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Thursday, 5 August 2021

Reviews: Bill Fisher, The Kite Experiment, When Darkness Falls, Sorceress Of Sin (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Bill Fisher - Hallucinations Of A Higher Truth (Septaphonic Records)

Church Of The Cosmic Skull's leader and spiritual talisman Bill Fisher returns with his second solo album. While the first was more in the vein of his Mothership project, the singer songwriter influence creeping into the prog, doom style of COTCS, on this second album, Fisher has embraced the jazz sound that has roots in the style of Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock. Shifting from the big band of In The Morning to the lounge style cover of Status Quo's Caroline. Yep you read that right, Fisher turns one of The Quo's heaviest hits into a smoky ballad is a brave move but pays off due to Fisher's reverence to the original. If you come into this record expecting heavy guitars you'll be surprised to hear the piano taking pride of place, with some metronomic drumming to accompany the keys. 

Now I said that there's some jazz greatness on the record but as it unfolds before you Answers In Your Soul takes the Billy Joel/Paul Simon route of soulful balladry, that shifts into a more jaunty, proggy coda towards the end. Following this is People Should Be Friendly which reminds me of Tom Waits, while Time & Death comes out of the Leonard Cohen songbook. The album ending with a gospel, stripped back rendition of Evil In Your Eye from Is Satan Real? COTCS's debut album. An interesting listen that is unlike most of the bands Fisher is associated with. Open your mind to a higher truth and welcome to jazz club...nice. 7/10

The Kite Experiment - Atmospherics (Self Released)

I'm always a fan of anything multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer/songwriter John Mitchell does, so the prospect of this surprise EP dropping on Friday 30th was enough for me to buy it immediately. However it gets better for prog fans as The Kite Experiment is a collaboration between Mitchell on vocals and piano, virtuoso drummer Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett) and classically trained guitarist Chris Hargrave of electro/art rock band Fishtank. Musically there isn't much different from any of the members day jobs but then I suppose that is supposed to be the point as all three have been involved with very eclectic projects throughout the years. I guess if I were trying to pinpoint it I'd say this is art rock taking from Peter Gabriel but also AOR heros. Temple Road kicks off the EP with a shimmering driving anthem Don Henley would be proud to write, although of course there's still that prog leaning of John Mitchell's back catalogue. 

Following this is The Bridge, an atmospheric piece, a simple repeating guitar chord, tapping high hat and understated synth, powers the verse as it leads into the more fully rounded chorus and then a carnival-like coda into the guitar solo, it's the longest song on the record at 5:38, but like with all the songs here, there's a lot of musicianship packed into the short run times. Alpha Omega brings a 80's synth pop sound of Duran Duran and the piano-driven pop of Keane, Domus is a slick, funky ballad that speaks of home (neat huh Latin fans?), in the Peter Gabriel/Eric Serra as the EP is rounded out with a prime piece of Celtic pop prog, that must come from Mitchell's time in It Bites. Atmospherics is a brilliant surprise EP from this virtuoso triumvirate and one worth investing in for fans of Mitchell, Blundell or Hargrave. 8/10

When Darkness Falls - What We Leave Behind (Self Released)

From Colorado, When Darkness Falls are a melo-death/metalcore band, What We Leave Behind is their second album and it's a technically proficent, heavy and stylish slice of modern metal. I'll not mention the drumming as I'm not sure if it is a computer or not as the official membership seems to be Eli on vocals/guitar, Kayla on bass and Will on guitar. Whatever the membership their is a brilliant unison on this record, the songs sounding like a band who are much more experienced. As their darkness descends on Heavy Blood the raging torrent of riffage brings to mind that of The Blackening era of Machine Head (before things went completely off the rails). 

Savage in their delivery but with a practically mechanical playing style things seldom let off the gas Eli and Will delivering riff after riff at frightening pace and intricacy, Deathless Rotting the shortest shot of anger. Kayley adding the crushing grooves to Another Grave To Dig which delves into the doom sound. Eli also is a quality vocalist his growling clear and resonant while his clean vocals are also very good as well. I'm seriously impressed with the high standard of songwriting, production and composition on this album, there's never a time when you would think this is only the bands second album (having formed in 2014). Tracks such as Order 270 are full on thrash workouts while Equidistance adds a melodic opening, ot the modern assault. A great melodeath/metalcore record, well worth your time. 7/10     

Sorceress Of Sin - Constantine (Self Released)

Me Colleague Simon gave UK melodic metal band Sorceress Of Sin a 8/10 when he reviewed their debut album in February of last year. Essentially a vehicle for singer Lisa Skinner and guitarist Constantine Kanakis, the band are a collaborative effort that came to fruition as a band on their debut album Mirrored Revenge, obviously no slouches they have spent the past year writing and recording their second album. Unfortunately unlike Simon, Constantine did absolutely nothing for me for one major reason, which I will go into later. I understand what they are trying to do, the album is a dark, thrash meets classic metal album with lots of theatrical elements that are in the range of Mercyful Fate and Hell. Musically it's decent if a little basic but the major fault for me are Lisa's vocals, yes their cinematic ranging from snarls to operatic warbling but none of it is in tune and varies too wildly to ever be too cohesive and keep the attention. After around four tracks I'd had enough but persevered to the end of the album, though it never got better I'm afraid. They play Bloodstock next week, listen to the album and watch the band to decide for yourself. However for me Sorceress Of Sin was all sin and no salvation. 4/10  

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Reviews: Troy Redfern, Abdicatrix, Wasteland Coven/Nothing Is Real, Smiling (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Troy Redfern - The Fire Cosmic (Red7 Records)

Revered UK slide guitarist Troy Redfern kicks off his latest album The Fire Cosmic, with a piece of surf rock called Scorpio. It's a ballsy slab of hard rocking driven by resonator guitar that moves it into Dick Dale meets desert rock. Following on from numerous recent releases, by which I mean Troy is trying to compete with Joe Bonamassa in the workhorse stakes, releasing five albums in 2020. The Fire Cosmic distills the appeal of Redfern's Appalachian mountain rock, the swagger of Waiting For Your Love which is driven by big riffing and the powerful virtuoso rhythm section of Darby Todd (drums) and Dave Marks (bass), these three men holed up in Rockfield Studios to try and recreate the iconic albums that was recorded there, after which the album was sent to Though Redfern himself has had numerous brushes with rock legends having played with Robert Plant in the past. 

This experience and the magical surrounding of that studio has imbued The Fire Cosmic with a real sense of something special. Take a track like Love & War which is a mid paced anthem that I'm sure you'll hear on a rock radio station near you soon, but then compare it to the harder edged On Fire which features Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal on additional (double neck) guitar solo duelling with Redfern. Elsewhere Ghosts is a proper country pickin' slice of Americana that explodes into a killer solo. While Saving Grace comes straight out of the introspective balladry of Mr Big. A great album of blues/Americana flavoured rock which shows why Redfern is held in such lofty regard as a guitar player and also as singer/songwriter. I will also say it's got a properly cool album cover ala surfing with the alien. The Fire Cosmic will surely he Redfern's crowning achievement so far. 8/10

Abdicatrix - Melancholia (UKEM Records) 

Warning before you press play on Melancholia, the debut album from London based black metal band Abdicatrix, will probably wilt your plants and make the clouds draw in on even the brightest of days. This is a record that draws heavily from the seminal second wave of black metal, with a cauldron of  Darkthrone, Immortal and Emperor, the band stylistically are covered in black and white corpse pain, long metal spikes and from their promo pictures hang around in woodland clearings a lot. Of course there's little information about the band, to keep the identities of those involved a mystery (as is the black metal way), but in stark contrast to the genre as a whole Abdicatrix are 3/4's female, not that this is important in a musical sense but in the very male dominated black metal scene it's a rarity. 

Now musically there is a mix of all the bands named previously, as we get the discordant doomy delivery of Soteria which is punctuated by the explosive tremolo riffing that is so linked to the black metal sound. Tempest Quintessence once again is a long, slow creeping evil style track that bursts into an all out black metal assault. There is a lot of atmospheric gloom here, I mean the album is called Melancholia but there's also a lot of melodic flourishes on tracks such as Polarity's Blade where the guitars get cleaner and early on tracks such as Into The Depths bring a progressive bent that is reminiscent of Celtic Frost. 

The pace of these songs undulate and shift across their run times, once again having an affinity to bands such as Emperor, vocally as well it's a vicious, biting croak that tells these macabre tales with malice. A wicked treat for any black metal lovers Melancholia is an atmospheric, technically skilled record that has lofty ambition for a debut. I for one will be keeping a close eye on where they go from here. 7/10    

Wasteland Coven/Nothing Is Real - Turmoil Split (Transylvanian Recordings & Cursed Monk Records)

Turmoil is a split from two US heavy doom bands, taking the first three tracks on this split EP is Toledo, Ohio four piece are very much in the classic doom metal sound of Saint Vitus and Candlemass, the fuzzing basslines of Susan Mitchell are flanked by the crunchy gallops of Bill Anderson and Brandon Collins with a rhythmic drive from drummer Jason Wilcox. They've followed up their April 2020 EP with this split and Wasteland Coven's style remains full of groove as Susan's echoed, Ozzy-like vocals that works well with the D.I.Y stripped back production of the three songs they made for this record. 

Now as it starts off with the classic booming doom of Wasteland Coven, the split takes an esoteric turn for the three tracks from LA act Nothing Is Real. It's the solo of project of Nicholas Turner and he really unleashes his dark side with an experimental sludge attack. The three songs are all part of one suite where Turner shifts through various kinds of heavy and abrasive soundscapes giving you a peek into the music he has already composed on his March 2021 album. It's a swirling cacophony of noise with the sludge doom sound that does well in juxtaposition to Wasteland Coven more straightforward sound. Doom splits are always interesting and much like the Heavy Psych Sounds Doom Sessions Split records this one showcases both bands well. 7/10

Smiling - Devour (Rogue Wave Records)

Smiling is the wild, reckless psych rock project from guitarist/vocalist/composer Annie Shaw. She has plied her trade with numerous bands supporting bands like Against Me! Devour is her latest foray into the world of mind expanding, kaleidoscopic rock with a dark pop edge. The recording began in 2016, with Josh Pollock (guitar), Mark Nelson (bass) and Sonny Pearce (drums). The record was laid down on to analogue tape with analogue instrumentation. After the initial sessions the record was overdubbed, for that hazy layered vocal sound of psych rock and the post-punk of bands like Siouxsie And The Banshees. 

Especially when songs such as The Well features violin from Sivan Lioncub for that quirky, dark pop sound though one focussed through 90's alt rock fuzz and dream pop mystery. Now Devour is a pumping record that rampages through its 10 song setlist that fans of Rosalie Cunningham will dive headfirst into and swim in the oceans of oddness. The record was completed not long after the recording sessions but house moves and pandemics slowed the release but finally it's here in all its retro, quirky glory. From the punky title track to the euphoric FPS, Devour is a look into Annie Shaw's musical mind, taking you with her into a journey of musical exploration. 7/10

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Reviews: Insurgent, Trance, Hunter, Nitrate (Reviews By Zak Skane, Simon Black, Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Insurgent – Sentient (Self Released) [Zak Skane]

Insurgent came about when the foursome met in college to form a unique sounding Metalcore band that will have soaring melodic vocals combined with crushing rhythms. Recently (before COVID) the band have already took their music to the Ukraine and have an up and coming six track E.P coming out on August 6. Listening to this album, I got to say this is a really good addition to the Metalcore sound, Katie's vocal arrangements sound superb especially on songs like Colours Bleed, Counterpart and the closing song My Sentence Awaits. Mike's provides some serious drum grooves adding some serious punch on songs like Colours Bleed, Eclipse and Zero Sum. The guitar work (provided by Joe and Jake) throughout this E.P sound astonishing, you can hear the Jinjer and Tesseract influences in their music but it still has their own originality to it. In conclusion the four piece have a great E.P on their hands, their sound is current to the modern Metalcore formula but it still holds individuality as well sounding diverse allowing band open to explore other genres in the future. If you’re fan of Jinjer, Tesseract and Alter Bridge this an album worth checking out, 8/10

Trance – Metal Forces (Metalapolis Records) [Simon Black]

Trance are one of the real granddaddies of Rock and Metal, although not well known here in the UK these contemporaries of the Scorpions have been banging their drum since 1974. They have not had the benefit of a stable or consistent line up in the intervening time however, with several stop and starts meaning that they’ve not maintained the visibility of some of their contemporaries. I have to be honest, in that I’m not at all familiar with their history or back catalogue, so can only judge what I hear in my lugholes right here and now and that’s clearly a very NWOBHM influenced album, but one that has not benefited from the vast improvements in recording and production technology that have happened since they first appeared. That’s a shame really, as the vast experience of the players has meant that this album has some well-written and crafted slabs of Traditional Metal, and a couple of good hook laden anthem foot tappers to boot (of which As Long As I Live is one of the best).

It feels from a quick spin of their history that youthful new singer Nick Holleman has breathed a lot of new life and energy into the band. His voice is distinctive, clear and engaging and he does rather steal the show somewhat. The band are also not afraid to experiment a little, and in amongst the Trad Metal, there’s gems like Deep Dance, which has a positively Tribal rhythm and beat, which gives Holleman a chance to step forward and steal your attention. It’s not all roses though, and there are also a couple of fillers and clunkers in there, of which the title track is the most blatant. If the song writing had stayed consistent and the production was a bit beefier, then this would have raised the bar somewhat, but it does feel that continuing the experimentation may be the way forward for this Teutonic monolith. 6/10

Hunter – The Return (Metalapolis Records) [Paul Hutchings]

There appears to be no stopping the resurgent heavy metal bands from the 1980s. The latest to hit the speakers is Hunter, who released two albums in 1985 and 1987 before splitting up in 1989. The German outfit had quite a history, releasing Sign Of The Hunter and Keep The Chance on Earthshaker and Rockport Records respectively. A return to the studio for a jam session saw the formation of the revised line-up of Rusty Wayman – vocals, Steven Brandy – guitar, Jay Youngblood - guitar, T.H. Bongardinho - bass and Paul "Mosh" B. Herrmann – drums and the band then recorded The Return in four weeks.
If I was cruel, I’d have questioned why they bothered. But whilst the band are at times a bit pedestrian, there is still a market for the classic heavy metal that they play. The influences of Priest and especially Saxon shine out like lit beacons. 

The music is solidly performed, unpretentious and nothing special. Tracks such as the thumping Way To Nowhere, the AC/DC riffs of Call Me What You Want and Talk Of The Town and the reworkings of The Wheels Turn On (an ode to the touring life) and album closer. Watch Out For Metal are all enjoyable without making the listener work. This is music to clean the kitchen or wash the dishes. It doesn’t make you want to spin around or jump up and down and yet, if I saw them at a festival, I would certainly grab a beer and watch them for a while. The fact that they still want to play, the fact that they clearly enjoy it and the fact that they are a million times better musicians than I am makes this a limited but harmless feelgood album. Hunter has my full admiration. 6/10

Nitrate - Renegade (AOR Heaven) [Matt Bladen]

It's not usually we get an AOR album here that isn't on Frontiers Music, but AOR Heaven has been one of the major supporters of the AOR genre for a long while now. Their latest release is from UK melodic roeckers, Nitrate who have almost completely new line up with founding member Nick Hogg joined by Alexander Strandell (Art Nation) on vocals, Dario Nikzad (Hell To Pay) on lead guitar and  Alessandro Del Vecchio (yep him again) taking the keys. On this third album there's also rhythm guitar from Tom Martin and keys from James Martin of Vega, both of whom along with Kimber's Mikey Wilson, co-write with Nick Hogg. Now tracks such as Danger Zone and Addicted remind me a lot of American melodic rock legends Mr Big, Strandell's vocals with a similar range to Eric Martin. 

There's also a very strong Def Leppard sound to the album, the pumping Alibi and Take Me Back along with the massive power ballad Lay Down Your Arms all very similar to the British rock legends, the keys layered like a Greek yogurt, the drums pulsing and the guitars melodic but also riffy. While the title track shifts into early-Bon Jovi the majority of the album sticks with the Def Leppard, sing along quality, even bringing those Mutt Lange backing choirs. Renegade is the most accomplished Nitrate record yet, their third album embraces the changes for the better, so hopefully they can Nick can hang on to these members and the writing partnership for the next record. 7/10 

Friday, 30 July 2021

Reviews: Underdark, Rebellion, Electric Six, Fetid Zombie (Reviews By Richard Oliver, Matt Bladen, Paul Hutchings & Zak Skane)

Underdark - Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry (Surviving Sounds) [Richard Oliver]

Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry is the debut full length album from Nottingham based post-black metal band Underdark. It follows their debut E.P. Mourning Cloak which was released in 2016 and is also the first release to feature vocalist Abi Vasquez who joined the band in 2019. Underdark fall under the post-black metal bracket meaning they combine elements of atmospheric black metal, post-rock and shoegaze together in a melodic, atmospheric yet furious way but they also incorporate elements of post-hardcore throughout. Furious is definitely a defining factor of the Underdark sound with far more rage, fury and bile spat out in their songs than a lot of post-black metal contemporaries. There are definitely the calmer passages on the album which make t hose moments when the band explode in uncompromising rage and fury all the more effective. 

It’s most effective in songs such as With Ashen Hands Around Our Throats and especially the title track which has a calming acoustic mid section which slowly builds in menace and unease with the vocals by Abi becoming steadily more unhinged before it explodes in black metal fury. Lyrically this album tackles themes of injustice and inhumanity with subjects such as inhumane border control, exploitation of the lower classes and the Grenfell disaster with the vocals by Abi conveying the unbridled fury at the state of society through a combination of black metal shrieks and some low almost death metal growls. The incorporation of post- hardcore elements is definitely going to be a talking point for many. I myself like many in the metal community look at the post-hardcore genre with general disdain but here combined with an atmospheric black metal sound it absolutely works. 

The deeper feelings of pain and angst in post-hardcore mixed with the unabashed fury of black metal is a compelling combination and something that is either going to be embraced, discussed or completely disregarded by black metal fans. Personally I think it is great to see black metal treading new ground and doing it in incredible style. This is a confident, mature and assured debut album from Underdark. 8/10

Rebellion - We Are The People (Massacre Records) [Matt Bladen]

German heavy power metal band have always used fantasy and war imagery in their songs. They've even played around with Shakespeare and The Vikings however they have never been as overtly political as they are on We Are The People, covering the period when Europe was rife with Nationalism and Racism, from the French Civil War to World War II a period of unrest that led to Millions upon Millions of deaths all for the sake of the country's stake in the world. It's an album that very much against the idea of Nationalism and Racism, ideas that are particularly frightening in Europe and mostly of all the UK right now with the rise of the extremist Right probably at it's fastest for many years. 

There are probably a fair few bands who would be able tell these stories with a bit more nuance, Rebellion's heavy power metal style making these quite harrowing tales seem a little trivial. With a new line up in toe, there is no new sound for Rebellion, if you've spent your entire career trying to be Grave Digger why stop now? This style may lend itself to Macbeth or Henry V (two previous concept albums) but not to the horrors of war and nationalism. For that I'd suggest Bolt Thrower/Memoriam as they truly allow the darkness of that time prevail. The trouble with this album is that it has a noble intention but limited by the bands well established style making for a record that aims for theatrical but sounds a little tired (and too bloody long). Maybe stick to historical fantasy or literature, on future? 5/10

Electric Six – Streets Of Gold (Cleopatra Records) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s unsurprising that Detroit’s finest have gone down the covers album pathway. It’s a route that many artists have travelled during the past 18 months after all. 2018’s fine Bride Of The Devil saw the band continue to tour relentlessly and the pandemic must have hit the band, whose entire approach is based on the live show, harder than most. 

Streets Of Gold is a mixed bag. There are some gems hidden here. The cover of That’s Entertainment by The Jam works. As opposed to the version of Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies which is unable to add anything to a song that is one of the supergroup’s least impressive songs anyway. There are some rarities. The version of L.O.V.E.’s Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale and the funk of Slippery People, a track by Talking Heads, a band that Electric Six often slip into their set both work well whilst Under The God, the debut song from David Bowie’s Tin Machine is a nice inclusion. 

For hard rock fans, there are spunky versions of Alice Cooper’s No More Mister Nice Guy and the Kiss anthem Strutter to enjoy. More funk with an electro version of Yah Mo B There. The inclusion of High Voltage and Gay Bar are uninspired, and whilst they are the band’s biggest hits, there’s little to excite. Overall, a rather flat package. It’s live where Electric Six thrive and one can only hope that come December, those tickets that have been held for so long can be used. 6/10

Fetid Zombie – Transmutations (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Zak Skane]

Fetid Zombie is a one man solo act organised by the multi instrumentalist Mark Riddick. Fetid Zombie has released tones of split releases with other bands around the world in addition to releasing six full lengths (including their last full length Epicedia). In direction of Mark's writing he likes to divert from standard popular song structures by inserting passages weather it’s melodic, ambient or heavy to push boundaries and create something unique.

When the album opens with Chrysopeia I just got sucked into a trance-like wall of dissonance with diminished sounding riffs backed with sharp edgy lead lines before it’s accompanied with female choirs. Throughout the song I have been greet by various guitar sounds and arrangements that take inspiration from other genres of music like the phaser effected guitars that you would commonly hear in 80’s glam rock to the chimney cleans that you would hear from 80’s new wave bands like The Cure and Fields Of The Nephilim. Conscious Rot brings us old school Sepultura and Slayer vibes with the chuggy thrash riffs before halfway through the song it changes atmosphere by going into chiming cleans and epic leads. Beyond Andromeda bring 80’s Shred (think Steve Vai) melded with Atmospheric Black Metal, where as Dreamless Sleep Awaits mixes gothic atmospheric clean sections with slow paced chuggy sections that remind me of Paradise Lost. The closing tracks Deep In The Catacombs and Breath Of Thanatos provide 90’s Death Metal (think Death and Morbid Angel) to left the six track on a high note.

In conclusion this was a really enjoyable listen, especially with genre mashing highlights like Chrysopeia, Conscious Rot and Dreamless Sleep Awaits reimagining the Death Metal sound. My only criticism is that the mix could do with some improvements, for example on the Breath Of Thanatos the guitars tend to over power the drums and bass in the mix. Overall if you’re looking for death metal with an out of the box approach this a project for you. 7/10.

Reviews: Paradigm Blue, Axel Rudi Pell, Polyfrenetics, Sweet Teeth (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Paradigm Blue - Transist (Self Released)

I usually try to avoid reviewing albums that came out more than a month ago, but occasionally you stumble across something that appeals to your taste so much that you have to review it. If not just to get it off your chest how bloody brilliant it is. Paradigm Blue are a prog rock three piece from Raleigh, North Carolina, made up of Juan Mantilla (guitars), Ruben Moreno (vocals, bass & keys) and Steve Laur (drums), now experienced proggers will be able to gather from looking at the line up and that this album is comprised of two multi part suites that the main musical influence here are Canadian Prog icons Rush. Transist is brimming with musical nods to Geddy, Alex and Neil, the rippling keys, exploitative basslines, soaring guitars and expressive drumming all very similar to Rush while vocally Ruben is not up in the higher falsetto of Geddy Lee, he often slips into the lower end, but mostly his voice is very similar to another major soundalike for the band, John Mitchell. 

There's times on this record, such as on The Mobius Trip V: Solar Sails that the emotive, modern prog energy of Lonely Robot makes its mark. Transist is a concept record that started out small and sprawled into a 14 song tribute to Rush, made all the bittersweet by the death of Neil Peart last year. As with Rush everything on this debut record is created by the trio with exception of the keyboards on Perihelion and the final keyboard solo on Mobius Trip VII: Resistor, both of which are supplied by the keyboard maestro Derek Sherinian. Yes it was released on June but it would have been remiss of me not to review this, as after one listen I was hooked. I'm a massive Rush fan so this album, that pays homage to the late 70's period when Rush played double neck guitars and had the biggest drumset on the planet, was bound to stir something. 

Add to that the more modern edge of John Mitchell and the cinematic touches of orchestrations we have a record that could have easily followed up Clockwork Angels, maybe even Hemispheres. With Rush now gone it's up to bands such as Paradigm Blue to carry that torch, to remind people what made them so good. It's easy to be cynical, as I have been in the last with bands that draw to much from their influences but Paradigm Blue walk that narrow edge between pastiche and admiration. There's a few prog releases coming this year but very few will stand up to Transist. My only gripe is that it's not available on CD. However it's a magnificent album and a proper tribute to one of the greatest bands ever! 10/10

Axel Rudi Pell - Diamonds Unlocked II (SPV)

In 2007 German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell released Diamonds Unlocked, a covers album featuring big hitters such as U2, Kiss, Free, The Who and even Phil Collins all done in the man who is both a heavy rocker but will be known mainly for his numerous ballads. For the first time since then Pell has decided not to release a record of his own music, as he would want to tour that, which at the moment is still up in the air. So now we have Diamonds Unlocked II the second covers album that Pell has been working on for about 3 years. Again he's backed by his longterm band of Johnny Gioeli (Hardline) vocals, Ferdy Doernberg on keys, Bobby Rondinelli on drums and Volker Krawczak on bass. 

It kicks off this album with a riffy version of Sammy Hagar's There's Only One Way To Rock which is perfect for Johnny's soulful vocals, the second track is a proper guitar workout for Pell as he takes on The Man In Black Ritchie Blackmore for Rainbow's Lady Of The Lake. So far so hard rock but the addition of Paul Anka's She's A Lady, here as fireside ballad is the first wtf moment, as we get a real deep cut in Black Cat Woman by Geordie, Gioeli adding his own style rather than trying to ape Brian Johnson.

As you'd expect the tracks are all very well played the band in fine form throughout, but it's not all older stuff as The Subways Rock N Roll Queen is given some big organs as Paint It Black moves into power metal realms. I mean Diamonds Unlocked II is a completists record, made to keep the Axel Rudi Pell fans happy before a new album of originals. Despite the varied amount of songs covered, they all sound very similar but then I suppose that wouldn't be the ARP style if they didn't. 6/10   

Polyfrenetics - Self Titled (Argonauta Records)

What makes an EP an EP? There is a definitive answer regarding timings but here at MoM Towers we've discussed this at length, Messer's Scoble, Hunter and myself normally, however we've yet to really decide whether there is an credence to the definitive answer. Why am I starting this review like this I bet you're asking (all 12 of you)? Well Polyfrenetics is the debut release from the band of the same name and they state it's an EP. At four songs I guess you could agree however the final track Comfortably Dumb is nearly 12 minutes in long taking the run time somewhere near 30 minutes, in the 80's that's an album. Anyway I digress you're here to hear about this Oslo psych rock outfit so here goes. 

This self titled debut has been snapped up by Argonauta Records for release and it's plain to see why as the Norwegian trio have a swirling psychedelic bent, that builds on top of their punk rock fury. Like bands such as The MC5, latter period Iggy and numerous prog rock acts. There's long instrumental passages that bring much experimentation, the final track certainly fits this with its persistent drum and bass beat while guitars scream and wail across your headphones. But the shorter songs all have a drive that's very non-conformist and punchy but never goes to far in the way of punk to get sloppy. It's kind of like Therapy? jamming to Hawkwind, across 4 tracks. EP or album? Doesn't matter just get grooving! 7/10

Sweet Teeth - Acid Rain (Lövely Records)

Punchy power pop from Sweden as Sweet Teeth unleash their debut EP Acid Rain. Brimming with jangly guitars, fuzzy bass and emotive vocal rawness, Acid Rain conjures the likes of Husker Dü and the early Foo Fighters releases. It's packed with 7 direct punchy rockers, all with sing along ability but a sadness that lays behind. You will have heard something like this before, I can guarantee but Sweet Teeth make properly slick and inviting. The run time is around 15 minutes, which is perfect for these punky, poppy nuggets of 90's alt rock. Nothing on Acid Rain hasn't been done before and if you're a Feeder fan you'll have heard it a 1000 times, but Sweet Teeth is a treat you've sampled many time but keep coming back too. The musical equivalent of a digestive, simple but enjoyable. 6/10

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Reviews: Flame Dear Flame, Tantric, Sense Offender/NIL, Wings Of Destiny (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Flame, Dear Flame - Aegis (Eisenwald)

Aegis is the debut album from Brunswick, Lower Saxony based Epic Doom Metal band Flame, Dear Flame. And put simply it's a fantastic record that sends Flame, Dear Flame straight near the top of the epic doom metal pack. Channelling acts such as Atlantean Kodex, King Witch and the brilliant Avatarium, this record is essentially two tracks split into sections. So the first three are part of the The Millennial Heartbeat suite consisting of the formation of the ocean and the earth itself, primordial and torrid, the three parts crawling from the beginnings of the Earth with a traditional metal foundation taken for a slow, powerful doom laden ride through elongated musical journeys. The deft drumming of Jan Franzen and steady, ground shaking basslines of Martin Skandera keeping the tracks always moving forward carving grooves with every low slung note. 

In this first trio of songs we get glimpses of brilliance from vocalist Maren Lemke, her beguiling, soulful vocals style adding emotion to these compositions. However it's on the second suite which deals with a feral child and a prioress where she really shines through the folkier textures of The Wolves And The Prioress Part III and Part IV where we almost get to the point of a doom metal Fleetwood Mac the final song especially is breathtaking. Now I haven't yet mentioned the scintillating guitar playing of David Kuri, but he is the glue that brings together, from the haunting light and shade on opening number Millennial Heartbeat Part I the classic doom sound is established very early, with Part II adding crunch as it moves into atmospheric bass-led main part as Part III slows again, a simple single guitar riff that gets distortion and ends this suite with a titanic power. 

As alluded to earlier The Wolves And The Prioress brings more acoustics and folk flavours on top of the doom metal power that is already so brilliantly done. It opens up a brand new musical landscape for the band as they creep toward this records climax adding yet more fantastic feasts for the ear. For a debut Aegis is a wonderful epic doom metal record that will have fans of the genre placing Flame, Dear Flame in the top echelon! 9/10

Tantric - The Sum Of All Things (Cleopatra Records)

We haven't reviewed Tantric on this blog before and their is probably a reason for that. The Californian alternative/post-grunge band are apparently beloved by their fans. Well they obviously hear something here that I can't. The Sum Of All Things is like every B-List Post Grunge from the early 2000's think Staind, Puddle Of Mudd and Seether level of crunch riffs and low baritone vocals. They had two big hits on 2001, both of which are here on re-recorded form. However it pretty much stays in 2001 musically, the majority of the songs are pretty basic, many range from "meh", to "oh Christ what the fuck is that!?" An example of meh is the instantly forgettable Compound, the faux-country of Ten Years and Walk The Way which has over used electronics. On the other hand you have a song such as Can't Find This which is dreadful, overly emotional crap with terrible lyrics which sounds like a song so saccharine even Nickelback would have left it on the cutting room floor. The shocking lyrics continue on Living With Out You and The Words You Say another awful ballad. I really struggled with this record, nothing appealed in anyway, mostly the fact that it's 14 songs in length, including some re-recorded tracks. I don't think I'll be featuring Tantric again on the back of this eighth (!) album. 3/10

Sense Offender/NIL - Split (Sludgelord Records)

If you're feeling angry, frustrated or even homicidal at any point soon I suggest sticking on the new split EP from Northeast England's blackened hardcore mob Sense Offender and Leeds' masters of the groove laden technical aggression NIL. Both bands have been featured before in these pages and been given quite positive feedback. Sense Offender especially are no strangers to a split album having previously released them with Pupil Slicer and South Wales own They Live We Sleep. You can see this as a continuation of Sense Offenders' goal to bring some of the more underground sounds to a wider audience by both bands getting equal footing, two songs each. 

Sense Offender are first with the tumultuous rage of Prayer Sheet bubbling over into blast beats and a more off-kilter riff driven by some wild drumming. Skin Of Your Teeth is a little more what you'd expect from Sense Offender but with a lot more dissonance added to the hardcore battery. NIL's first track is more similar to their colleagues here, with a grindcore thump kicking off their contribution to this split before breaking down though on The Falling Man things go back into the NIL remit of extreme metal with added grooves. Both bands work well in unison complimenting each other well with a lot of similarities to their music but enough differences to let the first time listener tell who is who. This is the point of course a split to introduce these underground bands to a wider audience. Yet more moody, angry music from those folks at Sludgelord Records. 8/10 

Wings Of Destiny - Memento Mori (Wormholedeath)

I'm unsure how many albums are actually called Memento Mori but it got to be well into the hundreds. The Latin phrase that means "Remember that you die" has been used by countless bands as a title over the years so have Costa Rican metal band made sure that it takes on another life? I mean in a word no but that doesn't detract from this being a decent power/prog metal record. Formed, as Wings Of Destiny, in 2015, Memento Mori is the bands sixth album, their last was in 2020 and it keeps them plugging away at their Helloween, Rhapsody and Angra influences. Now obviously this album was recorded during a pandemic and although I don't know how the pandemic affected South America, the song Death Wish the protagonist of the song as an anti-lockdown enthusiast, talking about living their life despite against being told to lock down. Hmmm. Thankfully (or perhaps not) the next song is a galloping Stratovarius rip off that is full of Dan Brown level conspiracy talk. Now as enjoyable as the songs are, they do get your foot tapping and the overarching theme of human beings not being immortal or infallible is a noble one. Even if it is a little religious at times. A shame as the music is very generic and the vocals are all over the place. Another album that aims for greatness but falls a little short. 5/10

Reviews: Swallow The Sun, Eastern High, Godeth, Tombstoner (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Swallow The Sun - 20 Years Of Gloom Beauty And Despair Live In Helsinki (Century Media Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Seven albums into their 21-year journey, and Finnish doomsters Swallow The Sun’s first live album arrives almost out of necessity rather than obligation or planning. Recorded in Helsinki just as the world was going to shit around them, 20 Years Of Gloom Beauty And Despair Live In Helsinki is much more than just a ‘live album’. It’s a reminder to those older fans as well as those who fell in love with 2019’s When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light that Swallow The Sun are still alive and kicking. Recorded in February 2020 at the famed Tavastia Club in Helsinki, it is a record of two halves. The first sees the band’s acoustic performance (with a string quartet) of Songs From The North II before the second half draws on a plethora of fan favourites voted online in advance of the gig. 

At over two hours in length, it’s a mighty listen and as one might expect, it’s a challenge to absorb unless you dedicate the time to sit and focus on it. And it deserves that dedication, for the Finns have weaved a double album of greatness. The blend of dark, melancholic riffs, the mix of acoustic and crushingly heavy riffs all work without a problem. It’s a record that soars with dramatic highs before dragging the listener deep into the darkness and gloom, such is their ability to manipulate the emotions. The highlights are many. In fact, almost too many to list. Instead, I would urge you to invest the time in a copy and enjoy the sheer sadness, the despair but also the hope as it washes over you. The Finns may be 20 + years, but this album is perhaps the most detailed, perfect, and crafted album they have released yet. 9/10

Eastern High - Halo (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

As soon as you hear the opening chords of this 8-track record it's pretty much obvious that Eastern High come from that hotbed of progressive extreme metal Sweden. This Malmö five piece evolved from a thrash band, that brothers Ola (vocals) and Johan Svensson (guitar) were members of, into the more multifaceted act you hear on Halo. The progressive metal band released their debut in 2017, though this was essentially the brothers, on the back of that record they morphed into the fully fledged band that has recorded this follow up. Adding Niklas Cvetkovski (guitar), Fredrik Rosdahl (bass) and Christian Lindström (drums), they now have a much broader and well rounded sound, albeit not one that has been honed in the live scene due to the pandemic. 

This lack of touring has meant that the band can focus on this album a bit more, this attention to recording has led to Halo being a very entertaining prog metal album, the heavy/melodic balance can be heard on Dystopia which has blistering melo-death blastbeats and the kind of riffing Trivium are known for now, fluid and technical but with lots of down-tuned thunder. Now the PR mentions that Eastern High will appeal to fans of Gojira, Opeth and Soen. I'd have to agree as the title track clearly has that downbeat, dark, passionate sound Opeth and Soen bring to the table, while the final track really ends the album in an introspective slow burning ballad called Ashes To Ashes, it lingers long in your memory, the themes of grief, sticking with you. The rest of the record though needs a few listens to fully appreciate as the songs are all brilliantly composed but also full of nuances that only reveal themselves after a couple of plays. 

As Erosion Of Hearts starts things off there's a real punch of Dream Theater, that is until Ola's vocals come in with a grizzled longing that easily shifts into various styles, from a high register to guttural growls. Erosion Of Hearts features segments of a speech from Greta Thunberg for added power. It's followed by Emperor which moves into the sound of Gojira with a touch of Viking/Folk metal and is about a battle within you. Other lyrical influences on the band are whether we are alone in the universe on Morning Star, Covid-19 on Notorious Enemy and also the current state of the world on the chunky, swirling DystopiaHalo brings a Swedish slickness to produce an album of emotive, progressive metal. 8/10  

Godeth - Life To The Flame (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Life To Flame is the debut EP from Leeds bruisers Godeth, it features their previous released tracks Animal Side and All But One and sees them once again work with producer Jack Murray, who worked on their previous single Burn. This EP sounds huge, perfect for Godeth's heavy groove with progressive edge. It's difficult to pigeonhole the band as for every death metal battering, there's a progressive metal time change or a big alt metal groove ala Korn. Add to this a primarily clean vocal style that sits somewhere between Devin Townsend and Mike Patton, meaning that is stands in opposition to the growls at the beginning of the title track, a song about 16th Century Witch Burnings, where vocalist Eddie shows off his expansive vocal range which is similar to that of Warrel Dane. 

All But One very much sitting in the Nevermore sound, though you can hear it across these five tracks. Guitarist Dylan bring riffs and as Luke has the melodic phrasing and plenty of lead/solos, meanwhile bassist Lewis and drummer Danny supply these songs with a powerful bottom end. As the extreme metal influence is in unison with the trad metal style, I'm drawn to say that Godeth sound a lot like the now inactive Sacred Mother Tongue with the technicality and melody. A meaty EP from this Leeds five piece that will see them launch their assault on the UK scene soon, especially after their album launch on 30th at the Key Club. 8/10

Tombstoner - Victims Of Vile Torture (Redefining Darkness Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The Staten Island quartet’s debut EP, Descent To Madness struck the right nerve with me just over 14 months ago when it landed. Muscular chunks of extreme metal combining hardcore, grindcore, thrash and death metal with an underlying groove more infectious than the Delta variant. Well, my wish for a full-length release has been answered with the first full length, Victims Of Vile Torture.
41 minutes of skull pounding metal follows and it continues in the same vein as that impressive EP. Sitting neatly amongst the modern metal groove of Power Trip, sourcing old school from Cannibal Corpse, and dragging a bit of Gatecreeper into the fray, this release continues where Descent to Madness ended.
It’s a savaging of the nastiest kind, the riffs rain down whilst the aggressive, snarled vocals fit perfectly. What Tombstoner do well is to utilise the combination of vocals of Thomas Megill and Jesse Quinones to excellent effect; the pair feed off each other, one taking the higher screams whilst the other adds the gruffer, lower growls. Sledgehammer is aptly named, a real battering to the skull, the driving drumming of Jason Quinones pushing hard, fast and with unerring accuracy. The pace can be slowed though, Fractured Souls case in point as the riffs grind louder and longer, the frenetic blast beats working away beneath monolithic movement.
It’s often hard to source variation in death metal but this album has plenty as the sound switches, responding to the bludgeoning with rapid staccato blasts, searing solos that rip out of nowhere and punishing, always punishing explosive breakdowns. It’s difficult not to engage one’s neck muscles. Thunderous pace isn’t far away on tracks like Grave Dancer, or the blistering Armageddon which provides more doom-laden crushing flavours that unexpectedly meld into a melodic instrumental section before powering back to more bone splitting delivery. Even more surprising, the blasts of sci-fi style classical music that lace together with the demonic speed of closing track Trepidation. An unusual and dramatic conclusion.

Victims Of Vile Torture brings Tombstoner to the forefront of their genre. It’s a visceral, punishing, and brutal debut. An album well worth listening to if you like your music with absolute lashings of the extreme. 8/10

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Reviews: Ingested, The Five Hundred, Fimir, Moon Reaper (Reviews By Charlie Rogers, Liam True, Simon Black & Paul Scoble)

Ingested - The Surreption II (Unique Leader) [Charlie Rogers]

As is often the case with Sophomore albums, when Ingested first released The Surreption, it didn’t receive the praise or attention their debut album Surpassing The Boundaries Of Human Suffering did. So it comes as no surprise that after a successful remastering of their first releases, they thought it wise to have a second attempt at releasing The Surreption. And In my opinion, it was the right move.

Not just a remaster, this is a full re-recording of all the material, with their current equipment and their fantastic engineer Nico at Kimera Recordings overseeing all the production. Even the artwork has been updated to include additional detail not present on the first release. This sums up how I feel about the album - clearer, more detail. You’d expect this considering a decade has passed since the original, but the magnitude of how far they’ve come has to be heard to be believed. The riffs are absolutely crushing, with ferocious attack from both Sam and Sean on guitars, underpinned by Lyn’s monstrous drumming. Jay’s vocals are sublime too, showcasing his immense range from seismic gutturals to stratospheric highs.

Ingested pulled no punches when these songs were written - written as a blend of death metal, deathcore, and slam, they leave your face fatigued from the knowing stinkface you’re forced to pull for the full 44 minutes. High tempo, high intensity, high excitement, as we look back at their back catalogue it’s no wonder songs like Kingmaker frequently highlight in their live sets. It’s this consistent commitment to releasing higher and higher quality material that makes Ingested stand out as true nobility in the UK Death Metal scene, and there’s no sign of them stopping any time soon. Pick this record up, and bang your head until it comes off. 9/10

The Five Hundred - A World On Fire (Long Branch Records) [Liam True]

Perplexing: to be puzzled or bewildered over what is not understood or certain. It’s also the adjective du jour when it comes to Nottingham/Gibraltarian quintet The Five Hundred, but that should not be interpreted as a slight by any stretch of the imagination.

Recent years have witnessed a tsunami of bands flooding the UK tech-metal scene, and the genre is thriving. That said, influx leads to saturation, and the inevitable pressure to distinguish oneself from the slew of over-rans in your midst. The band’s abject refusal to sink and unwavering desire to swim manifested itself artistically via ferocious EPs Winters and The Veil, alongside an innate ability to deliver live performances so resplendent that they border on indecent. Yet somehow, they’ve continued to fly under the proverbial radar evading mainstream attention, until now that is. For any confusion over The Five Hundred‘s absence from the upper echelons of modern metal looks set to be extinguished with AWOF.

Technically proficient and driven by palpable fury underpinned by searing emotion, A World On Fire showcases a collective voice. Opening with some intense flavour and fever, The Five Hundred push moments of emotional clarity through a seemingly perpetual darkness with frontman John Eley using his vocal chops to create worlds of contrast as he veers seamlessly between larynx-shredding growls and sublime clean lines. Employing gang vocals and melodic parts may allude to a penchant for unabashed clichés, but the visceral stampede that spills forth dispels any notion that this is merely paint-by-numbers metalcore.

This statement of intent continues in a similar vein with Our Demise delivering a sprawling cornucopia of slamming riffs alongside a soaring, anthemic chorus. Alternately bludgeoning and intricate, the track paints a troubled vision; chugging, percussive repetition and melancholic textures laying a foundation for those impassioned roars before a huge rhythmic shift mid-track gives way to djent-spliced grooves reminiscent of Obzen-era Meshuggah. There’s little time to pause for breath as the preceding anthemia is swiftly toned down schizophrenic juggernaut Oblivion extinguishes any sparkle with an unsettling blend of delirious melodies and complicated yet compulsive fretwork courtesy of Mark Byrne and Paul Doughty.

With the exception of lacklustre Agony the latter half of AWOF surges further forward delving into the darkest recesses of the psyche. Harnessing anthemic clout and technical proficiency, The Five Hundred may not reinvent the wheel in terms of genre conventions with this full-length demolisher, but A World On Fire remains a convincing statement from a band now brimming with self-belief. 7/10

Fimir – Tomb Of God (Argonauta Records) [Simon Black]

Once upon a time, there was a Finnish Doom Metal band called Church Of Void. After a few years of producing albums and EP’s the band splintered, with drummer Byron heading in one direction and the remainder remoulding, forming Firmir and filling out the vacant slots. They identify themselves in the Doom camp, but I would say that there’s an equal portion of Stoner in their as well, with a healthy dollop of the Psychedelic/Cosmic on top for good measure - creating music that builds mood over time, but does so with a heavy, sonorous and monotonously building beats. This band are not about brevity, with the shortest of the six tracks on this debut racking in at five and a half minutes, and three clocking in at seven, eight and nine minutes respectively. It’s a heady combination of the classic occult Doom sound with the more ambient but achieves this without sounding boring or repetitious.

Lengthy opener One Eyed Beast is well named given the nearly ten minutes it takes to deliver and yet strangely is the weakest of the tracks on here, as although it has plenty of mood it doesn’t quite feel like it achieves its direction. You probably need to come back to this one after the rest have had a chance to reel you in, as the remainder are the complete opposite in terms of ability to engage. The positively punchy by comparison Horde Of Crows benefits from a much stronger structure and a bit of vocal style variety from both Magus Corvus (vocals & guitar) and H.Warlock (Vocals and Bass). Adding the more extreme vocal sounds mixing with the cleaner, haunting doomier ones gives this balance, edge and a way more epic feel. It’s a stark comparison to the opener and that pace and energy continue from hereon in. 

By the time we get through White Wolf, I’m nodding away quite happily, thank you very much, and the lengths of the arrangements are being used to positive effect – holding your attention despite their length. Obsidian Giant is way slower, but no less hypnotic, and gives whichever of the two is on vocal duties a chance to show a softer side, but nestled in the heaviest of musical backdrops. It’s a beast in more ways than one and the song I came back to the most.

The quality and consistency remain from here, which make wonder that perhaps if that overly lengthy opener had either found itself a different spot on the album or lost a minute or so from the arrangement, it would have worked out the better for the record, making it more consistent and hypnotically effective, but nonetheless this is a project with legs, atmosphere and energy. 7/10  

Moon Reaper - Descent (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

Moon Reaper are a Bristolian 4 piece who have been together since 2018. The band is made up of Morgan Cradick on Vocals and Guitar, Aidan Rutter on Bass, Zack Esposito on Drums and Noah Burns on Guitar, in the time Moon Reaper have been a band they have released 2 singles; Torture Chamber in 2019 and Spiralism a year later. Descent is the bands first EP. Nearly all the material on Descent is slow and heavy. The sound has a Blackened feel to it in the dissonance that is all over this EP, and the occasional use of Tremolo Picked riffs, there is also a bit of a Hardcore feel to some of this as well, so there is a definite Sludge sense to the material. The EP opens with Time Warper which, after a soft, clean intro, is huge and very heavy with nasty, harsh vocals, the track is very rhythmic and driving and is a great way to start the nastiness. Former single Spiralism feels a little more expansive than the previous song, it has a very pleasing Tremolo Picked riff layered in with all the slow and heavy riffs. 

The song has some very tuneful clean vocals, and has some very heavy material in the second half of the song. Clockwork has a bit more pace to it than most of the other material, it’s closer to Mid-paced than slow, it also has more of a rock vibe to it. The track has some softer sections, which help to temper the more uptempo rock. Godeater starts slow, but gets faster really quickly, almost to Blast Beat territory, before slowing down for a soft and clean ending. Final track Necromancy has a big, relaxed tempo, it’s softer and much more expansive. The song segues between heavy and slow with harsh vocals, and softer sections with clean vocals. Descent is a great little EP. It features five, very good songs and feels like it was made by a band more mature than one on its first EP. The material is crushingly heavy, with savage vocals and a great sense of huge harshness and dissonance. If this is the bands first Ep, I can’t wait to hear their first full album. 7/10

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Reviews: Dee Snider, Prosperina, Chaos Over Cosmos, Nik Laidlaw (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Dee Snider – Leave A Scar (Napalm Records) [Paul Hutchings]

He’s certainly a legendary figure in the world of heavy metal. His last studio album, For The Love Of Metal was a right royal return to form after the distinctly average We Are The Ones in 2016. Having the might of Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta alongside the Twisted Sister frontman in both production and song writing clearly was a positive step and Jasta returns once more in one of metal’s most productive alliances of recent times.

Despite internally committing to the end of his live and recording career in 2019, the change in the world with not only the pandemic but the shift in global and US politics saw Snider change his mind and return to the studio. Leave A Scar is solid album, continuing the heavy feel of its predecessor and crammed with anthems of heavy metal that will soon have you singing along. Snider’s voice is as recognisable as any of his peers and whilst he tripped over the 60 speedo a few years ago (he’s fitter than a butcher’s dog though), Leave A Scar sees him in imperious form. Backed by his band of Charlie Bellmore - guitar & background vocals, Nick Bellmore – drums, Russell Pzütto - bass & background vocals and Nick Petrino - guitar & background vocals. His voice soars and screams, his enunciation as perfect as it’s always been, one of the facts I love about Snider. You can understand every word he says.

From the album opener I Gotta Rock (Again) to the dark, brooding rumblings of The Stand, Snider still has a lot to say about the state of the world. Harnessing his angst into a creative outlet, he’s on fire throughout with his lyrics expressing the anger, unease, and pain he and many have endured over the past year. There are also some fantastic guests, with the power of Time To Kill featuring Cannibal Corpse’s George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher surprisingly fast and good with the echoing guttural roars. All Or Nothing More sees Snider hitting the thrash pit in one of the fastest thrashy tracks he’s every delivered. The backing musicians really hit the tempo and propel the track forward as they do again on the feisty Down But Never Out.

Clearly, there is plenty of life left in Snider yet, and if he continues to produce music of such quality, who are we to argue. It’s a heavy metal album, made by a heavy metal frontman who seems to possess more energy now that he did 20 years ago. 8/10

Prosperina - Flag (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

A long time in production, Flag is the third album from Swansea prog/alternative/doom/grunge band Prosperina. Their last was in 2014 so it's been a long time in production and they still defy pigeonholing, the album is one of the many casualties of Pledgemusic thus why even though it was recorded in 2018 it has only just been released. As things politically haven't changed much since then (idiots everywhere), the themes of this album remain relevant to this day. Flag so often the signals for obedience or revolution, the uncertainness, fear and general confusion of these times we live in. None so much than Boot a crusher near the middle of the album with the iconic line from George Orwell's 1984, repeated in the chorus of the song. 

Gethin Woolcock's vocal a call to the disenfranchised left, the spoken word section coming from George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides. Woolcock and Chris Dean's guitar playing is part-indie rock, part-sci-fi prog with a stoner rock back beat of bassist Liam Scannel and drummer Yotin Walsh. The record brims with Floydian fluidity, A New Cold bringing to mind the darkness of Animals with the swirling groove of Soundgarden. There's also the swagger of Clutch on Art Nouveau but also a wide range of sounds that were key to the experimental nature of this album. From the slow shifting Deep Never we get some heavier  the band pushing themselves in the studio. Melding the darker, heavier tones with lighter moments, Drunk On The Blood Of Tokyo brimming with attitude as the title track swirls with psychedelic, Runner In The Maze taking things to a disorientating level across it's long run time. Flag has benefitted from it's delay in the long run as it sounds more vital now than ever. A great album from a band I will be welcoming back with open arms (when we can all hug again of course). 8/10

Chaos Over Cosmos – The Silver Lining Between The Stars (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Since their formation in 2015, time has rarely stood still for Chaos Over Cosmos. The Polish and Spanish hybrid now include Australia as an outpost with the arrival of their latest vocalist, KC Lyon, who replaces Joshua Ratcliff who in turn had replaced Javier Calderon on the last album, The Ultimate Multiverse. The mainstay of the band remains Rafal Bowman who takes lead on guitar, song writing and programming whilst KC Lyon adds lyrics and song writing as well as the vocals.

The previous two long players clearly touched the right nerves with my fellow reviewers, and I can see why in part. The musicianship is impressive, with Bowman’s technical prowess at times breath taking. His shredding on the ten minute plus Violent Equilibrium is phenomenal, although the programmed drumming is frustrating due to its sheer intensity. At times, the battery is simply unreal and that gives the challenge between reality and artificial. As a showcase of prowess, it’s almost unrivalled.

The middle three tracks on the album are considerably shorter, and KC Lyon’s aggressive and guttural roars add girth to the tracks. The keyboard elements don’t quite work for me, at times rather abrasive in their interplay but this is a minor quibble. If you like technically melodic death metal, you’ll probably enjoy the likes of The Last Man In Orbit, the outer space feel of instrumental Eternal Return or the explosive Control ZD.

But for me, there is something that is lacking within the overall album and I’m not quite sure what it is. The title track which closes the album switches tempo so dramatically from the previous four frenetic pieces of work that I had to check that I hadn’t been given a dud. A gentle, calming intro which is rather out of step with the rest of the album is quickly dispelled by more frantic and familiar aggressive growling, although I like the clean harmonies that echo throughout. This style is repeated and brings a different and more melodic feel to an album that in parts is brilliant but doesn’t quite sit as comfortably as it might. Still, there is plenty to appreciate, and there is no doubting the quality that is on display. 7/10

NIK/Nik Laidlaw Music - Stasis (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Nik Laidlaw Music, stylised as NIK, is the solo record from Seed Of Sorrow guitarist Nik Laidlaw. Stasis is his debut solo record. It's influenced heavily by early 2000's metalcore and melodeath, there's lots of groove, solos and melodic flourishes, even some clean vocals on No Control where Nik even sound a little like Rob Halford sneering. However the rest of the album is strongly in the realms of Ascendancy-era Trivium with the traditional metal sound cutting through the metalcore assault the record has Ruin and Point Of Impact reminding me of Lamb Of God as well, the latter having a thick groove. It's a reasonably short record with little time to ease into things, it just hits and hits hard from the first moment. The melodies and breakdowns vary it from the more straight ahead death metal sound of Seed Of Sorrow, but a pretty decent metalcore record. 6/10

Monday, 26 July 2021

Reviews: Heavy Water, Erdve, Anakim, Dear Mother (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Heavy Water - Red Brick City (Silver Linings)

A lockdown project from Seb Byford and his father Biff, Heavy Waters debut album is a modern alternative rock album, with a strong blues ethos to it. As someone who works with his father it can be quite tense occasionally, however there's a load back, free form feel to Red Brick City that is an indication that father and son love making music no matter the challenges facing them.

Sound-wise it's about as far away from Saxon as you can get, being more like bands such as Royal Blood, Band Of Skulls (Medicine Man), Arctic Monkeys (Faith) and Seb's other band Naked Six, Tom Witts joining his bandmate Seb here as well by playing drums. Now Seb is great singer and guitar player, his grizzled vocals suiting the style well and working in tandem with his father's higher register. Yes both Byfords contribute vocals here though Seb has the majority, Biff also plays bass on the record providing a second lower riff on most of the tracks as Dave Kemp rounds things out with keys on Faith and sax, on Follow This Moment.

Now what's quite good about this record is that there's clear influences shared by father and son, Seb bringing the more modern grunge fuzz of QOTSA and Soundgarden as Biff calls back to the psychedelia of The Beach Boys and riffs of Zep. Somewhere in the middle both of them have out their heads together for grooving numbers like the title track. A little D.I.Y with the recording, preferring it to be just loud and proud without any studio trickery. A decent lockdown effort that is essentially Naked Six plus 2 with a more relaxed vibe. Easy listening from 2 generations of rockers. 7/10

Erdve - Savigaila (Season Of Mist)

Bringing introspective, dissonant, progressive, ear piercing sludge heaviness. Lithuanian trio Erdve have followed a path of experimentalism with their music, never settling on on style as they veer between hardcore battery on songs like Betonas while tracks such as Votis and Pleura are more ambient and atmospheric in their approach. The latter undulating with and industrial bent before those sludge and hardcore influences bring the rage again. I'm not sure if the band find catharsis in this music but the album title translates to "self-pity"the theme of the album, revolving around overcoming the numbness within the great challenges of unsettling reality, and accepting them as they are. These are channeled throughout the 42 minutes of forceful, sometimes unsettling metallic hardcore.

The title track ups the extremity a persistent guitar riff and screamed vocals before Skiimas is a piano piece that brings the mood back down again just as Lavondėmės gets the fire burning bright at the start of the 11 song playlist. Erdve don't just concentrate on the music though this record is part of a whole artistic package with the band members also creating lots of visuals to accompany the record. Vocalist/guitarist Vaidotas Darulis produces Savigalia, giving it a claustrophobic sound especially when listened through headphones with the cacophonous rhythm section of drummer Valdas Voveraitis and bassist Karolis Urbanavičius, the hazy fuzz underneath some of the atonal guitar riffs and shrieked vocals. There are few bands that take so many risks with their music as Erdve and as such they be Marmite for many. But this second album is them adding to their own little niche with another interesting album. 7/10  

Anakim - The Elysian Void (Self Released)

Now fronted by The Drowning vocalist Matt Small, who has the most ironic name due to him being a brick shithouse, death metal act Anakim have spent their lockdown creating savagery rather than sourdough. The Elysian Void is their second full length album following Monuments To Departed World's from 2017 and this Weymouth five piece have increased the aggression and the progression on this second album. The addition of Small on vocals gives them a more vicious and diverse vocal approach while the second new member, bassist Anthony Ridout, not only gives this album lots of technically proficient basswork but also additional black metal screams.

Science fiction and horror themes combine with furious, technical yet melodic death metal. The sort of music that makes sure a song like Of Starlit Shrines works as an ideal opening shot, building from a slower style before bringing the furious blast beats and down tuned polyrhythms. This shift between light and shade is what Anakim do very well, their progressive nature imbuing every element of this album. Infinite Realities has a bass solo which moves in some explosive lead guitar solos before we get a coda of arpeggios and chorus before the track ends. Auguries Of Virgin Soil brings black metal dissonance and a relentless rhythm section of drummer Ewan Ross, rhythm guitarist Carl Hunting and bassist Ridout allowing Joe Ryan to unleash lots of lead guitar flourishes on this records most progressive and hardest hitting song.

This will be a definite pit starter when they open the Sophie Lancaster stage at BOA on Wednesday this year but there's much more to Anakim's sound than just outright heaviness and death metal, Malformed Cathotic Dreams is very intelligently composed track that has several time changes and a power metal edge as well before Veins Of The Unlight ups the rage quotient again while keeping things progressive. The Elysian Void is stunning follow up to Anakim's debut record, the injection of new talent has made sure that they are at their most vicious and versatile. A fantastic record! 9/10

Dear Mother - Bulletproof (Self Released)

Formed by ex-Delain members Merel Bechtold (guitar) and Joey Marin de Boer (drums) Dear Mother started to come together when the duo found Russian (UK based) vocalist David Pear. The trio then set about writing music, almost constantly setting out their stall firmly in the style of modern metal bands, taking from alternative metal and metalcore. But with an increased virtuosity and a fireguard for the rules of what these bands 'should' sound like. Using 2020 to crowdfund this album and steadily drip feed their singles in preparation of this album. The album title, Bulletproof, is indicative of the albums theme, that is overcoming struggle dealing with obstacles to become stronger. The thumping Vertigo gets the record moving similar to the Delain albums that Merel and Joey played on, pulsating synths met with djenty riffs as David displays his emotive vocal prowess that shifts between soaring cleans and passionate screams. 

12 Years In Exile is probably the best exhibition of this reminding me of early Haken and even Between The Buried And Me. The synths are a key element to this record reminding me of BMTH but they would feel out of place without the multi layered drumming of Joey more than just a pace setter, but a fully formed rhythm section all by himself. I've said a lot about Merel's guitar playing in the past with previous reviews of albums she's featured on but, I have to say again that she is one of the best around effortlessly moving from the thrashier themes of Symbiose to the slower riffage of A Soil For Hire all while adding tons of tasty soloing. Bulletproof stands as Dear Mothers call to arms, knock them down and they'll keep coming, hopefully to a stage near you soon. 8/10