Antimatter: The Judas Table (Prophecy Productions)
Melancholic moods, gothic atmosphere and delicate themes feature heavily in the sixth release by Liverpool’s Antimatter, the long term project of singer/Songwriter Mick Moss who has used a revolving door of musicians throughout the years. According to the band’s website, The Judas Table is a ‘concept album exploring the residual bad energy left in the psyche after falling in and out of a relationship with a toxic personality’ as well as examining the ‘driving force behind betrayal, lies and manipulation …’ So there you are then. No songs about Satan or hot dogs (What?-Ed)on this album.
It is a fantastic album, beautifully constructed with complex sounds, drum beats and haunting piano/keyboards underpinning Moss’s excellent song writing skills. The Roxy Music infused Killer is one of the standout tracks, along with the gentle Comrades which features a background string section and a sole acoustic guitar before slowly increasing the tempo ever so slightly. In fact, every track is crafted to the highest quality, with the musicianship superb, instruments connecting almost symbiotically. Hole is stunning, emotional and powerful but so simple in composition. The title track The Judas Table would sit comfortably on any of Anathema's recent works (and I really apologise for this as I know the Anathema connection haunts Antimatter thanks to former member Duncan Patterson’s tenure with both). The Judas Table is an album that demands repeated listens, and is clever and complex yet is also accessible at first listen. The Judas Table is another excellent release from one of rock music’s most intriguing and gifted artists. 9/10
Sadist: Hyena (Scarlet Records)
Technical death metal? Progressive metal? Yes, both of these genres pulse through the veins of Hyena, the latest release from Genoa’s death merchants Sadist. Formed in 1991, they split in 2000 and reformed in 2005. Hyena is their seventh album and it’s a pretty crazy ride. Flutes, keyboards, blast beats and death growls combine with more traditional crunching guitar riffage and 100mph pace. All kinds of influences thread through Hyena, from the Jethro Tull/Opeth fusion of opener The Lonely Mountain to the eccentric and chaotic Dream Theater on steroids track The Devil Riding the Evil Steed, complete with what sounds like Arabic narrative in the middle. Every track waxes and wanes, changing direction numerous times during each song. Gadawan Kura is a mellow, gentle instrumental, sandwiched between the much more aggressive Scavenger and the Thief And Eternal Enemies before the manic African Devourers throws jazz and avant-garde breakdowns into the mix.
There is more than a dash of nu-metal thrown into the Sadist mix, providing yet another element to an already crowded and increasingly randomly constructed release. Closing with the lovingly entitled Genital Mask, complete with African drums, I've come to the conclusion that Sadist are exactly that; torturing my ears with some of the most complex, eccentric and eclectic metal I've heard for a long time. Do I like it? Well, Tommy’s vocals are an acquired taste and do little for me but I like Steve Souza and Bobby Ellsworth’s styles and this isn't a million miles away from that. The ethnic influences that run throughout the album make it quite unique and the transfers from all out death to progressive rock work quite well. An interesting release. 7/10
Lion Shepherd: Hiraeth (Self Released)
One of the great joys about live music is the odd occasion where you manage to catch a support band that absolutely demands your attention. This happened at Riverside’s recent turn at The Marble Factory where the opening band Lion Shepherd delivered an impressive set, sufficient to persuade me to purchase Hiraeth. I wasn't disappointed. Lion Shepherd is a project by Kamil Haidar and Mateusz Owczarek and their debut release contains some quite beautiful music. An eclectic mix of ethnic fused rock, Hiraeth delivers a range of tracks that take in progressive rock, trance, blues, metal and several Eastern and world music influences. Think Orphaned Land but throw in Klone, Messenger, and even Depeche Mode, all with an Iranian twist, courtesy of guest musicians Rasm Al Mashan and Jahair Azim Irani amongst others.
Highlights include the controlled aggression of Brave New World and Smell Of War, the excitement and promise of opener Fly On, and two of my favourite tracks, the Eastern sounds of Music Box Ballerina and Lights Out. Haidar's vocals are superb, whilst the acoustic and electric guitar work of Owczarek provides exactly the right shade of light and shade for each song. The percussion of Slawek Berny and the subtle bass work of Wojciech Rucinski provide a foundation which truly allows the album to develop, captivating and transporting the listener far away. For me, Lion Shepherd and Hiraeth is the discovery of 2015; inspirational and innovative. In a year when some absolutely great pieces of work have been produced, this stands proudly alongside them. 9/10