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Monday, 20 March 2017

Reviews: Obituary, Svart Crown,The Crawling, Axxis (Reviews By Paul)

Obituary: Self Titled (Relapse)

The teaser EP Ten Thousand ad Ways To Die which signalled the return to the studio of the Floridian Death Metal legends back in November 2016 was a tasty morsel which really left a desire for more. Well, the wait is over as album number 10 has arrived and what a monster it is. Absolutely packed with vicious riffs and skull pounding death metal, the masters have once again shown that age is no obstacle to class. 2014's massive Inked In Blood was a brutal bastard but in my humble opinion Obituary kicks harder, stronger and more impressively.

With the pace changing from track to track, one thing that doesn't vary is the sheer heaviness. Opener Brave finds John Tardy on stunning form, racing his distinctive vocals at top speed. End It Now and Turned To Stone are just two highlights of the sheer power of one of the best bands in the genre but it's on Straight To Hell and Ten Thousand Ways To Die that the band really hit top gear, brooding sinister and absolutely unstoppable. In a year with some of the best death metal releases hitting the shelves (see Hour of Penance, Immolation, Benighted and Memoriam for examples) Obituary has delivered a contender for the top spot. Buy it. Crank it up. Split the skull. Magnificent. 10/10

Svart Crown: Abreaction (Century Media)

Blackened death metal of French outfit Svart Crown return after 2013’s Profane with a blistering release. Abreaction is full of cascading riffs, threateningly evil vocals and blisteringly heavy drumming. The band has been around since 2004 and they know what they are doing. JB Le Bail’s guttural grows adds a sinister edge to tracks like The Pact: To The Devil His Due which drips with haunting malice.

Opener Golden Sacrament nods the head to doom whilst Carcosa is a thrashy beast. With slicing vicious guitar work courtesy of Le Bail and new guitarist Kevin Verlay added to the powerhouse battery of Kevin Paradis’ drumming and Ludovic Veyssiere’s driving bass lines, Abreaction has plenty of slower pieces, drifting perilously close to the death doom metal line at times; Upon This Intimate Madness is a behemoth crashing along.

A hugely powerful industrial sound changes pace on Tentacion before leading nicely into the head splitting Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy. This is not music for the faint hearted. Svart Crown are crushingly heavy, dangerously brutal and clearly give zero fucks. 7/10

The Crawling: Anatomy Of Loss (Grindscene Records)

Anatomy Of Loss is the debut release from Northern Ireland’s The Crawling and it’s a mix of death and doom. The three piece make quite a noise and three years from their formation have started to find a sound which will appeal to fans of the death doom genre. There are elements of the melodic death metal sound similar to In Flames and Arch Enemy in places and a vocal delivery on a par with Angela and Alissa. Acid On My Skin is case in point. Doom has always verged between exciting and powerful (Candlemass) or a bit on the ponderous over bloated sound. The Crawling currently sit somewhere in the middle.

Stuart Rainey’s vocals fit comfortably with the more crushing and plodding elements whilst Craig Beattie’s thunderous drumming provides a powerful backdrop. However, it’s when the band really let loose, such as the middle section of closing track Catatonic that it gets a bit more fun and guitarist Andy Clarke can let rip. The difficulty with the death doom genre is that so much of it is just a bit average and repetitive. Few can match the power of Finland’s Vainaja who to my mind changed the blueprint with their recent releases. The Crawling have potential. Whether they can achieve it is up for debate. 6/10

Axxis: Retrolution (Nuclear Blast)

Axxis have been around since 1988 and this is album number 15. Original members Bernard Weib (vocals) and keyboardist Harry Oellers are currently joined by long serving bassist Rob Schomaker, drummer Dirk Brand and 2015’s addition guitarist Stefan Weber. Described in some quarters as national legends, the band do a great deal of charity work in their home town Lünen. (Cue Smashie and Nicey - Ed) 

I must admit my first thought was more about the use of Retrolution as an album title. For the uninitiated Retrolution refers to a right-wing reaction against modern society and politics. Phrases such as ‘taking my country back’ are associated with this. However, I’m not sure whether the Rhine Valley’s heavy metal veterans are extreme right wingers or not. Reading some of the blurb about the album release would suggest a more naïve explanation which is that they’ve merely merged the words retro and revolution to capture the current increased demand for vinyl in the rock world and the continued interest in older bands. Let’s hope it is that one.

So, what about the Axxis sound? Well, in the main, it’s routine and tepid Germanic hard rock. You won’t get the power metal surge of Primal Fear or Helloween or the onslaught of Kreator, Sodom or Destruction. No, Axxis sit firmly in the bland inoffensive section. Like the bloated commercial excesses of Scorpions, tracks such as Do It Better and the ballad Burn Down Your House are ponderous and unexciting. The acoustic Queen Of The Wind is the lighters aloft moment. It’s a decently constructed song, and Bernard Weib’s distinctive voice (a kind of hard rock Jon Anderson) copes admirably with the soaring range required. 

I just find all acoustic ballads a bit disturbing. Seven Devils and Somebody Died At The Party are just drivel. However, it’s not all bad. The pumped-up power of This Is My Day motors nicely and when the band put the foot down the output is pleasingly comforting, a bit like Scorpions in their prime. It just doesn’t happen enough. Unfortunately, overall this is just a bit bland. 5/10

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