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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Reviews: The Moor, Dark Sarah, Shadow Merchant, Fragile Things (Reviews By Alex Swift)

The Moor: Jupiter’s Immigrants (Self Released)

Venice originating quartet, The Moor is a metal band with a gigantic sound. Drawing inspiration from acts in the vein of Baroness or Mastodon, they are fully capable of being progressive and different without sacrificing any of the intensity of thrash and death stylings.

Lead The Difference begins the record with a juggernaut guitar and drums combination, while Enrico Loghin’s harmonious vocal passages offer an outlandish yet stimulating contrast. The ensuing Jupiter’s Immigrants demonstrates some tremendous prog-death aptitude with the growled verses and instrumental thrashing never clashing with the synthesized arrangements or the melodic theatricality of the chorus, bridge or soloing. The Profiteer is another multi-layered one, its harsh mechanical composition and futuristic effects echoing the dystopian storytelling of a world ravaged by greed and lust for expansion. On a different yet no less gripping note, Thousand Miles Away has a slavishly menacing crawl, a distinctive drum beat, tender weeping from the guitars and strained vocals pervading throughout.

Emulating traditional power metal, Enthroned places emphasis on speed, with choruses to grandiose instrumentals. Inception is not afraid to disperse mellow acoustic in between the ferocious moments, while Odin vs Jesus sounds exactly as epic and thrilling as you would expect from an anthem portraying a battle between gods. Ending strongly, The Alarmist and Dark Ruler amalgamate the ferocious and progressive, with every musician cutting their own unique ideas and every word delivered with the bravery and conviction, warranted by the ambition of The Moor.

Despite growing a name for themselves and courting endorsements from the likes of Mikal Stanne of Dark Tranquillity and Niklas Iseldt of Dream Evil, as well as working with Jens Borgen, a producer of such acts as Opeth and Devin Townsend, The Moor seem to have limited popularity, in the UK at least. However, no one can deny the allure of their experimental yet crushing sound. If their 2012 debut, Year Of The Hunger, caught the attention of all those big names, imagine what Jupiter’s Immigrants can achieve! 9/10

Dark Sarah: The Golden Moth (Inner Wound Recordings)

The Golden Moth marks the final chapter in a narrative this Finnish metal act intend to weave across three albums. They tell of Sarah – a character who must battle the dark side of her persona, and in doing so travel from the underworld to the world of spirits with a perilous enemy – the Dragon - pursuing her. Uniquely, their music has a symphonic yet vaudevillian charm, drenched in sinister showmanship. We open with Desert Rose. ‘’I’m a viper’’ hisses the Dragon – as performed by Jaha-Pekka Leppaluto – ‘’your poisons in my veins’’ answers Sarah – played by Heidi Parviainen. Enthralling exchanges like this one continue throughout, yet they are by no means the only spine-tingling aspect. Commanding guitars underpin the chorus lines on Trespasser, while the verses are orchestral yet no less menacing. My Beautiful Enemy eloquently displays our frontwoman’s place as a classically trained songwriter as we lurch from moments of joyousness to stints of panic and tension. I Once Had Wings begins as a gloomy folk song, before swelling to a crescendoing finish.

Later, Sky Sailing proves one of the most impressive cinematic pieces, and can be envisioned as being a composition for an epic adventure film (should Dark Sarah ever receive the deserved recognition and budget to match their clearly phenomenal sense of ambition). Featuring Zuberoa Aznarez of Diabulus In Musica, Netta Skogg of Ensiferum, and Marko Hietala of Nightwish, The Gods Speak is towering, multi-layered and visceral, as you would expect from a bringing together of some of the most proficient acts within theatrical metal. Bringing the album to a close, Promise is complete with a marching drum rhythm and euphoric guitar solo, while Golden Moth proves an eerie yet achingly emotional ballad.

Like any album taking opera or theatre as a musical compass, this one can seem ridiculous at times. Still, I will argue that it is better for a band to be ambitious and exaggerated, than reserved and safe. Everything from the way the traditional metal instrumentation interacts to the way the male and female vocals play off one another flaunts the influence of foundational symphonic metal acts (Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation) while melding a style and a concept which is unique to Dark Sarah. 8/10

Shadow Merchant: Tomorrow (Self Released)

A sense of psychedelia underpins Shadow Merchant. Tomorrow is their second full-length release, and it certainly makes an impression. Invisible Energy has a familiar classic rock vibe, with a stomping riff and luscious keyboards adding to the vintage atmosphere. While Shadow Merchants Influences are never invisible, they are plentiful and diverse. From the Zeppelin-esque bassy thud and shriek of Beginning Of The End to the intense and brooding New Life, to the musically complex and intricate Stars, every one of these experiments keeps the album from feeling like a retread of ideas we have heard copied countless times. Looking for a metal song? Valkyrie satisfies that craving with its frantic drumming and impressive guitar arpeggios.

Hoping for a piano ballad? Summer is a beautiful and poignant yet non-cliché one. Need something a little more proggy? Silhouette and Adelaide are perfect and technically rich songs, with some strange yet intriguing wordplay. Vocal duties here are shared between Yvonne Blackwell and Howard Whitman, both of whom have their own unique style, which irrespectively mixes well on moments like Moving Standing Still. Overall, Tomorrow can have wide appeal amongst classic rock fans, but also anyone willing to keep an open mind 7/10

Fragile Things: Echo Chambers (Self Released)

Bristol Based hard rock act Fragile Things have been having one hell of a great year. Beginning with an endorsement from Planet Rock Radio, a UK wide tour and a slot at Steelhouse festival alongside Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, they have a lot to be excited about. Expertly combing the Charisma and vigour of hard rock with the smooth production and emotionality of the growing number of sounds labeled alternative, they certainly have a lot of potential. Starting with a punch to the eardrums, the opening title track doesn’t so much try and get your attention as it does grab you and demand you listen on! A powerful riff starts while lead guitars wail along next to it with ferocity and Richie Hevanz (ex-Heaven's Basement) lead vocal lines come in short, sharp surges! Adrenaline slows the tempo a little, yet still has enough hook and distinctive playing to stay memorable. Pick Your Poison brings the two together as the more subdued verses lead into to an explosive chorus and energetic guitar solo.

Disappear even sees Fragile Things perfect a fully-fledged power ballad with some contemplative lyrics ‘Sometimes in life we find our past defines our future’’. On a comparable note, Angry deals with overcoming adversity, with the lines ‘’What if you woke up to find you’re not angry anymore, its time to light up the truth let it chase back the shadows’’ seeming relatable and proving a great example of hard rocks ability to deal in serious lyrical territory. Better Than This serves as a motivational closer, emanating vigour and enthusiasm. For a debut EP, Echo Chambers does more than enough to prove staying power and potential, showing an ability to write meaningful songs with a strong melodic core and a lot of dynamism. There is certainly room for growth of these ideas, but after seeing how far Fragile Things have come in 2018 alone, I can see no reason not to be optimistic for their future. 7/10

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