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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Reviews: Voidnaut, Warrior Path, Disillusive Play, The Elysian Fields

Voidnaut: Nadir (7Hard Records)

Voidnaut classify their sound as American Heavy and if I was pushed I'd say Alter Bridge with abit of Pantera for guts. Heavy grooves a slightly progressive edge and soulful vocals are the way the band operate and as the intro moves into Back From The Grave this debut release blares out of your speakers with some great playing the rhythm section of Kostas A (drums) and Kostas T (bass) have the shit kicking grooves with Kostas K the distorted riffage and solos like on This Pain Of Mine and Hunted really get the head nodding as Steve (yes Steve) takes hold of the mic with his commanding vocal power.

Voidnaut really sound American, if they were I'm sure they'd be played on all the radio stations meaning they'd be selling out stadia around the world. Take a track like This Pain Of Mine it's got a big groove, a great hook, some harsh shouts, clean chorus, a solo but mostly it's got a really melodic edge to it, ideal to be played loudly through a muscle car stereo, see also Control. The record was produced by Fotis Bernardo who makes the album zing with his production skill getting the acoustics on Porcelain Lady too stand out from the big metal riffs. Nadir is a very strong debut from this four piece, Athenian made, American influenced Voidnaut are far away from their nadir, in fact they are on a rise to glory with this debut. 8/10

Warrior Path: Warrior Path (Symmetric Records)

Greek songwriter/guitarist Andreas Sinanoglou met up with producer/keyboardist/guitarist/Symmetric Record head Bob Katsionis and proceeded to play the songs on this entire album to him off the top of his head (impressive). They recruited Dave Rundle on drums, with Bob taking bass/keys and guitar solos, they searched for a singer, Andreas' choice was Beast In Black vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos and this wish came true as he takes the mic and also recorded this album in his studio.  I'll state this right now it's an absolutely brilliant classic metal album that is influenced by the kings of the genre Maiden, Priest, Manowar and Running Wild on Mighty Pirates. From the booming opener Riders Of Dragons you can hear the Iron Maiden bent to the album, it along with Sinnersworld are the tracks that most sound like the English metal legends.

The Hunter meanwhile has a thrashier feel to it, galloping like a mounted cavalry . The production is 80's retro meaning this record sounds like it should, the first four tracks are heavy-power metal but Black Night is an epic middle album track that starts out as an acoustic ballad, which Yannis uses his full range to convey the emotion before it builds into the heavier crescendo then back into folky strumming. It's followed by the even more theatrical The Path Of The Warrior which is 8 minutes plus of fist-to-the-sky overblown metal glory. The only thing I would say is that the the final 2 songs on the album are both ballads so they drift off rather than keep the blood pumping. Still for what is basically a studio collaborative effort from the mind of one guitarist Warrior Path could be one of the 'true' metal releases of the year, wimps and posers should leave the hall now. 8/10
Disillusive Play: Open Arms (Self Released)

I wanted to like this album, a band that pitched themselves as progressively tinged hard rock. Athenian band Dillusive Play have played with more established bands like The Silent Wedding so everything was pointing in the right direction. However then I pressed play and what I got was the most basic type of rock music, every song plods along with slight changes and twinkly keys, whether this is trying to make it sound edgy or atmospheric but it just sounds boring, due in part to the thin production. The real problem though are the vocals which are absolutely bloody dreadful, they are trying to have an alternative edge but fall flatter Wile E Coyote under a boulder. They distract on every song making this album almost unlistenable, someone might like it but it was a waste of my time. 4/10

The Elysian Fields: New World Misanthropia (Hammer Of Damnation)

The Elysian Fields are Michael K. who apparently is "Renovating The Stains Once Procreated" which I think means he plays (guitars, keyboards) and Bill A who is also "Eradicating All Unwanted Human Sense" which is (vocals, bass) and like their countrymen Septicflesh they play a symphonically charged style of blackened death metal that is nine tracks of cinematic extremity that deals with such cheery topics as the misanthropic and the heroic having tales of ancient struggles and bitter religious wars. New World Misanthropia is the bands fifth album and it doesn't do anything new as the, I assume, drum machine blast beats are paired with frantic riffs, orchestral swells, barked vocals and industrial synths for The Elysian Fields key sound. Take a track like Slain Upon The Earth and you'll get exactly what The Elysian Fields are about, basically if you like the sound of Septicflesh, from another Greek band you'll like this. 6/10 

A View From The Back Of The Room: Desecration (Live Review By Paul H)

Desecration, Sodomized Cadaver, Ablated, Cerebral Atrophy & Black Pyre, Fuel Rock Bar

It’s always a party when Desecration are in town, the Welsh Death Metal Bastards causing chaos and carnage in their inevitably shambolic yet compelling manner. With enough heavy on the undercard to sink the venue, this evening was another masterful compilation from Eradication Booking Agency.

Whilst Fuel had swollen substantially by the time that Ollie Jones and co hit the stage, it wasn’t quite as tight when black metallers Black Pyre (6) kicked things off. The Metal To The Masses hopefuls are regulars at Fuel at present, and whilst I was less than impressed with them during Winter Eradication, the only band to ever emerge from Cardiff’s notoriously rare permafrost had improved substantially since then. With their debut EP The Forbidden Tomes hitting Bandcamp in conjunction with the gig, this was an important event for the three-piece and they seized it with both of their curled hands. Despite being the odd band out on an evening of death metal, the band didn’t let it impact on them. With frenetic riffing, relentless drumming and evil gargled vocals, Black Pyre have also evolved with a sense of humour delivered in excellent dry style by guitarist and frontman Asbjorn Daemonium de Noctis. Closing with their ‘hit single’ Summoning, Black Pyre are slowly evolving into an enjoyable band to watch.

Next up was Cerebral Atrophy (5), the solo project of Sodomised Cadaver guitarist and vocalist Ryan Howes. I fully appreciate the massive skills of the man, and his brutal technical death metal got heads nodding in appreciation. However, watching one person, no matter how gifted they are can become a little tedious and after a while retreating to the back of the venue to watch from afar seemed a better option.

The room temperature soon increased when death metal outfit Ablated (9) commenced their set. With the band following the path of the old school style, Ablated hit the stage hard and didn’t let up for their 35 minutes. The band has a bludgeoning approach in the style of Cannibal Corpse which earns massive plus points, but they also mark their own stamp on each track. Playing tracks of their forthcoming Threat Of Torture EP including Torso Sculpture and the crushing Beyond Redemption, Ablated proved to be the most impressive band of the night with their ferocity and wall of sound just blistering. These guys are heading for a heat in the Metal To The Masses soon and I’d be a fool not to say that they have to be amongst the favourites to get to the final, if not claim the prize. Brutal, bruising and bone splintering, Ablated simply stole the show.

The deafening blast beats and spine shattering death metal continued with the arrival of one of South Wales’ most prized death metal outfits. Sodomised Cadaver (8) continue to impress with each viewing and with a solid fan base giving it large down the front, the three-piece of Gavin Davies, Ryan Howes and Charlie Rogers delivered a set which balanced comedy, slapstick and ruthless old school death metal. Shorn of usual vocalist OIlie Jones (resting for the main event), Rogers and Howes comfortably delivered the guttural vocals needed. A treat to all older Sodo fans was the playing in full of Verses Of Vorarephilia, with Davies battering the hell out of the kit, once again leaving it in pieces. With other tracks including Vampire Of Dusseldorf also smashing it, the set closed with the band nailing Skull Fracture Massacre and then of course, Raped By Ebola. Sodo have been confirmed for some amazing gigs this year including the superb line-up at Incineration Fest in May. It is well deserved.

After a lengthy delay, which wasn’t clear whether it was due to the usual chaos that Desecration (8) bring or whether it was genuinely due to technical difficulties, the Welsh Death Metal Bastards hit the stage and hit it hard. With Ollie in typically robust and abusive form, the band who are loved by so many in the Welsh scene eased through their set with typical aggression. This is a band who always make death metal look so easy and despite the shambolic approach, which let’s face it, is part of the charm of this band, they are fantastic live. Michael Houlihan is an astonishingly good drummer, his rapid-fire machine-gun approach superb. Ollie needs little plaudits; his death growls and guitar work the result of 30 years graft. That left bassist Andi Morris, who was finishing his time with Desecration after 14 years with them. A blistering set well received by the faithful marked a fitting end to another chapter of a Welsh band who truly deserve the legendary status.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Metal To The Masses South Wales 2019 Heat 2 Preview

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses South Wales 2019 – Heat 2 Preview

We go again! Heat 2 has seen the late withdrawal of Prophecy who we wish all the best for 2019 and beyond. With two new bands added to the fray, this should be another interesting and entertaining heat. We start with wintery bleakness of Black Pyre.

Black Pyre

Let’s start with some background. Give us a potted history of the band. “In the beginning there was a dark realm, and from the dark realm there was an egg, and from the egg was birthed the nefarious Asbjorn, Daemonium de Noctis; born skilled in vocals and with knowledge of the guitar… and so, the band was conceived. To become great, a drummer was needed, and so across the plains he scoured, looking for the perfect beater-of-skins. Finally, after setting a trap in the icy forests of Llantwit, baited with a cowbell, the mighty Dominus de Octopus was ensnared and decided to bear the burden of blast beats. Finally, they needed some musical talent. So, they invoked the hugest of arch-fiends, The Evil Amaz-Zön Prime, and after selling their souls, and paying £4.99, Kjottflate, The Mighty Ravendork arrived the following week drenched in rainwater with the skankiest bass. The band was finally complete with the most brutal of line-ups, and so they embarked off into the permafrosty tundras to seek the evillest of all music – Black Metal.”

Off to a flyer there then. So, tell us about the current line-up. “(In order of appearance): Asbjorn, Daemonium de Noctis – Vocals, Guitars; Dominus de Octopus – Drums; Kjottflate, The Mighty Ravendork – Bass”

I think from the opening salvo we have an idea but go on, describe the band’s sound. “We sound like a really good sandwich, but you’ve eaten the sandwich way too fast, so you get really bad indigestion, and that’s God’s way of punishing you for committing the 5th sin, gluttony… Or in short, Dominus says we’re a bit like a mess of Burzum, Satyricon and if Primus met Black Metal”. Ouch! We’ve all had that sandwich. Moving on, who are the main influences for the band? “The Great Demon Lord Abbath Doom Occulta”. I think he is to most of us, eh kids?
Okay, so Lemmy once said “if we moved in next door your grass would die”. If you moved in next door, what would happen to my lawn? “Forget the lawn. That’s the least of your concerns. The entire estate would be covered in permafrost and eternal darkness”. Estate? I don’t live on a bloody estate! How very dare you! But that still sounds unpleasant, regardless.

What prompted you to apply for the M2TM competition? “It was always our destiny since Asbjorn was born of the egg to partake in this glorious event”. And what can we expect from you at Fuel? “An assortment of invisible tropical fruits… And permafrost… And Black Metal…” If that isn’t enough to get you there then there is something wrong with you. How can you miss invisible grapefruit?

There is a strong line-up this year and the competition will be fierce. It’s great to have a healthy Welsh Metal scene. Playing this event always seems to raise the game. Tell us a few highlights for the band since you started. “Many moons ago we shared a stage with the forbidden lords of Grá and our tasty cousins Agrona. We also decide that the recording quality of our toilet was poor, and so ventured through forests until we came across the mighty lad Tim Vincent and a studio by a weird bridge. So, naturally, we made a cheeky record”.

Have you been to Bloodstock before? If so, tell us some of your experiences; why is it such a great festival? “Dominus refuses to leave his room. He only comes out at the promise of dead crows. However, we hear that this festival may have dead crows and permafrost and brutality… So, we will visit it.”

And finally, tell us something unusual about each band member that you feel needs to be shared with the rest of the metal community. “Asbjorn Daemonium de Noctis – He can eat unholy amounts of mayonnaise with almost no side effects. Dominus de Octopus – He once killed a megalodon by wrestling it into extinction, therefore becoming the de-facto lord of the Octopus Clan. Kjottflate, The Mighty Ravendork – He’s single and ready to mingle…”

Now if that doesn’t get you interested then there is something wrong with you.

Stitched Up

Having crept out from the descending permafrost (otherwise known as Splott), we run into our next interviewees, the hardcore/thrash infused punk of Stitched Up. Vocalist Mike gives us the background. “My old band SMILER ended in 2017 after more drummer problems (it was very Spinal Tap). Mark, who I’ve known on and off from almost 20 years of going to hardcore/punk shows, said he needed a singer, I didn’t think much would come of it. We got in a room with Sib and Chris and jammed out some old school Oi! (Cardiff’s own The Oppressed & Cock Sparrer) which was fun. We all love New York/Boston hardcore punk, thrash Metal and hip hop so just tried to melt that all together and jumped into gigging”. "The current line-up of the band is Mike on Vox, Sib on bass, drummer Chris and Mark on guitar."
How would you describe the band’s sound? ”Crossover/Hardcore punk”. A daft question given the band’s sound but who are the main influences for the band? “Music wise we borrow from NYHC bands like Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All and Life Of Agony all while throwing in early Machine Head and Biohazard breakdown riffs”. It should be a tasty evening.

Let’s get onto the important lawn question. Lemmy once said “if we moved in next door your grass would die”. If you moved in next door, what would happen to my lawn? "You’d need to concrete over that as it’s easy to clean up with mess we’d leave you with after drinking and partying with Sib.”

What prompted Stitched Up to apply for the M2TM competition? “Chris goes every year and he thought with could bring something different to the party. Plus, we’ve seen a few friends bands do well after playing over the last few years so we thought we should bring you some old school Hardcore to mix things up.” For the uninitiated what can we expect from you at Fuel? “Mayhem, Riffs and bad jokes. I’ve got a habit of getting myself into trouble. And if we are drinking... well it’s just easier to join in”.
There is a strong line-up this year and the competition will be fierce. It’s great to have a healthy Welsh Metal scene. Playing this event always seems to raise the game. Tell us a few highlights for the band since you started. “We are still pretty new. We’ve had a few good reviews and self-released our demos on most streaming services. But I think the fact that people keep coming to party with us means we must be doing something right, plus it’s kept Me and Sib out of Cardiff nick!"

And onto the Bloodstock question. Have you been to Bloodstock before? If so, tell us some of your experiences; why is it such a great festival? “Our drummer Chris goes every year. He absolutely loves it. The mix of Metal, Thrash and the odd Hardcore band mean he’s got every base covered for the music he loves. I’ve always wanted to go but work always gets in the way, but the line ups have always been killer.”

And finally, tell us something unusual about each band member that you feel needs to be shared with the rest of the metal community. “Mike used to be a bouncer at The Legendary TJ’s in Newport and watches Neighbours every day without fail. Mark is the Willie Nelson of Hardcore and plays Beatles songs at any given opportunity to the dismay of the rest of the band. Sib has more Hip Hop and Hardcore band tattoos that anyone should have and is a decent rapper. Chris might be an international arms dealer as he’s always over in mainland Europe “working” and flying back for gigs and watches more bands live in a month than most people do in a decade."

Thanks to Mike and Stitched Up. Expect fireworks when they hit Fuel.

State Of Deceit 

Following on is the ‘veterans’ of the round, State Of Deceit, who deliver a non-nonsense metal approach. As usual, we start with the band history. “The band got together in June 18, having evolved from The Devolved with ex-members of Without Due Haste, Into The Depths, SLaM and Down Impact. The band played its first gig as State of Deceit in January. The band’s line-up is Pete Scammell - Vocals, Jon Russell - Guitar, Matt Wilson - Bass and Matt Toner – Drums"

How would you describe the band’s sound? “Melodic Thrashcore.” So, who are the main influences for the band? “A fusion of old and new - Thrash, Power Groove, Metalcore, Stoner, Hardcore”.

Lemmy once said “if we moved in next door your grass would die”. If you moved in next door, what would happen to my lawn? “It would form a crop circle.”

What prompted you to apply for the M2TM competition? “We love the coverage from this competition and meeting new bands from the area. Bloodstock is a fantastic festival that we really would love to be a part of. It would definitely be a tick off of our bucket lists”.

What can we expect from you at Fuel? “Fuel can expect no nonsense, bowel thundering, teeth enamel stripping riffing and drums that will leave you shaken to the core”. Good grief. How the venue will be standing after these heats is beyond me.

Tell us a few highlights for the band since you started. “Playing with other great South Wales bands and making friends and supporting other musicians.”

Have you been to Bloodstock before? If so, tell us some of your experiences; why is it such a great festival? “Matt went to the first one with Saxon playing which was immense, Bloodstocks reputation proceeds it continues to increase every year!”

And finally, tell us something unusual about each band member that you feel needs to be shared with the rest of the metal community. “Pete's played football vs Valencia, Jon's crashed at the Nurburgring twice, Matt W is powered by anger and is also a minister, Matt T was going to swim the English Channel until a Christmas morning swim made his balls shrivel up”.

Sydney Fate

These interviews are getting better all the time. Let’s see what the metal-core of Sydney Fate, a last-minute addition to Heat 2 has to say. Guitarist and vocalist Bailey Edwards gives us the details about the band history. “Founded by guitarist and vocalist Bailey Edwards, the band started back in early 2017 and consists of lifelong friends that share the same goals of writing music and having fun; We're all about the atmosphere and having a great time! We currently reside in Cardiff but grew up in the Caerphilly area together where we spent a lot of time jamming out to our favourite songs. We started to develop 'Our Sound' pretty quickly due to our mutual love for music and as a band we all have very broad influences; such as Metalcore, 80's Glam, pop-punk, jazz to Drum and Bass. We like to interpret a lot of our preferences into our music to keep everyone on their toes!”
The current line-up. “So, we'll start with our front men; - First up on the mic we have Adam Rapado, Adam brings out our darker side by giving us the heavy vocals and screams. He can go from Elmo to Cookie monster in 0.2 seconds! - Next we have guitarist and clean vocalist Bailey Edwards, bringing us the softer vocals and slick riffs. - Also playing guitar we have Owen Whittaker, smashing out the blend of chugs and solos. - On Bass we have Scott Butterworth, embedding our root foundation with his powerful blasts and bringing us home with the gravity drops! - Finally, we have our beat master, Kristian 'Terry' Collins on drums. No one knows where the nickname came from, but we just roll with it”.

How would you describe the band’s sound? “I think it's fair to say our music falls under the 'melodic metal' category, but we like to think our sound is a little different as we like try to interpret a variety of styles in our work! We compose our music with thought of including 'something for everyone', as we have a love for diving in to different genres and stealing the best bits!”

What about the main influences for the band? “As a band we look up to an abundance of great musicians! Our main influences for Sydney Fate would consist of bands like Bullet for My Valentine, Killswitch Engage, Metallica and Trivium!”

We hold our breath once more for the lawn question. Lemmy once said “if we moved in next door your grass would die”. If you moved in next door, what would happen to my lawn? “Well we can't make any promises about your grass! But we like to think we're fun guys, maybe we could take away the fence and have one big yard party? You get the food ready and we'll bring the drinks!! (We'd even recycle the mess in the morning too)”. I’m warming to these guys. Anyone who recycles is okay in my book.

So why did you decide to apply to M2TM? “We decided to apply to M2TM because we are passionate about the art we create, we have put our blood, sweat and soul into our music and we would love to share our love for music with a mass crowd”

 And what can we expect when you hit the stage? “When we play Fuel, you can expect explosive energy, crushing riffs, roaring vocals and all the sugar in between”.

We move onto band highlights. “Since we have finalised the line-up, we have seen an increase in headline shows all over the UK, being able to travel around our glorious country has been a dream come true. We have also joined the stage with bands such as Raiders (Ex- Blackout), Neshiima (Glasgow Metal Giants), and a plethora of up and coming bands with more talent than you could imagine. We also had the incredible opportunity to record and produce our Debut EP 'Sound Alive' with the Graves brothers in York (With One Last Breath/ Asking Alexandria)”.

Although the band haven’t made it to BOA, it’s on the list. “We haven’t been to Bloodstock before, we have been avid festival goers for years and Bloodstock is on our list however we have not graced the grounds yet!”

Finally, what about that unknown fact? “Not many people actually know this about us, but the entire band actually consist of three dwarfs standing on top of each other pretending to be each member”. I tried doing the maths on that one but realised I could get into trouble with the question how many dwarves it takes to make a metal band. Thanks to Bailey and Sydney Fate for their time.

Good Morning Vietnam

Another late addition to this Heat is the post hardcore of Good Morning Vietnam. Here’s the background to the band. “The First iteration of the band started in 2015 and sadly only lasted for a short while, due to members drifting apar. The second was then formed in 2016 by Glenn who brought on both Mike and Cam; with a newer sound we managed to form a great alternative and now with Ash on board our songs have only grown stronger” 

Okay, so who is in the band? “We've got Glenn Leading our band on vocals, an O.G member and the reason we've all come together. Mike is our guitarist, but you can also hear his vocals spread thought out our songs. Ash our bassist and newest friend, has not only build upon the songs we have but helped us push forward to the sound we're aiming for." 

So how do GMV describe their sound? “The band has always kept to its fast-paced aggressive sound with melodic structure but we try to add and experiment with our sound constantly”.

What about the band’s influences? “Our influences range from Killswitch Engage, Alexisonfire, The Amity Affliction, Escape The Fate, Lamb Of God, Giving Into Ghosts, All To Ruin but of course we acknowledge our personal roots in heavy music such as Metallica and Slayer."
For the final time in this heat, the grass question! “If we moved next door your grass wouldn't get any sleep at all, whether it be from our pulse inducing heavy riffs and beats, or our ballads that could bring tears to a boulder”.
So, what persuaded GMV to join the M2TM party? “We were first drawn to M2TM by the opportunity of sharing our music with a wider audience of like-minded people, after winning our heat last year as the wild cards, we just had to come back for another chance”. That is good stuff and a proper example of how to keep plugging away.

What will GMV bring to Fuel on 22nd February? “We're always proud of the energy and involvement we bring to each of our shows, both ourselves and the audience love it and we promise nothing less when we're on stage at fuel. There is an extremely strong line-up, but we have never shied away from competition and will always push to give the best show as we can, always challenging ourselves as musicians”. No compromises – love it!

The band have been around a little while now. What are their highlights so far? “Highlights would definitely be having a busy 2018 such as progressing as a wildcard in last year’s contest after which we went on to record and release our debut music video Crows' and later our debut EP Burn which has given us opportunities such as headlong shows and festival appearances”

Another band that haven’t yet made it to Catton Hall which is always a shame. “We haven't personally been to Bloodstock yet unfortunately, but we are hoping our first time will be as performers; we have a major respect for Bloodstock bringing a constant plethora of talented artists from brutal death metal to the spin chilling black metal. We have always had a wide variety of taste and we feel that Bloodstock gives a stage where all lovers of metal can head bang, drink and have the time of our lives”
And finally, what about the unusual in the band? “Unusual? Mike: you won't meet a more obsessed Dwayne Johnson fan, so much we bought him a cardboard cutout which he may or may not be in love with. Glenn – vocals. Never wears the same outfit twice; to quote our bassist Ash 'I've known you for three months and have never seen you wear the same shoes twice.' Ash - Bass - Absolute tank, who represented Wales in powerlifting. Cam – Drums: Won't eat a hamburger without a knife and fork”.

So there we have it. A diverse and challenging motley crew who are all poised to kick some serious ass this Friday. Get down to Fuel and enjoy what promises to be a meaty contest.

Reviews: The Room, Crypt Trip, Eremit, Dawn Of Existence (Matt, Paul S & Rich)

The Room: Caught By The Machine (White Star Records) [Matt]

I've said before about my love of progressive rock and also about my love of White Star Records, one of the leading progressive rock labels in the country. The Room are their newest signing and they once again are band who have their own approach to the genre which sits so well with the more melodically inclined record label. The sextet hail from the Southeast of England and this third album has a typical Englishness to them, with influence such as Saga, Magnum, Marillion and It Bites (a band featuring White Star co-owner and this albums producer John Mitchell), there's a distinct pomp-pop style to the record with the songs all full of big hooks as the songs move between driving rockers such as Bodies On The Road, shimmering nuggets of AOR like Run and a bit of Reggatta de Blanc ala The Police for Broken.

These more straightforward songs are met with the more elongated progressive numbers such as the massively Marillion sounding Drowning In Sound which along with Clover, the Floydian Vanished and It's Not My Home make up the latter part of the record giving a feel of building to a crescendo as the soundscapes get more dense and dramatic. It's an album that has a cannae knack of mixing an upbeat musical palette with a nihilistic viewpoint of how the human race tries to make things better but ultimately fail, a statement dealt with mainly on the driving The Golden Ones. The Room are Martin Wilson -vocals, Steve Anderson - guitar, Eric Bouillette - guitar, Mark Dixon - keyboards, Chris York - drums and Andy Rowe - bass and Caught By The Machine is an album that should really be sought out if pop-driven prog rock is your bag, enter the room and get caught in the machine. 8/10

Crypt Trip: Haze County (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Matt]

Formed in Dallas in 2013 by guitarist/singer Ryan Lee, bassist Sam Bryant and drummer Cameron Martin. Apparently they were originally a purely psychedelic rock band but now they owe more than a debt to Greg and Duane, yes folks much like Canadian's The Sheepdogs, Crypt Trip have nailed the sound of The Allman Brothers with some additional pedal steel from Geoff Queen complimenting the harmonized guitar of Ryan Lee. However the buck doesn't stop there, this rocking three piece have really brought together some of the best sounds in the 'classic' rock gamut and unleashed them with some excellent musicianship. To Be Whole has some great guitar playing but also boasts expressive drumming and fleet fingered bass playing from Martin and Sam. It's the kind of rock n roll often overlooked by classic rock lovers, full of Southern grit and hangdog lyricism.

It's a winning formula repeated throughout the the record that reeks of those halcyon days of the late 60's-early 70's where the sun always shines and heavily mustachioed guys ride their choppers over dusty barren wastelands. Haze County does have a lot of psych touches to it the fast and loose Death After Life has some free form jams as the band lock in like the great trios such as Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience and one of my personal favourites Grand Funk Railroad. Flashes of guitar brilliance meld with a rhythm section that propel tracks like Free Rain a song so imbued with the spirit of Farner, Brewer and Schacher that it needs to be played shirtless in front of 1,000's of screaming hippies, though when the pedal steel returns for Wordshot we're back with Duane and Dickie trade offs (and a little bit of Quo thrown in for balance).

16 Ounce Blues though is a misnomer as this is country track through and through and the start of a more mellow part to the record as the dreamy Pastures wafts into the closing freak out of Gotta Get Away that drenches the guitars in phaser and has freaking drum solo in the middle of it! (I'm not kidding). I'm a sucker for The Allman's and Grand Funk Railroad so this album has cheered me up no end, play this when the sun is shining and it'll guarantee good times, welcome to Haze County light em up and play it loud! 8/10 

Eremit: Carrier Of Weight (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul S]

Eremit are a trio based in Germany, Carrier Of Weight is their first album. The first thing we should deal with is the number and length of the tracks on this album. The album only has 3 songs; no I haven’t got this confused with an EP, the album is one hour and nine minutes long, so these are very long songs. In fact the first song Dry Land is 23 minutes long, second track Froth Is Becoming is 11 minutes and final track Cocoon Of Soul is 33 minutes long. So, what do we get in our really long songs? Well, Dry Land has a long, slow build up before a quiet, clean riff comes in. After a couple of minutes of this an enormous riff and snarling vocals come crashing in. The heavy side of this band is as huge as anything metal has so far produced, it’s the same sort of hugeness that you get from Electric Wizard, Thou or now defunct British sludge act Lazarus Blackstar. After about 7 or 8 minutes of this the track goes back to the clean riff from the opening of the track. We get a couple of minutes of clean before the immense riff returns for the rest of the track, but for the last couple of minutes the riff slows down and by god this is heavy! Froth Is Becoming is a faster track than the track that came before it, the riff has more inertia and bounce.

Again there is a slower, cleaner part before a new slower and heavier riff comes in and pounds the listener till the end. In the last few months I have reviewed a load of albums that are shorter than the last song on this album! Cocoon Of Soul contains, in it’s 33 minutes, a slow introduction that goes into a soft, clean section, several massive riffs, some slow, some with a bit of pace, a couple of dissonant solos, a riff that reminds me of Celtic Frost’s song A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh and for the last 4 minutes of the song a blasting, intense tremolo picked ending. I realise that some people reading this might be thinking that this is a small number of riffs for songs this long, and normally you would be right. However this is a band that manage to make this sort of repetition hypnotic and trance inducing, rather than tedious and boring. It’s the way the band subtly change how the riffs are played and add solos and other elements that stop it being boring, in fact if they put more riffs in it wouldn’t have this hypnotic quality that makes the album. I’ve really enjoyed this album, I am a sucker for a bit of trance inducing, if you are the same, check this out! 8/10

Dawn Of Existence: Pale Mythos (Deadbolt Records) [Rich]

Pale Mythos is the debut EP by melodic death metal two piece Dawn Of Existence.  The band is made up of Votan who performs guitars, synths and drums and Astor who performs bass, vocals, guitars and synths. This EP is more of a showcase of the bands abilities with five different songs showcasing five varying styles though all rooted in European styled melodic death metal from the keyboard led epic style of Marble Garden and Mystic Serpent to the more death metal driven Skoda ‘14. This band definitely has potential but just need a more cohesive release to display their abilities.  A further release where they stick to a tried and tested formula has the potential to be great indeed. 6/10

Monday, 18 February 2019

Reviews: Soen, Frenzy, Summoned Tide, Mortanius (By Rich)

Soen: Lotus (Silver Lining Music)

Now onto their fourth album, progressive metallers Soen astonish with their blinding new release Lotus. This is the first album with new guitarist Cody Ford who puts in an absolutely magnificent performance but apart from that the line up remains the same from previous album Lykaia. Lotus very much feels like the natural successor to Lykaia furthering the bands definitive sound and shaking off those pesky Tool comparisons which have followed the band since their debut album. The emotion and the atmosphere are hugely ramped up with the stunning soulful vocals of frontman Joel Ekelöf really adding to the mournful and melancholic feel of the album. Gentler songs such as the title track and River are guaranteed to hit you right in the feelings. 

 There are also heavier songs with lots of staccato riffs such as Opponent, Rival and single Martyrs. The rest of the band put in sterling performances - there is a greater emphasis on the keyboards by Lars Åhlund, the bluesy lead guitar playing by newcomer Cody Ford is sublime, intricate bass rhythms by Stefan Stenberg and the stylish, complex but restrained drumming by ex-Opeth man Martin Lopez. Lotus is definitely the finest album Soen have released to date with a more streamlined but no less effective approach than their previous albums. Deeply atmospheric and highly emotionally charged this is an album that is sure to be prevalent in many people's best of lists at the end of the year. 9/10

Frenzy: Blind Justice (Self Released)

Blind Justice is the debut full length by Spanish heavy metal maniacs Frenzy and the album is very much a joint celebration of comic books and classic heavy metal. The lyrics are all based around the favourite comic books and graphic novels by the band including Daredevil, X-Men and Silver Surfer and the album artwork is very much in a comic book style and very visually striking. Musically this is an absolute throwback to heavy metal from the early to mid 1980’s with definite influences from the NWOBHM scene as well as bands such as Loudness and Dokken. 

The songs range from heavy metal pounders to some verging on a more hard rock style and there’s enough variation to hold your interest throughout. The playing throughout is impressive and especially the lead guitars are at times absolutely spectacular channelling legends such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen at times especially during closing shredathon Shred Or Die. Blind Justice won’t win awards for originality and Frenzy are joining a long list of bands playing retro heavy metal but they do it well and their passion and enthusiasm cannot be questioned or doubted. Not an essential listen but a very enjoyable one. 7/10

Summoned Tide: Dystopia (Self Released)

Dystopia is the third album by Swedish progressive power metal band Summoned Tide. Not a band I am familiar with but Summoned Tide have a sound that straddles the line between power metal, progressive metal and AOR. There is a prevalent use of keyboards throughout the album with a retro 80’s synth style used for a fair chunk of the album. Progressive power metal is a very hit or miss genre for me. When it’s done well it can be absolutely amazing but when not it can be very dull and laborious. Unfortunately Dystopia sits more on the dull and laborious side of the fence. The songs are generally very unengaging but thankfully on the whole aren’t too long as I did find the album a bit of a struggle to get through. Onto the positives though one thing that did stand out were the vocals by singer Rickard Thelin who at times has a voice that sound like a cross between Kai Hansen and Andre Matos. There are a couple of songs which did stand head and shoulders above the others and they were Farewell and Stay By You. Dystopia was a very disappointing album for me with uninteresting songwriting and a lack of memorable riffs. I think Summoned Tide should work on furthering the power metal elements in their sound as what they have done on Dystopia is quite frankly boring. 5/10

Mortanius: Till Death Do Us Part (Rockshots Records)

After a string of EP’s since their formation in 2013, progressive power metallers Mortanius release their debut full length album Till Death Do Us Apart and it is rather good. Mortanius play progressive power metal with symphonic and neo-classical influences with a sound quite reminiscent of Symphony X at times. The core power metal sound is there - huge melodies, catchy choruses, big harmonies but all wrapped up in complex and dynamic compositions. The album is made up of five songs - with three of those being in excess of 9 minutes. This is an album that gets more interesting and enjoyable as it goes on with some of the longest songs being the finest on the album with Jaded and the huge 18 minute plus title track being the highlights for me. The album does close on a bit of an oddity which is a power metal ballad version of Wham’s Last Christmas. An odd choice of cover for an album being released in February. Till Death Do Us Part is an excellent release with great songwriting and fantastic performances - vocalist Lucas Flocco particularly stands out. If you are a fan of the power and progressive metal genres then this album comes recommended. 8/10

Reviews: Within Temptation, Steve Hackett, De Staat, Aftermath (Alex & Paul S)

Within Temptation: Resist (Spinefarm) [Alex]

Within Temptation are arguably one of symphonic metals most accessible acts. I mean that in a positive way as well. While Epica may be famous for their bombast, and Nightwish for their theatrics, Sharon Den Adel was able to shape her project around rich synth textures and huge chorus melodies. Resist – as their most pop focussed album yet – definitely makes sense as a follow up to The Unforgiving and Hydra. Yet some of the albums component parts feel superior to the experience as a whole. While it bears its great ideas, they are frequently diluted by over-compressed production and an all too often absence of groove or strong instrumental melody. All virulently bombastic for sure, yet lacking depth and character.

Let me first bring to light the moments in which the album displays potential. Raise Your Banner shows some subtlety in the verses and climbs towards an epic middle section, combing euphoric guitar dueling, strings and choir backing vocals. The production is still an annoyance, yet the core idea behind this song is a powerful one. Supernova actually has some incredibly enticing synth touches, honoring the promise to experiment in pop and electronics. On another note, Mad World is decidedly 80’s coloured and becomes one of the best songs on the entire album. Even Mercy Mirror, despite being quite generic is one of the few moments of ambient introspection displayed throughout. These moments redeem Resist from being unlistenable and show that Within Temptation still has an urge to experiment and take risks.

In spite of my praise, I still have huge reservations, relegating my thoughts on this album to ones of sheer disappointment. To illustrate my point about the production, let’s look at the two singles: The Reckoning and Endless War. The former tries to establish a melodic hook in the opening few seconds before hammering it into the ground with unnecessarily blaring synths and pounding drums (Whatsmore, Jacoby Shaddix’s appearance on this song, makes this the second disappointing release of 2019 to be associated with Papa Roach). Meanwhile, the later makes the mistake of becoming convoluted with effects, samples and a series of other distractions from the actually decent melody. This is the problem with Within Temptations so-called ‘comeback album’. Like any symphonic metal album, it is stuffed with bombast and prestige, yet somehow forgets to include the symphonic element. If you are looking for a beautiful guitar melody, a sturdy bass riff or even an intriguing and changeable synth pattern, sorry you’ve come to the wrong place. Grandiosity is one thing, yet you can’t make the mistake of relying on a loud and diluted mix to achieve that for you.

Overall, while I was excited about the prospect of a new Within Temptation album, this constitutes the first real disappointment of 2019. Resist is by no means terrible, and I think its redeeming qualities justify its slightly positive. Yet having listened to all of their albums prior to writing this difficult review, it is clear that they can be much more exquisite, powerful and arresting. 6/10

Steve Hackett: At The Edge Of Light (InsideOut Records) [Alex]

Everything Hackett does, every new experiment he embarks on is achieved with meticulousness thought and precision. He of course performed with Genesis during their best years, chosen on the merit of an advertisement which read ‘imaginative guitarist seeks involvement with musicians determined to strive beyond stagnant music forms’. Yet when that act finally began to show creative limitations, he left for an ambitious solo career. One which, at the time of writing, has encompassed 27 studio albums, and genres ranging from prog rock, to classical, to blues to oriental folk. Even by guesting on friends albums, be that Steven Wilson or Ayreon, he always lends his unique style of musicianship to the project. At The Edge Of Light, explores a multitude of influences, showing no signs of stagnating.

Fallen Walls And Pedestals opens on a spectacularly dramatic mood, a rush of strings and percussion accompanying Hackett’s lead parts which, in keeping with his signature style, feel like they are either crying to you or wailing out in joyful exuberance. Beats In Our Time pays homage to the classical influences combing woodwind flourishes, somber violin melodies, and excellent saxophone embellishments. Of course, when the guitar sings again it is glorious. Onto an even more unique idea, Those Golden Wings is an eleven-minute progressive epic, which changes from moments of orchestral bliss to uplifting harmony to enrapturing emotion. Immediately after, Shadow And Flame play into a love of Asian musical stylings, its capricious sitar stylings, brilliantly paying homage to the music of Thai or Indian cultures. These moments aim to do more than showcase the virtuosity with which our frontman commands a six or 12 string. Instead, they prove his creativity and the ease with which he creates and executes a musical vision, employing the talents of a spectrum of musicians in the process.

Of course, progressive rock constitutes an inseparable part of Steve Hackett’s musical identity. And while his works always show progression, they are often determined to stand outside of the rock genre. When he does venture back into the world of guitar-driven anthems though, they are typically reminiscent of the music which made him famous, while standing on their own as unique works of art. Take Under The Eye Of The Sun – an upbeat classic rock song, it bursts with life and energy, the guitar takes center stage, and a driving rhythm underpins everything. Alternatively, look to Underground Railroad, which explores influences from Gospel to Blues, placing particular emphasis on acoustics and including guest vocals courtesy of Durga McBroom, notable for her providing of female backing vocals to Pink Floyd. These songs, of course, reflect the Genesis legacy, as well as that of all the rock musicians the legendary guitarist has worked with, while still demonstrating the many other influences he has learned from over his long and varied career.

Despite the nit-picks with At The Edge Of Light, that it may not be Hackett's very best, that it is stronger in its first half than its second, this is still an excellent later era release from an artist – and I do mean, artist – who has got many experiments at his back, and surely many more in front of him. 7/10

De Statt: Bubble Gum (Caroline Benelux) [Alex]

Without a doubt the strangest album I have heard so far this year, Bubble Gum can be aptly described as art punk. Specifically, the type of music which experiments sonically while keeping a clear DIY vibe. Weirdly socially conscious, they have earned a reputation in their homeland of the Netherlands, and even performed as the support for Muse on one of their European tours. A typical De Statt song – if such a thing exists - will begin on a unique synth line before establishing an equally strange lyrical motif, and bringing in a series of effects, replicating the sounds one might encounter under the influence of hallucinogens. It's kinda’ irritating, yet also enticing.

Procrastinating aside, opener KITTY KITTY is a sneeringly sarcastic critique of the 2016 American Presidential race, with the refrain ‘fuck up the facts’, strangely hypnotic keyboard touches, and samples of cheering crowds. I'm surprised that this was chosen as the single, considering how it provokes a reaction of ‘what, in the known universe am I listening to? Fake It Till You Make It continues on the elusively political streak, incorporating Middle Eastern stylings into the mix and opening with the line ‘Keep that camera on me, cause the people do love a good story, but the truth is ever so boring’. Phoenix and Level Up are as close as the record gets to utilizing melodramatics and dark ambiance, proving that at the very least that they don’t need to rely solely on absurdism and irony to drive a message. At the same time, you can't help but feel that Torre Florim and his bandmates are advantageously relying on their oddities to sell themselves to those who consider themselves outside of the mainstream. Yet, plenty of acts employ that tactic you can't help but admire them for doing something different. Hey, works in elections right?

Alongside the perplexing moments, we also get gun, catchy anthems! Be warned, however. When I say ‘catchy’, these songs follow the Chumbawumba or even the Right Said Fred playbook of hooks. A style which will either make you want to up and dance, or have the effect of making you seek the nearest bucket of ice to plunge your head into. Mona Lisa bears a lot of charm in the way the distorted and bass guitar strut and our lead singer croons and muses, in decidedly proto-punk esque fashion. I’m Out Of Your Mind is a fast tempo romper with a lot of stamp and freneticism! On a different note, Me Time is obsessively dance focused, almost (and in all probability, intentionally) to the point of sheer parody. Then there's Pikachu, which I'm sure has some deeper message about consumerism behind its repetitive chorus of ‘1-2 Pikachu, what are you gonna do?’, yet just feels like a bizarre attempt at mocking a mainstream sound. Again, there is nothing bad about these experiments, yet it would be a lie to say they don’t provoke a deluge of confusion.

Overall, Bubble Gum might be one of the most difficult albums I've ever commented on, namely because I have not got a clue whether I like it or not! I love the experimentation, quirkiness and social commentary yet I wish there were a little more melody or musical depth to make me truly appreciate the skill of the musicians behind the De Statt. 6/10

Aftermath: There Is Something Wrong (Zoid Music) [Paul S]

Aftermath have been going since the mid eighties, There Is Something Wrong is their second album coming 25 years since their first album Eyes Of Tomorrow. The name Aftermath is used by several bands, this one is from Illinois and are known for a court case in the mid nineties over a dispute with Dr Dre over use of the name Aftermath. The band decided to take Dre’s money and changed their name to Mother God Moviestar, clearly 25 years later Dre isn’t that bothered about their name, so they are back to being Aftermath again. What have Aftermath got for us after 25 years? lots of time to write great riffs you’d think? Unfortunately, the album title is very apt. There is something so wrong with this, I’m not sure where to start. The album starts with an intro that is a lot of samples and vocals, before the first track False Flag Flying kicks thing off. This album has lots of basic things wrong with it. This is meant to be a trash band, every-time the band label themselves they use the term trash, but it doesn’t really sound like thrash. The guitar riffs aren’t very good, a bit too simplistic and lacklustre, but that isn’t really a problem as the mix is so bad on most tracks you can’t hear the guitar, so this is thrash without guitar riffs.

The vocals and drums dominate the mix, with the vocals this is particularly bad as they are awful; affected and over the top, just horrible. Another trait that this song shares with the rest of the album is a love of samples, but not mixed in with the music, the songs all seem to contain sections where it is only samples. Short, badly edited soundscapes that are crowbarred into the song, in fact, there are very few transitions between riffs, each riff ends with these sample heavy soundscapes, and a different riff comes in after the soundscape. After a while I realised this was because the riffs do not fit together, so they have used these soundscapes to link everything up (I realise that calling these sample heavy sections ‘soundscapes’ makes them sound better than they are, I’m using ‘soundscape’ as I’m not sure what else to call them). This ends up making each song feel like a disparate collection of parts that do not fit together; this is simply incompetent songwriting. It also stops the songs from flowing (something that is important in thrash), or having any feeling of inertia. The other problem is the lyrics, which are awful, hackneyed and cliched, at some points the lead singer seems to be shouting random phrases and due to the mix, much, much, much too loud. That is a general overview of this fucking hopeless album, here are a few stand out abominations.

Diethanasia is an attempt at hardcore, but with a much too simplistic riff. The vocals are really bad, lead singer Kyriakos Tsiolis tries to sing fast, but trips over his words constantly. His performance on here reminds me Qualcast Mutilator from Lawnmower Deth taking the piss out of Billy Milano on the song F.A.T. The track Scientists And Priests is irritating, has a terrible guitar solo and an awful chorus. Pseudocide is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. There are so many ‘soundscape’ parts it isn’t really a song, something it shares with final track Expulsion. In my notes for this album the phrase “not a proper song” appears many times. This is a terrible album, really, really terrible. Usually if I give an album a bad review, I try to find something that is positive to end the review (…. If the band can build on what they have done with X track they might have something…..), but I can’t here.

There is nothing to build on, it is all crap. The fact that they have screwed about with the structure of just about every track with the god awful ‘soundscapes’ shows that the band probably know this isn’t any good (although actually releasing it and letting other people listen to it shows a shocking lack of self knowledge). Aftermath should quit. Stop it guys, you are deeply substandard, crummy, dire, woeful, lamentable and just plain shit. You are the Chris Grayling of thrash bands. So, don’t buy this album or go to see the band live, it’s not fair to humour this band and make them think they have any form of value, or future. God I hope they just stop. 2/10

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Heat 1 Review (By Paul H)

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Heat 1, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 15th February 2019

Phew! This was one intense evening. It was like watching four heavyweight boxers in a ring, slugging it out until the last one was just about standing. A gargantuan effort, blood, sweat and tears shed and all in the name of metal. The vibe in the venue was astonishing, the support each band received amazing and the overall turnout mirrored that of the final in 2018. If the bar can get much higher, I’ll be incredibly impressed. Signs were good early on as the bands sound checked and their supporters thronged in the bar area. Plenty of liquid refreshment helping ease the increasing heat that Fuel is renowned for. Once the doors opened, the crowd pushed through and it was time to see what Heat One had to offer.

Drawing the opening slot, Urfe (8) were always in the most difficult position. The new kids on the block in terms of experience and time together, the band set about delivering their penetrating doom metal and after a slightly shaky start settled comfortably. As the heaviness increased and the walls started to shake, a few things became clear. In front woman ‘Bekah Morganna Nevaine, the band have one hell of a voice. Her crystal-clear vocals a perfect foil for the crushing riffs and thundering drums. Forsaken stood out amongst their tracks, the Sabbath style and influence clear but not overwhelming. This is a band that knows what it likes and sticks to it. That is fabulous. In drummer Dafydd Jones the band have a diamond; his octopus like movement around the kit at times suggesting he had more than a pair of arms, whilst recent addition Jon Ayers, all floppy fringe and floral shirt looked like he had played with these guys for years. Increasing positive crowd reaction as the set continued, Urfe is a band that you really should keep an eye and ear on.

If you thought Blind Divide (9) had peaked in the final of 2018, then you were wrong. So wrong. Hitting their mark spot on time, the band roared into action with the acceleration of an F16 Tomcat, failed to observe the warning signs and continued to increase speed. With a couple of new tracks mixed into the set, this was a refreshed and confident Blind Divide, determined to push hard to recapture their sterling efforts last year. James Birkett continues to astonish, his snarling vocals inciting the first pits of the evening (although that might have been down to Cranial Separation’s Ray Packer!) whilst the movement on the small stage has increased across the band. With James Ponsford and Adam Duffield once again slicing the air with their vicious riffing, Declan McCabe and Anthony Ellis nailed down the engine room. Another band who feed of the energy of the crowd, Blind Divide’s energy increased as their set progressed. I’ve rarely seen the room at Fuel so engaged. A massive set from an outrageously impressive band.

With the metalcore of Blind Divide and the doom of Urfe, another change of style and pace arrived as Swansea outfit Sepulchre (8) took to the stage. Desperate to rage, Darren Evans and co hit the stage early and instantly ramped the heat in the room back up to inferno level as they blasted through their extreme thrash brand of metal. Supported by a vociferous bunch who hilariously waved spatulas throughout the set, (the band is affectionately known as Spatula – obviously their name has been too hard to pronounce for some!). If you’ve not seen Sepulchre before, you really need to sort it out. A real tour de force, the band smashed through several numbers at lightning speed. Evans stripped to the waist a real force up front, his guttural vocals knitting with the band’s all out thrash assault perfectly. Flanked by bassist James Nicholas and guitarist Dan Yeoman, there was plenty to watch whilst behind the kit, Aimee Coppola firmly nailed everything down. Although the crowd had thinned slightly, the energy levels had not and as the heads banged and bodies moved the set was suddenly all over. Another huge performance and the judges’ task had suddenly become even more difficult.

Drawing the final slot can be a bonus or a disaster, depending on the band and their confidence levels. For King Kraken (9), waiting for their turn didn’t impede them on iota. Kicking off with Freak, the band grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and proceeded to lay waste to those still standing after the previous sets. Frontman Mark Donoghue commands your attention, his presence both intimidating and welcoming, and his regular forays into the front rows merely enhanced the show. The band are tight and cohesive, with their heavy blues-soaked metal changing style and pace. With the sound as impressive as I’ve ever heard it in Fuel, the soaring guitar work of Adam Healey cut through the air, ably supported by rhythm guitarist Pete Rose who also added some fine backing vocals, whilst Karl Meyers and Richard Mears ensured the whole show was rock solid. The band’s heavy groove is infectious, and apart from the faithful whose support rivalled that of every other band, there were many new fans gained, judging by the fact that no t-shirts were left after the show. As the band closed their 30 minutes in style, it was time for the votes to be cast and the judges to scratch their heads.

With a huge turnout, a frenzied session of voting quickly followed, whilst the judges conferred in their own mysterious and incomprehensible way. Winners of the heat were announced with Blind Divide taking top spot, King Kraken and Sepulchre gaining Wild Card entries and Urfe only just missing out on a spot. This heat was incredible, the quality and the passion magnificent and in another heat, any of these bands may have taken the win. Full kudos to all who came down to support, to the bands who gave everything, to Tim and Alyn for their organisation and to Fuel for once again hosting the event. We’ll see you next week for Heat 2.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (Live Review By Polly)

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Black Futures, Sin City (Polly)

This concert took place in Swansea’s Sin City, which is a small venue for a band with a dedicated following, a testament to the intimacy Frank Carter and his band aim to maintain with their fans. The support for the night were Black Futures (7) who set the atmosphere - a post-apocalyptic scene with two individuals dressed in white boiler suits waving flags of the bands logo and the letters N N N (Never. Not. Nothing). The punk duo incorporated industrial styling to their performance laced with breakdowns that leave the face gurning, it's this style that will quickly build a loyal fan-base. The crowd’s reaction to the band, maintained the Dystopian vibe the band clearly aim for with some of the most brutal mosh-pits I've seen at a non-metal event. Black Futures were strangers to me before last night but have stolen my heart and are definitely a band to follow.

For a frontman of a band that shows a zero-f*cks attitude, it is clear that Frank Carter and his Rattlesnakes most certainly do give a f*ck. From stage presence (or lack of in some songs) Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes (9) devote themselves to the music that they deliver and that can be shown throughout their performance. The set opens with Crowbar, released in January as a teaser for their upcoming album End Of Suffering (due for release in May this year). It seemed like business as usual for the devoted Rattlesnake following as the crowd erupted, which was impressive even though the song has not graced the public’s ears for long, but it was a theme throughout the performance with constant mosh pits, jumping, crowd surfing and singing along from the first moment. The zero-f*cks alter-ego Frank possesses was displayed proudly throughout the evening, from crowd walking whilst performing it is clear to see why their concerts are known to be legendary in the punk community, having previously seen them at Slamdunk festival I knew when this quaint tour was announced that it was not one to be missed.

The band opened up their softer side to the audience by addressing sexual harassment at concerts and that if there are any women who have wanted to try crowd surfing but has been wary to do so for fear of being groped, they can do so in a safe environment at their shows. The crowd praised the band for their values on a raw subject with claps and cheers leading to many leaping at the opportunity to crowd surf (including myself). The encouragement to crowd surf added to the liberating experience the band never fails to provide from the venom and power put into the lyrics of their songs that each appear to be personal on many levels. On the topic of getting personal, Frank interacts with the audience by asking if anyone has suffered with anxiety or knows someone that has. He goes on to discuss how anxiety has affected him and the inspiration behind many songs that he has written, including Anxiety which is included on their upcoming album. The band capture a sense of belonging that many can only seek at concerts.

The band concluded with the iconic I Hate You, where the crowd screamed along. The roar from the venue gave evidence to how fantastic Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are as a band. They dance on the fine line of humility and arrogance to show that punk is still alive and breathing.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Reviews: Overkill, Massive, Stonecast, Tides Of Sulfur (Paul H & Matt)

Overkill: The Wings Of War (Nuclear Blast Records) [Paul H]

You know what you get with Overkill. The legendary thrash outfit who are now hitting us hard with their latest album, their 19th full release. Hard on the heels of the excellent The Grinding Wheel, The Wings Of War does everything that you want from an Overkill release. It’s brutal straight up thrash metal which really warms the soul amid so many pretenders to the crown. With Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth continuing to snarl and growl his way through each track, ably supported by DD Verni (whose presence here is a damn sight better than his recent solo release) and a new drummer on the stool in Jason Bittner, making his recording debut with the band after the departure of long-time drummer Ron Lipnicki who had been with the band since 2005.

Slicing and shredding is second nature for Overkill, and Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer make it sound simple as they drive the band forward from the opening bars of the headbanging beast Last Man Standing through the intensity of Out On The Road-Kill and closing thrash monster Hole In My Soul. Overkill generally stick to the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and The Wings Of War is no exception, continuing the rich wave of form which the band has surfed since Ironbound in 2010. Bigger, better and as fast as ever, Overkill really are kings of the thrash scene, untouched by any competitors and still giving it as large in 2019 as they were when that debut release Feel The Fire burst onto the scene 34 years ago. 8/10

Massive: Rebuild Destroy (Off Yer Rocka) [Paul H]

Raucous, wild and typically Australian, the Aussie trio known as Massive return with album number three. The Melbourne outfit who emerged in 2013 with their debut Full Throttle have had a couple of personnel changes over the years, with the current line-up being Brad Marr, vocals and guitar, Ben Laguda on lead guitar and vocals and drummer Andre Greentree. Unsurprisingly, Rebuild Destroy is a no nonsense balls out heavy rock alum, full of flying riffs, solos and anthemic shouting over eleven three-minute plus tracks. The band has built steadily since Full Throttle, and live are a real force with their straight on rock ‘n’ roll. Tracks such as Generation Riot, The Wrecking Crew and Bullet all scream beer and a good time, which is probably the way that Massive would want you to enjoy their music. It’s not complex progressive rock, but it certainly fits comfortably into the antipodean approach. It’s nothing special, won’t take your breath away but is perfectly enjoyable in a rough and ready kind of way. 6/10

Stonecast: I, Earther (Pitch Black Records) [Matt]

An industrial thump of an intro puts you in mind of an android being created and then the muscular heavy metal assault begins as Captors Of Insanity starts off this third album from Marseille based heavy metal band Stonecast an album that deals with the "tragic, never ending cycle of inevitable destruction is the story of mankind". It's delivered with the gritty speed metal assault of early Blind Guardian a frenzy of super-speed guitars and blasting drum beats, capped by the vocals which sound an awful lot like Hans Kürsch with snarling mids and powerful ear piercing highs that break the stratosphere. It's a furious way to start a record that only slows on the anthemic The Cherokee which has breakdown into a war dance that Anthrax would probably sue for. Stonecast are obviously a band with a pedigree have once had Manowar man Rhino behind the drum kit, they also shared the stage with the Big 4 at Sonisphere France, here their talents are accentuated by producer extraordinaire Roy Z who has worked with Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford plus many more it means that this album bristles with heavy metal glory allowing the serious guitar chops of Seb Casula to really show his fret burning talent, the bass of Lionel Antonorsi to boom out of the speakers and lets vocalist Franck Ghirardi scream their way into your ear drums as well as make up the choirs to end a cinematic edge. Forevermore is an emotional lead into the sensational Precipice To Hell, an album that is heavy, progressive and full of saber rattling anthems, I, Earther is one of the strongest heavy metal albums of the year! 9/10

Tides Of Sulfur: Paralysis Of Reason (Sludgelord/APF/Astral Noize Records) [Matt]

"Do you know what "nemesis" means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible cunt... me." the words of Brick Top in Snatch (2000), this begins the second track on the third EP by Cardiff sludge trio Tides Of Sulfur a band I've been following for years, this is an absolute monster 6 minutes of complete and utter devastation as Chris, Anthony and Tom go for the largest artery in the body and rip it to shreds, it's and EP that wants you to bleed out all over the floor once you listen to it. It kicks off with the crust punk fury of Worms, the thundering grooves of Pariah and the creeping darkness of the title track, it's filth from track 1 to track 5, gnarly, headache inducing, aggressive filth that has been fuelled by a hatred of the current state of the world. It's music to make Molotov's by. Rise Up! 8/10

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Reviews:The Neal Morse Band, Leach, More Human Than Human, Saint Apache (Sean & Paul H)

The Neal Morse Band: The Great Adventure (Radiant Records) [Paul H]

It’s a return of the God-fearing guitarist and his band with a progressive opus that is gargantuan in both ambition and style. Huge synthesised waves echo throughout the release, whilst the guitar work is as spectacular as you would expect it to be. Polished and over the top, this double album kicks off with Overture, a ten-minute statement which freestyles its way in almost barely restrained chaos. Huge interplay between keyboards, organ, a battery of drumming and some raw guitar work is no surprise given the members of the band. With Mike Portnoy behind the kit, quality drumming is assured; Randy George is a multi-instrumentalist who has played with Morse in several band’s including Transatlantic and Spock’s Beard; Bill Hubauer is another well-known progressive artist who focuses on keyboards and synthesisers; Eric Gillette covers the lead guitar work, another who has worked with Morse for many years.

I’ve dabbled with Morse’s previous works, the saccharine rich quality usually made even less palatable by the underlying Christian themes that disagree with me on a level which gives me chronic indigestion. However, there is no doubting the quality on display here in. A double disc 22 song release, it is either impressive or incredibly overblown, depending on your view. Tracks on disc one includes the the pomp of Welcome To The World, the slow paced A Momentary Change which houses some neat guitar work as it evolves into another keyboard dominated track. There is plenty of evangelical breakdowns here, such as the hymns which underpin To The River, as the story evolves.

Plenty of religious iconography and references throughout this leave you in no doubt that this is another Christian themed album; “My father left me on the road, but the Lord lifted me up”. So, whilst the musical ability and technical quality can be admired, the lyrical content is an anathema to me, the soaring feel good and a hook unsurprisingly joyous and pure in comparison to my usual listening content. Disc one concludes with an unlikely Hey Ho Let’s Go, not a cover of the Ramones classic and another evangelical hymn in Beyond The Borders, all draining emotional vocal and soaring guitar. By this time, I’m beginning to think this is just a little bit over the top, but there is still another album to go!

Overture 2 begins the second part of this release, more soaringly heart tugging classical style, posing the question is this a musical soundtrack, especially when the church organ kicks off before Portnoy’s drumming pulls you back towards the rock path. A voyage of prog noodling commences, the occasional hard rock riff adding the heavy. When TNMB do rock out they really do rock, and for a few minutes here you can immerse yourself before the underlying Christian riff pops back into view. By now I’m beginning to think that this is too much duty to the cause. The other question I’m asking is who the hell buys this stuff. It really is a struggle to get through the feel-good God themes that overpopulate here. Long Ago continues the story, the clean harmonies and incredibly rich keyboards really testing the patience. I’m at the point of surrender by the time we hit As The Dream Continues, but I hold fast, waiting for something a bit heavier to arrive and Fighting With Destiny initially appears to answer my prayers, the huge drum sound driving the song forward with some massive keyboard riffs but then, oh dear, we get to Vanity Fair, an absolute steaming dog turd, which is at least partially rectified by Welcome To the World 2, that has a much darker edge to it but with the same refrain as the earlier Welcome To The World

It’s astonishing in its composition, the interplay remains intricate and complex, but it really doesn’t push my buttons. The Element Of Fear contains a snarling guitar riff that is completely thrown by some lightweight keyboard work, whilst Child Of Wonder is another ghastly song. Flicking forward to the finale, A Love That Never Dies, I applauded myself that I had managed to get through an album that is at times strong, at other times weak and always a real challenge to embrace fully. This is a massive review of an album I’ll never listen to again. Its religious undertones don’t work with me, the complex and progressive meanderings too much, but there are at times some real gems hidden within. If your bag is lengthy, progressive rock opera style music then you may well enjoy this. I wish you well. 6/10

Leach: Hymns For The Hollow (Self Released) [Sean]

Well, this ain’t bad. I’m not normally one to jam some hardcore, even metal tinged hardcore. It’s not something I've actively avoided as a few acts have are known to me, it’s more of the fact that we seldom crossed each others paths. Still, I’ve never been one to turn my nose up at stepping outside of ones comfort zone. Which brings us to Leach, a furious four piece from Sweden. What’s that? Me listening to Swedish and not a HM-2 in sigh?! Shockingly, there’s more to music than just Stockholm worship (no, really). Digressions aside, Leach have got plenty of wallop amongst the usual influences on this, their second offering, Hymns Of The Hollow. A bit of Punk’n’ thrash here, a bit of groove there and all the “man having a painful shit” vocals one could ever want. So press play, open a beer and open this fucking pit up!

First two track, The Untouchables and Free From All, are what one would with both tracks exhibiting the punkier side of Leach. No frills here though the playing is tight, to the point and energetic as all hell. Thrashier number, New Low ups the pace to frantic and brings the chunk. Straightforward it may be but you can’t deny the earnestness of the bands delivery. Chapter two is a similar beast, complete Hatebreed vibes, gang vocals and the emotive lyrical theme’s that hardcore tends to favours. Then it changes again, where Leach bring their full swagger to the fore with We Have It All. It’s quite the stomper, seamlessly fitting in the Hymns of the Hollows sound and Leach’s overall oeuvre. Framgangssagan and Do It brings us back to the thrash once more, bringing to mind the simpler moments of The Haunted. End Of An Era even manages to conjure fragments of Entombed’s groovier, death 'n' roll output (Inferno, for example), which can only be a good thing. It then finishes with the title track, a stripped down instrumental that feels a bit at odds with the smash-mouth antics preceding it. Still, an ends an end and onwards to the nitty gritty!

What we have here is an album that know exactly what it wants to do, by a band that know exactly what they want to be. Originality may be out of the window but who the fuck cares, it’s catchy as all hell. The tunes are tight, the riffs are thick, the production is massive and form start to finish, Leach sound like they fucking MEAN it. If Leach can win over this jaded cave dweller, then their sincerity and penchant for noisy fun will win you over too. 7/10

Saint Apache: Black Days (Self Released) [Paul H]

The third EP from Saint Apache, a four-piece alt-rock outfit from the South Coast of England. Full of politically charged angst and message the band power through this four-track release in no time. With influences from RATM through to Cancer Bats, you will be unsurprised by their focus and power. Opener Amongst Vultures kicks hard to the shines, whilst the band unashamedly continue to scream and shout in your face until closing track Tory Man by which time you are unable to do anything but acquiesce to their demands. Raw, wild and aggressive, this is a shouty, angry release which has a definite message to deliver. 6/10

More Human Than Human: Re-Evolution (Self Released) [Paul H]

I really enjoyed this album. It’s not the run of the mill metal that we get so much of here at Musipedia Towers. No, More Human Than Human is a groove-soaked two-piece from Cheltenham. The band is Tomislave Vucetic on bass and vocals and Anthony ‘Badger’ Collins on drums, synths and vocals. With heavy bass riffs, massive drums and searching synths, the band combine the progression of Tool with the power and energy of Royal Blood to create music that you can dance, mosh and drive to. Opening with the title track and moving quickly into The World Is Flat, it’s immediately apparent that the driving bass lines allow the groove to develop with an intensity that is addictive. Burn It Down and Open Your Eyes demonstrate that even with a mere two people you can create some interesting sounds; each track brings something different to the table and unlike some of the two-piece combos around today, More Human Than Human stimulate and interest from start to finish. Inevitably there is the cover of the White Zombie track that the band take their name from and it’s a decent version, with the thundering bass line and swirling synths capturing the passion of the original, some 24 years later. 7/10

Reviews: Avantasia, Hexvessel, Ghost Iris, Indestructible Noise Command (Matt, Paul H & Sean)

Avantasia: Moonglow (Nuclear Blast) [Matt]

I'll get this out of the way first, Moonglow features a cover of Maniac as the final track, it's not wanted, it's not necessary and frankly it sounds exactly like the Firewind version. There I said it! let's gloss over that travesty and focus on the original material, on this, the eighth album from Tobias Sammet's rock opera project Avantasia. Moonglow is the third entry in the storyline that started with The Mystery Of Time and once again the musical part of the album is core membership of Tobias Sammet (lead vocals, additional keyboard, bass guitar), Sascha Paeth (guitar, bass guitar), Michael Rodenberg (keyboard, piano, orchestration) and Felix Bohnke (drums). There is as usual a glut of vocalists playing the different parts in the story, from the returning singers such as Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Jørn Lande (Jorn), Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Geoff Tate (Operation:Mindcrime), Michael Kiske (Helloween) and (of course) Bob Catley (Magnum). Who all reprise their roles behind the mic along with new voices such as Candice Night (Blackmore's Night), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Mille Petrozza (Kreator).

These final two feature on Book Of Shadows which is the heaviest/fastest track Avantasia have done since the early Metal Opera with both Kürsch and Petrozza on top form, growling and howling in equal measure as a speed metal track flies by. It's this song that shows the massive difference in styles that Avantasia have had since The Scarecrow album once again taking the rock route over the early symphonic metal sound. There's another baroque Steinman-esque opener Ghost In The Moon serves as the sequel to the Eurovision entry Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose, a romantic ballad duet with Candice Night, an atmospheric, cinematic rock epic called The Raven Child. These sit side to side with heavy metal anthems that have Atkins and Tate at their best on Starlight and Alchemy. There is also a colossal AOR streak running through Lavender which has Sammet's hero Bob Catley channeling his Magnum pomp as a backing choir sings loud. It's another hard rock symphony from Sammet who has poured his heart and soul into this record over two years. That time is well spent every Avantasia album is a superb piece of work, detailed and intricate but also broad and excessive, the London show later this year is guaranteed to be a spectacle. 8/10

Hexvessel: All Tree (Century Media) [Sean]

I like this. I REALLY like the. No lengthy preamble here, just flat out recognition for one of the strongest releases of 2019 thus far. No HM-2 worship, no blast beats, shrieking or shredding. Nothing inherently muscular or aggressive so to speak, for that is not the purpose of this act I speak of a keen ear for melody, a fine balance of delicate instrumentation and copious amounts of wholesome, enchanting atmosphere. Naturally, I speak of Hexvessel, the Finnish based psychedelic folk rockers birthed from one of the most unlikely of sources. Formed by the former Code and Dødheimsgard frontman, Kvohst (or Mat as he’s known these days), these melancholic minstrels have been spinning bittersweet tales since 2011. With 2019 still in its infancy, Hexvessel return with 13 compositions of melodious melancholy and whimsical wonderings, their 5th release to date. So come, weary travel. Set down your belongings, draw closer to the fire and let tales of natures glory soothe your aching soul……

After the charming acapella of Blessing Hexvessel immediately work on weaving folk imbued magic with 2nd track, Song Of The Sky. A sombre number, vocal harmonies working in unison, taking on a more haunting quality some halfway through. The mood takes on an icy quality, the chord progression almost blackened in nature. It must be noted how perfectly balanced the production is, allowing each instrument dynamic space and clarity. We move on to the next tale, Old Tree, a mournful elegy to where a mighty organism once stood. Heartbreaking as it is haunting, with the fiddle tugging at the heartstrings as it sings in sorrow. Changeling introduces some gorgeous flute melodies, conjuring the feeling of being led through a forest. The pace quickens in Ancient Astronaut, with it’s rhythms more pronounced and a subtle sullen air permeating throughout. After the hypnotic instrumental of Visions Of A.O.S fades into nothingness, the radiant A Sylvan Sign washes me in it’s warm, sunny rays. I’m greet by the chirping of birds, the strumming of guitars and regaled with tales of ancient deities dancing in groves of deepest green.

Simply beautiful, both vocally and lyrically, with both violin and flute working in wonderful union. My body is filled with warmth, casting me to my earliest memories of frolicking free in the woods of my younger years. Simply magical. Wilderness Spirit is a jaunty ditty, jig like in nature and flaunting Hexvessel’s more playful nature. Sláinte! Ahem, Otherworld is a doomy instrumental, its grinding bass driving it until it surrenders to morose title track, All Tree. By far the most straightforward track on the album thus far, though fits neatly into the overall narrative of things. Another instrumental, Journey To Carnac, brings to mind a sodden stroll in a dreary town centre (*cough Bridgend*cough*). Liminal Light is a pensive piece that rises and fall, akin to the embers of a burning hearth and the thoughts that were given form in it’s flames. Closing Circles brings All Tree to a close, both a eulogy and a fitting end to our journey.

Though my word count is limited, such is Hexvessel’s charm and allure, it became utterly essential in illustrating how good All Tree is. Each song has its own distinctive essence, delivered with great compositional care and passion. The moods shift and shimmer, the sounds and songs, matching them effortlessly as Hexvessel weave their wondrous stories. You will feel joy, you will feel sadness but above all? After All Tree has faded into silence? You will feel elation and will immediately want to experience All Tree all over again. Buy it, listen to it and cherish it, for Hexvessel’s folk infused magic is impossible to resist. 10/10

Ghost Iris: Apple Of Discord (Long Branch Records) [Matt]

Long Branch Records is becoming the leader in progressive metalcore releases so you can kind of assume what Danish band Ghost Iris are going to sound like, technical riffs, melodic passages, heavy grooves and a wide vocal range. It's the sort of sound Monuments, Periphery and Northlane have been playing across the world for a long time and you could probably add Ghost Iris to that list as well as Apple Of Discord is their third record, so they've come a long way from being a Youtube sensation in 2015.

So what about their third album? I have to say it sounds brilliant production wise it's very clean and almost surgical at times, the same can be said about the laser focussed riffs and grooves, it's a bigger step forward musically from their two previous albums with a much more varied approach and some downright amazing vocals that growl and soar often in the same verse. A band who are going to make their mark on the progressive metalcore world this year. 7/10

Indestructible Noise Command: Terrible Things (Rock ‘N’ Growl Records) [Paul H]

Flawless thrash at 110mph kicks off the latest album but the legendary Indestructible Noise Command, Fist Go Rek demanding you stomp around the room thrashing like a manic. This is the follow up to 2014’s Black Hearse Serenade, an album which saw the Connecticut outfit continue on their path to crush all in their path since their return in 2010. A band whose roots sit back in 1985 when they first emerged spitting with anger, frustration and violence at the world around them, Indestructible Noise Command have grasped their second chance with both hands and with Terrible Things they return once more. It is frantic stuff, with the duel guitar work of Erik Barath and Anthony Fabrizi reaching insane proportions at times, such as on Identifier and the stomping groove of Declaration. Dennis Gergely’s vocals are spot on, screaming and expelling words with real venom. 

With Dave Campo on bass and Kyle Shepard on drums anchoring the whole beast in place, this is one snarly, gritty piece of work which presents no hiding place. What their live shows must be like frightens me because this is one angry fist to the face. The band hit hard with Pledge Of Legions, a rampant runaway horse which shows no intention of slowing down from start to finish; enjoy the chainsaw guitar work of the delightful Bone Saw Ballet, a thrash classic in the making with its visceral edge and chugging undercurrent of Exodus and Overkill. With so much mediocre thrash around these days, this is a welcome change. Fully embrace Terrible Things. Life will be better if you do. 8/10

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Reviews: Woorms, 0N0, Illimitable Dolor, Snake Tongue (Paul S)

Woorms: Slake (Sludgelord Records)

Woorms are a 3 piece from Baton Rouge, the band formed in 2017 and Slake is their first album. Most of the material on the album would fit in to a sludge/doom/noise template, so lots of slow nastiness. The album gets underway with an intro that starts with Gregorian Chanting before going into some nice reverse guitars and other interesting elements. Next we have the first song with Find A Meal Find A Bed Find A God, which starts with a massive sludge riff, which is heavy and has a great head-banging tempo. Everything calms down for the vocals, far more subtle and brooding than the hugeness that came before. That huge riff comes back to drive the track along to a very satisfying ending, great piece of sludge. Veni Vidi Fucki starts with subtle guitar swells and a spoken word sample (the first of several). Once the massive riffs come back in we are in a very tuneful sludge territory, with some interesting rhythmic devices and very evocative vocals. Stiff Upper Lisp (great Pun), has a slow build up of drums and vocals before another huge riff (this album is dripping with huge riffs!) blasts off for a massive chorus, before it all slows and calms down for another subtle verse. The heavy parts of this song have a relaxed, lazy feel to it, that is slightly stonery in tone. Urine Trouble Now (another great pun, good work lads) has a swaggery, loose doom feel to it, the tempo is perfect for slow head-banging, and must be a cracking live track. 

Mouth Is A Wound has a weighty, simple riff at it’s heart, the track is very rhythmic, lots of lurching stops and starts, the vocals are very aggressive, in some places the vocals are spoken. Next up is the fantastically titled Our Lady Of Perpetually Shitfaced, which starts with feedback over a slowed down, slurred spoken word part, and then descends into fairly extreme feedback. Racist Kevin (not sure who Kevin is but he sounds like a fucking dick), is a short blast of mid tempo, alternative metal. Rise Crispy is a short, heavy mid-paced piece of doom. Great vocals and everything is done in a very interestingly rhythmic way, great track. The album come to a close with Sore Afraid a great flowing piece of doom, there is a bit of a similarity with some of Pentagram’s riffing. The tempo is just right for this sort of huge, lazy doom. Great way to end the album. Slake is a great first album. Interesting, heavy, challenging and enjoyable. This sounds like a band that would be great live. For a debut this is so impressive, I highly recommend you give this a listen. Still think Kevin is a dick, though. 8/10

0N0: Cloaked Climax Concealed (Transcending Obscurity Record)

Slovakian industrial doom/death band 0N0 have been going for 14 years, in that time they have recorded 2 albums and Cloaked Climax Concealed is their 4th EP. So, what have the 3 piece got for us on this release. Well, the EP contains 2 tracks, which come to 12 minutes. First track The Crown Unknown starts with a huge discordant riff, with added electronics. The rhythm lurches and staggers while harsh vocals complete the nastiness. Although there are lots of elements that are designed to be extreme and off-putting, there are also some clean vocals that have a softer, smoother feel; the combination of the 2 feels cathartic. 

The track has lots of layers, with added industrial factors, this gives the song real depth. Hidden In The Trees (Sail This Wrecked Ship), is a softer, less huge track than the one that preceded it. The song feels more expansive, it’s still discordant but is less aggressive. The second half of the track has clean vocals harmonies that feel uplifting and positive. Again, the overall feel is cathartic, despite the huge heaviness, and discordance. Although the EP is fairly short, the material is great, with a lot of depth. Definitely one to check out! 8/10

Illimitable Dolor: Leaden Light (Transcending Obscurity Records)

Leaden Light is Illimitable Dolor’s second album, coming 2 years after their self titled debut. The band (a four piece according to the press release I got with the album, but a five piece according to the bands facebook page, and a 6 piece according to one other research source I looked at) have at least 4 members, and have been going since 2014. The five track album starts with Armed He Brings The Dawn, which sets a template for most of the album, is a fantastic piece of death/doom. Although having said that, the death is in the vocal style and the guitar, bass and drum sound, but in many ways we are in huge doom territory. One rather unique aspect of Illimitable Dolor’s sound are keyboards, which are present throughout the album. On most tracks the keyboards sound like a massive church organ, giving this a unique sound. The guitars are playing fantastic, melancholic harmonies throughout. The combination of these factors gives the song a sense of loss and sadness, that is more in line with doom acts like Warning. 

The band have clearly sacrificed the anger and savagery of death metal for the pensive despondency of doom. Second track Soil She Bears has a softer and slower feeling than the track that came before it. The keyboards, although there is some church organ, mainly sounds like a piano. The track has a more desolate, depressive feel. The melodies are sadder, the pace; dreamlike. The track has a middle section that is just piano and drums, deeply melancholic, forlorn and so beautiful. The guitars return for the final part of the song, and they now fit perfectly with the mood. Horses Pale and Four starts with very slow guitar chords, but as with other parts of this album, the tempo is less about being heavy and pounding the listener, and more about creating an achingly woeful atmosphere. The track is heavy on the church organ, and it is the organ that feels like it is pushing the song on. The organ brings the inertia, the guitars bring the wistful unhappiness. Again there is a middle section in this song that is mainly Church Organ, but backed up with arpeggios played on the guitars. This forms a very beautiful section, before the drive returns for the rest of the track. Leaden Light Her Coils, starts with a gentle piano riff, played very slowly, and dripping with sadness. The guitars are heavy once they come crashing in, but the mood stays the same. 

The track slows for a section that is mainly organ with some dramatic drums and clean guitar riffs, by this point it’s almost too beautiful! The huge guitar harmonies, teamed with the organ are aback for the end of the song. Final track 2.12.14 is the shortest track on the album, and is mainly an outro. The track is keyboard swells, with soft, clean guitars, that bring this album to an end in a satisfyingly melancholic way. Leaden Light is a fantastic piece of work. Huge and beautiful, melancholic and cathartic. The part of me that loves Warning’s masterpiece Watching From A Distance, also loves this album. This album is not about extremity, aggression or nastiness; it’s about emotion. It’s achingly sad, wistful and cathartic. This is definitely going to be an album I’ll listen to when my Clinical Depression is giving me trouble. The only thing I have difficulty with, is believing that this band come from Australia. Bright sunshine, surfing, throwing seafood onto barbecues and drinking Fosters doesn’t fit with this music at all. I suppose it must be a reaction to all of that horrific happiness. 9/10

Snake Tongue: No Escape No Excuse (The Sign Records)

Snake Tongue are a Swedish hardcore band, they released their first album in 2016. On this EP we get 4 tracks that come in at 12 minutes. Corrupted Beat blasts strait off with some very aggressive hardcore, similar to All Pigs Must Die and in some places a little reminiscent of crust punk royalty Extreme Noise Terror. Fast barbwire riffs, aggressive harsh vocals and a pacing that batters the listener. There is a slightly softer, slower part in the middle, but that is quickly over and the song blasts to the end. Dystopian Slumber starts slower and with less aggressive riffing. However it quickly speeds up into some beautifully loose hardcore. Derailed starts with some very rhythmic aggressive punky riffs before kicking off into really great flowing hardcore, cracking song! Final track Hammer And Nail has an opening half that is slower than some of the other material on here, but is massively purposeful. The second half is much faster, and the song blasts to the end of the EP. No Escape No Excuse is a great piece of uptempo crusty hardcore, really energised and properly angry, highly recommended! 8/10