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Tuesday 20 June 2017

Reviews: Iced Earth, Furyborn, Analog Bandits

Iced Earth: Incorruptible (Century Media)

Iced Earth have never been a band where things have run smoothly they have an almost revolving door policy of vocalists and musicians throughout their 11 albums, however after their previous release Plagues Of Babylon the band seemed to be their most stable in years with singer Stu Block firmly in place, Luke Appleton the new bass player, Troy Steele on lead guitar and Jon Schaffer the anchor for everything, however after the release of the album the band took a break from touring due to Schaffer's cervical fusion surgery, in that time long-time drummer Brent Smedley returned to the fold and Steele left with Jake Dreyer formerly of Kobra And The Lotus, Witherfall and previously White Wizzard taking over on the six strings.

The band started writing and the result of these sessions is the band's twelfth record Incorruptible Block and Appleton remain as of course does Schaffer which means that this record will sound like Iced Earth but where as some previous records have been bogged down by the Set Abominae concept this record has 10 individual tracks that all deal with different lyrical concepts, Great Heathen Army opens the record with the thrashy riffs of Schaffer cranking out at full volume as Block croons the story of Vikings, it's Iced Earth do Viking Metal and they do it well, Black Flag comes next an this is deep in the Running Wild trench telling of Pirates with a galloping riff and Brothers is about the relationship between Schaffer and Block.

Seven Headed Whore 
is vicious and nasty thrash metal while the epic finale Clear The Way is based on Irish Brigade at the Battle Of Fredericksburg returning to the Civil War motifs they played with on The Glorious Burden. As just a side note I've always enjoyed the way Schaffer treats history, it seems to be a genuine passion of his which as a historian myself is commendable. Anyway back to the album and it's the strongest record Iced Earth have done in along time, it dips a little in the middle but climbs back towards the end. It's certainly the best of the trio produced with Stu Block who gives his most definitive vocal performance so far, they have always been one of my favourite acts and to hear them giving their best performance in years made me bang my head in appreciation. 8/10

Furyborn: Dawn Of Leviathan (Self Released)

Five go mad in Dorset as the full length record from Furyborn graced my desk at MoM Towers. The band play in their own words 'weaponized melodeath savagery' and it's hard to argue as the intro Second Sun gives way to one of the heaviest records of the year, opening with the vicious title track Furyborn set out their stall early with razor sharp lighting fast riffs, heavy blast beating, some melodic leads and vocals that switch effortlessly between growls and powerful cleans, the title track grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go, shortening your breath not allowing you struggle free until the orchestral outro, it's only a brief rest bite though as The Reckoning brings the industrial stomp of Fear Factory stamping you in the face like Orwell's famous quote, the solos cut in for short bursts of virtuosity but then it's back to headbanging groove.

With the outright heaviness of this album, it's only after repeated plays you hear the Maiden-esque dual leads and the symphonic touches that weave their way through the record. Furyborn are Jut Tabor on vocals (both Jekyll and Hyde), Nick Richardson lead guitars (solos-a-go-go), Rob Walker rhythm guitars (riffs like a bastard), Timmy Hodgeson bass (ruptures your spleen) and Tim Coulson drums (gives artillery fire) together they play like they are far beyond later in their careers than seven years, there's a maturity and sens of purpose to the music, the band have found an identity that suits them it's this aggressive but accessible sound that will see them ascend rapidly in the UK metal scene. Melodeath Savagery? yes and so much more, bludgeoning breakdowns, soaring guitars solos and album that makes you pay attention. Now to watch the Leviathan rise and conquer! 9/10

Analog Bandits: Invocation (Self Released)

Analog Bandits cite their influences as Thrice, The Dear Hunter, Mastodon, Dance Gavin Dance, Dredg, and The Mars Volta so you can get a feel of what they sound like. Musically their mix of groovy progressive rock is very interesting and intriguing with changing time signatures, off-kilter melodies and very quirky style. For a three piece the music is technically proficient and polished mixing the rock and R&B in a cement mixer of prog weirdness, however the record does fall down with the vocals which are a bit Marmite, some will love them but others will hate the nasal quality to them. Invocation is a high concept record about two characters called Petrus and Stendention but you really have to listen to the record to figure out what the hell is going on. I'd say for fans of The Dear Hunter, The Mars Volta and Coheed And Cambria, Analog Bandits will be ones to watch, it's the sort of prog that could be played on BBC Radio 1 and that's not a criticism it's just more old school proggers will dismiss it which is a shame as the ability on display is of a high level, it just might be trying to please all of the people all of the time. 6/10  

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