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Friday, 6 July 2018

Reviews: Madball, Agathos, Blacklab, Fragments Of Despair (Reviews By Paul Scoble)

Madball: For The Cause (Nuclear Blast)

For The Cause Is Madball’s first album since 2014’s Hardcore Lives. So, what do we have on Madball’s 9th studio album? Well, we get 13 tracks of pissed off, up tempo metallic hardcore. Madball were always the most ‘Metal’ of all the NYHC bands, but this new album is probably the most strait down the line Hardcore album the band have produced. Closer to Sick Of It All style HC style, more punky. This moving of their sound towards a more traditional hardcore direction, could be due to anger. This is a MASSIVELY angry album (considering the political situation in America, and the rest of the world, if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention). The album bristles with rage, at the direction the world is moving in. It contains 13 tracks, 9 of which are less than 3 minutes, and they are all raging. From the opener Smile Now Pay Later to closer Confessions the album doesn’t let up once. The lyrics, although very angry, are intelligent and well written. This isn’t directionless wrath, Freddy Cricien is a well informed, he knows how evil the world is, and is reacting to it with reason and understanding.

For The Cause has a couple of guest appearances to add to the fun. Tim Timebomb (Tim Armstrong from Rancid) guests on the track The Fog, which is about the American Military Industrial Complex. The album also has a guest appearance from Ice T on the track Evil Ways, probably the strongest track on the album (if you’re going to ask Ice T to guest on you’re album, you’re going to offer him the best track), Ice’s incredibly distinctive, angry vocals fit the song perfectly. This is a slight departure from how Madball usually sound, but it feels fresh and exciting. This is a very angry album, a beautifully pissed off rage at a world that feels like it’s spiralling out of control. Beautifully of it’s time, incandescently angry. 8/10

Agathos: Nihil Est (Art Gates Records)

Agathos are a 4 piece Black Metal band from Valencia, Nihil Est is the bands first release. So, what do we have as a first taste from these Nihilistic Black Metalers? We get 5 tracks of tremolo picked black metal, 5 really great tracks. The quality on offer is surprisingly high, considering that this is a first EP. The fact that all members of the band are active members of other extreme metal bands (IN MUTE, Aethyr, Pestkraft, Noctem), isn’t surprising, considering how good this EP is. Stylistically, Agathos sound a little like MGLA, or possibly like the more savage, tremolo picked parts of Wiegedood’s style of black metal.

Although there is a fast, aggressive sections, they are also good at nuanced, atmospheric parts, the beginning of first track Void has an interestingly menacing strummed acoustic intro. The final track Thantos feels a little like Lawless Darkness era Watain. Although I’ve mentioned a few other bands, in trying to describe Agathos’s sound, the band do have their own sound. This is an original Piece of work, Agathos are not bandwagon jumpers! To be honest, the only problem with this EP, is the fact that it is an EP. It’s over too soon! I’ve really enjoyed listening to this EP, and I hope a full length album is on it’s way soon! Fantastic piece of work! 8/10

Blacklab: Under A Strawberry Moon 2.0 (New Heavy Sounds)

Blacklab describe themselves as : “The dark witch, doom duo from Osaka, Japan”. Which is pretty much bang on, I’m not going to argue with them. The 2 piece (Chia Shiraishi - Drums, and Yuko Morino - Guitar and vocals) have delivered a slice of enormous, detuned, thunderous Doom. The guitar sound on this album is immense, just HUGE, Dopethrone era Electric Wizard style tone. The vocals are in a much higher register, which helps them to cut through the huge amount of fuzz. The vocals are a mix of clean singing and harsh vocals, both are very effective. The clean singing is tuneful and engaging. The harsh vocals are viscous and feral, and fit with the music perfectly. The riffs are Huge, massive lurching monsters, there is a similarity to some Black Sabbath (which the band play on with the short instrumental track Symptom Of The Blacklab), but there is also a touch of fellow Japanese band Boris or Ty Segall. This album isn’t just about being heavy, there are some huge grooves on this album. The track His name is is every bit as bouncy as Carnival Bizzare era Cathedral, and I would imagine it is a great live track.

The only problem with this album is the final track Big Muff. This is a nearly 10 minute track of, well, nothing much really. It’s just bass noise, not riffs, just random notes and feedback with no purpose, direction or point, other than to waste time and fill up space. It’s such a shame as, other than this track, the rest of the album is excellent. If I’d have payed for this album, rather than having a free review copy, I’d be feeling rather ripped off about now. I’m going to dock the album a mark for it, this would have been a 9/10 album, but it’s getting 8 due to Big Muff . This is a really great doom album, if your buying it digitally, just don’t waste your money on the last track. 8/10

Fragments Of Despair: Broken Lost Mistakes (Self Released)

This is the first full length album from Greek melodic death metal band Fragments Of Despair. The band have released a self titled EP in 2015. This debut album features 8 tracks, 7 of Bloodshot Dawn style melodic death metal, and 1 soft acoustic track. Broken Lost Mistakes has a lot of positives; fast tuneful riffs, great solos and interesting structures. The album features great hummable tunes, that get into your head. The (nearly) title track Broken Lost And Mistaken, Unholy Soldier and Slaves Of Our Youth are the standout tracks on the album, featuring lots of melody and choruses that you can’t help humming. It isn’t all good news though. Some of the production isn’t quite there, although the individual instruments sound great, sometimes the mix lets it down. There are places where there doesn’t feel like there is any separation of the instruments, so the mix feels muddy in places.

The harsh vocals aren’t always that good, in places it feels like this is more shouting, rather than vocalising. The album does have clean singing as well; the soft acoustic track Ocean Of Tears has clean singing on it, and the clean vocals are very good, far superior to the harsh voice. A couple of the tracks feel a little lacklustre, like the band wasn’t sure which direction to take the songs. Although, I feel I’m being a little disingenuous in my criticisms. What this album sounds like, is exactly what it is; It’s a first album. They’ve got a huge amount of promise, they’re just not quite there yet. But watch this space, Fragments Of Despair feel like they could be on the verge of something very special. The next album could be a really great piece of work. 7/10

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