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Monday, 19 November 2018

Reviews: Holter, Voices From The Fuselage, Barbarian Hermit, Slæt

Holter: Vlad The Impaler (Frontiers Records)

Trond Holter is the former guitarist of Wig Wam, he's also appeared on solo albums by Jorn Lande which led to the Dracula: Swing Of Death album in 2015 that featured Jorn taking the role of the famous vampire for a Meat Loaf styled ott baroque and roll album. This is the follow up to that now under just Holter's own name, it's again a concept however this time it focuses on the real life inspiration for Dracula myth Vlad Dracul or Vlad The Impaler in a fantasy concept. As well as the band name the membership has changed with Jorn no longer behind the mic but Nils K Rue the pipes of prog/power metal band Pagan's Mind and Eva Iselinn Erichsen who is a relatively unknown singer that has featured on the Norwegian version of The Voice. Together they're the storytellers of this tale with Holter's compositions maintaining their theatrical quality, but definitely guitar led the classical leads and solos just as prevalent as the chunky melodic metal riffs.

 From the battlefields of The World's On Fire it sinks it's teeth in from the very beginning reminiscent of Savatage from the off, the chuggy Drums Of Doom gives way to the symphonic thud of The Last Generation. Nils is great singer his powerful range continuing the theme of having some of the best voices available but it's Erichsen who steals the show here balancing the more ott elements of Rue's power metal pipes meaning that on I'll Die For You neither is wanting for attention and on Shadows Of Love is like a Broadway performance piece. Also while we're here can I just mention Holter's guitar playing which is ridiculous far superior to anything he did with Wig Wam. While this doesn't quite reach the extravagance of Dracula: Swing Of Death for a few reasons I can't out my finger on it's very good and a worthy continuation of this musical project, where they go now is anyone's guess but 8/10

Voices From The Fuselage: Odyssey - The Founder of Dreams (White Star Records)

We’ve talked about White Star Records here on the blog before, they are spearheading the prog genre in a way that many other record labels fail too. They seem to actively seek out the more ethereal bands that aren’t just reliant on heavy chugging guitars on top of odd time signatures. Many of their bands build their music around the way it feels, putting the more ‘metal’ riffs when required not for the sake of having them. Life On Titan the third song on this second album by Voices From The Fuselage is evidence to this the majority of the song has ghostly ambient textures with the melodic guitar riffs leading up in the chorus before dropping into chugging djent breakdowns in the middle eight. Voices From The Fuselage have been signed to White Star Records since 2016 with the label re-releasing their debut outing.

If the vocals sound familiar it’s because they belong to Ashe O’ Hara who is a former singer for Tesseract on what is probably their most fragile album. Here his vocals and honest open lyricism are the beautiful foils for the music penned predominantly by drummer Scott Lockhart, who’s propulsion is the foundation of so many of these songs that deal with science vs faith. It allows Mitch Ramsay and Josh Galloway’s celestial reaching guitar playing to really make their mark on the listener bolstering the emotional impact of this record, most notably on the “dream within a dream” idea on Vestibule Of Hell. Of course that warmth and emotional impact is deepened by the clarity from John Mitchell’s production. 

They are the ideal emotional style of progressive music that White Star Records deal in and they look sure to flourish on the back of this diverse, deep record where O’Hara’s soul is laid bare for all to see, he says himself he has an optimistic nihilism which is more than reflected in this second record, brilliantly morose and magical. 9/10

Barbarian Hermit: Solitude And Savagery (APF Records)

Riffs, big, fat, diabetes inducing riffs. That's pretty all you need to know about Barbarian Hermit, they play lumbering sludge metal that is build on a foundation of riffs heavier than the Titanic, thick like molasses. Produced by Chris Fielding (a man who knows heavy) the Manchester five piece's first full length owes a debt to the NOLA titans like Crowbar and COC (Beyond The Wall) but also to early Clutch (Black Mass) concocting a recipe that brings groove driven down-tuned extremity together with head nodding catchiness. For instance a track such as Beyond The Wall is slower burner slithering along with some bone shaking Sabbath doom from guitarists Mike and Adam which allows vocalist Ed to move with ease between his booming 'clean' and harsh roars.

It's perfectly place in the middle of the album along with Life Breather which has a trippy opening underpinned by Gareth and Rob's rhythm section which blows up for the chorus, it's all very Orange Goblin and as you'll know from this blog that's no bad thing. After their debut EP Barbarian Hermit lost three members of their band but if you're a believer in fate the you'll have to think this was a good thing, the addition of Gareth, Rob and especially Ed, who has a real duality to his vocals on certain songs like two different singers, has made the band stronger, meaner and much more impressive prospect. 8/10

Slægt: The Wheel (Van Records)

Ah nothing quite like a bit of Danish blackened metal on a Thursday morning (when I reviewed this record). Especially when the metal in question is most defiantly blackened, not black, that means that there are frantic tremolo picking and squawking vocals but there’s also a lot of melody, some thrash metal chugging and classic metal gallops, second song Masician has the NWOBHM at its black heart, exploding into dual lead harmonies before fading in the way it started with classical acoustic plucking. The Wheel is the follow up to Slægt’s critically acclaimed album Domus Mysterium from 2017. There ethos was to make the songs shorter and more vicious, something they’ve achieved as right from opener Being Born (Is Going Blind) rips and tears bursting out of your speakers with a sense of urgency and occult fuelled mastery.

It’s a decidedly old school approach which sees the band shunning trends and what’s cool for some good old fashioned metal the way Celtic Frost and Venom would have played it, scratchy production built for stereo speakers adds a rawness but nothing is left to linger from the vocals to the bass playing is lost in the mix, it sounds urgent and gets your studded fist in the air. Citrinitas once again adds flair of Priest or Mercyful Fate but V.W.A. and Perfume And Steel are solidly in the Immortal/Emperor camp of impressive black metal mastery. With their influences worn on their sleeves and defiant in the face of changing musical scene Slægt are a big slab of the old days for 2018. 8/10

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