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Saturday, 2 June 2018

Reviews: Jonathan Davies, Gazpacho, Nervosa, Gruesome (Reviews By Paul H)

Jonathan Davis: Black Labyrinth (Sumerian Records)

I’m not sure if the debut solo release by Korn front man Jonathan Davis is long awaited or not. Certainly, solo work has been mooted since the early 2000s, whilst Davis played several shows with Jonathan Davis and the SFA, releasing two live albums before disbanding the outfit after the death of guitarist Shane Gibson. I’m sure that fans of the man in the kilt will put me right anyway. With such a distinctive voice, it’s hard to move away from the tunes that he delivers with the rest of Korn, but Black Labyrinth is successful in doing so. With elements of gothic rock, alternative metal and experimental sounds all collaborating to deliver a kaleidoscopic cornucopia of music, I found this a stimulating listen. Final Days for example, contains rich ethnic flavours which coat the track;

Everyone is virtually a pop song in comparison with the pounding crush of Korn, whilst the electronica style of Happiness gets the feet taping with its overlapping waves of synths and guitar riffs. Davis has drafted in some quality to help with the music; Wes Borland, Ray Luzier, Miles Mosely, Zac Baird and Indian born American violinist Shankar all contribute. As expected, much of the lyrical content focuses on the darker elements of life. Basic Needs is self-explanatory, an epic six-minute plus track which features sitar, violin and additional vocals from Shenkar whilst the Depeche Mode feel of Medicate needs little explanation. At 50 minutes in length, Black Labyrinth may be a little longer than necessary, but the creativity which Davis displays in his own style is undisputed. Haunting in parts, sinister in others, the undercurrent of self-harm and misery rarely departs. Yet there is something enticing about this release and single What It Is closes the album in fine style. The wait was probably worth it. 8/10

Gazpacho: Soyuz (Kscope)

Norwegian Art-rock progressive outfit Gazpacho recently released their 10th album Soyuz. Known for their distinctive art rock that balances tense and beautiful arrangements, sinister and soulful melodic lines, Gazpacho's Soyuz furthers their experimental output. For fans of Porcupine Tree, Marillion and Radiohead, this is 47 minutes of intensely complex and intricate music, which doesn’t sit comfortably in any one pigeon hole. That’s not to say it’s not captivating because it truly is an enchanting release. With themes born from the the idea of how beautiful moments pass and cannot be “saved for later”, the music and lyrical content within Soyuz are interconnected tales of people and lives ‘frozen in time.

There is some stunning and multifaceted pieces within the album, no more so than the penultimate track Soyuz Out which deviates multiple times during the 13+ minute journey. Gazpacho draw inspiration from a multitude of eras and subject matters, including the doomed Russian space capsule Soyuz and its iconic captain Komarov; the Tibetan Buddhist funeral practice in Sky Burial; the inclusion of the oldest recording of the human voice from 1860 and the Hans Christian Andersen inspired Emperor Bespoke. With the band landing a decent slot at the Be Prog! My Friend Festival in Barcelona in June, Soyuz should provide a beautiful calming slot which will draw some of the intense Catalan heat that will no doubt beat down. Gazpacho are: Jan Henrik Ohme (vocals), Thomas Andersen (keyboards, programming), Jon-Arne Vilbo (guitars), Mikael Krømer (violin, mandolin), Kristian Torp (bass) and Robert Risberget Johansen (drums & percussion). 8/10

Nervosa: Downfall Of Mankind (Napalm Records)

Album number 3 from the bludgeoning Brazilian trio and another astonishingly visceral release it is. I saw these ladies laying waste to Fiddlers in Bristol earlier this year and their performance was massively impressive. Downfall Of Mankind is 14 tracks of blistering thrash and death metal which leaves nothing to chance. Everything within a square mile dies when this bad boy hits the turntable, such is the intensity with which they play. The deathly growl of Fernanda Lita is akin to a female Martin Walkyier, of Sabbat and Skyclad. With razor sharp lacerating riffs, this album delivers in every area and is as brutal on record as the band were in the live arena. Raise Your Fists! Summarises the whole album, four minutes of sheer intensity which showcases Prika Amaral’s massive guitar groove and the demolition speed of drummer Luana Dametto, who makes her debut on this release. With some guest appearances from heavyweights Joao Gordo, Rodrigo Oliveira (Krokus) and Michael Gilbert (Flotsam & Jetsam) this is an album that is worth the inevitable face pummelling. 8/10

Gruesome: Twisted Prayers (Relapse Records)

For those who are unaware, Gruesome is an American outfit, explicitly formed as a tribute to the mighty Death. With Exhumed guitarist Matt Harvey also supplying vocals, drummer Gus Rios, Possessed guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Derketa bassist Robin Mazen, the band certainly has the credentials. Harvey and Rios were heavily involved in the Death DTA tours that some of us were lucky enough to see at Bloodstock a couple of years ago. Back in 2015 the band released their debut full-length, Savage Land, which was a true Leprosy slab of death metal. Twisted Prayers follows the Dimension Of Horrors EP in 2016 and last year’s Fragments Of Psyche EP. Sticking faithfully to the Death blueprint, this is, in the words of Harvey, “more craft and less art” but despite the trusted template there is much to be admired on this release. Lacerating guitar work, thunderous drumming and the vocal growl of Harvey which hits the spot every time, Gruesome may be a homage but this is a stand-alone release which sits comfortably amongst the death metal albums of the year. 9/10

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