Nawather: Wasted Years (M & O Music)
Full of Eastern promise, Wasted Years is the debut release from Tunisian outfit Nawather. Formed in 2013, Wasted Years is full of soaring orchestral movements, thunderous drumming and crashing riffs which mold into a melting pot of excitement and intrigue. Unfortunately, all of this is severely damaged by the gruff death vocals of Raouf Jelassi which sit uncomfortably with the band’s sound. The elegant voice of Ryma Nakakch really enhances the duets whilst the fusion of musical styles is entrancing. Although I’m a long way out geographically, the obvious comparison is with Israelis Orphaned Land or Palestinian group Kalas.
After the atmospheric Portals to Edinya, opener Falling Down The Slope is followed by a solo vocal effort from Nakkach on Daret Layyem which provides a much more authentic feel. However, the male vocals cut back in and again really detract from the tune. Much like Lacuna Coil, it’s the female vocals that really grab your attention and this is a shame as the oriental metal style of the band is excellent with some exquisite guitar work from Yazid Bouafif and Nidhal Jaoua on the Qanûn (a stringed instrument rarely heard in our metal world).
And so it progresses in a similar pattern. Raped Dreams is a confused mess of thrash, oriental sweeps and intricate movements; it nearly works but just falls short. The majority of the album is sung in English which is impressive. I really hate being negative about a release that for massive parts is really fresh and exciting. Broken-Winged Bird for example, has some stunning vocals from Nakakch, chunky riffs with Jaoua’s playing adding melody to great effect. Nawather don’t sit in the one style though, and each track has some subtle differences. Unfortunately for me, the combination of gruff and clean vocals just doesn’t work and ultimately distract from the overall quality of the release. 6/10
Rhine: An Outsider (Self Released)
Badged as progressive death metal, Seattle based Rhine is the brainchild of Gabriel Tachell, who started this as a solo project in 2011 with a debut release, Duality out in the same year. Having written and performed all of the instruments apart from the drums on the album, new members have now been added and the band now comprise Alex Smolin (guitar), drummer Carlos Delgaudo and James Porter (bass) in addition to Tachell.
An Outsider is one of the most confusing albums I think I’ve ever heard. It contains possibly the most chaotic mix of styles I’ve ever heard in one place. It features the most complex and intricate time changes, multiple instrumental breaks and a multitude of vocal styles. Death growls, clean vocals, female voices all feature. The album is lengthy, clocking in at 71 minutes and features stunning musicianship. However, the schizophrenic nature of the changes throughout the release make it an album that even after repeated listens confuses the hell out of you. There are brass sections, folk and classical, white noise along with heads down death metal, thrash segments and then several progressive and complicated Dream Theater type meanderings. With several songs clocking in at over eight minutes, there is lots of scope for expansion and creative flow and this is exploited to the max.
Does it work? Well, I don’t know whether to be impressed or to dismiss it as over the top egotistical mayhem. I’ve read a couple of reviews that make reference to the masterful Blackwater Park, Opeth's ground breaking release. I wouldn’t provide any such eulogy, but it is an interesting and powerful piece of work requiring commitment and staying power for the listener to really appreciate it. If I had to recommend one piece to have a listen to, check out Paralyzed. At over 10 minutes long it’s ironically the single off the album but it is really well composed. 7/10
Widower: The Unholy Oath (Self Released)
Austin, Texas is not synonymous with brutal black metal but it soon will be if Widower get their way. The Unholy Oath is a blistering five track assault which rips your neck off early on and then continues to pummel you into a gibbering wreck. The EP contains all the mandatory requirements for a black metal release: massive blast beat drumming, unintelligible vocals delivered in a style that makes Abbath sound like Aled Jones, huge accelerated riffs which shred like a turbo charged meat counter slicer and the obligatory crass song titles (Whore Crusher?) as well as a pretty dreadful album cover. Underneath it all lies some impressive hooks and the odd ear scorching solo, as well as a bass line so deep it must have rattled Lucifer’s chandelier. If you like your thrash blackened and delivered at 110mph then you’ll probably like Widower. If you like Halestorm, steer clear. This will kill you. 8/10