Doom metal from Sweden? Hey, that's a new concept! Meet Below, a five piece from Nykoping whose second album Upon A Pale Horse was nearly mistaken for a new Candlemass release, such is the doom laden morbidity that crashed down from the first chords of Disappearing Into Nothing. Wave after wave of crushing riffs, pounding rhythms and the demonic screams of vocalist Zeb. If you enjoy the doom melancholic approach then this release will light your black candle. It's a solid, powerful opus which belies the relatively recent time the band have been together. Five years and two albums isn't that bad.
The Coven plods a little but the title track is a stunning ten minute epic complete with narrative intro and soaring vocals in the tradition of Johan Langqvist and Mats Leven. A little more pace with Suffer In Silence, a solid chugging track which allows Zeb to hit his best King Diamond operatic heights. It's good stuff. There is no let up with Hours Of Darkness and the magnificent 1000 Broken Bones dynamic and impressive and uncannily reminiscent of the late great Ronnie James Dio, the 7th anniversary of his untimely passing weirdly coinciding on the same day as the review. Powerful and creative. Closing track We Are All Slaves is another gargantuan piece, full of emotion and huge sound and a fantastic ending to a superb release. Upon A Pale Horse is essential listening. 9/10
Sideburn: #Eight (Fastball Music)
The world of rock and metal continues to present bands who have been plying their trade for decades with little appreciation from the wider world. Or that’s how it feels at times. When you come across a band like Sideburn, who have been chugging away for 20 years and are on album number eight, you begin to wonder who else you are missing out on. Anyway, Sideburn are one of those few bands who come from Switzerland (so not the Swedish outfit of the same name - Ed). #Eight is a dusty, rocky, blues soaked fuzzy guitar driven affair which follows the standard pattern of such legends as AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and Airbourne. In fact, I was convinced they were Aussies such is the swagger which is usually associated with those loveable antipodeans. (Or Countrymen Krokus - Ed)
Sunshine, beer and the faithful 4/4 beat, guitar riffs that ooze with sleazy pub rock, it’s all here. Roland Pierrehumbert not only has one of the best names in rock but a cigarette drawling voice which sits superbly with this type of music. The aptly named Mikael Riffart lays down the simple but efficient guitar work with axe partner Lawrence Lina whist the rhythm section of Nick Thornton and drummer Lionel Blanc are as reliable as the Williams/Rudd affiliation of old. Yes, this is good time rock ‘n’ roll, no frills but lots of thrills. The band kick it out for 45 minutes and include a routine cover of Motorhead’s No Class to bring a raucous release to a stomping finish. If you fancy something for a summer drive then grab the Sideburn. It’s good fun. 8/10
My Regime: Derranged Patterns (Scarlet Records)
Swedish metal output is currently in overdrive with the entire range of genres crossing the decks. Welcome to My Regime, a four piece thrash outfit who nail their colours to the mast from the opening salvo of the intro track for this, their second album in a year. It's a merger of Slayer, Anthrax and Testament rolled into a reasonable thrash bundle. It's certainly nothing new but if you feel that the crunching drive of Araya and co do it for you then you should enjoy it. Apart from the fact that vocalist Spice sounds exactly like the Slayer front man, there is also some heavy doomier elements ala Sabbath.
Check out the mid-section of Off To War which segues neatly from the obvious Slayer riffs which are everywhere on this release. As I said it's not at all new but there are certain tracks which move a little outside the blueprint. The Cage contains the clearest Slayer riff since World Painted Blood but also tries to add some subtle atmosphere and changes which I think works well. The band are tight, with some fine guitar from Marvin Kairenus whilst the engine of Alexander Sekulovski and Bob Ruben provide a concrete platform to thrash it up at full speed. Album closer Time Slipping Out Of Tune shifts to Testament's trademark rampant bass lines whilst retaining the all out Slayer thrashfest of old. Possibly the best Slayer album since, well, probably Repentless. 7/10
The Ruins Of Beverast: Exuiva (Van Records)
Multi-instrumentalist Alexander Von Meilenwald’s project The Ruins Of Beverast return with album number five, the haunting and quite astonishing Exuiva. There are some bands where labels just don’t work and The Ruins Of Beverast is one such unit. Although Von Meilenwald is the sole performer, you would never believe this listening to this work. It is epic in its magnitude and ambition, a shimmering peaceful yet chaotic release which demands repeated plays to absorb. With black metal, doom and death metal juxtaposing comfortably throughout, the only difficulty is trying to determine the massive layered effects which occur in every track.
The title track kicks off with a 15-minute descent into madness before the most unbelievable Sutur Barbaar Maritime, a quite exceptionally evocative piece. The melancholic atmosphere combined with severe heaviness is almost overpowering on occasion, such as during Maere (On A Stillbirth’s Tomb) which meanders and then detonates with equal levels of sinister resolve. The choral echoes in the background merely embellish an already devilishly ominous sound. There are so many influences which ease in and out of this release.
You hear bands such as Finland’s Vainaja, the UK’s Fen and Winterfylleth and Norwegian Black Metal legends Darkthrone weave around you as the music does its work. The Pythia’s Pale Wolves, another magnificent 14 minute plus track even contains the eeriest bagpipes in the background. I cannot conceive of how this sound is created but it is just majestic in every respect. Cross the bridge between Agard and Midgard and enter The Ruins Of Beverast. A journey you cannot regret. 9/10