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Thursday, 2 August 2018

Reviews: Graham Bonnet Band, Skeletonwitch, Vermilia, V.E.L.D (Reviews By Paul H)

Graham Bonnet Band: Meanwhile, Back In The Garage (Frontiers Records)

There are few artists in the world of rock and metal whose latest album, 48 years after their first, sounds as fresh as they originally did. The latest release from Graham Bonnet and his band is one of those. A double CD, and following 2016’s decent The Book, Meanwhile, Back In The Garage finds the main man on spectacular form, his soaring voice as strong and clear as ever. Backed by a superb band, this is 70 minutes of solid classic hard rock. I’ve mocked Bonnet before, including in my review of The Book in 2016, mainly for his bizarre lyrics in Since You’ve Been Gone, and his return to the Schenker fold but I must hold my hand up here. This is a great album. The opening salvo of the title track and the rampaging The Hotel set the pace, the duelling guitars and keyboards of Kurt James and Jimmy Waldo adding depth and texture.

Livin’ In Suspicion is full of the kind of pomp that Magnum churn out for fun, whilst Long Island Tea thunders along with a catchy groove, smooth chorus harmonies and a feel that is essentially Deep Purple. Bonnet remains a storyteller, each track with its own narrative; The House is a classic example, a slower paced feel allowing James to display his quality. Alongside James and Waldo, bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone and drummer Mark Benquechea ensure that every note is locked down perfectly. The star of the album is always Bonnet, with his voice as commanding as it’s ever been. 

Check out Sea Of Trees, with its slight Eastern flavour, a classic example of Bonnet demonstrating why he is still delivering the goods at the age of 71. I’m not sold on the version of Tina Tuner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero, (written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle), which comes across like a Tom Jones impersonator but other than that, there is plenty here to get the juices flowing. Bonnet and band are touring the UK in August, and I’m heading to the Muni in Pontypridd on the strength of this album alone. It’s a seriously good listen. 8/10

Skeletonwitch: Devouring Radiant Light (Prosthetic Records)

It’s been five years since their last album, the brutal Serpents Unleashed and with changes in personnel, this is almost a rebirth for the extreme metal outfit from Athens, Ohio. With new vocalist Adam Clemens on board, the band are a solid unit once more and set a statement of intent with the opening eight-minute Fen Of Shadows. Lacerating guitars, bone crushing drumming and Clemens guttural roar tells you all you need to know about this album. 

The ferocity of When Paradise Fades follows, hooks and melody sitting comfortably with the extreme sound. The title track is majestic, a towering tour de force, building with malevolent expectation throughout it near seven-minutes. The guitar work of original members Nate Garnette and Scott Hendrix is superb, their duel approach adding texture to the snarling, visceral songs. By the time you arrive at the final track, the breath taking Sacred Soil, you should be exhausted and gasping for breath. It’s that good. 9/10

Vermilia: Kätkyt (Self Released)

This is an interesting release. Kätkyt is the debut album from Finnish female artist Vermilia. Crammed full of haunting and epic Scandinavian pagan metal, the whole project is shrouded in mystery. I don’t know whether she does play all the instruments, but it presents as a cohesive body of work. Growling black metal vocals sit comfortably with beautiful clean parts; all completed in the native Finnish tongue. The songs themselves vary in intensity, from blisteringly heavy black metal through to the more relaxed natural sound. 

There are plenty of blast beats, tremolo picking and an eeriness which slithers and snakes throughout the album and at times you are helpless to draw comparisons with the work of Danish artist Myrkur. The biggest disappointment is that, as with many artists that work independently, there is an element of repetition which becomes more evident as the tracks unwind. Whilst at no time is it unlistenable, there are times when a directional change would be welcomed. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this release so maybe one to make your own mind up about. 7/10

V.E.L.D: S.I.N (Listenable Records)

Death metal from Belarus with a distinctive anti-Christian theme? If that what’s you want, then look no further than V.E.L.D. S.I.N is their fourth release and it is a battery of bone crunching riffs, spine shattering drumming and a ferocious intensity which could strip paint from the walls. The three-piece, who comprise Tomasz Wawrzak on bass, Romain Goulon on drums and Kirill Bubrik vocals and guitar hit the accelerator hard and don’t ease until they slam into the wall 45 minutes later.

Monstrous tracks such as Grand Day Of Demise, We Will Forever Be and the lacerating onslaught of Throne Of Sin hit hard, low and with huge intent. For a band whose debut album, the delightfully titled Infested With Rats Life, landed 16 years ago, this maintains an impressive focus on today’s death metal scene. Certainly, for fans of Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Dying Fetus, V.E.L.D should be considered worthy to add to the collection. 7/10

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