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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Reviews: Obituary, Winterfyllth, Xerath (Reviews By Paul)

Obituary: Inked In Blood (Relapse Records)

The ninth studio release from Florida death metal titans Obituary, Inked In Blood pulls no punches. Colossal riffs destroy from the start, pounding bass lines and skull pounding drumming leave your innards contorted whilst the vocals of the legend John Tardy snarl and fight their way into your brain. This is one aggressively heavy album but don’t let that put you off. Although rightly masters of the Death Metal scene, Obituary deliver on a different level to their peers Cannibal Corpse, and whilst the pace is there in spades they also deliver some tracks with less speed and more power. Within A Dying Breed, for example, is as heavy as they come, but levels you with the most enormous riffs and groove. The double prong guitar of new guitarist Kenny Andrews and rhythm guitar man Trevor Peres provide both groove and frenetic fret board action. On Minds Of The World the all-out death metal assault morphs into a more evenly paced and totally crushing tune. What interested me with this release is how catchy and memorable the riffs are. Even when the band are going full out, with the battery of Donald Tardy’s drumming hitting you solidly in the abdomen, the songs are excellently crafted with Andrews solos peeling off at regular intervals. Frank Tardy’s voice is an acquired taste, plenty of roaring, growling and guttural snarls but fits the band’s sound perfectly. Opener Centuries Of Lies demonstrates this, allowing him to extend the full repertoire in two and a bit minutes. Thirty years since Obituary first started making their mark in the world of heavy metal, Inked In Blood is a blistering release, proving that the old school still deliver and do it better than any of the young pretenders. In a year of excellent releases, this stands comfortably amongst the leaders. Powerful, pulverising and pounding, Inked in Blood is a release you really need to listen to. 9/10

Winterfyllth: The Divination Of Antiquity (Candlelight Records)

I have to admit that the underground black metal that these Mancunians bring has passed me by for several years. However, a 40 minute set at BOA, ironically as the heavens opened, changed all that and their fourth release is a thunderous affair. Now I'm not the world’s biggest black metal fan, finding much of it a little too similar and the unintelligible vocals often just amuse me. However, what I do appreciate is the technical talent of some of the top purveyors of the genre, and Winterfyllth are right up there. The title track opens the album, six and half minutes of blistering speed and blasting drumming complete with Chris Naughton’s death growls. The track does change tempo throughout, although rarely dropping below the speed limit until half way where a quick breather is taken before the band plunge headlong back into the powerful driving delivery. Simon Lucas’ drumming is phenomenal, blistering hand and foot work propelling the track towards the crescendo. For a band that look like a gathering of dentists, Winterfyllth make a quite awesome noise, once again proving that you should never go by appearances. Whisper Of The Elements provides even more evidence that these guys are a cut above the average black metal band with changes of tempo and mood throughout whilst regularly returning to the blasting delivery that you expect. How Simon Lucas drums at this speed throughout the album is beyond me but I've seen him do it live so I know it isn't fabricated. Naughton and Mark Wood provide delicate and subtle edits to each track along with the pounding riffs whilst bassist Nick Wallwork combines with Lucas to man the engine room that allows the guitars to do their thing. Whilst the album remains very true to expectations, each track contains little nuances that deviate from each other. Warrior Herd for example has them pounding rhythm section but huge melody and hooks, whilst The World Ahead, at a mere 3:26 starts with some fragile acoustic work, calm and atmospheric amongst the chaos around it. A beautiful track and a completely different piece of work. Another quite brilliant piece of work from one of England’s most underrated bands. 9/10

Xerath: III (Candlelight Records)

Another album, yet more superlatives. The third full release by British extreme metallers Xerath. Apparently named after some video game character (is this right? I’m an old man. I don’t do this stuff) [Mr H is correct League Of Legends fans - Matt], the band were formed in 2007 and have won a number of accolades for their music. I've got their first two releases, but III is a much more complete work. Opener 2053 contains elements of thrash, progressive and extreme metal, with the influence of Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, Opeth and Dream Theater all evident. Indeed, the Hevy Devy influence flows throughout the album which in my book is no bad thing. III also has lashings of symphonic metal, which combines with the other influences to produce a real fusion. Autonomous has huge riffs, string sections and keyboards combining with Richard Thompson’s excellent vocal delivery, at times Howard Jones, at times oh so Devin. This is a real groove ridden head banger of a track. As the album ebbs and flows, I found myself reflecting on the quality of the compositions. It’s a bit like someone has done the most perverse mash up of many of my favourite bands. Bleed This Body Clean would convince all but the most hardened DT fan that it wasn't the master on the vocals, such is Thompson’s combined melodic and growling vocal delivery. Huge symphonic riffs splatter all over the track, and combine with the powerhouse duo of drummer Michael Pitman and bassist Christopher Clark. Demigod Doctrine has a quite delicious collaboration of strings, power chords and blast beats with massive Devin sounding vocals merging into the complexity of the overall track. I Hunt For The Weak builds into a massive head banger of track, combining many of the previous elements with a pounding rhythm section, soaring strings and growling vocals which fit perfectly. The Chaos Reign swirls and dips, with the division of death growls and clean vocals supported by close harmonies working perfectly. Throughout the album there is some excellent guitar work from Conor McGouran. Veil Part 1 is soaring metal track that would be excellent for the soundtrack to a movie set in space as it climbs and builds. This is an album crafted to the highest quality, heavy enough to keep the extreme metal fans happy whilst the relatively unique combination of symphonic and almost standard metal really works. A work of absolute quality and well worth a listen when you can. 9/10

*Unfortunately I missed these guys at Damnation due to the confusion over the Bolt Thrower merchandise. I would really love to see how this works live*

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