Anathema: Internal Landscapes 2008-18 (Kscope Records) [Paul H]
The tenth anniversary of progressive label Kscope is a milestone that is worth raising a glass for. The label has been massively influential in the progressive rock scene, with a real who’s who of artists stabling with them. Iamthemorning, Steven Wilson, Gazpacho, Blackfield, Porcupine Tree, Godsticks, Lunatic Soul, Nordic Giants and Porcupine Tree are just a few. Add to that list Anathema. The Liverpudlians have spent the past decade nestled under the label’s wing, and it has certainly coincided with the emergence of one of the finest bands that the UK has ever produced. In his opening liner notes on this beautifully curated compilation, Daniel Cavanagh says “from the moment we agreed to a deal with Kscope in 2008 it felt that we were ready for a new beginning”.
During that decade the band released four quite breath-taking studio albums, each evolving organically, as well as a plethora of live releases and what Cavanagh terms “interim albums”. What’s particularly interesting about this release is that whilst it contains some of the best loved songs that the band have ever released, it also charts the highs and lows which they experienced. The creative peaks, the camaraderie in the studio and on the road, through to the melancholy that individual members experienced as they dealt with their personal demons and managed the slow but steady trajectory that their craft so richly deserves.
Tracks from Weather Systems, We’re Here Because We’re Here, Distant Satellites and 2017’s The Optimist all fit perfectly with the inevitable anthems of Untouchable. Part I and Part II sandwiched between Anathema and Thin Air. The inclusion of two tracks from those ‘interim albums’ ensures full representation from across the catalogue. The Goosebumps stood highest with the Dave Stewart collaboration and orchestral reinterpretation of J’ai Fait Une Promesse, released on the 2011 Falling Deeper album but originally on the band’s 1993 debut album Serenades. The 2008 acoustic release Hindsight is represented with Are You There? which originally featured on 2003’s A Natural Disaster. If this was the last set list I ever listened to, I would die a contented man. If there is a better, more progressive and intelligent band than Anathema then I don’t want to hear them. This is perfection. It may be a compilation album, but what a superb showcase of ten years’ worth of work from a band who can do no wrong in my eyes and ears. Buy it. Listen to it. Smile, weep, reflect and enjoy. 10/10
Cancer: Shadow Gripped (Peaceville Records) [Paul H]
Ironbridge death metal legends Cancer return from the studio with Shadow Gripped, their first release since 2005 and the first to feature the original line up of John Walker, Carl Stokes and Ian Buchanan since 1995. It was first time to return to 1990 and a quick spin of To The Gory End which always stokes the fires before commencing the wrestling match with album number 6. Shadow Gripped doesn’t disappoint, with ten tracks of gnarly, fiery and positively filthy old school death metal. Sometimes the simplest approach is the most effective, and tracks such as Ballcutter, Organ Snatcher and the brutally sinister Garrotte bludgeon without mercy. This is Cancer stripping back to the old days, peeling off the crap that critics have showered and lambasted them with post Death Shall Rise.
Having played the festival circuit for several years, the trio decided to head back to the studio with the sole intention of pleasing themselves with their output. As John Walker stated in the latest edition of the excellent Zero Tolerance, “we got the bug again. Yet we didn’t have any expectations, beyond pleasing ourselves”. It may be nothing particularly new, but the return to the sound which made those first two albums such cult classics is certainly in evidence on Shadow Gripped. There may not be as much flair and the band are possibly playing it safe but fuck, this is Cancer. They dictate their own path. If you don’t like it, I doubt they really care. 8/10
Terrorizer: Caustic Attack (The End Records) [Sean]
As we unwillingly subjected to passage of time, some of us are privileged to age like fine wine and mellow with each passing year. Others, however, remain as cantankerous and as angry as the day they were freed from their fleshy prison. No signs of mellowing here, always kicking and forever screaming which is thankfully the case for death/grind grandaddies Terrorizer. For those unaware, legendary skinsman Pete “Commando/The Feet” Sandoval has been leading the charge since their inception in 1986. Now back with a brand new line featuring current and former member of Monstrosity, Terrorizer are revamped, rearmed and ready to open fire. As soon as intro Turbulence, Terrorizer aren’t taking any prisoners with as son a Invasion fires it’s opening rounds. With Lee Harrisons's scathing tremolo riffs, Sandoval impeccable drumming and Sam Molina’s grunt, Caustic Attack continues to bulldoze it’s way through trench after trench of furious death metal. Crisis is an absolute ripper, opting for a more syncopated pace but no less punishing than its predecessor Devastate. Infiltration embraces some punky riffing before succumbing to rapid fire blast beats.
Poison Gas Tsunami is the equivalent of warfare, whilst Failed Assassin contains some truly stunning drum work. It’s heartening to hear after all these years that Sandoval has lost none of his potency, with Molina and Harris strengthening the pure power on display. Caustic Attack does exactly what it says on the tin, succeeding in being the veritable blitzkrieg that it set out to be. The only gripe here is a slight lack of variance among the carnage, due to the largely absent punk/grind flavour that meshed with the older works so well. The more death metal focused assault, whilst pretty fucking savage, does get at times a touch repetitive. Whilst undeniably brutal, it may turn off those hoping for the grinding glory of World Downfall. Musical pedantry aside, when it’s good it’s really fucking good and an enjoyable sledgehammer to the system. There’s plenty of righteous rage left in the tank, plenty of ire in the fire and Terrorizer still are as mean and brutal as the world we live in. 8/10
Abstract Void: Back To Reality (Self Released) [Paul H]
It took about 30 seconds to realise that this album was the output of a one-man project. It sounds it. There’s little soul or feeling here. Blackgaze, synthwave, whatever label you add to it can’t disguise the fact that it is awful. Programmed, muffled and lacking originality, no wonder the person behind it remains anonymous. I’ve read some very positive feedback about this and debut release Into The Blue so maybe it’s just me but I feel generous giving it the score I have. 1/10