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Friday, 21 October 2016

Reviews: Nightstalker, The Silent Rage, Ink

So in what's becoming a bit of theme yet another three bands from Greece, including Greek legends Nightstalker.

Nightstalker: As Above, So Below (Oak Island)

Nightstalker are a band that have a massive following their native country but are something of a non entity outside of Hellenic. They have always been refereed to as a stoner rock band, a tag rejected by the band as they consider themselves to be a 70's style hard rock band. While this is true they can be seen as pioneering the stoner rock scene in Greece, with their walls of riffs, groove-laden rhythms and psych elements, there are literally hundreds of bands in Greece that owe their sound to Nightstalker's early records.

The band have been around since the early 1990's and have been releasing albums periodically between the touring. As Above, So Below is the band's fifth full length album and it continues with the sound they have favoured since after their third release Superfreak this saw them expand their resume from distorted Sabbath-like riffs into the more ethereal spacey trippyness of acts such as Monster Magnet et al while also being able to knuckle down to the proto-metal attack of Motorhead. The directness of Naked Fire brings you into the experience as frontman Argy hollers over sounding like Ozzy and Wyndorf at full pelt, Space Matter takes in the sights and sounds of Hawkwind with an echoing crunch and a phasing middle section and the grinding My Electric Head is guaranteed to give you a bad trip.

Zombie Hour would sound perfect nestled into an Orange Goblin record as Tolis adds the clean leads over the groggy rhythms of Andreas' bass and the drums which depending on what info you have are either Dinos of Argy himself. As Above, So Below is the ideal continuation of Dead Rock Commandos which saw Nightstalker gain fans outside Greece, the mind bending harmonics loom large on The Dog That No-One Wanted and the creeping We Belong To The Dead, while for a band that don't want to be called stoner rock having a song called Forever Stoned is not doing yourself any favours especially when it is the soundtrack to a freak out.

Nightstalker have done it again, their cult status has made them one of the most revered Greek bands, full of Sabbath-groove, Kyuss-sparseness and the mind-bending weirdness Nightstalker demand your attention if you think you know anything about stoner rock (συγνώμη παιδιά). 9/10

The Silent Rage: The Deadliest Scourge (Alone Records)

The Silent Rage (previously Silent Rage) are a power metal band from Korydallos and after a demo and two EP's The Deadliest Scourge is their debut effort and it's taken 10 years to make. Well that wait has been very much worth it. Signal Of War is a great traditional power metal intro song with Greek instruments augmenting the solitary keys tension and excitement is build and as it fades My Race Won't Last explodes like a cannon and pairs thrash-like riffage with, rumbling drums and galloping bass. This is chest beating power metal that sits on the heavier end relying on the dual guitar riffs over heavy use of keys, there are even harsh backing vocals that battle with the cleans for extra aggressive effect.

The songs but they are at their most effective on the title track. The rhythm section of Steve T and Stamatis are the backbone of the speedy Stormwarrior with Stamatis' drumming particularly fearsome, Nikos riffs like a bastard (and screams like one too) while Kostas shreds at every opportunity. Rounding out the band is vocalist Steve V who has a booming mid range not to dissimilar to an amalgamation of Matt Barlow and Joakim Broden, it's a powerful delivery and on tracks such as Between Harmony & Sorrow it's at it's best, he also is more than capable of sparring with Spiritual Beggars Apollo on Sin Of A Pilgrim.

Apollo is one of two guests on this record with ex-Orphaned Land man Yossi Sassi being the other, supplying Oud on the acoustically laced Shadow Spirit. The record is excellently recorded, mixed and mastered by Fotis Bernardo singer of one of my favourite Greek acts SixForNine and he makes this record sound huge. The Silent Rage are a very heavy metal band sitting comfortably in the same bracket of Iced Earth, Sabaton and fellow Greeks Mystic Prophecy, if you like your power metal with a bit of guts then this rage is far from silent. 8/10

Ink: Loom (Self Released)

Alternative metal Ink identify with bands such as Alice In Chains, Tool and Canadian act The Tea Party and with these influences you'd expect the band to mix cutting, sharp alt metal with heavy dose of psych and that's exactly what you get. At times it's aggressive, at others oppressive and every song is filled with paeans to humanity and emotion and takes itself pretty seriously. Opening with Desert Son which brings the mystical elements of The Cult while Sell Me is a chunkier sounding track that has echoes of Tool. Vocally Chris Tsantalis sounds an awful lot like The Tea Party's Jeff Martin with a rich baritone giving the songs added depth, take a track like Little Story which strips things back and lets Chris' vocals take the lead. Backing Chris are Kostas Apostolopoulos on guitar whose riffs are ever present.

It's nothing fussy but they move from melodic on the frankly excellent Persephone to the insistent on Legend all while providing some crushing distorted sounds on the tracks with the dynamic range favoured by the Seattle sound. Persephone has more than a nod to Depeche Mode especially due to the almost industrial rhythms of Dra (bass) and Chris' brother Stavros, their boiler room is burning on all cylinders throughout the record even on the slower more deliberate songs like Days Of Storm. Loom and even on Sirens which takes the Alice In Chains route of pairing heavy riffs with acoustic guitars in glorious layers.

Ink are a revelation taking on what is quite a North American sound and pulling it off very well. If you love any of the bands mentioned previously you will love Loom it's a throwback to the early/mid 90's style and as it climaxes with the stunning Ophelia it's a trip into the dark-side of the human psyche that you won't want to come back from in a hurry. 8/10           

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