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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Reviews: Church Of The Cosmic Skull, Crystal Tears, Black Coffee, Silent Winter

Church Of The Cosmic Skull: Science Fiction (Kozmik Artifactz)

I've always thought that music is a more powerful unifying force than any religion can be and the band that agree with me are Nottingham collective Church Of The Cosmic Skull whose defiantly retro unifying fusion of psych, rock, prog and pop remains as spellbinding as it did on their debut record, This time though it's a little more crafted moving further away from the stoner rock sounds that came on Is Satan Real? to experiment with a lot more with their sound meaning that Science Fiction is a little weirder and kookier than its predecessor.

Opening with the title track the organs of Michael Wetherburn is the prominent instrument but as things proceed you get the kaleidoscopic soundscapes that COTCS are known for as guitar, bass, organs, drums and cello all play their part and if you listen to the hippy anthem Revolution Comes With An Act Of Love you can hear the band's secret weapon which is the vocal interplay between six of the seven members of the band, leader/guitarist Bill Fisher, Wetherburn, Jo Joyce (vocals), Caroline Cawley (vocals), Amy Nicholson (cello) and Sam Lloyd (bass) it's like ABBA playing Sabbath with ELO providing classical backing.

Cold Sweat has the stridding riffs of it's Thin Lizzy namesake, while The Cards That You're Playing has a little more jazz to it as drummer Loz Stone and Wetherburn make it drift over you. Gospel comes on Paper Aeroplane & Silver Moon but hard rocking is never too far away as it peels off into more riff driven progressive music. Yet another interesting release from COTCS a band that are in a category of one blurring the lines between spiritual movement and musical experimentation it's rock n roll Jim but not as we know it! 8/10

Crystal Tears: Decadence Deluxe (Pride & Joy Music)

The fourth album from Greek metal band Crystal Tears is the second with Danish vocalist Søren Nico Adamsen and it's an 11 track affair that features some heavy power metal with thrash metal riffage also doing the rounds on blitzkrieg Evil Vs Evil. The riffs from Kostas and Matt slice and dice with savage guitar interplay through parrying the gruff vocals of Adamsen as they punch with power through Blinded, it gets a bit more traditional on the anthemic Heart Of A Lion (they are from Thessaloniki after all).

Like Mystic Prophecy or Jag Panzer Decadence Deluxe is built on a bulldozing bottom end from Alex and Chrisafis especially on Death Haunts Forever which has pure thrash metal riffage and a snarl to it which gives the entire album a wicked sound one that lets some death grunts come in on My Own Hell. it's not all metal thrashing mad though as Heart Of A Lion is a little more AOR and Bleeding Me is a big burly ballad with layered clean guitars, it gives Crystal Tears a more rounded resume and keeps the interest as you listen.

If I was to give you some advice pick up the version that has bonus tracks as they are two acoustic live bonus tracks which are covers of I'm Eighteen (Alice Cooper) and Tie Your Mother Down (Queen), while Søren isn't Freddie by any stretch but they are done in their own style, something I always appreciate in a cover. Not quite as decadent as I'd like it to be but solid. 7/10

Black Coffee: Take One (Self Released)

If you name your band after a song by Ella Fitzgerald but made famous by Humble Pie then you better not make a mess of the blues so there's a heavy burden weighing on Columbus Ohio trio Black Coffee however if the first track you listen to is the swirling The Traveler then you'd be forgiven for thinking Black Coffee owe a debt to Zeppelin and in a way they do as their musical influence stems from the late 60's and early 70's but they cast a wide net in terms of inspiration, funk rocking out on Psychedelic Red the driving bass of Ehab Omran giving it that Chilli's/Extreme grunt, Hurricane meanwhile moves at dizzying pace but with the cocksure attitude of Buckcherry, as Omran's raw vocals are delivered with rapid fire accuracy.

Justin Young has louche guitar style that drives the stomping Barely Know Her while Born To Lie is the sort of strutting track that Scott-era AC/DC could peel off at the drop of hat Tommy McCullough doing the best Phil Rudd one-two he can do. Take One switches between tackle out hard rocking and soulful psychedelia it's a debut that takes this melting pot of rock n roll, blues and jazz and takes it full force to your face. 7/10

Silent Winter: The War Is Here (Self Released)

More Greek progressive/power metal for you all in the shape of the debut EP from Volos based Silent Winter, unlike Crystal Tears, Silent Winter have a more traditional power metal sound that you'd expect from Stratovarius or Helloween, it's a sound that betrays their nationality sounding more Teutonic (Helloween especially) than Greek. The War Is Here has some neo-classical keys underneath it while Far Away is your obligatory dual guitar Helloween-styled power metal which has Akis and Themis interplaying on top of the punchy rhythm section of George and John (who bludgeons at points in Far Away).

Much of the Northern European sound is due to the vocals of Michael Livas who fronts Fortress Under Siege and is in both a Helloween tribute and a Iron Maiden tribute, he's got a brilliant voice for this music soaring high (or like an eagle flying free) with the music itself at a level higher than you'd expect from a band on their debut EP. Eyes Of The World is bit tougher with sturdy riffs and mid paced plod. Assured, confident, faced paced and brilliant The War Is Here is a must for any power metal fanboy. 8/10

Reviews: Lunatic Soul, Deadly Carnage, Nocturnal Graves, Dream State (Reviews By Paul H & Paul S)

Lunatic Soul: Under The Fractured Sky (Kscope) [Paul H]

It would appear at times that Mariusz Duda is attempting to outdo Steven Wilson in the workaholic stakes. The sixth Lunatic Soul release, coming in the tenth year that the project has been in existence, alongside the Riverside output, is quite an achievement. Last year’s beautiful Fractured scored a 10/10 within these pages. An astonishing release, you can read my review here http://musipediaofmetal.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=Lunatic+Soul

Under The Fractured Sky is a short affair but is 36 minutes of perfection. Composed mainly during the Fractured sessions, Duda worked on the album from December 2017 – February 2018 and the result is another mainly instrumental collection which is intimate, nostalgic and cinematic. The title track is a captivating acoustic number, Duda’s instantly recognisable vocal poignant against a piano backdrop. This album changes direction once more, veering away from the electronica and industrial feel of Fractured into a technical temple which enchants and captivates in a manner which few artists can. There is an Eastern feel to Shadows, whilst the lengthiest track, The Art Of Repairing is simply stunning. Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective and this haunting album demands that you sit back, relax and allow the quality to wash over you. Another superlative release from one of rock’s most interesting and talented individuals. 10/10

Deadly Carnage: Through The Void, Above The Sun (ATMF) [Paul Scoble]

Through The Void, Above The Sun is the 4th full length album from Italian band Deadly Carnage. The 9 track album, is a probably best described as a combination of atmospheric black metal, post black metal and blackgaze. The album moves from more oppressive darker atmospheric black metal, and gets more post, and gazy as it continues. By the end of the album, you feel like you’ve been on a journey. The earlier songs have an Altar Of Plagues feel to them, and as the album goes on, they slowly morph into a more Violet Cold or even Alcest attitude. The denseness, and aggression of the early songs, smooths out and becomes less hostile.

Although there are blast beats and tremolo picked riffs, the way they are played and the production gives them a velvety sheen, that stops them being oppressive. This album is all about creating a cathartic, cleansing feeling. As with the best atmospheric black metal, this album has a yearning for peace about it, the peace that comes from healing, or the cessation of pain. To be honest, I can’t really find anything wrong with this album. Great songs, well played, with nothing out of place to jar the listening experience. It’s one of those albums that when you come to the end of the album, you just want to go strait back to the start and listen to it again.

Having said all of that, I do have one problem with this album. Many parts of this album is strikingly beautiful and subtle. This band can compete with Alcest at their most beautiful and etherial. And they are called DEADLY CARNAGE! I can’t think of a bigger misnomer. When I saw the band name, I assumed they would be a Brutal Death Metal Band. I understand that bands can change over time, and a band name that was once appropriate, can end up not matching the music. But Deadly Carnage’s music is now so far from their name, I feel a name change could be called for. Amazing album, just ignore the name of the band. 9/10

Nocturnal Graves: Titan (Season Of Mist) [Paul Scoble]

This is the 3rd full length from Australian ‘Satanic Death Metal’ band Nocturnal Graves, since their inception in 2004 (although there have been several splits and ep’s). This is a blistering slice of old school death metal, firmly rooted in late eighties and early nineties death metal. There are definite Black metal influences here as well, but as black and death metal share common ancestry, this isn’t very surprising. Simple, tight riffs, thundering drums and viscous vocals go for the throat from the first track Resistance. The riffing is reminiscent of early Scandinavian death metal like Entombed (Left Hand Path and Clandestine era) and Dismember. The screaming, atonal solo’s remind me of early Slayer (before they could play their instruments well) or Altars Of Madness era Morbid angel, and fit well with the songs.

As I said before, there are Black Metal influences here as well. In fact, the second track on the album Roar Of The Wild could have come off the last Watain album. They also sound a little reminiscent of fellow Australian band Denouncement Pyre (not really surprising, as 2 members of Nocturnal Graves are in Denouncement Pyre).

This album reminded me of everything that is great about the extreme end of the death and black metal market. It also excels at the same thing that made early nineties death metal so exiting; great song writing. Each track has a unique identity, and feels like a complete piece of work, rather than just being a framework for brutal riffs and flashy solo’s. The album also has a real atmosphere of evil, and menace which is missing from a lot of modern death metal. Fantastically viscous piece of work. 8/10

Dream State: Recovery EP (UNFD) [Paul H]

South Wales five-piece Dream State recently released their five track Recovery EP. The EP traces vocalist CJ Gilpin’s journey from internal chaos to calm, with each track relating to a stage in her personal recovery. I’m all in favour of anyone getting their shit together and with the band having been announced for several summer festivals including Download, 2000trees and Slam Dunk. The fact that they are at these festivals gives you all the clues you need about the band’s sound. The band’s alt-rock post hard-core style sit perfectly with those festivals. 

I didn’t enjoy the release much at all, but that is more because my tastes sit far away from Dream State’s style. Nasally vocals, repetitive riffs and little to spark the interest. I’m sure their style appeals to the youth, but to this old timer it’s just more of the same music that I cannot abide. Good luck to Dream State. I wish my fellow countrymen well. Just play somewhere out of earshot in future please. 5/10

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Reviews: Varathron, Toundra, Voices (Reviews By Alyn)

Varathron : Patriarchs Of Evil (Agonia Records)

Hailing from Greece, Varathron are an outfit that have long spent time in the shade of the likes of SepticFlesh and Rotting Christ, even sharing members at points (their former bassist, Mutilator was one of RC's founders). Patriarchs Of Evil is their sixth studio offering in their 30 year existence and serves up a cacophonous mix of an extreme metal fans staple diet of thrash and death with a strong black metal undercurrent - wrapped in swathes of synth and melody with a crisp modern production befitting their craft. You could even argue there's strong folk influences in the writing as there's a number of memorable lead lines that are true earworms. Vocals throughout are an echoey rasp akin to latter era Dismember, authoritatively bellowing malevolence throughout with inventive pacing. Percussion is particularly cavernous but doesn't stop rumbling bass from cutting through. Track composition is spot on and the stronger riffs are allowed time to embed themselves. Catchy leads are in abundance and the solo work has purpose rather than being profligate.

Opening track Tenebrous does a fantastic job of providing a quick snapshot of the entire album within a track - setting the tone by flitting seamlessly between melodic black metal and pagan bombast, and closing with a very Rotting Christ-esque lead. Varathron haven't lost their roots though with Hellwitch, Remnants Of The Dark Testament and Orgasmic Nightmares Of The Arch Desecrator (as ludicrous as the name is...) all featuring traditional black metal blasting. I'm sure if you dropped Kampfar and Rotting Christ into the hadron collider, you wouldn't be too far from the mark.
It's clear Varathron are an ambitious band, and understand their need to really create something that'll set them aside from their peers as both an identity and product in order to not be completely overshadowed by their compatriots. This is Hellenic extreme metal done right. 8/10

Toundra: Vortex (InsideOut)

Spanish post-rock/metal instrumentalists Toundra are celebrating over a decade of existence on the circuit. Fifth album Vortex serves up 43 minutes of "post by numbers" guided by the experience and ability afforded by their Toundra's decade of graft. Lead guitars are naturally enveloped in delay and reverb for the bulk of the album, and the rhythm section reinforces with well weighted passages steeped with subtle nuance. Tracks cover the typical spectrum of the genre and explore many avenues of creating those familiar post-rock atmospheres, ranging from the acoustic driven melancholy of Cartavio to the more fully layered and gained up anthem Cobra, right back to the more synth powered and brooding Roy Neary. As a whole, it's a solid album...

But that's about as far as the praise goes on a personal level for me. I find instrumental bands have a finite scope to really achieve something special, particularly opting to play without our oldest and emotive instrument - the vocals. The biggest pitfall is rehashing cliche formulas that you've already heard by other bands doing it better - unfortunately Toundra aren't really bringing anything new to the table. Take the ending of the final track Cruce Oeste which is lifted straight from the God Is An Astronaut or Explosions In The Sky handbook 101. Another example being the long fake build-up as on the end of Tuareg, granted not as quite extreme as contemporaries Mono like to milk. A lot of the technical lead lines come across as more self-indulgent rather than contributing to the overall composition of the tracks, and don't inspire the same emotion I'd expect a real class record to produce. It's all a bit meandering and forgettable, and unless you're seriously into the genre it often strays into elevator-music territory.

I certainly don't want to take away from the musicianship on display, Toundra are excellent at their craft and in particular they deliver interesting arrangements, however they sit amongst a sea of other "post" bands who all play off the same characteristics and struggle to raise their heads above their piers. Vortex has moments of brilliance such as the track Mojave which has a very "Porcupine Tree at their heaviest" feel at times, but across the board it fails to pull the big punches that would set it apart as a must have album. They're not doing much wrong, but I feel they could aim higher. 7/10

Voices: Frightened (Spinefarm)

I've had Voices on my radar for some time now, and more fool me for not investigating sooner. One of the many side projects spawned by Akercocke's hiatus, Frightened is their 3rd release following their critically acclaimed concept album London, an album heralded by many as a masterpiece. Fortunately Voices haven't focused on attempting to necessarily surpass that behemoth of a record, moreover cast their net over a larger span of themes and kept whatever crazy formula they've mastered as is. The result is what feels more like the natural progression rather than the successor, although that's far from playing it safe given the calibre of what preceded.

Frightened takes you on a voyage of many twists and turns, but each expertly crafted track explores its own particular theme. There's extreme metal, Bauhaus, Jazz-structured doom akin to Ethel Duath; then at times it's like as if Faith No More got scary, vocalist Peter Benjamin at the very least rivals Mike Patton at his most varied on record. You're allowed recovery time as the album is punctuated by shorter acoustic orientated numbers like Iwsya and Fascinator, and then pummelled back into madness with tracks that possess real palpable intensity such as Home Movies and Dead Feelings.

For the uninitiated, Frightened is a peculiar beast that claws at you until you submit. It oozes an atmosphere that's as close to unique as you could hope to find. Voices are masterfully showing that you need not subscribe to templates so long as you are consistent in your approach. Admittedly my favourite part of listening to Frightened repeatedly was realising it was an exceptional album without being able to quite put my finger on why - it's possibly because I love that mystery. 9/10

Reviews: De Profundis, Kite, Alkaloid, The Shiva Hypothesis (Reviews By Paul Scoble)

De Profundis: The Blinding Light of Faith (Transcending Obscurity Records)

The Blinding Light Of Faith is De Profundis 5th album. This is the follow up to 2015’s huge Kingdom Of The Blind album. So, is this a worthy successor? Well, yes. In fact, it’s better! The band has dropped the long song lengths and progressive influences, that made Kingdom such an interesting listen. But, don’t worry, De Profundis have become more focused, more brutal, more taught, and are now using their formidable technical virtuosity to beat the living crap out of their listeners. This is still technical death metal, but it is as extreme as this form of extreme metal gets. The riffs are tight and intense, the solo’s, although beautifully played, are used to back up the ferocity of the riffing.

The album is dense, but not impenetrable, repeated listens help the complexity of the riffs and rhythms to open up. After 5 or 6 listens I was still discovering new aspects of this album. There are also some black metal influences in the guitar and vocals, the second track War Be Upon Him being a case in point. The lyrical content is consistent with their other releases. These guys are not fans of religion, particularly the Abrahamic religions. Song titles such as Bastard Sons Of Abraham, Godforsaken and Opiate Of The Masses make it clear that something bad happened to this band when they were attending Sunday school. 

De Profundis have produced a fantastic extreme technical death metal album with The Blinding Light Of Faith. The album is strong enough to stand up to repeated listens, in fact, it’s such a complex piece of brutality that it Demands repeated listens. Highly recommended! 8/10

Kite: The All Penetrating Silence (Sludgelord Records)

Norwegian 3 piece Kite clearly have a problem with being easily distracted. Formed in 1998, it took them till 2007 to finalise their lineup and release some some music ( 2007’s The Hook, The Line, The Sinker). The bands other projects (Tombstones, Dunderbeist, Stonegard) have obviously kept them busy, as in 11 years this 4 track EP is the first music they have produced. The 4 tracks on offer here fit loosely into a doom/post metal template. Powerful mid-paced riffs with a combination of clean and harsh vocals, mixed in with some interesting rhythmic, make this an interesting preposition.

The other influence here is grunge. This is apparent where-ever clean vocals are used, the track Pissingwell (song about recovering from a urinary tract infection? “How are you”? “Much better thanks, I’m Pissing well”), where I can definitely hear Alice in Chains or Soundgarden elements. The All Penetrating Silence is a really enjoyable listen. Good, solid songwriting, with lots of melody. I’d definitely like to hear whatever they do next, just don’t make us wait 11 years! 7/10

Alkaloid: Liquid Anatomy (Season Of Mist)

This is progressive technical death metal supergroup, Alkaloid’s second album. Coming 3 years after 2015’s The Malkuth Grimoire, Liquid Anatomy is a monster of a progressive death metal album. This album is not shy with its progressive elements, opener Kernel Panic is probably the most progressive of all the songs on offer here. The band have definitely been influenced by King Crimson and Yes. I can even hear elements of The Police in some of the clean riffs (none of this is particularly surprising considering the caliber of the musicians in all of those bands). Although this album is packed with progressive influences, the death metal is never far away. This band contains members, and ex-members from, Obscura, Necrophagist, Blotted Science, Dark Fortress, Abhorrent and many other giants of technical death metal. Musically, this is a virtuoso demonstration of how insanely good extreme metal musicians can be. The riffs are intricate, but accessible, aggressive and intense, but also beautifully tuneful. 

The leads are about as good it gets in this sort of music. Every member of the band puts in an incredibly expert performance, I can’t really single out any particular member, everyone excels. The songwriting is there too, these are strong, memorable melodies that keep you coming back for more. Despite the crazy musical skills of the musicians, they never loose sight of what is important, great songs. Obviously, there are similarities with some of the other bands that share members with Alkaloid. Second track on the album Decreed By Laws Unwritten is very similar to the track Ocean Gateways from the Obscura album Omnivion. But, as Alkaloid feature 2 ex-members and one current member of Obscura, it seems a little disingenuous to criticise them for it. 

The album finishes with the monster 20 minute epic Rise Of The Cephalopods (clearly fans of calamari). The song features many different moods and is a beautiful closer to an incredibly complex, well written album. If you’re still waiting for the next Necrophagist Album (face it guys, it’s never going to happen), and the last Obscura album was a little bit simple for you, then this is essential. Best technical death metal album I’ve heard in years! Highly recommended. 8/10 

The Shiva Hypothesis: Ouroboros Stirs (WormholeDeath Records)

The Shiva Hypothesis are a Dutch Blackened Death Metal band, who formed in 2012. Ouroboros Stirs is their first album. The album features 8 tracks, with one track being an intro and the track Build Your Cities On The Slopes Of Mount Vesuvius being a mid album interlude (featuring a badly tuned piano), so it’s 6 tracks proper. This is fairly uncomplicated death metal, the ‘Blackened’ part being a slightly dirty sound to the production. The vocals are very high in the mix, and my be a little of an acquired taste, I don’t mind them, but if you do have a problem with them, then their prominent position may be problematical. The main problem I have with this album is that it feels a little lack lustre. I found, after a couple of listens, I didn’t really want to listen to it again. 

There aren’t any parts thats grab you and make you want to listen to it. The production feels a little off. As I said before, the vocals are too high in the mix, and the guitars don’t feel very organic. This feels like a band that is still trying to find a sound and an identity. It’s the bands debut album, so this isn’t really surprising. Strangely, the bast song on the album is the last song “Spirit Adrift”, which features clean guitar and vocals. The clean vocals are very good, better than the harsh vocals, and the song is well written and tuneful. The Shiva Hypothesis have produced a solid, if not very inspiring debut. Hopefully, they will build on what works on this album, to produce something better in the future. 6/10

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Reviews: Lords Of Black, Awooga, Electric Monolith, The Slyde

Lords Of Black: Icons Of New Days (Frontiers)

Having been following Lords Of Black since their debut album, I've seen them turn from a reasonably underground heavy/prog/power metal band into one of the guiding lights of the Frontiers catalogue. Much of this is due to Chilean singer Ronnie Romero's being chosen as the new vocalist of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, his Dio-meets-Freddie vocal handle the Rainbow material well and he can also be heard on both The Ferrymen and CoreLeoni albums released on Frontiers. His main band though is Lords Of Black and it's here that his vocal prowess is at it's most dexterous.

He's got the gritty sentiment to the electronic mid-paced rocker Not In A Place Like This but he's up there with the top voices in power metal on When A Hero Takes A Fall and World Gone Mad both of which are the kind of galloping Helloween-esque tracks that co-producer Roland Grapow used to shred on back in the day. This isn't a solo record though Tony Hernando is guitar genius, Andy C the ominous heavy hitting rhythms (Forevermore) and new boy Dani Criado the low end. It's a record that sits at 12 tracks of progressive (The Edge Of Darkness), melodic heavy metal, although the special edition features another 6 tracks with two new songs and four covers of Anthrax, Queen, Journey and Bruce Dickinson. It's pretty simple if you like Romero's vocals in anything else he's involved in and if you're a fan of Lords Of Black or melodic metal more generally it's a class A release. 8/10

Awooga: Conduit (Rockosmos)

Awooga (stylized AWOOGA) draw their inspiration from Tool, Alice In Chains, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis, it means that they have transcended their sludge roots with vast soundscapes that means the debut album from these Sheffield progsters is one that flows as almost one long sprawling track that flows like a river of musical influences. The Tool comparisons are clear from the outset as Temporal and Waterhole both are hooked in by Tam Ali's dulcet basslines and his voice that is full of fervour, locking down to some sibling symmetry with Taran on drums.

On Blue Rose his dulcet tone over swathes of Mogwai-like instrumentals but for every fluid melodic shoegazing there's a trudging riff from James Borrowdale that erks out some Mastodon comparisons as the sludge sounds come back. Witness the longest track on this record brings everything that has preceded it together in the most evocative song of the record which shifts through numerous aural textures as it goes on before beautifully phasing into Otherside a track that takes the ambient textures of Steven Wilson. Conduit is a record that sees Awooga taking their own path as a musical entity, make sure to check them out as support to Amplifier later this year. 8/10

Electric Monolith: Resurrect The Dead (Self Released)

Ever wanted to hear The Sword play Budgie? Well now's your chance as Madrid Trio Electric Monolith pretty much do just that, with the title track of this record the main culprit, the echoed vocals of Oscar Chamorro over his flowing riffage as Pepo Villena (drums) and Ramon Viña (bass) plough with some Butler/Ward low end. Yes folks if it wasn't immediately clear Electric Monolith are disciples of the Church Of Sabbath and they have the the chops to emulate their heroes on every song, even having a track named Hole In The Sky. Rifftastic from the beginning to the end and played loud it may stir a corpse or two. 7/10

The Slyde: Awakening (Self Released)

Name the most famous Canadian progressive rock band? If you said Rush then you'd be correct and now you can add The Slyde to that list as well as they draw their major stylistic influences from their legendary countrymen as well as progressive alt rock of Coheed And Cambria and 3 (Back Again). Much of this comes from the eccentric time signatures and Nathan Da Silva's nasal vocals, for the majority of the album they belong to the C&C sound though. Divide, In Silence and These Wars have some frantic riffing from Da Silva that emulates Claudio's use of NWOBHM gallops and post hardcore grooves.

However it's the impressive synths, samples and keys of Sarah Westbrook that really lets this album zing with an assured confidence, she takes the majority of the solos and saturates the record with bristling electronics and even some chiptunes on opening gambit Awaken which is a hard rocking track that could be on a videogame soundtrack. Awakening doesn't do go overboard there are now sprawling epics just contrite, funky, quirky progressive alt rock that lays a baseplate of Rush but adds the alternative rocking of C&C and 3 (who if you love this record you need to check out) and the stylish modern edge of Haken.

It's modern progressive rock at its most daring and musically harmonious buy Awakening and let three generations of progressive rock wash over you. 9/10

Monday, 28 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: M2TM South Wales Semi Final 1/Agrona Album Launch (Live Review By Paul H)

Metal To The Masses - South Wales Semi Final 1, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

A week after the astonishingly brilliant Eradication Festival it was back to Fuel for the first Semi Final of the South Wales 2018 Metal To The Masses. With the ultimate prize a place on the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Open Air, this was serious business. A huge shout out to Alyn and Tim for their organisation of the event and the earlier qualifying rounds, no easy feat to get this together but with the night close to a sell out it must have felt like justification for their hard work.

Opening the evening was Incursion, who must have felt the déjà vu after doing the same for the Mammoth Fest qualifier a week or so earlier. Incursion (6) were on sharper form than their previous attempt and with a hearty crowd giving them renewed energy, Jonny, Adam and Robbie raced through their half hour with little problem. Once again there was no issue about the raging thrash that the band play but as a week before, Jonny’s vocals highlighted the limitations of the band as he struggled with the clean parts. Highlight of the band’s set was the sight of Democratus front man Steve Jenkins lining up against Adam’s mother in the wall of death. Neither gave any quarter and with a BOA place up for grabs Jonny really wasn’t concerned either!

Valley’s outfit Prophecy (5) were next up. Having spent an age getting their sound sorted, the six-piece launched into their truncated set. With a sound that mixes Kamelot with Five Finger Death Punch, Prophecy aren’t an instant hit with a little more attention required to access the more nuanced elements of their music. Fuel’s small stage meant that Joel Christian’s keyboards were located on the floor, dangerously close to the entrance to the toilets! Prophecy gave it everything, and the oppressive heat in the venue was beginning to make viewing uncomfortable so being on stage with the band’s smart outfits must have been challenging. As the set progressed, it was evident to me that singer Dan Griffiths was struggling with his vocals, well, rather ropey, to be honest. A poor vocalist always makes it a challenge to appreciate a band and so it proved with the night air a more enticing prospect.

A total change of style, always one of the joys of the M2TM events, saw Caerphilly based Epsilon (6) hit the stage third. Josh Ball has an interesting presence at the front of the stage, with the band pulling in a different direction to the previous two bands. Fusing their brand of hard rock in the style of Architects, Deftones and even a bit of KSE, the fervour of their supporters was infectious as the band drove forward. Competent in all the right places, my only struggle with Epsilon is that I just don’t particularly like their brand of music and after a couple of tracks I headed to watch from the back of the room.

And then the final band arrived and smashed it big time. Cardiff’s Blind Divide (8) hit the stage like a steam train and rolled everyone over with a display of huge groove and thrash similar in style to the likes of Lamb Of God, Parkway Drive and KSE. Whipping up some hostile and aggressive pits in front of them, Blind Divide didn’t stand on ceremony and bulldozed the audience from the off. Looking around the room there were knowing nods as those assembled heard what would surely be one of the finalists.

Before the announcement of who would had through to the final, it was time for the guest headliners and what a superb set from Agrona (9). The launch party for their superb debut release Realm Of The Fallen, the band blasted through the entire release in melting temperatures. The packed room roared approval of each song and we were also treated to Steve Jenkins adding his vocals to Storm’s End. This band are improving with every show and with the material now honed from continuous practice, there is a smoothness about the band that screams quality. Agrona may have only just released their debut but these guys are heading for bigger things. A great choice of headliner.

And so, to the announcements of the finalists from the first semi final and it was no surprise that Blind Divide romped into the first slot. Their set was impressive, and the band’s tightness grabbed the attention. The other finalist was more difficult to call but it was Incursion who made the cut. On the form displayed at this event, I’d be unsurprised to see Blind Divide ripping up those circle pits at BOA in August. Time will tell. Another great night and the turnout was magnificent, proving once more that the true metal scene in South Wales is very much alive and kicking. Congratulations to all the bands who played on the night.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Marduk (Live Review By Sean)

Marduk, Ragnarok, Infernal War, Unlight, Azziard, The Globe Cardiff

Editor's Note: The below review is based upon the musical performance only, we here at MoM do not in anyway support or endorse political ideologies or ideas that may be associated with any of the bands featured in this review. We welcome all races, religions and creeds to read this blog and would never knowingly discriminate against any person. 

It’s a hot sunny evening in Cardiff, with a temperature rarely experienced but that doesn’t seem to be bothering the small gathering outside The Globe. Clad in black and offset by unreadable white logos, its safe to assume that the individuals gathered outside are here for a metal gig. And not just any type of metal, black FUCKING metal. Legendary Swedish black metalers Marduk, promoting their new album ‘Viktoria’, have returned to the land of the dragon, bringing in tow the equally blasphemous acts of Azziard (France), Unlight (Germany/Switzerland), Infernal War (Poland) and Ragnarok (Norway).

As the crowd begins to swell, a few are joking weather or not tonight's performance will affected by the recent controversies surrounding the Swedish bruisers and their Polish compatriots. A protest? A smoke bomb? PAMPHLETS!? Thankfully not, so with us finally being let though the entrance to The Globe it is up to Azziard to begin the evenings ritual.

Hooded and menacing with riffs to match, the French outfit set the precedent for tonight's proceedings and make a great impression on the quickly increasing crowd. As the strobe lighting bathes their bodies in an ethereal light, Azziard effortlessly converts the audience with their transgressive hymns. (8)

Up next are Unlight, offering a more fiery brand of assault in contrast with Azziard’s cold. Fast paced blasting and punctuated by melodic leads, Unlight get the necks moving with their more straightforward assault. Nothing fancy here, just good old fashioned black fucking metal. Occasional thrashy/NWOBHM riffs rear their head, this author is reminded of the likes of Unanimated and Dissection, before being thrust back into the burning blasphemy that is Unlight. Solid stuff! (8)

No strangers to controversy themselves, Infernal War take to the stage. Whatever misgivings this author may have for them are immediately blown to bits, as the myself and the audience are pummelled by riff after riff! Blast after blast! GOD FUCKING DAMN! Their aural siege creates the first (and many) pits of the night, with every shredding solo ripping the crowd asunder. If every church in a 500 mile radius isn’t obliterated and its denizens within reduced to a mass of meat, then colour me surprised. Absolutely savage! (9)

After taking a much needed fresh air (air conditioning, why u no work?), it is time for Ragnarok. Despite possessing one the silliest album covers I have ever seen (Blackdoor Miracle), Norwegian black metal masters Ragnarok put on a fine show. Possibly the most melodic band of the night, the Norwegians masterfully whip the crowd into a frenzied motion of moving necks and banging fists. It’s quite humbling for this author to witness the band that penned the mighty Murder, great stuff and the crowd eat it up. (8)

As the night draws to a close and after another hefty drag of fresh air, it is time for the final battle. Ominous noises begin to fill The Globe as Marduk take to the stage, looking every bit as grim and prepared for the final massacre. The crowd, whilst exhausted, erupt into life once more as vocalist Mortuus commands the troops on the frontlines with his inhuman rasp. Mainman/guitarist Morgan Hakansson’s mighty war machine unleashes full blown chaos in The Globe, with the audience tearing themselves to pieces in a gleeful explosion of violence.

The Leveling Dust
, Blonde Beast and new song Werwolf spur the soldiers on, never letting up for even an instant! After more than 20 years of existence, it’s truly awe inspiring that Marduk have lost none of their potency. Every blast is lethal, every strike is deadly and that big ol’ bulldozes the crowd into submission. And then it is over! The crowd is left decimated, The Globe is left barley standing and tonight has been an uncompromising display of blackened fury. 9/10

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Reviews: Overkill, Graveyard, '77, Duel (Reviews By Paul H)

Overkill: Live In Overhausen (Nuclear Blast)

Few people in the metal scene dislike New Jersey’s thrash pioneers Overkill. Those that do are wrong. The band were already a vital force by 1983 as the first wave of US thrash bands began to emerge. Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Anthrax and Testament all stood alongside the pioneering assault of Bobby 'Blitz' Ellsworth and crew. 1985 saw the debut release, the still fresh Feel The Fire. Over the last 33 years, Overkill has followed its own path with 18 studio albums, tours and never once have I seen them and felt anything but awe. This is a band who are wedded to their craft and don’t give a fuck about anyone else. As far as thrash goes, I’d be happy to say that Overkill stand alongside Kreator as the two bands who always followed their own star.

Recorded in Oberhausen in April 2016 (re-christened Overhausen for the special event), the band played two albums in their entirely. These were Horrorscope (1991) and Feel The Fire (1985). The band picked these two as they were both celebrating milestone anniversaries. Although only Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni remain from the original wrecking crew, the current outfit of Ellsworth, Verni, lead guitarist Dave Linsk, rhythm Derek ‘The Skull’ Tailer and drummer Jason Bittner ensure that Overkill remain as vital today as they did back in those fresh-faced days of the early 1980s. Listening to this album, it’s impossible not to bang the head, smile at the between song banter and remain in awe at how good music written 33 years ago still is.

Listen to Rotten To The Core, still utterly fantastic. Feel the sharpness on opener Coma, or the blistering Nice Day … For A Funeral. Overkill remain one of the most essential bands in metal and this album demonstrates that to the full. 9/10

Graveyard: Peace (Nuclear Blast)

Formed in Gothenburg in 2006, the psychedelic sound of Graveyard has been around for some time. It was 2011’s Hisingen Blues which really pushed the band to my attention, a fabulous riff and groove laden feast of old school retro sounds but with a fresh take. My live experience with the band has been less impressive, with the band arriving late at BOA and pissed off the stage at Download due to the torrential rain. Having split in 2016, the band reformed again a year later, and Peace is the fifth album in the catalogue, following on from Innocence & Decadence which was released in 2015. Peace contains ten tracks which in many ways are typical Graveyard. The duel vocals of Joakin Nilsson and Jonathan Larocca-Ramm combine to great effect, whilst the riffs remain fuzzy, heavy and enticing.

Tracks such as Cold Love demonstrate the band’s love of a good melody, the Bonham style thundering drums of Oskar Bergheim rampant. There are the usual sedentary moments, which allow you to catch the breath before the next magic carpet ride. Check out See The Day, a beautiful slow paced start which builds neatly before the chug of Please Don’t resumes normal service. With Truls Morch also contributing on vocals and bass, Nilsson and Larocca-Ramm are also able to release some neat guitar work throughout the album. This is a quality album from a band who are clearly intent on keeping their sound at all costs. There was a time when yet another stoner psychedelic fusion would have had me screaming. Graveyard don’t sit in that category. A warm welcome back to a band who on their day are quite special. 8/10

‘77: Bright Gloom (Century Media)

Formed in 2006 initially as a tribute to AC/DC’s seminal 1977 album Let There Be Rock, hence the name, ‘77 is a four-piece rock band from Barcelona. Bright Gloom is their fifth album although it’s the first I’ve ever heard by the band. Full of seventies influences with everything from AC/DC, The Who through to The Stooges and Black Sabbath, evident on the doom riff heavy Who’s Fighting Who, there is much to appeal throughout. The sound is certainly fuzzy and distorted, capturing the era that the band are so heavily influenced by. At times mind, it’s a little too muffled; You Better Watch Out for example sounds like it was recorded in an outside toilet. However, it is the combination of styles which makes this album worth a listen, as no two songs sound the same despite the evident intention to capture a specific sound. 7/10

Duel: Live At The Electric Church (HPS Records)

We like Duel. The heavy stoner chugging, the weed infused chaos that infiltrates their music all get the heavy thumbs up. Recorded in an abandoned church turned DIY rock venue, this is six filthy tracks of Duel at their most raw. Limited polish applied, a rowdy crowd who no doubt all had a few beers on board roaring approval and just some down and dirty Duel at their finest. Massive riffs rain down from start to finish, with the 70s pro-metal sound superb. It’s gritty, but oh so good. Stand out track is probably the six-minute Fears Of The Dead, the title track from their excellent debut release of the same name, which is jaw droppingly good. Duel are a band that I never tire of listening to. 8/10

Reviews: Vega, Hell's Gazelles, Praying Mantis, Head With Wings (Review By Rich & Matt)

Vega: Only Human (Frontiers Records)

Melodic hard rock is a genre not showing any signs of slowing down thanks to quality releases from Frontier Records and one band that is leading the way are British rockers Vega and with the release of their fifth album Only Human they should definitely be receiving a lot more attention as this album is utterly fantastic.

Vega play a style which is a mix of 80's and contemporary hard rock. It's a style used by many current hard rock bands but what Vega have in their arsenal is sheer songwriting skill. There is not a dull moment on the album with banging tune after banging tune all with a euphoric spirit and bags of positive energy. This is definitely a feel good album for a warm summers day. Songs which I found to be particular earworms were Worth Fighting For, Last Man Standing, Mess You Made and the majestic title track.

I'm not the biggest melodic hard rock or AOR fan with my tastes generally leaning towards the heavier side of things but sometimes you need an album which is guaranteed to put you in a good mood and bring a smile to your face which this album achieves wholeheartedly. This album comes highly recommended to hard rock fans everywhere. 9/10

Hell's Gazelles: Take Your Medicine EP (Self Released)

Having supported acts like Black Moth, The Treatment, Desert Storm along with playing Bloodstock Open Air and HRH Roadtrip Hell's Gazelles have been carving up the stages across the country (and Ibiza) with their hard hitting heavy rock. Hailing from the melting pot of Oxford their rock music has an edge to it, you can probably hear it on Planet Rock but that's only half the story, they have fuzzier heavy blues riffs, some alt rock touches and the ear splitting vocals of Cole Bryant who screams his lung out on Stone Cold.

According to Cole this EP deals with "mental health, faith, faithlessness, and disillusionment, both in politics, and in our own personal experience of life" painful words against a punchy rhythms instil this record with a feeling of being a bit special. On the title track there is the fist pumping urgency of Wayward Sons as the surging rhythm section and free guitar playing all make it the best track on the EP, that is until the bluesy She Devil which closes things out with a fat dirty riff, just what you'd want. At just five tracks i's a snippet of Hell's Gazelles but you can take away from it that this band have some serious chops and they will be hitting a stage near you soon. 7/10

Praying Mantis: Gravity (Frontiers Records)

British AOR veterans Praying Mantis are back with their tenth album in their lengthy careers. Following on from the well received Legacy album in 2015 the same line up has gathered to write and record this new album Gravity.

Ever since their origins and debut album Time Tells No Lies back in 1981 Praying Mantis have always had a balance between the harder NWOBHM sound and a softer AOR sound. With the new album the sound is definitely leaning towards the softer end of things although unlike many other AOR bands they manage to keep the ballads to a minimum. Despite a generally softer sound the songwriting on display is great indeed with some absolutely killer, uplifting AOR anthems such as Keep It Alive, Time Can Heal and Destiny In Motion.

Gravity isn't a groundbreaking release by any means but it's a very solid effort with some great songs showcasing AOR for the 21st century. This probably won't win the genre any new fans but should definitely please followers of the band. 7/10

Head With Wings: From Worry To Shame (Self Released)

From Worry To Shame is the debut album from American progressive rock band Head With Wings. Head With Wings are from the new school of progressive music alongside bands such as Periphery, Animals As Leaders and TesseracT. Whilst I'm very fond of a few bands who fall into this new progressive grouping I found From Worry To Shame to be a very dull and unengaging album.

The music on From Worry To Shame is mostly on the light side and written to be very emotionally charged. There are bursts of heaviness throughout the album which I found to be the most enjoyable moments as well as the impressive guitar solos throughout. Despite being emotionally charged I found these songs just left me cold probably not helped by the irritatingly whiny vocals of frontman Joshua Corum.

From Worry To Shame is a very well produced and performed album but the music throughout just didn't do anything for me. Maybe it's something I need to be in a certain mood for or maybe it's just not for me. 4/10

Saturday, 26 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Wiegedood (Live Review By Both Paul's)

Wiegedood & Dawn Ray’d, Louisiana, Bristol (Review By Paul Scoble)

The Louisiana is quite an odd venue (that’s not a criticism). Downstairs is a normal, comfortable pub. The gigs happen upstairs, in a room that looks like someone's living-room. Albeit, a living room with a stage, P.A. and mixing desk. However, the slight oddness of the venue just added to how special this gig was. Wiegedood and Dawn Ray’d are 2 of the best black metal acts currently active. Wiegedood’s De Doden Habben Het Goed II and Dawn Ray’d’s The Unlawful Assembly were both in my top ten albums from last year, and De Doden Habben Het Goed III will probably be in my top ten for this year. So, saying I was a little excited about this gig is a massive understatement. I got the feeling that quite a few of the (quite large, considering it was a Sunday) audience felt the same way.

Dawn Ray’d (9) have a very distinctive sound. The 3 piece ( F. Devlin - guitar, S. Barr - vocals and violin, M. Broadley - drums) stand out in a scene that is stuffed with bands, by using violin to bring melody to a pretty brutal black metal sound. Although, they don’t sound that ‘folky’, the violin plays the part that a second, melody guitar would usually play. This gives their music an individual sound, that is their own. When they blast, they don’t mess about, clearly drawing influences from second wave black metal. At times, I’ve found their more extreme moments to be a little reminiscent of Panzerfaust era Dark Throne (which is the best era Dark Throne).

All the material they played at the Louisiana came off the The Unlawful Assembly album and live it has even more power than it has on the album. The band played with total conviction, the face shredding blasts were perfect. The slower, quieter moments played with delicacy and poise. The violin really gives them an interesting sound, adding melody and tunefulness, even when the guitar and drums were a their most viscous. They gave us a really great set, which the audience obviously enjoyed, and I got the feeling the band enjoyed playing just as much.

Wiegedood (9) have been pretty much the best thing in black metal for the last 2 years. The 3 albums De Doden Habben Het Goed I, II and III have had quite an effect on the Black Metal scene. The 3 piece (2 guitars and drums, doesn’t anyone play bass anymore?), play a style that is structurally atmospheric black metal, but has a sound that is as extreme and viscous as any second wave band. So, probably best to think of them as the most extreme atmospheric black metal band you are likely to hear. There was a air of excitement and anticipation in the crowd in the moments before the the band took to the stage.

Once on stage the band went strait into Oner Gaan from Part I, and totally blew the roof off the venue. Rhythmically, Wiegedood are very distinctive, and live this gives them a savagery very few bands can match. All the vocals are full on screaming, the closest they get to clean vocals, are a few passages where they have a low chanting style, that is quite close to throat singing. This was particularly effective on the song Doodskalm from the new album. When Wiegedood aren’t at full speed and intensity, they slow down for passages that manage to be hypnotic and menacing at the same time. The slow parts on Cataract were particularly effective, every head in the venue was nodding in time. This combination of savage intensity, and meditative menace, make the experience of seeing Wiegedood intensely cathartic. The end of each song was greeted by a huge amount of noise from the audience, it was a set that I, and the rest of the audience didn’t want to end.

I loved this gig, one of the best I’ve been to in a while. I liked the fact that this wasn’t a bill that was put together by simply putting whichever bands are hot at the moment, together. The 2 bands on the bill really complimented each other; musically and also, as far as ethos is concerned. The ticket price was only £10, and the merchandise was really cheap (I bought 2 T-shirts!). Both these bands give a shit about their music and their fans, and it showed in the performances, and the audiences reaction to them. Hugely enjoyable gig, if you get the opportunity to see either of these bands, then go, you won’t regret it!

Wiegedood, Shrines, Jotnarr, The Black Heart, Camden, London (Review By Paul H)

This was a first visit to The Black Heart in Camden Town for me as I was in London for work. For those who haven’t been, the venue sits above the pub and is cloaked in darkness. After the heat of the day in the City, getting out of the suit and into shorts and obligatory black tee was quite a relief. A full house was expected and by halfway through the opening band it was already pretty full.

Opening the evening was Colchester trio Jotnarr (6). The band play a vicious and schizophrenic brand of black metal interspersed with sludgy doom mid-sections which vary the pace and style sufficiently to keep the interest piqued throughout their short set. Painfully heavy, the band were a little disjointed but did enough to warm the incredibly cool room. Elements of death and thrash also surfaced and elicited a warm reception for from the audience. Not really a band I would spend much time exploring but brutally perfect for the first band.

Main support came from London based Shrines (6), a band that featured live member of Akercocke and Voices Sam Loynes. Enough to whet the appetite. However, within minutes of the band beginning their set the room had thinned considerably. Large gaps appeared as big swathes of the crowd decided a pint downstairs was the better option. This may have been because of the clean, mournful but somewhat tuneless vocals. Once Shrines got into their stride the ferocity ratcheted up a few levels. A muddy sound didn’t help, with guitars lost in the bass dominated mix and it was a rather uninspiring set, albeit one that improved as it progressed.

Having seen Belgians Wiegedood (9) at Damnation last year, I was very much looking forward to their set. Their latest release, De Doden Hebben Het Goed III is a total masterpiece with the atmospheric black metal really striking deep. The room filled to almost capacity as the band’s simple red lighting cast the perfect setting for an hour of majestic black metal. With their passages of intensity calmed with delicate almost acoustic sections, it was possible to immerse oneself in the moment.

With sight lines limited from my position towards the back, allowing the band's creative tendrils to envelope me, eyes closed, was an almost religious experience. Well, it would have been but for the bane of gigs at present, the incessant talkers who were so irritating that at one point even the band asked for quiet. I am at a loss as to why people do this at gigs, but it is becoming a blight which needs to be addressed. Despite this irritation, Wiegedood were absolutely stunning and their intensity and pure quality as one of the most important black metal outfits for some time ensured that this was a gig which would be remembered for some time.

Friday, 25 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Eradication Festival 2018 (Live Review By Paul H)

Eradication Festival 2018, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Day 1

Now in its fifth year, Eradication Festival, for the uninitiated is held over two evenings and two days at Fuel Rock Bar, Cardiff’s premier rock and metal club in Womanby Street. The festival showcases some of the best in extreme and heaviest metal from across the globe. Building step by step, as with all good festivals, this year promised to be the best yet, with a host of acts who would bring a vast array of styles to the Welsh Capital.

Day 1 consisted a four band “play-off” for the right to play at one of the most prestigious festivals in the UK, Mammothfest which takes place in Brighton in early October. On top of that, three main acts followed. A very healthy crowd for a Thursday night spilled from Fuel out into the balmy Cardiff evening before watching the opening battle. Incursion (5) gave it a good go but this death metal trio who like to thrash hard really weren’t on top form with Jonny’s vocals a little ropey. A healthy enough response for the Rhondda boys but opening slot is never good, and you felt that with the quality they were up against that it wasn’t going to be their night.

Local outfit Democratus (8) are well loved by this blog and as usual, front man Steve Jenkins played as if he was headlining the closing night at Bloodstock Open Air. Full of powerful jagged riffs, the band raced through their set of melodic death metal with the ambitious but correct step of airing two new songs, the impressive Creator Of Poverty, aimed at the current government and Damnation. Both sounded promising and the new EP should be very enjoyable. The band seemed a little nervous at times, totally understandably, whilst the sound didn’t help that much with Kerrin Watkins’ lead lost in the mix. However, set closer and now firm favourite Life For A Life really lit up the room, and earned the band a deserved solid reception from the masses on the floor.

I must be honest here. I saw last year’s Metal To The Masses winners Malum Sky at Bloodstock and was bored to tears by their music. So, with apologies to them, we’ll move on to one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. South Wales doesn’t have many black metal outfits but the one that is creating waves now is Agrona (9). With the band crammed onto the stage, lead vocalist Taranis choosing to deliver the offering to the masses from the edge of the pit. Having had a sneak preview of their debut release Realm Of The Fallen, and having been told much about the band by Musipedia brothers Rich and Matt, the wait was worth it as the band tore the place apart with their fiery delivery and quality black metal. In full corpse paint and battle gear, the band’s darkness snuffed any light out of the room with Immaterium and Storms End superb (sadly minus Steve Jenkins, who belted his parts out from his seat behind me regardless), guitarist Arawn doing a great job in covering those clean vocal parts. The reception at the end left you in no doubt that the band had done enough to take the prize and so it proved. Realm Of The Fallen is out on 25 May and should be purchased by anyone who likes quality black metal.

The crushing blend of metal, punk rock fury and dark horror doesn’t work on me so I’m afraid that five minutes of the raging HeLL PuPPeTs was sufficient for me but too few minutes to offer a review. There are times when you realise that you must widen the net in your listening. The 40-minute face melting set from Colorado’s Skinned (9) was one of those moments as the Americans grabbed the bull by the balls and blew a hole in the roof with their ferocious and oh so tight brutal death metal. With John Meyer’s imposing presence brooding at the front of the stage, Skinned didn’t piss about and destroyed from the start. A few tracks of the latest and very fresh release Shadow Syndicate were lapped up by a crowd who appreciated the quality. I must admit that I didn’t move much during their set as I was staggered what I was watching. I don’t always enjoy death metal, but this was top drawer stuff and it was a privilege to watch a legendary band in such close quarters.

The hype around Derbyshire’s grind core nutters Raised By Owls (8) has been building for a couple of years and the huge crowd they drew at BOA 2017 is indication of that. Their brand of comedy and grind core is extremely humorous, and the large crowd immersed themselves completely, with the ‘scone’ wall of death hysterical. After a long week and with two days to go, I made my excuses about half way through and headed for home. A great opening night with all bands putting in decent shifts.

Day 2

A shorter visit for Day 2 but just as rewarding. Arriving shortly after 7pm, the masses were once more spilled across Womanby Street and it was again encouraging to see both old and new faces in decent numbers. The set up remained the same but with the arrival of some extreme merch there was more to do and browse. Day 2 had started about three hours earlier and by all accounts there were some impressive sets. Our apologies to all who we missed. Sometimes life gets in the way. Having grabbed a Guinness, it was time to check out the Austrian bedlam of VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC (7). Their music is a blend of goregrind and slamdeath, which according to my research means dancing parts ala Cock and Ball Torture alter with groovy and brutal waves of slam-attacks. Okay, got that? Regardless, the band is a bit different to your usual goregrind, with the pig/duck squealing of vocalist Franz Stockreiter astonishing in both delivery and sound. The drums are programmed and orchestrated by bassist Wolfgang Ott but quite frankly it’s best when watching these guys to either fully engage with the looneys in the pit or sit back and allow the bizarre to wash over you.

The main reason I’d bought a ticket for the whole weekend was to guarantee the opportunity to see East Anglian post black metal legends Fen (9), who were making their Welsh debut. The three-piece, who delivered a masterful piece of work with their superb Winter last year, didn’t disappoint with 40 minutes of intricate atmospheric black metal that was lapped up by the crowd. Whilst some of the more intricate and layered elements of the band’s music did get a bit lost in the mix, the overall quality of their music did get through and it was a superb set.

Following on from such quality was a challenge but Newport’s Death Metal Bastards Desecration (8) are your go to band and Oli, Mik and Andi didn’t disappoint with a cranium crushing set which ran the edge of chaotic from start to finish. The partisan local crowd provided excellent banter which fired the band into a session of brutality. Always a pleasure to watch this gnarly old school outfit, even if they were all over the place as usual.

Day 3

With the great orb continuing its visit to South Wales, Day 3 dawned bright and having negotiated the thousands of families, hen and stag parties in the City Centre, mainly there for the Monster Truck headline show in the Principality Stadium, the sanctuary of Womanby Street was a joy. Opening day 3 were Neapolitan Parthenopean epic black metallers Scuorn (6). Their brand of black metal was an acquired taste but those who had made it in early were treated to a full show with the band, who I understand is a one-man project from the frontman Guiliano Latte supported by a touring party, treating us to a range of traditional Neapolitan folk instruments which added authenticity and atmosphere to their sound.

Next up was one of the bands I had been waiting for, Canterbury’s Wretched Soul (9) who delivered a blistering 30 minutes of their thrash/death metal. The only disappointment was the low turnout in the audience as the band deserved a much larger audience. Chris Simmons clean vocals made a welcome change from the traditional guttural growls but didn’t soften the visceral delivery one iota. The bulk of the tracks coming from the excellent Ghost Road album, with Necromancer, Bury The Heretic and We Made The Gods outstanding. A superb set from a brilliant band.

The challenge of the weekend was to get back into the venue in time to catch every band and Gavin Davies and crew did a magnificent job in keeping the festival to time. Soaking up the sun and chatting to other festival goers delayed the viewing of Slough’s Divine Chaos (8), but their intense death metal certainly agreed with me and the larger crowd who were loving every riff. After a brief wander across to City Hall to see the RAF 100 Year display and a bite to eat, back into the gloom to catch Slovakia’s Doomas (7), whose doom filled dark melodic metal was ideal for the darkness that envelopes the stage area in Fuel. Huge riffs, thunderous drumming and just impressive stuff. Scotland’s Party Cannon (6) certainly brought the party, with balloons being blown up on stage and thrown into the audience but I found their brutal slam death metal unexciting and after a couple of songs and a description of singer Stony’s smart meter installation, I headed back out for another beer.

It was time for another of those must-see moments and a decent crowd had swelled the venue as India’s Demonic Resurrection (9) delivered a fabulous set. Relying on some backing tapes with the absence of their keyboardist, the Indians, led by the diminutive and really nice Demonstealer ripped through 40 minutes of top quality symphonic death metal, with the majority of the set pulled from their 2017 release Dashavatar. I’d seen Demonic Resurrection deliver a fantastic set at Bloodstock a few years ago and the band pushed that show hard. A pleasure to have seen these great guys once more. Final band of the night for me was Grà (8), whose Swedish black metal was top quality. With Dark Funeral vocalist Andreas Vingback aka Heljarmadr adding an imposing presence up front, the band provided one of the most well received sets of the weekend.

With apologies to Dyscarnate, who I had intended to see, it was time to leave. Once again, a fantastically organised and well-run festival, with some of the friendliest folks I’ve spent time with for a good while. Roll on next year and another hit of extreme metal.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Reviews: Reef, Bleeding Through, Willow Child, Limb

Reef: Revelation (earMusic)

Reef were one of the shining stars of the start of that 'Cool Britannia' revolution in the mid-Nineties, before the Gallagher Brothers and Blur stole all the limelight. Their biggest hit Place Your Hands is still played on rock/alternative radio stations across the land to this but as with many of these bands that shone like stars they burned out and in 2000 called it a day. In 2010 they reformed headlining one of the early Steelhouse festivals, founding guitarist Kenwyn House left to pursue his excellent Goldray project and was replaced by Jesse Wood (son of Ronnie). So finally 10 years since their last record and 4 since their reformation Reef have come back, but have they come back brighter?

Well Revelation's opening title track has the four chord sleaze of Bon-era AC/DC and it kicks off some really killer soulful blues rocking, Just Feel Love has the monolithic psych rock tendencies of Wolfmother, How I Got Over is a gospel soul track that highlights the raw versatility of Gary Stringer, while Ball And Chain has hip shaking groove from Jack Bessant and Dominic Greensmith. You get the feeling that if Reef had taken the leap to sound like this back in the day then we'd be citing them as influence to The Temperance Movement and the current crop of blues/soul enthusiasts, perhaps even mentioning them in the same vein as The Faces (First Mistake is old Rod all over) or Humble Pie. 

However popular the band were back in the day on Revelation they sound more authentic and sincere than ever, even managing a country duet with Sheryl Crow with a measured confidence. There's very an album that lives up to it's title but Reef have come back with a real Revelation! 8/10 

Bleeding Through: Love Will Kill All (Sharptone Records)

I (Matt) have always been rather vocal in my dislike of most metalcore bands, the whole genre for me is a little stale but it's here that I will say that I have always loved Orange County band Bleeding Through, their effortless fusion of hardcore, death and black metal symphonics combined with their inspiring nature for anyone that can be considered an outsider, no matter what that means. Nearly 20 years into their career Bleeding Through have experienced great success but not without disharmony as a hiatus in 2014 could have been the end of the band. However now they are back and more vital than ever Love Will Kill All is a vicious, brash recording that is about an hour of aggression.

Just take a End Us which is a pummelling and full of hardcore breakdowns from the dense rhythm section of Ryan and Derek. Brendan Schieppati remains one of the best vocalists around blending hardcore barks, death metal roars and angst ridden cleans, equally the contribution of Marta Demmel behind the keys can't be understated from the gothic church organs on Darkness A Feeling I Know/Fade Into The Ash to the orchestral swathes on Set Me Free, she's always been one of the reasons why I love this band especially as here she also brings an extra voice to the euphoric Life.

Although Brian Leppke's tremolo guitar playing is something to behold. In 2014 this record wasn't on the horizon, however through the blood, sweat and tears comes the most important record in Bleeding Through's history, this is the one that solidifies their return to the battle. 8/10 

Willow Child: Paradise And Nadir (Stonefree)

Erlangen Germany must be a pretty good and happening spot that seems to be stuck in 1969 if Willow Child are anything to go by. These groovy cats are retro to the bone clad in paisley, wide brimmed floppy hats, loon pants their music is a heady (strange) brew of Cream, Zeppelin, Purple and The Doors it's organ drenched blues rocking with the band led by Eva's soulful Joplinesque and Flying V she's the transition between Javier (bass) and David's (drums) rhythm section to Flo's fluid lead guitar and Johnny's swirling Hammond organs. Think The Blues Pills and you're in the right area, the slow burning Little Owl is a proper strat for a record like this as everything fizzes with a analogue crackle as jazz comes in on Land Of Sloe but you get big Zeppelin riffs on Starry Road and pumping Purplisms on Beyond The Blue Fields. There's nothing particularly new here but that's the point with retro rock bands it's all been heard before but it's all about the grooves and Willow Child have got serious grooves. 7/10

Limb: Saboteurs Of The Sun (New Heavy Sounds)

London contingent Limb are three albums into their career and they are still reaching to infinity and beyond, every record they expand their musical horizons into new territories seemingly with the same guto for exploration as the USS Enterprise. Saboteurs Of  The Sun is their latest release and it does boldly go, if I had to describe what they sounded like it would be the result of Orange Goblin dropping acid and jamming out Hawkwind while high as kites. Curse Tablet is a the most straightforward track on the record with a thunderous riff getting the head banging and Rob Hoey's vocals a whiskey soaked snarl reminding me a lot of the sorely missed Viking Skull.

Like I said along with heavy there's a lot of swirling space prog with The Astronaut a Floydian dreamscape, 100 Years as sea shanty for space pirates, Limb have deliberately tried to add a more cosmic exploration to their stoner grooves and it works, from the twitching organ on Wych Elm to the battering Man On The Outside each track is a little conceptual sci-fi piece that will get the pits going wild when they play live. Saboteurs Of The Sun does sound like the title to a interplanetary heist movie (directors message me for that idea) but as an album it'll calm the jitters until the new Goblin record. 7/10

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Foreigner (Live Review By Nick)

Foreigner, Joanne Shaw Taylor & John Parr, Birmingham Symphony Hall

After seeing Foreigner blow away the entire of what was the LG arena 5 years ago while supporting Journey, it was our mission to see these gents headline and do their thing live again. Missing a chance two years ago, with the added carrot of Joanne Shaw Taylor this time, we jumped on the opportunity and made the Journey up the M50 to Birmingham.

As we were distracted by a few pubs that offered us food and ale; Matt and I rocked up into the Symphony Hall at the end of opening act; an acoustic set from John Parr, just in time to hear him tell the story behind and perform the song that gained him his fame; St Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) Clearly efficient on the guitar Parr was able to offer good layers to his performance that was unfortunately let down by his obviously wavering and strained voice, there was nothing wrong with the tune here as most notes were hit, however throughout the song it cracked on multiple occasions which was disappointing to hear. Nonetheless he left the stage to a solid applause from the half filled hall.

A brief break and soon we were treated to the wizardry of Joanne Shaw Taylor (8) and her crew. Having listened to a few of her albums I have always been impressed by what I've heard, being a staunch fan of the raspy vocals in general I have appreciated her from the second I heard her, this however was my first chance to see her perform live. Wandering onto the stage Taylor and her band dressed in their casuals proceeded to rattle through a six song set that at offered a plethora of rhythms, pace and range of vocals from Taylor. You would be forgiven to think that Taylors vocals came at a price of strain and effort at times when listening to her albums, but live it is clear to see that her voice is delivered with ease and passion.

Taylor clearly loves the music she sings and is on a mission to get her bluesy style out there for more people to behold, underlined by the staggering amount of touring she does. However there seemed to be something missing from this set, all apart from bassist superbly named Luigi Casanova were very much static throughout which gave me the feeling that as this wasn't a headline set there wasn't as much desire in the entire of the performance. As a result I struggled to get fully focused. All this aside, the voice of Taylor and here evident high quality skills on her guitar were obvious to see and a joy to behold at times; as she strangled the neck and frets to produce sounds that complimented her voice and style perfectly. I'd love to see this lady again headlining, possibly in a smaller venue where she can commit to the entire performance, as I could clearly see JST has it all despite not firing on all cylinders tonight.

As the light lit over a dark stage Kelly Hansen jumped down from the raised platform centre stage and immediately broke into Double Vision, showing the energy and enthusiasm that trade marks Hansen he buzzed about the stage energizing both the crowd and band mates alike, most people sat around us singing along, this was to be a night of hits presented from Foreigner (8). With little gap the band swept straight into Head Games and Cold As Ice; both delivered with great gusto and from the flawless vocals of Hansen, who in my eyes, is one of the finest vocalists around in any genre. Chris Fraizers drums also stood out for me here, his no holding back he hit every beat as hard as you can not matter the song, old school type drumming really added to the occasion. 

A brief break as Hansen warmed the crowd further, then a bit (maybe too much) back tapping, followed by a quick introduction/welcoming of the man that started the era of Foreigner: Mick Jones onto the stage (not sure where he'd been hiding, Matt and I had come to the conclusion he was ill at the beginning of the set) also to one of the band biggest hits Waiting For A Girl Like You. With the light keys from Michael Bluestien and the slow deep bass courtesy of Jeff Pilson, both complimenting the magical voice of Hansen that did not waver throughout the set, this was a pure beauty to behold. The entire room broke out in song and united to celebrate this piece of the bands history.

After a rapturous applause following this great hit the band showed no sign of slowing down with another two classics consisting of That Was Yesterday and Dirty White Boy, the band continues to buzz around the stage with great passion as if they hadn't been performing these songs for decades. During these songs, and many other's a gaggle of women all along the front row were constantly reaching out and grabbing Hansen's legs, thigh and bottom; at times I thought... what if that was the other way around? Anyway, this didn't seem to phase Hansen too much as he was able to shake off the majority of women with relative ease. 

Next my favourite Foreigner song and probably the most layered of them all. With bouncing drums, bass and guitar from the band and smooth Sax gifted to us from Tom Gimbel; Urgent lit up the stage, band and crowd alike... there has always been something about this song that has put a smile on my face and never fails to lift my spirits, it was clear to see everyone was of the same opinion. Urgent was delivered with the energy and effort which the song deserves, this was a cracker!

After the great set so far and the build to a perfect performance of Urgent, we were then hit in the nads with a very disappointing medley of keyboard drum and them keyboard/drum solos that completely ruined the pace of the set, lasting at least ten minutes these solos weren't even that impressive and represented a bit of a downer for me. Thankfully the band then broke out another bouncy hit in Juke Box Hero following these and were able to just about save the mood and energy of the crowd before it was too late... after briefly leaving the stage to return for an encore consisting of Long Long Way From Home, I Want To Know What Love Is and the sensational Hot Blooded; all of which were performed with the love and feeling we had come to expect in this set. Hansen's voice again showing how he is the ideal replacement for singer Lou Gramm while effortlessly singing I Want To Know What Love Is, with the backing of local school choir which I thought was a nice touch.

Overall I Foreigner were as good as I remember them form when I last saw them, the energy, passion and love for their music is unquestionable and that can be said for their fans too. I'm not sure you will get a poor performance from this band for many a year to come as this business just seems to run through their veins. With a front man of the quality of Kelly Hansen and the experience of Mick Jones too, I think they will be around for a fair time yet. Despite all this the two big marks on the evening that made it fall short of my previous experience were the medley of solos... as a rule these are not needed in any gig from any band, especially in the case of Foreigner. With such a bulging history of hits this time could easily have been used to offer at least two more songs, maybe even some of their more recent offerings such as In Pieces which is in my eyes one of their best and has right to be in a set with the above songs. It perplexes me as to why bands do this time after time. 

The second mark was the choice of venue, I am a massive fan of the Symphony Hall and the perfect acoustics it offers to the crowd. However, I couldn't help but feel that the crowd were shackled to their seats and were trapped at times. A band like Foreigner have so many hits that make you want to stand and move, break shapes... whatever you wish to call it, but we couldn't do that here. At times I sensed the frustration from some of the crowd at not being able to do this, and I also felt a little sorry for Hansen, he transfers do much energy to the crowd and they were unable to reciprocate on the same level. If they return... a standing venue would be much more suited to these rockers. I take nothing away from the performance of the band as it was almost flawless but if I'm considering the experience as a whole it reflects my score.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Reviews: The Damned, Jizzy Pearl, Aura Noir, Mother Trudy (Reviews By Paul H)

The Damned: Evil Spirits (Spinefarm)

I’ve only seen The Damned once live supporting Motörhead way back in 2009. My knowledge of the band was limited to their hits back in the 1980s; namely Eloise and Grimly Fiendish. However, at the recommendation of Krysthla vocalist Adi Mayes I picked up a copy of their 11th album and well, it is just superb. With original members Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and bassist Paul Gray alongside longtime members Pinch and Monty Oxymoron, The Damned have released one of the albums of the year. A timeless album in so many senses, this release captures the original feel and power of the band whilst maintaining a fresh and current sound.

Sensible’s guitar work is fabulous, his riffing on Devil In Disguise, the angst driven soloing on the title track and the subtle undertones on the opening Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow cannot be ignored. Oxymoron’s lush keyboards add depth and warmth whilst Vanian’s dark vocals are just imperious. Apparently, the album has been the band’s highest ever placed in the UK chart, and fully deserved it is. There is not a poor track on this release, but stand out tracks for me include Shadow Evocation, with its gothic feel and dramatic increase in pace as the track develops and the politically charged Look Left. This will feature in my top 20 without a doubt. It’s simply brilliant and I’ll finally get around to checking out more of the band’s back catalogue. 9/10

Jizzy Pearl: All You Need Is Soul (Frontiers Music)

Sleaze fans will be acutely aware of the band Love/Hate who pulled up a few trees in the early 1990s. The lead singer of Love/Hate, Jizzy Pearl returns with a new solo album All You Need Is Soul. Utilising the big drum sound of Dave Moreno (Puddle Of Mudd) and guitars from Love/Hate guitarist Darren Housholder, this is an impressive release. I can’t stand sleaze and even I found it perfectly listenable. Pearl goes a bit further mind you; “In my opinion this is the best record I’ve done since ‘Blackout In The Red Room.’ Now I’m not schooled sufficiently in this ghastly genre to make such sweeping and grandiose statements, but this record is fresh, contemporary and if you like a combination of raw vocal delivery and trashy guitar work then is no doubt most interesting.

The album kicks off at high tempo with You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone, a hard-edged groove underpinning Pearl’s high-pitched drawl. Householder’s guitar work throughout is notable, and completely effortless. The sleaze remains, with tracks like Comin’ Home To The Bone leaving little to the imagination and yours truly shaking his head; such is the typical filthy style and content expected. All You Need Is Soul has swagger and poise and at times it is effortlessly cool, such as the funk-fused title track and album closer Mr Jimmy. 7/10

Aura Noir: Aura Noire (Indie Recordings)

It’s been six years since the legendary black thrash of Norwegians Aura Noir released their last album. The band, whose seminal 1996 debut Black Thrash Attack remains a masterpiece of the genre. Aura Noir of course have links with many other cult outfits including Mayhem, Immortal, Satyricon, Dödheimsgard and Ulver and were the first band to join the Tyrant Syndicate Promotions label run by the Darkthrone duo Nocturno Culto and Fenriz in 2004.

The band remain the tight trio of Aggressor, Apollyon and Blasphemer. Aura Noire is a sharp, 32-minute ride, full of the dark brooding anger and rage that has long stoked the literary fires of the band’s themes. Throat ripping guitar work, battering drumming and guttural roaring vocals combine to provide an ominous reminder that in the world of blackened thrash, Aura Noir maintain the standard for a genre which is too often sloppy and disappointing. This release is neither of those. 8/10

Mother Trudy: Self Titled (Stickman Records)

Named after a Brothers Grimm German fairy tale, albeit one with a rather gruesome ending, Mother Trudy hail from Oslo and deliver 70s and 80s style hard rock with a modern twist. So, what’s the modern twist I hear you cry. Well, I suppose it is the fresh approach which allows a sparkle to a sound that is now embedded in the rock world. The four-piece don’t hold back, crashing their way through 35 minutes of heads down boogie and rock ‘n’ roll which is pleasantly enjoyable.

Andreas Restad has a solid, clear vocal whilst the twin guitars of Restad and Henrik Antonsson ensure that the driving pace never slows. It’s not original and it’s not mind-blowing but it is raucous and rowdy and sufficiently impressive to sit on the car stereo on a hot day whilst driving at high speed. Sometimes, that is all you need. 7/10

Monday, 21 May 2018

Reviews: Doomsday Outlaw, Monument, Primitai, Petrichor

Doomsday Outlaw: Hard Times (Frontier)

Rockers Doomsday Outlaw made an impression on us back in 2016, their debut was filled with 15 tracks that walked a fine line blues rocking and AOR ballads, it was a little too long to be really impressive as I do think quality always proceeds quantity so I was relieved when I saw their follow up record was only 12 songs long. Opening with the swaggering title track it's a bluesy hard riffing number to start with Steve Broughton and Gavin Mills bringing the distorted dirty riffs to this, Over And Over and Spirit That Made Me with Indy Chanda (bas and John Willis (drums) locked into deep set grooves.

The three opening tracks that I've mentioned here show you that the Derbyshire band deserve much of the hype that surrounds them, since their debut they have doggedly toured the country honing their performances into the blues rock machine you hear here. Much of their appeal is due to the tough riffs being matched by the excellent vocals of Phil Poole who reminds me a lot of Glenn Hughes when he's in rock god mode but he also dips into some Myles Kennedy when they slow the record down on the number of ballads that do appear (they are a Frontiers band after all) Into The Light is the epitome of a ballad featuring just sentiment, a piano and some strings. The riffs are brought back with Bring It Home and Days Since I Saw The Sun both of which have the melodic streak that this band balance with the heavier rocking.

Just take a song like Will You Wait it's a ramped up Free track with a chorus to die for or Break You which has a funk coda bringing back the Glenn Hughes comparisons. No Hard Times here just proper British rock music from a band that are slightly grittier than your traditional Frontiers fayre but that's no bad thing. 8/10

Monument: Hellhound (Rock Of Angels Records)

Monument are one of the bands that formed as an offshoot from White Wizzard, as the line up of that band changed musicians involved formed their own acts. The two most notable are American speed metal act Holy Grail and British NWOBHM band Monument, the latter now on their third album have returned again to bring leather and studded metal back to the British scene with a vengeance, with so many American and European (mainly Swedish) acts muscling in on those NWOBHM gallops that came from the back streets of England in the early 1980’s Monument grab the genre by the horns and bring it back to the isles of Avalon. Exploding straight out of the stereo William Kidd takes to the high seas with loud bass riffs from Dan Bate, the twin axe attack from Dan Baune and Lewis Stephens its classic Maiden style from the get go.

Next up is The Chalice which sounds more like more recent Maiden and is the obvious single, the video features a number of British wrestlers as frontman Peter Ellis creates pro wrestling title belts for a number of promotions including the WWE. The Chalice is a more melodic track and as I said wouldn’t be amiss on anything from Brave New World to Book Of Souls with the theme continuing on Death Avenue a song that does sound a little like Rainmaker until it moves into the groovy middle eight and Baune and Stephens let rip. In fact quite a bit of this album is similar to the big hitters of that original scene. It’s an unashamed celebration of the classic British metal bands, the grind of Nightrider is pure Priest (even using their song titles as lyrics) and it showcases the vocal prowess of Ellis who switches between Halford and Dickinson fluidly.

Keeping the pace is Gio Durst who locks in with Bate for a thick rhythm section that’s highlighted by Tommy Newton’s natural production meaning this is the best sounding Monument record of their trio. They are still the flag bearers for the new breed of NWOBHM and this Hellhound is unstoppable! 8/10

Primitai: The Calling (Dissonance)

It’s only been 2 years since Primitai’s last album The Night Brings Insanity but the London metal warriors have returned with their fifth full length. They are still led by lead guitarist Srdjan Bilic and singer Guy Miller their slightly modern heavy metal sound has found them fans from a broad spectrum of the metal community as the band have tread the boards with Saxon, Edguy, Warbringer and even Crashdiet, they combine intense riffs, massive melodies and progressive touch that makes them a stand out band in a crowded scene. 

You could lump them in with bands such as Monument etc but Prmitai’s musical style is more akin to Avenged Sevenfold with the thrash/traditional metal influences merging with more modern sounds and Guy’s muscular voice sounds a lot like M Shadows on Demons Inside as the album progresses you get many more scything riffs and double kick drums. The Calling is a record full of modern melodic metal that has some progressive subtly to it on Into The Light/Into The Dark and the title track it’s a another strong showing from this always impressive metal band. 7/10

Petrichor: No Silver Lining - A Return To Rain (Self Released)

Warning do not listen to this record if you’ve had a bad day. There must be something in the water in Yorkshire as so many of the most miserable bands come from there , maybe it’s the desolate vistas and heavy industry but perennial miserablists Paradise Lost hail from Halifax, My Dying Bride from Bradford, Solstice are from Huddersfield and Leeds where Petrichor come from boast Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and countless others who bring a black cloud to any gathering. No Silver Lining is a re-release , re-recorded, reimagining of Petrichor’s 2016 debut Rain its only five songs long but they are all long, slow funeral dirges from a three piece that have had a good go at mixing black metal fury with occult doom metal. 

The duality of low booming clean and nasty harsh vocals suit well especially when there is also some ghostly female vocals on This Too Must Die, add to this furious drums underpinning the creeping, dissonant guitars and you get a recipe for a thick mix of extreme metal. The production is quite raw and the instruments are quite low in the mix but fans of My Dying Bride or Celtic Frost would be wise to track this record down Petrichor have returned to the rain and it’s heavy storm indeed. 7/10

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Machine Head (Live Review By Paul)

Machine Head, Catharsis Tour, Cardiff University & O2 Academy Bristol 2018

Cast your mind back to 2007. Oakland power house Machine Head released arguably the album of the decade, The Blackening. The band toured incessantly for nearly three years, filling arenas across Europe. Talk of them becoming the next Download headliners was rife. The band kicked things off with a slot supporting Metallica at Wembley, one of the most astonishing gigs I’ve ever had the privilege to attend. Their appearance at Sonisphere in 2009 wasn’t without controversy, but the sight of 21 circle pits across that field was amazing. The Machine Head sun was in the ascendency. The Black Crusade rolled into Cardiff and the Motorpoint was filled with circle pits and headbanging as the band raged. 2011’s Unto The Locust was followed by a smaller venue tour and the subsequent departure of founder Adam Duce, after which MFH dipped from sight. 2014’s Bloodstone And Diamonds, with the arrival of Jared MacEachern, saw the band embark on the Killer And Kings tour, once again hitting smaller places across the country including a frenzied night at The Great Hall in Cardiff University which was full to bursting.

And then Catharsis arrived earlier this year. The social media response was astonishing with its vitriol towards the band. I didn’t enjoy it on first listen, as you will be able to confirm by review in this August journal, but repeated listens have unearthed some decent tracks over time. So, when the band announced their European tour, albeit prior to the release of their latest album, it seemed reasonable to snap up tickets for consecutive dates on the tour as MFH hit Cardiff and Bristol, and to notch up gigs 13 and 14 in the Machine Head inventory.

First up was the Great Hall at Cardiff University on 14th May. Upgraded from Y Plas due to demand, but just as likely because of poor planning in the first place, the Head Cases descended in good numbers for a Monday night. The gig was not sold out which was quite welcome as a Machine Head gigs tends to generate substantial heat from the constant action in front of the stage, so a bit of space on the floor was more comfortable. As Diary Of A Madman concluded, Robb Flynn and co arrived on stage to the opening strains of nothing less than Imperium, a track that is guaranteed to get the crowd moving. And so it proved, with Cardiff demonstrating that the Welsh can pit as well as any other nation throughout the evening. Standing well back from the intense action, there was a constant stream of bodies emerging from the pit in various states, whilst old school pit beasts contended themselves with the occasional foray to the front lines for the likes of Bulldozer, Ten Ton Hammer and From This Day.

By the time Machine Head arrived on our shores they had already completed over a month through Europe and it was evident in their sharpness on stage. Robb Flynn kept the patter to a minimum, although for those of us playing Machine Head Bingo, there was sufficient to claim a full house as the words “stoked”, “circle pit”, “head bang muthafucker” and “show me what you’ve got” all duly arrived. Whilst Flynn maintains the centre ground, focus switched across to stage left and right as trusty lieutenant and lead guitarist Phil Demmell cut some mean lead guitar work whilst MacEachern now looks significantly more comfortable with his place in this cutting machine. Demmell’s lead work was slightly marred by a fuzzy sound which meant that towards the right of the stage it was Flynn’s guitar work that dominated. Behind the front men, powerhouse drummer Dave McClain continued to make everything look incredibly easy.

One of the main reasons to see MFH on this tour was to hear how the new material stood against the hardcore old school material. Placing Volatile straight after Imperium worked well, feeding off the crowd energy. Kaleidoscope remains an enigma to me with its Slipknot feel, whilst Triple Beam, buried in Cardiff between None But My Own and Aesthetics Of Hate remains a real challenge. However, in the title track of the album, the band have unleashed an absolute monster. Both nights saw the crowds losing their minds to this track, which was superbly delivered. The subtle combination of melody and aggression, with the harmonies of MacEachern and Demmell enhancing the tune substantially, and I would wager that this will become a staple for years to come.

Dripping with emotion, it was fabulous to see the huge reaction it received. In addition to these newies, Cardiff’s crowd were treated to a blistering Beyond The Pale which also worked fantastically well. Meanwhile in Bristol, the band slipped in Bastards instead of Beyond The Pale. Cardiff’s gain I would say as Bastards was one of the few tracks that went down like a fart in a space suit, the momentum noticeably slowing. It’s also just not that good as a song. However, that aside, as the night progressed it was clear that the band were intent on giving the middle finger to all the doubters and delivering a show which provided almost too much value for money. Guitar and drum solos provided some valuable recovery time for the crowd, which was probably just as well as the remainder of the set list, apart from Darkness Within, was designed and delivered to crush all before it.

A welcome return to the set, Clenching The Fists Of Dissent was one of four from The Blackening which arrived in Cardiff and was stunning. Sometimes you forget what a great song it is and remains as cutting edge in its political observation today as it did back 11 years ago. Meanwhile, the reception for the two tracks from The Burning Red, The Blood The Sweat The Tears and From This Day completely belied its reputation. The latter got Cardiff bouncing ferociously and that was repeated with even greater intensity the following night. In an evening of numerous highlights, the inclusion of Old probably received the biggest Welsh cheer and the choruses of “Jesus Wept” must have cracked the girders holding the roof on. With the band visibly slicker and tighter than for many years, the Machine Head show remains a steam roller of power and visceral energy. Whatever your views on this band, they work damn hard and give 100% night after night.

In Bristol the following night, with the advantage of the balcony to obtain a better vantage point, and with a superior sound, Machine Head were if anything, even better. Possibly the crammed mass meant there was little opportunity for getting to the bar, unlike Cardiff where a good few punters were going for it like it was a Saturday night, not a Monday. That’s Wales though; heavy drinking as standard. In Bristol, it was gruesome on the floor and the heaving mass of bodies in the sold-out venue meant there was little room for the constantly demanded circle pits. Kudos to the pit warriors who demonstrated admirable pit etiquette, even before Flynn’s reminder about what had happened in Southampton two nights earlier. The pit was, in Flynn’s words, “raging”.

A confident assured speech about the negative response to Catharsis was well delivered and received, although it was hard not to have a wry smile as one recalled the reaction of Flynn to one particularly negative review at the time. Still, the band and many of the fans are past all that now and the bone crunching pit action didn’t let up throughout the evening. Demmell seemed more at ease, smiling broadly at the crowd, and with his sound crystal clear, it was a joy to watch the ease at which he and Flynn shredded through another mighty set list. With the inclusion of old school tracks A Nation On Fire and Blood For Blood replacing the previous night’s None But My Own and Old, it was also pleasing to see that even with such a mammoth set, Machine Head were willing to mix it up a bit. Full marks to a band that have drawn more than their fair share of critics in recent months. Where they go in the next few years is open to debate, but in the live arena, Machine Head remain a magnificent metal force. 10/10