Candlemass: Hand Of Doom EP (Napalm Records)
13 minutes of new Candlemass; a mere teaser for the long awaited long player due later in the year. Of course, Hand Of Doom is the soundtrack to the Leif Edling’s new on-line game which takes the player into a world of extreme style heavy metal despair, dread and impending doom. So, just like the world that Candlemass, the godfathers of doom have been delivering for over 30 years then.
Regardless of the game, this four-track release certainly contains everything I want from the Swedes. Colossal frenzied riffs, minor key song writing, dripping with melancholy and heavier than a suitcase full of anvils. Flowers Of Deception edges it for me, the six-minute rollercoaster than thunders along before easing to a demonic bass line that defers to more gigantic riffs. With Mats Levén firmly in the frontman seat, the band are now working in perfect harmony. Hand Of Doom is a monster. Can’t wait for the new album. 9/10
My Indigo: My Indigo (BMG)
Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation take a back seat for a while as lead singer Sharon Den Adel’s debut release takes centre stage. A beautifully crafted album, it’s about as far removed from her usual associated sound as could be. Full of enchanting melodies, deliciously light and gentle vocals and a low-key delivery which works spectacularly well.
Repeated plays allow this stunning 38 minutes to rest and dissolve in total delectation. Hardly a riff in sight or sound, the alt-pop sound is perfect and moves Den Adel to a new level. Tracks such as Black Velvet Sun, with its haunting piano accompaniment drip with emotion. A gorgeously different release. 9/10
Sons Of Alpha Centauri: Continuum (H42 Records)
It’s been a long time since we heard much from Kent based quartet Sons Of Alpha Centauri. Their debut release arrived in 2007, and although the band planned to deliver their sophomore release around 2009, its taken substantially longer before Continuum has finally arrived. Formed in 2001 by Nick Hannon and Marlon King, the alt-rock instrumentalists have not been idle, and this 40-minute epic introspective journey of abrasive and ambient electronic fuelled music is worth the decade or so of wait. Solar Storm contains superb distortion driven guitar work from King, whilst the overall sound has blended heavier elements into a darker reflection than the joint tones of dark and light that pervaded through their debut.
With the same personnel on board, King and Hannon joined once more by Blake on textures and electronica and Stevie B drums, the work is intricate, throwing together a rich tapestry of sounds which cross genres and styles to create a worthy sequel to 2007’s self-titled release, with comparisons inevitably focusing on the progressive giants such as Rush, Floyd and Yes. Produced, engineered and mixed by Aarron Harris of post-metal icons ISIS, Continuum weaves a magical spell. Interstellar, dark and brooding, contrasts with the more upbeat feel of the bass driven Io. I knew little about this band before I heard this release. If you don’t know them, the ambient and introspective interludes which cascade through the release are certainly worth checking out. 8/10
Noisepicker: Peace Off (Exile On Mainstream)
Harry Armstrong has been around the rock world for many years. Many readers will know him best from The Earls of Mars, Jazz-rock lunacy who were always crazy live. Together with undiscovered drummer Kieran Murphy, Armstrong has now delivered a filthy, gnarly blues-soaked debut to follow on from 2017’s Doom/punk/blues EP. Armstrong’s howling, gruff delivery is ably matched by his fuzzy, trusty Fender Stratocaster whilst Murphy hammers seven shades of shit out of his kit. It’ a gritty, raw release, with tracks such as A Taste Of My Dying, opener No Man Lies Blameless and the QOTSA style Burn The Witch all leaving a memorable imprint. No doubt Noisepicker will be on the festival circuit this year. Worth a look. 7/10