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Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Reviews: Existence Dysphoria, Light Creates Shadow, Misgivings, Of Our Design (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Quinn Mattfeld, Zach Scott & Zak Skane)

Existence Dysphoria - Minus Negative (Sludgelord Records) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from London, Existence Dysphoria have been making huge and heavy music since 2017. The three piece, made up of James Bullock on Bass, Nick Harley on Drums and Ben Ambrose on Guitar and Vocals, have released a single named Cascade Of Limbs, and a demo called Shattered in 2018, Minus Negative is the bands first EP. The EP opens with a short intro called The Stage Is Set, which is made up of samples and weird noises. Next we get the first full track, Sculpted Into Nothing, a song made up of huge and heavy riff that lurch and stagger, the style is simple, but very heavy and with a very pleasing groove. The song has a softer, more minimal section with a nice bluesy solo, before returning to the thunderingly heavy. The song gets a bit more driving, purposeful and pointed nearer the end. 

Next up is the track You’re Worse, which mixes heavy as anything riffs with short softer sections that feel minimal and introverted, in direct opposition to the heavy riffs. The heavy riffs have a choppy feel to them, and also a little bit of Alternative Rock and maybe a little Grunge. The track has a higher tempo and pace compared to the song that came before it, a perfect tempo to bang your head to. The final track is the title track, Minus Negative. After a soft and introverted intro the song kicks into some very heavy doom with a little stoner influence, the Bass in more dominant than on the other tracks and in places it reminds me a little of Weedeater. 

The second half of the track picks the pace up with some serious grooving, before the track slows down for a crushingly slow and heavy ending. For a first Ep Minus Negative a great piece of work. Thunderingly heavy sludgy Doom that has a great groove, and riffs so heavy they’ll hammer you into the ground. For a first try at a release this feels like a very mature piece of work, if they can keep up this level of quality for a full album, then Existence Dysphoria should definitely be going places. 8/10

Light Creates Shadow - Ghost Pass Through, Running From The Body (Self Released) [Quinn Mattfeld]

When someone approaches you on the street and informs you that they are “on a mission” at best, you now have an awkward exit to make; at worst, you’re an accomplice. But when newly reformed Portland Oregon based post Metal trio Light Creates Shadow says about their third LP Ghosts Pass ThroughRunning From The Body, “We feel there is an absence and misuse of depth within the art form as a whole. We are on a mission to uncover and illuminate the path if the listener wants to embark...” you should embark: sign the petition, buy the T-Shirt, get on the rainbow-colored bus and go wherever it is they want to take you. 

The best music teaches you a new way of listening and Ghosts Pass Through has me hearing metal in a different way. The journey begins with the shape shifting Sensed Presence, the first of four seven-minute plus tracks on the album that builds to a transcendent, exhilarating conclusion and left me wondering where the band could possibly go next. Inexplicably, the album only continues to soar from here on out, following their monumental opener with the thrilling and melodic Post TruthDark Triad adds new layers through a combination of complex riffs and stark, raw emotion, before Casual Horizon delivers the album’s heaviest sound yet, a refreshingly simple and driving riff under lead singer Marc Changnon’s most aggressive, un-tethered vocal performance thus far. 

The album closes with Outlier floating in like a radio-friendly alternative hit from the 90s and ultimately blossoming into yet another entirely unique and sublime offering on this inspired and transformative album. Whether the transformation is that of Light Creates Shadow from an underground post metal act to an avant-garde musical juggernaut delivering Ghosts Pass Through, Running From the Body as serious contender for Album of the Year or that of the listener who is open and willing to hear with new ears, will be up to us, the audience. In my case, the latter is certainly true and I hope for the Northwestern metal trio, the former will also come to pass. Light Creates Shadow is on a mission and I, for one, am a willing accomplice. 10/10

Misgivings – Misgivings (Dolorem Records) [Zach Scott]

Dating back to 1991, Misgivings has been around since the early days of death metal, despite having no official releases to their name. This first album, a self-titled offering, showcases this very old school style and is a refreshing exploration into the genre’s raw and bloody roots in an age where death metal can often be over-produced and sterile. Misgivings kicks off this album with some seriously old school riffs in Deny The Divine Praise, with tremolo picking and pinch harmonics galore – the use of chromatic and diminished scales again harkens back to the early to mid-90s output of bands like Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. 

The production is very gritty and aggressive, the only real complaint being that the bass is not particularly audible, which is a shame as the bass playing is often one of the best parts of this style. Guilhem Auge’s drumming is worth noting – it is relentless in his use of blast beats and incredibly fast fills (such as the one that opens in Masquerading As God), and the production work of BLR Studio’s Olivier Jobin plus the mastering by Raphael Henry (Heldscalla Studio) compliments the very natural and raw sound of his drumming. 

The same goes for Esteban Martin’s powerful – albeit monotonous – vocals and the guitar work of duo Infamist and David B., which combines breakneck riffs with shredding solos and slower groovier sections, which create a nice sense of contrast. As the album continues, the songs do begin to get slightly similar to each other, with that very trademark old school guitar sound becoming more of a crutch than a technique – the riffs begin to lose their impact the further the album goes on as there just isn’t much separating the songs in terms of sound. The songs are still well-written, but they do have a tendency to just blend into one another. 

That said, there are still some interesting sections such as the almost hardcore-influenced call and response vocal sections in Stormblood and the more ambient intro to Disgraceful Lust that leads into a very South Of Heaven-esque death-doom section with some evil-sounding harmonies, before heading back into the previously established breakneck speed. Another cool moment is the intro to the album closer, Ancient Fear, which creates an excellent sense of foreboding and impending doom. 

Unfortunately, the last half of the album suffers from a sense of monotony – the riffs and songs are good but simply aren’t different enough from the other songs to make a lasting impact. There’s clearly a high level of instrumental ability but the songwriting skill just isn’t up to par with it, making this album slope off as you get further in. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable – it just doesn’t have that replay value because of this. 

Overall, a solid album with a raw and aggressive feel that showcases the brutality old school death metal but fails to meet the modern levels of songwriting that contemporary bands are operating. 7/10

Of Our Design – The Worst Of Me (Self Relased) [Zak Skane]

From just looking at the colour schemes of their six tracks artwork I can just tell from looking at the yellow, orange and pink pastel colours that I am going to be listening to modern metalcore. Beginning with The Void In Me I’m introduced with electronic 808 beats accompanied with string sounding synths and ambient guitars to build us up to some classic breakdowns followed by atmospheric verses. Through out the track we get introduced with how George Rangers vocal lines can swoon from Emo-tinged cleans to throaty harsh vocals, whist the guitarists Kieran and Hayden trade haunting melodies with machine stabbing breakdowns. 

The bouncy sounding Misery shows the bands balance of technical djent riffery and melodic song writing, whist showcasing us the tight musician ship of Oli and Antony locking it in with the rest of the band. Other highlights on this six track is the swinging lead single Jaded that combines 6/8 djent riffs with anthemic choruses and the nostalgic sounding closer Wonderland which contains some 2010 stutter vocal effects and bouncing synths sounds. Even though this was a pleasant listen due to how things were orchestrated and produced, it’s just…I could blindly throw a rock over my shoulder and find five bands that have been doing this sound longer with more of than an original flare. If your into bands like Motionless In White and I Prevail it’s a suggestible listen 6/10.

Reviews: Civil War, Your Highness, Paddy & The Rats, Waiting 4 April (Reviews By Matt Cook & GC)

Civil War – Invaders (Napalm Records) [GC]

It’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all. Or something like that. Civil War did technically try, in that they released their first album in six years. Invaders assuredly belongs in the power metal folder, but beyond that, the record lacks experimentation or daring. The compositions are what they are, and strive not to be anything bigger or more majestic than that. In times like these, the keyboard is often a saving grace, transporting listeners to vast landscapes or futuristic environments. 

Unfortunately, Daniel Mÿhr does the opposite, failing to garner enough gravitas to make a positive impact. Oblivion and Dead Man’s Glory see the Swedes deviating into unchartered territory, much to their detriment. Put simply: stay in your lane. The former is the soundtrack for a seafaring expedition (which instantly conjures images of the American Civil War circa 1862, doesn’t it?). The latter reads like a Viking saga: “They came from the North / Pillaging hoards / Clamoring to rape and defile / As their longships break shore / The horn blast of war, shatters the still of our Emerald Isle.” A tad disingenuous, no? 

Naturally, the two strongest songs are the last two on Invaders. Battle For Life ratchets up a strong melodic, rumbling introduction and implores you to “throw all your fear into the fire.” Followed by that is Custer’s Last Stand, an appropriate debunking of the titular character who is often painted as an American hero but actually was nothing more than an Indian-hunting coward who left his men on the battlefield and died in disgrace, though somehow still gained fame and glory. The true American way. “A foolish game / a game he couldn’t survive.” At least we got a song about Andersonville, the oft-chronicled, deplorable Confederate POW site. But the dizzying lyrical themes touched upon and the tepid musical arrangements is a dud that falls harmlessly into the open ocean. 6/10

Your Highness - The Ragbag EP (Hoogheid Records) [GC]

Coming into this one blind as I have got to admit that stoner/doom/sludge music is not one I am overly familiar with, however on the evidence provided here it’s something I could really see myself embracing and listening to more of! The opening track of the EP, To Dust: starts off with a fuzzed out bass and drum intro and then makes a steady pace towards the sort of groove filled riff that make you instantly pay attention and want to get up and shake, the vocals sit nicely on top and it all makes for a great start and the next 5 minutes are pure, unadulterated fun, with an almost punk like pace that lasts to the closing seconds of Tie It Up

Obviously as it’s only an EP its over fairly quickly and overall, there’s not much to get your teeth into but what is on offer you can’t fault as all 3 songs really are fun and definitely make me want to try other releases from Your Highness. I really enjoyed this EP a lot and imagine fans of High On Fire, Clutch and the like will find this to their tastes, and for me it has worked as a good introduction to Your Highness, which is surely what is most important!? 7/10

Paddy And The Rats – From Wasteland To Wonderland (Napalm Records) [Matt Cook]

By now, there should be no doubt about the staying power that Piratic Folk Metal has established. Gone are the days when bands with that label were unceremoniously cast off as joke groups more consumed by rum than by a desire to achieve musical excellence. Paddy And The Rats have boasted a consistent track record since 2009’s Rats On Board and with support from mega-label Napalm Records, From Wasteland To Wonderland is ready to set sail and sally forth. 

The approachability of the album stands out quickly and voraciously. The subtle variety amplifies the fresh feeling sloshing about the 13 tracks. A more descriptive (albeit much less rolling-off-the-tongue) categorization for Wasteland should be power pop folk with waltz tendencies and Mariachi revelry. Northern Lights not only glistens and awes in the clear evening sky; the standout song is catchier than a lobster trap full of bloody chum tossed on top of a school of starving sharks. Taking it a step further, it personifies the aurora borealis as a breath-taking maiden with “shiny green hair.” Fiddler Sándor Szabó lays down beautiful riffs and melodies, topping out with a sultry solo (Wasteland). Party Like A Pirate dual wields a waltzy melody and a swashbuckling take on a Rammstein hook. 

The dazzling music benefits greatly from crystal-clear vocal production. Kristóf Oravecz is polished, unblemished. Everybody Get Up declares “let’s spread the music not the virus.” Who could argue with that suggestion? Well, I know who, but that’s what Twitter is for. It is a bit of an undertaking when deciding to crack the code of the 45-minute album. But you don’t need to be a folk metal fan – or a metal fan in general – to enjoy and admire the quality and listenability. Sip on a refreshing fruit punch or an old white rum (or both) and let weathered professionals whisk you away. 8/10

Waiting 4 April - Photo Memory EP (Self Released) [GC]

Imagine the year is 2006 you’re at a gig and someone with a black bowl cut, checked shirt, skinny jeans & Converse trainers on have just plugged in his guitar on stage, yeah, you know EXACTLY where this is going! Unfortunately, the year is 2022 and I honestly can’t believe that there is still a market for this type of shit!? Now, without actually mentioning the music that may seem unnecessarily harsh on Waiting 4 April (Eye roll at the band name) but once you get to the music it is just SO formulaic it is almost painful to listen to! We get started with a quiet plinky riff that leads into a slightly faster boring riff then BOOM into predictable massive boring chorus, repeat for boring 7 songs! 

Now, there is nothing wrong with that formula if you like that sort of thing but, it has been done 8 million times before and MUCH MUCH better than this! One of the main things I cannot get my head round is this guys voice it’s so high that sometimes only cats would be able to understand what the hell he is going on about and the music just doesn’t inspire anything in me as its just so wet and sugary that it’s made me diabetic. 

With song titles like Answers, If Only You Knew, Love Is and Dead Inside this is just everything you expect from an emo release, the release blog labeled it as post-hard core and unfortunately there is just nothing here to make me think that is what this is and quite frankly it an insult to Texas Is The Reason, Taking Back Sunday and other actual post-hardcore bands! I actually wanted to try and give this a second listen to be proved wrong but just I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Awful. 3/10

Monday, 27 June 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Midnight (Live Review By Dr Claire Hanley)

Midnight, Academy 3, Manchester, 15th June 2022

I knew this gig was going to be high energy but less than 10 seconds into Black ‘n’ Roll, the previously docile crowd erupted into a frenzy. The energy that Midnight project on record is exponentially amplified in a live setting, with the band pacing the stage and inciting crowd surfers and stage divers galore. 

Despite the prominent gap between the stage and the barrier and the presence of security, audience interaction is definitely a major theme. Something about that D-beat and those oh-so nasty riffs is seriously infectious, and the audience were more than happy to oblige. Possibly the quickest pit creation I’ve ever witnessed (impressive having seen many death metal heavy-hitters), which resulted in me wearing most of the beer I was nonchalantly holding. 

Serves me right for being so far forward with said beverage but at least I was part of the action. Crowd-pleasers Evil Like A Knife, Poison Trash, Satanic Royalty, and Fucking Speed And Darkness showcase a set list spanning the band’s discography, and what Midnight setlist wouldn’t be complete without a dose of Lust, Filth and Sleaze!? But the more unexpected inclusion of Violence On Violence absolutely made my evening, and even saw the already ferocious audience level-up in terms of pit intensity!

In stark contrast, the energy dissipated briefly during material from new record Let There Be Witchery (Szex Witchery, Telepathic Nightmare) but instantly returned when the band closed the set with You Can’t Stop Steel and Unholy And Rotten, alongside what seemed like an impromptu encore of Endless Slut wrapping up the perfect evening of exquisite debauchery. 9/10

Reviews: Knoll, Billy Howerdel, Seven Kingdoms, Sole Syndicate (Reviews By GC, Erick Willand, Finn O'Dell & Rick Eaglestone)

Knoll - Metempiric (Self Released) [GC]

Strap in because this is about to get grindy! From the very beginning note to the very end, Knoll proceed to absolutely ruin you with their harsh and unrelenting take on grindcore. When the riffs kick in the guitars stand out as crips and clear which makes the frantic riffing really take hold of you and drag you into the vocals which are obviously horrible in the best way, the highs are ear lacerating and the lows are full and bottom heavy and rounding it all of are the drums and bass that really round up the sound perfectly and don’t drown everything out which is need as missing anything here would be a crime! 

The songs come at you in a relentless barrage of noise, and some are even past the 3-minute mark which some purists may sneer at, but they never let up and always keep providing more and more brutality there are even the 2 instrumental offerings sound like you are being dragged through hell backwards and don’t give you a feeling that they are slowing the beating down! My personal pick of a favorite has got to be Tether & Swine, as they throw in a slow drone beatdown that is just unreal! For such a relatively new band there is a lot of buzz following Knoll around and from what is produced here it is very easy to see why!

This is modern grindcore done to near perfection and they will be standard bearers for this type of music for many years to come and I for one cannot wait to see where and how far they can go! Knoll really are the real deal, and you should not sleep on this! 9/10

Billy Howerdel: What Normal Was (Rise Records) [Erick Willand]

Once the guitar behind A Perfect Circle, What Normal Was is Billy Howderdel’s second solo album but first under his own name. Although you think you can hear little pieces of A Perfect Circle, in truth you wear really hearing pieces of Howerdel the whole time. Clearly there is a personal element to this album, obvious by the “cover art”, and yes, I’m rolling my eyes right now. Selfish Hearts opens the album with a quiet hum that slides into the song proper like a note under your door. It’s a short song at only 2:50 but a solid open. This song tells you how the rest of the album is going to play out, a love letter to late 80’s goth pop through and through. 

The second track, Free And Weightless to me, is the real opening track, the synths flow, the bass hums and the drums pop in every way you would expect. Ani, the third track, starts to bring in some of the goth gloom properly. His voice is more haunting, almost distant in parts while the drawn out pop beat never lets up. If there was a video for Ani, it’s Billy Howerdel singing alone from the shadows of a rain drenched city. To be fair, the next two tracks could have similar videos and absolutely get away with it. Having said that, don’t get it twisted. Track 5, Beautiful Mistake, is straight up the strongest and my personal favorite track on the album. Haunting vocals entwined with a melancholic guitar lick backed by an insistent bass and drum rhythm, it’s perfect goth-synth-pop and it lodges in your memory like a wood sliver in the palm of your left hand. Spotify tells me track 6, Poison Flowers, a solid track in its own right, gets more plays than Beautiful Mistake, I think it’s lying. 

However, Mr. Howerdel does play some amazing guitar here and I dig the creepy intro vibe. I have to mention the end of Poison Flowers and how it quietly sets the next track, Follower, into motion. The moment feels effortless, had to mention that. Follower is the synth pop anthem of the album in my humble opinion, with it’s driving beat and memorable chorus it’s a must for a Cyberpunk 2077 or Shadowrun playlist. Bring Honor Back Home has a decent dreamy quality to it but just doesn’t click for me, there’s something remote about it and that goes for track 9, EXP as well. Both songs feel like background soundtrack extras. 

However, the last track Stars, is the complete opposite, you can’t help but listen to it. Sly move on Mr. Howerdel’s part to slap the most epic track at the end, top shelf sir. Stars closes out the album on an up swing with the best vocal performance of the album and just a general uplifting vibe that absolutely will get multiple listens and lands Billy Howerdel’s What Normal Was at 6/10

Seven Kingdoms - Zenith (Distortion Music Group) [Finn O'Dell]

Seven Kingdoms are back with their new album released June 17th. For anyone unfamiliar, they are a power metal band hailing from Florida. This album is a metal music "hat trick" for me: power metal, smooth female vocals and a cover of an 80's hard rock classic. 

So, let's.dig in. When I saw the tracklist that concluded with I Hate Myself For Loving You, I jumped right to it to see what they did with this Joan Jett standard. I expected a power metal interpretation, but was pleasantly surprised they opted to alter it very little (if at all). Sabrina Valentine delivers with her sassy vocals. Diamond Handed, the album's opener, demonstrates their power metal skills with impressive guitar work from Cameron Cruz and Kevin Byrd alongside the stellar drumming of Keith Byrd. A Silent Remedy keeps up the adrenaline fueled tempo. Then, a shift happens on Love Dagger, which had it's official music video released the same day as the album. 

I wouldn't call this power metal but more modern rock/metal, but it isn't bad at all. Catchy riffs showing their ability to do more than just one style. Chasing The Mirage starts with some guitar work that reminds me of I Want Out by Helloween bringing back the power metal vibe. Valonqar slows things down and the vocals are as passionate as Amy Lee of Evanescence. Empty Eyes bounces back to that modern rock sound. Magic In The Midst comes out of the gate back in power metal mode with upbeat tempo. That traditional power metal sound prevails through the next 3 tracks: Universal Terrestrial, The Water Dance and Life Signs. This album may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love it. 9/10

Sole Syndicate – Into The Flames (Scarlet Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

I must admit that the start to this album took me a little by surprise as the opening track Forsaken is
full of melody and insanely catchy riffs with some great vocal parts which is followed by Count To
which has stadium written all over it and times it reminds me of Thunder although there is just
a little too much cheese for me. Brave Enough is easily the standout track of the album, guaranteed live favourite for sure which is then followed by the first real ballad the aptly named Shadow Of My Love

Last of this trilogy, Miss Behave fires up the NWOBHM cannon and is a direct hit. The album is definitely a grower, and I am enjoying the album, but it is really the chorus in Dust Of Angels that saves it from being skipped, this is however rectified by the synths and solos at the start of Sunset Strip – great track! Some nice basslines on Do You Believe but still not enough to distract from all the vocal fillers which was a shame. Another ballad up next and actually In The Absence Of Light may just be the strongest track of the whole album, this is followed by Freak Like Me and Back Against The Wall – this section of the album is still my favourite parts even after a few playthroughs 

The title track is saved to last Into The Flames is a myriad of soundscapes and at 10 and a half minutes it’s certainly ambitious and gives the album a whole a new dynamic that I wish would’ve made more an appearance throughout the rest of the album as it really is a beautiful track and I could just listen to it over and over again. Packs a punch but does not quite deliver a knockout 6/10

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Review: Porcupine Tree (Review By Matt Bladen)

Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation (Music For Nations)
Ok. Stay cool. Stay calm. Try to approach this like any other album.

My internal monologue was working overtime on the first listen to the new album by Porcupine Tree. This was a big moment 13 years in the making and the first recorded output of probably the most influential band I found when I was first discovering my own music. Having been brought up on classic rock such as Zeppelin/Free/Deep Purple/Status Quo along with disco by my mother, on my father's side it was prog bands such as Genesis, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel etc with World Music and New Age Music too. Long drives in hot leather seated cars engrained album such as Division Bell and US into my head meaning that when I started to discover my own music taste I was instantly drawn to bands that lived and died by the riff and ones who took a more introspective, cynical world view. 

Porcupine Tree were just the right band at the right time. As I hit my teens I became far more cynical and aware of the ways of the world so to have this group playing music that was simultaneously heavy and upbeat but also languished in misery was a real eye opener. I just admit I jumped on to the train with In Absentia but Deadwing, Fear Of Blank Planet and The Incident all were breathtaking. As I went back to listen to the earlier stuff I found new appreciation for bands that were kind of on the fringes of my listening habits such as King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and the entire post-punk scene. 

Every time I saw the band and listened to an album I became a bit more in love with the Porcupine Tree ethos of doing exactly what you want, but still managing to make a great success of it. I'll admit I was gutted when the seemingly called it a day, and while Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri, Gavin Harrison and Colin Edwin have gone on to do equally incredible things both solo and together, there's was still nothing quite like that unity of then together in this band. But slowly, silently against the back drop of Wilson solo tours Harrison joining The Pineapple Thief and Colin Edwin flexing his bass in ORK, without so much as hint that the band even existed anymore, Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison, were steadily writing and recording ideas for a return. 

A few hints were left on the website, the beast seemed to be stirring, eagle eyed fans found the business registry and not long after Closure/Continuation was announced. No Colin Edwin this time but 3/4 of that line up that stunned on Lava Records then were signed to Roadrunner of all places! Return with another set of indictments on our world. Delivered in their signature style with all the progressive/experimental soundscapes that PT has been so accustomed to.

But what does it actually sound like? Well strap in because here we go...

Firstly it's pretty much exactly what I would want from and album named Closure/Continuation, as the music contained within these 7 tracks continues in the style PT have been plugging since In Absentia, evocative synth soundscapes, a big whack of Hammond and Moog, plenty of hammered dulcimer, those keening, sneering, sarcastic vocals, expressive drumming and shifts between acoustic beauty and heavy metal ugliness. 

Opener Harridan when you think about it is the perfect first single for this record as it bring back all those sounds that were such a key part to the PT sound, but also became used by so many bands too. It's the beginning of a focused 48 minute record that makes it feel as if there hasn't been a 13 year gap and various other endeavours. Within the first minute of Harridan, you're embraced by the comforting feel of this being a Porcupine Tree record. The song itself is built on the dynamics, done well on tracks like Shallow from Deadwing. The throbbing jazz bass of scuttling into the jangling open guitar chords of the chorus, from there things become more reminiscent of earlier days as the haunting stripped back part kicking into a powerful instrumental middle eight where there's lots of flash but never too much self indulgence. 

Towards the end of Harridan we are brought full circle into that melodic chorus again as a single acoustic plays us out the propulsive opener seguing well into the softer style that makes up Of The New Day, a slower, more emotional song in from the dreamy euphoria of Gravity Eyelids style, a ghostlike vocal effects and a clean Telecaster twang evolving into a rockier break in the middle before were brought back into this dreamlike break in proceedings. It's Rats Return that ups the prog factor, the odd timed riff and constant style shifts drawing from the influences of bands such as King Crimson, as Wilson's lyrics decry those who only have their own self interest and ego in kind when doing anything despite claiming to be 'for the people' this political, cynical edge has always been what's drawn me to PT as I've said, but here it's in bold letters, the drumming of Harrison here a real highlight too. 

After two shorter numbers we go back into the 7 minute explorations with the beautifully, layered Dignity. Lushly composed it's got some dark subject matter, regarding homelessness, set against a the indulgent sound design techniques pioneered by Barbieri, and also the innovative synth programming of Wilson. These are omnipresent as they are in all PT songs but the brooding Herd Culling uses them to the best effect, making for an unnerving track where the shouts of "liar" accompanied by the distorted riffs are like flashes of anger. This feeling of unease is transferred on to the jerky electronics of Walk The Plank, a jazzy break in the heaviness that twitches and bleeps with an inherent post punk darkness. Bringing things to a close with yet more expressive, classic PT feeling prog is Chimera's Wreck, those poignant acoustics starting it out as the framework is established for another epic, that adds more layers of instruments and vocals, chopping and changing to again bring home that sense of consistency the album has in spades.

But wait there's more! With the special deluxe digital edition of the Closure/Continuation you get a full 60 Page PDF booklet with all of the information, liner notes, lyrics and background you could possibly want. There's also the full album in instrumental and three bonus B- Sides, Population Three is a compelling instrumental that leads us into the soaring poppy Never Have as the B-Sides end with Love In The Past Tense a glistening, arty ballad with a throbbing back beat, that evolves into spacial final part. I can see why they were not included on the main album as they don't quite fit with the 'vibe' but they stand as excellent tracks in their own right

Despite this being their first album in 13 years, Continuation/Closure feels as if Porcupine Tree have never been away, progressive music in the top 1% that had the hairs standing on end throughout. Emotionally distant? Yes. Cynical? Yes. Exactly why I love it! 10/10

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Winners Interview With Existentialist By Zach Scott

Existentialist – Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Essex 2022 Winners Interview by Zach Scott

MoM: Tell us a bit about your band - what you’re called, where you’re from, what style you play, and what you’ve done.

Jonny: We are Existentialist, from Colchester Essex. We are a blackened death metal outfit, combining orchestral ambience with high intensity riffs, blasts and crushing breakdowns. 2020 saw the release of our debut album Prophet of Ignorance which was well received. Following on from this we have played shows up and down the country alongside the likes of Paleface, Bound in fear, Godeater and Osiah. We are set to go out on tour with our good friends in Beyond Extinction in July and August and then it's on to Bloodstock!

MoM: How has the last year been for you as a band?

Phill: The last year has been amazing for us. We played our first show last July and from there it’s just got better and better. We’ve been gigging wherever we can, met a tonne of great people and shared stages with some ridiculously good bands. The response we have received at shows, and online, has been overwhelming. We are truly gratefully for the love and support we have received throughout our maiden year.

MoM: As a band, what experiences have you had with M2TM and Bloodstock?

Sam: For most of us, we have had a long time out of playing live shows. For myself personally, I was not in a gigging band since 2011 before joining Existentialist – so my experience of M2TM has been as an audience member for too many years. It been incredible to be part of this year’s competition and for our first go at it, we are so stoked with the reception we have received. Really big bit of appreciation here – Ian and Helen who run M2TM Essex are fantastic people and hosts. 

We were made to feel so welcome, and the support and kind words we have received from them has been unreal – I recommend any aspiring metal band in Essex to take part next year – you will not regret it! Since we set out on our first gig in July 2021 and met our now great friends in Beyond Extinction – Bloodstock has been the goal for us. It’s an insane festival, and to be part of it is unbelievable.

MoM: What was your initial reaction to hearing your band’s name get announced as the winners?

Jonny: Hearing our name announced as the winners definitely took me by surprise, playing at Bloodstock has been a lifelong dream. After having some technical issues during set up we were all feeling a little uneasy but we did we what we always do, stepped up, banged heads and played out the set.

MoM: How are you feeling about playing the New Blood? Are you confident you can own a stage like that?

Phill: Completely over the moon. It is literally a dream come true for all of us. I’m confident we will. We go out with the same mentality every single show we play, pack our performance with energy and play as if it is our last. We’re chomping at the bit to hit that stage and get the crowd moving.

MoM: What do you think was the deciding factor that set you apart from the other competitors in the final?

Olly: Because everything went wrong? We had tech issues just before our set started, so the audience couldn't hear our backing tracks (and less importantly my kick triggers) which we use for the set intro/outro, but also orchestration throughout our set (since we're not Bon Jovi and can't pay a symphony orchestra with choir to tour with us). So instead of pulling out or making a huge fuss, we just played without it. I knew I could rely on the rest of the band to still play like it was our last show, so we just did it. 

Everyone was tight, performed as well as normal, and after some on-the-fly drum fills to bridge gaps or extra dissonant guitar noises, we were able to pull it off. One of the things we've always strived for as a band is to be as easy to work with, yet professional as possible (we recently discovered - punctuality gets you far). So being able to just deal with problems and not get flustered is something we all do pretty well...plus we use click-tracks and practice the shit out of our sets. That always helps.

MoM: Metal To The Masses places a lot of emphasis on the role of the underground in the UK heavy scene - how important has the local Essex scene been for you as a band?

Patty: The Essex metal scene means the world to us. It’s where it all started from the writing of all the POI tracks, our first rehearsals as a full lineup all the way up to live debut at the Lamb & Lion in Westcliff, southend. That show was a critical point in our career and played a huge part in paving the way to where we’re at today. We’ll always rep our ends no matter where we’re at. Essex death metal will forever remain undefeated.

MoM: What part of playing Bloodstock are you most looking forward to?

Patty: The entire experience to be honest. For me personally, I’ve never been to Bloodstock so I’m just as stoked to go as I am to perform there. Feels surreal to be hitting up a Bloodstock festival stage this early in our career. It’s a great opportunity to play our music to a bigger crowd as well as chat to some of our idols and I’m excited to see what doors it will open up for us going forward.

MoM: What opportunities do you hope will come out of this for you?

Sam: First and foremost, the biggest opportunity will be performing at Bloodstock festival. It’s a dream which has become a reality! We cannot wait to be on that stage, and to see some bands we aspire to replicate, in terms of success. As mentioned earlier, we will be touring with our friends in Beyond Extinction this summer – we hope that we are able to push on from this and Bloodstock for more tours next year to coincide with the launch of our second album later this year

MoM: Finally, what’s next for you as a band between now and Bloodstock?

Olly: Most importantly is our summer tour coming up with last years M2TM Essex winners, Beyond Extinction. This is huge for us as its our first proper tour and we'll be doing it with a band who we've become really close mates with over the last year. Aside from that, we just finished recording our second album which we'll be getting ready to start sharing a few demos within the industry. There's a lot of admin that goes into releasing an album which people don't realise, so we'll be dealing with that too. I think we'll be sorting out some of the material from the as-yet-untitled "Album 2" to play at a few of our summer shows. So come see us if you want a sneak peak !!!

Friday, 24 June 2022

Reviews: Burner, Consecration, Denied, Drive At Night (Reviews By Zak Skane, Matt Cook, Matt Bladen & Finn O'Dell)

Burner – Vision Of The End (Church Road Records) [Zak Skane]

We being our journey of grotesqueness with Ingsoc, greeting us with it’s razor sharp feedback and grinding Sabbath style guitar riffs before we get swallowed into the void with the sonic pounding of double kick and blast beat driven drums grooves combined with the wall of low end. Nothing But War continues the sonic assault with the ensemble coming in with all guns blazing with the singer continuing to sound vicious with every lyric he puts out. The stab chords are with razor sharp precision added to the chaotic void, which this band produced.

Death Worship take us down a more playful route with the oddly placed stab chords making us reminisce of golden era mathcore of the likes of Dillinger and Every Time I Die. A Vision Of The End takes us on a six-minute journey through sludge coated hardcore ingested with shrouds of black metal atmosphere and the final closers Siege Fire and Rat King Crown still keep up intensity throwing some groovy hard rock style riffs to keep it fresh. This six track album keeps it intensity through start to finish, those buzz saw guitars have a great balance of raw aggression and professional clarity and the energy degenerated from the singer and the drummer keep this six track interesting from beginning to end. 9/10.

Consecration – Cinis (Redefining Darkness Records) [Matt Cook]

There is Jim Beam or Evan Williams. Grey Goose or Burnett’s. Kraken or Admiral Nelson's. In other words, there is poster-child consistency or generic, run-of-the-mill cheap muck. Consecration is to Death/Doom as Jameson is to Irish whiskey: textbook greatness. The pinnacle. The For Dummies guidebook. If vintage Thrash Metal is what you yearn for, Slayer and Metallica have you covered. Death/Doom is your calling? Thrust Consecration into that discussion, because these lads are rewriting the book. 

The UK-based quintet have compiled (if you couldn’t guess by now) a how-to when it comes to the genre – gurgling grunts aided by a slogging-yet-effective pace enshrouded in a roller coaster through misery and dense despair. Cinis is the equivalent of ordering steak and eggs for brunch and being given a plate overflowing with equal parts meat and protein. The best of both worlds. Having the cake and being able to eat it. Despite the widely varying song lengths, this record is Death/Doom 101. Daniel Bollans’s vocals become dirtier as the album materializes, aging like a fine wine. What stood out most early on was the full-bodied drums courtesy of Jorge Figueiredo. 

To say they pop would be a cliched understatement; the kit towers over the rhythm section, flaunting its imposing will and death-defying heft. In appropriate Death/Doom spirit, the instrumentations are sparse and mild, in the most complimentary of ways. Unto The Earth Bethralled simulates walking through a jungle of fluff with its masterful pacing. A Sentient Haunting is gracious in its melancholy; The Charnel House acts as the audio evidence of Bollans taking part in a swallow-a-razor-and-try-to-sing challenge that assuredly has found its way onto Tik-Tok by now. Cinis simultaneously embodies a first-time listener’s aide and a die hard’s pillar of appreciation. 

It’s nearly impossible to criticize the work because it feels like calling out a triple-degreed university professor who has spent a decade in their respective field of expertise. Better to just sit down and absorb it all. 8/10

Denied - Humanarchy (Sweea Records) [Matt Bladen]

Melothrash? Heavy power? I'm undecided what to call this sixth album from Swedish/Danish band Denied, but one thing you can call it is impressive. With flashes of Annihilator, Testament, Judas Priest and Grave Digger, Humanarchy is packed with frenzied riffing, blistering solos and bags of melody. The thunderous boiler room of bassist Freddan Thörnblom and drummer Markus Kask can blast away with joy but also bring emotion to the slower track Don't Cross That Line. Opening twosome Divided and Death By A Thousand Cuts are in the trad metal sound, the latter feeling like some tough US styled power metal with a punchy riff and sing along chorus. Things get heavier with the title track which sees Andreas Carlsson and Chris Vowden (ex-Opeth) grind out a groove metal riffs, Vowden also having some tasty solos/leads. 

Fredrik Folkare's keys add something similar to the Halford/Tim Ripper Owens solo records. Folkare is a special guest on the record but adds to the more melodic parts of Humanarchy, Don't Cross That Line the most melodic song here. Unlike with so many thrash bands Soren Adamsen's (ex-Artillery) vocals are wide ranging, with higher register screams and snarling lows he's got similarities to both The Ripper and Chuck Billy, showcasing his full range on Maintenance Of Insanity, a song that feels like Youthanasia-era Megadeth. Ten Ton Hammer Of Pain brings back the heavy, Ties Of Blood bringing symphonic and industrial elements right at the end. Humanarchy is a great slab of power thrash metal, the viciousness of thrash and the melody of power/trad are balanced well across 8 tracks making for an exciting heavy metal record. 8/10

Drive At Night - Echoes Of An Era (Pride & Joy Music) [Finn O'Dell]

Here we have another attempt to recreate music from arguably the best decade in music - the 80's. Drive At Night started out last year as a 2 man project of Joachim Nordlund (Astral Doors) and Johan Lindstedt (SunStrike) to create music honoring some of their influences. Let's see how it measures up. The 80's Calling starts this off with the band reminiscing the decade they clearly are inspired by (love it). The Youth Of Today is a stadium anthem rocker of the highest degree. Partners In Crime tells the story of a couple in strong 80's rock style. Weekend Fun is another party oriented banger. Endless Kind Of Love takes a swing at a More Than Words type ballad, but sadly misses. One bounces back with more of a radio rock feel. 

Wake Up ramps up the riffs. King Of Kings, not too surprisingly, is all about being the best - a conqueror anthem. Wild In The Streets reminds me of Summertime Girls by Y&T (not a bad thing at all). Time falls back to mainstream radio rock mode. High Enough shows more grit until the chorus kicks in. United wraps up this album giving us more hard rock, but slower than most. Overall, a great palate cleanser to get me back to the sound that first hook me back in the day. Vocals here are perfect and musically this is solid stuff. One of the better things I have heard lately. 8/10

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Reviews: Werewolves, 10,000 Years, Mystery Dudes, Minipony (Reviews By Matt Cook & Rich P)

Werewolves – From The Cave To The Grave (Prosthetic Records) [Matt Cook]

Though only three musicians form the megalomaniacal group Werewolves, the expertise and know-how that accompanies them is as dizzying as the music within their third album in as many years, From The Cave To The Grave. The Aussies – David Haley (drums), Matt Wilcock (guitars) and Sam Bean (vocals, bass) have their fingerprints all over the metal scene; despite forming Werewolves in 2019, the trio have been a part of 22 total acts, four of which featured multiple current members. It’s a laundry list resume that easily could have given these guys an excuse to rest on their laurels and go at half-speed. Instead, this record is akin to going from watching eight-year-olds on the ice between an intermission and then seeing the pros return for the next period. 

Simply put, Werewolves are tech death titans. Rest assured, there is no shortage of threatening vocals, obliterating instrumentals and bombastic tempos. Harvest Of The Skulls in particular leaves you seeing stars; the drums are clean even though they still exude danger and destructive intentions. Bean portions out his voracious vocals in a startlingly successful manner, and the chugging guitars sparring with catatonic bass pedaling produces a cantankerous cavalcade. Werewolves are not averse to groovy, slamming riffs and hooks while simultaneously heartening the masses with blistering arrangements. 

For lack of a more concise breakdown, All The Better To Eat You With is a by-the-book banger. Haley is merciless behind the kit, imbuing the track with vigor and animosity. I’ve spent many a (stupefied) night on Twitter spewing effusive praise for Prosthetic Records. Their recent, torrid stretch of churning out top-quality mayhem is only further bolstered by the release of From The Cave To The Grave. 8/10

10,000 Years - III (Interstellar Smoke Records/Olde Magick Records)  [Rich P]

10,000 Years brings the heavy on their third release, aptly titled III. I have really enjoyed the Västerås, Sweden trio’s first two releases, and III keeps that high quality output going. 10,000 Years, while firmly in the stoner/sludge category, bring the hardcore and thrash shredding on their latest release even more than previously. You get the hardcore vibes right off the bat with the opening track, Cult Axe. Not just with the vocals, but the riffs sound very early 90s hardcore and the pace of the track will get that circle pit going.  

There is even a “down for life” breakdown that would get any Hatebreed fan all fired up. To counter that there is a ripper solo to close the track out. The track Megafauna reminds me of Unsane, which is a very high complement. Or maybe (very) early Helmet. Either way you can get the vibes that 10,000 are throwing off here, until suddenly you are thrashing to the end of the song. Desert Of Madness leans more towards the stoner/sludge side of the band and is more of a slow burner, but the Unsane vibes remain. Speaking of slow burners, the next track, The Secret Of Water is a 3 minute plus mostly chill (for 10,000 Years) instrumental that you could debate was not a necessary inclusion on III, but it leads into the absolute ripper The Green King Rises nicely. This track is my favorite on the record with a killer riff and shows off the absolute perfection of their sludgy side and once again some most excellent shredding. 

Il Cattivo reminds me of early Mastodon in the best possible way. Escape For Earth is again 10,000 Years in all their sludgy glory, while the closer To Suns Beyond is the most sprawling, atmospheric track that I have heard from the band up until this point. Amazing guitar work and a great album ender. 10,000 Years is in top form on III and round out their initial trilogy of releases perfectly. This is some heavy stuff, so go in ready to have your head ripped off. Highly recommended. 8/10

Mystery Dudes - Exit Through The Wormhole (Electric Valley Records) [Rich P]

Oslo’s Mystery Dudes blend stoner rock with some snotty punk aesthetics to delivery an exciting debut full length, Exit Through The Wormhole, brought to us courtesy of Electric Valley Records. You get all sorts of stuff on Exit Through The Wormhole but for the most part you don’t get feeling like the record is all over the place (it happens only occasionally). Mystery Dudes songs are also super catchy, which is where you get some of those 90s punk vibes coming through and what helps to make their debut a memorable release. 

Mountain Of Chill, the debut single and opening track from Exit Through The Wormhole, is a catchy stoner rocker that could fit on any playlist that may include bands like Fu Manchu and Queens Of The Stone Age. Perhaps a tour with a band like Volcanova would be a very complementary double bill. Evil Blood starts the leanings towards more of the snotty punk side but still is still more of the well-executed fuzzy stoner style. Punk is the aptly named track that leans heavy on the title’s side and is super catchy and probably my favorite track on the record. Ghost Train is also in the same vein and make for an excellent high tempo one two punch. 

Mondo Happiness is an instrumental stoner rock jam that is a standout track that shows these guys know how to bring the riffs even when they are flying their punk flag. Witch’s Stare is the Dudes attempt at Sabbath worship (executed nicely) and with their punky spin. Mexican Stand Up wraps it up nicely with a punk infused ripper that would be an excellent set closer as well. Exit Through The Wormhole is a solid debut from Mystery Dudes and shows a ton of promise. I think we will see some growth and some more consistency on the next record but for now enjoy this one like I did. 7/10

Minipony – AJNA (Subsound Records) [Matt Cook]

Minipony are off the rails. Unhinged. Volatile. Short-tempered. Take any prior aggression, resentment or hindrance and confidently hand it over to Emilia Moncayo so they can act as the vehicle in which to completely and utterly annihilate any and all of life’s problems into a heap of dust. It might take a few listens to fully acclimate yourself with Moncayo’s style: abrasive doesn’t quite identify it. They use their rolodex of vocal tropes and incorporates breathing and laboring in a way that both sends shivers down your spine and ignites the wrath of Mephistopheles. 

The anything-is-possible mantra envelopes AJNA, the sophomore release from this Ecuadorian experimental metal group. Backed by the prestigious French proggers Gojira (the album was record at Joe Duplantier’s studio and mastered by Johann Meyer), the three-piece take a battering ram to the very concept of labeling artists into pretty, form-fitting boxes. Sure, call Irresponsable a Mathcore track, what with its sporadic vocals which is preceded by scat singing. Kill Like A Human even emulates the great System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian. But comparisons in this instance are used more as a reference to be taken with a huge grain of salt and an understanding that Minipony are who they are, and the end result is truly themselves and nobody else. 

Don 18 does its best futuristic metal impression, arming itself with a sufficient dose of computer beeps that co mingle with the drum line and helps aid in the album’s overall uneasy aura. The titular song is a case study in vocal progression: high-pitched to heavy to frantic. The rhythm section – guitarist Amadeus Galiano and drummer Carlos Sanchez – slots firmly into a mold that is by nature jangled and imperfect. Candidly, AJNA might not be the ideal first-choice to listen to if you’re feeling even a hint of anxiety or panic-attack-inducing thoughts creeping in. Where other bands may provide comfort and relief, Minipony feed off our insecurities and uncertainties. 8/10

Reviews: RXPTRS, Made Of Teeth, Tarraska, I Fight Bears (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

RXPTRS - Living Without Death's Permission (Metal Blade Records/Blacklight Media Records)

We've talked about how the tag if 'next big thing' can be a blessing or a curse, for every band that does well out of it several others fall by the wayside and are left to their own devices without the publicity/exposure they once enjoyed. Bristol's RXPTRS are certainly a band that will live up to that tag. A multi year overnight sensation, they have slowly be building a following since their inception in 2018, with an electrifying concoction of metal, hardcore and punk, aiming squarely becoming the biggest and best band they can be, using the diverse musical scene of Bristol as inspiration as well as their different backgrounds. A lot of work has been poured into every aspect of the band, the image, the sound, the playing, getting on to a major label, you can understand how hard; vocalist Simon Roach, guitarists Ian Chadderton and Harley Watson, bassist Sam Leworthy and drummer Mat Capper, have worked to get this debut album out. 

They have released an EP in 2019 but obviously the Covid pandemic hindered the progress of recording this record, however it meant that the ideas passed around during the writing phase were varied and interesting, so when they hit the studio they knew that this debut wasn't just going to stick in a rut of being another album like so-and-so. Living Without Death's Permission is also some sort of emotional catharsis for the band. The title a phrase coined by frontman Roach who was near decapitated in a car crash a few years ago, this idea of being on borrowed time means that he was even more focussed on getting the band where they are now, helpfully aided by the rest of his bandmates sharing the same drive. It's his emotional, personal lyrics and vocals that come across like a mixture of Myles Kennedy, Oli Sykes and a bit of Davey Havok, that hammer these often quite dark themes across backed by a ever changing undercurrent of musical genres. 

The incendiary duo of Buring Pages and Rock Bottom (Is A Stepping Stone), kicks things off with the former full of Alter Bridgeisms while the latter and the few tracks that follow all have post hardcore noises, the atmospheric Dead Awake (As Pretty As The Drugs We Take) has techy riffs and breakdowns throughout giving it those Letlive vibes, while Demons On My Mind is singalong emo chic, evolving into some thrash metal battery. Elsewhere The Death Rattle is a track with some hip shaking, jazz inflected rhythms ala David Lee Roth but with dark lyrics, displaying the bands experimental nature, as does the electronics on Cold Ground where there's flashes of Northlane ina big torch song. The last song Let Me Die How I Want is driven by some Tool-esque percussion, releasing all of the emotion the record builds up is released on this anthemic final moment of modern metal magic. RXPTRS have have been uncaged with this record, well worthy of any 'next big thing' tag that is bestowed upon them. Watch this space! 9/10

Made Of Teeth - Sociopathogen (APF Records)

If you want an image of what something that is Made Of Teeth looks like the check out the Series 1 of the horror anthology series, Channel One, this series entitled Candle Cove has a particularly horrifying monster called the Tooth Child, which will stay in your nightmares for about a week. Just as memorable and terrifying are the thunderous riffs of South Wales trio Made Of Teeth. Sociopathogen is their third album overall but their first for the premier, purveyors of putrid noises APF. Sociopathogen takes a big step up from where Made Of Teeth have been before, having seen the band several times in the South Wales scene, I can attest to that every viewing they become a fiercer, more focussed unit, cranking out heavy sludge riffs fused punk/hardcore aggression and a collective love of ear splitting noise music. 

They've supported some of the biggest in the scene, and will do again at their album launch show supporting High On Fire in London on 24 June. These high profile supports along with the members experience in various stoner/doom/sludge/hardcore bands have all been funnelled into making Sociopathogen their finest hour. Making full use of the lockdowns, they have tinkered with their sound on this third outing, producing a more mature, but also a more vicious outing that will have you shouting "what the f*ck just happened!" when the 30 minutes fly by. All three members; Chris West (guitars), Tom Cole (bass) and Steve-o Jones (drums) add vocal shouts, growls and screams, which means that every song has an unhinged, riotous nature, rarely letting the pace slow. It's the hardcore and punk influences that show through on Four, single Three4a1er and Strutter Bubble, but with a technically not always heard in bands from either genre. 

There's psych weirdness and sludge sprinkled across these 11 slices of aggression too as Made Of Teeth, carve out their best record yet, drilling through pure concrete and finding gold. As Sociopathogen continues, What's The Time and Pearly Whites both having some mind bending backmasking, there's some low dirty grind to Small Operation and Shotgun Steve, Pick A Pocket jumps into blasts of cascading noise. All in all Sociopathogen will have you trying to incite a riot in your front room, ignore Googling pictures of Teeth People because. Made Of Teeth have arrived on APF and they are taking no prisoners. 8/10 

Tarraska - Tarraska (Earache Records)

South Coast based rockers Tarraska started life as an acoustic two-piece, now I expect some sort of Robert Johnson, sell their soul to the Devil for rock n roll sort of story, alas this is 2022 so the evolution into a full electric band is a bit more realistic. Ben Parker (lead guitar) and Jack Lande (vocals/guitar) had been friends for years and came together for a jazz show after the original singer pulled out. They spent a huge amount of time gigging as an electric/acoustic covers duo before their songwriting filled their set with originals and they began to want to flesh things out a bit more. 

Citing influences as wide as Alter Bridge, Slash, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Tremonti, FFDP, Guns N Roses, the band are very much drawn towards that NWOCR that is so en vogue right now. The core duo of Ben's searing lead guitars and Jack's soulful vocals are utilized well on tracks such as Shifting Gears and Getting Out Alive, both very aware of what makes the classic rock genre so popular while also adding a distinct modern touch. The idea was to release a load of singles then an album, however that plan was scuppered by the various Covid lockdowns so when the duo finally managed to get into a studio with drummer Allan Varnfield they made the most of it cranking out 12 tracks all of which are varied and bring different facets to the Tarraska experience. 

The singles idea is obviously really when you listen to this album as there are at least 5 that could be definitive singles that would offer a different side of the band. The acoustic years reflected on White Flower, which has a touch of Creed to it, though not as much as Requiem while Trailblazer is a track built for arenas and Say No Prayer is as modern as it gets here built on some towering grooves. On the back of this record they look to tour with Oliver Lande joining the live line up on bass, I'd suggest heading out to see them but first pick up this record as it's a impactful debut which features influences from some of the most accomplished bands in rock. 7/10

I Fight Bears - Liberosis (Self Released)

Being unleashed on the general populace on the day they play for a place at Bloodstock in the Semi Final of Metal To The Masses South Wales (Friday 24th June Fuel Rock Club). Liberosis is the latest EP from Bridgend modern metalcore (with emphasis on the metal) mob I Fight Bears, following their debut album in 2018. Now with a name like that they aren't going to play AOR, however for all the massive grooves, thrash metal riffs and screams, there's a deep vein of melody coming on the choruses, bassist Drew Hamley's clean vocals working well with lead vocalist Dan Blackmore's harsh voice. If you've seen the band live, you'll know that the dual vocal translates well to their live show, it's more potent on the record too with both men giving their all. 

Obviously they need the music to back them and Hamley locks in for some wall shaking grooves on Chainbreaker alongside drummer Scott Preece, his percussion brilliantly bringing the fire on the thrashy State. With influences from Lamb Of God and Parkway Drive there's also Architects and more classic metal flashes across Liberosis the guitar playing of Chris Treharne and Marc James is worth noting as well, James locking into the rhythm section as Treharne lets loose with some fluid leads. Liberosis has been a long time coming, Hamley putting it as a "culmination of a 2-3 years" where the songs were re-tooled and re-shaped to what they are now, feeling that the band need a fresh direction than before, almost re-establishing themselves. 

They have certainly done that. Liberosis is well written and well performed, balancing the vicious and the melodic, I Fight Bears are back with a vengeance. 8/10

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Reviews: Fallen Sanctuary, Chaos Magic, Iconic, Devil's Train (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Finn O'Dell)

Fallen Sanctuary - Terranova (AFM Records) [Matt Bladen]

When you get Serenity frontman Georg Neuhauser and Temperance guitarist Marco Pastorino, get together to form a band, you can expect it to be full of melodic/power metal mastery. The two met on tour together with their respective bands and realised they had lots in common musically so they recruited drummer Alfonso Mocerino and bassist Gabriele Gozzi to form a live band. The four piece set about recording this debut album. 

It's a power and melodic metal all the way as Georg and Marco fuse both of what their bands do, along with some of the greats of the genre. Terranova is also the first song on the record, a rollicking power metal track in the Sonata Arctica that's actually about drug addiction, the sobering spoken word section at the end, almost undoing all the bouncy upbeat music before it. Thankfully the darker riffing of Now And Forever, brings us back onto the pumping power metal train, Mocerino's drum beats adding to the anthinic quality of this track, it's the third single and the one that blends both of the band leaders style well, with the gutsy metal riffs met with AOR choruses. 

Broken Dreams is pure AOR fluff, with a lot of the European style of bands such as Brother Firetribe or Eclipse, giving a bit of metal riffing to what is otherwise a Eurovision-pop chorus. Broken Dreams is also one of the songs where Marco gets to show off his excellent vocals with some co-leads with Georg and as part of three part harmony with bassist Gabriele. To The Top does the same thing with a muscly ballad, as the acoustics come in for the torchlight sing along of I Can't Stay

It's not long though before those galloping early Sonata Arctica sounds come back on Destiny with a nautical themed piece of adventure metal and the rampaging Bound To Our Legacy. You can hear that the core members of Fallen Sanctuary share a love for melodic power metal as Terranova has influences drawn from the best making it a delight for fans of melodic/power metal. 7/10

Chaos Magic - Emerge (Frontiers Music Srl) [Finn O'Dell]

Frontiers Music is at it again, this time giving us the new album by Chaos Magic. Confession time: I am very partial to female vocals. This band has the amazing Chilean vocalist, Caterina Nix, who appeared on Timo Tolkki's Avalon album, Angels Of The Apocalypse, in 2014. The next year, Tolkki, the guitar virtuoso of Stratovarius fame, wrote, played guitar, bass & keyboard as well as produced the self-titled debut of Chaos Magic. The band has evolved some since their debut 7 years ago, but they still fit nicely into the genre of symphonic metal. The album leads with the title track, a balanced rocker, whereas the next track, Beneath Your Skin, is quite heavy while still maintaining a faint symphonic sound. 

The Impossible has a little more keyboard present and Caterina's voice is angelic as ever. The next song, Garden Of Winter, is a duet featuring Elina Siirala of Leaves' Eyes. Their voices complement each other beautifully on this slower jam with a robust chorus. Hearts Gone Dark, maybe my favorite track, brings that more up tempo sound with ethereal elements. Beyond The Silence sees the band cranking out another great standard of symphonic metal. Days Of Lions opens with some Arabian sounding music before rocking out. In The Depth Of Night follows with more metal to rock out to, then Victims Of Our Heaven slows things down and sees Nasson (bass) sharing the vocal duties with Caterina and it sounds amazing. 

When If Not Today picks things back up before the closer, What's Your Fuel - another rocking song. This album is one I can easily listen to all day, between the mostly upbeat metal and the silky voice of Caterina. Highly recommended. 10/10

Iconic - Second Skin (Frontiers Music Srl) [Finn O'Dell]

Frontiers Music has a history of somehow having some unique "supergroups" of sorts, but they have really outdone themselves with their latest release. Iconic has legends all the way around from some of the biggest names in the world of hard rock: Nathan James (vocals/Inglorious), Michael Sweet (guitars & vocals/Stryper), Joel Hoekstra (guitars/Whitesnake), Marco Mendoza (bass/Twisted Sister) and Tommy Aldridge (drums/Whitesnake). 

It's like the hard rock hall of fame, or something. Fast As You Can opens this album with thundering rhythm and more hooks than a commercial fishing vessel. Nathan is the primary vocalist here, but Michael lends a hand off and on through this one. Ready For Your Love is a rollicking jam that has a bluesy Whitesnake vibe. The title track sees another Nathan and Michael duet. All I Need is a rocking ballad that highlights Nathan's soulful singing. Nowhere To Run jumps back to hard rock heaven with riffs to bang your head to. Worlds Apart sees another ballad that has a little bit of an Alter Bridge vibe. All About bounces back followed by a slower This Way. Let You Go is another slower radio rock. 

It Ain't Over had some upbeat riffs and Enough Of Your Love gets back to a bluesy laid back feel though the guitar solo here really pops. Overall, kinda disappointed by the number of slower tunes on here between ballads and blues. With an Iconic line-up, one expects some more hard rock offerings. Sometimes the parts are better with the whole they came from. Definitely worth a listen either way. 8/10

Devil's Train - Ashes & Bones (ROAR! Rock Of Angels) [Matt Bladen]

On the third album by Devil's Train, Mystic Prophecy frontman R.D Liapakis seems to wearing his cowboy hat too tightly as Ashes & Bones brings more country/blues influences than before. Firstly though let me just get something off my chest, this album ends with a cover of Word Up by Cameo, no one, ever needs another rock/metal cover of Word Up by Cameo, this version just sounds like the already established Gun version so it adds nothing to the record or the song itself. 

Still despite this Ashes & Bones is a pretty good hard rock record. There's still a bit of a metallic hangover from the last two records but on this third act, Devil's Train have fully embraced the Whitesnake career trajectory they took on 1987 by becoming more Americanised in their sound. Ashes & Bones also owes stylistic similarities to Black Stone Cherry, The Dead Daises and a myriad of big Southern/blues tinged rock bands from the US of A. Songs about the devil, the blues, wild women and good ol' fashioned sex all make up the 11 originals here, Liapakis on fine form for songs such as Girl Of South DakotaIn The Heat Of The Night (I think Coverdale will want a word) and the title track, his husky croon adding grit to the music. 

He's joined by Jörg Michael (ex- Saxon/Stratovarius) on drums, Jens Becker (Grave Digger) on bass and Dan Baune (Lost Sanctuary) on guitar, this revitalised line up adding to the more muscular and authentic heavy blues rock feel of this album. At times they veer a little too much into Coverdale smut (Smell Sex Tonight & Hold The Line) however for the most part Ashes & Bones is a big sounding heavy rock album. It just doesn't need the bloody cover song! 7/10