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Sunday, 20 January 2019

Review: Born Of Osiris, Ewigkeit, Lovebites, Prion (Reviews By Rich)

Born Of Osiris: The Simulation (Sumerian Records)

The Simulation is the fifth album by Born Of Osiris and the first of two albums due to be be released in 2019. Born Of Osiris is a band I have heard of but never checked out due to the metalcore tag surrounding them and my general dislike of that genre but after hearing The Simulation I feel I have greatly underestimated Born Of Osiris by thinking of them as just another metalcore band as there is FAR more to their sound. The music on The Simulation is very far removed from metalcore with huge influences from progressive metal, djent and technical death metal with a prevalent use of keyboards and electronics.

There is in fact so much happening on this album that it will take a couple of listens to fully absorb everything from chugging grooving riffs, atmospheric keys and technical guitar solos. The only thing I couldn’t get along with were the vocals. Frontman Ronnie Canizaro has a standard metalcore bark but keyboard player and co-vocalist Joe Buras does really grating screams and irritating clean vocals. This album was a surprise for me as although I didn’t love it I did find it perfectly listenable and have learned a valuable lesson in not writing off a band because of their metalcore roots. Musically this is fantastic but the vocal styles are definitely not to my taste and very off putting. 7/10

Ewigkeit: DISClose (DTM Productions)

DISClose is the ninth album by Ewigkeit the one man project from multi instrumentalist James Fogarty of In The Woods… and Jaldaboath (amongst others) fame. The sound of Ewigkeit has changed and moulded throughout the years from its initial black metal beginnings to space rock but with DISclose the sound is somewhere between melodic doom and death doom with various influences from extreme and progressive metal resulting in songs which are heavy yet deeply melodic and atmospheric. 

The sounds and styles shift and change throughout the album from the doomy undertones of Oppenheimer’s Lament, the blackened heaviness of KRLLL and the melancholic melodies of Guardians Of The High Frontier. The vocals range from black metal screams to baritone cleans and the clean vocals are especially commendable especially in songs like Guardians Of The High Frontier or Resonance where they are used to stunning effect. DISClose is a fantastic album which brings to mind bands such as Katatonia, Paradise Lost and Ghost Brigade but with black metal undercurrents and as such it is an album that delivers big time and is well worth your time. 8/10

Lovebites: Clockwork Immortality (JPU Records)

2018 was a hell of a busy year for Lovebites with pretty much non stop touring, a new EP and a new album all in just over a year since the release of their debut album Awakening From Abyss in October 2017. It’s safe to say with such an incredible amount of output in such a short space of time that there’s a worry that the quality of the material on Clockwork Immortality might be lacking or rushed but such fears are immediately dispelled as soon as you hit play. Clockwork Immortality is a less furious affair than its predecessor with a bit more of a streamlined approach both in the songwriting and production which means that this album doesn’t grab as immediately as Awakening From Abyss did but it’s in no means a lesser album for it. 

There’s less of a thrash metal influence this time round and a far more classic heavy metal approach to the songs. The Iron Maiden influence is very evident throughout (definitely not a bad thing). The European power metal influence is also very clear to hear especially in songs such as Addicted, Rising and We The United. Whilst this album does not immediately grab you by the balls it is a definite grower and one that is 100% worthy of multiple listens. Lovebites have gained quite a bit of attention over the past year and all for the right reasons as these girls severely rock and I’m sure will continue to go from strength to strength. 8/10
Prion: Aberrant Calamity (Comatose Music)

Aberrant Calamity is the fourth album by Argentinian death metallers Prion and is also the first album of theirs to feature drummer Flavio Coscarella who joined the band in 2016. Prion are not a band I have heard previously but they have a very standard take on death metal which has influences from the classics of the genre as well as sounding very contemporary but unfortunately very little stands out. 

There are plenty of groove heavy riffs and blastbeats but it sounds incredibly formulaic and generic. There are some nice riffs here and there but they just get lost in the mediocrity. Aberrant Calamity is well performed and well produced but it just sounds very flat and uninspired compared to a lot of death metal. Nice background music for extreme metal fans but there’s very little that stands out. 5/10

Friday, 18 January 2019

Reviews: Outright Resistance, Althea, Bus, Devilfire

Outright Resistance: Cargo Cult (Self Released)

We were first exposed to the aggression of Outright Resistance at Bloodstock 2016 where they stormed the Jagermeister stage, after this Stief gave their debut EP a 10/10 so four years later will their debut full length receive such a monumental score? Well if you like some modern heavy metal akin to Slipknot and Parkway Drive then Cargo Cult will be playing at full volume for most of your year, however metalcore (or whatever core) is a genre I've never been particularly fond of so I approached this album with hesitation but an open mind. Since the EP there has been a change in the ranks as James Jest takes mic for this album. Cargo Cult opens with the thunderous Gently as rapid guitar leads are met chunky rhythms and explosive drums while Jest barks and roars like a rabid dog.

One of the feature tracks of the album is Fang & Bone which apparently reflects on social media and the role it has played in shaping the landscape of the internet today, songwise though it doesn't really differ from the previous two tracks (it's the third song on the record) as thick beatdowns are met with guttural roars, as Wretched Ones and Lone Wolf both the propulsive percussion concussion of Iowa's masked sons. The debut from this Stevenage group is ideal if you like out and out noise and it will see them climbing further up the bill, but other than that there's not much to convert someone like me who has always struggled with the genre. Stief may have like the EP but this album in the longer format just tends mean all the songs blur into one long breakdown for me I'm afraid. 6/10

Althea: The Art Of Trees (Sliptrick Records)

Coming from Milan Italy Althea is the culmination of an idea from guitarist Dario Bortot and bassist Fabrizio Zilio they started the band with as a way of developing a free-of-schemes progressive metal/rock. So in layman's terms they are an experimental progressive rock band who dip into the art rock and neo-prog styles. They added bassist Andrea Trapani, drummer Sergio Sampietro and Alessio Accardo on vocals, The Art Of Trees is their second full length album following on from their debut concept piece Memories Have No Name, the music on this second record doesn't rely heavily on long sprawling songs, in fact most of the album is quite contrite, what is more evident is that Althea prefer to make their songs more layered pieces with ambient textures mixing well with melodic rock passages and heavier metal riffage.

It reminds me a lot of the middle section of Porcupine Tree's career with tracks such as Deformed To Frame and the shimmering Evelyn having Steven Wilsonisms all over them. One More Time ramps up the heaviness with down tuned instrumental riffs that swim into thick floating psychedelic lyrical sections, it's experimental yes but never strays into self indulgence, Today has some Dream Theater moments with a Dickinson-like vocals, there's also a little Rush here and there and the guests such as Michele Guaitoli (Visions Of Atlantis, Temperance, Kaledon) adding their own talents to the beautifully crafted songs such as the wonderful The Shade which has a saxophone solo reminiscent of the best Floyd songs. The Art Of Trees is a brilliant record, magically progressive with huge amounts of musical talent on display. There looks to be a lot of prog coming this year but Althea could be very well be one of the best. 9/10

Bus: Never Decide (RidingEasy Records)

Greek riffsters Bus The Unknown Secretary (Bus for short) return with their third full length album, their first on RidingEasy Records. An amalgamation of many types of sound where they mainly make their mark is with music that is unashamedly stuck in a time before metal, they play music that was the precursor to what we call heavy metal from a time when bands such as Blue Cheer, The MC5, Uriah Heep, Alice Cooper Band, Atomic Rooster and Steppenwolf brought the distortion and woozy vocals establishing the chord heavy sounds of doom before it was a thing. Bus sit along with newer acts like Uncle Acid, Ghost, Electric Wizard and the much missed Bigelf here, especially on The Hunt, the sharmaic I Buried Paul and the thundering doom of Lucifer which slides into the manic First Life Suicide before the acid pop-laced Moonchild. Never Decide was recorded in just 5 days in February 2018 by John Vulgaris at Electric Highway Studios in Athens, Greece, you can hear that live urgency on this record, every track is a jam that sounds organic, but after the initial 5 days the album was pieced together by Vulgaris to give it the multi-tracked, stereo effect. Never Decide is a riff driven transportation into the collective psyche of Bus, fly your freak flag high and crank it up loud! 8/10

Devilfire: Out Of The Dark (Self Released)

Out Of The Dark is a fan only release from Birmingham rock band that consists of 4 songs not featured on their debut Dark Manoeuvres. They were released only for those who subscribed to their newsletter after many were asking for a new album, the four songs are reworked, recorded and remixed in house by the band before being drip fed to the audience. There's very little to change to the sound established on the debut, from the opening fire of Bones Don't Break, through the anthemic Act Of God into the heavy percussive Breathe Deep and ending with Lifeless & Vain which has a radio rock feel and some nifty guitar work. Devilfire are Alex Cooper (vocals), Baz Blackett (guitar), Lars Wickett (drums), Jay Downes (bass) & Kieran Topp (guitar) and while you we wait for their follow up full length this EP is a pretty decent way to pass the time. 7/10

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Reviews: Imperial Jade, Usurper, Demon Head, Hey Zeus (Matt & Paul H)

Imperial Jade: On The Rise (Aural Music Group) [Matt]

Get those hips ready for a good shaking as Spanish classic rockers are a very rare mix of head swirling psych, hard rock riffage and howling vocals that owes a lot to American genre leaders (and former tour mates) Rival Sons, blast Dance and you'll understand what I mean the echoed vocals, the stop-start Zep-alike riffs it's the sound of 1968 to 1976 as the Summer Of Love transitioned into the glory days of arena rock n roll. The band hail from Barcelona and their music is just as sunny as their Californian brethren mixing styles to great effect, with The Call bringing the funk and fairly bold percussive freak-out in the middle, the soulful Lullaby In Blue is a neat middle section to chill the fire of the other tracks it's very Houses Of The Holy.

With guitars, drums, bass, keys and vocals Imperial Jade are properly analogue old school rock n roll band and on this second album they really show their skills, a track such as Sad For No Reason is a scuttle-buttlin country stomper, Heat Wave an organ drenched rocker while the finale of Struck By Lightning has those head-tripping psychedelic keys to really close the record out in fine style. OK so it does sag a little in the middle but every slow maudlin number explodes into a mass of dirty riffs and hollered vocals making everything all better. An album for those with dancing shoes and a love of the classic rock sounds, while you wait for the new Rival Sons record pick up Imperial Jade rise with them! 8/10

Usurper: Lords Of The Permafrost (Soulseller Records) [Matt]

This one packs a bit of an old school punch. Usurper are supposed 'legends' of the Chicago music scene, returning after 14 year hiatus. This sixth album features a down-tuned style of traditional heavy metal that mixes some black metal blastbeats, thrash riffs and snarled vocals for more extreme take on a well worn genre. Reminding me of the Germanic thrash titans such as Kreator, Sodom and Destruction, Lords Of The Permafrost has a lyrical style dealing with monsters and folklore. A track such as Gargoyle shows this with the absolutely destructive double kicks leading some thrashy riffage and galloping melodic leads.

Skull Splitter kicks off with acoustic intro then actually begins to split your skull. The title track has more of chug and there are also some death metal stomps that also come through on this 8 track record. The production is a little muzzy leaving the vocals quite high in the mix and with the guitars so distorted it's difficult to pick them out. This aside Lords Of The Permafrost is a record to bang your head too thick juicy slices of the more extreme end of thrash. 7/10

Demon Head: Hellfire Ocean Void (Svart Records) [Matt]

Goth rock is probably one of the genres that I can take or leave, some bands such as Type O Negative I love but others really don't do it for me. Danish band Demon Head have brought those days of Gothic rock back to casting it at truly original music, however it's not it's pretty standard Gothic rock. Starting out with the discordant intro Rumours, Hellfire Ocean Void is about as dark and spooky as you can get, echoed production and vocals sit atop dual leads and keys. To the untrained ear you'd think they were jumping on the Ghost bandwagon but for those with heavy eyeliner, fishnet clothing and New Rock boots, the depressive, atmospheric compositions that have swishing guitars and heavy pianos ideal for a dark night smoking by the candlelight. Unfortunately I did find my attention wandering after a few songs as there is only so much wailing and morose music you can take. Still for Goth fans Hellfire Ocean Void will be a most played record. 6/10

Hey Zeus: X (Argonauta Records) [Paul H]

Boston-based Hey Zeus fuse stoner and hard rock with a style that is both classic and modern. X is their debut release and it is a decent listen. Underneath the 29 minutes which comprise this release lurks a punk attitude which surfaces from time to time, adding a primal edge to their short punchy songs. Loitering towards the end of the album is a cover of Deep Purple’s Bloodsucker, from the In Rock album, a thick chunky version which doesn’t bring anything new to the table but is a pleasing version all the same.  Hard riffs, driving fast paced rock n’ roll and soaring vocals are all here in an album that suggests Hey Zeus may well be able to climb Olympus soon. A healthy start. 6/10

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Reviews: John Garcia, Soilwork, Relics Of Humanity, Herod (Paul S & Sean)

John Garcia: John Garcia And The Band Of Gold (Napalm Records) [Paul S]

John Garcia of Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Vista Chino is back. 2 years after The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues, Garcia now releases the third album to carry his name. John is joined by Ehren Groban on guitar, Mike Pygmie on Bass and Greg Saenz on drums. So what they served up for us this time? Well the album contains 11 tracks of what would most accurately be called stoner rock.

The album kicks off with an instrumental intro called Space Veto, which starts with relaxed riffing before the final third where a much faster, fantastic riff kicks in and gets the album underway really well. Next up is Jim’s Whiskers which is a cracking piece of desert rock, with a great chorus (which reminds me a little of Overdose by AC/DC). The track gets a kick in the pants with a nice fast ending. Chicken Delight is a more measured song, it’s quieter than the 2 tracks that come before it, with a slightly looser feel. The slightly more controlled feel continues with Kentucky II. The track has a slight Hendrix sense to it, it also has a fantastic chorus. My Everything is a lovely song. Although it has distorted guitars and bass, the song has the feel of a ballad, it’s slower than most of the other material, and John Garcia really excels himself on lead vocals. John vocals are as good as you’d expect, all over the album, but his vocal delivery makes this track. The end of the song has some nice guitar harmonies that are quite reminiscent of Queen.

Lillian is a taught rocker of a track, driving riffs and rhythms keep the track pushing forward before an awesome chorus (this album specialises in great choruses!). Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can) sounds like it was recorded in 1968, it’s a great bit of psychedelic rock, with a great central riff, the song is massively energetic ( I would refer to this as a high point for the album, but this is an album that is full of high points). The tempo is kept up by Apache Junction, powering the album along. Don’t Even Think About It is a fantastic mid-paced track. The opening riff is relaxed but beautifully tuneful and melodic. Cheyletiella the longest track on the album, has a fairly simple main riff, but it keeps the track driving along in an incredibly enjoyable way. The song gets faster at the end and has a really good chorus. Final Track Softer Side is a beautifully relaxed and luxuriant way to end the album.

As the title suggests, this is John and friends in a softer moment, the track does get bigger and more strummy as it goes along, but retains that relaxed feel right to the end of the album. This wasn’t an easy album to make, there were lots of issues with equipment and studios. John Garcia has stated in some of the music press that this will be the last album he will performs on. I hope that this isn’t true, I hope after a little time to reflect he’ll be back in a recording studio, lending his fantastic voice to more great music. But if this is the last album he contributes to, at least he’s going out on a great album. John Garcia And The Band Of Gold is a cracking hard rock album. It’s quite a simple thing, it’s a collection of great songs, played and sung really well. I’ve really enjoyed listening to this album, I think it’s likely to be on heavy rotation in my flat for the next few months. 8/10

Soilwork: Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast) [Sean]

Managing to mostly avoid the stomach churning saccharinity of their American contemporaries, Soilwork have consistently shown jaded kvltists such as myself just how good their brand of “modern” metal can be. Sure, they may use the normally vomit inducing genre tropes; palm muting, the ol’ the good cop/bad cop vocal delivery and ham-fisted “uplifting” chorus, but it’s been done with an authenticity that their fringed imitators have failed to replicate. Though not without the odd stumble, I think it’s safe to say that since releasing the excellent The Living Infinite, the long running Swedish minstrels of melodic death have been experiencing something of a renaissance. Having rediscovered the fury of yore, Soilwork’s current form is what can only be described as an amalgamation. A synthesis of their deathly beginnings, more recent “corish” leanings and an increasing desire to experiment beyond their own borders. Thus we come to 11th album, Verkligheten. Have they once again achieved perfect synergy?

After the intro of title track Verkligheten, Arrival bursts into life in an explosion of blast beats, giving way to staccato riffs and Bjorn Strid’s instantly recognisable roar. An absolute belter of an opener, showing the harmonious marriage between the extremity of old and the melody of new. Neither element undermines the other, a sound remind of Soilworks compositional might stomper Bleeder Despoiler is another example of top shelf Soilwork, complimenting the earlier onslaught with a more measured pace. The Nurturing Glance has a more playful nature, embracing some traditional meta riffs interspersed with the Swedes trademark modern crunch. Stålfågel combines all the best bits from their middle era, into into a solid sing song of anthem power. Needs And Kin is another heavy hitter, bolstered by the appearance of Amorphis’ own Toms Joutsen. On the whole, this is everything you could want and then some! Which makes this next bit all the more difficult to express.

Despite the strength of the after mention songs and for every peak, there is a trough and Verkligheten contains a fair few. Full Moon Shoals is generic mid paced mundanity, When The Universe Spoke starts with enough bravado, but rapidly loses steam the longer the song progresses. The Wolves Are Back In Town and closer You Aquiver just don’t grab me in the slightest, both being content to simply occupy space on the CD it was burnt onto. A shame really, as there are some truly ripping solo’s contained contained on both. All moaning aside, it’s doesn’t diminish Verkligheten’s power too much. Whilst it may not be the smoothest of rides, there is more than enough infectious killer to downplay the fumbling filler. All in all, a solid outing sure to please old bloods and new neophytes. 7/10

Relics Of Humanity: Obscuration (Willowtip Inc) [Sean]

That’s a nice cover, wonder what music this Seagrave illustrated EP will contain? It’s definitely death metal, this is Dan Seagrave we’re one about but what kind? Either one or two things, perhaps something of the techy variety but there’s no purple so it can’t be that. Mayhaps something of the more “brootal” variety? Barely legible logo? Check. Pingy as fuck snare? Check. Inhumanly low gutturals? You bet your sweet keister. Belarusian bruisers, Relics Of Humanity, play brutal death metal with a capital B, bro! Featuring current/former members of Disgorge, Defeated Sanity and featuring Suffocation’s (love react) Derek Boyer as guest on bass, EP Obscuration, according to the band themselves, “lifts death metal to a higher level of intensity, atmosphere and brutality.” Steady boys, I haven’t pressed play yet.

As intro Retson Retap moves into Ana Kihu Alamu, shit comes out ripping and tearing with all the subtly of a sledgehammer to the dick. All the typical elements of BDM are present, utterly disgusting vocals, non stop blasting and thick as fuck riffs at ridiculously low tuning. You know the drill, though as to what “atmosphere” the band were hinting at is nowhere to be seen. Surely that’s the very antithesis to this sort of thing? Third track, When Darkness Consumes God’s Throne continues in more or less the same fashion though suddenly slows to a predictable pit inducing crawl. Whipping The Curse briefly displays some variation, a closing melodic passage finally allowing some breathing space. I’ll spare you details on the other two, as they more or less carry on in a similar fashion of blasting, tempo changes and chugging. BROOTAL!

Imma be honest, aside from a few bands most “brutal” or “slamming” death metal bores the shit out of me. Once you get the hang of it’s initially impressive auditory assault, it often becomes a monotonous affair. Being loud at a breakneck pace is good and all that but what else yah got? I enjoy my grind and war metal for the ear shattering decibels and ridiculous tempos. Why? Coz it’s intense as fuck and BDM often comes off as aimless, unimaginative and rather forgettable in comparison. Thankfully, Relic Of Humanity mostly avoid my ire, as there were a few times that my foot got a’tapping and my neck muscles got a’bobbing. Hell, I even started to somewhat enjoy the single minded tenacity of it all. At any rate, it ain’t going to stand out from the camo-shorted crowd, as it still falls into the same stylistic stumbling blocks one would expect. But if you’re down with this sort thing and firmly wear your snapback in reverse, then Obscuration should keep you entertained long enough until the next update on Slam Worldwide. The vocals were pretty fucking sick, though. 6/10

Herod: Sombre Dessein (Pelagic Records) [Paul S]

Herod are a 4 piece from Switzerland, Sombre Dessein is the band's second album coming 5 years after their debut They Were None. I have seen the band described as sludge, but to me this sounds like Meshuggah style progressive metal. The band are definitely more interested in polyrhythms than they are about huge fat riffs. After a short intro the album kicks off with the track Fork Tongue. The song sets a bit of a template for the album, being a mix of big, very staccato riffs, and softer parts that are mainly vocals and drums, but with some subtle guitar and bass parts. The riffs on offer are far more about rhythm and polyrhythm rather than complexity or syncopation. Second track Reckoning takes the rhythmic aspect even further, in fact some of the riffs on offer here are just basic chugging of one chord, which fits the Meshuggah feel, but does also make it sound a little like Nu-metal simplicity.

Next up is Don’t Speak Last, the longest and most complex song on the album. The track does have the same structure as the rest of the album, but on Don’t Speak Last the soft and hard parts feel like they are building towards the huge ending of the track. This allows the track to have more dynamics than the rest of the album. Silent Truth has a dense opening riff, which again is juxtapositioned with softer more brooding sections. Mourning Grounds has a similar style and structure as the rest of the songs on here, but this time it starts to feel lacklustre, the staccato riffs are just too simple and the effect ends up being simplistic and plodding. Final track There Will Be Gods has a slow and quiet buildup that is brooding and builds to a huge ending, it’s a strong track and a good way to end the album.

Sombre Dessein is an interesting album, I do think that this might be an album that splits people. If you like the sort of polyrhythms they are offering then you will probably really like the album, if you like your metal to be more syncopated and to flow more then you probably won’t. Definitely one for Meshuggah fans. 7/10

Monday, 14 January 2019

Reviews: Corroded, Endolith, Obey, Ithaca (Paul H)

Corroded: Bitter (Despotz Records)

2017’s Defcon Zero from these Swedes was a solid enough affair but there was a background of angst which resulted from a five year wait to release tracks that had been crafted shortly after previous release Exit To Transfer. Having changed labels to Despotz Records, there was obviously some pressure on Corroded. Channelling this into creativity is not easy but Corroded have focused well and produced in Bitter an album that really works. Slicing razor sharp riffs combine with a fat melody and the right amount of passion and power, blood and spit. 

Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jens Westin’s gravel throated vocals are perfect for the ballsy stomping songs whilst the rest of the band, lead guitarist Tomas Andersson, bassist Bjarne Elvsgård and drummer Per Soläng give it everything. The twin guitar attack provides a thicker assault than might have otherwise been expected and vicious tracks such as Breathing, Testament and Cross all help the sinews to twitch. I think it’s reasonable to compare Corroded’s slightly commercial edge to Godsmack, Sevendust and the like but with an additional layer of depth and brutality usually missing from the lighter weight of the Americans. 7/10

Endolith: Chicxulub - The Fossil Record (Rob Mules Records)

Here we have a concept album based on the extinction of the dinosaurs and the similar position the world finds itself facing today; the imminent arrival of chaos and global change. Balance to this bleak and dark picture is provided by the uplifting strings of the Arctic Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra who add panache and sophistication throughout the album. The opening piece is purely classical in content, Grazing Herbivores reminiscent of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring in the 1940 Disney movie Fantasia. But don’t worry, this isn’t a takeover by Mickey and Donald, oh no sir; after that gentle opening it’s time to hit the throttle with full firepower locked and loaded. The ferocity of Bloodfiends leaves scars; Nest Scraping Display changes both time and pace at numerous intervals, its scorching speed only enhanced by the harmonies that litter the track. 

This Norwegian trio make a fabulous noise and have a swagger that impresses. Their organic sound noticeable as the album develops. For those who are unaware, Chicxulub is the site in Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, where the asteroid that is thought to have been the cause of mass extinction over 66 million years ago. A neat mixture of both guttural and clean vocals, a thick smothering sound combining numerous styles, varying and unusual meters and the opportunity to craft the strings of the Chamber Orchestra allow each song to stand both alone and knit tightly as part of the overall concept. The cranial splitting Icthyus is juxtaposed with the traumatic Diseasons, before the ten-minute Chicxulub leads to the finale of Earth Lies Screaming, a complete change of style and mood to close. Endolith are Frode Hofsøy (vocals), Erling Malm (guitars) and Roger Tunheim Jakobsen (drums). This is a fine album worthy of a listen. 8/10

Obey: Swallow The Sun (Self Released)

Obey hail from the Midlands and have been plying their thumping progressive doom since 2008. They have an impressive biography, winning 2011's Surface Festival, 2012’s Marshall's Best Guitarist and 2015's Metal To The Masses, playing at The Millenium Dome, The Koko, The Roundhouse, O2 Birmingham, Sziget Festival and Bloodstock. Obey have released 3 full length albums: New Day Rising (2009), Doom Laden (2012), Maelstrom (2016). The current lineup features Steve Pickin, Dan Ryder and Ryan Gillespie. For a three-piece I’m very impressed with their style and sound, layered intricate passages full of depth combined with jagged riffage and unexpected time changes.

Swallow The Sun touches on many things, but overall it is a sonic journey dealing with the cruelty of dementia and the devastation it leaves, melding that together with themes of fantasy and folklore. An interesting take on subject matter that is challenging and emotionally charged. Whilst the band may favour some of the more progressive metal elements (hints of Mastodon and Meshuggah linger) on tracks such as Swallow The Sun the riffs are a lot closer to home, the Sabbath influence plain to hear. There is a burning originality which made listening to this album a real joy. Thundering bass and drumming with reverberating guitar work and vocals that rasp but are also crisp and clean. Oodles of melody underpin but don’t dominate and there is enough brutality here to ensure that the heaviness remains at the heart of all the band deliver. 7/10

Ithaca: The Language Of Injury (Holy Roar Records)

London hardcore newcomers Ithaca roar into 2019 with their debut LP The Language Of Injury. The five-piece were formed in 2012 and share a mutual love of metallic hardcore. I think it’s fair to say that is where our commonality ceases. To be fair to the band, they draw on a huge range of influences, starting with Southern doom to 90s math rock as well as the untethered savagery of early Poison The Well and melodious battery of Oathbreaker. 

They possess grooves that crush you with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer through a brick wall and combine these with shrieking guitar squalls which segue into haunting melodic passages, all with an emotionally raw lyrical content. Powerful, aggressive and angry, hardcore will never win me over as a fan but if you fancy something with enough power to give an elephant a headache then 32 minutes of intensity will probably be an attractive proposition. 6/10

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Reviews: Electric Mary, Dead Witches, Herman Frank, Deever (Matt & Paul H)

Electric Mary: Mother (Listenable Records) [Matt]

10 years, 3 studio albums, 3 EP's and 1 live album and Australian rockers Electric Mary have just about broken onto the UK rock scene delivering the live show they are famous for Down Under. It's the show that has seen them support Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Motorhead and Def Leppard while they've played in the country and it's their albums that have fuelled that creative fire meaning they have new tracks to play every time. Their previous release III was sort of their 'big break' over here heavily touting them as one of the bands to watch in the hard rock arena and it secured them a tour and shows at Hard Rock Hell exposing them to a whole new audience. So now it's time for their fourth slab of rocking in the shape of new album Mother released once again through Listenable records, it's a record full of hip shaking, fist pounding, hair raising rock n roll performed like it's the 1970's all over again. With the psych leanings of Hendrix, the foot stomping of Free and big handful of Led Zeppelin, Mother is a shining example of proper rock music. With the Thunder-like riff of Gimme Love, the bluesy saunter of How Do You Do It, the thumping Hold On To What You Got, the desert psych of Long Long Day and the Zep-alike of Woman. Australian rock conjures dirty beer bars, Electric Mary are built for arenas. 8/10

Dead Witches: The Final Exorcism (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Matt]

Since the debut Dead Witches album Ouija in 2017 they have undergone a lineup change as founding guitarist Greg Elk died shortly after the debut so here the riffs are handled by Grave Lines' Oliver Hill while upfront Virginia Morti has exited the group to continue with Psychedelic Witchcraft, the wails and incantations are now taken by Soozi Chameleone whose voice casts a spell over the discordant rhythms from Carl Geary (bass) and founding member Mark Greening (drums).

It's hazy, slow bludgeoning occult doom drawn from a dark place as the majority of songs here have elongated run times which means that tracks such as Goddess Of The Night can sprawl into feedback driven outro and The Church By The Sea can ramp up the Sabbath worship to new levels with the reverebed repetition as Soozi snarls leading into the down-tuned sludge of Lay Demon. There's nothing too different here from the debut, but when a band is formed by former drummer of Electric Wizard you'd expect the type of dissonant, weighty doom metal that The Final Exorcism has in spades. 2019 has only just begun and they heavy has already hit a highpoint. 8/10

Herman Frank: Fight The Fear (AFM Records) [Paul H]

I called Frank’s last album The Devil Rides Out “average heavy metal by numbers”. Unsurprisingly, the former Accept axeman was undeterred by my score of 6 and has only gone ahead and recorded another solo album, Fight The Fear. It’s another lengthy piece of work, and at 64 minutes it’s quite a challenge. I’ve played it three times and whilst the music is the typical heavy metal which we have come to expect from Frank, it just doesn’t have any longevity in the memory. Possibly the stand out track on this release is Hail & Row, which is mainly because it changes and slows pace, with a moody feel and some reasonable vocals from Rick Altzi. Other than that, this is fare which won’t change the world, but stuff that large swathes of mainland Europe will love. Tracks like HitmanRock You and Sinners all sound exactly as you’d expect. It’s Accept-lite, perfectly reasonable and Frank delivers some choice guitar work. It’s just one of those albums that is unlikely to excite you. 6/10

Deever: You Need This (Self Released) [Matt]

While his former bandmate spouts off on YouTube making a complete ass of himself former Inglorious guitar player Wil 'Billy' Taylor has set about bringing together another band with a shared vision that is far away from the Whitesnake-lite of Inglorious. Along with himself as frontman he has recruited bassist Phil Appleton, drummer Higgy and guitarist Stevie Stoker to form Deever (which may be a dig at the leonine previous frontman) a much more contemporary styled band with influence coming from Shinedown, Foo Fighters as it moves between hard rock, metal and even punk, from the big grooves of Fire At Will, to the bass heavy All Come Running they've got a grunge tinge for Back Down and their feet firmly in the alt-rock camp for Parachute. Like I said it's a very modern rock record and the band have pumped everything into it both emotionally and financially however I'm not so keen on Taylor's vocals finding them a little weak at times, only when he's got the rawness on Only Enemy did I find myself liking them. To call an album You Need This is a little presumptuous but there is musical muscularity here and hooks for days however it's just not really my taste I'm afraid. 6/10    

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Reviews: Lahmia, Archangel A.D, Woven Man, Dimension Eleven (Paul H & Rich)

Lahmia: Resilience (Scarlet Records) [Paul H]

Stepping rapidly into the mire of new releases for 2019, this one caught both the eye and the ear. Resilience is the latest release from a five-piece who formed in Rome back in 2001 but who took an age to get their debut album released in 2014. Into The Abyss was produced by Jens Bogren and whilst I haven’t heard it the man rarely backs a loser. Resilience may be the band’s sophomore release, but it is delivered with the conviction and confidence of a band who have many years’ experience under their belts. It’s evidence from the opening minutes of Elegy For A Dying Sun that the band favour the melodic death metal sound of the Swedish scene, with influences of Amon Amarth, In Flames and Arch Enemy alongside other Northern European powerhouses such as Children Of Bodom also noticeable in the band’s work.

Francesco Amerise delivers a vocal roar that is comparable with Johan Hegg, whilst the twin guitar work of Matthias Habib and Flavio Giannello (who also plays some impressive lead work) is solid throughout. With standout track the 11-and-a-half-minute epic The Age Of Treason pitched towards the end of the album, the only challenge is to maintain enough interest in music that on occasion is just a little routine and formulaic. However, with some thundering tracks hidden amongst this release, I certainly wouldn’t tell you to avoid it. In fact, this is worth a listen, particularly if you like those bands who sport Viking tendencies. 6/10

Archangel A.D: Warband (Horsemen Records) [Rich]

Archangel A.D. are another band determined to keep thrash metal alive and well in the 21st century and with their self-released debut EP Warband they prove that there is still room for more thrash in the world. Throughout its six song duration Warband is a nice encapsulation of all that is great about old school thrash metal from the chunky opener Unto The Evil, the speed metal madness of Blightning, the more classic metal inspired title track, the slow and brooding Evil Dreams and the genre celebrating Metal Horde. The only dud on the EP is the instrumental Enter The Temple which whilst not terrible doesn’t really go anywhere. The band pay homage to their influences with definite nods to bands such as Metallica, Testament, Megadeth and Slayer and whilst they don’t do anything new with the genre they just do it really well and when thrash is done well like this I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame. This is a great debut EP by a bunch of thrashers playing the music they love and having a great deal of fun whilst doing so. 8/10

Woven Man: Revelry: In Our Arms (Undergroove Records) [Paul H]

An opening banjo solo belies the fact that an absolute ball crushing riff is about to hit you like a freight train about a minute into Calling Down The Leaves. In fact, this riff is as chunky as any knitwear that Pep Guardiola could sport in the depths of Mancunian winter. These boyos (who include Lifer six stringer Lee Roy Davies in their ranks) maybe from way down West (Wales), where men are men and women are orange, but their music is homeless in both state and form and that’s a bloody good thing; five behemoth tracks that lumber into view, raise the horns, swagger around with infectious stoner and doom riddled beats and then amble back into the bushes leaving you scratching your arse about what you’ve just heard. With elements of Down, Crowbar, Screaming Trees and Soundgarden amongst a veritable smorgasbord of influences all audible, even to the untrained ear, this is one impressive mutha which deserves to kick your rear as soon as possible. Just the thing to shake off the Christmas hangover. 7/10

Dimension Eleven: The Transcendental Journey (Self Released) [Rich]

Dimension Eleven are a Polish progressive metal band with The Transcendental Journey being the bands self-released debut EP. There are some fantastic progressive rock and metal bands from Poland but unfortunately Dimension Eleven are not yet one of them. They definitely have potential but it’s sadly not realised on this EP. For a seven song EP just shy of 33 minutes in duration you have an instrumental intro track as well as two instrumental interludes which are just a complete waste of time adding nothing to the EP at all. This leaves only four actual songs and none of them are particularly worth writing home about. The worst is Stardust which literally goes nowhere and does nothing with bland riffs, bland vocals and bland melodies which all just scream meh. 

There is improvement on each track hereon with some nice piano melodies on Superreality, some cool riffing on Divine and finally some interesting songwriting and less than tedious vocals on Point Of No Return: Pt. 1 (Far From Beyond Eternal Depths) which is definitely the best of a bad bunch. Unfortunately the improvements as the EP progresses are not enough to save it from mediocrity and The Transcendental Journey is just a very dull and tedious listen. There’s definite potential but the band need to learn how to craft some interesting songs first. 3/10

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Reviews: Malevolent Creation, Legion Of The Damned, Mark Deutrom, Wolf Counsel (Paul H)

Malevolent Creation: 13th Beast (Century Media)

Last August I reviewed the re-release of The Ten Commandments, the blistering 1991 debut from Buffalo’s Malevolent Creation. A throwback to a time when the band had relocated to Florida and were a massively important band in the whole death metal movement which was mushrooming at that time. The likes of Death, Deicide, Suffocation, Immolation and Obituary were firing on all cylinders and it remains as brutally impressive today as it did back then. The original line up on that album didn’t stay together for long and over the years the band has had numerous line up changes, with only Phil Fasciana a constant throughout. In July 2018 original vocalist Brett Hoffman passed away at the outrageously young age of 51 due to colon cancer. Hoffman had been back in the band for 12 years, returning in time for Doomsday X and closing his recording time with the band in 2015 on Dead Man’s Path.

Hoffman’s unreplaceable vocal style is impossible to replace, but co-founder Phil Fasciana decided to face the challenge to continue the band and affirm the truth behind the lyric that “Nothing can kill this Malevolent Creation.” Having regrouped, Malevolent Creation return in 2019 with The 13th Beast, which introduces a new line up consisting of P.M. Cancilla (drums), Josh Gibbs (bass), Phil Fasciana (guitars) and vocalist/guitarist Lee Wollenschlaeger (Throne Of Nails, Imperial Empire). For Wollenschlaeger this is one hell of a gig. “This is the biggest honour I could ever be given; The opportunity to front one of my all-time favourite bands, and an even bigger pleasure of jamming with such great people. We have created one of the most relentless albums of Malevolent Creation’s history.” For Fasciana this is the conclusion of another puzzle in the band’s continued movement. “Lee was the missing link when I was searching for a new vocalist and guitarist”, he said. “Each new member is a solid musician and songwriter sharing the same passion for extreme music, Malevolent Creation has been striving for since 1987.”

Malevolent Creation’s thirteenth studio album expands upon Dead Man’s Path but retains the brutality of albums such as The Will To Kill and Eternal. With Wollenschlaeger’s understandable yet deeper vocal tone and song writing contributions, not to mention some lacerating lead guitar work, The 13th Beast is one viciously intense album. Song titles remain as visceral as ever; Mandatory Butchery, Canvas Of Flesh and Knife At Hand slash and tear. Cancilla’s drumming is immense; machine-gun rapid-fire blasts that rarely pause for breath, even though the listener will want to. Agony For the Chosen rips and claws, whilst the battery is relentless, especially Decimated, an insane pulsating fireball that injects a blast of melody before roaring again. It’s punishing just to listen to this. By the time the final track, the brooding Release The Soul kicks into the killer finish with a quite blistering assault, there should be little left to scoop up off the floor. 49 minutes, 11 tracks and quite possibly one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard for some time. It must have been a challenging decision to continue the band but in the words of Hoffman, “Nothing can kill this Malevolent Creation”. 9/10

Legion Of The Damned: Slaves Of The Shadow Realm (Napalm Records)

It’s been five years since the Dutch thrash brutes Legion Of The Damned hit us with Ravenous Plague. The Dutch outfit now kick a hole through the door of 2019 with album number seven, and as their press release states, ‘this is a band that'll break your neck from the sheer force of their music’. Slaves Of The Shadow Realm starts in blistering style, with Widow’s Breed merging thrash and death metal into one boiling cesspit of howling carnage, and from here on in its grappling time as things get gnarly. Lacerating riffs don’t so much drip as shower you, slashing and driving relentlessly.

With fifth band member / producer Andy Classen once again on board this album is a furious trip to the early LOTD sound but with a modern edge that cuts mercilessly. The veteran status of the band may not be in doubt, but they have a power and youthful energy that belies their status. Thunderous tracks such as the old school raging of Nocturnal Commando sit comfortably alongside the malevolence of Charnel Confession whilst Slaves Of The Southern Cross and Shadow Realm of the Demonic Mind contains the groove and ferocity of earlier classics. This may be missing the legendary cheese block of 2007 but otherwise this is a band that is as punchy as a well matured Gouda. A monstrous and welcome return. 8/10

Mark Deutrom: Blue Bird (Season Of Mist)

Mark Deutrom is a guitarist, composer, songwriter, and sound engineer who produced and joined The Melvins as bass player between 1993 and 1998, contributing to albums Prick, Stoner Witch, Stag, Honky amongst others. He also co-founded Alchemy Records, which released the debut album Pain Of Mind by Neurosis and who he also produced. He has also collaborated with Sunn O))) on various live dates and released various solo projects as well as continuing to produce. A multi-instrumentalist, Blue Bird is a new release which follows re-releases of some of his earlier solo works. 

Broad in scope and varied in style, Blue Bird is hauntingly paced, measured and yet at times urgent, with a retrospective style which echoes bands from the 70s to 90s whilst also adding a modern vibe. Hell Is A City should be the soundtrack to a late-night thriller series; Somnambulist echoes with modernity and O Ye Of Little Faith has shades of Kyuss’ style desert rock. This isn’t an easy listen but the music that is wrapped up within these 44 minutes is intelligent, stylish and provoking. If you want to challenge yourself to step outside of the comfort zone, this is an album which you should seriously consider. 7/10

Wolf Counsel: Destination Void (Endless Winter Records)

This is an album I want played at my funeral, such is its grandeur and power. Wolf Counsel emerged from underneath the snow and ice in 2014; two veteran musicians merged their enthusiasm for monumental low-tuned music and a great appreciation of heavy riffs into a new band. With three albums already under their belt you could call them prodigious. With each previous album featuring seven songs, there was opportunity to hear their evolution as they covered the diverse scope of classic doom metal. With the band having written their fourth full-length within four months, Destination Void once again consists of seven new tracks that once more follow the path of classic and epic doom metal. 

With a sound that sways from Candlemass to Cathedral, this intense beast is loaded with haunting harmonies, sonic interludes and diversified arrangements. With the two opening megalodons, the throbbing Nazarene and the deep vibrations of Nova leading to a total of 48 minutes of concrete shattering slow doom. Switzerland hasn’t felt such a tremor in the force since one Thomas Gabriel Fischer emerged blinking into the dying sunlight. Bone crushingly heavy, I need painkillers to ease the headache after the title track alone. Wolf Counsel is Ralf Winzer Garcia on bass and vocals, drummer Reto Crola, Andre Mathieu on guitar and guitarist Ralph Huber. 8/10

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Reviews: Mastiff, Lumbar, Hollow Leg, Mo'ynoq (Paul H, Paul S & Rich)

Mastiff: Plague (APF Records) [Paul S]

Mastiff are a 5 piece from Hull, who, according to their Facebook page, play hardcore, doom and sludge. Mastiff are clearly a band who do not indulge in false advertising as that is a perfect description of what is on offer on Plague. After a dissonant intro, first track Hellcircle kicks the album off with fast, simple hardcore. The song slows down for the final third and is crushingly heavy. Next track Bubonic is a fantastically nasty piece of sludge. The riffs drip with tri-tones, the track has a feel that I associate with Autopsy’s slower, more putrid material, maybe a little of Bolt Throwers slow and nasty as well. Brainbleed is only one minute twenty seconds, but manages to have an insanely fast hardcore part, and a sickeningly slow and heavy ending. Next we slow it down again for Quarantine, which has a huge groove laden feel, it’s impossible to not bang your head to this one; I tried keeping my head still and damn near broke my neck. Vermin is another mainly slow track, which has an aggressive, driving rhythm. The song is as unstoppable as continental drift, feels like a runaway bulldozer. 

Torture follows the fast aggressive intro, going into a sickeningly slow ending pattern that has been used on a few tracks, however the slow part isn’t as smooth as the rest of the slow material, the riffs stagger and stumble, before coming together for an incredibly powerful ending. This gives the song an interesting rhythmic style that makes the track stand out. Weep batters the listener before descending into lurching, dissonant riffs. This is a decidedly nasty piece of work. The album ends with Black Death, one of the heaviest pieces of doom/sludge that I have ever heard, achingly slow and heavy. The final track finishes off the listener by slowly pounding them into the ground. This track is monolithically huge, and heavier than a neutron star, I have genuinely not heard anything quite as heavy as this; in fact, if anyone ever asks you for a definition of what ‘Heavy’ is as a word to describe music, just play them this song. 

Plague is a fantastic album. Intense, aggressive, pounding, huge and furiously angry. The mix of fast and crushingly slow works very well, mainly because the intensity and anger does not diminish when the songs slow down, if anything it only makes the songs more intense. This album is almost certainly going to be in all the Best of the year lists in 11 months time. 9/10

Lumbar: The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome (Argonauta Records 2019 Re-Release) [Paul S]

Lumbar is (or maybe I should say was, as this is a re-release, The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome was originally released in 2013) Aaron Edge (Bible Black Tyrant, Ramprasad, Iamthethorn, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth and so many other bands I couldn’t possibly type them all out), Tad Doyle (Tad, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth) and Mike Scheidt (Yob, Middian, Vhol). This album couldn’t have been an easy thing to record, considering the circumstances of when it was recorded. Multi-instrumentalist Aaron Edge had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (the band name Lumbar, comes from Edge having to have 3 Lumbar punctures in order for a diagnosis to be made), and was not sure if he was going to be able to keep on making music (happily he has been able to continue his career in music, and has a number of projects on the go at the moment). However, whilst this album was being made that fact was not yet apparent. The album has 7 songs, titled Day 1, Day 2 etc. 

The main style on the album is sludgy doom, with some interesting experimental parts. Day 1 starts with a sample from The Twilight Zone before crashing into some massive doom metal that is a little reminiscent of Electric Wizard, Ufomammut or possibly a little of Lee Dorian's current doom project With The Dead. Mike Scheidt’s very recognisable howl, cuts through the dense de-tuned riffs, the song sounds as if it is in pain, in places the track has layered vocals that seem to emphasise this. Day 2 is slow and lurching, the 2 vocals feel angry rather than in pain. I should point out that this is also a short track, coming in at less than 3 minutes. In fact. 4 out of the 7 songs on The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome are less than 3 minutes long (Days 2,3,4,5). Day 3 is an experimental track that is guitar and bass fragments looped, with shouted vocals and no drums or beat of any kind. Day 4 is short and angry. The drums are at the fore for this track, in places it is just drums and vocals. The song has a very heavy ending with nasty guttural vocals. 

Day 5 is another experimental track, it feels droney and dreamlike, with whispered vocals. Day 6 is another aggressive doom track, slow, but with a driving rhythm, and very distinctive vocals from Mike Scheidt. Day 7 draws the album to a close with a melancholy, but still dense and aggressive piece of doom. There is a similarity with the first track. The ending of Day 7 is drawn out and slow, dissonant chords getting slower and more diffident until the track fades out. The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome is a great album, born out of difficult circumstances. Although it isn’t very long (the whole album comes in at 25 minutes), it is a very interesting beast, with depth and great songwriting. I’m very glad that Aaron Edge has been able to continue to make music, as more of this may be a possibility. Highly recommended! 8/10

Hollow Leg: Civilizations (Argonauata Records) [Paul H]

Civilizations is album number four from Florida sludge outfit Hollow Leg. Hollow Leg are not a band I have heard previously but with sludge seemingly being the ‘in thing’ in metal these days there are bands popping out of the woodwork all over the place and it’s hard to keep up. Hollow Leg play a very run of the mill style of sludge metal which means they don’t really stand out too much. They sound is also quite relaxed in comparison to the heavyweights of the genre with Hollow Leg relying more on atmosphere than sonic devastation. This does mean that this album is fairly forgettable as I like my sludge crushing, devastating and utterly filthy. There are some very nice riffs and grooves through Civilizations but beyond that it’s very much sludge by the numbers. It’s nice background music but there are bands doing what Hollow Leg do far better. Not a bad album just a fairly uninspired one. 6/10

Mo’ynoq: Dreaming In A Dead Language (Self Released) [Rich]

Mo’ynoq impress with Dreaming In A Dead Language which is the debut album by the North Carolina black metallers. Black metal can be a very difficult subgenre and Mo’ynoq have crafted an album that definitely requires multiple listens to fully get your head around. It’s an extremely ferocious album full of discord, dissonance and labyrinthine song structures. It deftly balances the chaotic and atmospheric natures of black metal with songs that envelop and suffocate your senses. 

Melodic moments are few and far between but when they appear you have enough time to gasp for air before once more plunging into the suffocating darkness. This approach is most effective in songs such as These Once Tranquil Grounds, Carve My Name and ferocious opener Empyreal Decay. Dreaming In A Dead Language is not an easy album to get into but it’s one that’s definitely worthwhile once you’re there and Mo’ynoq prove themselves to be a worthy addition to the flourishing US black metal scene. 8/10

Monday, 7 January 2019

Reviews: Gin Annie, Festerday, Fusion Bomb, Emerald Sabbath (Reviews By Paul H)

Gin Annie: 100% Proof (Off Your Rocka Records)

With over 6500 likes on Facebook and half a decade already under their belt as a band, Wolverhampton hard rockers Gin Annie finally get their debut release out to their increasing fan club. I saw these guys support Graham Bonnet in Pontypridd last year and they gave a reasonable show (although Bonnet was ropey to be honest and the night was stolen by Doomsday Outlaw). Full of energy and bursting with confidence, the band are another in the new wave of British classic rock alongside a plethora of bands like Those Damn Crows and Federal Charm who pushed through in 2018.

Vocalist Dave Foster and guitarist Byron Garbett, who are cousins form the nucleus of the band, now completed by guitarist Brian Green, Phil Burrows on bass and drummer Jack Ryland Smith. Their music hits a certain market, and whilst there is nothing which gets me excited here it’s a competent performance from a band that may well take some large strides in 2019 towards those events which seem to be everywhere; such as the Planet Rock sponsored Rockstock, Winters End and Steelhouse Festival. It’s certainly well played, with Foster giving a solid vocal performance throughout and Garbett’s lead work neat and tidy. Tracks such as the single Chains, Next 2 Me and Damage Is Done are all ear worms which get the foot tapping. Fitting into an already crowded market, Gin Annie may well push their way towards the front of the pile. 7/10

Festerday: Iihtallan (Seasons Of Mist)

The two-track bludgeoning from the Finnish underground cult death metallers which hit late in 2018 was the perfect precursor for this long-awaited full-length debut. The two tracks contained in that release, The One Who Strangles Stars And Suns and Let The Sun Vomit Its Beams Upon Your Cold Swollen Skin were uncompromising, and I said at the time were ‘fused with raging punk anger and massive slashing riffs’. Well, the full-length monster continues in the same vein, but with an underlying melody which is surprising at times given the ferocity of the EP. Don’t get me wrong, this is no love song-soaked release, and it is still as brutal as the taster menu was. Tracks such as Edible ExcrementVomiting Pestilence and Into The Void, with its doom laden feel, are as relentless as you would expect; the ferocity of the band obvious within the chaos that is unleashed. Powerful, crushing and with the duel guitar work of Timo Kontio and Teemu Saari razor sharp, Iihtallan is an uncompromising slab of death metal which merges the old school sound with punk fuelled aggression and the imperiousness of quality black metal. A nasty, snarling piece of work which sets 2019 off to a fantastically gruesome start. 8/10

Fusion Bomb: Concrete Jungle (Iron Shield Records)

Oh yes. Fucking yes! Form a pit and stomp your arse off as old school thrash from Luxembourg crashes into 2019 with a total disregard for anyone or anything. This is thrash as it should be. Fast, ferocious and totally infectious. Not merely a nod but a massive head swing to the legends such as Exodus, Death Angel and Overkill, Fusion Bomb hit the accelerator with intent on Zest Of Scorn and decide that the brake pedal is for pussies until they slam head first into the wall as the last bars of their cover of Excel’s I Never Denied fades. In between there is nothing but massive riffs, roaring vocals and groove inciting rhythm with their 2018 single You’re A Cancer To This World and the frantic Nyctophobia amongst the numerous highlights. Home of Amazon’s tax dodging HQ and everything else that is bland and dull, Concrete Jungle is the complete opposite. When thrash is done well it is hard to be beaten. This is a thumper of a debut. 8/10

Emerald Sabbath: Ninth Star (Plastic Head)

Let’s face it, 2019 is shaping up to be a kitbag stuffed with dog shit. Political chaos, climate change and humanity is generally being total twats to each other. So why not start the New Year with an album that mirrors that stinking festering kitbag; a tribute to Black Sabbath performed by some of those who starred in the band during the years the band was never actually meant to be anything but a project for Tony Iommi, alongside some tracks that are never going to be bettered. Add in The English Chamber Choir and a string quartet and already this is looking either highly ambitious or an idea that should have been aborted in the first trimester. This is the brainchild of Michael Sullieabhain, apparently a former nuclear construction safety inspector who clearly lost the plot in his day job. He’s managed to bring together virtually every person who played in the various versions of Sabbath apart from Iommi, Butler, Ward and Osbourne, as well as Ronnie James Dio’ Glenn Hughes and Ian Gillan. So, apart from Vinnie Appice, a real bunch of also rans really.

Let’s tackle the string quartet pieces first as they are probably less of an irritation. We get Embryo from Masters Of Reality, which is pointless before Stonehenge from 1983’s Born Again which is three times as long as the original and goes precisely nowhere. Fluff, originally an acoustic piece from 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, is a superb breather in amongst the chaos that was unfolding on and around that album; here is it is routine, with the string quartet providing a passable cover which adds precisely nothing all to the original. Orchid, from Masters Of Reality is another that is unable to achieve any upwards propulsion and leaves you yawning whilst Superstarz fails to ignite even the smallest spark of interest. So that covers that. And then we get to the real steaming turds. 

First up is Die Young from HeavenAand Hell. With a production that sucks balls, and an attempt that can only be described as a passable pub covers band, the immediate outrage of any attempt to cover RJD is fuelled by the absolute desecration that follows. Back to 1983 with a ball achingly bad version of Trashed, which was only ever any good because of Iommi’s riffs and Gillan’s maniacal shrieks … and the fact that Gillan only joined the band because he was pissed. The album hops eras, with She’s Gone from Technical Ecstasy totally ruined, which is impressive given how much of a rhino turd that album was anyway.

In For The Kill fails to ignite anything without the passion of Glenn Hughes whilst the turgid approach to Hole In The Sky had me screaming “turn it off”. But just before you think this is reaching the nadir of the album, Adam Wakeman pops up with Changes, one my most hated of all Sabbs songs and absolutely destroyed in putrid lift muzac. With a line-up that ranges from Bev Bevan, Neil Murray, Appice, to Tony Martin, Terry Chimes and Laurence Cottle (those huge household Sabbath names) this may well be badged as a tribute to the godfathers of metal but please in the name of the black winged one stop. It is dire and deserves only to reside in the £0.99 bin for eternity. Put on some proper Sabbath and forget it ever existed. 1/10

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Reviews: Nailed To Obscurity, Swallow The Sun, Wille & The Bandits, Steel Engraved (By Matt, Paul H & Rich)

Nailed To Obscurity: Black Frost (Nuclear Blast) [Matt]

I'll level with you I hadn't heard of German death/doom merchants Nailed To Obscurity until I saw them play at Bloodstock last year, they did impress with their thundering heavy doom cut with death metal vocals. So I couldn't turn up the chance to review their latest album when it hit MoM Towers, mainly to see if they could replicate what they do live on record. The band hail from the Esens in Lower Saxony the town has a population of 7,000 and they are looking to leave their mark on the metal world with this fourth album (their first for Nuclear Blast). The war drums of the title track set things of with a building intro that brings in bass for repetition while a guitar slide brings the morose vocals it's in this one track you can hear what Nailed To Obscurity are about as a band.

With shades of Katatonia and Opeth (frontman Raimund Ennenga is so much like Akerfeldt it hurts) they are a melodic, doomy death metal band who have added a different touch to this record than on their previous one which took off at a much more savage pace all dual leads and blast beats, here the riffs swirl with melancholy, the songs brood and build into much more mature pieces. According to guitarist Jan-Ole Lamberti (one half the founding six stringers with Volker Dieken) say that "Our main goal was to do something different. I think Black Frost sounds like Nailed To Obscurity there are a lot of similarities but it’s different." If the more moody, ambient, dramatic style of metal is your bag then I'd suggest grabbing a copy of Black Frost from your local retailer, it's the perfect album to get you through the January blues. 8/10

Swallow The Sun: When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (Century Media) [Paul H]

2015’s triple album Songs From the North was well worth the effort in the end but you had to work for the rewards, particularly after the much lauded Emerald Forest And The Blackbird. The eighth long player from the Finns is now with us and When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is likely to be one of the albums of year. Crammed with their trademark melancholic doom but lit by some beautiful melody, this album continues the band’s evolution. The opening chords of the title track immediately confirm that Swallow The Sun have traversed deep into their painstakingly explored sound of the past fifteen years.

The Crimson Crown and Firelights maintain the journey. It is fuelled by personal loss, with its origins deeply entwined with Trees Of Eternity's Broken Mirror (with the much missed late Aleah Stanbridge). Mikklo Kotamaki’s perfect dark vocals are enhanced by harmonies and melodies which flow and pour through the album. Percussion and tender guitar support Clouds On Your Side before the song ignites into a fireball; Delicate strings augment closing track Never Left. At times crushingly heavy, at times ethereal and fragile, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light has been meticulously and lovingly created. It is already deserving of a place in 2019’s higher placings. 9/10

Wille & The Bandits: Paths (Fat Toad Records) [Matt]

One play of Wille & The Bandits' fifth studio album Paths and you would be forgiven for thinking this is a band from the American West Coast, the use of 60's and 70's sounds with blues, hard rock, Americana, electronic music, funk soul etc all comes from that region and Wille & The Bandits bring all of these sounds into this album. However they are not American, nope in fact this rootsy trio hail from Cornwall but they have been plying their trade for good while now to much acclaim from critics, they were voted ones to watch at Glastonbury by The Guardian, and musicians alike the slide playing of Wille Edwards has been hailed by Joe Bonamassa. Joey Bones is also one of the high profile artists they have shared the stage with, others being Deep Purple, Status Quo, Warren Haynes and Jon Butler Trio (who the band take a lot of their sound from).

Wille describes Paths like so "I feel that we have finally managed to capture the various soundscapes and unusual instrumentation of our sound on an album without losing the raw live energy". One look at the credits and you can see this Wille handles the vocals along with electric/acoustic guitars, lap steel, dobro and Weissenborn, Matt Brooks takes all manner of bass an cello/strings while Andrew Naumann plays every percussion instrument going. It's a real cornucopia of sounds from the bottle neck blues of One Way, to finger picked ballad Four Million Days, the hip-hop influenced Keep It On The Down-Low and the tribal Find My Way.

The songs deal with a number of issues but the overarching lyrical influence is how the government have failed to protect us and the environment, on the swaggering Make Love and Southern rocking of Retribution, however it also deals with Wille becoming a father on Watch You Grow and depression on How Long which is a tribute to Chris Cornell and obvious vocal influence. It's a thoroughly retro feelling record that uses modern production techniques to bring a larger sonic palette, because of this it works on two levels, it's immediately accessible but the true talent here is audible after repeated listens, a few weeks in and 2019 has one of it's most musically eclectic releases so far. 8/10

Steel Engraved: Steel Engraved (ROAR - Rock Of Angels Records) [Rich]

Steel Engraved are a heavy metal band from Germany with this self titled album being the third by the band. Steel Engraved have a classic heavy metal sound but influences from contemporary metal and European power metal are quite prevalent in their sound. I found this a fairly tedious album - there are moments of great promise that unfortunately come to nothing. There’s very little excitement or energy in the music with the band sounding like they are phoning it in half the time. Most of the songs go by and leave no lasting impression whatsoever.

The moments where this album does shine are the more power metal influenced songs such as Nightwarriors and Rebellion which have a bit more energy to them. Unfortunately these songs are in the minority and the majority of the album simply sounds tired and uninspired. It’s a shame that this album so failed to grab my attention as the band definitely have the capability to be a great heavy metal act. I haven’t heard the previous albums so don’t know if this is a third album slump but the band definitely need more energy and enthusiasm in their sound. 5/10

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Top 10 Of 2018

Arwen Hutchings

1. Blind River - Blind River

2. The Magpie Salute - High Water 1

3. Idlewar - Fractured

4. Lazuli - Saison 8

5. Electric 6 - Bride Of The Devil

6. Blackberry Smoke - Find A Light

7. The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut

8. Vodun- Ascend

9. Grave Lines - Fed Into The Nihilist Engine

10. Doomsday Outlaw - Hard Times

Anthony Hutchings

1. Ghost - Prequelle

2.Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions

3. Parkway Drive - Reverence

4. Carpenter Brut - Leather Teeth

5. Gost - Possessor

6. Judas Priest - Firepower

7. Daron Malakian & Scars On Broadway - Dictator

8. Powerwolf - Sacrament Of Sin

9. Dimmu Borgir - Eonian

10. Conjurer - Mire

Rhod Davies (No Order)

1. Ghost - Prequelle

2. Judas Priest - Firepower

3. Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest

4. Ihshan - Amr -

5. Portal - Ion

6. Summoning - With Doom We Come

7. Immortal - Northern Chaos God’s

8. Obscura - Diluvium

9. Kamelot - The Shadow Theory

10. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions

Jamie Richards (Pity My Brain)

1. All Them Witches - Self Titled

2. Church Of The Cosmic Skull - Science Fiction

3. The Virginmarys - Northern Sun Sessions

4. Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats - Wasteland

5. Estuary Blacks - Self Titled

6. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard/Slomatics -Totems

7. Pete Spiby - Failed Magician

8. Graveyard - Peace

9. Vodun - Ascend

10. Various Artists - The Wall Redux

Joey Watkins

1. Valafar - Wolfenkind

2. Agrona - Realm Of The Fallen

3. Skinned - Shadow Syndicate

4. Incursion -Scourge

5. Skindred - Big Tings

6. Gutlocker - CRY Havok

7. Judas Priest - Firepower

8. Bury Tomorrow - Black Flame

9. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions

10. Sentry- Bacteria

Charl Foo

1. Gnod - Chapel Perilous

2. Uniform/The Body - Mental Wounds

3. Not Healing Portal - Ion

4. Anna Von Hausswolf - Dead Magic

5. The Body - I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer

6. Low - Double Negative

7. Gnaw Their Tongues - Genocidal Majesty

8.Bodyhacker - Demos

9. Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

10 Big Lad - Pro Rock

Duncan Everson

1. Saxon – Thunderbolt

2. Monster Truck – Evolution

3. Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions

4. Federal Charm – Passenger

5. Crossfaith – Ex_MacHina

6. TesseracT - Sonder

7. Red Dragon Cartel - Patina

8. Gary Numan – Savage

9. The Grudge – Riding With The Vikings

10. Judas Priest - Firepower

Rick Eaglestone

1. Alien Weaponry - TU

2. Carnation - Chapel Of Abhorrence

3. In The Woods - Cease The Day

4. Agrona - Realm Of The Fallen

5. UN - Sentiment

6. Sleep - The Sciences

7. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard/Slomatics - Totems EP

8. Deicide - Overtures Of Blasphemy

9. Nervosa - Downfall Of Mankind

10. Ghost - Prequelle

Mike Knight

1. Ghost - Prequelle

2. Dimmu Borgir - Eonian

3. Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest

4. Deicide - Overtures Of Blasphemy

5. Powerwolf - The Sacrament Of Sin

6. Architects - Holy Hell

7. Bloodbath - The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn

8. At The Gates - To Drink From The Night Itself

9. Parkway Drive - Reverence

10. Judas Priest - Firepower

Friday, 4 January 2019

MoM Writers' Top 20 Albums Of The Year

(Paul H) By the end of 2018 I’ll have reviewed over 400 album releases in 2018. It’s been a ridiculously brilliant year for our music. Endless streams of superb albums have passed our way, and it’s to Matt’s credit that he’s always kept a steady hand on the wheel. Of course, when you review so many releases, it must take something exceptional to stand out. There were so many albums this year that could have made this list. I’ve tried to cover a range of genres, from black and death metal through to more classic rock and progressive music which all appeal to me.

I could have written this list 20 times and it wouldn’t have been the same on any of them. You could add to the 20 below Primordial, Amorphis, Cattail Brew, Saxon, Valafar, Blasphemer UK, Memoriam, Wiegedood, Against the Grain, Bloodshot Dawn, Legion of Wolves, Ring of Gyges, Black Moth, Tribulation, Lunatic Soul, Necrophobic, Jungle Rot, The Magpie Salute, Alice in Chains, Electric Six, Ann Wilson, Aborted, Unleashed, Ultha, Marduk, The Temperance Movement, Blackberry Smoke, Audrey Horne, Barren Earth, Betzefer, Tomb Mold, Corrosion of Conformity, Omnimum Gatherum, Obscura, Mist, Solstice and Gruesome, all of whom delivered fantastic albums.

With 2019 already dripping with new releases, I already recommend Swallow The Sun and Flotsam and Jetsam whose new releases drip with brilliance. 2018 was astonishing. So, without further ado, here’s my top 20, furnished with a quote from my reviews where applicable and from some of my Musipedia brothers when I didn’t get to the release first! Enjoy.

(Sean) And so another years end is upon us, another cycle of complete and a chance for us all to reflect on the finer things in life. Goals that we have achieved? Places that we finally visited? Feck aff with ‘dat shite, it’s all about the amount of killer metal released and 2018 proved to be no less potent. Whilst death metal may have reigned supreme for it’s duration, there’s been no shortage of pleasant surprises and proof that metal is as potent as it’s ever been (looking at you, Oli Sykes). So, with all that word bollocks out of the way, sink your face into this list of slaying steel.

(Paul S) It’s that time of the year again. It’s nearly Christmas, we’re getting close to the end of the year, so it’s time to take a beautiful creative, subjective art-form and judge it based on our own arbitrary system. It has been a great year for music, this list has taken quite a while to compile, I’m still a little unsure about the order. I’ve left out some really great albums, so much good stuff has come out this year.

Matt - Top 20

20. Orphaned Land - Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs
See Paul H

19. Crippled Black Phoenix - Great Escape
"Great Escape is their darkest record yet it's less about the anger more about disappointment, however there are a lot of joyous moments here hidden, creeping out of the woodwork just trying to make things better overall but you have to listen for them, it's a record that cements Crippled Black Phoenix as one of the most uniquely talented forward thinking bands around."

18. Oceans Of Slumber - The Banished Heart
"The Banished Heart is the culmination of a perfect storm of musical dexterity, personal tragedy and resilience in the face of adversity, it’s a record with a fervour that it finds hard to contain and it’s simply brilliant"

17. Conjurer - Mire
"Much like Gandalf do not take them for just being capable of a few cheap tricks, this is real magic worthy of a legendary (Electric) wizard"

16. Visigoth - Conqueror's Oath
"Buy Conquer's Oath, play it loud and worship the steel and silver!"

15. Black Moth - Anatomical Venus
"Repeated plays allow the album to permeate deeply, and each spin cements what a stunning piece of work this is"

14. Witch Tripper - I, Of The Storm
"I, Of The Storm is a massively entertaining slab of riffage which moves Witch Tripper on to the next level"

13. Orion's Reign - Scores Of War
"This album has every style of muscular power metal I love and having listened to this album numerous times it gets better with every spin, glorious!"

12. Dukes Of Orient - Dukes Of Orient
"Dukes Of The Orient is a retro feast for anyone that picked up the 1992 record Aqua (the first Asia album with Payne) or of course those that had been on the AOR/Prog train since they first heard Heat Of The Moment."

11. Witch Mountain - Witch Mountain
"The result is imposing; a gritty mix of dark blues, thunderous doom and even some death growls."

10. Savage Machine - Abandon Earth
"The apocalyptic vision of Savage Machine’s debut full length is a classic metal masterpiece. These Danes bring together everything I love about metal on album and over the ten songs on this record they bring a big goofy grin to your face again and again."

9. Haken - Vector
"emphasising that while this band and entire genre has a habit of cloaking any relatedness behind elaborate tales, at their core, they remain incredibly emotional and immersive"

8. Michael Romeo - War Of The Worlds Part 1
"With a second part promised you do wonder how they will follow this, it's the best Symphony X album never made if you like progressive metal then you need to hear this!"

7. Valis Ablaze - Boundless
"A record with rousing choruses set to a backing of lush soundscapes and progressive riffs that will have you gurning like Les Dawson...This is an ambitious record that achieves everything it sets out to be, listen and observe but don't get too close Valis Ablaze are currently en fuego"

6. VOLA - Applause From A Distant Crowd
"Ambitious and spine-tingling at times Applause Of A Distant Crowd deserves all the plaudits it's going to receive, play it repeatedly to really hear it and you won't want to listen anything else for a while."

5. Ghost - Prequelle
"Pop-metal mastery, occult theatrics and out of the ordinary covers, check on all three this is Ghost’s modus operandi and it’s brilliant."

4. Agrona - Realm Of The Fallen
"I proceeded to play it multiple times at very high volume and I can truly say that after numerous line up shuffles and honing their (witch)craft on stages across the land the quality of this record is astounding... Realm Of The Fallen tour-de-force of epic proportions."

3. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions
"It’s becoming a challenge to find superlatives for the Maryland four-piece whose long awaited 12th album fulfils all expectations. Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines and Jean Paul Gaster continue to follow their own destiny, creating songs which fit with their own passion and vision. They don’t follow trends, they simply produce quality music."

2. Blind River - Blind River
See Paul H

1. Judas Priest - Firepower
"Album no 18 from the metal gods and it continues with the same level of quality which the Priest delivered in spades on 2014’s Redeemer Of Souls...It’s British Heavy Metal at its finest."

Paul H - Top 20

1. Behemoth – I Loved You At your Darkest
“The rapid-fire tremolo picking, thunderous drumming and massive riffs all create something magical. You need to hear this album. And then play it again. This is my album of the year. In the face of all competition, the Polish blackened metal of Behemoth sits highest.”

2. Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
“Once more the band has served up a treat with a magnificent release that builds upon their previous albums, intricate pieces nestle comfortably alongside the straightforward death metal passages … we embark on a typical journey which encapsulates the Orphaned Land approach; protest, resistance, joy, tragedy, anger; all encapsulated in anthemic and poetic compositions.”

3. .Blind River – Blind River
“With every track liable to infest your brain with the catchy hooks, what more can I say but get hold of a copy now and enjoy the ride. Blind River have delivered a slab of blues rock ‘n’ roll which just oozes quality.”

4. Riverside – Wasteland
“Ultimately, Wasteland is an album that features segments of nearly every Riverside album. There’s the melody of Love, Fear And the Time Machine, alongside the rawness of Second Life Syndrome and the debut angst of Out Of Myself. Less polished than previous releases, it’s the fresh, honest sound that provides a rawness which the band clearly needed to flesh out. It’s impossible to find a flaw on another magnificent release, which stands proudly alongside their catalogue and Duda’s solo work with Lunatic Soul. If you want a blueprint, this is what you follow.”

5. Immortal – Northern Chaos Gods
“A magnificent, triumphant and explosive return to the icy world. Even in the heat of the summer, the bleakness of the permafrost prevails. A grand epic and a welcome return.”

6. In The Woods – Cease The Day
Rich reviewed this beautiful album and commented: “In The Woods have surpassed themselves with Cease The Day, an album that sits in both light and darkenss and all the shades in between. There were several moments throughout where my arm hairs were standing on end which is always a sign that I’m listening to something special”.

7. Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
“Although some of the songs on the album were written as far back as 2012, Eonian is a complete piece of work, which flows from start to finish. The ethereal and haunting closing track Rite of Passage is the perfect finale to an album that is astonishing and incredible.”

8. Metal Church – Damned If You Do
“If XI was an intense ride, Damned If You Do at the very least accelerates even harder. The riffs are bigger, heavier and more crushing, whilst Howland and Steve Unger have the rhythm section locked down perfectly.”

9. Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
“It is pacey, laden with groove, clever changes and astute lyrics. It’s been three years. It has been worth the wait. Clutch is synonymous with quality and consistency. A fine album to add to an already amazing body of work.”

10. The Damned – Evil Spirits
“Apparently, the album has been the band’s highest ever placed in the UK chart, and fully deserved it is. There is not a poor track on this release, but stand out tracks for me include Shadow Evocation, with its gothic feel and dramatic increase in pace as the track develops and the politically charged Look Left.”

11. Judas Priest – Firepower
“Firepower impresses in a way that only Judas Priest can do. It’s British Heavy Metal at its finest. Sit back, crack open a glass of something cold and enjoy the Metal Gods doing what they do best. Pure heavy metal.”

12. Orange Goblin - The Wolf Bites Back
“… with this latest release the band have hit an even higher gear and are demonstrating the adage that there is no replacement for experience and quality. It’s been four years since the excellent Back From The Abyss pummelled our ears, and since that time the band has put a lot of effort into getting their ninth album spot on. The good news is that The Wolf Bites Back is as good as anything the band has ever released.”

13. Bloodbath – The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn
“Utilising the state of the world as inspiration for the themes, Nystrom and his wretched souls have created a fetid, stench ridden release which demands repeated plays. Tracks like Deader, the harrowing Morbid Antichrist and the closing B-movie soakd Chainsaw Lullaby all combine on one of the most rotten, stinking and repulsively incredible death metal albums of 2018.”

14. Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons – The Age of Absurdity
“Campbell’s guitar work is sublime throughout; subtle little licks and passages nip in and out whilst Todd and Dane supply ample support. Starr’s voice is ideally suited to the tracks, which retain the rock ‘n’ roll feel throughout. This is a very pleasing release that will grow as the tracks become more familiar. One of the classic rock albums of the year.”

15. Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
There is little to say about this release. It simply destroys! From the opening track Ripperology to Internal Destestation, the Californian’s who took their name from a line in a Demolition Hammer song go full throttle for the jugular. It’s 100mph, a swirling slashing maelstrom of sinister and evil intent, underpinned with a groove and melody that makes it accessible yet retaining the lacerating approach of all-out death thrash metal.

16. Winterfylleth – The Harrowing of Heirdom
“The shorter instrumental tracks with the combination of cello and acoustic guitar, such as penultimate track Resting Tarn, A Gleeman’s Volt and Embers nestle comfortably alongside the longer story telling of the likes of Edler Mother, The Shepherd and the magnificent title track which closes the album. Unique, original and utterly spellbinding, this is a truly magical piece of work.”

17. Soulfly – Ritual
“Ritual is worth the three year wait. As soon as Marc Rizzo’s unmistakable trademark riffs open the album on the title track, which then explodes into a melee of tribal thrash you know exactly where you are. It’s hard, it’s heavy; it’s Soulfly.”

18. Grà – Väsen
We didn’t review this superb release but suffice to say in the face of massive competition in the black metal field this year, Heljarmadr and co have delivered a monstrous third album that simply annihilated.

19. Agrona – Realm Of The Fallen
Matt reviewed this brutal debut. His comment: “It’s a brilliantly realised debut from a band who have become one of the best on the South Wales scene. Get ready to enter The Realm Of The Fallen; You’ll never want to return.”

20. The Pineapple Thief - Dissolution
“I’ve listened to this album continuously since it was released, and it continues to provide delicious moments of almost insatiable quality; much like that first drink after a thirsty hike, soaking up Dissolution is a moment that leaves you desperate for the same again. I didn’t think that the band could improve on Your Wilderness. Dissolution might just be their finest hour.”

Paul S - Top 10

20 - Drawn And Quartered - The One Who Lurks
Very few bands can deal out these levels of intensity, which is what makes this album so special. Not for everyone, but essential for those who get it!"

19 - De Profundis - The Blinding Light Of Faith
De Profundis have produced a fantastic extreme technical death metal album with “The Blinding Light Of Faith”. The album is strong enough to stand up to repeated listens, in fact, it’s such a complex piece of brutality that it Demands repeated listens. Highly recommended!

18 - Leeched - You Took The Sun When You Left
This album has a unique feel to it, the mixing of slow and fast, whilst not loosing any intensity is rare, and these guys pull it off brilliantly. Sublimely viscous, beautifully nasty.

17 - Message In A Cloud - Anassa
Anassa is a beautiful, cathartic piece of work, I’ve really enjoyed listening to it.

16 - Ævangelist - Matricide In The Temple Of Omega
 If you like music that challenges you, that is difficult but ultimately rewarding, then this could be for you as well. Personally, I love it, even if it scares me a little.

15 - Vreid - Lifehunger
Lifehunger is a great album, and it fits in perfectly with the very impressive body of work that Vreid have created during their 14 years of making music. Highly recommended!

14 - Deadly Carnage - Through The Void, Above The Suns
Great songs, well played, with nothing out of place to jar the listening experience. It’s one of those albums that when you come to the end of the album, you just want to go strait back to the start and listen to it again.

13 - Wolvennest - Void
If you love heavy music, and have an open mind, I urge you to check this out. It’s a meditative, thoughtful, achingly sexy, pulsing, droning, heavy, beautiful, bewitching and exquisite masterpiece.

12 - Allfather - And All Will Be Desolation
They have the heaviness of early Electric Wizard, the groove of Carnival Bizarre era Cathedral, the furious anger of Eyehategod and the swagger of Orange Goblin, whilst not actually sounding like any of those bands. Allfather have their own sound, they aren’t trying to anyone but themselves. Don’t be surprised if this album is featured in all the best album of the year lists in about a month, it’s going to be in mine. Did I mention that this album is really heavy?

11 - Primordial - Exile Amongst The Ruins
Primordial didn’t make any huge changes for this album. This is their established sound, realised perfectly.

10 - High On Fire - Electric Messiah
 Electric Messiah is probably High On Fire’s best album, from a band that have only made good albums. Do yourself a favour and get this album, it’s impossible to listen to it without smiling!

9 -  Zeal And Ardor - Stranger Fruit
An intriguing mix of black metal and spirituals. Definitely the most original thing I’ve heard this year.

8 -  Wiegedood - De Doden Hebben Het Goed III
Savage and beutiful in equal measure. The perfect end to the De Doden Habben Het Goed trilogy.

7 -  Thy Catafalque - Geometria
If you are an open minded Black Metal fan with a love of experimental, interesting music, then this could be your new favourite album. Sublime.

6 -  Voivod - The Wake
Even though the album is called The Wake, and considering the tragedy that this band have experienced, this album feels joyful. There is something uplifting and positive about it. I could have got this completely wrong, I might have misinterpreted it, but it makes me feel happy. I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.

5 -  The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing - Double Negative
Don’t be confused by the ‘steampunk’ label, this is punk, and pretty angry and aggressive punk at that (in some places it verges on thrash). Funny, intelligent lyrics that use victorian subjects to talk about current issues. This album was the soundtrack to my March and April.

4 -  Bast - Nanoångström
Nanoångström is a brilliant Doom / Black Metal album. I liked it the first time I listened to it, and it has grown on me with every listen. It’s beautiful and nuanced, massively heavy, intense and ferocious, all in one album. Highly recommended!

3 -  Winterfylleth - The Hallowing Of Heirdom
An amazing acoustic album, not folk; this is a much older style of music. Beautiful, melancholic and immersive. Having this album on my Ipod has really helped my mental health this year!

2 -  Ultha - The Inextricable Wandering
Dark, atmospheric, brooding, emotive and cathartic. My favourite black metal album released this year.

1 -  Yob - Our Raw Heart
Mike Scheidt nearly died after contracting Diverticulitis, and then again from a post operative e-coli infection last year. Coming so close to death seems to have given Mike a different view of the world. He seems to be more aware of the positive, affirming aspects of life, he’s still angry, and depressed at the state of the world, but seems to have gained an insight into not missing the beauty and love. Hence we have Anger and Acceptance, Rage and Understanding, Depression and Joy. And Our Raw Heart is a perfect reflection of this.
Yob have followed up one of the best Doom albums ever made, with a Doom album that is even better. 

Sean Morgan - Top 20

1. Panegyrist - Hierugry
This one caught me by surprise. Dense and complex yet not completely inaccessible, Panegyrist have created a work of transcendental blackened beauty. Black Metal can often be a stifling genre but Hierurgy sails past these trappings with ease. Essential.

2. Scorched - Ecliptic Butchery
Pushing the boundaries of your genre is all well and good but, in our heart of hearts, does this alway satisfy? We know, deep down, that we all crave unashamedly filthy OSDM with little regard for trend or innovation. Inhumanly low gutturals, wailing leads and jagged riffs to match, never has the rotten sounded to fresh.

3. Anaal Nathrakh - A New Kind of Horror
A veritable institution in the British extreme metal scene, Annal Nathrakh expand their sound once again to even greater levels of nihilistic depravity. This certainly isn’t a happy album and quite frankly?I hope Dave and Mick remain miserable, for the end result is this slab of a nightmarish beauty.

4. Alkaloid - Liquid Anatomy
Featuring more talent to make most want to quit music forever, Alkaloid return with another excursion into all things tastefully complex. Liquid Anatomy is an ever changing beast of progressive, technical death metal wizardry sure to please all fans and potential converts alike. To infinity and beyond!

5. Ascaris - The Raised Hand
Brutal intensity and merciless precision! Razor sharp blackened death metal delivered at a breakneck pace! Ascaris have been unleashed upon the world and The Raised hand is an absolute destroyer of a debut.

6. Lik - Carnage
Boss HM2 + killer Swedeath riffs = profit. What more do you want? RIP AND TEAR!

7. Feral - Flesh For Funeral Eternal
Same as above. Want more? Fine! Feral’s more groove laden approach ensures that your neck will forever be in blissful agony, from now till the end of all life. THE SWEDISH SAW IS THE FUCKING LAW!

8. Construct of Lethe - Exiler
Dissonant and melodic aren’t two words you’d usually associate with each other, but Exiler is a perfect example of coexistence in the contorting chaos that is Construct of Lethe. Deathspell Omega meets Domination era Morbid Angel? This still wouldn’t accurately describe CoL’s wonderfully contorted brand of death metal.

9. Omnuim Gatherum - The Burning Cold
A masterclass in melodic death metal from the Finnish elite. What more can be said? Delivered with dextrous musicianship and supreme compositional might, Omnium Gatherum have left their competitors in the cold (’scuse the pun).

10. Tomb Mold - Manner Of Infinite Forms
There's something filthy emanating from Canada, and this beast of a release it completely responsible. Boil and grime, filth and slime, beware of this fetid death metals toxic touch.

11. Gutter Instinct  - Sisyphus
Sure, you could just stick to worshiping ye olde Stockholm 4. But combine it with hefty doses of black metal and atmosphere? Well, you have this ripper of a release and proof that you don’t need to strictly adhere to the left hand path.

12. Alghazanth - Eight Coffin Nails
The final offering from these Symphonic Black Metallers and Eight Coffin Nails is a triumphant swan song for the furious Finns. R.I.P Alghazanth, your name will live on in legend. You will be missed.

13. Primordial - Exile Amongst the Ruins
There are few certainties afforded to us in the life, but what can be banked on is that Primordial do not make bad albums. Exile Amongst The Ruins sees these Irish legends expand their already evocative repertoire, elevating an already impeccable legacy to even greater heights. Brilliant.

14. Slidhr - The Futile Fire of Man
Another fine Irish band, though these grim Gael’s inhabit much darker depths. Submit your will and cast yourself into the void, for Slidhr have crafted a truly malefic piece of Black Metal. Essential.

15. Horizon Ablaze - The Weight of a Thousand Suns
When mentioned in some of black metals circles, one would imagine that the word “modern” is uttered wth great disdain. Enter Horizon Ablaze, triumphantly stamping these knuckle draggers into oblivion with a stunning exhibition of up to date blackened death and then some!

16. Necrophobic - Mark of the Necrogram
Mark of the Necrogram sees a triumphant return for the Swedish stalwarts, with all weapons brought to bear and firing with on all barrels in Satanic conflagration. No surprises here, though who needs it when your riffs are tighter than a nuns nether regions?

17. Visigoth - Conqueror's Oath
If you fail to be moved by Conqueror's Oath heroic hymns of victory and valour, then leave the fucking hall! True steel never dulls and there are none more truer than Visigoth. Hails!

18. Taphos - Come Ethereal Somberness
Another excellent debut, these diabolical Danes have crafted an utterly monstrous work of blackened death. Wonderfully brutish and tinged with malevolent atmosphere, Come Ethereal Somberness stops at nothing until all has been reduced to dust.

19. Immortal - Northern Chaos Gods
Having survived an acrimonious split and legal dispute, Demonaz and Horgh have unleashed a blizzard beast of a record. Northern Chaos Gods is an emphatic statement that they are the TRUE heirs to the kingdom of Blashyrkh, the TRUE sons of northern darkness. Hail mighty Ravendark!

20. Gaerea - Unsettling Whispers
Many may worship at the old altars of Black Metal but not Portuguese plaugebearers Gaera. No, Garea have their sights set on even darker horizons, infusing traces sludge and hardcore into their sensual onslaught. Unsettling Whispers is a harrowing journey into the many abysses beyond and one hell of a debut.

Alex - Top 20

20. Empire – Glue
‘’From start to finish, everything on Glue feels unique or different. And yes, while you can pick out the musical movement Empire is a part of, it is one they have committed their heart and soul to, allowing them to stand alongside some of the best acts in contemporary alt-prog’’

19. Black Peaks – All That Divides
‘’Black Peaks may take you off guard at first listen or maybe even second, yet it is their combination of the familiar with the unsettling or different, that will kept you enticed, proving beyond a doubt why they are an exciting and game-changing act’’

18. Screaming Females – All At Once
Although I more or less discovered Screaming Females in 2018, they mightily impressed me with their combination of sharp, acerbic songwriting and bold, witty lyricism, splattered across All at Once.

17. Sleep – The Sciences
Arguably the most important band in stoner metal made a comeback in 2019 with an album which is just as hypnotic, experimental and enticing as their past work.

16. Between the Buried And Me – Automata
Considering Automata as one cohesive piece, despite the album being split across two disks, makes for an album which is both rich in complexity and vast in ambition. Meanwhile, BTBAM continues to change, bringing funk laden riffs and commanding hooks to their aggressive sound.

15. Underoath – Erase Me
Whereas Underoath would once openly and proudly declare themselves to be Christians, Erase Me is fraught with internal turmoil. A theme which is expressed both through the agonizing lyricism and expressive instrumentation.

14. MAE – Multisensory Aesthetic Experience
In a year of beep-boops, MAE actually got the ambient electronic experiment right, embracing subtlety, nuance, and attention to detail, while brilliantly reinventing their sound.

13. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It
Despite having apparently been on the metal scene, Rolo Tomassi made a considerable impact this year. Understandably so as well, as their new album embraces contrast and experimentation, making for a fascinating listen.

12. Andrew W.K – You're Not Alone
While many may view Andrew WK as nothing more than frenetic hype music, his fans know that his style of partying involves taking risks. You're Not Alone proves that with an album which is both inspiring and a whole load of fun.

11. The Black Queen – Infinite Games
Another act who perfected integrating synths into this year was the Black Queen. When the Dillinger Escape Plan called it quits, many predicted that their skill would make them excel in any project. Infinite Games has proved that assumption true!

10. Zeal And Ardor – Stranger Fruit
Uniquely combining the morose sounds of Chain Gang Chanting with Metal, Zeal, and Ardor is undeniably one of the most enticingly odd acts around. Regardless, they have come a long way from making comedy songs on 4Chan, and deserve all your attention!

9. Architects – Holy Hell
Inspired by the death of a bandmate and a friend, Holy Hell is Architects most mature record, while remaining a visceral listening experience, burning with passion and emotion.

8. Judas Priest – Firepower
Firepower leads the charge in showing off some of the crunchiest riffs Priest have ever put to record, soaring solos screech and wail between verses, and Halford’s voice lacks no ferocity. Many look to the past with Classic Metal Bands, rarely expecting them to forge one of the best albums of their career.

7. Ghost – Prequelle
Aspiration shines from every facet of Prequelle, promising not only wide-ranging success and fame but new experiments, exciting risks and a forever changing, ghostly sense of intrigue.

6. Father John Misty – Gods Favourite Customer
God’s Favourite Customer may not only be Father John Misty’s most introspective album but his most confessional. fans will welcome this new direction, for the fact that the wordplay is still hilariously sharp-witted, and the musicianship still beautifully sad.

5. Idles – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
‘’For the uninitiated, Idles smash together influences ranging from stranglers to Fugazi, capturing perfectly the angst and wit, combined with a serious commitment to music, proving unique and sincere’’

4. Myles Kennedy – Year Of The Tiger
‘’Kennedy has already said he considers his solo material a long-term project. To me, if this is a one-off or indeed the first in a new era in a musical career, the deeply confessional nature make this record stand on its own as something to be remembered and understood as unique’’

3. Coheed and Cambria – The Unheavenly Creatures
‘’Unheavenly Creatures stands among the best albums in Coheed’s discography, bringing back the concept in a way which echoes the rising and falling dynamics of a traditional rock opera. Vaxis: Act I is only the first part in a dramatic journey. To Children and the Fence, the response can only be one of excitement’’

2. A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant
Eat the Elephant values subtle dramatics, as opposed to unbridled aggression. Instead of exposing internal pain, societal issues are at play. As the strange title purports, our fixation with consumption is plunged into question, as rich harmonies and instrumentation weave beautiful songs of post-apocalyptic turmoil

1. Haken - Vector
‘’Vector stands as a dark album, Not shy conceptually, we deal with harsh clinical realities of experimentation and psychological torture: concepts precisely captured by the warped and vivid melodies, intersecting and dueling with the instrumentation…While this band have a habit of cloaking and relatedness behind elaborate tales, they remain incredibly emotional and immersive’’

Richard - Top 20

1. Amorphis - Queen Of Time
Amorphis raised the bar for themselves with an extra emphasis on the folk and progressive elements resulting in one of the finest albums of their long career

2. In The Woods… - Cease The Day
In The Woods… have surpassed themselves with an album that sits in both light and darkness and all the shades in between the two

3. VOLA - Applause Of A Distant Crowd
Light years ahead of their debut, VOLA followed it with one of the progressive masterpieces of 2018

4. The Night Flight Orchestra - Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough
Members of Arch Enemy and Soilwork channel early 80’s FM radio and arena rock in an album which shouldn’t work but it really does and it is so much fun

5. Anaal Nathrakh - A New Kind Of Horror
An apt album title as Anaal Nathrakh channel the horrors of World War One into an album which is the musical equivalent of pure terror, The most intense album you will hear from 2018

6. Zeal And Ardor - Stranger Fruit
A standout album for many this year as Zeal & Ardor defy the convention of genre with their unique musical fusion and traditional spiritual African American music.

7. LIK - Carnage
Swedish HM-2 death metal carnage. Pure Entombed and Dismember worship but when it’s done this well who can argue?

8. Primordial - Exile Amongst The Ruins
Primordial raised the bar even higher for themselves with one of the best albums the band have done. A magical and emotional listening experience.

9. Wolfheart - Constellation Of The Black Light
The mix of straightforward melodic death metal mixed with melancholy and dark melodies is a winning combination. Aggressive yet haunting.

10. Judas Priest - Firepower
Bands who have been going as long as Judas Priest aren’t supposed to release albums as good as this at this point in their career yet Judas Priest did just that and it is pure and glorious heavy fucking metal.

11. Winterfylleth - The Hallowing Of Heirdom
Winterfylleth had jaws hitting the floor including my own with their quite frankly amazing acoustic album. Drawing on English heritage and folklore this is an epic, haunting and truly moving masterpiece.

12. Agrona - Realm Of The Fallen
Having seen these guys form and hone their craft in live venues I knew this was going to be a good album but was taken aback by just how good it was. Black metal which is epic in scale and ferocious in nature.

13. Watain - Trident Wolf Eclipse
After the more experimental approach on The Wild Hunt Watain went straight for the jugular with Trident Wolf Eclipse. Truly vicious and utterly uncompromising black metal.

14. Voivod - The Wake
Voivod surprised everyone with an album that is definitely a career highlight from the progressive thrash veterans and easily their best album since DImension Hatröss.

15. Lost In Thought - Renascence
Lost In Thought had me in awe with their long overdue second album sending my mouth agape and the hairs on my arms standing on end.

16. Skeletal Remains - Devouring Mortality
Old school death metal meets old school thrash metal in an album which simply rips your face off. One of those albums which had me envisioning circle pits in my head.

17. Krisiun - Scourge Of The Enthroned
Krisiun go back to basics and the Brazilian death metal trio simply bludgeon everything in their path with their brutalizing death metal style.

18. Immortal - Northern Chaos Gods
The first post-Abbath album sees Immortal sounding better than they have in years combining the raw frantic approach of Battles In The North with the epic style of At The Heart Of Winter. A superb return for the black metal legends.

19. Wiegedood - De Doden Hebben Het Goed III
This album only has a duration of only 34 minutes and a tracklisting of 4 songs but the music in these 4 songs is some of the finest and most uncompromising black metal you will hear this year.

20. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions
I thought Clutch had been going through the motions on their last couple of albums and then with Book Of Bad Decisions they slapped me in the face with some of the most awesome rock and roll tunes the band have ever done.
As an extra our friend from Rocksins/Stereoboard Jon Stickler sent us his Top 20

1. Ghost - Prequelle

2. Judas Priest - Firepower

3. Clutch - Book Of Bad Decisions

4. Turnstile - Time & Space

5. Pagan - Black Wash

6. Tribulation - Down Below

7. Visigoth - Conqueror's Oath

8. Orange Goblin - The Wolf Bites Back

9. Haunt - Burst Into Flame

10. Alice In Chains - Rainer Fog

11. Parkway Drive - Reverence

12. Architects - Holy Hell

13. Interrupters - Fight The Good Fight

14. Palm Reader - Braille

15. Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest

16. Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light

17. Alien Weaponry - Tu

18. Vein - Error Zone

19. Conjurer - Mire

20. Black Moth - Anatomical Venus