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Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Reviews: Devin Townsend Project, Obscura, Snew, Embrace Of Thorns (Reviews By Rich & Paul H)

Devin Townsend Project: Ocean Machine - Live At The Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv (InsideOut Record) [Review By Rich]

This live release signals the end of an era and that is the conclusion of the Devin Townsend Project which is the band which has been recording and touring with Devin Townsend for the past 9 years. I have had the fortune to see the Devin Townsend Project perform live multiple times and they are a fantastic bunch of musicians who perfectly compliment Devin Townsend. If this is to be the final release from the band then it is an absolutely spectacular way to bring it to an end.

This live album which was recorded in the Ancient Roman Theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria is comprised of two sets. The first set is a fan requested greatest hits set performed alongside the Orchestra Of Plovdiv State Opera which adds a whole new dimension to songs which are already magnificently epic. The set spans Devin's solo career showcasing his diversity as a writer and musician with songs from albums such as Infinity, Accelerated Evolution, Ziltoid The Omniscient, Terria and latest album Transcendence. The orchestra adds a subtle extra layer to the songs making the huge and larger than life songs such as Truth, By Your Command and Bad Devil sound even more spectacular whilst bringing an added layer of poignancy to the softer and more introspective songs such as Canada and Deep Peace.

For the second set we see the Devin Townsend Project minus orchestra performing the entirety of the classic Ocean Machine: Biomech album. Seen as Devin's first solo album (although this was actually the ridiculously and brilliantly silly Punky Bruster: Cooked On Phonics album) this was the first album where we were introduced to the huge, epic and progressive sound we now associate with Devin. It's an album seen as one of Devin's finest and the live performance is absolutely flawless maybe even surpassing the original recordings. There are a few minor subtle changes throughout which only the hardcore Devin fan will notice but which don't detract from the original songs. There's a reason this album is so highly regarded and that is the quality of the songs from Life To Night to Hide Nowhere this is chock full of timeless classic Devin. The highlight though is the sombre and melancholic trilogy of Funeral, Bastard and The Death Of Music which to me is some of the finest material Devin has ever written and here it sounds absolutely sumptuous.

This is another superb live album from Devin Townsend and an absolutely fitting way to bring Devin Townsend Project to a close. Devin himself is continuing on as a solo artist with multiple albums on the way and a few of the other DTP members have gone on to form iMonolith so we haven't seen the last of these talented musicians. Hopefully one day the Devin Townsend Project will return but until then this is a fantastic way to bow out. 10/10

Obscura: Diluvium (Relapse Records) [Review By Rich]

Technical death metal is a style I have a tricky relationship with. When it is done right it's a wholly rewarded, inspiring and awe-inducing listening experience but it can so easily fall into the trap of becoming pretentious musical wankery with lots of style but very little substance. Germany's Obscura have always been one band from this subgenre that stood out more than most especially with their brilliant 2009 album Cosmogenesis. The albums that followed that release were solid yet slightly unspectacular and with the release of fifth album Diluvium there's definitely a marked improvement.

Obscura have always stood out amongst the legions of other technical death metal bands due to the inclusion of influences from the progressive metal genre which has given the band a more interesting and expansive sound than many of their contemporaries. The man who holds this band together is lead guitarist Rafael Trujillo with his blinding playing which whilst flashy is always within the context of the song. The songwriting is vastly improved on Diluvium with a more structured and cohesive songwriting approach and the inclusion of some new elements such as the symphonic strings on Ethereal Skies. There is also a melodic sensibility evident especially on the title track and brilliant Mortification Of The Vulgar Sun.

Whilst the best material Obscura have released in years there are several songs which my memory simply will not retain proving that Diluvium maybe is an album that requires several listens to fully digest. Despite a few minor shortcomings this is easily the best release the band have put out since Cosmogenesis and will definitely be making the top album lists for many people in 2018. 8/10

Snew: You’ve Got Some Nerve (Self Released) [Review By Paul H]

With a sound that sits comfortably in the AC/DC and Rose Tattoo arena, Californian band Snew’s fourth release is basically one big party album, full of stomping hard rock. Although the press references Deep Purple and Whitesnake as similar outfits, this album veers much more towards the antipodean stomp of Angus and Angry. Simple yet effective four bar boogie, completed by the gravel soaked vocal of Curtis Don Vito, who manages to achieve a cross between the sleaze of Bon Scott, the snarl of Mark Torino and the shriek of Udo Dirkschneider.

With tracks including the thundering Holy Hell, UR Freaking Me Out and the smouldering thump of You Tell Me and Revolution Is A Closed Loop all drenched in the blues and tightly delivered by Andy Lux, the excellently named Lenny Spickle and Mark Ohrenberger, You’ve Got Some Nerve is an album built for long drives, late night parties and any time where you are having a good time. It won’t break the mould for originality, but it does put a smile on your face which is what you often need. Heads down rock ‘n’ roll. You’ve Got Some Nerve! 7/10

Embrace Of Thorns: Scorn Aesthetics (Iron Bonehead Productions) [Review By Paul H]

Scorn Aesthetics is the fifth album from the Greek black and death metal outfit who have been around since 1999. This is the first album since 2014’s Darkness Impenetrable and it’s a blistering thunderous affair, once you’ve got past the band’s ridiculous names. Yes, the band members pseudonyms are guitarists The Fallen Angel Of Fornication and Herald Of Demonic Pestilence, vocals and bass from Archfiend Devil Pig, bass from the angelic Rampike and drummer Maelstrom. 

When you realise that these mask the slightly more traditional names of Nick, Kostas, John, Stergios and Haris then they don’t seem quite as sinister. Regardless of this, their music is evil and full of nihilistic anti-religious vitriol which spews forth as if from the arse of old Nick himself. Penultimate track In Our Image, After Our Own Likeness, all nine-minutes+ is probably the pick of the tracks, a brooding, malevolent snarl which opens slowly but picks up speed like a raging bull. If you can get past the ridiculous names, and yes, I know this is part of the whole black metal thing, Embrace Of Thorns is a band you really need to get involved with. Their brutality and smouldering hate perfect for a sunny afternoon. 8/10

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