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Thursday 15 September 2016

Reviews: Dark Forest, Asguard, Hannes Grossmann (Reviews By Paul)

Dark Forest: Beyond The Veil (Cruz Del Sur)

The last thing good that came out of Dudley was a holiday romance I had in about 1988. Ah, I hear you cry, what about Dark Forest? Of course, one of the UK’s premier power metal outfits, singing about history and mythology since 2002. Beyond The Veil is album number four and it stands alongside the best that Germanic outfits like Helloween and Freedom Call can currently offer. And In these uncertain times of European exit, surely Britain needs to support its own power metal kings.
Opening with all the speed and passion of our European cousins the band crash through Autumn’s Crown before hitting the title track early, riffs and harmonies at the ready. Skip through the album at your leisure, it's pretty good stuff if you like rampaging power metal. Blackthorn, not an ode to that most horrid of ciders gallops at 100mph with soaring guitars and the excellent vocals of Josh Winnard right on the button. Of course, power metal has its roots in the Priest and Maidens of our world, so it's no surprise that Earthbound contains all the stomp of a Maiden classic, with the duel guitar attack of founder member Christian Horton and Patrick Jenkins reminiscent of Walls Of Jericho era Helloween.

With their history themes prevalent, the medieval interlude of Ellylldan sits nicely although the acoustic Lunantishee doesn't feel quite as comfortable with a horrible Celine Dion moment. If Winterfylleth didn't beat your arse quite so heavily, then Men An Tol might well nestle within their ranks. It's a real foot tapping instrumental soaked in the forests and countryside. Surging bass lines courtesy of Paul Thompson combine with the hammering drums of Adam Sidaway whist the interplay between Horton and Jenkins is definitely a throwback to the duels of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray at their height. I love the medieval feel to the track, conjuring images of iron horses, archers and trebuchets, moats, fires and portcullises. In fact the whole album creaks of the giant oaks on England’s green and pleasant land. 

On The Edge Of Twilight has more than a passing nod to the epic Blind Guardian and as any fool knows, that can only be brilliant. It is one of the best tracks on a thoroughly enjoyable album, which provokes magical imagery throughout. The Lore Of The Land switches back from electric to the acoustic, Winnard taking on the role of the Bard with his story telling. It's cheesy stuff … but cheese is good, right? (Agreed - Dairy Ed) 7/10

Asguard: Hidden God (Self Released)

I have to admit I know little about Asguard who bring Melodic Death Metal from Belarus. In fact, I don't know anything about them! According to my research the band were active from 1998 to 2009 when they split so it's a mystery how some seven years later Hidden God has found its way to Musipedia Towers. The band apparently had quite a reputation in their homeland with numerous supports to heavyweights such as Sanatorium, Behemoth, Vader and Mayhem. Hidden God is their fourth album and it's, well, it's chaotic. Opener Conscript is a fusion of about seven different styles, whilst Daemon Cavaclade has elements of Rammstein, Depeche Mode and Soil in the mix with a hook suitable for a Eurovision entry. In fact, it fits neatly into the industrial zone with growling guitars underpinning a quite infectious keyboard riff. Meanwhile the vocals of Alexander Afonchenko, whilst an acquired taste fit the sound perfectly,

More electronics for the title track with a cyber based opening before the band crash into a BFMV vocal. The keyboards on this track really underpin it, with guitars of Oleg Maslakov and Andrey Tselobenok relatively understated. However, things really hot up with The Outpost, a crazy mash up of Rammstein, In Flames and Scar Symmetry. It's both great and terrible at the same time with huge power chords crashing down, a simple keyboard hook and angst ridden screaming vocals that switch between calm and angry at every turn. Album closer Where Everything Was Different is almost pop in parts, a funk bass line setting up the beginning of the end, more powerful riffs and weird vocals. Overall, Hidden God is one well weird album, a smorgasbord of styles and influences. Worth a listen even if just for the bat shit craziness that flows through it from start to finish. 6/10

Hannes Grossmann: The Crypts Of Sleep (Self Released)

German drummer and multi instrumentalist Hannes Grossmann has been influential in the technical progressive metal scene through his work with Alkoid and extreme metallers Obscura who he left in 2014. The Crypts Of Sleep is his second solo release, self written, arranged, produced and recorded at his own Mordor Studios. Containing a number of his old band mates from Obscura, Alkaloid, along with lead vocals from Moreau of Dark Fortress and additional guitar work from Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry and ex-Morbid Angel’s Erik Rutan, this release is as technical and complex as you'd expect. Numerous intricate tine changes, masses of guitar solos, blast beats and crushing riffs as well as some of the filthiest bass runs known to man dominate with Hail Satan possibly the pick.

Unfortunately, much of the album appears to follow a similar pathway and after a while it becomes a little repetitive. Technically brilliant,there are some highlights. Ocean Born Master at least bucks the trend for a minute with an acoustic intro before the polyrhythmic patterns return, Moreau’s guttural roar impressive and a slightly more melodic change of pace which is soon shattered. Album closer Anima Inferna opens with a lone solo, builds with heavy riffs and then erupts into a blast beat fest. Ultimately The Crypts Of Sleep suffers from a lack of variety and the absence of any real soul. It really does have the feel of a solo project and whilst you have to admire the work that has gone into this release, it's hard to really warm to it. 6/10

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