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Thursday, 21 February 2019

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

Dunklenacht Creature Sound, Swansea

I’d been really impressed by the French band's latest release, Empires Of Mediocracy so despite the attraction of a night in after two nights at Fuel I headed West to Creature Sound, a music venue in Swansea for another night of heavy music.

It's actually easier for me to get to Bristol than Swansea but a event free drive saw me arrive about 30 minutes after advertised start. Luckily things were running late and so I was there in time to catch the opening act. First up in a sparsely populated room was Metal To The Masses hopeful outfit Rapture's End (5). The local five piece had been drafted in at the last minute and despite their ragged approach they do have some promise. Musically the lightest band on the bill, they put together a reasonable set which at times saw only guitarist Tom and drummer Chris on the stage. Singer Annie decided that being off stage gave her more room to flex the vocal chords as she strode back and fore across the front of the stage. For those who are unaware, the band's sound fuses hard and heavy rock with punk tinged elements. The local support was typically partisan and spurred the band on and If I have one criticism it would be that their songs are a little similar in style and sound. Whilst this was a local show with a relaxed atmosphere, they will need to tighten up their game substantially if they are to progress to the semi finals in Cardiff.

Ylem Darkul (5) had supported Dunkelnacht through their four date tour and their raw black metal fitted the bill. I’d seen the band in Fuel at Winter Eradication where they had failed to impress. A full complement at least allowed them to open up their game but there is still very little to get excited about. I’d have expected them to have been a bit more cohesive but as it was there wasn’t a lot to really hold the attention. Maybe I’m just missing something because the Bristol band worked hard with a small crowd.

Two night's earlier Sepulchre (7) had delivered a rock solid set which had been sufficient to send them through on a wild card at the first heat of the MTTM. Led by Darren Evans, a veritable whirlwind of energy and pure metal style, the band blasted through a short but potent set, which included tracks from both their fine EPs. Betrayed By God and Scriptures Of War were again ferocious and incited minor action within the small but energetic gathering. As in previous viewings, the drumming of Aimee Coppola once again impressed as she held everything together tightly, rightly drawing a huge cheer at the end of the set from Tegaarst Dunkelnacht. Sepulchre stick tightly to the thrash path but do it in such a way you cannot fail to be entertained by them. A good warm up for the main event.

Although running 30 minutes behind the advertised times, as this was a free entry gig you couldn’t really complain. The French band Dunkelnacht (9) were a different class to what had gone on before them. With a decent catalogue of tracks to play from, they kicked off at high speed and for the next 60 minutes delivered a masterclass in blackened death metal. Tighter than Steel Panther’s spandex, the band were on point from start to finish. Triggers were hit on cue, smoke and lighting synchronised perfectly as Tegaarst hammered his double bass set up. The band played as if headlining Wacken, vocalist M.C. Abagor constantly urging more action on the floor. Flanked by guitarist Heimdall and the intensely focused bassist Alkhemohr, M.C Abagor dominated the centre stage with superb presence.

New tracks from Empires Of Mediocracy sounded solid despite their relative freshness and as the set progressed it was impossible not to become more absorbed in the professionalism on display. As the band hit their final song I grabbed a shirt a copy of their latest album before heading out of the door and the drive back East. Despite the poor turnout, which I calculated was about seven punters who didn’t actually belong to one of the bands playing, this was a good evening headlined by a superb outfit who I would love to see again in the near future.

Reviews: Saor, Warlung, Dark Years From Now, YERÛŠELEM (Sean, Mark & Paul S)

Saor: Forgotten Paths (Avantguarde) [Sean]

Wow. I….just give me a moment, I wasn’t expecting my spirit to be sent skyward and so suddenly. Come on Seán, you have a review to type here! Maintain your composure! *clears throat and cracks fingers* If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, never bothering to cast your senses towards the glorious North, then your ignorance is unforgivable. A great force has emerged from its farthest reaches, imbued by the very heritage and natural beauty that birthed it. I speak of Saor, the Scottish Atmospheric/Celtic/Folk Black Metal entity forged by multi instrumentalist, Andy Marshall. Embodying all things evocative and earthy, Saor return with Forgotten Paths, the fourth (heathen) foray into the rugged Scottish wilderness. Put on your warmest garments, feel the bracing air caress your skin and set foot into the furthest you have been from time and home….

Title track, Forgotten Paths, sets us on our journey. Blast beats, which are always welcome, lead us onward, with strong guitar melodies placed tastefully above the furious fray. The pace slows, the melodies intensify and one can soon hear each layer added into the already huge spectrum of sound. Violins, flutes and even a piano add to an already cinematic outburst, captured perfectly by the clear and expansive production. It’s also pleasing to hears Andy’s earth shaking bellows increasingly shine through, it’s prominence greatly enhancing the proceedings. A brief intermission follows, before all manner of melody fires off at once in a stunning crescendo. Was that 10 minutes? Certainly didn’t feel like it! Monadh gradually heaps sombre melody upon melody, maintaining it’s more deliberate pace even after every instrument erupts into life.

Monadh’s main lead runs through most of the track, with varying layers and instrumentation built around it’s core, continuously shifting yet never straying afar or outstaying it’s welcome. The mood soon becomes one of triumph and hope, conjuring images of a lone figure having conquered an insurmountable foe. Another 10 minutes pass with Bron, my mind and spirit elsewhere, soaring above Scotland’s rolling hills and deepest lochs in the grip of Autumn, soon fading to winters touch. Is that a dulcimer I hear? Regardless, I am cascaded by beautiful folk instrumentation (bagpipes, fuck aye!) bolstered by ethereal clean vocals, melting this jaded Celt’s heart in amateur of seconds. Exile closes with the pensive plucking of a lonely harp, finding me casting my minds eye out towards the waves breaking upon the shore, bringing our journey to an end. Wow.

I’ve started with a wow, so I’ll finish with a wow. Hell, such is the majesty of Forgotten Paths, I uttered it repeatedly Owen Wilson style in a deep, drawn out exhale of purest joy. Wow. Such is the immersive power of Forgotten Paths, it transcends any base sensation and strikes not only the mind but the spirit, too. Andy Marshall’s vision is vast and compositional guile, vaster still. Saor effortlessly balance might and melancholy across sprawling musical vistas with nary a misstep. You owe it to yourself to hear Forgotten Paths, to experience what Andy and thus, Soar, have experienced and immediately hit repeat the moment Forgotten Paths fades into silence. After all, silence is deafening. 10/10

Warlung: Immortal Portal (Self Released) [Mark]

Let’s start with the obvious; an absolutely great name for a band, bravo chaps. If you’re wondering if the music lives up to that moniker, in short, it does. This album has a stoner/desert feel, with a lot of classic 70’s thump woven into decent modern production techniques, all self produced, too. Warlung have crossed the boundaries of that stoner vibe with melodic doom cuts to great effect. Opening with Black Horse Pike, the intro is dirty, filtered through a 70’s telephone and short enough to not be an annoyance, this drops into a crisp lead and then Warlung does one of my favourite things, singing the name of the song immediately, the rest of the song goes by in a flash of syncopated kick drums and great vocal melodies. We All Die In The End is a slightly more upbeat song, even though you’d never guess it from the discordant intro, reminiscent of a band who have listened to a fair amount of Black Sabbath and channelled it to good use. The main riff in this song is infectious, it gets in your head and keeps playing long after the track has finished and the outro lead is well crafted, not a shred fest, but tactfully placed notes over a great building rhythm section.

Other highlights - Psychonauts, more minimal than the rest of the album, not much in the way of rhythm guitars in this one, and it’s good because of it. Coal Minors is tremendous and a very good way to close the album, lyrically dark and melodically well structured. Vocal duties are carried out by George Baba and Philip Bennett, who do a very solid job, clean and accomplished throughout this 49 minutes. The rhythm section, Chris and Ethan Tamez is tight and very in sync, keeping the head nodding track after track. Definitely a band I’d want to check out live, a few beers with good friends in a sweaty rock club and I can imagine this being one of those nights out that leaves you a bit blurry the next day. Overall, this album isn’t a world beater, but it isn’t forgettable either, I feel Immortal Portal overstays its welcome just a touch at 49 minutes but overall the listener is left with an enjoyable experience and something that’s likely to get a few more listens throughout the year. 7/10

Dark Years From Now: Dark Years From Now (Self Released) [Paul S]

Dark Years From Now is a 1 man band from Vancouver in Canada. The one man in question is called Dan Potter, who is a multi instrumentalist, this self titled album is his first release. Opening track Forbidden Nexus is a short instrumental that is a little Djent-ish, reminds me of Animals As Leaders or Chimp Spanner. Next up is Heaven And Hell collide which has a technical Death metal feel to it, but in a fairly simple mid-paced way. The vocals are harsh, but in a black metal way rather than a death metal way. The vocals are in a higher register than you would expect for death metal; I suppose if you are a one man band you just have to go with the voice you have.

Red Light Glares is also techy death, but is faster; more obviously death metal. The song has a aggressive feel to it despite the technicality, the song also boasts a slower, heavier part and a very impressive solo. Proxy Whore has a slightly more restrained and measured feel to it, still technical death metal, but there are elements of djent coming in as well. The song again has some very impressive solos and a soft middle section with some very interesting rhythmic passages.

Zubaydah is more technical and djent, the rhythm is fairly staccato, and doesn’t flow like the previous songs, definitely a different feel. Burial Forest is nearly 3 minutes of electronic noise. Pyrophoric has a slower choppier sense to it, similar to Zubaydah, but with a heavier feel and drive. Shot Caller is similar to the song that came before it, the track is an instrumental with some very good solo’s and an interesting middle section. X Or Cyst? Pt 1 is another djent track, that is tight and controlled, the vocals are whispered, which is an interesting way to handle them.

Fall Away is a rather strange song. Not death metal or djent in any way, rather it’s more like an early nineties piece of alternative rock. The vocals are clean (and not very good, sorry), the song feel out of place and is a bit of an oddity. The album closes with the track Riptides Of The Abyss, which is just like Burial Forest, in that it is just electronic noise, but this time it’s for over ten minutes.

Dark Years From Now is an interesting album. It doesn’t totally work, but it’s so packed full of promise that it highlights huge things could be on the way. Personally I prefer the technical death metal style over the Djent, but which ever way Dan wants to push this, he needs to focus what he wants to do. Go for one style, and try to produce a coherent whole. I’d encourage him to work with other people (in particular a vocalist), so he has some ideas from other people to control his creativity. This project needs focus and direction, but the raw talent on display is fantastic, and hints at a future that could be huge, doesn’t quite work yet, but my god, watch this space! 7/10

YERÛŠELEM: The Sublime (Debemur Morti Productions) [Paul S]

YERÛŠELEM is an industrial project from Vindsval and W.D. Feld the current mastermind, and former member of french band Blut Aus Nord. The Sublime is the band's first album. The music on offer here is Industrial that is quite similar to the style found on last years Mirrors For Psychic Warfare album. There are clearly lots of Industrial influences on here, even going back as far as Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. The album does have a few problems, not massive problems, if you are passionate about industrial you’ll find a lot to like. However, the album does lack some complexity, each track has a drumbeat, some dissonant guitar, very echoey vocals, some samples and quite often a simple melody played on guitar. But that's about it. The individual tracks are just that, for 4 - 5 minutes and then they fade out. The feeling that this isn’t going anywhere is present on each track, in fact what this sounds like most to me is 1 very long track that is faded up for a few minutes, faded down for a few seconds, and then faded up again. 

So, the track The Sublime has a slow to mid-paced tempo, with a simple beat and a bit of an eastern feel. Autoimmunity is very similar but a little bit mellower. Eternal is like the other 2 but a little simpler. Sound Over Matter is very quiet, short soundscape (probably the only track that stands out from the rest). Joyless is a bit more aggressively rhythmic with a simple repeated melody. Triiinity has a bit of a hip hop or possibly trip hop beat to it. And so it goes on. The same track 9 times, it’s not a band track, but I’d expect a bit more for my money. This isn’t bad, it just need more work, more complexity, more inventiveness, just more really. The other problem with this album is the fact that the the people who put it together are the same people who made Blut Aus Nord’s masterpiece The Work Which Transforms God. This is an album I recently saw described as uncriticizable. It is as perfect an Industrial Black Metal album as you can get, so this just isn’t good enough, we know they can produce perfection, so less than that feels disappointing. Again, this is a good album, but it could be so much better. Maybe save your money on this, and get The Work Which Transforms God instead, you won’t be disappointed with that! 7/10

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.