Venom Prison: Animus - Deluxe Edition (Prosthetic Records)
Animus the debut album from Cardiff based extreme metal band Venom Prison was first released in late 2016 and since then Venom Prison have gone on to have major festival appearances at Download and on the main stage at Bloodstock, they have won ‘Best New Band’ at the 2017 Metal Hammer UK Awards and toured with Suicide Silence and Aversions Crown, Gorguts and Fallujah, on top of that their take-no-prisoners attitude to sexism, fascism and general injustice has seen them become flag bearers for those with liberal sensibilities showing that music is the best form of protest. Their debut covers subjects such as social Darwinism, misogyny, rape culture and the rejection of religion and even in this repacked form has enough bile and aggression to make you sit up and take notice, the album has been re-released to coincide with Venom Prison's support slot on Trivium's European tour along with Power Trip (and Code Orange in the UK).
The Deluxe Edition of this album comes with 5 bonus live tracks, including live favourite Babylon The Whore, taken from their debut EP as recorded on their Sacrificial Summer tour in August 2017. They really do a lot to capture the absolute primal aggression this band have while performing live, having seen them do their stuff on a stage (and also I've been told about their now legendary 'house party' gig) these live tracks capture the sonic assault but as for the visual one you'll have to imagine that yourself. The album itself has not changed, their is no need for a remaster or remix as the original was tweaked to the point of pain gripping your throat tightly from the opening distortion Syllogism which has a bass and drum thump that is dynamited out of your memory as Abysmal Agony beats you to a pulp with a barrage of riffs and Larissa Stupar's ultra-violent vocals.
From here there's not a moment wasted for a riff, breakdown, lead break or a chance to get the head banging, fist pumping or the hair windmilling. Venom Prison have taken an old school route to their death metal sound Animus is an unshakeably aggressive record based upon the early days of death metal, there's nothing core or melodic here just nasty, snarling death metal that bears it's teeth at anything in it's past. If you missed out on the record the first time round do yourself a favour and pick up the deluxe edition, then see this band live! 9/10
Stone Leaders: Stone Leaders (Self Released)
If you saw the name Stone Leaders you'd probably be expecting some Southern swagger and a bit of blues rocking. You know some meat to go with your potatoes? However Stone Leaders are a complicated dish, it's Heston Blumenthal in musical form with a progressive prowess that anyone who has heard Haken would recognise but also a metallic toughness associated with Dream Theater or Symphony X. They are one of these bands that don't need long winded songs either as Shot By Lies brings, choppy ever changing riffs, swirling Jon Lord organs and even some funk to proceedings, like Haken they enjoy experimenting with the boundaries of the genre, while Box Of Time is a riff centric hard rocker, Toxic Guide is a well executed ballad that has drama, pathos but also full of technical wizardry.
In the last third of the album this Croatian band turn themselves into a more modern, almost psychedelic act with Seeker and Gravity both adding some Leprous-like percussive complexity, repetitive crackling guitar riffs and buzzing sequenced synth. This record was such a surprise that I had to re-listen to it a few times, I was expecting tough gritty swap riffs and what I got was a prog album that evolves as it moves through 12 tracks, yes there is a little sag in the middle (sometimes in progressive music fatigue can set in) but I really enjoyed this record, from top to bottom it's wonderfully performed, well crafted and vividly produced to make for a pleasing listening experience. 9/10
Purest Of Pain: Solipsis (Self Released)
Many of you may have seen guitarist Merel Bechtold jumping around on stage with Dutch symphonic metal act Delain, she is one of the most recent members of that band but aside from the bouncy metal of Delain she clearly has a darker side as this debut from her other band Purest Of Pain shows, if you want the anthemic joyous pomp of Delain look elsewhere as Solipsis, their debut record, takes its cues from the Gothenburg scene with At The Gates, Soilwork both mentioned in the press along with Arch Enemy and Children Of Bodom. The guitar playing of Bechtold and Michael van Eck is truly a homage to that golden age of Swedish melo-death with thrashy riffs combining with breakdowns as chunky as a Yorkie and lead flourishes that add technicality, pair this with groove-laden bass from Frank van Leeuwen and double kick drums on steroids from Joey de Boer (also Delain).
At 14 songs this album may be a little too long for some listeners especially towards the end with one or two of the songs getting a bit bloated and samey, however after a seven year gestation period you can't blame them for trying to get as many songs on here as possible and for the majority of the record the songs whizz past in flurry of complex heaviness and melodic emotion, a real D.I.Y effort the album was produced and written by Bechtold (although E.M.D.R was written by van Eck), the lyrics came from vocalist J.D Kaye who has monstrous screams and a deep baritone clean and van Leeuwen designed the artwork. Solipsis is a particularly engaging melo-death record that really knows how to balance the beauty and the brutality, if the most recent In Flames albums have left you cold check out Purest Of Pain for your fix. 8/10
Death Keepers: Rock This World (Fighter Records)
Now it's time for muscular metallic hard rock from Barcelona, Death Keepers are what would happen if Hammerfall played early Bon Jovi, it's heavy metal from the glory days of 80's metal bringing in NWOBHM, sleaze and glam metal for one big retro revival. The trouble is Death Keepers aren't that good, the songs are very generic, Fire Angel especially goes on and on and on (also for pronunciation fans it'll be hell), but the most of it is run of the mill stuff, there's very little much I can say about this to be honest it really didn't do much for me, there's no bad playing involved that's all perfectly competent but nothing really jumps out at you. 5/10