Black Crown Initiate: Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne)
Every once in while a band comes along and challenges you musically, Pennsylvania natives Black Crown Initiate are one such band, the breadth of musical ability on this record is simply breathtaking it would be a disservice to the band to try and pigeonhole them as they have so many little nuances and changes of pace, time and genre that I can really only describe them as powerful, progressive even prophetic modern metal. The band are intensely clever, their lyrics full of philosophical questions, spiritual/moral messages and their music the counterpoint of crushingly heavy music they play that brings in djent influences on the opening track For Red Chord with palm-muted guitars at the forefront of the sound, however like I said the band quickly change tact throughout never staying to long in one style giving them the progressive extremity of Opeth but the accessible edge of Metallica.
Much of this is due their use of dual vocals with guitarist/vocalist Andy Thomas having the clean soaring vocals that perfectly counteract the ripped from hell roars of James Dorton, both vocalists work in glorious tandem having a sound that is good and evil and bolsters the sometimes overly complicated musical backing, yes the band are all supreme musicians, the drumming of Jesse Beahler of particular note due to it's unrelenting ferocity and Thomas and bassist Nick Shaw are both key to the bands heavy sound. Now not everything is perfect on this second effort, there does seem to be a push to be a bit too progressive and at times introspective on this record meaning that it does lack the immediacy and general sense of aggression it's predecessor had but also shows that the band are not keen to replay former victories but change the formula so to speak. For the most part they succeed but there are a few disjointed elements about the record that will jump out at you, still for a young band there is a lot of promise here that will hopefully mature by the time of their third record. 8/10
Lacertilia: We're Already Inside Your Mind (Red Sun Sounds)
Back in 2015 Welsh stoner wizards Lacertilia unleashed their call to arms Crashing Into The Future the five track EP was a definitive statement of intent capturing the raw, primal fury of the band's live show, bringing together some of their live stables. Of course with any heavy touring band in the course of a year they create more songs to fill a set and as such they have now released their debut record, yet again it's a psychedelic infused metal trip, with big stoner riffs and more transient sounds all creating a sonic kaleidoscope. With the tabla led intro we dive straight into trippy heaviness with The Wired And The Weird which sounds like early period Orange Goblin filled with groove from Tom's bass and Carl's drums in the percussive middle section as Mike and Lucas' guitars bring the punkier riffs before some harmonics in the aforementioned middle section, with a progressive edge to it the opening song gives you an indicator of what to expect on the rest of the album it's progressive, psych filled mayhem with Fry commanding the thundering insanity with his excellent (Ben Ward-like) pipes and hallucinogenic lyrics.
Tangled Up is a shorter more direct track sounding a bit like a a heavy metal version of The Doors, while Ride With Us is a slithering primal sludge riff that builds up into an explosive climax. The fusion of rock n roll, psych, stoner, doom and cosmic space rock is handled very well with enough nods to their influences for the oldies to acknowledge with Journey To Agartha tripping on Hawkwind's vibe, a Sabbath doom mongering hammering comes on Earth (which is very ironic if you know your rock history) which features some intense swirling guitar playing, but there is also enough modernity to invigorate the most retro of sounds see the esoteric, almost ethereal Round And Round which builds with touches of Tool into one of the album's best songs. The sound that was Crashing Into The Future seems more refined here, more definitive, there is craft here it's a spellbinding, mesmerizing, mind warping, head banging debut from the Cosmic Boyos! 9/10
Schemata Theory: Networks EP (ABAF Records)
Modern metal five piece Schemata Theory hail from Reading and they bring metric fucktonnes of state-of-the-art metal full of palm muted riffs, crunching heavy groove and distinct djent-like sound. The band also have one of my pet hates, dual vocalists, now I don't mean singer and singer/guitarist but two (male) singers both fronting the band, Scar Symmetry have always done this I've never seen the need for it as for me it does detract from the music. However that said I may have to eat my hat and admit that Schemata Theory use two vocalists to great effect, Myles Dyer has some seriously low roars and barks conjuring evil with every grunt, but he also has a clean vocal that sounds a lot like Enter Shikari's Rou Reynolds this separates his style from the soaring clean only vocals of Luke Wright.
Both vocalists are at their most unified on final track Horror Show which is the strongest song on the record, no wonder why it was picked up by BBC Radio 1, it's a blinder of a song the impeccable mix of melody and discord with dual guitar harmonies and persistent drumming, it's a great climax, but that's not to write off the other two tracks on this EP as they are both quality pieces of work to giving a hint of what Schemata Theory can do both live and when they come around releasing their second full length record. 7/10