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Sunday, 11 October 2015

Reviews: Trivium, Metal Allegiance, Parkway Drive

Trivium: Silence In The Snow (Roadrunner) [Review By Paul]

As the classical and very atmospheric intro Snofall starts, an air of anticipation grips you. The opening riffs of the title track kick in and your head starts to bang in time to the chugging beat that pours out. Clean vocals, harmonies and melody powered by new boy Matt Madiro's double bass drumming. It’s good stuff, catchy well-paced heavy metal. Yep, it’s one of the bands that cause a real division in opinion, Florida outfit Trivium. The band that had the audacity to blast into the metal scene over ten years ago with Ascendency and a memorable Download debut which had the metal media wetting their knickers. The band that have been caught between a rock and a hard place in styles, moving from thrash almost death elements to classic rock to technical to just good heavy metal. I've got to be honest, I've seen Trivium many times and they've been excellent for the most part, ignoring one gig at Cardiff University where I walked out as they savaged Sepultura and put in a lousy performance. Even at BOA, in front of hardly their most comfortable crowd they delivered. So musing about the history of the band aside, how is their sixth album? Well, after the title track, Blind Leading The Blind is a decent tune with plenty of meat to it. Unfortunately Dead And Gone is a horrible track; I'm not sure where Matt and co. were going with this but it doesn't work.

The Ghost That’s Haunting You is reasonable but doesn't contain much to retain your attention although it’s got a decent chorus and hook, and what it does allow is Matt Heafy to demonstrate that he has got a very good voice for this type of music. Musically, Trivium have long been solid and very competent. The heads down approach of Pull Me From The Void is welcomed, but the track becomes a little similar to several others on the album, with little to distinguish between them. This changes with Until The World Goes Cold, which is almost old school Trivium, if there is such a thing. Refreshingly different from most of the other tracks, slower in pace and utilising dual guitar layers alongside a gutsy riff, this is a very good song. And I suppose that is what is difficult about this album. Much of it is just the same. Rise Above the Tides sounds just like Pull Me From The Void. There is nothing wrong with this album. It is well composed, reasonably produced and the guitar work of Corey Beaulieu and Heafy constantly high quality. But I've listened to it about seven times and it is just bouncing off me. Nothing about it is grabbing my attention after that opening track which I absolutely love. I've heard many worse albums over the years but the word that keeps popping into my head here is bland. Caught at a crossroads, it would appear that Trivium have struggled to choose a road and as a result have stalled. 6/10

Metal Allegiance: Metal Allegiance (Nuclear Blast) [Review By Paul]

I'm not a huge fan of collaborations. It usually equals pretty turgid results and frequently makes massive egos appear just a bit more pleased with themselves. The recent collaborative tribute to RJD, whilst perfectly well meaning was for me, case in point. However, Metal Allegiance, whilst containing some of the most vital members of the current metal world, more importantly actually contains some really storming music. Who are the constants? Well, Alex Skolnick of Testament, David Ellefson (Megadeth), Mark Menghi and of course, Mr Drummer for Hire Mike Portnoy feature throughout and these guys have been the drivers behind the whole project. So, with your musicians pretty much top class, the focus is on the quality of the vocalists who add their pipes as well as their own influence on the tunes. Opener Gift Of Pain features LOG frontman Randy Blythe and Exodus/Slayer guitar god Gary Holt; it’s brutal; it’s tub thumping and snarling LOG style track. Blythe also contributes screams to Let Darkness Fall, which has Mastodon’s Troy Sanders provide his distinctive lyrical style. Dying Song allows Phil Anselmo to deliver in his inimitable style, this could be Down with slightly less sludge and more metal. It’s pretty damn good. Chuck Billy provides the oral assault on Can’t Kill The Devil; vicious slicing guitars (the addition of Sep's Andreas Kisser helping out) and a thunderous all out thrasher. What else would you get with Chuck at the front? Yeah, it’s pretty much Testament and that is alright with me.

The most intriguing track on the album for me is Scars, which features the classic aggression of Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda duet with the dulcet tones of Lacuna Coil’s Christina Scabbia. Both hold their own, with Scabbia's ballsy delivery complimenting the Bay Area Thrasher's more direct style. Some superb guitar work from Skolnick (possible the most underrated guitar hero around today) on this track. Matt Heafy pops up on vocals and guitar on Destination Nowhere (possibly should have been the name of his new album?) [Now Now -Ed] which has classic Ellefson bass lines running all over the place whilst the riffage increases exponentially. Some decent harmonies on this track; in fact it’s better than several tracks on Snowfall. And so it progresses, with further guest appearances from Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta, Rex Brown, Bumblefoot and the unusual sound of a four pronged guitar attack from Skolnick, Holt, Kisser and Anthrax skinsman Charlie Benante (who did all the guitar work on Stomp 442) on the anthemic Pledge Of Allegiance. This track is another Exodus/Death Angel thrash assault and perfect for Osegueda to return with his rapid fire vocal delivery. There are hooks and riffs dripping from everywhere on this bad boy. However, for every silver lining there is a cloud and it comes on the final track, an all-out cover of Dio’s We Rock which is just a bit too smug and has a back slappy “aren't we great kind” of feel. Plus it has Chris Jericho on it. Yeah, that sucks. Even some killer shredding from Phil Demmel doesn't save it. It’s a pretty good album which contains some pretty heavy thrash metal. Well worth a listen. 8/10

Parkway Drive: Ire (Epitaph)

Since their breakthrough record Deep Blue in 2010 Australian metalcore merchants have been near the top of the pile of their genre since, they have always prided themselves on writing thought provoking lyrics and teaming that up with intense riffs and brutal breakdowns, this has always set them apart from their peers in the metalcore scene. Since Deep Blue the band have improved on every album adding more dynamics to their songs and expanding their sound, all of which has culminated in Ire their fifth release which steps things up again moving them away from their metalcore roots and into the bracket of bands like Lamb Of God and Devildriver by building on the metalcore base and adding more melodic flourishes. This album kicks off with sweeping guitar harmonics of Destroyer which beautifully fuses the more traditional heavy metal guitars with thundering rhythm section that Parkway Drive have always had as their stock-in-trade. This traditional heavy metal style is retained on Vice Grip which echoes Trivium and even Metallica with it's massive hook-laden chant along cry of "Rise" and some cracking guitar work from Luke Kilpatrick and lead guitarist Jeffrey Ling who peppers this album with sublime solos.

 As this album progresses you can feel the metalcore shackles coming off with every song, they have widened their scope massively, Crushed is one track that differs from their early days with some sauntering riffs and even some rap-like verses from frontman Winston McCall who is on fine form throughout snarling, roaring and growling with passion and power delivering every line with venom, his political rallying at it's most effective on Fractures which has nods to their metalcore roots as it creates thoughts of Killswitch Engage with the huge backing vocals and mid-paced delivery that is to the tracks benefit. Fractures gives way to the bang-clap intro of Writings On The Wall which is an orchestral and percussion propelled number that builds from its beginning to the head nodding final part that imitates both FFDP and Shinedown in one song (an impressive feat indeed), Writings... neatly splits the album providing an end to side one, showing that every aspect of this record has been thought about in detail. From the writing and performing to the production and sequencing, the album has the required ups and downs to keep the attention bolstered by the perfect production from George Hadji-Christou.

Equal parts catchy and brutal Parkway Drive have indeed shrugged off most earlier style and moved into the more accessible category allowing their songs to breathe and their song writing to improve tenfold, Vicious merges LOG with some Maidenesque melodies as the chiming guitars drive the song along, we get a brief beatdown on Dedicated but this is washed away immediately by the expansive closing piece A Deathless Song which is a striding, brilliant track punctuated by some classical guitars and a massive riff and ends the album beautifully as it signals that this new traditional influenced sound is here to stay, hinting towards more of it in place on the next album. On Deep Blue Parkway Drive started to get noticed by the wider spectrum of metal fans but on Ire they have stepped up their game and transformed into something all the more exquisite. If you want to hear a band at the peak of their powers look no further that Ire. 9/10

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