Blaze Bayley: The Redemption Of William Black (Blaze Bayley Records)
The third record in the Infinite Entanglement trilogy and the continuing tale of William Black, The Redemption Of William Black is the latest record from wild eyed wailer Blaze Bayley and his backing band who are essentially Absolva. Like the first two records in this series, it's full of fantastical science fiction that sees narration come from Chris Jericho and numerous voice overs adding to the story giving the album a theatrical element including Cardiff's own Rob Toogood (Fuel Rock Club) who once again reprises his role from the last two albums (the villain of the piece) and he's part of the spoken word contingent that drive the concept along.
The opening part of this record has whiff of the old school as the band plow through NWOBHM styled tracks that follow (Prayers Of Light), the tonal shifts are notable where as the previous record had a darker mood this one moves between sombre and triumphant with the sprawling progressive tunes such as Eagle Spirit really giving Chris Appleton (guitar), Martin McNee (drums) and Karl Schramm (bass) enough time to spread their wings a little, that's not to say that they don't show their talents elsewhere on Redeemer they McNee thrusts the track forward with his kickdrums while Appleton layers his guitars for the twin lead sound favoured by Bayley's most high profile previous employer. There's a good myriad of sounds on this record wrapped up in a classic metal package, although Life Goes On bears an uncanny resemblance to The Show Must Go On by Queen.
Bayley himself is still a favourite vocalist of mine, when he's singing his own stuff there are few that can touch him for power and depth in his vocal prowess. The mix of fanciful sci-fi and contemporary lyrics make the album (and the storyline itself) a lot cleverer than a standard heavy metal album can be. Musically the inclusion of acoustics (Human Eyes), layered prog portions and Bayley's theatrical delivery once again make the William Black saga some of the strongest material Bayley has been associated with, a fitting end to the story, it will be interesting to see where Blaze goes after The Redemption Of William Black closes this narrative. In the meantime keep an eye out for tour dates where you'll be able to see these and other songs from the trilogy live (along with classics). 8/10
Conjurer: Mire (Holy Roar Records)
Let’s jump back a bit shall we? I first saw Conjurer playing Fuel Rock Club in the middle of the day at the inaugural Red Sun festival in 2015, since then Rich has both interviewed the band and witnessed them at Ritual festival last year and the other music media has caught up on what we saw ages ago, they have been championed by Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, BBC R1, The Independent and the Midlands band have rapidly become the most talked-about young metal band from the UK. So to say their debut album was anticipated would be something of an understatement but as I pressed play on Mire the opening salvo of skull fracturing, nihilistic heaviness, dual extreme vocals and a scope to their song writing that bands 10 times more experienced wouldn’t be able to pull off, showed that all the attention is warranted and then some.
Their sound and by an extent Mire is an amalgam of the ferocity of early Mastodon, the fret mangling groove of Gojira (bowels of hell bass playing by Conor Marshall), the progressive depth of Opeth and the Britishness of Winterfylleth, a track such as Thankless for instance has 7 minute runtime in which all hell can break loose as Jan Krause can unleash the dogs of war, attacking with all their might one minute but the next you may get a quieter passage replete with noodling clean guitars and then an amalgamation of the both in a sludgy, doomy, noisey post metal menagerie. Mire is the future of extreme music built upon its past but with the fearlessness of youth, Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale mangle their guitars, scream, shout, roar and occasionally sing across 7 shape shifting tracks, Retch being the shortest but heaviest and Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash building and building into a proggy groove so deep you could bungee jump into it.
They have honed the bleak, dark soundscapes on this record through numerous years of touring and the music is more precise and deadly than tea with the Russians, if you have a heart it’ll rip it straight out of your chest and won’t give you a receipt, however you’ll be grateful and ask to go again. Multiple listens enhance this record and it has to be heard in its entirety to really leave a lasting impression, the future of sonic extremity is in good hands with Conjurer. Much like Gandalf do not take them for just being capable of a few cheap tricks, this is real magic worthy of a legendary (Electric) wizard. 10/10
Hyvmine: Earthquake (Seek & Strike)
Hyvmine is the full band project of virtuoso guitarist Al Joseph, he wanted to explore progressive metal in a band setting rather than as solo artist and while there is prog here, the overriding style though is that of American post-grunge metal with Alter Bridge/Creed fusing with the djenty prog style of Tesseract and the more modern Symphony X in use of keyboards and thrash-like riffs. Opening with Shift you get the initial Alter Bridge style that moves into a very synth heavy finale, however Mirror Master really sounds like post Paradise Lost Symphony X courting the American radio with the emotive vocal style but backed by the expert precision playing.
Earthquake really ramps up the palm muted riffs on the chugging along nicely but never takes things to the overly complex levels of Meshuggah etc, it's enough to get your head nodding or indeed start a big stompy pit but the music is still approachable. I must say for all the musical ability on this record Joseph's voice is excellent, soulful but with a requisite amount of grit, on ballads such as the emotive title track he really shows off his vocal and guitar prowess. Yes you read that right there are of course ballads, they need to give Myles/Scott and Mark a run for their money in the seniment stakes. Earthquake is a very satisfying modern metal record that has enough Californian FM radio emphasis and prog metal grunt for anyone. 8/10
Mildlife: Phase (Research Records)
James Donald, Adam Halliwell, Kevin McDowell and Tom Shanahan makeup Melbourne group Mildlife, their musical style is mish-mash of jazz, psych and disco that has been honed by their wild improvisational live shows, nothing particularly Australian at all. The bands entire ethos is too push musical boundaries and much like the British cerebral prog bands such as King Crimson, The Alan Parsons Project and even Steely Dan before them, their expert use of analogue synths which shimmer on The Magnificent Moon as the funk bass line kicks in to give a groove that's irrepressible.
Phase is the band's debut and it's got 6 psychedelic, space rock jams. The funk gets jacked up for Zwango Zop which has a touch of Barrett Pink Floyd behind the Funkadelic riffs. Unashamedly retro Mildlife take you back to those heady days of musical flights of fancy where anything was permitted, their use of primitive musical instrumentation including flutes, Moogs, percussion and of course bass, drums and guitar while they use vocals sparingly, this is more of a stylistic thing than a necessity as the vocals are pretty good. If you were one of those doing calculus during the Summer Of Love then Mildlife will be a the answer to all your proggy prayers. 9/10