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Monday, 11 December 2017

Reviews: Moonspell, Operation Mindcrime, Toothgrinder, Democratus (Reviews By Paul)

Moonspell: 1755 (Napalm Records)

The 11th album from Portuguese gothic metal outfit and what a stunner. Sung entirely in Portuguese and focused on the Lisbon Earthquake of, yes,1755, this is a breathtaking piece of work full of atmospheric operatic soaring choral voices alongside the earthier vocals of Fernando Riberio in the opening tracks, Em Nome Do Medo and the explosive, majestic title track. The language challenges fail to dampen the enjoyment one iota, with Ricardo Amorim’s spectacular guitar work once again thrilling from the start. The gothic elements remain very much intact, and the introduction of haunting strings and choir sections only increases the pleasure. Miguel Gaspar’s solid drumming impresses, blisteringly heavy when needed, subtler as required. In Tremor Dei cruises moodily, Aieries Pereira’s distinctive keyboards providing rich layers. Huge chunks of metal remain, such as 1 De Novembro, which captures the date on which the earthquake killed between 10,000 - 100,000 people, and combines heads down metal with operatic backing to create a superb track. Moonspell May have left it late but 1755 is so bloody magnificent that it’ll crash into my top 20 with ease. 9/10

Operation Mindcrime: The New Reality (Frontiers Records)

The final part of the trilogy that Geoff Tate and his post-Queensryche outfit started in 2015 with The Key comes to a fitting end with The New Reality. Complex and progressive at every turn, Tate has followed his own path with this series of releases. The synths are heavier than in previous times, Tate’s vocals retain their soaring range and a fair bit of saxophone is included in several tracks, such as It Was Always You and the title track. Using the same range of musicians as appeared on Resurrection and The Key, the pace is swifter at times, such as the opening duo of A Head Long Jump and Wake Me Up. Now, I am not that clever at following intricate story lines in triple concept albums, each a year apart and The New Reality is no exception.

The album sits tightly together, whilst as on the previous releases they are strong enough to stand alone. My biggest challenge with this album is that despite repeated plays nothing really stuck in the memory. Queensryche (yep, I’m going there again) grabbed you with tunes that held and had you humming along. The numerous time changes and intricate movements are impressive but fail to capture the attention over 63 long minutes. It’s not surprising that the only track that really remains in the mind after three listens is the acoustic live version of Take Hold Of The Flame. Go figure. 7/10

Toothgrinder: Phantom Armour (Spinefarm Records)

I must be honest, I knew next to nothing about the New Jersey metal core outfit before I heard this release. Metalcore is on a par with sleaze as my least favourite genres and Phantom Armour does nothing to help. This is the second album from the band, and I’ve played it several times without any of it sticking. It’s heavy in places, ticks all the right boxes and Justin Matthews vocals fit the sound perfectly. I just struggle with any music of this style and despite my best attempts this bounced off me like hail off the roof. 5/10

Democratus: Starting Again EP

After a relentless year of hard gigging and self-promotion, the arrival of the debut EP from South Wales outfit Democratus is a real 2017 highlight and a fantastic reward for the band. Congratulations to the guys for getting this out. So, what do you get? Well, five tracks, all solidly produced which kick off with the soaring KSE style Starting Again. Scything guitars race through the track with variation in the vocals. Steve Jenkins has a decent voice, hitting the higher notes with a powerful ease whilst the deliberately lower delivery for parts of the track works well. The lyrics are interesting with much story telling throughout. The politically charged Life For A Life is a boot stomper, thumping riffs and a blood curdling scream kick it off, guttural verses before the spiralling chorus, all delivered to the background of a LoG chug and some very neat guitar work from Kerrin Beckwith and Joey Watkins

It’s evident that the band are tight, with the rhythm section holding everything together in a vice like grip, Stu Rake’s bass and Zak Skane’s impressive drumming rock-hard. Furious Horde is a raging beast, whilst Endless Prophecy sees Jenkins extend his vocals to a screaming approach, something which fits with the aggression in the song but is possibly weaker than his clean vocals. Closer Deity provides more spine-crushing LoG type riffs as the band take a lower level but lose none of their intensity. A slowing of pace works neatly in the middle of the track before the pace picks up towards the conclusion. It’s an impressive release, with the lyrical content reflecting the band’s view on the injustice and despair in the world.  I’d like to hear more of Jenkins cleaner vocals, which are stronger than the growling delivery but apart from that, I can’t fault this EP. 8/10

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