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Tuesday 18 February 2014

Reviews: Troubled Horse, Elysion, Amoral

Troubled Horse: Step Inside (Rise Above)

Sweden does seem to be in it's purple patch at the moment with some very fine rock and roll bands coming out of the country in recent years Troubled Horse are the latest in a long line, but they are pretty special. They play riff heavy, retro garage rock that comes out of the late 60's and early 70's, so you need to think Free Fall, Graveyard and Witchcraft in terms of style, especially the latter as the band is made up of former and current members of the Swedish occult rockers. The band throw in the creeping organs of Ghost on Bring My Horses Home and also nods to Sabbath on Another Man's Name (which has pinched the riff of Supernaut). The bass of Ola Henriksson rumbles like thunder keeping the band moving along metronomically and along with the drums of Jens Henriksson the band have a The Doors style percussive drive that is topped by the unforgiving guitars of John Hoyles which riff and solo with like Iommi, rounding off the band is vocalist/guitarist Martin Heppich who is the band's ace as he provides the extra muscle in the guitars section and also also hollers like a wounded animal on tracks like Fears and the powerful One Step Closer To My Grave, which is one of the albums best tracks with it's jangly but rifftastic delivery, it's clapping middle eight and the sumptuous solo. Heppich vocals are similar to fellow Swede Ralph Gyllenhammer of Mustasch and the music Troubled Horse play suit his voice to the ground. This is an album taht does a rare thing, it blows you away with it's combination of retro riffage, psychedelic tendencies (Shirleen) and nods to doom on the first listen and then gets better with every subsequent spin. The band have created an album as good as any of the bands I mentioned in the initial list, the album is sublime with everything coming together excellently. 2014 is truly the year of the (Troubled) Horse!!! 9/10

Elysion: Someplace Better (Massacre Records)

Elysion are classed as goth metal and from the opening strains of Made Of Lies this is proven to be 100% accurate with the light and shade of the guitars moving from clean to distorted in a heart beat with the verses lighter and the choruses having that big meaty riffs. I know it's a genre cliche but the band feature the angelic, haunting vocals of Christianna who sounds a lot like Christina Scabbia in terms of delivery and when coupled with the pulsing Gothic metal it gives these greeks a similar style to Lacuna Coil albeit without the male vocals, with some Within Temptation and Evanescence thrown in for good measure. The second track Someplace Better introduces the keys which are handled by guitarist Johnny Zero with the rhythm section made up of Petros Fatis on drums and FXF on bass. The songs have big riffs, lots of keys and synths and a massive dubstep section in What Lies Beneath. The band have some dark imagery, emotional lyrics and big ballads like The Promise which is replete with plantative piano, violins and a soaring guitar. All of these elements, makes for premium gothic metal, along with the Christianna's strong and frankly excellent, non operatic, vocals (she also sounds a bit like Hydrogyn's Julie) the band do what they do very well. Yes they do sound a lot like Lacuna Coil and usually this gets less marks from me but in this style of music it is very hard to stand out so sounding like the genre leaders is not necessarily to the bands detriment it just means that they have absorbed enough of the LC's charisma and musicality to progress upwards and when they have some pretty heavy riffage, see Our Fate, and Christianna's vocals the band can't really fail. Strong Gothic metal 8/10

Amoral: Fallen Leaves And Dead Sparrows (Imperial Cassette)

Finns Amoral are a bit of an enigma, until 2009 they were a Death/Thrash metal band until they dramatically changed their style leaving just guitarist Ben Varon and drummer Juhana Karlsson with a new line-up that played straight down the line power metal. This is not a bad change as the I went back and listened to their early stuff and it's good however I do have a soft spot for power metal and there post 2009 output is a lot better a it merges classic power metal of galloping basslines, dual guitars and strong clean vocals, however this is mixed with some modern metal riffage and lots of time signature changes in the longer tracks and indeed the shorter ones!) It's on the first track On The Other Side Pt. 1 that the band nail their colours to mast with the double kick drums rampaging, the pinched harmonic laden drop D riffage, the bassline driven verses and the Trivium-like soloing. Ari Koivunen's vocals are powerful but not ear splitting or helium fulled, yes they are in the upper register but they don't distract you, in fact he has similar style to fellow Finn Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica or even James LaBrie. The guitars of Varon (rhythm) and Masi Hukari (Lead) are awesome with some massive modern riffage and Hukari's love of spectacular solos coming through. The songs are varied coming away from the power metal base in places but Prolong A Stay features some amazing orchestral stuff on top of the galloping riffage that wouldn't sound out of place on a Maiden album with some lead breaks that are very Djent like before everything turns into a Wintersun-like rampage. This goes straight into the acoustic almost Zeppelin-like Blueprints which also has some killer organs in it and moves into the folksy-ballad of If Not Here, Where which kicks up into Queensryche territory after the intro and also has some growled vocals. If i was forced to make a comparison its like Baroness were mega NWOBHM fans (the album cover alone would give you this idea) but this would be pigeonholing a band that can't really be. The band are never a pastiche they balance the right line between classic and modern with progressive flourishes and quality songwriting throughout. The more I listened to this album the more I fell in love with it, it is just everything you could want in a metal, it's an engaging sometimes challenging listen that both makes you nostalgic but plants you firmly in the present day, they have done more in eight tracks than many bands do in their careers. Well done Amoral you originally had my curiosity, now you most definitely have my attention. 10/10

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