Parkway Drive: Reverence (Epitaph Records)
Having made their mark outside their native Australia with Deep Blue, metalcore mob Parkway Drive have been riding a wave of popularity that saw them reach the crest with their previous record, the victorious Ire. That record cemented them as one of the metal acts of the future skilfully mixing extremity with classic sounding influences and the addition of clean vocals, a first for the band. After this though the band dealt with death, grief and according to vocalist Winston McCall it has made Reverence a more aggressive album than its predecessor. On the immediate thud of tech-metal sounding Wishing Wells you can understand what he means.
Flowing clean lead guitars are hinged on chunky grooves and the breakdown at the end reaffirms their lot as a metalcore band. That is of course until Prey which has a power metal gallop to it sounding a like a fusion of Avatar or Amon Amarth, it’s an arena filler make no mistake and even has Jia O’Connors’ bass high in the mix, which would make Steve Harris proud. From here on out the metalcore is thin on the ground as Parkway Drive have metamorphosed into something wholly more melodic and arena beating.
With religion in the crosshairs throughout Parkway Drive’s sixth record has seen them crawl through the river of shit and come out cleaner on the other side, Absolute Power is a rage fuelled stomp while Cemetery Bloom is the first instance of them breaking away from the anger for more sombre, emotive musical styles although they continue to open fire with I Hope You Rot a track that takes Rob Flynn an co on at their own game. McCall’s vocals on this record are the best he’s done; you can hear the maturity as he can easily take spoken word sermons into throat shredding guttural roars with ease, he’s even got a sick bar or two on Shadow Boxing. I’ve seen there has been quite a bit of negativity towards this record (with one reviewer slating it) personally I love it, it’s the sort of album Parkway Drive have threatened to make since Deep Blue and it cements them as future headliner managing to build on their aggressive metalcore roots but it moves away from them enough to give them wider appeal.
Think of it in the same category of Slipknot’s Vol.3 this will be the record that will take them to the next level, it’s not as instant or euphoric as Ire was but after a few plays Reverence opens up into a record that is the beginning of the next chapter for these Aussie heavy hitters. 9/10
Agrona: Realm Of The Fallen (UKEM Records)
Having finally managed to get my hands on the debut album from Cardiff blackened metal merchants Agrona, released through the UKEM label, guys who know a thing or too about extreme metal. I proceeded to play it multiple times at very high volume and I can truly say that after numerous line up shuffles and honing their (witch)craft on stages across the land the quality of this record is astounding. The finalised line up includes three guitarists, two (sometimes more) vocalists and the now widely expected symphonics making Realm Of The Fallen tour-de-force of epic proportions.
The intro builds the electricity with choirs and chants before the storming The Treacherous Dead starts, it's got furious shredding as you'd expect but the triple guitars of Aeron, Arawn and Phoenix mean that there's a certain density to the riffs that other bands struggle with, listen to the final part where the track broadens out into a crunchy stomp but with fluid leads behind it. On The Treacherous Dead though, the drumming of Ankou is what hooks you in, the syncopated blast-beats giving way to a deafening bang of a gong to shift the pace.
Speaking of shifting pace Apotheosis proceeds to bludgeon you after the progressive styled opener with just traditional black metal fury, not much orchestration is needed here just a rampaging rhythm section as Ankou and low end beast Kreulon. With a break at the mid-section for the spirits to be beckoned as it ramps up again. The playing is brilliant the rhythms section is as tight as a lifeguards Speedos, the guitar playing alternates between searing flesh stripping shredding, stylish solos and even some acoustic segments. Everything here works in sinful harmony with no part detracting from another, even the vocals of Taranis which are akin to bawling of Abbadon himself are clear enough for you to pick out every cursed syllable.
There's rarely a let up in the abuse Burn is a very progressive number with multiple changes all enveloped by evil, following on from Burn is the groovy rumbling beginning of Storms End which returns to blistering form for the rest of the song bringing a maelstrom of mania as Democratus' Steve Jenkins gives a guest performance. As the album progresses the vocal assault builds with Adara adding spectral shrieks making a re-appearance on the closing vortex of Summoning The Void which is the final clarion cry for these devilish denizens of the darker plains. Released in close proximity to the new Dimmu Borgir record Agrona have drawn from them Behemoth, Mayhem and many of the shining lights in black(end) metal, it's a brilliantly realised debut from a band who have become one of the best on the South Wales scene. Get ready to enter The Realm Of The Fallen, you'll never want to return. 9/10
Mask Of Judas: The Mesmerist (Self Released)
Describe The Mesmerist in one word? Chunky. UK tech-metal act Mask Of Judas are an incredibly heavy technically impressive band where the stars of the show are YouTube guitar star Sam Bell who plays an 8-String guitar meaning that the riffs come with complex shredding that can be likened to Meshuggah and Protest The Hero due to his musical dexterity the songs are chock full of jazz-timings, funk rhythms as well as vicious metal. It's Bell's leads that make this album so damn thrilling to listen to, darting between genres and soundscapes like a Hummingbird in a flower garden, the heaviness comes from the remaining members of the band, Jof Walsh (drums), George Bell (bass) and Reece Fullwood (guitar) who provide the thick, fat grooves for Bell to lay down his stunning leads.
You may think that by talking about the instrumentalism that there aren't any vocals but there are and Jo Challen must have one of the best voices in the business today, she has a strong clean that can even move into operatic highs at points but she has polarity in her voice that means she can howl with the gruffness Angela Gossow could never match in places she could scare the pants of a deathcore singer. The Mesmerist has an almost scientific level of musicianship and vocals that shatter the skull, for those of a tech-metal persuasion it'll have you hardcore dancing in the aisles. 8/10
Trevor’s Head: Soma Holiday (APF Records)
I don’t know who the titular Trevor is but if Soma Holiday is an indication of what’s going on inside his head then he’ll be having the mother of all migraines. The band the bear his name play fuzz drenched desert punk, the sleazy trio have gone through several changes in their career but since their 2016 release Tricolossus they have been stomping the boards across the UK as a rough and ready three piece that features shouted, rough vocals from all three as they kick out the jams on their respective instruments.
It’s more than your normal guitar/bass/drums though as they add some flute to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better and tribalist percussion on Departed. Made up of Roger Atkins (guitar), Matt Ainsworth (drums/keys/flute) and Aaron Strachan (bass) this third album by Trevor’s Head is a whirlwind of styles that range from Soundgarden heft on Ghost, to snot nosed punk on Boomeranxiety and Kyuss-like space rock on Welcome (The Unburdened). Critically the vocals will divide any listeners as I did find them to be the weakest part of the record but if stoner garage punk riffs are what you crave then get inside Trevor’s Head. 6/10