Pallbearer: Heartless (Nuclear Blast)
Having only recently discovered Little Rock, Arkansas' Pallbearer I have avidly listened to their two previous records and I really think that they could be one of the best bands around today moving away from the abrasive sometimes overly slow delivery of other bands in the doom genre. Pallbearer add a much more psychedelic, melodic sound to their songs, yes they sprawl with most of the songs over 5 minutes long, two clocking in over 10 minutes but the musical dynamics involved means that the minutes fly by as the dual harmonic guitar playing from Devin Holt and Brett Campbell is reminiscent of bands such as Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy along with more modern purveyors like The Sword and even Mastodon. Lie Of Survival is prime example of this with fly away clean guitar riffs moving into the deliberate, heavy riffs associated with doom bands.
On the title track they display everything that makes them great, fuzzy bludgeoning riffs, a heavy low end from Joseph D Rowland (bass) and Mark Lierly (drums), shifting time signatures and sounds that are augmented by Campbell's excellent clean vocals. Heartless only has 7 tracks but they are all incredible, the first four blend so beautifully that you'd be forgiven in thinking they were one song, the album builds and builds releasing every single ounce of emotion on the incredible A Plea For Understanding, clocking in at just over 12 minutes it's a magnificent piece that serves as a fitting climax for a monumental album from the US band. I may be late to the Pallbearer bandwagon but I can see it gaining an awful lot more momentum on the back of this fantastic record. 9/10
Eclipse: Momentum (Frontiers Records)
Those of you that follow the Scandinavian melodic rock/AOR scene or indeed Frontiers records releases will have heard of Erik Mårtensson the vocalist guitarist is a key member of W.E.T, Nordic Union and his main band Eclipse. He also writes for and produces many of the albums released by Frontiers, clearly a man with a Midas Touch for gleaming melodic rock (and a huge work rate) it's only been two years since Eclipse last released a record and now their sixth is ready to drop. Once again it's probably some of the best melodic rock around, continuing Eclipse's upward trajectory as the worthy successors to bands such as Journey.
Since their last record they toured almost relentlessly for two years and having seen Eclipse live I can tell you that this Journey comparison is not hyperbole, they have the ability and most importantly the songs to make it big. Momentum builds just that raising the stakes established on Bleed & Scream and Armageddonize with a sharper focus, huge hooks, impressive guitar work from Mårtensson and long term collaborator Magnus Henriksson that mean that the songs on this record resonate in your mind for a long time. Opening with Vertigo they kick things off in style with a fist in the air rocker, one of many, it's music that makes you want to just go wild, shout along and air guitar with abandon, cue No Way Out.
This record is fun from beginning to end rarely dropping in quality, Black Rain is a heavy one, swaggering and moody it still has a glorious chorus and orchestral elements, The Downfall Of Eden is one of the records best tracks, immediate and driving with a slight folk influenced dramatic track that actually could represent Sweden at Eurovision (it even works in the acoustic version bonus track) even the ballads are tough, Hurt is a darker ballad that could have come off a Sixx AM record with the lush symphonies and sparse delivery but it's the superior hard rockers that frankly litter this album that will make you stay. Momentum is a truly great melodic rock album and I can't wait to see them in Bristol on the 23rd April. 9/10
GraViL: No More Forgiveness (Self Released)
London melo-death mob started out as just two men, since then the membership has expanded and changed with the one constant being frontman Grant Stacy, it's his evil vocals that are the link between this album and the early EP's, the first one I heard being Age Of Corruption which I got in a Darkstore (R.I.P) goody bag. They really found their feet on 2013's Thoughts Of A Rising Sun expanding and rounding out their sound very well and this has continued on this second full length, noticeably darker (if that's possible) than their first record the band has always been politically/personally charged and with the current state of the world this record is angry and remorseful in equal measure but with hope cutting through.
According to frontman Grant "There is a massive sub-context of loss within the new album, with 2016 notably being a brutal year, however No More Forgiveness pulls in a lot of strength from negativity." That brutality is reflected in the songs, it's pummelling death metal with furious guitar solos, bullet train speed drumming and industrial touches (Locate The Traitor) that means the tracks stomp, crush and groove in equal measure.
With the furious riffage of I Am Blood, the grinding riff of Plagues, Thieves And Murderers and the symphonic curve-ball of Fractured, Divided which adds soaring female vocals. GraViL are still a major force in the UK underground scene but I can see No More Forgiveness taking them to that next level, four years on from their debut and GraViL retain the high quality melodic death metal heard on their debut. 8/10