The Haunted: Strength In Numbers (Century Media)
20 years and counting for the Gothenburg extreme metallers The Haunted, whose ninth album is a tasty chunk of filthy crunching riffs, guttural gravel rinsed vocals and spine busting drumming. I’ve skirted around this band in the past but after listening to Strength In Numbers I will be hunting their back catalogue down. It’s melodic enough to appeal to those who aren’t too stimulated by the heavier end of the metal spectrum but still kicks like a mule. The crushing riffs which open Preachers Of Death immediately get the neck muscles spasming whilst the groove that floods through Spark is intense. With the line-up having been settled for some time, the cohesion in the band is self-evident. 2014’s Exit Wounds brought back Adrian Erlandsson and vocalist Marco Aro whilst it was the debut for guitarist Ola Englund. Three years on and The Haunted deliver on all fronts with Englund and Patrik Jensen in blistering form. The magnificent title-track cannot fail to appeal to anyone who claims to like metal, with climbing scales, chugging fretwork and driving pace, and Aro snarling like a pit bull all over it. Having listened to the AOR wank of fellow Swedes Degreed directly before this one, The Haunted probably pulled me back from the brink. Regardless of my emotional state, I know solid metal when I hear it. This is fucking A. 9/10
Eluveitie: Evocation II – Pantheon (Nuclear Blast)
I’ve never really warmed to Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie. I saw them support Sabaton a few years ago and whilst their blend of traditional European Celtic melodies and melodic death metal held a certain charm, I didn’t rush to pick up their back catalogue. I made time for Helvetios but 2014’s Origins passed me by. Evocation II – Pantheon is the eighth full release and the follow up to 2009’s Evocation I – The Arcane Dominion. The band has undergone something of an overhaul in recent years with four new musicians joining including the excellent Fabienne Erni who adds lovely clean vocals as well as celtic harp and mandola.
As well as that, fiddle player Nicole Ansperger has returned and her beautiful playing is one of the highlights throughout the album. With nine members, Eluveitie is a particularly complex beast but having listened to this release several times, I’m beginning to catch on a little. Sure, it’s a bit twee, and the Celtic rhythms can grate after a while, but overall Evocation II is a solid release. There’s a little too much of the folk, such as on Grannos and Ogmois, whilst Antvmnos includes a ghastly reminder of Simon & Garfunkel with a segment of Scarborough Fair. However, it’s certainly not all bad and the atmosphere created by the Gaulish language and the interplay between the instruments is often uplifting. 7/10
Bobaflex: Eloquent Demons (Thermal Entertainment LLC)
I must admit I’d never heard of Bobaflex until this album landed in the inbox for review. The band hail from Colombus, Ohio and have been around since 2003 when they released their first album, Primitive Epic. Eloquent Demons is album number 8, and if you like the harmonies of Avenged Sevenfold, The Adrenaline Mob and similar then you’ll enjoy this polished release. Four of the band sing on the album so inevitably there are many opportunities for the band to flex the vocal chords. This works well throughout and their three-guitar attack ensures that there is enough riffage to satisfy the fan of elegant if a little routine metal.
Some of the tracks are a little weak, such as the album closer Reckless which feels a bit of a filler track whilst the band’s cover of Pink Floyd’s Hey You is brave. Before that you get a slab of radio friendly hard rock with tracks such as Say What You Will and Real Sadness. Unsurprisingly for a band on their eighth album there is a confidence in their playing which comes across in virtually every track. It’s a bit too pearly white for me but it’s a solid enough album and if you like your rock in the Godsmack, Shinedown and AX7 area then this will be of interest. 7/10
Degreed: Self Titled (Gain Music)
Sweden churns out rock bands for fun. Sometimes they get it right. Hard rocking AOR doesn’t come any better than Eclipse who are one of the slickest bands I’ve ever seen live. Degreed are yet another on the conveyer belt and have some big European supports under their belt. Unfortunately, they sound fucking awful. Saccharine coated Euro pop anthems which would get to the semi-finals of Eurovision qualifiers before losing out to some pretty boy singing about walking home in the rain.
Shakedown, Save Me, Tomorrow, all ghastly but these pale in comparison to the quite bile churning ballad If Love Is a Game. I’m sure these guys would slip comfortably into the line-up at HRH AOR alongside H.E.A.T. and the other synthesising posers but having pushed myself through this steaming heap of excrement twice I’m afraid I’m now reaching for the vodka and the latest Immolation album to ease the pain and wipe out the memory. And what the fuck does Degreed mean anyway? 3/10