Refrain And Re-Fracture however, contains massive Megadeth influences and if you substituted Derek’s vocals for Mustaine’s, it would be perfectly reasonable to believe that this was a new Megadeth track. A more composed piece, with some classy hooks and intricate guitar work.
Dead Stare also has attributes which link back to the former paymaster, with similar snarling guitar work. It’s hardly surprising but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The frenetic pace doesn’t slow at all, with Disastrophe carrying a heavy Slipknot style groove, Drover’s drumming quite immense and his combination with Bachand has created a formidable engine room. In fact this track is a real face melter. And then suddenly the classic piece which forms the blueprint for all thrash albums, a slower cello introduction before a boot stomper in Poison Dream smashes any chance of drifting off. A calm intro to Obey The Fallen leads into the weakest track on this decent release, with a huge dollop of Avenged Sevenfold in the mix. However, things hot back up with Crimson Psalm, a track that Arch Enemy could lay claim to before title track, again has some Avenged Sevenfold influences brings proceedings to an end. Broderick’s guitar playing throughout this release is of the highest quality. However, after the blistering start, a few of the later tracks do tend to sound a bit too similar and the aggression does tail off slightly. Still, it’s a really meaty release and certainly one outfit to keep an ear to the ground for. 7/10
Kataklysm: Of Ghosts And Gods (Nuclear Blast) [Paul]
Where the hell do you start with the Canadian maelstrom that is Kataklysm? Driven forward with the relentless passion and fire of frontman Maurizio Iacono, who was the original bassist from 1991 – 1998, ever present guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais and long-serving bassist Stephane Barbe, Of Ghosts And Gods follows hard on the heels of 2013’s excellent Waiting For The End To Come. Completing the line-up, drummer Oli Beaudoin who is on his second outing and contributes some outrageously damaging work behind the kit. No more so on opener Breaching The Asylum which is fantastically fast. The Black Sheep is a more paced and powerful track, Iacono’s vocals eerily reminiscent of Angela Gossow, albeit slightly gruffer. This is an absolutely tremendous album if you like quality Death Metal and even if you don’t you should get your head around this. The battering ram approach of the Northern Hyper blast drumming during Marching Through Graveyards, combined with some huge riffs and more melodic passages simply reeks of epic. Obviously with Iacono and co the movie samples remain, enhancing the atmosphere and creating a real feel to the album. The much slower paced start to Thy Serpent’s Tongue contains a chunky Korn-like riff before kicking off at a million miles an hour and then braking into a mid-section riffage stomp. The tempo is non-stop and absolutely brutal.
No let up and no hiding; pounding, aggressive but with enormous hooks which get the head banging very quickly; I was nodding away as I listened. With 11 albums under their belt, Kataklysm have long established their sound, Iacono doesn't mess about; his vocals growling and harsh, but at the same time immensely effective. And then in the middle of the album, possibly the track that Dez Farfara and Devildriver always wanted to write; Soul Destroyer. One of the most infectious, hook laden death metal tracks I've ever heard. It is absolutely scorching. As well as the absolutely roasting engine room, the guitar work of Dagenais is quite stunning; visceral riffs competing with slicing solos and a large serving of melody. This is quite simply one of the metal albums of the year; not a dud track on the entire album and some quite frighteningly savage metal. By the time I approached the last three tracks, I was exhausted. There is no hiding from this band, and Shattered was exactly how I felt. The bloodthirsty onslaught from such precision playing makes these a band I would love to see grace the RJD stage at BOA next year. Album closer The World Is A Dying Insect provides a little respite with a medium paced perspective on the way in which the majority of the planet are destroying our world with the parasitic approach to life. The bonus disc provides the listener with four live tracks, which amply demonstrate that Kataklysm most definitely cut it in the live arena. A simply stunning death metal release. 10/10