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Sunday, 23 July 2017

Reviews: Wintersun, Necromandus, Rock Goddess (Reviews By Paul)

Wintersun: The Forest Seasons (Nuclear Blast)

It’s been a long time since the metal world went a little weak at the knees when the Finns delivered Time I, one of the most epic albums of all time. There was pretty much universal praise, such was the quality of this release and the band proved they could deliver it live. Five years have since passed, and it’s been a bumpy road for the band. If you follow the band and/or main driving force Jari Maenpaa on any social media platform then you’ll know all about it. In order to deliver Time II the band wanted to created their own studio and to do this they needed to raise funds. Their crowd funding campaign was dramatic and relentless, with close to €500,000 pledged.

However, instead of Time II, Wintersun has delivered The Forest Seasons, an intense four track piece which captures the four seasons of the year. Each track is lengthy, with The Forest That Weeps (Summer) the shortest at just over 12 minutes in length. All the Wintersun trademarks are present. Blast beats, epic tempos and time changes, clean vocals interchanging with intense harshness, huge guitar solos and operatic sweeps. The heaviest season is probably Eternal Darkness (Autumn) which rages relentlessly for over 14 minutes. It’s either magnificent or some of the most overblown bollocks ever recorded. I am somewhere in the middle on this. Whilst clearly appreciating the intricacy of each composition, you can’t help but wonder if there is sometimes just a little bit too much sophistication. Loneliness (Winter) is case in point.

The song contains some beautiful flowing sections with Maenpaa’s synths sustaining the majestic feel, soaring vocals capturing the epic flavour but bloody hell it goes on. And on. And maybe that’s me missing the point. After all the sheer majesty of Time I was the complexity of the pieces. That’s where I struggle with this album. It’s not Time II. It’s not Time I. But it feels like the band have tried to create Time I ½. Whether repeated plays will allow me the time to warm to it I don’t know. I just don’t know if I have the time to commit (no pun intended). 7/10

Necromandus: Self Titled (Mandus Music)

I must admit I knew nothing about Necromandus. They split up in 1973 when I was three years old. Their first album Orexis Of Death, produced by none other than the Iron Man Tony Iommi didn’t see the light of day until 1999. By the time the band re-emerged last year, only drummer Frank Hall from the original line-up was still alive. So, with only one original member, does Necromandus capture that 1970s sound? Well the answer is a resounding yes.

Full of the atmospheric stoner doom that Sabbath made their own but which is now captured so well by bands such as The Sword, the album is 45 minutes of trippy riffage, melancholic keyboards and some decent hard rock. John Branch has a vocal style perfect for the band. The groove of Alauna and Limpert Man contrasts with the psychedelic space rock style of Hymn To Her. Guitarist Dan Newton does a great job throughout, with some very crunchy riffs whilst John Marcangelo’s keyboards add depth and texture. It’s unlikely the band is ever going to remain anything other than a “what might have been” but this is a good stab at bringing more focus to the name. 7/10

Rock Goddess: It’s More Than Rock ‘N’ Roll EP (Bite You To Death Records)

Back in 1977 sisters Jody and Julie Turner formed Rock Goddess. A power trio from Wandsworth who rode the crest of the NWOBHM and alongside Girlschool raised the flag for UK female metal bands. The original line-up was completed by Tracey Lamb and it’s that line-up that has returned on this new EP. Rock Goddess’ history is littered with bad luck and it’s good to see the band back up and running. Whether this EP will help their profile at all is debatable. The three tracks are all formulaic and routine with the closing track We’re All Metal on a par with the worst of Anvil do little to elevate the pulse. Perhaps it might be better to stick with the old stuff? 5/10

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